It’s a new year which means it’s a new year of baseball coming down the pike… soon it will be spring training and winter will be waning and opening day will be around the corner with each team starting off new… just like the new year is today…
On behalf of our MLBRT crew… Happy New Years and enjoy the column and the year to come…
Here are the new MLBRT questions for this first day of the new year…
1) The Pittsburgh Pirates, in a surprise move, won the rights to “power-hitting” Korean shortstop Jung-Ho Kang, with a bid of just over $5 mil. The Pirates now have 30 days try to negotiate a deal and sources say Kang wants a 3 or 4-year deal @ about $5 mil per year.
Assuming the Pirates sign Kang, was the Pirates move smart, or, not so smart?
Archie: IMO that deal should work out well for them IF they keep it to only a 4-5 year deal. The kind of numbers he put up in the Korean league might not translate in MLB but then again it might. Even IF he does not do as well, he still is a good hitter and fielder and the Pirates should get good value from him.
Joe: Here’s the skinny on Kang decent plate discipline (more or less, walks as often as he strikeouts), seems to have legitimate power and can steal some bases. In 2104 he had his coming out year as he exploded for a slash line of .356/.459/.739 with 40 home runs, 36 doubles and 117 RBI in 117 games.
Scouts don’t believe that his glove will play at short, so, he may end up at second or third base. Good arm… and is a converted catcher.”
The Pirates are set in the infield with Josh Harrison at third, Jordy Mercer at shortstop and Neil Walker at second, so the team likely plans to get Kang’s feet wet as a utility infielder/bench bat. But, he is also seen as an insurance policy, just in case someone should go down or not produce to the level the Pirates would like.
The most likely scenario is that Kang is going to be more of long term project and his impact, if there ever is any, will be not so much in 2015 as maybe in 2016. So don’t be surprised, if, he is sent down to the minors to get some acclimation time, both socially as well as to the American game.
Now… about the American game compared to Korean League… the KBO. It’s a fact that many of the better players from the KBO end up signing with Japanese teams. So, if the NPB is considered on the level of a Triple A team, then the KBO has to be probably on the level of Double A at best.
It’s not every day that Double A players make the jump into the MLB. It happens but not all that often.
In Kang’s favor…. in comparison to what available on the free agent market Kang may have more upside. Compared to players such as Asdrubal Cabrera, Stephen Drew or Jed Lowrie, Kang is an unknown while it’s known what those guys can do but his power is considered to be real and maybe, if, he can adjust to the American game he can be a 20 HR and 20 doubles type of player… and, if, he is lucky add 20 steals. Not, too shabby for a second baseman or shortstop.
Now… all of this is speculation based on the assumption Kang signs with the Pirates within the 30 day signing period. If, he doesn’t the Pirates get back their posting money and Kang goes back from whence he came.
Rumors say Kang is looking for about 5 to 6 million a year. Jed Lowrie just signed for $23 million for 3 years. Lowrie, 30, is a .261 hitter over seven major league seasons. Lowrie enjoyed a career season in 2013 with the A’s, setting career bests in batting average (.290) and RBIs (75) and also finishing with 15 home runs. He was paid $5.25 million last season.
Bottom line… if the money that Kang will sign for is accurate then the Pirates should simply pull the string on a deal. The worst that can happen is he can’t hit major league pitching and they lost some millions of dollars. Or, that he is a 20 HR, 20 double, 20 Steals guy, or, maybe even 30/30/20. And, that would be pretty damn good coming out of the middle infield position compared to the majority of middle infielders in MLB right now.
Steve: Considering that Kang is only asking for 5 million a year, I think this is a great move for the Pirates. Let’s be realistic. Teams have taken 15-20 million dollar gambles on potentially star quality players. The Pirates, who have been in contention, and, in the playoffs the last two seasons, should do something to try and propel themselves to the next level and compete for a championship. This is a great move, and, could prove to be a steal for Pittsburgh.
2) Hiroki Kuroda is leaving the NY Yankees and MLB to return to pitch in the NPB and the Hiroshima Carp, his original team. It is being said that the Yankees will miss him in the rotation… some wags have said his departure leaves a big hole in the team’s rotation. Considering his career, both with the Dodgers and the Yankees, was 79-79, albeit with a 3.45 ERA, can he be considered a good pitcher who will be sorely missed, or, was he just a consistently average pitcher who filled a serviceable middle to the back end of a rotation spot, or, something entirely otherwise?
Archie: ERA+ standard for the league average is 100. He finished here in the states at 115 so one would have to say that he was better than average. However, he was one of those pitchers that was either on or off and not much between. That is about the only way to explain his 79-79 record with two teams that are expected to win 90 games every year. I would put him in the “serviceable” category.
Joe: Kuroda’s record fulfills the Bill Parcells adage… you are what your record says you are. Now, it is a reality that certain players can have statistics that are better than their record indicates, but, since, they play on teams that simply don’t score a lot, their record does not reflect what they do on the mound. King Felix and some of the Mariner teams that played in back of him come immediately to mind.
In my opinion, Kuroda is not that type of a pitcher… Kuroda was with two teams that could score some runs. And, there’s a certain statistic that is very important to understand about Kuroda… he had a 1.69 career ERA in wins versus 4.65 in losses, prior to 2014.
So, while his numbers can seem to be not that bad, in reality, it’s sort of the case of whether the guy is on or off on any given day. Therefore, he is what his record says he is… a .500 pitcher, and, therefore, I gotta say he is a serviceable middle to the back end of a rotation spot at best and I really don’t think the Yankees will miss him all that much from their 2015 rotation.
Steve: This does hurt the Yankees because their pitching is something that they needed to work on this offseason. Kuroda is not the best pitcher by any means, but he is consistent enough to be considered a solid 3 or 4 pitcher, which can be really helpful to them in a post season run.
I think that the Yankees will miss him, but not to the extent that they are saying. They have the ability and resources to bounce back easily from this loss.
3) Word is that the Rockies are shopping Troy Tulowitzki… among teams that appear interested are the Mets, Yankees and the Cardinals with rumors of other teams on the fringes… Is Tulo worth the probable asking price?
Archie: Given how much Tulo is owed on his current contract, I don’t see the Rockies receiving much more than fair market value for him. Any team that picks up that contract will have to do so probably with pitching. Some team with an excess load of talented pitching will be probably be the suitors.
But, then, I don’t see the Rockies trading him away. With everything else that is wrong in Colorado, Tulo puts asses in seats.
Besides with his injury history, I don’t know if I were a GM that I would be willing to take a risk on trading for him and then being on the hook for his contract… both in terms of years and money still owed.
So, it’s either a case of… I don’t see anyone offering what the Rockies probably would expect for Tulo, or, I don’t see the Rockies being that magnanimous as to lower their demands to accommodate anyone either.
Tulo is not going anywhere, because, in my opinion, he ain’t worth the price that would be required to get him.
I don’t see the Yankees pulling the trigger as they just landed their future shortstop.
The Mets and Cardinals could be a good landing stop and either team could pull off a trade. I think that would help either team, especially the Mets as many are saying that they are playoff contenders.
4) Manny Machado is headed into his fourth season in the majors. In his 2nd season he was on pace to break the single season doubles record (67) but had a season-ending knee injury. His 3rd season was delayed by recovery from the 2nd season injury (taking the field in May without spring training), and, then ended when he reinjured his knee. Can he recover from his injuries to fulfill the predictions… an above average 3rd baseman (2013 Gold & Platinum Gloves) with gap power, some HR power and a decent bat?
(Editors Note: I left out a very important part of the question… when I said “In his 2nd season he was on pace to break the single season doubles record (67) but had a season-ending knee injury” I should have included the phrase “… he went into a second half swoon before he…” right after “(67) but…” and right before “…had a season-ending….” My apologies to our MLBRT folks. But, I think Archie succintly pointed out my error by stating what Machado would have had to do to break the doubles record. Mea culpa… )
Archie: Okay, Machado was NOT going to break the 67 doubles mark. He played in 156 games and had 51. Even if he had played the last 6 games he would have had to hit 17 more doubles in those 6 games. He was on a 1 for every 3 games pace. So…
Then last season coming in late he kind of picked up where he left off, but, we still did not get to see his full potential.
IMO his durability is in question and not his skill set.
This season will most likely be a crucial one for him… if. he can stay on the field for a full year and show that he still has that doubles power with some occasional HR pop, then, I think, he fulfills the future that was, at one time, predicted for him.
If, he reinjures that knee again, or, if, he is hesitant as he comes back… then it’s a tough break and just one of them things… he’s injury prone, or, he’s one of them guys who just can’t ever go full out anymore, and, never will meet his full capabilities.
I see a lot of disappointment in the future for Machado, and, I think the trend of his injuries will ultimately be his demise.
5) Dan Uggla was recently signed to a minor league contract by the Washington Nationals with an invitation to come to spring training.
Uggla at one point was a power hitting 2nd baseman with, to be kind, suspect defensive ability. But, since, he was traded from the Florida Marlins to the Atlanta Braves, he has had one good season and has been in an accelerated downhill slide ever since.
Is this Uggla’s last chance at continuing his MLB career?
Archie: Last chance? I would think so. However, you would have thought his agent would have shopped him to an AL team to give him a really clean break. ALLLLLLL of the NL pitchers, especially the East KNOW how to pitch to Dan. IF, he is not willing to change his batting approach this WILL BE his final curtain call.
At best, I don’t see him being much more than an average player for the rest of his career. And by average, I mean average for his middle infield position. I doubt he will ever come close to being a power hitting second baseman with 30-plus HR capability with at least 80 runs or 80 RBIs.
Realistically… I doubt, if, he even comes up to the Nats club unless they are wracked with injuries, or, desperately in need of some bench help.
Steve: It does not hurt the Nationals one bit to give Uggla one more shot, because that is what this is, one more shot for Uggla. There will be no expectations for Uggla like there were when he came to Atlanta. The Nationals are contenders and can afford to give him a chance to rekindle his career.
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