2011

What they like about Yu (Darvish)

With the deadline for bids for Yu Darvish now in the past, I thought it was time to see what all the fuss is about. The headline possibilities are almost endless:

What I like about Yu (variation used above)

I only had Yu

Yu had me at hello

Anyway, you get the point.

 

We’ll know soon who has won the rights to negotiate with the right-hander. To get fans of teams who might be in the running ready, I spoke with a scout in Japan who has seen Darvish throw on many occasions. Here’s what he had to say:

 

If you ask him, he throws more than ten pitches. I’ve seen him throw four-seamers, two-seamers, cutters, splitters, forkballs, curve balls, sliders, and changeups with variation on most of the breaking stuff.  What he uses depends on how he’s feeling that day.  Basically, he’ll sit 93-95 mph and touch as high as 98 mph. His two seamers are 91-93 mph, his cutter is 89-91 mph. I’ve seen the curve as low as 64 and as high as 82 with pretty good arm speed. The slider can be 86-87, 82-84, 77-78 (Japanese slurve), all over the place, really. It’s his go-to pitch.  Splitter 87-88, but he doesn’t throw it much.  His hands are small for a guy his size, and it looks like he has trouble getting his fingers around the ball for the splitter. He’s very good with a very high ceiling. He has the right amount of cockiness to get through the new challenges that await him.  I think he’s a #3 starter at worst, obviously with a chance to be an ace.

There’s a lot of information about Darvish out there, with more assuredly to come. Hopefully this adds a little something to that file.

A few parting Winter Meetings thoughts

I’m home now after another Winter Meetings in the books (for the record, this was my 11th Winter Meetings, third here in Dallas), and I figured I’d leave with a few parting thoughts, of course with a prospect slant.

  • With Mr. Pujols now officially gone from St. Louis, most talk has been about moving Lance Berkman or Allen Craig to first base. I wonder if they’ll give Matt Adams a shot to play somewhere now. Probably unlikely, but that guy can hit.
  • With Mr. Wilson now officially gone from Texas, is there anyone internally who’d get a crack at that rotation? Martin Perez isn’t ready,  maybe a Neil Ramirez type? Of course, Texas could dive into the Yu Darvish sweepstakes (more on him after I get home). Conversely, with the Angels getting him, does that mean a guy like Garrett Richards can get more development time in the Minors?
  • With the Marlins not getting Wilson or Pujols, do they have enough left in the piggy bank to go after Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes?
  • Will the best players not taken in the Rule 5 Draft — Jiwan James, the intriguing story of Drew Cumberland — make people wish they had taken them with strong seasons in 2012?
  • Will anyone provide the A’s with enough prospects to get Gio Gonzalez? Sounds like Oakland is selling high, so we’ll see if a team that needs a starter is willing to bite.

That’s it for now. Take a deep breath and we’ll talk more next week.

The latest Rule 5 talk

Yes, there is some. Maybe not the intrigue of where Albert and C.J. will sign, but people are talking about tomorrow’s Rule 5 Draft. Here’s some of what’s being talked about regarding the draft.

  • The Houston Astros might be shopping the No. 1 overall pick. That doesn’t mean they don’t want two players, but perhaps might be able to swap the pick, collect some extra cash, and still make two selections. Jiwan James of the Phillies is getting a lot more buzz, either as a No. 1 pick or a player the Astros is very interested in. James has only been a position player for 2+ years.
  • It seems more and more likely the Padres will lose Drew Cumberland. The very talented infielder hasn’t played since 2010, having retired because of an inner-ear issue. As I hear it, Padres doctors haven’t cleared him to play, but Cumberland has a doctor who has.
  • The Kansas City Royals cleared a spot on the 40-man with their trade with the Pirates and they have their eye on a left-handed reliever. Don’t know which one, but Cesar Cabral of the Red Sox has been mentioned in general quite a bit.
  • While most people expect the Cubs to lose Ryan Flaherty, they could also lose infielder Marwin Gonzalez, who can play second, shortstop, third and even left field. He hit .288 in 2011 and spent half the year in Triple-A.
  • The Pirates might lose reliever Diego Moreno, the right-handed reliever who’s pitched very well in winter ball.
  • Teams looking for lefties might take a look at the Indians’ T.J. McFarland or Josh Smoker of the Nationals. Hard-throwing southpaw Philippe Valliquette, despite not having pitched in 2011, is getting a good amount of attention, with the Blue Jays perhaps hoping he’s available when they pick.

The skinny on Nestor Molina

The Blue Jays got a dynamic late-inning reliever in Sergio Santos, but the White Sox got a pretty good pitching prospect in return. Here’s some more information on right-hander Nestor Molina.

Like the big leaguer he was traded for, Molina is also a convert to pitching. The Venezuelan originally signed as a hitter, playing the outfield and third base in the Venezuelan and Dominican Summer Leagues in 2006-2007 before turning to pitching full-time in 2008.

He made his United States debut in  2009 and spent nearly all of his first two seasons in the country as a reliever. He pitched well in that role, with a 1.67 ERA in 2009 and 3.11 in his full-season debut across two levels in 2010.

The Blue Jays moved the 22-year-old into a starting role in 2011 and he took to it well, leading the system in ERA (2.21) and finishing third in strikeouts. He walked only 16 while striking out 148. He was a Florida State League All-Star and earned a late promotion to Double-A, where he was extremely effective over five Eastern League starts. The success he had earned him a spot on Toronto’s 40-man roster in November.

Molina features an intriguing four-pitch mix with an advanced feel for pitching. He’ll throw his fastball in the 89-92 mph range and complements it with a slider and a changeup. His best pitch, though, might be his splitter, a true plus offering with a ton of deception. Some have said he might be better-suited to be a top-flight bullpen/setup guy, but his stuff and command say he’ll get more time to start.

Marlins signings: Who gets what comp picks?

As if the newly bargained agreement wasn’t confusing enough, we had  to have one team sign two free agents at about the same time. And with one of those free agents a “modified Type A” in the one-year rule adjustment before Type A and Type B ratings go the way of the dinosaur, it gets even more complicated.

The Marlins have made quite the splash in signing Heath Bell (the aforementioned modified Type A) and Jose Reyes (a good, old-fashioned Type A). Because Florida picks No. 9 overall, they will not be giving up their first-round pick. And because they signed Bell first, they won’t be giving up their second-round selection either.

When Bell was modified, it was decided that a team signing him would not have to sacrifice a pick at all to get him. Instead, the Padres will get a compensation pick (sandwich A, we can still call it) after the first round is over. They will also get a second-round pick right in front of the Marlins’ second-round selection.

Here’s the kicker. Even though the Marlins did not have to give up that second-round pick to the Padres, it’s not available to the Mets as compensation for the Reyes signing. Because Bell signed first, that pick in effect is a part of that signing, even though its part is that it didn’t have to be forfeited. Instead, the Mets will get a Comp A pick and the Marlins’ selection in the third round.

Had the Marlins officially signed Reyes first, the Mets would have received that second-round pick. In other words, they get penalized a round because of the Bell signing. That might be something that doesn’t bother the Marlins, given they are in the same division as the Mets. But it’s probably likely that Bell himself will love it. He’s not exactly a fan of the Mets from his time in their system and the fact that his signing cost them a round  might give him a little chuckle.

Welcome to Dallas

And another Winter Meetings has begun.

As we get our bearings (the Anatole re-designing their lobby made it tougher for me, that’s for sure), there will be plenty to report. And while there’s no question MLB.com is the best place to go for all the big league news, you’ll want to come by for all the prospecty stuff as well, courtesy of yours truly.

Any trade that involves prospects, I’ll be sharing what the industry thinks about the Minor Leaguers involved. There will be Rule 5 buzz (if you want to call it that) to boot.

Keep in mind, the Winter Meetings are, technically, a Minor League event, so there will be plenty to talk about.

Much, much more as the time unfolds.

More CBA goodies

I’m not sure if I’m in the whole “the more I found out, the less I know” area with all of this stuff, but I might be close. But I do have more information on how some of this Collective Bargaining Agreement stuff will work in terms of the Draft. Stay tuned to a series of stories over on MLB.com in the coming days to explain it in more detail, with reaction from people in the industry. For now, some more nuts and bolts:

  • If a Club does not sign a pick, its signing bonus pool is reduced by the amount of the pick.  So, for example, if a Club does not sign its first round pick, and its first round pick had a slot of $1.5 million, the Club’s signing bonus pool would be reduced by $1.5. This is true of any unsigned pick, not just those covered by compensation. The main idea here was to not create incentive for a team to NOT sign a pick. Without this safeguard, a team could “punt” a pick in order to divert those funds to another pick later on, which could result in a Draft that would look a lot like the old ones. In the next year’s draft, the Club would receive a compensation selection for failing to sign its first, second or third round selections, and the slot assigned to the compensation selection will be added to its signing bonus pool.
  • In the new system, the total aggregate pool in the 10 slotted rounds will be $185 million. With an estimate of $20 million spent after the 10th round (remember, bonuses up to $100,000 do not count toward a team’s aggregate pool), that means teams could spend a combined total of $205 million without getting penalized. That total of $205 million is higher than every Draft from 2004-2010.  Spending in past years: $159 million (2006); $155 million (2007); $198 million (2009) and $200 million in 2010.

Some context to consider:

  • Signing bonus inflation since 2006 has certainly impacted teams picking at the top of the Draft. In 2011, 23 players got bonuses higher than what Tim Lincecum got ($2.025 million) as the No. 10 overall pick in 2006. 11 players in 2011 got more than Evan Longoria’s bonus as the No. 3 selection that year ($3 million).
  • Four Clubs that spent the most money in excess of MLB’s slotting recommendations from 2007-2010 were the Nationals (Strasburg, Harper), Tigers, Red Sox and Yankees. That does offset the notion that the small-market/small-revenue clubs have used the Draft system the most, though when you look 2009-2011, the Royals and Pirates climb into that upper group. Still, not quite the slam-dunk people have said it was in terms of the new system hurting the smaller clubs.

First story in in the series on MLB.com will be explaining in detail how this Competitive Balance Lottery will work.

 

The new CBA — what the top 10 picks are worth

I’m getting more and more details about how the new CBA will work in terms of the Draft and international signings and I promise to share them all with you as the picture becomes more clear. Some of that will come in the form of stories and I’ll use the B3 space for tidbits here and there. And believe me, there’s a lot. Truthfully, no one knows just yet how this will impact anything with the Draft and might not until everyone goes through it a time or two. Yes, there will be some bumps, especially with the market correction in the first year, but I think it too soon to presume certain teams will be ruined/destroyed/greatly hampered by this new system.

Anyway, one bit of info I wanted to pass along now.  Those of you following this saga know that the way it will be set up will be with each team having  a certain “Signing Bonus Pool” — an amount of money a team is allowed to spend in the Draft without being charged a tax or the forfeiture of draft pick(s). Teams picking at the top of the Draft will have a larger pool. In 2012, the Astros will have the largest pool at $11.5 million. That figure comes from adding up the values of every pick they will have, as of now, in rounds 1-10.

I have been able to obtain the values assigned to the top 10 picks in the Draft. It doesn’t give the complete picture — I hope to get more information soon — but you can see how MLB valued the top of the Draft:

1 — $7.2 million
2 — $6.2 million
3 — $5.2 million
4 — $4.2
5 — $3.5
6 — $3.25
7 — $3
8 — $2.9
9 — $2.8
10 — $2.7

This doesn’t mean a team picking No. 4, for example, can’t go over $4.2 million to sign that pick, but it all goes toward that aggregate pool.  As a comparison, take a look at what the Nos. 1-10 picks got in 2011. Keep in mind, some of these were Major League deals, which are no longer allowed. But in any deal — even a two-sport contract spread over five years — would be included in total against that year’s pool.

1 — Gerrit Cole: $8 million
2 — Danny Hultzen: $6.35
3 — Trevor Bauer: $3.4
4 — Dylan Bundy: $4
5 — Bubba Starling: $7.5
6 — Anthony Rendon: $6
7 — Archie Bradley: $5
8 — Francisco Lindor: $2.9
9 — Javier Baez: $2.65
10 — Cory Spangenberg: $1.863

Not too far off, right, with an exception or two. And the Diamondbacks giving Bradley $5 million is more than the $3 million value for the No. 7 pick now, but they saved in the aggregate with Trevor Bauer’s deal. In the new system, those two picks are valued at $8.2 million. Bauer and Bradley got $8.4 million.

This is far from a complete picture, obviously, and I hope to paint that as time goes on and more details become known. But it’s a little bit of a look at the fact that perhaps this isn’t as doomsday-ish as some early reactions made it out to be.

Much, much more to come.

The new CBA and amateur players

I’m still sorting through all the details, as best as I can, on the new CBA and how it impacts the amateur scene. Needless to say, this changes the Draft and the international signing landscape tremendously. There will be a more concrete story coming in a bit, but the first reaction is that teams like the Pirates and Royals, smaller-revenue teams who have used their resources to be aggressive in the Draft (and in international signings to an extent) are going to be handcuffed by this. But that’s just a gut reaction. Much more to come.

For now, though, I’m posting the parts of the CBA that pertain to the amateur scene here, broken out from the entire agreement:

III.. RESERVE SYSTEM INCLUDING AMATEUR PLAYERS
a. Free Agency
1. All eligible Players will become free agents as of the end of the World Series, with no
election required, and the “quiet period” will be five days.
2. The tender date will be December 2 beginning in 2012.
3. Article XX(B) free agents signing minor league contracts who are not added to the
Opening Day roster or unconditionally released 5 days prior to Opening Day shall receive
an additional $100,000 retention bonus and the right to opt out on June 1.
b. Draft Pick Compensation
1. Starting in 2012, “Type A” and “Type B” free agents and the use of the Elias ranking
system will be eliminated.
2. The current system of draft pick compensation will be replaced with the following
system:
A. Only Players who have been with their Clubs for the entire season will be subject
to compensation.
B. A free agent will be subject to compensation if his former Club offers him a
guaranteed one-year contract with a salary equal to the average salary of the
125-highest paid Players from the prior season. The offer must be made at the
end of the five-day free agent “quiet period,” and the Player will have seven days
to accept the offer.
C. A Club that signs a player subject to compensation will forfeit its first round
selection, unless it selects in the top 10, in which case it will forfeit its secondhighest
selection in the draft.
D. The Player’s former Club will receive a selection at the end of the first round
beginning after the last regularly scheduled selection in the round. The former
Clubs will select based on reverse order of winning percentage from the prior
championship season.
4
c. Salary Arbitration Eligibility
1. The percentage of players with two years of service who will be arbitration eligible will
be increased from the top 17% to the top 22% in terms of service.
2. All players tied at the 22% cutoff will be eligible for arbitration.
d. Minimum Salaries
1. Major League will increase from $414,000 in 2011 to: $480,000 in 2012; $490,000 in
2013; and $500,000 in 2014; COLA in 2015 and 2016.
2. Minor League will increase from $67,300 in 2011 to: $78,250 in 2012; $79,900 in 2013;
and $81,500 in 2014; COLA in 2015 and 2016.
e. Rule 4 Draft
1. The draft will continue to be conducted in June, but the signing deadline will be moved
to a date between July 12 and July 18 depending on the date of the All-Star Game.
2. Drafted players may only sign Minor League contracts.
3. Signing Bonus Pools
A. Each Club will be assigned an aggregate Signing Bonus Pool prior to each draft.
For the purpose of calculating the Signing Bonus Pools, each pick in the first 10
rounds of the draft has been assigned a value. (These values will grow each year
with the rate of growth of industry revenue.) A Club’s Signing Bonus Pool equals
the sum of the values of that Club’s selections in the first 10 rounds of the draft.
Players selected after the 10th round do not count against a Club’s Signing
Bonus Pool if they receive bonuses up to $100,000. Any amounts paid in excess
of $100,000 will count against the Pool.
B. Clubs that exceed their Signing Bonus Pools will be subject to penalties as
follows:
Excess of Pool Penalty (Tax on Overage/Draft Picks)
• 0-5% 75% tax on overage
• 5-10% 75% tax on overage and loss of 1st round pick
• 10-15% 100% tax on overage and loss of 1st and 2nd round picks
• 15%+ 100% tax on overage and loss of 1st round picks in next two drafts
4. Proceeds generated by the tax will be distributed to payee Clubs under the Revenue Sharing
Plan that do not exceed their Signing Bonus Pools. Draft picks that are forfeited by Clubs will
be awarded to other Clubs through a lottery in which a Club’s odds of winning will be based
on its prior season’s winning percentage and its prior season’s revenue. Only Clubs that do
not exceed their Signing Bonus Pools are eligible for the lottery.
5. Competitive Balance Lottery
A. For the first time, Clubs with the lowest revenues and in the smallest markets will
have an opportunity to obtain additional draft picks through a lottery.
B. The ten Clubs with the lowest revenues, and the ten Clubs in the smallest
markets, will be entered into a lottery for the six draft selections immediately
following the completion of the first round of the draft. A Club’s odds of winning
the lottery will be based on its prior season’s winning percentage.
C. The eligible Clubs that did not receive one of the six selections after the first
round, and all other payee Clubs under the Revenue Sharing Plan, will be
entered into a second lottery for the six picks immediately following the
completion of the second round of the draft. A Club’s odds of winning the
lottery will be based on its prior season’s winning percentage.
D. Picks awarded in the Competitive Balance Lottery may be assigned by a Club,
subject to certain restrictions.
E. Top 200 prospects will be subject to a pre-draft drug test and will participate in a
pre-draft medical program.
5
f. International Talent Acquisition
1. By December 15, 2011, the parties will form an International Talent Committee to
discuss the development and acquisition of international players, including the potential
inclusion of international amateur players in a draft or in multiple drafts.
2. For the 2012-13 signing season, each Club will be allocated an equal Signing Bonus
Pool.
3. For each signing period after 2012-13, Clubs will be allocated different Signing Bonus
Pools, based on reverse order of winning percentage the prior championship season
(i.e., the Club with the lowest winning percentage the prior season shall receive the
largest Pool).
4. Bonus Regulation of International Amateur Players
A. Beginning in the 2013-2014 signing period (July 2, 2013 – June 15, 2014), Clubs
may trade a portion of their Signing Bonus Pool, subject to certain restrictions.
B. Clubs that exceed their Signing Bonus Pools will be subject to the following
penalties in the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 signing periods:
Excess of Pool Penalty (Tax on Overage/Draft Picks)
• 0-5% 75% tax
• 5-10% 75% tax and loss of right to provide more than one player in the next signing period with a bonus in
excess of $500,000.
• 10-15% 100% tax and loss of right to provide any player in the next signing period with a bonus in excess of
$500,0000.
• 15%+ 100% tax and loss of right to provide any player in the next signing period with a bonus in excess of
$250,000.
C. The penalties for exceeding the Signing Bonus Pool will increase beginning with
the 2014-2015 signing period if a draft or drafts is not agreed to by July 2014.
5. All international amateur players must register with the Scouting Bureau to be eligible to
sign, and the top 100 prospects will be subject to a drug test.
6. The Office of the Commissioner and the Union will form a joint committee to assist
international players with their transition to educational/vocational programs after their
baseball careers are over.

 

Remembering Greg Halman

Yesterday, as I tried to get reaction to the tragic news of Greg Halman’s death, I tried to make some sense of it. I was certainly not alone in that futile effort. In the end, there is no sense to be made and the best anyone can do is try to remember the mark this young man left on those who’s path he crossed.

I was reminded of that particularly by an email I received yesterday. It came from Lynda Goldstein, who reached out to tell her story of how she and her husband came to know Halman. Rather than try to find the right words myself, I’m going to let her do it (with her permission):

My husband and I live in Florida (transplanted New Yorkers and avid Yankees fans). We were at the 2008 Superbowl in Phoenix Arizona for the Giants/Patriots game.  We were staying at the hotel where the Seattle  farm teams practiced.  The sports complex was across the street from our hotel.  We would sit in the lobby in the morning and in the afternoon when the guys would come in from their day of practice. We started up a friendship with Greg and a friend of his on the team, Alex Liddi.  We can not tell you what a wonderful young man he was and he tugged at our hearts and we just could never forget him. We were there for several days and had great conversations with the young men.

We told them both that we would follow their careers and we were true to our word. When Greg was playing for the Netherlands in Miami for the World Classic Baseball games, we were there.  We arrived at the game early so that we could try to catch him and we did get his attention. He just couldnt believe that we were there to watch him.  We all were so excited!!!!!

I just want to say that when my husband and I heard of this tragedy I called the Mariners office and also e-mailed them. I just want you to know that this young man touched our hearts. I told the Mariners today that they could be so proud as he represented them so well.  He was only 20 when we met him.  We are extremely saddened by his untimely death.  We will never forget that beautiful smile that he had.  We hope and pray that he is smiling down on all of us now.  You were a special young man Greg and I wish I could find your family to let them know how much we  thought of you.

Thank you, Lynda, for being willing to share that. I’ll leave you with this. Back in 2009, Halman attended the Rookie Career Development Program. My colleague at the time Lisa Winston had the pleasure of doing a video interview with him (we do one for each organization every year). Here is a link to that interview.

Greg Halman at the Rookie Career Development Program

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