The Rundown: Maddon Betting on Trade, Weird Moves Made, New CBA Contains Interesting Wrinkles

“If I had to bet, I would bet we’re going to do something,” Joe Maddon told reporters ahead of Friday’s loss. “I don’t even know if it’s going to be an arm or not. It’s a possible catcher. It’s a possible anything with our guys. But I would imagine that something’s going to happen.”

The closer we get to the deadline, the more it appears that any move the Cubs make is going to be a small one. Early talks with the Tigers about Justin Verlander have stalled and even the search for a backup catcher seems to have narrowed to guys who are truly part-time caliber. Of course, there’s always the reliever market.

“Depth is what you would be looking for,” Maddon explained. “That high-leverage, later-inning guy that you’re really comfortable with, so you can spread the work out a little bit more evenly.”

The Cubs may not have a dire enough need to swing a move for one or both of the above-mentioned relievers, but the pen is a unit that could use an upgrade should they choose to spend. Brian Duensing, himself a former Orioles reliever, has been something of a revelation this season, and Mike Montgomery gives the Cubs another lefty with the ability to handle various situations.

But Koji Uehara has given up at least one hit in four of his last five appearances, with three home runs sprinkled in there. In fact, the 42-year-old has been off his game for most of July He’s still getting more than his fair share of strikeouts (11.25 K/9), but has a 6.65 FIP and a 25 percent HR/FB rate. Could he rediscover his form in August and beyond? Sure. Whether the Cubs want to wait on that is another story.

Then you’ve got Justin Grimm, who I’ve discussed more than once here at CI. I really like Grimm as an individual and his handling of several options back to AAA has set a great example for his teammates. Thing is, the fact that he’s had to be optioned several times doesn’t say an awful lot for his consistency. Grimm is lights-out when he’s locating the fastball and curveball, but he’s missed too often with both this season.

Alright, so the Cubs need to go out there and snag the two O’s in order to galvanize the relief corps and ensure a strong stretch run, right? Sounds good, but the cost for such a move would be really high. Like Uehara, Brach is a reverse-split righty who absolutely dominates lefties. The .130/.211/.176 slash he allows to left-handed hitters would look really good should the Cubs have to face the Nats and/or Dodgers in the playoffs.

Then you’ve got Britton, whose pedigree as an elite closer speaks for itself. The big issue here is that he’s made two trips to the DL this season and still hasn’t pitched in consecutive days since coming back in early July. The velocity is back up to 96 mph, which is very good, but his stamina is still a big question mark. However, the Cubs are in a relatively unique position in that they can use Britton as a setup man, balancing him with Carl Edwards Jr., Hector Rondon, and Pedro Strop.

Both Britton and Brach are under control for 2018, which makes them both desirable for the Cubs’ future stability and expensive in terms of prospect cost. I can imagine being able to swing a deal for one of them, but getting both seems like a tremendous stretch. Baltimore is likely to want starting pitching in return, something the Cubs can’t really offer in spades. The teams have been scouting one another for some time, though, so who knows.

I’m willing to throw my money in after Maddon’s when it comes to the Cubs making a deal, but I think it’s more likely they make smaller ripples. I’m really feeling a move for Brach.

Weird trades

The Orioles were involved in one of two relatively surprising moves last night when they traded for the Phillies’ Jeremy Hellickson. I’ve got to be honest here, folks, I honestly have no idea what in the hell is going on with this move. Like, on any level. Hellickson is owed something like $7 million for the rest of the season, after which he’ll be a free agent, and he has a 4.73 ERA with a 5.50 FIP.

Baltimore needs rotation help, but this ain’t it. The only thing that makes sense is that his performance will blend right in with what the Orioles are already getting from their starters.

The Phillies made another interesting move when they traded IF/OF Howie Kendrick to the Nationals for a low-level minor leaguer. Kendrick has put up some very solid offensive numbers so far and I guess he’s a solid bench bat for the Nats, but it’s still one of those that’s sort of, “Huh.”

We also saw A.J. Ramos traded to the Mets, another team expected to be sellers at the deadline. Ramos has another year on his deal, though, so he’ll still be there at the back end of the bullpen for a team that could be competitive if their training staff can actually prevent their pitchers’ arms from falling off.

CBA made public

We’ve known about the major tenets of MLB’s collective bargaining agreement for some now, but the full text of the contract was only just revealed on Friday. Included in it are guarantees that the visiting clubhouse be equipped with safes, lockboxes, soap and toilet paper, which is probably a good set of things to have on hand.

And while cleanliness is next to godliness, there’s no grace in the contract for big spenders. In addition to the huge surcharges applied to teams that exceed the luxury tax threshold, there are draft penalties as well. As Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper laid out, a team like the Dodgers could be absolutely hammered if they fail to bring their payroll down pretty significantly.

Under the new system, that bill could get much larger. As the CBA explains, if the Dodgers (or any other team that has exceeded the luxury tax threshold for three consecutive seasons) had a $260 million payroll in 2018, they would have to pay a total luxury tax of $54.25 million and also see their first-round pick moved back 10 spots in the draft.

Any payroll beyond $237 million would be taxed at 95 percent of that amount beyond $237 million; so a $300 million payroll would carry a $92.25 million luxury tax and the draft pick penalties. The Dodgers payroll peaked at $298.3 million in 2015 and has dropped since as some large contracts have been cleared from the books. Last year, the Dodgers payroll was $252 million.

In other words, there’s no way they’re going after Justin Verlander.

Another feature of the CBA involves the use of Statcast and wearable technology and how the data culled from those sources can and can’t be used. I wrote about in great detail about wearable tech and how the Cubs are using it with young pitching prospect Jose Albertos from an injury-prevention standpoint, but there are some aspects that could be detrimental to players.

While arbitrators focus largely on box-score stats, it’s easy to see how teams could present data from wearable tech and Statcast to strengthen their cases in arb hearings. And as much as players might be familiar with this data, they’re at a significant disadvantage when it comes to its application. Think of it like the age-old resentment of those who’ve played the game for the stats nerds, except with the potential to give those nerds the ability to hold players under their collectively bargained thumb.

As such, there are protections in the agreement to ensure that the use of wearable tech is strictly voluntary and that it remains private and accessible by only a select group. And by members of the Cardinals front office who know other teams’ passwords.

Below is a selection from the attachment that deals with wearable tech, which I’ve highlighted portions of to make it easier to peruse.

2. Any use of a wearable technology by a Player (including use
on-field, off-field and/or away from the ballpark) shall be wholly voluntary
and Clubs must refrain from making any suggestion that the use
of such technology is anything less than wholly voluntary. There will
be no consequences to a Player if he declines to use any wearable technology,
or if he discontinues his use of such a technology.

3. Before a Player can voluntarily agree to use a wearable technology,
the Club must first provide the Player a written explanation of
the technology being proposed, along with a list of the Club representatives
who will have access to the information and data collected, generated,
stored and/or analyzed (the “Wearable Data”). If the wearable
technology includes the ability to create a login or otherwise provide
direct access to the Player’s personal data, the Club shall make that
data available to the Player. In the event this functionality is not available,
the Club must provide a copy of the Player’s data to the Player
upon his request.

4. Any and all Wearable Data shall be treated as highly confidential
at all times, including after the expiration, suspension or termination
of this Agreement, shall not become a part of the Player’s
medical record, and shall not be disclosed by a Club to any party other
than those persons listed in this Paragraph 4 without the express written
consent of the Player and the Association. In addition, all such Data
must be destroyed or permanently deleted in the event a Player requests
to have such Data destroyed or deleted, in which case a Player may
request a copy of his data prior to its destruction or deletion. Only the
following Club representatives (and individuals working at the direction
of such representatives) shall be permitted access to Wearable
Data: General Manager, Assistant General Manager, Field Manager,
Team Physician, Certified Athletic Trainer, Strength and Conditioning
Coach, Rehabilitation Coordinator and an individual hired by a Club to
manage the use and administration of wearable technology. A Player
may request in writing that the Club further restrict or expand the list of
representatives who will have access to such information and data. If
the Club does not comply with such a request, the Player may decline
to use or discontinue his use of the wearable technology.

5. Any commercial use or exploitation of such information or
data by a Club, Major League Baseball, or any Major League Baseballrelated
entity or other third party is strictly prohibited.

6. No Player may use a wearable technology in games or pregame
activities (e.g., batting practice)—and no Club may request that
a Player use a wearable technology in games or pre-game activities
unless it has been approved by the Playing Rules Committee (“PRC”)
in accordance with Official Baseball Rule 3.09 (Note). A list of technologies
that have been approved (or partially approved) by the PRC
shall be included annually in the On-Field Regulations.

More news and notes

  • That was a lot of information, so we’ll keep this portion empty
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