Thursday, January 18, 2018

Thursday Morning Hot Links

*Oooooh Gerrit Cole will represent the United States at the Winter Olympics next month in South Korea, participating in the Shade-Throwing event. Cole:
Obviously, the organization...values me very high, and that always feels good as a player. And it's refreshing to come to an environment where the team is willing to continually put resources into the club and continue to move forward and try to provide the best possible product for its fans.

*A.J. Hinch:
I think we're going to be able to try to push some buttons to try to get the best version of him. Geritt's used to being a front-line pitcher in this league. He's used to even carrying a pitching staff. And coming over here, we want that mentality to stay the same, even though he's got some help in this rotation, to be his best.

*Cole:
I think it boils down to command, I think it boils down to executing pitches. There are a lot of contributing factors, but I'm just going to trust what I do and continue to use the resources around me. I'm going to try to soak up as much as I can from the veterans on this team and some of the really good players.

They're all good players, Grant.



*Jeff Sullivan: The Gerrit Cole trade has a perception problem. Sullivan:
Given how we usually think of trades, if something looks good for one side, it can't look so good for the other. I just find that this is an unusual situation. To put it as clearly as I can, I think the return package looks worse than it is because the Astros have too many good players. Joe Musgrove, Colin Moran, Michael Feliz, Jason Martin - they're all valuable, they're all potentially useful big-leaguers, but they didn't mean much to the Astros, because the Astros are too stocked.

*Hey but what about poor Brad Peacock and Collin McHugh!? Hinch:
Having as many options as possible is very important. I'm not sure of any team that won the division or has gone to the World Series having only used five starters. You need that depth.

*The Astros and George Springer are headed towards an arbitration hearing, where it will be a Whole Lot Of Fun to sit down in front of World Series MVP George Springer (.283/.367/.522, 4.5 fWAR) and tell him why he should make about 40% of what Shin-Soo Choo (.261/.357/.423, 0.8 fWAR) will make in 2018.

*Check out Alex Bregman's offseason workout.

*The Rangers won't apparently be countering the Astros' moves over the last six months, though they are open to a Yu Darvish reunion.

*Boston's reported 5yrs/$100m offer to Former Astros Great J.D. Martinez is "not accurate" according to his large baby agent.


*Forrest Whitley would like to correct the record:


Ooooh, me too!

*Meet Michael Collins, the Astros' new 33-year old Australian bullpen catcher.

*Who doesn't want to pay a lot of money for barbecue? Harold's (RIP Harold) in Abilene had some of the best barbecue I've ever had, and you could get a Q-Basket for, like $3.95. Harold would come out and sing Amazing Grace while you ate. Keep your crab cake brisket. I'll have a Q-Basket.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Wednesday Morning Hot Links

*Jeff Passan has a powerful column on how baseball's economic system might actually be broken. Passan:
What's clear is the free-agent impasse represents a reckoning long in the making - one that marries shifting power in labor relations, the emergence of analytics and cookie-cutter front offices, and the willingness to treat competitiveness as an option, not a priority. Combined, they pose the greatest threat to a quarter century of labor peace and have people at the highest level of the sport asking whether a game-changing overhaul in how baseball operates isn't just necessary but inevitable.

It's a really good column. I have some thoughts on this, and on tanking. We have written numerous posts taking writers to task (those are four separate links) for implying that losing now to rebuild your organization as you go is a 100% surefire way to win a World Series. That the Cubs and Astros have done it in consecutive years only reinforces the idea that it will work. It doesn't. Mark Appel and Brady Aiken aren't getting a ring in April. When the Astros didn't sign Brady Aiken in 2014 no one was twirling their mustache and thinking "Now Houston can go get Alex Bregman with the #2 overall pick next year and be set up perfectly to win the World Series in 2017!"

The economy works in cycles. There were panics/recessions/depressions in 1819, 1837, 1857, 1873, 1893, 1907, 1929 (of course), 1979, and 2008. I'm sure I'm missing a few in there. But, for the most part, every 20 years or so you can expect the economy to hit a road block. Maybe baseball teams operate the same way. The window doesn't stay open forever. You hit on some key players, go for it with your guys, and maybe you win. Most of the time you don't. If you don't, and it looks like your team is, ahem, in a recession of wins, you hunker down and get your house straightened out. Got an older guy making some money that could help a team whose window is open a little wider than your own? Trade him for prospects, who are cheaper.

The Nationals have had Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Bryce Harper and have lost in the NLDS in four of the last six years, three of those in a deciding Game 5. The Rangers' window was wide open for a few years and they're feeling the effects of trying to keep it open a little longer. In the 2015 offseason the Padres added James Shields, Craig Kimbrel, Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, and Wil Myers in an attempt to force their window open. Three years later they're one of the starring roles in the new episode of Who Is Ruining Baseball This Time? The quickest way to get better is to rebuild your club from the ground up. I mentioned on the latest episode of Lima Time Time that the Pirates could have held on to Gerrit Cole for another couple of years and then received draft picks that wouldn't pay off for a minimum of three years after that. That's five years total, at least. They traded Cole for three players who should be on their Opening Day roster in two and a half months. The Pirates' window is closing and, while they're drawing the shades, they're trying to get to where it opens again sooner than later. Every team has a window and,  no, they don't all line up together. It wasn't long ago that the A's were considered the model organization after whom the Astros should pattern their rebuild.

Scott Boras plays a large role in this saga, as well, as the agent who represents a large number of the clients who are currently log-jammed. Is it collusion if 30 owners pass on giving 30-year old J.D. Martinez a $200m deal? Is it collusion if 30 teams are wary of giving almost-32-year old 1.9 bWAR Jake Arrieta, who has thrown 200IP in a season just once (caveat: he did reach 197.1IP in 2016) a huge contract? Yu Darvish is still a free agent, though we don't know what his price is. It's high enough that the Astros traded four players to get Gerrit Cole for $6.75m this year. Being smart with your money isn't collusion. As for "cookie-cutter front offices," I guess it's a shame that there isn't a team - other than the Pirates - that we can laugh at and yell "What are you doing?" when they give Jake Arrieta 40 years and $600m.

Or maybe teams, you know, plan ahead a little bit. Next year's monster free agent class includes Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, potentially Clayton Kershaw, Dallas Keuchel, Elvis Andrus, Jose Iglesias, Charlie Blackmon, and Zach Britton. Should any of those players ring your bell, why are you going to hamstring your payroll by blowing your roll on Jake Arrieta?

But still, please do read Passan's column. As I said, it's very good, and maybe the owners - who have long held all the power, anyway - are forcing baseball's economics to a breaking point, for better or for worse. And maybe the Pirates don't deserve the benefit of the doubt (see previous link). Luhnow and Crane were pretty clear that they were going to strip the organization down and then spend when the time was right. When the "time was right" they added Josh Reddick, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Justin Verlander, and Gerrit Cole. Each team's fans have a different perspective. If I'm a Padres, Reds, Braves, etc. fan, I'm pretty excited after what the Cubs and Astros have done in the last two baseball seasons. But that success certainly isn't guaranteed.

*Julia Morales was in Hawaii when the Ballistic Missile False Alarm Incident (name of my new band) happened.

*Jeff Sullivan: Colin Moran looks dramatically different.

*FanRag's Jon Bernhardt wonders if the Astros/Yankees is the AL's best rivalry.

*The Seattle Times' Matt Calkins looks at what has to happen for the Mariners to make the playoffs.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Tuesday Morning Hot Links

LOLOLOLOL at the dumbest snow day ever.

*Joe Musgrove is pretty excited about his opportunity in Pittsburgh's rotation:
That's where I think I'm going to really develop as a pitcher. Going to the bullpen last year in Houston, I learned a lot about myself as a pitcher and really learned how to work out of jams and how to keep myself calm in uncomfortable situations. All those things I did in the bullpen are going to make me a lot stronger as a starter.

*Forrest Whitley is good and knows he's good. He is also good at soundbites as he prepares for the 2018 season:
There's extra excitement. I'm going to try to stay in my lane, stay where my feet are and be humble as possible and just play the game.

MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo ranked Whitley the #2 RHP prospect in baseball, behind the Anaheim Babe Ruth Guy. Mayo:
The Astros' first-round pick in 2016 wasn't on the top 10 RHP list in 2017. After pitching across three levels and reaching Double-A as a teenager in his first full year, the 6'7" right-hander has jumped all the way up to No. 2 on the list.

*Brent Strom was at a Long Island baseball academy talking to kids about throwing offspeed pitches. Strom:
We use a lot of technology. We videotape the ball coming out of the hand to try to create backspin, try and create the proper depth to breaking balls.

*Astros analyst Mike Stanton stopped short of using the word "collusion" to describe this off-season's lack of activity.

*Alex Bregman established a new non-profit to help kids with autism and Down's Syndrome.

*Deadspin: The story behind the iconic photos of the Olympics' dirtiest record

Monday, January 15, 2018

Monday Morning Hot Links

*After the Gerrit Cole trade, the Astros are projected to go 98-64 with a +173 run differential. There are just seven teams projected for 90+ win seasons, four of them in the American League (Houston, Cleveland, New York, Boston). Mike Petriello says the Astros could add Lucas Duda and net two more wins in the win column.

Here's how the AL West shakes out:
Houston: 98-64
Anaheim: 88-74
Seattle: 81-81
Fort Worth: 78-84
Oakland: 77-85

*Eno Sarris writes that Houston might be the perfect destination for Gerrit Cole. Sarris:
The next breakout for Gerrit Cole might arrive by throwing more sinkers and high-spin breaking balls. The good news is, he's now headed to a team that's all about that sort of change. The defending champs just got better.

*It looks like the Astros will open 2018 with Brad Peacock and Collin McHugh in the bullpen. Luhnow:
We're just trying to load up and have as many top-notch pitchers as possible. Clearly, Peacock was a big part of our year last year. McHugh was a big part of our second half. There's roles for both of those guys on our team....It will sort itself out. I'm not going to tell you I know who's going to be in the rotation, who's going to be in the bullpen at this point or, quite frankly, that we're done making moves.

*Peter Gammons looks at Gerrit Cole and sees Max Scherzer.

*It's pay-walled but Ken Rosenthal cautions everyone not to jump to conclusions about the Gerrit Cole trade.

*Joe Musgrove hand-wrote a note to Houston. I hope he dominates in Pittsburgh.

*A scout reviewed the trade for Pittsburgh:
I think it's a brutal deal for Pitt. Musgrove and Feliz both have (major league) value, but both as relievers. Moran and Martin to me are throw-in types.

*The updated workings of the July 20, 2012 trade with Toronto:
Houston receives:
Joe Musgrove: Traded to Pittsburgh for Gerrit Cole, January 2018
Francisco Cordero: Released Sept 2012
Ben Francisco: Traded to Tampa Bay for T.J. Geith, August 2012
Asher Wojciechowski: Selected off waivers by Miami, May 2016
Carlos Perez: Traded to Anaheim with Nick Tropeano for Hank Conger, November 2014, who was purchased by the Rays, December 2015.
David Rollins: Drafted by Seattle in the 2014 Rule 5 draft
Kevin Comer

Toronto receives:
Brandon Lyon: Granted free agency, October 2012
J.A. Happ: Traded to Seattle for Michael Saunders, December 2014
David Carpenter: Traded to Boston with manager John Farrell for Mike Aviles, October 2012

*Minor League Ball hopes Tony Kemp gets traded, because there's nothing left for him to do in Fresno.

*Sports Illustrated looks at the rarity of Dustin Fowler's lawsuit against the White Sox.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Sunday Morning Hot Links

Able to take a little time this morning and work on these. Thanks for your condolences to my wife's family.

Gerrit Cole Links
*Gerrit Cole was at his wife's birthday dinner when he got the news he'd been traded to the World Series Champion Houston Astros. Cole:
I wouldn't say it was a gut-punch but I was shocked, for sure

Jerry Crasnick notes that the Pirates thought the Moran-Musgrove tandem was a better return that what the Yankees were offering.

*More Cole:
(I'm) flat-out elated. It's just an unbelievable opportunity.

*Friday Gerrit Cole and the Pirates signed a $6.75m deal for 2018. He's arbitration-eligible in 2019 before hitting free agency.

*The Ringer: The Astros are not here for your World Series Curse talk.
The Astros' lineup is already the most potent in the majors, and a rotation of Justin Verlandere, Dallas Keuchel, Cole, Lance McCullers, and World Series hero Charlie Morton is the best at least in the American League, if not all of baseball...As is, with likely long-term relievers Joe Musgrove and Michael Feliz, corner infielder Colin Moran, and fringe outfield prospect Jason Martin leaving the Astros' system, Luhnow has completed the steal of the off-season.

*FanGraphs (from Wednesday) has a piece on Cole's pitch usage in 2017.

*Richard Justice:
So if Luhnow could add Cole for two seasons, he could shape a super rotation for 2018 and a really good one for 2019. To have Verlander, Cole and Keuchel lined up in the first three spots gives the Astros a group as good as almost any. And there's quality depth in Morton, McCullers, Brad Peacock and Collin McHugh....There may not be any perfect fits, but this one is close.

*NJ.com's Brendan Kuty talked to a scout who said Cole will benefit from a change of scenery.

*Sports Illustrated's Jon Tayler:
All told, it's a disappointing return for Pittsburgh in exchange for a young, cost-controlled ace. Moran should help fill a persistent hole at the hot corner for a team that has been searching for a solution there since Pedro Alvarez went bust. But you can't help but feel that the Pirates could have done better, particularly given the expressed interest of the prospect-rich Yankees.

*Grant Brisbee: What the Astros and Pirates were thinking.
If the return (for Pittsburgh) seems a little underwhelming, that's because it's not just what's coming back for an All-Star pitcher - it's what's coming back for an official white flag.

*Pirates GM Neal Huntington:
It's the balance of immediate and moderate and longer-term...we felt this was the right move to get these players that are major-league ready with 15 years contribution combined.

*FanRag's Jon Bernhardt:
Could the deal turn out okay for Pittsburgh? Sure, if a bunch of things break right. The point of trading a surefire guy like Cole, though, is to get a return in which you don't have to hit maximum upside on every single guy for the deal to be positive.

*Bregman:
I only have one goal, and that's to win the World Series again and bring it back to Houston. And hopefully, bring a lot of these in the near future to this city and turn Houston into the next powerhouse in baseball.

*SBNation: The Gerrit Cole trade is bad news for the Yankees.

*Washington Post:
With Cole now out of the picture, and few other front-line starting pitchers on the trade market, the Yankees may be forced to revisit the free agent market and fork over a nine-figure contract to the likes of Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta. Such a move would allow them to answer the Astros' deal for Cole, but would also push their payroll past the $197m luxury-tax threshold that they seem determined to stay under. 

*MinorLeagueBall wrote up some thoughts on Moran, Musgrove, Feliz, and Martin.

*Keuchel, Bregman, McCullers and Verlander are pretty excited.

*On Friday, Baseball America ranked the Top Ten Astros prospects:
1. Forrest Whitley
2. Kyle Tucker
3. Yordan Alvarez
4. J.B. Bukauskas
5. Freudis Nova
6. Jairo Solis
7. Hector Perez
8. Jorge Alcala
9. Colin Moran
10. David Paulino

*Whitley, Tucker, Alvarez, and Derek Fisher were declared off-limits.

Other Stuff

*More than 42000 fans showed up at MMP yesterday for FanFest.

You probably saw it, but just to get it on the record, here are the arbitration numbers for 2018:
Dallas Keuchel: $13.2m
Evan Gattis: $6.7m
Lance McCullers: $2.45m
Brad Peacock: $2.44m

Springer wants $10.5m while the Astros offered $8.5m. Ken Giles wants $4.6m, the Astros offered $4.2m. Collin McHugh wants $5m, the Astros offered $4.55m.

*Lance McCullers will revamp his changeup in Spring Training and work on his four-seam fastball with Justin Verlander. Also in that link we find that Altuve, Keuchel, Justin Verlander, and Derek Fisher are already working out in Florida. Pitchers and Catchers have their first official workout one month from today.

*Yuli Gurriel completed his league-mandated sensitivity training.

*The World Series Trophy Tour keeps the celebration rolling through Texas.