We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold . . .
Wait. That was a different trip. This is Indianapolis, not Vegas, and it’s the Winter Meetings, not the Mint 400. Still, there’s that same “what in the hell am I doing here” feeling that Raoul Duke and the good Doctor Gonzo had on their fateful journey into the heart of the American Dream. Every executive and agent I’ve slammed in print in the past three years is here. The writers too. It’s enough to make a fellow wonder about his place in the world.
Just kidding. I’m gonna keep slamming those worthy of slamming, keep calling the smart moves smart and the dumb moves dumb and let the chips fall where they may. There’s a definite class reunion feel to this event and I’m just going to pretend that I’m that foreign exchange student no one thought would show. If they don’t like it, hey, maybe they shouldn’t have credentialed the blogger.
In the meantime, let’s talk baseball. On tap this week:
- The Mariners may go crazy. They’ve already got Figgins. They’re reportedly in on Bay and Lackey. They’re talking extension with King Felix. Are they gonna put the 2010 AL West away in December 2009?
- Jason Bay, Matt Holliday and John Lackey still freely roam the market. My guess is that they still will by the end of the week, but recent history shows that the earlier you sign, the better off you are. Of course now the teams know that too. But maybe the players know that the teams know that. But maybe the teams know that the players know that the teams know that and . . . wait, deep breaths. Just follow Rosenthal around. He’s gonna report it first anyway.
- More likely to see action is the second tier of free agents, populated by the likes of Marlon Byrd, Jermaine Dye, Mark DeRosa, Adrian Beltre, a metric crap-ton of relievers and whatever catchers the Mets haven’t yet signed. I think Benito Santiago is still available.
- Roy Halladay is still the alpha-trade chit, but one has to think that the Yankees and Sox and whatever dark horses may present themselves are gonna make Toronto sweat that Halladay-imposed spring training deadline a bit. More likely to move this week: Milton Bradley. Baggage handlers standing by.
- The BBWAA will be meeting, and a subset of those guys will be casting Hall of Fame ballots for managers, umpires, pioneers, and executives. Go Marvin Miller and Whitey Herzog. Also, the Rule 5 Draft will be held on Thursday.
- There will be a trade show during which vendors will try to convince teams that, yes, they really do need new LCD “No Pepper” signs for the backstop.
- A job fair for those looking to break into the biz will take place. Wanna be the assistant to the assistant ticket taker for the Mudville Tea Totallers of the Western League? Now’s your chance, Bunk.
There will be a ton more happening, some official, most non-official, some transaction-related, some not (for team-by-team previews, check out Matthew’s posts on the NL and the AL). I’m going to do my best to sniff out the news as it happens and, failing that, I’ll certainly be grokking the scene and passing along my observations to you. All I know for certain is that (a) I have a press pass that has not yet been revoked for cause; (b) I have a laptop with a wireless connection and a hella-long lasting battery; and (c) I know a lot of lawyers in central Indiana in the event I need someone to bail me out.
Refresh often, my friends. Refresh often.
With their 2016 season and 11-game playoff run in the books, the Dodgers are refocusing their attention on the upcoming 2017 season. Two outstanding performers, third baseman Justin Turner and right-handed closer Kenley Jansen, are on the cusp of free agency heading into the offseason. According to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, the Dodgers intend to make qualifying offers to both Turner and Jansen, but may not be prepared to go the distance to keep both of them on the 2017 roster.
Turner finished his third season in Los Angeles with a .275/.339/.493 batting line and a career-best 27 home runs, riding a hot streak that made him one of the most productive players on the Dodgers’ squad this October. He started in all 11 games of the NLDS and NLCS, engineering a .286 average and two home runs — one of which was the difference-maker in a 4-3 win during Game 1 of the NLDS. His glove has become a much-needed asset within the Dodgers’ organization as well, as he currently ranks sixth among qualified third basemen with seven Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and second with a 14.1 Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) in 2016.
While Turner’s production rate suggests that he’s made a full recovery from the microfracture procedure he underwent in 2015, the Dodgers appear to have reservations about the 31-year-old’s age. Heyman indicated that the veteran infielder prefers to stay in Los Angeles, but the chances of the Dodgers jumping into a fierce bidding war appear to be low for the time being.
Jansen, on the other hand, is expected to incur more interest from the club. The right-hander commanded a 1.83 ERA and 9.45 K/BB rate through 68 2/3 innings in the regular season and was instrumental in closing the door on five wins during the postseason. His 3.2 fWAR performance in 2016 made him the most valuable reliever in the major leagues, eclipsing fellow standouts like the Indians’ Andrew Miller and the Cubs’ Aroldis Chapman. Assuming the Dodgers are as serious about retaining Jansen as they were about pursuing Chapman during the 2015 offseason, the 29-year-old closer should stand a decent chance of returning to Los Angeles for another season.
Should the Dodgers fail to match an offer levied to either Turner or Jansen, they’ll receive compensation in the form of unprotected draft picks.
The Cubs obliterated the Dodgers in Game 6 of the NLCS, riding nine shutout innings to their first pennant win since 1945. Here’s what you should know about their historic finish:
- By virtue of the Cubs’ 71-year World Series drought, Jon Lester and Javier Baez became the club’s first and only postseason MVPs in franchise history. The World Series MVP award was first distributed in 1955, while the NLCS MVP awards have been issued since 1977.
- Lester and Baez are also the first co-MVPs of the Championship Series since the 1990 Reds celebrated left-hander Randy Myers and right-hander Rob “Nasty Boy” Dibble following the team’s ninth pennant win (per MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch).
- Anthony Rizzo’s fifth inning solo shot in Game 6 tied him with Miguel Cabrera, Alex Gonzalez, and Kyle Schwarber for the most postseason homers hit at Wrigley Field, with three (per Comcast SportsNet’s Christopher Kamka).
- Rizzo and Willson Contreras’ home runs were the first Clayton Kershaw had given up in the playoffs since Game 4 of the 2015 NLDS. The twin blasts also accounted for a fifth of the total home runs Kershaw had given up in 2016.
- Clayton Kershaw’s Game Score of 33 was not only the lowest the left-hander had put up since the start of the 2015 season, but the lowest the Cubs had seen from an opposing pitcher in the postseason since 1989. During Game 4 of the 1989 NLCS, Giants’ right-hander Scott Garrelts pitched 4 2/3 innings with eight hits, four runs, and two homers en route to a 6-4 loss and a 33 Game Score.
- By contrast, Kyle Hendricks’ Game Score of 86 was the third-highest among Cubs’ postseason starters, ranking just below Jake Arrieta’s 11-strikeout complete game during the 2015 wild card tiebreaker and Orval Overall’s three-hitter in Game 5 of the 1908 World Series.
- The last major league season to feature an ERA leader on the Cubs’ roster was 1945, also the last season in which the Cubs rode to the World Series. In 2016, the MLB ERA leader is Game 6 winner Kyle Hendricks (2.13 ERA); in ‘45, it was left-hander Ray Prim (2.40 ERA), who capped a dominant year with a loss against the Tigers in Game 4 of the World Series and blown save in Game 6.
- Not to be overlooked in the lefty’s gem on Saturday night: Hendricks and Aroldis Chapman combined to face the minimum number of batters, at 27. According to MLB Stat of the Day, only the 1956 Yankees had also faced the minimum batters in a postseason game, though they did it with just a bit more panache.
- With Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, Albert Almora Jr., Javier Baez, and Addison Russell penciled into the lineup, the Cubs became the first MLB team to utilize five starters under 25 years old to clinch the NLCS (also via MLB Stat of the Day).
- If you want to talk postseason drought, the Cubs-Indians World Series will set a precedent for combined championship-less streaks, at 174 years between the two clubs (per ESPN Stats & Info).
- Speaking of unpleasant streaks, there’s this: with the Dodgers’ loss in the NLCS, they’ve now gone to the postseason four consecutive times without participating in a World Series showdown. According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, that’s a first in major league history.