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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