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Offseason #ChinMusic: Realmuto-to-Nationals talk growing, Machado and Schoop no-showing Orioles FanFest and more

Galdi gives his thoughts on and analysis of the Nationals, Orioles and MLB in the offseason (Jan. 20-Jan. 26)

 

 

1. The drumbeat is growing louder for a Nationals trade for Miami catcher J.T. Realmuto.  We had multiple reports on Thursday and Friday of the Nats’ continued interest in Realmuto and of the Marlins’ desire to acquire the Nats’ top prospect, outfielder Victor Robles.  But the Nats may not have to.  Pete Kerzel, the managing editor for MASNSports.com, tweeted the following on Friday morning (Jan. 26): “The only way the Nationals are going to get J.T. Realmuto is for the Marlins to be willing to move off Victor Robles/Juan Soto and accept a package of prospects.  And I’m hearing Marlins may be willing to do so.”

No way would I trade away Robles for Realmuto, and I would be very reluctant to trade away Soto.  These are two of the best outfield prospects in baseball.  Baseball America just this week ranked Robles as the no. 5 prospect in the sport and Soto as the no. 56 prospect in the sport.

Robles is going into just his age-21 season, had two triples and a double in slugging .458 in 27 plate appearances during his brief time at the major-league level last September and is, as I like to call him, the Nats’ Bryce Harper insurance should he leave via free agency after this coming season.

Soto isn’t as highly regarded as Robles but is going into just his age-19 season and posted a .919 OPS over 123 plate appearances for the Gulf Coast League Nationals and Low-A Hagerstown Suns last season.

But if the Nats can get Realmuto from the Marlins for a package that does not include Robles or Soto, then giddy-up.

The Nats getting Realmuto would be huge.  He is entering just his age-27 season, is under team control through the 2020 season and is a stud.  Realmuto was third among all major-league catchers last season with a 3.6 fWAR.  He led all major-league catchers with a 1.5 BsR, which is Fangraphs’ all-encompassing baserunning stat.  And when it comes to something that Matt Wieters has been woeful at for years, framing, Realmuto represents colossal improvement.  Per Baseball Prospectus’ Framing Runs, Wieters ranked no. 108 out of 110 catchers at -13.6 last season.  Realmuto was no. 17 at 3.8.

The Marlins are in the midst of yet another fire sale right now: Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees, Marcell Ozuna to St. Louis, Christian Yelich just this week to Milwaukee, Dee Gordon to Seattle.  Unless the Nats have great faith in Pedro Severino blossoming into a stud catcher, they should pounce on the chance to get a quality young catcher who under team control for another three seasons at presumably a discounted price.

The Nats’ continued interest in Realmuto also confirms what has been maybe the worst-kept secret regarding the Nats: Mike Rizzo wanted nothing to do with Wieters.  The Nats’ signing of him last February to a one-year, $10.5 million contract with a $10.5 million player option for 2018 never made sense.  I railed against the signing before it happened and then after it happened.  This was a declining player who had never lived up the hype offensively and who his previous team, the Orioles, couldn’t wait to get rid of.  And yet the Nats signed him, and they signed him to a contract that seemed more than generous given how late into the offseason we were – the Nats officially announced that Wieters had agreed to terms on Feb. 24!

But Wieters, as most of you know, is a Scot Boras client.  The Lerners, as most of you know, have a thing for Boras and his clients.  And so I always suspected that this was a Lerners-driven signing.  And, sure enough, that Jan. 18 Bob Nightengale USA Today piece on Rizzo’s contract situation that we went in-depth on last week, a piece in which Rizzo spoke to Nightengale, included the following passage:  “It’s an ownership that has the coziest relationship with powerful agent Scott Boras, with 40% of their roster Boras Rizzo was told they didn’t have the money for a closer last winter after Kenley Jansen resisted their overtures, only to suddenly have enough to sign catcher Matt Wieters in spring training, who happens to be a Boras client.”  Where do you think Nightengale writing that came from?

It is worth noting that there are other avenues that the Nats could go down to upgrade at catcher.  This oh-so-slow-moving free-agent market still includes Alex Avila and Jonathan Lucroy.  I have endorsed the Nats trading for Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal.  MLB insider Jon Morosi of MLB Network and FOX Sports tweeted the following on Nov. 29: “Rival clubs say #Dodgers are willing to trade catcher Yasmani Grandal, who is entering his final season of arbitration eligibility. Grandal started 2 games in postseason; Austin Barnes started the other 13.”  Would the Dodgers deal Grandal to a fellow National League contender in the Nats?  Hard to say.  But Grandal was a framing maestro in 2016: no. 4 in the majors with 17.6 Framing Runs per Baseball Prospectus.  He had a 2.2 fWAR last season with a 100 OPS+.

 

2. Saturday Jan. 27 is Orioles FanFest at the Baltimore Convention Center.  The idea behind these FanFest events for teams is to promote the team, get fans excited for the upcoming season and, of course, sell tickets and merchandise.  And yet we learned on Friday that the Orioles’ two best players, Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop, will not be attending FanFest.

This is a big deal.

First of all, the O’s can use all of the help they can get in selling tickets and getting people excited for a season that seems destined to be a bad one.  Not having the team’s two best players at FanFest hurts.

Second of all, Machado and Schoop are very good friends.  It seems awfully coincidental that both aren’t attending and that we learned of this the day before the event.

Third of all, Machado has been maybe the hottest name in the majors this offseason in terms of trade talk, and his actual position for the upcoming season should he remain with the O’s is still up in the air, at least publicly – will he stay at third base or will he get his wish to play shortstop?  Could it be that Machado not attending FanFest is a silent protest toward some or all of this?  For what it’s worth, O’s insider Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com reported the following on Friday: “I’m told that Machado’s absence is due to a private matter, with no further details forthcoming.  Nothing “serious,” according to one person in the organization, who added that it isn’t based on trade rumors that started at the Winter Meetings, Machado’s contract situation or the anticipated change in positions – hot topics that would have occupied much of his time this weekend.”

Fourth of all, Schoop and Kevin Gausman are the only two arbitration-eligible Orioles who have not agreed on 2018 contracts.  It’s hard to believe that Schoop not attending FanFest isn’t related to this.  As I said a few weeks ago, the O’s need to sign this guy to a long-term deal.  He’s coming off by far the best offensive season of his career, has developed into a quality defensive second baseman and is entering just his age-26 season.  The O’s can’t let the Schoop situation get to where the Machado situation has gotten.  Schoop no-showing FanFest is not a good sign regarding the prospects of a long-term deal with the O’s.

This offseason hasn’t exactly gone swimmingly for the O’s.  They haven’t made a single move to upgrade one of the worst rotations in franchise history.  Their closer and valuable trade chip, Zach Britton, suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon while working out in California on Dec. 19.  And we have these increasingly ugly and uncomfortable Machado and Schoop situations.  It is getting harder and harder to feel optimism for what’s ahead for the O’s.

 

Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado throws out Tampa Bay Rays’ Adeiny Hechavarria at first during the sixth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, July 26, 2017, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

 

3. We on Wednesday (Jan. 24) learned of the newest electees to the National Baseball Hall of Fame via voting from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.  A few takeaways:

Congrats to Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome and Trevor Hoffman – They all got in.  Reaction to voting for the Hall of Fame has become an exercise in outrage and vote shaming.  Oh, trust me, I have plenty of outrage to come, but this process at its core is about honoring the greats of the game.  Jones, Guerrero, Thome and Hoffman all had excellent careers.  Jones and Thome were no-brainers.  Hoffman is someone who I did not have on the unofficial Galdi ballot last year but did this year.  And while I did not have Guerrero on the unofficial Galdi ballot for a second straight year, I did reference him and two others (Fred McGriff and Jeff Kent) as players not under major suspicion of having used PEDs who I did not have  room for on my ballot (you can only vote for a maximum of 10 players) but remained very open to.  Guerrero’s offensive numbers are great (career OPS+ of 140, 449 career home runs), his swing-at-everything approach was a ton of fun to watch and he had a cannon for an arm.  But even with that last attribute, he rates terribly defensively.  Guerrero was a really interesting case study in how much we should value defensive metrics mostly accumulated prior to this decade.  I have no problem with him getting in.

We are still a ways away from Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens getting in – As much as support for them has grown over the last three years, the two guys who most epitomize the PED problem for the Hall of Fame remain far away from the 75 percent of the vote needed to get in.  Bonds got 56.4 percent of this year’s vote.  Clemens got 57.3.  Their vote percentages figure to continue to go up as the voting body gets younger, and I do think that each guy has a decent shot of eventually getting in.  But you could 10 years on the BBWAA ballot.  This was year 6 for both Bonds and Clemens.  Time may not be on their side.

Edgar Martinez should finally get in next year – It seems like every year there’s a guy who just misses getting elected.  Hoffman was that guy last year, and he got in this year.  I feel confident saying the same thing will happen with Edgar next year.  He came in at 70.4 percent this year, a marked improvement from his 58.6 percent in 2017 and 43.4 percent in 2016.  The problem is that next year is Edgar’s final year on the BBWAA ballot, but that may be more of a good thing in that it rallies support for him the same way that Tim Raines’ final year on the BBWAA ballot in 2017 rallied support for him.  But Edgar, like Raines, should have gotten in years ago.  His case is complicated because so much of his career was spent as a DH as opposed to playing the field, and he should be penalized for that.  Also, Edgar wasn’t really anything as a baserunner, and he should be penalized for that.  But sometimes a player’s hitting is so good that it overrides bad (or nonexistent) defense and baserunning.  Frank Thomas is an example of this.  And so is Edgar, whose career OPS+ of 147 is tied with that of the likes of Willie McCovey, Mike Schmidt and Willie Stargell for 42nd all-time.

There remain a bunch of guys who should have been elected to the Hall of Fame but haven’t been – Edgar, Andruw Jones, Mike Mussina, Scott Rolen, Curt Schilling, Billy Wagner and Larry Walker all should be in.  But beyond Edgar, none of those guys came reasonably close this year.

It makes no sense that Hoffman got 79.9 percent of the vote, but Wagner, who was a far more dominant reliever, got 11.1 percent.

It makes no sense that Mussina outdid Tom Glavine in career ERA+, K/9, BB/9 and WHIP and was comparable to him in the postseason and yet Glavine got in on his first ballot in 2014 and Mussina remains a ways away.

There remain a bunch of voting practices that make no sense – I still don’t get the logic behind what so many of these BBWAA voters are doing.

It makes no sense that some of the same people who rave about the defense of Omar Vizquel (who got 37 percent of the vote) do not vote for guys in Andruw Jones (7.3 percent) and Rolen (10.2) who as good if not better than Vizquel defensively at their positions but also much better batters.

It makes no sense that Bonds and Clemens are getting increasing support and yet Manny Ramirez (22 percent), Gary Sheffield (11.1 percent) and Sammy Sosa (7.8 percent) are not.  I personally wouldn’t vote for any of them, but if you are a performance-only voter or you don’t care about PED usage, then why aren’t you also voting for Manny, Sheffield and Sosa?  Manny hit 555 career home runs, has a career OPS+ of 154 and his 54.6 JAWS is above the 53.3 JAWS average of 20 Hall-of-Fame left fielders.  Sheffield hit 509 career home runs and has a career OPS+ of 140.  Sosa hit 609 career home runs and has a career OPS+ of 128.  I’m not saying that each guy is a slam-dunk Hall-of-Famer even if you are a performance-only voter or you don’t care about PED usage, but shouldn’t each guy be getting more support?

Jones, Guerrero, Thome and Hoffman will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on July 29 along with Alan Trammel and Jack Morris, who were elected via the Modern Baseball Era committee on Dec. 10 – I am very happy that Trammel got in.  He is someone who just a few years ago I wouldn’t have thought was Hall-of-Fame worthy.  But the more that I looked at his career – and with the right numbers – the more that I was impressed.  The JAWS average for 21 Hall-of-Fame shortstops is 54.8.  Trammel’s JAWS is 57.5, better than those of Derek Jeter and Hall-of-Famers such as Barry Larkin, Lou Boudreau and Joe Cronin.  Notice, I’m not comparing Trammel with the worst of the Hall-of-Fame shortstops; I’m saying that he rates better than the average Hall-of-Fame shortstop.  He was an elite defensive shortstop for 12 seasons (1980-91), was good batter (career OPS+ of 110) and came up big for the 1984 World-Series-champion Detroit Tigers in the postseason.

Morris has been maybe the ultimate case study in analytics versus eye test.  I thought that the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) voters got it right in not electing Morris in his final year of eligibility on the BBWAA ballot in Jan. 2014.  His 38.4 JAWS falls well short of the 62.1 JAWS average for 62 starting pitchers in the Hall of Fame.  His career ERA+ of 105 is just a shade above league average, which is 100.  And his postseason resume, which, yes, includes three World Series titles, also includes a career 3.80 ERA over 92 1/3 innings.  Morris was tremendous in the epic 1991 World Series Game 7, but he also was responsible for some October clunkers.  His reputation is far greater than his actual performance.  But you know what?  Morris had a tremendous career.  He pitched at a time in which consuming innings was a much bigger deal than it is today.  Would he get my vote?  No.  But all props to him for making the Hall.

The real shame in the Modern Baseball Era Committee voting results announced was that Marvin Miller again was denied election.  Miller is a no-doubter, and that he died in Nov. 2012 without having been inducted is a real shame.  This guy took Major League players from borderline abuse to having the most powerful union in not only sports but maybe the country.  His achievements as MLBPA executive director are too numerous to get into, but I highly recommend the book Lords of the Realm: The Real History of Baseball by John Helyar.

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