MLBits: Kerhsaw's Legacy, Near-Retirement Players Squeezed Out in 2021? Life After Yadi, Draft What-Ifs, More

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MLBits: Kerhsaw’s Legacy, Near-Retirement Players Squeezed Out in 2021? Life After Yadi, Draft What-Ifs, More

Chicago Cubs

Yesterday was Memorial Day, but it was also the 12th anniversary of Clayton Kershaw making his Major League debut with the Dodgers, a 6.0 IP quality start with seven strikeouts and just one walk.

And that got me thinking about his legacy.

How Highly Do You Think of Kerhsaw?

Even though his peak is behind him, Kershaw has obviously cemented himself among the greatest pitchers of all-time. Among all active pitchers, his 2.44 ERA ranks first overall – and by a healthy margin over second-placer Jacob deGrom (2.62 ERA) – while his 64.5 fWAR is second only to Justin Verlander, who’s got 5 years on him.

And yet … I feel like he’s lost so much of his shine. There was a time – for a good long while, even – that Kershaw was *obviously* the best pitcher of his generation, and was on track to be one of the greatest pitchers of all-time. But now? That just doesn’t feel like his story. It’s a not a numbers thing, mind you, it’s a winning thing.

Normally, that’s my least favorite argument for any sport (especially a true team sport like baseball), but Kershaw doesn’t have a ring, and it’s fair to say that’s got more to do with him than it does other winless superstars. The southpaw has led playoff teams through October in 2009, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019, and through all that time he’s got a 4.43 playoff ERA over 158.1 IP.

Combined with (1) the late-career dominance (and winning) of Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, (2) the spotlight stealing thunder of guys like Jacob deGrom and Gerrit Cole, and (3) the injuries throughout his career … it just feels like he’s an afterthought sometimes. Unfairly or not, his story has changed. He’s still a future Hall of Famer, clearly, but it’s just so different now than it was a few years ago.

Dave Roberts and Kenley Jansen COVID Risks

When we were still just beginning to navigate the potential impacts of restarting the season amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, one of our biggest concerns was players at heightened risk of serious issues. For the Cubs, that meant former cancer patients Jon Lester and Anthony Rizzo, and for the Dodgers that meant closer Kenley Jansen and manager Dave Roberts.

Fortunately, Rizzo has since explained that his doctor did not project any special or unique concerns given his medical history, and now the same is true for Roberts (Hodgkins Lymphoma) or Jansen (heart issues): “I asked (the doctor) if I were to go back, does that put me in any different (risk) category, and he said absolutely not,” the Los Angeles Dodgers manager told Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times on Monday. “He didn’t really give me any details, and I didn’t really ask.”

Roberts continued: “From everything I’ve heard, Kenley is not at any higher risk than anyone else …. He’s a caged lion right now. He can’t get going soon enough.”

I’m obviously thrilled to hear that and hope more players/coaches with pre-existing conditions receive equally positive news from their doctors.

NOTE: Former Cubs managers Joe Maddon (66) and Dusty Baker (70) are among the oldest managers in baseball. And according to the CDC, 8 of every 10 deaths reported in the U.S. have been adults 65 years or older.

Brett Gardner’s Future in NY

The first three bits are on the Dodgers and Yankees. Yuck.

Brett Gardner, 36, is – surprisingly (to me) – the longest tenured New York Yankee, with 12 pinstriped years under his belt. But given his age and contract (team option for $10M in 2021, with a $2.5M buyout), fans are starting to wonder if this’ll be his final season in the big leagues.

He recently said he’s taking it one year at a time, but does hope to come back in 2021.

Based on his production last season (115 wRC+, 3.6 WAR) he could ultimately prove worth the cost, but I’m starting to wonder if guys like him, who might’ve otherwise had their contracts picked up, will suddenly see their careers cut short because of the revenue losses across the league. The Yankees are as loaded as anyone, but they also stand to lose the most due to the hiatus and shortened season.

Perhaps Gardner and the Yankees will be canary in the coal mine, so to speak, for these sort of deals. Remember, the Cubs have a similar, albeit pricier decision on Jon Lester, 36.

Life After Yadi?

Another guy in a similar boat is Yadier Molina, who had previously said he’d only continue beyond his current three-year, $60M deal if it were with the Cardinals, but has since changed his tune: “I previously said that if it wasn’t with St. Louis, that I would go home. If we were unable to come to an extension agreement, that I would retire. But the situation with this pandemic has changed everything. Right now, I’m thinking of playing two more years.”

If the Cardinals do move on from Molina, their #4 overall prospect, Ivan Herrera, seems to be the heir-apparent. The 19-year-old catcher out of Panama isn’t quite a top-100 type yet, but that’s not because of his bat (he put up a 136 wRC+ in A-Ball last year and stayed above average upon his promotion to High-A). Given how young he is and the position he plays, he’s got a very advanced stick. It’s the defense that’s lagging behind so far, but the Cardinals think that’ll come around soon.

Draft Rule

Before the top pick in the draft was awarded to the team with the worst record in either league, it was awarded to the team with the worst record alternating leagues each year. Had that rule not been changed when it was, the Pirates would’ve (probably) selected Ken Griffey Jr., where he would’ve started next to Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla (WOW), the Tigers would’ve gotten the opportunity to draft Chipper Jones, and the Dodgers could’ve taken Alex Rodriguez, among some other hypotheticals.

Who knows, maybe the Cubs would’ve drafted Mark Appel, instead of Kris Bryant in 2013 …

Speaking of What Could Have Been

According to former Marlins President David Samson, Red Sox owner John Henry nearly bought the Angels, not the Red Sox, back in 2002: “The first 70 percent of our negotiation was based on him buying the Angels …. So the Angels were a deal, that was going to be the swap. Sell Montreal, buy Florida. Have him sell us Florida and then buy the Angels. He could not cut a deal on price with the Angels owner. He could not come to an agreement,” Samson said.

But that’s not the juicy part. That comes next.

According to Samson, as part of the initial negotiations involving the sale of the Marlins, Henry tried to include key players in the transaction, an idea that gained momentum to the point where a list of names were being drawn up to head from Montreal to Florida and from Florida to Boston.

“John Henry would call one day and say, ‘By the way we’re taking Josh Beckett with us.’ He would call and say that is part of the deal,” Samson said. “You can’t get the Marlins unless you trade me and give me as part of the transaction Josh Beckett.’ So I would then call Bob DuPuy the president of baseball and say, ‘OK, John Henry wants Josh Beckett, let me tell you, we’re taking Vladimir Guerrero.’ We ended up having meetings where we were drafting players and doing reserve lists of our own teams that we had prior to doing this franchise swap.”

Miguel Cabrera eventually became a big part of this deal, but Commissioner Bud Selig stepped in and said “There will not be one player moved.” Wild.

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami