Somebody Wins Bidding on LHP Hyeon-Jong Yang

Posted November 24, 2014 by Burly
Categories: Baseball Abroad, Minnesota Twins, San Francisco Giants, Texas Rangers

The second left-handed starter to come out of the KBO this off-season, Hyeon-Jong Yang, has been posted and a winning bid submitted.  The questions, however, by whom and for how much are still being worked out.

Originally, the Twins were said to be the winning team, with a winning bid amount somewhere between $700K and $1.5 million.  Today, reports that the winning team may have been the Rangers for about $1.5 million.

The $1.5 million seems just about right, given that the other KBO lefty, Kwang-hyun Kim, received a posting bid of $2 million from the Padres a week or so ago and the relative KBO statistics of the two pitchers.  I had read an English-language Korean media report suggesting that Yang had better stuff and thus better upside than Kim, but if the $1.5 million winning bid is correct, MLB teams apparently considered the stats more important than the scouting reports.

It is also an open question whether Yang’s KBO team, the Kia Tigers, will accept this paltry bid.  From what I know about the current value of KBO players to their teams, I would think that Yang has to be worth more to the Tigers than $1.5 million.  Yang wants to try his luck in MLB, however, we’ll see if the Tigers consider that a good enough reason to let him go.

From what I have read, I understand (but am not entirely certain) that the SK Wyverns have decided to accept the $2 million bid on Kim, again mainly because Kim wants to play in MLB.  I very much doubt that Kim is worth less than $2 million to the Wyverns even if they only have another year or two of his services before he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

This is one of the reasons why we don’t see more South Korean and Japanese players in MLB.  Until the players reach true free agency after nine seasons, all but the very best are worth more to their respective teams than the posting amount they receive for letting them leave a year or two early.

Neither Kim nor Yang will get an MLB contract any better than they’d make in the KBO if they agreed to a three or four year deal this off-season with their current teams.  They won’t make the big money unless they prove to be major league successes and sign a second MLB contract a few years from now.  The situation for these players is nothing like that for Cuban defectors, for whom a $1 million MLB contract is easily 100 times what they made playing in Cuba.

On that topic, Cuban super-stars Yulieski Gurriel and Alfredo Despaigne, who played briefly but very successfully in Japan’s NPB in 2014, are rumored to be receiving offers of as much as $2M or $3M to return to Japan for closer to a full season in 2015.  The Cuban government’s decision to let them play in Japan in 2014 was basically to reward them for not defecting and to give them an incentive not to defect in the future.  The $200,000 or $300,000 each of them made playing in Japan this past season (less whatever percentage the Cuban government received) goes a long way in Cuba.

While allowing them to play in Japan gives these elite players a strong incentive not to defect and provides the Cuban government with some badly needed foreign exchange, it has to open up a whole can of worms, in terms of who in Cuban society gets to go abroad to make the big money for some period of time.  For example, you’d have to think a lot of Cuban doctors would relish the opportunity to travel abroad and get paid market-rate salaries.

San Francisco Giants Designate Juan Gutierrez for Assignment

Posted November 22, 2014 by Burly
Categories: San Francisco Giants

The Giants designated Juan Gutierrez for assignment today, which is hardly surprising.  He has enough major league service to be eligible for arbitration, and he’s not a guy you go to arbitration with.  The Giants paid him $850,000 in 2014, and he was projected to make about $1.7 million through the arbitration process.  He’s at most a $1 million a year pitcher.

It remains to be seen if the Giants attempt to re-sign him at the afore-mentioned $1M.  The Giants saw something in Gutierrez last off-season, and signed him to be the last guy in their bullpen.  That’s exactly what he was.  He came cheap, and he was just good enough to stick around all season and pitch in 61 games regular season games.  He didn’t pitch in even one post-season game, and likely wasn’t on the post-season rosters.

The good news for Gutierrez is that after the 2014 season he had, someone will give him a major league contract for 2015.  He’s only 31 years old, and no real risk at $700K to $1M.

It seems like for about the last decade, the Giants have been exceptionally good at identifying this class of pitcher — the guys who get cut loose every off-season because they’re arbitration eligible but haven’t performed well enough for a team to go to arbitration with.  Some of that is good scouting, the same good scouting that has allowed the Giants to get so much production out of their recent 1st round draft picks.

Some of it is also the ballpark.  If you can’t succeed as a right-handed pitcher out of the bullpen at AT&T Park, you probably aren’t going to succeed anywhere in MLB.


The Jason Heyward for Shelby Miller Trade

Posted November 19, 2014 by Burly
Categories: Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals

This move strikes me as one the Braves could end up regretting for a really long time.  Shelby Miller‘s strikeout rate dropped sharply last year and his walks rate was up.  That could be a sign that that he’s going to have arm troubles, if not in 2015, then in 2016.  Also, I hate betting against a position player as young and talented as Jason Heyward.

Sure, Heyward had some injuries in 2011 and 2013, and he didn’t hit enough either of the last two seasons.  Even so, position players who establish themselves as major league regulars at age 20 almost always go on to have some pretty huge years in their peak seasons.

Also, except for the injury history, Heyward doesn’t have a lot of red flags.  He doesn’t strike out too much, he gets on base and he still runs well.   Fangraphs considers Heyward’s 2014 right field defense to be the best in MLB by an extremely large margin.

I also like the throw-in player the Cardinals got better.  The odds that established reliever Jordan Walden is going to have future major league success is a lot higher than Tyrell Jenkins, a 22 year old with unimpressive strikeout rates in A-ball the last two seasons.

In about 10 years, Cardinals fans probably won’t feel as bad as they do now about the tragic death of Oscar Taveras, since this deal wouldn’t have happened had he lived.

Marlins to Sign Giancarlo Stanton for 13 Years and $325 Million

Posted November 18, 2014 by Burly
Categories: Anaheim Angels, Miami Marlins, New York Yankees

In what is being described as a record-setting deal in professional sports, the Miami Marlins have reportedly reached agreement on a 13-year $325 million deal with their young star Giancarlo Stanton.  The deal reportedly contains a full no-trade clause and provides that Stanton can opt out, most likely after either the 2019 or 2020 seasons.

The size and terms of the deal are certainly a shocker coming as it does from the Marlins.  Otherwise, the terms don’t really shock me, except for the opt-out clause.

Just how bad the opt-out clause is for the Marlins depends largely on how front- or back-loaded the deal is.  However, these deals are almost always a bad move for the teams that make them, but they appear to be becoming the norm for the most elite young players.

I can see why Stanton would insist on the opt-out clause when other top players have gotten them and given the Marlins’ refusal to spend money to build a good team around Stanton.  Still, it amazes me that a team would give any player a 13-year $325 million deal and then let the player get even more upside if he turns out to be what you were hoping for through the end of his easily predictable peak seasons.

The whole point in giving a player a 13-year deal in the first place is that he is reasonably secure for life no matter what happens to him in the future.  How does a player like Stanton turn down a deal like this, only without the opt-out clause, when he missed the last three weeks of the season after getting hit in the face with a pitch?  If that’s not a wake-up call about the risks inherent in playing professional baseball, I don’t know what is.

The only way to really determine whether these opt-out deals make any sense is to tally up the number of World Series wins, appearances and post-season appearances the signing team makes and compare it to their historical averages.  So far the Yankees have only one World Series win to show for all the money they threw at Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia, and that sure doesn’t seem like a lot for this franchise considering they traded for Rodriguez before the 2004 season.

Furthermore, the chances are good the Yankees will be paying about $45 million for the next three seasons of not much performance from Rodriguez and Sabathia, given Rodriguez’s forced year off at age 38 and the fact that Sabathia’s $25 million salary for 2017 may well vest since its his right knee rather than his left shoulder that caused him to miss most of 2014.  It’s going to be hard for the Yankees to make it back to the series any time soon with as much salary as they have committed to players who are no longer very good.

P.S. The Angels deal signing Mike Trout for six years and $144.5 million suddenly looks like the deal of the century. The Halos sure need one like Trout’s after burning themselves with Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton.

What Were the Mets Thinking?

Posted November 14, 2014 by Burly
Categories: Denver Rockies, New York Mets

I’ve been busy with work this week, so I missed the fact that the Mets just signed Michael Cuddyer for two years and $21 million and in the process forfeited the 15th pick of next June’s amateur draft.  Even if I’m a little late, I can’t let a move this seemingly stupid go by uncommented.

Cuddyer can obviously still hit, but he played only 280 games over the last three seasons, and at ages 36 and 37 over the two-year deal, he sure isn’t likely to get any healthier.

This deal might make sense for a team that’s one good right-handed bat away from the post-season.  That sure doesn’t look like the 2015 Mets, who finished four games under .500 this year.  The 15th pick in the next draft is too high to give up for an aged veteran who’s going to have a hard time staying in the line-up.

It’s also worth noting that Cuddyer is going from far and away the best home hitters’ park in baseball to one of the worst.  In fact, Cuddyer’s road averages the last right three seasons were downright pedestrian — .852 in 2013, but below .750 in 2012 and 2014.

Someone left a comment on that the Mets will probably be signing some other Qualifying Offer free agents this off-season, since you can only lose that 1st round pick once.  That’s probably the only way this signing makes any sense at all.

More on Two Top International Prospects

Posted November 13, 2014 by Burly
Categories: Anaheim Angels, Baseball Abroad, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, San Diego Padres, Texas Rangers

Here is some interesting information on Chihiro Kaneko, the top starter in Japan’s NPB this past season.  By electing to exercise his “domestic” free agent option after his 8th year of NPB service, he cannot become an “international” free agent for another four years, rather than earning that right next off-season.

Aside from the obvious unfairness of this regime to Japanese players, it probably doesn’t mean much except that Kaneko really is set on coming to MLB in 2015, as I have long suspected.  It’s possible that his current team, the Orix Buffaloes, could refuse to post him, but NPB teams now routinely post their players if the players are really set on trying their luck in MLB.  This is particularly true of poorly attended NPB teams like Orix, who are usually happy to get the substantial posting fee and the built-in cover that let’s them claim the player forced their hand.

Because Kaneko is a small right-hander who is already 31, there’s been very little about him in the American baseball blogosphere.  However, according to, the Phillies, Red Sox and Padres have all sent scouts to look at him.

Also, if Kaneko chooses or is forced to remain in Japan, rumors are that three NPB teams including Orix are prepared to offer him between 1 billion and 2 million yen ($8.6 million to $17.3 million at current exchange rates) for three or four seasons of his services. A rumored four-year 2 billion yen offer from the Softbank Hawks sounds entirely reasonable to me, in light of the fact this is the contract the Yomuiri Giants gave Toshiya Sugiuchi three off-seasons ago.

The hype about 19-year old Cuban shortstop Yoan Moncada got a lot more compelling for me after reading this post on this evening.  The post links to articles by Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan,’s Jonathan Mayo and Baseball America’s Ben Badler, and all three articles say pretty much the same thing: Moncado is the real deal, comparable to Yasiel Puig and Jorge Soler when they signed their MLB contracts.

What is really telling is that multiple sources expect him to be signed for a signing bonus between $30-$40 million even though the team that signs him will have to pay a 100% fine on the signing amount because Moncada is not old or experienced enough to be considered a professional free agent.  A number of teams, including the Yankees, Red Sox and Angels have already gone over their cap amounts by more than 15%, meaning they will not be able to sign any foreign amateur for more than $300,000 in the next signing year that begins next June.  Thus, the team that wins the bidding war on Moncada will depend heavily on whether or not he becomes eligible to sign before June 15, 2015.  The Rangers and Cubs, who couldn’t spend more than $300,000 on a foreign amateur this signing year will likely be in the mix if Moncada is not available until after June 15, 2015.

If in fact Moncada signs for more than $30 million it is almost certain that a draft will be imposed on international amateurs as soon as the owners can put it into effect.

San Diego Padres Win Right to Negotiate with LHP Kwang-hyun Kim

Posted November 12, 2014 by Burly
Categories: Baseball Abroad, San Diego Padres

The Padres won the right to negotiate with South Korean lefty Kwang-hyun Kim.  The Friars won the bidding with a mere $2 million, and perhaps more surprisingly Kim’s KBO team, the SK Wyverns, accepted this modest amount.  The Wyverns had hoping for a winning bid around $10 million.

The modest amount of the winning bid suggests that MLB clubs aren’t any more convinced of Kim’s possible future major league success than I am.  At any rate, it’s an extremely low-risk move by the Padres, since my guess is Pads won’t offer him a deal better than a two-year deal with a team option for a third year at about $4 million guaranteed, and it could be as little as $3 million guaranteed.  $ 5 or 6 million isn’t chump change, but it would be a great deal for the Padres if Kim establishes himself as a legitimate major league pitcher in the next two years.

Kim could probably get the same guaranteed money from a Japanese team, but everything I’ve read indicates that Kim wants to try his luck in MLB.


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