Quote of the Day: Jayson Werth explains the perception of outfield defense

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Defense is really hard to measure and its metrics, however useful they may prove to be, are often imbued with some misleading information. For example, in yesterday’s Pirates-Cubs game I saw a 5-6-3 double play on a ball hit to the right of the second base bag. Viva la shift, but the fact is that that sort of thing becomes invisible after the game is over. It’s not a major thing. Just a weirdness about defense.

Not that you can always trust your eyes either. Especially when you’re watching on TV. Jayson Werth did a great job of explaining that in Tom Boswell’s latest column:

Of [Denard] Span’s sprinting catch in front of the right field scoreboard on Wednesday night, Werth said, “He made it easy. Not saying Bryce wouldn’t have made that play. But it might have been one of these miraculous plays that he makes, where you’re like, ‘Oh my God! What an unbelievable play!’ Denard, like, jogs the last five steps, no problem. That’s where TV, it’s kind of like hockey in a sense. It doesn’t do the outfielders justice.”

I used to always notice this with Andruw Jones games back when he was with the Braves. He made a lot of spectacular looking plays, sure, but it was the boring-looking plays which always provided the true value of his defense. He’d camp under some ball as if he’d been there all day. Because he had been. His range was so great and effortless that he’d casually shag the balls someone less-talented than him would have to dive for.  That’s what Werth is describing here.

The Werth quote, by the way, comes in the course of a really nice article. Boswell describes the Nats’ defense over the course of the Marlins’ series. It’s the kind of column that is really necessary specifically because defense is still so hard to measure and because our eyes — unless we’re watching every play from a good vantage point like a sportswriter is — can so often deceive us when this stuff comes up.

What happens with all the players the Braves lost yesterday?

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Yesterday’s unprecedented sanctions leveled on the Atlanta Braves hit them pretty hard, but it also turned a dozen players into free agents. What happens to them now? Who can sign them? When? And for how much?

First off, they get to keep their signing bonuses the Braves gave them. It wasn’t their fault the Braves messed up so it would make no sense for them to have to pay the money back. As for their next team: anyone can, theoretically, sign them. As far as team choice, they are free agents in the most narrow sense of the term.

There are limits, however, because as young, international players, their signings are subject to those caps on each team’s international bonus money which were imposed a few years back. Each team now has a “pool” of finite dollars they can spend on such players and, once that money is spent, teams are severely limited as to what they can offer an international free agent. Each summer the bonus pools are reset and it starts anew.

Which, on the surface, would seem to create a problem for the 12 new free agents, seeing as though a lot of teams have already spent much if not all of their July 2017-18 bonus pools. The good news on that, though, is that Major League Baseball has made a couple of exceptions for these guys:

  • First, the first $200,000 of any of the 12 former Braves players will not be subject to signing pools, so that’s a bit of a break; and
  • Second, even though these players will all likely be signed during the 2017-18 bonus pool period, teams have the option of counting the bonus toward the 2018-19 period. They can’t combine the money from the two periods, but they can, essentially, put off the cost into next year for accounting purposes.

Which certainly opens things up for clubs and gives the players more options as far as places to land go. A club can decide whether or not the guys on the market now look better than the guys they’ve been scouting with an eye toward signing after July 2018 and get a jump on things. Likewise, teams don’t have to decide whether or not to take a run at, say, Shohei Ohtani, burning bonus money now, or instead going after a former Braves player. Ohtani’s money will apply now, the Braves player can be accounted for next year.

The new free agents are eligible to sign during a window that begins on December 5 and ends on Jan. 15. If a player hasn’t signed by then, he can still sign with any club but cannot get a bonus. If a player hasn’t signed anywhere by May 1, 2018, he has the option of re-signing with the Braves, though they can’t pay the guy a bonus either.

Ben Badler of Baseball America has a rundown of the top guys who are now free agents thanks to the Braves’ malfeasance. Kevin Maitan is the big name. The 17-year-old shortstop was considered the top overall international free agent last year, though his first year in the Braves minor league system was less-than-impressive. There are a lot of other promising players too. All of whom now can find new employers.