No doubt you’ve heard it said that the Cardinals have gone through quite a few outfielders in recent years. The organization is now awaiting the readiness of top prospect Dylan Carlson, with hopes that he’ll not only blossom into a star but bring some long-term stability.
Churning through players isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Every deal is an opportunity, of course. But it’s quite remarkable how much turnover the Cards have had over the past five seasons. Teams playaround 1400 innings a year … over seven thousand frames have been played in that span by the St. Louis team, but no single outfielder has come close to appearing in half of them.
Here’s a log of the players who have come and gone (or who remain on hand). They’re ordered by the number of innings played in the outfield, with all statistical accumulations provided for only the seasons in question (2015-19).
As the founder of MLB Trade Rumors, I’d like to take a brief moment to update you on the current state of the website. I realize that with the distress of COVID-19, the situation of a baseball website is the last thing on your mind, so I’ll keep it short.
Like most small businesses, mine has been hit hard by the coronavirus. Traffic is down due to MLB’s delayed season, and I don’t expect our typical trade deadline bump or a normal 2020-21 offseason. Ad rates have plummeted as well. As you know, MLBTR is free and entirely supported by banner advertising. While I’ve had to suspend some interesting but non-essential projects, in the long-term I think MLBTR will be fine.
You may have noticed that our overall post volume has decreased due to the lack of baseball news, and we’ve increased our original posts to fill the void. When player transactions and related rumors start back up, we’ll be covering that fully as we have over the last 15 years. Until then, we’ll continue experimenting with different topics both current and historical to create interesting reading material. Be sure to let us know what you’d like to see. Also, please note that the advent of weekday videos on MLBTR is not any kind of “pivot to video” and does not replace posts or result in fewer written posts on the site. Video is something we decided to try out this year, as the format may suit certain content better than the written word. We hope you’ll check out our YouTube channel and subscribe, but if it’s not for you, that’s OK.
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Less than a month ago, Major League Baseball was hemming and hawing over whether to halt Spring Training. Now, the league is at least considering a rather wild approach to the 2020 season: holding all contests in the Phoenix area for at least a portion of the campaign.If you haven’t read up on this yet, you can do so here and here.
With its statement this morning, MLB has made clear that this is just one of several concepts under consideration. Perhaps this one will fade — at least, the notion of it launching as soon as May — as the situation continues to evolve.
I’ll be sharing some further thoughts on this in an MLBTR YouTube video, which you can look out for later today. But generally, it seems entirely appropriate for the league to make its best efforts to craft a plan to get the game going again. It’s just … is this one even a reasonable starting point?
Let’s see how MLBTR readers feel at this early stage (response order randomized;poll linkfor app users):
9:26am: MLB has issued a statement acknowledging that the league has “discussed the idea of staging games at one location” but emphasizing that it has “not settled on that option or developed a detailed plan.” The announcement makes clear that the league is exploring many possibilities for responsibly holding a 2020 season and has continued to “interact regularly with governmental and public health officials” in support of that mission.
Ultimately, per the statement, MLB is “not ready at this time to endorse any particular format for staging games in light of the rapidly changing public health situation caused by the coronavirus.”
12:16am: Because of the coronavirus, we already know that at least part of the 2020 Major League Baseball Season – if it occurs – could take part in Arizona. Jeff Passan of ESPN sheds more light on what may be a strange baseball season, writing that all 30 major league teams might play spectator-less games “in the greater Phoenix area,” including the Diamondbacks’ home stadium (Chase Field) and 10 nearby spring training venues, if not other facilities. Agent Scott Boras said that Chase Field could host as many as three games a day, Ronald Blum of the Associated Press reports.
Should this plan come to fruition, it might allow the league to begin its season sometime in May. The players wouldn’t be thrilled with possibly having to spend months away from their families, Passan notes, though the fact that they’d be receiving a paycheck is enticing. Plus, high-ranking members of the Major League Baseball Players Association talked Saturday “with health officials who offered the plan as the clearest way for baseball to restart,” writes Passan, who adds that the union and the league started discussing the idea Monday. Their talks on the matter are likely to continue this week.
If a season does take place, it would likely require a two- to three-week spring training tuneup beforehand, per Passan. And if someone from one of the organizations happens to contract the coronavirus then or during the season, “officials do not believe that a positive alone would necessarily be cause to quarantine an entire team or shut down the season,” Passan writes. Rather, the possibility may lead to expanded rosters and more players receiving major league service time, which is appealing to the union.
So, in the event that the campaign gets underway in Arizona, what might it entail? Passan lays it out in his piece: Owing to social distancing, we could see an electronic strike zone and no mound visits from catchers and coaches. There’s also a chance of seven-inning doubleheaders to increase the number of games played. Nothing about this is ideal, but for the league and its fans, it could be better than no baseball at all.
It’s debatable how best to interpret Harper’s comments — prediction or exhortation, or both — but not his underlying desire to see Realmuto stay with him in Philly. Harper lavished praise on Realmuto, saying: “Ithink the Phillies organization absolutely loves J.T. and our team absolutely loves him as well.”
Harper obviously isn’t negotiating contracts, but with twelve seasons left on his own monumental deal his opinion holds greater weight than those of your average veteran star. He says of Realmuto: “Us as an organization, we have to understand that he’s going to help us in the years to come and if you want the best catcher in baseball then we’ll make that happen.”
“I don’t thinkanybody should fear us not getting J.T. back,” Harper continued. “I want him more than anything, so I mean it’s something we need to make happen as an organization.”
That’s shy of a promise but something more than a mere expression of personal preferences. Harper did go on to say that the club will“hopefully” find a way to keep Realmuto around, and there’s no particular reason to believe he’s operating on inside information here, but it’s rather interesting to see how strongly he phrased things.
It’s fair to wonder whether the suspension of the 2020 season will have an impact on negotiations if and when they resume. Realmuto will certainly not have an opportunity at a typical platform year. And it’s anyone’s guess at this point how the 2020-21 free agent market will function.
A monster debut by Astros DH Yordan Alvarez earned him the AL Rookie of the Year award in 2019, but why did the Dodgers let him go in the first place? Jeff Todd retraces a 2016 trade that seemed minor at the time.
Let’s check in on the latest notes from around the American League West …
The Angels weren’t able to land any of their top rotation targets in free agency this winter, but general manager Billy Eppler and his staff hope that an emphasis on improved receiving from their catchers will contribute to better results on the pitching staff, writes Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register. Max Stassi and Jason Castro are considered to be two of the game’s best in terms of pitch framing, and the pair spoke about the fact that it’s not necessarily a coincidence that they’re considered as such. Both were with the Astros in 2013 when Astros analyst Mike Fast presented on the importance of the skill to Houston catchers during Spring Training. Both backstops provide their thoughts on the skill as a whole — Castro on why he feels “framing” is a misnomer and Stassi giving his thoughts on a potential automated strike zone. Framing has become an increased point of emphasis for the Angels in recent years, per Eppler:“…[I]f you have a catcher who you know can present a ball well and receive a ball well, that gives confidence to your pitchers and could potentially move a count from 2-1 to 1-2.”
Rangers president of baseball operations Jon Daniels updated reporters on his organization, as Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram relays. Of note, three members of the organization – all minor leaguers – have shown coronavirus symptoms. Fortunately, those players seem to be recovering well. Meanwhile, after suffering a fractured jaw just under a month ago, outfielder Willie Calhoun continues to progress. Calhoun “has no limitations” at this point, Wilson writes. Assuming there is a season, Calhoun just might break out in 2020 after a promising showing last year.
It’s now time to go to New York and check in on the trades that GM Brodie Van Wagenen, a former agent, has swung since the team persuaded him to switch careers after the 2018 season. Considering he has only been on the job for two years, Van Wagenen’s body of work isn’t particularly large, but it’s one that’s sure to elicit some strong opinions (minor deals omitted; full details at transaction link)…
In search of creative solutions to the myriad problems posed by the coronavirus pandemic, MLB and the MLB Players’ Association have held initial discussions regarding a plan that would center at least part of the 2020 season in Arizona. Ronald Blum of the Associated Press reported on the latest developments in the ever-evolving effort.
It’s an interesting concept, at least in theory, given the presence of so many high-quality baseball facilities in the greater Phoenix area. The entire Cactus League apparatus would be available in addition to the Diamondbacks’ home park of Chase Field.
Staging contests in one metro area would drastically limit the cost, time, and risk of plane travel — potentially facilitating a much fuller schedule (more packed and later into the year) than would otherwise be possible. Teams are accustomed to marshaling necessary logistical resources in this area. And concentrating medical and other resources in one area might make it possible to navigate the exceedingly tricky matters that are sure to arise.
Needless to say, this wouldn’t be baseball-as-usual. Agent Scott Boras notes that the league would have to essentially define a group of participants (players, coaches, umpires, trainers, etc.) who’d have “very limited access … to the outside world” and would be “constantly tested.”It seems clear that such an approach would feature no or limited spectators at the ballparks. Even if fans were ultimately allowed in, there’s obviously no way the gate would come anywhere close to its typical levels.
The aim in this effort, should it even be pursued, would be to get the game on television sets across the country. There may even be a built-in competitive advantage for baseball as against the other major sports, which are also staring at difficult challenges. It’s certainly easier to imagine baseball being played, with appropriate protection and monitoring, than other sports that involve much more regular and intense physical contact between participants.
Clearly, this idea is still in its infancy, faces numerous challenges of its own, and is only one of many possibilities. It may ultimately function as a bridge to a more-typical playing situation, should that become possible. Depending upon one’s perspective, this all-Arizona approach could be a sobering disappointment … or an optimistic indication that the league and players are working hard to ensure that some kind of campaign is possible.
Possessing an excellent closer is one of the many things the Yankees have become known for over the years. There was Dave Righetti, Goose Gossage and Sparky Lyle decades back. And then there was John Wetteland, who was on the mound when the Yankees won the World Series in 1996. He formed a dominant late-game tandem with Mariano Rivera, who soon became the Yankees’ closer and evolved into perhaps the greatest reliever ever – someone who consistently shut opposing offenses down for almost 20 years. Now, the Yankees have yet another game-ending force in Aroldis Chapman, a two-time member of the team since it first acquired him in December 2015. But months before the Yankees swung a trade for Chapman, they went after another of the top closers in history in Craig Kimbrel.
Leading up to the trade deadline on July 31, 2015, the Yankees were said to be among the teams in hottest pursuit of Kimbrel, then a member of the Padres. New York held a six-game lead in the American League East at that point, thanks in part to the wonderful work of relievers Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances and Justin Wilson, but it wanted yet another bullpen weapon in Kimbrel. Then 27 years old, Kimbrel was fresh off an all-world run with Atlanta and in his first season in San Diego.
The Padres landed Kimbrel the previous offseason with the goal of pushing for contention, but the team instead endured more struggles. That wasn’t the fault of Kimbrel, who enjoyed yet another fine season. Despite interest from teams like the Yankees – who were reportedly unwilling to trade then-prospects Luis Severino, Aaron Judge and Greg Birdfor the reliever – Kimbrel wound up spending that entire year with the Padres. They went on to win just 77 games, while the Yankees lost their division lead to the Blue Jays after the deadline and were ultimately knocked out of the wild-card round by the Astros (another team that looked into Kimbrel before the deadline).
The fact that the Kimbrel talks between the Yankees and Padres fell apart turned out to have a major impact on those two teams and more clubs. In November 2015, the Padres found a taker for Kimbrel in the Yankees’ hated rival, the Red Sox, who got him for a prospect package consisting of outfielder Manuel Margot, shortstopJavier Guerra,infielderCarlos Asuaje andleftyLogan Allen. Nobody from that group has made a significant on-field impact for the Padres (the jury’s out on Guerra, who’s now a reliever), but they did flip Margot for an outstanding bullpen arm in Emilio Pagan this past offseason. Prior to then, the Padres shipped Allen to the Indians last summer as part of a three-team trade that netted them high-end outfield prospect Taylor Trammell.
For their part, it’s fair to say the Red Sox would make the Kimbrel trade again. He was an integral part of their bullpen from 2016-18, all of which were playoff seasons and the last of which ended in the club’s most recent World Series championship. The Red Sox bettered the Yankees in each of those regular seasons with three straight AL East titles, but they elected to let Kimbrel (now a Cub) exit via free agency in 2019.
Speaking of the Cubs, they’re another team that has felt some impact from the Kimbrel non-trade between the Padres and Yankees. Having failed to reel in Kimbrel, the Yankees picked up Chapman from the Reds in December 2015. Chapman didn’t cost the Yankees that much (second baseman Tony Renda and righties Rookie Davis and Caleb Cotham) because he was facing domestic violence allegations at the time. He served a 30-game suspension for that to begin the 2016 campaign. Then, with the Yankees not looking like a real threat to compete for a title, they sent Chapman to the Cubs in a deal for Gleyber Torres around that summer’s deadline.
Four years later, Torres is a standout middle infielder and an irreplaceable member of the Yankees’ lineup. He’s missed in Chicago, but Chapman did help them to their first World Series in 108 years a few months after they acquired him. As the saying goes, flags fly forever. Chapman returned to the Yankees in free agency during the ensuing offseason, though. And Kimbrel’s now a member of the Cubs, who signed him to a three-year, $43MM contract that hasn’t gone their way thus far. Where would he and Chapman be right now had the Yankees traded for Kimbrel a half-decade ago? Nobody can say for sure, but it’s one of the many interesting questions to ponder in this what-if scenario.