There’s no denying that Jon Lester has produced top-level results for the Cubs, but his peripherals reveal some cause for concern, as Jay Jaffe of Fangraphs writes in a detailed analysis of the veteran hurler that’s well worth your time. Suffice to say that Jaffe provides ample support for his conclusion that Lester is probably due for some significant regression. Of course, there’s not much for the Cubs to do here but continue riding Lester, who would still be a productive pitcher even if he falls back to last year’s earned-run levels. But it does seem notable that Lester’s 4.33 ERA in 2017 came with better grades from ERA estimators (4.10 FIP/3.85 xFIP/4.07 SIERA) than he has received to this point in 2018 (4.08 FIP/4.46 xFIP/4.51 SIERA).
Here’s more from the National League:
- Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic argued recently (subscription link) that the Mets ought to try to get a long-term deal done with righty Jacob deGrom rather than shopping him this summer. Of course, such a move would be dependent upon the hurler’s own preferences, too, and may not be practicable in the middle of the season. Pursuing a new deal with deGrom would seem to imply an ongoing effort to contend in upcoming seasons, despite the organization’s recent disappointments. In that regard, Rosenthal’s related suggestion — that the team dangle co-ace Noah Syndergaard this summer instead — seems tough to square with that strategy. Syndergaard is younger, cheaper, and more controllable than deGrom. But his present value is likely lower, since he has dealt with significant injury issues of late. For a team in the Mets’ situation, a strategic choice to keep (and try to extend) deGrom would seem to support the retention of Syndergaard as well. Regardless, it’s an interesting situation. One key element in potential contract talks is deGrom’s relatively advanced age. Rosenthal’s colleague Tim Britton did a nice job breaking down a potential extension price tag in another recent subscription piece, suggesting a five-year arrangement (two arb years plus three would-be free-agent campaigns) structured in the same essential manner as Jake Arrieta’s contract with the Phillies (that is, with an opt-out provision that the team can void by adding more money to the deal). Whether there’s any interest in such a deal, on either side, really isn’t clear at this stage.
- The Diamondbacks seem to have whiffed on righty Brad Keller, who was lost to the Royals via the Rule 5 draft and has now thrown 48 innings of 2.25 ERA ball on the year. Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic examines the topic from the perspective of the Arizona organization, noting that it seems the roster flexibility was there to protect Keller had the team made him a priority. GM Mike Hazen says that the Snakes liked the 22-year-old, but faced other considerations. “We made the conscious decision not to add him because of where he was in proximity to the major-league team, where we were in the cycle, what we wanted to use our 40-man spots for, we wanted to be aggressive in the offseason in claiming guys … that were closer to the big leagues in our mind,” Hazen explained.
- Marlins outfielder Derek Dietrich is looking increasingly like a useful trade asset, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald writes. The left-handed hitter has been on fire at the plate of late, running up his batting line to .303/.354/.491 in 294 plate appearances on the year. To be fair, he’s also walking less, striking out more, and carrying a heftier BABIP than usual, but Dietrich has produced a career-best 38.3% hard-hit rate this season as well. It’s also easy to forget that he has produced quite a bit in prior campaigns; indeed, he’s a 118 OPS+ hitter since the start of 2015. A substantial portion of that output came against right-handed pitching, though he has swung well against southpaws this year, his first as a true regular. Soon to turn 29, Dietrich is earning only $2.9MM in 2018 and can be controlled for two more seasons beyond the present one. He has never been regarded as a particularly good defender, but is capable of lining up in the corner outfield and infield as well as at second base — versatility that will appeal to some contenders but also to a Marlins team facing an uncertain future. All told, there are some clear limitations to Dietrich’s value, but there’s also quite a lot to like about the player.