The Pending Free Agency Doom of Bryce Harper is Healed and…Forgotten???
At the end of the 2017 season, Nationals all-world super-prospect Victor Robles made his arrival to Washington and showed some of the power and speed (two triples) that made him the No.4 prospect (MLB.com, I, personally, had him No.6) in all of baseball heading into the 2018 season. He would, likely, be in Washington right now if not for his hyperextended elbow, which shelved him on April 9th at Triple-A Syracuse. Sadly, his injury has opened the door for a new player, Juan Soto, who is never going to give up his spot.
Soto was a highly ranked prospect in his own right. He signed for $1.5 million in 2015 out of the Dominican Republic. At the tender age of 19, he has obliterated every minor league level, posting a .362/.434/.609 line, with 30 doubles, eight triples, 20 bombs, and a 66:58 K:BB in all of 512 minor league plate appearances. He played in all of eight games at Double-A before jumping to the majors, where he has done nothing short but continue to rake, posting a .344/.447/.641 line in his first 20 games and 76 plate appearances (going into Friday’s game).This is one teenager who has lived up to the hype. As someone who has watched the entire career of Bryce Harper, I can comfortably say that Juan Soto’s arrival will make his departure from Washington an easier pill to swallow. For all of the love that Harper receives, and don’t get me wrong – he is a gifted player, he hasn’t had the career that warrants the type of contract that some sad team will inexcusably hand him and Scott Boras after the 2018 season. Sure, he has youth on his side – he’ll be just 26 this October- but youth and prior production doesn’t lead to years of production in later seasons. You can look at the contracts of Jason Heyward with Chicago, Chris Davis in Baltimore, and Jacoby Ellsbury in New York for the possible void of truth in that type of logic.
Harper’s best season was his 2015 MVP campaign. He followed that up with a down 2016, an injury-shortened 2017, and an interesting start to the 2018 season. He’s leading the NL in both home runs (19) and walks (50), while currently sporting the worst average of his career (.224). Despite that low average, his OPS would rank the 3rd highest of his career. The .213 BABIP doesn’t help, nor does his ability (or inability) to hit against the shift. There was an amazing article on his lack of success this season at Fangraphs that you should read, and the trends have continued since the article was published on 6/5. Still, who in their right mind would bank $300 million or the $400 million that some think it would take over a decade to a player who peaked at 22? The Nationals should feel comfortable not being that team. They have Max Scherzer through 2021 and Stephen Strasburg through 2023, Robles could be another producer, while Soto has, albeit in a small sample size, proven that his minor league, video-game-like production could be his norm at the top level. This is a team that can build in more productive ways than the franchise debilitating super-contract that would come with re-signing their star.
Juan Soto, a 19-year-old who became the first teenager to hit two home runs and walk once in the history of Yankee Stadium, a young man they call the “Childish Bambino”, a young man who can’t possess a Budweiser but does possess the barreling bat of a dynamic veteran, has taken over the future of the franchise in Washington. As fans watch Harper have a season of three outcomes, they can see this star in the making give a glimpse of life without the hard-nosed, oft-injured star, resting comfortably in what the future holds.
Over the last several years, the Arizona Diamondbacks have had several people involved in running the organization into the ground. They’ve been through managers, having seen Kirk Gibson fired in 2014, Alan Trammell as interim, Chip Hale hired and fired, and, now, having first-year manager Torey Lovullo starting the 2017 season. The instability for this organization doesn’t just start and finish on the field, though. Since 2010, we’ve seen Josh Byrnes, Jerry DiPoto (interim), Kevin Towers, Dave Stewart, and newly-hired Mike Hazen, formerly with the Boston Red Sox, in the general manager role. After winning the 2011 NL West, the Diamondbacks have failed to finish over .500, though they have finished right at .500 twice during that span.
Segura, 27 on Opening Day, will be replaced at shortstop by Marte, who was rushed to the majors by Seattle at the age of 21 in 2015 out of desperation to fill their shortstop hole with just 377 at bats above AA. He’ll play the 2017 season at the age of 23 and he won’t be arbitration-eligible until after the 2018 season. Segura had much more pop in his bat than Marte ever will, but Marte puts the ball in play and has solid speed, which is basically what Segura was in 2014 and 2015 before he had his second breakout season – if that is a thing – in 2016.
Hazen saved some money at shortstop, while acquiring Walker, a potential ace, for his pitching staff. Walker, long labeled full of potential, could make this deal look silly for Seattle if he actually reaches or fulfills that potential; however, we’ve been waiting on that for a few years now, even though Walker will be just 24 on Opening Day. If he can overcome injuries and become more consistent, a familiar statement for young pitchers, this is an easy win for the Diamondbacks, and Mike Hazen has already proven himself worthy of the job. If it crashes and burns, who cares? The Diamondbacks went 69-93 while Segura was a star in 2016, so it was worth the gamble.
Mike Hazen had a lot more money to work with in his time with the Boston Red Sox. He may need to be a little more creative in landing talent in the desert, but the 40-year-old has a lot of respect in the game and will continue to put the Diamondbacks in a position to be successful, as long as ownership gives him the time necessary to turn it all around.
Be thankful, Diamondback fans. Mike Hazen finally has a plan for your team.
To say that the last three months, since I last wrote on this blog, have been miserable would be the understatement of my lifetime. Personal issues aside, I can easily say that the 2016 World Series was the best that I’ve ever seen. As a former writer on an Indians blog, I adopted them as my team – and was forced to do so after the MLB.TV blacked out my local team. Watching the Tribe all season, off-and-on due to the above issues, was truly exciting. The Tyler Naquin inside-the-parker and celebration, the year-long smoothness of Francisco Lindor up-the-middle, and the dominance by Corey Kluber were impressive to cling to during my own struggles; however, the Indians making it to the World Series and getting that 3-1 lead was what I thought would bring me out of the funk of life.
Unfortunately, it didn’t happen that way, but…WOW! Rajai Davis‘ home run, the ups and downs of the whole series, and the hope that came along with it…It didn’t get much better than that. Congratulations to the Chicago Cubs and the 108 years of futility that their fans had to endure for their majestic comeback. It is scary to think of how good they could be over the next several years as Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Javier Baez blossom in their dynamic lineup.
Now…onto some other things…
Of course, the owners want to take this time of great celebration and success for the entire league to leap into their demands. Sure, the International Draft and all of the international signings need to have some sort of reform. The punishments of signing money and draft picks haven’t seemed to do enough damage to the clubs that continue to shell out the millions needed to sign the top international teenagers. A draft would “even the playing field” and allow the worst teams to get the best players. Isn’t that similar to the amateur draft, though? Are the best players going in order in the draft, or are the teams using their bonus money and the demands of the bonus babies to still play a role in who they take? This is a problem, sure, but all player acquisition options seem to be that way in MLB. People didn’t like the way that the Houston Astros lost and stockpiled players. The Cubs did something similar and found the results that they did in 2016. Are the Cincinnati Reds next to go down the hundred-losses path to find eventual success, or will the owners cry foul on that, as well?
There are all kinds of other options that need to be adjusted, but equality and fairness in dollars, which comes along with a salary cap, will only go so far if stupid people are in charge. The Indians ranked 24th in MLB payroll on Opening Day last season, while the Cubs were 14th, just behind my hometown Reds, who went 68-94, just 35.5 games back of those Cubbies. The owners, the billionaires, want more money coming towards them, which makes the International Draft and a salary cap so endearing to them. The players, the millionaires, want more money in the only league that has fully guaranteed contracts – just imagine what would have happened to a Ryan Howard contract in the NFL!
Once again, it could be the game and the fans who lose out while these rich people banter over their money. The game continues to grow globally, with another World Baseball Classic this spring, but all of the positivity that comes from that jubilance could be crushed. So, here’s my take: get over yourselves and take better care of the game, and don’t ruin this amazing high that fans are on after an incredible postseason with arrogance and greed!
Big Contracts for Small Names
After watching Andrew Miller dominate down the stretch and in the playoffs, the St. Louis Cardinals dove into free agency with what could be a huge belly flop, signing Brett Cecil for four years and $30.5MM to get the ball to last season’s surprise closer, Seung-hwan Oh, who was dominant after replacing Trevor Rosenthal last season. Cecil is an interesting investment. After faltering as a starter for Toronto, he was moved to the bullpen full-time in 2012. In his four seasons of serving only out of the ‘pen, Cecil has managed a 2.90 ERA (2.73 FIP), 1.17 WHIP, and 11.5 K:9 over 205 IP and 243 appearances. If you compare Cecil’s four seasons to Miller’s first three as a reliever, they are pretty similar, as Miller posted a 2.57 ERA (2.37 FIP), 1.05 WHIP, and 13.3 K:9 over 133.1 IP and 163 appearances. Miller, of course, signed with the Yankees for four years and $36MM after the 2014 season, becoming more dominant since then (1.72 ERA (1.90 FIP), 0.76 WHIP, and 14.8 K:9 over 136 IP and 130 appearances). It appears that Cecil was able to successfully attach himself to Miller’s coattails, riding them to a huge payday.
Jumping to the outfield, the Astros added to their’s by signing Josh Reddick to a four-year, $52MM deal. It seemed like a strange addition when you consider that the Astros have George Springer in right, the position that Reddick has played for most of his career. Still, with Jake Marisnick in center and Nori Aoki in left, the outfield was an area of need this winter. After going from Wild Card winners in 2015 to 3rd in the AL West in 2016, the Astros needed to continue to push towards their winning window with their solid core of talent. Reddick, however, may not be worth $13MM per season, having seen his best season way back in 2012. It seems like a lot of money for someone who posted a 1.2 WAR in 2016, but it appears that Houston believes his thumb injury played a larger role in his lack of offensive prowess last season. This looks a lot like the deal that the Yankees gave to Jacoby Ellsbury, banking on his insane 2011 season after a couple of average seasons in 2012 and 2013. He hasn’t lived up to the contract, unless you’re paying $20MM per year for past performance, which Houston appears to be doing, as well, this offseason.
I’ll try to write more often. Get back on my bandwagon and I’ll tell you wonderful things about baseball and life. America needs me right now, so I’m back.
“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:
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.
It was 1998 when the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks joined Major League Baseball. Five years prior to that, 1993, MLB welcomed the Florida (Miami) Marlins and the Colorado Rockies, 16 years after the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners were added. Now, over 16 years after adding the Rays and Diamondbacks, is it time for Major League Baseball to add the 31st and 32nd clubs, and how would that change the league?
Because of scheduling, there would have to be two teams added, allowing 16 games to be played each night. Currently, with six divisions – three in each league – there are opportunities for five teams to appear in the playoffs, with the three division champions being joined by the winner of a one-game Wild Card play-in. How would this change going forward? Would the top two teams in each eight-team division within a league be the playoff teams, or would MLB want to keep the five participants (with the two weakest records among the top five qualifiers playing each other) or expand the playoffs to eight teams – which seems like going overboard, though there are financial pluses for the league and teams in expanding the playoffs, but playing games in cold cities in November would be horrific.
Greenville/Spartanburg, South Carolina – Asheville, North Carolina
Further down the list – San Antonio, Las Vegas, Oklahoma City, Albuquerque, and Birmingham.
Some could argue the vicinity of teams like the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians to Columbus and Indianapolis would make those cities more likely to only have minor league teams, which they both currently do (Indianapolis Indians are the Triple-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Columbus Clippers are the Triple-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians), than the addition of another club. The Reds, in particular, thrive on fans coming from Dayton, Columbus, Lexington, and Louisville to watch Major League quality play, even though minor league clubs are present in each city. The population doesn’t support an additional Ohio team, especially when the Reds and Indians can’t fill their current stadiums on a nightly basis.
That’s why it is so interesting when Brooklyn gets brought up as an expansion city still today. We all know that the Dodgers left Brooklyn for Los Angeles in 1957, but could New York carry a third team if ownership doesn’t price out their fans the way that the New York Yankees and Mets have appeared to do within their new stadiums and the expensive, luxury “values” that they are providing now?
It is worrisome to have so many teams packed into one area, and the east coast is littered with teams, specifically the northeast. However, the addition of a team in Charlotte could be really intriguing for MLB. The south has always been ruled by the Atlanta Braves, and Braves Nation is huge due to the existence of TBS and the games being nationally televised for so many years. I grew up watching some pretty terrible, Dale Murphy-led Braves’ teams. Charlotte opens baseball in the south for the National League, as it could create a new rivalry with Atlanta, while focusing on the markets of Charlotte, Raleigh, Durham, Asheville, Greensville, and Spartanburg could allow for some lucrative corporate and television endorsement agreements for the club, while expanding baseball in a southeastern region that is heavily populated and not so heavily represented in MLB today.
Additionally, Las Vegas is mentioned often due to its booming population when baseball expansion is discussed. It isn’t even a top 40 TV market, and if it were to earn a team, would the team thrive with so much of the population busy working the casinos and other tourist attractions, while those tourists are busy stuffing themselves with free buffets, drinks, and Celine Dion shows? Can it really support a club when the main economy factor will always be tourists? We’ve seen attendance become an issue in Tampa and Miami in the past due to the tourist ways of Florida populations, so would MLB want another potential revenue draining club?
Portland, Oregon, much like Charlotte, would fit into the Pacific Northwest nicely, creating a natural rivalry with the Seattle Mariners in the American League. There would be some issues with the stadium, as a roof would be necessary, in addition to the fact that Portland has limitations on land due to a pretty strict environmental protection agreement in the area, preventing nature around the city from being destroyed to maintain the area for hikers, tourists, and other green philosophies. Portland is ranked 22nd among all TV markets in the United States, while potentially raking in money from surrounding universities and Nike, among others, in sponsorship and development of the franchise.
With Charlotte and Portland added to the league, this is what MLB would look like with two, eight-team divisions, where the top two teams in each division would be the four playoff teams for each league:
Baltimore Orioles Houston Astros
Boston Red Sox Kansas City Royals
Cleveland Indians Los Angeles Angels
Chicago White Sox Minnesota Twins
Detroit Tigers Oakland Athletics
New York Yankees Portland Franchise
Tampa Bay Rays Seattle Mariners
Toronto Blue Jays Texas Rangers
Atlanta Braves Arizona Diamondbacks
Charlotte Franchise Chicago Cubs
Cincinnati Reds Colorado Rockies
Miami Marlins Los Angeles Dodgers
New York Mets Milwaukee Brewers
Philadelphia Phillies St. Louis Cardinals
Pittsburgh Pirates San Diego Padres
Washington Nationals San Francisco Giants
MLB could have four divisions in each league with four teams in each league, with division winners representing the four playoff teams for each league:
Baltimore Orioles Houston Astros
Boston Red Sox Kansas City Royals
New York Yankees Tampa Bay Rays
Toronto Blue Jays Texas Rangers
Chicago White Sox Los Angeles Angels
Cleveland Indians Oakland Athletics
Detroit Tigers Portland Franchise
Minnesota Twins Seattle Mariners
New York Mets Chicago Cubs
Philadelphia Phillies Cincinnati Reds
Pittsburgh Pirates Milwaukee Brewers
Washington Nationals St. Louis Cardinals
Atlanta Braves Arizona Diamondbacks
Charlotte Franchise Los Angeles Dodgers
Colorado Rockies San Diego Padres
Miami Marlins San Francisco Giants
Major League Baseball is as successful financially as it has ever been in 2014. With MLB Advanced Media revenue, local and national television contract revenue, and merchandise revenue continuing to fatten the pockets of existing owners, it is time for the league to open the door for another group of billionaires to take over new franchises. There is plenty of talent out there in MLB, so much so that teams are allowing players who can help them now, like Gregory Polanco of the Pirates and Oscar Taveras of the Cardinals, to rot in the minors to avoid salary issues in the future. If owners are so willing to obviously take on losses to save a player, how about players get taken away through an expansion draft. Now is the time. Expansion should be upon us, and whoever the next commissioner of baseball is going to be, it would be a huge splash to add two franchises as his first act as the league’s new fearless leader