With a little over a month of the season underway, there are several players at the top of the statistical leaderboards that would have been about as shocking as Leicester City winning the English Premier League, which I know absolutely nothing about, but it is apparently a big deal for soccer fans. For baseball fans, some of the players who have had incredible starts to the season are as recognizable as Leicester City and English Premier League. Get to know some players who have impressed in 2016!
Aledmys Diaz, SS, St. Louis Cardinals
Diaz has impressed in his first taste of the majors. It only took a torn thumb ligament in the left hand of Jhonny Peralta for the 25-year-old Cuban to get an opportunity. All that Diaz has done is lead MLB in OPS to this point. Diaz was better known for his glove when he was signed, and his results, all of 586 minor league at-bats, reiterated that. His .779 OPS in the minors screams that his production to this point will come back to earth; however, with Kolten Wong struggling and Peralta coming back at the beginning of June, Diaz could maintain enough playing time to continue to be productive, even if it isn’t at the incredibly high level that he has reached this season.
Chris Carter, 1B, Milwaukee Brewers
The Astros had Jon Singleton ready to go this spring, only to see him be really awful, resulting in his demotion to Triple-A. Of course, they didn’t have Carter any longer, as they didn’t tender him a contract. Now, Tyler White and Marwin Gonzalez top the depth charts for the Astros, as Carter has seen an impressive resurgence of his career with the Brewers. A one-year, $2.5 million deal looks like an absolute steal right now for Milwaukee, while this type of production from Carter may have helped Houston be where they were last season, rather than last place in the American League West; however, there’s no guarantee that he would be hitting at the levels that he is currently. He is just two years removed from a 37 homer season (albeit, with a .227 average).
Vincent Velasquez, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies
Velasquez was the prize of the trade that sent Ken Giles to the Astros, unless you think Mark Appel was that prize, and the 23-year-old has been as electric as his minor league numbers looked. Over 296.2 minor league innings, Velasquez averaged 10.7 K:9. This season, he has done wonderful things for Philadelphia. Velasquez has positioned himself as an anchor to a staff on the rebuild. After starting 16-11, the 100 loss season that PECOTA projected for the Phillies could be difficult to attain. Magically, Ruben Amaro, Jr.’s rebuild has done wonderfully to this point, even as he handles the first base coaching box for the Boston Red Sox.
Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle Mariners
Walker only had one good month in 2015 (July), and the rest of his season was what many young pitchers deal with – a roller coaster. The start of the 2016 season, however, has been a whole different story. All of those athletic-talented-future-dominant-starter labels that have been stuck to Walker seem somewhat reasonable now. In fact, they may not be strong enough labels. Walker is leading the AL in FIP, and his incredible walk rate screams “ACE”. He is putting it all together this season. Seattle is currently in first place, and with Felix Hernandez and Walker at the top of the rotation, the Mariners could be downright scary in a playoff.
Nomar Mazara, OF, Texas Rangers
The Rangers seem to have a supply of talented players who rise up and become productive from their minor league system. What is most interesting about how things work out, however, is that players who are “can’t-miss” don’t seem to get a true opportunity with Texas. First, Jurickson Profar lost second base to Rougned Odor, and, now, it looks like Joey Gallo may have lost his opportunity to Mazara, who seems to have a stranglehold on the club’s right field job after a tremendous start to his major league career. The 6’4″ outfielder, who just turned 21 in April, has a body that could continue to fill out, and potential that seems about as limitless as any young player in baseball. While solid production from Mazara was to be expected, it certainly wasn’t expected this soon in his career.
Who did I miss? Who has been the most surprising player in baseball?
The Cincinnati Reds troubled themselves with the task of replacing a legend in 2016. With Aroldis Chapman heading towards free agency after this season and the team in rebuilding mode, the front office “cashed-in” by trading the dominant left-hander to the New York Yankees. Due to a pending domestic violence charge, some could argue that they received pennies on the dollar for the talented closer, but dealing Chapman was bound to leave a hole in the club in 2016, regardless of the immediate and future return on the players that the Reds received.
Chapman’s dominance is well documented. Along with Boston’s Craig Kimbrel, who was also acquired in an offseason deal, the closer role has been altered from a player capable of getting two-inning saves, like Mariano Rivera, into a player who has triple-digit, short-burst, maximum effort electricity, who strikes out the side on a nearly nightly basis. When Chapman was called upon in Cincinnati, his career 15.4 K:9 made the stadium light up with delight, while the cameras on everyone’s smartphones would turn to the radar reader to post his pitch-by-pitch brilliance to social media. Then, nine pitches later, after three hitters looked foolish, that one belonged to the Reds.
For that reason, J.J. Hoover never had a chance.
Hoover was given the task of replacing a legend. On the heels of the NFL Draft, we saw the Denver Broncos replace the legendary Peyton Manning with Memphis’ Paxton Lynch, which was necessary after the heir apparent, Brock Osweiler, bolted for the Texans and loads of cash – which seems like a brilliant move after watching Matt Flynn and Nick Foles get rich off of a handful of starts, only to flame out as busts, but I digress. Perhaps it is too soon to call Chapman a legend, but his results are certainly worthy of that label. After all, he will certainly earn a spot in the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame if the “great” Chris Sabo was able to ride a couple of decent seasons and his rec-specs into the club’s lore.
Hoover won the quasi-competition for the closer’s role for the Reds in spring training, beating out the recently demoted Jumbo Diaz, to earn the role of replacing Chapman. Hoover was very good in 2015 in a setup role, at least on the surface, with a 2.94 ERA and 1.16 WHIP over 67 appearances and 64.1 innings; however, he posted a 4.41 FIP and the lowest K:9 of his career (7.3). This came after a disastrous 2014, when Hoover lost 10 games over 54 appearances, posting a 4.88 ERA and 1.38 WHIP in 62.2 innings. Of course, he did strike out a career-high 10.8:9 that season, though his FIP was still 4.97. Still, taking out his 2014 season as the outlier, Hoover had been a very good relief pitcher for Cincinnati, including a 2.73 ERA over 164 appearances and 161 innings.
Unfortunately, the 2016 season has been hellacious for Hoover. He has faced 48 batters, allowing 16 hits, walking six of them, and giving up a whopping five homers over 10 appearances and 8.2 innings. His 15.58 ERA and 2.53 WHIP have helped pace the Cincinnati bullpen in ineptitude. The Reds’ bullpen ranks dead last in ERA by nearly a half a run (6.29) and they have given up 19 home runs in 83 innings. Even the Braves could hit home runs off of the Reds bullpen! In those 83 innings, the Reds’ bullpen has given up more home runs than eight teams entire pitching staffs.
The responsibility of replacing Aroldis Chapman fell on J.J. Hoover, but the Reds and their fans should have known that there wasn’t really a chance of that happening. There are very few times that greatness is immediately replaced by something similar or superior, even with recent replacements like Aaron Rodgers for Brett Favre or Andrew Luck for Peyton Manning in Indianapolis. The Reds had a similar task. The Reds also had the task of fielding a competitive team, compiling a group of 25 men who could lead them to a World Series. Instead, they took the business side of baseball and focused on bobbleheads, going into rebuild mode and saving money over putting a quality product on the field. That is not J.J. Hoover’s fault. The bullpen was in shambles all offseason and ownership chose to plug in parts instead of addressing the team’s true needs.
J.J. Hoover is struggling in a role that he wasn’t guaranteed to ever have success in. He has never been a closer, despite filling that role when Chapman needed a day off to earn five career saves going into the 2016 season. There have been plenty of excellent relievers who have moved to the closer’s role and failed in the past. Hoover has simply been miscast in a role that he isn’t fit to hold. Unfortunately for Cincinnati, there isn’t anyone better for that position. Hoover doesn’t need time in Triple-A, he doesn’t need to be cut, and he doesn’t need to be traded by Cincinnati. Hoover simply needs to be put back into the role that he had success in.
Hoover doesn’t “suck”, Hoover, in a vacuum, is an excellent middle reliever and setup man, but he isn’t a closer.
It is that time of year again – when I make a fool out of myself by guessing who will end up as the 2016 MVPs, Cy Young Winners, Manager and Rookie of the Year winners, and name some sleepers. Last season, I boldly guessed that Mike Redmond would win the NL Manager of the Year award…but he was fired on May 19 after starting 16-22. So much for that. I did have some decent predictions, like Nolan Arenado breaking out and…well, that’s about it. It wasn’t a great year for inferences for me.
However, 2016 is going to be very different! Without further ado…
1. Toronto Blue Jays
2. Baltimore Orioles
3. Tampa Bay Rays
4. New York Yankees
5. Boston Red Sox
1. Cleveland Indians
2. Kansas City Royals
3. Chicago White Sox
4. Detroit Tigers
5. Minnesota Twins
1. Houston Astros
2. Texas Rangers
3. Los Angeles Angels
4. Seattle Mariners
5. Oakland Athletics
AL Wild Cards
Kansas City Royals
1. Washington Nationals
2. New York Mets
3. Miami Marlins
4. Atlanta Braves
5. Philadelphia Phillies
1. Chicago Cubs
2. Pittsburgh Pirates
3. St. Louis Cardinals
4. Milwaukee Brewers
5. Cincinnati Reds
1. San Francisco Giants
2. Arizona Diamondbacks
3. Los Angeles Dodgers
4. Colorado Rockies
5. San Diego Padres
NL Wild Cards
New York Mets
World Series Prediction
Washington Nationals over Toronto Blue Jays in six games
AL Manager of the Year: John Gibbons, Toronto Blue Jays
This HAS to be the year for Toronto. Why? Because both Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion are free agents after the 2016 season, and early negotiations didn’t appear to go well, with rumors of “Joey Bats” wanting $30 million per year in his age 35 to age 40 seasons. Ask Nelson Cruz about being an aging slugger in the open market- how’d that go for him when he *settled* for a one-year deal for $8 million following the 2013 season? Still, Gibbons has a lot of talent to work with right now. With reigning AL MVP Josh Donaldson, a full season (maybe – pending health) from Troy Tulowitzki, and the two mashing free-agents-to-be, the Jays will have the power and offense to outscore anyone, which is just what they’ll have to do with their patchwork pitching staff. Gibbons will work some magic there, however, and lead Toronto back to the ALCS and an eventual World Series appearance.
NL Manager of the Year: Chip Hale, Arizona Diamondbacks
Dave Stewart and Company have done some really wacky things since taking control of the Arizona front office; however, they have a really interesting team, quietly building around superstar Paul Goldschmidt with pieces and parts that could be All-Star caliber producers. After signing Zack Greinke and acquiring Shelby Miller, having Goldschmidt with A.J. Pollock and David Peralta provide punch in the lineup, along with a returning Patrick Corbin in the rotation, could lead to a sneaky breakout by the Snakes in a wide-open NL West. Hale, who has had success managing throughout the minors and led the Diamondbacks to a 16-game improvement from 2014 to 2015 in his first season. Arizona may miss the playoffs, but they’ll certainly be a thorn in the side of the league in 2016 thanks to talent and Hale’s management of the club.
AL MVP: Manny Machado, 3B, Baltimore Orioles
Machado doesn’t turn 24 until July, but it seems like he has been around for a while already. Most of that time, he has been compared to the great Alex Rodriguez, and he proved that comparison was legitimate last season. Machado improved his strikeout and walk rates dramatically last season, while his hard contact rate also jumped – which was behind his 35 home runs – a whopping 21 more than his previous career-high (2013) – while he also stole 20 bases! More of the same should be expected, as Machado continues to fill out his body and fill up box scores. He’ll lead Baltimore to the postseason in 2016, with a bat that is as valuable as his glove, making him one of the most dominant players in the game.
NL MVP: Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals
Harper won the NL MVP in 2015 after posting a 9.5 WAR in his age-22 season. He put it all together, blasting 42 home runs and leading MLB with a 1.109 OPS and 197 wRC+. He’s going to be better in 2016. The only thing that would prevent that from happening would be an intensity that makes injury-risk a possibility for Harper on every play…or getting walked like Barry Bonds. The sky is still the limit for this young man, and he continue his ascension to greatness in 2016.
AL Cy Young: Chris Sale, LHP, Chicago White Sox
After leading the AL in strikeouts and FIP on his way to setting career-bests in strikeout and walk rates, Sale could improve his overall numbers in 2016. The four-time All-Star will finally get the award that he has earned by posting a 2.95 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and 10.3 K:9 over the last four seasons for Chicago. He’ll continue to look like he could be blown away due to his frame, while dominating the opposition on his way to his finest season yet. Perhaps he will even win this one for Drake LaRoche.
NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Kershaw disappointed in 2015, seeing his ERA balloon to 2.13 on his way to a 3rd place finish for the NL Cy Young. That is, of course, sarcasm, as Kershaw led the league in complete games, shutouts, innings, strikeouts, and FIP. He will lead a depleted Dodgers rotation, taking on the innings that they won’t get from the other rotation members, as he continue being the Sandy Koufax of our generation. Enjoy it while it lasts!
AL Rookie of the Year: Jose Berrios, RHP, Minnesota Twins
For purposes likely tied to free agency control, the Twins didn’t give Berrios a look at all in 2015, even though he could have been the club’s best starting pitcher the moment that he joined the rotation. He has tremendous command of his stuff, and he continues to improve as he rises up through the system, which is an excellent sign for the pitching-starved Twins. The knock on Berrios is his height, but after watching Johnny Cueto, Yordano Ventura, Marcus Stroman, and Tim Lincecum (not as much recently) over the last several years, no one will be looking down on this young man when he can pitch the way that he can.
NL Rookie of the Year: Corey Seager, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers
Seager was the No.1 prospect on my prospect list this winter, after the 21-year-old followed up a roasting of the minors with 98 at-bat barrage on Major League pitching, posting a .337/.425/.561 triple-slash in his cup of coffee. He looks like the Dodgers’ Opening Day shortstop (pending injury news) and he could thrive in a lineup with so many other talented players around him. He could easily become one of the top two players offensively for this club immediately, especially with the questions surrounding Yasiel Puig after his down 2015 season. While he may not fit at shortstop for his entire career, Seager is capable of a 20/20 season at short in his first full season.
10 BOLD Predictions
- Jeff Samardzija rebounds in AT&T Park and the spacious parks out west to become a top 20 starting pitcher. He strikes out over 200 and logs 200 innings, becoming a tremendous compliment to Madison Bumgarner in the San Francisco rotation.
Byron Buxton steals 40 bases and shows glimpses of power, topping out at 15 home runs, while showcasing elite-level defense. The Twins finish in last place in the AL Central, but Buxton and Miguel Sano are All-Stars.
- Joey Votto walks 130 times. There is no reason to pitch to him with the rest of the Reds lineup as incapable of producing as an army of ants.
- Starlin Castro becomes an All-Star at second base for the New York Yankees, leading the American League in hits. The change of scenery was necessary and helped him find his groove.
- Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco become as dominant together as Kershaw and Greinke were in Los Angeles in 2015…with slightly higher ERAs. They win 35 or more games, log 450 or more innings, and strike out 470 or more batters combined.
Jabari Blash is the best Rule 5 pick since Johan Santana, as he becomes the Padres best position player in 2016. The Mariners weep as Nori Aoki starts 155 games in left with less than Blash-y production.
- Mike Trout finishes outside of the top 3 in AL MVP voting because his WAR declines due to Jared Weaver giving up 85 home runs in 115 innings, not allowing Trout to flash his glove, range, and UZR skills.
- Billy Hamilton loses the center field job to Phillip Ervin in June. Ervin starts hitting how he did at Samford and soars through Double-A and Triple-A. Hamilton is recalled in September to be a pinch-runner, stealing 25 bases in one month and winning fantasy leagues for those who stashed him.
- Pablo Sandoval goes on a hunger strike until he is given the third base job over Travis Shaw. He is never seen again. The Red Sox eat his contract and release him, which is funny because he ate his own contract and couldn’t let go of food. Irony.
- Lorenzo Cain is a top 5 WAR position player due to his great defense and his continued breakout. Cain finishes with 20 HR/30 SB and 100 runs scored.
10 BOLD Sleepers
- Patrick Corbin, LHP, Arizona Diamondbacks: This guy is two years removed from Tommy John surgery, and he is throwing harder than he ever did before. Keep in mind, he won 14 games, struck out 178, and had a 3.41 ERA over 208.1 innings in 2013, his last full season, before looking very good over 16 starts last season.
- Carlos Rodon, LHP, Chicago White Sox: Rodon will either look as dominant as Sale or look like he hasn’t been on a mound before in his life. The stuff is there to be elite, but it is so strong that he has to figure out how to harness it still. This is the year that he does.
- Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates: Polanco had a slight bump in ISO last year, but that slight bump should be a significant bump in his 2016 season. At the age of 24, Polanco will change some of those 35 doubles into home runs in 2016, as that long, lanky body begins to fill out. Look for 15 to 20 bombs in 2016 with a slight drop in his 27 steals – since he’ll be busier rounding the bases in a trot.
- Justin Verlander, RHP, Detroit Tigers: A six-time All-Star and one-time Cy Young winner isn’t typically a sleeper, but Verlander sort of returned to form in the second half of last season, posting a 2.80 ERA over 103 innings and 15 starts. While the 8.30 K:9 over those starts isn’t his elite level, it also was much higher than his down 2014. Over 20 starts, Verlander had a 3.38 ERA and 3.49 FIP, while he is still below the league average in HR/FB%. If you can get him late, Verlander is worth a look in fantasy. If you don’t play fantasy, his girlfriend is worth a look in your own fantasy.
- Ian Kennedy, RHP, Kansas City Royals: After finishing 9-15 with a 4.28 ERA while pitching half of his games in San Diego, it seemed rather shocking that the Royals would give up a draft pick and pay $70 million over five years for Kennedy; however, Dave Eiland has worked miracles before, and Kennedy looked a bit more like himself in the second half, when he posted a 10.5 K:9. He can’t do any worse than Cueto did after K.C. acquired him from the Reds in the middle of the 2015 season. Count on Eiland, Kennedy, and an impressive defense to get his numbers back to respectability.
- Eduardo Escobar, SS, Minnesota Twins: Danny Santana had the Twins shortstop job going into 2015 after a breakout 2014. Then, he lost the job and Escobar ran away with it, ripping 31 doubles and 12 home runs over 127 games and 446 at-bats. While he isn’t going to do a whole lot more than that (he doesn’t run), he could, in his age-27 season, see those numbers improve over a full season where he isn’t sharing the job.
- Jonathan Schoop, 2B, Baltimore Orioles: I’ve been a Schoop fan for about four and a half years now. He has power and he has absolutely no plate discipline, as evidenced by his career 203:23 K:BB over 817 plate appearances. But we are in an offense-starved era, and the Orioles have other players with similar profiles who have developed into solid producers (see Jones, Adam). Schoop had 32 extra-base hits (including 15 homers) in just 86 games and 321 plate appearances. He’s capable of 25 home runs and 30 doubles…possibly even 15 walks…over 550 plate appearances. He turned 24 in October and is primed for further opportunities and a potential breakout.
- Trevor Story, SS, Colorado Rockies: Imagine a place with a high altitude where balls travel far. Now…imagine a shortstop who had 70 extra-base hits (20 HR) and 22 stolen bases between Double-A and Triple-A. That would be this 23-year-old, who, with Jose Reyes‘…ahem…issues, should be in line for plenty of playing time for the Rockies to start the season. He and Nolan Arenado could provide some pretty impressive numbers on the left side of the infield.
Joe Ross, RHP, Washington Nationals: The younger brother of Padres pitcher Tyson Ross, Joe Ross is in a great situation in Washington. At 22, he seems unlikely to be bumped from the rotation when Lucas Giolito is ready – that is likely going to be Tanner Roark, who pitched out of the bullpen most of the 2015 season. Ross did a really nice job in his 76.2 innings last year, posting an 8.1 K:9 and walking just 2.5 per nine. It is quite possible that he outperforms Gio Gonzalez in the Nationals’ rotation in 2016.
- Colin Rea, RHP, San Diego Padres: Rea had eye-popping numbers in Double-A last year (1.08 ERA, .185 BAA in 75 innings), which promptly elevated once promoted to El Paso (a hitter’s paradise). He held his own in his taste of the majors last season, posting a 4.26 ERA and holding opponents to a .246 average. Now, he’ll have an improved defense behind him, Rea, 25, is ready to take his fastball that can touch 95 to a pitcher’s paradise. Let’s hope he can do better than Ian Kennedy did last year. He is capable of Kennedy’s production – minus the strikeouts.
The more things change the more they seem the same. In 1987 the Cleveland Indians mistreated the face of their franchise causing the player to walk out of camp. Now, 29 years later the Pittsburgh Pirates have followed the Tribe’s lead and mishandled a simple pre-arbitration contract with Gerrit Cole.
After leading all of Major League baseball in RBI in 1986 the Cleveland Indians Senior Vice President Dan O’Brien made the decision to ignore Carter’s request of a modest raise ($437,000) and renewed his contract at a salary of $250,000 (up from $190,000 in 1986). The renewal led Carter to walk out of camp stating that “he’d been pushed too far.”
Unfortunately for Carter the Super 2 system was not in place (part of the 1990 Basic Agreement) and he was still 29 days shy of three years of service time. “Next year I’ll have three years in and I’ll set the rules.” Carter said. “What goes around comes around, I’ve dealt with them fairly but they haven’t done the same with me and my agent.”
The move was a public relations nightmare for the Indians and the negotiations eliminated any chance the Indians had of developing a long term relationship with one of their brightest young stars. It worked out well in the end for the Indians as prior to the 1990 season Carter was dealt to the San Diego Padres in a trade that paid dividends as they acquired Sandy Alomar Jr., Carlos Baerga, and Thomas Howard in the deal.
On Saturday afternoon n Bradenton Florida Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writer Rob Biertempfel reported that Gerrit Cole grudgingly signed a deal renewing him at the same $541,000 ($531,000 base + $10,000 bonus for All-Star game) that he made in 2015. (Even Joe Carter received a $60,000 raise in his salary that left him unhappy.)
Last season Cole delivered 208 high quality innings posting a 19-8 mark with a 2.60 ERA. Although not arbitration eligible he, like Carter before him, is just short of a big boost in salary ending the 2015 campaign just 29 days short of Super 2 status (2 years, 140 days).
According to Cole the Pirates initial offer was actually $538,000 which is less than his total compensation in 2015 and they refused to go above the $541,000 mark. “They even threatened a salary reduction to the league minimum if I did not agree.” Cole said.
According to Biertempfel, General Manager Neal Huntington did not respond to a request for comment about the situation but club officials said that the $538,000 represented the maximum raise a player can be awarded in the pre-arbitration salary negotiations.
Cole’s agent Scott Boras asked “What kind of message is that send to players?” Adding that if Cole played for the Mets he’d get well over $650,000. If he played for the Marlins he’d get more than the Pirates will pay.”
It does seem rather peculiar that a team with a commodity as dynamic and important as Gerrit Cole is would want to take every opportunity to keep him happy and reward him for his performance.
On the other hand, Cole is a Scott Boras client and the odds of a Chris Archer/Corey Kluber type long term extension are slim and none. The most likely outcome for the Pirates is that Cole is healthy and productive with them for the next two years and then he’s dealt for a package or players that lay the foundation for the future.
It could be said that the Indians ruined the chance at signing Carter to a long term extension when they renewed him as they did while the only side effect for the Pirates will be having a disgruntled player on their hands.
It should be noted, that however unhappy Carter may have been with the salary negotiations that led to him walking out of camp he was productive in 1987 batting .264/.304/.480 with 32 homers. Over the next three seasons with the Tribe he hit .259/.303/.474 with 94 homers.
Cole may be an unhappy Pirate but this most likely will not translate to a decline in performance on the mound. It will however lead to a very interesting exchange of arbitration numbers following the season.
Do the Pirates believe that the $8MM signing bonus paid to Cole after drafting him as the overall #1 pick in 2011 is the most reward he’s going to see? As if that $8MM is part of this pre-arbitration package?
In the end, the odds of extending Cole to a contract extension were slim and none prior to this fiasco but they could have handled the process with a lot more class than they did.
Image Credit: (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
It’s that time of year! Teams are reporting for Spring Training, and baseball is alive and well, taking its rightful place from February through October, developing excitement for those with the creative, poetic minds necessary to appreciate it. With that being said, there are also many who like to lay down their cash and try to win their fantasy leagues. While fantasy baseball will never be as popular as the once-per-week lineup construction for fantasy football, it still has its place. For those who love it, here is this season’s Top 300:
NOTE: Don’t forget to check out the Top 100 Prospects for 2016 while you’re here!
1. Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels
2. Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals
3. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks
4. Josh Donaldson, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays
5. Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
6. Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Miami Marlins
7. Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
8. Manny Machado, 3B, Baltimore Orioles
9. Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies
10. Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston Astros
11. Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros
12. Jose Bautista, OF, Toronto Blue Jays
13. Edwin Encarnacion, 1B, Toronto Blue Jays
14. A.J. Pollock, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
15. Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Detroit Tigers
16. Dee Gordon, 2B, Miami Marlins
17. Max Scherzer, RHP, Washington Nationals
18. Jose Abreu, 1B, Chicago White Sox
19. Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs
20. Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs
21. Chris Sale, LHP, Chicago White Sox
22. Jake Arrieta, RHP, Chicago Cubs
23. Mookie Betts, OF, Boston Red Sox
24. Chris Davis, 1B/OF, Baltimore Orioles
25. Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds
26. Madison Bumgarner, LHP, San Francisco Giants
27. David Price, LHP, Boston Red Sox
28. Todd Frazier, 3B, Chicago White Sox
29. J.D. Martinez, OF, Detroit Tigers
30. Starling Marte, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
31. Charlie Blackmon, OF, Colorado Rockies
32. Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota Twins
33. Matt Harvey, RHP, New York Mets
34. Carlos Gomez, OF, Houston Astros
35. Matt Carpenter, 2B/3B, St. Louis Cardinals
36. George Springer, OF, Houston Astros
37. Corey Kluber, RHP, Cleveland Indians
38. Robinson Cano, 2B, Seattle Mariners
39. Gerrit Cole, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
40. Yoenis Cespedes, OF, New York Mets
41. Buster Posey, C/1B, San Francisco Giants
42. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers
43. Jacob deGrom, RHP, New York Mets
44. Kyle Seager, 3B, Seattle Mariners
45. Lorenzo Cain, OF, Kansas City Royals
46. Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Colorado Rockies
47. Brian Dozier, 2B, Minnesota Twins
48. Nelson Cruz, DH, Seattle Mariners
49. David Ortiz, DH, Boston Red Sox
50. Prince Fielder, 1B, Texas Rangers
51. Dallas Keuchel, LHP, Houston Astros
52. Jason Heyward, OF, Chicago Cubs
53. Kenley Jansen, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
54. Justin Upton, OF, Detroit Tigers
55. Carlos Carrasco, RHP, Cleveland Indians
56. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Toronto Blue Jays
57. Wade Davis, RHP, Kansas City Royals
58. Kyle Schwarber, C/OF, Chicago Cubs
59. Xander Bogaerts, SS, Boston Red Sox
60. Craig Kimbrel, RHP, Boston Red Sox
61. Adam Jones, OF, Baltimore Orioles
62. Chris Archer, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
63. Jose Fernandez, RHP, Miami Marlins
64. Adrian Beltre, 3B, Texas Rangers
65. Zack Greinke, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
66. Stephen Strasburg, RHP, Washington Nationals
67. Noah Syndergaard, RHP, New York Mets
68. Ian Kinsler, 2B, Detroit Tigers
69. Corey Seager, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers
70. Aroldis Chapman, LHP, New York Yankees
71. Sonny Gray, RHP, Oakland Athletics
72. Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta Braves
73. Felix Hernandez, RHP, Seattle Mariners
74. Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
75. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians
76. Cody Allen, RHP, Cleveland Indians
77. Jon Lester, LHP, Chicago Cubs
78. Eric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City Royals
79. Matt Kemp, OF, San Diego Padres
80. Hunter Pence, OF, San Francisco Giants
81. Albert Pujols, 1B, Los Angeles Angels
82. Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
83. Ken Giles, RHP, Houston Astros
84. Johnny Cueto, RHP, San Francisco Giants
85. Adam Eaton, OF, Chicago White Sox
86. Jose Reyes, SS, Colorado Rockies
87. Michael Brantley, OF, Cleveland Indians
88. Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, New York Yankees
89. Jonathan Lucroy, C, Milwaukee Brewers
90. David Peralta, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
91. Ben Revere, OF, Washington Nationals
92. Brandon Belt, 1B/OF, San Francisco Giants
93. Rougned Odor, 2B, Texas Rangers
94. Jason Kipnis, 2B, Cleveland Indians
95. Christian Yelich, OF, Miami Marlins
96. Danny Salazar, RHP, Cleveland Indians
97. Trevor Rosenthal, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
98. Kole Calhoun, OF, Los Angeles Angels
99. Corey Dickerson, OF/DH, Tampa Bay Rays
101. Marcus Stroman, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
102. Brian McCann, C, New York Yankees
103. Carlos Martinez, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
104 Adam Wainwright, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
105. Kolten Wong, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals
106. DJ LeMahieu, 2B, Colorado Rockies
107. Mark Melancon, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
108. Zach Britton, LHP, Baltimore Orioles
109. Tyson Ross, RHP, San Diego Padres
110. Evan Gattis, DH, Houston Astros
111. Garrett Richards, RHP, Los Angeles Angels
112. David Robertson, RHP, Chicago White Sox
113. Drew Smyly, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays
114. Maikel Franco, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies
115. Hanley Ramirez, 1B, Boston Red Sox
116. Jeurys Familia, RHP, New York Mets
117. Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Texas Rangers
118. Randal Grichuk, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
119. Jeff Samardzija, RHP, San Francisco Giants
120. Cole Hamels, LHP, Philadelphia Phillies
121. Hector Rondon, RHP, Chicago Cubs
122. Billy Hamilton, OF, Cincinnati Reds
123. Khris Davis, OF, Oakland Athletics
124. Neil Walker, 2B, New York Mets
125. Francisco Rodriguez, RHP, Detroit Tigers
126. Elvis Andrus, SS, Texas Rangers
127. Daniel Murphy, 2B/3B, Washington Nationals
128. Jordan Zimmermann, RHP, Detroit Tigers
129. Ender Inciarte, OF, Atlanta Braves
130. Evan Longoria, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays
131. Byung Ho Park, 1B, Minnesota Twins
132. Ben Zobrist, 2B/OF, Chicago Cubs
133. Kendrys Morales, DH, Kansas City Royals
134. Jay Bruce, OF, Cincinnati Reds
135. Brett Gardner, OF, New York Yankees
136. Russell Martin, C, Toronto Blue Jays
137. Jose Quintana, LHP, Chicago White Sox
138. Francisco Liriano, LHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
139. Anthony Rendon, 2B/3B, Washington Nationals
140. Salvador Perez, C, Kansas City Royals
141. Shawn Tolleson, RHP, Texas Rangers
142. Michael Wacha, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
143. Kevin Pillar, OF, Toronto Blue Jays
144. Michael Pineda, RHP, New York Yankees
145. Jonathan Papelbon, RHP, Washington Nationals
146. Dellin Betances, RHP, New York Yankees
147. Justin Verlander, RHP, Detroit Tigers
148. Raisel Iglesias, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
149. Brett Lawrie, 2B/3B, Chicago White Sox
150. Billy Burns, OF, Oakland Athletics
151. Carter Capps, RHP, Miami Marlins
152. Justin Turner, 3B, Los Angels Dodgers
153. Masahiro Tanaka, RHP, New York Yankees
154. Hisashi Iwakuma, RHP, Seattle Mariners
155. Jake McGee, LHP, Colorado Rockies
156. Curtis Granderson, OF, New York Mets
157. Scott Kazmir, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
158. Ian Desmond, SS, FREE AGENT
159. Wei-Yin Chen, LHP, Miami Marlins
160. Brandon Crawford, SS, San Francisco Giants
161. Huston Street, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
162. Julio Teheran, RHP, Atlanta Braves
163. Steven Souza, Jr., OF, Tampa Bay Rays
164. Delino DeShields, Jr., OF, Texas Rangers
165. Lucas Duda, 1B, New York Mets
166. Jaime Garcia, LHP, St. Louis Cardinals
167. John Lackey, RHP, Chicago Cubs
168. Mike Fiers, RHP, Houston Astros
169. Jung-Ho Kang, SS, Pittsburgh Pirates
170. Brad Ziegler, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
171. Jonathan Schoop, 2B, Baltimore Orioles
172. Matt Duffy, 3B, San Francisco Giants
173. Mark Teixeria, 1B, New York Yankees
174. Logan Forsythe, 2B, Tampa Bay Rays
175. Josh Harrison, 2B, Pittsburgh Pirates
176. Steven Matz, LHP, New York Mets
177. Travis d’Arnaud, C, New York Mets
178. Addison Russell, SS, Chicago Cubs
179. Yordano Ventura, RHP, Kansas City Royals
180. Jhonny Peralta, SS, St. Louis Cardinals
181.Gio Gonzalez, LHP, Washington Nationals
182. Kenta Maeda, RHP, Los Angels Dodgers
183. Devin Mesoraco, C, Cincinnati Reds
184. Kyle Hendricks, RHP, Chicago Cubs
185. A.J. Ramos, RHP, Miami Marlins
186. Shelby Miller, RHP, Atlanta Braves
187. Alex Wood, LHP, Los Angels Dodgers
188. Carlos Santana, 1B, Cleveland Indians
189. Anibal Sanchez, RHP, Detroit Tigers
190. Mike Leake, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
191. Darren O’Day, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
192. Stephen Vogt, C/1B, Oakland Athletics
193. Matt Wieters, C, Baltimore Orioles
194. Brandon Phillips, 2B, Cincinnati Reds
195. Mark Trumbo, 1B/OF, Baltimore Orioles
196. Howie Kendrick, 2B, Los Angeles Dodgers
197. Alex Rodriguez, DH, New York Yankees
198. Andrew Miller, LHP, New York Yankees
199. Mike Moustakas, 3B, Kansas City Royals
200. Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Boston Red Sox
201. Tony Watson, LHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
202. Erick Aybar, SS, Atlanta Braves
203. Victor Martinez, DH, Detroit Tigers
204. Nick Castellanos, 3B, Detroit Tigers
205. Wil Myers, 1B/OF, San Diego Padres
206. Billy Butler, DH, Oakland Athletics
207. Derek Norris, C/1B, San Diego Padres
208. Justin Bour, 1B/OF, Miami Marlins
209. Ryan Zimmerman, 1B, Washington Nationals
210. Starlin Castro, 2B/SS, New York Yankees
211. Brad Boxberger, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
212. Brad Miller, 2B/SS, Tampa Bay Rays
213. Denard Span, OF, San Francisco Giants
214. Alcides Escobar, SS, Kansas City Royals
215. Josh Reddick, OF, Oakland Athletics
216. Roberto Osuna, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
217. Lance McCullers, RHP, Houston Astros
218. Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
219. Ketel Marte, SS, Seattle Mariners
220. Sean Doolittle, LHP, Oakland Athletics
221. Patrick Corbin, LHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
222. Steve Cishek, RHP, Seattle Mariners
223. Joe Panik, 2B, San Francisco Giants
224. Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
225. Jorge Soler, OF, Chicago Cubs
226. Luis Severino, RHP, New York Yankees
227. Collin McHugh, RHP, Houston Astros
228. Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle Mariners
229. Joe Ross, RHP, Washington Nationals
230. Jesse Hahn, RHP, Oakland Athletics
231. Phil Hughes, RHP, Minnesota Twins
232. Carson Smith, RHP, Boston Red Sox
233. Brett Anderson, LHP, Los Angeles Dogers
234. Doug Fister, RHP, Houston Astros
235. Drew Storen, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
236. Danny Duffy, LHP, Kansas City Royals
237. Andrew Heaney, LHP, Los Angeles Angels
238. Pedro Alvarez, 1B/DH, FREE AGENT
239. Alex Gordon, OF, Kansas City Royals
240. Danny Valencia, 3B, Oakland Athletics
241. Kevin Kiermaier, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
242. Yu Darvish, RHP, Texas Rangers
243. R.A. Dickey, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
244. Aaron Altherr, OF, Philadelphia Phillies
245. Aaron Nola, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies
246. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP, Boston Red Sox
247. Kevin Gausman, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
248. Tyler Lyons, LHP, St. Louis Cardinals
249. Will Smith, LHP, Milwaukee Brewers
250. Stephen Piscotty, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
251. Joey Gallo, OF, Texas Rangers
252. Jeremy Jeffress, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers
253. Adam Conley, LHP, Miami Marlins
254. Tommy Milone, LHP, Minnesota Twins
255. Michael Conforto, OF, New York Mets
256. Kevin Jepsen, RHP, Minnesota Twins
257. J.T. Realmuto, C, Miami Marlins
258. James Shields, RHP, San Diego Padres
259. Glen Perkins, LHP, Minnesota Twins
260. Domingo Santana, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
261. Jayson Werth, OF, Washington Nationals
262. Vincent Velasquez, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies
263. Santiago Casilla, RHP, San Francisco Giants
264. Dexter Fowler, OF, FREE AGENT
265. Anthony DeSclafani, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
266. Rick Porcello, RHP, Boston Red Sox
267, Avisail Garcia, OF, Chicago White Sox
268. Cesar Hernandez, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies
269. Matt Holliday, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
270. Wilson Ramos, C, Washington Nationals
271. Keone Kela, RHP, Texas Rangers
272. Clay Buchholz, RHP, Boston Red Sox
273. Joakim Soria, RHP, Kansas City Royals
274. Joe Mauer, 1B/DH, Minnesota Twins
275. Jason Hammel, RHP, Chicago Cubs
276. Derek Holland, LHP, Texas Rangers
277. Jean Segura, SS, Arizona Diamondbacks
278. Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins
279. Dylan Bundy, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
280. Devon Travis, 2B, Toronto Blue Jays
281. Josh Tomlin, RHP, Cleveland Indians
282. Ryan Madson, RHP, Oakland Athletics
283. Trevor Bauer, RHP, Cleveland Indians
284. Mitch Moreland, 1B/DH, Texas Rangers
285. Marco Estrada, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
286. Henderson Alvarez, RHP, Oakland Athletics
287. Ian Kennedy, RHP, Kansas City Royals
288. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP, Atlanta Braves
289. Koji Uehara, RHP, Boston Red Sox
290. Robbie Ray, LHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
291. Erasmo Ramirez, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
292. Rich Hill, LHP, Oakland Athletics
293. Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
294. Marcus Semien, 3B, Oakland Athletics
295. Kevin Siegrist, LHP, St. Louis Cardinals
296. Welington Castillo, C, Arizona Diamondbacks
297. Seung-Hwan Oh, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
298. J.J. Hoover, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
299. David Wright, 3B, New York Mets
300. Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
I spent time in December defending Cincinnati Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips, and it is time to do it again. During the Reds recent caravan, the club’s manager, Bryan Price, dropped this zinger:
“It looks like Brandon is with us. Brandon, for me, is a second baseman of tremendous value and talent, it’s hard to just assign someone else that job. If Brandon’s with us, I expect him to be playing second base.”
Oh? It does appear that the player who the club offered an extension to, giving him 10-and-five rights, is still “stuck” with the club – or is it that the club is “stuck” with him? This, apparently, came after both Walt Jocketty and Price had praised the club’s new, future second baseman, Jose Peraza, who was acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the three-team deal that sent fan favorite Todd Frazier to the Chicago White Sox.
Oh? So, the team that has spent the whole offseason trading away their talent for lesser talent is now going to try to make the upcoming 90-plus loss season the fault of a 35-year-old who refused to move away. At one time, that was called loyalty. It was waiting out the horrendous contract that Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin was given to finish his career in Cincinnati, but, now…Phillips is the problem. He’s blocking the super prospect now.
The problem with this thinking, however, is that the Reds acquired a “ready” talent without knowing that they were going to be able to deal the veteran. This is the equivalent of the club dealing for young talent and acquiring the top first base prospect in baseball. Without the designated hitter, the kid would be riding the pine in favor of Joey Votto. So, why are the Reds pinning this stall in the rebuild on a player?
This fiasco is the fault of Walt Jocketty and Walt Jocketty only. Major League Baseball is not the NFL – you don’t need multiple, elite play-makers at a single position. You need to have a steady flow of talent within your minor league system, and you deal a player like Yasmani Grandal when you have a Devin Mesoraco ahead of him for the long-term. That made sense four years ago when the club was dealing young talent for proven talent and acquiring Mat Latos from the Padres. Now, Jocketty has a very unimpressive farm system that has a dearth of offensive producers, even after dealing Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Aroldis Chapman, and Frazier since last July. Jesse Winker is the great hope for the future, and he profiles as a corner outfielder who is going to hit about 15 home runs, and if you think Peraza is the answer…you have that scum Phillips blocking him at second.
The problem continues to be the Baseball Operations side of things in Cincinnati. The organization continues to try to pass the blame elsewhere, but it starts and finishes there. For a positive change in Cincinnati, it is Jocketty who needs to go. Quit with the small-market nonsense. Get someone in there with a plan that can work.
The current MLB Collective Bargaining Agreement was put into place in 2011 and expires on December 1st of 2016. With the expiration, it is likely that players will find a way or work towards eliminating the current draft pick compensation. While the qualifying offer protects small-market teams and allows them to receive compensation for losing a player, it also comes with driving the price of free agents down. For that reason, players who receive qualifying offers need to truly be elite, or they pay the price in the open market.
From 2012 to 2014, all 34 players who received qualifying offers rejected them; however, after the 2015 season, a whopping 20 players received offers, with three players – Matt Wieters, Colby Rasmus, and Brett Anderson – accepting the one-year, $15.8 million deals (the average annual value of the top 125 salaries in baseball), while a fourth, Marco Estrada, agreed to a two-year deal with Toronto. Unfortunately, there are several others who are still seeking roster asylum.
The market for Ian Desmond, Yovani Gallardo, and Dexter Fowler has been slow to develop, while we saw recent late signings for Ian Kennedy and Justin Upton, who, finally, received long-term deals with the newly popular opt-out clauses worked into those deals. In addition to Desmond, Gallardo, and Fowler, here are other names still available:
Cliff Lee, Mark Buehrle, Tim Lincecum, Doug Fister, Kyle Lohse, Jimmy Rollins, Howie Kendrick, Alex Rios, Greg Holland (Tommy John surgery), Marlon Byrd, David Freese, Pedro Alvarez, Mike Minor (coming off of shoulder surgery), Alfredo Simon, Matt Joyce, Ike Davis, Bronson Arroyo (Tommy John surgery), Juan Uribe, and superstar slugger Yoenis Cespedes.
Interestingly enough, the players above do not require draft pick compensation; however, many clubs now value the cost effective, team control mantra that comes with youth movements, while refraining from the over-inflated, under-performing, declining veteran deals, which causes the shelf period for players in free agency to continue to lengthen.
It certainly makes sense for clubs to give young players additional opportunities, especially if they have very little chance to succeed in a given year. Many teams will likely attempt to match the Houston Astros complete, disgraceful collapse and eventual successful rebuild, rather than giving $8 million to a 38-year-old infielder. The perfect example of this would be my hometown Cincinnati Reds plugging last year’s shortstop, Eugenio Suarez (who gives way at short after Zack Cozart‘s return from a knee injury), in at third base instead of signing David Freese or Juan Uribe to give mediocre production at a much greater cost.
Free agency for the elite players continues to be lucrative. Free agency for large market clubs continues to be a bountiful way to reload a roster quickly. However, free agency for small-market clubs and lesser players continues to be a battle of patience, as offers are slow to develop until desperation sinks in.
All of this goes back to ways that clubs and owners are able to manipulate the market. Qualifying offers and compensation picks protect clubs, but there is still no true protection for the players – outside of that whole guaranteed contract thing. There is so much money in baseball. Though some people complain about how much players are paid, they certainly are due their fair share of the pot. That isn’t happening right now. If players continue to sit out deep into the offseason, it is fair to cry collusion among the owners. Billionaires battling millionaires. You have to love first world problems.
Remember that time that the Chicago Cubs won 97 games and weren’t even that good. Yeah…that was last year. Only, it wasn’t that they weren’t that good, it was more that they didn’t have their best players out there for the entire season. A full season of OF Kyle Schwarber and 3B Kris Bryant could be enough to get the team to 100 wins. Then, you have to factor in the addition of OF Jason Heyward, and this team is downright scary.
You don’t believe me? Just visit the 2016 Steamer projections over at Fangraphs.
Based on Steamer, the Cubs have three of the top 11 overall position players (based on WAR), as Bryant ranks 7th (5.6), with 1B Anthony Rizzo (5.1) and Heyward (4.8) coming in at 10th and 11th, respectively. If that wasn’t enough, RHP Jake Arrieta (5th, 5.2) and LHP Jon Lester (14th, 4.4) give the Cubs two of the top 15 most valuable starting pitchers in baseball.
With all of this top-tier talent, Fangraphs has the Cubs projected to lead MLB in wins, using their crystal ball to estimate that the lovable losers will earn 95 wins in 2016.
However, it isn’t just the top-tier talent that the Cubs possess. They also signed 2B Ben Zobrist to take over second base, trading 2B/SS Starlin Castro to the Yankees for RHP Adam Warren, who is can fill a role in the bullpen or the rotation, while opening up shortstop for SS Addison Russell, who turns 22 later this month and will offer improved defense at short and another player with a full season of production, as Russell spent a brief amount of time in the minors in 2015 – similar to Bryant. RHP John Lackey was also added to the rotation, adding another veteran arm to the rotation, solidifying that group for another possible postseason run. If Chicago keeps OF Jorge Soler, since he was rumored to be on the move for pitching earlier this winter, and actually have a full, healthy season out of him, that give the Cubs a 24-year-old who could blast 25 or more home runs from right field.
The front office may not be done with re-working the club for 2016, as they hope to build a consistent winner. Even with a loaded MLB roster, the Cubs possess an incredibly talent group of players in the minors, several of which made my 2016 Top 100 Prospect List, including: SS Gleyber Torres, OF Billy McKinney, RHP Duane Underwood, RHP Carl Edwards, Jr., OF Albert Almora, OF Ian Happ, and RHP Pierce Johnson.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) January 13, 2016
In 2016, the Chicago Cubs are capable of much, much more than they accomplished in 2016. After signing Heyward away from the division-rival St. Louis Cardinals, they are the front runners for the NL Central and the World Series championship. Sure, there are 162 games to play, health to maintain, and possible regression and decline for some of their veterans, but with so many young, gifted, and talent players on their roster, and continuing through the minors, it will be a new team dealing with a new curse, as the billy goat sacrifices will finally come to an end around Wrigley Field.
Ken Griffey Jr. was the number one overall selection by the Seattle Mariners in the 1987 amateur draft. After a career in which he slashed .284/.370/.538 including 630 homers and winning nine gold gloves he received 99-percent of the votes for enshrinement into Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.
Coming out of high school the baseball world was well aware of the five tool potential of Junior as he starred for Archbishop Moeller High School in Cincinnati Ohio.
Despite the glowing scouting reports former Seattle Mariners General Manager Chuck Armstrong tells Major League Baseball Network Radio that he Junior wasn’t the clear cut choice for the Mariners.
Hear the full interview with Armstrong here:
Back in 1987 Mariners owner George Argyros was attempting to purchase the San Diego Padres; therefore, then Commissioner Peter Ueberroth put the Mariners in trust and made Chuck Armstrong the Chief Executive Officer.
One caveat to the arrangement was that Armstrong and company still had to get permission for all moves from Argyros. As the draft approached in the M’s had four players targeted (Junior, Mike Harkey, Mark Merchant, and Willie Blanks).
According to Armstrong the choice to select Junior with the overall number one pick was met with resistance by Argyros who preferred the team select Harkey who was a college player and closer to the big leagues than the raw high schooler Junior.
Drafting players in baseball requires thorough scouting but there is also a certain amount of luck involved. The Mariners front office was able to convince Argyros that Junior was the better selection than Harkey and the rest is history.
The Los Angeles Dodgers struck out on re-signing Zack Greinke, allowing the 32-year-old to take his NL-leading 1.66 ERA and 0.84 WHIP to the division-rival Arizona Diamondbacks, who locked up Greinke’s golden locks with a massive six-year, $206.5 million deal. The Dodgers added some rotation depth by taking a risk on Scott Kazmir, whose career rebound hit a snag when he hit a wall in September, going 0-2 with a 6.93 ERA and 1.74 WHIP over his final five starts and 24.2 innings; however, the 3.10 ERA and 1.20 WHIP over 183 innings over the 2015 season may have spoken louder to the Dodger brass than his collapse in Houston. Then, the Dodgers added Japanese, right-handed sensation Kenta Maeda, who signed an eight-year, $25 million deal, which was loaded with incentives, leading to a possible $100 million-plus deal.
Kenta Maeda’s #Dodgers contract: $1m signing bonus, $3m/year for next 8 years. No opt-out. No no-trade. Incentives could take deal >$100m.
— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) January 7, 2016
Maeda, who had a 2.39 ERA and 1.05 WHIP over eight seasons and 1,509.2 innings in Japan, was given an incentive-laden deal due to some issues that came up with his physical. While the Dodgers still paid the $20 million fee to negotiate with, and eventually land, the 27-year-old, the elbow issues that scared Los Angeles into this type of offer may have been worrisome to other teams, as well.
This deal speaks to Maeda’s willingness to prove himself, but it also could speak volumes for teams and players in the future. The “Prove-It” contract has been around for quite some time, as the good ol’ “never-met-a-bad-one-year-contract” folks will approve of. It’s why the Indians giving Kazmir a look for much less than the three-year, $48 million that the Dodgers paid was so brilliant back in 2013. But there is brilliance on both sides of this contract.
For the player, you are guaranteeing yourself much less than the market value; however, if you are healthy and productive year after year, you are handsomely rewarded. Additionally, for those who are locking up years of arbitration, there is no risk of being non-tendered due to an injury, as your team would have to release you and eat the remaining guaranteed seasons if they didn’t want to maintain your spot on the 40-man roster.
For example, if Mike Trout was offered a ten-year, $75 million deal after his first season with incentive multipliers for various Triple Crown stats that could have made the deal worth up to $140 to $150 million, wouldn’t he have taken it? Imagine a 20-year-old who could guarantee himself $7.5 million over the next ten seasons, while protecting himself in case of a Grady Sizemore or Tony Conigliaro type of catastrophic, injury-related collapse…
Sure, the guaranteed money is what makes the Major League Baseball contract so welcoming to the player and so damning to the teams, but, in today’s financial market, isn’t $7.5 million chump change? Teams are willing to give lesser players $14.8 million per year on one-year deals as qualifying offers to land an additional draft pick.
The teams, while taking the financial risk, also protect themselves from paying someone, like Ryan Howard, huge annual salaries when they aren’t producing at the levels necessary to be worthy of such a deal. Yes, teams are content with getting a WAR of 28 from the first three seasons of a Mike Trout-type of player for roughly $1.8 million dollars in salary, but wouldn’t it be nice to know that you could have that player into his prime on agreed to incentives into his early 30s? Imagine if the Braves had given Jason Heyward, who just received $184 million over eight years from the Cubs, a deal similar to this. During his productive seasons, he would have earned more money, while the arbitration period wouldn’t have been able to look at one or two very good seasons to say that he was worthy of such significant raises to price him out of the team’s future.
With the top players in the league earning more than $30 million per season, there is certainly a reason for the Player’s Union to avoid this type of commitment. There isn’t a reason for the top players to earn $20 million with incentives when they could guarantee $30 million per year, right? This would give teams and owners too much power; however, there are positive risks involved on both sides.
Can Maeda’s contract change the way that teams negotiate contracts? I think it may be better for the game to reward players for production in this way, while not forcing fans of the Phillies to watch Ryan Howard collapse for $25 million per season and strangle the financial side of the franchise for years to come. With so much money available through television contracts and MLB Advanced Media, maybe it is time for the league, the owners, and its players to find new, creative ways to utilize it…without a salary cap.