Blogger at NBC Sport.com's HardballTalk. Recovering litigator. Rake. Scoundrel. Notorious Man-About-Town.
Last night the Indians and Brewers struck a deal to send two-time All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy to Cleveland in exchange for four prospects. Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting this morning, however, that Lucroy has vetoed the trade.
The Indians were one of eight teams on Lucroy’s no trade list. It is unclear why Lucroy has vetoed the deal, but one strong possibility is that Lucroy wants whoever acquires him to void the team option to which he is subject for $5.25 million. While he obviously agreed to that at the time he signed his deal with Milwaukee, that is far below his market value now. No-trade clauses like Lucroy’s, which he also bargained for, are often used as leverage in just this sort of situation.
Buster Olney of ESPN said a few minutes ago that the Indians will continue to try to convince Lucroy to change his mind and accept the trade, but if they are going to have to tear up the 2017 option to do it, they’ll likely be sending far less to Milwaukee than that which was reported last night. Or, if they think it’s too much trouble, they could simply move on, content with the Andrew Miller acquisition and hope against hope they can straighten out their catching situation which is the absolute worst in baseball.
This morning’s trade between the Indians and the Yankees represents a definitive statement for both the team acquiring the superstar and the team giving him up. For the first time in recent memory the Cleveland Indians are truly pulling out all the stops and are truly going for it. For the first time in the Brian Cashman era the Yankees are truly sellers who are entering rebuild mode.
Andrew Miller is arguably baseball’s best relief pitcher and, once you account for the fact that he’s under team control through 2018 he’s undoubtedly the most valuable relief pitcher in the game. There is not a single contender who would not have loved to have him. The fact that the Indians were the ones who pulled the trigger represents a sea change in organizational philosophy. Cleveland has, in the past, tried to make do with what it had, even when the playoffs were in reach. They have eschewed taking on any big contracts, even if they were sensible ones like Miller’s is. They have a 4.5 game lead in the AL Central and none of its divisional competition appears to have a higher gear with which to run them down, but they are taking no chances. This is how a major league team with its talent should operate. It’s a way the Indians have rarely if ever operated in recent years.
The Yankees too are doing something new: rebuilding. Not simply shuffling a few deck chairs while paying lip service to championships still being their only goal, but truly selling like they have never sold in the Brian Cashman era. The deal of Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs might’ve signaled that for most teams, but even after it, the Yankees could’ve said “hey, we still have a lights-out closer in Miller” and pretended that they were truly shooting for the playoffs. But giving up Miller any words they offer in that direction — and just this morning Joe Girardi denied that this is a “white flag” trade — are really just words. Make no mistake: this is a selloff.
But it’s a damn good selloff. J.P. Feyereisen, Clint Frazier, Ben Heller and Justus Sheffield — the players New York got for Miller — is an outstanding package that, along with the haul they got for Chapman, instantly catapults the Yankees’ farm system to the upper echelon. Frazier, who has excelled at levels where he was far younger than the competition, is probably the most projectable young position player the Yankees have had since Robinson Cano. Sheffield, a 20-year-old pitcher who is also facing older competition, is a top-100 prospect who most scouts think will be a mid-rotation starter. Heller can throw 100 miles per hour. Feyereisen has averaged 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings in three minor league seasons and projects to be a solid major league reliever.
It wasn’t long ago that baseball’s critics lamented that teams like the Yankees will always have a competitive advantage and teams like the Indians will never be able to compete. Maybe that’s still true when it comes to the financial ledger, but it’s certainly not true on the field. At the trade deadline, in 2016, the Cleveland Indians have landed one of the biggest fish in the lake. The Yankees have cut bait.
You’ll recall the little controversy last month when Ichiro Suzuki passed Pete Rose’s hit total. Specifically, when Ichiro’s Japanese and American hit total reached Rose’s American total of 4,256 and a lot of people talked about Ichiro being the new “Hit King.” You’ll also recall that Rose himself got snippy about it, wondering if people would now think of him as “the Hit Queen,” which he took to be disrespect.
There’s a profile of Ichiro over at ESPN the Magazine and reporter Marly Rivera asked Ichiro about that. Ichiro’s comments were interesting and quite insightful about how ego and public perception work in the United States:
I was actually happy to see the Hit King get defensive. I kind of felt I was accepted. I heard that about five years ago Pete Rose did an interview, and he said that he wished that I could break that record. Obviously, this time around it was a different vibe. In the 16 years that I have been here, what I’ve noticed is that in America, when people feel like a person is below them, not just in numbers but in general, they will kind of talk you up. But then when you get up to the same level or maybe even higher, they get in attack mode; they are maybe not as supportive. I kind of felt that this time.
There’s a hell of a lot of truth to that. Whatever professional environment you’re in, you’ll see this play out. If you want to know how you’re doing, look at who your enemies and critics are. If they’re senior to you or better-established in your field, you’re probably doing something right. And they’re probably pretty insecure and maybe even a little afraid of you.
The rest of the article is well worth your time. Ichiro seems like a fascinating, insightful and intelligent dude.