Author: Matthew Pouliot

Hiroki Kuroda

New York or Japan for Hiroki Kuroda

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That’s the feeling FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal is getting from talking with executives around the league. Although reports have suggested that free agent Hiroki Kuroda could return to SoCal with the Dodgers or maybe even the Angels, Rosenthal says indications are that Kuroda will remain with the Yankees or head home to Japan.

Kuroda, who was content to sign one-year deals in his first two goes at free agency, may prefer a two-year deal this time. Even though he’ll pitch next season at 38, Kuroda seems like a good investment for two years. He’s averaged over 200 innings the last three years, and his ERAs have ranged from 3.07 to 3.39 during the stretch.

Kuroda won a career-high 16 games last season, his first in New York. If the Yankees can keep him for $30 million for two years, he’ll still look like a bargain compared to the likely $22 million-$25 million per year that Zack Greinke figures to get.

Agent Gary Sheffield getting plenty of calls on Jason Grilli

Jason Grilli
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If you hadn’t already heard, Gary Sheffield went into the agent business a couple of years back.  His client list doesn’t include many major league veterans at the moment, but he does have one rather popular free agent: former Pirates reliever Jason Grilli.

“We’ve got eight teams interested right now,” Sheffield told the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo.  “We have three offers right now.”

One of the teams interested is believed to be the Red Sox.

“We’re not in a hurry,” Sheffield said. “There are some things we want to look at a little further. We’re not sure the market has fully developed for Jason.”

Don’t scoff: Grilli is hardly a big name but he struck out a whopping 90 batters while amassing a 2.91 ERA and 32 holds in 58 2/3 innings for the Pirates last season. Throwing better than average at 35 (he turned 36 this month), he seems likely to command a two-year deal worth at least $3 million per season. It’ll be a nice payday for a reliever whose previous high salary was $1.1 million.

Melky Cabrera must not think he’s a .340 hitter

Melky Cabrera
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Melky Cabrera signed a two-year, $16 million contract with the Blue Jays, which seems pretty good given that he hasn’t played since getting slapped with a 50-game PED suspension and then got kicked to the curb by the Giants when he was eligible to return in the postseason.

Still, it’s a two-year deal at a fraction of what he figured to get previously. Even if he slumped some during the final month and a half and into the postseason, he was likely looking at something in the neighborhood of $50 million for four years as a free agent this winter. A strong finish could have netted him $70 million for five years.

So why lock into that extra year? Cabrera was no second-year guy needing financial security in the form of a long-term deal; he’s already earned about $11 million in his career. He could afford to gamble if he were confident in his ability to bounce back and put together a strong 2013 season. We may never know whether the Jays would have signed him to a one-year, $8 million deal if that’s what he preferred — they may have wanted that extra upside the second year provides — but it’s hard to imagine they or someone else wouldn’t have given him at least $6 million for 2013 alone.

It suggests to me that Cabrera doesn’t see himself coming back and having another season like his 2012. Because if he did, he would have taken the one-year deal and then chased the big payday.

Maybe I’m wrong. And I don’t want this to read as a condemnation of Cabrera. But it’s intriguing to me. I think of most athletes as supremely confident in their abilities on the field (or the court, track, rink, etc.). And while Melky took his game to a whole new level in 2012, he was also something much more than an $8 million player with the Royals in 2011. If he isn’t confident he can get back to that — if he doesn’t think of himself as being worth $15 million per year or what have you — then I’m not all that sure I’d want to sign him at any price.

Mike Trout, baseball’s best player, is denied MVP award

Mike Trout
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In handing Miguel Cabrera the American League MVP award, the voters weren’t making a statement that Cabrera’s four additional points of batting average, his 14 homers or even his 56 RBI made him a better player than Mike Trout last season.

Because this isn’t really about who was the better player.

Sportswriters decided long ago that the Most Valuable Player isn’t necessarily the best player. Because the best player is often quite obvious. One doesn’t need any inside knowledge to deduce the best player. In fact, it’s very much in the best interests of the BBWAA to keep the MVP criteria ambiguous and controversial. It’s the debate that keeps the machine going.

Mike Trout was pretty obviously a better overall player than Miguel Cabrera this year. He hit .326/.399/.564 to Cabrera’s .330/.393/.606, while playing in the tougher environment for hitters. He also grounded into 21 fewer double plays. Cabrera was still probably a bit more valuable offensively, but Trout more than made up for that with his defense and baserunning.

So what trumps that…

Cabrera won the Triple Crown.

But he wouldn’t have been any more or less valuable had Jose Bautista remained healthy and hit 50 homers. It’s a really cool feat, but the title adds nothing to his value.

Cabrera’s team made the postseason.

But the Angels had a better record while playing in a better division. Also, for what little it’s worth, the Angels were 81-58 when Trout played and 8-15 when he didn’t.

Cabrera moved to third base for the good of the team.

He never wanted to move off third base in the first place. Trout opened the season in the minors “for the good of the team” and never uttered a peep, even though that decision could have cost him millions in future earnings, the Rookie of the Year award and, as it turns out, the MVP award.

Cabrera was better from Aug. 24 until the end of the season.

Why Aug. 24? Oh, that’s right, Cabrera had a good game that day and Trout had a good one the day before.

Cabrera certainly did have better stats than Trout over the final five weeks. But here’s another truth: Cabrera’s RBIs were the difference in one Tigers victory down the stretch (3 RBI in a 6-4 win over the Twins on Sept. 29). Trout’s RBIs were equal to or greater than the Angels’ margin of victory on Sept. 30 against Texas (solo homer in a 5-4 win), Sept. 9 against Detroit (solo homer in a 3-2 win), Aug. 28 against Boston (two RBI in a 6-5 win) and also in that Aug. 23 game that no one wants to count (two RBI in a 14-13 win).

In my opinion, the best argument for Cabrera as the AL MVP is that he was the league’s second best player and he played in 22 more games than the best player, which has a whole lot of value. It’s hardly his fault, but the fact is that Trout contributed nothing for three weeks in April. Cabrera already had six homers and 16 RBI by the time Trout was called up.

And I’m OK with Cabrera getting the MVP. He’s been one of the game’s best players for a long time, and he hadn’t won one before. He’s not Juan Gonzalez; he’s a legitimately superb hitter and a sure-fire Hall of Famer unless he suddenly falls off a cliff. He wasn’t quite as good as Trout in 2012, but then, Trout’s 2012 campaign trumps that of most MVPs most years.

Buster Posey first catcher in 40 years to win NL MVP award

Buster Posey
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The Giants’ Buster Posey was the runaway winner for National League Most Valuable Player honors Thursday, claiming 27 of the 32 first-place votes.

Posey was listed in the top three on every ballot to finish with 422 points. Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun came in second place with three first-place votes and 285 points. Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen was third with 245 points. He edged the Cardinals’ Yadier Molina even though he got no first-place votes and Molina got two. Molina finished with 241 points.

Besides those four, only one player got a top-three vote: Braves closer Craig Kimbrel was second on Tracy Ringolsby’s ballot. He finished eighth overall. San Diego’s Chase Headley was fifth, while the Mets’ David Wright and the Nationals’ Adam LaRoche tied for sixth.

Back from the broken leg that limited him to 45 games in 2011, Posey hit .336/.408/.549 with 24 homers and 103 RBI in 530 at-bats for San Francisco last season. He won the batting title because of a rule amendment that disqualified suspended teammate Melky Cabrera. Baseball-reference’s WAR had him as the league’s top player ahead of McCutchen and Braun.

Posey became the first Giant to win the award since Barry Bonds won his fourth straight in 2004. He’s the first catcher since the Reds’ Johnny Bench in 1972. Twins catcher Joe Mauer was the AL MVP in 2009.