Author Archive

Joe Nathan & Matt Capps Enter Potential Walk Years

If there’s one downside to having a deep bullpen, it’s that retaining your relievers becomes expensive. Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, Brian Fuentes and Jon Rauch all left the Twins for lucrative free agent deals this winter, signing for a combined $39 million in guaranteed money as free agents.

It could happen again after the 2011 season, since Matt Capps is set to hit free agency and Joe Nathan could join him on the open market. Though the Twins have a $12.5 million option for Nathan ($2 million buyout), he’s returning from Tommy John surgery and unless he’s healthy it would be hard to justify an eight-figure commitment regardless of Nathan’s history and popularity in Minneapolis.

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The Tigers’ Approach to Rotation Depth

They’re called five-man rotations, yet virtually no teams make it through 162 games without relying on more than five starters. There are exceptions, as the 2003 Mariners proved, but on average MLB teams have used 9.9 starters each over the course of the past five years.

That’s why teams sign “depth” starters every offseason and it’s why the Tigers’ current approach stands out. Their front five looks good; Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello, Phil Coke and Brad Penny promise to keep the Tigers in enough games to make them contenders for the AL Central title. But unlike other teams, the Tigers aren’t stocking up on rotation depth — at least for now.

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Every Year Is A Contract Year

Ben Nicholson-Smith is a staff writer for This is part of a series of guests posts he’s writing here on the site. You can check out his work regularly over at MLBTR.

Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth know all about the importance of contract years. Those three players and dozens of others played well in 2010 and went on to sign lucrative contracts in free agency this offseason.

Free agents enter their walk years with the expectation that a big season will lead to a big contract, but they aren’t the only ones who can cash in on a productive year. Let’s take Rickie Weeks and Jose Bautista, two players who signed extensions worth a combined $102.5 million last week. Neither player had performed at an elite level in the major leagues before 2010 and neither player was in a “contract” year, but both broke the bank after breakout seasons.

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Lyon, Benoit and The 2010-11 Relief Market

Ben Nicholson-Smith is a staff writer for This piece is a continuing series of guest posts he’s written for the site. You can check out the rest of his work over at MLBTR on a regular basis.

Andrew Friedman knows all about the market for relief pitchers. Rafael Soriano, Grant Balfour, Randy Choate and just about every other one of Tampa’s late-inning options recently left via free agency, so the Rays executive VP of baseball operations spent much of the winter restocking his bullpen. And to hear Friedman tell it, the market for relievers went “out of control” this offseason. The numbers back it up. Eight relievers signed multiyear deals last winter. More than twice as many relievers – 17 – have already signed multiyear deals this winter.

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The Next Crop of $100 Million Players

Ben Nicholson-Smith is a staff member of This is the second in a series of guests posts he will be writing for FanGraphs, which will appear on Mondays.

It won’t surprise anyone if Albert Pujols and Adrian Gonzalez join baseball’s $100 million club within the next two months. If and when the two first basemen sign extensions, it will become harder to predict which players will be the next to sign nine-figure contracts.

This much is certain: team owners will continue making baseball’s best players wealthy. As a group, owners have averaged two $100 million contracts per year since Kevin Brown signed baseball’s first $100 million deal in 1998. Six of the total 26 nine-figure contracts in baseball history were finalized in the last calendar year, so owners are still willing to spend.

Last month, Rangers owner Chuck Greenberg signed Adrian Beltre to a deal that could be worth $96 million. The next player to benefit from Texas’ aggressive new ownership could be the reigning AL MVP Josh Hamilton, who is arbitration eligible for the second time, and could sign a deal that buys out his two remaining arbitration years and some of his free agent seasons.

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A Look Ahead: The Braves And Free Agency

This is the first of a series of guest posts that we’ll be publishing from Ben Nicholson-Smith, one of the lead writers for MLB Trade Rumors. The guys over at MLBTR have an interesting perspective on things, and we thought it would be fun to give Ben a chance to share his views on a few different topics with the FanGraphs crowd.

Frank Wren hasn’t relied on free agency since taking over as the Braves’ GM; he handed out just two multiyear free agent deals in his first three offseasons in charge. This winter, as division rivals like the Nationals and Phillies committed hundreds of millions to the top available players, the Braves have spent a modest $2.65 million on Major League free agents – less than Jayson Werth or Cliff Lee makes in a month.

The Braves are approaching free agency like a small-market team, but unlike the Indians and Royals, the Braves have sustained payrolls in the $85-100 million range for the past decade and are built to contend in 2011. It’s not that they can’t spend on free agents, it’s that they didn’t have to.

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