Archive for the ‘Chicago White Sox’ category

Chicago Cubs Extend Role Player David Bote

April 4, 2019

MLB’s future is here, and it is contract extensions and more contract extensions.  The Cubs extended jack-of-all-trades, super-sub David Bote to a five year deal that covers 2020 through 2024 and guarantees Bote a hair over $15M.

All for a much smaller amount, I see this contract extension as being as consequential and the recent extensions signed by Eloy Jiminez and Ronald Acuna Jr. I can’t remember a young bench player like Bote ever receiving a multi-year contract extension before.

It’s definitely a risk for the Cubs.  Bote has all of a hundred days of major league service entering his age 26 season.  He wasn’t a high draft pick and he spent years in the minor leagues honing his skills.  Players like this generally don’t have long and successful major league careers.

What the Cubs like about Bote is his versatility.  In the minors he played every position except catcher and center field, even pitching in about half a dozen presumably emergency situations.  Fangraphs.com rated his defense highly in his limited 2018 major league play.

The Cubs probably also like the fact that after a slow professional start, Bote hit better the last three seasons as he reached the upper levels of the minors.

The question is whether Bote will hit well enough as a major leaguer for the Cubs to be able to take advantage of his versatility.  Apparently, the Cubbies see Bote as having a realistic chance to be the next Ben Zobrist, which if he were would make this contract a bargain.  We shall see…

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Oh, That’s Bad

March 27, 2019

The Chicago White Sox announced today that Eloy Jimenez will be starting the 2019 regular season on the major league roster.  You think that had anything to do with the eight-year, $43M contract he just signed?

The White Sox will claim that Jimenez got the call because Jon Jay got hurt and will be starting the season the disabled list.  Well, that’s just full BS.  If Jimenez doesn’t sign the long-term extension, he starts the season at AAA, unless every other outfielder on the roster dies in a plane crash before Opening Day.

There is no longer any service-time advantage to starting Jimenez at AAA, so Jimenez won’t be starting the season at AAA.  Wouldn’t it be nice if teams simply called a spade a dirty shovel and were honest about why they send guys who are obviously ready like Jimenez down to AAA for a few more weeks so they can get an extra season of control before free agency?  Who do the teams now think they’re fooling?

Obviously, they think they’re fooling some fans, or at least giving certain fans a fig leaf, because teams still do it when everyone who is paying any attention and is not a dupe (or a conspiracy theorist, the modern equivalent) knows what is really going on.  Wouldn’t the world be a marginally better place if teams just said that major league baseball stars are very highly paid and the teams are therefore taking advantage of the terms of the collective bargaining agreement to get one more season at lower, but still multi-million dollar rates isn’t simply capitalism and common sense in action.

MLB thinks it needs to keep a certain mystique going that players and team owners are just sportsman who play and own teams for the love of the game, instead of the multi-billion dollar industry it actually is.  I, for one, am old enough to handle the truth.

 

Chicago White Sox and Eloy Jimenez Reportedly Agree to Record-Setting Contract

March 21, 2019

It is being reported today that the ChiSox and their 22 year old prospect Eloy Jimenez have agreed to a record-setting, long-term deal for a player yet to have played even one game in the major leagues.  The deal with reportedly guarantee Jimenez $43 million over six seasons with two team option years for an additional total of $32M.

This deal blows away the $10M guarantee that the Astros gave Jon Singleton and the $24M guarantee the Phillies gave Scott Kingery, the only other two long-term contracts for players never to have played in the majors (excluding Bryce Harper’s first pro contract).  There was a lot of rending of clothing and nashing of teeth by players and the players’ union when the Astros signed Singleton to what appeared could have been a tremendous bargain for the team with a whiff of black-mail that the ‘Stros would have been less likely to call Singleton up if he didn’t sign the seemingly team friendly extension.

But Singleton didn’t make it.  His major league career was a complete flop for reasons likely as much mental as anything else. Singleton was out of pro baseball in 2018 at age 26, which suggests his heart isn’t in it.  In the meantime, the Astros still owe him a cool million for 2019 through 2021, if they didn’t cash out for a lump sum when they released him last May.

In the case of Scott Kingery, even though he was the Phillies starting shortstop last year, the verdict is still out whether he’ll be worth the $24M guarantee.  His .605 OPS meant he wasn’t yet a major league replacement level player in 2018.

I don’t imagine we will hear a lot of complaints from players about Jimenez’s contract.  I mean, how do you tell a poor black kid from the Dominican Republic not to accept a $43M guarantee before he has even played one game in the majors.  Yes, Jimenez did get a $2.8 million signing bonus in 2013, but one would think that money is long gone between taxes, automobiles, living in the U.S., buscones, buying a home for his parents and friends and relatives with their hands out.

The deal here is obvious.  It’s a great deal for the White Sox if Jimenez develops as they hope, the kind of deal that can enable a small market team to build a winner on less money.  Meanwhile, JImenez and his family get a sure thing.  Jimenez could get hit in the face with a fastball, tear his elbow or both knee tendons, or get killed in an off-season road accident back in the Dominican Republic one winter.  He and his family will still get a pay out that will enable them to live like royalty in their homeland for at least a generation or two.  Like Mike Trout‘s extension with the Angels, it’s another win-win.

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.

Maybe Free Agents Just Aren’t Worth It

February 3, 2019

On February 1st, I was planning to write a post about how strange it is that four of the top five free agents (at least according to mlbtraderumors.com) are still unsigned.  Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post beat me to it.  However, the title of his article got me thinking whether not signing free agents means not trying to win.

Analytics are showing that free agents aren’t worth the money they are getting in terms of actual performance on the free agent contracts they sign and that MLB teams are finally catching up, although it has taken them a long time to do so.

I thought it might be interesting to look at what last year’s top 50 free agents (according to mlbtraderumors.com) did in  2018, the first year of their free agent deals, when everyone expects free agents to be worth the most.  Everyone basically understands that signing a free agent is a win-now strategy and that players are overpaid in the latter years of their free agent deals to provide big value in the first year or two of their contracts.

So what were free agents worth in the first year of the new contracts they signed during the 2017-2018 off-season, which was the off-season when free agent contracts dramatically tightened up in terms of guaranteed seasons?  As it turns out, not what they were paid.

I used the average salary over the years of multi-year contracts, rather than the actual first year salaries, which are in many cases lower, because it was less work to calculate.  It also gives a more accurate value, in a sense, of what the team will end up paying annually for the term of the contract.

By my calculation, teams committed $441.9 million in first year salaries, and got total production value, according to fangraphs.com, of only $356.6 million in return.  Of the 47 free agents I included, only 12 players performed in 2018 at a level greater than their average annual average salary over the lengths of their contracts, while 34 performed worse, 10 of whom cost their new teams money by playing at a level below replacement level.  The 47 players have a remaining 62 seasons on their combined contracts, when as a group they will almost certainly perform at a lower level than they did in 2018, since free agents as a group do not age well at all.

Free agent contracts look like a lottery gamble for teams.  A team might hit it big with the kind of performance J.D. Martinez, Lorenzo Cain, Jhoulys Chacin, Miles Mikolas and Mike Moustakas gave their teams in 2018, but teams were more likely to get the the underwhelming and overpaid performances Yu Darvish, Eric Hosmer, Wade Davis, Zack Cozart and Jay Bruce gave their 2018 teams.

There are a lot of reasons why teams would continue to sign free agents, even if they are overpaid even in their first seasons with their new clubs.  It’s good public relations to sign free agents, particularly if you have lost one or more of your own players to free agency.  The cost in talent, compared to trades, of signing a free agent is very low (although the current collective bargaining rules make it more expensive in terms of talent for the wealthiest, highest spending teams to spend big on free agents, which has always been the driver of the free agent market).  It might be worth overpaying a free agent in order to plug a glaring hole in your line-up.

However, what I take from this information is that it makes little sense to sign a free agent, particularly one in the bottom half of the top 50, unless you are fairly certain one or two performances is all that is separating your team from making or returning to the post-season.  Rebuilding teams shouldn’t be signing free agents until they are truly ready to compete.  Even if you don’t have a replacement level player in your organization at the position you are looking to improve at, a replacement level player can probably be obtained cheaply from another organization, particularly when compared to the financial cost of free agents, even with the sharp tightening in the market the last two off-seasons.

While I still suspect that teams are engaging in some kind of soft collusion — maybe MLB is holding meetings where MLB’s analysts are lecturing teams on the actual value of free agents each November — in-house analytics departments for each team are probably telling teams the one thing they need to do with respect to free agents is sign them for fewer seasons than they did in the past.

mlbtraderumors.com predicted that Bryce Harper and Manny Machado would get respectively 14 and 13 season contracts at $30M per.  The reason they may not yet be signed is that, while teams are willing to pay the $30M per, they aren’t willing to guarantee more than eight or 10 seasons, even for free agents so young and so good.  The only rumors I have heard for either is that the White Sox may have offered Machado somewhere between $175M and $1250M for seven or eight seasons only.

The current collective bargaining agreement terms are devastating the free agent market, because the ten richest teams can’t spend like they once did.  The talent bite that comes from overspending the salary cap for three seasons in a row, in terms of draft picks and international amateur spending, is steep enough that the richest teams are all trying to keep close enough to the cap amount that they can dip under at least once every three seasons in order to avoid the most severe penalties.  It is the richest teams that drive the upper limits of free agent contracts, so the current rules are bound to effect free agent contracts in a big way.

Ballplayers Still Getting Paid

January 12, 2019

Even with the free agent market tight and the average player salary down in 2018 for the first time since 2010, the stars are still going to get paid.  That’s the message I’m taking away from all the arbitration compromises being announced.

Nolan Arenado will set an arbitration process record with somewhere between his requested $30M and the $24M the Rockies are offering him.  All of Mookie Betts ($20M), Anthony Rendon ($18.8M), Jacob DeGrom ($17M), Khris Davis ($16.5M) and Jose Abreau ($16M) will be earning more than $15 million in 2019 through the arbitration process.  That’s at least several lifetimes’ worth of income for most Americans.

More than free agency, the owners hate arbitration because it forces them to give their young stars huge raises.  That said, it’s hard to feel any sympathy for the owners, who are obviously much richer than the players and have figured out they can non-tender any player they don’t feel is worth his likely arbitration raise.

Given the competition between the rich players and the even richer owners, my sympathies are with the players, because they are the ones who put the cans in the seats.  That said, it’s hard to feel a lot of sympathy if players are making just a little less than in recent years’ past, when they are still making this kind of money.

You want to make the lives of professional players as a group — negotiate further increases in the major league minimum annual salary ($555,000 in 2019) and pay minor league players a living wage.  That’s the tide that would raise all boats.

The Seattle Mariners’ Flurry of Moves

December 4, 2018

The Mariners look determined to be as bad in 2019 as the Baltimore Orioles were in 2018.  Not only are the M’s dumping their best veterans, they are also taking on a number of over-30 players who have contracts that won’t be easy to move after coming off of down years.

The Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz (and $20 million) for Jay Bruce, Anthony Swarzak, former first round draft picks Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn and RHP prospect Gerson Bautista trade is certainly a bold, exciting move by the Mets.  Robinson Cano hit well after coming back from his 80-game PEDs suspension, but he’ll be 36 next year and still has five years and $120M left on his contract.

Clearly, the Mets intend to compete in 2019 and 2020; and if they don’t make the NLCS in either of these seasons, the move is almost certain to be a bust.  Diaz is an exciting closer, but a closer can’t make a team that much better by himself.  The Mets are obviously hoping Cano can rise to the occasion of being on the big New York stage again.

The trade is surely a risk for the Mets, but playing in NY, they need to try to win most years.  The revenue streams available require the Mets to take bold moves to get better fast, even if that means spending some money.

The Mariners get three prospects and escape $100M of the remaining salary commitment to Cano, but took on a total of $36.5M to Jay Bruce and Anthony Swarzak over the next two seasons, in order to balance out the deal.  Both Bruce and Swarzak were pretty awful in 2018, but their remaining salary commitments are such that it’s hard to see the Mariners eating all or most of their remaining obligations. In short, both players will get every opportunity in early 2019 to show what they’ve got left.

The Jean Segura, James Pazos and Juan Nicasio for Carlos Santana and J.P. Crawford trade presumably means the M’s like Crawford a lot, and are, on balance, looking to dump as much salary as possible as they rebuild.  Santana is coming off a down year going into his age 33 season, and he’s still owed $41.7M for 2018-2019.  However, the M’s dump the $60M+ Jean Segura is still owed through 2022 and the $9M+ that Nicasio is owed for 2019.

It sure looks like the Mariners are going to be bad in 2019 in the hopes of securing top draft picks in 2020.  I feel sorry for the guys and gals in the M’s marketing department — it’s going to be a tough sell, although Carlos Santana gives them a name to pitch, and the M’s picked up a good and cheap youngish catcher to replace Mike Zunino in Omar Narvaez from the White Sox in exchange for the much more expensive Alex Colome.

What will be most interesting for M’s fans is what the team decides to do with its newly acquired, nearly major league ready prospects.  Bring them up at or near the start of the 2019 season, so they can learn their lessons at the major league level, or hold them down on the farm to build up their confidence, prove they are ready, and keep the service-time clock from running?  Nowadays, the biggest single consideration for the expecting-to-be-bad 2019 Mariners is probably to keep the service-time clocks from running.

Let outstanding AAA performance dictate when the prospects come up, unless the major league squad is so bad (and the gate is so poor) that you really do have to call the youngsters up to at least give the fans and the organization some hope for the future.