SSTN Mailbag: Rodon, Chapman, Correa, And Completing The Roster!
Wow, what a week. I can't remember who wrote it, but one of the New York sportswriters noted that the overnight signing of Carlos Correa might be the most stunning transaction for a New York sports team since Alex Rodriguez was traded to the Yankees almost 20 years ago (yes, it was really that long ago...I feel old). I was ready to say that's just typical hyperbole, but I actually think that opinion is spot on the mark. Good for the Mets, and good for Steve Cohen.
Our Editor-In-Chief, Paul, and I went back and forth a bit in the comments section the other day about this, but it bears repeating: I applaud Steve Cohen for very deliberately unveiling what a farce the luxury tax tiers really are for MLB's owners. The luxury tax thresholds have always been set too low relative to the revenue the owners bring in, even now. Those thresholds are merely a way to decrease the percentage of the revenue pie the players earn, so I was very much in favor of the players holding out for every cent they could get in the last labor negotiation. At the end of the day, those luxury tax thresholds impact the quality of play fans see on the field. Just by raising the luxury tax thresholds in alignment with inflation (which is essentially what happened last year), we now see how flush with cash baseball's owners really are, given the exorbitant salaries we've seen offered. Steve Cohen's maneuvering highlights the ridiculousness of the situations we see in places like Oakland, Pittsburgh, and Tampa Bay, which the commissioner has allowed to continue unresolved for more than a decade. The manner in which baseball's owners have behaved in relation to the luxury tax thresholds nearly amount to collusion, as far as I'm concerned. Good for Steve Cohen. We'll see if the money spent brings the Mets more wins on the field, but you can't fault them for trying.
As always, thanks for the great questions and keep them coming to SSTNReadermail@gmail.com. In this week's SSTN Mailbag, we'll talk about Carlos Rodon's injury history, Aroldis Chapman, Carlos Correa's fit on the Yankees, and ideas for completing the roster! Let's get at it:
Mark asks: I hope I am the only one feeling this way about Rodon. I feel like the Yankees sign some of these hard throwers and they pitch great for the first half of the season and then need Tommy John surgery and we don’t see them until they push themselves too fast and show up in the playoffs the next season. Is there an over/under in Vegas for pitchers needing surgery?
If you can imagine a spread, I'm sure there's a place that will take your money on a sports bet of any kind - seriously, the sports gambling thing is getting insane...it drives me crazy, but that's a conversation for another day.
You are not the only one who feels this way. For most of the free agent pitchers available over the last decade, I've been the pessimistic voice in the corner of the internet cautioning teams against signing pitchers over the age of 30 to long term deals due to either scary injury histories or just the relative lack of value in most pitchers over the age of 33. I always say that pitcher is actually a Greek word for "breaks often and irreparably" and Rodon looked to be the poster child for that definition until the last two years.
Rodon was badly abused by his college coach at NC State. Rodon was by far the best amateur pitcher in the country by the beginning of his freshman season, and NC State spent the next three years running Rodon into the ground. By the time Rodon was drafted at number 3 overall by the White Sox in the MLB Draft, his stuff was already diminished. Rodon has since fought past Tommy John Surgery and a multitude of shoulder injuries and forearm strains. However, Rodon rebuilt his mechanics and training regimen following the 2020 season, and he's been largely healthy in the two seasons since. More importantly, his stuff is back to being elite (although still diminished a bit from his years at NC State, where he had the best slider I've ever seen in the non-Randy Johnson category).
So, is Rodon's arm fixed for good? I doubt it. Do I think Rodon will be excellent for the next 2-3 years? Yes. The Yankees are in win-now mode, and the addition of Rodon gives the Yankees the best and deepest rotation in baseball***. This is a risk the Yankees had to take if the goal is to win a World Series.
***This is subjective, and I know that many people will tell you that the Mets have a better rotation. Trusting two guys as old as Scherzer and Verlander at the top of the rotation to stay healthy is a recipe for disaster, and I see nothing but question marks with every starter that comes after those two. The Mets rotation has a volatile range of outcomes, so I'll take the Yankees as the safer bet in the rotation right now.
Mark also asks: Does Chapman hold any value now? Is he a high paid 7th inning guy? What is the long term outcome of him skipping practice? Does he need a change of scenery?
Luckily, Chapman is a free agent. After what transpired at the end of the year with the Yankees and his history of being a "handful" in the clubhouse, I'd be shocked if he holds any value for another team. Were he still a Yankee, I'd say blast him to the sun and enjoy the rocket launch.
I have a very strong suspicion that last year is the last we'll see of Aroldis Chapman in an MLB uniform.
Steve asks: Should the Yankees have been in on Correa after the deal with the Giants fell through, or did Scott Boras just follow the money when the deal fell through?
I don't love Correa the way some other talent evaluators, notably Keith Law, view Correa. I know that many defensive metrics loved Correa's defense at SS, but I never particularly thought he had the range for the position and was aided significantly by the shift. This past season, Statcast's OAA agreed with me, pegging him in just the 18th percentile for defense. His offense is elite at SS, but merely very good at 3B, though I do think he'll be a great defensive 3B for the next few seasons. The Giants are certainly much worse in 2023 without Correa, and while I don't think the Mets are worlds better with Correa over some combination of Escobar/Baty, the Correa acquisition certainly does make more than a marginal difference to the Mets' overall win expectancy in 2023 and 2024.
I have a hunch that Boras moved to make a very quick turnaround after the Giants' initial offer appeared unlikely to stand. The early reports are that Boras went back to the two teams that made defined offers to Correa before the Giants swooped in: the Twins and the Mets. Given the short period of time, I'm not sure the Yankees were even contacted. Heck, even Buck Showalter didn't know that Correa was coming to town until the next morning.
However, if money was truly no object? Yes, the Yankees should have been in on Correa this season and last season. He should have been signed to play SS in 2022, and he could have slid over to 3B when Volpe/Peraza were ready. This is how Hal's budgeting binds the front office. They'll spend the money, but only on short-term, inferior options to create budgetary flexibility...except, you know, in the short-term...when they have an opportunity to win a World Series. Hopefully that mentality is changing in the owner's box.
Brian asks: I liked your Sal Frelick idea in this past Mailbag - any other out of the box ideas for filling roster needs this year?
Oh yeah. I don't think the Mets are willing to make large deals with the Yankees, but I actually think that the two teams might fit quite well in a deal right now. Brett Baty is a fantastic 3B prospect, but with the Correa signing, the Mets are likely to shoehorn him into LF/DH, which really isn't fair to Baty (Mets fans only have to remember how badly the Mets messed up Dom Smith by playing him in LF). The Mets still need help in the bullpen, a place where the Yanks could help if they were willing to get creative elsewhere to trade for an elite bullpen arm elsewhere.
I propose the following:
Baty is a left-handed power bat that can stick at 3B. The Mets get Loaisiga, a premium bullpen arm; Beeter, who could be fast-tracked to the Majors with a switch to the bullpen and help the Mets in the 2nd half; and Pereira, who could take over LF from Canha as soon as 2024. I don't think it could happen, but a guy can dream, right?!?