Padres get terrific return from Angels for Huston Street

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The Angels wanted a true closer awfully badly, giving up three of their top 10 prospects to bring in Huston Street from the Padres on Friday.

It was a six-player deal in all, with the Padres getting second baseman Taylor Lindsey, shortstop Jose Rondon, reliever R.J. Alvarez and right-hander Elliot Morris from the Angels for Street and right-hander Trevor Gott.

ESPN’s Jim Bowden was the first to report the deal, with the Los Angeles Times’ Mike DiGiovanna and FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal filling in the particulars.

Lindsey opened the year as the Angels’ No. 1 prospect, according to Baseball America. In fact, he was the team’s only prospect to make BA’s preseason Top 100 list. Lindsey, though, has had a tough season as a 22-year-old in Triple-A, hitting a modest .247/.323/.400 in a very good environment for offense at Salt Lake. He’s still a nice all-around offensive prospect with his history of hitting for solid averages and decent pop. He also doesn’t strike out too much (just 44 times in 334 plate appearances this year). He’s no better than average defensively at second, but he should be good enough to stay there. Ideally, he’ll push Jedd Gyorko to third next year with Chase Headley expected to depart as a free agent (if not well before then).

While Lindsey’s stock has dropped, Rondon’s has been on the rise this year, what with him hitting .327/.362/.418 as a 20-year-old in the California League. He doesn’t figure to develop any home run power as he ages, but his line-drive stroke will produce doubles and he’s a legitimate shortstop. He’s gives the Padres another potential long-term alternative to Everth Cabrera, though he’s at least two years off.

Alvarez has definite closer potential. The 2012 third-round pick has allowed just one earned run in 27 innings for Double-A Arkansas this year, striking out 38 in the process. He has a 155/48 K/BB ratio lifetime in 103 minor league innings. Command is an issue, he throws in the mid-90s and has a very good slider. He could reach the majors in the second half and challenge for the closer’s role come next summer.

Morris, a 2013 fourth-round pick, was 5-4 with a 3.27 ERA and an 84/41 K/BB ratio in 85 1/3 innings between low-A Burlington and high-A Inland Empire this season. He’s not as highly regarded as the other three prospects.

Still, that’s quite a return for Street, who is making $7 million this year and whose deal contains a $7 million option for 2015. He’ll step right in as the Angels’ closer, pushing Joe Smith back to the eighth inning and strengthening in the bullpen as a whole. Of some concern to the Angels should be the fact that Street hasn’t pitched 60 innings in a season since 2009. He’d been used carefully by the Padres this year — they haven’t had all that many leads to protect — throwing 33 innings in the first half. The Angels will have more work for him, but they might want to tread carefully.

It should be noted that the Angels didn’t just get Street in the trade: Gott, a 2013 sixth-round pick, has a good chance of reaching the majors as a middle reliever or maybe a setup man. He has a 3.56 ERA and a 42/18 K/BB in 43 innings between high-A and Double-A this year.

In all, this one looks like a real winner for the Padres, especially in light of the fact that infield prospects were their biggest area of need. They matched up well with the Angels there, since the Angels feel they’re set with Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick going forward. It’s just that minor league depth is hardly a strength of the Angels system; they’re not going to have much to offer if injuries strike and they need additional reinforcements this year.

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.