The Atlanta Braves are World Series champions and now baseball is in the middle of its first work stoppage since the 1994-95 strike. MLB and the MLBPA were unable to agree to a new collective bargaining agreement prior to the Dec. 1 deadline, so the owners locked out the players, and the hot stove has been put on hold for the foreseeable future.
Throughout the offseason the CBS Sports MLB scribes will bring you a weekly roundtable breaking down pretty much anything. The latest news, a historical question, thoughts about the future of baseball, all sorts of stuff. Last week we debated who the Mets should hire as their new manager. This week we're in the gift-giving mood.
What gift do you want to give an MLB player?
R.J. Anderson: I'd give health to Byron Buxton. He's one of the most exciting and most dynamic players in the game. Unfortunately, he's appeared in more than 100 big-league games in a season just once -- and that was back in 2017. A full season from Buxton would be a blast to experience, and it just might end with a Most Valuable Player Award trophy.
Dayn Perry: I'd give the universal DH to Madison Bumgarner. Over the last three seasons in which he's batted a combined (pitchers didn't hit during the abbreviated 2020 season, you'll recall, so this is 2018-19 and 2021), Bumgarner has put up a slash line of .130/.232/.192. That comes to an OPS+ of just 18, and that's miserable even by the already comically low hitting standards of pitchers. This is getting uncomfortable to watch for all onlookers, and it's time to put Bumgarner the hitter out of his misery.
Matt Snyder: Unfortunately we're asking for a gift to a player, otherwise I was going to say let's take up a collection for those poor owners or maybe get something that would teach Rob Manfred how to effectively be a commissioner. Alas, I'll stick with the players. Let's go with a deep playoff run in 2022 for the Angels. It would greatly please Shohei Ohtani, of course and it would be huge for baseball to have him going both ways throughout October. The main of the gift, however, is to get Mike Trout the international stature he deserves. He's our sport's on-field version of LeBron James and has maybe a sliver of the recognition.
Mike Axisa: The obvious answer is giving Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout a supporting cast good enough to contend, but Matt has us covered there, so I'd like to give Javier Báez a league-average contact rate. I'm not greedy, it doesn't need to be an elite contact rate, but I would like to see him with at least an average contact rate. Here is the bottom of the in-zone contact leaderboard since 2017 (min. 2,200 plate appearances):
- Joey Gallo: 71.4 percent
- Khris Davis: 76.5 percent
- Javier Báez: 77.5 percent
- Jackie Bradley Jr.: 78.2 percent
- Josh Donaldson: 78.9 percent
(MLB average: 84.1 percent)
I don't want to give Báez better plate discipline. Plate discipline is boring. I want to see him continue to take those ferocious hacks at the same rate, and just make more contact so get more glorious home runs and hell-raising on the bases. Báez is still one of the most entertaining players in the game today and the more he puts the ball in play, the better. I'd give him greater contact ability and we'd all benefit.