Spring Training is almost upon us, and that is music to my ears.
Hot Stove season, though, isn't over. There is still quality talent to be had on the free agent market, and teams will be filling out their rosters over the next few weeks with any final additions.
One intriguing name that remains unsigned is left-handed pitcher Travis Wood, who, according to multiple media reports, could be close to a deal soon.
For a lack of a better word, the relief pitching market is set to explode during the 2016-17 offseason.
It's already coming to fruition. The Cardinals got Brett Cecil on a four-year, $30.5 million deal earlier today.
Yes, in terms of baseball contracts, that's not a number that necessarily jumps off the page. However, it's truly going to set a market which is expected to be the most lucrative for relief pitchers. Ever.
Consider this: during the 2014-15 offseason (so two offseasons ago), Andrew Miller signed a four-year, $36 million deal with the New York Yankees. At the time, it was considered to be a big deal for a non-closing reliever. (Miller did not begin to close until after signing the contract.)
Miller was coming off of three strong seasons of being an effective reliever and, like Cecil, was going into his age-30 season. But, even though he wasn't the best reliever in baseball like he is now (sorry, Zach Britton), in this market, Miller would have blown past what Cecil earned. I'm sure of it.
Cecil has a very respectable 2.90 ERA and 3.68 K/BB ratio over the past four years, all of which he has been used specifically as a reliever. Miller, on the other hand, was coming off of three seasons of a 2.57 ERA and a 3.74 K/BB. So, he was slightly better, but not enough to truly warrant a huge deal.
However, when taking into consideration the contract years each of them had, one can see where Miller would earned way more than what Cecil did today.
In 2014, the season going into his free agency, Miller posted a 2.02 ERA, a 14.9 K/9 ratio and a 2.5 BB/9 ratio in 62.1 IP, cutting the amount of walks he issued in half from the previous season. Cecil, on the other hand, worked to a 3.93 ERA, a 11.0 K/9 ratio and a 2.0 BB/9 ratio in just 36.2 IP. He spent a lot of last season injured.
Now, if the Cardinals are willing to spent almost $31 million on a guy who sat out almost all of May and June, how much would they (or anyone else) have spent on a guy with Andrew Miller's numbers who stayed healthy for an entire season? I'm thinking $40 million or more.
Now, we've got two Andrew Miller-caliber relievers out on the free agent market: Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen. With baseball's stigma towards closers being more important than regular relievers (they're not, but that's a discussion for another time), they're already going to be guaranteed much more than the $30 million Cecil earned.
I didn't think it was possible, but Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen could earn $80 million or more, with the former possibly pushing $100 million. No, I'm not joking.
Teams have seen how the Cubs, Indians, Royals and other successful postseason teams have used their relievers over the past few years. And with talk that baseball could expand to 26-man rosters, bullpens are not going away anytime soon. They're only going to become more prevalent . . . and more expensive.
If you are a free agent in Major League baseball, strike a lot of guys out, and pitch and inning or two max, you're going to make a lot of money this offseason. Brett Cecil can tell you all about it.
I’ve had time to sit and think.
The Chicago Cubs are the 2016 World Series Champions.
World. Series. Champions. What does that mean? How can I capture what I was feeling as Kris Bryant, with a huge grin on his face, fielded the final ground ball of the Cubs’ storybook ending? Obviously, I cannot write about this experience in your typical, “Hey, the Cubs did something good” story. It is definitely a news article, but it surely felt like more than that.
I am not a Cubs fan. I have never even been to Chicago (though it seems like a nice place) for any more more than a cancelled flight, causing me to spend one lone night the Windy City. Despite this, as the clock kept ticking later and later--midnight, 12:15, 12:45 (just minutes before the final out)--I felt something within me that I rarely ever feel: euphoria.
It is obviously in the nature of a sports fan to almost feel the intensity of moments like these within themselves. But for me, and I don’t know whom else (but I figure a lot of you), I wanted nothing more than the Cubs to be able to end their drought. This is the drought that made them the laughingstock of baseball:
Oh you’re a Cubs fan? Did your great-grandfather even get to see a World Series championship? Ha ha ha.
But, all in all, Cubs fans stuck with their team. They clung to the idea of a championship, knowing that--eventually--it would happen.
There were rough moments.
Blaming Steve Bartman for the 2003 NLCS loss was absurd. Even if Moises Alou did make that play, there was still no guarantee they would have gone on to beat the Yankees in the World Series. You cannot blame Bartman for the costly error Alex Gonzalez made, either.
Bartman aside, though, I see a lot of good.
Today in English class, we discussed the traits that make someone admirable.
What are the characteristics of someone you admire?
And you know what? I admire Cubs fans. I admire the 80 year olds that just got to celebrate their team’s first world championship. I admire the fans that were born, grew up their entire lives as Cubs fans, and unfortunately passed before they could see the team hoist the trophy. I admire their ability to stick with their team, both in the good and in the bad.
Chicago fans deserved this victory.
This is why, despite my best attempts to remain impartial as a journalist, I wanted to see the Cubs win the World Series. And this is why, when I woke up this morning after less than six hours of sleep, I was happy, excited and still in shock.
The Chicago Cubs are the 2016 World Series Champions.
Amidst all the fun that comes with the World Series--the storylines, triumphs, defeats--an unfortunate story was leaked on Tuesday.
New York Mets closer Jeurys Familia was arrested on Oct. 31 due to domestic violence allegations. It is awful to hear about yet another professional athlete doing something like this. It is even worse when realizing Familia had taken part in an ad campaign against domestic violence released just in the past month, where he says, in Spanish, “I am not fan of domestic violence.”
While the news is still developing and details are still becoming available to the public, I ask Rob Manfred, when the time comes, to truly consider the implications of the punishment when it is handed down to Familia.
Manfred has done well, at least I believe he has, so far when handling domestic violence cases. According to MLB policy, it is 100 percent up to Manfred’s discretion when handing down a punishment.
Manfred, thus far during his tenure as commissioner, has had to handle three higher-profile domestic violence cases. And, of course, he has handed down three distinct punishments.
Mets’ infielder Jose Reyes was arrested and charged in Hawaii last October due to a domestic violence complaint. Though, after his wife would not cooperate with authorities, charges were dropped. Manfred’s punishment was a 51-game ban.
Cubs’ reliever Aroldis Chapman was not arrested nor charged in a domestic violence incident last December. Manfred barred him 30 games, but he is pitching in the playoffs for Chicago, generating controversy within itself.
Free agent Hector Olivera was arrested and charged outside Washington D.C. last April. His trial did go through the courts system, and he was found guilty, receiving 10 days of jail time. Manfred passed down an 82-game suspension to Olivera, who looks unlikely to receive another shot at playing in the Major Leagues.
For Familia, though, I am not asking Manfred to hand out a specific punishment. I think I am (we probably all are, at the moment) not informed enough on the subject or even how to develop a suspension to just throw a number out there. That is not what this is about.
I am asking Manfred, however, to begin to develop a precedent for future cases. Sure, he has, to an extent, dealt with that with Reyes’, Chapman’s and Olivera’s issues, but even each of their cases carried different impacts.
Chapman, obviously, is the most known and best player of the three. He also was not charged nor arrested. It makes sense, then, as to why he received the least amount of punishment from that specific angle.
Reyes is still known, but he is well past his prime. The Rockies swiftly parted ways with Reyes after he returned from suspension, where they may have been more reluctant to do so had Chapman been their player. In fact, Chapman was still sought out by teams, first by the Yankees during the same offseason in which the allegations were brought against him, and then by the Cubs who needed a playoff push. It is not against any rule to pursue a player associated with domestic violence, but it is a little sad to think teams are able to overlook that in the name of winning.
And then there is Olivera, who was arrested and charged but is relatively unknown in terms of the baseball world. That, specifically, is why I cannot see him making a return to the big leagues.
With Familia, Manfred is dealing with a player that falls into the same category as Chapman in terms of stardom and will either fall into the same category as Reyes or Olivera in terms of the severity of the legal proceedings.
All I ask from Manfred is that he stays consistent. Sure, I enjoy baseball, but I am also a sports fan. And, I have seen far too much where the National Football League, in particular, has gone wrong in terms of handing out punishments. They are either lenient and then made stricter due to press coverage (look at Josh Brown’s case), causing a whole headache for the league and its fans overall.
Domestic violence is downright gross. It does not have a place in any society. But, commissioner Manfred still (unfortunately) has to deal with it. And my hopes are that he is sincere, consistent and takes all into consideration before dealing with his next challenge.
It seems like an eternity ago, but Game 5 of the 2016 NLDS ended in a dramatic fashion.
Of course, the main storyline was the fact that Clayton Kershaw came out of the bullpen to close out the Dodgers' 4-3 win. Flashing back to the 7th inning, though, is where the Nationals--and Dusty Baker--fell apart.
To open up the inning, Dodgers' center fielder Joc Pederson hit a first-pitch home run off of Max Scherzer, tying the game at one apiece. With Scherzer at 99 pitches, Baker decided that he would be done for the evening and turned to his bullpen.
Madness ensued. After Scherzer, it took five relievers to get the three outs in the inning. Four runs scored, and the Nationals' postseason hopes went down the drain as quickly as they began.
Where did Baker make his mistake? Bullpen management. If Dusty Baker's name was Terry Francona, it would not have been Marc Rzepczynski coming in to relieve Scherzer. Rather, it would have been Mark Melancon, who pitched the final four outs despite his team being down a run instead of tied.
Of course, hindsight is 20-20, and Baker could not have known that his bullpen was going to give up four runs with the bases empty and nobody out. At the very least, Melancon should have been in the game after Charlie Culberson struck out against Blake Treinen to make the first out of the inning. Two runners were on base, and it was obviously the biggest moment of the Nationals' season. Instead, 28-year-old Sammy Solis, who had just a career 62.1 regular season innings pitched, came into the game and promptly gave up the go-ahead runs.
We've seen this a lot, especially in the past few postseasons. Good bullpen management wins postseason baseball games. In the 2014 World Series, it was Madison Bumgarner who pitched five innings of relief in Game 7 to lead the Giants to the crown.
In 2015, it was the Kansas City Royals' entire bullpen to lead them to the championship. That year, it was less of Ned Yost having good bullpen management than it was the Royals' bullpen being so dominant. It just did not matter.
This year, however, it's more about the management than anything else.
Andrew Miller, the Indians' relief ace, won the ALCS MVP award, and he only technically made one "save." (And it wasn't even the traditional three out, ninth-inning-only type save.) In the series, Miller came into the game in the seventh, seventh, eighth, and sixth innings during his four appearances.
As a Yankee for the first half of this season, Miller pitched in the seventh inning once. He came into the game in the seventh more during the American League Championship Series than he did during the entire first half of the season.
And that speaks volumes about the riskiness of Indians manager Terry Francona, who, before this World Series, had never lost a single World Series game. There's a reason for that. Francona is willing to take the risks to be a successful manager that few others are. Francona pitches his best relievers in the most dire situations. That is one of the reasons why he is on the fast track to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
While Cubs manager Joe Maddon is not given the same praise for his bullpen usage as Terry Francona, he's done a nice job this postseason, too.
No, he is not using Aroldis Chapman in the fourth inning. But he does manage to use the right relievers in the right situations, including the use of--yes--Chapman in Game 6 of the NLCS for the final five outs.
The 2016 World Series is seeing two great managers go at it. And this year, perhaps more than ever, is truly changing the game and how bullpens will be viewed going forward.
No matter who wins, baseball will get something more out of it than just a long-term drought coming to an end. Baseball is going to get a change in philosophy. The best pitchers are going to finally be pitching in the situations they are needed most.