First-quarter awards: AL MVP

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justin morneau trot.jpgSame drill as the NL award. Let’s begin with VORP.
1. Justin Morneau – 28.8
2. Kevin Youkilis – 22.4
3. Robinson Cano – 21.8
4. Doug Fister – 21.7
5. Miguel Cabrera – 21.1
6. Evan Longoria – 20.7
7. Shaun Marcum – 20.3
8. Vernon Wells – 20.2
9. David Price – 19.7
10. Ricky Romero – 19.7
11. Matt Garza – 18.9
12. Ty Wigginton – 18.8
13. John Danks – 18.6
14. Vladimir Guerrero – 18.5
15. Jeff Niemann – 16.7
16. Phil Hughes – 16.2
17. Nelson Cruz – 16.0
18. C.J. Wilson – 16.0
19. Paul Konerko – 15.5
20. Carl Crawford – 15.2
And move right on to RAR
1. Justin Morneau – 30.4
2. Kevin Youkilis – 21.8
3. Robinson Cano – 19.9
4. Evan Longoria – 19.7
5. Vernon Wells – 19.5
6. Carl Crawford – 19.2
7. Alex Rios – 19.2
8. Magglio Ordonez – 19.1
9. Ricky Romero – 17.5
10. Austin Jackson – 16.8
11. Dustin Pedroia – 16.2
12. Shin-Soo Choo – 16.1
13. Miguel Cabrera – 15.7
14. Ben Zobrist – 15.5
15. Franklin Gutierrez – 15.3
16. Francisco Liriano – 14.9
17. Joe Mauer – 14.7
18. Jon Lester – 14.3
19. John Danks – 14.0
20. Alex Rodriguez – 13.8
WARP and RAR are in much better agreement here than in the NL, at least as far as the hitters go. Cabrera is the big change, as the UZR component of RAR rates him poorly.
I agree with RAR that none of the pitchers are seriously in the mix here. RAR actually has Romero as the league’s most valuable pitcher to date, but that’s not taking schedule strength into account and Romero has had it about as easy as any AL pitcher.
Here’s how they rank by OPS:
1. Justin Morneau – .362/.477/.681 – 1158 – 29 RBI
2. Kevin Youkilis – .324/.459/.593 – 1053 – 26 RBI
3. Miguel Cabrera – .340/.428/.603 – 1030 – 38 RBI
4. Paul Konerko – .262/.372/.631 – 1003 – 30 RBI
5. Ty Wigginton – .305/.369/.617 – 986 – 27 RBI
6. Evan Longoria – .323/.389/.589 – 978 – 37 RBI
7. Robinson Cano – .338/.390/.588 – 977 – 28 RBI
8. Vernon Wells – .301/.359/.596 – 955 – 32 RBI
9. Vladimir Guerrero – .342/.372/.551 – 923 – 35 RBI
10. Luke Scott – .283/.348/.575 – 923 – 20 RBI
11. Joe Mauer – .344/.410/.500 – 910 – 20 RBI
12. Jose Bautista – .242/.352/.556 – 907 – 33 RBI
It’s a clean sweep for Morneau. And I agree that he’s the league’s MVP to date. However, I don’t think it’s as overwhelming as RAR or OPS suggest. Morneau’s suddenly stellar walk rate has let to remarkable OBP, but he’s hitting just .273 with a .455 slugging percentage with runners in scoring position, which is why he has the rather modest RBI total. He’s 0-for-5 with a walk while hitting with the bases loaded this season.
Compare that to Cabrera, who is hitting .426/.534/.660 with RISP. He’s also 4-for-6 with the bases loaded. There’s the difference in RBI right there. Morneau has one RBI in six plate appearances with the sacks packed. Cabrera has 10 in seven plate appearances.
Youkilis also has fewer RBI, but in his case, it’s much more a matter of an opportunity. He hasn’t had a single plate appearance with the bases loaded. He has, however, hit .303/.510/.606 in 33 at-bats with RISP.
As for the other contenders, Longoria is at .340/.387/.547 with RISP, while Cano is at .326/.392/.581.
I’m not really liking the idea of placing three first basemen in the top three, but I think that’s the best arrangement for now. There’s little evidence that either Longoria or Cano is playing Gold Glove-quality defense at the moment, and Mauer did miss a week earlier this month.
First-quarter AL MVP
1. Morneau
2. Cabrera
3. Youkilis
4. Longoria
5. Cano

Cardinals extend José Martínez through 2020

Jose Martinez
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First baseman/outfielder José Martínez agreed to a two-year contract extension with the Cardinals on Saturday, per a team announcement. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports that Martínez will receive $3.25 million in the deal plus incentives if he earns a more stable place within the starting lineup.

Martínez, 30, played 887 games in the minors before making his major-league debut with the Cardinals at the tail end of the 2016 season. The veteran first baseman has been nothing but productive in the three years since his debut, however, and turned in a career-best performance in 2018 after slashing .305/.364/.457 with 17 home runs, an .821 OPS, and 2.3 fWAR through 590 plate appearances. While he brings some positional flexibility to the table, he’ll be forced to compete against Dexter Fowler and Tyler O'Neill for a full-time gig in right field this year, as Paul Goldschmidt currently has a lock on first base.

According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the extension wasn’t solely precipitated by Martínez’s productivity in the majors, but by a competing offer from an unnamed Japanese team over the offseason. Goold adds that Martínez would have earned “significantly more than he would in the majors” had the club sold his rights. In the end, they ultimately elected to ink him to a more lucrative deal themselves. He’ll be eligible for arbitration in 2020.