Positional Preview: Bullpen Locks – Vizcaino, Minter, and Freeman

It’s hard to overstate how bad the pen was last year. They were near the bottom of the league in almost every category, and with the equally poor starting rotation, they logged a lot of innings. The lack of depth meant the bullpen was taxed all year, leaving Snitker with few quality options to use in the late innings. I’ve already written up Peter Moylan earlier in Spring Training, and there are 3 more locks to begin the season in the pen.

Arodys Vizcaino

Every bullpen needs guys like Vizcaino. And on a bad team last year, he led our relievers in fWAR. Considering he’s been traded for twice by us, it seems like Vizzy has been around for a long time. In reality, he’s only 27 years old and is currently signed to a $3.4M deal. Next year, he will probably become too expensive for the Braves depending on how the relief corp shakes out this year.

Arodys can be electric, averaging a 10.18 K/9 in his career, but his issue has been staying on the field. He’s missed significant time in almost every major league season of his career, and his 57.1 IP last year was a career high. It’s hard to rely on him as your team’s closer, but if he’s healthy, he will undoubtedly begin the year as the team’s closer and stay there until if/when Minter unseats him. He could be a trade candidate by July.

A.J. Minter

This is your closer of the future, assuming health. For a reliever, he’s had a tremendous amount of hype, but his health has been the only thing that’s held him back. He had Tommy John surgery before he was drafted in 2016, and the Braves have been really careful with him. But in just 15 IP last year, he was third in the bullpen in fWAR. He struck out 15 per 9 (!!), avoided walks and homers remarkably (1.20 and 0.60 per 9 respectively), and he had not had a fluky BABIP (.387), his ERA would have been much shinier. Accordingly, FIP loved him to a 0.96 reading. Of course, that was in only 15 IP.

The Braves now say that he’s working with no restrictions. With that said, I think it would be unrealistic to expect more than 60 innings from him this year. But nonetheless, he has the potential to be singlehandedly more valuable next year than the entire bullpen was last year. The unit produced a total 1.1 fWAR, but if you include only positive contributors, Minter’s value last year extrapolated out to 60 IP would out-pace the top 3 contributors in the pen combined. Bottom line, AJ Minter could be a one-man wrecking crew compared to the guys that filled high leverage situations last year. Typically, even the best relievers may not be mentioned with a team’s most elite players, but Minter has the potential to be one of the most valuable players on this club.

Sam Freeman

Light on lefties, the Braves will almost certainly have Freeman in the pen. A nice find off waivers last year, Freeman turned in a strong year having to do some heavy lifting in the pen. Used in more high leverage situations than you might think, he pitched 60 innings, a career high, in 58 appearances. His ERA looked great (2.55), but his FIP stood strong as well at 3.34. He was able to rack up the strike outs (8.85/9), and limited homers to about a half of a gopher per 9, with his only real issue being a walk rate around 4 per 9.

With the 27th-ranked bullpen in baseball, the Braves were forced to use Freeman for full innings, if not more. But his splits show that he’s significantly more effective against lefties than righties. Lefties struggled to a .190/.262/.245 line, whereas righties hit a good bit better against him with a .233/.340/.313 clip. But with the struggles of the starters at times, the lack of depth in the bullpen forced platoon splits to be a luxury that Snitker could not capitalize on. This year, a deeper pen will increase the value of a guy like Freeman. If Vizcaino, Minter, and some of the other bullpen candidates can consistently pitch the 7th-9th inning spots, Snitker can be more free to use someone like Freeman in a role that fits him better. A deep pen could see him really flourish.

127 thoughts on “Positional Preview: Bullpen Locks – Vizcaino, Minter, and Freeman”

  1. When even Kimbrel is going see some 8th inning action this season, I’m sort of worried that:

    a) Snitker has no idea how to use Minter optimally…like, he’ll become the closer and only see action in the 9th

    b) Minter is so intent on the closer role that he won’t want to pitch earlier in the game even if AA drags Snitker into 2018 with his bullpen management

    I suppose it doesn’t matter this season anyhow.

  2. I think, by accident, Minter and Vizzy will be used properly. Vizzy has “earned” the “title” of “Closer(TM)”, so Vizzy will pitch the 9th. Minter will be brought in to face the most lefty-heavy portion of the lineup, the highest-leverage situation, etc., which is what you want your best reliever doing anyway. So while it’s based on faulty logic, in some senses, the right thing will probably end up occurring. It will be a nasty bullpen if Vizzy can pitch the 9th, Minter can pitch the 8th, Moylan is death to righties and Freeman to lefties. Out of Winkler, Ramirez, Gomez, and Brothers, they really need a 5th quality person to the pen to consistently pitch the 7th.

  3. We could take the Cardinals approach and put a lot of the highly touted rookie starter arms in the pen and ease them into their MLB workloads. That’s probably the cheapest path, and probably leads to having a good bullpen. So…basically there’s no way we’re doing that.

  4. I think we’ve been told that’s pretty much exactly what will happen with Soroka/Allard/Wright. I get the impression the days of handing rotation spots without MLB experience are going to dwindle to only the most elite prospects.

  5. You could make an argument that this could be the first time Wisler actually has earned a spot on the roster, and time spent struggling while on the roster undeservedly is why he won’t be on the roster now. A similar argument can be made for Blair. It is encouraging that Wisler has gotten the most innings so far in the young spring.

  6. MLB.com; Richard Justice

    10 spring performances to get excited about

    2. Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers (.313 BA, 3 HR, 1.228 OPS, 16 AB)
    Wait, what? Wasn’t Kemp’s return a bookkeeping part of a complicated salary-dump trade with the Braves? Well, maybe not. He singled and homered in his first two spring at-bats, has been getting warm ovations and seems to be handily winning the Dodgers’ left-field job.

    3. Ronald Acuna Jr., OF, Braves (.435 BA, 1 HR, 2 SB, 1.084 OPS, 23 AB)
    It’s one thing to read the scouting reports that predict a 20-year-old is going to lead the Braves’ rebirth. It’s another thing for every fan, teammate and coach to actually see it. This spring, they’ve seen it. Acuna may start the season in the Minors, but he’s unlikely to be there long.

  7. Obviously it’s hard to get in the minds of athletes, but I think it’s pretty fair to say that Kemp is a headcase. The fact that he’s on a tear right now, in a quest to Silence His Critics, and you literally don’t know if he’ll be 30 pounds heavier by July and unproductive. I know at the beginning of Spring Training, there was talk that the Dodgers were trying to rehab his value and trade him. It’ll be interesting to see what happens since he’s kind of a ticking time bomb.

  8. No. That’s not right. I can pretty much guarantee you Kemp will be 30 pounds heavier by July, with failing productivity. It’s a function of age and bad knees. When he can control his daily regimen and not run hard every day (i.e. “play baseball”) his joints hold up, and he maintains his fitness goals. When he moves into a period where he’s not highly regimented in his workout and fitness process (i.e. “the baseball season”, “hotel life on the road” and “running hard on the bases and in the OF inflaming his already half dead joints”) his goals start to slip, he starts to put on weight, and his performance in the batter’s box declines.

    It has little to do with his “head case,” or his “will to compete” or any other pseudo-psycho babble diagnosis from the internet. It has to do with his body’s ability to stand up to the daily grind of playing baseball 162 games over the course of six months.

  9. Source? Because he confessed in his Players’ Tribune letter that he didn’t always give max effort. That is the only verifiable thing that I know about his workout regimen and health other than what his results look like.

  10. Both things are probably true, and they both reinforce each other. He gets a little dinged up, it’s an excuse to be lazy, compounding the problem. Or he takes it easy sometimes, and not being in good shape means he’s more likely to get hurt.

  11. There was that one play last year, later in the season, when it was vividly clear that both he and the Braves sucked, that Kemp laid out for a ball in the late innings and saved the game with an amazing catch. So it’s not entirely clear to me that he is phoning it in. Maybe sometimes, but not that time.

  12. Rob at 15,

    REALLY??? It is widely reported that Kemp has a degenerative state in one hip and both knees. When you seem him walk around the on deck circle you can tell. Do you not know this?

    For somebody like him, he can keep the weight off by reducing the calories, but that doesn’t work well with the need for strength. You can also “aquacize” to get your aerobics. Those types of things don’t hold together through a regular season.

    A player always SHOULD look to find what he can fix. He SHOULD NOT dog it out about how he did everything he could. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t impacted by significantly limiting health conditions.

  13. I concur with Adam R @17. Anecdotal evidence suggests Matt Kemp isn’t the most dedicated of fitness freaks. Anecdotal evidence also suggests Matt Kemp has a known medical history of degenerative joint problems, particularly in his legs. Both likely contribute, in a negative feedback loop, to his tendency toward starting the season “in shape” and “good” and then trailing off towards “out of shape” and “bad.”

  14. @17, @20

    I’m good with both of these factors. It doesn’t change the fact that he most likely has a little bit of laziness in him. It isn’t the only factor. But if he just had bad knees and a bad hip, he’d be a better baseball player, and he bears criticism for that. You can’t control your limitations, but you can control, as Sam said, a negative feedback loop that you exacerbate. There’s literally one baseball player who has played for the Braves that I’ve called lazy, and I’m pretty good with the one player I’ve picked. With that said, I have also wondered if Bartolo’s conditioning could have allowed him to finish his one last season (it seems) in the big leagues competitively, but he’s also very old, so I’m not sold on that.

    Another important anecdotal point is how seriously Kemp takes his defense, or the lack thereof. His reads are simply awful, and that’s not influenced by injury. He laughs about it. He’s good with it. He thinks it’s funny when he dives or slides poorly and misses it. That’s not injury. That’s refusing to put in the work to be a better outfielder. Maybe it’s influenced by him prioritizing how he uses his degenerative knees and hip, but there are plenty of drills you can do that don’t require lots of activity to make better reads on fly balls. Shoot, take one step during BP just to work on reads off the bat. The guy’s just not to be bothered.

  15. @18, I didn’t read this before I posted the second paragraph of my last post, but I’m almost inclined to think that when it’s significant that a player dives for a ball, that should tell you something about the rest of his defensive pursuits. Don’t get me wrong; it’s mostly a fool’s errand to question professional athletes’ overall effort levels, and a lot of dumb fans do this, but Kemp’s efforts relative to the rest of the league’s is certainly worthy of skepticism.

  16. Matt Kemp
    storied temp

    I never saw a lack of effort, rather the opposite, where it would hurt to watch. The Pittsburgh catch in the first week epitomized that and it cost him dear.

    sine qua non
    we are a better team with him gone
    though to the romantic
    that can smack of the pedantic.

  17. We will be a .500 team this year.

    A single trade early in the off season which you likely overlooked explains this positive state of affairs.

    It was our abysmal record against the Phillies that killed us in 2017. Until the last weeks of the season we couldn’t lay a finger on them. This year that will all change, San Diego having ventured out and fighting off a host of admirers, paid dearly for the crown jewel in the Philly line up.

    I refer of course to the guy in we could never handle over those 19 games, Freddie Galvis. Or, as Sam endearingly called him, Freddie Effing Galvis. You can smell the anger in that appellation, Sam knew.

    So, relax. It’s done, .500 it is. The Padres will be a lot tougher though.

  18. Imagine Freddie Galvis and Sean Rodriguez on the same team. It wouldn’t be fair. The commish would probably prevent it.

  19. @23, So when Ender dives for a ball, as he does with some frequency, that’s a sign he takes crappy routes and doesn’t work on that part of his game? I guess when a player dives for a ball you can draw a lot of different conclusions, one of which to me is that they’re willing to risk injury to help their team win.

  20. Odubel Herrera had our number pretty good too. He hit .377/.406/.803 with 5 of his 14 HR against us. He had a .672 OPS close & late, and had 2 walk-offs against us if I remember correctly. You’re right though, blazon, that we have to take care of business against the weaker teams. NL WC winners have gotten in with as little as 87 wins these past 2 years.

  21. @23

    I think Ender and Kemp are in different situations. See, this is the problem with questioning any player’s effort. It’s totally anecdotal as there’s no evidence to back it up, though he’s already admitted it anyway. It’s just a gut feeling that I’m confident a lot of Braves fans share. So when there are examples of him giving max effort, this is the inevitable argument. I don’t think any player gets any additional credit for doing anything considered max effort on the baseball field like diving, sliding, barreling a catcher, etc. It’s your job. But when it doesn’t happen all the time, and there are all of the other things that pop up with Kemp’s personality (DOB said you’d get punched if you asked him about his weight, for instance), then I think it’s more noteworthy that a single occurrence of him diving is an argument. You don’t have to make that argument for anyone else, and that itself is significant.

  22. Today

    the debut of Schimpf
    let’s hope we get more than a glimpf
    hitting at 8
    it could be a question, too little too late.

  23. But if he just had bad knees and a bad hip, he’d be a better baseball player, and he bears criticism for that.

    Tell that to Joey Belle’s career.

    Another important anecdotal point is how seriously Kemp takes his defense, or the lack thereof. His reads are simply awful, and that’s not influenced by injury. He laughs about it. He’s good with it. He thinks it’s funny when he dives or slides poorly and misses it. That’s not injury. That’s refusing to put in the work to be a better outfielder.

    Why do we assume that defensive instinct and talent is something that can be fixed if the player would just put in more reps and try harder, but accept that controlling the strike zone and working walks to increase OBP’s is an inherit talent that can’t really be taught?

  24. @31

    That’s one example, which once again also tends to act to prove the point, and we heard a lot about Belle’s issues during his career. I think if Kemp’s health was truly the issue for why he struggled so much defensively, I think everyone would be dying to shout that out. And while Coppy doesn’t bat 1.000 on public comments, the fact that he chose to call out Kemp on his weight tells me something too. Once again, purely anecdotal, but you have a lot of stuff that puts to Kemp’s performance suffering because he has a conditioning issue not completely contributed to his injuries.

  25. @34

    Chief, only you, lovely.

    Please don’t use the Jr. appendage for our hero- it’s a growing fad fueled no doubt by Latino fathers ill at ease with their progeny’s new stardom and also anxious to get a fat finger into the pie. Neymar being the prime example.

    How’s your new league going?

  26. @blazon,

    It isn’t like you to ignore poetry when it’s staring you in the face.

    Our savior Acuña
    Shall no longer answer to “Junya”
    Unlike treacherous Neymar,
    whose back boasts a JR.

  27. @35 – regardless of how bad you feel about what the Braves are doing and how they’re doing it, that article reeks of Jon Heyman’s Yankees bias.

  28. @38

    8 out of 10 for that, great stuff. More please.

    @37
    I can see trouble ahead by simply answering this one. Only in passing, it’s a train stop on the line north to Scotland. Famed for its Rugby League teams and George Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier.

    Industrial, gritty, blue collar.

    OK, I’ll fall for it, why?

    @35 Flowers

  29. 35 — Has to be Freeman. Someone wrote a column I think at the AJC that said when he signed his long term deal that he wasn’t expecting to have to go through a rebuild.

  30. One has to wonder how much longer that Mike Soroka will be in the minor leagues. Many scouts and projection systems think he would already be one of our best starters.

    It would not surprise me at all to see him come up in May or so like Medlen and Hanson did in 2009.

  31. Freeman is on the record as happy with where the team is, so it would be odd for him to also be critical as an anonymous source.

    I would guess Teheran or Flowers, but it’s probably a player of even less stature.

  32. @47

    Chief.

    This changes everything. I shall have to reassess!

    Wigan Athletic, a few years ago they were in the Premier League, got the relegation blues. In the town Rugby League was always Number one over soccer.

  33. from a source in the FO late this afternoon.

    Winkle, Winkle little star
    we wonder just how lost you are
    Maximilian you’re excused
    mere piling on would be just rude.

  34. @35 My guess is Markakis.

    I hope we don’t see much of Kazmir this year. What’s the point? Bring up the young guns.

  35. @56

    That’s a home town discount though. He wouldn’t have come here for that.

    But I also think we wouldn’t have even called him.

    In other news, the team made $124 million last year! That allowed us to sign 64 year old Peter Moylan!

    Blooper is geeeeeeeked!!!!!!!!!

  36. Moustakas *did* reject a Qualifying Offer from the Royals ($17.4M) so not only does that mean that he made a bad bet on his prospects in free agency, it also means any team that signed him (aside from the Royals) would lose a draft pick. The rules on what pick the acquiring team would lose are somewhat complex, the Braves would have lost their 2nd or 3rd highest pick (would be 3rd pick if the Braves receive revenue sharing money; I’m not sure of the answer on that).

    PS – For what it’s worth, Moustakas’ contract contains $2.2M in incentives that will max out when he reaches 450 PAs, so assuming decent health he’ll make $8.7M this year (which happens to be the same he made last season).

  37. My uncle told me once about when he started to play poker with his friends. For whatever reason, he discovered he had a mind for odds and for the game and found that he was able to win much more often than the others. He stopped playing pretty quickly after that, and he hasn’t regretted it. “Winning at poker,” he said, “is a good way to lose at friends.”

    That bit of wisdom comes to mind every time I read about this off-season’s free agents.

  38. @60–agree that losing the draft pick was probably determinative for the Braves. Given that they will have essentially no international signings for the next couple of years, the US draft is even more critical to the Braves than to other franchises.

    Having said that, the 2018 Braves would almost certainly be better with Moustakis at 3B than whoever ends up there among Camargo/Ruiz/Schimpf. Just one more example of how the FO is focused more on 2019 and beyond than 2018.

    (FWIW, though, I’d be leery of signing Moose long term. His career OBP of barely over .300 is not something I’d pay a lot for.)

  39. A nice brief exchange in this morning’s Guardian comments that condenses both sides POV in the analytics debate…

    BBambi
    15m ago
    0 1

    I feel genuinely sad for people who have to supplement their enjoyment of football by resorting to statistics. I guess some people just trust numbers more than the evidence, either way, of their own eyes.
    Reply Share
    Facebook
    Twitter
    Report

    saltee BBambi
    7m ago

    0 1

    Probably because actual measurements of a particular attribute are more accurate than simply relying on your impression/ recollection. Using it to supplement/ validate your impression from watching the game only makes any analysis stronger.

  40. @61 That poker story also appears very applicable with respect to the Braves and their arb hearing with Folty.

    @62 Moustakas – despite still being on the right side of 30 – is a very slow, bad-body dude who previously had been a plus defender but appears not to be any longer. He doesn’t walk much, and hits a lot of popups and grounders into the shift so his BABIP (career .265) is poor. He’s got good power, and doesn’t strike out much for a guy with pop, but his contact skill eroded some last year too. Basically, you’re looking at a guy who might put up a .500 SLG but might also put up a .300 OBP, and he may need to DH in order to keep his legs as the season goes on. Frankly, Moose is a good fit back in the AL- he shares a lot of the same flaws that caused the Braves to fall out of love with Matt Kemp.

    Bottom line for me is that *if* the Braves were in a position to contend this year already, Moose would have been a great fit on a short contract (say, 2/$30M with some option years). As it is, 3B is looking like a real weak spot for the team until Camargo shows us he’s for real, or Ruiz and/or Riley steps up.

  41. I’m not sure the owners and players are friends playing poker anyway. And Folty/Braves is a good example. The Braves were playing poker against a player with whom they’re perhaps not particularly fond, so to use the analogy, they wanted to keep beating the player until they left the table. Or at the very least, take that player down a peg or two.

    I just think this is another chapter in the decades-long clash between players and owners. There was a point where the owners had the upper hand, then free agency gave the players an upper hand for a period, then you have the collusion in the 80’s, the strike in the 90’s, and then mega contracts rapidly escalating during the 00’s and 10’s that saw players making a quarter of a billion dollars on deals with $30, 40, 50M in “negative equity” baked into it from day one. It wasn’t hard to see that the owners would eventually tire of significant chunks of their player payroll being allocated to players who provide no value. Teams now have to trade dead weight for dead weight that appear largely to stay within the rules and arouse their accounting departments. This is the owner’s opportunity to turn the market in the other direction, and I don’t think they have any plans of stopping. I wouldn’t be surprised if Arrieta doesn’t sign until June 1st. And if the players don’t like it, write a new CBA when you can. No one was feeling sorry for the owners when A-Rod for $252M, and no one should feel sorry for the players when an Ian Desmond or a Mike Moustakas gets less than he wants, especially after having a bigger number on the table previously.

    I don’t think anyone should have their feelings hurt. It’s just business.

  42. If Tony Clark is “hurt” in an emotional sense that every player is not maximizing their earnings potentials, then he’s not going to be very good at his job. I can definitely see Moose being jaded and hurt about the process he was just in, and I can appreciate that to an extent, but only because he’s a ballplayer, not a businessman. He signed up to earn as much money he can playing a game he loves for a relatively short window of his life, and he may not enjoy the process of 30 teams telling him they don’t want him. The ED of the MLBPA has to weather the storms the same way you enjoy the fruits when Bryce Harper signs the first $300M+ deal. Remember, this is the same offseason where Darvish got $126M and Lorenzo Cain got $80M with a partial no trade.

    Moose is the same as Ian Desmond’s situation. You gambled, you lost, and now you have to own it. If Moose took the QO at the beginning of the season, no one would have talked about it. Why do we empathize now?

  43. I guess not making signings like this hinge on whether you believe that the Braves will be players in next year’s FA market. I for one, do not. So when they don’t seem interested in a guy that hit 38 HRs last year (I know all the rest, etc…) it just doesn’t sit well with me.

  44. @66

    We had been talking about that ability to score when he gets on first…44% of the time. Acuna parallel? No we agreed. Not as fast, much more precious. Sam took a particularly conservative approach as to when we should send him.

    But, like your guy said, Billy continues to fascinate. He also has a great goofy face. Would there were more.

  45. There was a young lawyer named cliff
    who corrected with nary a sniff
    that actionable word
    which had not occurred
    to blazon who sometimes will whiff.

    hey cliff. you can imagine my tormented sleep since then!

    But, seriously. Public figures/Semi public figures? Gohara and Albies? Known to one hundredth of one per cent, maybe?

    In any case i must thank you for taking the the time to answer so clearly the issue at hand.

    Do you do speeding tickets?

  46. I’m fine with being aggressive on base running. I just don’t want to waste outs trying to steal. Stolen bases have to be north of 80% success to break even. There’s just little to no value in that 90 feet between first and second. All that would do is put a fast player in position to score on a single, but the game is very quickly and efficiently eliminating singles hitting from existence.

  47. @69, It’s not about the feelings of any individual player whose agent misread the market so much as it is about the sudden removal of a mechanism by which players felt like they had a chance to get a decent piece of an extremely lucrative pie, basically across the board. From a practical standpoint, the league owners are shooting themselves in the foot by shutting down the kind of futures young players expect they’ll have a fair shot at attaining in order to play a collective stupid, short-term game of “nah, I’ll wait for the price to go down.

  48. @73 understood Sam.

    per MLBTV…Cargo resign 1 year 8M…wouldn’t we have wanted a piece of that, or is the car park full?

    also…Soroka/Allard plus 6 others assigned to Minors. Guess the 6, they didn’t say!

  49. It is understandable for MLB management generally (if not collusively) to decide that paying large salaries to players on the downhill side of their careers doesn’t make sense. Especially since players in the pre-free agent years are so relatively cheap.
    But that is the problem. Owners get the benefit of artificially low salaries in the players’ first few years. They certainly do not want to let the free market determine salaries for young players who cannot negotiate with other teams.

  50. @80 You hit the nail on the head. They got undervalued systemically then and now they’re getting undervalued now. My only problem with siding with the players is that they agreed to it. They were worried about off-days and nutritionists in the last CBA, and they didn’t seek to change the structure of the early portion of a player’s career. Everybody was getting fat — financially and sometimes physically — on the downslope of their careers, and no one was worried. Now the owners have the benefit of a signed CBA, and they’ve punched them back. Because most are fairly understanding of the owners’ current position, it shouldn’t have been that hard to see that leverage was shifting, no?

    At the end of the day, though, the player can circumvent the system when they’re valuable now and later. They can take a team-friendly, guaranteed deal in the beginning, thus mitigating some risk on both parties’ part and guaranteeing you have a deal all the way to free agency, then you can still sign a mega-deal at 27-29 that takes you all the way to age 34-36. And whaddaya know, if you’re still a valuable player, they’ll still pay you what you’re worth into your 40’s. The only people realistically being hurt by this are players whose profile lends a high degree of probability that they won’t age well. So, sorry Moustakas, should have taken the $17.4M when most teams thought your launch angle and BABIP were TGTBT. But where Moustakas would have been happy with with a, say, 4YR/$70M deal, he could just keep taking the QO year after year and make more money. Oh, he doesn’t want to do that? Why not? Because he might break down? Gee, that sounds a lot what the other side is saying.

    This article suggests that each team has am average of about $25M or so in dead salary weight on their roster. If the players are so mad with how they’re being treated, maybe they should all get together and share that extra $750M not being earned.

  51. At the end of the day, though, the player can circumvent the system when they’re valuable now and later. They can take a team-friendly, guaranteed deal in the beginning, thus mitigating some risk on both parties’ part and guaranteeing you have a deal all the way to free agency,

    …that’s still not paying you market value, you conveniently omit, because the team has all the leverage.

    then you can still sign a mega-deal at 27-29 that takes you all the way to age 34-36

    Yeah, if you’re a mega-player. What if you’re league average? You may not be offered a deal buying out your arb years. You get short-changed, based on what the free market will pay, in your pre-arb years, then when arb rolls around in today’s market, you may even find yourself non-tendered so that your former team can underpay some other league average pre-arb player.

    Whatever other team that picks you up at this point is practically guaranteed not to pay you what a win is worth on the FA market.

    The only people realistically being hurt by this are players whose profile lends a high degree of probability that they won’t age well.

    This is a lot of guys! There are plenty of Kelly Johnsons out there, who were WAY underpaid relative to their worth pre-FA and couldn’t maintain it for whatever reason. The way things were before this offseason was not great for guys like him. Or guys who were all set to age well but just happened to get injured at the wrong time. Career-altering injuries happen regardless of “profile.” MLBPA hasn’t been looking out for these guys either.

    This article suggests that each team has an average of about $25M or so in dead salary weight on their roster. If the players are so mad with how they’re being treated, maybe they should all get together and share that extra $750M not being earned.

    Or maybe the owners, who are reaping an increasingly large share of the increasingly large profits, could get together and share that?

    I get that Tony Clark was asleep at the wheel, a CBA has been signed, etc. But let’s not obfuscate with this “sometimes the owners have the upper hand, sometimes the players have the upper hand” nonsense. It’s always been to what extent have the owners been winning.

  52. Bowman says Newcomb has pretty much locked up his rotation spot and that Kazmir and Wisler are the top 2 candidates for the 5th spot.

  53. I’m all for Kazmir winning the 5th starter spot. It won’t hurt to keep Wisler in AAA to see if his resurgence is real. If Kazmir starts and has some decent games ww may be able to get some value from him in a trade. Obviously we’ll have to eat a lot of his salary, but we basically get nothing for him if he doesn’t start.

  54. Wisler still doesn’t have a starter’s repertoire, either.

    Since they don’t need a 5th starter for awhile they will probably put Kazmir in the ‘pen and send Wisler to Gwinnett and take an extra position player north.

  55. I asked the other day because Kazmir looks to me like a guy who’s likelier than not to go Bartolo on us right now.

  56. My Opening day roster prediction:

    Lineup: CF Inciarte, 2b Albies, 1b Freeman, C Flowers/Suzuki, RF Markakis, LF Tucker/Adams, 3b Camargo, SS Swanson

    Bench: C Flowers/Suzuki, OF Tucker/Adams, UT Culberson, UT Santana, CIF/LF Ruiz

    Rotation: Teheran, Folty, McCarthy, Newcomb

    Bullpen: Viz, Minter, Freeman, Ramirez, Moylan, Winkler, Gomez, Kazmir

  57. If Stewart will take a minor league contract we may keep him as the extra bench bat until we need a 5th starter.

  58. Schimpf continues his torrid spring with 2 more strike outs. He is now 0 for 19 with 2 walks. He’s not exactly playing his way onto the team.

  59. Last year’s bullpen on Opening Day: Collmenter, JJ, Krol, EOF, Ramirez, Roe, and Vizzy. We may not have the most talented group of 7 relievers to start 2018, but we will still be ahead of last year. There was talk of EOF being on the major league roster for exactly the amount of time necessary to receive retirement benefits, and that may or may not be true, but EOF must have been there for some sort of veteran support. Collmenter and Roe had only 19 and 20 innings of good work, respectively, in the previous season to justify their spots on the roster, and we all know what ended up happening with JJ.

    And what a game today for Acuna. HBP and a stolen base in the first at bat, 9 pitch walk and scored from first on a contested flyball with one out (meaning he wasn’t running on contact) in his second at bat, single in the third at bat, then a double with a stolen third base in his fourth at bat. He sits with a 1.095 OPS right now. I’m sure there will be fans who will be mad that Acuna is being left down, but the easy response is the Cubs, who won 95 games that year, held Bryant down, and that clearly established a precedent that any team, good or bad, can hold anybody down. I tell ya what, though, for all the people that say that intangibles don’t matter, you’d have a hard time convincing me that these players don’t walk into Spring Training with a huge chip on their shoulder when there’s talk of pushing back their clock. In 44 Spring Training PAs in 2015, Kris Bryant hit .425/.477/1.175, a 1.652 OPS with 9 HRs. You’re going to tell me uber competitive people like Bryant and Acuna don’t want to show up the suits?

  60. We should hire whoever was Bryant’s hitting coach at Iowa. He took a player who was not good enough for a major league roster, and in just 3 weeks coached him up to a major league clean up hitter.

  61. @99 I’m almost positive the Braves’ current AAA hitting coach is going to manage a very similar trick with Acuna this season!

  62. @ 97/8/9

    the hitting coach
    do you think we should broach
    the subject of who teaches who?
    materiel like that, i could coach, you too.

  63. Does anyone know why Jaff Decker is getting so many opportunities this spring? Looking at his stats, a .174 batting average over 5 years and almost 200 mlb plate appearances with 1 HR is not a small sample size. As a 28 year old it looks like he should be looking for another line of work.

  64. Wisler

    ‘You’re giving them the same old prime
    We’re wondering why
    You pitch them then
    Same pitch again
    No!No!No! not a second time!’

  65. @101

    Maybe they’re mixing him up with another Decker who used to be our back up catcher a couple of years back. He could hit a bit.

  66. If things continue the way they are, there could see the controversial scenario where some guys play their way on and off the roster. If Adams continues to struggle, and Peterson has found his power and stroke, things could get interesting in the last couple weeks of Spring Training.

  67. Now Bowman says Kazmir is probably going to get the 4th spot with Newcomb getting sent down until we need a 5th starter.

  68. @107 I really don’t have a problem with Kazmir in the rotation. We’d be pretty stupid to not let Kazmir and McCarthy start regularly to rehab their value. The Dodgers are both contending and can spend big, and they’re trying to get value out of Kemp, so we should be no different since we’ve chosen to not contend and we don’t seem to have much money. They’ve made their bed, and they need to have Kazmir and McCarthy pitch until 1) someone is good enough to replace them and 2) someone will assume a portion of their salaries. Thanks Hector Olivera!

  69. I think the Hector Olivera trade is part of a bigger picture. The real culprit is trading Brett Butler and others for Len Barker in the 80s. This set off a chain of events that led to both trading for Olivera and getting rid of Andrelton.

  70. I’m fine with Newcomb staying in the minors. I don’t think he’s ever going to amount to anything. He can’t throw enough strikes. He walked almost 5 guys per nine innings through his minor league career, and last year he walked even more in MLB (5.1/9).

  71. *Slowly flips over rotating chalkboard to reveal a web of connections linking Olivera to Coppy to Kevin Marian to Yunel Escobar to Bobby Cox to Keith Lockhart to The Pictures to The Term Sheet to Ned Colleti*

  72. When i hear that name again i think of Freddy and his special trip to Cuba. Chat, one on one, an on the spot character assessment.

    Dear me, what happened?

    said Freddy G
    come with me
    i know where there’s a pimpmobile for sale
    or it will be by the time you’ve brushed its tail.

  73. td,
    It actually goes back to trading Darrell Evans in the 70’s. We were still under the reserve clause then and basically threw him away.

  74. Maybe, but the only thing we won in the 70s was a 3rd place in the division trophy, which came with a free soda of your choice for all the players. After 1 successful season in the 80s we had visions of grandeur.

  75. the hamate bone
    before you come will you please phone
    it’s connected to every part of your body
    5 year rehab, my work can be a little shoddy.

    the human wrist
    an exemplar of what might have been missed
    according to DPete
    originally the pain was in one or the other of his feet.

  76. Probably didn’t want to pay Evans an extra $ 30,000 per season. In that same time frame Dusty Baker and Earl Williams were also traded. Several young guys that came up around the same time and could have been part of a core group.

  77. ***REMINDER THAT THE BJ FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT IS THIS SATURDAY PM at 5:00 MST***.

    I think that’s 8:00 PM for you Eastern time zone folks.

    Please make every effort to attend the draft. You can join the draft by going to the league page.

  78. Tampering with Tom Seaver got Coppy banned from baseball, but John Hart still has visitation rights to his children!

  79. @112, 114, 116, 120, and 124 are clearly onto something, but I’m afraid you’ve only scratched the surface of this deep and enduring conspiracy. It goes back at least to the franchise–which was the league’s best in the late 1890’s–letting go of Hall of Famers Hugh Duffy, Tommy McCarthy, and Slidin Billy Hamilton.

  80. The same could hold true for manager Brian Snitker, whom Markakis raved about to O’Brien. According to O’Brien, now-former Braves president John Hart berated Snitker in the manager’s office after a loss last August.

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