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Will proposed rule changes have any influence on MLB’s biggest problems?

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Will proposed rule changes have any influence on MLB’s biggest problems?

Designated hitter coming to the National League? Minimum number of hitters for a pitcher to face? Clocks and mound visits and more?

The annual disbursement of possible rule changes landed this week. Multiple reports outlined the ideas being discussed by Major League Baseball and the players’ union. Some are small. Some significant. All discussed on the latest Racing President podcast.

Two major suggestions came from the reports:

-- Make the designated hitter universal starting in 2019.
-- Force pitchers to face a three-batter minimum.

Let’s tackle the DH issue first. 

The American League adopted this rule in 1973. The NL has held onto pitchers hitting, adding more strategy, and less offense, to the game since then. This is not the first push for both leagues to play with the DH. Altering the National League -- and doing so in a way that flushes a type of baseball for good -- is one part of the discussion. The other is the possible immediacy of the change. A week before spring training would be an unfair time to push the DH into the National League. Team rosters are in place (for the most part). Players signed contracts based on being part of a platoon as opposed to a full-time DH. Think of Matt Adams. His value would rise if he could be a DH. Here, he would be stuck until next season because a rule change came in February and not November.

Forcing pitchers to face a minimum of three hitters would reduce in-game changes. That, presumably, speeds the action of the game up. It also hinders strategy for the manager of the pitching team. He can’t counter the opposition’s counter if forced to keep a specific pitcher in the game. 

Of note here is both proposals are geared to boost offense. Pitchers -- who hit a combined .115 last season -- would be replaced by resident thumpers. High-octane bullpens would be challenged in both workload and advantage if pitchers were forced to face a minimum of three batters.

Other proposed ideas include reducing mound visits; an expansion of rosters from 25 to 26 in 2020, with an accompanying reduction from 40 to 28 in September; increasing the minimum time a player spends on the disabled list (a rule that was changed in 2016 when the DL dropped from 15 days to 10); and increasing the minimum time an optioned player stays in the minor leagues. 

The previous change to the disabled list caused teams to place more players on it, in turn rotating the middle relief of their pitching staff along with available players from the minor leagues. Forcing an optioned player to remain longer in the minors, as well as increasing the minimum time a player can spend on the DL, should reduce manipulation of that process.

Baseball’s main question is how much impact any of this would really have. The league and its players want to increase the speed of and action in games. They want to be more relatable to younger generations in order to counter recent attendance slippage. They also want to modernize everything involved within and outside of the game in a pulsating digital society. 

Will these proposals do any of that? The Racing Presidents crew isn’t so sure. Take a listen.

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Nationals could be a landing spot for Kyle Seager if Mariners make him available

Nationals could be a landing spot for Kyle Seager if Mariners make him available

It was a difficult Wednesday evening for Nationals fans, who were forced to swallow a tough dose of reality when reports surfaced that Anthony Rendon was signing with the Los Angeles Angels.

That’s thrust the team into a thin third base market headlined by Josh Donaldson but doesn’t boast many viable options beyond him. Kris Bryant and Nolan Arenado were both mentioned in trade rumors during the Winter Meetings, but the Nationals would be hard-pressed to acquire either of them with the significant prospect capital that would be requested in return.

But another option emerged Thursday night when The Athletic reported that the “possibility is increasing” of the Seattle Mariners trading Kyle Seager. The 32-year-old veteran has hit just .236 since 2017 but has at least 20 home runs each of the past eight seasons. Originally thought to be untradeable, Seager has reportedly drawn the interest of “multiple teams.”

The Mariners signed Seager to a seven-year, $100 million contract after a 2014 season in which he posted a .788 OPS and won a Gold Glove. The wrinkle in Seager’s trade value, however, is a $15 million team option for 2022 that converts to a player option if traded. That would guarantee him $52 million over the next three seasons, giving pause to teams who might be wary about his ability to perform at the plate.

But with Donaldson expected to garner a four-year deal despite entering his age-34 season, Arenado signed for $234 million over the next eight years and the Chicago Cubs likely seeking top prospects in return for Bryant, Seager may be the most affordable option for a team like the Nationals.

Washington’s farm system ranks among the lower third of the league, boasting just two consensus top-100 prospects in Carter Kieboom and Luis Garcia. The Nationals likely wouldn’t be able to compete with clubs that have deeper farm systems for Bryant, while Arenado is signed to a similar deal that Rendon just received. As for Donaldson, Washington is certainly in the running but is far from the only team interested and could very well lose out.

Seager presents All-Star upside and while he’d be due salaries north of $18 million each of the next two years with the 2022 player option, that would be at worst about the same average annual value Donaldson is likely to demand at two years older. In addition, Seager’s $19.5 million salary next season is just above Rendon’s 2019 total of $18.8 million, making the increase in payroll at the position would be marginal.

It’d by no means replace the production the Nationals lost when Rendon signed with the Angels, but trading for Seager would certainly be a more attractive option than signing the remaining third basemen left in free agency beyond Donaldson: Asdrubal Cabrera, Brock Holt, Todd Frazier, Pablo Sandoval and Maikel Franco, just to name a few.

Seattle doesn’t appear likely to make a trade anytime soon, but Seager’s trade availability will be worth watching as the offseason progresses.


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Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen claims the Mets have 'probably the deepest rotation in baseball'

Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen claims the Mets have 'probably the deepest rotation in baseball'

By signing Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha this week, the Mets have built out quite the collection of starting pitchers. 

Porcello and Wacha will join Jacob de Grom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman and Steven Matz in New York's starting rotation, a group general manager Brodie Van Wagenen thinks quite highly of. 

"There was a lot talked about our lack of starting pitching depth over the last couple of weeks," Van Wagenen said on SNYtv Thursday. "I think that story has changed, and I think that we're probably the deepest starting pitching rotation in baseball."

Considering the Mets share a division with the Nationals, who still boast a starting rotation headlined by Max Scherzer, World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin, this is a pretty bold statement by Van Wagenen. 

Obviously he's the general manager and he has to say positive things about the club he's putting together. But to say those exact words on the heels of a rival winning a World Series because of their rotation? 

The Mets will host the Nationals in the first series of the season starting on March 26, so we may not have to wait long for these two rotations to face off.