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MLB Roundup 1/25: A.J. Pollock signs in Los Angeles

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And the low-end of the reliever market picks up

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Arizona Diamondbacks Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

A.J. Pollock signs with the Dodgers

We’re still waiting for the Big Two to sign in free agency, but another one of the most talented guys available has found a new home. We’d heard rumors that A.J. Pollock was negotiating with the Dodgers after Los Angeles sent Yasiel Puig to Cincinnati, and now it’s done. The former Diamondbacks All-Star agreed to a five-year deal worth $12 million per year. At least, that’s the luxury tax payment. It’s a bit more complicated than that, as Pollock can opt-out after the third year, will earn $55 million over the four years and can earn an extra $5 million with a fifth-year player option. My first instinct was that this deal was an absolute steal for the Dodgers. I still think that’s true, though not to the same extent as before. Pollock is very talented as an all-around player, but he hasn’t been really great since 2015 and has struggled with injuries since then. If healthy, the 31-year-old will provide value, but in hindsight I probably wouldn’t have expected a shorter deal with a higher AAV. The Dodgers are inexplicably worried about the first luxury tax threshold, though, so they went in the opposite direction. All in all, I’m not entirely convinced L.A. is better with Pollock than with Puig.

Brad Brach signs with the Cubs

Not too long ago we heard that the Red Sox were interested in relievers in the $2-$3 million range. That is gross, but if we just take it at face value and go from there, a number of targets emerged. Shawn Kelley was specifically named as someone with whom they’d spoken, but other names were speculated. One was former Orioles righty Brad Brach, who is certainly not great but he was definitely among the best who could be had for something around that price. I speak in the past tense because he is no longer on the market, as the Cubs signed Brach to a one-year deal with a mutual option for a second year. There was initially some confusion about salary, but Brach’s deal is worth a guaranteed $4.35 million with a chance to get up to $9 million. Apparently, that may have been too rich for the Red Sox’ blood, which is a disgusting sentence. If that’s more than they’re willing to pay, then they aren’t going to get anyone who can actually help.

Hunter Strickland signs with Mariners

If you were looking for an even cheaper arm with some upside — which, apparently, the Red Sox are — Hunter Strickland could have been the guy. The righty took the reins as the Giants closer for a short time and has flashed big talent, but he’s had injury and maturity issues. Last year he didn’t throw a full season and also watched his strikeout rate fall and his walk rate rise. The Mariners are hoping they can help turn things around for the 30-year-old, as they signed Strickland to a one-year deal. As far as I can tell the financials haven’t yet been released, though it’s hard to imagine the deal being worth too much. Strickland has some potential upside, but I don’t think the Red Sox missed out too much on this one.

A possible return of the 15-day DL

A few years ago, when the latest CBA was agreed to, one of the changes was the 15-day disabled list being shifted down to ten days, leading to an explosion in DL-usage among teams around the league. It’s been undeniable manipulation leading to huge swaths of shuffling between Triple-A and the majors, particularly among pitchers. The Dodgers are probably the most egregious of the offenders, but really it’s everyone. Now, MLB is trying to fight this manipulation by going back to the 15-day absence, along with trying to lengthen the time a player must spend in the minors after being optioned from 10 days to 15. I’m conflicted on this one, though I think I lean towards it probably being a good move. Everyone knew this kind of manipulation was going to be rampant when they shortened the DL to 10 days, but watching it play out in reality has been rough. Part of the reason teams can afford to many relievers every game is because they can shuffle guys around easily. On the other hand, if they do go back to a longer DL then players will be more pressured to play through injuries, which can lead to more long-term issues. There are always unintended consequences to every move. Negotiations on this potential change are expected to continue for a while. MLB can implement the rule change without an agreement with a one-year notice, though they say they’d like to avoid that.