The last Collective Bargaining Agreement, signed before the 2012 season, set up a new method for teams to be compensated if another team signs their big ticket free agents. Essentially, a team that has one, say the Yankees who had Robinson Cano, must make a “qualifying offer.” That offer is determined to be the average salary of the top 125 players in MLB the previous season- or in the Cano case 2013. A team has a choice to make that qualifying offer, $13.3 million for one season after 2013, to any player entering free agency. If they think the player is going to sign for less than that, then of course, they don’t make the offer. If they think the player will sign for that or more- in a one-year deal, then they might make that offer. If the player signs elsewhere, as Cano did, the Yankees end up with Seattle’s first round draft pick.
The player doesn’t have to accept a qualifying offer, if he is certain he can get that money, or more years from another team, he will turn down the offer. The problem is that a team has to not only want to give that player the big contract, they also must give up a high draft pick for him- and few teams seem willing to do both.
Going into 2013, Kyle Lohse having turned down a qualifying offer was unsigned three weeks ahead of the start of the season. This year, Stephen Drew, Kendrys Morales and Ervin Santana still remain unsigned- because while they might be worth the money and a multi-year deal, they aren’t also worth giving up a draft pick.
Gabe Laques writes a bit more about the situation- which was meant to put a drag of free agency and it certainly has. Pressure to get multi-year deals done before a player hits free agency has reduced the number of free agents dramatically. And now there is as much pressure for the player to get a deal done than their is for the team.
Agent Scott Boras is not happy, thinks the system is ruining baseball. Don’t think that is true, think it is ruining his was of doing business and driving up the cost of a player. Would be interesting to hear if any other agent joins him in complaint on the record.
Ball rests at Foleys NY
There is nothing more than can be written today then to honor Frank Jobe for his work. I was in Cooperstown last summer, when he was inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame. He changed the game in many ways, saved it for many. Here is the piece from the New York Times
which not only credits him with Tommy John’s surgery, but also Orel Hershiser’s shoulder surgery.
Besides his work with baseball players, he also helped polio patients regain join use. Before that, he was in the military, at the Battle of the Bulge as a medical supply sergeant. He had a good life. RIP Dr. Jobe.
I have gone on and on about the how the Twins do little things to make their young players prepared. They use every moment of their pre-game to run drills and hone skills. That is what spring training is about after all.
Yesterday, I was in Port St. Lucie, the home of the Mets, who were hosting the Astros. Before I get to the point of this column, I want to say that I’ve noticed spring attendance is down this year, by a lot, but no where was this more evident than yesterday in Port St. Lucie, where the stands were barely half filled. Granted, the match-up might have made a few folks want to skip the ballpark today, still I couldn’t believe how small the crowd actually was.
But back to my rant for today. Not long after Jim Crane purchased the Astros in 2012, he determined he wanted to completely change the culture. He fired everyone. He fired secretaries that had been their for 20 years, he fired kitchen workers, and of course he completely cleaned house with the front office and scouting departments. He brought in a sabremetrics minded GM, Jeff Luhnow, who in turn brought in sabremetrics minded coaches and staff. The organization completely transformed. Players were traded away to build up the farm system. Players who didn’t measure out were released, no matter their recent track record with the organization.
I understand the principle of changing the culture. I also understand that sometimes you have to immerse yourself in a new way of doing things to make sure it will work. (Doing something halfway rarely shows you result, and then its hared to evaluate exactly why something doesn’t work. While i have been doubtful that the Astros gung-ho approach would really have hugely different results, I have been interested to see.
Yesterday, what I saw stood in such a huge contrast to the Minnesota Twins approach, though, that I grew angry. Not because I am sure the Twins approach was do good, though I think you can see that it is over the test of time. But, that I could so clearly see that all the focus on statistics has left little room for emphasizing the preparation it takes to be successful.
After a group of hitters finished hitting, they moved to first base, where they stood there laughing and joking. Slowly they would step up and run to second, in theory like the Twins had done, but once they got to second, they weren’t focused on the batter- they were joking and dancing to the music. There was no coach offering guidance. The players in the outfield were standing around, no one was shagging balls.
It is only the second week of spring training and these young guys were all phoning it in. There was no development happening after the hitting stopped. And the coaches were gathered around the batting cage trying to help the hitters- no one I believe was paying attention to anything else that was happening on the field.
You can project how a players career will progress through sabremetrics, relying on past history of similar players to give you guidance. But what needs to happen along the way is for coaches to help hone those skills. I didn’t see it.
Now one can argue that this one hour doesn’t tell the entire story of how these players are developing in camp or at the facility. But how they behaved does speak to their professionalism, their focus. If they are getting a lot of guidance in other places, then they are going to use this time to work on exactly what they need to, or at least their focus will carry over to what else is happening on the field. I saw a lot of unfocused baseball players.
And when game time came, it looked like the Astros weren’t dialed in. The Mets looked like a team in a different class at the start of the game- and that probably isn’t quite accurate. They are going to struggle all year, I predict. And then, how will the organization evaluate its approach? Is it just the players? Or will they be able to see that there is a flaw in their methodology.
Yesterday, I visited Hammond Stadium, one of the fields I didn’t make it to last year. (There were only two, I think.) And, the great news is that the there was a good reason for it. This past off-season, Hammond underwent some big upgrades, including a promenade that goes around the outfield wall, and provides seating beyond the old grass berms that used to be in place.
Besides the visit to see the stadium, I also found a much improved Twins team. And it’s not at all surprising. After all, the team spent a little money this past off-season, and the reality is also the Twins do an excellent job of developing their players. Prior to the game, former Twins Manaer Tom Kelley even had the pitchers out on a practice field practicing bunting and base running. (Doesn’t that seem odd for an American League team?) Before the game, the Twins also took a full on infield practice, something you very very rarely see in baseball any more, even during the spring. Fundamentals win baseball games, and the Twins are all about the fundamentals.
During the game, the Twins looked sharp. Heads up base running and sharp defense were all part of what they displayed and it is still very early for those to seem like hallmarks. Their opponent Blue Jays brought some very young fielders, who weren’t quite as sharp, but worse, their pitching really struggled to find the plate. Hopefully, yesterday was typical of where their pitching actually is, or it will be a long season for Blue Jays fans.
One of the joys of seeing the Twins during spring training is that they are still one of the few teams to do all the drills during infield. Above, watch as some of the young base runners practice getting a lead-off, as Coach Paul Molitor supervises. After this series, they move to 2nd, to do the same from 2nd to third, then they repeated it all again. (This video is actually the second time from first.)
I get to see the Twins at home tomorrow.