Daily Dose: Nationals give up on Milledge

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Pittsburgh made a pair of trades to shake up the outfield Tuesday,
sending Eric Hinske to the Yankees for a pair of mid-level prospects
and then swapping Nyjer Morgan to the Nationals along with Sean Burnett
for Lastings Milledge and Joel Hanrahan. Morgan has emerged as a very
solid all-around player, offering elite defense and nice on-base
skills, but Andrew McCutchen made him expendable.

Morgan dramatically upgrades the Nationals’ outfield defense and
certainly has a good deal of value, but he’s also 29 years old with a
modest .286/.351/.376 mark in 157 career games. Milledge has far more
long-term upside even considering his various issues, but clearly
Washington had given up on him and Hanrahan as pieces of the puzzle
going forward.

Morgan was already playing every day in Pittsburgh, so the only big
change from the trade will be his moving back to the leadoff spot. That
should give him a little boost, but his basic value remains the same.
Hanrahan’s value dries up now that he has no chance for another crack
at closing duties and Burnett isn’t worthy of a fantasy roster spot in
any circumstances, leaving Milledge as the deal’s winner.

Demoted to Triple-A all of seven games into the season, he’s
currently rehabbing a broken finger and should get an extended shot in
the Pirates’ new-look outfield once healthy. Milledge has been a large
disappointment both on and off the field so far, but he’s still just 24
years old with a promising power-speed combo. If he can get on track
and live up to some of the hype, the Pirates will have done well.

While the Pirates likely look to trade Freddy Sanchez and Jack Wilson next, here are some other notes from around baseball …

* Carlos Beltran received good news Tuesday as the second opinion on
his knee injury confirmed the initial diagnosis of a bone bruise. He’s
been advised to rest through the All-Star break, which while longer
than the original return timetable is better than possible year-ending
and perhaps career-threatening microfracture surgery. Fernando Martinez
and Jeremy Reed have been splitting full-in duties.

* Mike Lowell would have been unavailable for as long as week after
receiving a lubrication injection in his surgically repaired right hip,
so the Red Sox decided to place him on the disabled list Tuesday. He’s
expected to return once the 15-day stint is finished, but in the
meantime Kevin Youkilis started at third base Tuesday as call-up Jeff
Bailey went 3-for-4 with a walk while playing at first base.

AL Quick Hits: Josh Hamilton (abdomen) reportedly could come off
the disabled list as soon as this weekend … As expected, Josh Outman
underwent Tommy John elbow surgery Tuesday and will be sidelined until
at least mid-2010 … Erik Bedard (shoulder) has been penciled in to come
off the DL for Saturday’s game against Boston … Adam Jones left
Tuesday’s game with shoulder and neck pain after crashing into the
outfield wall … Scott Downs threw off a mound Tuesday for the first
time since spraining his toe two weeks ago … Ervin Santana (triceps)
threw a bullpen session Tuesday and is expected to rejoin the rotation
at some point this weekend … Adrian Beltre opted to go under the knife
Tuesday and will miss 6-8 weeks following shoulder surgery … Matt Garza
tossed seven innings of one-run ball Tuesday for the Rays’ seventh
straight win … Justin Duchscherer (elbow) has finally been cleared to
begin a throwing program.

NL Quick Hits: Jimmy Rollins went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts in
his return to the lineup Tuesday and is now hitless in 24 at-bats …
Albert Pujols had his seventh multi-homer game of the year Tuesday,
extending his MLB lead to 30 … Edinson Volquez (elbow) has been cleared
to begin a throwing program … David Wright homered Tuesday for the
first time in 78 at-bats … Bronson Arroyo allowed six runs Tuesday,
serving up his MLB-high 19th and 20th homers … Colby Ramus is available
to pinch-hit despite being diagnosed with a hiatal hernia that he
blamed on “heavy late-night eating” … Martin Prado went 4-for-5 and
drove in four runs Tuesday, including a walk-off single in the 10th
inning … Yunel Escobar (hip) and Nate McClouth (hamstring) were
scratched from the lineup Tuesday … Chad Tracy came off the disabled
list Tuesday after missing 27 games with an oblique injury … Ross
Ohlendorf tossed seven scoreless innings with a career-high eight
strikeouts Tuesday … Dan Haren allowed just one run and hit a homer
Tuesday.

MLB Network airs segment listing “good” and “bad” $100 million-plus contracts

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On Wednesday evening, Charlie Marlow of KTVI FOX 2 News St. Louis posted a couple of screencaps from a segment MLB Network aired about $100 million-plus contracts that have been sigbned. The list of “bad” contracts, unsurprisingly, is lengthier than the list of “good” contracts.

As Mike Gianella of Baseball Prospectus pointed out, it is problematic for a network owned by Major League Baseball to air a segment criticizing its employees for making too much seemingly unearned money. There’s a very clear conflict of interest, so one is certainly not getting a fair view of the situation. MLB, of course, can do what it wants with its network, but it can also be criticized. MLB Network would never air a similar segment in which it listed baseball’s “good” and “bad” owners and how much money they’ve undeservedly taken. Nor would MLB Network ever run a segment naming the hundreds of players who are not yet eligible for arbitration whose salaries are decided for them by their teams, often making the major league minimum ($545,000) or just above it. Similarly, MLB Network would also never think of airing a segment in which the pay of minor league players, many of whom make under $10,000 annually, is highlighted.

We’re now past the halfway point in January and many free agents still remain unsigned. It’s unprecedented. A few weeks ago, I looked just at the last handful of years and found that, typically, six or seven of the top 10 free agents signed by the new year. We’re still at two of 10 — same as a few weeks ago — and that’s only if you consider Carlos Santana a top-10 free agent, which is debatable. It’s a complex issue, but part of it certainly is the ubiquity of analytics in front offices, creating homogeneity in thinking. A consequence of that is everyone now being aware that big free agent contracts haven’t panned out well; it’s a topic of conversation that everyone can have and understand now. Back in 2010, I upset a lot of people by suggesting that Ryan Howard’s five-year, $125 million contract with the Phillies wouldn’t pan out well. Those people mostly cited home runs and RBI and got mad when I cited WAR and wOBA and defensive metrics. Now, many of those same people are wary of signing free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer and they now cite WAR, wOBA, and the various defensive metrics.

The public’s hyper-sensitivity to the viability of long-term free agent contracts — thanks in part to segments like the aforementioned — is a really bad trend if you’re a player, agent, or just care about labor in general. The tables have become very much tilted in favor of ownership over labor over the last decade and a half. Nathaniel Grow of FanGraphs pointed out in March 2015 that the players’ share of total league revenues peaked in 2002 at 56 percent, but declined all the way to 38 percent in 2014. The current trend of teams signing their talented players to long-term contract extensions before or during their years of arbitration eligibility — before they have real leverage — as well as teams abstaining from signing free agents will only serve to send that percentage further down.

Craig has written at great length about the rather serious problem the MLBPA has on its hands. Solving this problem won’t be easy and may require the threat of a strike, or actually striking. As Craig mentioned, that would mean getting the players all on the same page on this issue, which would require some work. MLB hasn’t dealt with a strike since 1994 and it’s believed that it caused a serious decline in interest among fans, so it’s certainly something that would get the owners’ attention. The MLBPA may also need to consider replacing union head Tony Clark with someone with a serious labor background. Among the issues the union could focus on during negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement: abolishing the draft and getting rid of the arbitration system. One thing is for sure: the players are not in a good spot now, especially when the league has its own network on which it propagandizes against them.