Rounding up the latest from around the game . . .
- The Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham takes issue with the team’s allocation of resources, writing that the team is at risk of “going cheap” on the bullpen. As it stands, just over $8MM of the club’s projected $237MM payroll will be spent on the pen, with President of Baseball Ops Dave Dombrowski apparently noting that he would be “comfortable” entering the season with Matt Barnes or Ryan Brasier in the closer role. The club, of course, has been linked with numerous high-end relief options, including former closer Craig Kimbrel, but may be wary of incurring even steeper penalties by again eclipsing the luxury tax. Skimping on the pen is, to be sure, a Dombrowski hallmark – his early-decade Tiger teams were often pilloried for their assortment of scrap-heap late-inning options – but the longtime executive did kick off his Boston tenure with a big trade for the then-28-year-old Kimbrel, sending off top prospects Manuel Margot, Logan Allen, and Javy Guerra in the deal. The farm has been steadily pilfered since, and now stands as one of the game’s weakest, so a major acquisition via trade seems unlikely. It is true, too, that Dombrowski, wherever he has gone, has unearthed some of the game’s brightest late-inning talent, including Trevor Hoffman, Robb Nen, Matt Mantei, and Fernando Rodney.
- MLB.com’s Jim Callis takes a look at the game’s most improved farm systems over the last calendar year, citing the Mariners, Astros, Royals, Tigers, and Twins as teams who’ve taken huge leaps forward. Seattle, of course, has done much of its heavy lifting in the area in this offseason alone, acquiring former first-rounders Justus Sheffield, Jarred Kelenic, and Justin Dunn in less than a month’s span. Of particular note from my perspective is the Twins’ system, which saw SS/OF Royce Lewis and OF Alex Kirilloff make leaps into the game’s prospect elites by the end of the season, plus enjoyed big jumps from pitchers Brusdar Graterol and Australian lefty Lewis Thorpe, the latter of whom posted one of the upper minors’ highest strikeout rates in ’18 and appears poised to make the big-league plunge.
- Jim Allen’s piece for Kyodo News takes a behind-the-scenes-look at Japanese lefty Yusei Kikuchi, whose 30-day posting window closes on January 3. Kikuchi, it seems, has had his eye on the majors for a number of years now, sharpening his English skills weekly and making an effort to learn a two-seam fastball, which is apparently a “rare sight” on the Island. Kikuchi, of course, flew to Los Angeles two weeks ago to meet with prospective clubs, and looks to be a sought-after commodity on the rotation market this winter. In 494 1/3 innings for Seibu over the last three seasons, the 27-year-old has set down a sterling 497 batters while walking just 161, and has surrendered only 39 home runs in the process.