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Inside the minds of baseball executives

Jerry Crasnick of ESPN conducts an annual MLB hot stove survey of GMs and front office personnel. It’s an interesting survey for a number of reasons; it highlights the major storylines entering each offseason, sets some context to what might transpire, and allows us inside the minds of the geniuses that run major league baseball franchises.

This year Crasnick asked six questions. Lets find out how they were answered. You can read the full survey here.

Bullpen arms race

Which free-agent closer — Kenley Jansen, Aroldis Chapman or Mark Melancon — will provide the best value for the contract he’s likely to command?

Responses: Jansen 19; Melancon 11; Chapman 6; no response 2.

The market for closers has perhaps never been better. Chapman reportedly wants $100M, which would destroy the $75M I projected him to get. Jansen will reap the benefits of Chapman’s record-setting contract and Melancon will gladly sit back and watch the absurdity knowing he will prey on the teams that missed-out on the big two.

This question is tricky however. It is not simply asking Who is the best relief pitcher? That would be easy: Chapman. It is asking who will provide the best value, meaning respondents had to do some internal thinking about what each pitcher projected to sign for and assess their worth based on that number.

It’s interesting that the best player, Chapman, received the least amount of responses. Jansen, who will definitely be paid less than Chapman but most certainly be wildly overpaid, received the most. Melancon is sitting there in the middle with 11 responses because he is not only very good (1st in ERA, 4th in OPS-allowed, 3rd in WAR for relievers since 2013) but will be paid roughly half of what Chapman will.

I disagree with these responses. I would rank Melancon first for the reasons I just listed above, Chapman second, and Jansen third because he has [insert Brad Lidge, BJ Ryan, Jon Papelbon, etc.] written all over him.

I do appreciate the two execs surveyed who could not bring themselves, for whatever reason, to answer this question. I too would not want my name on an anonymous survey… wait, what?

Miller on the move, again?

Do you think the Cleveland Indians will trade Andrew Miller this offseason? If yes, where will he wind up?

Responses: Yes, 2 (Dodgers, Mets); No, 35. One respondent said the Indians will hang on to Miller and trade him in July.

I wonder if Andrew Miller feels like a piece of meat or if he doesn’t care because he is set to make $9M each of the next two seasons regardless of where he pitches? If I were Miller I would want to stay in Cleveland. First off, the fans now worship him. Secondly, Terry Francona has shown the willingness to use him in creative ways which should maximize his value for another contract or possible extension. Finally, the Indians will be getting back a healthy Michael Brantley, Carlos Carrasco, and Danny Salazar, so they should be a contender for next year’s World Series as well.

There is honestly not much else to dissect here. I am in agreement with the baseball powers-at-be that Miller will remain in Cleveland. I suppose there is the outside chance the Indians stink next season, in which case Miller will definitely be traded.

Power, power, and more power

Which free-agent slugger do you like best: Edwin Encarnacion, Yoenis Cespedes, Mark Trumbo or Jose Bautista?

Responses: Encarnacion 17½; Cespedes 17; Trumbo 1½; Bautista 1. One no response.

The key word here is slugger. If this question were simply Which free-agent do you like best? then I think Cespedes would win in a landslide. Yo plays adequate defense (-0.9 career dWAR) and is only a few oWAR points behind Encarnacion since he’s been in the league. Encarnacion on the other hand is a DH. Bautista is showing his age and Trumbo’s 47 home runs are a little too convenient for my taste.

I agree with the rankings but what I want to talk about here is the one rogue-respondent who gave a half-point to each Encarnacion and Trumbo. I’ll say it again — this is an ANONYMOUS survey. It’s ok to take a stance on something. Nobody is holding you to these answers.

Yasiel Braun

What’s the most likely scenario: (1) Ryan Braun gets traded; (2) Yasiel Puig gets traded; or (3) they get traded for each other?

Responses: Braun gets traded, 13; they’re traded for each other, 9; Puig gets traded, 9. Five respondents think Braun and Puig are traded, but not for each other. Two survey participants declined to answer.

Ok now I think the respondents are trolling. Nine — NINE — said that Ryan Braun and Yasiel Puig would be traded for each other. Let’s ignore the fact that if Milwaukee does shop Braun they will be looking for young prospects, not another potential headache, but focus on the fact that there are literally infinite possible trade combinations for each team that is not Puig-for-Braun. (If this does happen then the system is rigged.)

There was a quote in Crasnick’s article that gave me shivers of the too close to home variety:

I think they’re afraid of trading Puig and seeing him return to stardom. They would never hear the end of it.” –a National League scout on enigmatic Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig

Braun, coming off a resurgence season, should be moved now. The Dodgers are in a no-win situation with Puig so they will probably hang onto him because it’s the easy way out.

Seriously, what were they thinking

Which free agent this winter do you think will land a contract that’s far above and beyond what people expect (i.e., the “what were they thinking” award)?

Responses: Ivan Nova 8; Rich Hill and Jeremy Hellickson, 6 each; Ian Desmond 5; Andrew Cashner 4; Edwin Encarnacion 3; Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Reddick, Michael Saunders, Jose Bautista and Mark Trumbo, 2 each; Aroldis Chapman, Justin Turner, Mike Napoli, Matt Wieters, Derek Holland, Joe Blanton and Jason Castro, 1 each.

There might actually be some legs to the shocking tweet from Rosenthal earlier this week, a tweet in which I mocked. $75M for Ivan Nova would be epically stupid. Thankfully, because the Yankees know who the real Ivan Nova is, they will not be the ones giving it to him.

It makes sense that Nova, Hill, and Hellickson lead the responses because the starting pitching market this winter is putrid. The Phillies extended the qualifying offer ($17.2M) to Hellickson because they knew he will probably turn it down and get three times that on the open market.

What worries me is that the Yankees are in need of starting pitching and have been linked to Rich Hill. I guess Cashman is hesitant to trade for an “ace” but is ok overpaying for an imposter? Hill is nothing more than a short-term band aid, a band aid he will likely have to use on his blistered fingers in August. Boom, roasted.

At least everybody answered this question.

Sale! Sale! Sale!

Will Chris Sale be traded this offseason? If your answer is yes, what do you think is his most likely destination?

Responses: No, 18; Yes, 18; No response, 2.

Most likely destination: Red Sox 5; Dodgers 4; Yankees, Nationals and Rangers, 2 each; Cubs, Braves and Astros, 1 each.

Split vote, with two respondents — perhaps White Sox executives — abstaining from answering.

Big time Yankees-ties with these responses. I wrote last week that the Yankees have pieces to acquire a pitcher like Sale, and two people surveyed agree. According to this however the Red Sox are the leading candidate to land Sale should he be moved, which would be very scary for the Yankees. Boston’s offense coupled with a rotation of Sale, Price, and Porcellomushroom will win a lot of ballgames.

It should be interesting to watch how these and many other storylines play-out on the hot stove.

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