Archive for the ‘Free Agency’ Category

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Atlanta Braves

The Boston Red Sox made hay this year by hitting on a bunch of free agents signings and creating a team that appears, or is at least credited as being, greater than the sum of its parts. Platoon guys and character guys who didn’t quite look like they would be the great team Fenway Park eventually produced.

The Red Sox are now thought to be in pursuit of Brian McCann, the long-time Braves catcher testing free agency for the very first time. A lot of what McCann offers appeals to the Red Sox and their sensibilities. One Sox fan laid out his personal list of reasons for the Sox making a move on McCann. It’s hard to argue with many of the points.

The more I think about it, the more I feel like all these points are related. And the more closely related the points are, the more important it becomes for teams to not only target good players but targeting the correct players.

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MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Milwaukee Brewers

Most free agent choices aren’t actually choices at all. Rarely is a bidding team in on more than one player of the same position, it seems to me. They might inquire on more than one guy but generally seem to settle into on a particular player, for whatever reason.

The 2013 feeding frenzy season is upon us. None of the big fish are in the boat yet, all the teams angling (!) for an upgrade have some interesting choices to make.

Say you’re in the market for a corner outfielder. There are some nice names to pick through. Somebody is going to throw a whole pile of money at a player who might not deliver on their promise. Somebody else might make a nice little value pick up at a fraction of the cost. Turns out the two players are more similar than it seems.

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Detroit Tigers v New York Yankees - Game Two

A lot was made yesterday over the unwelcome realization that the Yankees and Red Sox, by virtue of their raft of potential free agents, stand to earn a whole lot of compensatory draft picks. This hardly seems like the intended consequence of the new C.B.A. Rather than compensate smaller market teams unable to retain the services of the their free agents, we see the same old rich clubs nabbing extra picks.

Firstly, anyone who reads the qualifying offer arrangement as anything other than a mid-level salary tax is wholly misguided. Stripping signing teams of a draft pick doesn’t change the way top free agents are valued but it certainly gives concerned teams pause when it comes to more middling players.

Which brings us back to the Red Sox and Yankees, apparently reaping added benefits from the latest CBA. To just throw up our hands and blame the East Coast bias or claim the league is in the cahoots with the Yankees. It is a symptom of long-held factors that existed long before the current CBA.

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Detroit Tigers v New York Yankees - Game 5

The Yankees finally embraced sanity Monday and extended a qualifying offer to outfielder Curtis Granderson. The move was a no-brainer not just because of Granderson’s outstanding quality as a player — he has hit .245/.335/.495 (120 OPS+) with generally solid outfield defense for the Yankees over the past four seasons — but because center fielders of his quality rarely hit the free agent market, and when they do, they are worth well more than one year at $14 million.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but free agency is typically only the place to upgrade at the “older” positions — corner infielders, corner outfielders, relief pitchers, catchers or back-of-the-rotation starters. Occasionally, a big-time second baseman, shortstop, ace starter will come on the market and break the bank.

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pete rose spos

The World Series is over, and it’s time to start counting down the days until pitchers and catchers report. That means it’s time for free agency, which somehow hasn’t destroyed the league in the 39 seasons since Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally finally broke through the reserve clause.

But make no mistake: people around baseball were afraid free agency would ruin the game, much like so many around the NCAA are afraid dismantling amateurism will ruin the charm of college football. In 1979, Petersen’s Professional Baseball Yearbook — a baseball preview magazine filled with major national writers like the New York Times’s Murray Chass — focused on violence. One of those forms of violence was the violence of inflation — player salary inflation, to be specific.

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In what has easily been the most heated bidding war that I just found out existed today, Jon Heyman reports that a mystery team has paid $25.7M for the right to negotiate with 25-year old Korean LHP Ryu Hyun-Jin from the Hanwha Eagles of the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO). The official winning bid of $25,737,737, the highest ever for a Korean player, may seem like a weirdly specific number until you learn from MLBTR (and a lesser extent, Yahoo Answers) that the numbers 3 and 7 are considered lucky in Korean culture.

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When news of Josh Hamilton’s asking price on the free agent market was first reported – the former American League MVP is believed to be seeking a $175 million contract to be doled out over the next seven years – the response varied as to whether or not such a target was realistic.  Some believed the terms to be preposterous, while others suggested that there would be at least one front office out there willing to approach such a demand. Among the arguments for or against such a contract being offered there was one common theme: the player’s past.

By now, we’re all somewhat aware that Josh Hamilton’s past includes a lot of drugs and a lot of alcohol. It’s easy for us to blindly state that a recovering alcoholic and drug addict is the exact type of person in whom you do not want to invest tens of millions of dollars. They will always be affected by their past, right? We’ve heard the pop psychology explanations about such things time and time again. Once you’re an addict, you’re always an addict.

I’m severely under qualified to examine the legitimacy of such a statement. And I suspect that the great majority of us should be similarly indisposed to offering opinions on how the life of an addict might affect his or her future ability to stay healthy. Nonetheless, we imagine that we understand these things enough to use Hamilton’s non-baseball playing past to judge the value and worth of Josh Hamilton as a baseball player in the future.

I don’t know why the human mind feels the need to do this, but it does. We convince ourselves that our own understanding expands far beyond its rather limited boundaries and then we use our overestimation to explain and pass judgment on things that we truly can’t begin to understand. This is the basis for about 95% of what’s written about sports.

Perhaps most bothersome about those referring to Hamilton’s past as a means of refuting his future value is that it’s being done without much in the way of understanding what comprises his past. While I don’t believe it’s possible to wholly understand how Josh Hamilton’s past affects his future, we might be able to at least glean something that approaches an understanding of his past, or at least the past that’s been presented to us in interviews and features through the years.

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