Spring training nearing end & questions linger @ MLBRT 3/30

Spring training is nearing an end and it is time for players to be gearing up for playing the games for real… it will all counts very soon starting in April. So, the Roundtable crew looks at some questions regarding various issues with players around the league.

This week’s questions… 

 1) This offseason the Cubs decided not to go after closer Aroldis Chapman and instead decided to trade outfielder Jorge Soler for KC’s closer Wade Davis. Davis was on the DL twice last season with a flexor strain. Yes, the Cubs did their due diligence, including getting the Royals to allow them to do a pre-trade physical. But, so far this spring training season, his ERA is over 19.00, and, overall in March, he’s given up eight earned runs, nine hits and five walks in 3.2 innings while getting a grand total of one out. Manager Joe Maddon says there is nothing to worry about his velocity is good, his arm movement is fine, etc. are all good. Davis (he of the 0.84 ERA in 23 career playoff appearances) says he doesn’t care about Cactus League stats.

Time for concern in Chicago Cubs’ land or are Maddon and Davis right and there is nothing to worry about… at least for now?

Mgr. Joe Maddon & Wade Davis with Tampa Bay, now back together on Cubs

Archie: Generally, I don’t place a lot of concern on spring training stats as well; except, pitching. I don’t think there is some “Miracle” clock that will tick and all of a sudden his effectiveness switches to that of a dominate pitcher. Unless of course his has his manager’s full permission to “tinker” with form, pitches, arm angle, etc. during spring training and the plan is to go into the season with “just the stuff that works.” And, I don’t necessarily believe in this approach either.

We are down to just a couple more outings during spring training as well so I think he better get his “stuff” ready or the Cubs could be sorely looking back and regretting letting Chapman walk so easy.

Dan: I don’t think there’s anything to worry about. What coaches and organizations are looking for in spring training is that the player is ready to begin the season as well as having all the mechanics down and his pitches feeling fine. If, Wade Davis is comfortable and Joe Maddon is comfortable with Wade Davis, then there should be no reason to be concerned about how he has been performing in spring training. After all, it is only spring training and while it’s different sports, the Lions did go 4-0 in pre-season before their 0-16 regular season result.

Earl: I would worry if I were the Cubs but I wouldn’t be too nervous just yet. The ERA is concerning, but it is spring. Davis can still get it together to start the season. His velocity being good, and his arm movement being well, are good signs. As I said, I would worry a little because of his injury history, but I think Davis and the Cubs will be fine.

Steve: Nothing to worry about at all. I trust Joe Maddon, and his outlook. They got Davis for literally a steal for what they would have paid for Chapman. If, Maddon thinks his stuff looks alright, and his arm looks fine… I am not worried.

If, we are still talking about this in June, then would be the time to maybe re-evaluate things.

2) Injuries happen. Still, when a starting player gets injured playing in the WBC that does make it seem like salt being rubbed into the wound. One problem is that players are playing harder in games “that count” for their country as opposed to taking it easy just getting ready in spring training and sitting games out at the sign of any muscle strain, etc…

The Yankees SS Didi Gregorious is out for at least a month of the season’s start and maybe longer with a shoulder injury that occurred while playing a WBC game. And, teams are lining up at GM Brian Cashman’s door with shortstop offers for prospects.

Should the Yanks bite at an offer that would give them a decent starting shortstop or just stay the course and go with one of the Baby Bombers they have in house?

Didi Gregorius

Archie: First off, this is why I do NOT like the WBC. IF, they moved it to November or December then fine but right when teams are prepping for spring training and the start of the MLB season it is just bad timing. Especially, bad for teams that lose players like the Yankees did. Do they receive any compensation at all for his absence?

Secondly, I think they should just stay the course, IF they believe he is only out for a month. Let’s see what they have in the farm. Surely they have someone “serviceable” for one month.

Dan: No, the Yankees should stick with Didi Gregorious. Injuries happen and while it was unfortunate that it happened in the WBC, it’s just part of the game and could have happened in a spring training game. Don’t give up prospects for another player that will just clog up the middle infield, keep Gregorious and wait it out. He’ll be back in a month.

Latest moves from Yankees indicate Ronald Torreyes will start season as their SS

Earl: Under normal circumstances an injury like the one Gregorious suffered would be one of worry, especially since it happened in the WBC, but the Yanks will be fine for one reason: the emergence of Tyler Wade. Living in New York, and reading the papers, I have read a ton about Wade and just how excited the Yankees are about him. I’ve read about comparisons to Ben Zobrist and Wade might become a utility player but he and Ronald Torreyes should do just enough to hold down the position until Gregorious gets healthy.

Steve: I think honestly that they should do away with the WBC, or it should be put in some sort of contract that if you play, and you are injured, there is some sort of out clause for the team who is paying you millions and millions of dollars. I think college players and international players should be designated for the classic, MLB players have so much more to play for than the WBC. It is not worth the risk.

3) St. Louis Cardinals’ catcher Yadier Molina is always in the argument for best defensive catcher of all-time, and, over the years he has developed into a decent hitter…  .307/.306/.427 slash line with 38 doubles in 147 games in 2016. But, in 2016 his 34-year old body also logged a career-high 1,218 1/3 innings behind the plate. And he obviously is not getting any younger. Now, as he enters his final contract year he says once the season starts he won’t do any contract negotiation.

Should the Cardinals move now before the season begins to lock him for at least three or four years or take their chances that they can negotiate something after the 2017 season?   

Archie: No. It is a given that Catchers really start to decline when they hit that magical 34 years of age. Look at Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez as an example. Once he hit the 35 year mark his offensive numbers were way below his previous numbers and he NEVER made the ASG again after having 14 appearances. HOF’er Mike Piazza as good as he was spent much of his later years tending first base and DH and STILL his numbers were far below his career numbers. The Great Johnny Bench retired after age 35 mostly due to ailments that saw his numbers plummet at the plate after age 33. So, given the amount of innings for Yadier history dictates that his numbers will decline as well.

So, IF I were the Cardinals I DEFINITELY would not make a move prior to the season. As the GM I know I can probably keep him on but at a reduced rate after this season and he pushes 35.

Dan: The Cardinals need to lock him up now, because he already said that he will test free agency which means he’ll listen to what the Cardinals have to say, but he will wait for other offers to come in as well and they will be heavy. He’s arguably the best catcher in baseball and what the shocking part is, he’s improving, especially at his age and the position he plays.

St. Louis needs to lock him up before the season starts or they’re going to be in serious danger of losing him.

Earl: At 34, you would worry about his body breaking down, especially since he is a catcher and that position is tough on the lower body, but Molina appears strong right now. He’s coming off a solid performance for Puerto Rico in the WBC, and he looks poised to carry that over into the Cardinals season. If I were St. Louis I would keep him but I would not go beyond three years. A three year deal is just enough time for the organization to identify a replacement for the future.

Steve: This is a tough one, because Molina has been such a great catcher over the course of the past seven or eight years, but he is a catcher, and statistics show that catchers deteriorate faster than every day players. Molina is likely on the down end of his career. So, it may be time for the Cardinals to move on, and get what they can for him at the trade deadline.

He may demand a contract for a good sum of money, but history has shown that catchers are not worth the risk… i.e. Joe Mauer.

4) SP David Price doesn’t need Tommy John surgery, but, he will begin the season on the DL and the Red Sox don’t know when he will pitch in 2017 debut. In fact, Mgr. John Farrell recently said he was not sure when Price’s arm would be strong enough to even begin a throwing program.

Arm injuries are never something not to have a concern about, and especially more so for a pitcher, but, is this just a bump in the road for Price’s Red Sox’ career? Or, is this trouble brewing for the Sox as well as just another justification for why teams should shy away from signing players who are near or past 30-years of age to contracts that are like the one they signed Price… 7-years, $217 million contracts? 

Archie: I have not seen too many pitchers in my day that are worth $31 million dollars a season at any age let alone after they turn 30 years old. And, if the Red Sox looked at his effectiveness numbers from last season they should have seen dollar signs being flushed down the toilet. While he led the league in IP he also gave up the most hits last year as well. His ERA was the highest of his career for a full season. And, now, it is unclear when he will pitch for them again?

I would say this is shaping up to be one of the biggest contract busts of all time.

Dan: I think it’s a bump in the road. I think teams need to show caution on a pitcher’s innings and I think his price tag was a little expensive especially with how he just disappears come playoff time, but like I said in question two, injuries are part of the game and they do happen. Nothing that could’ve been seen regardless of age since Greg Maddux pitched when he was old as well as countless others with little to no problems. Just a bump in the road. They need to make sure they take their time with his injury and look towards a full return next season for him. The good news is that he doesn’t need Tommy John surgery.

Earl: It is absolutely a concern. Arm injuries are concern for any pitcher, but especially for one tied up to a high paying long term deal like Price is. If there is a silver lining for the Sox it is that they have ace pitchers in Porcello, and Sale, but Price being out for awhile is a legit concern for the Red Sox and for David Price’s career.

Steve:  I will say this is too early to tell.

Price has not really had too many major injuries, so I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, and see if he can bounce back from this. As I said in the earlier question, if we are still talking about this in June, then we may be having another conversation. For now, I would be willing to see where this goes, but I still don’t think ANYONE is worth $217 million dollars.

5) Jim Leyland is considered by some to be a “border line” choice for the Hall of Fame as a manger… 1,769–1,728 career record; led the Florida Marlins to a World Series title, won multiple division titles with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Detroit Tigers and was a three-time Manager of the Year award winner.  Now some of those who thought he was “border line” are saying that since he just managed the American team to the WBC title that that should put him over the top for getting into the Hall.

Putting all arguments aside for whether Leyland is or is not Hall worthy… should anything any baseball person do outside of the Majors be considered when voters are considering players or team officials (for example a manager) for Hall entry?

Archie: Do we give credit to Ichiro for his hits in Japan? Will other players be credited for their work in Japan and outside the US? IF, the answer there is no, then I don’t see giving Leyland an exception here for the WBC.

I am a little hard hearted on this however because, and most that read my shit know, I do NOT care for the WBC at this point. Even after winning it this year I still have a big fat “SO WHAT” on my brain. I am sorry but I don’t give a rat’s ass about it. Aside from that I can see where Leyland is border line HOFer due to his “longevity” within MLB.

Dan: Not at all. The Hall of Fame should be what occurs in the MLB only. Otherwise, you have to start looking at Japanese players, Korean players, etc… who are in different leagues and start including them in the Hall.

I think Jim Leyland deserves a nod, but it isn’t due to anything he did with the USA team in the WBC, however great it may have been. Otherwise, if you put him in based on the WBC title, then you have to start recording all of the players’ stats and include them when evaluating them for the Hall which is unfair since a lot of top stars avoided it altogether to prepare with their respected teams for the season.

Earl: Despite a career record of just over .500, I personally would vote him in anyway based off of what he did with the Pirates, Marlins, and Tigers. However, I do think winning the WBC and leading the American team to their first title should sort of nudge the needle. Yes, the fans don’t seem to care for the WBC, and most organizations don’t seem to want their players to play in it, but it is something that is associated with MLB, and should count towards Hall of Fame worthiness.

Steve: Leyland is a sure fire Hall of Famer. I would vote him in, in a heartbeat. He led the Pirates to three straight division titles, nearly took them to the World Series in 91, and in 92. Really was just an out away from doing so. He led the Florida Marlins to a World Championship in 97, and led the Tigers to the American League Championship on two occasions. No brainer in my book, I don’t care of the win/loss record. He needs to be in the Hall of Fame.

Extra Innings…

In 1966…

Don Drysdale (left) & Sandy Koufax

Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale who had joined together in holding out due to contract disputes with the Los Angeles Dodgers finally report to spring training when the hurlers agree to the Dodgers’ combined offer of $235,000, signing contracts for $130‚000 and $105‚000, respectively.

The two were the best pitchers on the team… and very arguably maybe in all of MLB… at the time. The joint holdout had lasted for 32 days.

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