On this page, I'll share my thoughts, and any articles or information I think are of interest. Feel free to use the comments section to join in the discussion!
Time to end the D-backs' reign of error
Keith LawESPN Senior Writer
The Arizona Diamondbacks have some major decisions to make on the future of their front office, including a contract option for GM Dave Stewart for 2017 that must be exercised or declined by Aug. 31 and the soon-to-expire contract of "Chief Baseball Officer" Tony La Russa. These decisions should be incredibly easy for an organization that has done nothing but go backward since their hires. The La Russa/Stewart Reign of Error has been as mistake-filled as any front office regime in the last five years, with most of their gaffes becoming public embarrassments to the organization, contributing to the perception around the sport that Arizona's front office is a laughingstock, falling well behind the rest of the industry in its processes and capabilities.
Just look at their track record of bad decisions: Yoan Lopez fiasco
No mistake has loomed larger than the constant stream of errors around Cuban right-handed pitcher Yoan Lopez. The brand-new front office reached to sign him for $8 million after the 2013 season, even though it appeared that he was priced by other teams at about one-tenth that number. The Diamondbacks didn't understand the international bonus pool rules, and thus were unaware they would have to pay an $8 million penalty on top of Lopez's bonus AND would be prohibited from signing any July 2 free agents for the next two signing periods until after Lopez's deal was official.
As it turns out, Lopez has not only underperformed, but he has also earned negative reviews from within the Diamondbacks' own system, as coaches and players alike have had problems with him. He contemplated quitting baseball last month, which spurred a series of comments from La Russa where he claimed, "we have three guys in that scouting group in the last year that have rated (Lopez) in the Top 3 as far as potential arm strength/variety of pitches/body type, in our organization and compared to (other) major-league (organizations).”
As I said on Twitter at the time, this can't be, because Lopez isn't even a top 3 prospect in Arizona's system or a top 200 prospect in all of baseball.
Either the AZ scouts are lying to him or he is delusional. Lopez is barely a prospect at all. https://twitter.com/nickpiecoro/status/749783901472645121 …
The Lopez disaster had a ripple effect a few months later, when the team packaged 2014 first-round pick Touki Toussaint, a very high-upside but raw teenage pitching prospect, with the injured Bronson Arroyo in a "Weekend at Bernie's" pairing that allowed Arizona to shed much of Arroyo's dead money, but at the cost of a significant prospect.
Stewart's unfamiliarity with the rules hasn't just applied to the international pools. According to multiple sources, in early 2015 he tried to make a trade with another team that would have violated MLB rules, and the GM of the other team had to explain to him that such a move was not allowed.
The 2015 draft debacle
The 2015 draft was a huge opportunity for the Diamondbacks to restock their farm system, as they had the top overall pick and one of the draft's largest signing budgets. Before the draft even began they squandered part of that, trading a competitive balance pick to Atlanta just to rid themselves of Trevor Cahill's contract. The two trades came a few days apart, where Arizona sent Cahill to Atlanta for minor leaguer/org player Josh Elander, whom they released after 14 games, and then sent the pick to Atlanta for outfield prospect Victor Reyes.
That pick's slot value was $814,300, which the Diamondbacks could then not spend on their own picks … and the trade also meant that was one fewer chance for the Diamondbacks to use some of the savings on pick No. 1, Dansby Swanson, to sign a first-round player who fell for financial reasons to an over-slot bonus at that pick. This was a complete failure to understand how to properly play the current draft system.
How complete? The Diamondbacks failed to spend up to their full allotment of signing bonuses in 2015, leaving $1.7 million on the table, money they could have spent on players without penalty. That's equivalent to forgoing an entire first-round pick, all because of poor planning. Most teams will take at least two or three players with high bonus demands later in the draft for just such a scenario -- if they have money left over from their pools after they sign their picks in the top 10 rounds, they go spend it on one or more players from later in the draft. The Diamondbacks didn't do this. They just pocketed the money to the detriment of the farm system.
Poor player evaluation
Failure to properly assess talent here doesn't just apply to players outside the organization. Other executives have told me Stewart doesn't know his own players as well as a GM should. One glaring example is when the Diamondbacks placed reliever Will Harris on waivers after the 2014 season, spurring a rush of claims for him. Harris threw 52 2/3 innings in 2013 with a 2.95 ERA/2.74 FIP, missing some time and running into bad luck in 2014, but still striking out 30 percent of the batters he faced in that latter season. The Diamondbacks gave him away for nothing. The Astros won the claim and have received 117.2 innings of a 2.22 ERA/3.20 FIP from him in a year-plus since then. Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks' own bullpen has been one of those long-burning coal seam fires more or less since Stewart and La Russa took over.
The Swanson trade was bad when Arizona made it, but it's so much worse now. Shelby Miller's mechanics went in the toilet -- blame for which should sit squarely on the Diamondbacks, because if they didn't make these changes they certainly didn't fix them -- while Swanson remains a top 20 prospect and Ender Inciarte has been a 2-win player (per Baseball-Reference) so far for Atlanta this year.
Then La Russa went on Arizona radio and said that Miller had a "health issue," and then said that "I know this is really going to sound kind of yucky and kind of mysterious, but there was an issue that came up — believe me, it was not illegal, it wasn’t anything dramatically character-wise that was a problem — but there was something that came into the way that Shelby prepared that worked against him and not for him."
These comments were totally inappropriate for a club official to make, whatever he was trying to imply.
Of course, that's par for the course for La Russa, who has been like the water supply once the main shutoff valve has broken. During a series against the Pirates, with whom the Diamondbacks have an ongoing, dimwitted vendetta over hit batsmen, La Russa barged into Pittsburgh's radio booth to argue with longtime Pirates broadcaster Greg Brown over comments the latter made on air.
This is the same group that insisted that Yasmany Tomas could play third base -- shocker, he couldn't -- and that he would hit, which he hasn't. Tomas has a .304 OBP through 831 pro plate appearances, and even if we don't dock him for his misadventures at third base, which are really management's fault rather than his, he's still been below replacement level since his debut last spring. The Diamondbacks are still on the hook for $48.5 million of the $68.5 million they guaranteed him.
Even this spring, the team couldn't handle rational projections of the team's capabilities. Before the 2016 season, Baseball Prospectus and Fangraphs ran projections of the season, publishing projected final standings that had Arizona at 78 and 79 wins, respectively. La Russa's response was to question the legitimacy of the companies and said of the projections that "you don't take it seriously." The Diamondbacks are currently 49-69, third-worst in the National League, and on pace to finish with 67 wins, well below either site's projection.
Not enough for you? How about the GM's wife being the agent for several Arizona players, who were clients of the GM before he transferred the business to her to take this job? How about the $34.5 million a year they owe to Zack Greinke, a steep price even before you look at his 4+ ERA this year? Or the trade of two prospects for Jeremy Hellickson, who gave them a year of replacement-level pitching for $4.275 million?
How can owner Ken Kendrick be surprised by these results? He hired a former manager with no front office experience to oversee the entire baseball operations department. That person hired a former agent who hadn't worked in a front office in 13 years – a period of time that encompasses the entire analytics revolution in the sport – to be the general manager. In an era where teams are building entire analytics departments of PhDs with degrees in fields like signal processing and machine learning, Arizona hired a longtime friend of La Russa's to run their analytics department. There are good, competent people in the Diamondbacks' baseball ops department, but they appear to have no sway over the decisions La Russa and Stewart are making.
The GM chair here is a desirable job -- most GM positions are -- because the Diamondbacks still have a fair amount of talent on the major-league roster. You can do a lot with the talent that's here. But if they continue to mishandle their money in the draft and internationally, to lose value in the majority of their trades, to squander so much of their budget on one starter who can't solve their roster woes even if he turns back into a Cy Young candidate, then they're going to continue to move backward even as the rest of the division -- and the industry -- moves forward.
The time is now for Arizona to change its direction, hire any of the numerous qualified candidates from other teams who can keep up with the best demonstrated practices of Arizona's 29 competitors, and stop embarrassing themselves on and off the field.
Jose Iglesias was seemingly born to play shortstop. The 26-year-old native of La Habana, Cuba has a gun fighter’s hands and the lithe agility of a ballerina. He makes plays that most infielders only dream of.
Despite heavy skepticism, he can also hit a little. Since the beginning of the 2013 season, no shortstop with at least 900 plate appearances has a higher batting average than Iggy’s .297.
Batting average can obviously be a hollow stat, and Iglesias admittedly doesn’t boast a high OBP, nor does he have much pop. Even so, the Red-Sox-turned-Tiger has proven wrong the myriad skeptics who insisted he’d be a black hole with the bat.
“Early in my career, in Boston, it got a little tough,” Iglesias told me on Wednesday. “A lot of people were saying I can’t hit. I heard that a lot and I knew they were wrong. Right now, I’m just happy that I’m do what I’m doing.”
Iglesias has added some muscle to his lean frame, but his biggest gains have come from the neck up.
“My mind is stronger,” said Iglesias. “There is a lot of mental in this game — more so than physical, I believe — and I was able to figure some things out. When I try to go big, I struggle. If I stay with the short game, the line drive game, I’m fine. I’ve also never been a technique guy. I basically go out there and see the ball and hit the ball. I keep it simple. I try to avoid thinking.”
What does he think about having the highest batting average among shortstops over the last three-plus years?
“That’s great,” said a smiling Iglesias. “It’s fun. It keeps me hungry to improve my game and get even better. That’s my goal every day: improve my game and get better.”
10 Degrees: The scary trend Matt Harvey and other aces are facing
The number of frontline starters who have lost a significant amount of fastball velocity compared to the first month-plus of last season is startling. This isn’t just a few stragglers. It’s a half-dozen of the game’s best pitchers and a handful more in the next tier. It’s Cy Young winners and superheroes and $200 million men and royalty.
No great unifying explanation seems to exist. Some are hard throwers who aren’t throwing as hard. Some have considerable mileage on their arms. Some are showing the vagaries of age. One, actually, is purposely not throwing as hard. Not all velo dips are the same, though all do raise eyebrows at a time when pitches zoom in faster than ever.
A year-over-year drop in April doesn’t necessarily portend doom. Pitchers can find their stuff in a snap. (See: Mat Latos, whose fastball averaged 91.4 mph in his last start after sitting at 89.3 mph for all of April.) The fear, of course, is that when fastball velo goes, it’s often for a permanent vacation. And while that, too, is far from a death sentence, it can force a pitcher to evolve on the fly, a task often fraught with peril.
The average April 2015-to-April 2016 velocity drop among starters with at least 20 innings in both years is about 0.3 mph – just as it was in 2013, 2014 and 2015, according to PITCHf/x data carried by FanGraphs and Brooks Baseball. Generally, when the April-over-April drop exceeds 1 mph, it’s worth at least asking questions. And considering …
1. Matt Harvey’s April velocity was down 1.3 mph from last season’s, those questions were starting to intensify. Then came his first start in May, which set off serious alarms. Last year, Harvey’s average fastball in April clocked in at 95.7 mph, the second hardest in the major leagues among starters. This April, it was 94.4 mph, still elite and 11th among his peers. Then came his May 3 outing against Atlanta, in which his average velocity was 92.8 mph. Now, that’s one start. Every pitcher is entitled a bad start, even one that would place his fastball velocity 30th among starters.
Because this is Matt Harvey, 92.8 mph is a screaming red flag and 30th among starters a blaring alarm bell, both of which induce questions like “Did he throw too many innings last year?” or “Is his elbow hurt again?” or “Does God hate the Mets?” And the answers to those, in order, are “Unclear,” “Unclear” and “Would’ve been yes but Bartolo Colon hit a home run Saturday and no spiteful deity would gift a fan base it hates with such glory.”
Harvey’s start on Sunday, then, had the sort of serious implications being assigned these days to a …
2. David Price outing in Boston. As expert as Mets fans are in the art of panic, Price is learning Boston can do a pretty good Chicken Little impersonation itself. Not only is Price getting shellacked to the tune of a 6.75 ERA, his fastball velocity is down 1.2 mph from last April, to 92 mph. Since his debut in 2009, Price consistently has been the hardest-throwing left-handed starter in the game. To see him not only cede that title but rank ninth among lefties – behind Steven Matz, Matt Moore,Robbie Ray, Chris Sale, Clayton Kershaw, Hector Santiago, Martin Perez and Francisco Liriano – is not exactly the sort of thing the Red Sox hoped for when they lavished a seven-year, $217 million deal on Price this offseason.
On Sunday, he declared teammate Dustin Pedroia helped him identify a mechanical error that could account for the velocity dip. Price said an improper leg lift is jacking with the timing of his delivery and that “I’m not putting myself in my normal power position.” Some of his peripherals belie the idea that anything is wrong; Price’s 11.54 strikeouts per nine innings are about 33 percent higher than his career average, and his walk rate is right in line. At the same time, the average batted-ball speed against Price has been over 90 mph, a few miles higher than he desires.
If his velocity doesn’t come back – he finished last season at 94.2 mph, which showed a strong in-season gain – Price is good enough to adapt. Still, he’s only 30 years old, though that’s the same place …
3. Felix Hernandez finds himself, and his velo woes are far more acute than Price. In April, the King’s average fastball left his hand at 89.5 mph. It was not terribly regal.
Six miles per hour ago, Hernandez was a 20-year-old neophyte with more natural gas than Chesapeake Energy. Now, he’s doing an admirable job of staving off an ugly ERA despite a career-low strikeout rate and career-high walk rate. If either of those keep up, the ERA won’t stay friendly too long.
Hernandez has company in the 80s. James Shields’ last start, the one in which he allowed that home run to Colon? Sat at 89.8 a start after clocking 89.5. Adam Wainwright jumped to 90.7 in his first start this month after spending the entirety of April at 89.7 mph.
These are big names in the midst of big deals who illustrate the potential hazard of long-term pitching contracts. Three years and $79 million remain on Hernandez’s deal after this season, two years and $44 million on Shields’, and two years and $39 million on Wainwright’s. Each could adjust and understand the 80s, much like their counterpart in decade, demand you adapt to their odd ways. Rather than allow that moment to find him …
4. Chris Sale took it upon himself to drop his velocity this year. Last April, Sale was throwing 94.2 mph. Today, it’s 92.7 mph. And he’s loving it.
In this age of velocity, Sale told Chicago reporters he doesn’t want to throw with maximum speed on every pitch. It was a glorious thing to hear, almost anachronistic and quaint. Toss a pitch … at 80 percent max velocity? Heresy! And yet here’s Sale, his ERA 1.79, his Fielding Independent Pitching metric almost exactly where it was last year when he was striking out 11.82 per nine innings but giving up too many home runs.
Sale, 27, has kept the ball in the park this season, and even with the diminished velocity prompting a diminished strikeout rate, that lack of homer happiness is making the transition to a more contact-oriented approach work. It’s a little more difficult when your velocity isn’t gifted to begin with, because then someone like …
5. Dallas Keuchel loses 1 mph and it seems like all hell is breaking loose around him. The Houston Astros have been terrible. Keuchel is walking nearly four batters per nine innings. And he’s in that ugly place having lost 1.2 mph on his fastball, same as Price and Corey Kluber, two of the three previous American League Cy Young winners before Keuchel in 2015.
When Keuchel arrived in 2012, he was walking more hitters than he struck out, giving up copious home runs and throwing 88. Two years sitting 89.5 mph, and he blossomed into a star. Back at 88 today, and not even a strong home run rate can save him from ending April at 87.9 mph.
Keuchel threw 248 innings last season, and the workload far exceeded his previous high. Some arms respond to those challenges. Some don’t. If the Astros contend this season, it will be because Keuchel turned his year around and didn’t suffer quite the drastic drop with which …
6. Gio Gonzalez is trying to figure out. Last April, the Washington Nationals’ – ahem – 30-year-old left-hander was throwing 92 mph. This season, he’s at 89.7 mph. For those who missed decimal week in school, that’s 2.3 mph, which is the difference between Noah Syndergaard and everyone else in the world not named Nate Eovaldi. It’s a huge drop, one that has come at the expense of Gonzalez’s strikeout rate but not his other peripherals.
And perhaps that’s where our understanding of velocity can improve. It’s great by itself, the greatest weapon a pitcher can have, and yet whatever it does to an ERA because of the spike it causes in strikeout rate can be caused by a similar improvement to walk rate or home run rate. It’s why you see so many players on the league leader ERA list and this leaderboard of the greatest velocity drops this April.
Gio Gonzalez -2.3
Kyle Hendricks -1.9
James Shields -1.8
Mike Pelfrey -1.6
Chris Sale -1.5
Madison Bumgarner -1.5
John Danks -1.4
Mat Latos -1.4
Matt Harvey -1.3
On the opposite side of the chart sits …
7. Max Scherzer, Gonzalez’s teammate with the Nationals, Price’s peer in the $210 million club and the biggest name among the biggest gainers in April-over-April velocity.
Scherzer is one of just five players to gain more than 1 mph on his fastball compared to the previous April’s. The other four: Matt Shoemaker(+2.3, though it’s not helping much as he was sent to the minor leagues), Michael Pineda (+1.9), Hector Santiago (+1.5, and more on him later) and Jonathon Niese (+1.3). That’s it.
Naturally, whereas so many of the starters throwing softer have had ERA renaissances, Scherzer’s sits at 4.60 because one-fifth of his fly balls are going for home runs, a miserable stretch of luck for anyone. Scherzer is great. Scherzer with any more velo is the hardest-throwing version yet, and for someone on the cusp of his 32nd birthday, it’s a testament to his great work ethic and dedication to the craft of pitching. That Scherzer sits over 94 and still is 5 mph behind …
8. Aroldis Chapman never will cease to amaze. Whatever the view of Chapman as a human being – and after the domestic incident this offseason, baseball’s is near-universally on the skeptical side – what he does as a pitcher is incomparable.
Chapman’s average fastball in 2014 was 100.3 mph. Last year, 99.5. As soon as Monday, when he is reinstated by Major League Baseball after serving his suspension for the incident, we’ll see how hard he’s throwing now and marvel as ever at the arm that once threw a baseball 105.1 mph. Those numbers still feel wrong to type.
Thankfully when Chapman was gone …
9. Noah Syndergaard filled the void, satisfied our need for speed, quelled the jonesing for some pure petrol. And never has a starting pitcher’s been so distilled as Noah Syndergaard’s. After setting a record for starting pitchers last season with a 97.1-mph average, Syndergaard is throwing nearly a mile per hour faster at 97.8 mph. He’s like Roger Banister and John Landy in one.
The harder Syndergaard throws, the more fearful baseball gets, because the very last thing it needs is another phenom with a scar on his elbow, and perhaps the likeliest thing to cause it among pitchers the 23-year-old Syndergaard’s age is extreme velocity. Just look at the 10 fastest April velocities after Syndergaard this year and who has had or needs Tommy John surgery:
Nathan Eovaldi: Yes
Garrett Richards: Yes
Jose Fernandez: Yes
Yordano Ventura: No
Danny Salazar: Yes
Aaron Sanchez: No
Stephen Strasburg: Yes
Gerrit Cole: No
Rubby De La Rosa: Yes
10. Matt Harvey: Yes.
That’s what makes this all so scary. It’s Daniel Hudson and Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen. It’s complications. It’s this arm of Harvey’s, so special, also just as fallible. It’s trying to find out what’s noise and what’s real, whether that one awful start against the Braves was just an anomaly or something that proved prescient.
The verdict on Sunday: Hold the panic, sort of. He wasn’t throwing 92 mph. He wasn’t sitting 97, either. This was about average Matt Harvey 2016, with more 94s and 95s than 96s and 97s, with his stuff across the board down a mile or two. He had 10 strikeouts, though, and if that’s what it takes to jump start Harvey, perhaps this all will have been much ado about nothing by the end of the season.
Still, we’ll watch Harvey’s next start, just as we’ll watch Hector Santiago’s (after he dropped 2.9 mph from his April average to his first May outing) and Yordano Ventura’s (his 2.7-mph April-to-one-May-star dip, down to 92.1 mph). Ventura had scouts wondering whether he was trying to pull a Sale, seeing as he hit 97 mph a few times, though that’s not anything close to the 100 he pumped regularly during his rookie season.
It’s easy to get lost in these numbers, to assign too much meaning to them. Show Harvey’s velocity dip and it seems like he’s doomed. Study batted-ball exit velocities, see his is the lowest among all starters and you’d think he’s the game’s best pitcher. The truth is somewhere in between, and as we marvel at Syndergaard’s speed and wonder about Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey’s, we’d be smart to remind ourselves that speed is but one component to an art that never fails to remind us we don’t know as much as we think we do.
Atlanta Braves Might Be Involved, So Here is a Lesson in Waiver Trading
The Basics – Starting from August 2nd
Players made eligible for trade are placed on “revocable waivers“. This is routinely done for most of the 40-man roster of most teams. Teams may place as many as 7 active players per day on waivers.
Normally, players on the Disabled List cannot be placed on revocable waivers. However, the Indians did so in the deal that brought Nick Swisher to Atlanta last year. This is legal if the player is eligible to come off of the DL (rehabbing in the minors, for instance), and both teams agree.
Why is this done ‘routinely’?
- The rules require waiver requests to be done for individual players – not as a blanket request for the whole team.
- It provides maximum flexibility for their GMs;
- It can mask whatever a team’s true intentions might be;
- It doesn’t single out individual players as possible trade bait — which can get players bent out of shape (witness Andruw Jones‘ complaints from several years ago when the Braves put him on waivers – he didn’t read this tutorial!).
Teams get a report of the previous day’s waiver requests at 2pm EDT each day. At that point, there is a 48-hour claiming period, during which any team may put in an claim on a specific player – a claim which objects to his team’s request to waive the player-movement rules for that player…that’s what it means to place a waiver claim.
To prevent every team from claiming every player out there and causing utter chaos, there is a token price ($20,000) attached to waiver claims.
If a team fails to make a claim, it is effectively saying: “we have no objection to you moving this player to another team”, and thus they are rendered powerless in whatever happens after that point. If you don’t object, you give up the right to complain later.
There are several “gotchas” to the claiming process: you can impress your office-mates by knowing these!
The obvious one is that if your team puts in a claim, you must have both 40-man and25-man roster spots available – or at least planned for – in case you win the claim… and the player. But we’ll get to all that.
1. The simple case: if no team chooses to put in an objection claim for a given player after the 48-hour window, that player may then be freely traded to any other team— just like the rules allowed before August. Nobody objected, so all restrictions areremoved… except for a little detail that I’ll cover in Item #4 below.
2. The fun part: a waiver claim is made. Let’s use an example of Ryan Braun, since he could be an interesting case. His contract requires another $7 million payment this year, but $80 million guaranteed through 2020. It is exactly for that financial reason he will undoubtedly clear waivers unclaimed. But for the sake of argument, let’s suppose that the LA Dodgers put in a claim. What happens then?
Here are the options after a claim:
- a. Revocation of Waivers. The Brewers can choose to pull Braun back to their side of the void… that’s the “revocable” part of revocable waivers. This is effectively a team saying “PSYCH – I wasn’t really trying to trade this guy.” He still belongs to the original squad…. but of course they still gotta pay him.
- b. A Trade. Milwaukee can try to negotiate a trade…. exclusively with the Dodgers, since they were the claimants (they asserted their right to object —and are rewarded with this right of exclusivity). That trading opportunity window is limited — 48 more hours. If they cannot get together on a deal in that time frame, then the Brewrs can still pull Braun back to them… OR they can…
- c. Give the Player away. At the Brewers’ option, the claimed player can simply be given away — entire salary and all — to the claiming team. This is why the higher-salaried players will often clear waivers: because of the risk that it’s simply a salary dump ploy. So while the initial dinner date (the waiver claim) might be relatively cheap, you might regret it in the morning. See the ‘Nuclear Weapons’ section later.
The Gotchas, Part 2
3. Non-revokable Waiver Claims. If a player is pulled back to his original team (i.e., a waiver request is revoked), the original team CAN place the same player on waivers again during August. However, during that second time, the Right to Revoke is lost: any team making the claim has effectively bought the player without the need to negotiate anything. This is rare, but it happens.
4. Trader Jacks: Let’s say that a bona fide trade deal is worked out. Waived Player A is traded for a Player B. If Player B is on the 40-man roster of his club, then he mustalso have already passed through waivers successfully (i.e., his own 48-hour waiver period is done and nobody claimed him) before being trade-eligible.
When I mentioned “maximum flexibility” above, this is what I was referring to: when you get a large number of your own players through waivers, your GM has more options for possible trades. If ‘Player B’ is not on the 40-man, then there is no issue, as waivers are not required for them. This turns out to be common with “player-for-prospects” kind of trades.
5. The PTBNL. Sometimes, these trades are also done on a “Player To Be Named Later” (PTBNL) basis… if you believe you can’t get a guy through waivers to make him tradable, then you could simply wait out the process and “name” the guy after the season when this process is no longer in force. This also happens for players currently ineligible to be traded for some reason or another (such as being on the Disabled List). So there are ways around it if the two partners are satisfied enough to wait it out… including trades made for a versatile player named Cash Considerations.
Three quick rules on PTBNL:
- There is a 6 month window available for trades involving PTBNL.
- If a major leaguer is involved, “the player named later can’t have played in the same league as the team he’s being traded to.” (Rob Neyer’s words). Don’t ask me why. It’s an odd rule.
- Players drafted in 2016 are not eligible by rule.
Resolving Multiple Claims
Okay, that’s trading with one claiming partner. But suppose there are multiple teamsmaking claims on the same waived player. What then? There is a “pecking order” of priority — which prevents the best teams from simply loading up. Let’s go back toRyan Braun’s case and suppose that the Dodgers, Red Sox, Yankees, and Giants ALL claim him.
Take all of the teams making a claim and arrange them in order of League, and then by current Won-Loss record. Braun is in the National League, so the Giants and Dodgers get first crack – and the Dodgers win out because their record is currently worse than the Giants.
If no NL team claims him, then the AL squads finally get a chance – with the Yankees prevailing over the Red Sox.
Waiver claims are supposed to be a secret – in the example, the Brew Crew will know the winning claimant, but they are not entitled to know about others who may have been involved in the process.
IF A TEAM FAILS TO MAKE A CLAIM, IT IS EFFECTIVELY SAYING: “WE HAVE NO OBJECTION TO YOU MOVING THIS PLAYER TO ANOTHER TEAM”… IF YOU DON’T OBJECT, YOU GIVE UP THE RIGHT TO COMPLAIN LATER.
Once again, the rule is this:
- First – look for claims within the same league as the waived player.
- If multiple teams in that league put in a claim, the winner is the one with the worst record on the date in which the 48 hour window expires.
- If no team in the same league puts in a claim, repeat the above for the opposing league.
- In case of a tie?… use playoff tie-breaker rules.
One implication for Atlanta: this Summer, they will get first priority on ALL waived National League players.
If the claim-winning team is unable to come to a trade agreement, then it’s over: the player will likely be pulled back to his original team. You cannot go to the next claiming team in line. The team that wins the claim has the exclusive right to negotiate a trade. There are some unfair negotiating advantages that this would impose on the process otherwise.
An Aside – it is a little ironic, actually: the team winning the claim is the one saying “I object to your request to waive the rules in asking for your player to be moved after the trade deadline.” Yet, they are then the only team that is permitted to facilitate exactly such a move!
Waiver Claims as a Nuclear Weapon
There are numerous famous cases of a team making a claim specifically to block a (better) rival from obtaining a certain player. Do note that this is a two-way weapon… you might also get stuck with somebody that you don’t really want yourself/can’t afford.
- The Braves claimed pitcher Dennis Martinez in 1993 to block him from the Giants. As it happens, Atlanta didn’t get him… but then neither did the Giants.There’s also a rumor that the Yankees put in 45 claims that year to try and block “every decent starting pitcher” available!
- The Braves were blocked from getting closer Randy Myers in 1998 when the Blue Jays waived him and San Diego put in a claim. Oops… the Blue Jays simply gave him to the Padres for nothing, saying “thank you very much for taking his contract”, which was for an additional $14 million over 2 years (think 1998 dollars – that was huge).
- In August 2009, the same thing happened to the Chicago White Sox involvingAlex Rios. The Sox may have been trying to block Rios from getting to Detroit, but Toronto stuck them with the $60 million remaining on his contract through 2014.
- The Yankees were stuck with Jose Canseco in 2000 when he was waived by the (then) Devil Rays in an apparent attempt to trade him to the Blue Jays. He basically sat on the bench for the rest of the year with real no position available to him, but you could argue that the tactic was still successful, because Jose – and his new teammates – ended up with a World Series ring.
FAQ About the Pesky Little Details
A. Note that waiver claim trades may continue to occur from now until the end of the season — but to be “playoff eligible”, traded players must be on their new team’s 25-man roster before September 1st (see next page). It’s for that reason that the waiver-trade action will be from now until the end of August, as the only practical reason for going past that date is to replace injured players.
B. Can teams talk trade before the waiver claims are made? Sure — if you want to do a trade, it’s a good idea to work out the parameters beforehand… and sometimes the claims process actually works out to let that happen.
C. Let’s suppose the Cards and Brewers both make a waiver claim on the same player, which costs each team $20K. Based on today’s standings, the Brewers would win the claim. Do the Cardinals then get a refund of their $20 grand? Nope. That’s their ante in the poker game: the non-refundable price of admission.
It is a high enough fee that most teams won’t make claims frivolously, but low enough to still allow for meaningful transactions.
D. What if a player has 10-and-5 rights or a no-trade clause in his contract and is claimed?
(1) The player’s rights stay in force.
(2) The player cannot be placed on trade assignment waivers a second time (that’s the ‘non-revocable’ version) unless the player agrees to this action.
E. So where do I (John Q. Baseballfan) go to see the current listing on the waiver wire?Well… you can’t, actually. Check this tidbit from Wikipedia:
The waiver “wire” is a secret within the personnel of the Major League Baseball clubs; no announcement of a waiver is made until a transaction actually occurs.
Bummer. Occasionally some information will be leaked out (we are in a twitter world now), but by-and-large, we simply don’t know until after the fact. Kinda takes the fun out of it, but overall, that’s probably a good thing.
This is almost as confusing as the waiver process itself, but at least I can boil it down to a fairly compact list of bullet points. A player is eligible for post-season play if he fits any of the following eligibility rules:
- On the 25-man active roster before September 1st.
- On the Disabled list as of August 31/midnight (but, per usual practice, must be eligible to come off of the list for a given playoff game)
- On the bereavement list as of August 31/midnight.
- On the suspended list as of August 31/midnight.
- He is a member of the team’s organization (at any level) and is approved by the Commissioner’s office to replace an injured player during the playoffs. Such a player must be a direct replacement (position for position: you can’t add a pitcher to replace a catcher). If the player is not currently on the 40-man roster, he must be added. He then must be added to the 25-man active roster, replacing the injured man. Replacement player must have been a member of the organization continuously from at least the period of August 31st onward.
There’s a time period in which you can do these in-playoff replacements — the beginning of a series or something like that. But that’s way deeper than we need to go right now.
About Qualifying Offers
There is an interesting wrinkle in the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that should be discussed here. We got to see it play out during its first year of implementation in 2012, but it’s clearly a part of the trade calculus. During the season, if you trade somebody away, you cannot receive compensation for the loss of the player – except via the trade itself. Likewise, if you accept a trade and then lose that new player to off-season free agency, then you don’t get a compensatory draft pick (hence the “rental player” term). Period.
Your team is eligible to compensated for the loss of a player IF all of the above apply:
- You had the player on your 40-man roster during the entire season.
- You offer a 1-year contract matching or exceeding the average of the top 125 players (looks to be $16.7m for 2017). This is called the “Qualifying Offer”.
- The player turns down your Qualifying Offer and signs elsewhere.
When this happens, your team gains ONE sandwich pick after the first round and after the asinine ‘Competitive Balance lottery’ picks. The newly signing team loses their own first round pick…. unless it was a top ten “protected” pick (then they lose a Round 2 pick).
So… if you trade away a guy that is likely to be worthy of a one-year contract offer above the magic $16.7+ million level (say: a Yoenis Cespedes, for instance), then your trade compensation should be at least first-round-pick worthy, or else you made a bad deal.
In short: all in-season trades cancel any chance of a compensation pick.
A “10-and-5″ player has 10+ years of major league service time and at least 5 years of time with the same club. Such players are empowered with an assumed ‘no-trade’ clause, which means they have the right to veto any trade presented to them. There used to be an additional clause that required a ‘cooling off’ period of 24-hours beforea 10-and-5 guy was permitted to approve a trade. This got in the way of some deadline deals.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported via twitter in 2012 that this cooling period rule was eliminated from the CBA, so trade discussions about such players can go right down to the wire…or they can stretch on indefinitely, as there is also no time limit by which they are required to respond.
You may recall that the widely reported 2012 trade of Ryan Dempster from the Cubs to the Braves (“There is no trade!”) eventually died because Dempster utterly failed to acknowledge it, much less approve anything.
10-and-5 rights cannot be ignored, neither can explicit no-trade clauses in existing contracts: at any point a trade is proposed, players with those rights in place must actually approve the trade in writing. Without that – “there is no trade”.
Sean Manaea got shelled at Fenway Park on Tuesday night. Making just his third big-league appearance, the Oakland A’s southpaw allowed eight runs on 10 hits in just two-and-two-third innings.
The following day, I asked the promising young hurler what it feels like to stand on the mound in front of 35,000 people and get hit as hard as he did.
“It’s… I’ve never been in this situation before,” responded Manaea. “I had a really bad game n Myrtle Beach two years ago, but there were only a couple thousand people in the stands. To be here at Fenway and do that bad, and hear the hometown crowd as I walked off the field… it sucked. But it is what it is. All I can do is acknowledge that it happened and move on.”
Acknowledging what happened used to be an issue. Back when he allowed seven runs over two innings against Myrtle Beach — “The worst I’d done up until last night” — Manaea had trouble owning up to adversity.
“When things went really bad, I would be in denial,” admitted Manaea. “I was always trying to erase bad games from my mind. I would be like, ‘That didn’t happen.’
“I’d try to avoid people. I’d avoid my coaches. They’d come up to me and talk about it, but I don’t really remember those conversations. Communication-wise, I was bad. I wouldn’t look people in the eye. I shouldn’t have treated it like that. It’s not healthy.”
Things have changed for the former first-round pick. He talked over Tuesday’s bad outing with pitching coach Curt Young, and was planning to study film to better understand what went wrong. Unlike before, he wasn’t trying to hide from the truth.
“Last night happened,” acknowledged Manaeae. “I walked into the game expecting to be good and that wasn’t the case. Games like that are going to happen in my career, probably multiple times. I have to learn from my mistakes. I have to accept what happened and move on.”