You’re not “valuable” unless you’re on a winning team, apparently

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We’re destined to have a good postseason award fight every year. Last year was the great pitchers’ wins debate, in which people argued about whether or not Felix Hernandez should win the Cy Young despite not having a lot of them.  This year it’s going to be the “MVPs can only come from winning teams” debate, with Jose Bautista as the bone of contention.

Today’s Jon Heyman’s column crystallizes the issue for us. A column in which he says that Jose Bautista would be his fifth-place MVP candidate. The reasoning is familiar and not unique to Heyman:

Stats are most assuredly a major part of the equation. But they shouldn’t be completely determinative. Otherwise, let’s just run the numbers through a computer. And rename the award Most Outstanding player. Because there’s no way to put a number on the value of leading a team into the postseason, which should be everyone’s goal.

Like people, stats are imperfect. Even WAR, which I agree is a very useful stat, is imperfect because it depends on the value placed on other statistics by the person who devises the formula. The ultimate goal of any player is to win, so the value of the individual accomplishments that lead to a pennant should be viewed in that context.

So while Bautista has been the most outstanding player in the league whether you use WAR or OPS or or any other key stat, it’s a tough case to make for him as MVP in a year when so many stars are ushering their team into the playoffs.

I guess what I don’t understand here is if “leading a team into the postseason” is the criteria, how can Heyman include four Red Sox in his top ten?  Jacoby Ellsbury, Adrian Gonzalez, Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz all being so awesome, how can it be said that anyone “led” that group?  It was a total team effort — of a stacked team — which got the Red Sox where they are. None of those guys has either (a) played as well as Bautista; or (b) done anything superhuman or singular. It’s a wolfpack of excellent players, none of whom are as good as Bautista, and none of whom — if surrounded by Bautista’s supporting cast — would be playing on a playoff team this year either.

I know the arguments that will come. I am well-aware of the how people engage in the precise parsing of the term “valuable” and put forth the idea that it’s not called the “most outstanding player award.”  But it seems to me that in order to get to the place where one can start hashing out the definition of “valuable” one has to totally ignore the fact that baseball is a team sport. And I don’t understand what good an award is if it’s premised on completely and utterly divorcing it from the essence of the game itself.

And of course there’s a final irony here. It’s usually the guys who are the biggest proponents of “team chemistry” — the guys who believe that you can’t win jack without 25 guys working together — who tend to argue that one guy can single-handedly lead a team into the playoffs.  Does that make any sense to you?  It doesn’t to me.

Report: Diamondbacks acquire Steven Souza from Rays in part of three-team deal

Tampa Bay Rays
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Update (6:35 PM ET): This is a three-team deal also involving the Diamondbacks, per Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. The Diamondbacks will receive outfielder Steven Souza from the Rays and second baseman Brandon Drury will head to the Yankees. Lefty reliever Anthony Banda will go to the Rays, Piecoro adds. The Diamondbacks will also receive prospect Taylor Widener from the Yankees, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post. MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert adds that the Rays will get two players to be named later from the D-Backs.

Souza, 28, is earning $3.55 million in his first of three years of arbitration eligibility, so the Rays are presumably saving money in moving him. Last season, Souza hit a productive .239/.351/.459 with 30 home runs, 78 RBI, 78 runs scored, and 16 stolen bases in 617 plate appearances. Souza’s arrival almost certainly pushes Yasmany Tomas out of a starting gig.

Drury, 25, has played a handful of positions in his brief major league career. Last year, he played second base in Arizona, batting .267/.317/.447 with 13 home runs and 63 RBI in 480 PA.

Banda, 24, made his major league debut last season, posting an ugly 5.96 ERA with a 25/10 K/BB ratio in 25 2/3 innings. The peripherals suggest he pitched better than his ERA indicated.

Widener, 23, was selected by the Yankees in the 12th round of the 2016 draft. This past season with High-A Tampa, he pitched 119 1/3 innings and posted a 3.39 ERA with a 129/50 K/BB ratio. MLB Pipeline rated Widener as the 14th-best prospect in the Yankees’ system.

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Robert Murray of FanRag Sports reports that the Rays will acquire second base prospect Nick Solak from the Yankees. The Yankees’ return is presently not known.

Solak, 23, was selected by the Yankees in the second round of the 2016 draft. He spent last season between High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton, hitting a combined .297/.384/.452 with 12 home runs, 53 RBI, 72 runs scored, and 14 stolen bases.

MLB Pipeline ranked Solak as the eighth-best prospect in the Yankees’ system and the fifth-best second base prospect in baseball, praising him for his ability to hit line drives as well as his speed.