In race with two deserving candidates, Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson was named as the winner of the American League Most Valuable Player Award by the Baseball Association of America on Thursday.
It wasn’t as close as many expected it would be, as Donaldson ended up taking home 23 out of the 30 first-place votes. The other seven first-place votes went to defending AL MVP Mike Trout. The Royals’ Lorenzo Cain finished third in the balloting.
Donaldson was quietly one of the better players in the American League from 2013-2014, which is why many were caught off guard when the Athletics traded him to the Blue Jays last winter. The 29-year-old thrived in his new hitter-friendly home this season, batting .297/.371/.568 over 158 games while playing excellent defense at third base. He led the American League in RBI (123) and runs scored (122) while his 41 homers tied Trout for third. His contributions helped Toronto reach the playoffs for the first time since 1993, a factor which surely helped his candidacy.
Trout had a compelling case for a repeat, batting .299/.402/.590 with a career-high 41 home runs. His .991 OPS led the American League and was also the best of his career. He also had the edge in bWAR (9.4) to Donaldson’s 8.8, if that’s your thing. However, it’s hard to complain too much about how this played out. Both were great all-around candidates and you could have justified voting for either.
Trout now has four top-two finishes (one in first, three in second place) in each of his first four full seasons in the majors. Barry Bonds, Yogi Berra, and Stan Musial are the only other players with four straight top-two MVP finishes at any point in their careers, per ESPN’s Jayson Stark.
Donaldson is the second player in Blue Jays history to win the American League Most Valuable Award, joining George Bell (1987). According to ESPN Stats & Info, he’s the first player to win the award in his first season with a new team since Vladimir Guerrero did it with the Angels in 2004.
Complete voting results for the 2015 American League Most Valuable Player Award can be found at BBWAA.com.
It has been a foregone conclusion for a while, but the Baseball Writers Association of America made it official Thursday by announcing Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper as the unanimous winner of the 2015 National League Most Valuable Player Award. He’s the first player in franchise history (including the Expos) to take home the award and the first for a team in Washington, D.C. since Roger Peckinpaugh in 1925.
Harper received all 30 first-place votes, becoming the seventh unanimous MVP of all-time. He’s the youngest one to do it. As for the other finalists, Paul Goldschmidt finished second overall in the balloting while Joey Votto finished third.
While the Nationals underachieved in 2015, Harper broke out with a historically great season, batting .330/.460/.649 with 42 home runs and 99 RBI. He led the majors in bWAR (9.9), on-base percentage (.460), slugging percentage (.649), and OPS (1.109) while tying Colorado’s Nolan Arenado for first in the National League with 42 home runs. He led the National League in runs (118) while only Cincinnati’s Joey Votto bested his total of 124 walks. Video game numbers all around.
It feels like Harper has been around forever, so it’s easy to forget how young he is and how special his season was in context of that. His 1.109 OPS will go down as second-best all-time at age-22 or younger, behind only Ted Williams, who had a 1.287 OPS in 1941. In September, he became just the seventh player to reach 40 home runs at age-22 or younger. After turning 23 in October, Harper is the youngest player to win the NL MVP since Johnny Bench in 1970.
Even putting Harper’s age aside, his season carved out a impressive place in history. His 195 OPS+ now ranks 71st all-time for a single season. It was the best mark in the majors since Barry Bonds in 2004. I guess Harper won’t have to worry about being voted the “most overrated player in MLB” again next spring.
Complete voting results for the 2015 National League Most Valuable Player Award can be found at BBWAA.com.
The Yankees announced this afternoon that Mike Harkey has returned to his former post as bullpen coach. He replaces Gary Tuck, who was let go after the season.
Harkey was fired by the Diamondbacks last month after two seasons as pitching coach. He was Joe Girardi’s bullpen coach for six seasons prior to leaving for the opportunity with Arizona.
In addition to bringing back Harkey, the Yankees announced that first base coach Tony Pena also will take on the duties of catching instructor in 2016. This was previously Tuck’s responsibility.
John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that free agent Kyle Blanks is close to finalizing a minor league contract with the Giants.
The 6-foot-6 Blanks has some pop in his bat, especially against left-handed pitching, but he simply hasn’t been able to stay on the field. The 29-year-old has been limited to just 44 games in the majors over the past two seasons due to calf and Achilles injuries. He underwent surgery in September for a chronic condition in his right foot and was expected to have surgery on his left foot in November. He opted for free agency after being outrighted off the Rangers’ 40-man roster last month.
Shea writes that Blanks has a “good chance” to make the Giants out of spring training, where he’d presumably function as a right-handed bat off the bench and backup first baseman. He also has experience in the outfield, but the Giants would likely try to limit his exposure there for obvious reasons.
Rich Hill has attracted plenty of interest after his surprising finish to 2015 and Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports that the veteran left-hander is expected to sign with a team this week. No word on the front-runner in the mix, but the Red Sox are not expected to retain him.
After stints with the Nationals’ Triple-A affiliate and the independent Long Island Ducks, Hill signed a minor league deal with the Red Sox in August. He was fantastic in four starts as a September call-up, posting a 1.55 ERA with 36 strikeouts and just five walks over 29 innings. While it was a small sample with a pitcher who hadn’t started in the majors since 2009, Mike Petriello of MLB.com notes that there was something tangible behind it, including the spin rate and horizontal movement on his curveball as well as his placement on the rubber.
The Padres and Rays are among the teams who have expressed interest in Hill, who turns 36 in March. There’s a chance he could end up with a multi-year deal.