Someone Wins Bidding on Jung-ho Kang

Posted December 20, 2014 by Burly
Categories: Baseball Abroad

An as yet unannounced MLB team won the bidding on South Korean shortstop Jung-ho Kang with a bid amount just over $5 million.  Kang is said to be seeking a deal that pays him at least $5 million a year for as much as four years.

That will almost certainly not happen based on the winning bid amount.  My guess is that if Kang agrees to sign, it will be a two-year deal with $6 million or $7 million guaranteed in total, with an option for a third season at about $6 or $7 million.  I just don’t see how he gets more than an $8 million guarantee max at this bid amount.

All that said, $3 million a year is a lot more than anyone is making in the KBO, and the contract I’m proposing is also right about the high end of what Kang could get presently from an NPB team.  In short, if everyone behaves rationally Kang will be playing in MLB in 2015.

San Francisco Giants Finally Making Some Moves

Posted December 20, 2014 by Burly
Categories: Los Angeles Dodgers, Miami Marlins, San Francisco Giants

After nothing happening for more than a month, the Giants are suddenly quite active.  Following the re-signing of Sergio Romo to a two-year deal a few days ago, the Giants re-signed Jake Peavy for two-years and $24 million, and are on the verge of completing a trade of two minor league pitchers (Kendry Flores and Luis Castillo) for Miami Marlins 3Bman Casey McGehee.

While neither Peavy nor McGehee gets me particularly excited, it does address a couple of the team’s needs in a way that leaves the Giants with a lot of flexibility in the next two off-seasons.  McGehee is arbitration eligible, and will get a substantial raise, but since he made only $1.1 million last year playing for the Fish, he’s still likely to be pretty affordable in 2015.

The youngsters the Giants gave up for McGehee both have fine arms, but good young arms are something the Giants still have in surplus.  McGehee came back from his 2013 season in Japan a different hitter in 2014, with much less power but a much higher batting average and on-base percentage.

I’m not overly confident that McGehee will continue to hit in 2015 the way he did last year, but like I said, he addresses a need at an affordable price.  As a 3Bman, McGehee appears to have little range, but turns the double play very well.

In another piece of news, the Dodgers today released Brian Wilson today despite the fact that they are still on the hook to him for $9.5 million in 2015.  I would certainly not be surprised if the Giants made a push to sign Wilson at the major league minimum.

Wilson had an unimpressive 4.66 ERA last year, but his main problem seemed to be command in his first full year back from his second Tommy John surgery.  Otherwise, his numbers for the Dodgers last year look a lot like his numbers for the Giants in 2011 when he had 3.11 ERA and 36 saves.

When Wilson left San Francisco there seemed to be some hard feelings on Wilson’s part, as he seemed to think the Giants owed him more than they thought they did.  Also, with the Dodgers picking up more than 90% of his 2015 salary, I would expect a lot of teams to be in on Wilson right away.  Nevertheless, a strong push by the Giants to show Wilson they’d like him back might add a very promising bullpen arm at a bargain price.

Do the Oakland A’s Think They’re Going to Get to Move to San Jose?

Posted December 19, 2014 by Burly
Categories: Oakland A's, San Francisco Giants

The A’s have been the most active all of MLB teams this off-season on the trade market, and the trades they’ve made all seem to be geared at seasons after 2015.  This has me wondering if they are convinced they’ll be leaving Oakland and moving on to financially sunnier climes at some time in the relatively near future.

Today, the A’s traded Derek Norris for a couple of very promising young pitchers who aren’t likely to help the team a whole lot in 2015.  This is on top of a whole series of moves that I won’t repeat here, all of which are more likely to help the team in 2016 and after at the expense of the 2015 season.

The A’s just barely made the play-offs in 2014 and drew 2.00 million fans, which, sad to say, was their best attendance since 2005.  The Oakland Coliseum is a toilet, and the A’s won’t draw there any year they don’t win at least 95 games for the second year in a row.

The A’s weren’t an old team in 2014, so I have to think that Billy Beane’s decision to sell off the club’s best players has something more in mind than casting off 2015 in favor of uncertain future greatness.

I’ve written this so many times, but I simply can’t understand why a deal can’t be worked out with the Giants to allow the A’s to move to downtown San Jose.  The SF Bay Area is a two-team market — it’s Philadelphia in the 1880’s or Chicago in the 1910’s, only with better future demographics.  Pay the Giants off and let them reap the rewards that will come when young fans in Contra Costa, Solano and Northern Alameda Counties all decide the Giants are worth their love rather than a team playing miles away in San Jose.

 

Collective Bargaining Agreement Foo, Part I

Posted December 19, 2014 by Burly
Categories: Baseball History, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Oakland A's, San Francisco Giants

As a lawyer by trade, I feel a certain obligation to occasionally provide a little legal analysis, as Wendy Thurm does over at fangraphs.com.  However, since I write this blog mainly as a baseball fan, I can’t resist mixing said legal analysis with the kinds of factoids most baseball fans (including this one) love.

Here are some interesting tidbits from the current collective bargaining agreement (2012-2016) between the teams and the players.

During contract negotiations, teams can require a player to appear in person at the team’s offices only once.  If so, the team must pay the player first class airfare and hotel accommodations and the regular season meal-and-tip allowance (not surprising that a labor union would require the employer to pay for the player’s reasonable tips to service persons for the meals they eat).

The only thing surprising about this provision is that players can still be required to appear even once in person in an era when the right to have a professional agent conduct the negotiations is so entrenched.  This clearly harkens back to the days when teams made players, all of whom are relatively young, come in to negotiate with General Managers who were always older and more far experienced than the players.

The 162-game schedule must be played within 172 to 183 games unless a team starts the season with games played abroad.

The rules concerning playing split-game double-headers (fans have to pay twice) after rain-outs are quite detailed.  The Red Sox and the Cubs have special provisions that apply only to them in this regard, almost certainly because they play more day games than other teams in the current era.

The collective bargaining agreement (CBA) has provisions regarding what happens when post-season games have to be cancelled that are almost certainly the result of the 1989 Earthquake World Series, when the San Franciso Giants and the Oakland A’s had to take a week off because of the Loma Prieta Earthquake.  History does matter; and since the CBA is a mature contract (negotiated and revised many times by now) in a mature industry, the CBA is full of provisions that reflect specific situations that have occurred during the long bargaining history.

In the current CBA, exhibition games (i.e., non-league games) during the regular season are expressly banned.  This is interesting because from the advent of professional league baseball in 1871 though at least 1971, exhibition games were a given.  Until the late 1880’s, major league teams played at least as many games against non-league opponents as they did against league teams, and, although the number of exhibition games steadily decreased over time, the playing of exhibition games lasted a full 100 hundred years.  Needless to say, the exhibition games were essentially unpaid, so it was only a matter of time before the players’ union did away with them.

As of the 2013 season, players get at least one day off during Spring Training.  This is hardly surprising, as Spring Training has been starting earlier over time during the last generation.  There’s too much money in the game now not to have major league players training nearly year ’round.

For what it’s worth, Spring Training starts in mid-January in Japan’s NPB and South Korea’s KBO.  In fact, the KBO players’ association is “investigating” whether the Nexen Heroes set a mandatory work-out day on December 12, 2014 in violation of an agreement not to conduct unpaid training sessions between December 1st and January 15th.  Asian culture does not favor strong labor unions fighting hard for workers’ rights, so it’s unclear whether the KBO players’ association will, or even can, file a formal grievance if an agreement has been violated, if a formal written agreement exists.

Throughout baseball, what it comes down to is this: teams want players to train during the off-season, but they don’t want to pay them to do it, particularly given what they now pay players during the regular season.  The motivated players train themselves, the unmotivated ones do not, with relatively predictably results.

MLB players have been paid for Spring Training since about 1946, only because a lawyer named Murphy tried to form a ballplayers’ “Guild” to contest some of the grosser abuses teams foisted on players in those days.  To this day, the money that players get to attend Spring Training is still called “Murphy Money” in MLB circles.  The players also got their first pension benefits as a result of Murphy’s efforts.

I always thought that most off-days in MLB were Mondays and Thursdays simply and solely because they were determined by history to be the worst attendance days (you can make beer out of wheat, and bread out of barley, but the determination of history is that wheat makes better bread, and barley makes better beer).  It turns out that the CBA includes terms which also favor these days off.

Under the current CBA, teams can’t start an away game after 5:00 p.m. before a “home” off-day, unless the game is broadcast on national television (i.e., Sunday night Games of the Week).  Sundays are the last day when baseball games are routinely scheduled for day-time (typically around 1:00 p.m.) start times.  This also explains why almost all day-time mid-week games are played on Wednesdays (since Thursday is typically a day off).

Until night-time baseball became a regular occurrence after WWII, almost all major league games were played with late 3:00 O’clock start times on week days, 1:00 p.m. start times on Saturdays and noon start times for Sunday doubleheaders.  As time passed, Sunday has become the only day with regular mid-day start times.  However, the CBA rules designed to give players at least one full day off a week in season mean that there will almost always be at least one day-game every week.

As a final note, teams cannot start games before 12 noon more than four times a season, except in circumstances under the both the CBA rules and the economics of MLB which almost never happen.

San Francisco Giants Re-Sign Sergio Romo

Posted December 18, 2014 by Burly
Categories: Baseball Abroad, Boston Red Sox, Kansas City Royals, Miami Marlins, San Francisco Giants

Finally some news that the Giants accomplished something this off-season!  The team re-signed set-up man Sergio Romo for two years and $15 million.

I think being able to re-sign Romo for only a two-year deal is a big break for the Giants.  Given what other free agent relievers got this off-season, I expected that Romo would have received a third year at about the same annual rate as this deal.

Romo’s 3.72 ERA this past season was his highest since his first full season in 2009.  However, his strikeout and walks rates were comparable to the previous two seasons, and his hits rate was actually down from 2013.

The only real difference in his performance in 2014 was that he allowed a career high nine HRs.  He’d never allowed more than six in a season previously.  The upshot is that his HRs allowed will probably go down in 2015, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t continue to be the same highly useful late-inning reliever he’s been for years now, at least in 2015.

With Pablo Sandoval and Michael Morse flying the coop, it’s nice to see the Giants hang on to at least one of their free agents.  There’s rumors that the Giants will pursue South Korean Jung-ho Kang to play third or second and are pursuing pitcher James Shields to improve the starting rotation.  However, news regarding just how committed they are to signing either of these two is pretty much non-existent.

It’s hard to believe that the Giants, coming off their World Series win and all the additional revenues that entails, won’t make a splash this off-season.  However, as is often this case in the Sabean Era, we probably won’t hear much until the formal announcements are made.

This Year’s Qualifying Offers Have No Effect

Posted December 15, 2014 by Burly
Categories: Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Kansas City Royals, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Pittsburg Pirates, Seattle Mariners, Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays

With the signing of Melky Cabrera by the White Sox for three years and $42 million, it’s clear that all twelve players to reject the qualifying offer this off-season made the right decision.  I had my doubts about Melky, Francisco Liriano and Michael Cuddyer, but all got something better than the qualifying offer, with both Cabrera and Liriano blowing the qualifying offer out of the water.

Obviously, the owners are feeling a lot more flush this off-season than they did a year ago.  At the very least, I strongly suspect that Nelson Cruz, Stephen Drew, and Kendrys Morales would have beaten the qualifying offer if they came into this off-season with last year’s numbers.  In fact, Morales technically beat this year’s qualifying offer, at two-years and $17 million from the Royals, despite a dreadful season following the hold-out ’til June.

With teams virtually certain to impose a draft on international players after the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) expires in December 1, 2016, there will be even more money available for free agents. Some teams, like the Cubs, Red Sox, Yankees, Rangers and Rays have been spending as much as it takes to sign the best foreign amateurs now, even though it means they can’t give more than $250,000 to any international amateur the next year.

I think this means that if MLB keeps the current qualifying offer system in effect, the next contract will see the qualifying offer amount escalate at a higher rate than the current CBA.  I guess it really turns on whether all qualifying offer recipients beat the qualifying offer next off-season, since it also seems virtually certain that every player who gets a qualifying offer next off-season will reject it after this off-season’s results.

Tony Plush Taking his Talents to South Korea’s KBO

Posted December 13, 2014 by Burly
Categories: Baseball Abroad, Cleveland Indians, Pittsburg Pirates

Nyjer Morgan aka “Tony Plush” has signed a contract with the Hanwha Eagles of the KBO for 2015.  He’ll be paid a total of $700,000.

Morgan is a player I definitely have mixed feelings about.  He’s definitely had his moments both good and bad in MLB.  Back in 2010, he had some moments that made you think he was just too volatile for MLB, but he’s had more comebacks than anybody this side of Francisco Liriano (who just signed the biggest free agent deal in Pirates’ history — three years at $39 million).

Morgan played in Japan’s NPB in 2014, hitting .294 with a .795 OPS, which is pretty good for a center fielder, although I think its been some years since Morgan was an elite defensive center fielder.  At any rate, it apparently wasn’t good enough for him to return to NPB in 2014.

He returned the U.S., signing a deal with the Cleveland Indians, and made the major league squad out of Spring Training.  He hit an impressive .341 with an .868 OPS in 15 major league games, but a strained knee ligament ruined his season, and the Tribe released him in early August.

Morgan replaces Felix Pie, another former major leaguer, as the Eagles’ CF.  Pie had a fine year in 2014 in his first KBO season, but the Eagles were still pretty awful, and the team wasn’t interested in giving Pie the raise he believed he deserved.

I don’t think Morgan is an MLB-average center fielder any more, but he’s likely still well better than KBO-average, so I don’t think the Eagles will end up missing Pie a whole lot, at least so long as Morgan stays healthy and out of trouble. My understanding is that Pie was quite popular with the Eagles’ fan base, and that may end up being the biggest lost for the team.


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