We know that many of our readers are too busy to keep on top of offseason baseball news, so here is a quick rundown of last week’s biggest stories.
Scott Rolen reaches the Hall of Fame
A total of 316 balls left Rolen’s bat and went for home runs during his star-studded 17-year career. The third baseman – and in 2000+ appearances, he only ever played third base – started his career with the Phillies, won the World Series with the Cardinals, and was a calming, veteran presence towards the end of his playing days with the Reds.
I’m not a big Hall of Fame fan, but interestingly, among players who debuted in the last 40 years, Rolen is only the second third baseman to be elected to Cooperstown. The other one obviously is Chipper Jones, and presumably, the next will be Adrian Beltre.
Although Rolen didn’t excel in any one statistical category, his eight Gold Gloves, the longevity of his career and the continual way-above-average production (he finished his career with 122 OPS+) proved sufficient to get the votes.
Carlos Beltrán is back with the Mets
The former outfielder has accepted a job to join the front office in New York. The Puerto Rican superstar spent seven years of his illustrious 20-year career in Queens, hitting .280 with 149 home runs and 100 stolen bases.
Beltrán’s 70.1 bWAR is good enough for 69th-best in the history of the game, coincidentally, tied with the aforementioned Scott Rolen.
Originally drafted by the Royals in 1995, Beltrán won the Rookie of the Year award and was an integral part of Kansas City’s lineup for seven years before the move to New York. He was a nine-time All-Star and also played for the Giants, Cardinals, Yankees, and Rangers before finishing his playing career with the Astros.
In 2019, the Mets appointed Beltrán as their manager to succeed the disgraced Mickey Callaway. However, he quit the job before his first game in charge due to the spiralling revelations about his orchestration of the Astros’ cheating campaign.
Mets’ owner, Steve Cohen, will do “whatever it takes to win”, so perhaps this is a match made in Heaven.
Max Fried loses arbitration
Having literally saved hundreds of millions of dollars on exploitative, below-market-value extensions, including the game’s best second baseman, Ozzie Albies, who is getting middle-reliever money of $7 million for the next five years, the Braves could not agree terms with their best pitcher.
Fried, now 29 years old, has thrown 400-plus innings over the last three seasons with a 2.68 ERA, and he is, according to bWAR, the game’s third-best pitcher of this period.
The left-hander won his arbitration case last season when there was only £250,000 between the two sides, but this year with £1.5M difference, the arbitrators sided with the Braves, and Fried will earn $13.5 million in 2023.
Unless he is traded, expect the two sides to meet again in the arbitrator’s office next February ahead of Fried’s third and final arbitration year.
Potential Bally Sports bankruptcy could end blackouts
Oh my, this is confusing.
The games of 14 MLB teams are broadcast by Bally Sports, which is owned by Diamond Sports, a subsidiary of Sinclair, the largest U.S. broadcast station owner. With a series of sketchy financial deals and a massive decline in cable subscribers as fans change the way in which they consume content, Diamond disclosed a quarterly loss of over $1 billion in November. They are expected to miss their interest payment this month and declare bankruptcy.
So what does this mean for the teams that rely on the revenue stream? Well, that’s unclear. Presumably, Bally Sports will not want to walk away from the contracts completely, so the smart money suggests they will attempt to renegotiate with the clubs. MLB and the clubs’ ownership will be unhappy about lower revenue, although you can imagine that some owners will use this opportunity to claim poverty.
It’s possible that MLB could enter the direct-to-consumer streaming market, which could, in theory, end blackouts, but at what cost to the viewer? This story will run.
Keith Law’s prospect lists drop
Keith Law, The Athletic’s prospect guru (and friend of the podcast), released his prospect rankings for 2023, with the Los Angeles Dodgers claiming the title of number one farm system. It looks like the Dodger devil-magic dynasty is continuing.
It can be argued that the Dodgers do not have a potential top prospect in their ranks, but with Diego Cartaya, Bobby Miller, Miguel Vargas, Michael Busch, Gavin Stone, Ryan Pepiot, and Andy Pages, they have enviable depth.
Before last season, Diamondbacks’ Corbin Carroll had played just seven games at High-A. By the of the season, the outfielder had destroyed Double-A, excelled at Triple-A, and exuded sublime talent in 115 big-league plate appearances. The former first-rounder slashed .260/.330/.500 in his first taste of major-league action and was anointed as Keith Law’s number one prospect
Dexter Fowler was drafted in the 14th round by the Colorado Rockies and went on to enjoy a stellar 19.4 WAR career. Don’t diss the Rockies!
In a little over 5,000 at-bats, Fowler scored 817 runs with 127 home runs and 149 stolen bases. The centre fielder was an All-Star in 2016, the season that culminated in a World Series ring after the dramatic win by the Cubs over Cleveland. Taking Corey Kluber deep with a lead-off homer in Game Seven enshrined Fowler in Chicago folklore.
Jake McGee hangs up his cleats with a career 3.71 ERA over 650 appearances for six different teams. At times, specifically in 2014, he was one of the best relievers in the game, and was certainly a Top-10 bullpen arm during his peak seasons.
The 36-year-old is coming back this year and throwing one more pitch —a ceremonial one as a Ray.
Featured image photo of Max Fried by Rob Leiter.