Some things to talk about while I try to remember how to properly pronounce Pat Neshek's name...
1) Cuba relations "normalizing", what it means for baseball
It's not a baseball story on its surface, but the news this morning that the U.S. "normalizing" relations with Cuba has baseball implications. MLB, in fact, has issued a statement:
MLB statement regarding U.S. relations with Cuba: pic.twitter.com/UXVH9LxgJO— MLB Public Relations (@MLB_PR) December 17, 2014
What will this mean for the baseball world?
See a few things happening w/normalized relations with Cuba: more Cuban players; more scouting of Cuban players; need for Intl Draft #MLB— Maury Brown (@BizballMaury) December 17, 2014
Biggest winners re: Cuba: Families reunited, MLB, travel industry, cigar lovers.— Maury Brown (@BizballMaury) December 17, 2014
Immediate reaction to Cuba news from baseball industry sources is best summarized as "possible game changer" & "still too early to tell."— Jesse Sanchez (@JesseSanchezMLB) December 17, 2014
Essentially, or something similar. MLB would want some order to process RT @jaydestro you think posting style?— Ben Badler (@BenBadler) December 17, 2014
2) Why would the Astros include Mark Appel?
Over at Baseball Prospectus, they have a great article talking about trades for "five-year" pitchers. Those are guys who are close to free agency and in arbitration. As we saw with Jeff Samardzija, these guys get traded, but the return is often not as strong as you might anticipate. Oh, in the Shark trade, the return was phenomenal.
In the article, White Sox GM Rick Hahn talks about the reason why these trades often don't command great prospects.
"I think everyone is trying to not rob Peter to pay Paul, so to speak, from their perspective," Hahn said. "If you're going to move a guy who's proven and you're a club that's hoping to contend, you're looking to address major-league needs through that. We haven't found a lot of prospect-based deals for one-year rentals, and I think that makes sense because clubs aren't looking to do that. With the way we all value our prospects, it's a little difficult to do that for just a one-year basis."
The industry has woken up to some extent. Trades for prospects don't happen like they used to for players heading into free agency soon.
That may explain why the Astros are willing to talk about Appel (allegedly) in a potential Cole Hamels deal. The Phillies pitcher is not heading into free agency soon. In fact, he has a somewhat onerous contract that runs through 2018 with a team option for 2019. In that time, he's owed $90 million and that club option is for $10 million with a $6 million buyout.
Years of control are worth quite a bit to clubs, especially those looking to open a window of contention. It doesn't make sense for the Astros to trade for a player who may be a free agent after 2015 for this reason. But, it could be a reason why they're interested in Hamels.
It also is a reason why they'd give up Appel. Hamels has proven he can pitch in the majors. He's also proven he can pitch 200+ innings. While that tells us nothing about his next five seasons, he's a better bet to perform for the Astros in the majors than Mark Appel is right now, because he's done it before.
3) Why would the Astros include Appel, Part II?
If you need another reason not to think of prospects being completely untouchable, look at Tampa Bay outfielder Wil Myers. He's apparently getting traded for a second time, as the Rays have a deal that could send him...somewhere? Seems that he's going to the Padres for at least four players, with some of those players getting spun to another team, which could be the Nationals for TCB favorite Steven Souza.
It's a confusing deal that has a bunch of moving parts. It's not clear what the final trade might look like,b ut what it is clear is that the Rays are moving Myers a few years after trading James Shields for him. Once one of the top 10 prospects in baseball, two different teams have chosen other players over him.
In this era where prospects are valued like gold, that's unusual. But, Myers' results in the majors have been less-than-thrilling. What if he ends up like Brandon Wood or Andy LaRoche or any number of super prospects who never panned out? This is not a new phenomenon. Three decades ago, it happened to Shawon Dunston, too.
Maybe it should have told us something when GMDM was willing to include Myers in the James Shields trade. Maybe it should tell us the same thing if Mark Appel is included in a deal by the Astros.
I'm not saying he should. I'm not saying that Appel is destined to be a bust or not work out. But, if the Astros decide that five or six years of Cole Hamels is worth more than seven years of Mark Appel, that should say something.
Of course, it could just as easily say that the Astros have a problem evaluating talent. I'm not ruling out that possibility.