The Diamondbacks think about locking up Upton, Reynolds

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Justin Upton 2.jpgThe Diamondbacks are thinking long term:

Their arbitration-eligible players all taken care of thanks to the
Valentine’s Day signing of right-hander Edwin Jackson, the D-backs
front office will turn its attention to signing players with less than
three years of big league service. That typically involves one-year deals, but in the case of
third baseman Mark Reynolds and right fielder Justin Upton, it appears
the D-backs have at least begun to explore multiyear pacts.

We’ve heard this before regarding Reynolds. My take on him was, for his own sake, he should do his best to get a long-term deal while the gettin’s good. If I’m Arizona, however, I’m wary of going overboard, for the same reason that I’d want to sign a deal if I were Reynolds: his market is not going to be scintillating in the coming years. There will be teams that steer away from him due to his age, his strikeouts or both.  If Adam Dunn has to go year-to-year through his 30s, than Reynolds will have to as well.  So sure, if you’re Arizona you explore locking him up for the sake of certainty, but don’t go crazy.

Upton is a different story of course. To quote the Rotoworld annual that just arrived at my door (and which you should totally buy) you’d be hard-pressed to find a ballplayer with more promise than Upton. He’s young and progressing in ways that Hall-of-Fame caliber players have progressed in the past. Lock him up and throw away the key, I say.

But for how much? FanGraph’s Joe Pawlikowski ran some numbers today. His verdict: a five-year $58 million deal which balances the team and player risks and allows Upton to still hit free agency at age 28 when he can make top-shelf money.  If I’m the team I probably offer that right now.

If I’m Upton I may be wary to accept it, because if I take the next predictable step forward, I may very well shatter Ryan Howard’s record come arbitration time next year, which could set the stage for an even bigger deal. Of course, saying no to $58 million guaranteed dollars is a much easier thing to do when you’re just pretending to be Justin Upton. It might take a second’s more deliberation for the real Justin Upton.

Theo Epstein named The World’s Greatest Leader

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Fortune Magazine has put out a list of The World’s Greatest Leaders. Not the greatest business leaders, not the greatest leaders in a given industry, but the Greatest Leaders, full stop. The greatest according to Fortune: The Cubs’ Theo Epstein.

For some context, Pope Francis was third. Angela Merkel was 10th. Lebron James was the next greatest sports leader, ranked 11th. Take Fortune’s methodology with a grain of salt, however, given that it has John McCain above Merkel — what, exactly, does he lead now? — and Samantha Bee in the top 20.

So what makes Theo the world’s best leader according to Fortune?

The Cubs owe their success to a five-year rebuilding program that featured a concatenation of different leadership styles. The team thrived under the affable patience of owner Tom Ricketts, and, later, under the innovative eccentricity of manager Joe Maddon. But most important of all was the evolution of the club’s president for baseball operations, Theo Epstein, the wunderkind executive who realized he would need to grow as a leader in order to replicate in Chicago the success he’d had with the Boston Red Sox.

I don’t want to take anything away from what Theo has done — he’s a Hall of Fame executive already in my view — but I feel like maybe one needs to adjust for the fact that this is a baseball team we’re talking about. They’re the whole world to us and their brands are nationally and even world famous, but as an organization, sports teams are rather small. There are guys who run reasonably-sized HVAC companies with more employees than a baseball team and they don’t get the benefit of an antitrust exemption and a rule which allows them to get their pick of the best new employees if they had a bad year the year before.

Really, not trying to throw shade here, just thinking that being the spiritual father for 1.2 billion Catholics or running a foundation that serves 55 million needy children — like the woman who comes in at number 14 — is a bit of a tougher trick.

But this will make a great framed magazine article on Theo’s wall in Wrigley Field.

 

 

Marcus Stroman named World Baseball Classic MVP

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United States starter Marcus Stroman was named Most Valuable Player of the World Baseball Classic after helping lead the U.S. to its first ever WBC title on Wednesday night in an 8-0 victory over Puerto Rico. Stroman flirted with a no-hitter through six innings, but gave up a double to lead off the seventh before being relieved by Sam Dyson.

Stroman also pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings against the Dominican Republic in Pool C play on March 11. He struggled in Pool F play against Puerto Rico last Friday, surrendering four runs in 4 2/3 innings.

The WBC MVP award understandably goes to a player of the winning team. However, Wladimir Balentien of the Netherlands deserves special mention. In 26 at-bats during the WBC, he hit a double and had a WBC-high four home runs, 12 RBI, and 12 runs scored while putting up a .615/.677/.1.115 batting line. That’s MVP-esque as far as this tournament is concerned.