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SnakePit Round Table: Merry Christmas!

Hope everyone has a wonderful day

1960s CHRISTMAS STOCKINGS... Photo by H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. returns to Arizona. Discuss.

Spencer: It’s great! The price isn’t outrageous and it’s got safety nets for both team and player. In a weak free agent class, this is about as good as we could’ve hoped for!

Makakilo: His return is more than a return to the status quo. He will improve the team. Details are in this AZ Snake Pit article, scheduled to post Tuesday.

Justin: He was a favorite of mine all year, so I like it. Spencer makes a good point.

DBacksEurope: I think Gurriel returns for a bit more than just the bat and some outfield defence. He probably brings a different vibe into the clubhouse too and obviously connected perfectly with everyone. His return also reinforces the return the Diamondbacks got from the Varsho trade, because that sole year of Gurriel has now converted into a de facto extension. I love to see more from Gurriel. Obviously he seems a bit streaky from time to time and is susceptible to double plays and strikeouts but as long as the pops continue he will be a positive addition. Kudos to Hazen for bringing him back, didn’t think they’d manage to.

Ben: I think it’s another savvy signing from Hazen! He was yet another player on this 2023 D-Backs squad that was really easy to root for the whole season. From the outside, it seemed like he was having a lot of fun with the team too. It certainly doesn’t hurt either of those dynamics that Gurriel had his best overall season in 2023 either. There’s definitely some risk of regression over the life of the contract - especially in the field - but there are enough safety nets built into the contract to prevent it from being too much of an albatross.

Will the team sign another bat, trade for one, or stand pat?

Spencer: I lean toward signing, but not an impact bat. Trading could be interesting (Milwaukee has extra outfielders who are RHH which could make Gurriel the full time DH?), but I get the feeling trading isn’t in the plans until mid season to see what happens with all the prospects. I’m not opposed to standing pat either, but DH still looks like a weak point right now. My ideal is let Lawlar play second and move Marte to DH, but I doubt that happens.

Makakilo: Stand pat. Six points:

  • Because left field might be the best position for Gurriel Jr. and Carroll, perhaps these two players will often be a DH, making it less likely that the Diamondbacks will acquire a power bat.
  • They are looking to add offense per this quote: “Hazen went on to suggest that the club is looking at more of an offensively oriented addition— hardly a surprise given the club’s lack of a clear starting option at DH.” – MLBTR
  • My view is that adding offense did NOT mean adding a player who would primarily play DH.
  • They intend to add catching depth (see comment that follows). That does not exclude the possibility of adding a power bat, perhaps at backup catcher.
  • As I have written previously, they need to add another backup catcher. Because that would be my priority, if they want to add offense, my preference would be a backup catcher with offense better than Herrera, maybe even OPS+ above 100.
  • Perhaps recently acquired Ronaldo Hernandez is the backup catcher they need. I’m not sure because he does not yet have experience in the Majors. Pre-2019, he was a top-100 prospect in baseball. Comparing AAA performance of Herrera and Hernandez, Hernandez had the better SLG and Homers-per-PA per the following table (data from MiLB.com).

Justin: Maybe it is the NL fan in me, but I still kind of view the DH for us as a “give someone the day off” type of thing. That said, I would love for us to add a bat there… just don’t trade Lawler or something stupid like that. I guess I am torn between the three choices.

DBacksEurope: Mike Hazen still looks for another bat and that makes sense. I think this has Justin Turner written all over it. He’ll probably ask for a double digit salary which they might spread out over two years to have less impact on 2024, but Christian Walker went ice cold in the playoffs, man…you really need that pop from 1B. Turner apparently can do 1B and with Gurriel back we don’t need a Soler or a pure DH only like JD. Ji Man Choi makes a lot of sense as a left-handed first baseman as well, of course, Hazen hasn’t said he is signing an impact bat per se, just another hitter.

Ben: I suspect Hazen will look to add another impact bat. In 2023, D-Back DHs slashed .219/.291/.387 (.678 OPS) which was substantially below league average (85 tOPS+). The only teams with worse offensive contributions by OPS from their DH: Seattle, Milwaukee, and Cleveland in order. If you combine that with the frustrating lack of contribution in the postseason from Christian Walker, it would be tough to justify completely standing pat on the offense side of the roster. Even still, Pavin Smith’s tenure as the D-Backs’ DH has probably run most of its course at this point with some combination of Eugenio Suarez, Gabriel Moreno, and some combination of the outfielders taking additional PAs there. Hopefully that

Fourth outfielder: Dominic Fletcher or Jake McCarthy?

Spencer: Let them play for it in spring. Neither inspires confidence for me right now.

Makakilo: Dominic Fletcher based on these three comparisons.

Batting: This season’s review showed a comparison of Fletcher and McCarthy. Dominic Fletcher was clearly the better batter (BA, OBP, SLG, OPS, and OPS+). Although it was a small sample size (102 PAs) for Dominic Fletcher, none of Jake McCarthy’s three seasons were as good. Nevertheless, in spring training it would not hurt to confirm that Dominic Fletcher is the better batter.

Defending: Dominic Fletcher was clearly the better defender based on three factors:

  • Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) per inning. CF +2 (109 Innings) vs negative 2 (99 Innings), RF +2 (85 Innings) vs +3 (598 Innings)
  • Outs Above Average (OAA). CF +1 vs +1 (tie). RF +2 vs negative 1.
  • Arm Strength. CF 89.0 MPH vs 80.9 MPH. Overall 87.8 MPH vs 80.0 MPH.

Baserunning: Jake McCarthy was clearly the better baserunner.

  • Sprint speed. Jake McCarthy better (29.9 vs 26.5 feet/second).
  • Extra bases per opportunity. Jake McCarthy better (41% vs 23%).
  • Safely advanced per attempt Dominic Fletcher better (100% vs 96%).
  • Baserunning runs. Jake McCarthy better (+2 vs zero).

Justin: Combination of “we’ll see in ST” and Mak’s answer.

DBacksEurope: I like them both, but McCarthy has already surpassed expectations with him hanging around these years. I think Fletcher is the better baseball player, so I’ll stick with Fletcher and his moustache on Team Italy.

Does baseball need a salary cap/floor?

Spencer: Yes. I’d set them at $110m and $290M. With SEVERE punishments for being outside. 150% tax on every dollar and loss of a draft pick for every $10M over/under (start at the top of the draft and drop down for each level).

Makakilo: What about a different approach to SEVERE penalties?

On the first day of the season, a list is made of the players with the top-30 luxury-tax salaries. Any team with more than 2 of these top-30 players loses their first-round draft pick that season, as well as a tax of 100% of the luxury-tax salaries paid to their top-30 players.

Assuming 23 December 2023 was the start of the season, which teams would be impacted?

  • Dodgers with 5 top players, loss of draft pick, $150.5 Million Tax
  • Yankees with 3 top players, loss of draft pick, $103 Million Tax
  • Rangers with 3 top players, loss draft pick, $94.5 Million Tax
  • Padres with 3 top players, loss draft pick, $81.6 Million Tax
  • Phillies with 3 top players, loss draft pick, $77.2 Million Tax
  • Cardinals with 3 top players, loss draft pick, $76.5 Million Tax

Justin: You’re asking an NHL fan?

DBacksEurope: No. Those limits look like too much communism to me. MLB is far from what a free market for labour should look like. Very America-unlike, in all honesty. Baseball contracts are guaranteed. It shouldn’t matter if Dodgers or Yankees wish to offer all of their players triple or quadruple digits in the contracts, because they would only burden themselves: they wouldn’t be able to offload contracts unless they butter up smaller teams with loads of money and prospects. I do believe that deferrals should be made impossible though. I have had conversations over here with colleagues who were flabbergasted with the Ohtani contract but once I explained the deferrals they were even more astonished about that being possible. Deferrals are anti-competitive and should be stopped, but I don’t think the MLBPA nor teams wish to stop it, because it serves both teams (less luxury tax burden per year) and players (more guaranteed money although in less AAV). But honestly, any sports player that gets paid while not doing anything at all doesn’t make sense.

What do you think of the rules changed for 2024?

Spencer: I really don’t care. They are small enough that they really make no difference. I’m disappointed they haven’t instituted the AAA challenge on balls/strikes. I’ve seen it in action and it’s pretty great.

Makakilo: The biggest change was adding 6 inches to the lane between home plate and first base so that runners can run straight towards first base. I like it! This article said the players pushed for this change.

The other changes were small and not-at-all controversial (my view, other views may differ).

On the opposing side, the MLBPA issued a statement that they voted against the changes. Their statement said the changes were unnecessary and with no immediate benefit.

Justin: Don’t care.

DBacksEurope: I didn’t even know there were new rules, but reading that article I think it won’t make much of a difference.

What Christmas present do you remember most as a kid?

Spencer: Two stand out, but only one is from childhood. I got a Gameboy Color one year. It was awesome. Then as an adult, my brother got me tickets to go see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire with a symphony playing the music in real time. That was amazing and has become a tradition now. This year will be Deathly Hallows part 1 and will sadly end next year with the final movie (no word yet if they will do the Fantastic Beast movies).

Makakilo: Good memories are the best presents: As a kid when I lived in Utah, I remember having great fun sledding in the snow. Although the hill was not nearly steep enough, it was extreme fun. It is a mystery that my memory does not include being cold.

Makakilo Addendum: December 26th will be the 10-year anniversary of me joining the AZ Snake Pit website. Christmas magic happened! Yay!

Justin: I can’t really think of a specific present, but I will say the “experience” of Christmas. My mom moved my brother and I down here from CT in 1994. My maternal grandparents moved as well. Every Christmas had a relative from CT visiting us, it seemed. Even if none did, we alway had a big dinner and presents and watched Charlie Brown Christmas or something. Some fun memories.

Justin Addendum: I stumbled across a NORAD santa tracker on youtube. It made me remember something. My Scottish grandfather would call and talk to my brother and I for a few minutes on Christmas Eve. He would say he is currently flying over Scotland, hence the accent. (I have no idea why I didnt recognize his voice, since I grew up with my grandparents next door. But then again, I was a little kid.)

DBacksEurope: Christmas as a child, we would always stay with my mother’s family in the south of the country and in Germany. Many have passed away, but I will never forget that. That is what Christmas is about. I have never had Christmas presents in a sense as what the question probably refers to, because in The Netherlands we would celebrate “Sinterklaas”, a tradition I continue with my kids, which is on December 5. He is the Saint that has inspired Santa Claus, I believe, and we would get presents from him. I do remember getting lots of chocolates, some Lego and other small stuff at Christmas. More than a present, it’s the time of the year, just like Sinterklaas by the way, many joyful weeks living up to “the moment”.