AJ Burnett

Reminder: almost everyone is placed on waivers in August

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I just saw a news nugget about A.J. Burnett being placed on waivers by the Phillies. So, for (I think) the fifth but maybe the sixth year in a row, I remind you to not make a big deal out of a player being placed on waivers in August. What follows is a Copy-and-paste, but it’s one that still, apparently, needs to happen:

When people refer to waivers at this time of the year (i.e. after the trade deadline and before the end of the season) they almost certainly mean revocable waivers. Meaning that the team can pull the player back off waivers if the player is claimed. The reason for using revocable waivers? So a team can try to slip someone by every other team. Because, if they can and if the player goes unclaimed by every other team (i.e.  he “clears waivers”) he can be traded the same as he could have been before the deadline. He’d be eligible for the playoff roster and everything, as long as it was before the end of August.

If a player is claimed and his team does not pull him back that the claiming team is stuck with the player, including his current salary. This is why you get a lot of big names on waivers. Teams that would prefer not to pay that guy anymore would much rather give him up and his salary if they could, so they try. Rarely if ever will a highly-paid guy actually get claimed in such a fashion. If he was worth having at that price, he’d never be waived in the first place.

There are often games played with this process, of course. There is an order to the claiming process — teams with the worst record in the same league get to claim guys placed on waivers first, and then the choice cycles through the teams in the other league, worst record to best as well. Sometimes a team will claim a guy for the express purpose of NOT allowing him to clear waivers and thus be traded to a rival. For example, if the Brewers really wanted a player who was placed on waivers, the Pirates may claim him so he does not clear and thus may not be traded to the Brewers.  But of course there is that risk that the team placing the guy on waivers doesn’t pull him back, thus sticking him with Pittsburgh.

So that’s waivers. Ignore them for the most part. Pay closer attention if someone is claimed and if that someone does not have an albatross contract.  Pay closer attention if a guy clears waivers, because then he’s every bit as tradable as all players were back in July.

 

The Marlins have made a “monster offer” for Kenley Jansen

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 18:  Kenley Jansen #74 of the Los Angeles Dodgers delivers a pitch against the Chicago Cubs in the eighth inning of game three of the National League Championship Series at Dodger Stadium on October 18, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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OXON HILL, MD — The morning after Aroldis Chapman signed for a record $86 million, the Miami Marlins are reported to have made similarly lucrative offer to the other top free agent closer, Kenley Jansen.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo says that the Marlins have made “a monster offer” of five years and more than $80 million to Jansen. This despite the fact that the club is coming off of a 79-win season and, tragically, lost their top pitcher Jose Fernandez in a fatal boating accident, which will substantially harm their competitive prospects. While it seems like a stretch to say that the Yankees will compete for a playoff spot, thereby making such an historically large investment in a closer a bit suspect, the Marlins doing so is even more questionable.

Meanwhile, the Nationals are said to be interested in Jansen as well, though Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post says the Nats are “uncomfortable” with the financial commitment signing him would require.

Jansen most recently pitched for the Dodgers and there have been no reports that they’re totally out on him, but there has been nothing to suggest that they are pushing hard for him either.

Jansen, 29, finished this past season with 47 saves, a 1.83 ERA, and a 104/11 K/BB ratio in 68.2 innings. That’s not quite Aroldis Chapman good, but he seems poised to collect something close to Aroldis Chapman money.

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.