Sunday Notes: First Trades, Yost, Maddon, Roberts, Trout, more

It has been said that everyone remembers their first. With that in mind, I recently asked a trio of general managers/presidents of baseball operations about the initial trades they made as big-league decision makers. One of the responses began with a refutation of a report.

“Deadspin actually wrote an article about what was supposedly my first transaction,” said White Sox GM Rick Hahn. “That was trading Kenny Williams, Jr. to the Colorado Rockies (in November 2012). However, I didn’t actually do that trade. It was announced a couple of days after I became GM, but Kenny had already put that in place with Dan O’Dowd. It was a good story — it looked like an old-time mob move to settle things with Kenny’s family — but in reality it was all Kenny.

Hahn couldn’t recall his first trade — records show it was Brandon Kloess to San Diego for Blake Tekotte — but he remembers his first transaction and his first major deal. Right after being hired he re-signed Jake Peavy, and the following summer he sent Peavy to Boston in three-team swap that netted Avisail Garcia, Frankie Montas and JB Wendelken.

Reds president Walt Jocketty made his first trade in November 1994 when he was the GM in St. Louis. He remembered it was “a small one” — records show he dealt a PTBNL to Atlanta for Ramon Caraballo — and that his trade partner was John Schuerholz.

Several years later, in 2003, Jocketty and Schuerholz made a bigger trade. They did it the old-fashioned way.

“I traded him JD Drew and Eli Marrero for Adam Wainwright, Jason Marquis and Ray King,” said Jocketty. “We exchanged ideas at the GM meetings over dinner and cocktails, had several phone calls in between, then met at the winter meetings in New Orleans. We had a drink or two that night, then finished the deal off the next day.”

In 2005, the then-youngest GM in either league made his first deal in similar fashion.

“My first trade was for Jon Leicester,” said Rangers president and general manager Jon Daniels. “I traded Clint Brannon, who was an undersized lefthander we’d taken in the draft, for Leicester, who was out of options. (Cubs general manager) Jim Hendry and I made the deal at the GM meetings. We did it at Kevin Towers’ birthday party, at the end of the night.”

———

Changing teams is part of the game. For CJ Riefenhauser it’s becoming old hat in a hurry. The 26-year-old reliever experienced his first organizational relocation this past offseason. And his second. And then his third.

Originally drafted by Tampa Bay in 2010, Riefenhauser was playing winter ball in Venezuela when he was beckoned from the bullpen and told he’d been traded to Seattle. He found the news “exciting,” but having always been a Ray, he also had “a nervous feeling.”

Riefenhauser called his father — “I had to use somebody’s prepaid phone, because we didn’t have wifi at the park” — and asked him to alert his agent. After the game, he was able to “bang out a bunch of calls and texts” from his hotel, but because of cell service and time zones, he wasn’t able to connect with Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto until two days later.

Less than a month later, in early December, he was on a train when he learned he’d been dealt to the Orioles.

“I was on the Metro North, on my way home from Manhattan,” explained Riefenhauser. “That was kind of surprising. I wasn’t prepared for it, but at the same time, I looked at it as another opportunity. I was going to go out and pitch, and just worry about controlling the controllables.”

The suddenly well-traveled southpaw is now under Cubs control, having been claimed off waivers by Chicago’s North Side squad earlier this month.

“I was a Mariner for three weeks, then I was an Oriole,” said Riefenhauser. “They ended up designating me a week before camp, the Cubs claimed me on a Friday, and I flew out to Arizona that Sunday. It’s been kind of crazy.”

———

The Royals’ reputation of being anti-sabermetrics is somewhat overblown. They employ talented analysts and, like all teams, utilize data to their advantage. Ned Yost — aka World Series-winning manager New Yost — is nonetheless an adherent of old-school assessment. That much was apparent when I asked him which tools he uses to evaluate pitchers.

“I mostly use my eyeballs,” Yost told me. “[Pitching coach] Dave Eiland looks at all the charts and the spin rates. I look at that stuff too, but for me it’s the eyeball more than anything else. I look at what guys need to improve, the action on their pitches, the finish on their pitches, the life on their fastballs. You can see that with the naked eye.”

I mentioned Chris Young, whose stuff doesn’t exactly jump off the page.

“Everybody is different and Chris Young is 6-10,” said Yost. “With his deception, he can throw that fastball up in the zone all day long and it drives the opposition crazy. It drove me crazy. Why can’t we hit this guy? He’s throwing 86-87 mph and we’re popping up and striking out.”

Yost allowed that he’s asked other pitchers to work up in the zone, as “It’s a good weapon.” Does data, including spin rate, factor into those suggestions?

“Not really,” said Yost. “It’s eyeballs more than anything.”

———

Joe Maddon believes it is possible to create chemistry. The Cubs manager knows that a lot of people will disagree with that opinion, often because “they’ve never tried to do it before.” He cited building relationships, creating trust, and the interaction that creates an open exchange of ideas. Once that occurs, a winning attitude and culture can follow, and hopefully sustain itself.

Maddon is enamored with the character he sees in his young team.

“These are good people,” opined Maddon. “They’re kind of egoless in a sense. We all have our egos, but there’s that group that’s able to shove it in their back pocket when it’s necessary. I think these guys are of that ilk.”

———

Just how progressive a manager Dave Roberts will be remains to be seen. The 43-year-old former outfielder has big-league coaching experience, but he’s never been at the helm at any level. His first opportunity will be in a fishbowl. Roberts was hired in November to skipper the large-market, high-expectations Los Angeles Dodgers.

This past week, I had a chance to ask Roberts about bullpen leverage and the third-time-through-the-order penalty. I began with his willingness to use his closer prior to the ninth inning.

“There is definitely a case to be made for that,” responded Roberts. “I’ve had conversations with Kenley (Jansen) about going one-plus. There are a lot of variables, like prior usage, but when you’re in the postseason, you extend closers. I believe there is logic in extending them one-plus during the season, as well.”

What about using his closer in the eighth and then going match-up with his best set-up men in the ninth?

“That’s another conversation,” said Roberts. “If you have their three best hitters coming up in the eighth, there’s certainly a case to be made for using your best relief pitcher at that point. But I don’t think we’re there yet, because we’re very comfortable with who we have in the eighth inning: Chris Hatcher.”

Roberts proceeded to double back, saying there are times he’d like to go to Kenley Jansen for an out in the eighth, then bring him back for the ninth. As for not allowing his starters (the ones not named Clayton Kershaw) to go through the order a third time, Roberts said every pitcher is different and the numbers speak for themselves. He believes it’s the coaching staff’s job to monitor the situation on a case to case basis.

———

Earlier this week, Red Sox principal owner John Henry told a group of reporters, “We have perhaps overly relied on numbers.” Those words were the crux of a more-expansive critique of recent seasons, and they were interpreted in wildly different ways by a pair of Boston Globe writers.

Dan Shaughnessy’s take was, “Hallelujah. This represents a major win for the tobacco-spitting scouts, and a defeat for the sun-starved pencil pushers.”

Alex Speier, addressing the bigger picture, wrote, “The team has expanded the budget of its analytics department and plans to add staff to that department. Its belief in the ability of analysis to create an edge remains very much intact.”

Rashomon effect, anyone?

———

Per Matt Eddy of Baseball America, the Royals have signed Jon Denney to a minor league contract. The deal represents a second chance for the 21-year-old catcher. Denney received an $875,000 signing bonus after being selected in the third round of the 2013 draft by the Red Sox, but his career quickly went south. Denney ran afoul of the law the following spring training and was eventually released. To this point in his career, he’s appeared in just 26 professional games.

Considered one of the top high school catchers in the country in his draft year, Denney has a lot of rust to shake off after sitting out two seasons. The odds are stacked against him, but he’s young enough to revive a once-promising career — assuming his maturity level has closed the gap with his tool set.

———

Mike Trout shared his desire to steal more bases when he met with the media on Wednesday. He also weighed in on WAR, which he professes to not fully comprehend.

“I’ve been here for a couple of years and I still haven’t figured out what that stuff means,” said Trout. “I leave that up to you guys to figure out. I don’t worry about stats. I just play the game and the end of the year my WAR is whatever. That’s what it is. Wins Above Replacement. I know that, but that’s about it.”

And then there was the subject of meteorology. As many of you know, the all-everything outfielder is a bit of a weather geek. Actually, that might be an understatement.

“My girlfriend tells me that I’m crazy, because I’m up every hour seeing the snow fall,” admitted Trout. “I like the stuff, man. I like thunderstorms. Obviously, tornadoes are bad because they wipe out towns and cities.”

Where did the geekdom come from?

“My dad got me into it when I was a kid,” said Trout. ”I always liked to watch snowstorms and stuff, to see what we’re getting. It’s something I like to do for sure.”

———

Rich Dubroff of CSN Mid Atlantic shared a great factoid yesterday. According to Dubroff, the Orioles have the longest current streak of selecting players in the Rule-5 draft, 10 years, and three of their last four selections are still with the team: Ryan Flaherty, T.J. McFarland and Jason Garcia. Michael Almanzar, who was taken two years ago, is the exception.

———

If you’re a fan of interviews with former players, Graham Womack has been doing some great ones for The Sporting News. In recent months, Womack has talked to Steve Garvey, Bobby Grich, Tommy John, Jim Kaat, Dale Murphy and Billy Wagner. They’re well worth your time.

———

Art Spander was a columnist for The Sporting News when it was a must-read print publication in the 1970s and 1980s. He also wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Francisco Examiner, but he began his career with United Press International. His initial interaction with an MLB player was a doozy.

“It was 1960 and I was just starting out at UPI,” said Spander. “The sports editor for the west coast, Al Kahn, said to me, ‘Hey, can you run down and get some quotes after the game?’ I was 22 years old and eager, so I ran down there. Stu Miller had pitched and gotten knocked out of the box.

“The old LA Coliseum, where the Dodgers played before moving into Dodger Stadium, had doors on every locker, kind of a two-man cubicle thing. I went up and knocked on the little door. Miller opened it and said, ‘What do you want?’ I said, ‘How did you get knocked out of the box?’ He said, ‘Get the (bleep) out of here.’ That was my introduction to being a professional sports writer.”

———

RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

Tyler Clippard (.232) has the lowest BABiP-against of any pitcher over the past 10 seasons. Pat Neshek and Chris Young are tied for second-lowest at .239.

George Brett, Ken Griffey, Jr. and Tony Gwynn went a combined 4 for 41 against Scott Radinsky. Mario Diaz and Brent Gates went a combined 7 for 7 against Radinsky, who is currently the bullpen coach in Anaheim.

When the 1994 season ended in August due to a players’ strike, the Texas Rangers led the American League West with a record of 52-62.

In 1928, six of the eight teams in the National League had winning records. Only the Boston Braves (50-103) and Philadelphia Phillies (43-109) were under .500.

There have been two people named Lester Bangs in professional baseball. One played from 1915-1929, the other from 1946-1949.

A reminder that the fourth annual SABR Analytics Conference will be held March 10-12 at the Hyatt Regency in Phoenix.



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David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from February 2006-March 2011 and is a regular contributor to several publications. His first book, Interviews from Red Sox Nation, was published by Maple Street Press in 2006. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.


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pmacho
Member
pmacho
2 months 26 days ago

Do I really have to pay $350 to attend the analytics convention?
Doesn’t seem worth it

dl80
Member
dl80
2 months 26 days ago

The price is really excessive, in my mind. Academic conferences are $75-100. The only conferences I’ve ever seen that are this expensive are scam ones meant only to make a profit.

It’s a shame, because it means most people going are either connected to baseball or rolling in the dough. $600+ is really over the top.

Is this meant to be a money-maker for SABR? There’s no way the conference costs this much to run.

reggiethomaslive
Member
reggiethomaslive
2 months 25 days ago

Apple’s developer conference is $2k and sells out 5,000 seats in less than a minute now.

$350 seems super cheap, you’ll spend more on airfare and lodging.

dl80
Member
dl80
2 months 25 days ago

$350 is the student price. $600 is the non-student price.

Apple’s conference is for app developers. It includes time in the labs, one-on-one meetings with Apple engineers, etc.

The SABR conference is just for fun and does nothing for any our actual jobs (assuming we don’t work in baseball).

I mean, I guess the SABR conference is basically for GMs, scouts, etc. but it shouldn’t then be advertised on a fan site.

Comic Con, which I consider to be a pretty close anologue (for fans, non-academic) is $55 per day, for a grand total of $165 max.

The price here just isn’t fan-friendly (which is fine).

Jim
Member
Member
Jim
2 months 26 days ago

Perhaps, but if you come a couple days early or stay over a couple days you can see some exhibition games. Go early at 930, watch the teams work out and practice, then the game starts at 1. This is the fifth or sixth convention, and I haven’t missed one.

Owen S
Member
Owen S
2 months 26 days ago

Why does Trout INSIST on being the most boring human alive. Just to put all doubt to rest in regards to his boring-ness, he made sure to discuss how, ya know, the weather is like really interesting. Rain is cool. Snow is cool. Tornadoes are cool but like not cool at the same time.

Serbian to Vietnamese to French and back
Member
Serbian to Vietnamese to French and back
2 months 26 days ago

*Fixed:

Mike Trout to share their desire to steal more bases, when he met the media Wednesday. Hard on the war, and is not fully understood.

“I’m here for a few years now and I still don’t understand what this means,” said Salmon. I will leave it to you to figure out. Don’t worry about statistics. Just to play and at the end of the war. It is what it is. Victory instead. I know, but that’s all. ”

And topics in meteorology. As you know, all of baseball is a little bit of everything geek. In fact, it would be an understatement.

“My girlfriend told me I was crazy, because every time I’ve seen snow,” he confessed to the salmon. “I love this stuff, man. I love the storm. It is clear that the tornado is bad, because they destroy the city. ”

Geekdom is a case?

“My father is in it when I was a kid,” said Salmon. “I want to see snecne the storm and other things, let’s see what we get.” that’s what I like to do immediately. “

reggiethomaslive
Member
reggiethomaslive
2 months 25 days ago

It’s disappointing to hear he has a girlfriend. He should be sharing the gift from his massive loins as widely as possible to create a future army of baseball and softball superstars.

LHPSU
Member
LHPSU
2 months 25 days ago

Having a girlfriend does not preclude that.

MetsOptimist
Member
MetsOptimist
2 months 22 days ago

I think that his fascination with weather is wonderfully geeky.

oh Hal
Member
oh Hal
2 months 26 days ago

What is Maddon talking about? Surely not the players. It must be spin to tamp down the incredibly cocky attitudes.

Owen S
Member
Owen S
2 months 26 days ago

The Cubs don’t just perform a physical when acquiring a player; they also perform a “mental”. If any sign of ego is detected, they are allowed to rescind their offer.

jrl133
Member
jrl133
2 months 25 days ago

Let’s see if I can help you

Maddon thinks that “team chemistry” can be created, and if you don’t then it’s because you don’t know what it takes (as he does of course)

Wait, then he’s “enamored” with their “character”…which isn’t one of the traits he uses to define character

Then Freeway Joe goes on to describe his players as “egoless” or at least able to put their egos in their back pockets…which is a good thing because there’s only room in that clubhouse for one ego, and guess who gets to wear his 24/7?

cornflake5000
Member
cornflake5000
2 months 25 days ago

Did somebody piss in your breakfast cereal?

deadmanonleave
Member
Member
deadmanonleave
2 months 26 days ago

I know someone says it every week, but this is a Sunday treat!

Bernie Sanders
Member
Bernie Sanders
2 months 26 days ago

David, I’ll be glad to grant you an interview for next week’s edition.

TrueandCorrect
Member
TrueandCorrect
2 months 25 days ago

Maddon is such a pompous, arrogant, stubborn fool. Yeah, you can build chemistry. Tell me that when Soler is sitting on the bench for almost every game while Fat Boy Schwarber plays left, and the Cubs spent $150 mil. on Heyward and Fowler to put Soler on the bench. Yeah, and Baez will be thrilled sitting and watching as well.
Maddon is so full of his own b.s.; much like Boy Wonder, Theo, who insists on not moving Soler.
Hope the Cubs go another 100 years w/out a World Series.

cornflake5000
Member
cornflake5000
2 months 25 days ago

You’re fun! We should hang out. What’s your email?

TrueandCorrect
Member
TrueandCorrect
2 months 25 days ago

Thanks. I’m not politically correct. Not at 21, and not at 68. Can’t jerk around a young player with profound talent. and expect his undying loyalty. Maddox’s a bonehead, and I’m not a Theo fan.

JediHoyer
Member
JediHoyer
2 months 25 days ago

Like last year when he had the everyday job and even called himself lazy? I think theos track record speaks for itself. Schwarber works his ass off and his current power is basically what solers ceiling is. But yes soler being traded is a possibility, but also because almora will be ready next year. Maybe by team chemistry he just means people who lut in the work.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
2 months 25 days ago

This comment is not plausible.

Serbian to Vietnamese to French and back
Member
Serbian to Vietnamese to French and back
2 months 25 days ago

Maddon was crazy pompous, arrogant, stubborn. Yes, you can build chemistry. Because I know that when you sit on the bench for most Soler while the big guy left cubs play tip SCHVARBER 150 million. Hayward and Fowler Soler put on the bench. Simone will have enthusiasm for sit and watch.

Maddon is full of shit; Like a miracle, so pressing Soler.

We hope that 100 years without panda / van at the World Cup.

dl80
Member
dl80
2 months 25 days ago

“We hope that 100 years without (Fat) panda at the World Cup.”

Starting now, that’s looking pretty good!

Johan Santa
Member
2 months 25 days ago

SCHVARBER!!!!!!

Blinzler
Member
Blinzler
2 months 25 days ago

Between Shaughnessy and Speier, the latter is actually a journalist and not a lazy fat populist who likes rant just about anything.

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