The Twins came into the offseason with a clear need for pitching and a stated desire to go big in the pursuit of it. As we move into March, the Twins have added five arms (six if you include Rule 5 pick Tyler Kinley, a 27-year-old righty reliever out of the Marlins’ system who struggled in Double-A last year), but have they done enough to fend off the Angels and return to the Wild Card Game? My latest for The Athletic digs in to find the answer.
The Athletic: Minding Jake Arrieta’s Gap
My latest for The Athletic addresses Jake Arrieta’s ongoing free agency and the gap between his asking price and actual value, which appears to be one of the key factors behind his continuing unemployment.
The Athletic: Big names with something to prove in 2018
The one seemed easy enough. Find a few notable players coming off injury or poor performance who had something to prove in 2018 and explain what they had to prove and why. It didn’t take long for me to put together a list of more than 50 players, but it took a lot longer for me to whittle it down. So, if you think someone’s missing from the six names I wound up with . . . you’re right!
The Athletic: What happens to Hanley?
My latest for The Athletic takes a five-word comment from rookie Red Sox manager Alex Cora and spins it into roughly 1,000 words on how the J.D. Martinez signing impacts Hanley Ramirez’s role on the 2018 team, concluding that it is just as easy to see Cora’s comment as brilliant as it is to see it as boneheaded.
The Athletic: Free Agents who signed after Pitchers and Catchers
My latest for The Athletic looks at free agents who signed after the offseason was technically over, listing both the richest contracts handed out after pitchers and catchers had reported to camp and the top performances by players who signed that late. I pitched the piece in anticipation of this spring yielding both the richest contract handed out after pitchers and catchers reported and the most contracts with a guarantee of at least eight-figures agreed to at such a late date. Both records were set while I was researching and writing it, and there will be more where those came from given the quality of free agents still remaining on the market now a week past pitchers and catchers. My goal here, as it so often is, was to put all of that in context.
The Athletic: Baseball’s Best Batteries
I don’t yet know the extent to which I will be taking part in The Athletic‘s baseball coverage this season, but I’m nonetheless very happy to have made my debut on the site. That comes via a ranking of the best batteries in baseball, in honor of pitchers and catchers reporting earlier this week.
This marks the first time that my writing has ever appeared behind a paywall online. That is no accident. I have long been an advocate of free access to content. However, given the realities of the industry these days, my frustration over the auto-play clutter burdening the articles at SI.com, and my strong belief in both The Athletic‘s approach to the written word and its presentation and the people putting that approach into practice, I had no hesitation in signing on to what they are doing.
If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can get a free one-week trial and 25 percent off for the first year. There may even be a free t-shirt involved.
Meanwhile, I’m already at work on my next piece for the site, due up early next week.
The Hardball Times: What’s In A Name?
This is not my debut with The Hardball Times. I wrote a “Five Questions” Yankees preview for them way back in 2006. However, I always enjoy being able to dig into baseball history, and I’m particularly interested in the aesthetics of the game. Given my current free agency, I was thrilled to get a chance to nerd out with this look at the origins of the nicknames of every major league team. What acrobatic troupe was the source of a turn-of-the-century Dodgers nickname? How many American League nicknames originated in the National League? What the heck is a Phillie? Is Astro even a word? All the answers can be found here.
MLB Now: Feb. 6
Here are some clips from my appearance on MLB Now on Monday with Dan O’Dowd, Joel Sherman, and host Scott Braun.
On George Springer’s two-year contract with the Astros, buying out two of his three arbitration years:
On the teams in the middle that should be aggressive right now in pursuit of a possible playoff berth (I focus on the Twins):
On Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto’s request for a trade:
On the top 10 pitchers right now, who’s number one, and where Stephen Strasburg fits on the list:
As for the top seven pitchers I mention in that clip, here’s my list, with the caveat that this was a hastily assembled list assembled while researching other topics in the small window between our production meeting and air time. Given more time, I might return a slightly different result:
1. Max Scherzer
2. Corey Kluber
3. Clayton Kershaw
4. Chris Sale
5. Justin Verlander
6. Madison Bumgarner
7. Zack Greinke
The Infinite Inning: Episode 40
One of my New Year’s resolutions is to try to update this site more often, even it is just to catalog my output. Here, then, is my latest appearance on The Infinite Inning podcast. Steve leads with a personal remembrance of the late Oscar Gamble, then digs in on the Mets’ decision to draft Steve Chilcott ahead of Reggie Jackson in 1966. I then join for a conversation that includes some behind-the-scenes experiences at the MLB Network, including surprise meetings with Bill James and Jim Thome, the quasi-retirement of former number-one pick Mark Appel, the excessive depth of modern prospect lists, the importance of developmental age, Bryce Harper, Shohei Ohtani, Yu Darvish, the Dodgers’ rotation, Julio Urias, and the retirement of Davey Lopes.
Also, I will be back on MLB Now on Monday, live at 2pm ET on the MLB Network. Set your DVR!
Hot Stove Roundup: Waiting for Giancarlohtani
My latest for Sports on Earth rounds up the most significant trades and signings thus far this offseason. Below you can find my quick takes on the remaining moves in which a free agent signed a deal worth $1 million or more or a player was traded from one team’s 40-man roster to another’s prior to Friday, Dec. 8.
Tigers sign CF Leonys Martin for $1.75M/1yr plus up to $1.1M in bonuses
An excellent fielder in center, Martin is quite valuable when he hits. The trouble is, he rarely hits. The Tigers may find use for his left-handed bat in a centerfield platoon with righties JaCoby Jones or Mikie Mahtook, but more likely the 30-year-old Martin will simply serve as a safety net at the position.
Rangers re-sign RHP Tony Barnette for $1.5M/1yr
After six years with the Yakult Swallows, righty reliever Barnett returned to the Major Leagues in 2016 via a two-year deal with the Rangers. He posted a 2.09 ERA in 53 games in year one, and a 5.49 ERA in 50 games in year two, but was closer to average than those extremes in both seasons (combined 4.04 deserved run average). The Rangers declined his $4 million option last month, but understood the quality of his underlying performance, which included 36 outings of more than three outs over the last two years, and brought him back at his 2016 salary.
Royals sign RHP Wily Peralta for $1.525M/1yr plus $3M option (with $25K buyout) and up to $1.25M in bonuses
Formerly a heralded rotation prospect, Peralta regressed steadily after his 17-win sophomore season in 2014. The Brewers finally gave up on the 28-year-old this past season, bumping him first to the bullpen, then off the roster. The Royals, more interested in Peralta’s upper-90s velocity than his 11.94 ERA in 11 relief outings for Milwaukee this summer, are hoping a full-time move to the bullpen can unlock his potential.
Angels acquire RHP Jim Johnson and $1M in international spending capacity from Braves for LHP Justin Kelly
Despite a spike in his home run and walk rates and a drop in his groundball rate, Johnson wasn’t as bad as hit 5.56 ERA this past season. He won’t close in Anaheim, but he should be a reasonably reliable set-up man. Lefty reliever Justin Kelly is a non-prospect who was drafted in the 33rd round in 2016 and spent time at five different minor-league levels in 2017. More significant that perhaps either player is the financial side of this deal. The Angels assume Johnson’s $4.5 million salary for 2018 while also receiving $1.21 million in international spending capacity from the Braves. The Angels, one of the seven finalists for Shohei Ohtani, have since added another $1 million in capacity via a minor trade with the Twins and now have more than $2.3 million to offer Ohtani as a bonus, up from the $150,000 they had available prior to these trades.
Blue Jays acquire SS Aledmys Diaz from Cardinals for CF J.B. Woodman
Cuban defector Diaz seized an opportunity as an injury replacement in early 2016 and stole the Cardinals’ shortstop job only to play his way out of that job in 2017. That job is now firmly in the grip of Paul DeJong, who is three years Diaz’s junior. The Blue Jays, burdened with an injury-prone shortstop of their own in fragile veteran Troy Tulowitzki, hope that, if and when the opportunity arises, Diaz can repeat his 2016 magic, which included a trip to that year’s All-Star Game. That doesn’t seem likely given that Diaz, now 27, was no better in Triple-A after a late-June demotion and had been dropped from the 40-man roster prior to the 2016 season. Still, Diaz arrives with five team-controlled years remaining, while Tulo has just three guaranteed years left. Woodman was the Jays’ first second-round pick in 2016. A college product, he struck out 157 times in 96 games in A-ball this past season and will turn 23 next week.
Rangers sign RHP Doug Fister for $4M/1yr plus $4.5M club option (with $500K buyout)
Joining his fourth team in four years, Fister, who will be 34 in February, is a depth move for the back end of the rotation of a team in desperate need of that depth. Fister arrives in Texas with an 8.73 ERA in seven career starts in Arlington.
Tigers sign RHP Mike Fiers for $6M/1yr
Fiers is a year younger than Fister, less well-travelled, and heading to a more pitcher-friendly ballpark (he has a 1.50 ERA in two career starts in Detroit), but he’s not significantly better. He’ll be an innings-eater on a bad team. In the best-case scenario, he’ll have some good luck and the Tigers can get something for him at the deadline.
A’s sign RHP Yusmeiro Petit for $10M/2yrs plus club option for $5.5M (with $1M buyout)
Swing-man Petit had a career year working primarily out of the bullpen for the Angels in 2017. He cashes in here, landing set-up job with the A’s, who traded away Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle in July.