Red Sox still need a taker for Lowell

Leave a comment

Already almost dealt in December, Mike Lowell is a man auditioning for work this spring, though he’ll do so with the comfort of a $12 million salary and a no-trade clause that gives him some control over his destiny.
Lowell took batting practice Monday for the first time since the thumb surgery that scuttled the trade that would have sent him and $9 million of his salary to Texas for Max Ramirez. He’ll probably sit out the first bit of the spring, but he isn’t far behind the rest of the Red Sox hitters following the relatively minor procedure.
Whether there’s any real interest in Lowell this spring will probably hinge more on his defense than his offense. Lowell showed diminished range at third base after his Oct. 2008 hip surgery, and the Red Sox weren’t content to go forward with him at the position this year. If he’s moving around better this spring, then he could still function as a legitimate regular for a contender. He’s finished with OPSs of 879, 798 and 811 the last three years.
Still, the Red Sox may need someone to get hurt if they’re going to net any real return for Lowell. The Twins are still undecided at third base, but they did get their second-base upgrade and they won’t mind going with the hot hand between Nick Punto and Brendan Harris at the hot corner. Florida would be an interesting option, given that Lowell was a fan favorite there. Jorge Cantu is penciled in at third base, but he could always be moved back to first if neither Logan Morrison nor Gaby Sanchez makes a splash this spring.
The Rangers added Vladimir Guerrero after the Lowell deal fell apart. They still might have some interest in him as a bench player, but probably not for $3 million. The Blue Jays could use a fallback at third and DH, as well as a right-handed-hitting first baseman. The White Sox might be another fit. Plus, injuries could change things in a hurry. The Braves and Reds are among the teams relying on corner infielders with durability issues. The Red Sox need someone to come calling eventually, because while they could carry him if they need to, Lowell isn’t in their plans for this year.

The Yankees are paying $86 million for a one-inning reliever

chapman
9 Comments

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

gettyimages-577291896
Getty Images
12 Comments

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.

*

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.