Welcome to World Series week. If you stayed up until the wee hours of Sunday morning, you may have had the opportunity to witness the Houston Astros clinch the American League berth in the World Series as it happened. If you were already in bed like the rest of us, perhaps you felt it, like a warm comforting ripple through the force, reassuring you that there are some good things left in this cruel world. The series kicks off on Tuesday, and while we await the first pitch, let’s take a look at what’s happening in the news.
Things looked a little bleak in the top of the ninth for the Astros, but they found a way to get the job done, much like the Washington Nationals in the NLCS. The two teams meet up sporting three-fifths of the starting rotation for the 2012-14 Detroit Tigers, in Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Anibal Sanchez. That Tigers team most certainly did not find a way to win a World Series. A rotation that messed around with additional names like Rick Porcello, Doug Fister, and David Price over that span will remain a constant, frustrating reminder of what could have — and probably should have — been. Bullpens, man. Bullpens.
Rolling into 2020 with a payroll that, despite paying dump trucks full of money to Jordan Zimmermann and Miguel Cabrera, will still be ridiculously low, the depressing question being asked is if this team can get lower. The even more depressing answer is “Yes.” Although they still owe one more payment on Prince Fielder’s contract, the team will mercifully stop paying to watch Justin Verlander dunk on father time as he achieves his final form in Houston.
That, combined with less money set to be doled out in arbitration than last year, could result in the team’s lowest payroll in a decade. The only thing that could offset that would be how much money the team is willing to spend in free agency. It’s hard to guess which arbitration-eligible players get picked up and what sort of one-year deals get handed out to aging players that catch the team’s fancy, but however you slice it, this team isn’t going to approach its former lofty payroll levels next year. Get your season tickets here.
In his most recent article for The Athletic, Cody Stavenhagen takes a look at three possible roster scenarios for the Tigers in 2020. Stavenhagen presents his readers with “The Reaslists” roster, “The Moneyball?” roster, and the “Deja Vu?” roster.
The Realist assumes that the Tigers don’t spend big, but maybe spend a little and bring in some veteran bats to make the season somewhat bearable. He suggests the additions of catcher Alex Avila and outfielder Hunter Pence along with Gio Gonzalez at the back-end of the rotation. The Moneyball assumes the Tigers would want to be at least a little competitive while openly acknowledging that they don’t, but hey let’s dream a little. In this iteration Avila and Pence are joined by Mitch Moreland and Scooter Gennett while the rotation adds Michael Wacha and the bullpen gets Pedro Strop. Finally, Deja Vu? sets the focus on development of existing talent, which would then assume that not much changes with the overall lineup. It will be interesting to see if the team ends up anywhere in the vicinity of these options as we move through the offseason.
The current agreement between Major League Baseball and their minor league affiliates is set to expire at the end of 2020, and if the big kids on the playground have their way, things are going to look quite different under any new arrangements that might be made. MLB is proposing the complete elimination of 25 percent of the existing minor league teams, a reorganization of the affiliates, and a greater involvement in how the minor league teams operate on a day-to-day basis.
There appear to be good things here. The league professes a desire to pay minor league players better, and to improve the conditions in the facilities and for travel. The negotiations are already contentious, not only around the elimination of teams, but also in the valuation system MLB is currently using, which is markedly different than what the open market currently shows. It remains to be seen where this whole thing ends up, but Major League Baseball has yet to meet a revenue stream it can’t exploit. If the MLB gets any kind of significant control in how the minor league teams operate, I’m going to guess that it won’t be to the long-term benefit of the minor league teams, and attending minor league ballgames isn’t going to be the affordable experience it currently is for much longer.
Around the horn
Baseball is awesome
You kind of had to know it was going to be this.