As the Red Sox gear up to defend their 2018 World Series championship, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes joined WEEI’s Rob Bradford on this week’s episode of the Bradfo Sho. Tim and Rob discuss the recent Top 50 free agent list published here at MLBTR, with a specific focus on a number of Red Sox free agents (Craig Kimbrel, Drew Pomeranz, Joe Kelly) and a quick look ahead to the 2019-20 offseason as well. Once you’re finished listening to that, here are a few notes from around the American League…
- Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti appeared on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM today and briefly touched on the recent suggestions that his club would entertain the possibility of dealing a veteran such as Corey Kluber (Twitter link, with audio). Antonetti downplayed the possibility and emphasized that Cleveland is in a good spot in the sense that the roster is rife with players whom other teams covet — Kluber included. While that basic fact leads to many discussions, Antonetti said on multiple occasions that he feels the Indians are in a “good spot” heading into 2019 and didn’t give any real inkling that there’s pressure to reduce payroll. That said, it’s worth pushing back a bit to note that Cleveland projects to a record $145.5MM payroll next season despite a clear dearth of established outfield options and a questionable bullpen mix, among other needs. Finding a taker for some or all of the remaining $17.5MM on Jason Kipnis’ contract would go a long way toward alleviating some of those financial constraints, but the club will surely consider other avenues as well.
- Matthew Trueblood of Baseball Prospectus takes an interesting look at Whit Merrifield’s offensive profile, noting that while the Royals’ unsung star doesn’t rate especially well in terms of Statcast metrics like average exit velocity and hard-hit rate, some of his shortcomings can arguably be attributed to the pitfalls of averages and extremes. Merrifield ranked well when looking at incidents of a 95+ mph batted ball with a launch angle between 10 and 30 degrees, and when adding plate appearances that resulted in walks to the equation, he ranked more than 200 places higher than he did in bottom-line average exit velocity. It’s a very intriguing read on one of the game’s most underrated players and a player who could likely fetch a fortune on the trade market. Of course, both Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star and Rustin Dodd of The Athletic have each recently penned lengthy examinations on why the Royals aren’t likely to trade Merrifield this winter, even though they look unlikely to contend in a weak AL Central division in the near future.
- White Sox GM Rick Hahn spoke at length with James Fegan of The Athletic about the organization’s philosophy on pitch framing. Hahn suggested that the team believes it easier to improve a catcher’s framing than his offensive capabilities, noting that Tyler Flowers went from a bat-first prospect to an elite framer during his time with the organization. Fegan explores how that belief led the team to sign Welington Castillo last offseason, the multiple factors that derailed Castillo’s defensive ratings in ’18 and Omar Narvaez’s progress at the plate but continued defensive issues.