Results tagged ‘ Hiroki Kuroda ’

Pretend GM: Signings and Trades That Should Be Made

With the big signing of Masahiro Tanaka by the New York Yankees on Wednesday, the market for free agency and trades could explode over the next several days. With that in mind, I was thinking about some deals that would make tremendous sense for several teams…although, they could just make sense to me. Regardless, here are some deals that I’d like to see made over the next few weeks before pitchers and catchers report.

Cincinnati Reds Trade Brandon Phillips to the New York Yankees for Brett Gardner

PhillipsWhy This Trade Makes Sense: The Yankees clearly want to get back to the top, as their $155 million investment in Tanaka showed. With Brian Roberts, Kelly Johnson, and Scott Sizemore as the current options at second base, New York could use a more reliable name to replace Robinson Cano. While the Reds don’t have an immediate replacement ready for Phillips (outside of Henry Rodriguez or another position change for Billy Hamilton), they need to clear some payroll in order to lock up Mat Latos, Johnny Cueto, and Mike Leake, all of whom are eligible for free agency after the 2015 season, as well as Homer Bailey, who will be a free agent after the 2014 season. Phillips, who is due $50 million over the next four years, could be a bargain based on the current market, while his ability to play defensively at an elite level will provide quite a bit of value, as well. Gardner is unlikely to provide the on-base skills that Shin-Soo Choo provided last season in Cincinnati, but he would provide elite-level defensive skills, speed, and solid on-base skills (career OBP of .352). Gardner, earning $5.6 million in 2014 prior to reaching free agency after the season, would be an upgrade over a 2014 version of Hamilton, while providing quite a bit of financial flexibility to shore up the rotation for the coming seasons in Cincinnati. Even if Cincinnati had to chip in $10 million in salary relief, it would be an interesting deal for both clubs.

Baltimore Orioles Sign A.J. Burnett to a one-year, $14 million deal

burnettWhy This Signing Makes Sense: In 2012, the Baltimore Orioles surprised the world by contending and finishing 2nd in the AL East with 93 wins. In 2013, there was a slight regression, as the team dipped to 85 wins after doing very little over the offseason. The Orioles have been very active in the minor league free agent market this winter, but they could use a splash, and Burnett would be a tremendous addition to the club’s rotation. Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, Bud Norris, and Kevin Gausman make a good, young rotation, but Burnett would be the anchor for the staff, and his presence would allow the club to move Norris to a (more appropriate) bullpen role. Burnett is from Maryland and he has been rumored to be retiring if he doesn’t re-sign with Pittsburgh, but Baltimore is close to home and he can keep his wife happy, and the spare change for one year would be worth it for both sides. Burnett rebuilt his value with two tremendous seasons with the Pirates, and he is worth a one-year deal for Baltimore for another shot at the AL East for the tattooed right-hander. Sure, it seems like it is going to be Pittsburgh or bust, but the Orioles are contenders with a healthy Manny Machado and consistent production from Adam Jones, Chris Davis, and Matt Wieters – the O’s need to do their due diligence here.

Toronto Blue Jays Sign Matt Garza to a five-year, $60 million deal (I know he was rumored to have signed with Milwaukee for four-years, $52 million pending a physical, but it isn’t official…yet)

GarzaWhy This Signing Makes Sense: The Jays need another solid option in their rotation to compliment R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, and Brandon Morrow, so that their offense isn’t wasted on sloppy rotation options like Esmil Rogers, Ramon Ortiz, Aaron Laffey, and Rickey Romero, who combined to make 27 starts last season. While Garza has some injury concerns, the Blue Jays have already given him a dynamic weapon – Dioner Navarro. With Navarro as his catcher, Garza has logged 338.1 innings and managed a 3.25 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP, while Garza has posted a 4.07 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP with anyone else behind the dish. While there is risk involved due to Garza spending 170 team games on the disabled list the last three seasons with right shoulder and elbow injuries, the Jays need a pitcher who is capable of pitching in the AL East (Garza has done it before), can toss 180 or more innings (Garza has done it four times), and would be a significant upgrade over Rogers, Todd Redmond, and J.A. Happ, while the club waits for Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Alberto Tirado, Daniel Norris, and Sean Nolin to reach the majors. Garza may not be a number one starter, but he is a strong number two or three option on a club that should compete with an absolutely loaded offensive group.

Philadelphia Phillies Sign Ubaldo Jimenez to a five-year, $85 million deal

Why This Signing Makes Sense: The Phillies first round pick, seventh overall, is protected, so while Jimenez would require draft-pick compensation, it would only be a second round pick going to Cleveland for Jimenez. After a tremendous second half in 2013 (1.82 ERA, 1.14 WHIP over 84 innings), Jimenez rebuilt his value, and, at the age of 30, would be a solid right-handed option for the Phillies to place between Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee. Jimenez has had some success during his career in the NL East:

I Split W L ERA GS GF CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP SO/9 SO/BB
Atlanta Braves 3 5 3.79 9 0 1 1 54.2 47 25 23 6 28 66 1.372 10.9 2.36
Miami Marlins 1 2 4.07 5 0 0 0 24.1 23 19 11 1 16 31 1.603 11.5 1.94
New York Mets 2 3 3.40 6 0 0 0 39.2 27 15 15 4 21 29 1.210 6.6 1.38
Washington Nationals 5 1 2.61 7 0 0 0 48.1 39 14 14 1 16 36 1.138 6.7 2.25
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/22/2014.

For those who don’t want to do the math, Jimenez is 11-11 with a 3.39 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and a 162:81 K:BB over 167 innings and 27 starts, and while that isn’t perfect, especially in a ballpark that is more favorable to hitters, Jimenez should, at least, be worth the money as an innings eater if he isn’t elite like he was in the second half of 2013. The Phillies may not be contenders, but they’ll always be spenders. They don’t have any arms ready in their system and Jimenez would be a huge upgrade over Roberto Hernandez and Ethan Martin, who appear to be options for the rotation currently.

Oakland Athletics Sign Nelson Cruz to a three-year, $27 million deal

Why This Signing Makes Sense: The Cruz market appears nearly dead after there was draft-pick compensation added to a PED suspension, but Cruz is still just 33 and he is coming off of an All-Star season with solid production (27 home runs and 76 RBI in just 109 games). With very little interest and risk involved, it’s the perfect opportunity for Oakland to swoop in and make an interesting signing. While the club has some solid right-handed pop in Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Donaldson, the remainder of the lineup is filled with left-handed hitters, including Josh Reddick, Eric Sogard, Brandon Moss, as well as switch-hitters Coco Crisp and Jed Lowrie. Another right-handed, middle-of-the-order bat would be a tremendous addition, as Reddick or Moss could sandwich between Cruz and Cespedes, providing quite a bit of value and production for a team that struggles to find offense in a cavernous home ballpark. However, Cruz has struggled in Oakland, posting a .192/.248/.352 triple-slash in 202 career plate appearances there. The late first round pick and discounted contract, though, could be enough to overlook his struggles, while providing a little more punch to the Oakland lineup.

Texas Rangers Sign Bronson Arroyo to a two-year, $24 million deal

ArroyoWhy This Signing Makes Sense: Arroyo has been homer prone in the past and doesn’t have the stuff to avoid bats, but he has averaged 211 innings pitched over the last nine seasons and is someone whom the Rangers could count on with Colby Lewis and Matt Harrison coming back from injuries and Derek Holland on the shelf until mid-2014. Arroyo survived in a bandbox in Cincinnati over the last eight seasons, so he would be just as likely to post 200-plus innings and an ERA around 4.00 in Texas, especially with spacious ballparks like those in Seattle, Oakland, and Anaheim within the division. There isn’t draft-pick compensation tied to Arroyo, and with Masahiro Tanaka gone and no real hope of acquiring David Price in a trade, the Rangers just need five starting pitchers, and Arroyo is a nice, reliable addition for the middle or back-end of the Texas rotation.

Atlanta Braves Trade Alex Wood to the New York Yankees for Gary Sanchez

Why This Trade Makes Sense: C.C. Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, and Hiroki Kuroda make a great top three and Ivan Nova showed drastic improvements last season, but the Yankees are relying on David Phelps, Michael Pineda, Adam Warren, and Manny Banuelos at the back of the rotation in 2014. While Alex Wood has one of the more violent deliveries you’ll ever see, he has solid stuff and is ready to be productive immediately in a major league rotation. With Brandon Beachy healthy and David Hale and Gavin Floyd capable of filling the back of the Braves rotation, Wood could be expendable for Atlanta to seek a long-term option at catcher with the departure of Brian McCann to the Yankees via free agency. Evan Gattis has a lot of power and Christian Bethancourt has tremendous defensive skills, but neither seem like strong options as an everyday catcher for Atlanta. While Sanchez still needs some seasoning and he could use a change of scenery due to his makeup and maturity concerns, the Braves have several upcoming arms, as usual, and they have a long-term need at catcher. Sanchez could be the answer and the eventual elbow surgery that Wood will need is worth this type of deal for Atlanta, and the production that the Yankees get out of Wood could be useful, as well.

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2014 MLB Free Agency: Pitching: What’s Out There For Your Team

Another season has finished and with only ten teams having successful, playoff-bound seasons, it is time for the other 20 teams to look forward to the 2014 season. After 162 games, you probably have a pretty good idea of what your team needs. Below, you’ll find a list of upcoming free agents. Who would you like your team to sign? Comment away!!!

TanakaTop Tier Starting Pitchers

Matt Garza, RHP, 30; Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP, 30; Josh Johnson, RHP, 30; Scott Kazmir, LHP, 30; Tim Lincecum, RHP, 30; Ricky Nolasco, RHP, 31; Ervin Santana, RHP, 31; Masahiro Tanaka, RHP, 25;

Needless to say, it is a weak, weak market this offseason. The Wild Card is Tanaka, who could be posted by his Japanese club. The youngest of the group, Tanaka has a 1.44 ERA over the last three seasons in 580.1 innings. At 6’2″, 205 pounds, Tanaka is more Yu Darvish (6’5″, 225) than Daisuke Matsuzaka (6′, 180), but he should fall somewhere in between. Garza wasn’t really all that productive after moving to Texas in a mid-season trade, and after battling elbow issues prior to the deal, his market may be very weary in its development. Johnson had an absolute nightmare of a season in Toronto, posting a 6.30 ERA over 16 starts (81.1 IP) before being shut down in late August with a forearm strain. Lincecum has shown some positive signs of his former self, but his fastball velocity continues to decrease and his previous contract (two-year, $40.5 million) seems highly unattainable. The remaining four, Jimenez, Kazmir (who sat in the mid-90’s all season, stayed healthy, and is young enough to produce through an extended contract), Nolasco, and Santana, had the best seasons of those reaching free agency in the coming months, but none of them are elite. On a good team, none of them should be more than a No.3 starter.

JimenezVeteran Starting Pitchers

Bronson Arroyo, RHP, 37; A.J. Burnett, RHP, 37; Bartolo Colon, RHP, 41; Freddy Garcia, RHP, 37; Roy Halladay, RHP, 37; Hiroki Kuroda, RHP, 39; Ted Lilly, LHP, 38; Roy Oswalt, RHP, 35; Jake Westbrook, RHP, 36; Barry Zito, LHP, 36;

This group is full of guys who have performed very well at times over the last few years. Burnett has been lights out for Pittsburgh this season (209 K, 3.30 ERA in 191 IP), Dan Haren had a 3.29 ERA over his final 16 games (87.2 IP), Kuroda has a 3.40 ERA over his first six seasons in America, and Arroyo hasn’t missed a start in his career. The rest of the group is kind of all over the place, some battling through various injuries and others battling through inconsistencies that come with aging and the loss of stuff. This group could be pretty affordable due to their age and limitations, but they could be very valuable for whoever signs them, tossing useful innings or providing leadership within a rotation and clubhouse.

Reclamation Projects

Scott Baker, RHP, 32; Gavin Floyd, RHP, 31; Phil Hughes, RHP, 28; Colby Lewis, RHP, 34; Shaun Marcum, RHP, 32; Mike Pelfrey, RHP, 30; Edinson Volquez, RHP, 30; Chien-Ming Wang, RHP, 34;

Several guys here coming off of injuries, while some have just long been ineffective, like Hughes and Pelfrey (who seemed to find a tick on his fastball late in the year). While none of these guys are locks to fill a rotation spot, they could become the 2014 version of what Kazmir provided to the Cleveland Indians. An incentive-laden contract for any of these pitchers is a worthy gamble by an intelligent club.

MujicaClosers

Grant Balfour, RHP, 36; Joaquin Benoit, RHP, 36; Joel Hanrahan, RHP, 32; Edward Mujica, RHP, 30; Fernando Rodney, RHP, 37;

Considering the young, affordable, internal options that have stepped up and become useful in the closer’s role over the last several years like Craig Kimbrel, Greg Holland, and Kenley Jansen, as well as the highly-paid closers that have bombed (Francisco Cordero, Francisco Rodriguez, and Jose Valverde, for example), maybe the expensive, long-term deals that used to be handed out to closers in free agency could be a thing of the past. Not one of these free agents have maintained a closer’s job for the last three straight years without interruption, and, for that reason, should sign at a relative discount when compared to deals in years past.

ChamberlainUseful Relief Pitchers

Matt Albers, RHP, 31; Joba Chamberlain, RHP, 28; Jesse Crain, RHP, 32; Jason Frasor, RHP, 36; Rich Hill, LHP, 34; J.P. Howell, LHP, 31; Matt Guerrier, RHP, 35; Boone Logan, LHP, 29; Javier Lopez, LHP, 36; Oliver Perez, LHP, 32; Francisco Rodriguez, RHP, 31; Joe Smith, RHP, 30;

More pitchers who are all over the place in production and health, the relief pitcher is probably the most confusing position in all of baseball. Some dominate every year, like Mike Adams, and others, like Rodriguez, have been about as consistent as a politician. A tremendous bullpen typically happens due to gambling and winning on a risk, and being very, very cautious with how much money is given to free agents. None of these guys should receive more than $5 million per season, but it wouldn’t be surprising if some unintelligent front office makes the bold move and sets the market way too high.

Should MLB Teams Refuse the Mega-Contract?

Another free agency period is ahead with another Major League Baseball offseason. With so many superstars being signed to lucrative contracts with their existing clubs, players who reach free agency can make exorbitant amounts of money due to fewer players being available and television contracts that teams are using as revenue generating machines. With that being said, is a big-time contract a smart investment for a needy team this winter?

The Yankees as a Model

With Robinson Cano heading towards free agency after the 2013 season, the New York Yankees will be faced with a decision that could alter their original plan of getting under Major League Baseball’s $189 million luxury tax threshold. With $92.4 million due to six players (Alex Rodriguez, C.C. Sabathia, Alfonso Soriano (the Cubs are covering $13 of the $18 million owed to him), Mark Teixiera, Vernon Wells (the Angels are covering $18.6 of the $21 million owed to him), Ichiro Suzuki, and Derek Jeter (who has an $8 million player option), the Yankees, on the surface, appear to have some wiggle room in an offer to their superstar second baseman; however, the players mentioned above are the only players with guaranteed contracts next season.

Yankees vs. MarinersAdam Warren, David Phelps, and Eduardo Nunez are all pre-arbitration, so they can have their contracts renewed at the league minimum, but the club will have to deal with David Huff, Chris Stewart, Francisco Cervelli, Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova, Jayson Nix, Shawn Kelley, Brett Gardner, and David Robertson within arbitration, and determine whether Cano, Hiroki Kuroda, Kevin Youkilis, Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes, Mark Reynolds, Boone Logan, Travis Hafner, Joba Chamberlain, and/or Lyle Overbay are worthy of being tendered a qualifying offer prior to reaching free agency. With up to 19 spots available for next season, the remaining $96.6 million doesn’t appear to be going very far.

While relief could be on the way with a possible 2014 suspension for Alex Rodriguez, from which his $25 million contract would be forfeited, the long-term contracts that the Yankees have handed out like candy are now causing financial issues as the club’s attendance continues to decline (43,733 in 2012 vs. 40,002 in 2013) along with the talent of the aging players.

Consider this:

Alex Rodriguez is 37 years old and is owed $86 million over the next four years.

C.C. Sabathia is 32 years old and is owed $76 million over the next three seasons (including his 2017 buyout).

Mark Teixiera is 33 years old and is owed $67.5 million over the next three seasons.

The three have been worth a combined WAR (Fangraphs) of 2.6 in 2013 while costing the Yankees $73.5 million in salaries. For comparisons sake, San Diego third baseman Chase Headley, Atlanta third baseman Chris Johnson, San Diego outfielder Chris Denorfia, Baltimore outfielder Nate McLouth, and San Francisco shortstop Brandon Crawford have each posted a 2.6 WAR in 2013…individually. If the Yankees had all five players this season, they would have spent just under $16 million, about $6.5 million less than they spent on Teixiera alone in 2013!

Why These Contracts Don’t Make Sense

By investing large sums of money into veterans when they reach free agency in the post-steroid era, teams are taking immeasurable risks.

1) They are assuming that a high-performing player will be capable of producing into their mid-30’s, and…

2) They are assuming that the high-performing player will stay healthy enough to be worth the investment.

When a player reaches free agency, they have at least six years of major league experience. The player likely had three seasons of pre-arbitration followed by three years of arbitration prior to reaching free agency. Considering that most players make their debuts between the ages of 21 and 24, a free agent is typically between the ages of 27 and 30. The magic prime age in baseball is apparently going to happen in a player’s age-27 season, lasting roughly three to five seasons. A player has reached their physical peak at this point, which allows the player to utilize their various tools to take advantage of the opposition through the use of their experience and mental approaches gained through those experiences. When a multi-year contract is given to a player at the age of 30, say a five-year contract, and that player is then declining for nearly three-fifths of the contract, what is the value to the club? Without performance-enhancers, normal aging processes, such as shoulder fatigue for aging pitchers and chronic knee soreness for a veteran position player, become normal once again. Can teams count on a 39-year-old shortstop to play in 162 games? Ask Derek Jeter how his season went.

Unfortunate Recent Examples

Albert Pujols signed his ten-year, $240 million deal with the Angels following his age-31 season in St. Louis. To make the deal more affordable and to allow the Angels some financial flexibility, Pujols’ contract was heavily back-loaded, meaning he will be making the most money at the end of his contract when he is approaching or passing the age of 40. In fact, in Pujols’ tenth season with the Angels, he is scheduled to make $30 million, the highest annual salary within his contract. After making a combined $28 million in 2012 and 2013, Pujols’ contract will jump to $23 million in 2014 and climb $1 million each season before reaching $30 million in 2021.

VottoHowever, Pujols hasn’t really lived up to the contract based on his production over the first 11 seasons in the majors, as he has posted the lowest WAR of his career in consecutive seasons (3.7 in 2012 and 0.7 in 2013). He was shutdown on August 19 due to a partial tear of his left plantar fascia and he  should be ready to go next season; however, since he isn’t undergoing surgery, how well will this injury heal? Although the tear supposedly did what the surgery would have, one has to wonder if it can be aggravated, torn further (since it is still a partial tear), and debilitating enough to plague Pujols throughout the remainder of his massive contract.

And what about the contract that the “small-market” Cincinnati Reds gave to Joey Votto? The Reds handed Votto a ten-year, $225 million extension in April of 2012. The contract hasn’t even started yet, as the first year of the extension will be the 2014 season, Votto’s age-30 season. For ten years, the Reds will hope that Votto will produce numbers similar to his 2010 MVP season, something that he hasn’t seemed capable of reproducing over the last three seasons, despite leading the National League in on-base percentage the last three seasons, four including 2010. When you consider that the Reds are winning in 2013 and they still average just 31,479 in attendance (16th in MLB), how will the team be able to contend when Votto is making $25 million per season beginning in 2018, when he is 34 years old?

Even worse, the contract that the Philadelphia Phillies gave to first baseman Ryan Howard. Howard received his extension in April of 2010 and it didn’t go into effect until the 2012 season, a five-year, $125 million deal that would begin in Howard’s age-32 season. Since the start of the 2012 season, Howard has played in 151 games while posting a .244/.307/.445 line with 31 doubles, 25 home runs, 99 RBI, and a whopping 194 strikeouts in 609 plate appearances. The previous seven seasons, Howard had a .275/.368/.560 line with an average of 26 doubles, 41 home runs, and 123 RBI per season, and that was including his declining 2010 and 2011 seasons, in which Howard posted the lowest OPS of his career (.859 in 2010 and .835 in 2011)…that was, of course, until his dreadful 2012 season (.718 OPS).

The Problem With TV Deals

I was able to get a response from Baseball Prospectus’ Ben Lindbergh when I asked him via Twitter, “Do you think MLB teams are going to shy away from mega contract due to the Pujols/Howard/Hamilton deals in post steroid era?” His response:

The TV money, which was mentioned previously, is an interesting enhancement to the revenue stream for major league teams. With the Los Angeles Dodgers getting over $6 billion over 25 years from Time Warner in  their TV deal, which will give the club nearly $240 million per year in revenue, the already crazy expenditures of the boys in blue could become even more egregious this winter. The club seems capable of locking up left-hander Clayton Kershaw to a contract worth $30 million per season or more this winter, AND signing Robinson Cano to take over second base from Mark Ellis, who has a $5.75 million option for 2014 or a $1 million buyout. By taking on those types of contracts on top of the Carl Crawford ($20.25 million in 2014), Matt Kemp ($21 million in 2014), Adrian Gonzalez ($21 million in 2014), Zack Greinke ($26 million in 2014), and Andre Ethier ($15.5 million in 2014) deals, the Dodgers will be willingly entering the luxury tax threshold in an effort to win the World Series.

KempBut what happens when money can’t buy titles? The New York Yankees seemed to always have the highest payroll in baseball and they haven’t won the title every season. Spending doesn’t quantify wins, it is, as Lindbergh referenced, the winner’s curse. This concept is outlined in Colin Wyers 2009 Baseball Prospectus piece titled The Real Cursewhich Wyers states:

The market for baseball players seems to more closely resemble a sealed-bid auction than it does a market. Since the person who wins that sort of auction is typically the person with the largest bid, it stands to reason that the person who “wins” is in fact the person who overbids…

The curse is then being the winning bid on a contract that was probably more than what another team was willing to bid. By evaluating players and making smart investments, teams that break the curse are able to get production out of what they spend, while teams that suffer from the curse are those that fail to get production out of their investment, as in the suffering that the Cubs went through with Alfonso Soriano, the joint suffering of the Blue Jays and Angels over the Vernon Wells contract, and the Giants’ suffering through the Barry Zito contract.

When spending goes wrong, it can financially cripple a franchise, who is then responsible for allocating funds to an under-performing player while still trying to field a competitive team around that player. Teams seem more likely to take those types of risks, though. Due to the incoming revenue from the TV deals, teams like the Cleveland Indians, who celebrated the sale of the franchise owned SportsTime Ohio to Fox Sports this winter by signing Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher, are more capable of making these potentially fatal bids.

Will the money continue to be there for clubs to take on these large, risky contracts?

Pete Kotz had an amazing story about the leagues finances, and while discussing television deals, he says:

With no one saying no, the networks see sports as a no-lose racket, with ESPN as its piper. The sports channel charges cable companies $5 a month per customer, by far the highest monthly fee in national television. While that may seem a pittance, it’s big money when spread over the 100 million U.S. households with pay TV. And it’s made the other big boys envious.

NBC and CBS have launched their own sports channels. Another from Fox is on the way. Even regional sports channels are starting to broach that $5 mark. Their bet is that viewers will always be willing to pay more. And more. And more.

…Today, the average TV bill rests at $86 per month, about half of which pays for sports programming. That’s more than double a decade ago. So it’s no coincidence that the cable and satellite industries have been jettisoning customers for nine years straight.

 “I can’t tell you what will be the trigger,” says Matthew Polka, president of the American Cable Association. “But I am certain that at some point in the very near future, that balloon will burst.”

As cable and satellite customers are forced to pay more and they continue to leave those companies in an effort to save money, the money will eventually not be coming in. The cable and satellite companies will likely battle with the club’s networks to get lower rates, and there could be something drastic, like CBS being taken away from major markets. Eventually, the boom in finances and long-term contracts will go away and the inevitable crash will make it harder for clubs to make large financial commitments to star players. Imagine if the housing market was responsible for financing people’s salaries and when the market for home sales crashed how disastrous that could have been…but it did and it was miserable for the entire economy.

Major League Baseball is exempt from some things due to anti-trust laws, but nothing is too big to fail.

Who Is Worth a Mega-Contract?

harper troutIt may seem easy to say that locking up players within their pre-arbitration or arbitration years to lucrative, long-term contracts seems more intelligent than waiting until free agency, as the annual salaries can slowly increase rather than starting and sitting at $25 million per year for eight straight seasons. A few examples of players who could be worth a long-term investment in this scenario:

  • Angels’ outfielder Mike Trout is earning $510,000 in 2013 and he is pre-arbitration in 2014 before being eligible for arbitration in 2015, 2016, and 2017. If Trout continues his torrid pace for the next four seasons and reaches free agency in 2018 at the age of 26, what types of maniacal offers will he be receiving at that point?
  • Nationals’ outfielder Bryce Harper signed a major league contract and will be arbitration eligible in 2016, 2017, and 2018 before reaching free agency at the age of 25 in 2019. Like Trout, he has posted absurd numbers, given his age, and, with Scott Boras as his current agent, could own half of a franchise based on what he will be offered in free agency.
  • Orioles third baseman Manny Machado, Nationals’ right-hander Stephen Strasburg, Marlins’ right-hander Jose Fernandez, Marlins’ right-fielder Giancarlo Stanton, and Mets’ right-hander Matt Harvey (upon his return in 2015 from elbow surgery…if he is just as productive and dominant) are additional players who fit this mold.

Why are these types of players worth a long-term investment? Because they are young, producing prior to their prime years, and are more likely to continue producing towards the end of a 10 to 15 year extension than a player who turns 40 or 41 in year ten of their long-term contracts, like Joey Votto and Albert Pujols.

These are the types of mega-contracts that seem more reasonable and realistic for franchises, while being less likely to provide a curse on the investing bidder. Because the player is within the grasp of the franchise already, the team has all kinds of data available to analyze, they have coaches and front office personnel who have strong relationships with the player, and the fan-base, media, and community surrounding the player are already familiar, so it could be assumed that there are fewer outside influences that could impact player performance.

SeligRegardless of the potential that these younger players possess, any long-term contract remains a risk for the franchise. If the clubs suddenly refuse to offer these types of contracts, however, the league and its owners would likely be accused of collusion. The mega-contract isn’t going away anytime soon. Despite future reluctance to meet the demands of players and agents to attain these large salaries, there will likely be enough money, or a few teams with large enough revenue streams, for at least one of these deals to be made each offseason. As fewer and fewer star players seem to reach free agency due to long-term commitments with their existing franchise (like Votto, Troy Tulowitzki, and Carlos Gonzalez), the stars that do reach free agency will likely continue to get the lucrative deals.

Why Is Pitching So Dominant…Again?

There were seven no-hitters in Major League Baseball in 2012, a number that won’t be touched in 2013 due to only two occurring to this point, barring a complete hitting meltdown. However, pitching has dominated MLB since the big-headed monsters of the steroid era have begun to disappear from the game. Since 2000, pitching has taken over the game:

Season H HR R BB% K% AVG OBP SLG
2013 34209 3833 16555 7.9 19.7 0.254 0.318 0.398
2012 42063 4934 21017 8.0 19.8 0.255 0.319 0.405
2011 42267 4552 20808 8.1 18.6 0.255 0.321 0.399
2010 42554 4613 21308 8.5 18.5 0.257 0.325 0.403
2009 43524 5042 22419 8.9 18.0 0.262 0.333 0.418
2008 43972 4878 22585 8.7 17.5 0.264 0.333 0.416
2007 44977 4957 23322 8.5 17.1 0.268 0.336 0.423
2006 45073 5386 23599 8.4 16.8 0.269 0.337 0.432
2005 43992 5017 22326 8.2 16.4 0.264 0.330 0.419
2004 44522 5451 23375 8.6 16.9 0.266 0.335 0.428
2003 44057 5207 22978 8.5 16.4 0.264 0.333 0.422
2002 43272 5059 22408 8.7 16.8 0.261 0.331 0.417
2001 43869 5458 23197 8.5 17.3 0.264 0.332 0.427
2000 45244 5692 24969 9.6 16.5 0.270 0.345 0.437

Davis3The numbers show a pretty dramatic increase in strikeouts since 2000 with a drop in walks, batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. While it could be blamed on the lack of juicers in the game, there are still position players posting absurd offensive numbers, like Miguel Cabrera, Chris Davis, and Mike Trout. But what is it that has changed the game?

Pitchers, for their part, have seen increase almost across the board in their production:

Season IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FB Vel.
2013 35437.1 7.52 3.02 0.97 0.293 73.4 3.88 91.9
2012 43355.1 7.56 3.05 1.02 0.293 72.5 4.01 91.8
2011 43527.1 7.13 3.11 0.94 0.291 72.5 3.94 91.7
2010 43305.1 7.13 3.28 0.96 0.293 72.2 4.08 91.5
2009 43272 6.99 3.46 1.05 0.295 71.9 4.32 91.4
2008 43357.2 6.83 3.39 1.01 0.296 71.4 4.32 90.9
2007 43425.2 6.67 3.33 1.03 0.299 70.7 4.47 91.1
2006 43258 6.59 3.30 1.12 0.298 70.9 4.53 N/A
2005 43232.1 6.38 3.17 1.04 0.292 71.7 4.29 N/A
2004 43394.1 6.60 3.36 1.13 0.293 71.4 4.46 N/A
2003 43335 6.40 3.30 1.08 0.291 71.2 4.40 N/A
2002 43268.2 6.53 3.38 1.05 0.289 71.7 4.28 N/A
2001 43287.1 6.74 3.29 1.13 0.292 71.2 4.42 N/A
2000 43244.1 6.53 3.80 1.18 0.296 70.2 4.77 N/A

Strikeouts per nine are up, walks are down, left on base percentage is up, and ERA is down. All of this could coincide with the fact that fastball velocity is up (since Pitch/FX stats have become available), but there could be other reasons for such dramatic increases in pitching skills, like fielding:

Season Errors Fielding % RZR OOZ
2013 2246 0.985 0.832 12160
2012 3008 0.984 0.830 14054
2011 3053 0.983 0.837 14317
2010 3030 0.983 0.825 12895
2009 2856 0.984 0.833 13494
2008 2965 0.984 0.829 12593
2007 2988 0.984 0.820 11222
2006 3066 0.983 0.823 10928
2005 3060 0.983 0.744 11138
2004 3166 0.983 0.735 10641
2003 3170 0.983 0.742 10372
2002 3221 0.982 N/A N/A
2001 3357 0.982 N/A N/A
2000 3447 0.981 N/A N/A

Andrus2For those of you unfamiliar with RZR and OOZ, FanGraphs defines them this way:
RZR: via The Hardball Times: “Revised Zone Rating is the proportion of balls hit into a fielder’s zone that he successfully converted into an out. Zone Rating was invented by John Dewan when he was CEO of Stats Inc.  John is now the owner of Baseball Info Solutions, where he has revised the original Zone Rating calculation so that it now lists balls handled out of the zone (OOZ) separately (and doesn’t include them in the ZR calculation) and doesn’t give players extra credit for double plays (Stats had already made that change). We believe both changes improve Zone Ratings substantially. To get a full picture of a player’s range, you should evaluate both his Revised Zone Rating and his plays made out of zone (OOZ).”

OOZ: Plays made out of zone.

It appears that with fewer errors, a slight increase in fielding percentage, and more plays made outside of the fielder’s zone, tied in with more strikeouts and more runners left on base (likely due to fewer errors and more plays being made), could also be a reason behind pitcher dominance.

Velocity and defense go a long way in stopping the opposition, and with more teams accepting the value of defense (like Arizona dealing Trevor Bauer for Didi Gregorius and Texas giving a huge contract to Elvis Andrus), offensive production could continue to decline. When the likes of Gregorius (.705 OPS), Andrus (.632 OPS), and Andrelton Simmons (.659 OPS) are playing defense and not hitting at league average levels, that also helps the opposition pitching in a way. Is it worth giving up offense for defensive gain when the strong fielder is such a weak hitter? Getting an out and giving an out is equal to zero, right?

Kershaw3Considering that the top 10 starting pitchers in ERA (Clayton Kershaw, Matt Harvey (R.I.P.), Jose Fernandez, Adam Wainwright, Anibal Sanchez, Felix Hernandez, Yu Darvish, Hiroki Kuroda, Max Scherzer, and Patrick Corbin) have an average age of 27.5, and that’s including the outliers (Kuroda at 38 and Wainwright at 31), there will likely be more years of pitching dominance on the horizon. Regardless of the video game-like numbers that a select few offensive players will produce, if or when top starting pitching prospects, like Dylan Bundy, Archie Bradley, Taijuan Walker, and Robert Stephenson finally reach the Majors and reach their potential (hopefully), we could feel additional breezes in the stands  from the bats striking nothing but air as we watch more 3-1 baseball games.

My 2013 MLB All-Star Team

Because so many people are clamoring over what I think, I figured it was time to make my All-Star ballot public, while filling up the rosters so that each team is represented. Feel free to ridicule and taunt my choices if you wish, but you’ll have to defend yourself.

 NLNational League – 35 players

Starting Lineup:

1. Carlos Gomez, CF, MIL: Continuing his awesome breakout.

2. Brandon Phillips, 2B, CIN: Huge production behind Votto in Cincy lineup.

3. Joey Votto, 1B, CIN: His numbers would look much better if he was pitched to.

4. David Wright, 3B, NYM: Hometown hero and best 3B in the NL.

5. Carlos Gonzalez, LF, COL: Hitting everywhere this year, even away from Coor’s.

6. Carlos Beltran, RF, STL: Defying age with a healthy, productive season.

7. Michael Cuddyer, DH, COL: Helping to make the Rockies a contender in 2013.

8. Buster Posey, C, SF: Tough choice over Molina, but his bat is still bigger.

9. Jean Segura, SS, MIL: Huge breakout by one of the key pieces in the Greinke deal with the Angels.

Starting Pitcher: Matt Harvey, RHP, NYM: Probably the biggest story in the biggest city in all of baseball, he gets the start at Citi Field.

Pitchers:

Jeff Locke, LHP, PIT

Jason Grilli, RHP, PIT

Jordan Zimmerman, RHP, WAS

Clayton Kershaw, LHP, LAD

Patrick Corbin, LHP, ARZ

Cliff Lee, LHP, PHI

Adam Wainwright, RHP, STL

Shelby Miller, RHP, STL

Aroldis Chapman, LHP, CIN

Craig Kimbrel, RHP, ATL

Edward Mujica, RHP, STL

Rafael Soriano, RHP, WAS

Travis Wood, LHP, CHI-C

Jeff Samardzija, RHP, CHI-C

Jonathan Papelbon, RHP, PHI

Bench:

Yadier Molina, C, STL

Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, ARZ

Freddie Freeman, 1B, ATL

Marco Scutaro, 2B, SF

Everth Cabrera, SS, SD

Giancarlo Stanton, RF, MIA

Yasiel Puig, OF, LAD

Domonic Brown, OF, PHI

Matt Carpenter, 2B, STL

Andrew McCutchen, CF, PIT

Biggest Snubs: Sergio Romo, RHP, SF; Kevin Gregg, RHP, CHI-C; Lance Lynn, RHP, STL; Allen Craig, 1B, STL; Mat Latos, RHP, CIN; Madison Bumgarner, LHP, SF; Rex Brothers, LHP, COL; A.J. Burnett, RHP, PIT; Nate Schierholtz, OF, CHI-C; Shin-Soo Choo, OF, CIN; Ryan Braun, LF, MIL; Bryce Harper, OF, WAS; Ian Desmond, SS, WAS; Chris Johnson, 1B/3B, ATL; Pedro Alvarez, 3B, PIT; Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, LAD; Wilin Rosario, C, COL; Evan Gattis, C/OF, ATL;

ALAmerican League – 35 players

Starting Lineup:

1. Mike Trout, LF, LAA: Having a “down” year when compared to his 2012 rookie season, which was one of the greatest in baseball history.

2. Robinson Cano, 2B, NYY: Tough choice but his bat is still huge and he gets the start in NYC.

3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B, DET: His numbers are even better than his 2012 Triple Crown winning season.

4. Chris Davis, 1B, BAL: An absolute monster season from the toss-in in the Koji Uehara deal with Texas.

5. Jose Bautista, RF, TOR: Production is slightly down, but Joey Bats is still a huge fan favorite.

6. David Ortiz, DH, BOS: Still producing as a member of AARP.

7. Adam Jones, CF, BAL: Continuing where he left off in 2012 and becoming one of the top players in baseball.

8. Joe Mauer, C, MIN: The power won’t ever be there again from his 2009 MVP season (28 HR), but he can find the gaps and be productive in ways that no other AL catcher can match.

9. Jhonny Peralta, SS, DET: Quietly having an incredible season as one of the worst defensive SS in baseball – loving his production, though.

Starting Pitcher: Yu Darvish, RHP, TEX: He just struck you out and you didn’t even know he threw three pitches. Having a dominant season.

Pitchers:

Jesse Crain, RHP, CHI-W

Felix Hernandez, RHP, SEA

Justin Masterson, RHP, CLE

Max Scherzer, RHP, DET

Mariano Rivera, RHP, NYY

Joe Nathan, RHP, TEX

Clay Buchholz, RHP, BOS

Hisashi Iwakuma, RHP, SEA

Ervin Santana, RHP, KC

Greg Holland, RHP, KC

Bartolo Colon, RHP, OAK

Matt Moore, LHP, TB

Bud Norris, RHP, HOU

Glen Perkins, LHP, MIN

Jim Johnson, RHP, BAL

Bench:

Jason Castro, C, HOU

Adam Lind, 1B, TOR

Prince Fielder, 1B, DET

Dustin Pedroia, 2B, BOS

Jason Kipnis, 2B, CLE

Evan Longoria, 3B, TB

Manny Machado, 3B, BAL

Jed Lowrie, SS, OAK

Nelson Cruz, OF, TEX

Coco Crisp, OF, OAK

Biggest Snubs: Josh Donaldson, 3B, OAK; J.J. Hardy, SS, BAL; Adrian Beltre, 3B, TEX; Kyle Seager, 3B, SEA; Howie Kendrick, 2B, LAA; Edwin Encarnacion, 1B/3B/DH, TOR; Carlos Santana, C, CLE; Hiroki Kuroda, RHP, NYY; Chris Sale, LHP, CHI-W; Addison Reed, RHP, CHI-W; Grant Balfour, RHP, OAK; Casey Janssen, RHP, TOR;

 

Promotion Worthy Prospects

After Miguel Sano was promoted to Double-A on Sunday by the Minnesota Twins, it brought to mind several other prospects who deserve a promotion due to their dominance at their current level. Below, you’ll find ten prospects who need or deserve a bigger challenge:

StephensonRobert Stephenson, RHP, Cincinnati Reds

Year Age Tm Lg Aff W L ERA GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 20 Dayton MIDW CIN 5 3 2.97 12 66.2 52 25 22 4 17 85 1.035 7.0 2.3 11.5 5.00
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2013.

When you see that 2.97 ERA, some would say that isn’t as dominant as what guys like Dylan Bundy or Archie Bradley have posted over the last two seasons; however, Stephenson has been absolutely dominant over his last six starts, posting a 0.98 ERA, a 0.65 WHIP, and a 50:5 K:BB over 36.2 innings. That is redefining dominance. Stephenson has now made 20 starts for Low-A Dayton and the only thing holding him back from a promotion seems to be the fact that he would be heading to the California League if he was promoted to the next level. The Reds could challenge him and see how he does, they did put Tony Cingrani there in 2012 (where he dominated), or move him straight to Double-A next year, similar to what they did with Daniel Corcino in 2012. Regardless, Stephenson looks like the Reds new top prospect, posting numbers that would make Cy Young winners blush.

BaezJavier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs

Year Age Tm Lg Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 20 Daytona FLOR CHC 57 254 230 45 67 17 4 13 44 6 11 60 .291 .339 .570 .908 131
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2013.

Blame it on the four home runs that Baez hit on June 10th or blame it on the fact that his numbers are absolutely insane for a middle infielder…truly, you can blame it on the fact that Starlin Castro looks like a lost puppy, but the Chicago Cubs need to move Javier Baez up to Double-A. Certainly, Baez isn’t perfect. His plate discipline leaves a lot to be desired and he has made 26 errors in 56 games for Daytona, but what he lacks in harnessing moving balls, he makes up for with his tremendous bat speed, power, and overall skills when he actually connects. In eight June games, Baez is hitting .500/.559/1.167 with five home runs and 15 RBI. He’s on fire and he has the talent to be moved quickly. Baez needs to be challenged in Double-A and the Cubs need to see how he handles advanced pitching to help determine whether he could stay at short or move to an outfield corner.

DePaula1Rafael De Paula, RHP, New York Yankees

Year Age Tm Lg Aff W L ERA GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 22 Charleston SALL NYY 6 2 2.43 12 59.1 36 16 16 3 22 91 0.978 5.5 3.3 13.8 4.14
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2013.

The only thing dumber than the Yankees still having De Paula in Low-A at this point, is the fact that society didn’t find a way to stop Kanye West and Kim Kardashian from procreating. De Paula has dominated all season for Charleston, and at the age of 22, he is a man among boys in the Sally League. His 13.8 K:9 is absurd and his mid-90’s fastball is nearly unfair to the over-matched teenagers and organizational depth cesspools of the lower minors. With Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda nearing the end of the road, it is time for the Yankees to be aggressive with another prospect. De Paula needs to be moved to Tampa (High-A) as soon as possible, and, due to his stuff, early dominance, and age, an attempt at Double-A shouldn’t be out of the question.

BuxtonByron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins

Year Age Tm Lg Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 19 Cedar Rapids MIDW MIN 59 274 228 60 78 14 8 7 47 26 39 46 .342 .435 .566 1.001 129
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2013.

It isn’t very often that a 19-year-old in his first full season of professional ball would get moved up a level by July, but the No.2 overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft is creating quite a stir in the prospect world. His power, speed, and plate discipline are beyond his years and Buxton appears to be ready for and worthy of a different challenge. The Twins are typically very patient and slow with their prospects, but they’ve already promoted Sano and their major league team (28-33) continues to tread water.

Preston Tucker, OF, Houston Astros

Year Age Tm Lg Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 22 Lancaster CALL A+ HOU 64 284 253 52 79 17 1 11 58 3 25 37 .312 .373 .518 .891 131
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2013.

The Astros are in a pretty miserable place when it comes to their ability to contend, but they seem to have a tremendous rebuilding plan in place and their recent drafts and trades are perfect examples of what Jeff Luhnow has taken to Houston. They appear to have a nice player in their 2012 7th round pick, a senior signing out of Florida that is showing an excellent approach at the plate in High-A. While Lancaster is a notorious hitter’s paradise, as is most of the California League, the plate discipline, gap power, and consistency (.328 vs. LHP, .307 RHP) are impressive, and he would be a nice addition to Double-A, where he could join…

George Springer, OF, Houston Astros

Year Age Tm Lg Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 23 Corpus Christi TL HOU 61 271 228 51 69 18 0 18 50 18 35 77 .303 .405 .618 1.024 141
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2013.

Springer is also worthy of a promotion within the Houston organization and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he is wearing an Astros’ jersey by the end of the 2013 season; however, with Justin Maxwell coming back from his injury, a promotion to Triple-A is likely Springer’s first stop. The 36 extra-base hits and 18 stolen bases show the tools that he possesses, but his long swing could continue to cause outrageous strikeout totals, especially once he reaches the show. The No.11 overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft out of UConn will be an asset to the Astros at some point.

PuelloCesar Puello, OF, New York Mets

Year Age Tm Lg Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 22 Binghamton EL NYM 53 221 197 40 65 11 2 13 46 17 14 46 .330 .403 .604 1.007 119
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2013.

There are four simple words why Puello needs promoted: The Mets Offense Sucks. The slugging right fielder has been on fire over the last ten games, hitting .463/.500/.976 with three doubles, six home runs, 17 RBI, and five stolen bases. There is one issue that may become huge within his development: he was listed on the Biogenesis documents; however, the time it will take between appeals and court cases will make that an unlikely scenario in harming his prospect status, which is getting more impressive with each swing.

myersWil Myers, OF, Tampa Bay Rays

Year Age Tm Lg Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 22 Durham IL TBR 60 274 237 41 67 12 2 13 54 7 29 67 .283 .358 .515 .872 122
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2013.

Call me Captain Obvious but the Rays would be a better team by plugging Myers into a lineup that has won 11 of their last 16 and are slowly creeping up the AL East standings, even while their ace, David Price, is recovering from an extended absence due to tricep soreness. After struggling with his plate discipline in the early part of the season, Myers has improved his numbers in June (albeit in just 10 games), while increasing his power, having hit four home runs in just 41 at-bats this month. With seven players with 25 or more RBI already this season, who would go to make room for Myers? Myers will make an impact at some point this season, regardless of the current roster’s success.

Arismendy Alcantara, 2B/SS, Chicago Cubs

Year Age Tm Lg Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 21 Tennessee SOUL CHC 63 265 228 30 66 14 1 9 30 16 26 54 .289 .364 .478 .842 109
5 Seasons 371 1542 1405 195 399 57 27 24 174 76 101 291 .284 .332 .414 .747 582
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2013.

Alcantara is another good middle infield prospect within the Cubs organization. He is playing second and short in Double-A right now, but regardless of where he ends up, Alcantara will provide a little punch and speed for the rebuilding lovable losers. After having success at every stop during his minor league career, Alcantara should move up to see how he can handle Triple-A pitching, getting him that much closer to helping a starved Cubs lineup.

PimentelCarlos Pimentel, RHP, Texas Rangers

Year Age Tm Lg Aff W L ERA GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 23 Frisco TL TEX 7 2 2.96 12 70.0 49 25 23 8 21 80 1.000 6.3 2.7 10.3 3.81
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2013.

This is Pimentel’s third season in Double-A and he appears to finally mastered it, this time as a starter, after pitching well in a relief role in 2012 for Frisco. Still just 23 years old, Pimentel looks like another solid prospect again for a Rangers team that seems to always be in need of pitching help, whether due to ineffectiveness or injuries on the major league roster. Pimentel is posting excellent strikeout numbers and appears to be very difficult to hit. At 6’3″, 180 pounds, he has the frame to be a useful body in Texas, and he deserves a look in Triple-A before he gets a spot start of a longer look in Arlington.

How Can You Rebuild the Yankees?

Keith Olbermann reported on his MLBlog on October 17 that the New York Yankees and Miami Marlins are already discussing a deal involving Alex Rodriguez once the season is over. This is big news due to the struggles of Rodriguez during the postseason, 3-for-23 (.103) with 12 strikeouts, and that fact that the quickly aging veteran is due another $114 million over the next five seasons.

Alex Rodriguez is taking a lot of heat for his struggles, as if he is the only player currently struggling during the club’s rotten postseason. Mind you, Robinson Cano is 3-for-36 (.083) and Curtis Granderson is just 3-for-29 (.103) with 15 strikeouts, so what is the deal with the hatred for the game’s highest paid player? The Yankees have bigger issues, including, how are they going to rebuild the franchise if the potential trade of Alex Rodriguez actually does happen?

Courtesy: Wikipedia

Moving Alex Rodriguez would signify a possible change in philosophy. While the Yankees have spent many hundreds of millions in payroll over the last decade, could this be the end of “buying” the talent, all because of an apparent very quick regression in some of their talent?

The Yankees have some things to look at with their current roster:

After that, the Yankees have some payroll concerns:

  • Alex Rodriguez, as mentioned before, is owed $114 million over the next five years.
  • C.C. Sabathia is due $119 million (counting his $25 million 2017 option) over the next five years.
  • Mark Teixeria is going to make $90 million over the next four seasons.
  • Derek Jeter will make $17 million in 2013 and either $8 million in 2014 or a $3 million buyout.
  • Rafael Soriano is guaranteed $14 million in 2013.

The problem with trading Alex Rodriguez is that the Yankees would have to eat a huge portion of the $114 million that he is owed. Since 2007, A-Rod’s OPS has gone from 1.067 (his MVP season) to .965, .933, .847, .823, and finally .783 in 2012. At the age of 37 (turning 38 next July), why would anyone give anything of value for the declining future Hall of Famer?

Dealing Rodriguez to the Miami Marlins for Heath Bell and Logan Morrison would be a solid deal, even paying $50-70 million of his deal, so that the team gets more bullpen help and a potential replacement in an outfield corner with Swisher and Ichiro both headed to free agency. However, that deal probably would not sit well with fans.

Should the club let all of their free agents depart, will they go after Josh Hamilton in free agency? Could Hamilton’s previous off-the-field issues, which he still admits to battling, become a huge issue in the largest media market in the world?

Should the club trade Granderson and/or Cano on top of dealing Rodriguez, just to allow the franchise to make a fresh start, like the Boston Red Sox deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, which included the contracts of Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Adrian Gonzalez?

For what it is worth, dealing Alex Rodriguez would open up third base in one of the weakest years for free agent third base in recent memory, including: Miguel Cairo, Mark DeRosa, Alberto Gonzalez, Brandon Inge, Maicer Izturis, Jose Lopez, Scott Rolen, Drew Sutton, and, if their options aren’t picked up, Ty Wigginton and Kevin Youkilis.

Courtesy: NY Times

Would the club really go into the season with Eduardo Nunez at the hot corner? General Manager Brian Cashman would have to look in the mirror and commit to a potential rebuilding mode if that is the case.

While Alex Rodriguez has struggled and his value and stock has plummeted, the unfortunate facts are that the Yankees would be and will be better with him at third base in 2013 than they would be by making a trade. Unless the Bronx Bombers were able to trade Robinson Cano to Baltimore for Dylan Bundy and Manny Machado after trading Rodriguez, starting to make trades to change the structure of the team just does not make sense.

Cashman would have to make several trades involving star players and huge contracts, just to fill the several holes that would remain from the various deals. If you trade Rodriguez, he would need to trade for a third baseman. If he traded Cano, who would play second? If he traded Granderson, he could possibly get Hamilton, but what if the Red Sox or Rangers outbid him?

You can’t rebuild the New York Yankees. Brian Cashman is in a situation where he needs to win, in a market and a fan base that wants to win – see the attendance in the ALCS. The club will rebuild by reloading, like they have done, through free agency. They will acquire a top-tier or solid starting pitcher and a solid outfielder, and they will be right back where they were. They will probably have the veterans mentioned in potential deals, as well, because it is not worth the potential hassle of dealing the contracts and taking so much less in value, just to make a change.

2013 MLB Free Agents: Top 10 Starting Pitchers

Courtesy: ESPN

Below is a list of starting pitchers who will, or could, reach free agency. Some players listed have options that will probably not be picked up, while others are totally free to sign with whomever they choose or settle for.

1. Zack Greinke, RHP, 10/21/1983

91-78, 3.77 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 1,492 IP, 1,332:379 K:BB

Greinke has been traded twice in the last two years, first from Kansas City to Milwaukee, then from Milwaukee to the Los Angeles Angels. The right-hander has overcome some personal anxiety battles, but those mental battles could limit his potential suitors when he hits free agency. Those interested in the front line starter may want to consider his home and road splits, as Greinke is a true ace at home (55-30, 3.42 ERA in 138 games, 118 starts) but very mediocre away from his apparent comfort zones (36-48, 4.15 ERA, 134 games, 113 starts). At 29, Greinke will be one of two players (Josh Hamilton being the other) to cash in with a $100 million deal this winter.

2. Edwin Jackson, RHP, 11/9/1983

70-71, 4.40 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 1,268.2 IP, 969:497 K:BB

The stuff finally produced the strikeouts that Jackson’s arsenal was capable of in the second half of 2012, when Jackson posted a 92:28 K:BB in 88.1 innings, a 9.4 K/9 rate. Jackson posted a 9.2 K/9 in 2010 once he was traded to the Chicago White Sox, but could this be where Jackson finally cashes in and becomes an ace? If Jackson lands in a pitcher’s park, he could continue to take the steps necessary to become the pitcher everyone thought he was when he was outdueling Randy Johnson back in 2003 at the age of 19. He’ll finally get his long-term deal, even after pitching for seven teams in ten years.

3. Anibal Sanchez, RHP, 2/27/1984

48-51, 3.75 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 869 IP, 733:320 K:BB

Sanchez has yet to reach 200 innings in a season, but he has reached 200 strikeouts in a season once (2011). The stuff has always been there to help him reach ace levels, but there has also been concerns about his health at times in his career, warranted due to his innings limits to this point. Sanchez pitched very well down the stretch for the Detroit Tigers and could be on his way to establishing himself as the top-of-the-rotation starter that made him a part of the deal from Boston for Josh Beckett years ago.

4. Jake Peavy, RHP, 5/31/1981

120-93, 3.46 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 1,800.1 IP, 1,748:548 K:BB

Peavy had his first full season since 2008 in 2012 and his first season with at least 30 starts since 2007. It has been a long struggle with shoulder woes for Peavy, but he looked like his former self in 2012 amassing a 3.37 ERA and a 194:49 K:BB in 219 innings. Peavy is due either a $4 million buyout or a $22 million salary, so the chances of him returning to the White Sox in 2013 are about as slim as Jay-Z never dropping the “b” word again. Peavy will cash in, as some team will gamble on the shoulder staying strong and his revival being legit.

5. Kyle Lohse, RHP, 10/4/1978

118-109, 4.45 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 1,973 IP, 1,238:565 K:BB

Lohse put on a clinic in 2012, going 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. The two seasons, Lohse is 30-11 with a 3.11 ERA over 399.1 innings. He’s clearly made himself a lot of money. Lohse is 34, so his contract could be limited. Teams could also be concerned about his pre-2011 form, as Lohse was just 88-98 with a 4.79 ERA over 10 seasons and 1,573.2 innings. St. Louis seems like a great fit, especially with an aging Chris Carpenter, as the Cardinals continue grooming Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, and Shelby Miller for rotation gigs.

6. Dan Haren, RHP, 9/17/1980

119-97, 3.66 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 1,876.2 IP, 1,585:395 K:BB

Haren has had some back issues the last couple of seasons, but he still managed to start 30 games in 2012. Haren has had issues his entire career maintaining his dominance, posting a 3.36 ERA and 63-50 record over 1,019.1 first half innings, while dropping to 56-47 with a 4.01 ERA in 857.1 second half innings. Haren rarely issues walks and is a great option for the top of a rotation. He is due $15.5 million or a $3.5 million buyout. If the Angels want to make a push to re-sign the younger Greinke, Haren could be bought out and headed to free agency. He’ll look to rebuild his value at the age of 32, still young enough for a nice, long-term commitment.

7. Francisco Liriano, LHP, 10/26/1983

53-54, 4.40 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 840 IP, 846:356 K:BB

Once upon a time, Liriano was on his way to becoming the next Johan Santana. Little did we know that once Santana’s shoulder was ripping away, that Liriano would deem himself just as useless. At the age of 22, Liriano was 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA. He then blew out his elbow and has gone just 40-49 with a 4.75 ERA since returning in 2008. Liriano can’t seem to throw enough strikes to be a consistent starting pitcher, but the stuff is still there, as evidenced by his 9.6 K/9 in 2012, to dominate…or continue to be a headcase.

8. Jorge De La Rosa, LHP, 4/5/1981

54-51, 4.96 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 780.1 IP, 688:383 K:BB

De La Rosa is another gamble, but he showed that he has the stuff to be a very nice mid-rotation starter before his 2011 Tommy John surgery. From 2009 until his injury in 2011, the lefty was 29-18 with a 4.18 ERA and 358:160 K:BB in 365.2 innings. De La Rosa struggled in his career prior to learning how to pitch once landing in Colorado. If he can pitch successfully there, can he do it anywhere? Owed $11 million or a $1 million buyout in 2013, De La Rosa is a great candidate to reach free agency to rebuild his career on an incentive-laden, one-year contract.

9. Hisashi Iwakuma, RHP, 4/12/1981

9-5, 3.16 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 125.1 IP, 101:43 K:BB

Iwakuma is an unknown, having turned down an opportunity to sign with Oakland in 2011 before signing a one-year contract with the Seattle Mariners prior to 2012. Iwakuma could bolt back to Japan or get himself a nice multi-year deal in the states after posting an 8-4 record, 2.65 ERA and 1.23 WHIP over 16 starts for the Mariners down the stretch. He has some mileage on his arm from his days pitching in Japan, but Iwakuma is sure to make more than the $1.5 million that he earned in 2012.

10. Brandon McCarthy, RHP, 7/7/1983

37-39, 4.02 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 654.1 IP, 447:191 K:BB

I would LOVE to have this guy on my team. While there will be concerns about his abilities due to the head trauma that he suffered, and his mobility due to brain surgery, McCarthy is worth a gamble by a contender or a team in need of a top starter. While there is a great deal of risk in signing McCarthy, he has overcome odds before, returning from a broken shoulder to become one of the best pitchers in baseball. Once returning from injury, McCarthy had a new, two-seam fastball that has changed his career, ala Roy Halladay in 2001. He made 11 appearances in 2010 in the minors, signing with the Oakland A’s in 2011, and going on to post a 17-15 record, 3.29 ERA and 1.18 WHIP over 281.2 innings (43 starts). If he could just stay on the mound, he would be even more respected than he already is. Here’s to a speedy recovery and a fantastic rebound for a guy who seems like a lot of fun (follow him and his wife on Twitter, they’re hilarious!).

HONORABLE MENTION: Gavin Floyd, RHP ($9.5 million team option); Carlos Villanueva, RHP; Joe Saunders, LHP; Hiroki Kuroda, RHP; Jeremy Guthrie, RHP; Carlos Zambrano, RHP; Kevin Correia, RHP;

GM for the Day: New York Yankees

What a difference a weekend makes, huh?  When the Yankees were showcasing a starting rotation that looked just a little better than the dung that the Red Sox call a rotation, with Ivan Nova, Phillip Hughes, A.J. Burnett and Freddy Garcia behind C.C. Sabathia, it looked like they were heading in the wrong direction, as well.  Suddenly, the Yankees traded super-prospect Jesus Montero to Seattle for Michael Pineda and they signed Free Agent Hiroki Kuroda, then you’re wondering what role two of Burnett, Hughes, and Garcia will have with the club in 2012.  The roster is still aging, and the contracts that were forced to Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter will probably come back to bite them in the buttocks, but they still have one thing going for them.  Money…and lots of it.  Here is a look at the current 25-man roster:

2 Catchers: Russell Martin and Francisco Cervelli

1B: Mark Teixeira

2B: Robinson Cano

3B: Alex Rodriguez

SS: Derek Jeter

LF: Brett Gardner

CF: Curtis Granderson

RF: Nick Swisher

DH: Andruw Jones

Bench: Eduardo Nunez (INF), Ramiro Pena (INF) and Chris Dickerson (OF)

Starting Pitchers: C.C. Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Hiroki Kuroda, Michael Pineda, and Freddy Garcia

Relief Pitchers: Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, Rafael Soriano, Boone Logan, Corey Wade, Phillip Hughes and A.J. Burnett

You have Garcia, who can’t be traded until June due to his contract, at the back of the rotation to build value.  He could be bumped for Burnett, who still has two-years and $33 million on his deal, to see if they can get something out of their investment.  He could be bumped for Hughes, who will need to show something to become a part of the Yankees future.  It’s a nice “problem” to have, especially after looking lot a hot mess just a week ago.

The offense is an interesting blend.  They have a young, speedy left fielder in Brett Gardner (28).  They have the future of the organization, their best and most valuable asset, Robinson Cano.  They have a slugger in his prime who has changed his swing and become a menace to pitchers around the league, Curtis Granderson.  Then, they have the declining stars: Jeter, Rodriguez, and Teixeira.  Why is Teixeira’s name there?  He’ll be 32 in 2012 and his OPS since joining the Yankees in 2009: .948, .846 and .835; however, people tend to focus on Jeter’s decline and A-Rod’s decline because it has been so obvious.  When Rodriguez opted out of his contract after the 2007 season, did they really think that a 10-year deal for a 32-year-old was a good idea?  Well, do the numbers 138, 124, 137, and 99 mean anything to you?  Those are the number of games Rodriguez has played since 2008.  Not to mention his OPS has dropped from  Good luck with Pujols, Angels.  Jeter will be 38 in 2012 and he has declined since 2009; however, not as drastic as some would think.  He did have a .297 AVG and .355 OBP in 2011, but it’s the .388 SLG that is killing his “value.”  His WAR was a career worst 0.7 in 2011.  He still has value…he just isn’t driving the ball and his range stinks.  Jeter certainly isn’t worth the 3-year, $51 million deal he got before 2011.  Public relations can be a bitch.

So, what can the Yankees do from here?  They could get a DH.  Rumors have Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon, Jorge Posada and Lou Gehrig returning to the Yankees…Actually, add Carlos Pena, Raul Ibanez, and Vladimir Guerrero to the list of “legendary” Yankees.  All of these guys can get coffee for $1 at McDonald’s all day (old…), but they could be had for pennies on that dollar.  Due to the left-handed power alley, I’d take Carlos Pena.  Pena is also a solid defender at first, so he could spell Teixeira there on occasion.  The Yankees could then put Jones into a reserve outfielder or right-handed platoon at DH-role, utilizing his power and strengthening the bench.  Chris Dickerson is a decent 4th outfielder, and suddenly, the Yankees are just as poor as the Red Sox and can’t pay a luxury-tax.  Cry me a river big market.  Welcome to reality!  They’ll settle with Dickerson there.

The rotation is set, the bullpen is loaded, and you have depth with Hughes, Burnett, and/or Garcia in the pen.  I wonder when over-working kills Robertson the way that it killed Scott Proctor, but ride him while he’s there.  The Yankees are basically locked in at this point with the roster.  A DH is about all you’ll see them reach out for, and they should be able to get a veteran that wants to win a championship to sign on the cheap to fill that role.  So, this is the new roster based on my simple moves:

2 Catchers: Russell Martin and Francisco Cervelli

1B: Mark Teixeira

2B: Robinson Cano

3B: Alex Rodriguez

SS: Derek Jeter

LF: Brett Gardner

CF: Curtis Granderson

RF: Nick Swisher

DH: Carlos Pena

Bench: Andruw Jones (DH/OF), Eduardo Nunez (INF) and Chris Dickerson (OF)

Starting Pitchers: C.C. Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Hiroki Kuroda, Michael Pineda and A.J. Burnett

Relief Pitchers: Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, Rafael Soriano, Boone Logan, Corey Wade, Phillip Hughes and Freddy Garcia

GM for the Day: Arizona Diamondbacks

After going 94-68 last season, the Diamondbacks are building a roster that looks like it could be a juggernaut.  With recent acquisitions and rumors of more deals that could happen, Arizona is well on their way to another AL West title, featuring young stars that could eventually create a dynasty.  Let’s take a look at their current 25-man roster:

2 Catchers: Miguel Montero and Henry Blanco

1B: Paul Goldschmidt

2B: Aaron Hill

3B: Ryan Roberts

SS: Stephen Drew

LF: Gerardo Parra

CF: Chris Young

RF: Justin Upton

Bench: Willie Bloomquist (INF/OF), John McDonald (INF), Geoff Blum (INF/OF), Lyle Overbay (1B)

Starting Pitchers: Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill, Daniel Hudson, Josh Collmenter and Wade Miley

Relief Pitchers: J.J. Putz, David Hernandez, Brad Ziegler, Joe Patterson, Craig Breslow, Takashi Saito and Bryan Shaw

The starting lineup is solid, presenting a blend of power and speed that would be difficult for other teams to match.  Justin Upton will win an MVP in the next three years.  At the age of 23, Upton ripped 39 2B and 31 HR while stealing 21 bases in 2011.  As he continues to mature as a hitter, those extra-base hits will increase and the steals will go down as he touches home with one swing.  If someone gets hurt, though, the Diamondbacks could be in trouble.  They have some great flexibility with their defensive lineup due to the versatility of Geoff Blum, John McDonald and Willie Bloomquist, but you have to wonder what having one of those guys starting for an extended period of time would do to your offense.  The same goes for the dropoff from Miguel Montero to Henry Blanco behind the plate.  Blanco is still a solid defender, but he is a career .228/.293/.369 hitter.

The bullpen is solid.  The rotation is stacked and it could get better.  Trevor Bauer, the team’s 1st round pick last season, is just about ready.  The UCLA-product didn’t pitch extremely well in his debut last year, but he showcased his ability to pitch.  He posted a 5.96 ERA and 1.52 WHIP in 7 starts, tossing 25 2/3 innings with a 43/12 K/BB.  15.1 K/9 IP is pretty impressive but the 4.2 BB/9 IP is something that needs to come down if he is going to be successful in the Majors.  Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson and Trevor Cahill are about as solid as a 1-2-3 punch you’ll find in baseball.  Josh Collmenter  is just 25 and posted a solid 3.38 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and a 100/28 K/BB in 154 1/3 IP last season.  As far as another arm for right now, the Diamondbacks appear to be in on Hiroki Kuroda.  If they were to get him and put Collmenter in the #5 spot, they would be near impossible to beat.  Kuroda has only posted a 3.45 ERA and 1.19 WHIP over 699 career innings and 114 starts.  On a one-year deal, he would bring another stable arm to the group, with Kuroda being the veteran with four years of service time.  If they do nothing, Wade Miley, who went 4-2 with a 4.50 ERA and 1.65 WHIP in 7 starts, isn’t a bad options for a few months while Bauer works out some kinks.

Overall, the team doesn’t have much to work on.  I would say that they would be better off with Hiroki Kuroda as their #4 starter and Collmenter at #5 than Collmenter at #4 and Wade Miley at #5.  Over the long-haul of the season, it could be a difference of 7-11 wins from Miley to Kuroda, so it’s worth a one-year, $11 million deal to grab him.  I would also like to see the club upgrade in the #4 outfielder role.  Ryan Roberts can handle the corners in a long-term role with Blum taking over at third, Willie Bloomquist can fill the void in the short-term, but Roberts is more valuable at third with a thin market there.  Maybe J.D. Drew will sign with the Diamondbacks to play with his brother.  He could be a solid #4 outfielder since he won’t have to play a whole lot, which may result in him staying healthy.  He’ll probably retire or want a ridiculous Boras-contract to play, though, so maybe Juan Pierre would be a good fit.  He could handle center for Young in a pinch, the corners for a shorter pinch, and he still has enough speed (68 SB in 2010, 27 in 2011) to be a pinch-runner.  Here is what the 25-man roster would end up:

2 Catchers: Miguel Montero (please stay healthy!) and Henry Blanco

1B: Paul Goldschmidt

2B: Aaron Hill

3B: Ryan Roberts

SS: Stephen Drew

LF: Gerardo Parra

CF: Chris Young

RF: Justin Upton

Bench: Juan Pierre (OF), Willie Bloomquist (INF/OF), Lyle Overbay (1B), John McDonald (INF)

Starting Pitchers: Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Trevor Cahill, Hiroki Kuroda and Josh Collmenter

Relief Pitchers: J.J. Putz, David Hernandez, Brad Ziegler, Joe Patterson, Craig Breslow, Takashi Saito and Bryan Shaw

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