Archive for the ‘New York Yankees’ category

Anaheim Angels and Mike Trout in Agreement on 10-Year $360 Million Extension

March 20, 2019

The Angels and Mike Trout are reportedly in agreement on a ten-year extension for the 2021 through 2030 seasons that will pay $360M for these seasons and nearly $430M guaranteed going forward.  Mike Trout is certainly worth a record-setting deal, although I have my doubts about Trout’s ability to remain healthy during the second half of the commitment.

Some commentators think the Angels got a bargain, given that Trout has arguably been worth about twice the annual contract average since becoming a full-time major leaguer in 2012.  Even so, $36M per season takes up a big chunk of budget (although the big market Angels can afford it), and Trout can’t win by himself no matter how well he plays, as evidenced by the fact that he has played in only three post-season games in his eight seasons with the Halos.

My guess is that this will be a great contract for the Angels for the next six seasons through 2024, but will become an albatross like Albert Pujols‘ deal, which still has three expensive years to run even though Prince Albert is no longer even a replacement level player.  Mike Trout is just too big (listed at 6’2″ and 235 lbs, roughly the same as Pujols) to expect that he will age gracefully once he passes the age of 32.  It could happen, but I sure wouldn’t bet on it.

In short, it is probably a fair contract that well benefits all concerned.  The Angels get to hold on to the game’s best player for all or nearly all of his major league career; Mike Trout gets a record-setting deal that well tops the deals that Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Giancarlo Stanton got; and future major league superstars and their agents get a new record to shoot for in future contract negotiations.  It’s a win-win all the way around, and, as I like to say, Mike Trout won’t be going to bed hungry any time soon, even if he did leave some money on the table.

 

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

New York Yankees Trade Sonny Gray to Cincinnati Reds

January 22, 2019

The Yankees traded Sonny Gray to the Reds today as part of a three-way deal that otherwise involved prospects and competitive balance picks.  The Reds got Gray to agree to a three-year extension (2020-2022) for $30.5 million in addition to the $7.5 million he’s owed for 2019.

The move is in keeping with the Reds’ win-now trade for Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp and Alex Wood earlier this off-season.  While I was not initially enthusiastic about the Reds’ desire to extend Gray given his injury history, the extension guarantee amount certainly takes into account the likelihood that Gray will be injured at some time during the next four years.

The Reds also received 22 year old Colombian lefty Reiver Sanmartin.  He’s slightly built and looks like he’s had a hard time staying healthy.  What’s most noticable about him is that he appears to have exceptional control for a young pitcher.  In 205 career minor league innings pitched, he’s walked only 28 while striking out 177.  He’s also allowed only seven home runs.

The Yankees got 2B prospect Shed Long and what looks to be the 36th overall pick in the 2019 Draft.  Aside from having a great name, Shed Long is an interesting prospect.  He started his pro career as a catcher but has since moved to 2B, which you don’t see very often.  He had a pretty good year at AA at age 22, slashing .261/.353/.412.  He looks to have some power potential, he’ll take a walk and he runs well.  Looks like he turns the double play well too.

However, the Yankees immediately flipped Long to the Mariners for center fielder Josh Stowers, who had a reasonably good first professional season in a short-season A league in 2018.  He was the 54th overall pick out of Louisville in last year’s Draft, so it’s clear the Yankees will be adding some prime young talent through this trade.  My guess would be that Stowers starts the 2019 at Class A+ Tampa.