The intersection of what the market will bear and what sports talk radio will understand isn't always a pretty place. Just ask J.D. Drew.
When looking back at Theo Epstein’s history—a history that now includes a complete overhaul and turnaround of a moribund Chicago Cubs franchise—unless you’re nitpicking, there’s little to criticize. However, if there is one aspect during Epstein’s run as a general manager in Boston one could pounce on, it’s a somewhat spotty track record with free agents.
With questionable moves from their past likely lingering in the back of their minds—Julio Lugo and Carl Crawford stand out in particular—both Epstein and Jed Hoyer have spent plenty of time in Chicago lamenting the fact that free agency is often looked upon as a ‘necessary evil’ of sorts. Their first big signing on the North Side, Edwin Jackson, stands out as one of their more prominent failings since joining the Cubs organization four years ago. But for the most part, by design, this group has avoided big free-agent signings. That changed last offseason when they made one of the bigger splashes of the winter by snagging Jon Lester to a six-year, $155 million deal. The spending has continued this December with the additions of John Lackey, Ben Zobrist, and most recently Jason Heyward.
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As the Prince Fielder sweepstakes continue, refresh your memory with five examples of times when Scott Boras refused to settle for less.
While looking toward the future with our comprehensive slate of current content, we'd also like to recognize our rich past by drawing upon our extensive (and mostly free) online archive of work dating back to 1997. In an effort to highlight the best of what's gone before, we'll be bringing you a weekly blast from BP's past, introducing or re-introducing you to some of the most informative and entertaining authors who have passed through our virtual halls. If you have fond recollections of a BP piece that you'd like to nominate for re-exposure to a wider audience, send us your suggestion.
These days, it seems like you can't discuss defensive shifts without a J.D.
Sometimes, it’s the comments that seem to miss the mark that generate the most discussion. Take this nugget (please!) from Tom Verducci, buried within a long, otherwise-insightful article for SI.com about this season’s league-wide ebb in offense:
“The state of hitting is awful. Batters strike out more than ever before and, anecdotally, there seem to be more defensive overshifts employed than ever before. A shift for J.D. Drew, a guy who has hit 30 homers once in his life?”
One week into the season, injuries are already mounting, but it's part of the game that different teams handle different ways.
So we've made it through the first work week of the season, and instead of TGIF, the injury blotter is filled to overflow. It's not any worse than last year, not much worse than any random week, and sadly, not any different than the next twenty-something weeks that we'll do this. It's easy to overreact to any small thing in the first week, injuries or otherwise, simply because there's nothing to compare it to and because of the perceived importance. The one thing I'm noticing is that medical staffs are actually a bit more conservative and risk-averse in the season's opening days. Since the first game on the schedule is as valuable in the standings as the 162nd, with the only difference being available recovery time, I'm not sure whether that's an optimal strategy, so I'm taking a harder look at that. Maybe there's something in the data. Let's get to the injuries:
The top and the bottom of the powerhouse division can build from within, leaving the AL East's middle class in an precarious spot.
This is the fifth of six-part preview of the impending off-season. I had been holding off on the two divisions involving World Series combatants until the games had concluded, but with the Series' hasty conclusion on Sunday--and Scott Boras' equally quick declaration that it's A-Rod Huntin' Season--now is the time to cover the AL East, where all five teams will have some very interesting decisions to make.
After last night's drubbing tied the series, the ALCS will now need all seven games to determine who advances to the World Series.
Julio Lugo understands players who haven't provided value in return for large free-agent contracts. After all, the Boston Red Sox shortstop is one of those players. The Red Sox signed Lugo to a four-year, $36-million contract as a free agent last winter, and in return, they received sub-replacement level production: Lugo had a -1.3 VORP while putting together a .237/.294/.349 line in 630 plate appearances. Lugo hasn't been any better in the postseason, hitting .219/.265/.265 in 34 plate appearances.
Nate turns his attention to the individual big bonus players from the last decade, and determines whether their teams would do it all over again.
What follows is a comprehensive roster of all players between 1998 and 2006 who were drafted with one of the first 100 selections and who also went for at least $500,000 over slot, considering both their signing bonus and any guaranteed MLB money. I've used the 2006 slot values for all seasons from 2000-2006, as MLB has generally been very successful at containing draft inflation during this period (in fact, the draft slots went down in 2007). The slots do appear to have been a little lower in 1999 and 1998, and so I've scaled those back by five percent and 10 percent respectively, rounding off to the nearest "big" number. I've also indicated those cases where the player's alternative careers in football or basketball could have influenced his signing bonus. Finally, I've posed a simple question: If the team had perfect knowledge of what that player was going to do, would they commit the same money again?
The Orioles forget to look at the sell-by date, the Blue Jays lock up their franchise player, the Devil Rays move stealthily along at the bottom, and those two other teams bring Japanese players to America for Christmas.