Some things to talk about while I point you to one of the best t-shirts ever designed...
1) Phillies draft mess
One of the biggest baseball stories from Thursday was this bizarre one on the Phillies turning in one of their draft picks who went back to school to the NCAA. That meant said player, fifth-round pick Ben Wetzler is ineligible until the investigation into the "No agents" rule is concluded.
Lots of good stuff on the topic, including Aaron Fitt's original article on the topic here, this Baseball America article on Andy Oliver's case getting settled and the reinstatement of the "no agent" rules and this story from Buster Olney about the ramifications of the situation.
Early indications are those could be pretty severe for the Phillies. Take these:
Hearing from one agent after another today about the Ben Wetzler situation. There will be repercussions for the Phillies.— Aaron Fitt (@aaronfitt) February 20, 2014
One agent: "As of today, Phillies are out. Phillies are not getting into any more of our households. We're shutting down all communications"— Aaron Fitt (@aaronfitt) February 20, 2014
One of the ways that players can block the Phillies here is to deny them access to their medical records. Without knowing more about a player's medicals, the Phillies will be at a distinct disadvantage in drafting players. Maybe this will be isolated to one agent. But, if it's a big agency involved and they decide to cut the Phillies off? Bad News Bears.
I know we've had a few comments here and there on this, but I'd like to get more opinions from you on this. Did the Phillies cross a line? I'm torn myself about it. While I don't think they did anything despicable, no one covers themselves in glory by siding with the NCAA. For that alone, I'm tempted to side with the agents/players.
2) Grossman primed to improve?
Jason Collette is killing it on FanGraphs, and this article on Robbie Grossman was great. In it, Collette looks at the changes Grossman made to his approach in the second half and why that small sample size might be significant.
The changes allowed Grossman to hit the ball with more authority, as the average distance on his flyballs increased 13 feet from the first half to the second half and hit 13 extra base hits in 157 plate appearances before being shelved with an oblique injury just after Labor Day.
One of the most important comparisons for me was when Collette remarked on how Josh Donaldson did something similar before turning into an MVP candidate in 2013. Bob Grossman won't be that good as a power-starved left fielder. But, there's a very good chance he is much improved, even over his spartan projections.
Nay, I'd go so far as to predict Grossman is Houston's most improved player by the end of the year.
3) The other side of the Fister trade
One of the biggest criticism of Jeff Luhnow and the front office this winter is they should have been involved in the Doug Fister trade. The argument goes that the Nationals gave up so little for him that Luhnow should have involved himself in some way, because the Astros could have trumped the offer.
"The only part I take exception to -- and I've read it a couple of times -- is that we didn't do our homework. Well, that couldn't be further from the truth. We had our list of around 15 guys. We went to every one of those clubs: 'Would you trade this guy? Would you trade that guy?' And none of them would trade one.
If none of the Astros players were on that list, Luhnow wouldn't have gotten a call. More importantly, the Tigers would not have been willing to move Fister in the first place. It's easy for us to say Jarred Cosart could have been one of those guys, but we don't know. For all we know, it would have taken Mike Foltynewicz to get Fister. Or that the Astros didn't have anyone close enough to the majors to justify the Tigers interest.
Whatever the reason, it appears this was on the Tigers. It was not a question of the Astros putting together a competitive package, it was the Tigers targeting specific players. That changes the tone of the criticism, doesn't it? You might take issue with Houston not getting a better rotation option this winter, but I don't think we can say they didn't do enough to get Fister.