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Book Review: Baseball Fantography

Most baseball writers such as myself aren’t paid for the bulk of their work. Most of us are continually trying to build and maintain a consistent audience, with the hope that someday we might make some money from doing what we love. But one of the perks that comes with operating a site such as this one are the opportunities that will occasionally present themselves, such as receiving a free copy of a new baseball book.

You may recall that around this time last season there were a handful of books that I reviewed here at BFTB. With a new season underway, those offers have started to come in once again. First on my reading list, Baseball Fantography: A Celebration in Snapshots and Stories from the Fans.

Baseball Fantography is a celebration of the game of baseball pulled straight from the memories of those fans who’ve spent such a large portion of their lives following the game. The book’s author, Andy Strasberg (no relation to Nationals’ pitcher Stephen Strasburg), was initially inspired to start such a project when he discovered some old photos of himself as a teenage with his childhood idol, Roger Maris. He started to wonder if others had some of these old, forgotten treasures laying around. Once he began collecting them, Baseball Fantography was promptly born.

The entire book of nearly 200 pages is filled with stories, anecdotes, and photographs from fans across years of baseball. Each and every one from a regular, everyday fan. Famed broadcaster Bob Costas provided the book’s forward and MLB Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith offers some stories of his own.

Baseball Fantography is a great coffee table book for even the most casual baseball fan and flipping through its pages offers a multitude of great stories and photos.

Update: For a chance to win a free copy of this book, head on over to my Washington Nationals site, District on Deck for further information.

New Jersey High Schooler Batting Over .700

Perhaps it’s coincidence that the same weekend that Bryce Harper, the #1 overall selection in the 2010 Draft and at just 19 years old the youngest player in the Major Leagues, makes his long-anticipated MLB Debut for the Washington Nationals I also stumbled across an interesting article by Cameron Smith at Yahoo! Sports about a Pemberton, New Jersey high school catcher named Jose Martinez who’s batting .733 on the season so far.

Image courtesy: yahoo.sports.com

Yes, that really says .733. It’s not a typo. He also hit .745 last season, but failed to qualify for the record books because he walked so many times (23), which cost him at bats.

Martinez’s current batting average would rank 10th all time, according to the National Federation of State High School Athletic Associations. He’d be the first new entry in the Top 10 since 2000, when Mike Breyman hit .810 on the season. Breyman was never drafted and ended up batting .325/.420/.579 over 5 seasons in the Independent Frontier League.

What’s most amazing about this story is the fact that by all accounts Jose Martinez isn’t on the radar of most of the major collegiate programs. Barring a significant change, Martinez will attend Hartford Community College (which is apparently a “community college baseball powerhouse”) on a full scholarship in the Fall.

Presumably there must be some reason why Martinez is not attracting more interest from the bigger college programs. He also doesn’t seem to be generating much interest by Major League teams with the June Draft approaching. There apparently have been questions about the level of competition that he’s been facing, which may be diminishing the attention, but a bat of that caliber on a player of this age could carry enough potential for someone to take a flyer on him.

Season Preview: American League Central

Opening Day is here and 25-man rosters have been set. It seems as good a time as any to start to preview the upcoming season. For a change of pace, I’m going to run with a bit of a different format this year and view things one division at a time.

We’ll cover each division in no particular order. We started with the NL West and then moved on to the AL West. Then we tackled the NL Central and the NL East. Next came the AL East. Now we’ll finish things up with the AL Central.

Top 5 Moves Since Last Season:

1. Detroit signed first baseman Prince Fielder to a nine year, $214 Million free agent contract.

2. Kansas City agrees to terms with left fielder Alex Gordon on a four year, $37.5 Million extension. The deal includes a player option for the 2016 season, valued at $12.5 Million.

3. Kansas City trades outfielder Melky Cabrera to the San Francisco Giants for left-hander Jonathan Sanchez.

4. Chicago trades right-hander Sergio Santos to the Toronto Blue Jays for right-hander Nestor Molina.

5. Cleveland trades left-hander Chris Jones to the Atlanta Braves for right-hander Derek Lowe. Atlanta is also covering a significant portion of Lowe’s 2012 salary.

Key Acquisitions:

Chicago (None), Cleveland (Lowe), Detroit (Fielder), Kansas City (Sanchez), Minnesota (None)

Key Losses:

Chicago (Santos, Carlos Quentin), Cleveland (None), Detroit (None), Kansas City (None), Minnesota (None)

Predictions:

Cy Young – Justin Verlander (Justin Masterson)

MVP – Prince Fielder (Eric Hosmer)

Rookie of the Year – Addison Reed (Jacob Turner)

Standings:

  1. Detroit
  2. Cleveland
  3. Kansas City
  4. Chicago
  5. Minnesota

All Division Team:

Finally, let’s close things out with my pre-2012 All Division Team*. Eligible candidates consist of each team’s projected starter heading into Opening Day. We’ll revisit these lists again once the season concludes.

* Honorable mentions in parentheses.

1B: Prince Fielder (Eric Hosmer)

2B: Jason Kipnis (Gordon Beckham)

3B: Miguel Cabrera (Mike Moustakas)

SS: Asdrubal Cabrera (Alcides Escobar)

LF: Alex Gordon (Delmon Young)

CF: Austin Jackson (Ben Revere)

RF: Shin-Soo Choo (Brennan Boesch)

C: Alex Avila (Carlos Santana)

DH: Billy Butler (Travis Hafner)

Season Preview: American League East

With Opening Day quickly approaching and 25-man rosters starting to take shape, it seems as good a time as any to start to preview the upcoming season. For a change of pace, I’m going to run with a bit of a different format this year and view things one division at a time.

We’ll cover each division in no particular order. We started with the NL West and then moved on to the AL West. Then we tackled the NL Central and the NL East. Next up, the AL East.

Top 5 Moves Since Last Season:

1. New York traded catcher Jesus Montero and right-hander Hector Noesi to the Seattle Mariners for right-handers Michael Pinedaand Jorge Campos.

Photo courtesy: riveraveblues.com

2. New York signed right-hander Hiroki Kuroda to a one year, $10 Million free agent contract.

3. Toronto traded right-hander Nestor Molina to the Chicago White Sox for right-hander Sergio Santos.

4. Boston traded shortstop Jed Lowrie and right-hander Kyle Weiland to the Houston Astros for right-hander Mark Melancon.

5.Tampa Bay signed left-hander Matt Moore to a five year contract extension worth $14 Million. The deal includes three club options which could be worth an additional $26 Million.

Key Acquisitions:

Baltimore (None), Boston (Melancon, Andrew Bailey), New York (Pineda, Kuroda), Tampa Bay (None), Toronto (Santos)

Key Losses:

Baltimore (Vladimir Guerrero), Boston (Jonathan Papelbon), New York (Montero), Tampa Bay (None), Toronto (None)

Predictions:

Cy Young – C.C. Sabathia (David Price)

MVP – Robinson Cano (Evan Longoria)

Rookie of the Year – Matt Moore (Austin Romine)

Standings:

  1. New York
  2. Tampa Bay
  3. Boston
  4. Toronto
  5. Baltimore

All Division Team:

Finally, let’s close things out with my pre-2012 All Division Team*. Eligible candidates consist of each team’s projected starter heading into Opening Day. We’ll revisit these lists again once the season concludes.

* Honorable mentions in parentheses.

1B: Adrian Gonzalez (Mark Teixeira)

2B: Robinson Cano (Dustin Pedroia)

3B: Evan Longoria (Alex Rodriguez)

SS: Derek Jeter (J.J. Hardy)

LF: Brett Gardner (Desmond Jennings)

CF: Jacoby Ellsbury (Curtis Granderson)

RF: Jose Bautista (Nick Markakis)

C: Matt Wieters (J.P. Arencibia)

DH: David Ortiz (None. The other teams in the division will employ supremely inferior options at the DH position to begin the season. I don’t expect any of them to be the team’s primary DH at season’s end.)

Season Preview: National League East

With Opening Day quickly approaching and 25-man rosters starting to take shape, it seems as good a time as any to start to preview the upcoming season. For a change of pace, I’m going to run with a bit of a different format this year and view things one division at a time.

We’ll cover each division in no particular order. We started with the NL West and then moved on to the AL West. Then we tackled the NL Central. Next up, the NL East.

Top 5 Moves Since Last Season:

1. Washington trades left-hander Tommy Milone, right-handers Brad Peacock and A.J. Cole, and catcher Derek Norris to the Oakland Athletics for left-hander Gio Gonzalez.

2. Miami signs shortstop Jose Reyes to a six year, $106 Million free agent contract. The deal includes a team option for 2018, valued at $22 Million.

3. Miami signs right-hander Heath Bell to a three year, $27 Million free agent contract. The deal includes a vesting option for 2015, valued at $9 Million.

4. Washington signs right-hander Edwin Jackson to a one year, $11 Million free agent contract.

5. Philadelphia signs right-hander Jonathan Papelbon to a four year, $50 Million free agent contract. The deal includes a vesting option for 2016.

Key Acquisitions:

Atlanta (None), Miami (Reyes, Bell, Mark Buehrle), New York (None), Philadelphia (Papelbon), Washington (Gonzalez, Jackson)

Key Losses:

Atlanta (None), Miami (None), New York (Reyes), Philadelphia (None), Washington (Milone, Peacock, Cole)

Predictions:

Cy Young – Jordan Zimmermann (Cole Hamels)

MVP – Jose Reyes (Brian McCann)

Rookie of the Year – Bryce Harper (Julio Teheran)

Standings:

  1. Atlanta
  2. Washington
  3. Philadelphia
  4. Miami
  5. New York

All Division Team:

Finally, let’s close things out with my pre-2012 All Division Team*. Eligible candidates consist of each team’s projected starter heading into Opening Day. We’ll revisit these lists again once the season concludes.

* Honorable mentions in parentheses.

1B: Freddie Freeman (Gaby Sanchez)

2B: Dan Uggla (Danny Espinosa)

3B: Ryan Zimmerman (Hanley Ramirez)

SS: Jose Reyes (Jimmy Rollins)

LF: Michael Morse (Martin Prado)

CF: Michael Bourn (Shane Victorino)

RF: Giancarlo Stanton (Jason Heyward)

C: Brian McCann (Wilson Ramos)

Season Preview: National League Central

With Opening Day in just a few days and 25-man rosters starting to take shape, it seems as good a time as any to start to preview the upcoming season. For a change of pace, I’m going to run with a bit of a different format this year and view things one division at a time.

We’ll cover each division in no particular order. We started with the NL West and then moved on to the AL West. Next up, let’s look at the NL Central.

Top 5 Moves Since Last Season:

1. Pittsburgh agrees to terms with center fielder Andrew McCutchen on a six year, $51.5 Million contract extension. The deal includes a club option for the 2018 season that would be valued at $14.5 Million.

2.  Cincinnati trades first baseman Yonder Alonso, catcher Yasmani Grandal, and right-handers Edison Volquez and Brad Boxberger to the San Diego Padres for right-hander Mat Latos.

3. St. Louis re-signed first baseman Lance Berkman to a one year, $12 Million free agent contract. The timing of the deal was vital.

4. Milwaukee signs third baseman Aramis Ramirez to a three year, $36 Million free agent contract. The deal includes a mutual option for a fourth season.

5. Houston trades right-hander Mark Melancon to the Boston Red Sox for shortstop Jed Lowrie and right-hander Kyle Weiland.

Key Acquisitions:

Chicago (None), Cincinnati (Latos, Sean Marshall), Houston (None), Milwaukee (Ramirez), Pittsburgh (None), St. Louis (Carlos Beltran)

Key Losses:

Chicago (Ramirez), Cincinnati (Alonso), Houston (Melancon), Milwaukee (Prince Fielder), Pittsburg (None), St. Louis (Albert Pujols)

Predictions:

Cy Young – Zack Greinke (Matt Garza)

MVP – Andrew McCutchen (Joey Votto)

Rookie of the Year – Josh Vitters (Zack Cozart)

Standings:

  1. Cincinnati
  2. St. Louis
  3. Milwaukee
  4. Pittsburgh
  5. Chicago
  6. Houston

All Division Team:

Finally, let’s close things out with my pre-2012 All Division Team*. Eligible candidates consist of each team’s projected starter heading into Opening Day. We’ll revisit these lists again once the season concludes.

* Honorable mentions in parentheses.

1B: Joey Votto (Lance Berkman)

2B: Brandon Phillips (Rickie Weeks)

3B: Aramis Ramirez (Scott Rolen)

SS: Starlin Castro (Jed Lowrie)

RF: Jose Tabata (Carlos Beltran)

CF: Andrew McCutchen (Drew Stubbs)

LF: Ryan Braun (Matt Holliday)

C: Yadier Molina (Jonathan Lucroy)

Season Preview: American League West

With Opening Day just about two weeks away and 25-man rosters starting to take shape, it seems as good a time as any to start to preview the upcoming season. For a change of pace, I’m going to run with a bit of a different format this year and view things one division at a time.

We’ll cover each division in no particular order. We started with the NL West. Since the Oakland A’s and Seattle Mariners open the season this week with a two game series in Japan, let’s take a look at the AL West next.

Top 5 Moves Since Last Season:

1. Los Angeles signs first baseman Albert Pujols to a ten year, $240 Million free agent contract.

2. Texas wins the right to negotiate with Yu Darvish via the posting system with a bid of $51,703,411. Texas signs Darvish to a six year, $56 Million contract.

3. Los Angeles signs left-hander C.J. Wilson to a five year, $77.5 Million free agent contract.

4. Oakland trades left-hander Gio Gonzalez to the Washington Nationals for left-hander Tom Milone, right-handers Brad Peacock and A.J. Cole, and catcher Derek Norris.

5. Seattle trades right-handers Michael Pineda and Jorge Campos to New York for catcher Jesus Montero and right-hander Hector Noesi.

Key Acquisitions:

Los Angeles (Pujols, Wilson, Chris Iannetta), Oakland (Yoenes Cespedes, Milone, Peacock, Cole, Jarrod Parker), Seattle (Montero), Texas (Darvish)

Key Losses:

Los Angeles (Tyler Chatwood), Oakland (Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill, Andrew Bailey), Seattle (Pineda), Texas (Wilson)

Predictions:

Cy Young – Jered Weaver (Felix Hernandez)

MVP – Albert Pujols (Nelson Cruz)

Rookie of the Year – Jesus Montero (Yu Darvish)

Standings:

  1. Los Angeles
  2. Texas
  3. Oakland
  4. Seattle

All Division Team:

Finally, let’s close things out with my pre-2012 All Division Team*. Eligible candidates consist of each team’s projected starter heading into Opening Day. We’ll revisit these lists again once the season concludes.

* Honorable mentions in parentheses.

1B: Albert Pujols (Justin Smoak)

2B: Jemile Weeks (Dustin Ackley)

3B: Adrian Beltre (None. All three other teams in the division have serious holes at the position.)

SS: Elvis Andrus (Erick Aybar)

RF: Nelson Cruz (Ichiro Suzuki)

CF: Peter Bourjos (Yoenes Cespedes)

LF: Josh Hamilton (Coco Crisp)

C: Mike Napoli (Kurt Suzuki)

DH: Jesus Montero (Kendrys Morales)

Quick Links: Tommy John, Lineups, Conversations

It’s been a long time since I’ve come across some items that are simply worthy of sharing without much further comment. But there have been two items to pass across my screen in the past few days that inspired such a post.

The first is a phenomenally thorough examination of the history of Tommy John surgery and some of the advanced ways in which doctors are learning about the procedure. Some of the ideas discussed, particularly a lot of the specifics regarding proper pitching mechanics, are quite interesting and thought provoking. Lindsay Berra’s article is in the MLB Preview Issue of ESPN The Magazine but can also be found online here.

One stat from her piece that I found interesting has to do with how much time (and payroll) has been lost by players missing time due to TJ surgery over the past five seasons:

14,232 total regular season days. $193,503,317 in salary.

Just this Spring we’ve seen Ryan Madson, Joakin Soria, Sergio Escalona, and Joel Zumaya go down with injury requiring TJ surgery, plus a handful of minor leaguers. This, unfortunately, seems to be a growing trend.

Elsewhere, Graham Womack has been conducting voting for his latest project over at Baseball: Past and Present. His quest is to determine what the top All Time Dream Lineup would look like. There are still two days to vote, if you’re interested. But he’s posted some other top lineups – all California born, all under 5’9”, for some examples – that are really worth a read.

Finally, there’s one last item that I need to share. And I’m overdue in getting a link to this up here at the site.

A few weeks ago I sat down and spent some time talking with Daniel Shoptaw in the latest Episode for his Conversations With C70 series. Daniel runs a St. Louis Cardinals blog and was the founder of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. We spent roughly an hour talking baseball and blogging. You can listen to the entirety of our conversation here.

Season Preview: National League West

With Opening Day just about two weeks away and 25-man rosters starting to take shape, it seems as good a time as any to start to preview the upcoming season. For a change of pace, I’m going to run with a bit of a different format this year and view things one division at a time.

We’ll cover each division in no particular order. Let’s start with the NL West.

Top 5 Moves Since Last Season:

1. San Diego trades right-hander Mat Latos to the Cincinnati Reds for first baseman Yonder Alonso, catcher Yasmani Grandal, and right-handers Edison Volquez and Brad Boxberger.

2. Los Angeles signs center fielder Matt Kemp to an 8 year, $160 Million contract extension.

3. Colorado trades catcher Chris Iannetta to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for right-hander Tyler Chatwood. Colorado then signs catcher Ramon Hernandez.

4. San Francisco and Los Angeles announce contract extensions for Tim Lincecum and Clayton Kershaw.

5. Arizona trades right-handers Jarrod Parker and Ryan Cook and center fielder Collin Cowgill to the Oakland Athletics for right-hander Trevor Cahill and left-hander Craig Breslow.

Key Acquisitions:

Arizona (Cahill), Colorado (Michael Cuddyer, Jeremy Guthrie), Los Angeles (None), San Diego (Alonso, Huston Street), San Francisco (None)

Key Losses:

Arizona (Parker), Colorado (Street), Los Angeles (Hiroki Kuroda), San Diego (Latos, Heath Bell), San Francisco (None)

Predictions:

Cy Young – Clayton Kershaw (Honorable mention: Ian Kennedy)

MVP – Justin Upton (Honorable mention: Troy Tulowitski)

Rookie of the Year – Wilin Rosario (Honorable mention: Trevor Bauer, Drew Pomeranz)

Standings:

  1. Arizona
  2. Colorado
  3. San Francisco
  4. Los Angeles
  5. San Diego

 

All Division Team:

Finally, let’s close things out with my pre-2012 All Division Team*. Eligible candidates consist of each team’s projected starter heading into Opening Day. We’ll revisit these lists again once the season concludes.

* Honorable mentions in parentheses.

1B: Yonder Alonso (Paul Goldschmidt)

2B: Marco Scutaro (Aaron Hill)

3B: Pablo Sandoval (Chase Headley)

SS: Troy Tulowitski (Stephen Drew if healthy, in this case Dee Gordon)

RF: Justin Upton (Michael Cuddyer)

CF: Matt Kemp (Cameron Maybin)

LF: Carlos Gonzalez (Gerardo Parra)

C: Buster Posey (Miguel Montero)

The Unresolved Theo Epstein Compensation Issue

This past October, the Boston Red Sox unsurprisingly granted the Chicago Cubs permission to speak with then-GM Theo Epstein about a possible opportunity within their front office. Their reasons for allowing such discussions to take place were two fold – there was a growing belief that the Red Sox and Epstein both knew that their relationship was rapidly coming to an end anyways and the Cubs agreed to compensate the Red Sox should they end up hiring Epstein. By month’s end, Epstein had accepted an offer to become the Cubs’ new Team President of Baseball Operations, leaving the Red Sox and the final year on his contract with the team behind in Boston.

Since October, Epstein has settled in with the Cubs. He hired Jed Hoyer (a former Assistant GM under Epstein in Boston) away from the San Diego Padres to be his GM (yet another compensation matter that has yet to be resolved, by the way). The pair have since begun what looks to be a lengthy, but methodical, rebuilding process that the Cubs organization severely needs.

Meanwhile, Boston turned the reigns of their front office over to Ben Cherington (another former Epstein Assistant GM). The team has made marginal improvements this winter as they’ve found themselves somewhat handicapped by a number of immovable contracts. The Red Sox will head into the 2012 season facing a number of big questions, but should still find themselves in a better position to compete than the Cubs.

Now, four months later and on the verge of the start of Spring Training, there still is no resolution to the compensation issue between the two teams. And we don’t seem any closer to there being an end to this issue.

This all begs the question: why hasn’t this been resolved?

For obvious reasons, the bulk of the discussions that have taken place between the two sides have remained hidden from the public. There have been, of course, a number of items leaked to the public over the course of this process, with a likelihood that sources of this information have come from both sides of the discussions. These sources have provided details on some of the frustrations each side has encountered and even some of the names that have been brought up throughout the process.

Two of the more frequently mentioned names that the Red Sox have allegedly asked for are Brett Jackson and Trey McNutt. Jackson split the 2011 season between the Cubs’ Double-A and Triple-A affiliates. Upon reaching Triple-A in the latter half of the season, he impressed at the plate, batting .297/.388/.551 over 215 plate appearances. The center fielder was a 1st Round pick in the 2009 Draft and has twice been named to Baseball America’s preseason Top 100 lists, was recently named the #89 best prospect by ESPN’s Keith Law, and is the top prospect in the Cubs’ organization heading into the 2012 season by most accounts.

McNutt, meanwhile, was taken in the 32nd Round of the 2009 Draft. The right-hander spent the 2011 season in Double-A, where he made 22 starts and pitched 95.0 innings. He finished the season 5-6 with a 4.55 ERA and an uncharacteristically high 1.674 WHIP. The season was largely a disappointment for McNutt and the Cubs, as he seemed to stall in his development with a full season at Double-A. Baseball America still thinks highly enough of McNutt that he was ranked as the 4th best prospect in the team’s minor league system heading into the 2012 season. He profiles as a future mid-rotation option.

At one point in time there was a belief that Boston had brought up Matt Garza in discussions. Garza, whom the Cubs had acquired from Tampa Bay 13 months ago, went 10-10 in his first season outside the AL East. In 198.0 innings he pitched to a 3.32 ERA, 1.258 WHIP, and a career high 9.0 K/9. The Red Sox were expected to pursue starting pitching depth this winter. In a surprising move, the Cubs reportedly were willing to deal Garza throughout much of the winter months, yet they never seemed to commit to such an idea by formally putting him on the trade market. It is believed that at one point Boston approached the idea of a trade for Garza in which they’d surrender a lesser package of players – essentially taking advantage of the outstanding compensation concern in order to acquire a high quality starting pitcher. As expected, the Cubs quickly shot down such an idea.

Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe shared some interesting quotes from Cherington at the very end of January. Most were your general run-of-the-mill “we can’t really comment on specifics but here’s an overly generalized answer” variety responses. But one certainly illustrates the lack of progress the situation has seen to this point:

There was an expectation when Theo left that the Red Sox would receive significant compensation for allowing the Cubs to hire him and we haven’t been able to agree on what ‘significant compensation’ means.

Now I can’t speak with any degree of certainty as to what Cherington, Epstein, the Red Sox, or the Cubs would consider “significant compensation”. But there is somewhat of a precedent here which we can use as sort of a baseline to work from. The situations were much different in each of these cases, but there is still a certain degree of relevance to each case.

Most recently, the Miami Marlins sent a pair of minor leaguers to the Chicago White Sox in late September in order for Chicago to let Manager Ozzie Guillen out of the final year of his contract. Miami then signed Guillen to a four year deal. The White Sox received right-hander Jhan Marinez and shortstop Ozzie Martinez as compensation in the agreement. Though neither player has made a significant name for themselves in their minor league careers to date Baseball America recently ranked the pair as the 7th and 10th best prospects in Chicago’s minor league system, though it’s worth noting that the White Sox have the worst overall farm system in all of Major League Baseball by many accounts. We won’t know how this agreement turns out for some time, as neither Marinez or Martinez are considered near-MLB ready.

After the 2002 season the Tampa Bay Devil Rays wanted to hire Lou Piniella to be their manager, but Piniella was still under contract with the Seattle Mariners for at least one more season. As a result, the Rays agreed to compensate the Mariners for allowing Piniella out of his contract. Seattle would receive outfielder Randy Winn while Tampa Bay would be allowed to sign Piniella and received infielder Antonio Perez. Winn would spent two and a half seasons in Seattle, batting a combined .287/.345/.417 with 31 HR and 193 RBI in 1,799 total plate appearances before being traded to San Francisco at the 2005 Trade Deadline. Perez spent one season in Tampa Bay and hasn’t appeared in the Majors since 2006. In 557 career plate appearances over four seasons he holds a .244/.320/.347 line.

Each of these situations centered on a manager moving from one organization to another, as opposed to a member of the team’s front office. Again, the circumstances are different here – a factor we cannot overlook. However, in each situation the compensation surrendered would not fall under “significant” by any means. None of the players involved in these two situations contributed in a significant enough manner that it drastically affected the future of their respective organization.

While rarer, there have been situations in the past where a team has agreed to compensate another organization for a member of the front office. When the Cubs originally hired Andy MacPhail away from the Minnesota Twins after the 1994 season, the organization agreed to send the Twins a minor league prospect as compensation. Minnesota received right-hander Hector Trinidad. He’d never reach the Major Leagues.

Just what do these situations mean for the Epstein situation? In short, not much aside from serving as a baseline giving the Cubs ample reason to stand pat. Players such as Jackson, McNutt, and Garza are just simply too valuable to be considered as compensation for Epstein.

ESPN’s Buster Olney wrote about the unresolved issue back on February 1st. Even he, someone more “in the know” than I am, can’t seem to wrap his head around the fact that this matter remains in such a state of flux, even after both sides have asked MLB Commissioner Bud Selig to settle the matter for them – something Selig does not want to have to do. Olney, however, did suggest a partial solution which actually sounds reasonable:

One way Selig could stay out of it is insisting the Cubs and Red Sox finish the compensation issue, while imposing fines on both organizations for each day that the thing remains unresolved.

Olney’s idea would certainly provide additional incentive for each side to come to an agreement on this compensation matter. However, if the two sides haven’t been able to reach an agreement after four months of discussions, would the threat of a fine really expedite the process at this point? There’s really no way to know. With Spring Training just a few days away – at least the official start, as players have been trickling into camps across Florida and Arizona for much of the past week – it seems safe to assume that both the Cubs and Red Sox would prefer to find a resolution to this entire issue sooner rather than later.

Should the Red Sox continue with their insistence that the Cubs give them a player from their minor league system as compensation, they need to understand that this player will not be coming from the team’s Major League roster. It’s also highly unlikely the player comes from the Cubs’ upper minor league teams. Once again, the Andy MacPhail situation serves as a precedent here. It is worth noting that the original agreement took place 18 years ago. There is some degree of inflation that should be taken into account, considering the differences in Major League salaries between then and now.

That said, Trinidad was a right-handed starting pitcher who had posted respectable, though not spectacular numbers through his first four seasons as a professional. He had made it up to Double-A during the 1993 campaign, though that was only for four late season starts after jumping directly from Class A. He struggled in those four outings, going 1-3 with a 6.57 ERA and 1.662 WHIP. His last season in the Chicago organization, 1994, was spent back down at High-A. In 27 starts he posted an 11-9 record with a 3.23 ERA and 1.201 WHIP in 175.1 innings.

Once he joined the Twins organization, Trinidad started out with their Double-A affiliate. He’d spend the better part of the next three seasons there, never posting an ERA lower than 3.84 but also never winning more than 6 games. By the end of the 1997 season, Trinidad was out of baseball altogether.

While this is merely the tale of one individual, it still one worth noting as it’s a reminder that not every prospect ultimately works out. In fact, more of them fail to live up to their potential than not. These discussions between the Red Sox and Cubs have continued now for nearly four months without any progress towards a resolution. Boston has continued their insistence that they receive “significant compensation” from the Cubs for allowing them to hire Epstein. To the Red Sox, “significant compensation” seems to mean a player who could eventually help their Major League club down the road but those expectations are just simply too high. In the end, the two sides should have agreed to specific parameters regarding compensation well before the Cubs made Epstein’s hiring official. By not having this agreement in place in advance, the Red Sox surrendered every piece of leverage that they held in these negotiations.

Spring Training begins in just a few days and we appear to be just as far from a resolution to this issue as we were back in October. There seems to be no urgency from either side to work out a resolution, despite the seemingly obvious reasons to get this completed sooner rather than later. Boston needs to remember that their relationship with Epstein was coming to an end anyways and, in a way, the Cubs actually did them a favor by hiring him away from the Red Sox before his contract was completed. And with the unpredictable nature of how minor leaguers will develop, maybe the Red Sox need to finally back off their demands.

Realistically, what would be better at this point, some minor leaguer who may or may not develop into a valuable piece of the organization’s future or a check for $1 Million? Maybe it’s just me, but at this point if I were the Red Sox I’d settle for the check so that once and for all we could all move on from this mess of a situation.

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