Boxing in MLB Free Agents

The Major League Baseball free-agent market has barely moved since I last updated it here. Qualifying offer (QO) free agents are the key to understanding what’s going on. First, let’s review what I wrote over two months ago:

Update Sunday November 4, 2018: A total of seven QO’s were made on Friday, November 2 in MLB. Beyond the expected offers to Bryce Harper & Patrick Corbin, were Houston Astros left-hander Dallas Keuchel, Boston Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel, Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder A.J. Pollock, and Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu and catcher Yasmani Grandal. These players have 10 days to accept a $17.9 million salary for 2019, or become free agents with draft pick compensation. The five players I listed after Harper & Corbin should all accept their qualifying offers, as they won’t get better deals on the free agent market. Especially Grandal & Ryu.

What’s happened since? Ryu accepted, and kicked back knowing he has $17.9M for next season, with no off-season headaches. Hyun-Jin Ryu (below) will go into free agency in 2020 with no QO tag, as that can only be offered once to a player by their team. That’s what you want as a player– unrestricted free agency.

As I keep repeating here, it’s the draft pick compensation that is deterring the QO free-agents from getting more substantial offers. At least two-thirds of MLB teams have GM’s that value draft picks above veterans– generally speaking. That is a shift towards correct valuation of winning talent, and the MLBPA with the agents, are way behind on this. Their base constituency (veteran MLB players), are getting low-balled due to the new CBA their union “representatives” signed. Virtually every player before free agency is exploited, and now even free agents can’t get a good deal.

For example, ex-Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel (above) began the off-season claiming he was seeking a deal worth ~ 6/$85M. The problem is, he’s in decline, and he comes with draft pick compensation for everyone except Boston, which is probably where he’ll have to go back to, for less that the QO-deal he rejected in November. Time is not on his side, that’s for sure.

Former Diamondbacks center fielder AJ Pollock (above) is in even worse shape, as Arizona just inked utility man Wilmer Flores, so a reunion is becoming less likely. Pollock is worth (maybe) 2/$12M in this market– without a QO-tag on him. With the QO-tag, he’s negative value (losing a draft pick) to most teams, and therefore unsignable at even league minimum. How messed up is that?

One free-agent player decided to fire his agent, and negotiated his own deal this winter. Reliever David Robertson (above) signed a 2/$23M (plus 3rd-year option) with the Phillies. He’ll do much better than Craig Kimbrel, when all is said & done, and plus he doesn’t have to pay an incompetent agent a 5-10% fee for screwing things up.

Robertson said it was a great experience for him, and that he learned a lot about the market and how to negotiate. More players should follow his example. They’ll get paid better if they do. No one cares about your interest more than you, so if you leave it to someone else, expect to get burned.

Catcher Yasmani Grandal (above) is now an example of this. His over-estimation of his value apparently led him to reject a 4/$60M offer from the Mets a few weeks back. This is another lesson of the free-agency season: don’t overplay your hand. Afterwards the Mets moved on and signed catcher Wilson Ramos (2/$19M), and then the market for Grandal nearly evaporated.

Grandal settled for 1/$18.25 with the Brewers. The Brew Crew only give up their #104 pick, because the deal was for <$50M. The Dodgers would have preferred Grandal to have taken the Mets offer, as they would have received a better compensation pick on a $60M deal. That’s what’s going on, and the vultures are picking this market to pieces, while many players’ heads are spinning, as their salaries are falling.

Every off-season there are 2-3 teams that are spending “stupid money.” The Phillies already declared this intention, and the Yankees are always in, but neither are in the market for a catcher. The Mets have been stupid too, and this was the offer you jump on– if you’re Yasmani Grandal. His agent should be fired, for not counseling his client competently, because there were no other big suitors for Grandal, as most AL teams prefer Marlins catcher JT Realmuto, who is on the trade block.

Realmuto is better & younger, with two years of team control remaining, which could net his new team a QO compensation pick, if he’s dealt before the 2020 season. How much you get paid is not about past performance anymore. It’s what do you bring to the organization, and what they project you can do going forward.

Of the remaining QO free-agents, LHP Dallas Keuchel has the best chance of getting a deal north of $50M, but it’s not assured. The lessons of RHP’s Hu Darvish & Jake Arrieta (both busts) from last winter, remain in every GM’s mind. Everyone needs pitching, but overpaying for mediocre & injured/bad starters doesn’t make sense. That’s called wish-casting, and there aren’t many Jim Bowden’s left as GM’s who do that stupid stuff anymore.

That’s why the trade market for RHP’s Noah Syndergaard, Cory Kluber & Sonny Gray has received more interest than free-agent starting pitchers. The Mets, Indians & Yankees are all looking for young talent in return, but most teams won’t give that up anymore. Therefore not much moves.

We wait until SS/3B Manny Machado & RF Bryce Harper sign, and then the remaining position players will get scooped up at a song. Most of the MLB free-agent activity has been in the reliever market. In October, bullpens matter more than ever, and you can’t have too many arms. Position players are a-dime-a-dozen, and (often) youngsters are the best value in that market.

I don’t know how long MLB players are going to accept a system that never rewards anyone, except the most-elite superstars. This MLB CBA runs 2017-2021, and anyone with eyes can see a labor war on the horizon, as two more years of this will lead to revolt and (likely) a work stoppage. The money is too big, and the disparity is too wide. This process mirrors every other sector of our global economy. What’s not sustainable, must be revolutionized, otherwise it goes into the ashcan of human history. That will be the legacy of MLB’s “qualifying offer free agency.”

Update: Sunday 20 Jan 2019 ~3:40 PM EST

An alternate title for this piece could be, “Padres GM AJ Preller Whips MLB Free Agency.” The San Diego Padres have been the most speculated & media-buzzed team of this Hot Stove season. The reason is simple, they have the best minor-league system (by far), along with an interesting collection of young (cost-controlled) MLB talent.

Their Achilles heel is big-league starting pitching, which dooms them to the 2nd division, until their minor-league talent arrives. The Padres have been prominently linked to every big-name starter made available via trade over the winter, including: Marcus Stroman (Blue Jays), Sonny Gray (Yankees), Cory Kluber (Indians), and Noah Syndergaard (Mets).

Every rival GM wants at that talent, but AJ Preller has resisted all trade offers, and held his top prospects close to his vest. They are HIGHLY valued by the entire organization, including ownership. Therefore, they won’t be foolishly dealt for expensive rentals, bounce-back potential, decline years, or injury risks.

AJ Preller’s influence has also been a factor in holding up MLB free agency signings, as GM’s will exhaust their options to obtain young talent, before settling for a bargain in free agency. The “JT Realmuto effect” on the catching market has already been discussed above.

It’s a young man’s game, and it’s always been that way. Those who know the game recognize that much better now, due to advanced metrics & the sharing power of the internet. Many young players & MLB fans now know these issues better than the people running/ruining the game.

Here’s Evan Longoria on Instagram &

We are less then a month from the start of spring and once again some of our games biggest starts remain unsigned. Such a shame. It’s seems every day now someone is making up a new analytical tool to devalue players, especially free agents. As fans, why should “value” for your team even be a consideration? It’s not your money, it’s money that players have worked their whole lives to get to that level and be deserving of. Bottom line, fans should want the best players and product on the field for their team. And as players we need to stand strong for what we believe we are worth and continue to fight for the rights we have fought for time and time again.

I respect Giants (Rays) 3B Evan Longoria, but his complaints to the media about Manny Machado & Bryce Harper not being signed yet, show that he really doesn’t understand what’s going on. Those two elite players have only one top offer apiece, and are waiting around for no good reason, as nothing better will materialize– for either of them. It is their agents who are (mis)advising them, as they are in denial. These “super-agents” (Boras & Lozano) keep trying to inflate the MLB superstar contract bubble, at the expense of younger, underpaid players who generally provide more winning value to franchises.

As of this publication, the Chicago White Sox have reportedly made Machado a seven-year, $175 million offer. Manny Machado’s agent, Dan Lozano, disputes this– which is seen in the industry as bluffing. The Phillies aren’t going to go that high (in years or money), and the Yankees appear to be out. No one else is (or was) serious. Machado should sign, and let the market move again, but he & his agent are being egotistical & greedy. This is what knowledgeable baseball fans REALLY don’t like.

The Nationals reportedly offered Bryce Harper a 10-year, $300 million deal, a while back. There’s no reason to not believe it. No other franchise will go higher, especially with draft-pick compensation added to the signing cost. Bryce Harper & agent Scott Boras are also grandstanding & flexing for everyone, and it’s really disrespectful to the other position players who are waiting for a decision, so they can then find a job.

For example, 3B Mike Moustakas can help a lot of teams in need. But everyone is waiting for SS/3B Manny Machado to make a decision first. Until then no one knows what the 3B market is. The best at any specific position can hold up that entire market, because they are always coveted by teams that want to win. No one goes to their fall-back plan, until Option A pans out.

Evan Longoria asks on social media, “As fans, why should ‘value’ for your team even be a consideration?” The obvious fan answer is, “Because ‘overpays’ drive up ticket prices, and kills any team’s chances at winning.” When a MLB GM makes a bad deal of this magnitude, it has a HUGE ripple effect. It’s like trading LHP David Price, for LHP Drew Smily & prospects. The Rays never recovered, and their fans deserted them.

If MLB players want to stop their salaries from going down, then they better get smarter, and start organizing for themselves. Those who deny metrics & remain clueless as to how players are valued, will sign dumb long-term deals– like Evan Longoria did. It sucks to be taken advantage of, but when it’s your own doing, you can only be mad at yourself. I say, “Educate yourself,” or else you’re just blowing-off hot air, like so many others.

Update: Fri 25 Jan 2019 6:15 PM EST

The LA Dodgers have made some moves this off-season, and none of them are going to help them get back to a third consecutive World Series. Jettisoning contracts Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig & Alex Wood to the Reds gets them under the luxury tax threshold, and that was the only purpose of that deal from LA’s perspective. Dodgers eat $28M from RHP Homer Bailey’s contract in return, whom they released.

In 2019, the final year of the Matt Kemp contract, he’ll be paid $21.75M. The Dodgers pay $3.5M & the Padres $2.5M, from the original deal that sent Kemp to San Diego. The Braves have also taken a bite of this deal, as this is Matt Kemp’s fourth trade during this contract, which is commonly regarded as one of the biggest albatrosses in MLB history.

Dodgers also inked premium righty reliever Joe Kelly to a 3/$25M deal, and replaced Yasmani Grandal at catcher with Russel Martin at 1/$20M. Now they’ve reportedly added center-fielder AJ Pollock at either 4/$55M or 5/$60M, pending a physical. Dodgers also give up a compensation pick to the Diamondbacks by signing Pollock- who is a significant injury & crash risk. This is an overpay.

It all adds up in LA to a core roster that is year older, with less outfield power, while losing lefty starter Alex Wood. The Reds got a huge upgrade in this Dodgers salary dump. The Dodgers compounded that mistake with this AJ Pollock deal.

Finally, soon-to-be age-31 LHP Clayton Kershaw wisely declined his “opt-out,” and stayed with the Dodgers for 3/$93M. He’s pitched 149.0, 175.0 & 161.1 innings in the last three seasons. He’s still great, but he’s breaking down, like all pitchers in their 30’s.

The Dodgers are still the best in the NL West, but their window is closing, as this roster will soon resemble the SF Giants’ current situation. Hot Stove activity like this accelerates that process in LA. At least the Giants won 3 World Series in their 5-year run. The Dodgers have squandered their golden opportunity to challenge that feat, with severe over-spending & some highly-questionable deals over the past several years.

Update: Sun 10 Feb 2019 10:30 AM EST

I mentioned a few weeks back that the Padres are the key team this off-season, and since then, they’ve been in the MLB rumor mill– a lot. Their involvement in the JT Realmuto deal (finally dealt to the Phillies) was probably an effort to define the market and move things along, instead of any real interest in the All-Star catcher.

The Marlins were being unrealistic for too long, about Realmuto’s value, with only 2 years remaining on his contract. Everyone wants the Padres prospects, and AJ Preller held firm on what his top young talent is worth, which is a lot more than two years of JT Realmuto. Especially since the Padres aren’t expected to compete for the post-season in 2019 or 2020.

So what have the San Diego Padres been doing in the Bryce Harper & Manny Machado free agency sweepstakes? For a long while the Padres were the “mystery team” in this ordeal, which tells you what that’s worth. When the Padres finally came out, and declared their interest, it was (again) tepid at best, as neither player fits their competitive window, for the costs involved. Yes, the Padres can afford to sign either one, but it wouldn’t move the needle on their becoming a winning team enough to justify the contract. So what are they doing!?

Padres GM AJ Preller is trying to move this market along, by engaging these two free agents. Since no one was making an offer, Preller requested a meeting with both superstars. Harper complied, and met with them in Las Vegas, while evidently Machado refused. In both cases the true intention was to let these players and their agents know that whatever offers they’ve already received, the Padres (and everyone else) won’t go higher.

Since neither is interested in signing for a bargain, they may as well take their best offer. That’s the message. & ESPN are calling it “due diligence” by the Padres. I believe Preller prefers signing free agent 3B Mike Moustakas, as a low-cost alternative. He’s just waiting for Machado & Harper to sign somewhere.

Over the last few days rumors have been reported as fact, that the Yankees have offered SS/3B Manny Machado a $220 million deal, and now the White Sox have raised their offer to $250 million over 8 years. No one will confirm any of this, so serious fans take it as bluffing. I still stand behind my prediction that Machado will sign with the pale hose for $175M, as that’s the top offer that has been reported, and verified by the White Sox.

Whether Harper’s $300M offer from the Nationals is still on the table is unknown, but he should have taken it when he had the chance, if he wanted max money. If Bryce Harper wants out of Washington, then he’s taking a pay cut from that.

Pitchers & catchers report this week, so it’s time for these two to make a decision. They’ll both be taking less than what they had hoped for, and will possibly be going to teams they don’t prefer, just to get paid. That’s MLB free agency in 2019, and it’s a catastrophe for the players & fans.

The fundamental issue that keeps getting swept under-the-rug is the MLBPA’s role in all this. These union bureaucrats & officials, counseled by the heavy-clout super-agents that advise them, are all complicit in the lowering of MLB-player salaries. This is the root of the impasse between free agents & the organizations these past two off-seasons.

The GM’s that run these franchises for their owners are all smarter now. Thus, they aren’t handing out any more Albert Pujols contracts, like the Angels regret. Their splurges are now more measured & contained. The presumed job of these union functionaries is to follow these trends, and understand its importance when collectively bargaining for the players.

In this task, they have completely whiffed. The MLBPA’s allegiance to veteran players, as measured by free-agent contracts, no longer fits the MLB organizational spending model. Today, GM’s understand its cheap, young players that provide winning value. That’s the core which organizations build around, and when they mature (and ONLY then), is when free-agency (or dealing prospects for valuable veterans) makes sense.

Just because a team has money to spend, doesn’t mean they should spend it. Unexpected good fortune, or rainy days, could be just around the corner, and teams need to retain flexibility with their payroll. After all, this is baseball, and no one can predict it.


The MLB Free Agency Market: 2018-19

Padres signed 2B Ian Kinsler 2/$8M after the Winter Meetings. The timing here is significant, as Padres GM AJ Preller had to wait out the Rule 5 Draft to make any FA acquisitions with their full foster. As a result, the Padres lost zero players to the Rule 5 Draft, even though they have the top-rated farm system in baseball. Excellent roster management by AJP, who is now seeking a 3B. Currently, the best free agent option at third base is age-30 Mike Moustakas.

The Padres have no interest in Marlins catcher JT Realmuto, despite any “rumors” you are reading from industry hacks attempting to stoke the hot stove. I believe most teams have been put-off by Derek Jeter & Mike Hill’s unrealistic demands. Their problem is they have made so many bad deals in the past year, trading All-stars (& MVP’s) for junk prospects. The Marlins front office keeps thinking they are going to finally hit the motherlode, and it never happens. The other GM’s are all smarter, and that’s a huge problem in Miami. Their only hope at this point is if the Dodgers overpay for Realmuto, which isn’t likely, although although could happen.

Everyone in baseball keeps talking about RF Bryce Harper & SS Manny Machado, but it’s the other end of the free agent market that is the real story. Closer Craig Kimbrel declined a $17.9M qualifying offer (QO) from the Red Sox in November, as he’s reportedly seeking a 6-year deal. When the Dodgers signed hard-throwing ex-Red Sox set-up man Joe Kelly for 3/$25M last week, that sent a sobering message to the Kimbrel camp.

Carrying QO draft-pick compensation doesn’t help Kimbrel’s cause, as really he’s not worth 2/$15M at this point. Plus, who wants to give a valuable draft pick to the Red Sox? Kimbrel will be age-31 next season, with declining efficacy, and everyone saw his dismal performances in the post-season. The Mets & Dodgers are done spending stupid money on relievers, so there goes the market for overpays. Reality is going to bite him hard in January/February, when he will have to accept a concession contract, and it will be his fault. He should have accepted the QO. What kind of idiot on the backside of his career turns down $18M for one year?

Speaking of more stupid, the Mets (77-85 in 2018) have announced their intentions to be competitive in the near-future, by making a flurry of trades and free-agent signings this winter; acquiring 2B Robinson Cano & closer Edwin Diaz from the Mariners, while bringing back shaky reliever Jeurys Familia for 3/$30M. They just signed age-31 FA catcher Wilson Ramos for 2/$19M, which is another overpay.

A Mets “rumor” that has been circulated all winter has them trading RHP Noah Syndergaard to the Padres for all their top prospects. This will not happen, and is another wishful-thinking media-driven narrative. The Padres are probably more interested in acquiring RHP Sonny Gray from the Yankees.

Syndergaard is now arbitration eligible, after making $3M in 2018. His effectiveness is unquestionable, but his leadership & durability aren’t. The question this baseball fan has is: If the Mets are planning to compete in the near future, then why are they so desperate to trade a young Noah Syndergaard? He’s been on the trade block for the last 6 months or so, and no one is biting; so what do all the GM’s know about Noah Syndergaard, that we fans aren’t being told?

As mentioned above the Dodgers are looking for a catcher, after Yasmani Grandal declined his QO. Grandal turned 30 last month, and had a career season in 2018, (.241/.349/.466) in 140 games. The problem is that is defense is very suspect, as shown in the post-season. That’s why the Dodgers let him go. If the Mets preferred Ramos at 2/$19M, then what is Grandal worth? The answer is: A lot less than the $17.9M QO he rejected. Plus, what NL team wants to give the Dodgers their draft pick?

That’s the major bug-a-boo with QO’s, the draft pick compensation. That draft choice could be the next Mike Trout, so teams value it very highly– to the detriment of the FA who rejects the QO. Player arrogance & greed is clouding their better judgment, and their legal council stinks.

Another MLB free agent who rejected his QO is ex-Astros RHP Dallas Keuchel, who isn’t expected to sign until late January– at the earliest. Once again, it’s because the player & his agent have misjudged the market. The draft-pick compensation removes a significant amount of value from a free agent signing, and players have been slow to realize this phenomenon.

The owners & GM’s understand this well, and since they are the ones who hand out the contracts, they control the market. FA pitchers are high-risk, and after the results of signing Hu Darvish (Cubs) & Jake Arrieta (Phillies) last winter, no team wants to get burned like that again.

If a player accepts his qualifying offer, he gets $17.9M for one season, then becomes an unrestricted free agent next year, as a player can only be offered a QO once. Seven MLB players were offered QO’s in November of 2018. Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu was the only one to (smartly) accept his $17.9 million qualifying offer.

Only LHP Patrick Corbin, who signed 6/$140M with the Nationals; and RF Bryce Harper were correct in rejecting their QO’s. The four others: Dallas Keuchel, Yasmani Grandal, Craig Kimbrel & A.J. Pollock all remain on the market, and will eventually have to sign a deal for a much lower average annual value than $18M. In light of this, what do you think of their agents?

The story of this winter in MLB will (again) be the falling free-agent salaries among the 2nd & 3rd-tier groups of players. The paydays they were promised by their agents & union leaders aren’t going to materialize. Younger & more valuable players are starting to realize their worth, and will soon be demanding a bigger piece of the pie. This is setting up to be a major league labor war down the road, as MLB ownership is intransigent about raising minimum salaries, and the MLBPA is a corrupt bureaucracy.


2016 San Diego Padres Opening Day Projections

Opening Day (OD) lineup projection: LF Jon Jay, 2B Cory Spangenberg, 1B Wil Myers, RF Matt Kemp, 3B Yangervis Solarte, CF BJ Upton, C Derek Norris, SS Alexei Ramirez, P Tyson Ross

tyson ross

Rotation is #1 Tyson Ross, #2 James Shields, #3 Andrew Cashner, with a trio of 25-year olds– LHP Robbie Erlin, and RHP’s Brandon Maurer (acquired by A.J. Preller for 33-year old Seth Smith to OAK) & Padres prospect Colin Rea, competing for the #4 & #5 spots. LHP Drew Pomeranz (acquired w/ Jabari Blash from OAK for Yonder Alonso & Marc Rzepczynski) is age 27, and profiles more as a set-up man, but he’s also in the rotation mix.

If the Padres are going to be any good in 2016, then Tyson Ross has to pitch like an ace. That’s why he’s been named the OD starter.  Recognizing & rewarding the best players is always a great organizational message. If Cashner steps up and becomes a real #2 (which Padres fans hope he can be), then they have a great rotation with Shields at #3. Success is going to be about scoring runs. Notice there are lots of ‘ifs’ including: if it doesn’t happen, they’re probably all getting traded.

Padres may go with 13 pitchers on Opening Day, due to the 3 RHP’s as Rule 5 selections, and other considerations. Preller isn’t handing anyone a job, but he didn’t clear his roster to cut these guys without giving them every chance to prove themselves– and that means being on the OD roster.

RHP Nick Vincent is age 29 and out-of-options, battling three younger Rule 5 guys, who must stay on the Padres 25-man roster all season, or else be offered back to their original team for $25K.  Vincent needs to impress this spring, or he probably won’t make the SD roster.  LOOGY (Left-handed one out guy) Christian Friedrich (COL), just signed on a minor-league contract. He is definitely a project for ace pitching coach Darren Balsley. RHP’s Kevin Quackenbush & Carlos Villaneuva may get optioned to the minors.  RHP Fernando Rodney is the Padres closer for now.

Keeping either IF Adam Rosales or Jemile Weeks means SS Alexi Amarista is traded or cut, as the Padres don’t need two utility infielders.  Amarista ‘hit’ .234 (15-for-64) in 17 games in Venezuela this winter, and likely has no trade value. This foolish early-A.J. Preller contract (on 1/16/15) to the ‘Little Ninja’ is costing the Padres $1.35M in 2016.

WAR stands for Wins Above Replacement. Replacement level is roughly defined as AAA-level. Alexi Amarista is really a AAA player who is in the majors because the Padres couldn’t find a big-league SS. An average player at any position is around 2 wins above replacement level. A good player is 3-4 WAR. An all-star is 5-6 WAR. An MVP-level player is 7-8+ WAR. If you fielded an entire team with replacement level players, you would win around 48 games out of 162. To win in MLB, you must stay away from replacement level at all positions.

It is likely that at least 2 or 3 (if not all 4) of A.J. Preller’s Rule 5 picks will be on the opening day roster.  OF Jabari Blash has tons of upside. Younger RHP’s Luis Perdomo, Josh Martin, and Blake Smith (also 2015 Rule 5 picks) get every chance to make the roster– in competition with RHP’s Nick Vincent & Jon Edwards.  For reference, 11 out of 14 2014 Rule 5 picks, stayed with their teams in 2015.  There is more on the Padres Rule 5 Draft history below.


Barring injury or a breakout performance, it’s a Derek Norris/Christian Bethencourt catching tandem– with Austin Hedges sent down until he hits more.  The defensive spectrum runs C-SS-2B-CF-3B-RF-LF-1B-DH. Catchers (like shortstops) need to hit some, but the position is mostly about defense. Pitch-framing, game calling, saving PBs/WPs, controlling a running game, etc. are difficult to precisely quantify, but that’s why baseball now uses advanced metrics. Austin Hedges excels defensively, but hasn’t proven he can hit enough at the MLB level, and neither has Bethancourt. Hedges can still be optioned to the minors, and that’s likely where he’ll go after spring training. A good catching tandem is crucial to winning.

1B/3B Brett Wallace (former #1 pick [13th overall] of STL in 2008) is intriguing, and Preller will give him a long look, as many other teams have already.

For spring training and beyond, it’s up the the coaching staff & players. Observing with an objective eye is critical & difficult skill-set for most fans. With so many young players on this year’s roster, it’s about development. A lot of these guys are still trying to become big-leaguers. How players fail, and how they handle that failure is often the difference.

Brandon Morrow

RHP Brandon Morrow will likely never be healthy again. His shoulder issue is a career ender, with a poor prognosis for returning to full strength. Labrum tears typically never regain their former velocity. Padres Special Instructor Mark Prior is THE classic example, when he was abused (along with Kerry Wood) by Cubs manager Dusty Baker. In 2003, Prior (age 22 in his second MLB season), threw 211 innings, plus 23 more in the post-season.


His last 2003 appearance was in the NLCS against the Marlins, where he pitched into the 8th inning, throwing 119 pitches in a game they lost, due to poor bullpen management & bad defense, but was blamed on a fan trying to catch a foul ball. That (over)workload caused fatigue and mechanical breakdowns, which led to the labrum tear that ended his career. Many long-time baseball scouts will tell you he was the best pitching prospect ever, comparable to HoFers Greg Maddux & Roger Clemens.

Note:  Reds CF Billy Hamilton is still not able to throw, after jamming his shoulder last August. They’re DH-ing him in Cactus league, but he’s talking about “not wasting any throws” in 2016. Hamilton still isn’t really a MLB player (.242/.287/.330 in 3 seasons), but Reds’ management won’t DL him like they should.  That’s how you waste a prospect.

The same applies to pitching: if you’re hurt, you can’t pitch effectively– in relief or starting. Relief pitching isn’t absolutely safer than starting, in terms of injury risk. Injuries occur during fatigue, leading to mechanical breakdowns, which stress and tear ligaments, cartilage, muscle & tendons. This happens just as often in relievers who are used a lot, as it does in regular starters. Relievers throw harder, for shorter outings, with more appearances. Starters pitch longer, more-paced outings, followed by 4 days of rest.

Brandon Maurer is 25, and only threw 51 innings in relief last season. Can he stay healthy as a #4 starter for 120-150 IP?  That’s quite a jump.

Brandon Mauer

Padres fans like the fact that Preller listens to his players.  Brandon Maurer thinks he can start, and A.J. Preller is willing to give him that shot. If it doesn’t happen, Maurer accepts his role as a reliever and respects the organization for giving him an opportunity.


B.J. Upton’s 2016 salary is $15.45M and it’s $16.45M in 2017. He’s at least a 2-win CF, and remember that just one WAR cost around $8.5M in FA this off-season. If BJ is healthy, he will be appreciated, as long a fans don’t expect him to be Eric Davis (Reds). If Preller later decides to flip him, there are contending teams that would value his services. NYY CF Jacoby Ellsbury (2015: .257/.318/.345) at $21M for the next 5 seasons (with a $5M buyout) is a huge overpay in comparison.

Note:  Melvin Upton, Jr. happened when he signed with Atlanta. I learned that B.J. stood for Bossman Jr. when Dwyane Staats mentioned it once during a Devil Rays broadcast to partner Joe Magrane, who couldn’t believe it. B.J. had already been with the team for years. I never heard them mention it again, and I watched a ton of Devil Rays/Rays games, up until David Price was traded. Is it a player-contract issue? Everyone in Tampa thought B.J. was a birth name, not a handle. After I discovered that, he was always one of my favorite players. He can go get them in CF, just ask James Shields.

Padres 2016

One lesson that should be learned this off-season is that the value of free-agent talent, always goes up. Chris Davis 7/$161M, Justin Upton 6/$133M and Yoenis Cespedes 3/$75M (all w/ player opt-outs), make Matt Kemp at 4/$73M look much more attractive for AL teams that need to upgrade at DH.

There’s been some discussion concerning the Rockies trading Carlos Gonzalez. Cargo can still play outfield and he’s a year younger than Kemp, with 2/$37M left on his deal. Like all Rockies hitters, he has extreme home/road splits. Matt Kemp can’t play everyday outfield anymore, but he’s a better hitter if he can be kept healthy.

RF Matt Kemp needs to be given regular days off, where he’s available only to pinch hit; as well as being substituted for a defensive replacement late in games the Padres lead. He should also DH in all AL park games. That should keep him fresh, productive & focused in order to maximize his trade value.

Ian Desmond

Final MLB Off-Season Free Agent Thoughts:

No DH in the NL, fans need real baseball in at least one league. Double switches are interesting, and an important managerial skill. Pitchers coming to bat prevents them from throwing at hitters recklessly, a la AL Roger Clemens. You gotta face that music in the NL.

Ian Desmond 1/8, Dexter Fowler 1/14, and Howie Kendrick 2/20 made bad player/agent choices, which cost them money. Mistakes were roughly equal on both sides, so the system is fair– in capitalist collective-bargaining terms.  Ian Desmond was punished for his arrogance & poor performance, which everyone liked. Many doubt that .233/.290/.384 (Nats) in 2015 at SS, gets it done in LF for TEX in 2016.  Expected LF Josh Hamilton, battling a cranky knee, may not be able to play.

SS Alexei Ramirez

A.J. Preller blew Desmond’s market when he signed SS Alexei Rameriz (1/$4M or team-option 2/$7M). Ramirez also didn’t cost the Padres a draft choice. To most teams, Ian Desmond (at any position) was not worth losing the draft pick, even at league minimum salary.  Can Texas make him a QO after 2016, and expect him to refuse?  Attentive fans, GM’s & agents will be following this closely.

Andrew Friedman & the Dodgers really got burned on LHP Brett Anderson’s qualifying offer (QO). It was announced a few days ago that he has a bulging disk in his back, and will likely miss 2016.


Houston has already gotten singed with LF Colby Rasmus accepting his $15.8M offer. Hypothetical GM question: If LF Rasmus puts up an identical line in 2016 as 2015’s .238/.314/.475, does HOU make him another QO?

Colby Rasmus Photo/Orlin Wagner

The Orioles got a fair deal with C Matt Wieters accepting, and it made sense with what they are doing.

Matt Wieters C

There are many important & misunderstood facets to this updated form of free-agent compensation. There should be no crying about a broken system, as Desmond & Fowler rejected a $15.9M QO’s from their former teams. That is called not understanding the market and playing your hand poorly, and when that happens you take a financial loss. Padres GM A.J. Preller is definitely ahead of the curve on this.

AJ Preller Padres GM

On “5 reasons why Marlins are MLB’s top sleeper team”   Published on 3-2-16

You could probably just as easily come up with a piece titled, “Five reasons why the Marlins will change course and dump their players & manager by July.”

1) Too many holes in the infield & CF, 2) Manager Don Mattingly, 3) Owner Jeffrey Loria, 4) Lagging attendance, 5) History– Agree, or no?


On “Kimbrel in a class with Rivera, Hoffman”   Published on 3-5-16

If you’re trying to win a WS, then you need a ace closer like Craig Kimbrel. This was a great baseball trade for the Red Sox & Padres– two teams with different needs.

LAD 2B Chase Utley’s suspension was overturned by MLB, due to the off-season rule change on sliding, so he’ll be in the OD lineup against the Padres.  It’s a good rule change to protect infielders.

Craig Kimbrel

GM A.J. Preller made an unprecedented four (4!) Rule 5 selections this past December. Fans were taken unaware, as here is the San Diego Padres Rule 5 draft history since 1997:

Yr/Pk# Pos Player By From– Notes

4 RHP Luis Perdomo Colorado Rockies St. Louis Cardinals– Immediately traded to SDP, for a PTBNL or cash considerations
6 OF Jabari Blash Oakland A’s Seattle Mariners– SDP acquire Blash and LHP Drew Pomeranz from OAK for 1B Yonder Alonso & LHP Marc Rzepczynski
7 RHP Josh Martin San Diego Padres Cleveland Indians
15 RHP Blake Smith San Diego Padres Chicago White Sox– Second round selection

Jabari Blash OF

1 LHP Patrick Schuster Houston Astros Arizona Diamondbacks– Sent to the Padres as PTBNL for RHP Anthony Bass, returned to the Diamondbacks- still in AA

14 1B Nate Freiman Houston Astros San Diego Padres– Claimed on waivers by the Oakland Athletics; 2 seasons, 116 G, .256/.309/.408

11 RHP George Kontos San Diego Padres New York Yankees– Returned to NYY, March 14, 2011. 4 seasons w/ SFG as a setup man: 2.99 ERA, 210 IP, 1.116 WHIP

Everth Cabrera SS

3 SS Everth Cabrera San Diego Padres Colorado Rockies– 7 seasons (6 w/ Padres), 510 G: .246/.315/.328
20 RHP Iván Nova San Diego Padres New York Yankees– Returned to Yankees on March 29, 2009; 6 seasons as SP w/ NYY: 46-33, 4.33 ERA, 631 IP


*12 RHP R. A. Dickey Seattle Mariners Minnesota Twins– Rights traded to Seattle in exchange for Jair Fernandez on March 29, 2008
14 RHP Michael Gardner San Diego Padres New York Yankees– Returned to New York on March 18, 2008, never made it past AA
17 INF Callix Crabbe San Diego Padres Milwaukee Brewers– MLB career (all w/ Padres): 39 PA, .176/.282/.206; returned to MIL on May 16, 2008


2 RHP Joakim Soria Kansas City Royals San Diego Padres– 8 seasons mostly w/ KCR: 2.57 ERA, 451 IP, 202 SV
*3 OF Josh Hamilton Chicago Cubs Tampa Bay Devil Rays– Traded by the Cubs to the Reds for cash, who traded him to TEX for RHP Edison Volquez
13 RHP Kevin Cameron San Diego Padres Minnesota Twins– 3 seasons mostly w/ Padres in relief: 86 IP, 3.02 ERA, WHIP 1.483

6 RHP Seth Etherton San Diego Padres Kansas City Royals– Failed starter; 4-season career: 9-7, 6.30 ERA, 115 IP
*8 2B Dan Uggla Florida Marlins Arizona Diamondbacks– 10 seasons at 2B (best years in FLA): .241/.336/.447

*7 OF Shane Victorino Philadelphia Phillies Los Angeles Dodgers– 12 seasons (best in PHI): .275/.340/.425, 3 Gold Gloves in CF

2 OF Rich Thompson San Diego Padres Pittsburgh Pirates– Later traded by the Padres to the Kansas City Royals for number 10 pick, Jason Szuminski
10 RHP Jason Szuminski Kansas City Royals Chicago Cubs– Later traded by the Royals to the San Diego Padres for number 2 pick, Rich Thompson
*6 OF José Bautista Baltimore Orioles Pittsburgh Pirates– Then to BAL, TBD, KCR, NYM, finally TOR; 12 seasons in RF: .257/.368/.497


3 RHP Buddy Hernandez San Diego Padres Atlanta Braves– Returned to ATL, manager Bobby Cox liked him, but he never got past AAA
19 OF Shane Victorino San Diego Padres Los Angeles Dodgers Padres GM Kevin Towers returned him to the Los Angeles Dodgers on May 28, 2003

9 RHP Ryan Baerlocher San Diego Padres Kansas City Royals– Returned to KCR by opening day, career minor-leaguer

7 SS Donaldo Méndez San Diego Padres Houston Astros– 2 seasons w/ Padres: 221 PA, .183/.245/.277

*2 LHP Johan Santana Florida Marlins Houston Astros– Later traded by the Marlins to the Minnesota Twins for Jared Camp
8 OF Kory DeHaan San Diego Padres Pittsburgh Pirates– 2 seasons w/ Padres: 121 PA, .193/.225/.307
14 LHP Dave Maurer San Francisco Giants San Diego Padres– 4 seasons in relief; 22 IP, 8.87 ERA, WHIP 2.250

*4 OF Ricky Williams Montreal Expos Philadelphia Phillies– Mike Ditka’s famous April 1999 draft as Saints GM, Williams opted for the NFL [1]

7 LHP Sean Runyan Detroit Tigers San Diego Padres– 3 seasons w/ DET in relief: 64 IP, 3.66 ERA, WHIP 1.422

* denotes significant non-Padre selections

Below are the most notable June amateur draft selections that San Diego was unable to sign, under Padres owner Tom Werner:

Tom Werner

Todd Helton 1B, 17 seasons w/ COL: .316/.414/.539
June 1, 1992: Drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 2nd round of the 1992 amateur draft, but did not sign. Went to Tennessee U.
June 1, 1995: Drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the 1st round (8th pick) of the 1995 amateur draft. Player signed July 1, 1995.

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Troy Glaus 3B, 13 seasons (best w/ ANA): .254/.358/.489
June 2, 1994: Drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 2nd round of the 1994 amateur draft, but did not sign.
June 3, 1997: Drafted by the Anaheim Angels in the 1st round (3rd pick) of the 1997 amateur draft. Player signed September 29, 1997.

Troy Glaus 3B

This is the culture GM A.J. Preller & new manager Andy Green are trying to change in San Diego. [2]  Here is the list of franchise owners:

Ray & Joan Kroc1

C. Arnholdt Smith
Ray Kroc
Joan Kroc
Tom Werner
John Moores [3]
Ron Fowler

Ron Fowler

Here is an awful list titled “Who are the Padres 5 best GMs of all time?”  [4]  Preller has already topped every ex-GM, except Randy Smith & Jed Hoyer– who left the Padres in 2011 to build the Cubs. Interestingly, Hoyer is not listed in their 5 best GMs.

Padres GM’s

Buzzie Bavasi 1969-1972
Eddie Leishman 1969–1972 [5]
Peter Bavasi 1972–1976
Bob Fontaine 1977–1980
Jack McKeon 1980–1990

Jack McKeon
Joe McIlvaine 1991–1993
Randy Smith 1993–1995  Under-appreciated [6]

Kevin Towers
Kevin Towers 1996–2009
Jed Hoyer 2009–2011

Jed Hoyer

Josh Byrnes 2012–2014  [7]

Josh Byrnes
A. J. Preller 2014–


The Padres are in good position with a $100M Opening-Day payroll in 2016, and room for more spending as needed, per Padres CEO Mike Dee & owner Ron Fowler.

With Ian Desmond (final qualifying-offer free-agent) signing with Texas, the draft order is set.  The Padres have the #8, #24, #25, #48, #71 & #85 picks in the June amateur draft. Furthermore, the 7/2 International Draft promises to be a scramble for low-cost young talent, with the Padres all-in.

Team’s International Signing Pools for 2016-17:

Phillies $5,610,800
Reds $5,163,400
Braves $4,766,000
Rockies $4,412,700
Brewers $4,098,500
Athletics $3,818,700
Marlins $3,569,600
Padres $3,347,600
Tigers $3,150,000
White Sox $2,973,500
Mariners $2,875,400
Red Sox $2,783,800
Diamondbacks $2,697,400
Rays $2,615,900
Orioles $2,539,600
Indians $2,467,400
Twins $2,399,100
Nationals $2,335,000
Giants $2,274,400
Angels $2,217,300
Astros $2,197,000
Yankees $2,177,100
Rangers $2,157,400
Mets $2,138,200
Dodgers $2,118,900
Blue Jays $2,100,200
Royals $2,081,200
Cubs $2,063,100
Pirates $2,044,800
Cardinals $2,027,300

There are 10 teams so far that are officially in the ‘penalty box’ for the 2016-17 signing period and will be unable to sign a player subject to the pools for more than $300,000. Those teams—the Angels, Blue Jays, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Giants, Rays, Red Sox, Royals and Yankees. They can still spend their entire pool allotment, they just can’t give more than $300,000 to any one player.

At least four teams—the Braves, Cardinals, Nationals and Padres— are planning to exceed their 2016-17 bonus pools, and others might also join them. Teams may exceed their bonus pool by as much as 50% of their original allotment. Going over allotment puts a team in the ‘penalty box’ for the next International signing period. [8]

Lazarito Armenteros

The San Diego Padres are a team with an uncertain 2016, which no one is picking after their 2015. They’re probably the team with the widest range of possibilities, and will be interesting for fans & other GM’s to keep an eye on. Play ball!!