Cincinatti Reds Votto and Toronto Blue Jays Bautista hold their Henry Aaron awards prior to Game 4 of Major League Baseball's World Series in Arlington

Votto, Bautista win the Hank Aaron Award

Leave a comment

Now that BBWAA voters have imposed a defacto “no pitchers allowed” rule on the MVP, it has become a hitting award with unnecessary complications.  In light of that, I like the Hank Aaron Award’s stated purpose of simply honoring offense. It takes out all of that “who was more clutch” and “who carried their team” nonsense that the MVP award so frequently dredges up. And the Aaron Award winners were announced yesterday: Joey Votto in the NL, Jose Bautista in the AL.

Votto hit .324 with 37 home runs and 113 RBI, posted a .424 OBP and slugged .600.  His season was very, very close to Albert Pulos in most categories. Pujols had 52 more plate appearances, but Votto’s rate stats were a tad higher, mostly due to his batting average. Pujols was probably a tad better, but we’re really splitting hairs to get to that point. With seasons as similar as those two, I don’t think you can really fault going with one over the other.

The choice of Bautista was a little more curious. He hit 54 home runs,  drove in 124 and slugged .617. He also took 100 walks, so it’s not like he was totally one-dimensional out there.  But even with all of those homers, he was out-slugged by both Josh Hamilton and Miguel Cabrera and got on base at a much lower clip than either of those two. Seems like the voters made the mistake of thinking that Hank Aaron was just about the home runs — he most certainly wasn’t — and gave his namesake award to the biggest home run hitter rather than the best offensive player in the AL.

But let’s not get too worked up about the voters either: the panel consists of Hall of Famers, including Aaron himself, Tony Gwynn, Harmon Killebrew, Willie McCovey, Paul Molitor, Billy Williams and Robin Yount. Oh, and there’s a fan vote too. So no, not exactly a conclave of analysis wizards here. And I don’t have a problem with that.

Dallas Keuchel, Astros did talk long-term contract

Screenshot 2016-02-14 at 1.24.05 PM
Scott Halleran/Getty Images North America
1 Comment

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

Screenshot 2016-02-14 at 12.27.52 PM
Norm Hall/Getty Images North America
1 Comment

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

Jose+Fernandez+Atlanta+Braves+v+Miami+Marlins+URVbRE-s179l
Rob Foldy/Getty Images North America
12 Comments

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”

Michael+Brantley+Cleveland+Indians+v+Cincinnati+QyGTT9ddbl2l
Kirk Irwin/Getty Images North America
8 Comments

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?