Jays offense to suffer in wake of Gonzalez signing

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alex gonzalez.jpgThe Blue Jays are being aggressive early in their bid to hold on to fourth place in the AL East.
One day after re-signing backup John McDonald for $3 milion over two years, GM Alex Anthopoulos nabbed Alex Gonzalez to start at shortstop, guaranteeing him $2.75 million.
It’s a very, very good start for my free agent predictions, but less so for the Jays, who have simply locked themselves into mediocrity.
Gonzalez is a legitimate starting shortstop with his still above average defense and 15-homer ability. He’d have been a decent enough stopgap for a contender, which is why the Red Sox were considering bringing him back. The Blue Jays, though, could have waited and seen whether a trade might be able to bring someone better. They have Roy Halladay and Lyle Overbay up for bids, and they can also afford to move a reliever or two from a group that includes Scott Downs, Jason Frasor, Brandon League, Jesse Carlson and Jeremy Accardo.
Instead of looking for upside, the Jays have just decided to go with defense and hope that it pays dividends with their pitching. Meanwhile, their OBP just got a whole lot worse, as Gonzalez might struggle to come within 100 points of Marco Scutaro’s 379 mark from last year. Overbay’s .372 is also expected to disappear from the lineup.
If the Jays go defense first at catcher as well, they could well contend for the AL’s worst OBP next year and have one of the weakest offenses as a whole. Vernon Wells and Edwin Encarnacion should bounce back somewhat, but Adam Lind and Aaron Hill probably aren’t going to combine for 71 homers again and Travis Snider is more likely to strike out 175 times than hit 30 homers as a 22-year-old.
The pitching could surprise, even without Halladay. They’ll definitely get a quality arm or two back if they do move their ace, and Shaun Marcum should be in the rotation to start the year. It’s just hard to see it being good enough to elevate the Jays past the Yankees, Red Sox or Rays. They may struggle to stay ahead of what should be an improved Orioles team.
Last winter, practically every team that moved early came to regret it, while the patient ones were rewarded with bargains later. Now, signing Gonzalez for $2.75 million and McDonald for $3 million doesn’t compare to throwing $18.5 million at Edgar Renteria. Still, the Jays could well have done better had they waited.

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.