Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings

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The Rays and Yankees have been the default top pick all year, primarily on the strength of having the best record. But that’s only part of what goes into my Power Rankings special sauce, even if it’s an important part. For this week at least, it ain’t enough.

1. Twins (3): Closer out with Tommy John? No problem. First baseman — who was having an MVP caliber season — goes out with a concussion? No problem. The White Sox go on a couple of tears? No problem. You can find faults if you look hard enough, but in my opinion the Minnesota Twins are the best team in baseball right now.

2. Yankees (1): Derek Jeter hasn’t had a multi-hit game since August 21st, but I still have this feeling that he’ll activate that little chip in the back of his head and that he’ll hit .400 against the Rays this week and next week and get a bunch of annoyingly well-timed hits in October.

3. Rays (2): Seven of their next ten come against the Yankees. What’s the more important thing to play for right now: winning the AL East for its own sake, or winning the AL East so they don’t have to face the Twins in the first round?

4. Phillies (5): The Halladay-Oswalt-Hamels attack is working exactly as planned. Woe be to whomever has to face those three in the playoffs.

5. Giants (8): Just as they take three of four from the Padres they lose Andres Torres for the season. Talk about a bummer.

6. Rockies (10): En Fuego. They may be 1.5 behind the Padres and Giants, but they are probably the best bet to win the division right now. My best bet anyway. Series against the Padres begins tonight. They’ve played very well against San Diego this year.

7. Braves (6): Hitting the wall, it seems. Hudson is tired. Jurrjens hasn’t looked right and Derek Lowe and Kenshin Kawakami just aren’t that good. I’m not going to write them off, obviously, as a one game deficit is meaningless when you still have six games left against the team you’re chasing. But no, my confidence is not high at the moment.

8. Padres (9): Also hitting the wall. Mat Latos is at 166 IP right now. I can’t imagine the plan was for him to pitch that many, let alone the four more starts’ worth he’s scheduled for if he stays on regular rest.

9. Rangers (11): Jeff Francoeur: the secret weapon. He’s 5 for 13 with three RBIs and a .400 OBP since coming over to Texas. Then again, he always makes a good first impression, doesn’t he?

10. Reds (4): That black and purple buzzsaw they ran into last week was no fun, but a lot of teams are experiencing that these days. Two of three from the Pirates is better, and a six game cushion still seems comfy enough. I’d feel confident buying playoff tickets for these guys right now.

11. Red Sox (11): Reading the Boston papers and all the Martinez/Ortiz/Papelbon talk and you’d think it was December and this was hot stove season already. At some point it’s going to dawn on everyone that this was a pretty good team that sadly (a) had a metric ass-ton of injuries this year; and (b) looked way worse than they really were by virtue of playing the AL East.

12. White Sox (7): A friend emailed me this morning to tell me that he saw Mark Buehrle getting a pumpkin spice latte at a Chicagoland Starbucks. Then — just as he was sprinkling on his extra cinnamon — Joe West jumped out and called a balk on him. True story.

13. Cardinals (13): Dropping two of three (Brewers) and splitting a four game series (Braves) is not going to get the job done. They needed a Rockies-like run, and they’re not getting it.

14. Marlins (15): I like watching Mike Stanton hit home runs. But as an NL East partisan, I won’t particularly mind if he doesn’t cut down on his strikeouts and up his OBP until he’s playing somewhere else. In the meantime, I think I’ll enjoy the Dave Kingman act.

15. Athletics (16): Question: will the Silicon Valley CEOs who want the A’s in San Jose help pony up for the parking and utility improvements and all of that side stuff that will end up costing San Jose taxpayers tens of millions even if the stadium is “privately built?”

16. Blue Jays (14): We hear a bunch about the Mets and Cubs, but does anyone have any idea who’s going to manage the Blue Jays next year? I don’t think I’ve heard any real speculation about it. Let’s create some: Bobby Valentine is a perfect fit for the job because he has extensive non-United States managing experience. Really, there’s nothing easier than creating your own Bobby Valentine rumor. You should try it at home!

17. Tigers (18): Back to .500, thanks in part to taking three of four from the White Sox. Give Jim Leyland — a man who has taken some lumps for late season fades in recent years — for not letting his team quit.

18. Mets (20): They probably didn’t deserve a two-spot bump for taking two of three from the Nats, but at this point I’m just feeling sorry for them. Speaking of New York, this may be the best thing the Onion has written in years.

19. Dodgers (17)/Astros (19): The mood among Dodgers fans is impossibly grim right now. The mood among Astros fans is pretty damn good. Easy to forget, then, that the Dodgers are almost certain to play much better than they are right now next year and the Astros to play much worse.

21. Angels (21): I’ll admit: Mike Scioscia worrying about where the playoffs are being held this year gave me a chuckle this morning.

22. Brewers (23): Ken Macha is almost certainly gone, I would imagine. Does Willie Randolph have a shot at that job, or do they clean house entirely? Seems to me that Randoph deserves another shot at the top job someplace.

23. Cubs (22): Seven of their final 19 games are against the Padres and Giants. So I guess they Cubs could claim they’re involved in a pennant race if they really want to.

24. Orioles (25): Baltimore has to close things out at 8-11 or better to avoid 100 losses. With the way the season started, the fact that they really could do it is amazing.

25. Indians (28): Things you did not know because you spend almost zero time paying attention to the Indians: Travis Hafner has been pretty darn good this year.

26. Royals (27): There’s nothing more frightening than being threatened by a guy named Ned. Well, except for everything.

27. Nationals (24): I swear, I’ve seen at least three D.C. reporters write some variation of “Nyjer Morgan is not likely to stick with Nationals after this year” in the past week or so. Do the weather reports there include percent chance that the sun rises too?

28. Diamondbacks (26): Kevin Towers may or may not come to run this team, but I know two things: (1) the Padres under Towers always managed to put together nice bullpens on the cheap; and (2) if the Diamondbacks had a halfway decent bullpen this year they would have been a far more dangerous team than they ended up being.

29. Mariners (29): Every
thing going on in Seattle right now is a disgrace
. I can’t wait to read the translation of Ichiro’s autobiography someday.

30. Pirates (30): After all of this season’s ugliness, it’s pretty shocking to see that they’re on pace to outdraw last year’s attendance totals.

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

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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

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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.

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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.