Mailbag #12: Hanley, Player Options, Ethier Trade, Brim, Vin

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Yoda: does a ws ring change Hanley Ramirez‘ mind about leaving?

Nope! Not even a little. It’s been proven again and again that the only thing that changes a player’s mind about free agency are dump trucks of money filled with smaller dump trucks that also contain money. Remember, also, that it’s not just about what Ramirez wants, it’s about what the team wants. They don’t have to offer him a contract at all if they don’t want to, though they’ll certainly give him a qualifying offer of one year and $15m, knowing he’ll decline, so they can recoup the draft pick. The longer things go without any news, the less likely he returns. Last year at this time, I would have thought it was 80/20 that he’d stay; now I think he’s 30/70 at best.

This also reminds me that last August, I wrote this, and I’m feeling pretty good about it right now.

There’s also a case to be made, I believe, that the right solution is to simply do nothing at all. After all, Ramirez isn’t a free agent this winter, and there’s reason to believe that there’s absolutely no way he performs in 2014 like he has in 2013, plus you collect more information on if he can really stay healthy. You’re arguably going after him at the peak of his value right now, and that usually ends a lot better for the player than it does the team. It’s not entirely unlikely to think that having him at one year and $16m and still having the option to let him walk after next season if he can’t stay healthy or happy or productive is the best course of action, because you’ll still have the chance to lock him up next summer if you like — though the team may not agree.

That one’s going in the memory book.

KLD: Hi all, quick question. What is the difference between a team option and a player option regarding next years contract. Brian Wilson has a player option for ’15. Does this mean he gets to choose to pick it up or not? He sucks and is able to ‘ok’ his own 8 or 9 million dollar contract? This is just not right.

Good question! A team option means the team gets to choose if they want to pick up the contract for the next year or just pay the player to go away. For example, the Dodgers have a team option on Chad Billingsley next year, and they can choose to pay him $14m to be on the team, or buy the year out for $3m. Since Billingsley hasn’t pitched in two years, they’ll almost certainly buy him out, though they could attempt to later bring him back at a lower cost.

Wilson’s deal is a player option, which means that he, like Dan Haren, can choose if he wants to activate it or test free agency. If Wilson had a great 2014, you might have seen him pass up the option in hopes of getting a big multi-year deal to be a closer somewhere else. He didn’t, so he’ll almost certainly take his money to stay. Though that’s disappointing to us, remember that he pitched so well down the stretch last year that he wasn’t going to accept a mere one-year deal. The alternative would be a guaranteed second year, which would have ended up with the same result anyway.

Put another way:

PF Flyers: I haven’t seen all his PAs but I am wondering, since I am a fan and what Joc’s AAA success to translate to the MLB success. Scouting the line, 9 strikeouts and 7 walks, has Joc been swinging and whiffing a lot, or “seeing a lot of pitches” and simply not swinging (like AJ Ellis) and does his swing and miss rate match his AAA work this year?

First off: Don’t put too much stock into 30 big league appearances. Remember when people thought Luis Cruz would be the next big thing because he had a few hot weeks? So I wouldn’t worry too much at all what Pederson has done in the bigs, because he hasn’t started a game in weeks. That said, his contact issues are the biggest risk factor around him, and his 30% K rate in the bigs is only a bit higher than his 26.9% in the minors. Five of his strikeouts have been swinging; four looking, but again, you can’t draw much from a small sample.

I still think he’ll be a solid MLB player given regular time, but yes, that contact rate absolutely worries me.

Robert: How about Ethier to the Cubs for Edwin Jackson. Then we TRY to convert him into a usable bullpen piece. It COULD work.

We’ll probably have a ton of Ethier-based trade conversations this winter. I just cannot imagine another full season of this outfield situation, especially now that Joc Pederson is in the big leagues, and I do think that ultimately, Ethier will be moved in a deal that requires the Dodgers to eat money and accept something relatively disappointing back.

Is Jackson that piece, though? I’m not so sure. He’s still owed $22m over the next two seasons, and he’s been really, really bad as a Cub. His 6.33 ERA is easily the worst in baseball this year, and while there’s some obvious things to say about ERA — the Cubs have had neither a good defense nor a good bullpen to help him out — remember that a 6.33 ERA would have been bad in Coors Field in 2000, to say nothing of 2014’s low run environment. His sky-high BABIP maybe says something about luck, but in this case I think it says more about the fact that everything he throws just got hit really, really hard.

Would he be more effective in the bullpen? Maybe. Lots of mediocre starters — hi, Wade Davis! — find new life that way. It’s just that with Wilson already occupying one bullpen slot at $10m, it’s not that appealing to want to take the risk on Jackson for another. (And I haven’t even touched on whether the Cubs would even want Ethier, which may seem unlikely since they have Arismendy Alcantara, Kris Bryant, Chris Coghlan, Justin Ruggiano, Junior Lake, and Jorge Soler all in the mix for outfield jobs.) I think the best course of action might be to eat most or all of Ethier’s contract and see if you can at least get some mid-level non-star prospects with at least a non-zero chance of making the bigs leagues. It’s not exciting. It might be realistic.

BlahsNemesis: how many years before DBrim owns this blog?

Omid: Is there any good reason that Justin Turner is not the starting shortstop right now? Granted I’m well aware of ego and payroll associated with Hanley Ramirez, but if Don Mattingly is trying to field the best possible 9, how can it be argued that Justin Turner is not the best option at short right now both defensively and offensively? Of course this is all prefaced with Uribe being healthy at third, because if Turner needs to fill in there again that defeats the purpose, but with Uribe feeling good and looking good at the plate, it seems to me like Turner should be starting at short.

Yes! This question is like three weeks old, so pardon our lateness on it, but yes, there is a very good reason: He’s not a good shortstop. Remember when he singlehandedly destroyed that game in Milwaukee? Not that I want to overthink one lousy game, but I also don’t think anyone needs to break out defensive stats to point out that Erisbel Arruebarrena, Miguel Rojas, and Darwin Barney are all superior defensive shortstops. There’s just no case to be made that Turner is better.

That’s not a dig on Turner, who has been great. He’s a pretty good third baseman and an acceptable second baseman, but he’s stretched at shortstop. You don’t want him there any more than you need to. Now, you could argue that Ramirez isn’t any good there either, and he’s not. But you’re also not going to bench his bat, either and while yes, I do know that Turner’s 2014 offensive stats are better, there is absolutely no way I’m putting more emphasis on 300 or so out-of-character plate appearances over Ramirez’ years of excellence, especially his 135 wRC+ is still very, very good.

Ron: I love Vin Scully. When I was 10 (1958), I went to sleep at night listening to him call games. When I was in Vietnam, I listened to him on Armed Forces Radio. I genuinely love the guy. Unfortunately, he has reached a point where he is starting to embarrass himself – much like Chick Hearn in his last years. Put aside the fact that it is flatly impossible for him to pronounce “Goldschmidt”, he all too frequently calls players by the wrong names. He also wants to tell the same stories, over and over, from sixty years ago. I want to remember him as the greatest baseball broadcaster of all time, not a senile old guy who gets lost in the middle of a game.

As usual:

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