Quick Hits: Extensions, Scouting, Tommy John

There have been a number of noteworthy, research-oriented pieces written in recent days with strong hot stove implications. Here are a few worthwhile reads:

  • Ben Lindbergh, writing for FOX Sports, analyzes trends in roster turnover over baseball history. He finds that the apparent boom in extensions — driven by TV money, changes in PED trends, and other factors, in concert with revenue sharing and the luxury tax — has halted (and may be reversing) the trend of increasing player movement since the inception of free agency.
  • Over at Fangraphs, Tony Blengino analyzes the risks in long-term pitching deals and Wendy Thurm breaks out every player on a 40-man roster by contract type (fielders and pitchers). Blengino looks at comparables for top starters such as Felix Hernandez, Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander, examining how their peers fared after their prime-aged years. Ultimately, he concludes: "There is nothing wrong with paying premium dollars to premium talent, but there is something inherently inefficient in paying premium dollars for an inordinate number of years, multiple years before a club has to do so."
  • Sticking with extensions, Yahoo's Jeff Passan looks at the union's difficulties in dealing with seemingly team-friendly, option-laden extensions. Baseball is a $9 billion industry, writes Passan, and as it grows, the MLBPA wants the maximum amount of money going to player salaries, not owners' pockets. However, in some instances, it's simply too difficult for players to turn down life-changing dollars. Passan spoke with one agent who said his client couldn't even grasp the concept of $1MM after growing up in poverty in a Latin American country, so when he was presented with an eight-figure extension offer, he couldn't bring himself to turn it down, even though he was worth more. Passan also writes that some agents that fear their clients could be poached by another agent will advise a player to take an extension to ensure they receive their commission. One GM tells Passan that two club options has become a starting point in negotiations — a thought that would've been laughable a generation ago. (For addtional context on the subject of options, I recently broke down MLB's use of options myself, looking at both overall trends and different option types.)
  • In a must-read piece on MLB's international player market, Ben Badler of Baseball America provides a fascinating — and troubling — profile of the scouting and signing of young international prospects. Badler paints a picture of a system that is racing towards younger players and earlier commitments, driven by actors who dislike that cycle but feel powerless to contest it.
  • In a fascinating interview on Sirius XM's MLB Network Radio with Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette (audio link), famed surgeon Dr. James Andrews says that the recent run of Tommy John surgeries is a trend, not just coincidence. In his view, elbow ligament issues find their roots in a pitcher's amateur time. "So you can usually go back and see a minor injury from when they were a young kid throwing youth baseball that was not recognized, but it set them up for a major injury somewhere down the road," said Andrews. "If we can keep these kids clean through high school, then we’re going to see a lot less number of them getting hurt as they become mature college players and professional players. So you’ve got to prevent it at a young age."

Steve Adams contributed to this post.


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15 Comments on "Quick Hits: Extensions, Scouting, Tommy John"


Mario Saavedra
1 year 3 months ago

To be fair, team friendly extension offer good guaranteed money as well. Many extended players would had been non-tender otherwise. Look at the padres, they extended Cameron Maybin, Nick Hundley and Cory Luebke to ¨team friendly¨ extensions, and none of them has been that great for the team.

Cosmo3
1 year 3 months ago

Bingo. That’s exactly why players take them. It’s easy for us to sit here and say, “well if he’d gone year to year, he could have made more money”. But if I’m the player looking at an offer that would make me financially set for life, I say a bird in hand is worth two in the bush.

LazerTown
1 year 3 months ago

Right. You can set yourself up for a very good life and never have to worry about money with $20MM guaranteed. Depends though. Matt Moore’s contract was excessively team friendly, many of the other ones are fair. Trout could fall apart tomorrow. Grady Sizemore was fantastic when he came up. Even putting up 7.8 WAR after his 2nd full season. He took a discount on his total salary value that he got now, but he also is getting $150MM guaranteed.

homer
homer
1 year 3 months ago

Do not see how Matt Moore’s was excessively team friendly. Matt Moore may not pitch in 2014, if he needs surgery he will miss a chunk of 2015. He has already doubled his income from the min 500k to 1m for three years because of the contract and next year he being arb eligible not sure he would have exceeded the 3m he is getting in the guaranteed contract. Granted when he would have hit FA in 2018 he probably would get more IF he gets past this current issue. Now if he has a re-occurrence and never comes back will this still be excessively team friendly?

1 year 3 months ago

If he never comes back it will not be team friendly. In almost every other circumstance, it will be. Even on the DL he’d be collecting arbitration time meaning that he’d be due for a pay hike when he got back. The options prevent him from hitting free agency until he’s on the wrong side of 30.

LazerTown
1 year 3 months ago

Doesn’t take a player long to get to $14MM, then to have an option for last year of arb at $4.5MM, 1 year FA at $9MM, and 2nd year FA at $10MM. Unless he completely washed out he took a big discount. Even if he turned out to be an ineffective Phil Hughes clone he would have still ended up at that money, then on free agency Hughes again got paid for his potential.

1 year 3 months ago

Team friendly extensions allow teams to be competitive for longer windows. Saying baseball is a 9 billion dollar industry ignores the fact that much of the revenue comes from a small number of teams. The Rays can’t have a 200 million dollar payroll, but they can be competitive when their players take deals that set them up for life while leaving room for team improvements.

Derpy
1 year 3 months ago

I’ve been saying this for years, but you need good high school coaches. You need coaches who care more about the kids than winning, and they need to care more about the health of the kids than whatever limelight they might receive from that kid becoming famous. Just because you have one great player on your team doesn’t mean you make him pitch every single inning. You might win games, but you’re jeopardizing his health. I have seen so many bad coaches at the high school level, it is really depressing.

Robert Mango
1 year 3 months ago

I’ll say this about the rise in Tommy John Surgery – CC Sabathia, Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez. 3 pitchers who throw more inning than most, and never had the surgery. Coincidence? I think not. Seems like when you coddle pitchers, watch their innings, their arms are fit enough to handle a season and they tear a muscle. These guys are workhorses. Guess the more you pitch, the less likely you are to get hurt. THe more you do’nt pitch, the less shape your arm is in.

Mario Saavedra
1 year 3 months ago

C.C. Sabathia is completely done at this point. Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez they are both young still, and more importantly they are the exceptions, not the pattern.

1 year 3 months ago

The interview with Dr. Andrews highlights some key issues, it’s worth listening to the whole thing –
Young pitchers (high school) are
1) Throwing for too long (playing competitively year – round, no off-season )
2) Throwing too often (amateur showcases, playing for multiple teams at once)
and 3) Throwing too hard (this was the eye-opener for me – Dr. Andrews stated that the “redline” for TJ surgery for highschool aged pitchers was 80-85mph.) Because the ligaments are still developing, the Dr. states that most of these kids are incurring TJ injuries as a result of competing with the radar gun, trying to throw in the low 90’s in HS.
I do think that a regular throwing program to build and maintain arm strength is essential. In that sense, kids should be throwing “more” than they currently do. I remember Bert Blyleven mentioning on a broadcast of a Twins game that he had a long-toss program he following during his playing days that kept him relatively injury free, and that most of the pitchers he talked to in the majors did not have anything similar and instead opted for more rest between starts rather than regular throwing.

jed_hoyer
1 year 3 months ago

problem is also caused by mlb pitching. emphasizing high velocity with poor mechanics and throwing curve/sliders that put to much torque on the elbow.

connfyoozed .
1 year 3 months ago

I would have been interested to read what Tommy John himself thinks. 😉

Mike1L
1 year 3 months ago

I’ve heard a lot of stories about LL managers and travel teams who ride their best pitcher’s arms until they nearly fall off. When you are coaching a kid, you need to understand that that child, and his parents, are putting his health in your hands. That’s a serious responsibility. Some managers understand it, some don’t.

connfyoozed .
1 year 3 months ago

And I suspect that some managers understand it, but just care more about winning, which is a shame.