Philadelphia Phillies v St. Louis Cardinals

Phillies send Shane Victorino to Dodgers for pair of pitchers

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For the past week rumors have been swirling about the Phillies offering up Shane Victorino for bullpen help. They were reportedly turned down by the Reds for Logan Ondrusek, but today they found a taker and sent Victorino to the Dodgers for reliever Josh Lindblom, pitching prospect Ethan Martin, and a player to be named later or cash.

Victorino will play left field for the Dodgers, who’ll stick with Matt Kemp in center field and Andre Ethier in right field. He also figures to slide into the leadoff spot, which has been a major weakness for the Dodgers all season. Victorino isn’t an ideal leadoff man because of his mediocre .324 on-base percentage this season and .336 OBP during the past three years, but compared to Dee Gordon or Tony Gwynn Jr. he’s an on-base machine.

Dodgers left fielders have hit just .259 with four homers and a .677 OPS in 104 games, so making a move to upgrade the position is smart. However, at this point it’s not clear how much of an upgrade Victorino provides, as he’s hit just .261 with nine homers and a .724 OPS in 101 games. He’ll be better–offensively and defensively–but the upgrade over, say, a Bobby Abreu-Jerry Hairston platoon is unlikely to be as significant as Victorino’s name recognition suggests.

Lindblom is a 25-year-old right-hander with a 2.91 ERA in 75 appearances since debuting for the Dodgers last season and his 71/28 K/BB ratio in 77 innings is strong as well. He may prove stretched as a late-inning option, but Lindblom has solid raw stuff and should be effective in a secondary setup man role. And just as importantly for the Phillies as they try to rebuild the bullpen, Lindblom is under team control through 2017.

Martin is a 2008 first-round pick with a career ERA near 5.00 in the minors, but he’s turned things around a bit at Double-A this season with a 3.58 ERA and 112/61 K/BB ratio in 118 innings. He’s far from a top prospect, but is still just 22 years old and has a shot to be valuable if his control improves at some point.

To replace Victorino the Phillies have called up one-time top prospect Domonic Brown from Triple-A, where he’s spent most of the past three seasons because the team has consistently been hesitant to give him an extended opportunity. He’ll get that chance now and Brown is still just 24 years old, but he hasn’t been particularly productive this season while hitting .286 with five homers and a .767 OPS in 60 games at Triple-A.

Victorino is a 31-year-old impending free agent whose production has fallen off substantially this season and the Phillies obviously aren’t contenders, so Philadelphia did well to get a useful young reliever and a decent prospect. Lindblom’s upside probably isn’t high enough for him to truly come back to haunt the Dodgers and Martin remains a question mark, but to give them up for a two-month rental who hasn’t played very well is hardly a no-brainer move. Of course, if the Victorino from 2008-2011 shows up the Dodgers just got one of the best outfielders in the league on the cheap.

UPDATE: And the Phillies didn’t stop with Victorino, trading Hunter Pence to the Giants.

The Yankees are paying $86 million for a one-inning reliever

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OXON HILL, MD — The Yankees signing of Aroldis Chapman late Wednesday night came as something of a surprise. And the money — $86 million — was something of a shock. Yes, we knew that Chapman was going to break the bank and likely set a record as the highest paid relief pitcher in history, but seeing it in black and white like that is still rather jarring.

In the coming days, many people who attempt to analyze and contextualize this signing will do so by pointing to the 2016 playoffs and the unconventional use of relievers by Terry Francona and the Indians and Joe Maddon of the Cubs. They’ll talk about how the paradigm of bullpen use has shifted and how relief pitchers have taken on a new importance in today’s game. Chapman’s astronomical salary, therefore, will be described as somehow more reasonable and somewhat less shocking than it first seems.

Don’t buy that jive for a second.

Yes, Andrew Miller and, to some extent, Chapman himself were used unconventionally in the 2016 playoffs, but not long into the 2017 season we will see that as an exception, not the rule. And not just because Chapman showed himself unable to hold up to that level of use in the playoffs. It will be the exception because the Yankees have shown no inclination whatsoever to deviate from traditional bullpen usage in the past and there is no reason to expect that they will do so with Chapman in the future.

As you no doubt remember, the Yankees had Chapman, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller for the first half of 2016. Such an imposing back end of a bullpen has rarely been seen in recent history. All of them, however, were used, more or less, as one-inning-a-piece guys and no real effort was ever made to break any bullpen usage paradigms or to shorten games the way many applauded Terry Francona for doing in the playoffs.

Miller pitched 44 games for the Yankees, totaling 45.1 innings. He pitched more than a single inning on only three occasions. Chapman pitched 31 games for the Yankees, amassing 31.1 innings. He was used for more than one inning only twice. Betances worked in 73 games, totaling 73 innings. On 11 occasions he pitched more than one inning.  It was unconventional for a team to have three relievers that good, but they were not, in any way, used unconventionally. Nor is there any reason to expect Chapman to be used unconventionally in 2017, especially given that Miller is not around and Chapman has shown no real ability to be stretched for multiple innings for a sustained period.

None of which is to say that having Chapman around is a bad thing or that he is any less of a closer than his reputation suggests. It’s merely to say that the Yankees paying Chapman unprecedented money for a closer should not be justified by the alleged new importance of relief pitchers or that changing role for them we heard so much about in the playoffs. Indeed, I suspect that that changing role applies only to pitcher use in the playoffs. And I do not suspect that this transaction alone pushes the Yankees into serious playoff contention, making that temporary unconventionality something of a moot point in New York for the foreseeable future.

It is almost certain that the Yankees are paying $86 million for the same one-inning closer Aroldis Chapman has been for his entire seven-year career. His contract may or may not prove to be a good one for New York based on how he performs, but don’t let anyone tell you now, in Decemeber 2016, that it’s better than you think because Chapman will somehow transform into a 1970s-style relief ace or something.

Report: Yankees sign Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million deal

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Update (12:02 AM EST): Rosenthal adds that Chapman’s contract includes an opt-out clause after three seasons, a full no-trade clause for the first three years of the contract, and a limited no-trade clause for the final two years.

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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Yankees have signed closer Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million contract. Mark Melancon recently set the record for a contract earned by a reliever at $62 million over four years. Chapman blew that out of the water and many are surprised he didn’t fetch more.

Chapman, 28, began the 2016 season with the Yankees but he was traded to the Cubs near the end of July in exchange for four prospects. The Cubs, of course, would go on to win the World Series in large part due to Chapman. The lefty finished the regular season with a 1.55 ERA, 36 saves, and a 90/18 K/BB ratio in 58 innings between the two teams.

Chapman was the best reliever on the free agent market and, because he was traded midseason, he didn’t have draft pick compensation attached to him.

The Yankees don’t seem to be deterred by Chapman’s domestic violence issue from last offseason, resulting in a 30-game suspension to begin the 2016 regular season.