Mookie Butts: Why are the Yankees trying to win so much? It feels like a personal attack.
Jeff Sullivan: It should feel like a personal attack
Jeff Sullivan: Do you remember what happened in 2018
Jeff Sullivan: I don’t think the Yankees liked that very much
Guest: For some reason folding Ottavino into the Yankees Depth Chart has the effect of lowering their RP WAR from 6.4 to 6.2. Pretty funny in the context of your article
Jeff Sullivan: I saw that too, and it’s amusing
Jeff Sullivan: But of course, one thing the depth charts struggle to account for is…depth. Realistically Ottavino doesn’t move the Yankees’ ceiling very much, but he raises the floor of bullpen performance. One more great reliever who’d have to have something go wrong for the group to not be a strength
cheapskate drifter: i forwarded your ottavino piece to my yankee coworker. he replied back “great article”. so there’s that.
Jeff Sullivan: People like when articles flatter their teams
Jeff Sullivan: All affection is fleeting and conditional
TomBruno23: Who takes more PAs in RF for STL this season: Fowler, Jose Martinez or Tyler O’Neill?
Jeff Sullivan: Right now I’m going to say Martinez. Fowler will get his chances but Martinez is too good of a hitter to sit very often and I’m no longer certain he gets traded
Toshi: Hi Jeff, thank you for the chat. If Colon faces Ichiro next season, their combined ages will be 90yrs old plus. Would this be the oldest matchup ever in MLB?
Jeff Sullivan: Probably not, because Satchel Paige threw three innings in the majors at the age of 58. But that’s kind of cheating
Jeff Sullivan: Julio Franco vs. Roger Clemens, 2007: 93 combined years old
Jeff Sullivan: I’m afraid Colon vs. Ichiro still wouldn’t get there, not in 2019
BJOGC: Do you remember when teams wouldn’t stop giving Brett Anderson tens of millions of dollars per year? I looked at his player page, in his one good year, he was a 4FIP 7k/9 guy. What was up with that?
Jeff Sullivan: Anderson arrived on the scene right around when analysts were in love with strikeouts and grounders. It was hard to find pitchers who could reliably generate both, and so Anderson stood out. He…hasn’t fulfilled much of his promise ever since
Jason: How are you going to celebrate the Hall of Fame induction of the greatest DH of all-time?
Jeff Sullivan: I’ll experience a brief moment of joy and relief, but then the moment will pass, because as far as Cooperstown is concerned, I don’t give a shit. They’ve ruined it for me
stever20: which team do you give the edge to right now in the AL East? Boston or the Yankees….
Jeff Sullivan: Yankees
JM: Padres opening day 3rd baseman is….
Jeff Sullivan: Not in the organization right now
Jeff Sullivan: There was that rumor the other day that connected them to Kluber so that they could try to get Senzel. Hard to see that actually happening but they’re presumably aiming high. Along similar lines, you wonder if they might try for Riley from the Braves
Jeff Sullivan: Don’t think they just want a stopgap, but that might be what they have to settle for
LAA fan: Would someone like Patrick Sandoval be enough to get Gray from NYY?
Jeff Sullivan: Only a few months ago, Sandoval was part of the return for a half-season of Martin Maldonado. Sonny Gray is more desirable than Martin Maldonado
Jeff Sullivan: It would take more, in other words. Lots of teams sniffing around
Raysfaninminnesota: Do you still see the Rays making a big move before Spring Training? JTR, Encarnacion, Bumgarner, LeClerc, etc?
Jeff Sullivan: I no longer think it’s likely, although I do believe Realmuto remains an option. But it would be unlike Tampa Bay to invest heavily in a two-year player. The team is good, now, and it’s deep, now. It also happens to be hilariously cheap. Could use another top-tier bullpen arm, but I think moving forward you just have to hope that whatever they’re saving now gets reinvested as the young team gets a little older and a little more expensive in the future
Jeff Sullivan: I don’t think the Rays *intended* to have such a low current payroll. But there’s no sense spending for spending’s sake when the roster is already so talented and they weren’t able to land Goldschmidt, Cruz, etc.
Craig: Is the Angels hope that Allen is only needed for 1 year, and Keynan Middleton takes the reins of closer in 2020? Or is projecting injured closers that far out too much of a fool’s errand?
Jeff Sullivan: Eppler and the Angels seem to prefer to avoid big reliever contracts. And you can see the sense of it, given how often big reliever contracts go off the rails. Good relievers are, at least in theory, the easiest players to develop, and they probably figure they have enough live arms that, a year from now, someone will emerge
Jeff Sullivan: Maybe Justin Anderson will learn how to throw more strikes
Jeff Sullivan: On paper, the Angels would’ve been a great destination for Craig Kimbrel, but I have no idea what sort of terms Kimbrel would accept
Ben: Whose Braves’ opening day RF? Brantley seemed perfect fit. They don’t wanna lose draft pick to sign Pollock. Jones/Cargo/Markakis seem fairly underwhelming, as does Duvall. Maybe they’re just gonna let Acuna & Inciarte roam a 2 man outfield.
Jeff Sullivan: Right now I think of Markakis as the favorite, but I also read that Wil Myers is returning to the outfield, which means the Padres have even *more* of an OF surplus. There’s some kind of trade there to be made
Scherzers_Blue_Eye: Sleeper breakout candidate: Erick Fedde–lots of soft contact, lots of groundballs, decent K rate. Cut walks and homers. Wishful thinking?
Jeff Sullivan: One thing about Fedde: last year he had a K-BB% of 17% the first time through. After that, it dropped to 7%. I know he’s spent the offseason trying to bulk up to improve his durability
Jeff Sullivan: Even in Triple-A, he threw a below-average rate of strikes. He’s only a decent bat-misser, and I don’t put a lot of stock in weak-contact statistics. Fedde is interesting because he has a big repertoire and he’s in his mid-20s, but I don’t see another breakout indicator at the moment
Ham Porter: Why is Touki Touissant listed pitching 129 innings in 2019, ahead of Mike Soroka (18 IP) on the FG depth charts? All stats and opinions I am finding suggests that Soroka is the superior pitcher and should be ahead of Touki? And from all accounts Soroka’s shoulder should be recovered by ST?
Jeff Sullivan: He’s not anymore!
Jeff Sullivan: (It’ll take a little while for the public-facing depth charts to reflect the adjustment)
Jeff Sullivan: I’m in charge of all of the depth charts, for everybody, so sometimes things inevitably slip through the cracks. Let me know when you see changes that ought to be made
Worried ATL Fan: I mean, they have to make another move, right? Most projections have them at 84 – 85 wins, which doesn’t seem enough to win that division.
Jeff Sullivan: Of course, last year, we had them projected at 73 wins. They won that division!
Jeff Sullivan: But they will, at the very least, add a corner outfielder
Pete In Dublin: Hello Jeff. Quick question arising from the last EW: How tall are you?
Jeff Sullivan: I am 6’5 but blogging for the last 15 years has left me with lousy standing posture
Jeff Sullivan: Blogger back
Raysfaninminnesota: Best Rays prospect no one is talking enough about?
Jeff Sullivan: It’s either Brandon Lowe or Nate Lowe. They both destroyed the minor leagues in 2018, and they’re ready to make major-league impacts. Those last names, incidentally, have different pronunciations for some reason
Spaceman: Angels spent more than 30M$ on one year contracts to fill some holes. I think they would have been better if instead they would have sign Machado long term and hope for the best with what they had, plus a few “free” addition. Do you agree?
Jeff Sullivan: Does Machado have any interest in playing for the Angels?
Jeff Sullivan: Would Machado have been willing and ready to sign with the Angels earlier in the offseason?
Jeff Sullivan: How would the Angels fit it in around the Pujols contract, and the Upton contract, and what they’re hoping is going to be a Trout contract?
Jeff Sullivan: Any Trout contract is going to be the biggest in baseball history
Jeff Sullivan: I don’t know much about the Angels’ finances and I don’t have all the answers, but I don’t think they’re wrong for trying to win around short-term additions. They’re going to need to be as flexible as possible if they want to retain one of the best players in history
Edward: Are the Brewers really not going to add a 2B? If they do add one, who makes the most sense?
Jeff Sullivan: I think they’ll add one, and I think he will be an unremarkable player
Jeff Sullivan: Although it would be interesting to know the state of the Marwin market — he’d double as shortstop insurance, which they need
Big Joe Mufferaw: Yankees are going to strike out every batter in 2018
Jeff Sullivan: …right up until Sabathia’s turn in the rotation
Mike: Hi Jeff! How likely are the phillies to be a serious playoff team without harper or machado? They don’t seem very good. How much closer does harp/manny get them?
Jeff Sullivan: Right now I think the Phillies are a handful of games out of the playoff mix. Add one of those players and they’re at least in position to contend strongly for the wild card. Of course, if they were to miss on Harper/Machado, they could still make other additions. But I expect them to end up with one of these two players
Jeff Sullivan: If public reports are at all close to true, the Phillies should be able to outspend the White Sox on Machado. As for Harper, I have no idea where the Nationals are anymore
Bort: Is there any way the Red Sox could pry Realmuto from the Marlins? Maybe a three-way deal involving Bradley?
Jeff Sullivan: Only realistic thing I could see would depend on the Marlins holding Rafael Devers in very high esteem
Jeff Sullivan: Young, talented, controllable, major-league player going the other way. The Red Sox obviously don’t have the minor-league firepower
Andrew: We’ve seen reports of both the Mariners and Giants in on Sonny Gray. Does he make sense for a “step back” team like those two?
Jeff Sullivan: Clearly depends on the price, but I’m sure they think they might be able to get Gray in a depressed market and then flip him in July if he rebounds in a softer environment
torg: Is Boston seriously going into the season with no major bullpen adds?
Jeff Sullivan: Not a big fan of Erasmo Ramirez?
Jeff Sullivan: They’ll do something. I still expect them to be the last team in contact with Kimbrel. But maybe they’ll take a one-year chance on Greg Holland and then revisit around the deadline. The bullpen they start with doesn’t have to be the bullpen they finish with
Chapultsi: Will projection systems underrate the Brewers again? By how much?
Jeff Sullivan: Yes, ~5 games
padres 2019ish: Will anyone from fangraphs be at the SLOAN conference? A meetup would be swell
Jeff Sullivan: I can’t answer for everyone, but our staff spring-training trip is only a few days after that, so the travel probably wouldn’t work in any practical way
Ronnie: If someone swooped in with 3/120 for Machado to establish a new record AAV would that get it done at this point?
Jeff Sullivan: Not yet, but ask again in a month and a half
Dorsal Finley: What is the Mariners’ most plausible pathway to hitting their supposed 2021 competition time frame?
Jeff Sullivan: Crawford develops into a good regular shortstop, they hit on most of the pitching prospects they acquired, and Kelenic continues his rapid development
Jeff Sullivan: I don’t think it looks good for them, but it’s not a *terrible* long-term picture like it used to be
Raysfaninminnesota: Even among Rays fans, Austin Meadows seems forgotten. The prospect shine has worn off, but he’s slated to be an Opening Day starter in the OF. Should Rays fans be more excited for him on the big league club?
Jeff Sullivan: Meadows still counts as unproven — his major-league cup of coffee was a mixed bag of performance. What’s most exciting, besides the pedigree, is that upon Meadows’ arrival in the organization, he immediately started hitting for more power. I think there’s room here for cautious optimism, but I wouldn’t yet get carried away. He’s not as good as Pham yet, nor is he as good as Kiermaier
Jeff Sullivan: Brandon Lowe is going to be looking for playing time somewhere, so Meadows will be pushed
Ray: So, I know people have talked about to about how Verlander and Cole are both pending FAs for Houston to some degree…but I saw on JV’s page that he apparently has a vesting option for next year if he finishes in the top 5 of the CY Young voting again. Is that legit?
Jeff Sullivan: The 2020 vesting option was waived as a condition of approving the trade from Detroit
MB, SC: How would you construct a Kluber trade that would be a win-win for both sides?
Jeff Sullivan: For one thing, I no longer think the Indians are in a position where they feel compelled to move a starter
Jeff Sullivan: But if a trade were to happen, I could see something built around Kluber and Verdugo, with more on the LA side
Benny Baseball: There have been multiple reports of the Red Sox trying to lock up Andrew Benintendi (aka “Mystery Player”) 1) How likely do you think this report is? 2) How much would it take to lock Benny up?
Jeff Sullivan: I don’t have any particular reason to doubt the report. Around this point in his service time, Odubel Herrera signed for 5/$30.5m, with two options. Ender Inciarte signed for 5/$30.5m, with one option. Kevin Kiermaier signed for 6/$53.5m, with one option
Jeff Sullivan: Now, Benintendi is better than Herrera, and he’s more of a hitter than Inciarte and Kiermaier. The price would be higher. But it wouldn’t blow those prices away
Jeff Sullivan: It is worth keeping in mind that Benintendi received a large draft bonus. Herrera, Inciarte, and Kiermaier were surprises, so maybe they were more willing to sign for a long-term guarantee. Benintendi is likely to drive a harder bargain
Kiermaier’s Piercing Green Eyes: What happened to the George Steinbrenner and Mike Ilitch-style owners who recognized that they were one of the lucky 30 who actually own an MLB team and valued winning and glory over the ROI?
Jeff Sullivan: For one thing, such owners were already the exception. If you average, say, one or two of them in a 30-team league, it shouldn’t be considered remarkable if you go through a stretch where there are zero
Jeff Sullivan: For another thing, success isn’t as tied to money as it used to be. You can’t guarantee a playoff appearance anymore with a gigantic payroll. Every team is smarter than they used to be, making it all the more difficult to stand out. The benefit of each additional dollar spent has been reduced
Luke: Are the Yankees better off adding 3 bullpen pieces for $30M/year or adding 1 Manny Machado/Bryce Harper for $30M/year?
Jeff Sullivan: The Yankees signed Ottavino and Britton for three years. Are Machado or Harper available for three years?
Jeff Sullivan: Here’s the reality, too — the Yankees, of course, could definitely afford Machado/Harper, but they don’t *need* Machado/Harper, because they’re already great. And come playoff time, the best pitchers become more valuable, while the best position players remain roughly as valuable as before
Jeff Sullivan: In the playoffs, the Yankees can lean on their bullpen as much as they want, but a great hitter is still only coming up four or five times a game
Nelson: Would a sports league work if owners were not allowed to make a profit (or loss) until they sold the team (kind of like owning a house). All revenue had to be put back into salaries. The owners, who are already extremely wealthy, would own teams for status only.
Jeff Sullivan: Probably not
Jeff Sullivan: I mean, look, I don’t know
Jeff Sullivan: But across the major sports, we see a revenue split somewhere in the vicinity of 50/50. There are a few potential owners, certainly, who’d participate just for the status, but for the bulk of people wealthy enough to own a team in the first place, they’d just choose to invest in other places that yield a greater ROI
Jeff Sullivan: It’s always about making more money. Almost always, anyway. That’s just our nature
Jeff Sullivan: When I say “our,” I’m referring to human beings. I do not consider myself a peer of North American billionaires
Jeff Sullivan: (although if any billionaires are out there looking for a friend who won’t send you too many text messages because texting is obnoxious, hit me up)
Big Joe Mufferaw: I have a feeling that the Yankees will go all Damon/Texiera and come out of nowhere and sign Harper. Gardner is NOT going to be their everyday LFer. It’s easy to slide Harper in LF, Hicks in CF, Judge in RF and Stanton as DH mostly and RF LF a few times a week.
Jeff Sullivan: It is a difficult feeling to shake. I feel similarly about the Dodgers
Mokajige: Since Hiura might be up this year, next year almost certainly, do you think Asdrubal Cabrera or Josh Harrison is a better fit at 2B for the Brewers?
Jeff Sullivan: They are potential fits. Marwin Gonzalez is a potential fit. Marwin and Cabrera might get the leg up for being shortstop-capable
Jeremiah : What is the reason for any team to not offer Bryce Harper 10-325 Million Dollars?
Jeff Sullivan: Because no other team is offering 10-325 million dollars, and all you really have to do is slightly exceed the otherwise highest bid on the table
Jeff Sullivan: Let’s keep in mind, also, that Harper has been a good player, but not a truly great one, outside of one season. He clearly deserves some manner of enormous contract but he is not a performance lock in the way most teams would like
Money Machado: Which teams in the AL Central can overtake the Indians and what would they have to do to make it realistic?
Jeff Sullivan: This year, only the Twins
Jeff Sullivan: I’d like to see them go get Robbie Ray or something
Jeff Sullivan: Byron Buxton, of course, would be required to be playable
Guest: Thoughts on Sonny Gray landing spots? I feel Giants make sense for a potential salary dump play if the Yankees can package Ellsbury and prospects with Gray.
Jeff Sullivan: I think I lean toward the Brewers, because they could use the rotation help, plus they’re an actual contender
Mike: Jeff, jeff, jeff. I am so bored. Help. Help. Save me from this offseason
Jeff Sullivan: See, I’ve come around to a different perspective
Jeff Sullivan: I know things seem really slow. Things *have been* really slow
Jeff Sullivan: But by spreading it all out, we still have a Harper contract to look forward to. Ditto Machado. Ditto Pollock, Kimbrel, Keuchel, etc. And there will probably still be a Realmuto trade! So much!
Jeff Sullivan: When something actually happens, it’s exciting for a day, then we all move on. When something has yet to happen, there’s the potential to be captivated on a regular basis
Jeff Sullivan: Now, in reality, I’m also getting sick of all the Harper/Machado rumors and speculation. But the light at the end of the tunnel is still in front of us
Still Waiting: When will Jose Martinez finally end up a Ray?
Jeff Sullivan: I feel like it would’ve happened by now, if it was going to happen. Guess they must not think much of his defense
JV: Is the new market inefficiency mid-tier FA? I feel you could build a competitive team through FA at this point.
Jeff Sullivan: That is probably not the new market inefficiency
J. Peterman: Hey Jeff! Where does Derek Fisher stand in terms of a future with the Astros. Do they still see him as a future starter?
Jeff Sullivan: Probably not in Houston, no
Andrew: Teams are increasingly focused on tweaking players to make them better and therefore gain a competitive advantage. Will this make projections less and less relevant?
Jeff Sullivan: In theory, yes, but I think in reality it will or would be true only to a small degree. Most players at the major-league level are going to remain similar to what they’ve always been. The most dramatic adjustments are likely to take place in the minors, where projections almost don’t matter
Jeff Sullivan: I’d expect to see more pop-up prospects, in other words
Frank: What are your thoughts on Jeff McNeil: outfielder?
Jeff Sullivan: I still don’t see a route to much playing time
Jeff Sullivan: Conforto, Nimmo, Broxton, Lagares — how many innings will McNeil really spend out on the grass?
Scherzers_Blue_Eye: 5th starter for the Nats this year: Fedde or Ross?
Jeff Sullivan: Both of them will make several starts
caesarsolid: Blake Snell had the 2nd highest LOB% of all time in 2018 at 88%. How much does this impact your assessment of his overall performance?
Jeff Sullivan: Last year, he was extremely successful with runners on base. That’s a credit to him and his defenders. I do not believe it reflects a true ability that’s in his permanent possession
Spaceman: Astros will start 2019 without McCullers, Keuchel and Morton. So far they did nothing to replace them. Are they playing the same game as the Indians saying : “We’ll take that division easily so there’s no need to improve anymore”?
Jeff Sullivan: That’s part of it. They also just have this overabundance of resources on account of their unparalleled player development. McHugh slides back into the rotation, where he belongs. James emerged last season as a wonderful pitcher. And then you get to mix and match between Peacock, Whitley, Valdez, Bukauskas…the Astros are very good, and I doubt they’re particularly worried about their pitching
Bruce: Looking back no with hidsight….what were the yankees thinking when they traded for Stanton? Do you think they thought at the time it wouldnt hurt their chances of getting Harper/Machado?
Jeff Sullivan: They probably thought his 2017 was more real than it was
Jeff Sullivan: Stanton at 24% strikeouts is different from Stanton at 30% strikeouts
Jeff Sullivan: And because of who he is and how he plays, Stanton had — and still has — the potential to be a genuine superstar in NYC
Syndergaardians of the Galaxy : Can I find third order wins on FG somewhere?
Jeff Sullivan: (We don’t host historical BaseRuns anywhere, to my knowledge)
Pudges Fisk and Rodriguez: Although I want minor leaguers to make actual money, I wonder how much it would change things if those guys got an actual wage. maybe the ridiculously bad wages really push guys to fight hard to improve and make the majors. Does it seem to you that a living wage for minor leaguers would have some sort of deleterious effect on the process?
Jeff Sullivan: I have heard that argument presented, when I asked. (I was not talking to an owner.) It’s possible that the system now selects for the players with the greatest drive, and I’m sure that contains some kernel of truth
Jeff Sullivan: But you just can’t look at this through the lens of better baseball. Yes, some players would be improved if they didn’t have to stress so much about sustaining themselves. But more importantly, the players would be making a living wage. The humanitarian reason is the most significant one
Jeff Sullivan: For what it’s worth, there is some momentum for this all to change, even on the team side
Jack: The free agency system works for the owners because they get so many years of affordable control of their players, years that usually cover their best seasons. In theory, the system should work for the players because there’s no salary cap and they can ask for however much they want once they get to free agency, but teams seem to have caught on that they were paying big money for their decline years and are less willing to do that anymore. The system entirely sucks for the fans. An offseason we were looking forward to for several years has been pretty dull. Harper and Machado are still out there in mid-January, and there are only a couple interested teams. Would baseball be better if it had a max contract like basketball? The PA would probably never agree to it because it would limit the earning potential of the mega stars, but if there was a max contract, Harper and Machado probably would’ve signed in November, and there probably would’ve been a lot more interested teams. It would be better theater
Jeff Sullivan: Firstly, the overwhelming majority of baseball fans pay only limited attention during the winter. The offseason is only entertainment for the real baseball nerds like us. The average fan checks in every now and then and smiles when baseball is back on TV
Jeff Sullivan: A max contract would be unwelcome for the reasons you already said
Jeff Sullivan: The CBT threshold needs to be a lot higher. Pre-arb salaries need to be higher. And arb salaries need to be higher, or arb years need to be more limited
Daniel Carroll: The opening Caesars line for Mariners wins was 74.5. It seems to me I’d take the over because I think they’re more likely to finish 80-82 than 68-94. They’re not going to be good, but I don’t see them being a 100-loss team. Do you agree?
Jeff Sullivan: I think it’s a pretty fair line. They currently have a lot of zeros or near-zeros and the bullpen is quite bad
Jeff Sullivan: Mitch Haniger is the only player on the team I’m comfortable saying will have an above-average season
Mark: Jeff – What would be the White Sox motivation for leaking the low Machado number? Or is it not them? I would think it would only invite competition.
Jeff Sullivan: I have no idea where that leak might’ve come from
Tim: As someone who is interested in entering the glamorous world of baseball blogging, what led you to this job? Like, what were you doing before? Do you have any advice?
Jeff Sullivan: I was a freshman in college who didn’t like to party and whose girlfriend went to a different school. And so I blogged. This was in fall of 2003
Jeff Sullivan: That eventually led me to part-time for SB Nation, which led me to full-time for SB Nation, which led me to full-time for FanGraphs. But the circumstances have changed, pretty obviously, and the path I took isn’t as open as it once was
Jeff Sullivan: Best advice, very simply: write, and write often. Make yourself write when you don’t want to, just for the experience. And write for the Community blog! Over the span of a few weeks or months, if you’re steady, you’ll find your voice, and you’ll find out more about your strengths and weaknesses. If you want to get noticed, having one good idea isn’t enough — you have to demonstrate reliable consistency
Jeff Sullivan: All right, I need to get rolling
Jeff Sullivan: So thank you everybody for hanging out, and I’m sorry for what I didn’t or couldn’t address. We’ll do it again next week at the same time, and until then, be well and have great days