Author Archives: OffTheBenchBaseball

Ranking the 2017 American League Managers

As usual with my mid-winter grades, I won’t offer any score for first time managers, but if a guy has managed elsewhere in the majors he’s fair game, even if this will be the first season with his current team.

Let’s get to it!

American League East

John Farrell, Boston Red Sox: First to worst and back again. And again. And again. Farrell’s Boston teams seem to be either really good or really bad, and that doesn’t reflect too well on the manger. Seems to me, a well run team filled with talented veterans should be able to do a better job of consistently competing. 2017 will be a big challenge for Farrell for many reasons. First, he’ll be trying to string together back to back good seasons, but beyond that, the Red Sox are now so loaded with talent that expectations are going to be sky high. As we’ve seen in baseball many times before (e.g. 2012 Miami Marlins) super teams on paper don’t always pan out. Let’s see if Farrell can get all the parts to mesh. Grade: B

To continue reading the definitive rankings of 2017 American League Managers, click on over to our mostly baseball blog at Off The Bench.

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The Clay Buchholz Head-Scratcher: Didn’t the Phillies Have Better Options?

The Philadelphia Phillies just traded for the right to pay Clay Buchholz $13.5 Million in 2017. The deal is a bit of a head stratcher as it was unclear why the Boston Red Sox decided to pick up that salary in the first place when they had the option not to. You see, Buchholz is no longer the pitcher he once was. He’s battled injuries pretty much his entire career, and hasn’t been the most effective guy out there even when healthy. I’m frankly very surprised that two organizations went through the processes associated with guaranteeing Buchholz $13.5 Million for what is sure to be a sub-200 IP 2017.

Anyway, the Phillies have Buchholz now and the Red Sox, for their troubles, picked up Josh Tobias, a 24-year old second baseman with two first names who just crushed high-A minor league ball.

In the process of breaking this down, I couldn’t help but feel like the Phillies must have had other options. What was their motivation to make this move? Sure I recently advocated that they be aggressive in adding pieces to their roster because they aren’t too far from contention, but this is not what I had in mind.

To continue reading about the Philadelphia Phillies puzzling trade for Clay Buchholz, please click on over to offthebenchbaseball.com.

Brian Dozier for Jose de Leon Makes Sense for both the Dodgers and Twins

A new rumor on the Twitter has the Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Dodgers as possible trade partners in a deal that would send Brian Dozier to LA in exchange for Jose De Leon. The swap would see LA deal its #4 prospect, a huge upside starting pitcher with limited MLB time but dominating AAA numbers, and Minnesota part ways with a slugging second basemen who has been the defacto face of the franchise for nigh on three years.

I love it. This is a trade that makes sense for both teams.

First, let’s look at it from the Twins side since that’s a little simpler. Minnesota is not a very good team. They lost 103 games in 2016 and finished in last place in AL Central. However, as I wrote back in October, Minnesota has a really good young core of position players led by Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, and Max Kepler that should provide good reason for hope in the Twin Cities.

However, the they lack pitching, particularly starting pitching. From my previous Twins post:

Jose Berrios is supposed to be a starter of the future, and still may very well be, but an ERA above 8.00 in 13 starts certainly doesn’t instill confidence… Phil Hughes is bad; that’s not changing…”

To continue reading about the potential Dodgers and Twins trade, check out offthebenchbaseball.com!

The True Value of Dexter Fowler to the St. Louis Cardinals

On Friday afternoon, the St. Louis Cardinals finalized a 5-year, $82.5 million with former Cubs center-fielder Dexter Fowler. As has been explained in the media, the Fowler addition was meant to add more athleticism both on defense and atop the Cardinals’ lineup. At face value, this seems to make sense; Fowler’s skills are indicative of a lead-off hitting center fielder. In theory, inserting Fowler in center in place of incumbent Randal Grichuk should improve the outfield defense. In researching this theory; however, I have found that the ‘Fowler Effect’, while certainly providing plus-value, is not as straightforward as it may seem.

I will start with what we know. Offensively, Fowler is a bona-fide leadoff hitter as far as present day terms are concerned. While fans can get bogged down in batting averages (Fowler put up just a .276 mark in 2016), he did finish the year with a .393 OBP and was a table-setter for the first Chicago Cubs World Series victory in over 100 years. In fact, since he became a full-time MLBer in 2009, Fowler has ranked very highly when it comes to getting on base. Take a look at the following chart and see just how well he stacks up.

To continue reading about how Dexter Fowler improves the Cardinals, check out offthebenchbaseball.com.

The Baseball Player Political Cabinet

Hey! Idea: baseball player political cabinet. Which players would be best for each cabinet position. My first nominee: Ozzie Smith for Secretary of Defense because, well, you get it.

Sean Morash:

Ha! Brilliant! Trump needs some help

Max Frankel:

Glad you’re on board. Who’s your choice for education?

Sean Morash:

It’s funny. That’s immediately where my head went as well. I want Pedro Martinez or Greg Maddux. Both are brilliant and insightful. They definitely need to be in our cabinet, but I’m not sure if Education is the best place for either. My mom, a liberal school teacher, kinda hates the Dept of Education. Can we give this to someone with the best intentions but who we really don’t care if they mess it up too bad because it might actually be hopeless? Tell me that’s not A-Rod. I dare you.

Also- do we have any rules? We know Trump’s one rule is: “Are they worth $1,000,000?” If so, they’re in. Do we need our cabinet representatives to be retired ballplayers? Do they need to be alive? What about American Citizens?

To find out who made our made-up baseball player political cabinet, click on over to offthebenchbaseball.com.  Seriously, you won’t want to miss our picks for Secretary of Agriculture and Energy and Homeland Defense.

Danny Espinosa a Good Fit For The Los Angeles Angels

Danny Espinosa isn’t a very good major league baseball player. But he is good at one big, important thing: tricking people into thinking he is at least an adequate major league baseball player.

Espinosa typically does this by hitting home runs– specifically, hitting them in bursts, that last long enough to coincide with some big situations, and in overall quantities that make people say: ‘”Woah, Danny Espinosa has that many home runs? No way!”

Danny is so good at this trickery that he somehow convinced the Washington Nationals to keep Trea Turner, the heir-apparent at short stop, in the minor leagues until Turner very nearly forced his way onto the roster. And even then, in Espinosa’s greatest feat of hornswagglery to that point, despite being the far inferior defender, he maneuvered the Nats into converting Turner to center field rather than pushing him (utility infielder Danny) off shortstop.

Now, however, Espinosa’s magical abilities seem to have waned just a bit. Washington brass has seen through his smoke and mirrors act, and shipped him to the Los Angeles Angels for two low-end prospects.

It may not sound like we like Danny Espinosa, but we really do! Check out why Danny Espinosa is a good fit in LA on offthebenchbaseball.com.

How Will The Toronto Blue Jays React To The Dexter Fowler Signing?

At this point, it’s safe to say that the Blue Jays’ offseason has been a failure thus far. GM Ross Atkins can speak as glowingly as he’d like about the additions of Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce, but their acquisition is heavily offset by the potential losses of Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, Michael Saunders, and Brett Cecil.

Still, there was always the possibility that the Jays would sign Dexter Fowler. The NL All-Star and World Series champion would look great hitting in front of Josh Donaldson and playing right field in the Rogers Centre. But his deal with the Cardinals is now official, a 5-year/$82.5 million agreement. Fowler successfully gambled on himself last season, turning down Baltimore’s 3-year/$33 million offer to take a 1-year/$13 million in Chicago.

With their primary target gone, where do the Jays go from here?

It’s obvious that the Jays wanted an athletic outfielder, and preferably one that could hit leadoff, to add to their lineup. Fowler, with a .393 on-base-percentage in 2016 would have been the perfect fit, if only the Jays were willing to spend the money.

To continue reading about the Blue Jays outfield plans, please click on over to offthebenchbaseball.com

Ian Desmond Signing Could Start Colorado Rockies Domino Effect

Ian Desmond is headed to the Colorado Rockies for 5 years and $70 million and according to various reports, he’s expected to start at first base. This in itself is puzzling; first base will be Desmond’s third position in three years following stints at shortstop and center field for the Nationals and Rangers respectively. Following an offensive collapse in 2015 that saw the then 29-year old slash .233/.290/.384, Desmond bounced back last season to hit .285/.335/.446. He went from a below average wRC+ of 83 to an above average figure of 106. He then used his 2016 numbers to gamble on himself, rejecting the Rangers’ qualifying offer and forcing the Rockies to cough up the 11th overall pick in the 2017 draft to sign him.

Committing $70 million and a draft pick to a player that will be learning a new position for the second time in two years is odd, but not unprecedented (see Hanley Ramirez and the Boston Red Sox). About a month ago, FanGraphs posted an article arguing that the Rockies could be on the verge of contention.

To read about the ramifications of the Ian Desmond Signing on the Rockies plans, please click on over to offthebenchbaseball.com

Behind the Scenes at the Winter Meetings…. AKA Baseball Heaven

First things first, the MLB Winter Meetings are nirvana for baseball nerds like myself…..

Oh, hey legendary sportswriter Peter Gammons, how are you? What’s that Boston Red Sox GM Dave Dombrowski? Sorry I couldn’t hear you because I was too busy saying hi to your manager John Farrell. Hey LA Times Dodgers’ beat writer Andy McCullough, have you seen NBC Sports’ Craig Calcaterra? I need to follow up on our conversation earlier and I got sidetracked by the New York Posts’ Joel Sherman. Oh, by the way, cool new glasses Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle.

You couldn’t turn around without being starstruck by people who would only be stars to readers of this blog. It was fantastic.

wintermeetings11

It wasn’t just shaking hands and pleasantries, though. I was able to have some really good conversations. For instance, while waiting for the guys on the MLB TV set to announce baseball’s two newest hall of famers, John Schuerholz and Bud Selig (whom I have some thoughts on), I had a really interesting semi-debate with MLB.com’s Mark Bowman about the independence and objectivity of an MLB-owned news organization and the conflicts faced by writers of even nominally independent outlets like ESPN.

To continue reading about Max Frankel’s trip to the Winter Meetings, please click on over to our mostly baseball blog, Off The Bench.

Atlanta Braves Deal for Jaime Garcia Puzzling

The Atlanta Braves completed a swap for St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Jaime Garcia last night, sending a package of 3 fringe Major League prospects to Missouri. The deal is an interesting one, but not the type of franchise-altering swap of which Braves fans have become accustomed. If you’re a casual fan, you probably aren’t entirely sure who this Garcia guy is and that is the most puzzling part of the deal for me. The Braves just clogged up their rotation with another #4 starter.

Off the Bench once ribbed the Red Sox for fielding a rotation full of #2 starters. There is likely not verb strong enough to adequately condemn a rotation full of #4 starters, but here we are. Atlanta just added their third veteran starter of the offseason, planning to pay these old guys $36 million in 2017. For a rebuilding team still treading water and waiting on the full calvary of prospect talent to arrive, this is the type of deal that can disrupt the years-long plan.

But let’s get into this deal for a moment before I talk Braves fans back off the cliff.

Just one year ago, Garcia posted a 2.43 ERA across 130 innings but he’s always been injury prone, a result of a delivery that stresses his arm more than one might like.

To continue reading about the Atlanta Braves Puzzling Deal for Jaime Garcia, please click on over to Off The Bench.

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