Nolan Ryan: “we’re overpaying some free agents that probably shouldn’t be getting paid what they are”

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Query: which free agents are we rightfully overpaying?  While you ponder that, here’s Nolan Ryan’s reaction to the Cliff Lee deal:

Well, you know, every year you think you’ve seen this thing take on a life of its own and you think it’s got to top out here pretty quick, and it just keeps escalating. Obviously, the premier free agents…they’re just so few of them, they just keep going up and so what you have is a high-ish amount of people getting an unbelievable amount of money and it impacts everything else and so we’re overpaying some free agents that probably shouldn’t be getting paid what they are.

That answer, combined with some others in the interview imply that Ryan is not at all displeased that the Rangers missed out on Lee.  He’d prefer to go 3-4 years with free agents. It seemed at the time that the push for Lee in Texas came from Chuck Greenberg, not Ryan and Jon Daniels.  This seems to bolster that notion.

By the way, the question that elicited that quote also asked Ryan what he thought he’d command if he had been a free agent pitcher in today’s market. Ryan dodged it, but Walt Davis, a commenter over at Baseball Think Factory attacked this question over in this comment thread (comment #10), and he knocked it out of the park.

The upshot: you figure that, under today’s setup, Ryan would have first hit free agency following th 1973 season. At that point, coming off his first two 300-strikeout seasons, he would have commanded a six or seven year deal in the $20 million+ range.  Based on what he did in 1974-80, however, most teams probably would have considered that an overpay. His walk rate was pretty bad, even by his standards. He had three sub-100 ERA+ seasons and a couple more average ones.

It would only be later in the 80s — and here is where Davis’ analysis really shines — that Ryan would have earned his keep. And depending on how ownership set up his age-40+ contracts (e.g. year-to-year? Roger Clemens-type incentive-laden deals?) he could have made out like a bandit.

Julio Urias to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery

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The news has gone from bad to worse for Dodgers’ left-hander Julio Urias, who is scheduled for anterior capsule surgery on his left shoulder next Tuesday and expected to be sidelined through the middle of the 2018 season. His MRI came back negative on Wednesday, giving the Dodgers some hope that the 20-year-old’s bout of shoulder inflammation wasn’t masking any structural damage, but the pain lingered several days later and prompted further concern from the club. The procedure will be performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache.

Urias was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City in late May and placed on the disabled list with left shoulder discomfort several weeks into his assignment. At the major league level, he owned a 5.40 ERA, 5.4 BB/9 and 4.2 SO/9 through 23 1/3 innings, going 0-2 in five starts with Los Angeles. He made a brief rebound in Triple-A, posting three wins and striking out 17 of 67 batters in 17 1/3 innings before landing on the DL.

It’s a tough blow for the southpaw, who had yet to hit his stride in the majors before getting sidelined with shoulder issues. The Dodgers were especially mindful of this outcome for Urias, and had taken preventative measures to protect his arm by establishing a strict innings limit last season. According to club president Andrew Friedman, there’s a small silver lining here: while Urias’ injury will keep him out of work for at least 12 months, he doesn’t appear to have sustained any damage to his labrum or rotator cuff, and could be facing a much more streamlined recovery process as a result. Whether he’ll be able to rebound once he takes the mound again remains to be seen.

Tigers release Francisco Rodriguez

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Tigers’ right-handed reliever Francisco Rodriguez was released on Friday, per a team announcement. The club recalled fellow right-hander Bruce Rondon from Triple-A Toledo in a corresponding move.

The former closer got the boot after losing his closing role in early May, giving left-hander Justin Wilson a chance to impress at the back end of the bullpen. It’s been a rough year for Rodriguez, who manufactured six blown saves and a 7.82 ERA, 3.9 BB/9 and 8.2 SO/9 over 25 1/3 innings for the Tigers. The final straw, it seemed, came with Robinson Cano‘s grand slam in the seventh inning of the Tigers’ 6-9 loss to the Mariners on Thursday.

While the demotion to a clean-up role and an apparent lack of communication caused Rodriguez considerable frustration, he’s two years removed from his last dominant performance as a major league closer and has shown few signs of returning to form. His recent slump doesn’t diminish the impressive totals he’s racked up over his 16-year career — 437 saves and six All-Star nominations among them — but if he can’t break out of it soon, he may not receive the kind of high leverage role he’s seeking with another big league team, either.