Projecting the NL All-Star roster, Take 2

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Four weeks ago, I projected the following roster for the NL All-Star team (starters in bold):

C – Yadier Molina, Brian McCann, Bengie Molina
1B – Albert Pujols, Adrian Gonzalez
2B – Chase Utley, Orlando Hudson, Freddy Sanchez
3B – David Wright, Ryan Zimmerman, Chipper Jones
SS – Jimmy Rollins, Hanley Ramirez
OF – Ryan Braun, Raul Ibanez, Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Beltran, Justin Upton, Adam Dunn, Brad Hawpe
P
– Johan Santana, Chad Billingsley, Tim Lincecum, Yovani Gallardo, Wandy
Rodriguez, Josh Johnson, Johnny Cueto, Francisco Rodriguez, Jonathan
Broxton, Heath Bell, Trevor Hoffman, Francisco Cordero

Let’s look at the new vote totals and put together a better guess now.

Catchers

Starter: Yadier Molina
Backups: Brian McCann, Bengie Molina

If three catchers are chosen, it figures to be the same trio. Yadier
Molina has a nice edge on McCann in the balloting (1.85 million to 1.46
million), and McCann is a lock to be on the team either way. There
aren’t any other catchers truly deserving of a spot, but Bengie leads
the field in RBI and his team is playing very well.

First basemen

Starter: Albert Pujols
Backups: Adrian Gonzalez, Prince Fielder

I went with just the two first basemen in the first projection, but
it’s going to be very difficult to deny Fielder and Gonzalez is still
very deserving, even if he’s no longer hitting a homer a day. My guess
is that Pujols and Gonzalez will be named to the team and Fielder will
win the fan vote for the last spot on the roster. It’s just too bad
there’s no DH. Ideally, Pujols would get to play the entire game at
Busch Stadium, but that can’t happen now.

Second basemen

Starter: Chase Utley
Backups: Brandon Phillips, Freddy Sanchez

I’m still going with the three second basemen, but Phillips is
replacing Orlando Hudson for one of the spots. Hudson has been just as
valuable this year, but Phillips has the sexier numbers, with his 11
homers and 51 RBI. Sanchez makes a ton of sense as the lone Pirate on
the team, though Zach Duke also has a case.

Third basemen

Starter: David Wright
Backups: Mark Reynolds

Wright has locked up the starting spot, leaving quite a competition
for perhaps just one reserve spot. Reynolds (916 OPS, 21 HR, 54 RBI),
Pablo Sandoval (965 OPS, 11 HR, 38 RBI), Chipper Jones (884 OPS, 9 HR,
33 RBI) and Ryan Zimmerman (861 OPS, 12 HR, 43 RBI) are all deserving,
and Zimmerman has the big advantage in that he could be the only
National selected. Reynolds will probably make the squad, and Chipper’s
career should outweigh Sandoval’s hot streak if the NL finds room for
three third basemen.

Shortstops

Starter: Hanley Ramirez
Backup: Miguel Tejada

The balloting was very close between Jimmy Rollins and Ramirez when
it was time to make the first projection, and I had Rollins winning the
vote. Now that Ramirez has a 255,000-vote lead, we no longer have to
worry about that possibility, and Rollins has no chance of making the
squad as a backup with the way he’s performed. Tejada is hitting .330
and has driven in 41 runs, giving him a pretty good case for the backup
job. Besides Ramirez and Tejada, Troy Tulowitzki is the only NL
shortstop with an 800 OPS.

Outfielders

Starters: Ryan Braun, Raul Ibanez, Carlos Beltran
Backups: Justin Upton, Adam Dunn, Brad Hawpe, Matt Kemp

I’d like to cut an outfielder to make room for a third third baseman, but seven figure to go.

The last outfield spot would seem to be the only one still up for
grabs in the NL. The injured Beltran currently has a 170,000-vote edge
on the struggling Alfonso Soriano. Beltran might not be able to play
even if he does win the vote, but I’m still rooting for him. Not only
is Soriano undeserving, but his addition would likely cause the NL to
put two center fielders on the bench and none have truly earned in.
Kemp is a stretch for one spot, and Shane Victorino would likely be
next in line.

If Beltran is on the team, then we could have a situation in which
the NL’s top six outfielders in OPS are all represented. Ibanez is
first, followed by Hawpe, Braun, Upton, Beltran and Dunn.

Pitchers

Starters: Dan Haren, Tim Lincecum, Chad Billingsley, Johan Santana, Matt Cain, Javier Vazquez
Relievers: Francisco Rodriguez, Jonathan Broxton, Heath Bell, Trevor Hoffman, Francisco Cordero, Ryan Franklin

Now that we’re closer to the game, we can see what starters might be
unavailable to pitch in the All-Star Game because they’re scheduled to
work the Sunday before. Matt Cain, Josh Johnson, Yovani Gallardo,
Johnny Cueto, Adam Wainwright all appear set to pitch then and could be
scratched from consideration as a result. For that reason, I’m going
with six starters and six relievers. Too many of the deserving starters
are likely to be unable to pitch.

The Yankees are paying $86 million for a one-inning reliever

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OXON HILL, MD — The Yankees signing of Aroldis Chapman late Wednesday night came as something of a surprise. And the money — $86 million — was something of a shock. Yes, we knew that Chapman was going to break the bank and likely set a record as the highest paid relief pitcher in history, but seeing it in black and white like that is still rather jarring.

In the coming days, many people who attempt to analyze and contextualize this signing will do so by pointing to the 2016 playoffs and the unconventional use of relievers by Terry Francona and the Indians and Joe Maddon of the Cubs. They’ll talk about how the paradigm of bullpen use has shifted and how relief pitchers have taken on a new importance in today’s game. Chapman’s astronomical salary, therefore, will be described as somehow more reasonable and somewhat less shocking than it first seems.

Don’t buy that jive for a second.

Yes, Andrew Miller and, to some extent, Chapman himself were used unconventionally in the 2016 playoffs, but not long into the 2017 season we will see that as an exception, not the rule. And not just because Chapman showed himself unable to hold up to that level of use in the playoffs. It will be the exception because the Yankees have shown no inclination whatsoever to deviate from traditional bullpen usage in the past and there is no reason to expect that they will do so with Chapman in the future.

As you no doubt remember, the Yankees had Chapman, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller for the first half of 2016. Such an imposing back end of a bullpen has rarely been seen in recent history. All of them, however, were used, more or less, as one-inning-a-piece guys and no real effort was ever made to break any bullpen usage paradigms or to shorten games the way many applauded Terry Francona for doing in the playoffs.

Miller pitched 44 games for the Yankees, totaling 45.1 innings. He pitched more than a single inning on only three occasions. Chapman pitched 31 games for the Yankees, amassing 31.1 innings. He was used for more than one inning only twice. Betances worked in 73 games, totaling 73 innings. On 11 occasions he pitched more than one inning.  It was unconventional for a team to have three relievers that good, but they were not, in any way, used unconventionally. Nor is there any reason to expect Chapman to be used unconventionally in 2017, especially given that Miller is not around and Chapman has shown no real ability to be stretched for multiple innings for a sustained period.

None of which is to say that having Chapman around is a bad thing or that he is any less of a closer than his reputation suggests. It’s merely to say that the Yankees paying Chapman unprecedented money for a closer should not be justified by the alleged new importance of relief pitchers or that changing role for them we heard so much about in the playoffs. Indeed, I suspect that that changing role applies only to pitcher use in the playoffs. And I do not suspect that this transaction alone pushes the Yankees into serious playoff contention, making that temporary unconventionality something of a moot point in New York for the foreseeable future.

It is almost certain that the Yankees are paying $86 million for the same one-inning closer Aroldis Chapman has been for his entire seven-year career. His contract may or may not prove to be a good one for New York based on how he performs, but don’t let anyone tell you now, in Decemeber 2016, that it’s better than you think because Chapman will somehow transform into a 1970s-style relief ace or something.

Report: Yankees sign Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million deal

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Update (12:02 AM EST): Rosenthal adds that Chapman’s contract includes an opt-out clause after three seasons, a full no-trade clause for the first three years of the contract, and a limited no-trade clause for the final two years.

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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Yankees have signed closer Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million contract. Mark Melancon recently set the record for a contract earned by a reliever at $62 million over four years. Chapman blew that out of the water and many are surprised he didn’t fetch more.

Chapman, 28, began the 2016 season with the Yankees but he was traded to the Cubs near the end of July in exchange for four prospects. The Cubs, of course, would go on to win the World Series in large part due to Chapman. The lefty finished the regular season with a 1.55 ERA, 36 saves, and a 90/18 K/BB ratio in 58 innings between the two teams.

Chapman was the best reliever on the free agent market and, because he was traded midseason, he didn’t have draft pick compensation attached to him.

The Yankees don’t seem to be deterred by Chapman’s domestic violence issue from last offseason, resulting in a 30-game suspension to begin the 2016 regular season.