6,886 people entered MLBTR’s Free Agent Prediction Contest this year, and the leaderboard is now available. With a dozen players signed off MLBTR’s Top 50 list, five contest participants currently stand at the top with seven correct predictions. You can search to find your own name in the leaderboard, and you can click on anyone’s name to see their predictions. There’s also a Staff Only option, if you’d like to see how MLBTR’s writers are stacking up. Check out the contest leaderboard today!
DECEMBER 3: Per an announcement, the former SCK Sports agency has undergone a “reorganization” and will now be known as Apex Baseball. Karon will serve as managing partner. The agency also announced it has hired former big leaguer Scott Cousins to serve as Director of Scouting & Player Development.
NOVEMBER 8: In a statement from SCK Sports partner Adam Karon, the agency announced today that agent Matt Sosnick is no longer affiliated with the organization. Karon and Paul Cobbe will continue to lead the company, which represents a variety of notable baseball players.
Today’s news comes several weeks after it emerged that Sosnick has been arrested on charges of domestic violence against his wife and misdemeanor child endangerment. After a temporary restraining order was issued, Sosnick was reportedly arrested a second time for violating its terms.
It remains unknown at this point what course the legal proceedings against Sosnick will take. Neither is it known whether the Major League Baseball Players Association will pursue any disciplinary or decertification action against the long-time player representative.
Karon issued a statement on the matter, saying: “Our clients have been, and always will be, the firm’s top priority. Through this transition, we remain singularly focused on continuing to provide world class service to the professionals we represent.”
We just wrapped up one of the busiest days on the Major League Baseball schedule. All 30 teams had to decide by 8 p.m. ET on Monday whether to tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that there were plenty of cuts. Here’s a team-by-team list of the players clubs parted with Monday…
- Yankees: Nobody
- Rays: Guillermo Heredia (link)
- Red Sox: Marco Hernandez, Josh Osich (link)
- Blue Jays: Jason Adam, Derek Law, Luke Maile (link)
- Orioles: Nobody
- Astros: Aaron Sanchez (link)
- Athletics: Ryan Buchter, Josh Phegley, Blake Treinen (link)
- Rangers: Ian Gibaut, Wei-Chieh Huang (link)
- Angels: Kevan Smith (link)
- Mariners: Tim Beckham, Domingo Santana (link)
- Twins: C.J. Cron, Trevor Hildenberger (link)
- Indians: James Hoyt, Kevin Plawecki (link)
- White Sox: Ryan Burr, Caleb Frare, Yolmer Sanchez (link)
- Royals: Humberto Arteaga, Cheslor Cuthbert, Jesse Hahn, Erick Mejia (link)
- Tigers: Nobody
- Braves: Charlie Culberson, John Ryan Murphy, Rafael Ortega (links here)
- Nationals: Koda Glover, Javy Guerra (link)
- Mets: Nobody
- Phillies: Cesar Hernandez, Maikel Franco (link)
- Marlins: Nobody
- Dodgers: Yimi Garcia (link)
- Diamondbacks: Caleb Joseph, Steven Souza Jr., Taijuan Walker (link)
- Giants: Tyler Anderson, Rico Garcia, Joey Rickard, Kevin Pillar (links here)
- Rockies: Nobody
- Padres: Pedro Avila, Miguel Diaz (link)
- Cardinals: Nobody
- Brewers: Alex Claudio, Junior Guerra, Jimmy Nelson, Tyler Saladino, Travis Shaw (link)
- Cubs: Danny Hultzen, Addison Russell (link)
- Reds: Kevin Gausman, Jose Peraza (links here)
- Pirates: Elias Diaz (link)
Major League Baseball is working to implement another change to the rules governing injured list placements, per Jon Heyman of MLB Network (Twitter link). Teams will now operate under separate rules for hitters and pitchers.
Hitters will continue to have a ten-day minimum injury-list placement. That’s a continuation of the change made in 2016, which dropped the number of days from the preexisting fifteen.
Pitchers, however, will go back to the prior 15-day placement if the rule is finalized. That will raise the bar for placing hurlers on the IL but help to tamp down some of the rather obvious abuses of the system that had cropped up.
It’s not yet clear precisely how some other roster rules will change. There has been prior indication that MLB would look into increasing the length of the minimum time an optioned player must stay down before being summoned back to the big leagues.
The overall goal here, clearly, is to avoid some of the roster hijinks that are used to churn through arms. While there are legitimate health and performance reasons to cycle pitchers, there’s also a point at which there can be a harm to the on-field product as well as to individual players.
Any changes of this nature will need to be done in coordination with the MLB Players Association. Other major rule changes that were agreed upon previously are already set to go into effect for the 2020 season.
Major League Baseball’s previous couple offseasons didn’t necessarily favor the players. Some free agents sat on the open market far longer than expected, while others signed for less than expected or didn’t receive guaranteed contracts (or any deals) at all. Count the game’s most famous agent, Scott Boras, among those disgusted with the way free agency has gone in recent years, as Bob Nightengale of USA Today details. Speaking at this week’s GM meetings, the always colorful Boras lamented the lack of teams going all-out to win, saying that “the industry is in a competitive hibernation, and the fans are reacting to it,” referring to drops in attendance (as Nightengale notes, even the Nationals, Astros and Yankees drew fewer fans).
“We got a decline in attendance. We got owners charging more for generations that want to see the game, while we’re losing a generation of young people that are only interested in competition,” said Boras. “Clubs feel there are greater rewards for losing than winning. And there is nothing to drive them to win because they don’t think it’s smart.’’
Boras even took aim at current commissioner Rob Manfred, whom he criticized for finding the luxury tax and the present system as a whole “wonderful.” That system, in Boras’ estimation, is “corrupt,” as it fails to “properly place progressive values of players at all. It’s always regressive.”
Of course, Boras’ hope is that the system doesn’t penalize his newest free-agent clients. And he’s representing several prominent players now on the open market, including superstar right-handers Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg and outfielder Nicholas Castellanos. Boras is also the agent for Red Sox J.D. Martinez, who elected against opting out of the remaining three years and $62.5MM on his contract. The agent discussed those clients this week.
In regards to Cole, who looks likely to smash David Price’s record guarantee of $217MM for a pitcher, Boras stated (via Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer): “If this were major-league Christmas, we would be looking at 30 stockings that clearly wanted a lump of Cole. I think starting pitching has become back in vogue. It’s an aggressive market.”
Boras also represents outfielder Bryce Harper, who signed the largest deal ever for a free agent last winter at 13 years and $330MM. He opined that Cole and Strasburg are in line to have even more teams after them than Harper did last offseason, per Breen. And while there has been speculation that Cole, a Southern California native, wants to sign with a West Coast team, that’s not necessarily the case.
“I don’t think geography matters to any of these guys as much as the continuance of winning and being able to achieve their goal of getting that rare ring,” Boras said. “And I think in Gerrit’s case, when you’re that close, you’re looking at this process as one where I’ve got a box to check and I want to go out and put together the best effort to put me in that position to do that.”
You wouldn’t expect Boras to say anything else in this case, as doing so could have decreased his client’s earning power. But, regardless of whatever geographic preference Cole may or may not have, the East Coast-stationed Phillies will heavily push for him, Breen reports. They won the bidding for Harper a year ago, and though general manager Matt Klentak has suggested he’s averse to signing more free agents saddled with qualifying offers (as Harper was, and as Cole is), Cole would greatly help a Phillies rotation in dire need of front-end aid.
The Phillies are among the teams that may be in the market for “a lump of Cole,” but that wasn’t the last of Boras’ holiday-themed metaphors. In regards to Castellanos, he stated (per Patrick Mooney of The Athletic): “Old Saint Nick delivers once a year. Young Saint Nick delivers all season. So you’ve got a pretty good market for that kind of player.”
Whether “young Saint Nick” (Castellanos) really “delivers all season” is debatable. He’s clearly a flawed player, one who has been more good than great at the plate throughout his career and has clearly struggled defensively in the outfield and at third base. Nevertheless, as a 27-year-old who does bring an above-average bat to the table, expectations are that he will fare well in free agency. MLBTR has him landing the eighth-highest guarantee of anyone on the market – a four-year, $58MM deal.
Martinez is something of a souped-up version of Castellanos, but he’s a half-decade older (32) and perhaps even a less viable defender. No doubt, Martinez would have had difficulty outdoing the money left on his pact had he opted out. Boras addressed Martinez’s decision, saying (via Alex Speier of the Boston Globe): “J.D. wanted assurance of competition at a high level and the fact that he played so well in Boston, we looked at it and with those two things in mind, we wanted to make sure that was the focus and for that reason he decided to opt in. The contract we structured allowed him choices after each season so it was something that, in this year at this time, we felt really that was the best decision.”
As Boras noted, Martinez will have another chance to opt out after next season. In the meantime, Boras is sure to focus his attention on several other clients who – despite his (arguably justifiable) distaste for the current system – could break the bank in the coming months.
MLBTR is publishing Offseason Outlooks for all 30 teams. Click here to read the other entries in this series.
The Diamondbacks feature quite a few roster chameleons, giving the team plenty of options this winter as it seeks to pursue immediate competitiveness without muddying the long-term outlook.
- Ketel Marte: $21MM through 2022 (including buyouts of 2023-24 options)
- Yasmany Tomas: $17MM through 2020
- Eduardo Escobar: $14.5MM through 2021
- Mike Leake: $6MM through 2020 (Cardinals & Mariners pay remainder of contract, including $9MM of salary and $5MM buyout of 2021 option)
- Merrill Kelly: $3.5MM through 2020 (including buyout of 2021 option)
- Diamondbacks also owe $20.667MM of salary to Zack Greinke through 2021
- Taijuan Walker – $5.025MM
- David Peralta – $8.8MM
- Steven Souza Jr. – $4.125MM
- Nick Ahmed – $7.0MM
- Jake Lamb – $5.0MM
- Caleb Joseph – $1.2MM
- Andrew Chafin -$3.2MM
- Robbie Ray – $10.8MM
- Archie Bradley – $3.6MM
- Matt Andriese – $1.4MM
- Abraham Almonte – $900K (already outrighted)
- Non-tender candidates: Peralta, Souza, Lamb, Andriese, Almonte
- Alex Avila, Jarrod Dyson, Wilmer Flores (declined $6MM option in favor of $500K buyout), Yoshihisa Hirano, Adam Jones, Blake Swihart
We heaped on the praise when the D-Backs announced they had re-upped GM Mike Hazen, and for good reason. He came into a tough spot and has both produced a competitive MLB team and improved the team’s talent pipeline. Shrewd moves abound — chief among them: acquiring and then locking up Ketel Marte before his breakout — even if they haven’t all been winners.
The Diamondbacks have played generally winning baseball in a wholesome and sustainable manner. That’s nice. But they were swept out of their 2017 postseason appearance and haven’t been back since. The Dodgers may not have swum in the Snakes’ pool of late, but they still haven’t let anyone join them in the NL West deep end since they splashed around Chase Field in 2013. And it isn’t as if the L.A. organization has monopolized the division through spending alone; it’s doing it in a cost-efficient manner that’s all the more fearsome for the teams chasing them from afar. If nobody is even nipping at their heels, the Dodgers will just keep cruising.
If the D-Backs are to force the issue in the division, or at least to stand out a bit in a crowded NL wild card picture, they will need both to continue making cost-efficient improvements and to find a way to make a Marte-esque leap. They don’t need to rush out and do another Greinke deal, by any means, but as presently constituted the roster is more solid than good — and that’s assuming healthy campaigns from some players that have had recent injury issues. Hazen still hasn’t promised double-digit millions in a single free agent contract. That seems likely to change this winter.
Looking at the payroll, there’s about $47.5MM written in ink. The arbitration outlay will probably more than double that starting point — if every eligible player is tendered. The Snakes can shear about $9MM if they move on from Jake Lamb and Steven Souza … and double that if they were to non-tender or trade David Peralta. If all three are cut loose, the club would have a few additional holes to deal with but could also have over $30MM in free payroll to play with — assuming the team is again comfortable opening with over $120MM on the books. The D-Backs don’t really have any true blue-chip prospects to use as trade assets, but the club has drawn praise for possessing an especially nice volume of farm talent. That should leave a lot of pieces to work with in trade talks.
So where is the work to be done? Not in the rotation, arguably. The D-Backs have turned over much of their starting staff since this time last year. Robbie Ray is the only holdover from before the 2018-19 offseason. The club brought aboard Luke Weaver and Merrill Kelly before the 2019 season and then added Zac Gallen and Mike Leake during that just-finished campaign. It’s not likely to be an overwhelming unit, but the spots seem ably accounted for. The Snakes surely feel they filled in the gaps when they picked up Gallen and Leake over the summer. The Gallen swap looks like a potential heist, though he’ll need to repeat his stunning breakout season and the Marlins surely feel good about what they saw from prospect Jazz Chisholm after picking him up in the deal. Leake can serve the part of veteran innings eater, joining Kelly to deliver a volume of serviceable frames. Ray is a bit of a wild card but is the kind of strikeout pitcher that teams dream on, while Weaver is coming back from injury but turned in a dozen sterling starts in 2019.
So, should the D-Backs go looking for a nice upside play and/or some depth in free agency? Not necessarily. There’s more to the rotation picture. The uber-talented Taijuan Walker will be working back from Tommy John surgery, with hopes he’ll be available for a good portion of the season. Corbin Martin is doing the same, though he’s unlikely to return before later in the year and is probably not a major factor in the 2020 planning. Jon Duplantier got his first taste of the majors last year and will surely be a factor. Taylor Clarke and Alex Young are among the 40-man roster pieces that contributed last year and can again be called upon; J.B. Bukauskas and Taylor Widener are perhaps the most promising upper-level prospects, though both had less-than-ideal results in 2019.
Some of those arms will spill over to the bullpen; Duplantier and Clarke each spent time there last season. But there’s some work to be done in the relief unit. Archie Bradley, Andrew Chafin, and mid-season callup Kevin Ginkel make for a nice trio of arms. Yoan Lopez and Stefan Chricton both got the job done in 2019, though the former had questionable peripherals and the latter has to prove he can do it over a full campaign. Matt Andriese suffered from the BABIP blues and could be asked back, though it’ll cost a bit. Otherwise, it’s Jimmie Sherfy and the leftover starters — good for a band name, but questionable for a contending pen.
There isn’t an overwhelming amount of need, but the D-Backs sure could stand to add at least one established, high-quality reliever to this mix. Having utilized Bradley in a flexible manner in recent years, with the closing job being occupied mostly by short-term signees, the team seems a likely bet to once more lure a veteran to the desert with promises of 9th-inning glory. We posited the club as a potential buyer of top-class relievers in compiling our list of the top 50 free agents, though we ultimately predicted a relatively low-cost accord with the sturdy and experienced Steve Cishek. This is certainly an area the team can spend on, particularly if it ticks off other needs at lower-than-expected expense, though the market isn’t exactly laden with high-end arms. The D-Backs could take a risk on a hurler like Dellin Betances and/or explore trade options.
On the position-player side, Hazen could go in quite a few different directions. Let’s start with what is in place. Carson Kelly will be the primary backstop, with Caleb Joseph and/or some other veteran (the Snakes like to carry three catchers) supplementing him. Marte can be lined up in center or at second base alongside shortstop Nick Ahmed. Either way, two of the three slots up the middle are accounted for. At the infield corners, Eduardo Escobar is a fixture while Christian Walker and Kevin Cron can be called upon at first base pending the arrival of Seth Beer. There’s room for a left-handed-hitting reserve in the mold of Lamb, who seems unlikely to be retained at his arb price point after two consecutive forgettable campaigns. And in the outfield, the D-Backs could rely upon Souza and David Peralta for a big chunk of the action … or they could move one or both of those not-insignificant salaries and go in a different direction entirely.
The Snakes gave a lot of plate appearances to light-hitting performers last year. Lamb, Adam Jones, Jarrod Dyson, Tim Locastro, Ildemaro Vargas, Josh Rojas, and Blake Swihart combined for nearly two thousand trips to the dish; not one was within a dozen points of league average by measure of wRC+. It’s not a stretch to imagine Locastro, Vargas, and/or Rojas playing significant roles in 2020 and beyond. Ditto utility infielder Domingo Leyba. But the Snakes can’t afford to settle for that level of offensive output from such a major segment of the roster. They’ll need to fill in for the departing players and avoiding asking too much of those that remain from this list.
So, how to proceed? There are two key factors to consider here: Marte’s positional malleability and the payroll/roster flexibility in the corner outfield (and to some extent also at first base). With bench space to work with as well, there are quite a few ways in which the club could seek improvement. It was interesting to hear Hazen suggest recently that the team prefers Marte at second base. It would be easier to fill that spot from outside the organization, given the multitude of possibilities, but it appears the Snakes are likeliest to chase after a center fielder.
Put it all together, and it seems the overall focus is squarely on the outfield grass. Asked recently about Shogo Akiyama, Hazen revealed some level of interest in the Japanese center fielder. The meandering nature of the quote also served to underscore the wide-open nature of the offseason. “We think he’s a good player,” says Hazen of Akiyama. ” … We’re in the outfield market, the center-field market specifically. We’re in the entire market.”
The D-Backs do have some options up the middle, especially if they like Akiyama even more than they’ve already let on. He is arguably the only truly intriguing option on the open market, at least unless Brett Gardner considers a departure from the Yankees. But there are some trade possibilities. Starling Marte is the central focus on the trade market. He’ll be sought after by quite a few other teams as well, but there’s an argument to be made that he fits in just the right space (two years of affordable but not cheap control) for the D-Backs. It’s also possible to imagine the club looking at a few other possibilities. Old friend Ender Inciarte could conceivably be made available, depending upon how things develop in Atlanta. And Jackie Bradley Jr. figures to be dangled by the Red Sox; acquiring him might help quench Hazen’s insatiable thirst for Boston products. (We kid, but there’s no shortage of examples.) If the D-Backs can’t sort out an upgrade and are forced to utilize their existing Marte at times in center, they may come away with a timeshare veteran in the nature of Dyson, Leonys Martin, Juan Lagares, or Cameron Maybin. The club could instead utilize the speedy Locastro in such a capacity as well. Any of these fall-back possibilities would feel like a bit of a disappointment unless the Snakes end up securing other significant pieces.
None of the above-noted center field possibilities will bust the budget. Even if the Snakes score a second Marte, there should be cash left to work with to do more. And this is where things could get yet more interesting. Souza is an obvious non-tender candidate after an injury-cancelled campaign on the heels of a disastrous first year in the desert. But the Snakes could simply decide they like him better than any of the options they can get in free agency for a similar price tag. It’s actually a closer call than you might think on Peralta. He’s a rather accomplished hitter, to be sure, but the track record isn’t unassailable and he’s a 32-year-old looking to return from shoulder problems. And Peralta has long struggled against left-handed pitching. The Snakes might reasonably believe they can do more for less in trade or on the open market, though there has been no suggestion to this point that they are considering moving on.
Whether or not one or both of those players is retained — whether through arbitration or in a re-signing following a non-tender — there are many opportunities to consider. This year’s market includes a group of unusually youthful and talented corner outfielders: Nicholas Castellanos, Marcell Ozuna, Avisail Garcia, and Yasiel Puig. It isn’t hard to fall in love with some of those players’ tools; perhaps the D-Backs could consider a somewhat longer, lower-AAV contract if they like one of the group in particular. There are lefty bats in the form of Corey Dickerson, Kole Calhoun, and Yoshitomo Tsutsugo. There aren’t an immense number of obvious trade targets to consider, but the Diamondbacks could look into the likes of Trey Mancini, Clint Frazier, and perhaps even Mookie Betts or Andrew Benintendi, depending upon what the Red Sox end up pursuing. Though the Snakes have mostly worked to remove big veteran salaries, they could consider a player such as Charlie Blackmon — not that an intra-division deal is likely to be sorted out for such a fan favorite. The same issue applies to the Dodgers, who could end up with an extra outfield piece to move. Relieving the Athletics of their obligations to Stephen Piscotty could conceivably work for both teams. It’s not impossible to imagine the Mets talking about Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, or J.D. Davis. There are plenty of other possible scenarios that may be explored but are even more speculative than the ones just listed.
If that feels like relatively short-term patchwork … well, that’s pretty much what’s available. And it’s also what Hazen has done so well thus far. Putting some added financial gusto behind the effort could yield dividends. Exploring moves to bring in a star makes sense, but that’s a necessarily speculative endeavor. That approach could spill over and meld with the first base and broader bench. As noted above, the D-Backs have some younger players they like. In addition to those already listed, catcher/utilityman Daulton Varsho and first baseman/outfielder Pavin Smith could be closing in on the majors. But the former is now recovering from an ankle injury and the latter is still working to re-burnish his prospect standing.
Expecting something from the existing, younger players is sensible. But the Diamondbacks can and should reduce their reliance on them as immediate options without cutting off their paths entirely. Short-term veteran role players abound. Lefty bats seem to make particular sense given the existing array in the infield. Brock Holt is among the utility pieces that could shoulder some of the load all over the field. A lefty slugger makes tons of sense to form a platoon at first base, with Eric Thames representing the top of that market. Perhaps Mike Moustakas could reprise his surprise utility role, appearing all over the infield for the Snakes. If the Cards decide to try to shed some of Matt Carpenter’s contract to free up payroll and roster space, perhaps the Arizona org could take a chance on the veteran and come away with another desired piece as well.
It’s frankly hard to pin down a simple task list given the adaptable roster and payroll circumstances — a credit to Hazen’s handiwork. The Snakes have some shape-shifting puzzle pieces and blank Scrabble tiles to work with. It makes for a choose-your-own-offseason decision tree that could take any number of different courses over the months to come.
One of the main criticisms of Major League Baseball’s recent free-agent periods is that star players have gone too long without signing contracts. Just last offseason, the game’s two premier free agents, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, didn’t ink deals until a few weeks before the regular campaign started. The same was true of Jake Arrieta, to name one prominent example, the prior winter. But MLB has shown interest in cutting down on big-name stragglers on the open market, Evan Drellich of The Athletic explains (subscription link). Earlier this month, the league sent a proposal to the MLBPA that would’ve placed a cutoff date on free agents signing multiyear contracts, but the union summarily shot it down, according to Drellich.
“After due consideration, we rejected their proposal as not being in the best interests of players,” MLBPA senior director of collective bargaining and legal Bruce Meyer said (via Drellich). “We asked if MLB was interested in discussing other, more direct and tangible ways of incentivizing early signings and they weren’t at this time.”
Had the union said yes to the league’s idea, there wouldn’t have been any contracts of more than one year doled out past the Dec. 8-12 winter meetings. MLB at least wanted to implement the plan on a one-year trial basis this winter, Drellich reports, but the union didn’t think it would benefit the players because it might have given too much leverage to the teams. In the MLBPA’s estimation, a multiyear signing deadline would have created a “take-it-or-leave-it” mentality among some free agents, who may have felt pressured to accept an offer before the drop-dead date, potentially decreasing their earning power.
Of course, there’s also an argument a deadline would’ve taken away quite a bit of offseason intrigue. In leagues like the NFL, NBA and NHL, free agency often opens with a mad rush of headline-worthy moves before becoming rather dull with most of the top players off the board. For better or worse (depending on your perspective), that hasn’t really been the case in baseball, nor does it look as if it will be this offseason with super-agent Scott Boras set to oversee negotiations for the likes of Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, Stephen Strasburg and perhaps J.D. Martinez. Boras clients (including Harper and Arrieta) have shown a willingness to hang on the open market for months until the absolute best deal comes along.
The outspoken Boras shared his opinion on MLB’s rejected FA proposal with Drellich, saying in part: “They want to make the offseason more predictive as to when players sign, and the answer to do that is to provide incentive, not limitation, on the free-agent right. A player has six years, he should determine when he signs, that should be his choice, because he’s earned that right. Any restriction, any limitation on that timeframe would restrict the right. Because some clubs make decisions in February they wouldn’t make in December. And there’s obviously a strong history for that.”
Yesterday, MLBTR relayed news that Major League Baseball is pursuing a “radical restructuring” of the lower minor-leagues, with reports indicating that the league is proposing the elimination of roughly one-quarter of current affiliate teams. While deputy commissioner Dan Halem framed these potential changes as being to the benefit of MiLB ballplayers (being that a reorganization would, in theory, allow for better pay, upgraded facilities, and streamlined travel accommodations), it does not sound as if officials from Minor League Baseball are on board with this proposed sea change.
In a report for The Athletic, writer Evan Drellich says an “enormous chasm” exists between MLB and MiLB as the two seek to organize a new working arrangement (link). MLB’s move toward en masse affiliate contraction does not sit well with MiLB, with MiLB President Pat O’Conner revealing that legal action is a possibility if a return to the bargaining table does not produce a more mutually appealing proposal.
“If we are forced to defend ourselves and fight for our mere survival, we will,” O’Conner told Drellich. “We would hope to negotiate a reasonable settlement with MLB. Short of that we have multiple options. Appealing to Congress, state, county and local elected officials is certainly one of them.” It is worth noting that legal action is characterized as a “last resort” in Drellich’s report.
Drellich also gives equal time to Halem, with the deputy commish reiterating the proposal’s intended benefits toward player working conditions–including increased wages. Halem also asserts that the introduction of advanced analytics and scouting methods have reduced the viability of maintaining such a deep stack of affiliate clubs, since 95% of players drafted after the 25th round never reach the majors. The implications here are interesting, with Halem suggesting the effective value of lower-level teams has decreased as MLB clubs have improved in the location and development of premier talent. “It is a tough sell to tell Major League Clubs that they need to hire more players than they may need in order to provide free labor to the minor league clubs,” Halem states.
For a complete history of the centuries-spanning working arrangement between MLB teams and their affiliates, Baseball America’s JJ Cooper details the oft-contentious process involved in maintaining a talent development pipeline that is unique among major American sports (link). The working arrangement that binds the two entities, entitled the Professional Baseball Agreement, is set to expire after the 2020 season.
Erica Sosnick is the alleged victim in this case against him. She has filed for divorce, though her attorney has stated an intention to dismiss the restraining order filed against Mr. Sosnick.
When reached by MLBTR, the MLBPA, which is in charge of certifying agents, declined to comment. Disciplinary action could be forthcoming, as the MLBPA agent regulations do contain provisions requiring that agents refrain from “unlawful conduct.” Whether and how the regulations might be applied in this case is not evident at this time.
Sosnick’s agency, Sosnick, Cobbe and Karon Sports represents a number of high-profile ballplayers, including Pete Alonso, Max Kepler, and Blake Snell. Earlier today, Paul Cobbe of Sosnick, Cobbe and Karon Sports released the following statement regarding fellow partner Matt Sosnick: “Domestic violence of any type is a concern to all of us, and our agency views the recent arrest of and allegations levied against Matt Sosnick as a very serious matter. We also believe in an individual’s right to due process, and we will continue to work with all parties involved to ensure that the legal process is allowed to run its course. Because of the familial nature of the accusations, we will refrain from commenting further until the matter is settled.”
We’re continuing with our “Three Needs” series, in which we take a look at the chief issues to be addressed for clubs that have fallen out of contention. We’ll now turn to a Reds club that has its eyes fixed on returning to the postseason. Having already pulled off a surprising mid-season strike for veteran righty Trevor Bauer, the Reds will be looking to add a few more key pieces this winter.
1. Take Heed Of Other Teams’ Ramp-Up Difficulties
When fans hear Cincinnati baseball ops chief Dick Williams speak of riding a bigger payroll to the postseason, they surely have flashbacks to the team’s recent 2010-13 inflection point. But they should shudder at the thought of what came before (nine-straight losing campaigns) and after (six straight) that four-season stretch. Williams and co. must work not only to get back to the promised land, but to create a sustainable (or at least more swiftly recoverable) means of doing so.
As they ponder the possibilities, the Reds need to be mindful of the recent experiences of the NL-rival Rockies and Diamondbacks — two clubs that have historically occupied similar tax brackets while dealing with the challenges of offensively charged home parks. While the Colorado organization successfully cracked the postseason code for two-straight seasons, its ramped-up free-agent spending — especially, on multiple veteran relievers — didn’t deliver the hoped-for impact. The Rockies have rather swiftly found themselves in a tight payroll spot. Before that, the Snakes slammed the pedal to the floor a bit too hard — the Shelby Miller trade and Zack Greinke signing — and veered right off course.
We’re not suggesting the Reds shouldn’t be excited to fling open a window of contention. But the club needs to measure its moves carefully, especially since it already parted with touted prospect Taylor Trammell in the Bauer swap. Running up payroll for a single season isn’t necessarily a problem, but the club can ill afford multiple, hefty, unproductive contracts like those the Rockies have accumulated. And it will be even more wary of Arizona-like over-exuberance that could cost a rare chance at an extended period of competitiveness.
Precisely how to navigate things will depend upon the opportunities that arise. But the Reds can look to some other National League clubs for guidance. The Braves (Josh Donaldson, Dallas Keuchel) and Brewers (Yasmani Grandal) both cashed in with expensive, one-year deals. Had they fallen flat, the clubs would simply have shrugged and moved on. If the Reds are to place a longer-term bet, it probably shouldn’t come in a bidding war on a veteran reliever. Last year’s acquisition and extension of Sonny Gray would be hard to replicate, but spreading the cost over a slightly longer term (as the Rangers have with Lance Lynn and Mike Minor) could give the team a shot at landing a high-quality player at an affordable price.
2. Pursue Upside Up The Middle
It just so happens that the Reds are less-than-settled in the middle infield. Jose Iglesias turned in a solid campaign but is a free agent. Jose Peraza can be tasked with a utility role but not trusted as a regular. The club controls the rights to Freddy Galvis, but he should be a reserve on a contender. Nick Senzel is uber-talented and capable of playing center field or second base, so there’s some flexibility to work with for the Reds. There’s at least a sturdy floor behind the dish, but the defensively renowned Tucker Barnhart doesn’t have much of a bat.
This may be the place for the Reds to strike. On the one hand, the upcoming open market isn’t laden with great possibilities. There are quite a few guys that have at times been solid or better middle infielders, but it’s awfully light on players that appear to be present-talent true regulars. And the center field market is barren. But that also reflects the fact that many teams are already settled in these areas. And there are some intriguing options, including the aforementioned Grandal as well as old friend and bounceback candidate Didi Gregorius. It’s far from clear what’ll be available via trade, but there could be some awfully appealing names dangled. The pie-in-the-sky trade candidates are Francisco Lindor and Marcus Semien, who can’t be ruled out entirely given their respective organizations’ long-view strategies. It’s much easier to envision Starling Marte coming available, and he’d be quite an interesting target with two cost-controlled seasons left on his deal. Jackie Bradley Jr. and Ender Inciarte are among the potentially available players that are somewhat interesting but lower-ceiling possibilities.
Yep, the Reds still need to bear in mind the issues raised in item #1 above. An all-in strategy to go for Semien without an extension in place would likely not be wise. But if the Cincinnati club is going to go past its comfort zone a bit, it ought to be on a player who not only has a sturdy anticipated performance floor but also carries some real star potential. There are relatively few options, so they might need to be explored early. If nothing comes available at a reasonable price, the Reds can pivot to the many affordable options while seeing if anything has fallen through the cracks (Yasiel Puig???) in other areas.
3. Don’t Forget Pitching Depth
Yeah, the Reds got really nice output from their rotation this year and picked up Bauer to help lead the charge in 2020. And they have clear need to improve up the middle and/or with a new outfield bat. But this team could easily get in trouble if it doesn’t allocate some resources to protect the pitching staff, especially with Great American Ball Park as the backdrop.
Here’s the thing to bear in mind when you start thinking about whether and how the Reds can build off of 2019: they are unlikely to enjoy such phenomenal pitching health. Aside from Alex Wood, who returned for seven starts after missing much of the season, the club’s starters were more or less always available when scheduled. And the relief corps received voluminous contributions from its best arms: Amir Garrett made 69 appearances; Robert Stephenson and Raisel Iglesias each cracked sixty innings; Michael Lorenzen threw 83 1/3 frames.
While the Reds might not feel a need to chase improvement in the pitching staff, they ought to be relatively aggressive with spending 2020 cash on depth arms. There are a range of possibilities — the acquisition of a volume swingman, risking a bit of payroll space on a few durable veteran relievers, targeting optionable arms on waiver claims — but the overarching approach must build in some contingencies. Not doing so carries significant risk. Early-season pitching additions can be exceptionally pricey and it’s a long time to wait til the trade deadline when you’re trying to break back into the postseason.