Yankee fans are robbed, even if just temporarily, of the kind of exciting young hitter that has become an increasingly rare sighting in the Bronx. Brett Gardner is the last Yankee farmhand to become an above average regular in the big leagues, but he mostly accomplished that with his glove and legs. You would have to go back to Robinson Cano to find someone who made a similar impact with his bat at Bird’s age, and that was a full decade ago.
Everyone knew that Arizona would be in the market for pitching help this offseason, but no one knew just how high they had their sights set. After striking out on a 6-year, $120M offer to Cueto just a few days earlier, the DBacks looked like they’d refocus their attention on the mid-tier pitching options. Instead, they shocked the world.
Prospects are well and good, but they’re not of much use if you’re not converting them into major league wins. Developing youngsters into quality regulars like Betts and Bogaerts is one way to do that. Trading them for already-established major league talent is another. The latter might not be as efficient, but Dombrowski’s résumé is proof that it’s certainly effective. At some point you have to ask yourself what the endgame is. Are you trying to win a blue ribbon for shiniest farm system? Or are you trying to win a World Series? Craig Kimbrel makes the 2016 Red Sox a team better-equipped to do the latter.
Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Gordon, Chris Davis and Ben Zobrist are all available on free agency this winter, which arguably makes the outfield market even richer than the pitching one. Davis and Zobrist won’t necessarily be signed to play the outfield, but they both can, and including them makes the list look more impressive. Four of those guys (Heyward, Upton, Cespedes, Davis) are basically guaranteed to land contracts worth upwards of $125 million, and a fifth (Gordon) should be flirting with nine figures as well. How rare is this? Here are all the position players to reach the $100 million benchmark over the past decade.
It’s really hard to pick against the Mets pitching, but the Royals bats are relentless. Just ask the Astros. They thought they had put them out of reach. They ran and ran and ran. They jumped the fence, climbed to the highest story and barricaded themselves in. They were free! Except they weren’t. The Royals found them. They ripped through the door and devoured Houston’s playoff hopes. The Royals are zombies, Ned Yost is a witch and it’s Halloween. Royals in six.
The hot topic leading up to today’s deciding game is the bizarre decision of Toronto’s manager John Gibbons to burn David Price in Game 4. Gibbons called on Price with two outs in the 5th inning on Tuesday in a game the Jays were leading 7-1. When Gibbons pulled starter R.A. Dickey, the Blue Jays had a 96.7% win expectancy. I’m all-for being extra aggressive in the playoffs, but turning your ace into a mop-up reliever in a game you’re already nearly guaranteed to win is a pretty clear case of over-managing and is puzzling on a number of levels.
The only reason Mattingly doesn’t go to Jansen in that situation is because Jansen is the team’s closer. And in today’s game, managers treat their closers like fine china, only breaking them out when the circumstances are just right. “He’s our closer,” has become a bit of a meme in the baseball community over the past few years, with guys like Mike Matheny, Matt Williams and even Mattingly himself trying to explain their way out of bullpen catastrophes in which the team’s best reliever never even got in the game. Managers almost universally save their closers for save situations, as if there is some secret baseball rule that prevents them from using their relief ace in any situation other than the 9th inning with a 1-3 run lead.
The National League Cy Young race this year requires you to plant your flag somewhere. If you’re in the run prevention camp, you plant it with Greinke. If you’re in the FIP/dominance camp, you do so with Kershaw. If you want to split the difference and factor in the narrative of 22 wins and leading the Chicago Cubs back to the playoffs, you can stick with Arrieta. I do think there is something to be said for pure run prevention. Even if Greinke was extra fortunate in how few balls dropped in for hits, or how few of the runners he allowed on based came around to score, those things still happened. Greinke still least amount of runs in the league, and there’s certainly something to be said for that. At the same time though, Kershaw was pretty clearly the more dominant pitcher.
Donaldson will likely wind up taking home the hardware based on two factors. First, his team won 93 games and the AL East, while Trout’s Angels finished third in the AL West and came up just short of a wild card berth. Second, Donaldson leads the league in runs and RBIs, flashy numbers that still carry a lot of weight with most voters despite not really saying much about the player’s true skill. A Donaldson win would absolutely not be an egregious one. The margin between he and Trout is thin enough that you can make a reasonable claim that Donaldson is the MVP even without considering factors like team record.