Enjoying New York’s ARod Angst

Posted February 19, 2015 by Burly
Categories: New York Yankees

I’m a regular reader of the New York Times, and I have to say that I have really been enjoying the recent columns about how the Bombers are stuck with Alex Rodriguez for at least the start of the 2015 season.  Today’s article is particularly bitchy and pissy, and it just tickles me no end, as I think it should any fan of the other 29 teams in MLB.

Today’s article says the Yankees should show some intestinal fortitude and cut A-Fraud and eat the remaining $61 million of his contract.  Well, that might be satisfying for most baseball fans, but that’s just not the way MLB works.

Until Rodriguez actually shows he has nothing left, the Yankees won’t cut him.  MLB teams know from long experience that Americans in general and sports fans in particular are front-runners all the way.  If ARod posts a .900 OPS in 2015, all will be forgiven by most Yankees fans, at least until he stops hitting.  In fact, the 2015 Yankees look so offensively weak than an .800 OPS might be enough for Yankees fans to grin and bear Rodriguez, as long as he performs at that level.

If, on the other hand, Rodriguez posts an OPS below .600 two months into the 2015 season, the Yankees are going to be a hell of lot more likely to cut his sorry ass and eat all the remaining salary, particularly if he hasn’t yet reached the $6 million bonus that comes with his 660th home run (tying Willie Mays).   The team will probably arbitrate to reduce the total any amount they can, even though any qualified legal observer would say the odds are slim that the Yankees can eliminate any portion of the guaranteed $61 million.

Again, any fan of the other 29 teams should just be loving the Yankees’ current dilemma.  It’s only the team’s insistence on handing out contracts of the type that ARod got that allow the other teams to compete against the Yankees’ revenue streams.  If the Yankees drove harder bargains, paying only 10% or 15% more than any other team would pay for elite free agents, they’d lose 10% or 15% of the elite free agents they’re now signing, but their roster would be an awful lot deeper.

Influx of Cuban Players to Japan’s NPB Continues

Posted February 3, 2015 by Burly
Categories: Baseball Abroad

In an interesting piece of international news, the Yokohama Bay Stars today announced that they had not only re-signed Yulieski Gourriel for 2015, but also signed his younger brother Yunielkis (Baseball America refers to him as Lourdes).  No word yet on what they’ll be getting paid, but my guess is that Yulieski will be getting around $3 million (less whatever substantial cut the Cuban government gets) and that Yunielkis, who is only 21, will be getting somewhere between $200,000 and $500,000.

Since Yulieski will be 31 in June and isn’t likely to defect, he doesn’t hold much interest for MLB at this point, although he has long been regarded as one of the best players in Cuba.  Yunielkis, however, is still young enough that if in the next six to eight years Cuban players are allowed to play in MLB without first having to defect, he’ll still be young enough have a successful MLB career.

If I had to guess, I’d say that Yunielkis will start Japan’s 2015 season on the Bay Stars’ minor league squad to allow him to transition to the Japanese game.  How long he stays down on the farm obviously depends on how quickly he adjusts.

Cuban defector Yoslan Herrara will also be playing for the Bay Stars in 2015.

Meanwhile, the Yomiuri Giants are apparently bringing back all three of the Cubans (one defector and two non-defectors) who played for them last season.  I’m a bit surprised they are bringing back Frederich Cepeda, who hit only .194 for Yomiuri last year and turns 35 in April.  However, he did hit with power and had more walks than hits.

Pitcher Hector Mendoza is a more interesting prospect.  He reportedly has a big fastball and at age 20 pitched briefly (5.2 innings pitched) last year for Yomiuri’s minor league team.

At this point, the question is how many more Cuban players will end up in NPB.  NPB still has its four man roster limit on the major league roster, although each team can sign additional players to play on the minor league club.  In fact, this has now become the norm, so that if a foreigner gets hurt or is ineffective at the major league level, the team can immediately call up another foreigner to fill the roster spot.

However, it appears certain now that Cuba will continue to allow players to play in NPB if the money is right for all involved.  Even so, because the MLB market for top Cuban talent is astronomically high, added to the fact that many Cuban players would much rather test their skills in MLB and live in the U.S. than in Japan, there is no reason to think that the very best young prospects won’t still try to defect.

MLB.com Doesn’t Think Much of Giants’ Prospects

Posted February 2, 2015 by Burly
Categories: San Francisco Giants, Tampa Bay Rays

MLB.com today published it’s list of the top 100 prospects in the game.  The only Giants prospect on the list was Kyle Crick, who came in at 79th.

Crick’s ranking seems low to me, even given the fact that his command still needs a lot of work.  At age 21, he was an effective starter at the AA level with just slightly better than 11 Ks/9 IP.  That’s definitely a real prospect any way you slice it.

Crick came to pitching late, not becoming a full-time pitcher until his senior year of high school.  That cuts both ways, because it suggests he’s still got a lot to learn about pitching, but he’s still well young enough to spend full seasons at AA and AAA in 2015 and 2016 and be ready for the majors at age 24.

Crick had some injuries in 2013, but they didn’t involve his throwing arm, and the Giants limited his work load that year mainly due to his young age and an abundance of caution.

So far, there’s no reason to think he still isn’t on track a major league pitcher with great stuff by his age 24 season.  In my mind that makes him better than the 79th overall prospect in MLB, although he probably doesn’t deserve to be in the top 50.

If nothing else, it seems the Giants still like Crick enough that they weren’t willing to package him with catcher Andrew Susac for one season of Ben Zobrist, even though Zobrist would have been a perfect fit for the 2015 Giants.

San Francisco Giants Sign John Bowker, Travis Blackley to Minor League Deals

Posted January 27, 2015 by Burly
Categories: Baseball Abroad, San Francisco Giants

The Giants have signed a couple of NPB refugees and old faces, OF/1B John Bowker and LHP Travis Blackley, to minor league deals.

John Bowker played semi-regularly for the Giants in 2008 at age 24, but he wasn’t the real deal and had the good sense to try his luck in Japan after his age 27 season.  He hit a big home run for the Yomiuri Giants in the 2012 Nippon Series and turned it into a three-year NPB career.  He hit pretty well in 2013, but faded playing for the Rakuten Golden Eagles in 2014 and finished the season in the Mexican League.  He turns 32 in early July, so it’s unlikely he’ll be anything more than AAA roster-filler at this stage of his career.

The same is true unfortately for Blackley.  An Australian, Blackley has played professional baseball just about everywhere.  Aside from MLB and the minor leagues, he played in the Mexican League in 2010, South Korea’s KBO in 2011, and Japan’s NPB in 2014.

The NPB stint didn’t work out too well, so he’s back in the Giants’ organization hoping to become the next Ryan Vogelsong.  I don’t see it happening, but at age 32 also in 2015, it’s not entirely outside the realm of possibility.  He pitched pretty well in NPB’s minor league, and a decent 2015 season in AAA could at least get him another shot at pitching in the KBO for more money than he’ll make in AAA.

Atlanta Braves Sign Jonny Gomes

Posted January 23, 2015 by Burly
Categories: Atlanta Braves, Houston Astros, San Francisco Giants

The Braves signed Jonny Gomes today for one season at $4 million.  I had written at least once this off-season that I thought Gomes was a good fit for the Giants, who were in need of a right-handed power bat to replace Mike Morse.

I’m a little surprised Gomes got this much, given that he’ll be 34 next season and didn’t hit particularly well in 2014.  The Giants signed Nori Aoki for $4.7, and I think Aoki is clearly the better player going into 2015.  Of course, what it’s really about is how the player’s skills fit into the rest of the team, and Gomes’ ability to hit lefties with power is a very useful skill.

The Giants just re-signed Gregor Blanco for two years and $7.5 million, so it seems the Giants are going all in on speed and defense.  The Giants are also reportedly close to re-signing Ryan Vogelsong, after a deal with the Astros fell through.  The Giants are likely to need plenty of defense for at least some of their starters in 2015.

Never Say Die

Posted January 22, 2015 by Burly
Categories: Houston Astros, Miami Marlins, Milwaukee Brewers, San Francisco Giants

A couple of my old favorites — Dontrelle Willis and Pat Misch — are back from the baseball wilderness, having signed minor league deals with the Milwaukee Brewers and Miami Marlins respectively.  Neither has pitched in the major leagues since 2011, and both are 33 years old.  While that certainly doesn’t sound promising, you never know.

Misch is a pitcher who always struck me as taking a very modest talent as far as he possible could.  However, he was a fifth round draft pick (by the Astros) in the 2002 draft  and a seventh round pick (by the Giants) in 2003, which is not low as draft picks go.  However, both his major and minor league numbers suggest a guy who made his living by throwing strikes and knowing how to pitch, rather than featuring any kind of good stuff.

Misch last pitched in AAA in 2013 and appears to have been cut on merit (he had a 5.07 ERA in the pitcher-friendly International League) about half way through the season.  After more than a year off, he’s attempting a comeback, and the Marlins at least are game.

Willis made two brief relief appearances for the AAA Fresno Grizzlies early last Spring, got hurt again and was promptly released.  He made two starts in the Independent-A Atlantic League where he’d pitched much of 2013, I assume late in the season, and was hit pretty hard.

The fact that Pat and Dontrelle are still trying to resurrect their professional careers after so many seasons of what can only be regarded as failure is either a testament to perseverance or an indication that they should look into becoming coaches so they can stay in the game in some capacity.

Houston Astros Sign Colby Rasmus for $8 million

Posted January 21, 2015 by Burly
Categories: Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros, Toronto Blue Jays

I was a bit taken aback today when I saw that the Astros had signed CF Colby Rasmus for one year and $8 million.  That seemed like way too little for a player of his age and potential performance.

On further consideration, it is pretty obvious that this is just a hold-over contract designed to get Rasmus another shot at free agency at a still young 29 after next season if he plays well for the Astros in 2015.  Choosing the Astros for a one year rental also makes a great deal of sense for Rasmus, because he’ll likely get a lot of playing time in Houston even if he has some cold spells.

This kind of contract worked extremely well for both the Orioles and Nelson Cruz and also for the Giants and Mike Morse in 2014, and it’s certainly got the potential to work just as well for the Astros and Rasmus in 2015.  It’s also a savings for the Astros, in that Dexter Fowler was guaranteed to get more in arbitration based on the numbers exchanged than the ‘Stros are paying Rasmus.  While I’m not particularly impressed with the players the Astros got for Fowler and his high on-base percentage, the Astros effectively get three players for the price of one (not quite, but Luis Valbuena and Dan Straily aren’t going to cost the team a whole lot in relative terms).


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