Could it be Xander Bogaerts time in Boston? (UPDATE: Not quite yet)

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Jose Iglesias was fading offensively, but he was still a major part of the 2013 Red Sox when he was shipped out as part of the three-team Jake Peavy deal Tuesday night. In announcing the trade, the Red Sox declined to discuss the particularly of how he’d be replaced as the team’s third baseman against right-handers and backup shortstop, saying only that they’d likely make a callup Wednesday.

Even before the Iglesias trade, the Red Sox were being talked about as a suitor for the Phillies’ Michael Young, and he now seems like a legitimate fit with Iglesias gone.  He delivered his eighth homer for the Phillies on Tuesday, and he’s batting a solid .279/.345/.411 on the season. His defense, though, leaves much to be desired.

The Red Sox do have internal alternatives. Three of them, in fact:

– Will Middlebrooks – The team’s starting third baseman until a lengthy slump, combined with strong play from Iglesias, got him demoted to the majors in late June. He started off well for Triple-A Pawtucket, but he’s hit just .243/.297/.398 with 22 strikeouts in 103 at-bats in July. He came in at .192/.228/.389 with nine homers in 203 at-bats before being sent down.

– Brock Holt – Strictly a stopgap. Holt hasn’t hit up to expectations in Triple-A, coming in at .264/.328/.293 in 239 at-bats, but he did do a nice job during his stint with the Red Sox earlier this month, hitting .290 with three walks and just two strikeouts in 31 at-bats. Even though he didn’t have an extra-base hit, he managed to drive in eight runs. A nice thing about Holt is that he’s a left-handed batter, so he could be used in a true platoon with Brandon Snyder, who has been starting against lefties anyway. Unlike Middlebrooks, he also qualifies as a backup shortstop, though he’s not someone a team would want starting there for any length of time.

– Xander Bogaerts – The top prospect. The guy they wouldn’t trade for Cliff Lee. Bogaerts was left at shortstop all year until the Red Sox finally eased him over to third with five starts over the last couple of weeks. The 20-year-old has hit .295/.396/.491 with 14 homers between Double- and Triple-A this year, and he’s easily the hottest hitter in the group, coming in at .302/.423/.512 in July. He’s a better shortstop than Holt, and there’s plenty of reason to believe he’ll prove adept at third base with more reps. Ideally, he’d get at least another 7-10 days to work at the position before his callup. The Red Sox, though, might not to wait.

Frankly, I don’t see how Middlebrooks can be Boston’s choice, not unless the team jettisons Snyder and replaces him with a backup middle infielder. Neither Middlebrooks nor Snyder can serve as a backup at shortstop and second. I suspect that the Red Sox will call up Holt and continue to work Bogaerts third base in Triple-A with the idea of giving him a look in mid-August, but I’d hardly be shocked if they just tried Bogaerts now. He’s a special talent, a lot like Manny Machado was last year when the Orioles called him up after just two games at third base in the minors. That worked out OK for them.

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3:10 a.m. EDT update: Looks like the Holt guess was right. A Red Sox source told WEEI’s Rob Bradford that he’d be the initial choice to replace Iglesias on the roster

MLB Network airs segment listing “good” and “bad” $100 million-plus contracts

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On Wednesday evening, Charlie Marlow of KTVI FOX 2 News St. Louis posted a couple of screencaps from a segment MLB Network aired about $100 million-plus contracts that have been signed. The list of “bad” contracts, unsurprisingly, is lengthier than the list of “good” contracts.

As Mike Gianella of Baseball Prospectus pointed out, it is problematic for a network owned by Major League Baseball to air a segment criticizing its employees for making too much seemingly unearned money. There’s a very clear conflict of interest, so one is certainly not getting a fair view of the situation. MLB, of course, can do what it wants with its network, but it can also be criticized. MLB Network would never air a similar segment in which it listed baseball’s “good” and “bad” owners and how much money they’ve undeservedly taken. Nor would MLB Network ever run a segment naming the hundreds of players who are not yet eligible for arbitration whose salaries are decided for them by their teams, often making the major league minimum ($545,000) or just above it. Similarly, MLB Network would also never think of airing a segment in which the pay of minor league players, many of whom make under $10,000 annually, is highlighted.

We’re now past the halfway point in January and many free agents still remain unsigned. It’s unprecedented. A few weeks ago, I looked just at the last handful of years and found that, typically, six or seven of the top 10 free agents signed by the new year. We’re still at two of 10 — same as a few weeks ago — and that’s only if you consider Carlos Santana a top-10 free agent, which is debatable. It’s a complex issue, but part of it certainly is the ubiquity of analytics in front offices, creating homogeneity in thinking. A consequence of that is everyone now being aware that big free agent contracts haven’t panned out well; it’s a topic of conversation that everyone can have and understand now. Back in 2010, I upset a lot of people by suggesting that Ryan Howard’s five-year, $125 million contract with the Phillies wouldn’t pan out well. Those people mostly cited home runs and RBI and got mad when I cited WAR and wOBA and defensive metrics. Now, many of those same people are wary of signing free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer and they now cite WAR, wOBA, and the various defensive metrics.

The public’s hyper-sensitivity to the viability of long-term free agent contracts — thanks in part to segments like the aforementioned — is a really bad trend if you’re a player, agent, or just care about labor in general. The tables have become very much tilted in favor of ownership over labor over the last decade and a half. Nathaniel Grow of FanGraphs pointed out in March 2015 that the players’ share of total league revenues peaked in 2002 at 56 percent, but declined all the way to 38 percent in 2014. The current trend of teams signing their talented players to long-term contract extensions before or during their years of arbitration eligibility — before they have real leverage — as well as teams abstaining from signing free agents will only serve to send that percentage further down.

Craig has written at great length about the rather serious problem the MLBPA has on its hands. Solving this problem won’t be easy and may require the threat of a strike, or actually striking. As Craig mentioned, that would mean getting the players all on the same page on this issue, which would require some work. MLB hasn’t dealt with a strike since 1994 and it’s believed that it caused a serious decline in interest among fans, so it’s certainly something that would get the owners’ attention. The MLBPA may also need to consider replacing union head Tony Clark with someone with a serious labor background. Among the issues the union could focus on during negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement: abolishing the draft and getting rid of the arbitration system. One thing is for sure: the players are not in a good spot now, especially when the league has its own network on which it propagandizes against them.