To be clear: I do not buy into the premise that a guy who “carried his team to the playoffs” deserves the MVP. Mostly because I don’t believe that one player can truly do that. Baseball is not basketball. It takes an entire team to win anything, and even if some guy gets hot at the right time, there were wins earlier in the season that helped the team into the playoffs that were attributable to others’ contributions. The baseball season is just too long and too many things happen to say one guy dragged his teammates to glory.
But if you are someone who buys into that — and given how much support Justin Verlander has received of late for that very reason, there are many — don’t you have to think hard about switching your vote to Jacoby Ellsbury?
The Sox have been truly awful in September, but Ellsbury has been a bright spot. He’s hitting .322/.377/.551 with seven homers and 19 RBI on the month. Add in last night’s heroics for the narrative-lovers and you have a much more solid case — if the Sox hold on and make the playoffs — that Ellsbury dragged his teammates over the hump than you do for Verlander who, while awesome, is pitching for a team who clinched last week and has a huge lead.
Not to say that Ellsbury isn’t a fine choice even if you don’t subscribe to the “he carried them in” school of thought — he is — but if that’s the basis for your vote for Verlander, how do you not switch to Ellsbury right now?
Update (7:01 PM EDT): David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the deal has been completed.
ESPN’s Keith Law reported on Saturday evening that a bad contract swap involving the Braves’ Hector Olivera and the Padres’ Matt Kemp was “getting close.” Olivera has been pulled off the field, per Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that only a last-second medical would kill the deal at this point, and that the Padres will be sending money to the Braves.
Kemp, 31, will have $64.5 million remaining on his contract through 2019 after this season, but the Dodgers will pay $3.5 million annually over those remaining three years, so the $64.5 million is really $54 million. The veteran has compiled a .262/.285/.489 triple-slash line with 23 home runs and 69 RBI in 431 plate appearances for the Padres this season.
Olivera, 31, will have $28.5 million remaining on his contract through 2020 after this season. The outfielder was handed an 82-game suspension, beginning on May 26, for his involvement in a domestic dispute on April 13. The suspension is up on August 2. He has a .501 OPS in 21 major league at-bats this season and a .278 OPS in 37 PA at Triple-A.
Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the Padres will consider designating Olivera for assignment. The trade is all about the salary dump for the Padres, as they’d rather give outfield playing time to prospects Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot.
The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.
Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.
Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.
Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.