Archive for the ‘Los Angeles Dodgers’ category

Those Dodger Deals

February 11, 2020

The dust has settled, and two of the three big Dodger deals have been completed.  The Bums get Mookie Betts, David Price and half of the $96M still owed to Price in exchange for Alex Verdugo and two prospects, middle infielder Jeter Downs and Connor Wong.  It seems to me like a modest price to pay for one season of Betts and three seasons of Price, particularly when the Dodgers are desperate to win a World Series.

I can’t help but feel that the whole purpose of this move from the Red Sox side of things was to get under the salary cap amount for a year in order to re-load in 2021 or 2022.  Don’t be surprised if the Red Sox are in the running to pay Betts a huge free agent contract next off-season, once the Red Sox have resolved their salary cap issue.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers also traded Kenta Maeda, $10M on Maeda’s remaining contractual guarantee, and 20 year old catching prospect Jair Camargo to the Twins for pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol, corner outfield prospect Luke Raley and the 67th pick in the 2020 draft.  In Graterol and the draft pick, the Dodgers will get some prospects to replace Downs and Wong, and the Twins will get a good major league pitcher for $650,000 a year plus significant bonuses that Maeda earns only if he pitches a lot of innings for the Twins.  Except for the loss of Graterol and the draft pick, it’s almost a no-lose proposition for a Twins team looking to go deep in the play-offs in 2020.

The Red Sox wouldn’t take Graterol despite the obvious talent, because he’s already had one major arm surgery and he’s overweight.  He has closer stuff, however.  Maeda was obviously expendable after the acquisition of Price, and the Dodgers could essentially buy a very good, if not great, draft pick from the Twins with money the Red Sox sent along with Price.  Don’t be surprised if the Dodgers pay half of the money they will owe Price in 2021 and/or 2022 in order to trade him off a year or two from now, when the Dodgers will trying to get under the salary cap for a season before re-loading again.

Reports have it that the Joc PedersonRoss StriplingAndy Pages for Luis Rengifo deal with the Angels has fallen apart, but why exactly no one seems to know.  If the Angels thought the deal would make them better a week ago, I’m not sure why they’d decide against it simply because they had to wait a week for the other Dodger machinations to play out.  Rumors have it that Angels owner Arte Moreno was upset about having this deal put on hold, and it wouldn’t be the first time Moreno has inserted himself into player acquisition issues to the detriment of the team, in that Moreno is supposed to have a major driver of the Albert Pujols deal that turned out to be a disaster for the Halos.

There have also been reports that the Dodgers nixed the Angels deal because the final pieces of the Betts-Price deal were different than expected.  This doesn’t make much sense either, as the Dodgers now have one highly-paid outfielder too many and could assumably still use another young middle infielder.  Maybe the fact that the Dodgers beat Pederson in arbitration, thereby saving $1.75M in 2020, is the reason trading Pederson no longer seemed like a great idea.  The Dodgers may also have realized that throwing in Andy Pages, who had a 1.049 OPS as an 18 year old rookie leaguer in 2019, was too much without a second legitimate prospect from the Angels in return.

All that said, it’s still quite possible that a variation of this deal centered around Pederson and Rengifo goes through before Spring Training starts.

Mike Bolsinger Sues Astros for Sign-Stealing

February 11, 2020

Mike Bolsinger is suing the Astros for lost earnings as a result of getting hammered and knocked out of the majors by a bad outing against the ‘Stros, with the garbage can banging away in the dugout.  His lawyers certainly found the right plaintiff, a pitcher who got knocked out and immediately sent down with recorded audio proof of the cheating.  MLB Trade Rumors’ Jeff Todd has a good piece which mentions some of the hurdles Bolsinger will face in order to get to discovery, at which point the Astros will probably settle for some several million dollars paid to Bolsinger and his lawyers in order to prevent all of the Astros’ dirty secrets from getting a fuller public airing.

I think it’s likely that the Astros will try to get the case kicked into arbitration, although Bolsinger may have an argument that cheating of this type isn’t covered by the Collective Bargaining Agreement and thus not arbitrable.  However, disputes as to arbitrability are usually left to the arbitrators themselves to decide — courts love kicking cases off to arbitration in these circumstances, because labor arbitrators have more experience in resolving collectively bargained contracts and issues than state court judges.  Kicking cases into binding arbitration, where both sides are well represented by competent legal counsel also conserves state court judicial resources.

An argument I would expect the Astros’ lawyers to raise is whether a California State Court in Los Angeles has personal jurisdiction to hear this dispute.  As I understand it, most of the sign-stealing cheating took place in Houston, although wikipedia’s description of the methods used suggest they could also have been used on the road so long as the Astros could get a live video-feed of the game.  In any event, the day that Bolsinger got hammered happened in Houston.

Thus, it may be necessary for Bolsinger’s lawyers either to find a California-based pitcher to add as a plaintiff and/or to prove that the Astros were stealing signs in Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco or Oakland.  The lawyers picked L.A. because it has a more liberal judiciary.  Orange County is more conservative, but Alameda County, where the A’s play, would probably have been a better choice, because it would probably be easier to prove the Astros cheated at the Oakland Coliseum than at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

A 2017 U.S. Supreme Court case, Bristol-Myers Squibb, holds that to establish specific personal jurisdiction, the conduct complained of in the lawsuit must arise out of or relate to the defendant’s activities in the forum state such that the forum state’s court may only adjudicate issues deriving from or connected with the present controversy that establishes jurisdiction.  This is why I think Bolsingers’ lawyers need to present evidence that the Astros cheated in California and thus that a pitcher in California was negatively affected by the cheating to establish personal jurisdiction.

As I said, if the lawsuit gets past the pleading stage to discovery, I expect the case to settle.  If it did go to trial, Bolsinger would have a hard time proving damages.  While the outing at issue got him knocked out of the majors, he had a 5.49 ERA going into that game.  He’s also likely to find it nearly impossible to prove he would have made more after he was sent down by the Blue Jays, because he made more money in Japan the last two seasons than he would likely have made in the U.S. even if he’d been able to last a little longer in MLB.

I’m doubtful that any major league team will sign Bolsinger in the future.  They might if he was younger and better, but given where he is in his career, I expect him to be effectively black listed by MLB teams for committing the cardinal sin of suing them.

The 2020 Giants Won’t Be Good, But They’ll Be Familiar

February 8, 2020

The SF Giants signed Hunter Pence for a reported $3M plus incentives, and they just brought back Pablo about a week ago.  We’ll see if Hunter has one more year in him, and while I’m not too excited about the Panda, I like the fact that the Gints signed all-around infielder Wilmer Flores for his age 28 and 29 seasons at a total of $6M.

Signing Flores is a good move, but it’s not a great move.  It’s more of a signing I’d expect to see from the Royals or the Marlins.  Makes the Giants just good enough not to lose 100, maybe.

I’m actually hoping the Dodgers complete the Mookie Betts, David Price deal.  Even without them, the 2020 and 2021 Giants aren’t likely to compete with the Dodgers the next two years.  In 2022, David Price will be two years older, and Mookie Betts will be gone or an extremely pricey part of the Dodgers’ salary cap considerations.  It’s a win now, pay later strategy, and the Giants won’t be any good until later.

Blue Jays Shell Out for Hyun-Jin Ryu

December 24, 2019

The Blue Jays have elected to give Hyun-Jin Ryu $80 million over four years, which is probably $15M to $20M too much given Ryu’s age (33 in March), weight (255 lbs) and past injury history.

One of the ironies of today’s MLB is that in spite of all the revenue sharing and extra draft picks for small market teams (Toronto isn’t a small market, but the Canadian dollar means the Jays’ revenues don’t match Toronto’s population size), small market teams, particularly those perennially trying to compete with the powerhouse teams, have to spend more to sign an A-list free agent.  It pretty much goes without saying that the Jay Birds had to give Ryu an $80M guarantee to get him.

Ryu’s contract also tends to suggest that Madison Bumgarner really did choose the Diamondbacks instead of maximizing his free agent contract, since it sure looks he could have got a nine-figure deal in this market if he’d held out for it.  Players always say they signed with the team they wanted to play for most, even when it’s obvious they elected to sign with however offered the biggest guarantee.  Here’s some evidence that MadBum had some other priorities.

In a much smaller signing, the Padres signed former NPBer Pierce Johnson for two years at a $5M guarantee, with a team option for an affordable third season.  Johnson is only the latest in a steadily increasing number of former MLBers who have gone to Japan for a year or three and then returned to big money from MLB.  It’s clearly a trend that is increasing.

For Johnson, the deal was a no-brainer.  His wife just had a baby, so he wanted to return the U.S.  Also, his former team, the Hanshin Tigers, likely made him a two-year offer for around $3M, so the Padres’ offer was probably the most money.

The trend of signing players like Johnson is largely a product of the fact that numerous teams have had success bringing in NPB returnees, and the other teams are now copying them.  Also, I think that in a gradual way, NPB is improving relative to MLB.

Although NPB teams are still limited to four foreign players in the major league rosters, every NPB team is now carrying 7 or 8 foreign players per season in order to develop young foreigners and to ensure they are getting the maximum performance from each foreign roster spot.

Also, NPB teams have attendance numbers that suggest that they have the money to sign a better class of not-quite MLB major league performers.  NPB is a mature league, with more than 80 years now in the books, and attendance figures don’t go up or down much from year to year.  However, in recent years, there has been small, steady increases every season.

Here are NPB’s 2019 attendance figures.  Even NPB’s weakest team, the Chiba Lotte Marines, drew 1.67 million fans in 71 home dates.  That’s more than eight MLB teams in more 2019 games.  The Marines’ average attendance of 23,463 per game was better than 12 MLB teams.

The upshot is that NPB have the money to sign foreign players who only need to improve their games a little bit in Japan to make successful returns to the MLB majors.  The big difference now on the MLB side of things is that late bloomers who establish themselves as big stars in NPB don’t necessarily have to stay there anymore.

On the other hand, I’m not convinced that we are about to see a big increase in the number of KBO stars who go on to MLB success.  NPB is clearly much closer to the MLB level of play than is the KBO, and I don’t think it’s likely that the KBO level of play will increase significantly any time soon.

The KBO has decided to let its teams sign two more foreign players each to play at the KBO minor league level, so that will improve performance from the three major league roster spots each team has for foreign players.  However, attendance was down sharply in the KBO in 2019, and it’s revenues can’t possibly be near to NPB’s.  The lack of funds is showing in a big way this off-season, with foreign player salaries down, making it more difficult for KBO teams to compete with NPB for the best foreign players.

The KBO is still a great opportunity for foreign 4-A players, but the league is going to have a hard time signing players like Dustin Nippert, Eric Thames and Josh Lindblom going forward unless it can get its attendance up and keep it there, avoiding a crash every time the Korean National Team does poorly in the World Baseball Classic.

 

Madison Bumgarner Signs with Diamondbacks for $85 Million

December 16, 2019

Madison Bumgarner got $85M from the Arizona Diamondbacks with $15M deferred.  Not nearly as much as looked like might be possible after all the really big pitcher signings that preceded it, but MadBum won’t be going to bed hungry anytime soon.

Bumgarner’s failure to reach nine figures is perhaps not that surprising.  The very best are getting bigger and bigger contracts, but the second tier aren’t.  Bumgarner was only the fourth most coveted free agent starter, so he only got a little more than anticipated, even as Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg and Zack Wheeler broke the bank.

As a Giants’ fan, we’re all going to miss MadBum in San Francisco.  It’s been quite a run.  Bumgarner can fairly claim to be the best left-handed pitcher in San Francisco Giants history, and I think it will be a while before another Giants lefty will be able to make that claim.

In theory Bumgarner is worth more to the Giants than the D’backs, but there’s a new regime in San Francisco, and it’s likely easier to let another team overpay Bumgarner as a free agent than it would be with old management.

One thing that Bumgarner is going to find out, if he didn’t already know it, is that it’s tougher to pitch your home games in Arizona than it is in San Francisco.  Bumgarner is certainly familiar with the Phoenix area, and he’s made plenty of starts in Chase Field, but he’ll miss the hostile (to hitters) confines of McCovey Park.

So what do the Giants do now?  Make a run at Hyun-Jin Ryu?  The latest rumors are that the Dodgers aren’t as interested in bringing back Ryu as I had thought they would be.  Dallas Keuchel?

One thing is for sure — Madbum’s departure leaves a big hole in the Giants’ rotation, which already had holes in it going into 2020.  The Giants are going to have to sign somebody, but it’s quite possible that management will wait to see if there are any bargains to be had the second and third tier starters realize that no one’s going to throw big bucks (relatively speaking) at them.

It’s Good to Be Gerrit Cole Today

December 10, 2019

With the Nationals re-signing Stephen Strasburg to a seven-year $245 million deal today, I can only say that it’s mighty good to be Gerrit Cole.

Yesterday, the Yankees were floating the idea of making a seven-year $245M offer to Cole, which sounded pretty good.  Yesterday.

Now Cole and his agent Scott Boras are thinking they have a good shot at topping $300M.  After Strasburg’s deal, you’d have to think that eight years at $290M is the least that Cole will get.

What we are seeing with the top starters this off-season strongly suggests that collusion is not going on.  Instead, we seem to be seeing a continuing trend where the top-tier free agents get bigger and bigger deals, while the second-tier free agents get more and more squeezed.

Yesterday, when I read that Madison Bumgarner was seeking a five season nine-figure guarantee, I thought it was a little wishful thinking.  Four years at $90M seemed more likely after Zack Wheeler‘s contract.  Today a nine-figure guarantee for MadBum seems at least as likely as not.

It’s going to be one of the really rich teams that signs Cole, which means that probably 25 teams realize they have no chance to sign him, or 23 if you eliminate the Phillies and Nationals, who won’t be spending $100M on another starter.  The Dodgers are interested in re-signing Hyun-Jin Ryu, and I think it’s likely they will do so, particularly because it seems like Ryu wants to remain a Dodger.  The Strasburg signing means that both the Dodgers and Ryu know the team can’t low-ball him.

I Probably Would Have Gone with Bregman or Semien

November 15, 2019

If I had an American League MVP vote, I probably would have gone with Alex Bregman on the theory that he was more “valuable.”  It’s hard to argue that Mike Trout isn’t the best player in baseball and the best, at least in an absolute sense, in the Junior Circuit in 2019.

However, the Angels went a pathetic 72-90, and Trout missed 28 games, while Bregman played in 157 and filled in at SS for the ‘Stros when Carlos Correa was out for sixty games with a broken rib (I kind of doubt the veracity of the claim that it happened during a massage — players often lie about stupid injuries of this sort).

In fact, one could make a compelling argument that Marcus Semien was the “most valuable” AL player, as the A’s probably don’t make the post-season without his tremendous performance, while the Astros would have made the post-season even if Bregman had merely played as well as he did in 2018.

No complaints about the NL voting, though.  Bellinger, then Yelich seems just about right.