It’s been busy around here and also in the baseball world as a whole. Lots to get into from around the league …
- At FanRag, Jon Heyman takes an early look at the market for free-agent-to-be (probably) Clayton Kershaw. If you recall, Kershaw has the ability to opt-out of his current contract ($65M due over two years after this season), to try to earn more in free agency. There’s no doubt that he’ll secure a massive contract, but the question is … from whom? Re-upping with the Dodgers seems like the safe bet, because Kershaw loves it there and they made a big push to get under the luxury threshold, presumably in part for that very reason. All of which is why the Dodgers are the obvious first-choice candidate (3:5 odds). But after them?
- Given that Kershaw is a “Dallas-area product,” as Heyman puts it, the Rangers are the most-frequently discussed back-up plan to the Dodgers. Their odds, according to Heyman are 7:1. Beyond those two likely landing spots, Heyman lists the Yankees, Angels, Phillies, Red Sox, and Giants as relative long shots. Even The Field (30:1) is a long-shot. That includes the Cubs, who obviously committed significantly in the rotation this past offseason. I wouldn’t get excited about Kershaw coming to Chicago – it’s not gonna happen. I do have to admit that I would love to see him go to the Angels. Dreaming of a team with Clayton Kershaw (best pitcher of this generation) alongside Mike Trout (best position player of this generation) and Shohei Ohtani (best at being both?) is drool-worthy.
- Speaking of Trout, he homered three times this weekend, once to left, once to center, and once to right. His nine home runs leads baseball, as does his 1.8 WAR. And perhaps it won’t be a surprise (though it should be), the 26-year-old superstar is STILL getting better. If you can believe it, Trout is swinging at fewer pitches out of the zone, more pitches in the zone, and is making better contact than ever: “He appears less likely to chase a pitcher’s pitch. Pitchers can’t consistently repeat their quality pitches. More than ever, the Trout decision seems to be: put him on base, or give up hard contact.”
Mike Trout leads all MLB position players in total fWAR since the start of the 2007 season. He made his big-league debut in July of 2011. https://t.co/kblhSQH9qT
— Ted Berg (@OGTedBerg) April 24, 2018
- At Baseball Prospectus, Matt Trueblood offers some analysis to support the longstanding rumors and speculation that Albert Pujols is around two years older than the official record. I won’t go over everything Trueblood lays out, but I will say he makes a compelling (and understanding) case – not just about Pujols, but about the way age matters have been treated over the past couple decades. It’s also really well-written and fair, so I encourage you to check it out. Moreover, if Pujols is truly 40 years old, not 38 … the last few years would sure make a lot more sense.
- Yesterday afternoon, I wrote that the Dodgers were calling up top pitching prospect Walker Buehler, an hour later I picked him up in my fantasy league, and a couple hours after that he delivered a scoreless 5.0 IP, 4H, 3BB, 5K performance against the Marlins. Needless to say, some of the players were very impressed. “Walker was electric,” said Enrique Hernandez. “So, this kid must be a stud. He’s pretty confident, pretty cocky. Fastball looked like it was 120 [mph] from playing shortstop. The slider looked like 100 as well. It’s pretty fun watching, playing behind him. He’s got special talent and hopefully we’ll see that for a very long time.”
- Speaking of which, to make room for Buehler, the Dodgers designated reliever Wilmer Font for assignment before yesterday’s game. Font, 28, was the Triple-A PCL pitcher of the year last season (with solid peripherals, I might add), but struggled in his brief stint with the big league Dodgers in 2017 and here in 2018. The Cubs bullpen is rocking right now, but relievers are notoriously volatile. They, and a dozen other teams, will do well to at least kick the tires.
- The Yankees acquired right-hander A.J. Cole from the Nationals in exchange for cash yesterday, and he’s expected to shuffle into the bullpen and eat inning. According to Mike Axisa, “Cole, 26, opened the season as Washington’s fifth starter but lost the job after allowing 15 runs in 10.1 innings. Yikes. He’s been an up-and-down guy for the Nationals for a few years now and has a 5.32 ERA (5.34 FIP) in 110 career big league innings.” The Nationals, meanwhile, are off to a slow start (10-13).
- More transactions:
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) April 24, 2018
- Jose Bautista will be the Braves’ starting third baseman – a position he hasn’t played regularly in about ten years. “He’s going to play third when he comes up,” Snitker said of Bautista. “He’s in good shape. That’d be what happens.” Ooook. He and Ryan Braun can form an “out-of-position” club at the end of the year.
- Cardinals first baseman Jose Martinez broke out in a big way last season (135 wRC+), and the 29-year-old has gotten even better in the early days of 2018: .329/.409/.526 (162 wRC+). Of course, the Cardinals picked him up for next to nothing after he was designated for assignment by the Royals in 2016 (stupid #voodoo), so he’s undoubtedly a front-office favorite. At MLB.com, Joe Trezza explains how his hard-hit balls/solid overall exit velocity were a big part of the decision to target Martinez in the first place.
- Sticking with the Cardinals … 21-year-old reliever Jordan Hicks has thrown the six fastest pitches in baseball this season (topping out at 101.7 MPH) and hasn’t allowed a run in 11.2 IP. On top of that, he’s more than just a one-inning reliever. So far, three of his nine appearances have been for more than just an inning, and his flexibility is all the rage in St. Louis. HOWEVA. Sure, Hicks might throw 100 MPH+ and have a 0.00 ERA, but he also has a 12.8% strikeout rate and a 17.0% walk rate. Sure, he is generating a ton of ground balls, but he’s allowing close to league average soft/hard contact. I’m not sure you can entirely ignore the .161 BABIP, 93.3% strand rate, 0% HR/FB ratio, and 4.72 FIP.
- At MLB Trade Rumors, Steve Adams discusses the recent ascension and the impending future for shockingly excellent Astros right-hander – and 34-year-old – Charlie Morton. Morton previously hinted at retiring at the end of the season, but he’s currently got an AL-leading 0.72 ERA (2.54 FIP) through four starts after a solid 3.3 fWAR campaign last season when he continued his reinvention. It’d be a strange path for a guy to break out in his mid-30s and then retire before he really cashes in huge, but not everyone ticks the same way.
- On Monday night, Jenny Cavnar became the first woman to do the play-by-play on a big league broadcast since 1993, which is awesome. By all accounts, she’s very knowledgeable and did an excellent job. For fun, here’s her home run call on a Nolan Arenado two-run shot:
- Fire up the fountains … She’s gone! That’s pretty good. [Brett: Yeah, but who was that hitter?]
- Need another reminder that it’s still peak strikeout era?
From ELIAS via @SlangsOnSports:
Entering Monday, there had been 5,562 strikeouts in the majors this season and 5,174 hits. That's 388 more strikeouts than hits. There's never been a full month in MLB history with more strikeouts than hits across the league.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) April 24, 2018
- And finally, Kevin Gausman not only tossed a gem on Monday (8.0 IP, 4H, 2ER, 1BB, 7K), he snuck an immaculate inning (that’s nine pitches, nine strikes, three outs) in there for good measure:
— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) April 24, 2018