Showing posts with label Kevin Youkilis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kevin Youkilis. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Signing young players an accelerating trend

With left-handers Jose Quintana and Chris Sale now both signed to long-term contracts, the White Sox have two rotation anchors locked into affordable salaries for the rest of the decade.

It's not hard to see the upside for the Sox in making those deals. Sale is among the very best pitchers in the game, and Quintana has quietly been up to the task of No. 2 starter. Both guys are young enough to desire some security, and the Sox have some cost certainty and the flexibility that comes for paying their two best pitchers low annual salaries.

Locking up players before they reach arbitration, with teams sometimes getting discounted free agent years, isn't new. It was sometimes called the Cleveland Model after the Indians of the 1990s gave young players like Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome and Omar Vizquel long-term extensions instead of taking them to arbitration year-to-year.

More recently, the Rays reaped huge rewards by signing third baseman Evan Longoria to a massive bargain of a contract very early in his career. Longoria's been so good that Tampa Bay went to the next step of extending him again so they can keep him through the 2023 season if a team option is exercised. His new deal is still looked at as a bargain for the Rays.

So if it's been going on for so long, how is this trend now accelerating?

Just look at what the Astros are trying to do right now. In addition to offering a long-term deal to a player who hasn't even reached the majors yet, they've been rumored to be offering their third baseman Matt Dominguez a five-year contract with team option years at the end.

Nothing has officially happened yet with Dominguez, so we're not entirely clear on the Astros' thinking here. One thing for sure is that Dominguez isn't the type of player we usually think about for these early contract extensions.

Dominguez is 24-years old and has a .248/.290/.410 career batting line in 750 plate appearances. He was a first-round pick in 2007 and has an OK glove, but his minor-league career as a hitter (.256/.323/.409) suggests Dominguez is pretty much everything we can expect him to be. That's a capable third baseman who in a good year won't poison your lineup with his bat.

Maybe there's something I'm not seeing here, and he'll surprise almost everyone and become an All-Star-type player. Frankly, I'll be surprised if Dominguez is just still in the majors after his 30th birthday.

Even accounting for how crummy the free agent market has been for third basemen in recent seasons -- Juan Uribe was the (booby) prize there this offseason, Kevin Youkilis and Jeff Keppinger the last -- locking up your own fringe players doesn't yet look like a great idea.

The five years and $17 million the Astros allegedly have on the table for Dominguez is more than Uribe, Youkilis or Keppinger received. Dominguez would make less annually, and offer Houston a pair of option years at around $9 million each if he did get better.

But there's still the reality that Dominguez isn't any better. Or that he goes the way of Mark Teahen, Sean Burroughs, Josh Fields or Kevin Orie, all of whom began their careers with more promise than Dominguez, and none of whom spent their 20s getting better.

Locking in mediocre-to-bad players doesn't really give a team good value. Even if a contract like this gave a team some sort of performance floor -- which it can't guarantee -- and some cost certainty, should the Astros ever look like a contender again, Dominguez's spot will probably still look like an area that could be upgraded. Except then the upgrade is even more expensive when you have to pay the incumbent to go away.

Teams are still smart to be exploring ways to lock up their young players before being priced out of the market for their talents. They might still want to consider where to draw the line when it comes to big deals and continuing to go year-to-year.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Chris Sale's strong outing alleviates bogus 'concerns'

I had to laugh Monday when I read news stories about the White Sox naming Chris Sale their starting pitcher for Opening Day. As if there were another pitcher on the roster under consideration.

That decision might be the easiest one Sox manager Robin Ventura has to make all season. Thank you, Captain Obvious.

Sale made his third start of the spring Monday against the Milwaukee Brewers and turned in 4.1 dominant innings. He retired 13 of the 15 hitters he faced and allowed just a pair of two-out singles. He struck out three and walked none.

I was relieved to hear Sale pitched well, not because I was worried about him, but because it was obnoxious to hear the bogus "concerns" other people had when Sale got knocked around in his second outing against the San Diego Padres last week.

In that game, Sale allowed six earned runs over 2.2 innings and struggled to get command of his breaking ball. Sale hadn't thrown his slider at all in his first outing of the spring, so it stands to reason he had difficulty with that pitch the first time he threw it in game situations this year.

It was yet another example of spring training being about getting ready for the season, as opposed to being about achieving optimal results. Established guys who already know they are coming north with the team don't need to concern themselves with statistics. A pitcher can work on a specific pitch during a given outing, and if he happens to get shelled, then so be it. It's a means to an end in terms of refining that pitch so it will be effective when the results begin to matter in three weeks.

A pitcher who will not be missed

Even as pitcher Zach Stewart languished through a miserable 6-14 season last year at Triple-A Charlotte, I was always somewhat (irrationally) fearful the White Sox would recall him and and give him a few starts at the big league level at the end of the season.

That fear is gone now after the Sox on Monday traded Stewart to the Atlanta Braves for cash considerations. Thank goodness that guy is gone -- hopefully for good.

Stewart went 3-7 with a 6.14 ERA in 28 appearances (9 starts) with the Sox over a two-year period. He was last seen in a White Sox uniform on June 18, 2012, when he gave up six runs, nine hits and four home runs in a 12-3 loss to a Cubs team that would go on to lose 101 games.

Six days later, Stewart and Brent Lillibridge were traded to the Boston Red Sox for third baseman Kevin Youkilis. Naturally, Stewart did nothing to impress in Boston. He was traded to Pittsburgh in November 2012, placed on waivers and later picked up by the Sox once more in January of 2013.

Ugh. I guess somebody had to pitch at Charlotte last year. At least Stewart never got back to the bigs in Chicago. This is one pitcher I hope we never see in the Sox organization again.