Five MLB Signings that are affecting the market.

The last two off seasons have a been a nightmare for MLB free agents.  In a time of big revenue for top market teams you would think that money would not be an issue and we would see the spending wars of the mid 2000’s.  What was once an arms race has turned into nothing more than a pity party.  Just ask Mike Moustakas and Greg Holland last season. The value of prospects, international money and draft picks has changed the way a lot of team construct their rosters. While there has been a culture change for most front offices, mistakes of others are also a factor in longer term deals.  These are the worst five contracts that have affected the current market.

5. Jordan Zimmermann, Detroit Tigers, 5-year $110 Million

Zimmerman was a hot commodity when he hit free agency after the 2015 season. All Star appearances in 2013 and 2014, winning 13 games in 2015, Zimmerman was arguably the biggest free agent starting pitcher name on the market.  The Tigers bit on the hype and signed Zimmerman to a hefty contract. At the time it looked like a great fit for a Tigers team that was looking to contend for a championship going into 2016.  The wheels feel of for Detroit and they feel into the bottom of their own division.  Zimmermann was not much help carrying a 5.13 ERA in three injury-plagued seasons in Detroit, and he’s still owed another $25 million in each of the next two seasons. 

Zimmerman’s poor play and massive contract have may him an impossible trade piece. Luckily for the Tigers Zimmerman should come off the books around the same time that the young pieces they have assembled can take form.

4. Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels, 10-year $240 Million

Albert is not higher on this list because he has been able to produce some over his seven seasons with the Angels. Producing two seasons of +4 WAR and one season hitting 40 HR.  Overall though this contract has put the Angels in a tough position.  Currently having the best player in the world on your roster you would hope to add something around him.  The Pujols contract and inability to play a position has hamstrung the organization.

Pujols was able to give the fans some memorable moments hitting his 500th and 600th homeruns as a member of the Halos.  Other than that, he has primarily been a burden. He is also due another $87 million over the next three seasons. Hopefully, it was all worth it for the Angels, who have gone just 576-551 with one playoff appearance since signing him.

3. Jacoby Ellsbury, New York Yankees, 7-year $153 Million

Second place in MVP voting in 2011, 52 steals in 2013.  Speed, power and defense, Ellsbury seemed to have it all going into the offseason of 2013.  The New York Yankees made an offer to the 29-year-old that seemed like a smart move on a great player in his prime.  Fast forward to 2019.  Ellsbury is entering the 5th year of his massive deal, still due another $42 million over the next two seasons not including the buyout of another $5 million in 2022 the Yankees have basically considered him a wash.

Jacoby didn’t play a single game in 2018 and has already been considered an afterthought in the stacked Yankee outfield.  If he is healthy enough to play, would they really even play him? His first season in pinstripes was solid with an OPS of .747 adding 39 steals, that’s basically all they got or their $153 million.

2. Pablo Sandoval, Boston Red Sox, 5-year $90 Million (2014)

In 2015 Pablo Sandoval cashed in on his Giants playoff heroics.  The Red Sox signed Pablo to a 5-year, $90 million-dollar contract.  The most memorable moment in his Red Sox career was when he took a swing and broke his belt in the process.  That belt took a bigger beating then the ball ever did off his bat while in Boston. Three seasons in Boston Sandoval played a total of 161 games.  That’s right a five-year contract got the Red Sox the equivalent of one season. In those games Sandoval hit .237 with 14 homers.  Not much more to say about this one.  His time in Boston effectively ended the legend of the Kung Fu Panda.

1. Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles, 7-year $161 Million

Chris Davis was always boom or bust player. When Davis signed his “mega deal” homeruns were not at a premium. From 2013 to 2015 the MLB average for homeruns per game was only .94.  Not realizing that the change in MLB culture was coming the Orioles thought they had a unique and mesmerizing player.  At the time of the deal it made sense, looking at it now makes Orioles fans sick to their stomach. 

Davis hasn’t just been bad, he has been historically awful. Hitting just .168 in 2018 Davis found himself out of the lineup for the last place Orioles.  This team was in last place and still couldn’t find a way to play him!  Oh, and he’s still owed another $94 million over the next four seasons. There are no signs that this is going to get any better for him — or for the team.

Cardinals 2019 Offseason: Continue the Youth Movement

The dreams of Cardinal’s fans are always big.  We dream of signing the next Albert Pujols, a player that will revolutionize the game and take our team to the championship level that we all assume is so close. Like any dream though we have to wake up.  We have to live in the real world where great players don’t just appear.  As the offseason commences fans want to see an aggressive approach from the front office.  We want to see our teams name in the running for superstars like Manny Machado and Bryce Harper.  While I admittedly would love to see either with the Birds on the Bat across their chest I am not going to allow myself to think that this is anything more then just a dream.  The reality is that the Cardinals will not realistically be in the running for either.  So what do we do? The answer:  Build around the youth!

Last season  we saw the progression of the young pitching staff that we had been hearing about for years.  Jack Flaherty, Austin Gomber and Dakota Hudson emerged as key pieces in a rotation and bullpen that needed the boost.   Going into 2019 where does this leave the state of the rotation?  I look at it like this

Starters Flaherty, Mikolas, Martinez, Gant, Gomber/Poncedeleon/Hudson

Relievers: Reyes, Hicks, Shreve, Leone, Wainwright, Cecil, Brebbia, Mayers

The Cardinals one addition should be a lock down leftie reliever.  Cash in on one that had a terrible 2018.  Andrew Miller makes a lot of sense for the team. A disappointing 2018 season will leave Miller vulnerable on the free agent market.  A 4.24 ERA in a walk year is a not ideal for someone looking to make it big.  Despite his struggles Miller was still effective against lefties holding them to just a .556 OPS.  Miller also has playoff experience to help out a cast of young relievers.  He can be an assist to a guy like Chasen Shreve whom brings potential but flexibility to move to the minors.  The Brett Cecil deal lingers in the minds of most fans but with Miller in the fold you will be able to utilize Cecil in a lot of less stressful moments.  Not listing Adam Wainwright in the rotation will be tough but this team has to move on and give their young arms a chance. John Gant proved himself to be more reliable in the rotation and a three way fight between Hudson, Gomber and Poncedeleon will give you three guys that have been more effective in the pen if they don’t win the final spot. Put Brebbia in the closer role to start the season, but don’t be locked into it.  Play the matchups and the hot hand.  If Hicks develops a strikeout pitch use him in the ninth.  Trust the young arms.

*Luke Weaver has to prove he can trust his fastball command or he has no place on this team.

Marcell Ozuna didn’t have the year most Cardinal fans had hoped for, but it wasn’t as bad as many perceived.  23 homers and 88 RBI’s was actually more accurate to his career averages.  The Cardinals traded for a player based a 2017 season where he broke out.  His regression had a lot to do with his lingering shoulder injury, but it also had to do with being protected in the lineup by Jedd Gyorko rather then Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich. His production drop off hurt but is still on par with what the Cardinals would have gotten from the departed Stephen Piscotty or Randall Grichuk.  Ozuna needs protection, but I don’t believe it should be a free agent outfielder.  There are three targets the Cardinals should consider:

1. Josh Donaldson 2. Steve Pearce 3. Eduardo Escobar

Each of these players has a flaw.  Donaldson is injury prone, Pearce is has been inconsistent, Escobar is unpredictable. But each has what the Cardinals need, power. Adding Escobar and Pearce will give you two player that can play multiple positions and provide late game matchup advantages.  Donaldson should be the clear frontrunner for the Cardinals.  Give him a two year deal and while you let Nolan Gorman develop.  This will give you the MVP bat that you can have until your young star is ready for the majors. This lineup with the pitching they possess could be a huge addition.

Option A Option B
Matt Carpenter, 1B Carpenter 3B
Yadier Molina, C Eduardo Escobar, 2B
Marcell Ozuna, LF Marcell Ozuna, LF
Josh Donaldson, 3B Steve Pearce, 1B
Tyler O’Neil, RF Tyler O’Neil, RF
Paul Dejong, SS Yadier Molina, C
Kolten Wong, 2B Paul DeJong, SS
Harrison Bader, CF Harrison Bader, CF

Let O’Neil get the at bats this season and see what you have.  He strikes out a lot, but no more then players like Kris Bryant did in their first full seasons.  The one asset you have in the minors is young outfielders, it’ time to see what they can bring in a full season.  The Dexter Fowler experience is over.  Put him on the bench and eat the money if you have to. The Cardinals didn’t have a great season, I would love to add a premier bat but to think the they can outbid a bigger market team and convince them to be here is unrealistic.  Build around your youth, add veterans that make sense as you wait for your young bats.

The Cardinals are not far away from being a force.  The depth is there in the pitching staff and the young players are on the way.  Let me know what you think.

Paul DeJong, changing Cardinals needs

The St. Louis Cardinals currently sit four games out of the Central Division.  A team riding the proverbial roller coaster all season has kept themselves relevant despite having to make adjustments to the lineup all season.  The early struggles of lineup mainstays like Marcell Ozuna and Matt Carpenter had fans voicing their displeasure with management.  They shouted from the rooftops about trading away the young arms for a rental slugger like Manny Machado or Josh Donaldson.  As the Cardinals prepare to enter July they may end up receiving a power upgrade that will cost them no prospects.

Paul DeJong has targeted a return to the lineup around the All-Star break.  DeJong will instantly bring more power into a lineup that has begun to produce at more levels.  DeJong’s development as a hitter cannot be ignored.  While strikeouts are still a problem that is impossible to ignore, DeJong has increased his walk rate.  Through 108 games last season DeJong walked just 21 times. Before his injury in just 41 games he has walked 16 times raising his walk percentage by almost 5%. DeJong’s injury also allowed more at bats for Yairo Munoz, allowing him to establish himself as a major league player.

When comparing DeJong to both Machado and Donaldsons advanced analytics the differences are not what you may think. Donaldson’s numbers are nearly identical to DeJong, while  Manny Machado’s are not earth shattering in comparison, in fact they are very comparable if played out over a full season of the season.

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Machado Advanced Stats

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DeJong Advanced Stats

Machado’s advanced numbers with nearly double the at bats compare favorably to DeJong’s with no clear advantage.  Machado brings with him the intrigue of a marquee name, but does not bring the clear offensive advantages. The Cardinals also do not have to deal with the distraction of what to do with Machado at the end of the season.  They can focus on their current needs.

That brings me to what the Cardinals need to have their focus on, the bullpen.  Bud Norris and Jordan Hicks have cemented themselves in the backend of the pen but the need for help is still relevant. Padres closer Brad Hand sits at the top of the list for most contending teams, the price for him will be very high for the Cardinals.  They will most likely look at the second left handed reliever option Zach Britton.  Britton’s 2018 has not been great but he brings late inning experience as well as experience against high level opponents while playing in the American League East.

If the Orioles are being stubborn about the value of Britton, the Cardinals should take a look at a guy they let walk away in the offseason, Zack Duke.  The Minnesota Twins have not been able to put it together in 2018, they have a few assets on their roster that may be available when the trade deadline hits.  Duke has been extremely effective versus lefties in during the 2018 season allowing just a .184 average.  While it may seem crazy to “backtrack” on a reliever that they could have resigned in the offseason, Duke will be low cost both in trade value and contact cost.

If the Twins believe they are still in contention for some reason the next potential suitor would be Alex Claudio of the Texas Rangers.  The Rangers have a long rebuild ahead of them, a left-handed reliever will not help them long term.  Claudio has tons of value with his abilities to get out left handed hitters, similarly to Britton, Claudio has the experience in the late innings.

Cardinals fans want management to make a big move, but they have to understand that they have an impact player ready to make his return without costing the team any of their prospects.  Fill the needs that make sense, go out and get yourself the bullpen help that can cement you as a playoff team.  Fans have to see that it makes more sense to fill the bullpen need rather then bank on a big name for half a season.