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Dodgers Finally Score Big by Trading for Mookie Betts

As has been the case for too many October contests since Kirk Gibson homered off Dennis Eckersley, the Dodgers couldn’t seem to win the big ones this winter. They reportedly offered Gerrit Cole $300 million (with deferrals), but were outbid by the Yankees. They expressed interest in Anthony Rendon, but never offered him a contract, and were unwilling to go to a fourth year for Josh Donaldson. Hell, they were even outspent by the Blue Jays — who had spent less than all but four other teams in free agency over the past 14 years — for the services of Hyun-Jin Ryu. They were said to be focused on trades, with a Francisco Lindor/Mike Clevinger package offering one tantalizing possibility. On Tuesday, they finally broke through with a blockbuster, acquiring Mookie Betts and David Price from the Red Sox as part of a three-team, five-player deal that also included the Twins.

Dodgers Receive:

  • RF Mookie Betts (from Red Sox)
  • LHP David Price (from Red Sox)
  • Cash Considerations (from Red Sox)

Red Sox Receive:

Twins Receive:

Separately, the Dodgers cleared even more space in their outfield by trading Joc Pederson to the Angels for infielder Luis Rengifo, with other players possibly involved. Dan Szymborski will break down that deal on Wednesday.

Though he’ll quite possibly only be around for one year before testing free agency, the 27-year-old Betts fortifies an already robust lineup that led the NL in scoring (5.47 runs per game) and wRC+ (111) in 2019 while powering the Dodgers to a franchise-record 106 wins. The 2018 AL MVP will play alongside reigning NL MVP Cody Bellinger in a lineup that now boasts three of the majors’ 25 most valuable players by WAR from the past year (Max Muncy being the third); all three of those players rank among the top 11 hitters by wRC+ over the past two seasons. The Dodgers’ path to an eighth consecutive NL West title just became even easier, but this is about increasing their odds of getting back to the World Series, which they did in both 2017 and ’18, and finally winning one for the first time since 1988. Read the rest of this entry »

David Price Would Offer Dodgers More Name Recognition Than Certainty

As rumors of the various permutations of Mookie Betts trades float around the ether, it’s worth taking a closer look at the Dodgers’ rotation, mainly because of the possibility that David Price is included in what would become an even bigger blockbuster than a “simple” trade of one of the majors’ top five players. Despite losing both Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill in free agency, the Dodgers don’t lack for options to start, many of them good ones. But between inexperience and injury histories, those options also offer a great deal of uncertainty, and it’s not at all clear that the 34-year-old Price, whose performance has declined of late and who comes with his own recent spate of health woes, helps all that much.

Last year, the Dodgers had by far the NL’s best rotation in terms of ERA and FIP, though they finished behind the Nationals — whose starters ranked second in both categories — in WAR, because the Washington workhorses threw significantly more innings:

2019 Rotation Comparison: Dodgers vs. Nationals
Dodgers 893.2 9.45 2.07 1.13 .274 3.11 3.52 19.8
Nationals 938.2 9.68 2.86 1.11 .288 3.53 3.72 21.4

By itself, the Dodgers’ lower innings total doesn’t matter, but the loss of Ryu, whose 182.2 innings were the most by any Los Angeles starter since 2015, leaves the team with only three pitchers who threw at least 100 innings last year, namely Walker Buehler (30 starts, 182.1 innings), Clayton Kershaw (28 starts, 178.1 innings), and Kenta Maeda (26 starts, 153.2 innings), the last of whom spent all of September in the bullpen and has been mentioned in at least one version of the Betts trade. Read the rest of this entry »

Jay Jaffe FanGraphs Chat – 2/3/20

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Hey folks, good afternoon and welcome to today’s chat, which — as the first day after the Super Bowl — marks the dawn of baseball season, as far as I’m concerned. Pitchers and catchers is so close I can see it.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’m working on the laptop today, as my desktop computer — the Mac Mini I bought in December 2018 — melted down like 5 minutes after I set off my Dusty Baker piece last Thursday. Hence, this may not be a full-length chat as I can only take so much one-window-at-a-time nonsense with this setup. Anyway, please bear with me.

Chris: So mookie to the dodgers and prospects to the redsox? Is Jerry dipoto gonna take on salary and get involved in this?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: From what I’ve heard, Price may be in the deal as well. If this does go down, we’ll have lots of stuff here, including me on the main trade writeup

Guest: How concerned are you about Sale’s arm injuries going forward?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: people have been predicting gloom and doom with Sale since before he even reached the majors, but until the past 2 years, he’d always been remarkably healhty. Now, he’s made just 52 starts over the past two seasons and saw a fall-off in performance and velo — down 2 mph from 2018, via Pitch Info — so yeah, I’d say it’s time to be at least somewhat concerned.

Read the rest of this entry »

Dusty Baker is a Fascinating, Counterintuitive Choice to Manage Astros

When commissioner Rob Manfred issued his report regarding the Astros’ illegal sign-stealing efforts and handed down one-year bans to both manager A.J. Hinch and president of baseball operations Jeff Luhnow, he also took aim at the culture within the Astros’ analytically-inclined organization, calling it “insular” and “problematic.” In desperate need of rebranding as they move forward, the Astros have taken the first step towards that end by hiring Dusty Baker to succeed Hinch — who, along with Luhnow, was fired by owner Jim Crane almost immediately after the report was released — as manager.

The choice of Baker certainly offers a contrast to the recent past, given the 70-year-old skipper’s old-school reputation, but that’s not to say it’s a bad one. At the helm of a team that will face constant scrutiny and considerable hostility, Baker’s strengths — many of which fall outside the realm of the quantifiable — include the respect he commands in the clubhouse and when dealing with the media, particularly amid controversy, all of which should serve him well. That said, he’s been positioned as an easy fall guy if things don’t go well. After all, the Astros came within one win of a championship last year, and they still have a strong roster despite the departure of free agent Gerrit Cole, so any outcome short of a trip to the World Series will represent a step backwards. The fact that he’s been hired before the team has replaced Luhnow sets up a potential clash down the road, in that the incoming general manager or president of baseball operations might prefer to hire their own manager. The length of Baker’s contract — one year plus a club option — spells that out explicitly.

Baker, who turns 71 on June 15, hasn’t managed since the end of the 2017 season, when he parted ways with the Nationals, who opted not to renew his contract. His departure from Washington was sudden and rather stunning, as he’d led the team to back-to-back NL East titles and seasons of 95 and 97 wins, but each time the Nationals lost five-game Division Series to lower-seeded teams. Baker’s teams went 0-5 in one-run games across those two postseasons, including both Game 5s, during which they surrendered early leads — all of which put his in-game decisions squarely in the crosshairs, fairly or unfairly. In his final game at the helm, for example, he took the fall in part because Max Scherzer — who was about to win his third Cy Young award — allowed four runs in a messy inning of emergency relief. Read the rest of this entry »

The All Outside-the-Hall Team

As I’ve written several times in recent weeks, the past seven years have seen a flurry of candidates elected to the Hall of Fame — a record 22 by the BBWAA over that span, with another five by the various Era Committees. Eleven of those 22 were first-ballot selections by the writers, while another three made it in during their final year. Of the five committee selections, three spent a full 15 years on the writers’ ballot while the other two slipped below the 5% mark and fell off.

The mix of quick selections and long-awaited ones has been dizzying, and it’s significantly altered the landscape when it comes to the best players outside the Hall of Fame — the ones who might be considered in the on-deck circle. As it’s been a long time since I took a spin around the diamond in this context, I thought it would be a good way to close the books on this year’s election cycle. What follows here is a JAWS-driven spin in which I’ve identified both the best eligible candidate and the best who’s awaiting eligibility. That’s not to say that they’re all Hallworthy, or that I’d vote for all of them; in some cases, I’m merely pointing out the dearth of strong candidates. For the “eligible” category, the player must have been retired at least five years, even if he wasn’t on a 2020 ballot, and no, he can’t be under a lifetime ban, nor can he be stuck in that awful limbo between falling off the writers’ ballot with less than 5% of the vote and awaiting his 10-year eligibility window to expire. For the “not yet eligible” category, the player may be active, retired too recently to appear on a ballot, or stuck in that post-5% limbo. As I’ve written relatively recently about many of these players — and less recently at other sites about some of them — I’m going lightning-round style, with pointers to where I’ve expounded at greater length. Read the rest of this entry »

Diamondbacks Add a Full-Time Center Fielder in Starling Marte

The Diamondbacks won 85 games last year despite getting very little production from their outfielders besides Ketel Marte. On Monday, they continued to address that issue by trading a pair of teenage prospects to the Pirates in exchange for two-time Gold Glove winner Starling Marte (no relation). The move gives the team the full-time center fielder it lacked in 2019, and allows them to protect their best player from overuse by returning him to second base — no small matter given that Ketel Marte ended his MVP-caliber season on the shelf due to a stress reaction in his back. The ensuing Marte Partay just might tear the roof off Chase Field, but whether the pair can provide similar production to what the team received from Ketel and Friends at the two positions is an open question.

Diamondbacks Receive

  • OF Starling Marte
  • $1.5 million

Pirates Receive

The 30-year-old Marte — we’re talking about Starling for the time being — had been part of the Pirates’ organization since signing with them out of the Dominican Republic in 2007. He debuted in the majors in 2012, and was the last remaining Pirate from the ’13 squad that broke the franchise’s 20-year postseason drought by earning an NL Wild Card berth. He’s coming off a strong season with the bat, one in which he hit .295/.342/.503 for a 119 wRC+, with 23 homers and 25 steals in 31 attempts; his slugging percentage and home run total both set career highs, while his wRC+ was his best mark since 2016. Read the rest of this entry »

Big Battles Looming: the Next Five Years of BBWAA Hall of Fame Elections

Derek Jeter and Larry Walker have punched their tickets to Cooperstown, and this year’s Hall of Fame election is in the books, but before the circus leaves town, it’s time engage in my seventh annual attempt to gaze into the crystal ball to see what the next five elections will hold. As I note annually, this exercise requires some amount of imagination and speculation, and while it’s grounded in my research into the candidates and the history and mechanics of the voting, the changes to the process that have occurred during the time I’ve been conducting this exercise raise the question of how valuable that history is from a prognostication standpoint. It’s tough to get a fix on the horizon when the earth keeps shaking.

Make no mistake: when it comes to the BBWAA’s voting patterns and process over the past seven years, the earth has moved. The writers’ streak of electing multiple candidates for seven consecutive years is unprecedented, as is the surge of 22 honorees in that span. We’ve had three quartets elected over the past six years, compared to two (plus the original quintet) over the previous 78 years. All of this has happened amid changes to both the terrain and the rules. A logjam of qualified candidates unprecedented in modern voting history contributed to the Hall unilaterally truncating candidacies from 15 years to 10 via a 2014 rule change, less to clean up the ballots than to move the intractable debate over PED-related candidates out of the spotlight. With the BBWAA’s subsequent proposals to adjust the longstanding 10-slot rule and to publish every ballot both rejected by the Hall’s board of directors, voters have responded by setting and breaking records for slots used per ballot, percentage of ballots filled to the max, percentage of ballots revealed to the public either before or after the election, and the highest share of the votes for a given candidate. It’s been a wild ride. Read the rest of this entry »

Jay Jaffe FanGraphs Chat – 1/27/20

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Good afternoon, and welcome to my first chat since the end of the Hall of Fame cycle. I’m running a few minutes behind, but hang tight and I’ll be along to tackle some questions shortly.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: In the meantime, feel free to poke your nose into my five-year outlook for the BBWAA ballot, which just went live a short time ago:…

Avatar Jay Jaffe: OK back

Dave: Any thoughts on yesterday’s news?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Assuming you’re talking about the death of Kobe Bryant, obviously, it’s tragic and shocking not just that he died but that his daughter was among the other eight who died too. I think my view of Bryant lagged far behind that of the general public because I stopped following the NBA closely when the Stockton/Malone Jazz dismantled (I grew up in Salt Lake City), and that was around the time of his sexual assault trial; to me, he was just a young, irresponsible punk who had game. I’ve never been comfortable with how the legal stuff played out, and I don’t think it should be kept under erasure, but I guess he grew into quite the beloved athlete. I mostly missed that.

Fiers Mustache: Jeter not being a unanimous vote is a travesty. Who (if anyone) will be the next unanimously voted HOFer?

Read the rest of this entry »

A Candidate-by-Candidate Look at the 2020 Hall of Fame Election Results

For an unprecedented seventh year in a row, and as part of a still record-setting surge, the BBWAA elected multiple candidates to the Hall of Fame with the 2020 ballot. Derek Jeter and Larry Walker had very different playing careers and voting paths, but both gained entry via results that carried a fair bit of drama into Tuesday evening’s announcement, as the questions of whether the former would join former teammate Mariano Rivera as the second unanimous selection in as many years, and of whether the latter would end up on the right side of 75%, were both up in the air.

The Surge: BBWAA-elected Hall of Famers 2014-20
Year 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
2014 Greg Maddux (97.2%) Tom Glavine (91.9%) Frank Thomas (83.7%)
2015 Randy Johnson (97.3%) Pedro Martinez (91.1%) John Smoltz (82.9%) Craig Biggio (82.7%)
2016 Ken Griffey Jr. (99.3%) Mike Piazza (83.0%)
2017 Jeff Bagwell (86.2%) Tim Raines (86.0%) Ivan Rodriguez (76.0%)
2018 Chipper Jones (97.2%) Vlad Guerrero (92.9%) Jim Thome (89.8%) Trevor Hoffman (79.9%)
2019 Mariano Rivera (100%) Roy Halladay (85.4%) Edgar Martinez (85.4%) Mike Mussina (76.7%)
2020 Derek Jeter (99.7%) Larry Walker (76.6%)
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference

We now know the answers, of course, and I’ve already delved into the ballot’s big take-home points. What follows here is my look at how each candidate fared, with a few lumped together for obvious reasons. Having written so much about the two honorees, I’m starting at the bottom of the results and working my way to the top, though of course I do hope you stick around to the end, if only to meet Robinson Canoe. Read the rest of this entry »

The Hall Calls: Two for 2020, Derek Jeter and Larry Walker

It’s back to business as usual for the BBWAA’s Hall of Fame voting, the results of which were announced on Tuesday evening. The messy and occasionally exasperating tradition of non-unanimity, which took an unprecedented one-year vacation when Mariano Rivera was elected with 100% of the vote last year, has returned. While Derek Jeter appeared on track to join Rivera in that exclusive club, one as-yet-unidentified voter from among the 397 ballots cast in this year’s election chose to throw a wrench in the works. No matter. Ol’ No. 2 will have to settle for the second-highest vote share in Hall history (99.75%) as well as the requisite bronze plaque in Cooperstown. He’ll have some company in the Class of 2020, as the writers also elected Larry Walker with 76.6% of the vote. Walker, the first Canadian-born position player ever elected, follows Tim Raines (2017) and Edgar Martinez (2019) as the third candidate in the last four election cycles to be chosen in his 10th and final year of eligibility.

With “only” two honorees this year, the writers’ unprecedented streak of electing at least three candidates annually has ended at three years; the last time they elected two was in 2016, when Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza were chosen. Even so, this is the seventh consecutive election in which the BBWAA has tabbed multiple candidates; that breaks a tie with the 1951-56 span, which was bracketed by back-to-back shutouts on either side. The 22 candidates elected over the past seven cycles is a record, far outdoing the 16 from the 1950-56 or 1951-57 stretches.

What follows here is my big-picture look at this year’s results; I’ll be back with my candidate-by-candidate breakdown on Wednesday. Read the rest of this entry »