Archive for February 2019

Philadelphia Phillies to Sign Bryce Harper for $330 Million

February 28, 2019

Now I feel like I know why it took so long for Bryce Harper to sign a deal.  It was a obvious that Harper and Scott Boras were determined to top the $325 million guarantee that Giancarlo Stanton got no matter what, but it didn’t happen until the Phillies were able to spread it out over a 13 year period.

I had been expecting that Harper would get an 11 year, $330M contract — in other words, the same deal that Manny Machado got with an extra year at $30M tacked on at the end.  The reports had been so fixated on a ten-year contract length, that I hadn’t expected this fairly obvious final outcome — Harper gets the same 13 years as Stanton for $5M more, which allows Harper and Boras to claim victory while the Phillies at least get to spread the money out over two or three more seasons.

Harper also reportedly will receive a full no-trade clause with no opt-outs in the deal.  If Phillies’ fans don’t take to Harper and vice versa if could be a long 13 years.  Of course, no trade clauses are made to be bought out if the player and team are both no longer happy with the arrangement.

Meanwhile, the Giants are s@#$ out of luck.  The Phillies now have at least one too many major league outfielders, and I imagine that even with the sorry state of the Giants’ farm system, a cheap trade could be worked out for 28 year old Aaron Altherr.

Nick Williams would be a better trade chip for the Phillies, not least because Williams sure isn’t going to be happy about being relegated to a back-up role, but he might be too costly in terms of the prospects that the Giants would have to surrender to acquire him.  I would expect the Phils to hold onto Odubel Herrera and Roman Quinn, as giving them the strongest outfield as the Phillies obviously try to win their division.

P.S.  The latest reports are that the Giants offered Harper $310M over 12 years, but that due to the difference in state taxes between California and Pennsylvania (and no doubt taking into account that the Phillies play in a much better hitters’ park), the Giants would have to beat the Phillies’ final offer by $20M.

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San Francisco Giants Back in on the Hunt for Bryce Harper

February 27, 2019

The Giants are reportedly back in on the hunt for Bryce Harper and now willing to offer him the record-setting ten year deal he has been seeking.  It is not particularly surprising that the first few games of spring training action have made the Giants worried about the apparently sorry bunch of outfielders they have on hand.  The Dodgers are also reportedly considering meeting Harper’s and Scott Boras’ ten-year contract demand, but the fact remains that the Gints sorely need Harper in their 2019 outfield a lot more than either the Phillies or the Bums do.

Even with the Giants seemingly starting to move toward true rebuild mode, a ten-year deal would keep Harper around long enough to be a part of any rebuilt team come 2022 or 2023 while Harper is still in his prime.  Even with Harper, I am doubtful that the Giants would be anything better than a .500 team in 2019, so I expect the rebuilding to begin in earnest around the 2019 trade deadline.

I think the Giants will hold onto Buster Posey (and they’re stuck with Evan Longoria), but any of Madison Bumgarner, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt or Joe Panik who is playing well in the first half will get traded, unless, of course, they are all playing well and the Giants are in contention.

Harper and Boras have been holding out for at least a $330 million guarantee and it now looks like they are going to get it.  The seven year contract extension with $234 million of new money the Rockies just gave Nolan Arenado, not to mention Manny Machado‘s $300 million ten-year deal with the Padres, suggest strongly that one of the three remaining pursuers will set a new salary guarantee record with Harper.  While teams seem more reticent about signing free agents, the contract extensions of Arenado, Mile Mikolas and Aaron Hicks this past week all suggest that teams will still spend big money to hold onto their best players through their age 34 or 35 seasons.

The Mikolas four-year contract extension is particularly eye-opening, given Mikolas’ short major league track record plus the fact that it reportedly includes a complete no-trade clause in addition to the $68M guarantee.  The Hicks’ contract extension is notable more for the length (seven years) than the amount guaranteed ($70M).  However, because Hicks runs well and has improved dramatically at the plate the last two seasons, it looks like a great risk for the Bombers to take, even if Hicks can’t be expected to stick in center field for more than three or four more seasons.

Panama Wins First Caribbean Series Since 1950

February 21, 2019

Thank goodness for the fact that anything can happen in a short series.  The Toros de Herrera of Panama’s Professional Baseball League (Probeis) won four out of five games, including beating Cuba’s Lenadores de Las Tunas 3-1 in the championship game of the 2019 Caribbean Series.

It was Panama’s first Caribbean Series championship since 1950, and, in fact, Panama’s first appearance in the Caribbean Series since 1960.  It is highly likely that the Probeis champion got to play in this year’s Caribbean Series because the original venue (Venezuela) was cancelled on short notice due to the political crisis there, and the Caribbean Series needed a new place to play, which turned out to be Panama City.

Toros’ infielders Javy Guerra, Allen Cordoba and Elmer Reyes each had seven hits in the series with Guerra and Reyes hitting home runs.  Reyes is a ringer from Nicaragua who played in Mexico’s Winter League (LMP) this off-season.  Guerra and Cordoba are a couple of young Panamanians in the Padres’ system.

Toros’ hurlers Oriel Caicedo, Luis Mateo, Andy Otero and Harold Arauz allowed only two runs (one earned) over a combined 26 innings pitched.  The Dominican Mateo is the non-Panamanian in the group.

One hopes that Panama’s 2019 success will mean that the Panama gets to play in the Caribbean Series for at least the next few years. I wouldn’t mind seeing Nicaragua and Colombia also get a chance to play in the Carribean Series, although would likely require an expansion of the Series’ current one week format by at least two days.

Baseball Cop

February 20, 2019

I recently finished reading Baseball Cop by Eddie Dominguez (with NY Daily News reporters Christian Red and Teri Thompson).  Dominguez was a long-time Boston police detective who worked from 2008 until 2014 for MLB’s Department of Investigations (“DOI”), a department MLB set up on the recommendation of George Mitchell’s 2007 Report on PEDs in baseball.

DOI was set up to be an independent investigations entity free from interference from other MLB departments such as Labor Relations, which would work with governmental law enforcement agencies like the DEA to go after steroid peddlers and human traffickers.  According to Dominguez, however, MLB within a few years determined that it wanted more control over the DOI’s investigations and by 2014 had reined in the DOI and canned most of the experienced former law enforcement investigators it had hired only a few years earlier.

Dominguez’s main premise is that MLB, as led by commissioners Bud Selig and Robert Manfred, really isn’t interested in stamping out PEDs from baseball.  Instead, it wants the appearance that it is doing something, in this case MLB’s drug testing regime, while still allowing many players to get bigger, faster and stronger under quietly suspicious circumstances.  According to Dominguez, the drug testing regime catches the stupid, the careless, the unlucky and players who have not yet earned enough money to pay for cutting edge PED regimens that are unlikely to be detected.

In the case of the Biogenesis of America PED scandal, Dominguez asserts that MLB’s Labor Relations department repeatedly interfered in the investigation conducted by the the DOI and the work being done by the federal DEA to unravel the entire conspiracy.  Instead, all MLB really cared about was catching and disciplining Alex Rodriguez, who had never had a positive PED test but whom just about everyone knew was a PED cheat.  As a result, while 14 players were ultimately suspended as a result of the scandal, Dominguez asserts that the DEA had identified as many 17 players involved with Biogenesis, but was unable to fully unravel all of Tony Bosch’s tentacles because of interference from MLB that compromised the criminal investigation.

The book was a good read for the most part, and Dominguez’s premise rings true to me.  The MLB drug testing regime catches just enough players to look like MLB is taking the matter seriously, but there haven’t been many reports of any other investigations like the one that exposed Biogenesis.  It’s worth noting that Ryan Braun was the only one of the 14 Biogenesis suspendees who failed a drug test, suggesting that it is indeed possible to take PEDs and get away with it, so long as the right drugs and dosages are administered and everyone keeps their mouths shut.  While the penalties are more severe than they once were, they’re still ultimately small relative to the riches that can be made by being just a little bit better on the playing field.

MLB’s intense focus on ARod always had an aspect of theater to it, which has only been made more obvious by the fact that Rodriguez was more or less forgiven by MLB once he accepted his year long suspension.  We now see Rodriguez working as a commentator every World Series, which MLB could certainly prevent if it wanted to.  Clearly, MLB doesn’t want to, even though Rodriguez is the face of post-Mitchell Report PED cheats.  His celebrity, good looks and knowledge of baseball are more important than the fact that he is proven cheat.

As I said above, MLB wants to look like it’s doing something about PEDs while still putting baseball supermen on the field to maximize revenues.  Dominguez suggests that more than half of current MLB players could well be using PEDs to some degree, since the testing regime can be beaten.  I have no way of knowing if his hunch is accurate, although he would certainly have more inside knowledge on the subject than I do. I definitely suspect, however, that MLB is just fine with its best players getting even better with a little juicing, so long as the players doing it are smart enough, careful enough and discreet enough to get away with it.

Some Order Has Been Restored to the (Baseball) Universe

February 20, 2019

It’s being reported that Manny Machado and the San Diego Padres have reached agreement on a deal that will last ten years and guarantee Machado $300 million, with an opt-out after the fifth season, the money fairly evenly spread over the ten year term and a limited no trade clause.  It was a long time in coming, but it sure seems in line with the other free agent contracts already signed this off-season.

I was figuring that unless the teams were in fact colluding, Machado would get at a minimum eight years and a $250 million guarantee, because that would a bargain for the age 26 through 33 seasons for a player of Machado’s caliber.  This is, in fact, what the White Sox offered Machado, although the ChiSox offer also included a whopping $100M in performance incentives and additional years.

That Machado got an extra two years and $50M guaranteed over an eight year, $250M deal seems in line with what the best offer would be in light of the tough negotiating teams have been performing this off-season.  Still, until the deal was finally reported with Spring Training already underway, one certainly couldn’t be sure what Machado would finally get.

I agree with Justin Verlander that signing Machado or Bryce Harper to a long-term deal is actually a good move for a rebuilding team like the Padres.  Even if the Friars need another three years to put together a contender, they’ll still have Machado for another five years (barring injury) of peak or close-to-peak performance.

Paying generational players like Machado or Harper even record-setting contracts tends to be a better risk than signing most other free agents, because they reach free agency younger and their peak performance lasts longer.  Of course, there is risk, since ten years is a lot of time for a debilitating injury to occur.

Machado’s offensive numbers are going to drop playing half his games at Petco Park, but the fact that Machado is not a “Johnny Hustle” type who gets too high or too low may actually be a good thing.  I don’t see Machado losing confidence in his abilities just because his offensive numbers drop off a little.

Now we’ll see what Harper gets, most likely from the Phillies.  I’d guess at least $330M guaranteed and possibly as much as $360M guaranteed over 10 to 12 seasons.

San Francisco Giants Loading Up on Marginal Players

February 17, 2019

With it now looking like the Giants will be bridesmaids in the Bryce Harper sweepstakes (mlbtraderumors suggests today that the Phillies are now the clear favorites to sign Harper), the Giants are continuing to load up on marginal players to address weaknesses throughout the major league and AAA rosters.  I listed the earlier signings about a month ago.

Since then, the Giants have added outfielders Cameron Maybin (age 32 in 2019), John Andreoli (29), Gerardo Parra (32), Craig Gentry (35) and Anthony Garcia (27); infielder Yangervis Solarte (31); catchers Stephen Vogt (34) and Rene Rivera (35); and right-handed pitchers Trevor Gott (26), Jose Lopez (25), Jake Barrett (27) and Brandon Beachy (32).  That’s whole lot of names but not much to get excited about.

In fact, the Giants have accumulated so many possibly has-been or never-will-be outfielders that one has to wonder how the team will get all of them enough Spring Training plate appearances to reasonably separate all the chaff from whatever remaining wheat there might be.

On a more positive note, the Giants have been good at identifying relief pitching candidates who suddenly become useful major league arms once they get to pitch their home games in the pitcher-friendly confines of McCovey Park (name sponsors come and go, but Willie McCovey is eternal, at least in the hearts of Giants’ fans).  Trevor Gott or Jake Barrett could well be the bullpen diamond in the rough the Giants turn up in 2019.

The Giants have been linked to still free agents Gio Gonzalez and Josh Harrison, and there has been rumored interest in the Yankees’ Jacoby Ellsbury.  Still, it looks to me like the Giants are starting a rebuild without yet disclosing that fact to the fan base.  If the Giants don’t make any more significant moves between now and the start of the 2019 regular season, the fans are likely to figure it out on their own soon enough.

Is Corey Kluber a Legitimate Hall of Fame Candidate?

February 12, 2019

I was looking at Corey Kluber‘s career stats the other day, and I wondered if what he has accomplished in the last five years has made him a legitimate Hall of Fame candidate.  The short answer is no, not yet.

The player Kluber currently looks most like is Johan Santana.  Santana was MLB’s best pitcher for the five seasons between 2004 and 2008.  However, arm problems then ruined his career, and he finished 139-78.

Santana appeared on the 2018 Hall of Fame ballot for the first time, but he received only 10 votes and was dropped from the 2019 ballot.  I definitely think that in 25 or 30 years, the Hall of Fame’s Veteran’s Committee (or whatever they call it now or then) will notice that Santana’s career record looks an awful lot like Dizzy Dean‘s and maybe even Sandy Koufax‘s.  However, Santana might be hurt by pitching in the heart of the PEDs ERA.

Corey Kluber will be 33 this upcoming season, but he’s bigger than Santana, so maybe his arm will hold out better.  He’s probably only one more CY Young caliber season (i.e., on a par with four of his last five seasons) and another 55 career wins from what it would require for him to be a sure thing to reach the Hall of Fame eventually.