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SnakePit Round Table: Of closers and lockouts

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Mark Melancon is a Diamondback, and things go into the freezer.

San Diego Padres v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

What do you think of Arizona signing Mark Melancon?

Jack: My initial reaction was why ? Is this not the proverbial tits on a bull scenario? Also he is 37 years old. Signing closers this old has not generally not worked out for Mike Hazen. However upon thinking about it some more there really isn’t much more bang for the buck they can get elsewhere. One big difference between Melancon and the aged closers signed previously is that Melancon is not looking for a bounceback year. He’s been good the last several years and is not coming off an injury shortened year either. And at least they haven’t signed a veteran position player or starting pitcher (yet) to take away valuable playing and development time from younger players that need to play in 2022. The most important consideration perhaps is Mike Hazen’s comments about teaching young players how to win. So fingers crossed, he doesn’t get old suddenly and it pays off with the young players learning how to win games late.

Makakilo: Jack’s comment about young players reminded me of Mike Hazen’s comment that a winning mental attitude is not something you can turn off and then back on when you need it. Strengthening a winning mental attitude is one of three reasons that I like the signing.

My back-of-an-envelope calculation is that Mark Melancon will add 2.6 wins in 2022. Gaining 2.6 wins for $6 Million makes his signing a financial gain. The second year of the contract plus the option increase the possible gain. The possibility of trading Melancon for prospects at the trade deadline adds long-term value.

Everything is connected. When the Diamondbacks improve starting pitching, hitting, and defense, there will be significantly more than eight games that Melancon could impact. So as the team improves, Melancon’s value to the team increases.

Envelope calculation follows:

Eight 1-run games could have been impacted in 2021. Let’s assume the same potential next season. Calculation follows:

  • Hypothetical with Melancon as Diamondback: 8 games * 71.9% = 5.75 wins.
  • Hypothetical without Melancon as Diamondback: 7 high pitching leverage 1-run games * 42% plus one 1-run game * 24.4% = 3.18 wins.
  • Value of Melancon = 5.75 wins minus 3.18 wins = 2.57 wins, rounds to 2.6 wins.

Supporting data for calculation from Baseball Reference:

  • 2021 Mark Melancon: 71.9% of appearances he got the job done (no runs and no inherited runners scored).
  • Assumed Diamondback 42% winning percentage in high pitching leverage games (ranged from 33 to 50% in 2021)
  • 2021 Diamondbacks 24.4% winning percentage in 1-run games
  • 2021 Diamondbacks lost seven 1-run games with high pitching leverage that I subjectively decided were lost by the bullpen.
  • 2021 Diamondbacks lost one 1-run game with low pitching leverage that I subjectively decided that Melancon could have entered the game in the 8th inning with winning chances.

James: Unlike Jack, I am still wondering why. This seems like, yet again, a misallocation of limited funds. Yes, the 40-man roster improved. There is no denying that. Get in there and gut the dead weight and build a proper bullpen with the talent already in-house (including players not yet on the 40-man), and I think Melancon, at best, is the fifth-best reliever on the team. Meh. I like him as a pitcher. I think if this was a .500 team, adding Melancon is a strong move towards playoff relevance. This was a 110-loss team in 2021 and, despite the two moves made, still feels like a team that is going to lose 100+ games.

Wesley: In a vacuum, I think this signing doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. The team was really bad, so signing an aging reliever doesn’t make a lot of sense. However, I think Hazen (and most people in the organization) think that the team is much better than the record suggests. I don’t think this team is truly a 100+ loss team, but I don’t think they’re a .500 team on paper. As Jack said, there’s also not a whole lot of other options out there that are better. TLDR: “meh”

DBacksEurope: I was very surprised they signed Melancon, because his signing alone won’t make much of a difference for the 2022 season: the D-Backs are still a very bad team. I wonder if this means the club is going to become a more serious player on the FA market and sign a couple of more interesting reinforcements, like perhaps Kris Bryant. I mean, it’s nice you want to have a winning attitude and all that and show that to the young players that come up but you need much more than just Mark Melancon, who is an aging pitcher and not an epiphany. So I hope the Diamondbacks do not half ass this and leave it here but make a push for some more names out there on the FA market. Do I think the Diamondbacks will sign a couple of more interesting players? Of course not. Mike Hazen has no clue of what he is doing. Other than that, I am not opposed to this signing because I think Melancon does make the Diamondbacks a better team and every little bit that prevents us from seeing the trash Hazen put out there in 2020…well, yippee!

The long-expected lockout is now in effect. Predict an end date.

Jack: February 1-14 seems like a consensus time period according to most experts. That’s because it will need to fall in that time period not to end up with a delay to the regular season and lost games. I can’t help but be concerned cooler heads to NOT prevail however, and we end up losing a month or two of the season. I’m not predicting that, but I’m worried about it.

Here are the results of my recent twitter poll asking how people felt about the season starting on time:

So overall, 53% doubtful to 47% confident. In other words, a tie.

Makakilo: In the 6 September roundtable, I correctly predicted there would be a lockout.

In addition, my view was that the season will start late.

“Both sides seem to insist on major changes in the CBA. Both sides seem to want to paint the other side as a black hat. My strong view is that the season will start late. It must be very difficult to put aside bias and animosity and negotiate a worthy CBA.”

James: I am guessing mid-February. My biggest reason for believing that is, they need to be able to start on-time. If the lockout starts to run a little long and it looks like games are going to be lost, I expect the lockout to then go very long, possibly into the middle of summer.

Wesley: I have no idea, but I think there’s a good possibility that it could go into the 2022 season.

DBacksEurope: I just had a vision in which Takumi, a Japanese cartoon character that plays baseball, appeared to me and he told me the date the lockout will end. But he spoke in Japanese and I don’t know Japanese so I have no idea what he said. I hope he envisioned the end of January.

What do you see as the biggest issue to be settled?

Jack: Service time and clock manipulation. It underpins the entire economic system of the game at the moment. And it’s the most difficult one to solve. The owners’ dream of going to a straight percentage of revenue to be shared with the players will never get through because they’ll never want to offer the transparency such an arrangement would require.

Makakilo: The biggest issue could possibly be overlooked. The biggest issue is to continuously strive to keep baseball an exciting and compelling sport for fans. The new CBA needs to move in that direction, which will benefit both the players and the owners.

James: My hierarchy of issues is, I am sure, quite different than the ones to be found on either side. Also, since Manfred has now announced that rule changes will no longer be made a viable topic of discussion, that rather changes the landscape - drastically. With that being the case, I tend to agree with Jack, that service-time and free agency will become the great sticking point.

Wesley: Service time and free agency, as Jack and James said, will be a very big sticking point.

DBacksEurope: It’s ridiculous that a guy that reaches the MLB at later age pitches lights out for 3 years or hits terrific for some years but earns peanuts when compared to others. That sounds like Soviet Union to me. The arbitration system is rotten and that should be the primary focus.

Corey Seager signed a $325 million contract with Texas. Apart from FTD, what are your thoughts?

Jack: He needs to produce over 30 WAR during the life of the deal for Texas to break even on a WAR/$ value basis. He’s averaged 4.8 WAR per 650 PA the last 3 seasons. I can see him maintaining that rate for the next 3 years, but how much will he play? If he bats 2,000 times over the next 3 years then there is an excellent chance he gets halfway to the break even point just 3 years into the deal. But with his injury history the odds of him playing that much seem low. Setting aside WAR values, Texas opened a new stadium in 2020 with no fans, and then last year’s revenues were impacted too. They’re all in, trying to win now and pack the house. If they’re good, and make it back to the world series with Seager healthy, then they won’t care about the second half of the contract that much.

Makakilo: It’s huge that the Rangers’ Manager was the third base coach & infield instructor for the Dodgers while Corey Seager played there.

In addition to performance, the Rangers were looking for a good fit with their culture. In addition to money, Corey Seager was looking for a team where he would fit with the people.

  • “There’s so much that we share, a common vision of this organization, and the impact he’s going to have on the field obviously with his performance, but in the clubhouse.” — Chris Woodward, Manager of Rangers
  • “I love the work of it, the drive, the passion for the game, to do it the right way and have the right people. It always comes down to the people.” — Corey Seager

James: I get that Texas has all sorts of money burning a hole in their pocket and that they are looking to inject themselves into the playoff conversation as fast as possible. Coming out of the AL West, that is easier to do as well. However, combining Seager’s health history, his age, and the length of the contract, while also taking into account that they have some damn fine middle infield talent coming up, I just think it is a bad contract, and one they are likely to be regretting (heavily), probably sooner, rather than later.

Wesley: It’s interesting that the tax rate of Texas vs California was a big factor for Seager signing there. LA would have had to offer a contract of 400m+ to make up the difference, which is bonkers. I think this contract is going to be one that the Rangers will regret.

DBacksEurope: I didn’t understand one single move the Texas Rangers made this off-season, like the Seager and Semien contracts. It’s not like they are contending. Obviously they will become better but they are not a WS contender the next two-three years and when they might become one their big contracts might already be a burden. I hope they won’t because teams that spend that big and take a risk should see some reward.

Predict Carlos Correa’s contract and destination.

Jack: 13/390 to the Yankees.

Makakilo: Although if the Cardinal acquire him, their infield of Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, and Carlos Correa would be awesome, instead I predict the Braves acquire him in an effort to repeat as World Series Champions. I’ll predict 10 years/$345 Million.

James: 10-13 years and $350-400 million to go to the Yankees. I think a great deal is going to depend on what the MLBPA is able to force in terms of the competitive balance tax going up. Also, the Yankees are pretty much one of the only big money teams left with an opening at SS or 3B.

Wesley: If Correa signs with the Yankees I’d expect that contract to be north of $350M to just make up for the difference in taxes. The Yankees and Cardinals are both good fits for Correa, but he’s a good fit on a lot of other teams, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up elsewhere.

DBacksEurope: $400MM+ in Houston. Maybe Philadelphia.

What food tastes as great cold as it does hot?

Jack: Chicken or Ham I guess.

Makakilo: Pizza!

James: Uhm, I eat plenty of things both ways, but just as good either way? I don’t know. I guess I probably have to agree with Jack, ham, turkey, and chicken. They taste great served hot for a meal and are amazing sliced cold on sandwiches.

Wesley: Totally agree with Jack and James once again, good roasted meats are fantastic cold or hot. Makakilo is right in that cold pizza is also great. Most cheeses are fantastic cold or in a hot dish, so I’ll go with that.

DBacksEurope: To provide a different answer than the ones already provided, I can come up with the Spanish tortilla. But you don’t really serve that “hot”. There is also a variety of sausages you can eat either hot or cold, like the chorizo, but it depends on the type whether you prefer it hot or cold. And a fine prepared sparerib can taste terrific the following day as cold leftoversl.