MLBits: Harper’s Questionable Defense, Cron Claimed, Payroll Inequality, “Joey Beets”, More

Let’s discuss some news from around the league …

  • There aren’t many arguments that could cast doubt on Bryce Harper’s offensive prowess now or in the future, but his defense is an entirely different story. Harper has never been known for his glove, of course, but he was also never regarded as a poor defender. Last season was – at least, according to the not-always-trustworthy-in-single-season-samples advanced defensive metrics – probably the worst of his career. So at MLB.com, Mike Petriello tried to figure out exactly what did (or didn’t) go wrong to see if we can expect a bounce-back in 2019. From the looks of it, Harper didn’t get slower, wasn’t out of sorts positionally, and didn’t get streaky with his fielding. But there were some noticeable changes, specifically with his positioning. And with a new manager, Dave Martinez, in the dugout, you have to wonder if a simple change back to whatever he was doing before could help.
  • At the same time, Martinez is a former Joe Maddon lieutenant (and Cubs bench coach), so you wonder how much different Maddon’s instincts would be, if, say, the Cubs were to sign Harper. Then again, so much of this has to do with conditions and ballparks and other unknowns, so who knows. Regardless: If you’re signing Bryce Harper to a $325M+ deal this winter, even as you want him to be solid on defense, you’re primarily buying the bat.
  • (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)

  • The Twins claimed C.J. Cron off waivers from the Rays on Monday – and I suspect they’ll be very happy to host him for 2019. Last season, Cron, 28, slashed .253/.323/.493 with 30 homers and 28 doubles. He’s not much of a defender, but that is a lot of offense to get for very little. Ever since Andrew Friedman left, the Rays moves look a lot less savvy and a lot more … cheap.
  • At FiveThirtyEight, we learn that no World Series winning team has committed more than 20% of their payroll to just one player since 2003 (Marlins, Ivan Rodriguez). David Price was the 2018 Red Sox top paid player and he accounted for 12.8% of their payroll. Jon Lester (14.6% in 2016) actually had one of the higher payroll shares for World Series winners in recent years. It seems extreme payroll inequality is probably bad. That is not altogether surprising, though.
  • You might be surprised to learn just how risky it is to draft high school pitchers, particularly fireballers. I always knew they were the most risky age/position group to target, but that tantalizing upside will forever draw risky GMs and fans in. More at Sports Illustrated.
  • This is great brain candy:
  • As a hitter, you can be great and still strikeout a lot. But as a pitcher, you more or less NEED to strike guys out to be great (obviously, there’s a lot of context and outliers to be accounted for, but that’s the gist).
  • More fun for your brain:
  • At FanGraphs, David Laurila asks “how exactly should one weigh counting stats vis-a-vis rate stats when assessing Hall of Fame worthiness,” and I think it’s a great question. Some of you nerds folks – like me! – might be inclined to ignore things like Wins, Saves, RBIs or Runs in your daily baseball analysis, because you know they’re poor at predicting the future and tend to rely on things out of the player’s control. HOWEVER, I’ve long believed that these “traditional” stats are perfectly acceptable for awards and recognition (i.e. looking backwards). Those things happened, whether they were in the player’s direct control or now, and coming through at the right time does matter. At the end of a season (MVP, Cy Young, etc.) or someone’s career (Hall of Fame), it’s perfectly reasonable to include traditional stats. [Brett: Except “wins”, right? You didn’t mean to include pitcher wins, did you, Michael? That was surely a typo, right?]
  • The Giants released a statement regarding one of their 30 owners, Charles Johnson, making a donation to the campaign of U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, the candidate who made the ugly comments about public hangings and voter suppression:
  • Obviously any individual, like one of the Giants’ 30 owners, should be able to donate to whomever they see fit (even if we don’t like that person), though that doesn’t preclude the public from expression their own perspective in response. And I think this is pretty different than MLB, as an organization, donating to a particular campaign. Notably, MLB requested its own contribution to Hyde-Smith be returned.
  • The Oakland Athletics signed Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray with the 9th overall pick in the 2018 MLB draft ($4.66M signing bonus) and he intends on sticking with baseball, despite a chance to play in the NFL after leading his Sooners to the Big 12 title game (and maybe more).
  • It’s amazing to see so many players who went undrafted in the Rule 5 wind up productive players the next year despite that fact:
  • Jose Bautista is known for a whole lot of things, from his prodigious power, to his epic bat flip, to his Odor-dislodged jaw, to his admittedly amazing nickname (Joey Bats), but now he’ll be known for one more thing: a bug. Or, rather, a beetle. According to The Toronto Star, entomologist (bug scientist) and Blue Jays fan Bob Anderson named a newly-discovered species of beetle after the slugger. Scientifically, they’re calling it Sicoedrus Bautistai, but colloquially it’s “Joey Beets.” I really can’t express how much I love this.
  • written by

    Michael Cerami began covering the Chicago Cubs for Bleacher Nation as a part-time contributor in 2015. One year later, he joined Bleacher Nation full-time, covering the Chicago Cubs and Major League Baseball. Today, Michael runs Bleacher Nation, contributing as a writer (Cubs, MLB) and an editor for all sections of the site, including the Chicago Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks, as well as MLB, NBA, NHL, and NFL. In 2019, Michael was the co-host of NBC Sports Chicago's Cubs Post-Game Show Outside the Ivy. You can find him on Twitter/X @Michael_Cerami

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