For the most recent edition(s) of the MLBTR Mailbag, MLBTR’s Jeff Todd fielded questions on the Cardinals’ search for a bat, whether the Pirates are at a crossroads, the heavily active August trade period and the Giants’ offseason.
We also published a second special edition hosted by Twins right-hander Trevor May, who has been contributing to MLBTR’s Players’ Perspective series while working his way back from Tommy John surgery. Trevor gave perspective into his rehab from a major surgery, the feeling of being traded (from Philadelphia to Minnesota in 2012), pitch counts/innings limits and much more.
Onto this week’s questions…
What do you think J.D. Martinez’s earning potential will be in free agency? Do the Diamondbacks have a real chance to resign JD and if not which teams do you think will hold the most interest? — John H.
The D-backs’ ability to re-sign Martinez is one of the single most popular topics in our MLBTR chats, the Mailbag and on Twitter. Considering the fact that he’s batted .289/.358/.732 with 24 homers in 212 plate appearances since being traded to Arizona, it’s not especially surprising to see Diamondbacks fans extremely interested in whether the team will be able to retain him.
Unfortunately for D-backs fans, I’m not sure how they’ll be able to reasonably afford Martinez beyond 2017. Arizona opened the 2017 season with a payroll just north of $100MM, and they already have about $60MM committed to Zack Greinke, Yasmany Tomas, Paul Goldschmidt and Jeff Mathis next season. That would seem to indicate that there’s some room, but Arizona has one of the most significant arbitration classes in recent history as well.
The Diamondbacks will have A.J. Pollock, Robbie Ray, Shelby Miller, Patrick Corbin, Randall Delgado, Chris Owings, Taijuan Walker, Jake Lamb, David Peralta, Nick Ahmed, Andrew Chafin, Chris Herrmann, J.J. Hoover and T.J. McFarland as arbitration-eligible players this winter. While Herrmann, Hoover and McFarland could all be non-tender candidates, core contributors make up the bulk of that group. Arbitration alone could push Arizona’s payroll beyond its 2017 Opening Day mark before they add a single player.
A deep postseason run could give the D-backs some extra financial help, the team inked a television contract worth more than a billion dollars back in 2015, and there’s still the matter of a new stadium, so it’s possible that there’s room for the payroll to advance. But, Martinez is probably looking at a minimum of a five-year deal in free agency — if not six years — at an average annual value that could land in the $23-26MM range. The D-backs would need an enormous payroll spike to realistically be able to retain Martinez.
The Snakes could try to shed some of Tomas’ contract to clear a bit of room, but doing so would very likely require paying a significant portion of the remaining contract. The team could also try to heavily backload a hypothetical Martinez contract, though that presents the possibility of paying more than $60MM annually to just Martinez and Greinke in the latter stages of their respective contracts. Frankly, I just don’t consider the situation all that likely.
As for other Martinez suitors, both the Cardinals and Giants will be looking for big bats to put in the heart of their order this winter. The Angels have been MLB’s worst team against left-handed pitching and have Josh Hamilton’s contract finally off the books, though they may not wish to celebrate by diving headfirst into another huge contract for an outfielder. The Dodgers have the money, of course, though this iteration of their front office has been more restrained in terms of spending. The Phillies have a virtually blank slate when it comes to long-term payroll, but they’d have to convince Martinez to join a club that doesn’t look ready to contend yet in 2018.
Watching the Orioles throughout the year it seems to be the same old need: pitching, pitching and more pitching. Who do you see as legitimate targets for the Orioles this offseason that they could go after to bolster one of the league’s worst starting rotations? — (a different) John H.
The Orioles are in a tough spot, as this winter will force them to ponder if they should trade franchise cornerstones like Zach Britton, Manny Machado and Adam Jones before they reach the open market next winter or keep the core together and make one more run with this group. It’s not entirely dissimilar to the position in which the Royals found themselves last winter, and my expectation is that the Orioles will go the same route the Royals did: make one more attempt and be prepared to sell in the summer if need be.
I don’t expect the O’s to be serious players at the very top of the starting pitching market — Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta (been there, done that), Masahiro Tanaka (assuming he opts out) — but the second tier of starters will feature some names for the O’s to consider. Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb are both more in the Orioles’ price range, and Baltimore has shown a willingness to part with draft picks in the past in order to sign free agents. (Both Lynn and Cobb are qualifying offer candidates.) Of course, adding such pitchers will likely mean taking on commitments past the point that those veteran core players will have reached the open market (assuming none is extended).
There will also be no shortage of reclamation projects for the O’s to pursue. Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register has reported in the past that the O’s tried for Hector Santiago when he was with the Angels, and he’ll be available and affordable coming off an injury-wrecked season in Minnesota. Tyson Ross, Francisco Liriano and longtime rotation fixture Chris Tillman are all rebound candidates likely looking at one-year deals in free agency.
Any chance the Cardinals re-sign Juan Nicasio for next year? What kind of contract is he probably going to want? — Steve V.
We received multiple questions about the Cardinals retaining Nicasio this week as well. In short, I’d be surprised if the Cardinals didn’t make an effort to keep him. St. Louis knows it’ll be without Trevor Rosenthal in 2018 following Tommy John surgery. Seung-hwan Oh and Zach Duke are free agents. Brett Cecil has struggled and Kevin Siegrist is already gone. The bullpen is going to be a point of focus for president of baseball operations John Mozeliak, GM Mike Girsch and the rest of the Cardinals’ front office. They already demonstrated that they like Nicasio enough to trade a mid-range prospect for four weeks of his services.
Over the past three seasons, Nicasio has solid overall numbers that are dragged down by sub-par performances as a starter. If you look at his body of work solely as a reliever — when he can throw at max effort in short stints and doesn’t need to face hitters multiple times in an appearance — he’s pitched to a 3.44 ERA with 10.3 K/9, 3.6 BB/9 and a 46 percent ground-ball rate. FIP is even more bullish at 2.83, while SIERA pegs him at 3.33.
Nicasio just turned 31, and with a solid three-year platform in the bullpen under his belt, I’d imagine he’ll enter free agency looking for a three-year deal. Joakim Soria, Ryan Madson, Shawn Kelley, Luke Gregerson, Tony Sipp, Zach Duke and Mike Dunn have all signed three year deals in the $15-25MM range in recent offseasons. Nicasio’s reps could try to surpass those marks and get closer to Darren O’Day’s four-year, $31MM pact, but that strikes me as a lofty goal. (Though I’d have said the same if asked about a four-year deal for Brett Cecil a year ago. Free agency can get weird.) A three-year deal comparable to those other contracts seems pretty readily attainable for Nicasio.
Agreed that neither is going to bring them a huge return, though I think Rupp comes with quite a bit more value than Joseph. As a part-time/platoon catcher, teams could do far worse. He’s hitting .261/.387/.432 against lefties in 2017 and has a career .283/.365/.506 slash against them. He’s not a good framer, and he’s not as good at preventing steals as he once was (though some of that could be on an inexperienced Phillies rotation), but three arbitration years of a lefty-mashing catcher isn’t without value. The Rockies, Orioles, White Sox, A’s and Giants are among the teams that could conceivably poke around for backup catching help this winter.
As for Joseph, I just don’t see much in the way of interest. His power is way down (.248 ISO in 2016, .190 in 2017), his strikeouts are up and he’s not an above-average defender at first base — his only feasible position on the diamond. That’s not to say he couldn’t end up as a bench/platoon bat in an organization that happens to like him, but it’s hard to imagine a significant trade return.
This may seem elementary, but I’ve never gotten a decent answer, so I’m coming to you. What is the difference between “command” and “control”? Are they two words for the same thing? — Jude
As a general disclaimer, I’m not a scout nor will I pretend to be one. That said, the general difference is basically that “control” is the ability to consistently throw strikes — working ahead of hitters, limiting walks, etc. “Command,” meanwhile, is more about actually locating within (or around) the zone. Basically, being able to put the ball where the pitcher wants to with more consistency. You can be a great strike-thrower and have good control without necessarily having elite command. I tend to think of it similarly to the distinction between accuracy and precision.