In a fascinating article about the potential of a new Rays ballpark in Tampa Bay, Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times gives insight into property trading as a method for acquiring land on which to build a new stadium. The mechanism is fairly simple at its core; Hillsborough County would trade parcels of valuable government-owned land near the downtown area to private property owners in exchange for their land in the Channel District-Ybor City area, where the county would like to build a new stadium. County Attorney Chip Fletcher confirmed with the Tampa Bay Times that the county is looking into these trades as a way to lower the cost of acquiring new property for a ballpark. Contorno’s piece offers a deep look into all the factors the county must consider when deciding whether this method truly makes sense from a business perspective. Rays fans (and Tampa Bay taxpayers) might enjoy learning about the complexities of the situation Hillsborough County faces.

More from around the American League’s Eastern Division…

  • While much has been made of stud third baseman Manny Machado’s potential exit from the Orioles after 2018, Rich Dubroff of Pressbox examines the situation of another O’s icon in his final year; center fielder Adam Jones. Jones has manned center for ten consecutive years in Baltimore, thanks to a six-year, $85.5MM extension that made Dan Duquette’s front office look brilliant. Because Jones is a leader in the clubhouse and current franchise icon, Dubroff places a heavy weight on the decision Baltimore faces in whether or not to retain him. Jones has been worth 28.8 fWAR as a member of the Orioles’ organization, compiling 248 home runs and 802 RBI across 6,221 plate appearances while posting a .279/.319/.468 slash line, good for 109 wRC+. As of right now, the only guarantees the Orioles have on the books beyond 2018 are those of Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo and Darren O’Day, the latter two of whom become free agents after the 2019 season.
  • Is Masahiro Tanaka pitching his way off the Yankees roster? That’s the question Joel Sherman of the New York Post asked on Friday. Within three days of the conclusion of the World Series, Tanaka can choose to opt out of the final three years and $67MM on his contract. The former Japanese star is strengthening his value with each of his elite postseason starts so far in 2017, but his case for a larger contract goes beyond the postseason alone. While Sherman opines that Tanaka was expected not to opt out before October, that notion seems to entirely ignore the right-hander’s elite second half. After the All-Star break, Tanaka posted a 3.77 ERA with a 1.06 WHIP, with a wicked 10.73 K/9 and 1.65 BB/9. Strong peripheral stats, such as a 2.83 xFIP, point to Tanaka being one of the AL’s best starters during that span. Questions remain about the health of his elbow and his ability to keep the ball in the park, but as things stand right now, it seems likely that Tanaka could earn more than $67MM if he were to opt out and test the open market.

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The Nationals announced on Friday that they will not bring back Dusty Baker as manager for the 2018 season, despite praise from his players and rumblings that the two sides had been discussing a reunion in recent days. In fact, the club intends to replace the entire coaching staff. The decision comes in the wake of yet another tough NLDS loss for a club that fought injuries to many key players in order to grab the NL’s second-best regular season record.

A few other clubs began their managerial search well before the Nationals, and at least one option (Ron Gardenhire, now with the Tigers) is off the table. The Red Sox appear to be nearing the end of their search as well. Another factor that could limit the club’s options is the organization’s pattern with the lengths of their managerial contracts. In the past decade, the Nationals have never been willing to guarantee a manager more than two years at a time, a factor that could be a deal breaker to certain candidates also in the mix for jobs with other clubs.

On Saturday, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported on Twitter that the Nationals have requested permission from the Astros to interview Astros bench coach. Some reports from Boston media outlets say that Cora is already tabbed to manage the Red Sox in 2018, and that the club is simply waiting until after the ALCS to announce the news. A source close to Evan Drellich of NBC Boston even told him, “Not a doubt it is [Cora].” But the invitation to interview with the Nationals could certainly throw a wrench into this rumor.

The 42 year-old Cora played both middle infield positions for the Red Sox during the 2005-2008 seasons, including Boston’s 2007 world championship run. Many have spoken highly of Cora’s presence in the clubhouse during that time, which would prove valuable on a Boston team with a lot of young talent on the roster.

 

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Putting a wrap on the 2017 season, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein spoke with the media today (as covered by Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times and Patrick Mooney of NBC Sports Chicago, among others).

While the Cubs did not quite live up to expectations — the team won *only* 92 games and did not return to the World Series — Epstein suggests that any failure is only relative to the lofty standards the organization now carries. The team’s competitive window is still fully open, he argues, saying that the Cubs are “really well positioned for the future.”

That said, it’s tough to deny that the roster showed more weak points than had been anticipated — a subject also addressed today by Dave Cameron of Fangraphs. With several key pitchers heading to free agency, some bullpen failings, and questions in the outfield, it seems there could be an opening for relatively significant change this offseason.

Epstein hardly promised a shake-up, but did suggest a willingness to consider trading from a stock of players that may have been seen as mostly off-limits in the not-so-distant past:

“Sooner or later you reach a point where you have to strongly consider sacrificing some of that depth to address needs elsewhere on the club.  We’re entering a phase where we have to be really open-minded to that if it makes the overall outlook of the team and organization better.”

That said, the approach doesn’t seem to be one where the Cubs will select a particular player and shop them around. Rather, Epstein suggested, the organization intends to take in a wide array of possibilities — “pursue all avenues to get better” — and consider each opportunity on its own merit. Generally, he said, the team is “prepared to make some tough choices” and is interested in exploring ways to address “obvious deficits” from those areas of “real surplus.”

It’s not to difficult to guess at some of the broad strokes here. Beyond the untouchable superstars, the team has a variety of talented young position players — Albert Almora, Ian Happ, Javier Baez, Addison Russell, and Kyle Schwarber, most prominently — that overlap to some degree with other members of the roster. And the Cubs believe they have more starting-caliber players than can receive regular time on one roster. Given the need to replace starters Jake Arrieta and John Lackey, as well as to find a new closer and add some “pure strike throwers” in the bullpen (as Epstein put it), the stage could be set for some interesting trade chatter over the winter.

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The Nationals sparked some backlash today with the surprising decision not to retain manager Dusty Baker. Bob Nightengale of USA Today was particularly incensed, slamming the organization not only for the substance of the move, but also for leaving Baker dangling in the wind for the past week-and-a-half. Baker tells Nightengale that he’s “surprised and disappointed” after leading the team to two-straight NL East titles but also failing to advance past the NLDS. It’s worth keeping some perspective here: after all, Baker is a highly-compensated professional and this is a results-oriented business. But the move does seem somewhat confusing from the outside and certainly fits the ever-growing record of questionable interactions between ownership and managers in D.C. Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post also examined the risk the club is taking with the switch.

More from the National League:

  • Nationals reliever Shawn Kelley has received a stem-cell injection in his troublesome right elbow, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post tweets. The hope is that the treatment, combined with a full offseason of rest, will allow Kelley to return at full health next year. He is not expected to require any surgery at this time. Kelley, who is slated to earn another $5.5MM in the final season of his contract, somehow allowed a dozen home runs in just 26 innings in 2017 while also maintaining a 13.5% swinging-strike rate. Given his history of quality relief work, perhaps there’s still hope that he can contribute once again in 2018.
  • Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tackled a host of interesting Cardinals questions in his latest chat, some highlights of which are available here. Of particular note, he says it’s no secret that righty Lance Lynn is going to seek a big contract — something on the order of Jordan Zimmermann’s $110MM guarantee — in free agency. While St. Louis has interest in retaining Lynn, there doesn’t seem to be much chance of it entering that stratosphere to do so. (Whether any other teams will do so seems questionable, too.)
  • Meanwhile, the Cardinals have lost bench coach David Bell to the Giants, where he’ll serve as the VP of player development. That could kick off some other changes for these two organizations, both of which are looking to bounce back from postseason misses in 2017 (and a much more serious collapse in the case of San Francisco). Bell had worked in the St. Louis dugout since 2014. The twelve-year MLB veteran spent time with both organizations during his playing career.

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White Sox righty Jake Petricka underwent a nerve transposition and flexor tendon debridement in his right elbow, Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune writes. He’ll require about three to four months of rest and rehab before he’ll be able to resume throwing.

Petricka, 29, compiled 26 strikeouts against just six walks in his 25 2/3 innings of action this year, though he also coughed up twenty earned runs on 39 hits while battling through elbow issues. That wasn’t quite the year he hoped for after missing much of 2016 following hip surgery.

The South Siders paid Petricka $900K in 2017 and project to owe him about $1.1MM for the season to come. That’s not a lot of scratch for a pitcher that turned in 144 1/3 frames of 3.24 ERA ball through his first three seasons in the majors, though it remains to be seen whether the Sox will want to promise a 40-man spot to Petricka — particularly if there’s any concern as to how he’ll bounce back from the surgery.

Whether or not Petricka is retained, the organization will be in need of quite a lot of bullpen depth after dealing away multiple veterans over the course of the 2017 campaign. Just how much payroll the organization intends to commit in what’s sure to be a losing season isn’t yet known, but it’s a good bet that the team will bring in a handful or two of experienced hurlers to battle for roster spots in camp — while also keeping an eye out for waiver claim and Rule 5 opportunities.

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As always, we track agency changes here at MLBTR in our Agency Database. Here are the latest notable changes in player representation, both courtesy of ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick (Twitter links):

  • Yankees righty Chad Green is moving his business to Frontline, per the report, joining a pitching-heavy client list led by Dallas Keuchel and Andrew Miller. Though he showed promise with intriguing strikeout and walk numbers in 2016, Green’s 2017 campaign came as an eye opener. In 69 frames over 40 appearances, he punched out 13.4 batters per nine while walking just 2.2 and carrying a sterling 1.83 ERA. Green sat at about 96 mph with his average heater and racked up a strong 15.0% swinging-strike rate.
  • Meanwhile, intriguing young Padres righty Dinelson Lamet has hired Magnus Sports, an agency known for its long list of clients from Latin America. Among the outfit’s most recognizable players is a trio of notable Yankees (Aroldis Chapman, Gary Sanchez, and Starlin Castro). Lamet exhibited some walk and home run difficulties in his debut season, but also racked up 10.9 K/9 and produced a 4.57 ERA in 114 1/3 innings. If he can build upon that opening work, Lamet could become a key part of a hopeful new rotation core in San Diego.

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Super Two status allows certain players to reach arbitration — significantly boosting their earnings — before they achieve three full years of MLB service. Whether or not a player qualifies makes a huge difference not only in their salary for the coming season, but for their ensuing years of arbitration.

This year, the service-time cutoff will land at two years and 123 days, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes reports on Twitter. You can find MLBTR’s arbitration projections for the coming offseason right here.

Super Two status is determined by determining the top 22 percent of MLB players with between two and three years of service time. Here’s how this year’s cutoff compares to recent years:

  • 2016: 2.131
  • 2015: 2.130
  • 2014: 2.133
  • 2013: 2.122
  • 2012: 2.140
  • 2011: 2.146
  • 2010: 2.122
  • 2009: 2.139

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