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Monday, February 4, 2013

Drenonomics | The Longoria Window | The AL Central

Tyler Drenon

Chicago White Sox

Chicago has a firm stance on arbitration. However, this policy doesn't prohibit the team from extending players in a long-term arrangement in lieu of the one year deals they typically refuse to employ. It isn't as if "file and trial" teams necessarily ostracize their young players, but the basic psychology of going toe-to-toe to determine a player's worth isn't a perfect blueprint for fraternity. On the other hand, the Rays drive a hard line on arbitration as well, but they have been creatively circumventing the process with their core players in recent years. Tampa Bay has rigid limitations, but White Sox VP Kenny Williams doesn't have to practice that same conservation. Under his guidance, the White Sox spent just under $100MM in payroll last year. 

Just for fun: 
That's $1.14MM per win (they won 85 last year,) while Tampa Bay paid just $713,038 per win (90.)

Sale was handled with his arbitration clock in mind. He'll be eligible for a raise through the process after this season and is set for free agency in 2017. Given his immediate adaptation to the Chicago rotation, Sale seems to have the most realistic chance at an extension with the club. That's what happens when you go around striking out 15 batters in a game. 

He has bulked up for 2013, but that doesn't always aid a pitcher in executing their fragile mechanics, so it may not be the most effective means of maturing his game. Besides, no matter how much muscle mass he adds, he'll always look like a newborn giraffe on the mound.

The White Sox have since signed Sale to a 5 year $32.5MM extension

A.J. Pierzynski is gone, but there may be an heir apparent for the Master Jackass Emeritus. Beckham just has that plate-slapping, peroxide-saturated look about him. But there's always the chance that he becomes just as famous as Pierzynski…for getting punched in the face.

Beckham has improved incrementally over the course of his first two seasons, so the White Sox decided not to outsource their negotiations with him. Instead, they agreed to a one year $2.925MM deal. He doesn't appear to be poised to receive any offers for a long-term commitment at this point, because he has yet to instill enough confidence in Willams & Co. to date. In order to ward off buzzing minor leaguer Carlos Sanchez, he'll need to take a step forward soon. 

In 2012, the Cuban defector began pulling his weight (which may become an issue for his already suspect range as an outfielder.) His contract has baffled the south side since his original 4 year $10MM deal expired this offseason. He enters arbitration territory in 2015, but for the time being Viciedo will have to trust Scott Boras. That should be much easier for him than it will be for Williams and GM Rick Hahn. 

Reed was not an immediate success when skipper Robin Ventura adorned him as the team's primary finisher. Another fast-riser through the White Sox minor league circuit, Reed has some impressive data to live up to in the pros (1.41 ERA in 108.1 IP with a 155/20 K/BB.)

Ya. You read that right. 

He appears to be on the verge of financial security in one form or another. This guy is the Sox closer. Now and for the future. Although he is a reliever, the club may be making plans for that future in the present. 

The Sox have plenty of time to observe Quintana's maturation. The 24 year-old won't reach the showroom of the open market until 2019. If he can build on his 2012 break out over the next few years, he could make a solid case for an extension. For now, he'll have to actually throw the pitches to get there and I suppose that is the hard part. 

Cleveland Indians

The Indians may be hesitant to make many more future obligations for themselves after spending $56MM on Nick Swisher. They also have increasingly expensive decisions to make concerning Asdrubal Cabrera, Justin Masterson, and others. For example, Michael Brantley, Drew Stubbs, and Lonnie Chisenhall are all kind of in the same boat when it comes to sticking around for the Tribe. They still have some work to do to become certainties. 

The Indians have relied on one year side steps and the occasional long-term engagement to avoid the arbitration process. In fact, they haven't gone to a hearing since 1991. Cleveland typically adapts in concert with the situation at hand. In the past, they have been able to flex their payroll enough to accommodate when there appears to be an opportunity to compete.

The front office locked down Santana (and that barnacle from Matchbox 20) with a 5 year $21MM+ deal. One could argue that this deal could rival the original Longoria extension if it had a few reasonable team options tacked on the end. They very well may extend him again, but in this framework, the team has developed a sturdy prototype for the players venturing into Cleveland's core.

Bauer is good. He also kind of looks like Jay Cutler with a jaw bone. That may be an apt comparison. Remember when Cutler was run out of Denver by Josh McDaniels? Well, here's another headstrong West Coast youngster shipped to the humble Midwest to learn good old-fashioned discipline. Hasn't surmounted to much for the Bears, but Bauer can just go out there and throw. He doesn't have to talk to anyone. No one has to like him. And, like I said, he's good. He scalded the minors with a 3.00 ERA in 29 starts with 200 Ks in 156 IP. 

His 4 year $4.73MM deal came with him to Progressive Field. It goes through 2014 and Bauer isn't scheduled to hit arbitration until 2016 (and subsequently the free market in 2019.) Not a bad deal. Any extension talks are likely dormant for the time being, but they may pick up if Bauer can adhere to Terry Francona's regimen and perhaps, save his Cutler routine strictly for the opposition. 

Kipnis got a lot better last year, with one exception: His slugging percentage plummeted to .379, down from .507 in his 2011 run. Though his game is still coming into focus, Indians general manager Chris Antonetti must be gauging his pre-arbitration seasons for an idea on how to keep him around for a while. The main difference in Kipnis' case is age. He'll be 26 in April and he's under team control until he's 30. The team may be able to arrange something with their second baseman akin to Ben Zobrist's pact in Tampa Bay, but they may want to act sooner than later. If Kipnis continues to improve, his camp could promote a year-to-year arrangement, preferring the arbitration panel to a hometown discount. 

If Lindor can scale the minors in 2013, he may be in the conversation for a long-term deal next winter. The Indians may press the issue if they decide to part ways with current shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. He projects as an Alcides Escobar type. Plus defense with a ballistic arm and a blurry offensive approach. The impact he will make is mere projection for now as he is on track to see Cleveland sometime in 2015. An outbreak this year could expedite his progress, but an extension at this point would be brash.

Detroit Tigers

With a blank check endorsed to Justin Verlander on the horizon, the Tigers may be considering the most practical ways to keep their core together around that investment. One vehicle for the venture would be locking up the young players with varying degrees of arbitration eligibility. Verlander could receive offers in the $200MM neighborhood, so the team's flexible payroll will be flexing. The team had the 5th highest payroll in 2012. and they rode those expenditures all the way to the World Series last year. While money isn't the only factor in postseason success, it has obvious advantages. 
Prince Fielder will be making bank transactions in armored trucks for the next 9 years thanks to the Tigers. Some of the other teams in the running for his services had concerns about his weight and the potential drop off in production for players of the same ilk. His dad, Cecil, begin hitting the skids at 32. That's not to say the same will happen with Prince, but he doesn't exactly conjure images of the statue of David. Unless you're thinking of this one. Regardless, he's an exceptional hitter and the Tigers were able to stomach the encumbrance he may become, because they simply have the financial latitude to do so. And because he's really good right now

So, would another $200MM man break the bank at Comerica? Probably not. Verlander is a once-in-a-generation, blue-blooded ace. It's the exact opposite, in fact: They can't afford to let Verlander go. 

If the Tigers wish to continue to operate under the luxury tax in the next decade, they may have to begin to consider locking up some of their young contributors. They also have a few vets venturing into pretty expensive territory. Starters Max Scherzer and Doug Fister, infielders Omar Infante and Jhonny Peralta, and DH Victor Martinez are all converging on the open market. Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski could certainly benefit from a few pennies earned. 

The Tigers avoided arbitration with their center fielder to the tune of $3.5MM for the 2013 season. Jackson will be a candidate for raises in arbitration over the next 2 years followed by free agency in 2016. He took giant strides in plate discipline last season (no pun intended, although he did draw the most walks in last year's World Series.) Jackson seemingly could have collected many accolades for his efforts (including an All-Star appearance, a Gold Glove, and possibly an ALCS MVP.) Somehow, he was left empty-handed. That will not be the case next winter. So, the Tigers would be wise to avoid the remainder of Jackson's arbitration eligibility and secure his sharpening services for the future.

Center field and catcher are two distinctly different defensive positions, but Austin Jackson and Alex Avila are in very similar positions in regard to their financial ties to Detroit. Avila signed a one year avoidance at $2.95MM and is set to hit the market the same year as Jackson. Dombrowski will likely focus on his center fielder more intently in the wake of Avila's recent regression. He is still has tremendous value and the Tigers are hoping he can rebound to his 2011 form. At just 26 years old, Avila has plenty of room for improvement. The team seems to be checking with their arbitration ante until their catcher shows his hand.

The Tigers will have a small fortune tied up in their rotation if they keep Scherzer and Fister around. This could effect Smyly in two diametrically opposed outcomes: If the club sees him as a steady supplement to their high-priced core, he could be a target for a relatively short-term extension through a sizable slice of his future arbitration. On the other hand, Detroit may view him as a somewhat expendable lure for the dangling. At any rate, Dombrowski isn't hurting for starters, so he may decide to sit tight.

Boesch's BB/K dropped from 0.42 in 2011 to 0.25 in 2012. His discipline at the dish actually diminished at roughly the same rate that Jackson's improved. Either this is a coincidence or the Motown Mojo Shuffle exchanges at about 40%. It really could be either. To be considered in the Tigers' future, Boesch will need to stop masquerading as a newfangled Xavier Nady

Kansas City Royals

For the ultra-exhaustive Kansas City Royals installment, click HERE.

Minnesota Twins

The 2000s were good to the Twins, thanks in large part to Terry Allen, the general manager who built the teams that won the AL Central 6 times from 2002-2010. He stepped down in 2007, citing a wistful retrospection for his scouting days in the stands. Well, he's back, and much like his first tour as Twins GM, he'll have to build a contender with the same anorexic payroll and the demeritorious decisions made during his sabbatical by the recently axed Bill Smith. The may be able to stretch their finances a bit if they find a window for contention, but it would look more like the distended belly of some African orphan than it would the Orlando-tan stress-gut of a big city executive. 

In any event, the Twins farm is humming. Some of their prospects are tearing through the minors, overachieving in a sense, as their blueprint for contention seems to be incubating at the moment. The most curious question about the Twins organizational rehab: How does Joe Mauer fit in? He could certainly net them a bounty, but would the fan base revolt? Mauer is so popular, in fact, that he has been able to earn a small fortune in advertisements despite being less charismatic than most orangutans. If he sticks around, the Twins very well could become legitimate before his skills begin to fade, but that frame of mind would be rather optimistic. On the other hand, if Allen is strictly business, Mauer is trade bait.  

Minnesota has a multiplicity of young talent brimming the cusp of their minor league system. Many of these players will be suitors for an extension in the near future, but the team may be hesitant to spend until their chances are more immediate. So for now, the Twins are resigned to a Major League filibuster. 

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Other installments: ALEast  &  ALWest  &  KCRoyals

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