Jeff Sullivan FanGraphs Chat — 1/4/19

9:02

Jeff Sullivan: Hello friends

9:02

Jeff Sullivan: Welcome to Friday baseball chat

9:02

Jeff Sullivan: I don’t know where Harper or Machado are going to sign

9:02

Jeff Sullivan: I don’t know when Harper or Machado are going to sign

9:04

stever20: So with the news from Jim Bowden that the Nats have increased their offer to Bryce Harper- do you think they are now the favorites to sign him?

9:04

Jeff Sullivan: Let us first consider whether or not that report is accurate or credible

9:05

Jeff Sullivan: That being considered, I’m having trouble picking between the Nationals and the Dodgers. The Nationals would be the easy pick; the Dodgers would be the obvious other candidate

9:06

Bobby Cox: What should the Braves do about their RF hole at this point?

9:07

Jeff Sullivan: I think someone like Derek Fisher would make for an interesting buy-low, but they could conceivably do that *and* reunite with Nick Markakis since I can’t imagine his market is all that strong

9:08

Jeff Sullivan: The Padres also have an outfielder or two to move, if you feel like trading a young hard-throwing pitcher

9:08

Look Dude: Do you think Kimbrel going back to Atlanta is inevitable?

9:09

Jeff Sullivan: Feeling increasingly inevitable he just returns to Boston

9:09

Jack: Could the Yankees have gotten Tulo to agree to join them without assuring him that either they’re not going to sign Machado, or that if they do, they’re going to trade Andujar?

9:09

Jeff Sullivan: Well, they could also move Andujar to first base, since he’s a dreadful defender at third

9:10

Jeff Sullivan: But — and I don’t mean to be so cold about this — Tulo is costing the Yankees the league minimum, and he’s a stopgap. The Yankees could’ve said whatever they wanted to convince him to sign up, but if something better comes along, Tulo’s presence isn’t much of a hurdle if they think he’s getting in the way

9:11

Jeff Sullivan: Tulo has apparently wanted to play for the Yankees, and at present, the Yankees are missing a shortstop for three or four months. That’s why we are where we are

9:12

Sum: it sounds like the contracts for Harper and Machado will be in the region of 10 years, taking both players to their mid-30s. lots of teams rest players via the DH slot once they age a bit and become less valuable defensively (e.g., JDMartinez; and both Harper and Machado have not-insubstantial injury histories already). does the American League have a structural advantage – or does the NL have a structural disincentive – to sign premium FAs to super-long-term deals because of the flexibility offered by the ability to slot them in at DH? has this played out, or do we see NL teams ignoring/discounting this difference and just signing the Matt Hollidays into their 30s anyway? thanks!

9:13

Jeff Sullivan: I don’t have time during this live chat to analyze the historical distribution of mega-deals, and those numbers would be biased somewhat anyway by NYY/BOS always being in the American League. That being said, I think there are three things to keep in mind:

9:14

Jeff Sullivan: 1) Executives often aren’t thinking too hard about such considerations that will only come into play so far down the line

9:14

Jeff Sullivan: 2) Still, it is a clear factor that would favor the AL by at least a little bit

9:15

Jeff Sullivan: 3) But at this point, the universal DH is all but an inevitability. Might even show up in the next CBA

9:15

Jeff Sullivan: Put it all together and I don’t think this is the factor that will determine which league the players go to

9:17

Look Dude: Griffey was one of the greatest hitters ever.  After around 10 years, he started heading downhill though – injuries, age.  Pujols had a similar path, 10 dominant years and the magic started wearing off.  Trout is going into his 9th season … 8th full I guess.  When he becomes a free agent and signs that huge contract, do you think he’ll decline in the same way that Griffey and Pujols did?

9:19

Jeff Sullivan: I believe Griffey and Pujols have had steeper aging curves than usual for Hall-of-Fame players. Any number of things *could* happen to Trout, and it could all change on any given play, but, you know, Miguel Cabrera remained a dominant hitter through 33, and he’s still good when he’s healthy. If Trout keeps himself in premium shape, you’d think his decline would be graceful

9:20

Ross: Who wins the NL Central in 2019?

9:20

Jeff Sullivan: Right now I think I slightly favor the Cardinals, but I also think the Brewers have more that they’re going to do this offseason

9:21

Josh: Of all the stats, which one is your favorite go-to stat?

9:21

Jeff Sullivan: wRC+ for hitters, K-BB% for pitchers. If I only had one for each

9:23

Roger: If the White Sox miss out on Macharper do you think they backtrack on their previous statements and end up trading Jose Abreu? Feel like if the Sox traded Abreu to Tampa for Matt Duffy it would round out both teams’ rosters a lot better

9:24

Jeff Sullivan: It’s not out of the question, but I think the White Sox still like Abreu quite a bit. And I’m not certain the Rays would go for that for a contract-year player

9:24

Syndergaardians of the Galaxy : The Astros have been particularly good at making already good pitchers even better. Lately we’ve heard that the Astros are interested in Seth Lugo, who has quietly been one of the better pitchers on the Mets the last three seasons. Any idea what it is about the way that Lugo pitches that the Astros are going to change to make him even better?

9:25

Jeff Sullivan: Well, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Nothing has happened yet, and Lugo is coming off a 79 FIP-. Maybe the Astros just want someone coming off a 79 FIP-

9:26

Jeff Sullivan: Bear in mind that Lugo’s best pitch is his curve, and his curve usage already just shot up from 17% to 32%

9:29

Jeff Sullivan: Maybe the Astros would want him to throw even *more* curves. Maybe they’d want to see a few more high fastballs. Or maybe the Astros just like the idea of getting a ~120-inning pitcher who is willing to either start or relieve over multiple innings. That’s exactly what the Astros pitching staff could use more of

9:30

Tim: Which free agent are you most surprised hasn’t signed yet?

9:30

Jeff Sullivan: It’s probably either AJ Pollock or Marwin Gonzalez. Pollock rumors have died off of late, it feels like, and Gonzalez ought to have a strong market that’s mostly unrelated to the fate of the guys at the top

9:31

R: i got a rejection letter from the director of Padres R&D but it wasnt Dave?  Did he get promoted? differnent role?

9:31

Jeff Sullivan: Dave is listed as a Senior Analyst

9:31

Jeff Sullivan: Sounds like you heard from Adam Esquer

9:32

Jeff Sullivan: Recent hire from the Rays, as a matter of fact

9:32

Mandy is 92% Fresh: Best case scenario for the Royals this year?

9:32

Jeff Sullivan: About 77 wins and third place

9:33

Jeff Sullivan: Well I guess the best-case scenario might also involve the Twins falling flat on their faces again. So about 77 wins and second place?

9:33

Syndergaardians of the Galaxy : Who comes in last this year in the NL Central?

9:33

Jeff Sullivan: Right now I think it’s still the Reds, but they’re creeping up on the Pirates. Pretty strong division being built

9:34

Eppler: Are the Angels done at this point? No touchdowns, not really any field goals, mostly a few first downs and then punts. Kinda depressing.

9:35

Jeff Sullivan: At the moment the Angels are projected for an opening-day payroll that’s almost an exact match of where they were each of the previous three seasons

9:35

Jeff Sullivan: They already got La Stella to be their infield caddy behind Fletcher/Cozart

9:36

Jeff Sullivan: Their rotation is full, what with Harvey and Cahill being added. I’d expect some bargain-basement outfield and bullpen additions

9:37

Jeff Sullivan: Could use someone better than Hermosillo behind the starting three in the OF. And that bullpen is at least one arm short

9:38

John: If Jeter Downs is as good of a prospect as people have been making him out to be, why did the Reds trade him for three guys on expiring contracts in a year they probably won’t contend?

9:40

Jeff Sullivan: I didn’t think that was a great move for the Reds, especially since they still don’t have a center fielder. But Downs is far away and he’s a non-elite player. Puig and Wood both have 2019 surplus value. And Kyle Farmer isn’t nothing, as a guy with hardly any big-league service time

9:41

Jeff Sullivan: Farmer’s been a pretty good hitter in Triple-A as a C/3B. Weird and appealing little skillset

9:43

Syndergaardians of the Galaxy : Don’t most pitchers who bomb in the Bronx eventually straighten out in the Alleghenys? Why isn’t Sonny Gray on the Pirates already?

9:43

Jeff Sullivan: The data point here seems to be…AJ Burnett?

9:44

Jeff Sullivan: Ivan Nova isn’t much better, considering the league and ballpark switch

9:46

Jeff Sullivan: Anyway, the Pirates don’t *not* make sense, but they also have a mostly full rotation, and the Yankees want a real trade return. Gray makes the most sense for a team in better playoff position, like the Brewers

9:46

Ray Liotta as Shoeless Joe: Good morning Jeff. What is your favorite condiment?

9:46

Jeff Sullivan: A quality hot sauce. The rest are almost all wastes of my time, except for mustard

9:47

Syndergaardians of the Galaxy : If the Phillies get off to a slow start, does Gabe Kapler get fired?

9:47

Jeff Sullivan: Almost a 0% chance of that happening this year

9:48

Jeff Sullivan: The Phillies love Kapler. It’s some of the fans and writers who don’t

9:48

bb: Jeff, what do you hope to accomplish this year, either personally or professionally?

9:49

Jeff Sullivan: I hope to have a good first eight months of marriage, and I hope that my writing in December is better than my writing in January

9:50

Jeff Sullivan: I guess I should specify December 2019 and January 2019

9:50

Jeff Sullivan: Not December 2019 and January 2020

9:50

Jeff Sullivan: That would be the opposite of what I hope

9:50

Jeff Sullivan: Although it’ll happen eventually! We all get worse and die

9:52

Frank: Would you rather have Urias/Tatis or Altuve/Correa for the next 6 years?

9:52

Jeff Sullivan: Altuve/Correa. Altuve’s almost in his 30s, but Correa’s nowhere close, and they’re already proven stars. Urias and Tatis haven’t proven anything and most great prospects turn into something less than great players

9:53

Jeff Sullivan: This is, of course, ignoring contracts

9:53

v2micca: If front offices adamantly decide they are done with 10 year contracts, what is Scott Boras’s next move?

9:54

Jeff Sullivan: Go above the front offices, like he usually does

9:54

Jeff Sullivan: The smartest thing Scott Boras ever did was figure out you don’t always have to try to negotiate with the usual negotiators

9:55

Jake: Which do you think is easier to improve? A hitter’s launch angle or a fielder’s zone rating (i.e., fielding and getting to balls)?

9:55

Jeff Sullivan: I think it’s easier to adjust a hitter’s launch angle, but remember that a higher launch angle isn’t the point. Quality contact is the point. Lots of guys could hit more fly balls, but they would be worse for it

9:57

Jeff Sullivan: It’s worth considering here that hitters peak a little later than defenders. Suggests that defensive improvements can be hard to come by, outside of exceptional cases like that of Marcus Semien

9:57

Syndergaardians of the Galaxy : I just noticed that every NL team name starts with a consonant but that 1/3rd of the AL team names start with a vowel. God, I wish that spring training would just start already.

9:57

Jeff Sullivan: There are advantages to having a slow-moving offseason market. Such as, a lot of significant stuff still has to happen in the coming six or so weeks

9:58

Will: are Edwin’s declining peripherals a cause for concern for a prospective new club?

9:58

Jeff Sullivan: Yes, but that’s just tied into the fact he’s going into his age-36 season. He’s worse now

9:59

Bort: How many Vogelbombs do you predict we’ll see in 2019?

9:59

Jeff Sullivan: I’ll say ten. Not convinced yet they’ll give him regular playing time

9:59

Brady Quinn: Rays downsizing Tropicana has to be disheartening for MLB. Thoughts?

10:00

Jeff Sullivan: This just shines another light on a familiar and preexisting problem. I don’t think we learn anything new from this. They just need to get out of there. Everybody knows it

10:01

Rox Fan: Please tell me that Daniel Murphy won’t be the extent of the upgrade to the Rockies’ offense.

10:01

Jeff Sullivan: Well, there should also be a few hundred more plate appearances for David Dahl, and Gerardo Parra is being replaced by Raimel Tapia or something

10:02

Jeff Sullivan: But, boy, you’d like to see them get Yasmani Grandal

10:02

Derek: What impact does the signing of Troy Tulowitzki have on the impact of the Yankees signing Manny Machado?

10:02

Jeff Sullivan: Almost zero

10:03

Jeff Sullivan: If the Yankees want Machado, they wouldn’t work against their own interests in bringing aboard a veteran shortstop who didn’t play at all in 2018. They have to be independent moves

10:04

LPFan: Do players who debut very early (late teens-early 20s) have different peak periods or longer than others?

10:05

Jeff Sullivan: I can’t find any relevant research at the moment, but I believe the early debuters tend to have more impressive overall careers. And it would make sense if they had slightly earlier peaks, since an early promotion would seem to select for someone who’s close to maxing out

10:05

jas: Chances the Padres sign Marwin Gonzalez or Moustakas?

10:05

Jeff Sullivan: I think pretty low. I suspect their aiming younger

10:05

PD: How much of the delay in Machado/Harper’s signing is due to them being unlikable?

10:05

Jeff Sullivan: Zero

10:06

Jeff Sullivan: When it comes to some of the best players in the world, nobody cares about that

10:07

OddBall Herrera: Welcome to an hour of people asking when/where Machado and Harper are going to sign, just to spite you

10:07

Jeff Sullivan: The good news is I get to select which questions I answer!

10:08

Jay: If you were the Padres when would you call up Tatis?

10:08

Jeff Sullivan: Slow start in 2017, slow start in 2018, no experience in Triple-A. I’d be looking around the usual Super-Two cutoff in the middle of June or whenever it is

10:11

Nick Mar – Cake is Good: Should the Dodgers spend their potential Harper money (freed up with Reds deal) to sign Pollock a reliever?

10:11

Jeff Sullivan: Just sign Harper

10:11

Jeff Sullivan: I know that’s easy for me to say

10:12

Jeff Sullivan: I think the Dodgers tend to be pretty good about finding quality relievers for cheap. Don’t need to pay more FA prices. They could also use a short-term catcher, and Cervelli fits well

10:12

Jeff Sullivan: But they should just sign Harper. I don’t care if it makes them super left-handed

10:13

Mark: On a very basic high level, is it fair for a fan like me to try to assess fair trade value using WAR by saying player A is a 3-WAR player under control for 2 years = 6 WAR, so a team trading for them would need to come up with somewhere around 6-WAR in a trade, let’s say a player who is worth 2-WAR for 3 years.  Again at a very basic, general guestimate level.

10:13

Jeff Sullivan: Not a terrible starting point, but you also need to figure out a way to add in the salary factor, since it’s not players who get traded — it’s players, along with their contracts

10:14

Jeff Sullivan: I wish there were some way to humanize the word “asset” because that’s what we’re dealing with

10:14

Jeff Sullivan: Players are traded as assets, but it also sucks to just put it in those terms

10:17

Jake: Why does free agency take so much longer to develop in baseball than in other sports? We didn’t have to wait several months to find out where John Tavares and LeBron James were signing. Most of the big players in other sports sign somewhere in the first week of free agency

10:17

Jeff Sullivan: Baseball doesn’t have a fixed salary cap — no matter what you make of the competitive-balance tax — and there aren’t terms like restricted and unrestricted free agents

10:18

Jeff Sullivan: There’s no such thing as a maximum contract, and on top of that, the baseball offseason is also just longer

10:19

Jeff Sullivan: NHL free agency opens in July and training camp starts in September. MLB free agency opens in November and spring training starts in February. That’s an extra month of space

10:20

Jeff Sullivan: Reality is even more complicated than all of that, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s even a bad thing. I like how the baseball offseason is more spread out. Maybe that’s just my writer-centric perspective

10:20

Mandy is 92% Fresh: Steamer has Brad Keller with a 4.58 ERA and FIP.  Take the under?

10:21

Jeff Sullivan: I’ll take the under, but I don’t think he’s great

10:22

Appa Yip Yip: Does WAR even work for catchers? Is too much of what they do currently unquantifiable, or are most Major league catchers right now really just not much better than randomly generated quad a guy (who is no doubt a lovely person)?

10:23

Jeff Sullivan: League-wide WAR for catchers: 52
League-wide WAR for first basemen: 47

10:23

Jeff Sullivan: There are certainly elements of being a catcher that aren’t easy to quantify. Some of those elements are missing. But WAR for catchers isn’t broken — you just have to remember everything comes with error bars

10:24

v2micca: Feels like a game of chicken right now between the Marlins and potential suiters for JT Realmuto.  Which happens first, a team caves to the Marlins demands, or the Marlins drop the asking price?

10:24

Jeff Sullivan: The Marlins didn’t agree to trade Christian Yelich last offseason until January 25. At the time that seemed like a basically fair deal

10:25

Jeff Sullivan: That date is three weeks away from today

10:25

Jeff Sullivan: I think the answer is in the middle — both sides are going to budge. That’s how negotiations almost always go, but teams won’t be able to ignore that the Marlins are going to trade the best catcher in baseball

10:26

Mike: Any chance the Astros are interested in Sonny Gray?

10:26

Jeff Sullivan: Yep

10:28

JKD: Let’s say Harper really does re-sign with the Nats. Is Adam Eaton plus Luis Garcia enough to get Cleveland listening on Kluber?

10:28

Jeff Sullivan: Nope

10:29

Michael: Perhaps we could discuss WHY Harper and Machado are going to sign? Are they happy doing what they do, or trapped in this life by the golden handcuffs of immense wealth? Perhaps Harper would be happier opening that hamburger stand he’s always talking about?

10:30

Jeff Sullivan: If I were young and fit and super good I’d think about putting myself out there for a monster one-year contract. Then after making like $45-50 million I’d announce my retirement and move to the mountains

10:31

Jeff Sullivan: Yeah, you give like half of that money to the government. But you also have everything you earned before, and you don’t need to maintain that high a cost of living. Freedom and wealth before ever turning 30!

10:32

Jeff Sullivan: Of course, anyone with that sort of perspective wouldn’t be driven enough to be great at baseball to be great at baseball

10:33

IsIt2015Yet?!: Dan mentioned the other day that Bregman’s projections and decent defense last year could make Correa trade-able for the Astros. I can think of a team who’s present roster lines up pretty well who’d otherwise be a “contender” if they didn’t get .2 fWAR from SS last year: The Pittsburgh Pirates. Think Keller, Cruz, Swaggerty, Tucker, and Brubaker would make a good base for a package for Correa coming off a down year with 3 years left? 4 of Pitt’s top 5 and a pitcher who should be ready for ML in 2019.

10:33

Jeff Sullivan: I don’t think the Pirates are the kind of team that should be making further consolidation trades like the Archer move. That one ultimately set them back

10:34

Jeff Sullivan: I also wonder if the Astros figure they’re so good at player development they should just keep their superstars and turn 40-FV prospects into 50-FV prospects

10:35

Jeff Sullivan: Correa, though, would be an interesting target for the Padres…

10:35

Kyle: What’s your outlook on the Mets? BVW claims their internal models have them projected as a high 80s win team, which I think is very realistic if the rotation stays healthy (which has been said since 2015).

10:36

Jeff Sullivan: Mid-80s. Still short a center fielder. Competitive ballclub to be sure, but also in a tough division with only one bad team

10:36

Jeff Sullivan: Don’t love the rotation-depth picture behind the obvious studs

10:38

Tyler: Why is Berkman getting so little HOF support?  Any one who voted for Vlad should be voting for Berkman.  If anything Berkman had the better peak and overall WAR numbers.

10:40

Jeff Sullivan: That, of course, doesn’t explain why Berkman is like 70 points below where Guerrero was on his first ballot

10:41

Jeff Sullivan: Guerrero did wind up with 1200 more plate appearances. And he’s just the more “memorable” player. A lot of Berkman’s value was tied up in his ability to draw walks, which has never been that sexy for voters

10:42

Jeff Sullivan: Guerrero cleared 2500 hits; Berkman didn’t reach 2000. Guerrero hit 449 homers; Berkman didn’t reach 400. Guerrero stole 181 bases; Berkman didn’t reach 100

10:42

Jeff Sullivan: Berkman isn’t really that much of a less-deserving candidate, but the ballot now is so crowded. Oh well

10:42

Doug: Is Dallas Keuchel being underrated because he’s a pitch-to-contact guy? Been durable, and I thought I read his fb velocity was its best since 2015 last year?

10:44

Jeff Sullivan: The short answer is yes

10:44

Jeff Sullivan: But for a durable pitcher, 2016 ended with a shoulder injury, and he had two stints on the DL in 2017

10:45

Jeff Sullivan: He’s coming off his worst strikeout rate since 2012, and he’s 31 years old

10:45

Jeff Sullivan: Keuchel’s contact rate just went up six points. He lets the ball get put in play. The upside here is limited, so that’s why you’re not hearing all that much about him

10:47

GSon: Jefry Rodriguez acquired from the Nationals: Does he have more than a token chance to become a late inning/high leverage addition to the Indians pen?

10:48

Jeff Sullivan: I like the curve enough, but his location has a ways to go. Could potentially be one of those guys who makes a sudden improvement if thrust full-time into a reliever role

10:48

Jeff Sullivan: Better than a token chance, in other words

10:49

Southi: If Atlanta doesn’t sign a free agent outfielder or trade for one, is there a chance they may give Austin Riley a crash course thus spring to see if he is even a feasible option in right?  He surely has the arm for the position, I would just be worried about his speed and mobility.

10:50

Jeff Sullivan: There was already preexisting talk about him getting some OF reps in spring training. I expect them to address the outfield eventually, but I also think we’ll see Riley start to move around if he isn’t traded

10:50

Klenny: whats the phillies next *big* move now? is there one left?

10:51

Jeff Sullivan: We all know what the possible answers are here, but there are two premium free agents, and more than two potential destinations

10:51

Klenny: Does trading Neshek, Hunter, Morgan, Nicasio or Cesar Hernandez to open up roster spots for cheaper/younger options make sense or just roll with all the depth

10:52

Jeff Sullivan: The Phillies could move a reliever, but otherwise I think you keep the depth. And Hernandez isn’t a bad regular

10:54

Derek: Who do you think is the favorite to sign Dallas Keuchel?

10:54

Jeff Sullivan: Whichever of the Nationals/Phillies doesn’t end up with one of Harper/Machado

10:56

yanks offseason: Lets get weird.  Sanchez, Andujar, Gray for Tatis Jr., Mejia, Paddock + lower level prospect?

10:56

Jeff Sullivan: You’d be able to have some pretty lively conversations, and you might even make some progress, but the Padres obviously love their guys, and I bet it would end up spiked over a disagreement regarding the future of Andujar’s defense

10:57

Jeff Sullivan: His value drops pretty quickly if he’s not a third baseman

10:57

derve: What hockey team do you root for now? And will you switch allegiance to the new Seattle team when they join the NHL?

10:57

Jeff Sullivan: The terrible Ottawa Senators, and no

10:57

Nate: Who else should the Tigers consider signing to a small deal that could possibly be flipped at the deadline?

10:58

Jeff Sullivan: Shelby Miller?

10:58

stever20: so the Phillies- if they don’t get Harper/Machado- how much of a failure would this offseason be for them?  Especially if the Nats got Harper back and given what the Mets have done….

10:59

Jeff Sullivan: Would entirely depend on what else they’d do to compensate. Remember that neither of the teams that had Harper and Machado to begin last year made the playoffs. Baseball rosters are big, and there’s more than one way to compete. The fans and media wouldn’t let the Phillies hear the end of it, but they don’t need one of the two guys to win in 2019. Can’t go into an offseason with that kind of tunnel vision

11:00

Jeff Sullivan: Okay, I should get rolling, since I think Kiley is about to begin a chat of his own!

11:00

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

We hoped you liked reading Jeff Sullivan FanGraphs Chat — 1/4/19 by Jeff Sullivan!

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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

newest oldest most voted
rosen380
Member

https://www.fangraphs.com/graphsw.aspx?players=327,1177,10155

Even if Trout follows the Griffey/Pujols aging curve, he still appears to have a huge amount of value in front of him.

majnun
Member
majnun

Also, Griffey got very hurt, and Pujols was three years older than he said at the time