Before I get into the big topic of the week, which is Major League Baseball’s potential playoff format changes, there’s some old stuff to address. First, the Red Sox and Dodgers blockbuster finally went through, as Mookie Betts and David Price were sent to Los Angeles in a massive salary dump to save Boston some cash.
Lost in all of this is Joc Pederson, who was supposed to be traded down the street from the Dodgers to the Angels in a corresponding deal. Instead, Pederson remains a Dodger as Angels owner Art Moreno apparently grew impatient and pulled the deal as the Dodgers and Sox got things sorted out on their end.
There’s been plenty of talk now about where Pederson is going to end up. The Dodgers have Betts and Bellinger in their outfield and one more spot that will likely be mostly occupied by A.J. Pollock, the team’s major free-agent splash from last off-season. L.A. is heavy into using multi-position players in platoons all over the field, so we’ll see other Dodgers like Enrique Hernandez and Chris Taylor play in the outfield while Bellinger sees time at first base, but Pederson is sort of left in limbo.
Given the fact he’s owed $7,750,000 this year, the Dodgers surely don’t want him spending most of his time coming off the bench. Pederson and Pollock is also a really, really expensive platoon to chuck in left field. I mean, if the Dodgers did want to roll with that, they wouldn’t have put together a deal to send Pederson to the Angels for Luis Rengifo.
Still would make sense for #Dodgers to move Joc Pederson, who is earning $7.75M in 2020. He represents excess, both financially and in outfield. Both he and Stripling now will return to a team that nearly traded them. And with Muncy-Lux at 2B, Taylor-Hernandez will play in OF.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 10, 2020
Should the Jays be in on Pederson? They’re loaded up with corner outfielders already, but adding a bat like Pederson’s to the lineup isn’t something to scoff at, especially if the price isn’t that high. He slashed a .249/.339/.538 line with 36 homers last year and would give the Jays a much-needed big lefty bat in the middle of their lineup.
Rengifo, the guy who was supposed to go back to the Angels in exchange, is a 23-year-old middle infielder who produced a .685 OPS in his rookie season in the Majors. He hit well in Triple-A before that, slashing a .273/.336/.464 line, but has never been a highly-touted prospect.
If Santiago Espinal tickles the Dodgers’ fancy, this would be a great deal for the Jays, even if Pederson only has a year of control left. He could end up getting flipped for a lot more at the trade deadline. He could also, ya know, help the team be good this year.
Next up, apparently former Blue Jay Mike Bolsinger, one of the guys who made their final MLB appearance against the sign-stealing Astros in 2017, is suing the organization for changing the course of his career.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) February 10, 2020
On the surface, this might seem completely absurd. Bolsinger was a fringe pitcher who probably didn’t have much role left in the Majors before the Astros teed off on him that day, but he has a good motive here. Bolsinger wants the Astros players to forfeit the cash they earned from the World Series and donate it to multiple charities.
But the damage they did to Mike Bolsinger – to his career and to his whole life – was particularly harsh, and the former Toronto Blue Jays pitcher wants them held accountable. Bolsinger filed a civil lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday, accusing the Astros of unfair business practices, negligence and intentional interference with contractual and economic relations.
Yes, Bolsinger is seeking unspecified damages, but they’re not all for himself. He wants the Astros to forfeit the roughly $31 million in bonuses from their ill-gotten World Series title, and for the money to go to charities in Los Angeles focused on bettering kids’ lives, as well as to create a fund for retired baseball players who need financial assistance.
There’s almost no way Bolsinger can win this case because, again, he had a 5.49 ERA heading into the game and cleared waivers earlier in the season, but, still, it’s a noble cause. Also, if he lets the case drag on in a civil court, a whole bunch of Astros-related information will make its way out into the public. If Bolsinger is really out to make the Astros pay in any way he can, that’d be the way to do it.
And, finally, there’s this…
https://t.co/RDTj5m8cBd EXCLUSIVE: MLB is planning a radical change to their postseason perhaps by 2022, hoping to move from 5 to 7 teams in each league and — get this — have the teams with the best records pick their playoff opponents.
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) February 10, 2020
In this concept, the team with the best record in each league would receive a bye to avoid the wild-card round and go directly to the Division Series. The two other division winners and the wild card with the next-best record would each host all three games in a best-of-three wild-card round. So the bottom three wild cards would have no first-round home games.
The division winner with the second-best record in a league would then get the first pick of its opponent from those lower three wild cards, then the other division winner would pick, leaving the last two wild cards to play each other.
There’s… a lot going on here. Ultimately, what it comes down to is MLB wants to increase the value of the post-season to broadcasters. FOX’s TV deal, which runs through 2028, includes the World Series, two Division Series, and a League Championship Series, but Turner and ESPN’s deals expire after 2021, creating an opening for MLB to make a change that could possibly add value to future deals. In this, not only would you be adding substantially more playoff games, but you’d also be creating a big, forced TV spectacle in which teams are choosing who they want to play in the playoffs. Lots and lots of cash for MLB!
Personally, I don’t hate the idea of picking who you play. Even though this drama is forced, it’s fun. It would stir shit up and create beef between teams and players. Just imagine the Astros saying they wanted to face Cleveland and then getting mowed down by a bitter Trevor Bauer who proceeds to shit talk them on Twitter after the game. It’s fun stuff and baseball could use some more Everything Is Wrestling drama to it.
The 14-team playoff, though? I’m not so sure. This really waters down the talent in the playoffs and makes the already insanely long season feel even more meaningless. Think about the NBA, which has 16 teams in the playoffs, more than half of which have zero chance of winning the Championship. The first round is like a formality.
It would also validate teams staying in middling limbo. Think about Boston, for example. They could deal away Betts, which costs them, like, seven wins, and then make the playoffs as a middling team, facing virtually zero ramifications for being cheap. We could also end up with NHL-style parity in which nobody is making big, mid-season trades because almost everyone is in the same middling bubble.
Major League Baseball doesn’t do all that many things well, but the playoffs are their bread and butter. Making too many changes to the best thing the league does is a very, very slippery slope.