08 May, 2023
The first quarter of Major League Baseball’s regular season is almost approaching. Pitchers are very close to making ten starts, and position players have reached or beyond thirty plate appearances. Therefore, this is the time of year when teams begin to seriously consider making roster changes. Consider what the St. Louis Cardinals did with Willson Contreras over the weekend if you need more proof of that.
In many cases, organizations aren’t thinking about how to get the most out of a player; instead, they are debating whether the player really belongs on the roster. These choices are often constrained by logistics. Players with options—the capacity to be relegated without being subject to waivers—offer less complicated alternatives than those without. By the same token, it’s simpler to release a player making a big amount of money than it is to cut a player making the league minimum salary; the former is trivial, whereas the latter is newsworthy.
In light of this, we at CBS Sports thought it would be appropriate to take a closer look at five experienced players who we believe could find themselves in hot water in the coming weeks due to their early-season play and the state of their teams. In reverse order of projected job security, the players are listed.
.143/.213/.161 (7 OPS+) in 61 plate appearances so far this season.
Contract left on the table: $28 million in total through the 2025 season.
Outlook: Since late in the previous season, when Hicks publicly expressed unhappiness with his status despite subpar performance, he and the Yankees have been on the verge of divorcing. The Yankees must have given up on the idea that he can still contribute by this point. Since 2020, Hicks hasn’t come close to having a league-average offensive. He has a 3-for-40 record so far this season against right-handed pitching. He hadn’t collected an extra-base hit since last September until Sunday. No underlying signs indicate that a turnaround is probable. Even though the Yankees’ outfield isn’t fully healthy, it doesn’t matter. There are a ton of minor league outfielders who, given the chance, could provide the Yankees more than Hicks has so far, and you don’t even have to comprehend or agree with the replacement-level notion to agree on that. Eat the money now, please.
.250/.292/.357 (77 OPS+) in 89 plate appearances so far this season.
League minimum for the rest of the campaign is the remaining contract.
Outlook: It’s easy to see why the Cubs gambled on Hosmer because he was cheap (the Padres are paying him handsomely to play for them instead), and they probably didn’t expect to be significant contenders in the National League Central this year. The season has been going on for more than a month; it’s time to move on. Hosmer is the Cubs’ third base/DH under the timesharing arrangement, and his ground ball percentage is up while his exit-velocity readings are down. The Cubs will be forced to accept the inevitable and move on if rookie Matt Mervis displays any kind of spark in the upcoming weeks, especially if they continue to sit a solid weekend out of first place.
7.62 ERA (57 ERA+) and 1.57 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 13 innings this season.
Contract balance: $1.38 million for the remainder of the year
Outlook: On the one hand, 26-year-old Hicks has among of the strongest arms in the world (his sinker is traveling at an average speed of 100.7 mph). On the other hand, the Cardinals need to drastically restructure their pitching staff, and Hicks is maybe the most obvious departure. He has given up 11 earned runs on 17 hits and 14 walks in his first 14 appearances this season. Additionally, he has thrown five wild pitches, matching his 61-inning total from the previous season. If Hicks had a track record of skillfully balancing on a razor’s edge, you might be able to justify keeping him around until later in the summer. In actuality, according to Baseball Reference, he hasn’t been on the correct side of the replacement-level line since 2019. Waiting is no longer an option for the Cardinals.
8.25 ERA (53 ERA+) and 1.89 strikeout-to-walk ratio through 12 innings this season.
Contract balance: $7.5 million for the remainder of the year
Outlook: Kimbrel is a highly unstable substance. In fact, he spent a significant portion of April putting up an eight-appear span during which he gave up no runs on three hits and a walk. In addition, he retired 13 of the 24 hitters he faced in that span. He resembled his former self in some ways, at least in terms of the consequences. Unfortunately, most of Kimbrel’s other starts have resulted in losses, including his two most recent contests against the Dodgers. Kimbrel has benefited in some ways from the Phillies, as evidenced by the fact that his fastball has more vertical life this season and that he is releasing the ball deeper down the mound. As a result, it’s possible that they will be open to giving him additional time. Every time he is in the “bust” phase of his cosmic ballet, concerns about his job security are certain to increase.
.159/.206/.365 (56 OPS+) through 69 plate appearances this season.
Contract balance: $7.6 million (buyout included) for the remainder of this season.
Escobar’s predicament is comparable to a perfect storm that will result in his release at some point this season. He has already lost his starting position to a hotshot prospect, he is underwhelming in a more limited reserve role, and he represents a genuine challenger whose owner is willing to do everything it takes to obtain what he wants. In fact, you may recall that he once increased his price on a painting after it was damaged. Escobar’s good clubhouse standing might end up keeping him around for a little while longer, but given the information we currently have, we would be surprised if he were still playing at the conclusion of the year.