February 25th

Aaron Hicks – Extension

Aaron Hicks won’t be testing the open market next winter after all. The Yankees announced on Monday that they’ve signed Hicks, a client of CAA Baseball, to a seven-year contract extension that supersedes his previous one-year, $6MM contract for the 2019 campaign. The new pact will reportedly guarantee Hicks $70MM and come with a club option for an eighth season, meaning Hicks is now controlled by the Yankees through his age-35 season.

Hicks will reportedly receive a $2MM signing bonus in addition to a $6MM salary in 2019 before earning $10.5MM annually from 2020-23 and $9.5MM in 2024-25. The club option is said to be valued at $12.5MM (with a $1MM buyout), and while Hicks doesn’t have any no-trade protection on the deal, he’d receive a $1MM assignment bonus upon being traded.

Hicks, 29, has quietly emerged as one of the game’s more underrated players over the past couple of seasons. The former first-rounder, acquired in a lopsided deal that sent catcher John Ryan Murphy to the Twins, struggled in his first season with the Yankees but has since hit .255/.368/.470 with 42 home runs, 36 doubles, three triples and 21 stolen bases in 942 plate appearances. Hicks has generally graded out as a quality defensive center fielder in his career at the MLB level and provides plenty of value on the basepaths beyond his raw stolen base totals, as well.” – Steve Adams, MLBTR

Bryce Harper – Update

Bob Nightengale of USA Today wrote that Bryce Harpers decision should come this week. Hopefully bringing this painfully slow offseason to a close. There are still some other notable free agents looming, but with. Harper off the board, it should speed up the rest of the FA market.

Jimmy Nelson – Set Back

It has been a long road back for Jimmy Nelson. After having surgery in 2017 to repair his labrum, he still hasn’t seen action. Now in February of 2019, he is facing another setback; David Sterns tells reporters today that Nelson is struggling with “Arm Fatigue Discomfort.” The killer AFD is at it again on a pitcher. The Brewers need Nelson healthy if they are looking to take the NL Central away from the Cubs and the fighting Cardinals.

Andy Pettitte – Hired

“The Yankees announced Monday that they’ve hired Andy Pettitte as a special advisor to general manager Brian Cashman. As is often the case with such appointments, Pettitte’s responsibilities are somewhat nebulous. The long-time MLB lefty will “help coach both the physical and mental side of being a champion and pitching in New York,” Cashman told reporters today (including MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch). It seems the initial plan is for Pettitte to ease into things with the Yankees organization while remaining a resident of Texas. ” – Steve Adams and Jeff Todd, MLBTR

Red Sox – No More Signings

Rob Bradford offered some insight into the Red Sox’s potential future today. In his article today, there is this prime quote:

Talking at LECOM Park prior to the Red Sox’ Grapefruit League game against the Pirates, the president of baseball operations didn’t mention the free agent closer by name but did offer a definitive approach when it came to how his club was moving forward.


“As far as signings are concerned I would say we’re through at this point,” Dombrowski said.

It looks as if the Red Sox roster is set when it comes to signees. While there is still some competition going on for the catcher position and of course the bullpen, it doesn’t look like Kimbrel is making a comeback to Fenway as a home player.

Bud Black – Extension

The Colorado Rockies have announced they have come to an agreement with Manager Bud Black to a three year extension which will keep Black as the skipper until after the 2021 season. Black has gone 178-147 in his first two years and gotten to the wild card in both years.


Stat of the Day – Spin Rate

A pitcher’s Spin Rate represents the rate of spin on a baseball after it is released. It is measured in revolutions per minute.

The amount of spin on a pitch changes its trajectory. The same pitch thrown at the same Velocity will end up in a different place depending on how much it spins. (For instance, a fastball with a high Spin Rate appears to have a rising effect on the hitter, and it crosses the plate a few inches higher than a fastball of equal Velocity with a lower Spin Rate. Conversely, a lower Spin Rate on a changeup tends to create more movement.)

As more data have become available, most experts have agreed that fastballs and breaking balls are tougher to hit when they possess higher Spin Rates. In fact, some data suggest that Spin Rate correlates more closely than Velocity to swinging-strike percentage.

Stat of the Day Curtesy of MLB.com

Header Photo Curtesy of Pin Stripe Alley

February 13th

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Photo Credit – MLB.com

MAJOR NEWS

Aaron Nola

Nola of the Philadelphia Phillies has hit a payday after quite the spectacular year in 2018. After coming into his own the past few years, Nola will now be cashing in a check for a 4 year, $45MM with a club option. This now buys out his remaining arb years, and potentially two free agency years. Nola has been an interesting case stats wise. While his peripherals have remained steady, more traditional stats have changed greatly. This is a great lesson on why we use FIP instead of ERA. So if you judge by FIP, he has basically been the same pitcher, but by ERA you’d think he’s a new man.

2016: 4.78 ERA | 3.08 FIP

2017: 3.54 ERA | 3.27 FIP

2018: 2.37 ERA | 3.01 FIP

Robbie Grossman

The Athletics have come to terms with outfielder Robbie Grossman to a one-year deal worth $2MM with incentives reports Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. While here is another case that traditionalists might have overlooked him. The past 3 years he has posted an average of .266, but what he really excels at: getting on base. Posting an OBP of .371 puts him well above average in that category.

getsonbase-moneyball

Xavier Cedeno

After Theo Epstein wanting to squeeze one more reliever in their apparent tight budget, its looking like they succeeded. The Chicago Cubs have signed Xavier Cedeno to a minor league contract with incentives. After posting an impressive 2.95 FIP over 33.1 IP, with a career best HR/FB, its not looking like a blip. Getting Cedeno on a minor league deal looks like a bargain.

Jake Diekman

The KC Royals have announced they have signed southpaw Jake Diekman to a one year contract with a mutual option for a year 2. Known for being “effectively wild” he had a 27% K% (impressive) but a 12.8% BB% (eek!) in 2018. This will be his first full year back after he had colectomy surgery in 2017. He adds the needed lefty in the Royals pen.

Doug Fister

Veteran Doug Fister announced his retirement today via Jon Morosi of MLB.com. The right hander ends his career with 10 years in the bigs, his best year came in 2011 when he finished with a 3.02 FIP and 216.1 IP in the season he was traded to the Tigers. He received 8th place in the Cy Young voting in 2014; but if you go by WAR, that would be tied for his 5th best season. He was part of the mega rotation in Detroit when the Tigers had Max Sherzer, Justin Verlander, David Price, Rick Porcello and Fister, which ended up not getting to that elusive title.

Brett Anderson

The Oakland Athletics have come to terms on a 1 year, $1.5MM with up to an additional $1MM based on incentives. There have been quite a few ups and downs over the years for the southpaw, who is now 31 years of age. Once a highly promising young hurler in Oakland, Anderson has often been effective on the mound but has dealt with countless injuries, particularly to his back. All told, he has made about half of the starts he might have over his decade in the majors. Anderson dominated at Triple-A to earn his way back to the A’s staff, missed some time with a shoulder injury, and ultimately turned in 80 1/3 innings of 4.48 ERA ball over 17 starts in the big leagues. – MLBTR

Caleb Joseph

The Diamondbacks announced today that they have agreed to a one-year deal with catcher Caleb Joseph. It’s a split deal that would pay $1.1MM in the majors or $250K in the minors, per Zach Buchanan of The Athletic (Twitter link). He has at times been a palatable performer on offense, but has also struggled badly in two of the past three seasons. Last year, Joseph slashed just .219/.254/.321. – MLBTR

STAT OF THE DAY

wRC+

Weighted Runs Created (wRC) is an improved version of Bill James’ Runs Created (RC) statistic, which attempted to quantify a player’s total offensive value and measure it by runs.

Similar to OPS+, Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) measures how a player’s wRC compares with league average after controlling for park effects.  League average for position players is 100, and every point above 100 is a percentage point above league average. For example, a 125 wRC+ means a player created 25% more runs than a league average hitter would have in the same number of plate appearances. Similarly, every point below 100 is a percentage point below league average, so a 80 wRC+ means a player created 20% fewer runs than league average.

wRC+ is park and league-adjusted, allowing one to to compare players who played in different years, parks, and leagues.  Want to know how Ted Williams compares with Albert Pujols in terms of offensive abilities?  This is your statistic. – FanGraphs

TLDR: Someone posting a 191 wRC+ is 91% above average. It also adjusts for park, and different eras. (Mike Trout posted a 191 WRC+ in 2018)

MINOR NEWS

Jacoby Ellsbury

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman announced to the media Wednesday that outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury won’t be reporting to camp until next month, as he’s currently being slowed by a case of plantar fasciitis (link via Dan Martin of the New York Post). It’s not yet clear whether Ellsbury will be ready for Opening Day, nor is it clear how much playing time would be available to Ellsbury considering a Yankees outfield mix that features Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner and Giancarlo Stanton (with Clint Frazier also looming in the minors). Ellsbury seems poised for a bench role after missing the entire 2018 season due to injury (most notably including hip surgery). – MLBTR

Arbitration Case Winners

Trevor Bauer of the Indians, Gerrit Cole of the Astros, and Alex Wood of the Reds have all been awarded the contract values they sought by their respective arbitration panels, per ESPN.com’s Jeff Passan (Twitter link). Bauer will take home $13MM, a full $2MM more than the Indians had sought to pay him. Cole’s $13.5MM salary was about the same amount higher than the Astros’ $11.425MM filing figure. And Wood secures a $9.65MM payday that tops the $8.7MM the Reds defended. – MLBTR

February 12th

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Photo Credit – LA Times

MAJOR NEWS

Sergio Romo

The Marlins have signed Sergio Romo to a one year deal worth at least $2.5MM, with other incentives on top of that. Romo had a decent year in 2018 posting a 4.04 FIP who was also “The Opener” several times with the Rays. While he could compete for the closer role for the fish, the aging Romo has some competition with Drew Steckenrider and flamethrower Tayron Guerrero.

NEWEST RUMORS

Bryce Harper

Harper is reportedly not even considering short term deals. I personally was thinking that Harper was confident enough in himself to take a pillow contract and get somewhere in a 1 year $40-50 range and gamble on himself until next year. In the devils advocate you could say “well what’s going to change next year”? And you would probably be right. Apparently thats what Bryce himself is thinking.

STAT OF THE DAY

FIP

Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) measures what a player’s ERA would look like over a given period of time if the pitcher were to have experienced league average results on balls in play and league average timing. Back in the early 2000s, research by Voros McCracken revealed that the amount of balls that fall in for hits against pitchers do not correlate well across seasons. In other words, pitchers have little control over balls in play and assuming short-term fluctuations in BABIP are attributable to the pitcher is likely incorrect. McCracken outlined a better way to assess a pitcher’s talent level by looking at results a pitcher can control directly: strikeouts, walks, hit by pitches, and home runs.

FIP is a measurement of a pitcher’s performance that strips out the role of defense, luck, and sequencing, making it a more stable indicator of how a pitcher actually performed over a given period of time than a runs allowed based statistic that would be highly dependent on the quality of defense played behind him, for example. Certain pitchers have shown an ability to consistently post lower ERAs than their FIP suggests, but overall FIP captures most pitchers’ true performance quite well. – Fangraphs

TLDR: Pitchers don’t have control on balls in play. FIP measures what a pitcher can control

MINOR NEWS

Jorge Posada

The Marlins are “expected” to hire long-time MLB catcher Jorge Posada as a special adviser to the club’s baseball operations department, according to Craig Mish of MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (Twitter link). Posada’s precise duties aren’t yet known. Posada obviously has deep ties with Marlins CEO Derek Jeter. The pair starred together for years with the Yankees, forming half of the legendary “core four” that helped lead the New York organization to five World Series titles. –MLBTR

Gerardo Parra

Gerardo Parra, who played the previous three seasons for the division rival Rockies, is signing a minor league deal with the organization, a source told NBC Sports Bay Area. The deal was first reported by Jon Heyman of MLB Network. Parra will be in big league camp. Parra, 31, has played all three outfield spots in the majors and adds depth to a young group. The Giants have openings in right and left, with Steven Duggar on track to start in center. – Alex Pavlovic NBC Sports

Jose Lopez

The Giants announced Tuesday that they’ve claimed right-hander Jose Lopez off waivers from the Reds. In order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster, San Francisco designated left-hander Josh Osich for assignment. Cincinnati had designated the 25-year-old Lopez for assignment Monday after signing Zach Duke.