We’re back. This week, I welcome very special co-host Cody Decker, who shares stories from his decade-long career as a minor league slugger. We discuss spring training eyewash, DFA limbo, his nine games on the mound and much more. Then we’re joined by our special guest for the week, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times, who discusses the ugly recent news from Mariners-land while adding his Japanese whiskey recommendations. Then we take some listener emails, covering changes to the game, how quickly trades can be made, and politics in the clubhouse. A variety of side conversations and tangents ensue. It’s over two hours. We ramble a bit. Enjoy!
Have a question you’d like answered on the show? Hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Warning One: While ostensibly a podcast about baseball, these conversations often veer into other subjects.
Warning Two: There is explicit language.
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Apple feed: Coming soon.
Run Time: 2:12:31
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Baseball Twitter was abuzz last Wednesday when Tim Tebow announced his retirement … wait, strike that; the subject changed drastically that same evening when Fernando Tatis Jr. inked a 14-year extension worth a reported $340 million. You could argue that Tatis actually left money on the table, as he was potentially lined up to be one of the best free agents in baseball history due to his age and talent. But “potentially” is carrying a ton of water in that statement, and it’s either bad or dishonest logic to fault a 21-year-old for taking close to record-breaking money as security when it’s presented to him.
The Tatis extension isn’t the largest in baseball history, eclipsed as it is by those of Mookie Betts and Mike Trout, but it is larger than the free-agent record of $330 million held by Bryce Harper. All of these numbers, though, left me wondering: Who will be the first to top the $400 million mark? We’ve already seen the first $40 million-plus AAV this offseason in Trevor Bauer, and that number combined with double-digit years could get us there. So who are the top candidates?
Let’s get one technicality out of the way. You could say, and would be correct in spirit, that Trout has already topped the $400 million mark with the extension he signed prior to the 2019 season. While that deal created a commitment of more than $400 million ($426.5 million to be exact) over 12 years, contractually, it was 10 years tacked on to an existing deal. Still, if you want to answer “Who’s The Next $400 Million Player?” with “Mike Trout,” I’m not going to argue semantics. Let’s have fun with this anyway. Read the rest of this entry »
Read the rest of this entry »
Yup, I’m podcasting again. Join me, Kevin Goldstein, for episode 1 of Chin Music, my new podcast. This week I welcome very special co-host David Roth of Defector, and feature a guest segment with The Athletic’s Pedro Moura, who talks about the Trevor Bauer signing and covering the beat during a global pandemic. Plus, we discuss the grind of spring training, what to do in Florida, some TV shows and much more.
RSS feed: https://blogs.fangraphs.com/feed/chin-music/
Apple feed: Coming soon. Read the rest of this entry »
FanGraphs player pages are a wild thing to look at these days. While nearly 1,300 players accrued big league service time in 2020 and generated a stat line, thousands of minor leaguers saw their statistical record go from 2019 straight to a series of 2021 projections. It’s as if 2020 never happened, and wouldn’t that be great? But 2020 did happen, and these players didn’t play. Sure, there were alternate sites (and likely will be again this year) and some limited instructional leagues, but players didn’t have a real season of development or anything anywhere close to it. Every team had a plan and worked hard to mitigate the damage, but the effect on these players in terms of their professional progression is almost certainly negative across the board.
Figuring out just how much the lost year will hurt prospects is a fool’s errand and should be evaluated on a player-by-player basis, and there are plenty of arguments for those most impacted, ranging from 16-year-olds at complexes to players already on the big league 40-man roster. Different types of players needed a season for different reasons. There’s no real conclusion here as to who is the most affected, as the lost 2020 season is uncharted territory, so in an abundance of caution, here are the primary player groupings that teams are most worried about.
There are a handful of 2019 draftees who haven’t played yet, but the focus of this group is the 2019 international class. Yankees phenom Jasson Dominguez is the most hyped Latin American signing in recent memory, but he’s suddenly 18 years old and has yet to have a pro at-bat. Instagram videos of him hitting bombs are great and all, but a year of DSL action would give the Yankees much more comfort in terms of bringing him stateside.
That concern doesn’t just apply to well-known members of the class like Dominguez, Rangers slugger Bayron Lora or toolsy Royals outfielder Erick Pena; the same worries are there for players who signed for $100,000, or even $10,000. Dominican complexes can get very crowded, and games are needed to figure out who might get off the island. With restricted overall roster sizes going into effect and a continuing flow of signed players coming in, many will not get the opportunity they had in the past to prove their signing scouts right. Read the rest of this entry »
Baseball is starting.
Selfishly, I’m excited. I love the game. And we need it here at FanGraphs. We can get ready for Opening Day with transaction analyses, prospect rankings, and various pre-season activities. But once the snow melts and temperatures warm (at least here in Midwest), we need games so we can talk about individual moments and the broader standings, and keep the content machine grinding away.
Behind that hum of activity, though, there’s still a pandemic. The overall state of COVID-19 is starting to improve in the US if you look at the numbers. Vaccinations are beginning to roll out, albeit not at the rate anyone would like, and important metrics like the positivity rates and total cases are in decline in most places relative to where they were at the end of last year. While those recent trends are likely cold comfort to those grappling with the disease every day, it does feel like there is finally light at the end of the tunnel.
But even with the situation improving, the pandemic is far worse than it was when everything shut down last March. Baseball is still starting up, however, and for scouts, it’s time to go to work. I ran around with a lot of these people during my time with the Astros and in my prior media days. I got to know many of them, and learned so much from talking with them. And because travel comes with the job, their health is in peril, perhaps even more so than that of the players and personnel who accompany a big league team. Due to the nature of their work, they’re not protected by any kind of bubble system, or mandatory testing schedule. It’s hard for it not to feel kind of gross.
The range of plans for dealing with scouting in the midst of what is still very much an active pandemic is wide. For some, it’s business as usual, with their amateur group blanketing the country as it did before we worried about packing masks and hand sanitizer, as if all of this never happened, or more importantly, wasn’t actively happening. Most teams have some sort of restrictions in place, trying their best to keep scouts local, and limiting plane rides only to cross-checkers; others have gone as far as to trying to limit air travel and hotels for all staff as much as possible. But seeing players remains priority one. Read the rest of this entry »
I was exposed to many aspects of front office operations during my eight years with the Astros, but one thing I never touched was arbitration.
I consider it one of my greatest career achievements.
With hearings and rulings in the news, I’m reminded of how much everyone hates the damn thing. Teams hate it, players hate it, agents hate it, and maybe that’s actually proof it works in its own way, but the most frustrating aspect is that nobody really understands the logic behind the rulings themselves. In private conversations, some executives have suggested to me that one “might as well flip a coin.” An agent called the entire process “archaic.” Another team executive called it a “colossal waste of time.” Contacts from both sides relayed stories of being quite sure that they had won or lost after the hearing, only to end up with the opposite ruling from the three-person panel. Both sides have stories of waiting for results, dreading them when the last two cases have been in their side’s favor because they fear the next result being a simple make-up call.
The whole thing seems rather, well, arbitrary.
Adding to the frustration is the cost of the hearing itself, in terms of time, money, or both. Many teams utilize outside counsel to handle the hearing process, while others keep it in-house, assigning a group of people within baseball operations to spend weeks of manpower on the process. They travel to Arizona or Florida, staying up until all hours of the night preparing their PowerPoint deck and going on several late-night runs to Kinko’s. They do it because they have to, but does all that work have any effect on one’s chances of winning or losing the hearing? I never saw any direct evidence that it did. Read the rest of this entry »
It was bound to happen once the odds shifted in favor of baseball starting on time, but the offseason has ramped up quickly over the last week. Some of the top free agents have come off the board, and a five-player trade, some smaller signings and all sorts of 40-man roster shuffling took place. Buried among it all was a quick move by the Cardinals on Thursday, as they sent outfielder Dexter Fowler to the Angels per Jon Heyman, with St. Louis picking up all but $1.75 million of his 2021 salary.
It’s not a transaction that really moves the needle for either team in terms of the standings. And it’s not a transaction that creates any kind of real financial flexibility for future moves. Instead, this is a deal that illustrates how one player may fall on different points on the insurance vs. opportunity spectrum depending on which uniform he’s suiting up in.
I’m not here to argue that Dexter Fowler is that good now. He wasn’t a star necessarily, but he spent a nice-sized chunk of the last decade firmly in the “very good” category. He got on base and had some sneaky pop, and from 2011-17 averaged a .370 OBP with an .800-plus OPS and a 116 wRC+. And while he was certainly athletic enough to be a good center fielder, but he’s never been a good defender. His jumps and routes have always been substandard, and his habit of catching the ball at his chest has driven fundamentals-focused coaches insane for 13 years now, though he at least does tend to catch it. I remember Fowler’s 2014 campaign with the Astros and how I’d wince every time the ball was hit his way. I’d hoped to find a video to illustrate this tendency, and it didn’t take long. I thought I might need to go through a few videos from MLB’s vault to uncover a good example, but it was right there in the first video provided, his last putout of the 2020 season.
On September 4, 2020 in Kansas City, Alex Colomé had one of those nights where he just didn’t have it. It took him 40 pitches, only 23 for strikes, to get four outs and preserve a White Sox 7-3 victory over the Royals. With one out in the ninth, he missed a location with the second best of his two pitches. James McCann set up in and Colomé missed out with a 94 mph fastball, which Jorge Soler nailed with an exit velocity approaching 110 mph. If Soler had pulled the ball, it would have been in the seats, but he thankfully couldn’t get around on it; the ball went oppo, and a well-positioned Nomar Mazara easily jogged it down. Check out the end of the video as Colomé shakes his head, knowing he made a mistake, and maybe a couple, in terms of both location and pitch type.
Ten days later in Chicago, Colomé wasn’t especially sharp but kept runs off the board to finish up a 3-1 win over the Twins, who became his new team this week as he inked a one-year deal with a unique mutual option. With two outs in the ninth and looking to end the game, Colomé had the rare extreme miss with his signature cutter. Yasmani Grandal wanted one down and out, knowing Buxton couldn’t do much damage there, but Colomé delivered a center-cut meatball that the center fielder hammered. The good news was that the ball was a line drive to the left fielder. The bad news? That left fielder was Eloy Jiménez, who absolutely zooed the ball, resulting in an inside-the-park home run that was later reversed to a ground-rule double.