One year before the Chicago Cubs hired Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer to run their baseball operations department, MLB delivered a devastating blow to their chances at a faster rebuild: strict bonus pools in the draft. Before the rule change in 2012, teams could spend – basically – however much they wanted on whichever players they selected with no penalties or limitations. It was something the Epstein-led crew had deployed aggressively in Boston.
But the new rule created bonus pools based on the top ten rounds, and led to serious penalties if you went too far over your pool. Suddenly, teams had to pick more strategically/carefully – lest they select a player who prefers not to sign (to, say, go to college or whatever else) and that corresponding bonus money is lost from your pool, making you even more at risk for penalties.
HOWEVER, teams were made aware of this rule change one year ahead of time, which made the 2011 draft (the last year under the old rule) a uniquely wild year for huge draft bonuses and one seriously crazy draft for the sort of younger players who’d otherwise go un-selected under today’s rules:
29. Joe Panik
40. Jackie Bradley Jr.
44. Michael Fulmer
68. Daniel Vogelbach
76. James McCann
82. Austin Jedges
135. Mike Clevinger
179. Greg Bird
199. Anthony DeSclafani
226. Blake Treinen
266. Tommy La Stella
Didn't sign: Jon Gray, Luke Weaver, Trea Turner, Aaron Nola
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) December 22, 2019
Crazy, right (and I missed Kyle Hendricks who was drafted in like the 8th round)?
- Well, hidden there in Round 4 is 28-year-old right-hander Mike Clevinger, selected by the Angels with the 135th overall pick. Clevinger never really became a top prospect for the Angels (highest ranking was #4 in their system after 2012), and they eventually traded him for right-hander Vinnie Pestano, who threw a grand total of … 21.1 IP for the Angels across two seasons. Clevinger, on the other hand, has become a bonafide stud. With back-to-back 4.0 WAR seasons and 2.71 ERA (2.49 FIP) in 2019, alone, you can bet the Indians won that trade about as well as anyone could hope.
- Now the Angels want him back:
"This is probably the Angels' best chance to add an ace-level pitcher right now."@jonmorosi breaks down the Halos' reported trade interest in Mike Clevinger on #MLBNHotStove. pic.twitter.com/Sy5dKRchKI
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) January 6, 2020
- According to Morosi’s related piece at MLB.com, the Angels have been searching for an arm since missing out on several “high-profile starting pitcher(s)” via free agency this offseason, so you can bet they really are shooting high for someone like Clevinger. However, the Indians reportedly asked for Jo Adell (a top 5 prospect in all of baseball) in return for Clevinger, and the Angels weren’t having it.
- But that’s not where this thread ends. While it’s notable to learn that the Angels are looking for a starting pitcher of this caliber so late into the offseason, the real interesting nugget here is the reported asking price on Clevinger. Why? Well, the Dodgers – who were just today brought back up as a potential suitor for Kris Bryant and the Cubs – have been seemingly attached to the idea of getting Francisco Lindor (an alternative to Bryant) and a starter like Clevinger in one big (BIG) deal. But if the Indians are asking for Adell in a deal for just Clevinger, there’s no way the Dodgers are going to want to give up what it’ll take to get him *and* Lindor (think Gavin Lux+++). They could do it. They won’t do it.
- Which is why the timing of that Dodgers-Bryant report is all the more interesting. Is it possible that those rumors resurfaced as part of some broader grab for leverage by the Dodgers, vis a vis the Indians? Of course. It may even be likely. But the Cubs might also be able to provide a more affordable version of a Clevinger/Lindor trade in Quintana/Bryant. Bryant carries a little less trade value than Lindor, Quintana carries a lot less than Clevinger, but it’s not impossible to imagine this sort of deal killing multiple birds for both teams. (No, the Cubs still couldn’t get Lux.)
- The Red Sox could offer a similar concept in David Price and Mookie Betts – and, indeed, have been connected to the Dodgers in this way, too – but they’ll come at a much higher financial cost (though probably less in the way of prospects). It’s all a balance. And I’m almost certain this is all a very interesting, very real web of connectivity. The Dodgers are going to do something big like this soon. We’ll have to see what shakes loose.
- Speaking of shaking loose, a couple signings going down today:
Daniel Hudson's deal with the Washington Nationals is for two years and $11 million, sources tell ESPN. He can earn another $1 million in performance bonuses related to games finished.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 6, 2020
SS Jose Iglesias has agreed to a one-year, $3 million deal with the Orioles, per source. Deal includes a 2021 club option that would make the deal worth $6 million over two years.
— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) January 6, 2020
- Strictly speaking on the big league roster, the Cubs have done less to improve than the Orioles. For what it’s worth, Iglesias was one of those middle-infield guys the Cubs probably would have loved to target to backfill for Javy Baez and even help cover second base … especially for just $3M plus a club option, but alas. The mud is quite sticky. Exhale.
- Meanwhile, the Nationals keep spending up money that perhaps had otherwise been earmarked for Josh Donaldson …
- Too bad it’s too late for the Cubs to use whatever savings they might have realized on a Bryant trade for someone like Shogo Akiyama:
— Bobby Nightengale (@nightengalejr) January 6, 2020
- To be fair, Akiyama did end up getting almost twice as much as was once expected, so it’s possible the Cubs were interested, just not at these levels (absent any financial limitations), but still … it would’ve been nice to reel him in.
- Buried in that in that report, by the way, is an indirect reminder that the Padres are still looking for an outfielder, which I bring up because they were – at one point – mentioned in rumors as perhaps targeting Kris Bryant as an outfielder. Those reports have been quiet for quite a while, but I wouldn’t say any of these are dead until there’s nothing brewing after Bryant’s grievance is settled. Never count the Padres out on a surprise trade.
- The White Sox have three catchers on the roster right now – including their big free agent acquisition, Yasmani Grandal – but that may soon move to two:
White Sox catcher James McCann will be working on his defense this week with ex catcher/manager Jerry Narron, who helped Lucroy and Maldonado with Brewers. McCann was an All-Star last year, and w/Sox acquiring Grandal/Encarnacion could be interesting trade target for many teams.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 6, 2020
- At 670 The Score, Bruce Levine reports that 2019 All-Star catcher James McCann, 29, could be dangled as a trade candidate this offseason. The White Sox, having added up and down their roster, are looking for some relief help in return and McCann could probably get something pretty decent. A month ago, I would have mentioned how this might step on the Cubs toes with respect to Willson Contreras, but those rumors have all but evaporated. Moreover, the type and quality of return the Cubs were looking for in a Contreras deal is not likely to overlap with the Sox efforts on McCann. So even if that were to buzz back up, I’m not particularly concerned about the competition. But again, I think Contreras is staying put (which, good).
- A couple of very big updates, in case you missed them earlier today:
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) January 6, 2020
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) January 6, 2020