While we await qualifying offer decisions today (9 of the 10 players are expected to reject the offers, for what it’s worth – see the note on Jeremy Hellickson below), let’s get into a Lukewarm Stove …
- An uptick in players joining MLB from various international leagues in recent years, and some of them not quite becoming superstars, probably has you feeling moderately burnt out on OMG THIS GUY stories about international players. I understand. I also understand that 22-year-old pitcher/outfielder/DH Shohei Ohtani is NO SERIOUSLY OMG THIS GUY. In a recent novelty, the righty – one of the best pitchers in Japan, and probably the world – hit a ball through a domed roof. You read that sentence correctly, and you can watch it happen here. But going far beyond that kind of thing, there are reasons to believe Ohtani is a generational talent. Despite being so young, he’s already flourishing as a pitcher in the NPB. And, when he doesn’t pitch, he hits. He hits like crazy. To say that he would be an extraordinarily desirable and heavily-pursued international target is underselling it.
- Here’s the rub, though: although everyone wants to talk about Ohtani right now, there is no reasonable belief that he’s coming to the States this offseason. That’s because he remains under team control by the Nippon Ham Fighters for five more years, and to come to MLB, his team would have to “post” him (aka sell his rights). He’s uniquely hugely valuable, though, so why don’t they post him right now, when he’ll probably never be worth more? Well, the problem is that MLB and NPB agreed a couple years ago to a capped bidding process, where the absolute maximum posting bid is $20 million.* So, if you’re the Nippon Ham Fighters, why would you post Ohtani now (for a maximum of $20 million) when you can use his services on your own team for a few more years, and then very probably get the same amount of money then? Sure, there’s a small risk of injury and/or a complete 180 in ability, but Ohtani is freaking awesome, and he makes their team much better. I doubt we see Ohtani come to the States, if at all, for at least another couple years, unless the posting agreement between MLB and NPB changes in the interim. We’ll just have to enjoy his feats of ridiculousness from afar until then.
- You can read more on Ohtani here at MLB.com, and here in the New York Post, where Joel Sherman writes that Ohtani could actually be posted as soon as next offseason. Here’s hoping. In any case, you can bet that if Ohtani comes in the next few years, the Cubs will be as involved as any team. But, of course, lots of teams will want him, and lots of teams have plenty of money.
- *(Man alive, can you imagine what the bids would be if Ohtani were posted right now under the old blind bidding system? I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the posting fee alone would probably go north of $100 million. (And then, of course, you have to sign him to a contract.))
- The White Sox definitely have the pieces to rebuild in a really significant and impressive way, but:
White Sox currently focused on a rebuild, but it's unclear whether they'll find offers acceptable to them for Chris Sale, Jose Abreu, etc.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) November 14, 2016
- The problem there is that if you don’t deal Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, and Jose Abreu as part of the rebuilding process (preferably sooner rather than later), then you’re not really rebuilding in the kind of impactful way necessary to truly overhaul an organization. And, hey, if that’s how the White Sox want to play it, that’s their business. But let’s be very real: since their last playoff appearance in 2008, the White Sox have had just two winning seasons, and have been in the worst possible spot three year’s running (just slightly below .500). They spend in the middle of the pack, have a farm system in the middle of the pack (at best), perform in the middle of the pack (or worse), and they will remain in that limbo spot for as long as they keep trying to add a piece or two each offseason and cross their fingers for competitiveness. Unloading stars for prospects is not the only necessary step in a rebuild, but when you’ve got valuable pieces like the White Sox do, then it should be the first step.
- Jeremy Hellickson broke out a bit in 2016, but without a long track record of that success, he reportedly decided to accept the qualifying offer from the Phillies. How about that pitching free agent class, eh?
- Because he doesn’t play center field, and because the Cubs are even more full at the corners with Kyle Schwarber’s return and Javy Baez’s continued emergence (which could push others into the outfield from time to time), it’s not clear that a reunion between the Cubs and Chris Coghlan is in the cards for 2017. Although he’s coming off a down 2016 overall, Coghlan hit well with the Cubs late in the year, and should find a number of suitors out there, and that could include his old team, the Marlins.
- We will have to get into this much more as word comes out on the particulars, but massive changes to the free agent compensation system should be expected next offseason:
There is increasing sentiment coming out of CBA negotiations that the qualifying-offer system, as we know it, is dying as of next year.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 14, 2016
The sense I've gotten is teams that lose FAs will get recompense in some form or fashion. It's more teams that sign them won't be penalized. https://t.co/7niKDPAcC2
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 14, 2016