2015 Season Previews: Colorado Rockies

Over the next several weeks, The Baseball Haven will be creating season previews for all 30 MLB teams. You’ll find their projected records (based on PECOTA records from Baseball Prospectus, as of 2/15/2015), each team’s top three players (based on Steamer WAR projections from FanGraphs), and some valuable notes on each team, including likely bounce-back candidates, potential breakout players or fantasy sleepers, as well as a look back at offseason transactions which led to each team’s projections. Stop back frequently to see where your favorite team ranks! 

Colorado Rockies

Courtesy: MLB.com
Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 71-91 (5th in NL West, 28th in MLB)

Manager: Walt Weiss (140-184 in two seasons with Colorado)

Top Three Players: SS Troy Tulowitzki (5.8), 3B Nolan Arenado (3.9), LHP Jorge De La Rosa (2.5)

Bounce-back Player: OF Carlos Gonzalez

At 28 and in the midst of his prime, CarGo had another injury-plagued season, finishing 2014 with just 70 games played for the Rockies. While the injuries allowed the club to watch Corey Dickerson, Drew Stubbs, and Charlie Blackmon excel in bigger roles, it was still painful for the Rockies and their fans to watch both of the high-priced stars (along with Tulowitzki) miss time once again, especially with Gonzalez and his final line – .238/.292/.431. If his leg injuries have sapped his speed, his game will have changed pretty significantly from his breakout 2010, the last season that he played in more than 140 games. He just needs to stay on the field to be productive, and with all of the other strong hitters around him in the lineup, an All-Star season is within reach as long as he suits up for 130 games – if he can do that. Considering the productivity that he could have if he is healthy, he’s a nice buy-low option and a bargain in drafts. Just make sure that you have a solid backup, as the Rockies do in Stubbs.

Blossoming superstar, 3B Nolan Arenado Courtesy: Denver Post
Blossoming superstar, 3B Nolan Arenado
Courtesy: Denver Post

Fantasy Player to Watch: 3B Nolan Arenado

Arenado was once a highly touted prospect, so it isn’t as if he is an unknown name; however, it’s the fact that he’ll be just 24 in April and he has nearly 1,000 major league plate appearances under his belt that make him interesting. Arenado has struck out just 130 times in his 981 plate appearances (13.3 percent), and his ability to make consistent contact is an asset in the spacious confines of Coors Field. As Arenado has matured, he has also increased his flyball and home run rates, going from 33.7 percent flyball and 7,1 percent home run/flyball in 2013 to 41.8 percent flyball and 11.4 percent home run/flyball rates in 2014. While he is unlikely to rip 35 home runs in 2015, he will certainly improve upon his 18 home runs from 2014, as he continues to turn some of his doubles into home runs, while improving on his already impressive .213 ISO from 2014.

Offseason Overview: Michael Cuddyer left for New York and the Mets organization early this offseason, but the Rockies have plenty of outfield depth to overcome that departure. With Drew Stubbs listed as the No.4 outfielder and Kyle Parker on his way up, the Rockies can withstand injuries at first base and outfield. Additionally, the club signed Nick Hundley to provide a more defensive-minded option at catcher, leaving slugger Wilin Rosario with no real opportunities. He could be a nice right-handed designated hitter, but he obviously can’t do that in Colorado. The pitching staff is still a bit pieced together, as the club waits for Eddie Butler and Jon Gray to take on larger roles in coming seasons. While they did sign Kyle Kendrick, his 4.92 K:9 over 1,138.2 career innings means that he can’t get the ball past hitters, and more contact will likely breed more inflated ERAs for Kendrick, who has a career 4.42 ERA and 1.37 WHIP.

The Verdict: The Rockies, once again, have a gifted group of hitters, who continue to take advantage of their spacious home ballpark; however, they don’t have the pitching to become a contender, especially in the super-competitive NL West. Jorge De La Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin, Jordan Lyles, Tyler Matzek, and Kendrick aren’t going to bring nightmares to opposing hitters in the way that Clayton Kershaw, Andrew Cashner, James Shields, Zack Greinke, and Madison Bumgarner do, but if they can manage games and hope that the offense takes control of the score, then they can at least be competitive each night. Colorado has a long way to go and a lot of hope in young arms, but if they don’t reach their potential, the organization will continue to be in a pitching-induced limbo for another decade. Watch this group put up impressive offensive numbers, while continuing to waiver in baseball purgatory as they aren’t the worst team in baseball, but they aren’t close to being the best, either.

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The Hot Stove Has Caught On Fire

It certainly hasn’t taken long for teams to begin dishing out large contracts that they’ll probably regret in a couple of years with free agency well under way. However, the last 24 to 48 hours have supplied the greatest number of gifts, with a lot of examples of “huh”, “why”, “seriously”, and “come again” worthy reactions.

The Trades

The Doug Fister Trade

Detroit Tigers get: 2B Steve Lombardozzi, LHP Ian Krol, and LHP Robbie Ray

Washington Nationals get: RHP Doug Fister

FisterIt has to be called the Doug Fister trade because no one really cares about any of the players that the Tigers got back, right? If this wasn’t a total salary dump, I don’t know what it was, as the “prize” return for the Tigers is Ray, who was a 10th round pick in 2010 and had a 6.56 ERA in 2012 in his first attempt at High-A Potomac before bouncing back and having a solid season between High-A and Double-A in 2013, really doesn’t seem like a tremendous prospect; though, we have been proven wrong by Dave Dombrowski before. After the Tampa Bay Rays received one of the top young prospects in baseball, Wil Myers, in return for two controllable seasons of James Shields, you would think that the Tigers could have received more for Fister, who had managed to post an impressive 32-20 record to go along with a 3.29 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 440.2 innings with Detroit. Fister now joins Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, and Gio Gonzalez within the Washington rotation, making the Nationals strong contenders for first-year manager Matt Williams in 2014.

Winner: Washington Nationals.

Smelling Fowler

Houston Astros get: CF Dexter Fowler

Colorado Rockies get: RHP Jordan Lyles and OF Brandon Barnes

Fowler1Fowler seemed to be on the trading block for some time, but he was finally dealt on Tuesday. The Astros get two affordable seasons (two-years, $11.6 million) of Fowler while they wait for George Springer to prove himself ready, or…they just acquired a nicer trade chip than what they gave up. Jordan Lyles may still be just 23 years old, but he hasn’t put it together in 377 major league innings, posting a 5.35 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, and a 6.2 K/9, and it seems very unlikely that shifting to Coor’s Field is going to assist his progression to sudden success. Brandon Barnes has some ability, but it isn’t as an everyday player, as his atrocious 127:21 K:BB and .635 OPS over 445 plate appearances goes to show. Barnes could be a fourth outfielder for the Rockies, with Carlos Gonzalez sliding over to center and Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson battling it out for the left field job, or Colorado could look to free agency to upgrade in center. This deal didn’t make a whole lot of sense for the Rockies unless they saw something in Lyles and didn’t feel that Fowler would ever live up to his hot start from 2013, when he posted a 1.032 OPS and then fell off of the face of the earth. Even if Fowler doesn’t live up to those numbers, he is the most valuable piece in the deal.

Winner: Houston Astros.

The Unimpressive Three-Way

Cincinnati Reds get: LHP David Holmberg.

Tampa Bay Rays get: RHP Heath Bell and cash from Arizona, and C Ryan Hanigan from Cincinnati.

Arizona Diamondbacks get: RHP Justin Choate and a PTBNL

The Rays are always viewed as a smart club and they were able to land another potential closer after losing Fernando Rodney to free agency, leaving the club with Heath Bell and Juan Carlos Oviedo to battle it out for the gig. On top of that, they received an excellent framing catcher in Hanigan, who has proved to be quite valuable to Cincinnati over the last several years in game-calling, while inking the backstop to a three-year extension upon the completion of the deal. The bad part, though, is that both Bell and Hanigan weren’t very good last season, with Hanigan, in particular, looking like a nightmare offensively, posting a .198/.306/.261 line over 260 plate appearances, leading to the Reds leaning on Brayan Pena, who was signed to a two-year deal earlier this winter, and Devin Mesoraco, the young, power-hitting catcher who will finally get a full-time look in Cincinnati. The Diamondbacks dumped some salary while dealing Bell for a young, breathing body. Choate pitched in the New York-Penn League in 2013 at the age of 22 and he isn’t much of a prospect. The Reds dumped Hanigan, who was arbitration-eligible, while getting a 22-year-old left-handed starter, who posted a 2.75 ERA in 26 Double-A starts in 2013 with a 116:50 K:BB in 157.1 innings. While Holmberg wasn’t as sexy as Tyler Skaggs or Archie Bradley within the Diamondbacks system, he could become a solid back of the rotation arm or a Sean Marshall-like relief pitcher for the Reds. The good news for Cincinnati is that Mesoraco gets his shot and Holmberg adds some near-ready pitching depth after the likely departure of Bronson Arroyo via free agency.

Winner: Everyone looks like a winner here, as the deal worked well for all three teams, but the Rays received the most help in assisting the team win in 2013.

Why Did Beane Make That (Michael) Choice?

Texas Rangers get: OF Michael Choice and 2B Chris Bostick

Oakland A’s get: OF Craig Gentry and RHP Josh Lindblom

ChoiceThis seemed like an odd deal for Oakland and GM Billy Beane, as Gentry is arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter and Lindblom has been pretty terrible since being traded from the Dodgers to the Phillies in the 2012 Shane Victorino deal, as he has posted a 5.10 ERA and 1.50 WHIP over 54.2 innings since leaving Los Angeles (2.91 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 77.1 innings prior to the trade). Maybe a return to the west coast is what Lindblom needs to be a useful reliever, but by getting the elite defensive skills and increasing salary of the light-hitting (.280/.355/.366 in 763 plate appearances), 29-year-old Gentry, and giving up the potential that still exists in the bat of Michael Choice, who is 24 and isn’t arbitration-eligible until 2017, Beane showed that he may be looking beyond three years from now and that he could be putting the A’s in win-now mode. Bostick is a nice second base prospect, having posted a .282/.354/.452 line over 555 plate appearances as a 20-year-old in Low-A in 2013, but the Rangers have quite a few young, up-the-middle prospects (Rougned Odor, Jurickson Profar, and Luis Sardinas) and they don’t seem to have a need there, while the A’s have run Jemile Weeks out of town in a trade with Baltimore and Eric Sogard was very…meh…in 2013 at the major league level. Winning now is important, but it doesn’t seem like the A’s really acquired anyone who can really help them in 2014 to get over the hump.

Winner: Texas Rangers.

The Free Agent Splashes

The Yankees Spend Like Crazy…Again.

Who They Signed: C Brian McCann (five-years, $85 million); OF Jacoby Ellsbury (seven-years, $153 million);

McCannWhy It Matters: Notice that the Yankees have committed nearly $240 million after having been rumored to be on a mission to avoid the $189 million threshold of the payroll luxury tax, while not having signed their All-Star second baseman, Robinson Cano, just yet. And, don’t forget, the team is rumored to be interested in signing Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who could be had at a lesser amount after the posting fee was limited to a maximum $20 million bid on Wednesday. McCann is a huge upgrade over the combined .213/.289/.298 triple slash that Yankees’ catchers posted in 2013, while Ellsbury provides great defense and speed as the Yankees try to move on from all of the injuries that suffocated their success this past season. Even if the Yankees are done with the big name signings, including Cano, they should be a better team in 2014.

Twinkies Filled Their Rotation

Who Minnesota Signed: RHP Phil Hughes (three-year, $24 million); RHP Ricky Nolasco (four-year, $49 million);

Why It Matters: The Twins starting pitchers posted a 5.26 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP in 2013, worst in the majors, and the ERA was a whopping 0.45 points higher than the Toronto Blue Jays’ starters (4.81), who finished 29th. Hughes still has youth and potential, but he needs to start tapping into that potential after posting a horrific 5.19 ERA over 29 starts and 145.2 innings. Shockingly, Hughes’ numbers would have made him a solid number three starter for the Twins in 2013…they were that bad. Adding Nolasco was special, but he isn’t an ace. He will likely be the Twins’ Opening Day starter in 2014 by default and he should make the rotation slightly better; although, it couldn’t get much worse.

Kazmir Rejuvenates and Cashes In Athletically

Who Oakland Signed: LHP Scott Kazmir (two-year, $22 million)

Why It Matters: Signing Kazmir to a lucrative contract could lead to another movie about the Oakland A’s after the success of Moneyball. While Kazmir’s resurgence was quite surprising, an eight-figure deal, after making all of one total appearance in the majors in 2011 and 2012 due to severe shoulder woes, was even more surprising. Possessing a mid-90’s fastball and a left arm appears to be all that it took to find a big deal. Kazmir’s story is worthy of attention and praise, but it is a story that needs to be monitored to see if he can maintain the same success in Oakland over the next two seasons. His presence will allow the A’s and Beane to shop LHP Brett Anderson at the winter meetings next week, which could net the club some additional win-now resources.

The Tigers No Longer on the Prowl for a Closer

Who Detroit Signed: RHP Joe Nathan (two-year, $20 million)

Why It Matters: Detroit needed a lockdown closer after shuffling through Jose Valverde, Phil Coke, Jose Veras, and Bruce Rondon at closer before Joaquin Benoit took over and did a nice job over the rest of the season. They got their man after signing Joe Nathan away from the Texas Rangers. Nathan closed 80 games out the last two seasons, while posting a 2.09 ERA and 0.98 WHIP, and at 38 years of age, he doesn’t look to be slowing down after missing the 2010 season due to Tommy John surgery. After dealing Prince Fielder to improve at second base with Ian Kinsler, moving Miguel Cabrera back to first, and plugging Drew Smyly into the rotation (after dealing Fister), the Tigers will have a completely new look in 2014. With their strong rotation, Nathan’s shutdown ability makes them quite dangerous.

Fish Hook Their Catcher and the Red Sox Snag Another

Who Miami Signed: C Jarrod Saltalamacchia (three-year, $21 million)

Who Boston Signed: C A.J. Pierzynski (one-year, $8.25 million)

Why It Matters: With a lot of focus heading towards catcher defense and framing, highlighted by the Rays commitments to Jose Molina and Ryan Hanigan this winter, other clubs continue to look towards offensive-minded catchers, and the Miami Marlins and Boston Red Sox locked down their backstops this week. The Marlins seem to have very little hope for a quick turnaround and Saltalamacchia isn’t going to be the other piece to help Giancarlo Stanton and Miami to an NL East title, but it is a start…as long as they don’t trade him before the 2014 season starts. Pierzynski will be on his fifth organization and, despite being hated by some of his competition, he could be a tremendous asset to the character and chemistry that existed within the Boston World Series clubhouse. I guess he is better to have on your team than to play against him.

 

 

Should MLB Teams Refuse the Mega-Contract?

Another free agency period is ahead with another Major League Baseball offseason. With so many superstars being signed to lucrative contracts with their existing clubs, players who reach free agency can make exorbitant amounts of money due to fewer players being available and television contracts that teams are using as revenue generating machines. With that being said, is a big-time contract a smart investment for a needy team this winter?

The Yankees as a Model

With Robinson Cano heading towards free agency after the 2013 season, the New York Yankees will be faced with a decision that could alter their original plan of getting under Major League Baseball’s $189 million luxury tax threshold. With $92.4 million due to six players (Alex Rodriguez, C.C. Sabathia, Alfonso Soriano (the Cubs are covering $13 of the $18 million owed to him), Mark Teixiera, Vernon Wells (the Angels are covering $18.6 of the $21 million owed to him), Ichiro Suzuki, and Derek Jeter (who has an $8 million player option), the Yankees, on the surface, appear to have some wiggle room in an offer to their superstar second baseman; however, the players mentioned above are the only players with guaranteed contracts next season.

Yankees vs. MarinersAdam Warren, David Phelps, and Eduardo Nunez are all pre-arbitration, so they can have their contracts renewed at the league minimum, but the club will have to deal with David Huff, Chris Stewart, Francisco Cervelli, Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova, Jayson Nix, Shawn Kelley, Brett Gardner, and David Robertson within arbitration, and determine whether Cano, Hiroki Kuroda, Kevin Youkilis, Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes, Mark Reynolds, Boone Logan, Travis Hafner, Joba Chamberlain, and/or Lyle Overbay are worthy of being tendered a qualifying offer prior to reaching free agency. With up to 19 spots available for next season, the remaining $96.6 million doesn’t appear to be going very far.

While relief could be on the way with a possible 2014 suspension for Alex Rodriguez, from which his $25 million contract would be forfeited, the long-term contracts that the Yankees have handed out like candy are now causing financial issues as the club’s attendance continues to decline (43,733 in 2012 vs. 40,002 in 2013) along with the talent of the aging players.

Consider this:

Alex Rodriguez is 37 years old and is owed $86 million over the next four years.

C.C. Sabathia is 32 years old and is owed $76 million over the next three seasons (including his 2017 buyout).

Mark Teixiera is 33 years old and is owed $67.5 million over the next three seasons.

The three have been worth a combined WAR (Fangraphs) of 2.6 in 2013 while costing the Yankees $73.5 million in salaries. For comparisons sake, San Diego third baseman Chase Headley, Atlanta third baseman Chris Johnson, San Diego outfielder Chris Denorfia, Baltimore outfielder Nate McLouth, and San Francisco shortstop Brandon Crawford have each posted a 2.6 WAR in 2013…individually. If the Yankees had all five players this season, they would have spent just under $16 million, about $6.5 million less than they spent on Teixiera alone in 2013!

Why These Contracts Don’t Make Sense

By investing large sums of money into veterans when they reach free agency in the post-steroid era, teams are taking immeasurable risks.

1) They are assuming that a high-performing player will be capable of producing into their mid-30’s, and…

2) They are assuming that the high-performing player will stay healthy enough to be worth the investment.

When a player reaches free agency, they have at least six years of major league experience. The player likely had three seasons of pre-arbitration followed by three years of arbitration prior to reaching free agency. Considering that most players make their debuts between the ages of 21 and 24, a free agent is typically between the ages of 27 and 30. The magic prime age in baseball is apparently going to happen in a player’s age-27 season, lasting roughly three to five seasons. A player has reached their physical peak at this point, which allows the player to utilize their various tools to take advantage of the opposition through the use of their experience and mental approaches gained through those experiences. When a multi-year contract is given to a player at the age of 30, say a five-year contract, and that player is then declining for nearly three-fifths of the contract, what is the value to the club? Without performance-enhancers, normal aging processes, such as shoulder fatigue for aging pitchers and chronic knee soreness for a veteran position player, become normal once again. Can teams count on a 39-year-old shortstop to play in 162 games? Ask Derek Jeter how his season went.

Unfortunate Recent Examples

Albert Pujols signed his ten-year, $240 million deal with the Angels following his age-31 season in St. Louis. To make the deal more affordable and to allow the Angels some financial flexibility, Pujols’ contract was heavily back-loaded, meaning he will be making the most money at the end of his contract when he is approaching or passing the age of 40. In fact, in Pujols’ tenth season with the Angels, he is scheduled to make $30 million, the highest annual salary within his contract. After making a combined $28 million in 2012 and 2013, Pujols’ contract will jump to $23 million in 2014 and climb $1 million each season before reaching $30 million in 2021.

VottoHowever, Pujols hasn’t really lived up to the contract based on his production over the first 11 seasons in the majors, as he has posted the lowest WAR of his career in consecutive seasons (3.7 in 2012 and 0.7 in 2013). He was shutdown on August 19 due to a partial tear of his left plantar fascia and he  should be ready to go next season; however, since he isn’t undergoing surgery, how well will this injury heal? Although the tear supposedly did what the surgery would have, one has to wonder if it can be aggravated, torn further (since it is still a partial tear), and debilitating enough to plague Pujols throughout the remainder of his massive contract.

And what about the contract that the “small-market” Cincinnati Reds gave to Joey Votto? The Reds handed Votto a ten-year, $225 million extension in April of 2012. The contract hasn’t even started yet, as the first year of the extension will be the 2014 season, Votto’s age-30 season. For ten years, the Reds will hope that Votto will produce numbers similar to his 2010 MVP season, something that he hasn’t seemed capable of reproducing over the last three seasons, despite leading the National League in on-base percentage the last three seasons, four including 2010. When you consider that the Reds are winning in 2013 and they still average just 31,479 in attendance (16th in MLB), how will the team be able to contend when Votto is making $25 million per season beginning in 2018, when he is 34 years old?

Even worse, the contract that the Philadelphia Phillies gave to first baseman Ryan Howard. Howard received his extension in April of 2010 and it didn’t go into effect until the 2012 season, a five-year, $125 million deal that would begin in Howard’s age-32 season. Since the start of the 2012 season, Howard has played in 151 games while posting a .244/.307/.445 line with 31 doubles, 25 home runs, 99 RBI, and a whopping 194 strikeouts in 609 plate appearances. The previous seven seasons, Howard had a .275/.368/.560 line with an average of 26 doubles, 41 home runs, and 123 RBI per season, and that was including his declining 2010 and 2011 seasons, in which Howard posted the lowest OPS of his career (.859 in 2010 and .835 in 2011)…that was, of course, until his dreadful 2012 season (.718 OPS).

The Problem With TV Deals

I was able to get a response from Baseball Prospectus’ Ben Lindbergh when I asked him via Twitter, “Do you think MLB teams are going to shy away from mega contract due to the Pujols/Howard/Hamilton deals in post steroid era?” His response:

The TV money, which was mentioned previously, is an interesting enhancement to the revenue stream for major league teams. With the Los Angeles Dodgers getting over $6 billion over 25 years from Time Warner in  their TV deal, which will give the club nearly $240 million per year in revenue, the already crazy expenditures of the boys in blue could become even more egregious this winter. The club seems capable of locking up left-hander Clayton Kershaw to a contract worth $30 million per season or more this winter, AND signing Robinson Cano to take over second base from Mark Ellis, who has a $5.75 million option for 2014 or a $1 million buyout. By taking on those types of contracts on top of the Carl Crawford ($20.25 million in 2014), Matt Kemp ($21 million in 2014), Adrian Gonzalez ($21 million in 2014), Zack Greinke ($26 million in 2014), and Andre Ethier ($15.5 million in 2014) deals, the Dodgers will be willingly entering the luxury tax threshold in an effort to win the World Series.

KempBut what happens when money can’t buy titles? The New York Yankees seemed to always have the highest payroll in baseball and they haven’t won the title every season. Spending doesn’t quantify wins, it is, as Lindbergh referenced, the winner’s curse. This concept is outlined in Colin Wyers 2009 Baseball Prospectus piece titled The Real Cursewhich Wyers states:

The market for baseball players seems to more closely resemble a sealed-bid auction than it does a market. Since the person who wins that sort of auction is typically the person with the largest bid, it stands to reason that the person who “wins” is in fact the person who overbids…

The curse is then being the winning bid on a contract that was probably more than what another team was willing to bid. By evaluating players and making smart investments, teams that break the curse are able to get production out of what they spend, while teams that suffer from the curse are those that fail to get production out of their investment, as in the suffering that the Cubs went through with Alfonso Soriano, the joint suffering of the Blue Jays and Angels over the Vernon Wells contract, and the Giants’ suffering through the Barry Zito contract.

When spending goes wrong, it can financially cripple a franchise, who is then responsible for allocating funds to an under-performing player while still trying to field a competitive team around that player. Teams seem more likely to take those types of risks, though. Due to the incoming revenue from the TV deals, teams like the Cleveland Indians, who celebrated the sale of the franchise owned SportsTime Ohio to Fox Sports this winter by signing Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher, are more capable of making these potentially fatal bids.

Will the money continue to be there for clubs to take on these large, risky contracts?

Pete Kotz had an amazing story about the leagues finances, and while discussing television deals, he says:

With no one saying no, the networks see sports as a no-lose racket, with ESPN as its piper. The sports channel charges cable companies $5 a month per customer, by far the highest monthly fee in national television. While that may seem a pittance, it’s big money when spread over the 100 million U.S. households with pay TV. And it’s made the other big boys envious.

NBC and CBS have launched their own sports channels. Another from Fox is on the way. Even regional sports channels are starting to broach that $5 mark. Their bet is that viewers will always be willing to pay more. And more. And more.

…Today, the average TV bill rests at $86 per month, about half of which pays for sports programming. That’s more than double a decade ago. So it’s no coincidence that the cable and satellite industries have been jettisoning customers for nine years straight.

 “I can’t tell you what will be the trigger,” says Matthew Polka, president of the American Cable Association. “But I am certain that at some point in the very near future, that balloon will burst.”

As cable and satellite customers are forced to pay more and they continue to leave those companies in an effort to save money, the money will eventually not be coming in. The cable and satellite companies will likely battle with the club’s networks to get lower rates, and there could be something drastic, like CBS being taken away from major markets. Eventually, the boom in finances and long-term contracts will go away and the inevitable crash will make it harder for clubs to make large financial commitments to star players. Imagine if the housing market was responsible for financing people’s salaries and when the market for home sales crashed how disastrous that could have been…but it did and it was miserable for the entire economy.

Major League Baseball is exempt from some things due to anti-trust laws, but nothing is too big to fail.

Who Is Worth a Mega-Contract?

harper troutIt may seem easy to say that locking up players within their pre-arbitration or arbitration years to lucrative, long-term contracts seems more intelligent than waiting until free agency, as the annual salaries can slowly increase rather than starting and sitting at $25 million per year for eight straight seasons. A few examples of players who could be worth a long-term investment in this scenario:

  • Angels’ outfielder Mike Trout is earning $510,000 in 2013 and he is pre-arbitration in 2014 before being eligible for arbitration in 2015, 2016, and 2017. If Trout continues his torrid pace for the next four seasons and reaches free agency in 2018 at the age of 26, what types of maniacal offers will he be receiving at that point?
  • Nationals’ outfielder Bryce Harper signed a major league contract and will be arbitration eligible in 2016, 2017, and 2018 before reaching free agency at the age of 25 in 2019. Like Trout, he has posted absurd numbers, given his age, and, with Scott Boras as his current agent, could own half of a franchise based on what he will be offered in free agency.
  • Orioles third baseman Manny Machado, Nationals’ right-hander Stephen Strasburg, Marlins’ right-hander Jose Fernandez, Marlins’ right-fielder Giancarlo Stanton, and Mets’ right-hander Matt Harvey (upon his return in 2015 from elbow surgery…if he is just as productive and dominant) are additional players who fit this mold.

Why are these types of players worth a long-term investment? Because they are young, producing prior to their prime years, and are more likely to continue producing towards the end of a 10 to 15 year extension than a player who turns 40 or 41 in year ten of their long-term contracts, like Joey Votto and Albert Pujols.

These are the types of mega-contracts that seem more reasonable and realistic for franchises, while being less likely to provide a curse on the investing bidder. Because the player is within the grasp of the franchise already, the team has all kinds of data available to analyze, they have coaches and front office personnel who have strong relationships with the player, and the fan-base, media, and community surrounding the player are already familiar, so it could be assumed that there are fewer outside influences that could impact player performance.

SeligRegardless of the potential that these younger players possess, any long-term contract remains a risk for the franchise. If the clubs suddenly refuse to offer these types of contracts, however, the league and its owners would likely be accused of collusion. The mega-contract isn’t going away anytime soon. Despite future reluctance to meet the demands of players and agents to attain these large salaries, there will likely be enough money, or a few teams with large enough revenue streams, for at least one of these deals to be made each offseason. As fewer and fewer star players seem to reach free agency due to long-term commitments with their existing franchise (like Votto, Troy Tulowitzki, and Carlos Gonzalez), the stars that do reach free agency will likely continue to get the lucrative deals.

My 2013 MLB All-Star Team

Because so many people are clamoring over what I think, I figured it was time to make my All-Star ballot public, while filling up the rosters so that each team is represented. Feel free to ridicule and taunt my choices if you wish, but you’ll have to defend yourself.

 NLNational League – 35 players

Starting Lineup:

1. Carlos Gomez, CF, MIL: Continuing his awesome breakout.

2. Brandon Phillips, 2B, CIN: Huge production behind Votto in Cincy lineup.

3. Joey Votto, 1B, CIN: His numbers would look much better if he was pitched to.

4. David Wright, 3B, NYM: Hometown hero and best 3B in the NL.

5. Carlos Gonzalez, LF, COL: Hitting everywhere this year, even away from Coor’s.

6. Carlos Beltran, RF, STL: Defying age with a healthy, productive season.

7. Michael Cuddyer, DH, COL: Helping to make the Rockies a contender in 2013.

8. Buster Posey, C, SF: Tough choice over Molina, but his bat is still bigger.

9. Jean Segura, SS, MIL: Huge breakout by one of the key pieces in the Greinke deal with the Angels.

Starting Pitcher: Matt Harvey, RHP, NYM: Probably the biggest story in the biggest city in all of baseball, he gets the start at Citi Field.

Pitchers:

Jeff Locke, LHP, PIT

Jason Grilli, RHP, PIT

Jordan Zimmerman, RHP, WAS

Clayton Kershaw, LHP, LAD

Patrick Corbin, LHP, ARZ

Cliff Lee, LHP, PHI

Adam Wainwright, RHP, STL

Shelby Miller, RHP, STL

Aroldis Chapman, LHP, CIN

Craig Kimbrel, RHP, ATL

Edward Mujica, RHP, STL

Rafael Soriano, RHP, WAS

Travis Wood, LHP, CHI-C

Jeff Samardzija, RHP, CHI-C

Jonathan Papelbon, RHP, PHI

Bench:

Yadier Molina, C, STL

Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, ARZ

Freddie Freeman, 1B, ATL

Marco Scutaro, 2B, SF

Everth Cabrera, SS, SD

Giancarlo Stanton, RF, MIA

Yasiel Puig, OF, LAD

Domonic Brown, OF, PHI

Matt Carpenter, 2B, STL

Andrew McCutchen, CF, PIT

Biggest Snubs: Sergio Romo, RHP, SF; Kevin Gregg, RHP, CHI-C; Lance Lynn, RHP, STL; Allen Craig, 1B, STL; Mat Latos, RHP, CIN; Madison Bumgarner, LHP, SF; Rex Brothers, LHP, COL; A.J. Burnett, RHP, PIT; Nate Schierholtz, OF, CHI-C; Shin-Soo Choo, OF, CIN; Ryan Braun, LF, MIL; Bryce Harper, OF, WAS; Ian Desmond, SS, WAS; Chris Johnson, 1B/3B, ATL; Pedro Alvarez, 3B, PIT; Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, LAD; Wilin Rosario, C, COL; Evan Gattis, C/OF, ATL;

ALAmerican League – 35 players

Starting Lineup:

1. Mike Trout, LF, LAA: Having a “down” year when compared to his 2012 rookie season, which was one of the greatest in baseball history.

2. Robinson Cano, 2B, NYY: Tough choice but his bat is still huge and he gets the start in NYC.

3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B, DET: His numbers are even better than his 2012 Triple Crown winning season.

4. Chris Davis, 1B, BAL: An absolute monster season from the toss-in in the Koji Uehara deal with Texas.

5. Jose Bautista, RF, TOR: Production is slightly down, but Joey Bats is still a huge fan favorite.

6. David Ortiz, DH, BOS: Still producing as a member of AARP.

7. Adam Jones, CF, BAL: Continuing where he left off in 2012 and becoming one of the top players in baseball.

8. Joe Mauer, C, MIN: The power won’t ever be there again from his 2009 MVP season (28 HR), but he can find the gaps and be productive in ways that no other AL catcher can match.

9. Jhonny Peralta, SS, DET: Quietly having an incredible season as one of the worst defensive SS in baseball – loving his production, though.

Starting Pitcher: Yu Darvish, RHP, TEX: He just struck you out and you didn’t even know he threw three pitches. Having a dominant season.

Pitchers:

Jesse Crain, RHP, CHI-W

Felix Hernandez, RHP, SEA

Justin Masterson, RHP, CLE

Max Scherzer, RHP, DET

Mariano Rivera, RHP, NYY

Joe Nathan, RHP, TEX

Clay Buchholz, RHP, BOS

Hisashi Iwakuma, RHP, SEA

Ervin Santana, RHP, KC

Greg Holland, RHP, KC

Bartolo Colon, RHP, OAK

Matt Moore, LHP, TB

Bud Norris, RHP, HOU

Glen Perkins, LHP, MIN

Jim Johnson, RHP, BAL

Bench:

Jason Castro, C, HOU

Adam Lind, 1B, TOR

Prince Fielder, 1B, DET

Dustin Pedroia, 2B, BOS

Jason Kipnis, 2B, CLE

Evan Longoria, 3B, TB

Manny Machado, 3B, BAL

Jed Lowrie, SS, OAK

Nelson Cruz, OF, TEX

Coco Crisp, OF, OAK

Biggest Snubs: Josh Donaldson, 3B, OAK; J.J. Hardy, SS, BAL; Adrian Beltre, 3B, TEX; Kyle Seager, 3B, SEA; Howie Kendrick, 2B, LAA; Edwin Encarnacion, 1B/3B/DH, TOR; Carlos Santana, C, CLE; Hiroki Kuroda, RHP, NYY; Chris Sale, LHP, CHI-W; Addison Reed, RHP, CHI-W; Grant Balfour, RHP, OAK; Casey Janssen, RHP, TOR;

 

2013 MLB Surprises

iglesiasWhile the season isn’t quite so young anymore with roughly 100 games remaining, the early season surprises and the small sample sizes that went along with them aren’t nearly so odd. Who is legit? Who will fall off? Who is still surprising?

Jose Iglesias, INF, Boston Red Sox

Surprise, surprise. When you look at Iglesias’ career .257/.307/.314 line in four minor league seasons, and then you look at this:

Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
2013 23 BOS 22 83 74 13 33 7 0 1 7 1 6 11 .446 .494 .581 1.075 188 43
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/10/2013.

Iglesias’ success would still qualify as a small sample, given his 83 plate appearances, but considering his struggles in the minors, especially his .202/.262/.319 line at Triple-A in 2013, his production is absolutely incredible. His likelihood to maintain this success is slim to none, unless, of course, Iglesias was just bored playing in the minor leagues. The 23-year-old appeared to be nothing more than organizational depth or a glove-based defensive replacement as recently as a month ago. Enjoy the ride while it lasts.

CuddyerMichael Cuddyer, 1B/OF, Colorado Rockies

Not many guys have their best seasons in their mid-30’s without “the cream” or “the clear”, but that is exactly what Cuddyer is doing this season:

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 34 COL NL 45 194 174 25 59 14 1 10 37 5 16 34 .339 .397 .603 1.000 105
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/10/2013.

Cuddyer is on pace to shatter his career highs in OPS, AVG, and OBP, while posting productive numbers across the board. The Colorado lineup has been tremendous this season, leading to their current 2nd place ranking in the NL West standings. With Cuddyer’s ability to fill in for the oft-injured Todd Helton at first base and solidifying one of the most productive outfields in baseball, along with Dexter Fowler and Carlos Gonzalez, he continues to be a valuable, under-appreciated asset to fantasy teams and “real-life teams” alike.

Brown1Domonic Brown, OF, Philadelphia Phillies

What appeared to be a super-productive May has continued into June:

Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB BAbip
May 28 27 109 109 17 33 4 1 12 25 3 0 21 .303 .303 .688 .991 75 .276
June 9 9 37 33 8 13 2 1 4 11 3 4 6 .394 .459 .879 1.338 29 .391
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/10/2013.

Brown is a superstar and his early-career parallels to Braves outfielder Jason Heyward have finally reached fruition. If you take at look at his overall numbers, below, you can see how unproductive he was during the first month of the season:

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 25 PHI NL 63 243 228 33 66 9 2 19 47 6 13 44 .289 .329 .596 .926 136
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/10/2013.

Can pitchers make adjustments to make him an afterthought again in Philadelphia? It appears highly unlikely, as Brown looks like an All-Star, who is capable of reaching 30-35 home runs this season, while pacing an aging Phillies’ lineup.

DonaldsonJosh Donaldson, 3B, Oakland Athletics

Donaldson has always had a solid, gap-power approach at the plate, posting a career minor league line of .275/.365/.470 over 2,302 plate appearances. That game has finally transitioned to the big show, as his overall line shows:

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 27 OAK AL 64 270 238 33 77 18 1 9 42 2 28 45 .324 .393 .521 .914 124
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/10/2013.

With Yoenis Cespedes and Jed Lowrie, Donaldson is giving the A’s a somewhat formidable lineup to team with its young pitching, and at 38-27 and in 2nd in the AL West, Oakland will once again be a threatening team down the stretch.

Corbin1Patrick Corbin, LHP, Arizona Diamondbacks

At no point during his time in the minor leagues did Corbin appear to be on the same track as Tyler Skaggs or Trevor Bauer for Arizona, a top-tier starting pitcher. Corbin seemed to have back-end stuff after posting a career 3.78 ERA and 1.27 WHIP over 430.2 innings. Then, the 2013 season happened:

Year Age Tm Lg W L ERA GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 23 ARI NL 9 0 1.98 12 1 0 81.2 63 19 18 4 22 65 200 1.041 6.9 2.4 7.2 2.95
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/10/2013.

Corbin has dominated in several starts this season and remains unbeaten after 12 starts. While he doesn’t possess shutdown, strikeout stuff, Corbin keeps the opposition off-balance and looks like the 2013 version of Wade Miley, the Diamondbacks lefty who has struggled mightily this season, but posted a 16-11 record and 3.33 ERA in his rookie season in 2012. He’ll eventually lose a game, but Corbin should continue to solidify himself as, at least, a mid-rotation starter, capable of becoming a Tom Glavine-like winner if he maintains his success, something that could be very challenging when he is pitching half of his games in the thin, desert air in Arizona.

LockeJeff Locke, LHP, Pittsburgh Pirates

Something clicked for Locke when he reached Triple-A Indianapolis within the Pirates organization. After posting a career 3.92 ERA over 629 innings prior to reaching Indianapolis, Locke posted a 2.44 ERA over 170 innings there before struggling in brief auditions in Pittsburgh in both 2011 and 2012. The 2013 season has been quite different, though:

Year Age Tm Lg W L ERA GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 25 PIT NL 5 1 2.39 13 0 0 75.1 56 21 20 5 35 55 1.208 6.7 4.2 6.6 1.57
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/10/2013.

Locke, like Corbin, doesn’t have overwhelming stuff, and, unlike Corbin, he flirts with disaster, at times, due to command. While Locke still does a solid job of keeping runners off of the base paths when he is throwing strikes, it isn’t wrong to wonder if he could succumb to another Pittsburgh flop, as the team remains without a winning record since 1992. It would be nice for the organization to have a veteran arm to rely on once Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon are ready for Pittsburgh, and with A.J. Burnett dominating and potentially becoming trade fodder, Locke could be that guy. If he doesn’t improve either his walk rate or strikeout rates, though, he could be heading towards a drastic decline over the rest of the 2013 season.

Wood1Travis Wood, LHP, Chicago Cubs

A tremendous athlete, Wood is finally showing the skills that made him such a highly regarded young player when he came up with the Cincinnati Reds in 2010 and thrived. Things hadn’t gone so well the last couple of seasons, but things are back on track in 2013:

Year Age Tm Lg W L ERA GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 26 CHC NL 5 4 2.65 12 0 0 78.0 53 24 23 5 26 56 1.013 6.1 3.0 6.5 2.15
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/10/2013.

Not only has he been effective on the mound, but Wood could be one of the Cubs’ best hitters, having posted a .910 OPS with two home runs and seven RBI in just 26 at-bats – they should pinch-hit for the struggling Starlin Castro with him! With Wood and Jeff Samardzija around in the rotation, the Cubs have a couple of solid arms to build around…if they could just figure out a way to get rid of that now awful Edwin Jackson contract. Like Locke, Wood has spurts of control issues, but he is leading the NL in hits per nine and could well be on his way to establishing himself, along with Samardzija, as a dominant arm on the constantly rebuilding Cubs squad.

How Roy Oswalt Could Save Your Fantasy Season

Oswalt3If you’re like me, you’re constantly looking for a sneaky good move with your fantasy baseball teams. Using statistics to look into trends allowed for smart trades for Matt Moore, Manny Machado, and Dexter Fowler in one league. Now, I’m looking at Roy Oswalt.

Yes, that Roy Oswalt. I know that he is 37 and his experience with the Texas Rangers in 2012 was an absolute disaster, but this is what you need to know:

I Split W L ERA G GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP SO/9 SO/BB
COL-Coors Fld 4 0 2.25 5 5 1 1 36.0 30 9 9 4 8 31 1.056 7.8 3.88
LAD-Dodger Stad 4 3 3.46 7 6 1 0 41.2 32 17 16 0 19 33 1.224 7.1 1.74
ARI-Chase Field 2 2 5.28 5 5 0 0 29.0 38 18 17 3 9 18 1.621 5.6 2.00
SDP-PetCo Pk 4 1 1.69 8 8 1 0 53.1 38 10 10 1 14 49 0.975 8.3 3.50
SFG-AT&T Pk 3 7 4.21 11 11 0 0 66.1 83 34 31 5 17 44 1.508 6.0 2.59
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/22/2013.

Oswalt2These are Oswalt’s career numbers pitching in the NL West. Granted, a lot of those totals came in his “younger years” with the Houston Astros, but outside of his struggles at Chase Field, a notorious hitter’s park, Oswalt has been very solid. A career 14-13 record with a 3.30 ERA over 226.1 innings with a 1.27 WHIP and a 175:67 K:BB over 36 games (35 starts) is the overall line.

Heading to Coors Field could be a little troubling, but as you can see from the table above, Oswalt has handled the unfriendly confines pretty well over a small five game sample; however, even doubling his ERA to 4.50 (a quality start if he goes six innings), would allow Oswalt to win several games for the Rockies this season. The Rockies offense is very impressive, as Dexter Fowler, Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, and Wilin Rosario are all thriving this season, and the club hopes that Nolen Arenado can take his place as the next Vinny Castilla for the club.

In Oswalt’s recent extended spring training start (Saturday, May 18), he struck out nine and allowed just a bunt single in five innings. Needless to say, the competition was probably pretty weak, but Rotoworld.com reported that Oswalt’s fastball is already sitting in the low 90’s.

Oswalt1With a club looking to surprise in the NL West and a lively offense, don’t be shocked if Roy Oswalt shocks the world and creates value for himself in the 2013 season while pitching for the Colorado Rockies.


//

Coming Attraction: Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies, Third Baseman

Arenado2Nolan Arenado was drafted out of a California high school in the 2nd round of the 2009 MLB Draft by the Colorado Rockies. Arenado played some catcher in high school, but he was drafted as an infielder, which seems to be a good choice by the Rockies, considering their top prospect’s quick ascension through the minors.

To see how productive Arenado has been, you need to look no further than his career minor league statistics:

Year Age Tm Lg Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2009 18 Casper PION Rk 54 225 203 28 61 15 0 2 22 5 16 18 .300 .351 .404 .755 82
2010 19 Asheville SALL A 92 400 373 45 115 41 1 12 65 1 19 52 .308 .338 .520 .858 194
2011 20 Modesto CALL A+ 134 583 517 82 154 32 3 20 122 2 47 53 .298 .349 .487 .836 252
2012 21 Tulsa TL AA 134 573 516 55 147 36 1 12 56 0 39 58 .285 .337 .428 .766 221
2013 22 Colorado Springs PCL AAA 12 51 44 12 20 11 0 3 18 0 4 5 .455 .480 .909 1.389 40
5 Seasons 426 1832 1653 222 497 135 5 49 283 8 125 186 .301 .347 .477 .824 789
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/18/2013.

 Statistical Areas of Focus:

Arenado showed very good plate discipline as an 18-year-old in short-season ball, which didn’t hold in his first full season; however, while he didn’t take as many pitches in Asheville in 2010, he didn’t strikeout at an alarming rate and his gap power (41 doubles) was a nice preview for his 2011 breakout season. In 2011, Arenado’s statistics were aided by the bandbox stadiums of the California League, but he maintained a tremendous contact rate, while showing similar gap power (32 doubles) with a slight increase in home runs. His 122 RBI in 2011 are impressive on paper, but they don’t represent a number that can translate to the majors as a “normal” counting statistic. In 2012, Arenado was, in a way, a disappointment. He maintained his contact rates but his power dropped off. He seemed to miss the thin air of California in the Texas League in 2012, but his 36 doubles still showed a solid approach, and at the age of 21, Arenado still possessed some projection.

TuloFowlerWhat to Watch For:

Arenado has 11 doubles and three home runs in just 44 total at-bats, which leads to an impressive .909 slugging percentage in the early going. Arenado’s statistics will likely take another leap forward in 2013 due to the thin air of the Pacific Coast League, particularly in Colorado Springs, the Rockies Triple-A affiliate. Arenado’s 18 RBI lead the minors right now, and it wouldn’t be crazy to think that he could become a huge producer in a very impressive lineup in Denver, as Dexter Fowler, Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, and Wilin Rosario create a tremendously dangerous lineup.

Why the Rockies Need Arenado:

I’d be lying if I said that the Rockies GOTTA HAVE Arenado right now. Colorado’s third basemen (Chris Nelson and Reid Brignac) are hitting a combined .309/.361/.345 with two doubles, five RBI, and six runs scored, while posting an 11:5 K:BB over 55 at-bats. The only issue is that Nelson and Brignac have just the two extra-base hits, which is why the slugging percentage is so low. While that is one reason to clamor for Arenado’s immediate call-up, especially with his current production in Colorado Springs, the Rockies can allow their current third basemen to get on base at a solid clip, allowing their mashers to clear the bases later. Arenado would be a huge offensive upgrade to the Rockies lineup, though, so there is no shame in utilizing Nelson and/or Brignac in utility roles, as both players could get at bats at second base, spelling Josh Rutledge on occasion, as he is hitting just .226/.288/.358 in 53 at-bats for Colorado.

ArendadoWhen to Expect Arenado’s Arrival:

While it would be great to allow Arenado to get more experience in Triple-A, where veteran starters could possess better breaking balls than his lower-level opposition, Arenado could force the Rockies’ hand in the coming weeks. Chris Nelson, who has handled the majority of starts at third, was tremendous in the second half last season, posting a .344/.381/.500 line over 180 at-bats, but he doesn’t possess the power and skill-set that Arenado does. Nelson would still have a major role as a super-utility player, but Arenado could get the call to Coor’s Field by mid-June, and have an immediate impact on a suddenly strong Rockies team. They just need some health, especially with Tulowitzki, to be taken seriously.