Mornin’ y’all. Hope you are off enjoying Labor Day with your family somewhere and reading this article relaxing out at a barbecue or family softball game. If you did have to work today, then a tip of the cap to you for keeping the world going ’round (unless Kyrie Irving is reading) on the holiday. Here’s some quick hitting topics to get things started this week.
Brock Osweiler and the second-round pick
The math nor the expected outcome has changed much since the day the Cleveland Browns traded a 2017 fourth-round pick to acquire Brock Osweiler’s $16 million contract from the Houston Texans alongside their second-round pick in 2018 and sixth-round pick in 2017. The trade caught many in the industry off guard when it happened with many as Moneyball trades are not commonplace in the NFL as they are in MLB or the NBA, but many places such as ESPN’s Bill Barnwell and SI MMQB’s Albert Breer praised the Browns for the creativity of taking advantage of the Texans who wanted to pursue Tony Romo. Each expected the Browns to cut Osweiler before he ever played a regular season down for the team.
Flip the calendar to September and the praise has been replaced with mocking. There are those in the media who actually believed coach Hue Jackson and the Browns were considering starting Osweiler and not showcasing him for a trade when they announced he would be taking the starting snaps for Week 1 and Week 2 of the preseason. Even Jackson’s explanation that backing up the starter would allow rookie DeShone Kizer to receive more snaps overall (not to mention facing starting defenses with later-to-be-traded Cam Erving at a tackle position) did little to quell those who had penciled in Osweiler to start against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1 of the regular season.
Here’s the thing. The Browns traded for Osweiler with the expectation they would trade or cut him. If he had played himself into a backup quarterback job, then that would have been fine too, but his clashes with the Texans coaching staff last year probably made that even more unlikely. There was no reason to cut him before final cuts though especially given that Cody Kessler appears to have taken a step back from his rookie campaign and the Browns wanted to ease Kizer into the starting role over the preseason.
The simplest way to look at it is the Browns paid about $15 million for a second-round pick (Denver Broncos are signing Osweiler for $1 million and there is offset language that will reduce the Browns price tag). Is a second-round pick worth $15 million? If the Browns were up against the cap rather than having $65 million in room, then maybe not. The rollover does mean that every dollar spent this season cannot be rolled over to the next, but, at some point, there are diminishing returns on that allotment. The Browns also are a Top 10 team in cash spending for 2017 due to the Osweiler contract. It might not seem as if it matters, but the NFL just started a new four-year window for the cash floor and it gives the team a cushion so that they do not have to make decisions based on that floor in the coming years.
There are roughly 15-20 percent odds of finding a Pro Bowl quality starter in the second round. Considering everything with the Browns circumstances, why wouldn’t they have done it?
Indians kids have gotten into the sugar
There have been some questions about the wisdom of bringing up Francisco Mejia and Greg Allen onto the Cleveland Indians during a pennant race wherein the Tribe is chasing the Houston Astros for homefield advantage in the American League. Finding the players enough at bats to keep up their development, while balancing the needs of the team to win as many games as possible should be a mindful concern of manager Terry Francona.
The last two games for the Indians though show why it is probably a smart move. On Friday night in Detroit, with the Indians nursing a small 10 run lead, Allen and Mejia were able to check off the box for a MLB at bat. Neither player recorded a hit, but it is a momentous mental accomplishment. Allen came back on Saturday and was able to fill in for an injured Bradley Zimmer (hurt diving for a fly ball), and he obtained that first MLB hit when he hustled out an infield single. Allen has already flashed his speed in center field as well as he’s shown himself to be a shorter-tanner version of Zimmer. There’s no real reason for Allen to be on the postseason roster (barring a Zimmer prolonged injury), but there is also no real reason he cannot get his feet wet, while being entrenched into the current winning culture of the Indians clubhouse.
Yes, I’m a numbers guy who also believes in winning cultures. There is still something to be said for the veterans setting the example of how to work at a championship-level. Demonstrating the focus, work ethic, and drive necessary to win. Young players have been showing across MLB that it is not an absolute necessity, but it is something that complements the talent coming up through the system. When Allen and Mejia are called upon in 2018, they will already know what is expected of them in the clubhouse and the limited time in MLB might also expose some flaws for them to work on in the offseason. If they do not get to the plate enough in September, then there is always the Arizona Fall League or winter leagues for them to play.
In addition, the joy and energy of players receiving their first MLB experience can help prod the veterans who could have otherwise been getting bored with the regular season. We often speak of variance in baseball but not the reasons for it because it is impossible to quantify precisely. Seeing the Minnesota Twins and Kansas City Royals fade away down the stretch, while realizing the MLB postseason can be a small sample size nightmare- homefield or not- can lead to some downtick variance if the players allow themselves to fall into that trap. We have to realize despite the statistical modeling over large sample sizes and trend data collections, these players are still human.
Besides, watching Allen and Mejia is a fun peek at the future of the Indians. Let’s enjoy it.