This week’s MLBRT sees the four compañeros dish on who replaces the irreplaceable… Derek Jeter… the Collective Bargaining Agreement, free agency and then touches on some amateur ball talk…
1) On December 1, 2016 the agreement between MLB and MLBPA comes to an end. Do you foresee any problems with a new collective agreement being negotiated? Are there bluebirds of happiness and sunshine, or, vultures and storm clouds on the horizons in any upcoming negotiations of a new five year labor agreement between the players and MLB?
Archie: I personally do not foresee any major issues that will stall negotiations and/or delay the start of the 2015 season. It seems that they got most issues ironed out pretty well the last time.
Joe: In my opinion, there should be no big road blocks… outside of dickering around with how certain drug testing policies might be conducted; what types of penalties will be assessed for policy violators and the fact that the MLBPA has said they want input on what will be implemented by MLB to speed up the play of the game.
With Tony Clark, new head of the union , and, Rob Manfred, new head of MLB, aka owner’s representative, I expect neither to make any grandstand plays. But, you just never know once negotiations get going and what might be brewing behind the scenes. Still, with what I see right now, I think a new five year agreement will be hammered out in relatively serene and peaceful negotiations.
Sandy: Of course there will be some problems, they never seem to be on the same page. Some of the issues will be solved early on, but others, not so much. The main one I could think of would be the drug testing and punishment issue, even though they did revise the Drug policy in March of this year. Who knows what will happen in the next 2 years.
In the end they will get a new CBA done.
Steve: This will not be a picnic, nor Breakfast and Tiffany’s, but, I don’t see there being a whole heap of controversy either. I think there will be some news to it, but with a new Commissioner at the helm, he will not allow a long drawn out affair. Something will get done in a timely manner, and both sides will argue their cases, but will result in a swift resolution. FINGERS CROSSED.
2) As it stands now, students returning home after completing their freshman year in college are eligible to play American Legion Baseball. But, in 2015 American Legion Baseball will become a junior-high and high-school age program only. Good, bad or indifferent?
Archie: There has to be a breakaway point for athletes. I mean this up again down again eligibility just sucks. I think it is a good move.
Joe: Actually, I never realized American Legion ball allowed a college athlete to play Legion ball… regardless of saying that, I think the decision not to let college level athletes participate in American Legion ball is a good one. Legion ball should be limited to junior-high and high school kids only. College ball takes everything to the next level that most, if not all, youth ball doesn’t or can’t… especially the training and strength conditioning aspects of the game. And that is, simply because, I think, most college programs have access to facilities and personnel that most Legion ball athletes don’t. Therefore, I think, that any college player is just that much better and stronger than most junior and high school kids and therefore constitutes and unfair advantage both in competition between the various Legion teams and the kids trying out for a position on any team.
Sandy: I think once you’re in college that should be your focus. Let the program be just for high school players.
Steve: A THOUSAND TIMES GOOD!!!! Now keep in mind, I am biased to this question because when I spent six months getting a scholarship to Wichita State University’s Baseball team. I played one season at Wichita before coming home and playing American Junior Baseball. I slid into home plate right on the catcher’s shin guards and tore my ACL; effectively ending my baseball career, and my scholarship to WSU. Most schools tell the players NOT to participate in competitive baseball outside of the university. Most of them do not listen. The percentage is low for the players that do get injured like it happened to myself, but it is not worth the risk. Colleges and Universities have great after season programs that are monitored by coaches to keep you in tip top baseball shape. For all you college kids out there…LISTEN TO YOUR COACHES.
3) Out of the free agent listings (about 90 plus position players and 90 plus pitchers as of 10/23) in the upcoming offseason less than 10 are under 29 years of age, and, only about another 10, or so, are 29… in other words most free agents are 30 or older and a majority are closer to 33 and up. That being the case, why would a GM, in his right mind, offer most free agents more than a 3 year contract?
Archie: Funny you should bring this up. When I was looking at the FAs on the market this year to finish my answer on the last RT about being “manager for a day” I did not see hardly anyone that tripped my excitement level for chasing a FA. Nelson Cruz, maybe. But, there was no one I would offer more than a 3 year contract.
Joe: Outside of a select few players giving any free agent anything longer than 3 years is sort of insane… as players get older their skills deteriorate faster and they are more prone to injury.
Ask a team like the Yankees how long term contracts work out… right now they need to rearm and retool but face handicaps at pitching, CC Sabathia, who will be 35 in 2015 and may be way past his prime due to injuries, with 2 years left on a 5 year deal; first base, Mark Teixeira, who, also, will be 35 in 2015 with 2 years left on an 8 year deal; third base, Alex Rodriguez, who will be 40 in 2015 (everyone knows his story) with 3 years left on a 10 year deal; and, outfield with Jacoby Ellsbury, 31 in 2015, with 6 years left on his deal, and, Carlos Beltran, 37 in 2015, with 2 years left on his deal.
All of these contracts “prevents” them from simply just going out and allowing a young player to take over any one of those positions… through free agency or the ranks… simply because even the Yanks can’t just cut any of the players at any one of those positions; eat the money on the deals, and, then add extra millions of dollars to get younger and better.
Stephan: That would depend on the player and the history of injuries and so forth. If you are over 30 and have never been injured, and have a solid work ethic, then why not give them a just contract for 5 plus years. Same goes for a player who may be 28 years old and seems to have injuries virtually every season. Do I want to take a risk on a habitually injury prone player, or someone who can be consistently in my lineup? I’ll take the latter.
4) Every year it seems a player who is “undeserving” makes the All-Star team while another “deserving” player who has stats that blow away the competition seems not to make the All-Star team… what can be done to fix this problem? Or, is it a problem?
Archie: Depends on how you look at it as a problem. This will continue to happen as long as the fans vote in the starters. It is more of a popularity contest than an actual reward for performance or success. The fact they open the polls so early does not help as well.
Joe: All-star voting should be based on votes from the players, coaches and managers and BBWAA. Not perfect, but, it takes away the abhorrent popularity contests and ballot box stuffing that the fans now perform every year. Plus, let’s be honest the majority of fans go with names that are on the ballot and that are highly recognizable and some young upcoming player or rookie can be, and usually is, ignored that deserves a starting position on the All-Star team. The aforementioned voters would be more likely to not ignore these “unknown” players simply because they are involved with the players as a part of their every day jobs.
Sandy: The fix is by not calling it an “All-Star” game. Call it a mid-season classic and do not attach the home field advantage in the WS. Not every good player will be selected because you have fans voting for their favorite players, so, just make it a fun game.
Steve: Simple solution, leave the votes up to the players and managers. I understand that this is a fans style game, but let’s face it, the All Star Game means something now, and not having your best option on the field for this game does not do your contending teams any favors. That being said, I do like the idea that every team needs to be represented in the ASG. If you leave it to the players, coaches, managers, front office guys. You will get the best lineup on the field. Let the fans vote for the “final spot” for each league. It still gets us involved and keeps the integrity of the ASG alive (well what is left of it)
5) Who replaces Derek Jeter at short for the Yankees?
Archie: We know the Yankees and their deep pockets. I look for them to make a move to trade for a big name.
My first thought is they will go after Hanley Ramirez. IF, they do not get Ramirez and have to settle for an average player to begin the season then look for them to make a mid-season trade prior to the trade deadline. IF, they make the pot right, I can see where they steal Ian Desmond from the Nationals. It MIGHT not happen early since the Nationals did win the NL East last year and Desmond was a huge part of that, but, he only has 1 year left on his contract and will be a FA in 2016. IF, we reach the All Star break and the Nats and not doing well, look for a mid-season trade sending Desmond to the Yankees; that is, IF, they do not get Hanley in the offseason.
Joe: A freaking book could be written on this subject as it stands right now… to save time and space, I will present some names, a snapshot description and my opinion of their chances of being in pinstrips come opening day 2015…
FYI… J. J. Hardy is off the board as he has already signed a three-year, $40-million extension with Baltimore.
Hanley Ramirez is the biggest name out there right now… some people think he might not be a true shortstop anymore and his skills would be more adaptable to third or second. Be that as it may, he would be a big offensive upgrade at the position but does tend to have injury problems and the price tag would be enormous. I give him no more than a 50/50 chance.
Asdrubal Cabrera has been playing second base since a trade to Washington from Cleveland, where he was thestarter the six-plus seasons. His range isn’t the greatest (but neither was Jeter’s) and his bat is average but is only 28. For the right price and contract length (2 or 3 years) he could be a decent signing… 65% chance.
Troy Tulowitzki wants to be a Yankee but is owed at least $119 million through 2021. He is often hurt, but can be a big time bat when healthy. Yanks probably don’t have the pieces to get him in a trade, and, even if they did, not sure they would take on the contract and the injury risks… 25% chance.
Ben Zobrist… a super utility guy could fill the bill… hit .270 with 10 homers, while starting at five positions plus DH, is due $7.5 million (or a $500,000 buyout) for next season, when he will turn 34. Tampa will be stupid not to resign him. If they don’t, the Yanks should make a run at him but set a hard line limit on money and years… he is 34… 25% chance.
Stephen Drew… one of the few players who were less productive than Jeter this year. Nuff said. Stay far, far, far away… 25% chance.
Oakland’s Jed Lowrie… he enters free agency with a career .261/.330/.411 line along with 56 home runs and 284 RBI in 2,253 career at-bats. Considered not the best defensively… he is 30. My opinion? I think he is not what the Yanks need at SS. Still… 40% chance.
Brendan Ryan is a slick fielder but can’t hit a lick. Nice bench player for the right price… 45% chance but not as a starter.
Jung-ho Kang… a Korean with some power, decent fielder, decent bat. But, know this… Japan baseball is a tad below MLB… South Korean ball is below Japanese baseball. A lot of those skills he showed in Korea may not translate to MLB. Another stay far, far, far away palyer… 25% chance
Other names to consider via the trade route… Elvis Andrus (Texas) and any of three or four Chicago Cub players… 15% to 25%
My gut feeling… and let me say that if I were the Yanks GM that I wouldn’t do the deal… the Yanks go after Ramirez and give him too many years and too many dollars IF the Dodgers don’t over bid them.
No Ramirez… then… maybe Cabrera… or, maybe Zobrist, if, he is available… other wise, your guess is as good as mine.
Sandy: I really don’t think you can replace Jeter at this point with any of the free agents, they may have to sign a 1 year deal and see what’s available next year. They could move ARod to SS and try to find a 3rd baseman, if they really want to go with another SS, I’d go with Hanley Ramirez if he doesn’t re-sign with the Dodgers, he is the best of the lot, but also comes with his own problems, like his defense and injury problems. Either that or try to trade for a ss, but even with that, what team would give up a good SS.
Steve: I like Joe Torre’s quote. “Derek Jeter is irreplaceable.” However, unless you want to give up numerous hits to left field, you have to put someone in that position. I think that Stephen Drew will ultimately be the guy who will start at shortstop. However, don’t overlook the possibility of a free agent pick up with someone like Jimmy Rollins.
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