Matthew Leach at MLB.com has a story up today that explains how baseball’s middle class — average veterans, mostly — is feeling the pinch in the free agent market. It’s a brains thing just as much as it is a money thing:
As teams — and outside
analysts — devise ever-cleverer means of evaluating talent, the wheels
of player acquisition spin differently. Members of MLB front offices
have ever-better tools for assessing the players they’re signing. That
makes it less likely for mediocre players to get big deals.
“It’s a combination of things,” said Brewers assistant general manager
Gord Ash. “Of course there are the general economic concerns, but there
is also more data going around, like FIP [fielding-independent pitching
statistics], and others that give you a better feel for a pitcher
rather than the traditional wins and losses and ERA.”
This is not news to the sabermetrically-inclined among us, as we have been beating the drum against spending big money on anything other than guys who are clearly superstars for a long time. Indeed, a roster filled with a handful of legitimate top-dollar talents and rounded out with rookies, near-rookies and low-dollar veterans on single year deals is probably best suited to compete, both on the field and economically. It’s clearly not news to most front offices too, as the days when guys like Pat Mears got multi-year deals are a distant memory for almost any team.
But check out that quote from Gord Ash. Then compare it to the aggressive dismissal of advanced metrics by the majority of your mainstream baseball writers and ask yourself if the statheads are really as out-of-touch as they’re made out to be. If anything, the geeks and the game’s movers and shakers are speaking the same language.
Josh Hamilton is not and never was a key part of the 2017 Texas Rangers plans. He was in camp and under contract and had at least a chance to make the team, but the Rangers fate as a ballclub did not depend on him. It would merely be nice for them if he revealed that he had a bit left in the tank and if he could, like a lot of other superstars in baseball history, give them one last season of decent production in part time play as a matter of depth and flexibility.
As such, this development is more unfortunate for Josh Hamilton and those who root for him than it is for the Rangers as a club, but it is unfortunate all the same:
That’s the fourth surgery he’s had on that knee in less than two years and the 11th knee surgery he’s had overall in his baseball career. It’s sad to say but safe to say that Hamilton’s days in baseball are numbered if not over completely. At some point an athlete’s body can only take so much.
Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.
I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.
I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.
As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.
There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.