Thanks for all of your questions this week. Remember that you can ask about whatever is on your mind in our Tuesday afternoon chats (~2pm central) or through the Mailbag email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jung Ho Kang has surprised alot of people playing above the Pirates initial expectations. What other KBO players, besides Nexen’s Byung Ho Park, do you believe can make the transition from the KBO to MLB? — Art Y.
Lotte Giants third baseman Jae-gyun Hwang is one name I’ve been told to keep an eye out for. He’s 28 years old, won’t turn 29 until next July and is hitting .286/.343/.531 with 24 home runs this season. Those numbers aren’t as gaudy as Kang’s or those of Park, but I’d imagine that Hwang will garner some interest from Major League teams this offseason if his team posts him. Hwang won the KBO’s home run derby in 2015 and will be coming off a pair of impressive seasons in Korea.
How is the Rangers’ starting rotation shaping up for 2016? Are there any big name prospects that could be inserted next year? And who do you think the staff ace will be, Darvish or Hamels? — Kenny K.
The Rangers traded a number of their top prospects — including Jake Thompson, Jerad Eickhoff, and Alec Asher — to the Phillies in the Cole Hamels trade. The team still has Chi Chi Gonzalez, a former first-round pick, as an option in the farm system, but I think they’ll look to add at least one more proven arm this winter. Yu Darvish is a better pitcher than Hamels, for my money, but how he recovers from Tommy John remains to be seen. I don’t think the Rangers are concerned about putting an “ace” label on either one of them, nor should they be.
I’d expect next season’s rotation to include Darvish, Hamels, Derek Holland, Martin Perez and either Gonzalez or a starter that isn’t currently in the organization. Nick Martinez and Nick Tepesch are serviceable stopgaps, but the Hamels acquisition was made primarily to help this team contend in 2016 and beyond. Whether they look to re-sign Yovani Gallardo or add a similarly established mid-rotation arm like Ian Kennedy or Mike Leake, adding some certainty makes sense given the injury troubles they’ve had in recent seasons.
With the Reds being heavily invested in Votto/Bruce/Bailey and seemingly committed to Hamilton, what are best steps to get back into contention? Of course Winker and Stephenson are pieces; what else might be explored? — Tony R.
Getting “back into contention” seems to imply that the team can do so in 2016, and I don’t believe that to be the case. The Cardinals, Pirates and Cubs, as currently constituted, make the NL Central the toughest division in baseball. The Reds’ best bet, in my eyes, is to spend another season trying to bolster their crop of young talent. There are too many questions — Billy Hamilton’s OBP, the health of Homer Bailey, Zack Cozart and Devin Mesoraco, a disastrous bullpen beyond Aroldis Chapman — to make a run at the division realistic.
Moving Brandon Phillips’ contract to clear an everyday spot for Eugenio Suarez at second base would be a good start to things for the Reds this winter. He can still play a solid second base, and 2015 has been a nice rebound for Phillips, but shedding a nice chunk of the $27MM he’s owed would be highly beneficial.
Chapman, Jay Bruce and even Todd Frazier are all names the Reds should be willing to listen on, as they’re a small market club that probably can’t afford to meet the long-term asking price of Frazier or Chapman. Spend another year stockpiling pitching to pair with Raisel Iglesias, a hopefully revitalized Bailey and Anthony DeSclafani (though DeSclafani’s platoon woes — 4.85 FIP/4.76 xFIP vs. left-handed hitters — are troublesome).
Should Toronto exercise Dickey’s $12 million option or can they acquire a superior, or equal, SP in the FA market at the same price? — Pete T.
Dickey’s poor start and still-underwhelming season numbers lead me to believe most people think this answer’s a flat no, but for me, it’s a yes. The Blue Jays hold a $12MM option with a $1MM buyout on Dickey’s age-41 season, making it an $11MM decision.
R.A. Dickey has been incredibly durable, and the relative certainty of 200+ innings carries extra value for a club that has so many question marks throughout the rest of its rotation. Also at play is the fact that Dickey has quietly had a very strong few months. After a poor start to the year, he’s sporting a 3.19 ERA in 118 2/3 innings. FIP (3.98) and xFIP (4.65) are less optimistic in that time, but Dickey has maintained a well-below-average BABIP over the past six seasons, making the .279 mark he’s posted in this recent stretch seem more sustainable.
The Blue Jays didn’t get the ace they’d hoped when they acquired Dickey, and the price they paid (Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud) looks poor in hindsight. But Dickey doesn’t need to be an ace by any stretch of the means to justify an additional $11MM of spending on a one-year deal. That’s mid-rotation starter money, and he still fits that bill.
Sano has out-hit Correa by a wide margin, but he’s done so in 100 fewer plate appearances while spending nearly all of his time at DH. Correa’s played a respectable shortstop while hitting about 35 percent better than the league-average bat this season. The average shortstop, in comparison, has been about 15 percent worse than the league-average bat in 2015. Sano’s been absolutely outstanding, but he lacks the playing time Correa has amassed, and more importantly, defense matters. If anyone were going to steal it from Correa, my vote would go to Francisco Lindor. Sano is in the mix, to be sure, but he’d need a poor finish from Correa and continued dominance at the plate to pass him up.