Woah, the Brewers Are Going For It!

Christian Yelich rounds the bases. (Photo Courtesy: Rob Foldy)

Just a week after Christian Yelich’s agent said that his client’s relationship with the Miami Marlins was “irretrievably broken,” the Marlins have dealt Yelich to the Milwaukee Brewers. The Marlins got a pretty good haul in return (it only took Miami four major trades this offseason for that to happen), including outfielder Lewis Brinson, who was ranked as the Brewers top prospect.

As if that wasn’t enough, about two hours later, the Brewers agreed to sign free agent outfielder Lorenzo Cain to a five year/$80M contract. Cain, who began his career in Milwaukee, slots in as the every day center fielder. The newly acquired Yelich would join him in left field, while Domingo Santana (fresh off of a 30 HR season a year ago) would be in right field. That’s a pretty darn good outfield, and could rank as one of the league’s best. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription required and recommended) suggests moving Ryan Braun to first base where he could face LHP, which would give Eric Thames a rest. Last season, Thames slashed a very nice .265/.382/.551 against RHP, while slashing a gruesome .182/.270/.394 against LHP. Braun, on the other hand, slashed .264/.355/.516 against LHP last year. Braun is also a career .331 hitter against LHP. I believe that the oft-injured Braun could greatly benefit from a part-time role in a position that takes less of a toll on the body.

This leaves outfielders Keon Broxton and Brett Phillips as odd-men out. They could trade Santana for a pitcher straight up and keep Braun in the outfield. The Brewers have one glaring need: starting pitching. Now, to me they have two options: they can sign a starter or they can dangle the aforementioned Broxton and Phillips in a package for a starter. Chris Archer or Jake Odorizzi of the Rays make sense, as would Zack Greinke of the Diamondbacks or Marcus Stroman of the Blue Jays. This is a really wonderful problem to have for Brewers GM David Stearns.

Let’s look at Tampa Bay. The Rays would be able to deal Chris Archer or Jake Odorizzi in return for Phillips, Broxton, and likely another prospect (perhaps shortstop prospect Mauricio Dubon or catching prospect KJ Harrison). This allows Corey Dickerson to be the Rays primary DH, with Phillips starting in left field. Phillips impressed in limited time in the majors last year, slashing .276/.351/.448. Broxton would be the fourth outfielder. On the Milwaukee side, Archer or Odorizzi instantly slot in the top of the rotation.

As for Toronto, they can pretty much do the same thing. Phillips would be the everyday left fielder, relegating Steve Pearce and Ezequiel Carrera to utility roles and Broxton could platoon with Curtis Granderson in right field. However, instead of Dubon or Harrison, the Brewers would likely have to give up Top 100 Prospect Corbin Burnes, a RHP with quality stuff and a plus fastball. Likewise with Archer or Odorizzi, Stroman would easily be the staff ace in Milwaukee.

Then there’s the interesting case with the Diamondbacks. Zack Greinke is owed $138.5M over the next four seasons, so Arizona would have to eat roughly half of that monstrous contract in any trade, which hurts their return in terms of prospects. So for the Brew Crew, they could include one of Broxton or Phillips, and possibly pitching prospect Marcos Diplan, while taking on half of Greinke’s contract and allowing him to return to Milwaukee (where he lead the Brewers to the NLCS back in 2011).

There is one trade destination that I failed to mention: Cleveland. Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com has suggested that the Brewers have interest in hurler Danny Salazar. Salazar is a bit of a risky option, in my opinion. He has only pitched a full season once in his career. He has never thrown 200 innings, and has a career 3.82 ERA, which is pretty middle of the pack. Mind you, he has done this in a weak AL Central and would be moving to a more competitive NL Central where he would face the dominant Cubs and Cardinals multiple times per year. The suggested trade is Domingo Santana for Danny Salazar, straight up. Personally, the power that Santana offers is too important to give up for a pitcher who, in my opinion, is a major question mark. I like any of the other options for Milwaukee more than Salazar.

One last option for the organization is free agency. The Brewers may be looking at the free agent pitching market, most likely towards Yu Darvish and Alex Cobb, hoping that their asking prices go down as the market has been stagnant all offseason. In that case, they could swap Phillips and Broxton to another team for a top bullpen arm.

There are a lot of ways that the Brewers can go with this outfield surplus; with all of them having really positive outcomes. This is a big time for the franchise as they can be on the cusp of winning in the near future. If they play their cards right with the hand they’ve currently been dealt, their moment could come fairly soon.

By: Chris Perkowski


An Interview with Twins Prospect Tom Hackimer

tom hackimer
Minnesota Twins prospect Tom Hackimer while pitching for the Cedar Rapids Kernels. (Photo Courtesy: Steve Buhr)

Perhaps you don’t yet know the name Tom Hackimer, but you should. The right-handed side-armer has been electric out of the bullpen between two levels of A ball over the past two years, pitching to an 8-4 record with a 1.95 ERA and 97 K’s in 87.2 IP. The Floral Park native hopes to continue to rise through the minor league ranks in the Twins system as he readies himself for the 2018 season. He was kind enough to take a few minutes out of his schedule between training to talk with me about his experiences so far.

Charging The Mound: I know you came up as a shortstop in high school, when did you make the transition to pitcher?

Tom Hackimer: Pretty much, I ended my high school career as a shortstop and immediately started my college career as a pitcher?

CTM: How did that transition come about?

TH: More or less, the story that I’ve been told is that the head coach at St. John’s, Ed Blankmeyer, had seen me throwing across the diamond at a camp when I was in high school and said “this kid’s got kind of long arms and a lanky frame – he’d probably be a good side-arm pitcher.” My hitting coach at the time had overheard it, and eventually they ended up offering me an opportunity to go to St. John’s to walk-on, and be converted into be a side-arm pitcher.

CTM: Had you ever pitched at any other level before?

TH: I had pitched in little league in, like, Cooperstown tournaments, but I hadn’t really pitched since I’d gone to high school at all.

CTM: That’s crazy! So you went to St. John’s as a walk-on, but had any other school recruited you as a shortstop?

TH: No, my hitting coach was good friends with the coach at NYIT (New York Institute of Technology), and I probably could’ve been on the team there at least as a shortstop, but I don’t really know. I didn’t really have any offers.

CTM: Was there any level of discomfort changing positions?

TH: I honestly welcomed it! I will always miss playing shortstop; I would consider my defensive prowess the strongest portion of my game…but I could not hit to save my life, and it was just frustrating at that point. So I knew that the switch to the mound was coming if I wanted to continue to play…The lucky thing for me is that I always had a pretty good arm overall. I guess I just always liked throwing, so I did it a lot – I liked to long toss, stuff like that. I always had a good arm across the field. I’d always kind of like to throw it across the field as hard as I could…my first baseman didn’t like it [laughs].

CTM: You grew up in Floral Park, NY, were you a Mets or Yankees fan as a kid?

TH: It’s a really weird dynamic in my house. My dad was born and raised in Jamaica, Queens, and he is for some strange reason a Boston Red Sox fan, so you can try to figure that one out on your own; I still can’t after 23 years of being his son, it’s a mystery to me as much as anyone else. My brother, who is about nine years older than me, is a Mets fan, whereas I was always a Yankees fan. So we had a really weird dynamic there.

CTM: I ask that because in the 2015 Draft, you were selected in the Fifteenth Round by the Mets. What came into the decision not to sign with them?

TH: Trust me, it had nothing to do with my allegiance [laughs]. I hadn’t had a lot of exposure in the fall of my junior year because I was recovering from knee surgery, and prior to that I had been a non-prospect because I didn’t really throw very hard. I came back throwing harder, and suddenly that put me on people’s radars, but it was too late to get enough eyes on me to make a big decision. Like, I ended up going in the Fourth Round in 2016 (to the Minnesota Twins). Any decision like that…a lot of people have to crosscheck and consider before that trigger is pulled. I didn’t think that I had gotten enough exposure to say “alright, this is the best I’m going to get.” I didn’t think they had offered enough money to get me to leave school, as I wanted to finish my senior year and finish my degree or at least get closer to it…I ironically ended up not actually doing it. Really, the whole vibe of the situation sort of put me off. It worked out for the best overall, I’d say.

CTM: Was your brother a little bummed out that you didn’t sign with the Mets?

TH: Everyone was actually a little convinced that I was going to, but at the last minute I decided against it, but everyone was supportive and thought that I was making the right decision.

CTM: Can you explain what it was like when you found out that you were drafted by the Twins?

TH: It was very exciting! Around Draft time, you’re dealing with a lot of phone calls from different teams asking where I saw myself going or what I was expecting to get monetarily, which I don’t know how to answer so those are stressful questions! So leading up to it, Ed Blankmeyer, my coach from St. John’s, called me and said “hey, if a team were to take you for such and such money in the Fourth Round and start you in Low-A, would you take that?” and I was like “yeah, probably” and he goes “okay!” and he hung up the phone and I was really confused. Then, I get a call from the Twins scout from my area and said “hey, Blank just told us that you would take this” and I though that Ed had been talking hypothetically! So I got off the phone with him and then my agent called me and he was like “you said you would take that?!” He was really angry because you’re not supposed to ever say “yes” to anything because that’s their job. I told him that I didn’t know it was an actual offer! So my agent sorted that out with the head of scouting for the Twins. [My agent] called me again and said “it might be you here in the Fourth Round” and so I open up my laptop and I’m streaming the Draft and I see the pick come up and it says “with the 123rd pick, the Minnesota Twins select Tom Hackimer” and I screamed to everybody and then ran outside and called everyone that I had to.

CTM: Do you ever wonder what it would’ve been like if you signed with the Mets?

TH: Funnily enough, I realized that this year I would’ve played with Tim Tebow! But I had thought about it and I think it would’ve been different, and definitely a little bit slower than the route I’ve had with the Twins.

CTM: What goes into your side-arm delivery?

TH: I’ve had five years to refine it now…to me, it’s not much different than a normal delivery, aside from how the ball moves a little differently. It runs back arm-side, mostly, that’s most of my movement. My slider goes across the other way, and I’ve been trying to figure out how to get my change-up to drop a little bit, and I finally got that. With those three I should be good. After that it’s just figuring out how your different pitches work off of each other in terms of fooling a batter.

CTM: Well you had good strikeout numbers this year over two levels in A ball (71 K’s in 61.1 IP, 10.4 K/9) so I don’t think you’re really have trouble fooling batters.

TH: No, but it’s always fun to figure out more ways to do it!

CTM: What’s life like as a minor leaguer? Do you get an apartment with a teammate? Do you get a daily stipend, or anything like that?

TH: I’ve been really fortunate in the situations we’ve had so far. I was in Cedar Rapids from when I was drafted until the end of 2016 and then for the first two months of this past season, and there we have a host family system. So it’s really great, I was living with a really wonderful family out in Iowa. They didn’t charge us anything, and I had one roommate and we basically had the whole basement, which was like a two bedroom apartment, to ourselves. That was really nice! Then I went up to High A and the Twins basically have a dorm on the spring training complex, where the High A team plays out of. It’s free, it’s across the street from the field, and it’s really convenient.

CTM: You had the honor of being invited to pitch in the Arizona Fall League last year, where you pitched to a 2.31 ERA. How did it feel to receive that honor, and to perform as well as you did there?

TH: It was really, really exciting when I found out that I was going. It was something that I was hoping would happen, but I wasn’t really sure I’d get to do. But it was something I was really looking forward to. Overall, I threw pretty well and I was really happy with that because I figured that bodes well for me going forward. There’s always a little mystery right after you get moved up, or like right after I went to Arizona, I would get little nagging thoughts like “what if this is the line for me and these hitters are better than me? And they can just hit me even though I’m doing everything I need to do?” So it’s always sort of comforting to get in there, get the first out and everything sort of settles down.

CTM: What goals have you set for yourself going into the 2018 season?

TH: Honestly, I feel like I just got out of the 2017 season [laughs] so I haven’t given it too much thought. I really just wanted to take the time in the offseason to hammer down my change-up, being able to use it and locate it. So now I want to be able to go into the season with that and having all three pitches working off of each other.

CTM: I have one last question for you: How did it feel to get verified on Twitter?

TH: Uh, it was pretty cool (laughs) But then you look around and realize that pretty much every minor league baseball player has it. Not that that cheapens it or anything but, you know, at the end of the day I’m still the same as anyone else.

CTM: Well I really appreciate you taking out the time in your schedule to talk with me today, so thank you.

TH: Yeah, of course!

Tom reports to Fort Myers for Spring Training on February 12th. Once Spring Training is over, he will find out where he is reporting for the 2018 season. Until then, you can check him out on Twitter: @HackAttackimer or find his MiLB profile here, as well as his career stats on Baseball Reference. I’d like to thank him again for taking the time to talk with me. Here’s to hoping that big things are in the near future for him!

By: Chris Perkowski

An Argument for Steroid Users in the Hall of Fame

Barry Bonds (left) and Roger Clemens (right), two of the greatest players of the last thirty years, and known steroid users.

Just over two weeks ago, Vice Chairman of the Baseball Hall of Fame Joe Morgan, a Hall of Famer himself, made a plea to voters asking that they not vote for players who failed drug tests, admitted to using steroids, or were identified as users in Major League Baseball’s steroid investigation. While on the surface, this letter is justified and reasonable. However, I’d like to get in the weeds with this issue. Let’s look further into this plea by wondering about: who is saying it, the generation he comes from, and steroids in sports in general.

In 2006, Mike Schmidt opened up in his book about the use of “greenies,” or amphetamines, in baseball. Schmidt insists that the use of the drug was well-known and that they were readily available in MLB clubhouses. Greenies were used to become more focused and enhance reaction times, and to stay healthy and energized. At a drug trial in 1986, John Milner claimed that Willie Mays had a bottle of amphetamines in his locker when they played for the Mets from 1972-1973. Now, if Mays was using the drug in that time frame, then surely Morgan was around for that era (he played from 1963-1984). I am not implying that Morgan took greenies, but if Schmidt, a Hall of Famer and arguably the greatest third baseman of all-time, insists that these drugs were rampant in that era and the aforementioned trial corroborated those claims, then it is all the more likely that Morgan knew what was going on.

If he knew about it, then this comment is extremely hypocritical. Are amphetamines not performance-enhancers? Again, they were used to help increase focus and reaction times, which are fairly important in a sport where a batter has fractions of a second to decide what pitch is coming and what to swing at. Likewise, it is very important for a fielder to react to a hard-hit groundball or a screaming line drive. The answer seems fairly obvious to me.

Going by Morgan’s logic, anyone who used performance-enhancers (in this case, greenies) should be ineligible from being in the Hall. That would mean that Willie Mays, who many consider the greatest player who ever lived, would not be a Hall of Famer, and who knows how many others. Morgan is so dead-set on criminalizing players of the 1990s and 2000s, but is hush on players of his own era who may have been using. I believe that’s something to consider.

Steroids, much like amphetamines, are used to increase muscle strength and increase healing rate. That’s…pretty similar to the benefits of greenies, in which they were used to stay healthy and energized. Many players have stated that they used steroids or Human Growth Hormone to stay healthy or come back from injury. How crazy! The same reason to take greenies! Also, if you know anything, you know that steroids don’t make you hit a baseball any better. What can make you see a baseball better, though?




As far as steroids in sports go, the 1963 San Diego Chargers are the first known instance of steroid use in sports. So, if steroids were available in 1963, what would stop baseball players from getting a hand on them in the same time period? That time period, by the way, was Joe Morgan’s. So steroid use could have very well been rampant in that generation as well, but it was under the radar – just like greenies.

Additionally, if you are going to criticize steroid users and want them banned from the Hall, then you should feel the same way about Commissioner Bud Selig who oversaw the league during the Steroid Era. Selig, of course, was elected to the Hall of Fame this year. Many believe that he knew about steroid use and was complicit with it because steroids were good for baseball. Prior to the 1998 race to break Roger Maris’ single-season home run record, ticket sales were down before shooting up in time for the home run race. Likewise, television ratings were down before increasing during the Steroid Era. Steroids were good for baseball, and Selig knew it. So he kept quiet. At least, that’s what you would believe if you thought he knew about it. Which I do. But that’s neither here nor there. Like it or not, players in the Steroid Era helped save the sport because, to put it simply, people like home runs. With players like Mark McGwire hitting 70 long balls in a season, it brought a new level of excitement and attention to baseball. There is a major possibility that Selig knew this and allowed it to happen. If that’s the case, people like Joe Morgan should be rioting in the streets because of the fact that Selig is in the Hall of Fame.

Going back to Morgan’s request, maybe he should go after the players from his era who cheated before he goes after steroid users. Be fair. Be equal. If you are not going to discredit the players who used greenies as a performance enhancer, then you should not discredit steroid users when they were used for the same personal gains. Until you do that, steroid users should be allowed in the Hall of Fame. The players that Morgan is attacking played an integral part in the game’s history and the resurgence of the sport, and they deserve to be acknowledged for it, just as those players from the “Greenies Era” have been.

Both or none. That is what it comes down to.

By: Chris Perkowski


2017-18 Free Agent Predictions

The 2017 MLB season has come and gone. The Houston Astros are celebrating the first World Series Championship in franchise history while 29 other teams are going back to the drawing board and seeing what they can change. Some teams will take a swing at trades or aim towards the June draft, while others may ultimately lean towards Free Agency. With that, let’s take a look at the Top 20 Free Agents and see where they might end up this coming season (all rankings as per MLBTradeRumors).

1. Yu Darvish

Yu Darvish had a ghastly performance in the World Series. The Dodgers key mid-season acquisition accounted for a 21.60 ERA in the Fall Classic in just 3.1 frames of work, giving up nine runs on nine hits. Still, he remains the top-rated pitcher in free agency after five years of consistent work (a career 3.42 ERA and averaging 265 K’s per season). He should have plenty of suitors, mainly the Cubs who will likely lose Jake Arrieta to free agency, so they could be in the market for a top-line starter. Don’t be surprised if the rebuilding Phillies look to add the Ace, or if the Cardinals, or an unexpected team like the Twins get involved. The Cardinals could go after Darvish as they likely won’t retain Lance Lynn, and Adam Wainwright’s best days are behind him. Having Carlos Martinez and Yu Darvish as the one-two punch in St. Louis could be deadly in the NL Central. The Twins could use the rotation help, too, and adding Darvish would be a big splash. I can certainly see the Angels make a play for the Japanese right-hander, though that may be less likely after already committing $106M to Justin Upton early in the offseason.

Prediction: Cubs. Five years, $130M

2. J.D. Martinez

Where do we start with Martinez? He was arguably the best hitter in baseball in the second half of the year, hitting 19 HRs in a 29 game stretch from August 26 to September 27. He had the best year of his career to date, hitting 45 HRs for 104 RBI and a 166 OPS+ (all career highs). Still only 30 years old, teams will be clawing for a piece of the slugging corner outfielder. He has two detractors, though: his defense has declined drastically, amounting to a -27 Rdrs from 2016-2017, a trend that would likely force him to be limited to a DH within the next two or so years. That would likely eliminate most NL teams from courting him. The second detractor comes as reports have said that his agent, Scott Boras, is looking for a $200M contract for his client. That, again limits the possible number of teams who could go after him. The Red Sox could come calling, as they always love to add an impact bat to the line-up. The Giants seem to have a need for a power-hitting corner outfielder (they’ve been linked as a possible trade partner with the Marlins for Giancarlo Stanton). I think one particular dark-horse team could attract Martinez: the Toronto Blue Jays. Toronto needs some protection for Josh Donaldson in the line-up, and a signing of Martinez could also convince Donaldson to work out an extension with the team before becoming a free agent next offseason.

Prediction: Blue Jays. Seven years, $180M

3. Eric Hosmer

As was mentioned in my previous post, Hosmer is coming off of the best season of his career, and is now a four-time Gold Glove Award winner, although I believe the win for this year is completely undeserved, considering his negative dWAR and Rdrs this past season. However, with a career high OPS+ (132) and wRC+ (135), he is primed for a big pay-day and has expected to turn down a Qualifying Offer from the Royals. I would not rule out the Royals making a strong push to keep him. I imagine that the Red Sox will make a run for Hosmer if they miss out on Martinez. I would have imagined that the Cardinals would be in on the first baseman, but Derek Goold of the St. Louis Dispatch suggests that the Cards are more likely to acquire an impact bat through a trade rather than free agency. The Mariners are another team that likes to spend and Hosmer could be the offensive piece that puts them over the hump.

Prediction: Red Sox. Six years, $165M

4. Jake Arrieta

Arrieta wasn’t great this season. He sported a respectable 3.53 ERA, but his strikeout rates are down while his hit, walk, and home run rates are up. Still, teams will come spending in hopes that he can get back to form and repeat his 2015 season in which he went 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA and 215 ERA+ en route to the NL Cy Young Award. He may not go too far from Chicago. The Brewers have money to spend and a young pitching staff who could benefit from a strong veteran presence. The Phillies, Rangers, Mariners, Braves, Twins, Cardinals, and Angels are all teams looking for a top-of-the-rotation arm. If they can make it work monetarily, someone will go after the Cy Young Award winner.. I imagine that Arrieta has more suitors than not.

Prediction: Phillies. Five years, $110M

5. Mike Moustakas

Coming off a knee injury this year, Moustakas hit a career high 38 HRs (also a Royals franchise record). His defensive work has always been average to above-average. He doesn’t walk all that much, which lends to a usually low on-base percentage. Still, his power from the left-side of the plate is something many teams will fight for. The Braves may be one of those teams, as they don’t have any prominent third base prospects coming up and have a major hole at the hot corner. The Angels could also look to add another bat to go along with Mike Trout and Justin Upton. In my opinion, the biggest fit is in Queens. The Mets need to accept the fact that David Wright’s playing career is over and they need to find a replacement at third base…and soon.

Prediction: Mets. Four years, $74M

6. Lorenzo Cain

The third Royals free agent on this list and we’re not even out of the Top Ten, yet. A career .290 hitter and a dynamic defensive center fielder, Cain could be in for a modest payday after another good year. Cain is a fantastic number two hitter, with a career .307 batting average and .361 BAbip (Batting Average on Balls in Play); I expect Cain’s agent to have a busy winter fielding calls and offers. The Mets, again, immediately stand out. Unless they view Brandon Nimmo as the center fielder of the future, I think Cain is a can’t-miss acquisition for the Mets. Otherwise, the Mariners, Rangers, and Giants make sense, as they all have money to spend and need major upgrades at center field.

Prediction: Mariners. Four years, $68M

7. Wade Davis

Though his walk numbers were a career high in 2017 and he was used in multiple innings several times in the postseason to less than stellar results, Davis finds himself as the top closer on the market. With the recent release of closer Trevor Rosenthal, Davis could find himself donning Cardinals red next season. Other than that, the rebuilding Braves could be an appealing fit, along with the Angels, Twins, Rangers, Nationals (further bolstering the bullpen and possibly moving closer Sean Doolittle to a set-up man role), or the World Champion Astros. All of those teams could look for a significant upgrade at closer.

Prediction: Braves. Five years, $70M

8. Lance Lynn

Lynn comes off a typically solid year with the Cardinals, and kicks off the second-tier of free agent starters behind Darvish and Arrieta. He reached 33 starts this year, one of only 12 pitchers to accomplish that feat. Though his strikeout and walk rates were career worsts. He somehow still managed a very respectable 3.43 ERA. He should have interest from some teams who can’t afford Darvish or Arrieta’s asking prices. Contrastingly, Lynn’s asking price is 5 years/$100M which seems incredibly unrealistic. I expect teams like the Rangers, Orioles, Twins, Braves, Brewers, and Phillies to have interest as all of those teams need rotation help. The Phillies have the money, however, to sign two starters. Therefore, I wouldn’t be totally surprised if that were to transpire.

Prediction: Brewers. Three years, $45M

9. Greg Holland

Holland is an interesting case. After spending a year away from baseball following elbow surgery, he returned to the league on a one-year deal with Colorado. He led the NL with 41 saves, though he had a 3.61 ERA thanks to a rough eight-game stretch in August. Still, he proved that he can be a very effective late-innings arm, and he should be paid handsomely for his efforts. Expect the same teams as Wade Davis to be interested in Holland.

Prediction: Cardinals. Four years, $48M

10. Alex Cobb

The 30 year old Cobb, to me, is one of the most interesting free agents. After finishing the season with a 3.03 ERA over his final 17 starts, he has momentum on his side. The question is whether or not Cobb can replicate that late success and translate it to a full season. I think he’ll have quite a few teams coming his way. The Orioles seem like the most obvious, as they have a desperate need for starting pitching. Again, I would add the Twins, Rangers, Angels, Mariners, and Braves to that list of teams.

Prediction: Orioles. Five years, $67M

11. Carlos Santana

Santana seems like the second-best Free Agent first baseman after Eric Hosmer, and could get a big payday once Hosmer is off the market. He averages 105 walks per year, with a great career .365 OBP. On top of that, he hits for power and plays a very good first base. Still, teams could look at him as a DH option. He’s not getting younger (32 in April, so his body could break down soon, but that remains to be seen). A reunion with Cleveland is certainly plausible, though he could be in for more money elsewhere. An interesting landing spot that I haven’t seen mentioned much: the Yankees. They have a clear need at DH and he could spell the young Greg Bird if he needs a day off at first base. On top of that, the Royals, Angels, Twins, or Red Sox could have major interest. The Angels will likely look to upgrade from CJ Cron at first base, while the Red Sox could also look at Santana at first base or DH.

Prediction: Yankees. Four years, $62M

12. Zack Cozart

Cozart could not have picked a better time to hit free agency for the first-time in his career. Coming off a 4.9 WAR and putting up the best offensive numbers of his career (a slash-line of .297/.385/.548 with a 141 OPS+), Cozart finally put it all together and became a complete player. Already known for his great defense at shortstop, he is now seen as a huge commodity: a power-hitting middle infielder (a career high 24 HRs in 2017). There are few teams with openings at shortstop, but if he opens up to the idea of becoming a utility infielder and playing second or third base as well, then the interest level could increase greatly. Those teams with interest could be the Mets, Blue Jays, Braves, Angels, Nationals and Padres. The Padres might want a veteran presence on a young rebuilding team. The Mets, Blue Jays, Braves, and Angels need second basemen, and considering there are not many free agent second baseman available, this makes Cozart more valuable if he plays multiple positions. The Nationals are an interesting case, as they don’t have a need at shortstop but they do have an opening in left field. Hear me out: they can move Trea Turner from shortstop back to center field, shifting Adam Eaton to left field and putting Cozart at shortstop. A little crazy, but it could work. Don’t forget about the Rays as a dark-horse candidate, though, as they too need an upgrade at second base (Brad Miller hit a measly .201 this season).

Prediction: Blue Jays. Three years/$42M (club option for a fourth year)

13. Jay Bruce

Bruce was a major part of the Indians run to a 22-game winning streak. He offers some versatility with the ability to play right field and first base, as well as DHing. I don’t expect him to go to an NL team, as he could be very useful as a DH in the coming year or two. What hurts him is his asking price: ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweeted that Bruce is seeking a five year deal worth $80-90M which I don’t believe to be realistic. This could hurt his chances of returning to Cleveland (where I believed he would re-sign). I wouldn’t totally rule out a return to the Indians, but I think the chances are much slimmer if that asking price is true. Perhaps some teams like the Royals, Orioles, Red Sox, or Giants could make sense for reasons mentioned prior.

Prediction: Royals. Five years, $75M

14. Logan Morrison

Morrison was probably the most surprising player in baseball in 2017. Following seven disappointing seasons in which he did not live up to his offensive potential, he finally broke out this year with Tampa in the tune of 38 long balls, 85 RBI, and a .516 SLG%. His offensive output will attract the same teams that will go after Hosmer and Santana.

Prediction: Twins. Three years, $38M

15. Addison Reed

Reed will be looking to get a contract similar to Andrew Miller. Having been one of the more dominant set-up men in all of baseball over the last two seasons, he has a good chance to do so. He has an extremely low walk rate, with a 1.6 BB per nine innings pitched. That kind of control makes Reed a very popular target for teams looking to bolster their bullpens. I would say the Astros, Cardinals, Cubs, Dodgers, Braves, Twins, Angels, and Red Sox could come with some big offers as all look to bolster their bullpens in the late innings.

Prediction: Cardinals. Four years, $40M

16. Todd Frazier

Frazier is a mid-level free agent option who will come in as a cheaper alternative to Mike Moustakas. I don’t believe Frazier has been very good over the last two years, slashing .220/.322/.448 from 2016-2017, though he offers above average defense at third base. What helps his market is that he is a great clubhouse leader, a reputation he has carried through his entire big league career. If the Mets don’t sign Moustakas, I think they would sign Frazier as a much cheaper back-up option. Otherwise, there should be interest from the Angels, Braves, and Royals. I don’t see a return to the Yankees being likely.

Prediction: Braves. Two years, $24M

17. Mike Minor

A former starter with the Braves, Minor recharged his career in the bullpen with the Royals in 2017. After missing two years due to a shoulder injury, Minor helped out the Royals to the tune of a 2.55 ERA, 10.2 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9. To put it simply, he was excellent this past season and the 29 year old should be one of the highest paid relievers in the league. The Royals could look for a reunion, while teams like the Cardinals, Dodgers, Twins, Astros, and Nationals could make a strong push for the lefty.

Prediction: Twins. Four years, $32M

18. Brandon Morrow

Morrow is one of the best stories in baseball. A former pitching prospect with the Mariners, he never caught on in Seattle before being traded to the Blue Jays where he found some moderate success (even coming within one out of a no-hitter against the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010). Injuries would pile up and force him to miss major parts of the 2012-2016 seasons. The Dodgers signed him to a minor league deal this past season and called him up in May, at which point he became the team’s set-up man to closer Kenley Jansen. Morrow pitched to a stellar 2.06 ERA with a 204 ERA+ and a 10.3 K/9 ratio. The 33 year old flamethrower will be paid handsomely, and he’ll have plenty of offers. Ryan Madson, another pitcher with an injury history who got a three year deal last year, probably set the stage for the type of contract that Morrow will get. Expect interest from the Rockies, Diamondbacks, Giants, Red Sox, Cardinals, Mets, or Braves.

Prediction: Giants. Three years, $26M

19. Jonathan Lucroy

Lucroy picked the worst possible time to have a bad season. From 2010-2016, Lucroy slashed .284/.343/.441, and was worth a 19.6 WAR over that timeframe. He was always an average defender behind the dish, but he was more known for his bat – being considered one of the best hitting catchers in baseball. That all changed this year, when he hit .242/.297/.338 with a 66 OPS+ with the Rangers before being shipped to Colorado. While he was better with the Rockies (.310/.429/.437 in 46 games after the trade), the power never showed up, only hitting 6 HRs this season. He’ll have to prove himself on a one or two year deal. If the Rockies don’t re-sign him, the Athletics or White Sox might give him a try as a veteran presence on a young, rebuilding team.

Prediction: Rockies. Two years, $20M

20. CC Sabathia

CC enjoyed a bounce back year in the Bronx, with a 3.69 ERA (his lowest since 2012) and some dominant performances in the postseason, putting up an ERA of 0.96 in the ALCS. Sabathia has stated that he would like to return to the Yankees, who could feasibly give him a one year deal while they wait for prospects Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield to continue developing. If the Yankees don’t want him back, he could go across town to the Mets or back home to California with the Angels.

Prediction: Angels. One year, $10M

In the coming weeks and months, we will see who stays and goes, who is wearing new colors, which teams are improved or worsened, and most importantly, if I got any of these right.


Shohei Otani

“The Japanese Babe Ruth” is coming to Major League Baseball, as it was announced on Friday that the Nippon Ham Fighters would be posting pitcher/outfielder Shohei Otani. Jon Heyman of FanRag tweeted that Otani would be posted for the $20M maximum, but there could be a hiccup in the posting process as the MLB Players Association could have a problem with that deal. In the new collective bargaining agreement, an international player cannot sign the same kind of deal as another free agent.

Otani has a career 42-15 record with a 2.52 ERA in the Japan Pacific League, as well as a career slashline of .286/.358/.500 with 48 HRs and 166 RBI. 2016 was his best season in which he hit 22 HRs and drove in 67 runs, while pitching to a 2.12 ERA. If Otani were to sign with an American League team, he could be used as a starter every fifth day, while playing the field or DHing the other days. It remains to be seen how he will be used, though. Still, because he can be offered so little, literally every team in the league will be in on this kind of talent. Though, only six teams have enough money in uncommitted international pool that can offer him seven figures: the Rangers ($3.535M), Yankees ($3.25M), Twins ($3.245M), Pirates ($2.2M), Marlins ($1.74M), and Mariners ($1.57M).

Prediction: I have none. This kind of free agent is completely unprecedented and it is literally anyone’s ballgame.

(All predictions as of 11/9)

By: Chris Perkowski




The Royals Should Have Sold at the Trade Deadline

royals core four
Three of the Royals “core four” (Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, and Mike Moustakas, left to right. Alcides Escobar not pictured) say goodbye to Kansas City in what was likely their last game wearing Royals blue. (Photo Courtesy: MLB)

Eleven years ago, Dayton Moore became the General Manager of the Kansas City Royals. He said that he had an eight-to-ten year plan that involved building up the farm system and making a 25-man roster of homegrown players. He would do this through drafting and smart trades (i.e. shipping away Zack Greinke to Milwaukee) rather than signing high-priced free agents. He wanted a team that was developed on chemistry. He assured the fans that it wasn’t just a .500 team that he was aiming for, but promised a World Series Championship. Fans became impatient waiting for things to change. They complained about the players whom the Royals could’ve drafted, but hindsight is 20/20.

In 2014, those complaints would all be for naught as things finally took a turn for the better. After a surge in August, the Royals found themselves in playoff contention. Backed by homegrown players like Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo CainAlcides Escobar, and Salvador Perez, the Royals won the AL Wild Card and eventually the AL Pennant, leading to their first World Series appearance since 1985. They were unsuccessful in their pursuit of a title that year, but would eventually repeat as AL Champs in 2015 and after defeating the New York Mets in five games, would bring the World Series trophy back to Kansas City for the first time in 30 years. That eight-to-ten year plan that Moore promised? It was spot on. Through drafting and smart trades, he built up a farm system of core players who grew up and developed together from the minors to the majors.

Of course, those good times wouldn’t last into 2016, as they finished 81-81 and in third place in the AL Central. This was due to a number of factors, though the injury bug greatly plagued the Royals that year. Third baseman Mike Moustakas only played in 27 games, Lorenzo Cain only played 103, and Alex Gordon’s offensive decline began in the first year of a 4yr/$72M contract. On top of that, they had major inconsistency in the rotation, having nine different pitchers start games, and only combining for a 4.50 ERA.

They had the same relative misfortunes in 2017. Despite career years from Hosmer and Moustakas (more on that later), they finished in third place in the AL Central once again, this time at 80-82. Alex Gordon’s decline continued, this year slashing .208/.293/.315 and a dreadful 62 OPS+. In addition to that, their pitching staff was, for lack of a better phrase, real bad. They had a team ERA of 4.61, ranking tenth out of 15 teams in the AL, with a team ERA+ of 97 (with 100 being the league average). They traded closer Wade Davis to the Chicago Cubs for outfielder Jorge Soler. The logic of the trade was that Davis was in a contract year and Soler had four years of team control and untapped potential. Soler would end up being…well, we’ll call it “unsatisfactory.” The 25 year old disappointment would play in 35 games and hit .144/.245/.258 with an OPS+ of 34. No, that can’t be right. 34 is way too low. No one could be that bad.

Double checks.

Triple checks.

Quadruple checks.

Nope. That is right. An OPS+ of 34. I need to go lie down.

To be fair, it wasn’t all bad for the 2017 season. On the morning of the trade deadline, the Royals were 55-48 and had a 2.5 game lead for the second wild card spot. Going into the season, the Royals knew that four of their core players would be hitting free agency at the end of the season; those four players being Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, and Alcides Escobar. So they had two choices: buy and bolster their roster for a possible late-season playoff run, or sell and acquire some prospects to fix a depleted farm system by trading away your expiring contracts.

Dayton Moore chose the former.

The Royals acquired Trevor CahillRyan BuchterBrandon Maurer, and Melky Cabrera. However, they would not help as expected. Aside from Buchter, who compiled a nice 2.67 ERA in 27 IP, Cahill and Maurer would combine for an 8.16 ERA over 36 appearances. Cabrera performed fine, slashing .269/.303/.399, though it was nowhere near his first-half production (.295/.336/.436). You can certainly point to these poor acquisitions as one of the reasons that their season fell apart in the second half (the Royals went 25-34 from July 31st to October 1st).

So here we stand. The Royals missed the playoffs by five games. Hosmer, Cain, and Moustakas are almost certain to sign elsewhere (I don’t believe Escobar’s asking price or interest level will be huge, so the Royals should have a chance to bring him back. Due to this, we won’t be discussing him). Their farm system, as a I said before, isn’t good. They have a whopping zero prospects listed in MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects List. What are they to do?

As I mentioned earlier, Hosmer and Moustakas had career years. Hosmer slashed .318/.385/.498 with a 132 OPS+, all career highs. Though, his defense had never been worse (a career low -7 Rdrs), he still had a career high 4.0 WAR, and I believe Hosmer deserves to be a top five finalist in the AL MVP voting. Moustakas, on the other hand, set the Royals single-season Home Run record with 38. Additionally, Moose’s 85 RBI, .521 SLUG%, .835 OPS, and 75 Runs were all career highs. His defense, too, was terrible, as he cost the Royals eight runs in the field. Cain had another fine season, slashing .300/.363/.440. Not really known for his power, he still slugged 15 bombs among a career high 175 hits, and had 26 stolen bases as opposed to being caught stealing only twice. His WAR was a fantastic 5.3, and he saved five runs in the outfield this year. Either one of these three players would be a great acquisition to any team. But they will also cost quite the lump sum.

The Royals are more than likely to extend the 1yr/$18M qualifying offer to each of these three, but I think it would be a huge surprise if any one of them accepted, seeing as there is a big payday ahead of each of them. Assuming they reject these offers, and sign contracts upwards of $50M, the Royals would receive compensatory picks just after the first round. This is ideal for the Royals who desperately need to acquire some more prospects. Including their first round pick, the Royals would have four drafts picks before the second round even starts. This is big for the franchise, and if they scout well enough, they could fix things rather quickly.

Still, these are three major talents who would’ve brought in major prospect hauls from offense-needy teams at the deadline. Think about the hauls that the Yankees got in the Andrew Miller or Aroldis Chapman trades. Likewise, think of the package that the Nationals sent to the White Sox in exchange for Adam Eaton. Both deals single-handedly put the Yankees and White Sox farm systems in the top three in all of baseball. The Royals could’ve had something even remotely close to that if they would have followed suit and sold at the deadline.

As we already know, they didn’t follow this route. As a result, they have no farm system and they’re about to lose three of the major pieces from their World Series run. Dayton Moore messed up. Depending on the qualifying offer process and whatever compensatory picks they take, things can potentially look a bit brighter, but as of now, they are relatively dim. Maybe Dayton Moore will work some magic again and everything will be fixed in eight years. I wouldn’t count on it, though, judging from his decisions over the past year or so. It might be a miserable stretch in Kansas City for the next few years.

By: Chris Perkowski

Is it Smart for the Marlins to Rebuild?

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Miami Marlins
Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton salutes the crowd after falling one home run shy of 60 for the season. (Photo Courtesy: CBS Sports)

The regular season is behind us and the off-season is now looming rapidly, so naturally, with that comes trade speculation and rumors. Though, players aren’t usually the ones starting those rumors. That is, until this past weekend. Marlins slugger, and likely NL MVP, Giancarlo Stanton told Jon Heyman that he wants out of Miami if the Marlins rebuild, saying “I’ve lost for seven years…I don’t want to rebuild.” This report comes from the same weekend where Stanton fell short in his chase for 60 home runs, finishing at 59 for the year. He took a curtain call for the home fans as the modest crowd of 25,222 cheered wildly for their franchise hero. All of this begs the question, why would the Marlins rebuild? Would it even be a smart move?

For starters, the Marlins have no shortage of offensive talent. As a team in 2017, they ranked second in the NL in batting average (.267) and hits (1,497), fourth in total bases (2,412), fifth in runs (778), sixth in on-base percentage (.331) and on-base-plus-slugging percentage (.761).

Individually, you’ve got Marcell Ozuna putting together a career year, slashing .312/.376/.548 (all career highs), with 37 HRs and 124 RBI, not to mention an OPS+ of 145. He put together a 5.8 WAR season, as well as compiling 10 Rdrs (defensive runs saved) in the field, the second highest total of his career (11 in 2014). Looking at this, it is pretty evident that the move from center field to left field was very effective this year.

Along with Ozuna would be Christian Yelich, who, while not as effective as in 2016, still put up solid offensive numbers. With 18 HRs and 81 RBI to go with a slashline of .282/.369/.439. He had a WAR of 3.9, though he put together a dWAR of -0.3, possibly due to an Rdrs of -6.

Rounding out their outfield is, obviously, Stanton. .281/.376/.631. That was his slashline this year in a 59 HR, 132 RBI season in which he compiled an OPS+ of 165, 65 points higher than the league average, which was second in the NL to only Joey Votto (168). Stanton also had 10 Rdrs this season to go with a .988 fielding percentage and 0.4 dWAR, not to mention a 7.6 WAR.

Aside from these three stars (who might combine to be the best outfield in baseball), you have some surprise contributors, such as catcher J.T. Realmuto or first baseman Justin Bour.

Realmuto was superb this year, ranking second in batting average (.278), hits (148), runs (68) and doubles (31), third in OBP (.330), SLG (.453), OPS (.783), and sixth in RBI (65) among all MLB catchers.

Meanwhile, Bour finally lived up to his offensive potential, swatting a career high 25 HRs and 83 RBI, along with career highs in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage (.289/.366/.536). He also had an OPS+ of 139, plus a 2.3 WAR. His dWAR was -0.8 and had a -2 Rdrs, so that’s not terribly promising, but he showed great improvement in power this year and that’s something that most teams would take at first base rather than defense. He also did this in just 108 games. He hit at a 162 game pace of 37 HRs and 124 RBI.

In contrast to their surplus of talent, Miami still has several holes. Their weakness lies in their pitching. With an abysmal team ERA of 4.82 (good for 13th in the NL) and absolutely no closer to depend on, their pitching staff is just a black hole of talent, in that it is non-existent. There was just one even remotely decent spot in the rotation, and that was Jose Ureña. Ureña went 14-7 with a 3.82 ERA and a 1.273 WHIP, which all just screams “okay.” He was the only Marlins starter with an ERA+ over 100, which is incredibly sad. But still, those numbers are fine for a solid number three or four starter. However, he was their best pitcher. By a lot. Woof. They need an upgrade in the rotation, badly. The Marlins reached by signing Wei-Yin Chen to a five year/$80M contract before the 2016 season. He responded by 7-6 with a 4.72 ERA, 1.228 WHIP, and an 84 ERA+ in just 31 games over the last two seasons. So that investment is paying off handsomely.

In the bullpen, there’s a who’s who of “who the hell is that?” Aside from former Red Sox reliever Junichi Tazawa (who was terrible this year), there was nobody notable aside from David Phelps, who was shipped to Seattle before the trade deadline, and A.J. Ramos, who is now pitching in the division with the Mets. I’m not going to go too more in depth about the Marlins bullpen because nobody should have to do that. Brian Ellington had a 7.25 ERA, a WHIP of nearly 2.0 (he finished the year at 1.858) and an ERA+ of 57, which I didn’t know could be done so I guess it’s sort of impressive.

Now, they have two clear choices: build upon their outstanding offensive core by fixing their holes, or cutting bait and rebuilding. One major issue, and the clear case for rebuilding, is that the Marlins owe $400M in debt. They really shouldn’t be signing big name free-agents, but I don’t believe that selling off players like Yelich, Ozuna, Realmuto, Bour, or Stanton would bring back prospects who live up to that caliber. You really can’t bet on that, considering how rarely prospects pan out. At the same time, the Marlins do not have a farm system, so trading these players quickly would be the only way to rebuild a barren minor league system. Plus, Stanton’s contract is going to be a nightmare to move, with the Marlins likely having to eat much of the $310M remaining on that contract (though only $77M of that is guaranteed, as Stanton has an opt-out clause after the 2020 season). However, in doing so, the Marlins are setting themselves up for several more years of failure before any of those prospects would be ready to come up and form a competitive team. Are the new owners willing to do that? Doing so would alienate an already apathetic fan-base and likely force a perennially empty stadium to be even more empty.

If Derek Jeter and co. don’t want to lose for the foreseeable future, they’ll need to open up the purse strings this offseason. The pitching staff is the clear weakness, so they could throw money at either Jake Arrieta and hope that he will return to the form of his NL Cy Young season, or hand Yu Darvish a blank check and tell him to name his price. At the same time, if Masahiro Tanaka opts out of his contract with the Yankees, the Marlins could offer him a contract as well. Tanaka doesn’t have much bargaining power considering the inconsistency of his 2017 season, which helps the Marlins chances. Still, any one of those starters are likely to command upwards of $20M per year. Along with one of those three pitchers, the Marlins could try and sign Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn on reasonable contracts (presumably in the $10M-15M range).

As for the bullpen, Greg Holland is likely to decline his 2018 option following a year in which he led the NL in saves with 41 after a year-long absence from baseball. The Marlins could spend on him or his former Royals teammate Wade Davis. Both are dominant closers and would cost, like Cobb and Lynn, in the $10M-15M range. This would potentially fill their holes, though, and makes them a more competitive team (on paper, of course).

With these hypothetical moves, the Marlins will have signed two starters and a closer for a rough estimate of $50M per year. If they now have an ace, a number two starter, and a top of the line closer, they can presumably compete for a Wild Card as soon as next year. A competitive team (something the city hasn’t seen from the franchise since 2009 when the Fish finished in second place in the NL East at 87-75) means more revenue in ticket and merchandise sales. This year, Miami was in the bottom three in attendance for the third time in the last five years. Some kind of significant change needs to be made to improve team revenue and I think the only way to make money is to spend money in this particular instance. This is not to say that selling won’t create revenue; it will, but it won’t help significantly for quite some time.

The new owners have a huge decision to make, and it’s not an easy one. A rebuild means losing for another four or five years, I would imagine. Though it makes it easier to pay off the debts that they have inherited from former owner Jeffrey Loria (a historically awful owner), I don’t think it’s the right answer right now. You can still pay off that debt over time if you field a competitive, winning team, which is certainly possible to do as early as next season. It is true that rebuilds are effective and helpful in the transformation of teams. I just don’t think it is the right choice right now for this franchise. Ultimately, who knows what the new owners will do? All we do know is that we will soon find out if Stanton’s season finale curtain call was also his final moment in a Marlins uniform.

(All stats as of 10/2/17)

By: Chris Perkowski