MLB’s New CBA, Free Agents and Arbitration

All Star Game, Ballparks, Books, CBA, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players, Playoffs, Politics, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, World Series

The new collective bargaining agreement and immediate changes to the system will affect free agents and clubs more than the rule changes for the MLB Draft will.

You can read a simple explanation to the changes here on Baseball Nation. Here’s the clip relevant to free agency.

Starting with the 2012-2013 off-season, the entire Elias-Type A-Type B ranking system has been scrapped. Instead, teams that offer a contract with an annual average value of more than $12.4 million to a free agent from their team will receive a first-round draft pick as compensation if that free agent signs elsewhere. The $12.4 million figure is the average salary of the 125 highest-paid players in the league. That figure will rise yearly as salaries rise. A team that finishes in the bottom 15 in the majors cannot lose a first-round draft pick.

Type A and B rankings will remain in place for the current off-season, but certain players not considered “top” Type As will be reclassified as Type Bs — mostly relief pitchers. In addition, teams signing Type A relief pitchers will not forfeit draft picks, but the teams that lose the Type A relievers will receive a compensatory pick. This provision is not retroactive. As a result, the Philadelphia Phillies will forfeit a draft pick to the Boston Red Sox in compensation for signing closer Jonathan Papelbon. On the other hand, if the Red Sox sign another Type A reliever to replace Papelbon, the Red Sox will not forfeit a pick.

You can see the arbitration offers that have been made—so far—here along with the Type A or B status.

It seems convoluted, but if you go bit-by-bit and make sure you get it before moving onto the next aspect, it’s not that hard. (I don’t think.) MLB.com also explains it here.

What must be understood with some of the more surprising arbitration offers is that a team is not obligated to pay the player his award if they deem it to be too much money. Dan Wheeler of the Red Sox falls into the category of, “they offered him arbitration?”

On the surface he’s not a pitcher a front office that interprets value with money and production like the Red Sox would pay $3 million+ for, but there are benefits to the offer. Wheeler is a “Type B” free agent; he pitched serviceably enough when he was healthy and the Red Sox would know what they’re getting from him if they keep him. They can hope he rejects arbitration (he won’t); they can hope he leaves and take the supplemental draft pick; they can sign him to what they consider a fairer deal before arbitration; or they argue their case with him and, win or lose, can walk away from the award before the season and only have to pay a small fraction as termination pay.

The Brewers offered Francisco Rodriguez arbitration and it’s a tightrope for both sides, but well worth the risk. With Scott Boras as his agent, he’s unlikely to accept the offer to be a set-up man even if it’s for that lofty salary of $13.5 million +.

But if he’s pragmatic and puts ego aside, he might take the offer if he can’t get a longer term contract.

The Brewers can swing it financially and build their club on a superlative starting rotation and shut-down bullpen, mitigating the loss of Prince Fielder. It’s known that K-Rod can be a closer; if he’s willing to accept that he’s probably not going to accumulate the relatively meaningless save stat, pitches well, stays healthy as a set-up man and behaves as a good soldier, it will only benefit him going into 2013 free agency as the market won’t be flooded and in flux as it is now as teams are sifting through their situations, the new CBA and what’s currently available.

As I said in my posting about the draft, MLB players don’t care about amateurs’ bonuses and they’re definitely happy to be rid of the hovering onus of having their own options diminished by the possibility of a team losing a top draft pick for signing them. Clubs with money will be more willing to spend on what would be considered an “iffy” free agent if he’s not costing a first rounder.

It will take care of itself. The draft picks were referenced as a big reason Brian Cashman didn’t want Rafael Soriano last year, but Cashman didn’t want Soriano period. It wasn’t just the draft picks, it was the money and that he’s Rafael Soriano in reputation and performance. And Cashman was right.

There’s little risk in offering arbitration to players whom clubs don’t want back because they can always just walk away with no “handshake agreement” necessary with the player that he’ll refuse it. It’s not in the interests of a Raul Ibanez to take the offer of arbitration because he’s not going to be with the Phillies next season one way or the other and the number of teams willing to give him any noteworthy contract in the spring right before the season will be nonexistent.

The players and owners benefited from the new deal even if it’s going to hurt the amateurs; the attitude of disinterest in how a drafted player deals with not being handed a giant check for signing his name is totally acceptable on the part of the union and MLB.

In reality, why should they care?

//

Advertisements

Lozano Feeds The Hungry Vanity

Ballparks, Books, CBA, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, PEDs, Players, Politics, Stats, World Series

Deadspin published this article about Dan Lozano, agent for Albert Pujols, Carlos Beltran, Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher, among others.

It’s not a flattering piece with allegations of prostitutes, parties, lies, a pliable personality and abuse.

There are now suggestions that Pujols immediately fire Lozano and hire a new agent to negotiate his next contract.

Pujols has stated his support for Lozano, but as this blows up and goes viral, there will be other people popping up and making negative claims about the agent.

Don’t be stunned to see Pujols make a change and hire a new agent soon. Scott Boras probably has an underling preparing a “Pujols Book of Accomplishments” as we speak—just in case.

The story is completely believable and should not be surprising.

Are you under the impression that athletes are represented by fine, upstanding citizens who are only out for the good of their clients?

There are people like that, but not many; athletes—especially those in their 20s—have neither interest nor concern about the reputations of those with whom they consort. They want money; they want to party; they want to be told how great they are; and they want instant gratification. The last thing they’re looking for, just out of their teens and independent for the first time, is to have another “dad” or “coach” telling them what they shouldn’t be doing.

A-Rod’s association with Lozano is questioned in the Deadspin article because A-Rod, with a playing contract ostensibly sealed through the end of his career and a separate representation for his entertainment division, doesn’t need an agent for anything baseball-related. But A-Rod clearly fancies himself as a player. Not a baseball player as an end unto itself, but a cross-cultural businessman with real estate and other holdings to branch out. Part of that is this clear business partnership he’s entered into with Lozano. A-Rod’s amoral behaviors are well-known and unhidden; his split with Boras was something of an estrangement between a parent and child and it’s no surprise he took up with Lozano given these revelations.

Lozano’s a sports agent and he’s servicing the client’s needs and desires by feeding their hungry vanity.

There’s little difference between most player agents and professional wrestling managers apart from one being fictional and over-the-top and the other staged. (You can decide which is which.)

Garnering clients by any means necessary, Lozano’s enabling them, telling them what they want to hear.

He’s a hustler and if he’s willing to go that extra mile to get the clients with no boundaries for state-sanctioned propriety or faux morals, the line of thinking—for a player—is, “he gets things done”.

Even if he loses Pujols, this is probably going to increase his business substantially and he’ll survive.

I’m not defending it nor judging it.

It’s simply how it is.

//

MLB CBA—The Draft Changes Explained In Plain English

All Star Game, Ballparks, Books, CBA, College Football, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, Movies, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, PEDs, Players, Playoffs, Politics, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, Umpires, World Series

The changes to the draft are complicated and their understanding is fluid—the reactions to the announcement of the changes were immediate and angry and didn’t appear to be fully grasped before they were made public.

Jim Callis explains the changes and why they might not be as awful as feared here on Baseball America.

Wendy Thurm explains the entire deal in the most easily graspable piece I’ve read on the subject here on Baseball Nation.

I’ll go bit by bit. (If I’m inaccurate or wrong, let me know. I won’t yell…this time.)

Limiting the bonuses.

There will be a yet-to-be-defined limit on how much teams can spend on their selections in the first 10 rounds without penalty.

The limit will be based on what was spent in total (aggregate) the prior season; it will be higher than the year previous.

Penalties are as follows (from the Baseball Nation piece):

Teams that exceed the ceiling by 5% will be taxed 75%; teams that exceed it by 5-10% will be taxed 75% and lose a first-round draft pick the following year. If a team goes over by 10-15%, the tax will be 100% with the loss of first- and second-round draft picks. Draft spending at 15% more than permitted will be taxed 100% and the team will lose two first-round picks.

Callis explains why it’s not going to be as horrible as initially thought:

In 2011, clubs spent a record $228 million on draft bonuses, and 20 of them exceeded their aggregate slot totals for the first 10 rounds by at least 15 percent.

However, the initial assumption that the new penalties would be based on something near the old slots doesn’t appear to be correct. Last year, MLB valued the total worth of the 331 picks in the first 10 rounds at $133 million. Those slot numbers were less that MLB’s guidelines from five years earlier, however, and were 44 percent lower than the $192 million teams paid to sign 303 of those players.

MLB won’t get to unilaterally decide the worth of draft picks going forward, though. It negotiated the values with the union, and they reportedly (and not surprisingly) will be much higher.

To the best of my understanding, this means that teams won’t be able to dump wads of cash on players who are consensus blue-chip stars without penalty. There won’t be any Stephen Strasburg or Bryce Harper bonuses nor a Major League contract.

Teams won’t be as willing to take shots on players who are coming out of high school or are college juniors  and offer then a check with enough zeroes to coax them to sign.

If a club thinks the player is worth it, then they’ll pay to get him signed. A Strasburg-level talent is going to get his money one way or the other, it just won’t be $15 million.

The players aren’t exactly free to take their talents elsewhere.

Like a fee for a loan or a closing cost, the percentage of the penalty can be folded into the bonus and shared by the team and the player. If a player isn’t interested in signing or having his check reduced, he’ll have a choice of not signing; but if he has nowhere to go and his amateur status has run out, he and the team that selected him will have extra motivation to get a deal done.

Where’s Strasburg going if he doesn’t sign?

I’m sure Scott Boras has a scheme running through his head as he sits in his darkened lair, his fingers tented, head bent slightly downward with his hooded eyelids barely glaring off into the unknowable darkness, but what he’s going to do to circumvent the new draft rules and the restrictions?

Fewer high school players will be selected in the early rounds if they’re represented by a Boras-type who’s going to demand they get paid regardless of any penalties.

“This is a special talent that deserves special treatment,” he’ll say.

But if there’s an Alex Rodriguez sitting there, a team is going to pick him and pay him.

Fewer clubs will gamble on a Todd Van Poppel.

In 1990, Van Poppel repeatedly said he was going to college at the University of Texas and that MLB clubs shouldn’t bother wasting a pick on him. This was a windfall for the club with the first pick in that year’s draft—the Braves—because they wound up taking Chipper Jones as a “consolation”.

Some consolation.

The Athletics had extra picks in the draft that year, so they picked Van Poppel 14th, offered him a $500,000 bonus and a Major League contract.

He signed and had a journeyman career. Whether or not going to college would’ve exposed his flaws—a lack of movement on his fastball; poor secondary stuff; terrible control—or helped him hone his talents is the height of 20/20 hindsight. Who knows?

Teams will undoubtedly go for a deep strike in this way if they can afford it. Those Athletics under then-GM Sandy Alderson spent money at all levels of the organization and were a championship caliber big league team willing to “waste” a pick for that kind of notable talent. That will happen again independent of financial penalty.

The expected quality of the next year’s draft and who will be available will directly influence this kind of decision; if there’s a weak draft class, a team isn’t going to spend crazily for a “maybe” and risk losing the next year’s picks and vice versa.

The owners; current big leaguers; and “choosing other sports”.

Owners care about saving money; big league players don’t care about the amateurs and are somewhat jealous of players who’ve accomplished nothing professionally getting a huge payday for being a draft pick.

As for the “great athletes going to different sports”, it’s a little presumptuous to believe that a young athlete can translate his talents from baseball to basketball (where height is a great equalizer) and football (where the monetary benefits are limited; the contracts are not guaranteed; and the abuse on one’s body is exponential).

Intelligent pragmatism will take precedence.

At 5’11”, 150 pounds, could Greg Maddux have chosen to play football? Maddux was so small that when he reached the majors, then-Cubs manager Gene Michael thought he was a new batboy.

Carlton Fisk was a terrific basketball player, but he’s 6’3″. Would that have worked out better than baseball, where he became a Hall of Famer?

I suppose Prince Fielder could play football and be an offensive lineman; Matt Kemp could be a linebacker; the 6’8″ Doug Fister could be a forward in basketball. But how many players truly have that option?

Mark Schlereth told the story about his nudging of his son Daniel away from football into baseball. Daniel Schlereth was a quarterback, but is 6’0″. The number of NFL quarterbacks who are that short and get a chance to play are extremely limited. The Hall of Fame caliber offensive lineman Mark Schlereth‘s “nudge” can put you through a wall; in this case it sent his son to baseball.

Even if they’re not getting a $7 million bonus for signing their names, $2 million is still a lot of money—enough money to have a pretty nice, leisurely life provided they don’t purchase ten cars and impregnate 5 women simultaneously; in other words, as long as they’re not stupid.

If a player like Joe Mauer (who’s used as an example in the Baseball Nation article) decides he wants to go and play football and baseball in college and walk away from a still-large bonus and run the risk of having his knee torn out in a scrimmage and having nothing, then that’s his choice.

It’d be pretty short-sighted though.

The draft is the ultimate crapshoot.

The idiocy of the Moneyball “card-counting” concept in which the Billy Beane-led A’s were drafting “ballplayers” rather than jeans models looked terrific…until they began playing the game professionally and their verifiable results from the amateur ranks, lo and behold, didn’t translate to the professional arena.

Some made it to the big leagues and played well; some made it to the big leagues and didn’t; some failed in the minors; some got hurt.

In other words, it was a typical draft.

The 2002 Moneyball draft for the Athletics was about as mediocre as the those of the teams that weren’t led by a “genius” nor guided by a computer.

This concept that teams who invest in the draft or have a “system” are going to get an automatically positive result through that conscious choice are ignoring the fact that the draft is the ultimate crapshoot. It’s perception that feeds the circular viewpoint that building through the draft is a guarantee to success. For every team like the Rays and Giants who’ve benefited from a detailed focus on player development and savvy trades, there are clubs like the Indians that hoarded their draft picks and dealt away veterans for top prospects and got middling-to-poor results.

These alterations will actually benefit teams in ways they haven’t thought about before.

The changes to the draft bonus money will limit the number of players who are kept around mainly because they had a large amount of money paid to them and the front office wants to save face by not admitting they made a mistake.

The days of “projects” or “tools guys” who are allowed to hit .220 and be baseball clueless or have zero command, zero breaking stuff, a lights-out fastball and little else will mercifully end. Performance or a deep belief in the ability of the player will be placed to the forefront rather than salvaging money or preventing public embarrassment for drafting and paying a player who couldn’t play.

The media tantrums.

You’ll see people in the media and bloggers who make their way and garner attention “analyzing” the MLB draft squawking in self-righteous indignation at the way the draft is bastardized and small market teams will suffer.

It’s an agenda-laden lament stemming from a hidden self-interest.

Because the number of players from whom to select will be limited, there won’t be the opportunity to “assess” and conjure mock drafts.

The mock-drafts and attempts to turn the MLB draft into an extravaganza the likes of the NFL, NHL and NBA are ignoring the limited knowledge of the players drafted and that the game of professional baseball, unlike the other sports, is totally different from the amateurs.

In football, they use different schemes and tactics from college to the NFL, but the game is the same.

In basketball, the 3-point line is closer in college; in the NBA the defense is better and the players are faster, but the game is the same.

In hockey, it’s hockey. The players are bigger and faster; the goalies are better, but it’s the same activity.

None of those sports make it possible to function as an entity unto oneself.

But in amateur baseball, they’re using aluminum bats and living under the thumbs of coaches and parents who tell the players what to do and when to do it under the threat of lost scholarships and playing time. In the pros, they’re using wooden bats, playing in poorly lighted stadiums with pebble-strewn infields in front of sparse crowds and clawing their way to the big leagues in a primordial rise where winning is secondary to the battle between pitcher and hitter.

In the other major sports, players cannot function without their teammates; in baseball, it’s individualism with a team construct and this cannot be replicated from one venue to the other.

The bottom line.

Changes are part of baseball and initially scoffed at as “ruining the game”.

Branch Rickey created the first farm system by buying up minor league franchises; it was ridiculed an eventually became the norm.

Baseball adjusted.

The draft was designed to prevent the Yankees from signing all the top players because they had all the money, championships and “lore” to lure (see what I did there?) to get the players to want to be Yankees.

Baseball adjusted.

The end of the reserve clause; divisional play; expansion; the Wild Card; advanced stats—you can find any change that was proposed and implemented and find fault with it; locate blanket statements from “experts” or “insiders” talking about ruining the game.

But the game’s still here.

It’s evolving.

It will adapt.

It will survive.

//

MLB CBA: The Wild Card Play-In And Expanded Replay

All Star Game, Ballparks, CBA, Games, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players, Playoffs, Stats, Umpires, World Series

Let’s look at some more of the changes to the game in the new collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the MLB Players Association. You can get an understandable explanation of everything in the deal here on Baseball Nation.

I’ll talk about the draft changes tomorrow. They’re complicated and convoluted and will take some time to sift through.

The Wild Card play-in game.

There will be an added Wild Card team, but it’s not exactly an expansion of the playoffs. It’s a one-game playoff. The three division winners in each league automatically make the playoffs; the next two best records will play one another to join the party.

I’ve gone to great lengths to formulate a better set-up for the leagues. You can read it here, but the gist would be to eliminate the leagues; place the teams in divisions based on locale; and expand the playoffs to 10 teams.

Shifting the Astros to the American League is simplistic and stupid.

The extra Wild Card team isn’t exactly an “extra” team in the playoffs. They’re getting a chance and that’s it.

This will provide incentive for teams to win the division—no one wants to roll the dice in a one-game playoff if they can help it—and will improve late-season competition.

As for the suggestion that one team might wind up playing another team that was double-digits behind them in the standings, it’s not unprecedented and teams that benefit from that accident of circumstance need not apologize.

The 1973 Mets of Tug McGraw, Yogi Berra, Willie Mays and “ya gotta believe” and “you’re not out of it ’til you’re out of it” went to the World Series after winning the war of attrition NL East, then upset the Big Red Machine Reds in the NLCS.

The 1987 Twins with two starting pitchers—Bert Blyleven and Frank Viola—won 85 games, upset the Tigers in the ALCS and won the World Series.

The Marlins have won two World Series, yet have never won a division title.

They’re quirks. They happen. And will happen again and again, expanded Wild Card or not.

Expanded replay.

When does this end?

Now it’s trapped balls and foul lines?

How about base plays?

Balls and strikes?

Pickoff plays?

Checking home runs was enough.

Because there are so many high-profile blown calls and the proliferation of HD replays and over-and-over viewings, the mistakes are more glaring; it’s ignored that the umpires do a tremendous job getting it right most of the time.

To keep game lengths from going out of control, managers have to be given a challenge on those new additions to replay; they get one and that’s it for the game.

//

MLB CBA Analysis: HGH Testing

All Star Game, Ballparks, Books, CBA, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, PEDs, Players, Playoffs, Politics, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, Umpires, World Series

The clearest and easiest to understand explanation of the multi-pronged new labor agreement between MLB and the Players Association is found here at Baseball Nation.

I’m separating my take on the new deal into segments.

First the HGH test; below is the clip from the above-linked piece on HGH:

Testing for Human Growth Hormone
The players and owners agreed to limited blood testing for human growth hormone. During 2012 spring training, players will have blood drawn and will be monitored for their physical reaction to the blood test. The blood samples will be tested for HGH and will then be destroyed. (Recall, however, that when urine tests for steroids were first introduced, the urine samples were supposed to be destroyed. They were not, and the FBI then seized the urine samples during its investigation of BALCO Labs.)

***

Anyone who’s followed performance enhancers in bodybuilding and sports knows that the chemists are forever trying to come up with something new, undetectable and relatively safe.

Laymen and the self-righteous don’t want to hear that steroids and HGH are not dangerous if used in the proper dosages and administered by a qualified medical/sports supplement professional.

But that’s a different argument.

The average fan wants to know that the records they’re seeing set are “real” without any common denominator definition of what “real” is and no assigned blame to MLB’s overlords and team owners who cast a blind eye out of convenience to what they knew was going on; to what they tacitly encouraged.

Be that as it may, this will put forth the pretense of “cleanliness”.

Bear in mind that the players will find something else to give them a boost.

They always do.

Regarding said players, it will be an interesting case study in reactions and handling of pressure and scrutiny.

For those whose careers took wondrous and unexpected leaps from nothingness to stardom, an immediate suspicion will permeate the baseball world; if they get off to slow starts or have a noticeable body change early in 2012, the whispers will begin immediately.

Was Jose Bautista a late-bloomer?

Did John Axford‘s rising velocity result from a mechanical tweak?

Was Kevin Long’s alteration of Curtis Granderson‘s swing responsible for his burst of power?

Why was Jacoby Ellsbury suddenly able to hit home runs and stay healthy?

These are not accusations. They’re just questions. They’re going to be asked and it’s not unreasonable to ask them.

If there is a marked difference in the way a player looks or performs, first it will be whispered; then it will be said; then it will be accused.

And barring a series of leaks like the 2003 tests, we won’t know who passed and who failed. If the players are smart, they’ll make sure—under threat of legal action against MLB—that those samples are destroyed as they’re supposed to be.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the names won’t come out somehow.

This isn’t good for the game or bad for the game; it just is.

//

Verlander Casts A Spell

All Star Game, Ballparks, Books, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players, Playoffs, Politics, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, World Series

When Roger Maris had the infamous asterisk* attached to his home run record because of the extra 8 games played in Maris’s time as opposed to Babe Ruth‘s time, Maris rightfully and indignantly said something to the tune of, “Which 154? The first 154? The last 154? The middle? A season’s a season.”

For the record, there was never an asterisk*; there was a 162 game season and 154 game season separation.

It’s a similar comparison to Justin Verlander and those who say that his mere job of being a pitcher and only participating in 34 games a season should eliminate him from consideration for the Most Valuable Player award.

But what about the games in which the other candidates Miguel Cabrera, Jacoby Ellsbury, Curtis Granderson and Jose Bautista did absolutely nothing while Verlander was dominating for 27 of those 34 starts?

It’s impossible to quantify the importance of a particular player based on his position.

Would the Tigers have won 95 games without Verlander?

Of course not.

Because they had such a blazing hot streak of 12 straight wins in September and ran off with a weak division, the contribution of Verlander is being mistakenly muted.

Early in the season, when the Tigers were essentially playing Verlander Incanter (the French word for cast a spell—yeah, I’m going high-end; do something about it) that the rest of the starting rotation would provide something—anything—of use so the Tigers could win a few games that Verlander wasn’t starting, the team would’ve been buried without him.

Max Scherzer was inconsistent to start the season; Rick Porcello was mostly terrible; Brad Penny was Brad Penny; and Phil Coke was yanked from the rotation after 14 starts.

In conjunction with his production, the “where would they be without him?” argument is a viable reason to give someone an MVP vote.

The momentum from the leader of the staff grew so the Tigers were able to stay near the top of the AL Central and make mid-summer trades for Doug Fister, Wilson Betemit and Delmon Young to bolster a flawed team. On August 17th, they only led the division by 2 games and were 9 1/2 games out in the Wild Card; at that time, it was generally assumed that the Wild Card was going to come down to which team between the Yankees and Red Sox didn’t win the AL East. The dynamic changed drastically in September for everyone. For the Tigers, their playoff position was not assured until September despite winning the division by 15 games.

It’s not only about where the team and player ended, but how they got there.

The Tigers would’ve been nowhere without Verlander.

Once we accept that it wasn’t a situation of the Tigers being so deep that they were going to win that division anyway, Verlander’s value becomes stronger.

In their precarious position, the Tigers held the Ace every fifth day; on the morning of a Verlander start, they knew they had a great chance to win because of Verlander. Added to that overriding feeling of foreboding for his opponents and comfort for his teammates, he led the league in starts, wins, strikeouts, ERA, ERA+, WAR (and not just pitcher WAR, WAR period), and WHIP.

My criteria for MVP is, in no particular order: performance; importance; indispensability.

Based on performance, you can make the case for any of the top 5 finishers, but the final trigger for me in such a close race comes down to Velrander’s irreplaceability.

The Blue Jays were a .500 team with Bautista and they misused him by failing to get players on base in front of him and trying to steal too many bases for no reason to run themselves out of innings.

The Red Sox came apart in spite of Ellsbury’s heroics.

The Yankees would’ve found someone to play center field and hit well enough to account for not having Granderson and had the surrounding players to survive his absence.

The Tigers could’ve found a first baseman (perhaps Victor Martinez who was DHing) to play first base and gotten 25 homers from that spot and had better defense.

Given the difficulty in finding quality pitching, can anyone honestly say that the Tigers could’ve replaced Verlander’s innings? His dominance? His mere presence? And still been anywhere close to the 95 wins they accumulated?

No.

The MVP is not for everyday players alone because the pitchers have the Cy Young Award—that’s a faulty premise. The Cy Young Award is for pitching performance independent of team—that’s how Felix Hernandez won the award with a 13-12 record in 2010; the MVP is an all-encompassing award based on the team and the individual, and by that judgment, Verlander is the Most Valuable Player in the American League for 2011.

Period.

//

Rangers Sign Nathan, Shift Feliz

All Star Game, Ballparks, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players, Playoffs, Politics, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, World Series

If the Rangers harbored any hopes of keeping C.J. Wilson, they were extinguished with Wilson’s expressed desire for a $120 million contract from…someone.

The Yankees aren’t giving it to him. No one’s giving it to him. Wilson might ultimately wind up with the Yankees, but it’s going to be for less-than $100 million.

With that in mind, the Rangers did the next best thing and in a savvy bit sleight-of-role, they signed Joe Nathan to a 2-year, $14.5 million contract with an option for 2014 at $9 million and a $500,000 buyout.

Nathan was inconsistent for the Twins in returning from Tommy John surgery in 2011 and was replaced as closer by Matt Capps; he regained the job late in the season and pitched well. He’s put up big strikeout numbers in his career and will rack up the saves; he’s struggled in the post-season, especially against the Yankees.

That’s something to keep in the back of your mind. But nothing to worry about now.

This was a domino-effect signing.

The Rangers get their closer at a reasonable rate, far cheaper than the Phillies paid for Jonathan Papelbon and well below the demands of Ryan Madson and Francisco Rodriguez; Nathan, if he’s back to form, is better than Madson and K-Rod; they don’t surrender a draft pick; they’re not rolling the dice with veterans (Brad Lidge) or those coming off injuries and shellshock (Jonathan Broxton); they’re not paying a mediocre starter for his attendance record to plug in the 220 innings they’re losing with Wilson’s departure; and they insert former closer Neftali Feliz into the rotation once and for all with no ambiguity, getting star potential in the rotation at a reduced price.

Don’t expect Feliz to suddenly throw 200 innings in 2012. His limit will be closer to the 170 Alexi Ogando threw as he transitioned from the bullpen to the rotation; but the Rangers have the horses to account for any limits on Feliz.

The success of this maneuver is contingent on how Feliz handles the switch and if Nathan is back to his old self, but logically, it’s the smart and financially sound move.

//

Now The Red Sox Have To Hire Valentine

All Star Game, Ballparks, Books, Cy Young Award, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players, Playoffs, Politics, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, World Series

They could’ve done it low-profile and told Bobby Valentine that they wanted to keep it quiet that they were talking to him to prevent the firestorm of excitement that’s going on now.

But the Red Sox let it play out in the public sphere that they decided to expand their search to include Valentine.

Now they have to hire him.

Having told Sandy Alomar Jr. that he’s out of the running for the job, that leaves Valentine, Gene Lamont and Torey Lovullo.

All due respect to Lamont, who did a good job as manager of the White Sox and was trapped in the Pittsburgh Pirates vacancy replacing Jim Leyland in the late-1990s enduring the same hopelessness that swallowed up Jim Tracy, he’s not Valentine.

Lovullo has been mentioned for multiple jobs over the years and will eventually get one of them, but it shouldn’t be in Boston taking over for Terry Francona.

The Red Sox decision is more simple than has been implied.

They can either clear out one or more of the dominant personalities in the clubhouse to send a message—Josh Beckett, David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis—and move forward with a new core and younger manager who’s going to have the power to nudge the rest of the roster to follow rules that were ignored under Francona; or they can keep this veteran group together and hire a manager who’s not going to be as gentle as Francona was and allow the same nonsense to go on unchecked in an “what’s he gonna do about it?” sort of way as the players took advantage of their former manager.

The side issues with Valentine are irrelevant; there are warts with every candidate if you choose to look for them and sometimes those who appear best prepared for a situation—see Trey Hillman with the Royals—don’t work out.

A high-profile dance with Valentine that ends in him not being hired for whatever reason(s) makes them appear dysfunctional and fractured.

And that’s what put them in this position in the first place.

//

Greg Halman Killed

Games, Hot Stove, Management, Media, Players, Politics, Stats

According to Reuters, Seattle Mariners outfielder and Netherlands native Greg Halman was stabbed and killed in Rotterdam today. His 22-year-old brother is in custody in connection with the incident.

See the story here.



//

Wigginton a Philadelphia-Type Player

All Star Game, Ballparks, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MVP, Players, Playoffs, Politics, Prospects, Stats, Trade Rumors, World Series

Yes, his versatility is mitigated by his lack of range.

No, he doesn’t get on base.

But Ty Wigginton is a great fit for the Phillies.

The Phillies acquired Wigginton from the Rockies for a player to be named later or cash.

Exemplifying Philadelphia’s self-image of “fighting”, Wigginton will hit his 12-18 homers if he’s given 350-400 at bats, slide hard into bases and play with an intensity all teams have to have; the Phillies are old and need a player who can at least stand near third, second and first base and catch the balls that are hit in his general vicinity; he’s far cheaper than Michael Cuddyer‘s going to be and his acquisition makes clear that the Phillies aren’t going to be players for anyone else’s big name free agents like Jose Reyes.

Jimmy Rollins doesn’t have anywhere to go to make the money the Phillies will pay him for time-served and past glories; they don’t have any other shortstops to meaningfully pursue.

It’s not simply that Rollins is the leader of the Phillies clubhouse nor the aforementioned financial and logistical issues affecting both sides that make will keep the duo together; it’s that a big personality like Rollins isn’t easily transferred. There are the quiet leader-types you can pick up and stick in any clubhouse and they’ll sort of naturally dominate the room—like Wigginton—and no one will mind; then there are the louder voices who get away with the things they get away with, in part, because they’re known to their teammates, the media and fans; that the same teammates know when to zone out with a head shake and eye roll on whatever a Rollins is spouting.

Rollins is in the same sphere as A.J. Pierzynski. He’s an acquired taste that works in some places and not in others. Pierzynski was acquired by the Giants after the 2003 season in what was meant to be a “final piece” trade and it turned out to be a disaster as the Giants gave up Francisco Liriano and Joe Nathan, then reviled Pierzynski to the point that they released him after the 2004 season. He restarted his career with the White Sox under Ozzie Guillen, a manager who’s as polarizing as Pierzynski.

Cuddyer is a better player than Wigginton, but would’ve cost three times as much financially and for a commitment of about four years.

Wigginton will help them at an affordable price.

He’s a Philadelphia-type player.

//