Pat Burrell, Charlie Manuel

Pat Burrell and the Class of 1998


Pat Burrell, the first overall pick in the 1998 draft, is expected to announce his retirement in the coming days. J.D. Drew, another top player from the same class, may do the same. So, here’s a look at the top players from the 1998 draft, as judged by Baseball-Reference’s version of WAR (the list only includes 1998 picks who signed):

49.8: CC Sabathia – Cle – 20th overall
46.3: Mark Buehrle – CWS – 1139th
45.9: J.D. Drew – StL – 5th
30.9: Matt Holliday – Col – 210th
24.0: Adam Dunn – Cin – 50th
20.2: Aaron Rowand – CWS – 35th
18.7: Pat Burrell – Phi – 1st
17.9: Brandon Inge – Det – 57th
16.3: Mark Mulder – Oak – 2nd
15.8: Austin Kearns – Cin – 7th
15.5: Jack Wilson – StL – 258th
15.2: Carlos Pena – Tex – 10th
14.2: Aubrey Huff – TB – 162nd
13.6: Juan Pierre – Col – 390th
13.3: Jeff Weaver – Det – 14th
13.3: Eric Byrnes – Oak – 225th
12.2: Morgan Ensberg – Hou – 272nd
12.2: B.J. Ryan – Cin – 500th
10.3: Eric Hinske – ChC – 496th
10.3: Brad Wilkerson – Mon – 33rd
9.4: Matt Thornton – Sea – 22nd
9.0: Ryan Madson – Phi – 254th
8.3: Brad Lidge – Hou – 17th
8.0: Nick Punto – Phi – 614th
7.9: Adam Everett – Bos – 12th
7.8: David Ross – LAD – 216th
7.4: Gerald Laird – Oak – 45th
7.4: Jason Michaels – Phi – 104th
7.1: Felipe Lopez – Tor – 8th
7.0: John Buck – Hou – 212th
6.5: Bill Hall – Mil – 176th
6.4: Brian Lawrence – SD – 502nd
6.2: Corey Patterson – ChC – 3rd
6.2: Kip Wells – CWS – 16th
6.1: Joe  Kennedy – TB – 252nd

Burrell comes in seventh, which seems about right given his lack of defensive value. Of the players below him, only Inge and Pena would seem to have much chance of passing him on the list, and it’s entirely possible Inge will produce negative WAR over the remainder of his career.

The Phillies, incidentally, also landed Madson, Punto and Michaels. They and the Reds were the only teams to land draft four semi-useful players in 1998, as I judge it anyway. The Reds selected Todd Coffey along with Dunn, Kearns and Ryan.

Here’s that list:

4 – Phillies, Reds
3 – Astros, Athletics, Cubs, Rockies, Tigers, White Sox
2 – Blue Jays, Braves, Cardinals, Rays, Red Sox
1 – Brewers, D’Backs, Dodgers, Expos, Giants, Indians, Mariners, Mets, Orioles, Padres, Pirates, Rangers
0 – Angels, Marlins, Orioles, Royals, Twins, Yankees

The Orioles drafted Cliff Lee and the Yankees picked Mark Prior, but neither player signed. I’d say the Royals had the worst draft of all: they had the 4th (Jeff Austin), 30th (Chris George) and 31st (Matt Burch) overall picks and got nothing from them.

The Cubs acquire Rex Brothers from the Rockies

Rex Brothers Rockies

The number of people who, if you held a gun to their head, would say that “Rex Brothers” was a game show host and/or local TV news personality from the late 1970s or early 80s is not insignificant. But if you’re a Rockies fan or if spend all day thinking about baseball you know that he’s a reliever who has played in Colorado for the past five years. Now you know him as a reliever for the Cubs:

Brothers — a former Best Shape of His Life All-Star — was pretty good until he hit a brick wall in 2014 and spent most of 2015 in Triple-A. He had something of a bounceback after being called up when rosters expanded in September, but that’s not the sort of thing to excite anyone. He could be useful for the Cubs or just spring training cannon fodder and organizational depth.

Cabrera just turned 18 a couple of weeks ago and pitched a grand total of 14 games in the Dominican Summer League. He’s young and was a $250,000 signee from the Dominican as a 16-year-old so, by definition, he’s a project. Worth giving up Rex Brothers for him if you’re the Rockies, worth risking for some depth in the pen if you’re the Cubs.

Diamondbacks hire Dave Magadan as hitting coach

Dave Magadan Rangers
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Steve Gilbert of reports that the Diamondbacks’ new hitting coach is Dave Magadan, who “parted ways” with the Rangers last month after three years filling the same role in Texas.

Magadan also previously was the Red Sox’s hitting coach and his teams have generally done pretty well, including the Rangers scoring the third-most runs in the league this year.

He’ll have plenty of talent to work with in Arizona, as the Diamondbacks scored the second-most runs in the league led by Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock, and David Peralta. Turner Ward, who had been Arizona’s hitting coach, chose to leave the team two weeks ago.

A’s reacquire Jed Lowrie in trade with Astros

Jed Lowrie

Jed Lowrie, who was traded from the Astros to the A’s in 2013 and then re-signed with the Astros as a free agent last offseason, has now been traded back to the A’s.

Lowrie got a three-year, $23 million deal from the Astros with the idea that he’d play shortstop in the first season and then move to another position whenever stud prospect Carlos Correa arrived. Instead he got hurt right away, Correa became an immediate star, and the Astros weren’t so keen on paying him $15 million over the next two seasons.

He could resume playing shortstop for the A’s, who watched rookie Marcus Semien make an absurd number of errors there this year. Lowrie hit .271 with a .738 OPS in two seasons in Oakland, which is similar to his career totals and makes him a solidly above-average offensive shortstop. There’s a decent chance the A’s will have a Lowrie-Lawrie double-play duo in 2016.

In return the Astros get minor leaguer Brendan McCurry, a 24-year-old right-hander who split 2015 between high Single-A and Double-A with a 1.86 ERA and 82/17 K/BB ratio in 63 relief innings. He was a 22nd-round draft pick in 2014 and doesn’t have exceptional raw stuff, but McCurry’s numbers are incredible so far.

White Sox sign catcher Alex Avila to a one-year deal

Detroit Tigers' Alex Avila, right, is congratulated by third base coach Dave Clark after his solo home run in the third inning in the second game of a baseball doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox, Monday, Sept. 21, 2015, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

There have been a lot of articles published in the past few days about how to navigate awkward Thanksgiving conversations with your relatives. Heck, we even wrote one.

But there’s always room for more! Such as “How to talk to your father at Thanksgiving dinner about the fact that he let you walk away from the only team you’ve ever known to sign with a division rival.” Which is what Alex Avila will likely be talking about with his father, Tigers GM Al Avila:

The older Avila can’t even say he did it because he’s opposed to nepotism. After all, he just hired his other son — who has had his law degree for just over a year — as the Tigers assistant legal counsel for baseball operations. Though I’m sure that wasn’t nepotism. He probably just aced the interview and impressed everyone more than the other candidates did.

OK, those are jokes. In all seriousness, this is a good move for Alex and Al and, probably, the White Sox. With the emergence of James McCann, there really is not space for Alex Avila in Detroit in anything other than a backup capacity. In Chicago, he’ll get more playing time. At least if he can (a) stay healthy; and (b) not hit .191/.339/.287 again like he did in 2015.