Ken Rosenthal's Hall of Fame ballot is A-OK

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Trammell.jpgKen Rosenthal says that he usually limits his Hall of Fame ballot to two or three elite candidates, but this year he votes for nine guys:
Roberto Alomar, Barry Larkin, Edgar
Martinez, Fred McGriff, Bert
Blyleven, Andre Dawson, Tim Raines, Lee Smith, and Alan Trammell. 
Rosenthal is only one voter, but since he has so many guys in it I want
to talk about, let’s use his ballot as the jumping off point.

At the outset, let me say that the fact that he included Alan Trammell
— my first and truest baseball love — entitles him to absolution for
any of his past ballot sins. Seriously Ken, you could dedicate the rest
of your life to getting guys like Dave Parker and Bernie Williams
elected and I won’t go too hard on you in light of that Trammell vote.

But beyond my baseball crushes, there’s a lot to like here.  It’s a big
ballot, sure, but it makes sense. Larkin and Alomar seem like
no-brainers to me. You know my thoughts on Blyleven. As I said
yesterday, I won’t cry if Martinez doesn’t make it this year because
people still need to screw their DH-heads on straight, but I think he
belongs.  In my mind Raines is a sure Hall of Famer too, for all of the reasons Joe Posnanski outlined a couple of weeks ago.

Which brings us to McGriff, Dawson and Smith. I’m going to put off
talking about Smith for now because I’m not sure I have really come to
grips with what to do with one-inning closers who were anything short
of uber-elite like Eckersley, but I promise to devote some thoughts and
words to the subject soon. So, for the time being no on Smith.

That leaves Dawson and McGriff. I think they’re much closer calls than
the others and I’m not 100% sure what I’d do with them if the ballot
was staring me in the face today. Let’s talk through this.

I think I’d lean yes on McGriff. Given that he straddled the low-offense
80s and high-offense 90s, his statistical case flies under the radar,
with his best seasons coming in lower run-scoring environments. 1989
was his best full season (1994 may have been his absolute best but was
cut short). That year he hit .269/.399/.525 with 36 homers. That may
elicit a yawn by more recent standards but at that time those were MVP
numbers. If he had played in places outside of Toronto and San Diego
during those early years he probably would have actually won one.

Dawson: I loved the Hawk. Great man. Got royally screwed over by
collusion and should have made a hell of a lot more money in his career
than he did. Was under-appreciated for what he was in his time, but may
be a bit overrated now if that makes any sense.  Ultimately I don’t
think I could pull the lever for him due to his .323 on base percentage
which would be historically low for a Hall of Fame outfielder, and
lower than the average player of his day. And I’m not buying Dawson and
Rosenthal’s argument that he could have had a higher OBP if he had been
told it was important. Not making outs is pretty fundamental to the
game, and that’s what OBP is. I don’t think a player as smart as Dawson
needed anyone to tell him that.  Upshot: Dawson makes my Hall of Very,
Very Good, but he does not make my Hall of Fame.

The last slot on Rosenthal’s ballot was empty, and he says who it could
have been but wasn’t: Mark McGwire. Like I said, I’ll accept this in
light of the love for Trammell, Blyleven and his refusal to put Jack
Morris on his ballot, but I think McGwire belongs. I will point out,
though, that Rosenthal’s comment on the matter — “The more we
learn about the Steroid Era, the better we understand just how
deeply performance-enhancing drugs were entrenched in the
game’s culture” — suggests that he and maybe others will soften on
McGwire over time and realize that he was a man of his time. That,
though he probably cheated, he was doing it in a league full of
cheaters, and thus didn’t have some obscene advantage like is currently
portrayed.

So like I said: good ballot. Not perfect — none is — but one that I could almost see myself filling out.

Dallas Keuchel, Astros did talk long-term contract

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Dallas Keuchel‘s agent Darek Braunecker told MLB Network Radio in early January that he had not engaged in any long-term contract negotiations with the Astros’ front office. Two weeks later, the sides reached a one-year, $7.25 million agreement, avoiding a salary arbitration hearing. So was a bigger financial commitment ever discussed?

Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle has the answer, writing in his offseason review that the “Astros and Keuchel have had substantial talks about extensions [this winter] … but to no avail.”

Keuchel carries all the leverage in the world after winning the 2015 American League Cy Young Award with a 2.48 ERA, 1.017 WHIP, and 216/51 K/BB ratio in 232 innings. He also made three appearances in the postseason to a 2.57 ERA in 14 frames.

Keuchel’s $7.25 million salary for 2016 will be a record for a player in his first year of arbitration eligibility. Locking up some of his free agent years (2019, 2020, 2021, etc.) would likely take a commitment of $120 million or more.

Houston has the 28-year-old left-hander under contractual control through 2018, and it sounds like the plan is to go season-to-season with his salaries.

He’ll remain a huge value to a good-looking Astros team.

Yadier Molina gets cast removed from surgically-repaired thumb

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Yadier Molina underwent surgery to repair a ligament tear in his right thumb shortly after the Cardinals were eliminated from the NLDS by the Cubs, and then he needed a followup procedure two months later.

It’s been an offseason of rest and rehab for the seven-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glover, though he’s about ready to ramp up the intensity of workouts with the beginning of spring training approaching …

Brayan Pena was signed to a two-year, $5 million free agent contract this winter to provide more reliable depth behind the plate. He’ll be the Cardinals’ starter at catcher come Opening Day if Yadi isn’t quite ready.

Molina started a whopping 131 games behind the plate in 2015.

Jose Fernandez wants $30 million a year, Marlins don’t plan on paying

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You’ve heard the stories by now. Jose Fernandez does not get along with Marlins management and is doubtful to sign a long-term contract with the team.

There’s still time for those relationships to be repaired — Fernandez can’t become a free agent until after the 2018 season — but we also have a monetary issue at play.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes Sunday that the Marlins are “under the impression” Fernandez and his representatives want $30 million per year on a long-term deal, a figure the Marlins “have no plans to meet.”

If the Marlins won’t pay, Fernandez and his reps will seek that number when the ace right-hander reaches free agency. That could be the same offseason Bryce Harper tries for $500 million.

A friend of Fernandez told Jackson that the 23-year-old native of Cuba was upset about some of the trades the Marlins made last summer and the removal of pitching coach Chuck Hernandez. You probably heard talk of Miami shopping Fernandez this winter, but the asking price was predictably sky-high.

Fernandez has been limited to 19 starts over the last two years because of Tommy John surgery and a biceps injury, but he boasts a stellar 2.40 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and 10.5 K/9 in 289 career major league frames. He will make $2.8 million in 2016 and carries two more years of arbitration eligibility.

If he can put together a run of 30-start, 200-inning seasons, Fernandez will get that $30 million per year and probably much more.

Michael Brantley’s timetable off shoulder surgery is “hazy”

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Paul Hoynes at the Cleveland Plain Dealer has an in-depth look at how the Indians will manage their outfield during the early part of the 2016 season, in the absence of star Michael Brantley.

Brantley underwent labrum surgery on his right shoulder this past November and has not picked up a bat all winter. “In the off-season people know I love to hit,” Brantley acknowledged to Hoynes late last week. ”I hit a lot. It’s just been a change in my timetable.”

Hoynes says the projected date for Brantley’s 2016 debut is “hazy,” guessing that it might happen around late April or early May if everything continues to go smoothly. Shoulders can be tricky, for hitters and pitchers.

Rajai Davis, Abraham Almonte, and Lonnie Chisenhall figure to make up Cleveland’s primary starting outfield while Brantley is finishing his rehabilitation. Collin Cowgill and Joey Butler could also be in the mix. It’s a lacking group, tasked with replacing one of the most productive players in baseball.

Brantley, 28, has slashed .319/.382/.494 over the last two seasons, tallying 35 home runs, 90 doubles, 181 RBI, and 38 stolen bases in 293 games.

Could the talented Tribe be in for another slow start?

Shouldn’t this club be spending more money?