Today the BBWAA will give out the only award that looks to have any kind of intrigue or potential controversy to it: AL MVP.
This year’s award throws a couple of time-tested argument starters out there: should a pitcher win the MVP? Should the MVP winner come from a team that didn’t go anywhere? Is year-long excellence somehow less impressive for MVP purposes than a guy who has a late dominant surge that carries a team into the playoffs? And what if that late surge couldn’t quite do it because all of that guy’s teammates were eating fried chicken and drinking beer?
Justin Verlander, Jose Bautista, Miguel Cabrera, Curtis Granderson and Jacoby Ellsbury all fall into that matrix somewhere. I have no freaking clue how it will break down. My gut tells me that Verlander will get it. Why? Because I imagine that when the Sox crapped out on the last day of the season Ellsbury lost support and that those people — storyline voters, I’ll call them, who wanted to give it to him on the theory that he was carrying Boston into the playoffs — will defect to Verlander in greater numbers than Bautista.
And yes, that’s not far removed from me just pulling it all out of my butt. Cut me some slack. I’m a little tired this morning.
One thing I’m more sure about: anyone who throws a fit about the MVP voting this year is just trying to start a fight because they’re bored. It’s OK, I do that all the time, but it’s hard to see oodles of daylight between these candidates in my view. I’d probably vote for Bautista, and I’ll get a little miffed if Verlander doesn’t win due to people simply leaving him off their ballots entirely, but there just doesn’t seem to be any room to call whatever results we get an atrocity.
Adjust your rage accordingly.
During the Pirates’ FanFest on Saturday, right-hander Gerrit Cole announced that he is back up to full health after being shut down with elbow inflammation in September. Per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Cole said he’ll start a throwing program on Monday as he works on regaining his form for the 2017 season.
The 26-year-old pitched through 116 innings for the Pirates in 2016, delivering a 3.88 ERA and 2.5 WARP before landing on the disabled list in June with a triceps strain and again in August with elbow inflammation. It was a steep drop for the right-hander, who saw a considerable spike in his ERA and BB/9 rate and struggled to strike out batters at the 8.7 mark he managed in 2015.
The upside? Inflammation was the worst of Cole’s issues in 2016, and while the newfound health issues didn’t help his case for an extension, a more serious injury doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.
The Astros, Braves and Nationals came sniffing around White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana during the Winter Meetings, but each appeared to find the Sox’ asking price well beyond what they were willing to give up for the starter. On Saturday, Peter Gammons revealed that the White Sox had floated Francis Martes, Kyle Tucker and Joe Musgrove as a possible return for Quintana.
It’s a strategy that worked well for Chicago in the past, most recently when they dealt Chris Sale to the Red Sox for Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, among others, and flipped Adam Eaton to the Nationals for a trio of pitching prospects. Astros’ GM Jeff Luhnow didn’t appear eager to sacrifice some of his core talent to net a high-end starter, however, and told the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan as much on Wednesday:
We’re prepared to trade players to improve our club right now. […] We’re just not prepared to trade away players that are core to our production in 2017, and those are sometimes the players that are required to get these deals done.
While Lunhow was speaking specifically to the inclusion of third baseman Alex Bregman in future deals, it’s not unrealistic to think that top prospects Francis Martes and Kyle Tucker would also be considered instrumental to the Astros’ plans for the next few seasons.
Martes, 21, currently sits atop the team’s top prospect list on MLB.com. The right-hander blazed through his first full season in Double-A Corpus Christi, posting a 3.30 ERA and career-best 9.4 K/9 over 125 1/3 innings in 2016. Tucker, meanwhile, profiles as the Astros’ second-best prospect and made a successful jump to High-A Lancaster last season, slashing .339/.435/.661 in 69 PA. Rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove is the only player left off the top prospect list, but he got off to a decent start with the club in 2016 as well, going 4-4 with a 4.06 ERA and 3.44 K/BB rate in 62 innings during his first major league season.