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Luis Severino Signed the Latest Contract Extension

As far as FanGraphs is concerned, we’re just wrapping up Prospects Week. But as far as Major League Baseball is concerned, it’s just wrapping up Extensions Week. Aaron Nola signed an extension with the Phillies. Both Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco signed extensions with the Twins. And now, as of Friday, Luis Severino has signed an extension with the Yankees. You’ll remember that Whit Merrifield had already signed an extension with the Royals. Other players are surely going to sign extensions with other teams. That’s what happens this time of year.

Severino is a Super Two player who was looking at a 2019 salary of at least $4.4 million in his first of four arbitration years. That’s all wiped out now, with the Yankees having bought out all four arb years for $40 million. There’s also a fifth-year club option, that would have this contract max out at $52.25 million. The terms are similar to what Nola got from the Phillies, although Nola signed away two would-be free-agent years, while Severino signed away one. This shouldn’t be his last opportunity to make a splash.

The explanations tend to mirror one another. Teams like these contracts because they provide cost certainty. Teams also like these contracts because they usually end up looking club-friendly. Players like these contracts because they’re opportunities to become financially stable and secure for the rest of one’s life. How could Luis Severino possibly turn down a chance to make forty million dollars? Especially as a pitcher in the age of Tommy John. Severino’s set. His family is set. You know how all this goes.

This still looks club-friendly. So many players just don’t want to chance it.

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Jeff Sullivan FanGraphs Chat — 2/15/19

9:06

Jeff Sullivan: Hello friends

9:06

Jeff Sullivan: Welcome to Friday baseball chat

9:07

LudeBurger: Prospects, Jeff. Prospects.

9:07

Jeff Sullivan: Not your guy, LudeBurger

9:07

The Electrician: Do you think there will be a rush of free agent signings once teams move their guys to the 60 day DL and open up 40 man roster spots?

9:09

Jeff Sullivan: Already seeing it. Oakland used a 60-day stint to make room for Robbie Grossman. Also used one to make room for Brett Anderson. Arizona used one to make room for Caleb Joseph. Miami used one to make room for Sergio Romo. Kansas City used one to make room for Jake Diekman, etc

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Max Kepler Didn’t Bet on Himself

We’ve officially entered extension season. This happens every year around the start of spring training, with arbitration hearings ending and with opening day coming up. Some expect that this particular extension season will be unusually busy, given the concerns players have about the state of the free-agent market. Aaron Nola just signed an extension with the Phillies. Jorge Polanco just signed an extension with the Twins. And Max Kepler has also just signed an extension with the Twins. Nothing against Polanco, but I find the Kepler move more interesting.

Kepler was already looking at a 2019 salary of $3.125 million, in the first of four arbitration years. He’d qualified as a Super Two. That’s wiped out now, with Kepler and the Twins agreeing to a five-year contract worth $35 million. There’s also a sixth-year club option, worth $10 million. Kepler, therefore, has signed away up to two years of would-be free agency. From Kepler’s own standpoint, he’s now guaranteed his own long-term wealth, as a German kid made good. He wouldn’t have agreed to this if he weren’t happy to do so. At the same time, you wonder what could’ve been. Where is Kepler going to be, as a player, a year from now?

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Aaron Nola Took the Guaranteed Money

No matter what you think about the current market dynamics, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: Free agency is leaving more and more players at best annoyed, and at worst pissed off. Many free agents are signed, of course, and some of them are signed to big, healthy contracts, but other premium players are still without employers, and the messaging has hardly been subtle. Players and the union aren’t pleased. Even if the team side of the equation isn’t doing anything wrong, the state of things is far from harmonious. A greater number of players are talking about what they see as a problem.

Imagine yourself, then, as a player who’s not yet a free agent. You might be inclined to believe you’re exceptional. Maybe you figure things’ll be worked out by the time it’s your turn. But you keep hearing about how free agency isn’t what it used to be. Even if most of the money is still there, nothing happens fast. There’s a lot of uncertainty. The idea of reaching free agency has been somewhat devalued. At least in theory, you’d figure this could lead to an increase in the number of long-term contract extensions.

It’s too early to know if there’s a trend. And no player is going to come out and say “I signed this extension because free agency is bad now.” But Aaron Nola has become the latest player to give up a free-agent year or two. Not for free, obviously. He’s going to get paid. It’s a question of whether he’ll get paid enough. It’s getting harder to calculate what “enough” even is.

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The Velocity Surge Has Plateaued

Among the proposals exchanged by MLB and the MLBPA was the idea of studying the mound. More specifically, baseball is interested in studying what might happen were the mound to be lowered, or were the mound to even be moved back. In a sense, adjusting the mound might seem radical, but of course, the mound has been lowered before, and baseball wants to see if it might be able to combat the ever-increasing strikeout rates. The league-average strikeout rate in 1998 was 16.9%. A decade later, it was 17.5%. Yet a decade later than that, it was 22.3%. That’s a 27-percent increase in strikeouts over the course of ten years. You can see why people might want to nip this in the bud.

Why have strikeouts been on the rise? How might you explain all the swinging and missing? I suppose there are the people who might just grumble the term “launch angle” and leave it at that, but a more compelling explanation might be the league-wide increase in velocity. It’s been hard not to notice — as they say, now every bullpen has a half-dozen guys who come out throwing 95 miles per hour. Billy Wagner used to throw 96. Now everybody throws 96. And the less time hitters have to react, the more often they’re going to whiff. Case closed! We’ve all solved it, together.

Except for the part where velocity has ceased increasing. The velocity surge was something I think a lot of us just took for granted. Teams like velocity, and players are training harder than ever before. But the surge has slowed, if not stopped. You don’t need to dig too deep to find evidence.

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Here’s What You Think About Those Proposed Changes to Baseball

Last week, Jeff Passan wrote about talks between Major League Baseball and the MLBPA. As part of those talks, both sides proposed a series of changes that would alter the way the game works, both on the field and off of it. I was able to identify ten discrete proposals — some of them well-defined, and some of them a little more vague. Still, there was more than enough information to proceed to a polling post, where I gave the entire FanGraphs audience a chance to weigh in. The proposals are out there. Some of them might be scrapped; some of them might be pursued. What do you think about each? Good idea, or a virtual non-starter?

Whenever I run a polling project, I never actually specify exactly when the polls close. In part, that’s because most people tend to vote right away. In part, that’s because, once enough votes have rolled in, nothing that happens later on meaningfully changes the results. And in part, that’s because every polling project on FanGraphs is completely inconsequential. There are no stakes. Only opinions. So with all of that said, let’s now take a look at the crowdsourced data. I’ve gathered all the information I needed, and I’ve created a couple of plots.

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Jeff Sullivan FanGraphs Chat — 2/8/19

9:08

Jeff Sullivan: Hello friends

9:08

Jeff Sullivan: Welcome to Friday baseball chat

9:08

Jeff Sullivan: I’m sorry about that extra long delay — had a podcast go slightly over

9:08

Bork: Hello, friend!

9:08

Jeff Sullivan: Hello friend

9:08

Bork: In which way will Melnyk drop the ball with Duchene & Stone?

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Phillies Acquire Great Catcher in Exchange for Mystery Box

Everyone is waiting for the Phillies to sign one of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. It seems almost inevitable that the Phillies will sign one of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. There’s some chance it even happens today! Who knows? But while the world has waited for the Phillies to signal that they’re going for it, they’ve already added a new everyday outfielder in Andrew McCutchen. They’ve already added a new everyday shortstop in Jean Segura. They’ve already added a new late-inning reliever in David Robertson. And now they’ve added a new regular catcher.

Phillies get:

Marlins get:

And so ends the drawn-out, months-long Realmuto sweepstakes, that saw him connected to a couple handfuls of teams. Just last week, I thought Realmuto was going to be traded to the Reds. The Phillies came almost out of nowhere. But, like the Reds, they’ve spent the offseason acting aggressively, and I can’t imagine they’re finished. The NL Central is going to be a hell of a division. And, the NL East is going to be a hell of a division. The Marlins are going to get beat up on the regular as a consequence, but then, they knew what they were getting into.

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The Argument for J.T. Realmuto as Baseball’s Best Catcher

It feels like, any minute now, J.T. Realmuto will officially be on the move. He might even get officially traded while I’m busy writing this article. According to the latest reports, Realmuto is likely to be dealt to the Phillies, in exchange for a package including Sixto Sanchez and Jorge Alfaro (plus more). I don’t know what might be left for the teams to overcome. Again, press releases seem almost inevitable. With Sanchez as the centerpiece, the Marlins ought to be satisfied.

If and when this reaches a resolution, it’ll mark the end of a drawn-out sweepstakes. Realmuto always seemed like baseball’s most probable trade candidate. As much as the Marlins have wanted to keep him around, a contract extension requires interest from both parties, and Realmuto has wanted out. So a trade was going to happen. A trade involving some manner of top prospect was going to happen. What we didn’t know was where Realmuto would ultimately end up. He’s now linked to the Phillies. He’s been linked to the Reds. He’s been linked to the Braves, and the Padres, and the Dodgers, and the Rays, and even more teams on top of that. A whole lot of baseball has wanted J.T. Realmuto.

So let’s talk about that for a few minutes. For many of you, this will be simple review. But, why has Realmuto been in such demand? It’s because he might well be the best catcher in the game.

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Let’s Talk About a Bunch of Proposed Changes to Baseball

You’re all a great resource, and I love a good poll. I just polled you on Tuesday! In light of how this offseason has gone, I asked whether you’d prefer an MLB-style offseason, or an NBA-style offseason. Sure, the timing of the poll might’ve somewhat biased the results, but, anyway, thousands of you have voted, and two-thirds of you say you’d prefer an NBA-esque feeding frenzy. Yeah, things would die down almost as quickly as they picked up, but that must be a hell of a high, when all the action happens at once. Baseball could never contend with that.

Now I’m back to poll again, because once more I want to solicit your opinions. MLB and the MLBPA have been talking, and as you can read in this article from Jeff Passan, the two sides have exchanged several proposed changes to the game’s competitive and economic structure. Nothing has actually been agreed to yet, and most of the proposals will remain on paper, but for now, we all get to consider a bunch of ideas. You might find some of them agreeable. You might find some of them disagreeable. That’s why I want to collect information.

As far as I can tell, Passan highlighted ten different proposals. You’ll find them below. Some of them are more vague than others, but we can make do with what we have. For each proposal, I’ll offer a brief explanation. And then there are two polls. The first simply asks whether you approve or disapprove of the proposal, as you understand it. The second asks how much you actually care. Are you very passionate, or is it a struggle to so much as muster an opinion? I look forward to the results from running these in tandem. I’ll probably revisit the data later this week.

Off we go! Thanks in advance for your collective participation.

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