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Category Archives: Bryce Harper

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Braves Interest in Free Agents Affected by Qualifying Offer?

Seven players received a qualifying offer before today’s deadline and many of them could be targets for the Braves this offseason. But will the fact that they received a qualifying offer potentially limit Atlanta’s interest? I definitely think it could for most of them.
First, let’s go into the qualifying offer (or QO) process as briefly as I can. After an old system of offering arbitration to earn draft pick compensation eventually led to several middle relievers being left frozen out of the process, baseball changed to the simple compensation process that we now have. Well, comparatively simpler. In it, teams must offer a player a one-year contract for the mean salary of the 125 highest-paid players in the game in order to receive compensation should the player via free agency. This year, that means a one-year, $17.9 million contract. Hardly chump change. The player then has ten days to decide if he wants to accept the deal.
Imagine being offered nearly $18 million and saying “no.” I need to teach my girls to throw left-handed.
There are several new rules that affect the compensation a team receives for losing a QO free agent and the price a team signing a QO free agent must “pay.” Since the Braves didn’t offer a player a QO, I’m going to link to this explanation of the rules that affect the team losing a QO free agent. Now, let’s look at what the Braves might give up to sign one of these seven free agents.
In the new Collective Bargaining Agreement that went into effect last winter, the Braves were moved off the non-market disqualified list. For revenue reasons, this is better for Atlanta but it also hurts them more for signing a QO free agent. Had they remained on the non-market disqualified list, they would have only had to give up their third-highest pick for signing a QO free agent. But since they are on the market disqualified list, they will surrender their second highest draft choice along with $500,000 of their international signing bonus pool.
If your head is spinning, you’re not alone. But let’s try to investigate this completely.

The international signing bonus pool won’t be a problem because of the previous penalties already levied against the Braves last winter as part of former general manager John Coppolella’s ban. Atlanta’s signing bonus pool was already zero for the 2019-20 class. The Braves are limited to bonuses of $10,000 or less when the new class becomes eligible to sign on July 2, 2019. So, no big deal here.
The second-highest draft pick of next June’s draft is still a first round pick for the Braves. Because Atlanta failed to sign Carter Stewart, they receive the ninth pick of the 2019 draft. Because of that, their second first round pick, currently #21, would be surrendered by signing a QO free agent. It should be said that Stewart’s camp has argued that the Braves didn’t offer at least 40% of the pick’s slot value. If found true, the Braves would lose that #9 pick and would then lose their second-round pick while keeping the #21 selection if a QO free agent is added. I don’t believe that’s going to happen because Alex Anthopoulos’s professional standards give me faith that the Braves wouldn’t have risked such an embarrassment.
If the Braves sign a second QO free agent, they would lose their third highest draft pick. And so on and so forth.

It should be noted that I’m not a collective bargaining agreement expert and I’m merely going by my interpretation and those of respected publications like the Wall Street Journal, Baseball America, and others. If I’m wrong, I welcome the correction.
11/2/18, 11:00 PM EST edit: I could be wrong about my understanding of the CBA rules. As the appropriately-named Braves Options Guy pointed out via the Knockahoma Nation twitter account, an explanation at MLB.com points out that the Braves remain non-market disqualified. Many articles at the time the CBA was signed suggested otherwise. If true, both of the Braves’ first rounders would be safe – pending the Carter Stewart situation – and Atlanta would lose, at most, its third-highest pick (currently their choice in the second round). Who to believe? It’s hard to say. I will continue to try to find clarification on this point. 
Let’s move on to the more intriguing discussion. Did a team extending a qualifying offer to a free agent hurt Atlanta’s interest in that player? For most of the free agents, I believe so. Guys like pitchers Patrick Corbin and Dallas Keuchel, along with outfielder Bryce Harper were already predicted to receive a qualifying offer. That leaves just four other players and I think in each case, it hurt the chances of the Braves signing them.

Yasmani Grandal – As I wrote before, I am not all that fond of getting into a long-term deal with Grandal in the first place. Signing catchers to deals of at least four years rarely works out for the team, especially when the player will be at least 30-years-old when the deal starts. With other options already on the market – namely Wilson Ramos – I believe the Braves will definitely pass on Grandal.
Craig Kimbrel – A popular pick for many Braves’ fans, Kimbrel is another player I long felt the Braves would pass on. Kimbrel had his second “down year” during his three-year run to finish an extension he originally signed with Atlanta. While he was still wonderful (2.74 ERA, 3.13 FIP), you search for signs of decline from closers and in those two bad seasons sandwiched around a tremendous 2017 campaign, Kimbrel has the two worst walk rates of his career. That’s not to say Kimbrel will stop being a great pitcher, but closers are often overpaid based on what they ultimately do for the team. Long-term deals for 30-year-old closers, like those for catchers, rarely work out for the team. Having to surrender a first-round pick just makes it more likely Atlanta passes.
A.J. Pollock – In 2015, Pollock was one of the best players in baseball. He was the rare example of a true five-tool player who had all tools working at the major league level. 2015 was also the last time he played in at least 115 games. Pollock might be better off with a move to a corner outfield spot, but the soon-to-be 31-year-old has put up a fWAR of 4.2 in the 238 games since posting a 6.8 fWAR in 2015. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Pollock accept this qualifying offer, actually. But I would be shocked to see the Braves be interested in an injury-prone outfielder who will also cost them a first-round pick.
Hyun-Jin Ryu – Another guy I think could sign his qualifying offer, Ryu was excellent in a limited 15-start run after coming back from a groin strain. He struggled in the NLCS and World Series, but that shouldn’t hurt his market much. However, the qualifying offer might. Since a 30-start rookie season in 2013, Ryu has made 66 starts (and one relief appearance) in the four years since. Again, he was tremendous in 2018, but turns 32 next March. If Atlanta had interest before, I think that interest was squashed by news Ryu received a qualifying offer.

What do you guys think? Will Atlanta even consider a player with a QO? Will they still be interested in Grandal, Kimbrel, Pollock, and/or Ryu? Let me know below. Also, I’ve previously gone over the free agent cases for Bryce Harper, Dallas Keuchel, and Patrick Corbin.

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Braves' Due Diligence on Manny Machado

(This is the fourth part of this series. I previously looked at Patrick Corbin, Bryce Harper, and five free agent catchers.)
Overview: Manny Machado began the season in Baltimore, looking to both rebound from an off year in 2017 and re-establish his value as one of the top free agents of the 2018-19 cycle. He did both of those things, though his own take on “Manny Being Manny” might cost him in free agency
Machado hit just .259/.310/.471 in 2017 with a .328 wOBA. After back-to-back 6 fWAR seasons – which is elite status – Machado fell to 2.6 fWAR. It was his worst season since an injury-shortened 2014. Many onlookers expected him to revert back to his former self in 2018 because it appeared that the main culprit for his struggles was a .265 BABIP. Provided he sustained his usual rates in both power and hard contact, 2018 would likely be an improved season.
And so it was. He hit .297/.367/.538 over the season with a .377 wOBA, a personal high for the slugger. He also tied his career high with 37 homers, swiped 14 bases after just nine the previous two seasons combined, and set a new high in walk percentage with 9.9%.
Two things followed Machado during the season – his pending trade to a contender as the Orioles struggled to compete and his move to shortstop. The trade came before the deadline in a move to Los Angeles to replaced Corey Seager. His numbers in L.A. weren’t quite as dominant as his Oriole days. That probably is of little surprise considering it’s much more difficult to hit in L.A. compared to Camden Yards. Nevertheless, after a .399 wOBA over 96 games with the O’s, he posted a .346 wOBA in 66 games with the Dodgers. Certainly good. Not as impressive, but solid.
His move to shortstop, on the other hand, looked much better after the trade to the data-driven Dodgers. Before the move, the former standout at third base was one of the game’s worst shortstops. His -18 defensive runs saved, or DRS, was the second most DRS by an AL shortstop this year and he spent the final two-plus months in Los Angeles.
Machado turned 26 on July 6th and is due for a big pay day. What kind of pay day? Let’s take a look.
Predicting a Contract: I’ve already done much of the legwork here as Machado’s case is incredibly similar to Bryce Harper. In that case, I suggested a nine-year, $337.5 million contract. Such a deal shatters the current total value record of $325 million and the average annual value of a contract, currently at $34.42 million a year. For Machado, the deal is even bigger because it creates a clear line between the top contract ever given to a shortstop – Alex Rodriguez’s $252 million after 2000.
I’m not sure what impact, if any, his recent actions and quotes will have on his free agency haul, but I think a minimal contract like I suggested is still the safe play here when predicting what Machado can earn on the market.
As with Harper, two things will likely be part of this deal, though. One is an opt-out. It’s almost an universal practice at this point to include an opt-out after a select amount of years in the deal. This gives the player both the financial security of a long-term deal and puts at ease any concerns he will have about being passed by lesser players in earnings.
The other thing is some sort of no-trade clause. Players want as much control of their future as they can reasonably have. Now, this is a position where the player and team can compromise down to a limited no-trade clause – i.e. the player can submit a list of a group of teams he cannot be traded to without his permission. Of course, players can choose to allow a trade to still go through. The problem here, and reaffirmed by Alex Anthopoulos yesterday, is that the Braves have a policy of no-trade clauses. They will honor a no-trade clause if they acquire a player with such a clause in a trade, but they do not hand them out.
The Case For Signing Manny Machado: It’s simple – Machado, like Harper, is a excellent hitter. While his down year in 2017 has neutered his stats over the last four seasons, Machado still is one of 28 players since 2015 to have at least a .360 wOBA. In terms of fWAR, Machado ranks ninth among position players during that time frame – better than Nolan Arenado, Bryce Harper, Christian Yelich, and Freddie Freeman.
But, you might argue, much of that fWAR total came from his excellent defensive metrics. To which, I would simply reply, “your point?” Manny Machado can be a plus for your team both in the field and in the batter’s box.
And then, there is the age thing. Machado has 175 homers before his 27th birthday. Baseball-Reference’s Play Index – a must-have for baseball nerds – classifies 2018 as Machado’s Age-25 season because that was his age on June 30th. The number of players with at least 175 homers through their Age-25 season is not long. Seventeen players in history accomplished the feat and it’s still impressive despite the fact that the number has been climbing (Alex Rodriguez, Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Andruw Jones, Harper, Giancarlo Stanton, and Miguel Cabrera have all joined the list since 2000). Not counting active players, only two of the players with at least 175 homers before their Age-26 season failed to reach 400 homers – Orlando Cepeda and Johnny Bench.
You might argue that the Braves already have Johan Camargo and don’t need Machado. However, as we learned when the Braves faced Machado’s Dodgers, depth is a good thing. Camargo is a solid player, no doubt, and he slashed .272/.349/.457 during 2018 with a .346 wOBA. He’s not, however, Machado’s equal. Further, having Camargo in a backup role could help the Braves infield stay fresher for a full season.
But what about Austin Riley? I like Riley a lot. We’ll be releasing our Top 50 prospects starting after the new year and Riley will surely be in the Top 10. But he’s also not Machado. In some ways, you can argue that’s a good thing. I’ll get to them shortly.
The Case Against: Before I touch on the bigger issues, there is legit criticism about the defense. He looked horrendous at shortstop before the trade. A better group around him and better defensive positioning helped when he was with the Dodgers, but he’s still a below-average defender because his range is so limited. Machado has been a bit uneven on his openness to playing third base for a team he signs with. Before the trade, he simply said, “I’m playing short,” but softened his position later – probably at the urge of his agent. According to Jon Heyman a bit more than a month ago, Machado would be willing to play third base for the right team.
Whether the Braves are the right team or not is a mystery. What isn’t a mystery is, like his teammate Yasmani Grandal, Machado is doing himself few favors heading into free agency. First there was the admission that hustling was just “not my cup of tea.” Now, I am split on this. On one hand, I’m okay with my superstars that I’m paying millions of dollars not busting their butt every play. I know we’re told in little league that even if we hit it on the ground, put our heads down, hustle, and run through the first base bag. But this is the MLB. Errors happen, but not nearly at the frequency that Bobby from down the street bobbles a simple grounder. I’d prefer to see the guy I’m paying $35 or so million not blow up his hamstring running his tail off on a play he’s thrown out easily.
That said, you just don’t say it. Simple as that. You don’t say “Me hustle? Never!” I suppose Manny’s mom never told him, “It’s better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than open it and remove all doubt.” Machado’s admission is best explained by this GIF.

But it’s not really a joke. Machado is telling perspective teams that he’s just not going to try. He’s after his and his alone. And while that might win you a lot of games, it also could be detrimental to your team. To be fair, I have not seen any teammates with a bad word to say about Machado.
Like I said, I don’t mind Machado not hustling so much as I do the fact he said it. What I do mind is his hot-headed temper and inexplicable actions. On June 6, 2014, Machado took offense to being tagged out by Josh Donaldson. Two days later, Machado seemed to intentionally throw his bat at an Athletics pitcher or toward third base after an inside fastball. The ball was already by him before he threw the bat. These are just a few select events I could have pulled from.
But last night was another thing altogether. Machado seemed to intentionally kick the leg of Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar as he ran to first on a ground out. To be fair, Aguilar’s footwork was shoddy at first base. But Machado could have easily avoided Aguilar since he was looking down as he dragged his foot and struck Aguilar. It’s just the latest in Manny Machado resurrecting the old “Manny Being Manny” idea. However, the original Manny – Manny Ramirez – earned that description for quirky and odd moments. For Machado, it’s a series of classless plays.
My Two Cents: I’m not against replacing Camargo at third base, but I’d pass on Machado. While Bryce Harper has been handed a “clubhouse cancer” reputation that it doesn’t appear he’s earned, Machado’s actions show that he’s probably not the best person to put around a group of young and impressionable Braves. Too much of a price tag and too much of a headache.
Do you disagree? Let me know below.

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