How Many More Starts Will the Angels Give Tim Lincecum?

Posted July 24, 2016 by Burly
Categories: Anaheim Angels

To say that Tim Lincecum‘s comeback with the Angels hasn’t gone well would be an understatement.  After allowing eight runs, all earned, in only 1.1 innings pitched in today’s loss to the Astros, Timmy now has an ERA of 8.70 through seven starts for the Halos.

Lincecum has 28 Ks in 30 IP, but when opposing hitters put bat to ball, it goes a long way, with nine HRs served up so far.  This seems to be a trend in today’s game — it seems that many pitchers who are still striking out almost a batter an inning are still getting their brains beaten out.  I assume that almost every hitter in baseball is now swinging for the fences all the time and in any count in today’s game, meaning that there are a lot of strikeouts and seemingly high strikeout rates don’t mean what they once did.

It’s hard to see the Angels giving Lincecum more than one or two more starts, given the results so far, before they give up on him, and try someone from their minor league system.  In fact, an argument can be made that the Angels would be better off promoting 24 year old Nate Smith  or 25 year old Tyler Skaggs right now, and either sending Lincecum back to Salt Lake City or just releasing him and writing off the couple of million they owe Lincecum for the rest of the 2016 season.

At least with the youngsters they might yet be developed into serviceable major league arms.

Will the Chicago White Sox Trade Chris Sale?

Posted July 24, 2016 by Burly
Categories: Chicago White Sox

I read today on mlbtraderumors.com that the White Sox are “listening” to trade offers on Chris Sale.  That made me curious to see how long Sale has until free agency.

Sale will have six years of service time at the end of this season, but he signed what has turned out to be a sweetheart deal for the Pale Hose, which has him receiving a guaranteed $12 million in 2017 followed by two team options for 2018 and 2019 for a grand total of only $26 million more.  It doesn’t get much better than that for a team in today’s market for a pitcher with Sale’s chops.

In short, why would you trade a No. 1 starter with three more full seasons of control on these terms?  You wouldn’t, except for the fact that I read on espn.com today that Sale and White Sox management aren’t getting along.

The White Sox pulled Sale from his start tonight when he got into it in the clubhouse with someone from the front office.  Sale complained about having to wear a throw-back uniform, which sounds like a dumb complaint unless the uniform is overly baggy or otherwise uncomfortable, and it escalated from there.  However, the argument reportedly never became physical.

The back-story on this is that Sale was one of the ChiSox players most unhappy with the way Executive Vice President Kenny Williams handled the Adam Laroche situation this spring.  Also, after a tremendous start to the 2016 season (they were in first place as late as May 27th), the Sox have since gone over a cliff and are now in fourth place in their division, 10.5 games back.  That’s going to make for some very unhappy campers in the White Sox clubhouse.

Sale’s season has mimicked the team’s.  He was almost unhittable through his May 19th start.  Since then, his ERA has jumped from 1.58 to 3.18 over his last ten starts.

If you were going to trade Sale for the best possible return, now might be the time to do it.  He’s 14-3 and he’s controllable for all those future seasons at a bargain price.  However, his strikeout rate is the lowest of his career so far, and he’s been worked pretty hard the last few seasons, at least for a guy who is listed as 6’6″ and 180 lbs.  In other words, there are indications a major arm injury could be in his not so distant future.

All of that said, I don’t fully understand how the strictly verbal argument that has been reported results in Sale being pulled from his start.  Obviously, he’s the team ace, and in today’s game I don’t see how management apparently sending a message that the best player on the team is still just another employee who has to toe management’s line is going to create a winning mentality in the clubhouse.

South Korea’s KBO Dealing with Gambling Scandal

Posted July 22, 2016 by Burly
Categories: Baseball Abroad

The KBO is dealing with another gambling scandal.  23 year old pitcher Lee Tae-yang has been indicted for accepting 20 million won ($17,540) to allow runs in a game in May, and the South Korean military is investigating Moon woo-ram, a player currently performing his two-year compulsory military service by playing baseball for the military team in KBO’s Futures (minor) league, for accepting half that amount in clothing and a watch.

Young KBO players aren’t paid a whole lot.  Lee was making 100,000,000 won this year (roughly $88,000), and Moon was likely making a lot less serving in the military.  This makes them susceptible to being bribed to fix games.  However, KBO salaries are now  pretty high for players who reach free agency after nine years of service and can command multi-year contracts paying more than $1,000,000 per season.

KBO dealt with a similar scandal four years ago, resulting in two players being banned from the KBO for life.  They also received suspended criminal sentences.

KBO is on a pace to break last year’s all-time attendance record, but game fixing scandals sure won’t help.

It’s always disappointing to see young players throw away their careers in this way.  Lee, in particular, had promise, and I doubt that many 23 year olds in South Korea make even $88,000 a year.  Korean society highly values age and experience, and you have to work your way up from the bottom to make the big money once you have put in the years of hard work.

Former Cardinals Scouting Director Gets 46 months in Prison for Stealing Astros’ Data

Posted July 19, 2016 by Burly
Categories: Houston Astros, St. Louis Cardinals

I was a bit taken aback a few minutes ago when I read that former St. Louis Cardinal scouting director Chris Correa was just sentenced to 46 months in prison for breaking into the Houston Astros’ computer network and stealing the ‘Stros scouting reports.  I never expected it would result in criminal sentencing, as opposed to civil monetary damages.

David Barron’s article in the Houston Chronicle has most of the details.  What it apparently boils down to is that the judge treated this like any other serious cyber-crime.  Obviously, big corporations have long since made sure that Congress criminalized the stealing of their valuable proprietary information.

Further, the Court obviously wanted to send a message and set an example in this high-profile case, making a point to state during sentencing that cyber-theft basically costs everyone money by forcing them to buy increasingly costly systems designed to prevent hacking.  The judge has a point there.

Also, Correa accessed the Astros’ system 60 times in a 35 day period, far more than was originally reported.  Correa was also fined $279,000.

It remains to be seen what penalty MLB imposes on the Cardinals.  I would expect it to be steep in light of the punishment Correa received.  MLB would look bad giving the Cardinals a slap on the wrist after Correa received almost four years in the can.

My guess is that the Cardinals will be ordered to pay the Astros some seven or eight figure sum, and more importantly lose one or more future first round draft picks.

Houston Astros Sign Yulieski Gourriel

Posted July 15, 2016 by Burly
Categories: Baseball Abroad, Houston Astros

The Astros today announced their signing of 32 year old Cuban star Yulieski Gourriel to a five-year $47.5 million contract.  Gourriel is definitely a major league talent, but at age 32, he’s definitely something of a risk for this much money over this many years.

Gourriel comes from a family of Cuban ballplayers who have starred in the Serie Nacional for more than one generation, and for a long time they were loathe to defect to play for the big money in the United States.  Yulieski went to Japan’s NPB in 2014, as part of a deal with the Cuban government to limit defections by top stars like him and Alfredo Despaigne, by all0wing them to make some real money playing in the next best and best paid leagues after MLB.

In 62 games and 258 plate appearances for the Yokohama Bay Stars, Gourriel was outstanding, batting .305 with an .884 OPS and playing what was reported to be excellent defense (at least at 2B — the raw numbers suggest his 3B defense was poor in Japan, although his previous Serie Nacional numbers at the hot corner look good).  Yulieski was all set to return to Japan in 2015 and bring along his younger brother, an even better MLB prospect due to his age, Lourdes Gourriel, Jr.

However, a dispute arose regarding when the Gourriel brothers would arrive in Japan.  They wanted to finish out the 2014-2015 Serie Nacional season, and Yulieski wanted to take some time off after the Cuban season to rest and recuperate from injuries, which would have cost him the first month of the 2015 NPB season.  The Bay Stars, who were planning to pay him a reported $3 million, weren’t at all happy about Yulieski’s wishes.  As a result, their relationship broke down, and neither brother went to Japan in 2015.

It’s worth noting that Alfredo Despaigne did not play in Cuba last winter, probably because his NPB team, the Chiba Lotte Marines, insisted that he deliver his talents solely to NPB.  It is not an extremely difficult choice to make in terms of the finances: Despaigne makes about $2 million a year playing in Japan this year, as compared to probably something less than one or two hundred dollars a month playing in Cuba.

The half-season spent in Japan seems to have dramatically improved Gourriel’s Serie Nacional performance.  Although injuries and his later defection limited him to only 49 games played in the 2015-2016 season, he hit an even .500 with a 1.463 OPS.

Both Yulieski and Lourdes defected from Cuba this past February while playing an international tournament in the Dominican Republic.  When it happened, I wondered whether they tacitly had the approval of the Cuban government to do so, because they seemed so unlikely to defect up to that time.

If Yulieski is getting five-years and $47.5 million, I have to think Lourdes is going to get more than twice that.  Lourdes is still only 22 years old, and while his level of play in the Serie Nacional did not approach that of his older brother, his offensive performance improved dramatically in each of his last two Cuban seasons.

With what appear to be roughly five Serie Nacional seasons under his belt (he’s played in six different Serie Nacional seasons), Lourdes should be a true free agent, but according to mlbtraderumors.com he is currently subject to international bonus pool limits, because he is not yet 23 years old.

Most likely, Lourdes will elect to sign after October 19th of this year, his 23rd birthday, when he will become a true free agent.  My guess is an announcement of his signing will be made on that date, and he will immediately be sent to play in the Arizona Fall League.

San Francisco Giants’ Minor Leaguer Mike Broadway Heading to Japan

Posted July 14, 2016 by Burly
Categories: Baseball Abroad, San Francisco Giants

Former San Francisco Giant and current Sacramento River Cat Mike Broadway is heading off to Japan to pitch for the Yokohama Bay Stars.  He’s 29 this year, and he’s got the kind of stuff that makes him a great bet to succeed in Japan’s NPB.

Broadway got into 25 major league games for the Giants in 2015 and 2016.  His 6.75 ERA was ugly, but he struck out 17 while walking only eight in 22.2 innings pitched.  The Giants had originally signed him before the 2014 season, based on his stuff, kind of like the Giants’ decision to sign Erik Cordier only a month earlier that off-season.

Cordier went to Japan’s Orix Buffaloes this Spring and has bombed in NPB because he still can’t through enough strikes.  Broadway can’t throw a 100 or 99 mph fastball like Cordier, but he has hit at least 96 mph at the MLB level and is much better at throwing strikes than Cordier.

Broadway didn’t pitch nearly as well this year in San Francisco or Sacramento as he did in 2015.  Still, he was playing well enough that I think he’s got a reasonably good chance of succeeding in NPB.  I will certainly be rooting for Broadway to succeed in Japan if only because he was born in Paducah, Kentucy, and I have a friend from college who lived there for the largest portion of his childhood.

 

KBO’s KT Wiz Sign Josh Lowey

Posted July 11, 2016 by Burly
Categories: Baseball Abroad, Uncategorized

The KT Wiz of South Korea’s KBO signed Josh Lowey about a week ago to a $220,000 contract for the remainder of the 2016 season.  It’s a  major accomplishment for Lowey, who never pitched in the MLB system.

Instead, he started in and worked his way up through the Independent-A Leagues and then moved up to the summer Mexican League, where in 2016, his third season south of the border, he established himself as the Mexican League’s best starter.

In 16 Mexican League starts this year through July 1st, Lowey went 13-3 with a 1.65 ERA and 131 Ks in 103.2 IP, while allowing only 71 hits and 25 walks.  It was the kind of performance that it takes for a player with no MLB experience to jump from the Mexican League to the KBO.

It won’t be easy for Lowey making the jump to the KBO.  It’s a much better league than the Mexican League, and an extreme hitters’ league to boot.

Lowey is a small right-hander who is now 31 years old and whose strike out rate has really only taken off the last two seasons.  He’s pitching really well this season, though, and perhaps he can take the confidence he’s built up down South and establish a successful career for himself in Asia.

If nothing else, he’s going to make some real money playing baseball this year for the first time in his life.  At least he can now tell himself he wasn’t just wasting his time pursuing a professional baseball career against almost insurmountable odds.


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