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Mike Trout is taking a more aggressive approach this season, writes Buster Olney for ESPN Insider. The result is a likely improvement to his 26.1% strikeout rate from last year. The new approach is designed to avoid pitchers’ counts. While we can’t draw any statistical conclusions from his 42 plate appearances, he has a 11.9% walk rate and 16.7% strikeout rate.
Olney also included a number of other interesting topics. Those include home runs allowed by Cole Hamels, Curtis Granderson‘s low swinging strike rate, and Mike Moustakas‘ all-field approach. Here’s more from around the league.
- The Rangers own the baseball rights to Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, and they want him to play, Wilson told HBO’s Bryant Gumble (via Mike Florio of NBC Sports). Wilson, 25, was a two sport athlete in college. He spent a couple seasons in the Rockies minor league system, hitting .229/.354/.356 in 379 plate appearances. A tepid Single-A performance mixed with three years away from the sport isn’t encouraging, but Seahawks GM John Schneider notes Wilson’s off the charts confidence and preparation. It strikes me as unlikely that anything will come of Wilson’s interest in playing two sports. If something were to happen, it’s seemingly too late for the 2015 season.
- The Tigers have done an excellent job remaining consistent while overhauling their roster, writes Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. The team won the AL Central in each of the last four seasons and currently sports the top record in baseball (9-2). Aside from Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Alex Avila, and Justin Verlander, most of the roster has turned over since Detroit won the AL pennant in 2012. Much of the credit goes to President and GM Dave Dombrowski who has overseen major trades involving Ian Kinsler, David Price, and Joakim Soria in recent seasons (among others).
The 23-year-old Trout won in unanimous fashion — the first to do so since Ken Griffey Jr. in 1997. Trout’s unanimous selection came on the heels of yet another dominant season, as he batted .287/.377/.561 with career-highs in homers (36), runs scored (115) and RBIs (111). Many feel that Trout should have been named the MVP in both the 2012 and 2013 seasons, but the consensus top player in the game now has an MVP to place on his mantle and should probably leave room for a few more to eventually stand by its side.
Trout’s 420 points were the most possible, and rounding out the top 10 in the AL were Victor Martinez (229), Michael Brantley (185), Jose Abreu (145), Jose Bautista (128), Robinson Cano (124), Nelson Cruz (102), Josh Donaldson (96), Miguel Cabrera (82) and Felix Hernandez (48). The full ballot is available in this Google doc from the BBWAA.
Kershaw edged out Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton, finishing with 355 points to 298. Kershaw missed a month with back inflammation but still put together one of the best seasons in recent history. In 198 1/3 innings, Kershaw posted a career-best 1.77 ERA with 10.9 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9. Kershaw’s effort won him his third Cy Young Award in the past four years and resulted in a total of 7.5 rWAR and 7.2 fWAR despite the missed time on the DL.
Behind Kershaw and Stanton in the top 10 were Andrew McCutchen (271), Jonathan Lucroy (167), Anthony Rendon (155), Buster Posey (152), Adrian Gonzalez (57), Adam Wainwright (53), Josh Harrison (52) and Anthony Rizzo (37). The full ballot is available in this Google Doc from the BBWAA.
In an excellent piece at Fangraphs, August Fagerstrom looks at the Athletics‘ acquisition of Adam Dunn as the final piece of GM Billy Beane’s playoff roster. Fagerstrom notes that if the A’s play in a Wild Card game — which is very likely — they’ll likely face either Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Shields, Yordano Ventura, Max Scherzer or David Price. Five of the six are right-handed, making Dunn a formidable weapon in such a matchup. Beyond that, Fagerstrom looks at the Athletics’ bench versus a right-handed pitcher and versus a left-handed pitcher, noting that each group is composed of entirely different players (with the exception of Sam Fuld). However, each group will also feature two catchers that can hit reasonably well, an infielder that can play all four infield positions, and a pair of elite defensive outfielders. The balance of the roster is truly impressive, and Fagerstrom’s piece highlights the roster construction particularly well.
Here’s more from the AL West…
- In a lengthy piece for ESPN The Magazine, Tim Keown spoke with Beane at length about his team’s bold moves this season and the competition they’re facing in their quest for the World Series. Beane referred to division rival Mike Trout as “the best player who has ever walked on the planet” and said he doesn’t care for the narrative that the A’s are “all in” this season: “Just assume that every move we make in the front office means we’re all-in. We can’t afford a five-year plan, so every move means we’re trying to win every game we possibly can. All-in — I never liked that term. For one thing, I don’t have that many chips to throw into the middle of the table.” Keown also spoke with Jon Lester about his trade from the Red Sox to Oakland, and his piece also contains quotes from assistant GM Farhan Zaidi and Jeff Samardzija. The entire article is well worth the read not only for A’s fans, but for baseball fans in general.
- Angels infielder John McDonald tells Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com that he may end up retiring following the 2014 season. McDonald says he’s more than aware of his dwindling playing time — he’s received just 81 PA despite appearing in 81 games this season — and knows the market for 40-year-old infielders isn’t great. “I got more out of my career than I ever thought was possible,” said McDonald. “I didn’t think I’d get a day in the big leagues, let alone parts of 16 years.” For the time being, he’s trying not to even think about the offseason, however, as it’s “just too much fun” to go to the stadium every day in the midst of a pennant race.
- In a second Fangraphs piece pertaining to the AL West, Tony Blengino (former special assistant to the GM with the Mariners) looks at Dustin Ackley‘s batted ball data in an attempt to determine whether or not his second-half resurgence is legitimate. As Blengino notes, Ackley’s production has soared on pulled fly-balls, and his line-drive production has trended upward as well. The trade off has been some loss of authority on ground-balls, but as he notes, hitters will gladly make that swap. Blengino concludes that Ackley may never become a star, as his previously excellent walk rate now looks more pedestrian, but he’s capable of hitting .275-.280 with a .310-.310 OBP and a slugging percentage around .425 with solid-or-better defense in left field — an asset that seemed unlikely just a few months ago.
- Also of interest, Blengino discusses how those with the benefit of hindsight may wonder why Trout didn’t go at the top of the draft class when Ackley was selected, but most clubs felt he was too raw to select near the top of the draft despite being an obvious talent. The Mariners had Stephen Strasburg atop their board and Ackley second, and current Reds righty Mike Leake was “likely” their backup plan should anything go wrong with Ackley, whom he says was “considered a pretty obvious second selection back in 2009.”
Mike Trout's extension with the Angels was a compromise, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal writes. Trout wanted a contract that was either shorter (four years, which would not have delayed his free agency eligibility) or much longer (up to 13 years). The Angels wanted the deal to be between those two numbers, but wanted to sign Trout for longer than the six years they eventually got. Trout's deal still allows him to become a free agent at age 28. Here are more notes from around the West divisions.
- Scott Kazmir says he strongly considered signing with the Astros last offseason before ultimately signing with the Athletics, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports. Kazmir attended Cypress Falls High School in Houston. "Yeah, it was serious," Kazmir says. "This is a great group of guys that are going to come up together and be a solid organization, a solid team in the big leagues. Definitely had interest." Days after Kazmir picked Oakland instead, the Astros signed Scott Feldman to a three-year deal.
- The Padres were bidders for Cuban middle infielders Erisbel Arruebarrena and Aledmys Diaz, Jeff Sanders of the Union-Tribune writes. Now the Padres are close to a deal with another Cuban player, pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne. The Padres' money from their TV deal has allowed them now only to get involved on players like Arruebarrena and Diaz, but to sign, for example, Josh Johnson and Joaquin Benoit. The Padres also recently signed infielder Jedd Gyorko to a long-term deal.
The situation with Matt Moore's UCL injury is still up in the air, as the southpaw is waiting to have his MRIs examined by the Rays' team orthopedic physician, Moore told reporters (including MLB.com's Bill Chastain). Moore may test his elbow by playing catch in a few days, though isn't going to push it. "If there's any pain, it's not going to be something I'm going to try and work through," Moore said. "I think the goal is to get to a place where I don't feel pain. And if I can get to that in the next few days just playing catch, then it's a good sign to keep going. If not, then it's a sign in the [other direction]. I'm optimistic about playing catch."
Here's some more from around the AL East…
- The Yankees have been fined by Major League Baseball for tampering due to comments made by team president Randy Levine in regards to Mike Trout, The Los Angeles Times' Bill Shaikin reports. The amount of the fine isn't known. Levine cited Trout last December when discussing why the Yankees didn't match the Mariners' 10-year contract offer for Robinson Cano, saying "If it was Mike Trout, I’d offer him a 10-year contract, but for people over 30, I don’t believe it makes sense.” The Angels took exception to Levine's comments and asked the Commissioner's office to investigate the matter.
- Injuries to Mark Teixeira and David Robertson have left the Yankees thin at first base and in the bullpen, two positions that were thought to be lacking in depth going into the season. GM Brian Cashman reiterated to reporters (including MLB.com's Bryan Hoch) that the two positions would be "a developing story" through the season as the team didn't have enough budget space to acquire additional depth in the offseason. "We wanted to fix as much as we could, but acknowledged that we couldn't fix everything that needed to be addressed," Cashman said. "That's with the money we were in position to spend as well as the available talent. The better talent was really heavily in favor of the outfield rather than the infield."
- The Blue Jays' seeming halt on payroll looks to be an ownership response to how none of GM Alex Anthopoulos' big additions from the 2012-13 offseason have yet panned out, Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star writes. Rogers Communications, the Jays' parent company, is essentially saying to Anthopoulos, in Griffin's words, "Show us that the group you brought in last year is as good as you said it was and maybe then we can talk about additions." Griffin also doesn't think the Jays will undergo an Astros-esque total rebuild since Rogers wants to keep the team competitive in order to maintain the Jays' strong viewership numbers on Rogers-owned media outlets.
- In AL East news from earlier today on MLBTR, we collected some Red Sox Notes, and also learned that the Red Sox, Rays and Yankees are three of the teams who are believed to be interested in Joel Hanrahan.
Spring training is time for players to get ready for the season, but it's also a busy time for agents, as agent Joshua Kusnick chronicles in a piece for Baseball Prospectus (subscription-only). This spring, Kusnick saw a number of significant career milestones or disappointments for lesser-known clients — Rule 5 pick Adrian Nieto stuck with the White Sox and fellow catcher Steve Clevenger made the Orioles out of camp, while pitcher Bobby Cassevah got released by the Rockies. Meanwhile, other clients headed to the independent Atlantic League. Kusnick's piece is a good remidner that the fortunes of players on the fringes of the big leagues can be fickle, especially in the spring. Kusnick also reveals that Manny Ramirez and Miguel Tejada both recently asked him about the possibility of representing them. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- Mike Trout's extension with the Angels angered some players throughout baseball, Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post writes. The idea is that Trout, by potentially leaving money on the table, violated a "code" throughout baseball that you don't take an under-market deal, for fear that it will negatively affect other players. Svrluga notes that, for example, Trout's deal could affect potential extensions for Ian Desmond and Bryce Harper of the Nationals.
- Jason Kipnis was smart to sign a long-term contract with the Indians, Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer writes. Kipnis recently turned 27, which means that he's already in his prime. His new contract takes him through age 33, and he previously would have been eligible for free agency heading into 2018, his age-31 season. Pluto suggests, then, that Kipnis was smart to take $52.5MM in guaranteed money now.
The retirements of Yankee icon Derek Jeter and Commissioner Bud Selig and the Red Sox's quest to repeat as World Series champions are baseball's top storylines this season, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. The Mike Trout/Miguel Cabrera debate also makes Cafardo's list along with five other topics to monitor in 2014. Stoking the discussion, the dynamic duo both agreed to lengthy and lucrative contract extensions just one day apart this past week: six years, $144.5MM for Trout and eight years, $248MM for Cabrera.
In other news and notes from the American League:
- Within the same article, Cafardo opines Jon Lester better be willing to accept less from the Red Sox than the six-year, $144MM proposal the Tigers made to Max Scherzer adding negotiations with the left-hander will be a true test of how much faith the club has in its top pitching prospects.
- Lester addressed the media today, including WEEI.com's Rob Bradford (who provides a transcript of the extension-related portion of the presser) and contrasted his situation to Scherzer's. "Every situation is different, every negotiation is different, every person is different, so until it's there in front of you with a pen to sign it, or not presented to you and you have to go the other way, then like I said, we'll deal with that when it comes."
- Contact lenses could be the key to the season for Red Sox's third baseman Will Middlebrooks, according to Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. An eye test this spring revealed Middlebrooks' vision had deteriorated to 20-25 in his right eye and 20-30 in his left. "For everyday life, you’d never correct it," the 25-year-old said. "But for what I do, you need to be able to see the little things. Once I put them in, I could really see the spin on the ball. I was always just reading trajectory of the ball. I was never seeing the spin."
- Pitching and offense are reasons why the Red Sox can repeat while history (no team has sucessfully defended its World Series title since 2000) and questions up the middle are reasons why they won't, writes CSNNE.com's Sean McAdam.
- Tigers President/CEO/GM Dave Dombrowski told MLB Network Radio (Twitter link) he had the financial wherewithal to extend both Cabrera and Scherzer. "We had both negotiations going simultaneously," said Dombrowski. "We were trying to sign both."
- The Royals have had mixed results with their philsophy of developing pitchers, reports Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star. The organization believes you need 10 pitching prospects to deliver one to the Majors and that has worked in developing relievers, but only four prospects have started a game for Kansas City during GM Dayton Moore's seven-year tenure, McCullough notes.
- The Astros have been active at the Trade Deadline the past two seasons, but that may not be the case this year, writes the Houston Chronicle's Evan Drellich. "No question. This year's different," GM Jeff Luhnow told Drellich. "This year, we have veteran players. If they play well, we're likely to keep them as opposed to move them. There’s always going to be that temptation…we’ll balance all the factors, including the fact that we do want to show significant progress."
Craig Landis, Mike Trout's representative at LSW Baseball, responded to critics of his client's new six-year, $144.5MM extension today. Some have said Trout could have argued for a contract in the $300MM range, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times notes, while rival agents contend the outfielder would have benefited from a year-to-year approach to arbitration. Landis emphasized Trout's youth and the security the contract provides in defending it this weekend. "We’re not like the other people," he commented. "We feel that Mike is going to do well … [w]hat Mike was trying to accomplish was some financial security, but also keeping the door open for whatever may happen down the road."
- Landis also broached the idea of a lifetime contract in negotiations, but it didn't get any traction, tweets Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com.
- For his part, Trout believes the deal's six-year length is "perfect," the LA Times' Mike DiGiovanna tweets. "The owner put [a] big number out there like $33MM [and] it's hard to turn down," Trout said.
- Angels owner Arte Moreno says six years was the minimum the Angels were comfortable with, and that the club would have preferred a seven- or eight-year contract, according to the Orange County Register's Jeff Fletcher (Twitter link). Many have focused on the overall guarantee in analyzing Trout's deal, but these comments suggest the length of the deal — and thus the age at which Trout will be able to reach free agency — was a major factor in negotiations.
Two of the game's highest-profile players — two-time reigning AL MVP Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers and 22-year-old Angels outfielder Mike Trout, the man who arguably should have taken those titles — just signed on for significant new extensions. Cabrera inked an eight-year, $244.5MM deal that kicks in after the 2015 season, while Trout sold all three arb-eligible seasons and three of his free agent campaigns for a total of $144.5MM. Here are some reactions:
- We already took a look at a few opinions on the Cabrera contract, which drew some strong negative sentiment. But Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski defends the move, telling ESPN.com's Jayson Stark that he "didn't want to lose" Cabrera. The deal was necessary, said Dombrowski, for Detroit to retain a player that he considers an all-time great hitter who will be able to maintain production for another decade. "Would I love to be able to sign Miguel Cabrera for $22MM a year for the next five years? Of course," said Dombrowski. "But was five years going to get this done? The answer to that is no. And I know that for a fact." Cabrera's interest in staying with the club mattered, but seemingly only went so far. "He did want to be a Tiger," Dombrowski said, "but you've still got to pay him in today's world."
- Turning to Trout, it appears that the sides were negotiating (at least at this stage of talks) with a clear idea that the deal would cover only six years. As Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweets, Trout countered the Halos' original offer of $140MM with a $153MM figure. The final number landed closer to the Angels' preferred figure, of course. By holding to a six year commitment, the Los Angeles Times' Bill Shaikin writes, Trout figures to have a chance at an even bigger payday down the line.
- The Trout contract makes sense for both sides, reasons ESPN.com's Keith Law (Insider link). That sentiment is not exactly shared by Dave Cameron of Fangraphs, who argues that Los Angeles got a huge discount on Trout's free agent seasons.
- Trout has always been linked to fellow phenom Bryce Harper. But that does not necessarily mean that Trout's contract will serve as a template for future negotiations between Harper and the Nationals, as Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports. Agent Scott Boras used some interesting terms in discussing the Trout deal, but left no doubt as to his meaning: "I think [Trout is] a very special cup of tea, for which he is deserving of a completely different brew. While few, I definitely consider Bryce Harper as part of the next generation of elite brand of teas. Certainly as a studied connoisseur, I may hold a differing opinion as to the availabiity, demand and value of tea futures."
The Angels have officially announced agreement on a long-term extension with star outfielder Mike Trout. The deal covers six years and is worth $144.5MM. Trout receives a full no-trade clause.
The six-year pact will kick in for 2015 and will take Trout through his age-28 season in 2020, covering three arb-eligible seasons and three free agent seasons. It does not include any option years at the back end, meaning Trout now stands to hit the open market at age 29. Trout will get a $5MM signing bonus, and then receive the following annual salaries: $5.25MM (2015), $15.25MM (2016), $19.25MM (2017), $33.25MM (2018-20).
Surprisingly, this extension is not the largest total guarantee ever given to a player with between two and three years of service. (Trout has 2.070 years of service.) That distinction still belongs to Buster Posey, who secured an eight-year, $159MM contract while also sacrificing an option year. Of course, Trout's deal is more favorable to the player on the whole, especially since he will have a chance to test the market at such a young age, and carries a greater average annual value.
But after establishing himself as the best player in the game today — at just 22 years of age — the natural inclination is to ask why he did not secure a larger guarantee. Set to break records in arbitration, Trout was already locked in for huge salaries given his unprecedented success. Dave Cameron of Fangraphs spitballed his three-year arb earnings at $60MM. If that is the case, then Trout sold his first three free agent years (in the peak prime of his career) at just around $85MM. That represents an incredible savings for an Angels team that can reasonably expect Trout to remain the game's most productive player over most (if not all) of the deal.
That analysis is not changed by the deal's actual salary breakdown, under which Trout will receive $33.25MM annually for the three free agent years. Most of all, there are many reasons the deal could have been back-loaded. But even if those numbers represent the sides' actual valuations, that AAV (which beats the $31MM in Miguel Cabrera's deal and $30.7MM in Clayton Kershaw's) still falls below the market rate for Trout, who right now possesses both the game's highest ceiling and floor.
Indeed, Trout has handily led all of baseball in wins above replacement over each of the last two seasons. He has not only been the game's second-bet hitter, by measure of wRC+, but has been outstanding in the field and on the basepaths. Indeed, as Jim Bowden of ESPN (Insider link) recently noted, the ZiPS projection system sees Trout (unsurprisingly) as outpacing the rest of the game not only in 2014 but for the foreseeable future beyond.
In that sense, perhaps, the key to this deal is not its price but the mere fact that Angels GM Jerry Dipoto was able to get it done. Adding three years of control over a generational player like Trout, covering his mid-to-late twenties, is about as safe a bet as possible in the game. While there has been some suggestion that the club may have preferred an even longer deal, which makes some sense, this contract obviously reduces risk. Even better for the Angels, they commit only to buying prime years without paying any apparent premium to do so.
MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez reported the agreement and tweeted its final terms as well as the deal's inclusion of a no-trade clause. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported the deal's annual breakdown (via Twitter).