The Braves, Angels, and White Sox Play Contract Musical Chairs

David Fletcher
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball trades are at their most interesting when they involve players with notable skill sets and teams with widely varying needs. Here, take my Luis Arraez, and I’ll take your Pablo López in return. Your Zac Gallen for my Jazz Chisholm. I suppose the Marlins are, in this way at least, my platonic ideal of a baseball team. But not all trades are like that. Some trades barely care about the skillsets of the players involved and instead depend to an annoying amount on their contracts. Take this one, a trade from last week’s Winter Meetings:

Mariners Get:

Braves Get:

Read the rest of this entry »

With Mookie Betts’ Move to Second, Dodgers Infield Risks Coming Up Short

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Before the high-tide news of Shohei Ohtani’s free agency decision washed it away like a sandcastle on the beach, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts made some waves with his comments to the media during the Winter Meetings. While his breaking of the omerta regarding the team’s pursuit of Ohtani received most of the attention — in part because the rest of the narrative pickings out of Nashville were so slim — Roberts divulged the team’s plans regarding their middle infield situation by announcing that Mookie Betts would be a full-time second baseman in 2024. This came on the heels of GM Brandon Gomes stating that the Dodgers plan for former top prospect Gavin Lux to be their everyday shortstop.

Betts, who turned 31 on October 7, is fresh off an MVP-caliber season in which he set a career high with 39 homers, posted a 163 wRC+ (his highest since his 2018 AL MVP-wining campaign) and finished tied with Ronald Acuña Jr. for the major league lead with 8.3 WAR. Betts also split his time between right field, where he’s won six Gold Gloves (most recently in 2022) and the middle infield. His foray onto the dirt came about because Lux, whom the team planned to shift from second base to shortstop last year in the wake of Trea Turner’s departure, tore his right ACL in late February. Amid a winter of cost-cutting, Lux’s move to shortstop left second base in the hands of 23-year-old rookie Miguel Vargas, with Max Muncy moving to third base to replace the departed Justin Turner, and Chris Taylor in the outfield mix after Cody Bellinger was non-tendered. Lux’s injury left Taylor and light-hitting veteran Miguel Rojas the most viable shortstop options.

Betts mainly played second base in the minors, but in Boston he was blocked by Dustin Pedroia, hence the move to right field. Even filling in for Pedroia after he suffered a season-ending injury in 2014 (Betts’ abbreviated rookie campaign) and spotting there occasionally in subsequent years, he made just 30 major league appearances at the keystone before 2023, including 25 starts; he had seven of the former and five of the latter in both 2021 and ’22 with the Dodgers. In 2023, Roberts quickly put him into the mix, and the rejuvenation of Jason Heyward — whom the team signed to a minor-league deal after he was released by the Cubs with one year to go on his eight-year, $184 million contract — gave the Dodgers some additional flexibility. Read the rest of this entry »

Red Sox Trade Two Pitchers to St. Louis, Acquire Brawny Canadian

Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, Marco Gonzales got traded twice in three days: First from Seattle to Atlanta in the Jarred Kelenic deal, then up the Denny Neagle Highway to Pittsburgh. No one has ever been more traded. You want to know how traded Gonzales is? The only other player he’s ever been traded for, Tyler O’Neill, just got traded too.

The St. Louis Cardinals, sitting on a surfeit of corner outfield types, have sent O’Neill to Boston for pitchers Nick Robertson and Victor Santos. This is not as exciting a trade as it would’ve been two years ago, when O’Neill was coming off a 5.5 WAR season, but it allows the Cardinals to turn a player they probably weren’t going to use into pitching depth. The Red Sox gain some temporary goodwill from the small subset of locals who’ll scan a headline and think that former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill has returned from the dead. Moreover, they’ve added some right-handed power to a pool of outfielders that could use some. Read the rest of this entry »

Sunday Notes: Dispatches From the Winter Meetings in Nashville

Bob Melvin feels that the San Francisco Giants could use more star power. Hearing the team’s new manager say as much when he met with the media in Nashville earlier this week prompted a question from yours truly. Prefacing it by pointing out that the San Diego Padres team he led last year had no shortage of it, I asked the veteran skipper if it is possible to have too much “star power.”

“Not necessarily,” replied Melvin, whose 2023 Padres underachieved to the tune of an 82-80 record. “It just depends on the makeup. Look, the year before we went to the NLCS in my first year there. Last year was a disappointing season, but I don’t think there’s anything to make of it being a poor year because there was too much star power. They have some really good players there, it just didn’t work out as well.

“I am big on incorporating,” Melvin added. “I think everybody needs a role and everybody needs to feel they’re a part of it. That makes for a much better clubhouse. Everybody feels they’re important. There’s an enthusiasm to that. I think there’s a place for both.”

Scott Harris largely agrees with Melvin. When the subject of impact free agents such as Shohei Ohtani came up, I asked Detroit’s President of Baseball Operations the same question that I’d asked his San Francisco contemporary. Read the rest of this entry »

Effectively Wild Episode 2096: Sho Him the Money

Ben Lindbergh and Meg Rowley react to Shohei Ohtani signing a titanic 10-year, $700 million deal with the Dodgers, covering every aspect of the news. Then (57:07) they recount the even-funnier-in-retrospect rumor-related frothing on Friday, when it briefly looked like Ohtani was en route to Toronto to become a Blue Jay.

Audio intro: Nate Emerson, “Effectively Wild Theme
Audio outro: Benny and a Million Shetland Ponies, “Effectively Wild Theme (Horny)

Link to Ohtani’s Insta post
Link to Dodgers payroll page
Link to MLB payroll page
Link to Dodgers depth chart
Link to Dan S. on Ohtani
Link to Baumann on Ohtani
Link to Ben on Ohtani
Link to LHB park factors
Link to Angels mural photo
Link to The Athletic on Ohtani
Link to Passan on the dollar value
Link to Becker on the dollar value
Link to article on endorsements
Link to Mintz’s Friday recap
Link to Morosi’s morning tweet
Link to N616RH shirt
Link to opera singer tweet
Link to reply to singer
Link to story on Drake
Link to Bowden tweet 1
Link to Bowden tweet 2
Link to Bowden tweet 3
Link to Bowden “Ralph” story
Link to Domi tweet
Link to Dodgers Nation report
Link to Bemboom tweet
Link to flight tweet
Link to Morosi plane tweet
Link to Nightengale tweet
Link to Herjavec photo
Link to Secret Santa sign-up sheet

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The Dodgers Have Signed Shohei Ohtani. What Does It All Mean?

John Leyba-USA TODAY Sports

Shohei Ohtani is not on a plane to Toronto. He’s not hiding in your linen closet or lurking off the coast of Jamaica in a submarine. After years of intrigue, weeks of speculation, and days of looking for signs in flight plans and sushi restaurants, it’s over. After a free agent courtship to fit the player — in other words, unique — Ohtani will be a Los Angeles Dodger.

This is hardly the most interesting outcome. There will be no reset to the competitive order, no validation of an underdog’s creative sales pitch or intriguing roster construction. The Dodgers were already one of the best and most heavily scrutinized teams in baseball, and if Ohtani doesn’t mind a bit of a commute, he won’t even have to move. But if the destination is a bit of an anticlimax, the contract is dramatic enough to pick up the slack.

Ten years, $700 million. Seven. Hundred. Million. Dollars. Read the rest of this entry »

Shohei Ohtani Is a Dodger

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball’s version of Lebron James’ The Decision appears to have come to pass, with all-universe talent Shohei Ohtani announcing on his Instagram that he has found a new home in Los Angeles, this time with the Dodgers. The deal is for 10 years and $700 million.

While the full details of the contract’s “unprecedented” deferrals aren’t yet known, 10 years and $700 million is the mega-contract of all mega-contracts, besting the previous record by hundreds of millions of dollars. And like the Alex Rodriguez signing more than two decades ago, this will likely be the record for a while, including a possible Juan Soto deal next winter. Read the rest of this entry »

On San Diego’s Juan Soto Trade Return and Next Steps

Michael King
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Shouldered with the needle-threading task of simultaneously cutting payroll and rebuilding a pitching staff thinned out by the departure of several key free agents, the Padres traded superstar Juan Soto and Gold Glove-caliber center fielder Trent Grisham to the Yankees on Wednesday in exchange for three big league arms — righties Michael King, Randy Vásquez, and Jhony Brito — as well as a fourth who is nearly ready for primetime in prospect Drew Thorpe and backup catcher Kyle Higashioka. Ben Clemens did a full analysis on the impact that the 25-year-old Soto, one of baseball’s best hitters, will have on the Yankees. I’m going to dive deeper into the arms headed to the Gaslamp District and talk about how the Padres might go about finishing their offseason to-do list.

Most readers are probably aware that a mandate to shed payroll was a driving factor for this trade from San Diego’s perspective. The club’s sudden shift in financial direction occurred in the wake of the death of owner Peter Seidler. The trade also addresses a large portion of the Padres on-field baseball needs, though it also creates massive new holes in their lineup and defensive alignment where Soto and Grisham used to be. The Friars will need to fill or upgrade at least two or three spots of their currently-projected lineup if they want to compete with the defending NL champion Diamondbacks and reigning division-winning Dodgers in 2024, and they probably also need another starting pitcher or two to round out their rotation. Shedding Soto’s salary likely created some space to do so, but given the Padres’ financial constraints, perhaps not enough to solve all of these problems via free agency. There may be internal candidates, especially on the position player side, who can contribute at the league minimum salary in 2024; I’ll get to those prospects later.

Let’s start with who came back to San Diego and how they fit into an overhauled pitching staff. Prior to the trade, our Padres rotation projection looked rough. Joe Musgrove and Yu Darvish were fortified by 27-year-old knuckleballer Matt Waldron, and walk-prone MLB virgin Jay Groome. The free-agent departures of Nick Martinez, Seth Lugo, Michael Wacha, and reigning Cy Young winner Blake Snell, who pitched a combined 570 innings in 2023, left the Padres in dire need of impact and depth to have a functional and competitive pitching staff in 2024. Even if one believes (as I do) that prospect Jairo Iriarte is talented enough to make a meaningful near-term impact, the Padres still badly needed to add several pitchers to their big league staff. This trade gets them most of the way there, as all four of the pitchers acquired for Soto could reasonably be expected to pitch in the big leagues next season. Read the rest of this entry »

The Doomed Search for a Perfect Way To Interpret Exit Velocity Data

Rob Schumacher-Arizona Republic

Last year, I took a long look at the predictive power of rookie exit velocity. One of the things I learned was that for rookies with at least 200 balls in play, wRC+ was less predictive of their future performance than max exit velocity. That blew my mind. Knowing just one measurement, the velocity of a player’s hardest-hit ball, was more useful than knowing about their overall performance through their entire rookie season. Exit velocity matters a lot, as does how you interpret the data.

Since the rollout of Statcast in 2015, we’ve been introduced to three general ways of thinking about exit velocity, along with half a dozen individual variations. Depending on the context, we might read about a player’s average exit velocity, their maximum exit velocity, their hard-hit rate, or any number of exit velocity percentiles. For a while now, I’ve been wondering which one of these methods is most useful. Could there be one exit velocity metric to rule them all?

I have to imagine that at some point in the last several years, the R&D department of each major league team has asked itself that exact same question. In each big league city, someone much smarter than I am did the math and wrote up the results in a report that now rests comfortably in a proprietary database with a catchy name. The rest of us just have to make do with rumors and innuendo suggesting that teams most often value something akin to 90th-percentile exit velocity. To my knowledge, no one in the public sphere has made a comprehensive survey, and I wanted to look into the matter for myself. Read the rest of this entry »

Juan Soto Is Going to Score A Bajillion Runs Hitting In Front of Aaron Judge

Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The internet has democratized so much of our society, but nothing more than hating baseball teams. A generation ago, everyone was sick to death of the Yankees, but now it seems like half the league is one obnoxious fan tweet or one ill-timed bat flip or clueless GM comment from becoming the pariah of the week. It can get a little hard to track sometimes.

So in some respects, this week’s Juan Soto trade is a welcome throwback to old times. A no-doubt top-tier superstar has drifted across the great material continuum and found himself, almost by accident, resplendent in pinstripes and razor burn. A trade to make Yankees fans rejoice, and the vast majority of our great, God-fearing nation go, “Ugh, these freakin’ guys.”

Nevertheless, Soto’s arrival in New York offers an opportunity to witness something unusual. Assuming Aaron Boone figures out that Soto should go in front of Aaron Judge in the batting order, we’re about to see the best on-base guy of his generation batting ahead of the best power hitter of his generation. Read the rest of this entry »