Trout, Kershaw on HOF path.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
On Wednesday afternoon, the Baseball Hall of Fame will announce its inductees for the 2014 class. Unlike last year, when no candidates were voted in by the writers, the presence of Greg Maddux on the ballot practically guarantees an inductee will make a speech at Cooperstown next summer. Based on public ballots released, Tom Glavine looks to be a shoo-in and Frank Thomas and Craig Biggio also have received strong support.
But instead of looking two days ahead, let's instead fast-forward two decades and guess which of today's young players are most likely to put together Hall of Fame-worthy careers.
Predicting the distant future isn't exactly an easy task, but it is a fun one, so long as we're not imagining our future waistlines or hairlines. It's inevitable that some future Hall of Famers are in the early parts of their careers right now. Given that players tend to peak in their mid-to-late 20s, even some of the greatest players in history, many future inductees are likely filling out some of the most important parts of their Hall resumés.
To be a little more objective about the best candidates, I asked the ZiPS projection system to project the rest of the careers of today's young players. There's obviously a great deal of uncertainty in any look at the the future, but one of the nice things about having a projection system hanging around is that it can do things, like calculate long-term risk (age-related decline, injury rates, etc), that are difficult to estimate.
For this exercise I used only players who will be age 30 or younger as of July 1, 2014 -- you wouldn't need projections to know that Derek Jeter is a future Hall of Famer. Here are the top 10 based on projected career WAR. (All historical WAR numbers are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.)
1. Mike Trout (92.4 WAR)
Projected career stats: .283/.385/.474, 138 OPS+, 307 homers, 2,400 hits, 420 stolen bases
What's scary about this figure is that based on Mike Trout's first two seasons, projecting him merely to finish with the 29th-best positional WAR in baseball history almost seems like a disappointment. But being only 22 with a lot of years left in front of him, the issues of long-term uncertainty require us to be a little cautious.
When a player is at the top of his game and putting up some of the best seasons in history, most of the unexpected things that can happen are likely to be negative. A healthy Trout is likely to be the default preseason MVP favorite for the next several years assuming he remains healthy. When Trout was a rookie, I used to joke that if he kept it up, we wouldn't be calling him The Next Willie Mays, but instead calling Willie Mays The Previous Mike Trout. Some distance to go, but the joke's not looking as preposterous as it once did.
Bottom line: Very few players are on a Hall course in their early 20s, but Trout is one of them. Every eligible outfielder with more than Larry Walker's 72.4 WAR is in the Hall, with the exception of Barry Bonds (for other reasons).
2. Clayton Kershaw (79.9 WAR)
Projected career stats: 246-136, 2.77 ERA, 133 ERA+, 3,408 strikeouts
Though Kershaw doesn't turn 26 until March, he already has 32.2 WAR, 77 wins and two Cy Young Awards under his belt. By the time Kershaw is eligible for the Hall, it'll be somewhere around 2035 and the electorate should be used to elite pitchers falling short of 300 wins (which was always a fairly rare feat even in the days of four-man rotations).
Even factoring in the yearly injury risk that every pitcher faces, ZiPS projects Kershaw's final win total to be behind only CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander among active pitchers, both with more wins already in their stat lines. Kershaw is so good that three or so more years at his current level and he essentially has the Koufax Argument to make the Hall if something happens to his arm.
Bottom line: Only an injury or a severe case of writer myopia can derail Kershaw's Hall of Fame run. A 79.7 WAR puts Kershaw just below Bob Gibson and Curt Schilling and just above Tom Glavine and Old Hoss Radbourn.
3. Andrew McCutchen (77.7 WAR)
Projected career stats: .279/.360/.451, 126 OPS+, 317 homers, 2,727 hits, 304 stolen bases
McCutchen has firmly established himself as one of the most well-rounded players in baseball, without any real weakness to his game. The only thing that can really hurt his case is the general decline in offensive numbers from the 1993-2010 era -- he has are terrific numbers, but they won't look quite as sexy to a lot of the writers who grew up in the '90s/'00s that will make a large percentage of the electorate by then.
McCutchen also is fortunate that he's on the Pirates at a time they appear to be on the upswing; Brian Giles got very little notice for his superstar years in Pittsburgh, partially because of the team's doormat status.
Bottom line: 77.7 WAR would put McCutchen seventh among center fielders. Problem is, Kenny Lofton, who's currently in seventh place, got practically no Hall of Fame support. McCutchen probably will have to hit a major milestone to guarantee a spot in Cooperstown, with 3,000 hits being the most likely.
4. Felix Hernandez (75.3 WAR)
Projected career stats: 241-176, 3.18 ERA, 126 ERA+, 3,843 strikeouts
The way he has pitched so far, King Felix deserves more than his 110-86 record. Thanks to some rather moribund Mariners offenses, Hernandez hasn't won 15 games in a season since 2009 despite pitching more than 200 innings every season and not putting up an ERA north of 3.50. Despite the lack of support from his team, the Mariners ace is still a respectable 34th since 1901 in wins through his age-27 season.
Bottom line: Assuming his slight loss of velocity isn't a bad omen, the King's early start will give him the bulk numbers needed to get by the voters.
5. Buster Posey (71.1 WAR)
Projected career stats: .288/.360/.451, 123 OPS+, 241 homers, 2,182 hits, 546 doubles
Posey has an uphill battle to challenge the best catchers in home run totals because of a tough home park and a league-wide drop in offense. As a result, he's unlikely to hit enough homers to come close to the homer numbers of Mike Piazza, Johnny Bench and Carlton Fisk. But 2,182 hits would put him fifth among catchers, and 542 doubles only behind Ivan Rodriguez (who needed a lot more plate appearances to do it than Posey is projected here). Posey is a solid defensive catcher, but currently overshadowed by the amazing Yadier Molina.
Bottom line: Every eligible catcher (except Piazza, who will likely be inducted soon) with more than the 50.3 WAR of Ted Simmons is in the Hall. The question for every catcher is durability, but Posey has recovered well from injury thus far, which bodes well for his future.
6. Evan Longoria (70.8 WAR)
Projected career stats: .268/.347/.466, 121 OPS+, 367 homers, 2,094 hits
When projecting Longoria, ZiPS singles out Scott Rolen as Longoria's top recent-year offensive comp. Like Rolen at the same age, Longoria is an elite defender at third. The support that Rolen gets will be a good litmus test for how the projected Longoria would fare in the voting. I'm not optimistic as HOF voters have been bad about inducting second or third basemen who have not hit a magic number, such as 500 homers or 3,000 hits.
Going down the top 20 third basemen in history by WAR, only eight of the eligible 17 have been inducted into the Hall, and without clearing a major home run milestone, Longoria may need a whole closet of Gold Gloves.
Bottom line: Every eligible third baseman with more than 70 WAR is in the Hall, but the guys just short (Graig Nettles, Buddy Bell, Ken Boyer) are not. Even Ron Santo (70.6) had an uphill climb. Longoria is a coin flip.
7. Troy Tulowitzki (65.5 WAR)
Projected career stats: .286/.354/.486, 113 OPS+, 346 homers, 2,222 hits
While one would think that the boost his raw career numbers will get from Coors Field would help his Hall of Fame argument, as we've seen from Larry Walker's case, voters are prone to overpunishing a player for achieving in Coors, simply dismissing a player's stats rather than properly adjusting for environment.
Tulo fans will know more how he may fare when Todd Helton hits the ballot in five years. If Tulowitzki hits these numbers, he would certainly be worthy of a trip to upstate New York on merit.
Bottom line: 65.5 WAR would rank 15th in history among shortstops, a similar career WAR is in the Hall (Derek Jeter will be, Joe Cronin, Pee Wee Reese, Lou Boudreau). Problem is, the one that's actively being voted on right now, Alan Trammell, is finding the Hall a struggle. I think in the end, Tulo makes the Hall, as the next generation of voters will likely be more savvy when it comes to adjust for offensive context.
8. Dustin Pedroia (64.1 WAR)
Projected career stats: .285/.352/.425, 110 OPS+, 194 homers, 2,453 hits
Middle infielders aren't known for aging gracefully, but Pedroia is playing at such a high level that he can withstand quite a bit of decline and still be a really good player. He's not likely to reach the magic 3,000 hit milestone that Craig Biggio did -- Biggio also was behind the pace, but his 1,955 hits after age 29 were a top-10 performance in MLB history. What will help Pedroia is his very high-profile place at the heart of this Red Sox generation.
Bottom line: For most players, this would be a coin flip, given the inability of Lou Whitaker (74.8 WAR), Bobby Grich (71.0) and Willie Randolph (65.6) to get anywhere near the votes needed for induction. As visible as Pedroia is, I think he's one of the second basemen who does in fact get over the bar, like Ryne Sandberg (67.7) or Roberto Alomar (66.7).
9. Bryce Harper (60.3 WAR)
Projected career stats: 265/356/478, 127 OPS+, 366 homers, 2,214 hits
Harper's eventual career numbers are the most unpredictable of any of the top 10 on this list. We've yet to see Harper have his big power breakout, but he's also incredibly accomplished in the majors for a player who only recently became able to drink legally. The No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft could very easily become a 500-600 homers type player, but we shouldn't get too aggressive projecting him yet.
Bottom line: Between 55 and 65 WAR, the majority of outfielders have not gotten into the Hall, so Harper probably will need more than 60 WAR to get there. The Harper projection puts him in the company of Willie Stargell (57.3), Enos Slaughter (55.2) and Billy Williams (63.9), but also players such as Reggie Smith (64.4) and Willie Davis (60.7), who got little support. I'd give Harper a 1-in-4 shot for now, but his untapped potential gives him the crazy upside to possibly crush that projection.
10. Giancarlo Stanton (56.1 WAR)
Projected career stats: .258/.357/.498, 130 OPS+, 456 homers
Stanton has the most high-end power potential of any young player in baseball today, but has actually seen his projected career numbers drop over the past year. After battling constant injuries over the past two years, the concerns about his ability to stay on the field can't simply be dismissed.
It's hard to be a Hall of Famer playing 120 games a year, even if players like Eric Davis gave it a run. If he can stay on the field, Stanton can quickly re-establish his odds of being a 600-homer type. Playing his entire year during drug testing, Stanton probably would not face the same barriers that Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa have in getting into the Hall.
Bottom line: If healthy, Stanton will beat that number and get into the Hall. If he continues to have durability problems, he won't put up the homer numbers to be inducted, as happened with Jack Clark and Jim Wynn.
David Price could end up staying put.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Tampa Bay Rays are credited for their use of defensive shifts, for their bullpen reconstructions, for their trades, for competing in the AL East annually. But what the club's leadership doesn't get enough credit for is how competitive it is.
Manager Joe Maddon is eclectic and intellectual, GM Andrew Friedman is analytical and self-deprecating, and owner Stuart Sternberg is genial and circumspect. But the three of them have demonstrated, through their work, a dogged desire to -- how can we put this politely? -- deliver a groin shot to other teams. There is a great competitive arrogance, a necessity given all the inherent disadvantages in place for Tampa Bay; they believe they will outwork or outthink or out-executive or out-something when they play. It is from this place that Maddon made eight pitching changes in the Rays' last game of 2013, in the team's attempt to will itself over a better team.
The Rays know their odds, they know the postseason history of teams with modest payrolls, and they've demonstrated they will make big-picture, clear-eyed assessments.
But at heart, the Rays, as much or more than other teams, want to kick some butt, which brings us to the current state of the David Price trade talks. The equation being weighed by the Rays is shifting as the winter drifts by.
At the outset of the winter, rival executives fully expected Tampa Bay to trade the left-hander, who is two seasons away from free agency, and the primary question for the Rays was: Which offer will be best for Price?
Officials with other teams say it was evident Tampa Bay had done a lot of summer assessment work on the minor league systems of the Diamondbacks, Rangers, Dodgers and others. Price acknowledged at the end of the season that it was very possible he had pitched his final game for the Rays.
But the current climate for trading a player of Price's caliber is not good. The perceived value of prospects has rocketed to an unprecedented level, making teams extremely reluctant to part with the kind of package of prospects that Texas got for Mark Teixeira, or that Baltimore got for Erik Bedard. Those kinds of trades are increasingly dinosaurs.
At the same time, the salary cost of veteran pitchers has exploded, with the exponential escalation of deals signed by Matt Cain, Cole Hamels, Zack Greinke, Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander. Any team interested in trading for Price knows that Tampa Bay would demand a boatload of prospects in return, and soon after, Price -- who is eligible for free agency following the 2015 season -- would need to be paid like CC Sabathia, like Hernandez, like Verlander.
On top of all that, the availability of Masahiro Tanaka is potentially another wrench in the Price trade talks: Teams interested in acquiring a frontline starter can bid on Tanaka rather than surrender prospects and money for Tampa Bay's left-hander.
As one official noted last week: If Price is going to be traded, doesn't it make sense that Tampa Bay is already aware of the best offer it can get for him?
With a month and a week until the start of spring, the internal question for the Rays may well have shifted to this: Is the collection of talent that Tampa Bay could receive for Price now -- or, for that matter, next winter -- worth the damage that the trade of Price would do to the Rays' chances for winning in 2014?
Because if the Rays keep Price for the front of their own rotation, they would appear to have a chance to have a great team, maybe the best team of the Maddon/Friedman/Sternberg era. Alex Cobb, Matt Moore and Chris Archer could team with Price to form a devastating rotation. Despite their payroll limitations, the Rays have managed to build a relatively deep lineup and roster, with two good defensive catchers in Ryan Hanigan and Jose Molina, extra outfield depth with David DeJesus, Desmond Jennings, Matt Joyce and Wil Myers. They have bullpen questions, but hey, they go into every season with bullpen questions.
Keeping Price, who is arbitration eligible, would cut directly into their bottom line; MLB Trade Rumors projects his salary for 2014 at $13.1 million, or more than 15 percent of their entire payroll. History has shown that the Rays' attendance isn't really going to be changed all that much by the promise of winning.
They can always get at least decent trade return for Price. Sternberg must decide whether he wants to absorb Price's salary for one more season, or if he'd rather keep the pitcher and give the Rays the best possible shot at winning the last game in October.
For a dignified organization, which nonetheless wants to kick in the teeth of every team it plays, this must be a very tempting option.
It's possible David Price will be back, writes Roger Mooney.
Around the league
• As Adam Rubin writes, the Mets' front office is split on whether to add Stephen Drew.
Here's why an investment in Drew makes absolutely no sense unless it's on a one-sided, team-friendly deal for one year and for less than the $14.1 million qualifying offer Drew rejected in November:
The Mets are almost certainly not going to seriously contend in 2014; if you gave truth serum to club ownership, they would admit this publicly. Matt Harvey will miss the whole season, and they have a lot of holes in their everyday lineup. What is the point of paying a lot of money to a player who turns 31 in March -- a player with a daunting injury history -- when the player really doesn't fit the team's long-term plan? Unless the deal is completely on the Mets' terms, it'd be an overpay ... and for what reason?
Now, Drew makes more sense for the Red Sox, the defending champions, who could use the middle-infield depth. A major question with Boston will be whether the Red Sox management would hold Drew's feet to the negotiating fire and insist he take less than the qualifying offer to come back. They could say -- quite rightly -- that the shortstop market has changed, and Drew is worth less in the market today than he was in November, before all the shortstop jobs were filled.
And presumably, agent Scott Boras could argue the other way that talent is talent, and Drew should be paid for his talent, which was good enough to help the Red Sox win the World Series in 2013.
But the Mets aren't winning the World Series in 2014, and Drew doesn't fit their timeline unless he would be willing to take a lot less than the Red Sox offered.
The Mets are still waiting to see how far the price tag on Drew falls, writes Andy Martino.
• As the bidding war looms over Masahiro Tanaka, questions loom.
• Front offices are dotted with west Pennsylvania natives, writes Rob Biertempfel.
• Jack Morris awaits the Hall of Fame call, in this, his last year on the ballot. Teammates recall Craig Biggio's hustle, as Jesus Ortiz writes.
The ballot caused some angst for Bob Klapisch. Here's Paul Hoynes's Hall of Fame ballot. There's no room in the Hall for rumors, writes Troy Renck. Difficult duties remain for the Hall of Fame voters, writes La Velle Neal.
• The Phillies' TV deal is good for the roster.
• The Cardinals are going global for prospects.
• The Reds' quiet offseason continues, as John Fay writes.
• Joc Pederson is going to attend the Dodgers' winter development program.
• The Orioles remain focused on upgrading their pitching, writes Eduardo Encina.
• The Red Sox are seeking the right path for some of their prospects, writes Scott Lauber.
• Richard Griffin offers five reasons for hope for the Blue Jays.
• The guy at the center of the college football national title game tonight could be a Rangers prospect. Or not.
• The Astros' staff visited with Jason Castro.
• The first time I chatted with Jerry Coleman, the longtime player and broadcaster who passed away Sunday, I really wasn't interested in talking about him, which is probably why he jumped into the conversation enthusiastically. Nothing bored Jerry more than talking about himself, I thought, as I got to know him.
What I wanted to know about, in that first conversation, was the way in which journalism legend David Halberstam had interviewed him for the extraordinary book "Summer of '49," for which Jerry was a primary source.
I asked Jerry about the structure of Halberstam's questions, about the setting for the interview, about whether there were a lot of yes-no questions, or something more. Halberstam had a genius for extracting anecdotes, and as a young reporter -- I met Jerry when I was 27 years old, as a reporter at the San Diego Union -- I wanted to know how he got to them. Jerry recalled how exhausted he felt after each of Halberstam's interviews, because the reporter pressed him for details, details and more details.
This is how Halberstam captured Jerry so perfectly in the book, as a keen, anxious observer who tended to downplay his own achievements:
One day near the end of spring (of 1949), Joe Trimble, a sports writer for the Daily News, came up to Coleman and asked him to autograph a baseball. It was the ball signed by all regular players who had made the big club. "Are you sure you want me to sign this, Mr. Trimble?" he asked. "Hey kid," Trimble answered, "relax, you're going to make the club." This was the way Coleman found out he was a Yankee. He would be paid $7,500 a year instead of $5,000 if he was still with the Yankees on June 1, which was the big day. His promotion ended one phase of terror and began another, the haunting fear that at some critical moment in some crucial game he would fail and cost the Yankees the game and the pennant.
The punchline, of course, was that Jerry got the pivotal hit in the biggest game of that season, a three-run double on the last day of the season, in a winner-take-all game against the Red Sox. But as I got to know Jerry better and asked him about that hit, he would dismiss it as a complete fluke. "Lucky," he said, sitting in the Padres clubhouse one day. "Just lucky."
His nine-year playing career, including participation in six World Series? "Lucky," he said. "I was just in the right spot at the right time."
His military service, in two wars, World War II and Korea, as a Marine pilot? "I did my job, like everybody else did," he said. Jerry waved off the word "hero," which made him feel uncomfortable; I heard him get emotional over the word a couple of times, because I think Jerry felt the heroes were those servicemen and servicewomen who never went home.
Jerry laughed easily, and made fun of himself as a hitter, laughed at himself for his one year as manager, and joked about being honored at the Hall of Fame as a broadcaster, talking about it as though he was an outsider being invited into a room of legends.
He was dead honest about how he perceived himself, and in conversation he was honest about what he saw. I think he felt a little sorry for Joe DiMaggio, who was so constricted by the importance DiMaggio placed on never looking bad or awkward. He had deep respect for Ted Williams, for his confidence and ability to hit. He hated the technique he saw in modern-era fielders, which really shouldn't be surprising, because Jerry's whole career was built on his defense and fundamental skills. He hated what he perceived as a lack of effort, and when he saw it from players, I'd get an off-air earful of frustration.
Tom Brokaw wrote a book called "The Greatest Generation," and as I read it, Jerry was the first person who came to mind as a model of what Brokaw described. Jerry was a good and decent man who lived a good and honest life, of modesty and service, and there was nothing lucky about any of that.
Jerry Coleman was part of some legendary Yankees teams, as Bill Madden writes.
Corey Brock wrote this very nice piece on Jerry last year. Chris Jenkins writes about the San Diego legend. He will be missed by all, writes Jeff Sanders.
Here's the speech he made at the Hall of Fame in 2005.
And today will be better than yesterday.
Astros should be all in on Tanaka.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
We knew that CC Sabathia's preference, when he became a free agent in the fall of 2008, was to return to his home state of California, if all things were equal. He might have loved to sign with the Dodgers, if all things were equal. But that was before the Yankees, well aware of Sabathia’s interest in playing in the Golden State, made the bidding unequal, with their offer of $161 million.
When Robinson Cano became a free agent two months ago, we knew the gap between what his side asked for and what the Yankees offered was enormous, and we knew that the tension between the two sides was building -- a clue that Cano was ready to leave for the right offer.
When Albert Pujols filed for free agency, there was clearly a breach developing between him and the Cardinals, and a year later the same was true in the talks between Josh Hamilton and the Rangers. The player’s perception of his own value was far different, in those cases, than the team he was leaving, and this is how Pujols wound up completing his deal in about 48 hours, and how Hamilton left the Rangers for a division rival.
But in the case of Masahiro Tanaka, we really don’t have clues about what he wants from his free agency. Around the edges, there is word that he might prefer to sign with a West Coast team. In Japan, he was a longtime Rakuten teammate of Hisashi Iwakuma, before Iwakuma left to sign with Seattle, and there is some question among bidders about whether this will give the Mariners a significant recruiting advantage.
Is Tanaka intent on playing with a longtime friend? Will he gravitate toward the highest offer? Does he have a secret dream to play for the Dodgers, or the Yankees? It’s unclear, maybe even to Casey Close, the agent recently chosen to represent Tanaka.
We don’t yet know how much Tanaka will drive this negotiation, or whether he’s open to all ideas.
If Tanaka isn’t focused on a narrow range of options -- only West Coast teams, for example, or merely reaching for the best dollar offer -- there is a courtship that should take place, because it makes so much sense for the team. If the Houston Astros would be willing to pay Tanaka the kind of money he will get in the bidding, he would be absolutely perfect for them as a major piece of their development into a contender.
AP Photo/Alex Gallardo
Starter Scott Feldman signed a three-year deal with the Astros this offseason.
Start with this: The Astros have what is essentially a blank canvas in financial obligations. Beyond the contracts agreed to with their draft picks, Houston has a total of $34 million in deals beyond the 2014 season, with $20 million of that allotted for Scott Feldman. Right now, the Astros could be the working definition of payroll flexibility, even at a time when they are still mired in a legal fight over their local television deal. Even if they failed to draw a single customer to a ballgame in 2014 -- and it hasn’t gotten that bad, even after Houston had its third consecutive season of 106 or more losses last summer -- the Astros could easily cover a costly player, like Tanaka, with the money they make through Major League Baseball.
Tanaka would be marketable for the franchise in the short term, and at the same time he’s an absolutely perfect fit within their long-term rebuilding plan, as the leader of a young and dynamic pitching staff.
The signing of Feldman surprised some rival executives because he turns 31 in February, and by the time the talent the Astros have been hoarding begins to manifest in the big leagues -- players like former No. 1 picks Mark Appel and Carlos Correa -- Feldman’s productivity may well be in decline.
Tanaka, on the other hand, is just 25 years old, and the Astros could try to sell him on the idea of being the leader of a building power, just as Iwakuma was at Rakuten years ago. He could be the anchor of a pitching staff, in years to come, of a group capable of dominance, with Appel and, presumably, Carlos Rodon, who is widely expected to be the first player chosen in the June draft, by the Astros.
Tanaka will be 27 or 28 years old as Appel and Rodon reach the majors, and by the time the likes of Appel and Rodon accumulate service time and start to get expensive, through arbitration, Tanaka will be at the back end of his contract.
To repeat: We really don’t know what Tanaka wants. It’s possible he would dismiss the Astros, the worst team in the majors, as potential suitors. He might want to rejoin Iwakuma, or play in New York, or become part of one of the greatest rotations in recent memory by signing with the Dodgers. Undoubtedly, the Astros would have to overpay and crush all other bidders to land Tanaka, in the same manner that the Yankees did with Sabathia.
But it would be worth it to give the Astros a jump-start while also continuing the reconstruction plans designed to build a winner for years to come.
If you think the idea is nuts, you probably thought this suggestion back in mid-November was a little crazy, too.
Around the league
• A fire destroyed part of the ballpark of a Tigers affiliate.
• The Phillies are really happy with their new television deal.
• Bryce Harper expects to weigh 240-245 pounds by spring training.
• The A-Rod verdict is days away.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. The Astros promoted Kevin Goldstein.
2. The Mariners announced some signings.
• James Loney’s return probably means a record payroll for the Rays, depending on what happens with David Price.
• Neftali Feliz says he’s ready to go. Feliz says he wants to be a closer.
• The Hall of Fame vote has become a series of swings and misses, writes Thomas Boswell.
• The Hall vote has never been harder, writes John Erardi.
• Mike Mussina and Frank Thomas are awaiting word. I covered Mussina for three seasons of his career, and I remember that among all hitters, Mussina was more confounded by Thomas than any other; he just could not find a way to get him out consistently. Thomas had 96 plate appearances in his career against Mussina, more than against any other pitcher, and in those he had an OPS of 1.263, with 18 extra-base hits.
• After his playing career, Paul Blair greatly enjoyed golfing.
• Rockies owner Charlie Monfort pleaded guilty to a DUI.
And today will be better than yesterday.
Why I vote for PED users for the HOF.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
On Monday afternoon, ESPN.com revealed the Hall of Fame ballots for the 17 folks here who cast votes, and this seemed to set Twitter on fire in the baseball corner of the world.
A brief review of the voting process: Voters are allowed to name up to 10 players on their ballots, because of a longstanding rule. This is an enormous problem, as I've written about in the past, because of the logjam that has developed. I think there were 17 players worthy for induction on this year's ballot -- alphabetically, those are Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Tom Glavine, Jeff Kent, Greg Maddux, Mark McGwire, Jack Morris, Mike Mussina, Rafael Palmeiro, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling, Sammy Sosa, Frank Thomas and Alan Trammell.
But because of the Rule of 10, I had to leave seven of those players off my ballot -- Kent, McGwire, Mussina, Raines, Schilling, Sosa and Trammell -- and ended up checking boxes next to the following 10 names: Bagwell, Biggio, Bonds, Clemens, Glavine, Maddux, Morris, Palmeiro, Piazza and Thomas.
There were lots of questions about this on Twitter, and the 140 characters don't usually provide the space to give suitable answers, so we'll attack some of those issues more in depth here.
How could you vote for Palmeiro and not McGwire?
McGwire has been on the ballot seven times before this year and I've voted for him every time, because he's one of the best players of his era: His 583 career homers rank 10th all-time, and he finished in the top six in MVP voting four different times. He broke Roger Maris' single-season home run record, and regardless of whether he hit his 70 homers under the same circumstances as Maris, the fact is he got there. Major League Baseball has never expunged McGwire's 1998 record, or McGwire's numbers; it's all right here, still.
But because of the limits of the Rule of 10, I had to leave seven Hall of Fame-worthy players off my ballot, and had to come up with some sort of method of picking and choosing. There is no perfect way to do this, so basically what I did was to vote for the best players on the ballot for nine spots, and then, for the 10th spot, I made sure to vote for Jack Morris because it's his last year of eligibility.
So I had to leave McGwire off the ballot. I think Palmeiro was the better player, as one of four in history with 3,000-plus hits and 500-plus homers.
How could you vote for Morris over Mussina or Schilling?
Nobody needs to tell me about the greatness of Mussina or Schilling. I covered Mussina as a beat writer for The Baltimore Sun in 1995 and 1996, and at The New York Times in 2001, and he is Hall of Fame-worthy. He thrived in his career while competing in the AL East, with its history of stacked lineups, and in the midst of the steroid era. I witnessed firsthand a lot of the great stuff that Schilling accomplished, in the 2001 World Series and the 2004 postseason; he is a Hall of Famer, in my eyes.
But because of the Rule of 10, I had to pick and choose who I voted for, and because I don't think Mussina has a chance at being elected, in this first year on the ballot, and don't think Schilling -- a colleague here at ESPN -- will get close enough this year, I turned to others.
In future years -- and hopefully, the HOF rids itself of the arbitrary Rule of 10 before next year's voting -- I will vote for Mussina and Schilling.
As I explained to Curt, I set aside a vote for Morris this year because it's his 15th year on the ballot. Last year, Morris had 67.7 percent of the vote, which is 7.3 percent short of the 75 percent required for induction; in the past, players in his situation have had their best shot at induction at this time, with a spike in their vote totals.
But I suspect that Morris' vote total will decline this year, and not because of the ongoing sabermetric jihad aimed at his career (I understand the arguments, and just disagree). Rather, Morris will lose votes, I'd bet, because of the Rule of 10. Other voters, faced with the same logjam as I was, will feel compelled to not vote for Morris after voting for him in the past.
And there's something really terrible about that, because all of the candidates on this year's ballot, from Moises Alou to Larry Walker, should be judged solely on the merits of their playing career, and not how they might be squeezed onto a ballot.
How can you not vote for Tim Raines?
I have voted for him in the past, and I will in the future. My vote for him was sacrificed because of the Rule of 10.
Why aren't you weighing character in your vote?
There is no evidence that the character clause was given pivotal weight in more than a half-century of voting before the steroid issue popped up. Gaylord Perry admitted to cheating repeatedly -- heck, he wrote a book about it -- and was voted in. Ty Cobb had a long and ugly history of incidents not related to what he did on the field, and was voted in. Mickey Mantle was infamous for drinking problems, to the degree that it sometimes left him unprepared to play, and was voted in. Heck, the guy who had a lot to do with the composition of the character clause, legendary commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, worked to keep black players out of the sport.
The Hall of Fame is not a house of the holy. It's a baseball museum -- the best sports museum in the world, in my opinion -- and nobody should pretend it's more than that. That includes the current Hall of Famers, some of whom admittedly used amphetamines in their careers because that was the context of the times.
How can you vote for steroid users?
Brian Bahr/Getty Images
Bonds' era may have been tainted, but he was the best player of his time.
I've covered that here many times in the past, but it comes up every year when the Hall of Fame votes are prepared. The bottom line: It's all about context.
For a period of about two decades, the institution of baseball had a burgeoning PED problem, and its collective response -- from the union leaders, who held the most practical power; to the owners, who cashed the checks; to the clean players who knew what was happening but allowed themselves to be muted by union doctrine; to the players who chose to use -- was to do nothing. Before Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, Jose Canseco answered questions about alleged steroid use on national television, so nobody can pretend there wasn't awareness, but it would be another 15 years before any form of testing was put into place.
In that vacuum, the problem exploded. Some players initially did it to gain a competitive advantage, many did it to keep up with rival users, some did it to cope with injuries. By 2001-02, my guess is that many, many players -- as in, thousands of major and minor leaguers -- were using.
Jason Giambi, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and others have gotten the most scrutiny, but in my opinion, most of the elite players were using something. Whether we like it or not, this is what the sport became because of inaction from the top to the bottom. During the 1990s, every team had the option of requesting a steroid test for a player, for cause. The number of times this happened: zero. None. Nada.
So even as steroid suspicion mounted, management did nothing. The union leadership was far too slow to recognize the impact of the problem on players who wanted to remain clean, so the leadership remained entrenched, in keeping with the players' association dogma of the time.
Even after the sport stepped up to address the issue, in 2003, it took four more years before players got more than a 10-day suspension. Think about that: Rafael Palmeiro was popped for a positive test in 2006 and he got the same suspension you would get for scuffing a baseball, which says a lot about how seriously the sport regarded PED use at the time.
When Hall of Fame voters swoop in now after the fact, and render retroactive morality, this seems ridiculous. It's all about context, and the fact is that none of us will ever know exactly who did what and when they did it and what the impact of those drugs were on the outcome of games and the record books. To play a guessing game on who did and who didn't seems absurd, which is why I decided years ago that there really are only two fair and defensible standards on the PED quandary:
1. Ignore the PED question and vote for the best players of the time.
2. Vote for nobody.
There are voters who aren't casting votes for Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, Sammy Sosa and others because they suspect they used -- and to repeat, I'm far from naive about the possibilities of what happened. But it seems capricious for voters to essentially determine they are attaching their own personal lifetime ban on a player like Piazza without rock-solid evidence. If you aren't voting for Piazza, who has overwhelming Hall of Fame numbers, you ought to be able to explain why that is beyond "He had back acne."
And at the same time, it's ridiculous to not vote for Clemens, Bonds and McGwire while knowing that a huge percentage of the players in the era did the same thing -- including, probably, others who are already in the Hall of Fame or who are current candidates.
Where were the writers on this during the steroid era?
I wrote an op-ed about this for The New York Times in 2006. You can read it here.
Will you vote for Ryan Braun and Manny Ramirez if they're Hall of Fame-worthy?
I've gone back and forth on this one in my mind, but I think that in the end, the answer will be: Yes, I would vote for them.
Major League Baseball -- and, by extension, the Hall of Fame -- drew a line with Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson, banning them and removing them from Hall of Fame consideration. Let's say for argument's sake that the Baseball Writers' Association of America decided to mount a rogue effort on behalf of Rose, and everybody with a ballot decided to cast a write-in vote for Rose, the all-time leader in hits. I don't think a result like that would ever be honored by the Hall, and I strongly suspect that if it did, Major League Baseball officials would never attend, because Rose is persona non grata. He is dead to the sport because he was deemed guilty of a capital offense: betting on baseball.
But Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, Bagwell, Sosa, Palmeiro, et al are not regarded in this way. Most of them are employees of teams, working with the approval of Major League Baseball. The Hall of Fame chose to include them on the ballots, regardless of their perceived offenses, regardless of their pasts.
If MLB and the Hall of Fame have determined those players are in good standing -- unlike Rose -- is it really the writers' place to throw up a roadblock in front of them?
I think my vote should reflect history, and whether we like it or not, the history -- effectively approved and stamped for authenticity by MLB, and presented by the Hall -- is that Bonds, Clemens, Palmeiro, Sosa, McGwire, etc. were the very best players at a time when the sport was saturated with PED use.
Manny Ramirez was suspended and then welcomed back to baseball repeatedly. The same is true with Braun, and will be with Alex Rodriguez, if he serves a suspension.
If MLB doesn't like that, or the Hall of Fame, well ... change the rules. If it's important to them, then MLB, the union and the Hall of Fame can negotiate a proviso in which any player busted for PED use is permanently ineligible for induction at Cooperstown. It's not the role of the writers to render death penalties to a legacy; that responsibility lies in the hands of the leaders of the sport. If they have a problem with the steroid era guys, then they should kick them out, as they did Rose. If they don't, then they need to take ownership of what happened in the game. I'll start treating the achievements of the steroid era as fraud with my Hall of Fame ballot the instant that fans who paid to watch those games get their money back.
If you ever forget what the sport was all about at that time, it's worth reviewing this commercial, which came at the height of the late-'90s home run boom and featured Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine. Maddux and Glavine are likely to join Bobby Cox in Cooperstown next summer, writes David O'Brien.
Jack Morris will be at peace with whatever happens, writes Tom Gage.
Bob Dutton writes about Edgar Martinez's chances.
Around the league
• The Orioles have interest in right-hander Bronson Arroyo, who could be the type of innings-eater they need to help stabilize their staff. Arroyo has been relatively injury-free in his career, but the question for the negotiation is about the length of the deal. Arroyo is said by one club source as wanting more than a one-year deal.
• Speaking of which: Chris Capuano is looking for a two-year deal, and sources say he'll be patient in waiting for it.
• As written here last week, the Blue Jays are in an excellent position to take a shot at signing either Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez. In at least one corner of the organization, there is a lot of interest in Jimenez, because of his power stuff.
• An announcement on Don Mattingly's next contract is forthcoming. Ramona Shelburne wrote about the turn in the negotiations two months ago.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. The Pirates agreed to terms with Chris Dickerson.
2. The Red Sox worked out a partnership in Korea.
3. Jim Riggleman will be back as the Reds' Triple-A manager.
4. The Indians signed Jeff Francoeur and Scott Atchison, as Paul Hoynes writes.
5. The Rays signed an infielder.
6. The Cardinals claimed an outfielder.
7. The Astros must decide whether to try to extend Jason Castro, or trade him, as Evan Drellich writes. Some rival executives fully expect Houston to move Castro sometime before the July 31 deadline.
• The Phillies have various options for their lineup.
• The Mets need to make an Ike Davis deal, writes Ken Davidoff.
• Andrew Lambo could be part of the Pirates' first-base solution.
• Bernie Miklasz wonders if the strain of October innings will weigh on the Cardinals.
• Walt Jocketty says it'll be difficult to sign Homer Bailey.
• The Brewers are turning to their young players, as GM Doug Melvin told MLB.com.
• Mike Pelfrey's salary could reach $8 million.
• Detroit is cold; new manager Brad Ausmus is not.
• The Astros are going to consider a move to Arizona for spring training.
• A Rangers outfielder is on a hot streak in winter ball, writes Gerry Fraley.
• The Padres' leaders paid tribute to Jerry Coleman.
• Here is George Vecsey's obituary of Coleman.
And today will be better than yesterday.
M's, Yankees need Tanaka most.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The free-agent market got a little deeper last week. One of this offseason's unanswered questions was whether Masahiro Tanaka would be able to play in the United States in 2014. This had been by no means certain as Tanaka's team in Japan, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, spent a month publicly waffling over whether they would allow their ace to be posted. With Tanaka officially cleared to sign an MLB contract, the interesting question now is which uniform he ends up wearing.
In a shallow free-agent market, Tanaka is in a position to bring in an impressive amount of cash in return for that new uniform. While every team should at least consider Tanaka and do their homework -- the posting fee, which maxes out at $20 million, is paid only by the team that eventually lands him -- not every team is going to be willing to spend nine figures on any free agent, let alone one who has never played in the U.S.
Estimating the performance of an NPB player isn't easy, given that we have few examples of major league players moving back and forth over the Pacific. Tanaka's bread-and-butter pitch is a nasty split-fingered fastball that should induce ground balls and silly swings in the majors. He also has a fastball that can hit the mid-90s, though without a lot of movement, a solid slider and a curve that probably won't be used too heavily in MLB.
Tanaka had a terrific record in Japan -- 24-0 in 2013 -- but he's also not likely to be as good as Yu Darvish has been. They're not really similar pitchers, though the comparison is inevitable because of their shared Japanese heritage, but Darvish struck out nearly 11 batters per nine innings in his final season in Japan, a number Tanaka hasn't ever touched (7.8 in his 2013 season).
Despite these caveats, ZiPS projects Tanaka as the most valuable pitcher available in free agency this year. ZiPS estimates a mean projection (neutral park/league) of a 3.46 ERA in 190 innings from Tanaka, for an ERA+ of 117 and 3.9 WAR. The 117 ERA+ projected compares favorably to the 124 ERA+ projected for David Price in a neutral park. While Price comes out a little better in the comparison, signing Tanaka has the fringe benefit of not necessitating the Rays stealing some of your best prospects.
So, what are the best homes for Tanaka? I've ranked six potential suitors based on which one gains the most by signing him.
1. Seattle Mariners
Seattle has a history of being a comfortable home for players from Nippon Professional Baseball and the wallet necessary to make the signing. And even more important, the Mariners have a pressing need for another top arm.
How bad was Seattle pitching last season? Despite starting with the No. 1 and No. 7 pitchers in the AL by Baseball Reference's WAR (Hisashi Iwakuma, Felix Hernandez), the team's ERA+ of 86 was the second-worst in the AL, just barely ahead of the Houston Astros. The Robinson Cano signing was huge, but outside of that, the team has only been able to engage in its yearly ritual of accumulating designated-hitter types.
Erasmo Ramirez may be the worst No. 3 starter in baseball, and while Taijuan Walker is a terrific prospect, he's still just 21 years old and has never topped 141 1/3 innings in a season. ZiPS projects Tanaka in Seattle with a 3.24 ERA, for a 118 ERA+ and 3.8 WAR. Depending on whether Ramirez or James Paxton would get the boot from the rotation, Tanaka adds 3 or 4 wins to a team that still needs another 10 or so to frighten Oakland or Texas.
2. New York Yankees
The Yankees are essentially out of options to significantly upgrade the offense any further and with some question marks in the rotation, Tanaka is a logical player to add. It would be even better for the Yankees if they could find out the status of Alex Rodriguez's suspension (and salary) before committing to Tanaka, but either way, adding Tanaka would be a big boost to a rotation that's going to have to give 400 innings on the back end to some combination of David Phelps, Michael Pineda, Adam Warren and the rest of the gang.
Give half of those to Tanaka and the Yankees can feel a lot better about leaving the fifth-starter question unresolved until spring training is underway. While the Yankees infield doesn't project to be all that exciting defensively -- at least on the days Brendan Ryan is not on the field -- Tanaka's ability to keep the ball down make Yankee Stadium's right-field fences a bit less scary.
3. Philadelphia Phillies
Faced with a choice to rebuild or restock, the Ruben Amaro-led Phillies have appeared to go with "neither" this winter, tinkering around the edges by bringing back Carlos Ruiz and signing Marlon Byrd. The team hasn't significantly improved its 2014 outlook (or that of 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, etc.) and landing Tanaka is the best chance remaining to improve the team's talent base at this point.
Given that the team is comfortable putting Cuban defector Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez in the rotation despite a long layoff from actual games, it shouldn't be afraid of a pitcher who has excelled in NPB, the second-highest level baseball league in the world.
4. Baltimore Orioles
Masahiro Tanaka won't play for the Baltimore Orioles in 2014. The Orioles didn't even put on a show of trying to land the best free agent remaining, with GM Dan Duquette recently declaring that the Orioles won't be signing Tanaka (and that the team doesn't agree with the posting system).
The Orioles don't do a lot of things that they should and this is another example. Baltimore's rotation is full of inning-eaters, but nobody who frightens another team in a one-game, winner-take-all matchup. The O's are missing a golden opportunity here, going with the "do nothing and hope another player suddenly becomes an MVP candidate like Chris Davis did" plan.
5. Los Angeles Angels
The team still has money. The team still has an aging core with its time running out. The team also still has either Garrett Richards or Joe Blanton in the rotation and Tanaka would serve as an impressive upgrade. The AL West is a tough division and the Angels have too much invested in winning now to not win now.
A Jered Weaver-C.J. Wilson-Tanaka top of the rotation matches up well against most teams in baseball and takes some of the pressure off Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs at the back end. Blanton and Richards are still available as fallback positions, both better suited to being Plan B than Plan A.
6. Chicago Cubs
Don't laugh. Well, too much. The Cubs are still in the rebuilding phase, but Tanaka is young enough (turned 26 last month) that unlike most free agents, he's likely to still be just as good when the Cubs move beyond the bottom-tier of teams in baseball.
The Cubs clearly aren't afraid of spending money and bringing in Tanaka gives the team more freedom to get what they can for Jeff Samardzija via trade. The team may not feel all that close to competing, but the club played non-embarrassing baseball in 2013 until the end of July and has a loaded minor league system. The team is closer to being relevant than many fans think and Tanaka makes that future even better.
Five teams with the best shot at Tanaka.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
After weeks of drama, the Masahiro Tanaka posting saga is finally over. Rakuten, his team in Japan, has agreed to post him, and now all MLB teams have a chance to negotiate with him if they agree to put up the posting fee, which likely will max out at $20 million per the new posting rules. (If a team doesn't sign him, no fee is paid.)
Now the question is: Which team will get the prized right-hander? As far as I'm concerned, these are the five clubs with the best shot:
1. New York Yankees
The Yankees' top free-agent pitching target has always been Tanaka. Although their goal was to stay under the $189 million luxury-tax threshold, it was more of a goal than a mandate, as GM Brian Cashman explained to me during the winter meetings. Tanaka is a potential top-of-the-rotation starter who can, at the very least, replace the retired Andy Pettitte and, at the very best, anchor the rotation for years to come.
2. Los Angeles Angels
The Angels' entire offseason was designed to rebuild the pitching staff -- and that included saving enough money to sign either Tanaka or Matt Garza. Owner Arte Moreno has proved over the years that he's not afraid to outbid everyone when he wants to. However, like the Yankees, the Angels are dangerously close to the luxury-tax threshold and have only between $15-16 million per year allotted for one of these two pitchers. (And remember, they have to save room in the budget for a potential Mike Trout extension.)
3. Texas Rangers
The Rangers may have spent all their budgeted payroll on the trade for Prince Fielder and the free-agent signing of Shin-Soo Choo. However, the Rangers are also probably one starting pitcher from a legitimate shot at another World Series appearance, as their postseason rotation is not as formidable as those in Detroit, Tampa Bay, Boston and Oakland.
Having Yu Darvish in their rotation could serve as a recruiting edge, as Tanaka can surely see how well Darvish has thrived in Texas. And the Rangers' brass has to know that having the Japanese duo could be great for international marketing. I wouldn't bet against GM Jon Daniels.
4. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers' rotation is already set and deep with Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dan Haren. However, Tanaka would finish the rotation perfectly if inserted between Greinke and Ryu. The Dodgers can afford it, and one more solid pitcher would put them in position needed to compete with the Cardinals and Nationals for the NL's best rotation.
In addition, with Kershaw still unsigned after 2014, it would provide insurance in case he departs.
5. Atlanta Braves
The Braves are a long shot here but also need him most. They are in desperate need of an elite starter, and a surprise bid might make sense, especially considering the new stadium revenues that are expected in the years to come.
Team president John Schuerholz oversaw 14 divisional titles in Atlanta thanks mostly to the trio of aces he had in Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz. Although it would be difficult to ever get that level of starting pitching again, the Braves won't stop trying, and pairing Tanaka with Julio Teheran, Mike Minor and Kris Medlen would give the Braves a formidable rotation.
Tanaka is needed here if they want a chance to defend their NL East title with the improved Nationals breathing down their necks.
MLB's most divisive hitters.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
As hot stove season starts to wind down and Opening Day draws near, a baseball fan's mind naturally turns to thoughts of the season to come. Whatever your personal prognosticative prowess, the best place to start when looking for what to expect from your favorite player in 2014 is consulting the various projection systems that can be found around the baseball blogosphere.
Most of the time, there's a pretty clear consensus among the projection systems about what to expect from an established player -- last year, for example, Bill James, Steamer, Oliver and ZiPS all projected Asdrubal Cabrera to hit between 15 and 17 home runs with between 69 and 73 RBIs, and he ended up with 14 and 64. But sometimes the models don't agree with each other. Those are the players it's fun to debate. So I decided to look at some of the players on whom the projection systems disagree most.
Starting with hitters, I looked at weighted on-base average, better known as wOBA, which is essentially a batting average that knows the difference between a single and a home run. To use F.C. Lane's century-old analogy, if you had a quarter, a dime and a nickel, wOBA would know that you have 40 cents while batting average would say that you had three coins.
I then turned to the Steamer Projections created by Jared Cross, Dash Davidson and Peter Rosenbloom, and the Oliver system, designed by Brian Cartwright, and isolated every hitter whom both models project to get at least 400 plate appearances in 2014. (I use Steamer and Oliver not because they are necessarily better than any other systems, but because their 2014 numbers have already been published and the data were easily accessible on FanGraphs. However, anecdotally speaking, in past years Steamer and Oliver seemed to disagree more than most projection systems.)
Subtracting one system's wOBA projection from the other's for each player yielded some intriguing results, and you can find a list of the top 20 most divisive hitters in MLB at the bottom of this piece. Here's a look at five of the most interesting names from that group of 20 -- and my analysis of which projection system is more likely to be right.
Derek Jeter, SS | New York Yankees
2013 stats: .190/.288/.254, .247 wOBA
Steamer 2014: .281/.339/.376, .317 wOBA
Oliver 2014: .252/.315/.331, .289 wOBA
Mr. November has a reputation for being consistent, but after injuries limited him to just 17 forgettable games in 2013, there's considerable disagreement about how much Jeter has left in the tank. It's clear that his career is on the wane (both projections have him in line for the worst full season of his career) but Steamer sees him as a solid contributor in 2014 while Oliver puts him at barely above replacement level.
Oliver's pessimism stems from a projected 16 percent strikeout rate that would be Jeter's highest since 2005, and a .291 BABIP that would be the lowest of his career; assuming he's healthy, both of those predictions seem too cynical.
Chris Davis, 1B | Baltimore Orioles
2013 stats: .286/.370/.634, .421 wOBA
Steamer 2014: .266/.341/.527, .370 wOBA
Oliver 2014: .277/.356/.566, .392 wOBA
Two things made Chris Davis' breakout 2013 season possible: more walks and more power. Both Steamer and Oliver think Davis' plate discipline improvements are for real, but they disagree on how well he can duplicate his power surge, with Steamer projecting a .261 ISO and Oliver expecting a .290 ISO.
Expecting anyone to hit for a near .300 ISO is questionable. That's especially true for Davis, who has topped .200 only twice in the past four seasons and slipped to .270 in the second half of 2013.
Albert Pujols, 1B | Los Angeles Angels
2013 stats: .258/.330/.437, .329 wOBA
Steamer 2014: .282/.357/.515, .370 wOBA
Oliver 2014: .275/.343/.467, .348 wOBA
Pujols is a good bounce-back candidate for 2014, both because he suffered a career-worst .258 BABIP in 2013 despite hitting proportionately more line drives than he'd hit in five years and because ... well, he's Albert Pujols.
Oliver expects modest improvements in his power numbers and BABIP to help him reclaim his place as a formidable but aging hitter. By contrast, Steamer projects across-the-board improvements like those one might expect for a player several years younger, and foresees him enjoying his best season since leaving St. Louis. For baseball's sake, it'd be nice to see Prince Albert reclaim his throne as one of the game's elite hitters, but that's probably not a realistic expectation.
Bryce Harper, RF | Washington Nationals
2013 stats: .274/.368/.486, .371 wOBA
Steamer 2014: .271/.356/.480, .363 wOBA
Oliver 2014: .288/.368/.526, .385 wOBA
The biggest challenge in projecting young star players is balancing the potential for growth with the empirical evidence for how players age, and regression to the mean.
The latter phenomenon is what's truly to blame for sophomore slumps and cover jinxes: A player who does exceptionally well is unlikely to continue to perform at such a high level over a long period of time. So while it's subjectively tempting to trust Oliver's prediction that Harper will continue to improve in his age-21 season, Steamer's projection of very modest regression is the better bet, especially since much of the improvement Oliver foresees is fueled by a higher BABIP.
Prince Fielder, 1B | Texas Rangers
2013 stats: .279/.362/.457, .358 wOBA
Steamer 2014: .286/.386/.498, .380 wOBA
Oliver 2014: .277/.362/.463, .359 wOBA
Across 2011 and 2012, Fielder had the fifth-best wOBA in baseball among hitters with at least 1,000 plate appearances, but in 2013 he fell into the company of Justin Upton and Jason Kipnis. The question for him is the opposite of that for Harper: As he enters his age-30 season, was his performance last year his new norm, as Oliver suggests, or will he regress toward his career mean in 2014, as Steamer projects?
This was a tough call to make, but given his age and his move to the hitter-friendly Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas, he's probably got a partial bounce-back year left in him.
Difference of opinion
Based on wOBA, these are the 20 hitters whom the Steamer and Oliver projection systems disagree on most for 2014.
RANK NAME OLIVER wOBA STEAMER wOBA DIFFERENCE
1 Derek Jeter .289 .317 .028
2 Raul Ibanez .286 .313 .027
3 Michael Young .293 .319 .026
T4 Torii Hunter .308 .331 .023
T4 Lance Berkman .318 .341 .023
T4 Jamey Carroll .269 .292 .023
T7 Chris Davis .392 .370 .022
T7 Albert Pujols .348 .370 .022
T7 Bryce Harper .385 .363 .022
T7 Dexter Fowler .332 .354 .022
T11 Prince Fielder .359 .380 .021
T11 Kole Calhoun .323 .344 .021
T13 Marco Scutaro .302 .322 .020
T13 Nick Swisher .330 .350 .020
T13 Brian McCann .360 .340 .020
T16 Jurickson Profar .332 .313 .019
T16 Brett Wallace .307 .326 .019
T16 Alex Rodriguez .305 .324 .019
19 Mike Trout .423 .405 .018
T20 Adrian Gonzalez .345 .362 .017
T20 Lyle Overbay .285 .302 .017
Fits for remaining pitching bargains.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Masahiro Tanaka has the attention of nearly every team in Major League Baseball right now. Not every franchise is going to bid on Rakuten's ace, but interest in him is so high that it has essentially shut down the market for other starting pitchers as well, as free agents like Ervin Santana, Matt Garza and Ubaldo Jimenez are waiting until Tanaka signs so they can market themselves as a Plan B to the teams who fell short in the bidding war.
The trickle-down effect has basically pushed back the market for starting pitchers, so even though we're only a few months from spring training, there are still some interesting pitchers left unsigned. And the good news is there are even some pitchers who won't break the bank. Even teams that are dealing with tight budgets could still add a quality arm by looking beyond Tanaka and the rest.
Here are three pitchers who are likely going to sign for a fraction of what the top pitchers get this winter, but could be perfect fits for teams looking to add quality innings without spending an arm and a leg.
Chris Capuano, LHP
Perfect fit: Seattle Mariners
Here's a fun fact for you: Capuano and teammate Zack Greinke posted identical 3.22 K/BB ratios as starting pitchers in 2013. Two other starting pitchers also posted a 3.22 K/BB as starters last year: Jose Fernandez and Mat Latos. Madison Bumgarner was just behind them, at 3.21, while supposed big-time free agent Garza checked in at 3.24. Pitching isn't just walks and strikeouts, but if you can get batters to swing and miss while throwing strikes, you're most of the way to being an effective hurler, and that's exactly what Capuano did last year. And it was actually the third consecutive year in which Capuano ran a K/BB ratio over 3.00. From 2011 to 2013, Capuano posted the 29th-best K/BB ratio of any regular starting pitcher in baseball.
Because he's given up some hits on contact and hasn't done a very good job of stranding runners, his ERA doesn't match up with his underlying numbers, but those variables bounce around a lot, and with slightly better luck, Capuano could easily be a quality midrotation starter again in 2014. And for a team like Seattle in need of multiple starters while also planning a big offer for Tanaka, a cheap, effective hurler like Capuano could be just what the doctor ordered. After all, Dan Szymborski called Erasmo Ramirez the "worst No. 3 starter in baseball" earlier this week, and even signing Tanaka wouldn't fix their depth problem.
Toss in the fact that Safeco Field is still a pretty decent place for pitchers, even after they moved in the fences last year, and Seattle should be an appealing destination for Capuano. While the marine layer didn't exactly save his 2013 ERA, these pitch-to-contact strike-throwers do best in West Coast parks where the ball doesn't carry as well in the summer, and no West Coast team needs a cheap effective starter as much as the Mariners. Even if they sign Tanaka, Capuano should still be in their sights, and they definitely shouldn't let him get away while they ponder a bid for the Japanese right-hander.
Jerome Williams, RHP
Perfect fit: Houston Astros
The Astros already threw $30 million at Scott Feldman to give their rotation a boost, but Williams would also be a good addition to a team that doesn't yet have five big league starting pitchers. While his lack of an out pitch gives him limited upside, Williams has shown the ability to get ground balls and avoid walking too many hitters, which is the basic recipe for a classic innings-eater, and in that regard, isn't too terribly different from Feldman.
Only Williams should cost Houston a lot less than the $10 million per year they spent on their first free-agent starter, since the Angels decided to non-tender him rather than risk offering him arbitration and having him earn roughly $4 million in salary next year. The fact that he was put on the free-agent market rather than get paid $4 million for one year suggests that there's not going to be a dramatic bidding war for his services, but Williams could provide a team like Houston some additional innings of major league quality without any long-term commitment or financial outlay. And if Williams ends up giving them 100 good innings by the All-Star break, then they'd have a decent little trade chip on their hands, having rehabilitated Williams' value and signed him to a team-friendly contract. For a non-contender with a little bit of money to spend, like the Astros, guys like Williams are a great place to use a few million bucks.
Paul Maholm, LHP
Perfect fit: Toronto Blue Jays
If you stopped paying attention at the halfway point of 2013, you probably remember Paul Maholm having a pretty decent year. At the break, he had thrown 115 innings and had a 3.98 ERA, and had helped the Braves build a nice big lead in the NL East. Then, in his first start of the second half, he gave up seven runs in three innings and was subsequently placed on the DL with a left wrist contusion, which caused him to spend the next month on the sidelines. He was pretty mediocre after returning from the DL in late August, and then was left off the Braves' playoff roster, ending his season on a pretty sour note.
But prior to those 35 bad innings in the second half, Maholm was on a 450-inning run of consistently solid performances. He ran a 3.66 ERA/3.68 FIP in 2011, and then followed that up with a 3.67 ERA/4.00 FIP in 2012. At the All-Star break, he was at 3.98 ERA/4.07 FIP. These aren't sexy numbers, but they're perfectly serviceable for a major league starting pitcher, and that's not the kind of track record you want to ignore because a guy had 35 bad innings surrounding a stint on the DL.
As a 32-year-old lefty with an 87 mph fastball, though, Maholm doesn't exactly get anyone excited. However, it isn't hard to make a case that Maholm can give a team most of what Jason Vargas could put up, and Vargas got $32 million over four years earlier in the offseason. On a cheap one-year deal, Maholm could be a great addition to a team like the Blue Jays, who need a short-term upgrade but hate giving long-term deals to pitchers. Maholm won't be the kind of signing that gets Blue Jays fans excited like last year's trades did, but he'll help make sure that they don't have to watch Ricky Romero take the mound again in 2014, and that makes it a move worth doing in and of itself.
Rumors.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Possible suitors for Homer Bailey
January, 7, 2014
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
The Cincinnati Reds would like to sign Homer Bailey to a long-term contract, but general manager Walt Jocketty admitted to MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon that such a deal will not come easy. "He would be probably the one guy that's going to be the most difficult because of how well he's done and where he's at in this service class," Jocketty said.
Jocketty’s candor will only fuel speculation that the Reds would be opening to deal Bailey, who is heading into his third year of arbitration this winter and free agency after the 2014 season. Bailey posted career bests last season in ERA ( 3.49), innings (209) and strikeouts (199).
It seems entirely plausible that the Reds simply hold on to Bailey and seek their fourth playoff berth in five seasons. The Reds would then make him a qualifying offer next offseason that would result in a first-round compensation draft pick in 2015 if Bailey were to sign elsewhere.
While Jocketty said at the winter meetings that he was not interested in trading Bailey, the righthander would be a valuable trading chip for a team looking to add offense after losing Shin-Soo Choo to free agency.
Teams that have been mentioned as possible suitors for Tampa Bay’s David Price – such as the Mariners, Dodgers and Rangers – would presumably be interested in Bailey, whose price tag would not be as high. Another possibility is the Blue Jays, who are looking to add to their rotation.
Teams that are unwilling to give up a first-round draft pick to sign a pitcher like Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana might be willing to explore a deal for Bailey.
If the Reds were to move quickly on a Bailey deal, that could also leave open the option of re-signing free agent Bronson Arroyo, who has yet to find a deal to his liking.
Tags:Cincinnati Reds, Homer Bailey
Tribe waiting for Jimenez price to fall?
January, 7, 2014
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
The Cleveland Indians skillfully demonstrated patience last offseason. Could they do it again in their effort to retain Ubaldo Jimenez?
Last winter, the Indians were late entrants in the race for Michael Bourn, who agreed to a four-year, $48 million deal with the Tribe in late February after seeing his value on the free agent market decline. While his numbers were not spectacular (.263/.316/.360), Bourn did help the Tribe to their first playoff berth in six seasons.
The Indians have not been mentioned as a suitor for Masahiro Tanaka, but they could be contenders for pitchers who have seen their own free agent process stalled as teams pursue the Japanese sensation. Jimenez could be among the pitchers lowering their demands as spring training approaches, and the Tribe could get another bargain.
"If it gets to the point where a one- or two-year contract is possible, then the Indians might again be players to re-sign Big U," wrote MLB.com's Jordan Bastian on Monday.
Tags:Cleveland Indians, Ubaldo Jimenez
Capuano seeks two-year deal
January, 7, 2014
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
The market for free agent starting pitchers has been stagnant all winter with the likes of Ubaldo Jimenez, Matt Garza and Ervin Santana still looking for work. There also are a host of middle- to back-of-the-rotation starters available, including lefthander Chris Capuano.
Capuano is looking for a two-year deal, and “is said to be willing to wait for that deal to evolve someplace,” tweets out Buster Olney.
Capuano had a 4.26 ERA in 24 games for the Dodgers last season, including a couple of stints on the disabled list with shoulder and calf injuries. Health is always an issue with the 35-year-old Capuano, who has had a pair of Tommy John surgeries, so a multi-year deal may be a bit optimistic.
Fits for Remaining Pitching Bargains
"Safeco Field is still a pretty decent place for pitchers, even after they moved in the fences last year, and Seattle should be an appealing destination for Capuano. While the marine layer didn't exactly save his 2013 ERA, these pitch-to-contact strike-throwers do best in West Coast parks where the ball doesn't carry as well in the summer, and no West Coast team needs a cheap effective starter as much as the Mariners. Even if they sign Masahiro Tanaka, Capuano should still be in their sights, and they definitely shouldn't let him get away while they ponder a bid for the Japanese right-hander."
Medical concerns with Drew?
January, 7, 2014
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
Free agent shortstop Stephen Drew has undoubtedly seen his market value dragged down by the issue of draft pick compensation after he turned down Boston’s $14.1 million qualifying offer.
Andy Martino of the New York Daily News floated another possibility for the lack of a contract, citing an unnamed official that Drew’s medicals “are raising some concerns.”
Rob Bradford of WEEI.com strongly disagreed, tweeting Monday that Drew is “perfectly healthy” and has “no physical issues.”
It also doesn’t help Drew that he had a brutal postseason at the plate for the Red Sox\ (6-for-54, .111).
Monday Roundup: Mattingly deal near?
January, 6, 2014
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
Don Mattingly has made no secret of his desire to land a contract extension after leading the Los Angeles Dodgers to an NL West title and a trip to the League Championship Series. With spring training about six weeks away, that may soon be happening.
Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com tweets Monday that the negotiations between the Dodgers and their manager are “in the home stretch.” Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com tweeted earlier Monday that a deal is expected to be done soon.
A contract extension would represent a dramatic turnaround for Mattingly, who was in danger of losing his job before the Dodgers caught fire and won 42 times in a 50-game span.
Who else might be close to a deal? Here is Monday’s roundup around MLB:
Masahiro Tanaka: The bidding process for the Japanese righthander will begin in earnest now that the holidays are behind us, writes Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com.
David Price: It is no slam dunk that the Tampa Bay Rays will trade the 2012 AL Cy Young winner by Opening Day.
Stephen Drew: The New York Mets are reluctant to offer more than a one-year deal for the free agent shortstop, even though they are getting plenty of calls from Scott Boras.
Oakland Athletics: Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wonders if the A’s could be interested in Drew if they decide Jed Lowrie is not a good enough shortstop.
Bronson Arroyo: The 36-year-old righthander is still looking for a job, and a return to Cincinnati may no longer be an option. The Orioles are one of the interested teams, says our Buster Olney.
Brett Tomko: The 40-year-old righthander, who last pitched in the majors in 2011 with the Rangers, is open to a minor league deal.
Johan Santana: A return to Minnesota is "a real possibility" for the two-time Cy Young Award winner who is coming off a second shoulder surgery.
Texas Rangers: Is there any chance they could convince Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston to play baseball? One report says it sounds far-fetched but not outside the realm of possibility.
Ike Davis: Brewers GM Doug Melvin acknowledged he is continuing to discuss a deal for Davis, but said he is nowhere close to a deal for the Mets first baseman.
Nyjer Morgan: The Twins are NOT one of the teams who will pursue the outfielder who spent last season in Japan’s Central League, tweets Darren Wolfson.
Tags:Los Angeles Dodgers, Texas Rangers, New York Mets, Tampa Bay Rays, Don Mattingly, David Price, Stephen Drew, Bronson Arroyo, Ike Davis, Masahiro Tanaka, Nyjer Morgan
The market for Bronson Arroyo
January, 6, 2014
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
There was plenty of buzz at the MLB winter meetings regarding free agent Bronson Arroyo, but like many of the prominent free agent starters, he entered the new year without a contract.
The odds of Arroyo remaining in Cincinnati may be declining as well. According to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer, general manager Walt Jocketty says the Reds are not going to be talking to Nelson Cruz, Stephen Drew or even Arroyo. "We don't have the money," Jocketty admitted. "I don't see how we make it fit financially."
Another team in the Midwest could be a viable option. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported Sunday that the Minnesota Twins are "still very high on signing Arroyo." The Twins already have signed Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes, so there is a question as to how much more the Twins would be willing and able to spend.
ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney tweets Monday that the Orioles are among the suitors for Arroyo.
Terry Bross, Arroyo's agent, says he could have gotten his client signed to a two-year deal at the meetings, but held out for a third year or at least a vesting option for a third season.
While that may seem like a lot for the 36-year-old Arroyo, he remains one of the game’s most durable pitchers, reaching 200 innings in all but one season since 2005. Given that 40-year-old Bartolo Colon got a two-year, $20 million deal from the Mets, Arroyo’s demands seem reasonable, but he may have to compromise as spring training approaches.
The Pirates were among the teams who met with Arroyo’s camp a few weeks ago and could still be in the mix. The Yankees have also been linked to Arroyo, and the righthander could be a more viable option if they fail to land Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.
ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick recently listed the Angels, Orioles and Diamondbacks as possible fits:
Bronson Arroyo waiting for a job
"Although lots of scouts and evaluators think Arroyo would be better served pitching in the National League than the American, he's been hardened enough by life in the Great American Park band box in Cincinnati to think he can survive in any venue. He would prefer the East Coast to the West Coast, but that's not a deal-breaker by any means, and he's physically fit enough to think he can pitch at least three more seasons, even though he turns 37 in February."
Twin Cities encore for Santana?
January, 6, 2014
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
We mentioned last week that Johan Santana was getting closer to making a decision on a minor league deal. The two-time AL Cy Young Award winner may end up choosing some familiar surroundings.
Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports the Twins “remain a real possibility” for Santana, who began his major league career in Minnesota before being traded to the New York Mets.
The 34-year-old Santana is trying to return from his second major shoulder surgery and has drawn interest from approximately 12 teams, as per Martino’s report.
Santana could represent a low-risk and potentially high-reward deal for the Twins, who already have added Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes this winter.
Tags:Minnesota Twins, Johan Santana
Why David Price could stay put
January, 6, 2014
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
Now that we have reached the new year, the prospect of the Tampa Bay Rays trading David Price is no longer a slam dunk. At the very least, the courting of Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka is slowing down the process.
Rumor Central’s AJ Mass noted Sunday that “doubts are starting to arise that that a deal will come to pass by Opening Day." According to an article by Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times, one of the new skeptics regarding a potential Price deal is Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey. "I wouldn't drop over dead if he ended up traded, but I'd be surprised," Hickey said. "We're going to have a damn good team, and he's a leader of the pitching staff. Even if you can cash that in for a couple of prospects, I would be a little bit surprised."
Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune says a Price trade is still possible, but interested teams may want to see if they are able to land Tanaka before making a serious play for the 2012 Cy Young winner. The period to sign Tanaka ends January 24, so there is still time for teams to keep their options open.
In Monday’s column, ESPN The Magazine’s Buster Olney chronicles plenty of reasons why Price could stay put, starting with the simple fact that the Rays will not deal unless they get exactly what they want:
Bargaining with the Rays
"Officials with other teams say it was evident Tampa Bay had done a lot of summer assessment work on the minor league systems of the Diamondbacks, Rangers, Dodgers and others. Price acknowledged at the end of the season that it was very possible he had pitched his final game for the Rays. But the current climate for trading a player of Price's caliber is not good. The perceived value of prospects has rocketed to an unprecedented level, making teams extremely reluctant to part with the kind of package of prospects that Texas got for Mark Teixeira, or that Baltimore got for Erik Bedard. Those kinds of trades are increasingly dinosaurs."
Tags:Tampa Bay Rays, David Price
Could Jameis Winston land with Rangers?
January, 6, 2014
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
Jameis Winston has things other than baseball on his mind right now. Specifically, the Heisman Trophy winner will be behind center for Florida State in Monday’s BCS championship game against Auburn.
Winston also was used as a reliever and an outfielder for the Seminoles’ well-regarded baseball team last season and the Texas Rangers selected him in the 15th round in the 2012 draft out of Hueytown, Alabama.
Winston has not closed the door on playing in both the NFL and Major League Baseball, leading to some talk that he could be the next Deion Sanders or Bo Jackson. Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News writes the idea of Winston “as a Rangers outfielder sounds far-fetched but is not outside the realm of possibility.”
The Rangers tried to get Winston to play in their minor league system, but Fraley says they were undone by baseball’s new draft rules that made it tougher to sign multi-sport players. Winston will be eligible for the baseball draft again in 2015
Signing Winston to play baseball may sounds like a pipe dream, but give the Rangers credit for continuing to think outside the box. It was only a few weeks ago that they selected Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson in the Rule 5 draft. Wilson was a second baseman at N.C. State and played in the Colorado Rockies system before landing in the NFL.
Mets won't overpay for Drew
January, 6, 2014
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
The New York Mets may be interested in free agent shortstop Stephen Drew, but are reluctant to offer more than a one-year deal, reports Andy Martino of the New York Daily News.
The Mets have dropped hints for weeks that they are prepared to bite the bullet and begin the season with Ruben Tejada as their starting shortstop. Drew is an obvious upgrade, but the Mets apparently are holding the line on multi-year demands from agent Scott Boras. According to Martino, “Boras has called the Mets about Drew far more often than the Mets have called Boras.”
Drew turned down Boston’s $14.1 million qualifying offer and is among the free agents who have seen their market value dragged down over draft pick compensation. Drew also had a brutal postseason at the plate (6-for-54, .111). There may be another factor in play here - an unnamed official tells Martino that Drew’s medicals “are raising some concerns.”
Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com reported Sunday the signing of Drew by the Mets was more of a "possibility than a probability."
The Boston Red Sox have talked with Boras about keeping Drew, but who else might be interested? Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wonders if the Oakland Athletics consider moving Jed Lowrie to second base to make room for Drew, who finished the 2012 season in Oakland. One major question here is whether the A's would part with the necessary draft pick compensation to sign Drew.
Our Buster Olney gives his take on why Drew should not end up in Queens:
Drew an unlikely fit for Mets
"Here's why an investment in Drew makes absolutely no sense unless it's on a one-sided, team friendly deal for one year and for less than the $14.1 million qualifying offer Drew rejected in November: The Mets are almost certainly not going to seriously contend in 2014; if you gave them truth serum to club ownership, they would admit this publicly. Matt Harvey will miss the whole season, and they have a lot of holes in their everyday lineup. What is the point of paying a lot of money to a player who turns 31 in March -- a player with a daunting injury history -- when the player really doesn't fit the team's long-term plan? Unless the deal is completely on the Mets' terms, it'd be an overpay ... and for what reason?"
Tags:New York Mets, Boston Red Sox, Stephen Drew
Brett Tomko draws interest
January, 6, 2014
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
We are at the stage of the offseason when clubs tend to accelerate the signing of aging veterans to minor league contracts. One option could be Brett Tomko, who spent last season with the York Revolution of the independent Atlantic League.
Zach Links of MLB Trade Rumors says about a half dozen clubs have expressed interest in the 40-year-old right-hander who will throw for teams within the next few weeks. Tomko’s last pitched in the majors in 2011 with the Texas Rangers.
Tomko has a 4.65 ERA over 14 seasons in the majors, never reaching the potential expected of him when he was a key piece of the 2000 trade that sent Ken Griffey Jr. from Seattle to Cincinnati. Tomko was an innings-eater earlier in his career, and would be worth a look in spring training.
The New York Yankees reportedly had interest in Tomko last season, so they could be kicking the tires again.
Ichiro on the move?
January, 5, 2014
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com
Having signed Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury, the New York Yankees are very likely to move one of their other outfielders before the start of spring training. At least one of the trio of Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki or Vernon Wells will probably get sent elsewhere for 2014.
As ESPN New York's Wallace Matthews wrote two weeks ago, "Brett Gardner could still be dealt for a starter. The Yankees will probably wait to see what officially happens with (Masahiro) Tanaka before making a move. If not, Ichiro Suzuki or Vernon Wells -- maybe both -- could very well be goners. They won't bring back much, if anything, in deals."
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe seems to think that Suzuki could be the first to get moved, and suggests the San Francisco Giants as a possible landing spot. However, they might only be interested in Gardner to supplement Angel Pagan and Hunter Pence, and probably don't want to pay $6.5 million for a player of Suzuki's age.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports suggests that the Arizona Diamondbacks might be interested in Suzuki, now that they have added Addison Reed to the their bullpen. "J.J. Putz is signed for $7 million in 2014, and the D-backs most likely would be required to accept a comparable salary in return," he writes.
Tags:Arizona Diamondbacks, New York Yankees, J.J. Putz, San Francisco Giants, Ichiro Suzuki, Hunter Pence, Angel Pagan
Reds likely done on FA market
January, 5, 2014
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com
The Cincinnati Reds are very unlikely to make any more free agent signings this offseason, at least in terms of the bigger names still out there for the taking, due to the fact that they simply don't have the money to spend.
According to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer, general manager Walt Jocketty says the team is not going to be talking to Nelson Cruz, Stephen Drew or even pitcher Bronson Arroyo. "We don't have the money," Jocketty admits. "I don't see how we make it fit financially."
Fay goes on to suggest that the Reds could indeed make it fit, if they're willing to deal away pitcher Homer Bailey. "Bailey is in his final year of arbitration. He's due to make about $9 million this year and he'll be eligible for free agency in 2015.
"If the Reds are certain they aren't going to be able to re-sign Bailey, it makes sense to move him. If they get someone in return who doesn't make a lot of money – say, Brett Gardner of the Yankees – they may be able to sign Arroyo."
Tags:Cincinnati Reds, Homer Bailey, Nelson Cruz, Stephen Drew, Bronson Arroyo, Brett Gardner
Jays rotation may not be complete
January, 5, 2014
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com
As it currently stands, the Toronto Blue Jays rotation for 2014 would appear to look something like R.A. Dickey, Brandon Morrow, Mark Buehrle, Esmil Rogers and J.A. Happ. There certainly would seem to be room for improvement, should the team decide to add at least one, if not two, more starters to the mix before the start of the season.
That's why Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes that he believes the Blue Jays are "a leading candidate" to sign either Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez. Rosenthal cites the fact that Toronto has two protected first-round picks, so the loss of a second-rounder should not be a dissuading factor in their pursuit of either of those "qualified" free agent starters.
Rosenthal also theorizes that, come July, if Toronto is still looking to add an arm for the 2014 stretch run, there could be a large pool of arms from which to choose from, including potentially Jeff Samardzija, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Homer Bailey, Justin Masterson, Francisco Liriano and James Shields, depending on where all of their current teams sit in the standings around next season's trade deadline.
Tags:Toronto Blue Jays, Jeff Samardzija, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana
Morgan ready to return
January, 5, 2014
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com
ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick writes that outfielder Nyjer Morgan is once again "pursuing jobs in Major League Baseball" and, according to the outfielder's agent there are 6-8 clubs that have expressed interest.
Morgan spent last season with Yokohama in Japan's Central League, and at the end of 2013, he seemed very upbeat and positive about the whole experience, tweeting his thanks to "BayStar Nation for giving me opportunity to play with a great team and teammates" and saying that he would be back.
Morgan's agent didn't rule out a return to Japan for the outfielder, and should he not get a deal in the United States, he "would still enjoy playing there." However, if the right situation comes along, we may once again see Morgan and his alter-ego Tony Plush in a major league uniform this season.
Possible fits might include a return to the Milwaukee Brewers, in the event that Khris Davis doesn't work out in left field, the Minnesota Twins, who started Alex Presley in center all September, and the Cincinnati Reds, who recently had been flirting with the idea of adding Grady Sizemore who hasn't played since 2011.