Andrelton Simmons
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Top-5 defensive players of the 2010’s

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While Craig handles the Top 25 Baseball Stories of the Decade, I will bring us to the end of the 2010’s with my own decade retrospective series looking at player performance. Today’s installment will highlight the top-five defensive players of the past decade. In the coming days, we will also look back on pitchers, hitters, base runners, and even playoff series.

Let’s jump into it. The top five defensive players of the 2010’s:

5. RF Mookie Betts, Red Sox

What doesn’t Mookie Betts do well? He’s a perennial MVP candidate with the bat alone. He runs the bases well. He’s an outstanding bowler. Betts is also, according to FanGraphs’ UZR/150 stat, the best defensive player of the decade. He averaged 18.1 UZR per 150 games, the highest rate in the game. His four consecutive Gold Gloves concur. Baseball Reference has Betts as being 112 defensive runs better than average over his six seasons in the majors. And yes, he makes this best-of-decade list despite his first full season occurring in 2015. He’s that good.

4. CF Kevin Kiermaier, Rays

Among outfielders who have played at least 3,000 defensive innings in the outfield, Kiermaier is tops in UZR/150 at 15.1. Betts is second at 14.3. Defensively, there isn’t a single thing that Kiermaier doesn’t do well. He’s fast, gets good jumps on fly balls which results in outstanding range, and has a terrific arm. He owns three Gold Gloves and a Platinum Glove despite only twice reaching 120-plus games in a season among his seven years in the big leagues. Kiermaier leaves a little to be desired offensively, so it speaks to his defensive prowess that the Rays haven’t blinked once when it comes to putting his name in the lineup on a nightly basis.

3. C Yadier Molina, Cardinals

Molina is a no-brainer for this list. He is a nine-time Gold Glove Award winner and a four-time Platinum Glove Award winner. Over the course of his career, he has thrown out would-be base-stealers at a 40 percent clip, much higher than the league’s 28 percent average across his 16 seasons. Molina has also long been highly regarded for his pitch-framing skills, his ability to handle a pitching staff, as well as his game-calling instincts. Molina has been about average with the bat throughout his career and he’s currently a fringe Hall of Fame candidate. If and when he does get into Cooperstown, it will be on the back of his historically great defense.

2. 3B Nolan Arenado, Rockies

We are in an age of incredible third base defense. Adrián Beltré recently retired, but Arenado, Manny Machado, Matt Champan, and Anthony Rendon are still active and already rank among the best defenders of their generation. While defensive metrics actually like a handful of other third basemen ahead of Arenado (he’s seventh in UZR/150 among third basemen with at least 3,000 defensive innings since 2010), the Rockies star is the pinnacle of outstanding defense. Nobody makes incredibly difficult plays look as easy as Arenado makes them look. That’s why, during his seven years in the league, he’s taken home seven Gold Gloves and three Platinum Gloves.

1. SS Andrelton Simmons, Braves/Angels

To me, the player who has best personified “elite defense” over the past decade has been Andrelton Simmons. Like Arenado, he made really hard plays look downright simple. He also, on many occasions, turned garbage into gold, making plays that no other shortstop would make and actually getting an out (or two). Simmons’ range and accuracy are incredible. Since 2010, among all players at all positions, with at least 3,000 defensive innings, Simmons ranks second in UZR/150 at 17.4, trailing only Betts. He ranks first by a wide margin in overall UZR at 112.3. It should come as no surprise, then, that Simmons took home four Gold Gloves and a Platinum Glove. Frankly, he should have seven, one for each of his last seven seasons after debuting as a rookie for 49 games in 2012.

Honorable Mention: Adrián Beltré, Jason Heyward, Alex Gordon, Brett Gardner, Dustin Pedroia, Lorenzo Cain, Manny Machado.

MLBPA: MLB’s ‘demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected’

Rob Manfred and Tony Clark
LG Patterson/MLB via Getty Images
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On Thursday evening, the Major League Baseball Players Association released a statement regarding ongoing negotiations between the owners and the union. The two sides continue to hash out details concerning a 2020 season. The owners want a shorter season, around 50 games. The union recently proposed a 114-game season that also offered the possibility of salary deferrals.

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said that the union held a conference call that included the Executive Board and MLBPA player leaders. They “resoundingly rejected” the league’s “demand for additional concessions.”

The full statement:

In this time of unprecedented suffering at home and abroad, Players want nothing more than to get back to work and provide baseball fans with the game we all love. But we cannot do this alone.

Earlier this week, Major League Baseball communicated its intention to schedule a dramatically shortened 2020 season unless Players negotiate salary concessions. The concessions being sought are in addition to billions in Player salary reductions that have already been agreed upon.

This threat came in response to an Association proposal aimed at charting a path forward. Among other things, Players proposed more games, two years of expanded playoffs, salary deferrals in the event of a 2020 playoff cancellation, and the exploration of additional jewel events and broadcast enhancements aimed at creatively bringing our Players to the fans while simultaneously increasing the value of our product. Rather than engage, the league replied it will shorten the season unless Players agree to further salary reductions.

Earlier today we held a conference call of the Association’s Executive Board and several other MLBPA Player leaders. The overwhelming consensus of the Board is that Players are ready to report, ready to get back on the field, and they are willing to do so under unprecedented conditions that could affect the health and safety of not just themselves, but their families as well. The league’s demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected.

Important work remains to be done in order to safely resume the season. We stand ready to complete that work and look forward to getting back on the field.

As per the current agreement signed in March, if there is a 2020 season, players will be paid on a prorated basis. Thus, fewer games means the players get paid less and the owners save more. MLB has threatened to unilaterally set a 2020 season in motion if the two sides cannot come to terms. It should come as no surprise that the union has responded strongly on both fronts.

There have been varying reports in recent days over the confidence in a 2020 season happening. The MLBPA’s statement tonight doesn’t move the needle any; it simply affirms that the union remains steadfast in its goal to avoid a second significant cut in salaries.

As I see it, the ball is in the owners’ court. The owners can strongarm the players into a short season, saving money but significantly increasing the odds of a big fight in upcoming collective bargaining agreement negotiations. Or the owners can eat more of a financial loss, agreeing to a longer season than they feel is comfortable. The latter would have the double benefit of not damaging overall perception of the sport and would not disrupt labor peace going forward.

The MLBPA statement included a declaration that the players are “ready to report, ready to get back on the field, and they are willing to do so under unprecedented conditions.” If there is no 2020 season, we will have only the owners to blame, not the players.

Update: Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty, who has been quite vocal on social media about these negotiations, chimed in: