When J.P. Ricciardi, armed with the scout-averse teachings of Billy Beane that would later be revealed Moneyball took over the Blue Jays back in 2001, there was something of a scouting purge in Toronto. New Jays’ GM Alex Anthopolous is remedying that, increasing the team’s number of domestic scouts from 28 to 54 in an attempt to better compete with the Yankees and Red Sox in the AL East.
Rosenthal characterizes this as the teachings of Moneyball coming full-circle. And on a literal level — fewer scouts to more scouts — it is. But it’s not accurate to suggest that this is some sort of repudiation of Michael Lewis’ seminal book. That’s because the point of Moneyball was not that statistical analysis was superior, full stop. The book is a work of journalism more than anything else, and the point was to report that, at the time it was written, the use of statistical analysis was rare, and that by using it heavily, teams of lesser means like the A’s would be able to exploit an inefficiency and gain a competitive advantage.
Now that every single team uses statistical analysis in ways that would make the 2002-era Billy Beane look like a Luddite, giving short shrift to scouting in favor of statistical analysis makes little sense. Indeed, as Anthopolous himself notes, the fact that most teams have moved, at least a little bit, away from scouting as a primary analysis tool itself creates an inefficiency to be exploited.
J.P. Ricciardi is a smart guy. Alex Anthopolous is a smart guy who seems to know the limitations under which his team operates and is willing to adapt to circumstances. Because of that, the future looks a lot brighter in Toronto than it did just a few months ago.
Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.
Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.
Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.
Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.
The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.
Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.
Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.
The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.
Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.
Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.
Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.