Results tagged ‘ Robinson Cano ’
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!
2015 Projected Record: 87-75 (2nd in AL West, 6th in MLB)
Manager: Lloyd McClendon (87-75 in one season with Seattle, 423-521 in six seasons overall)
Top Three Players: 2B Robinson Cano (5.1), RHP Felix Hernandez (4.7), 3B Kyle Seager (4.1)
Bounce-back Player: LHP James Paxton
Paxton missed 102 games last season with a shoulder strain, but, upon returning, he was lights out, posting a 3.19 ERA and 1.31 WHIP over 62 innings and 11 starts, including the stinker in Toronto on 9/22 (2.2 IP, 9 R, 8 ER). He had the same injury that Reds RHP Johnny Cueto had in 2013, but Cueto came back to toss a career-high 243.2 innings in 2014 – so, this shouldn’t hold Paxton back from taking off again. Still, he has made only 17 starts in his brief career, and he’ll rebound from his injury-plaged 2014 and become the No.2 option behind Felix Hernandez in the Mariners’ rotation.
Fantasy Player to Watch: C Mike Zunino
Zunino should have most people’s eyes already thanks to his 22 home runs in 2014, but many will be terrified of his .199/.254/.404 line and 33.2 percent strikeout rate. Once upon a time, there was a guy who hit. 227 with 24 home runs and 56 RBI…that was the 2012-version of Mike Napoli, and, though Napoli took a few more pitches than Zunino has in his brief career, we need to remember that this kid will still be just 24 on Opening Day. Zunino is slick with the glove behind the plate and can mash, so he’ll carve out a nice, long career. Get on board and watch him improve as he gains more big league experience.
Offseason Overview: The Mariners had their third winning season since 2004 last year, and they had very little to do to keep things intact for another run, but they did make a few changes. The signed Nelson Cruz, fresh off of his 40-homer outburst in Baltimore, to fill their DH spot with a much-needed, right-handed power hitter. Seattle acquired Seth Smith from San Diego for power-armed, results-deficient Brandon Maurer, and they signed Rickie Weeks to become a super-utility type of player, likely to see a lot of outfield at-bats for the Mariners. The rotation added depth when J.A. Happ was acquired from Toronto for OF Michael Saunders. Several solid moves to improve the roster and the quality of depth, as Seattle tries to get over the hump and make their first World Series in franchise history.
MarinersPR (@MarinersPR) April 1, 2015
The Verdict: Seattle made some smart decisions this winter. They gave Cruz a four-year, $57 million deal, which could be a gamble given his age (34 on Opening Day), but he was the top offensive talent available on the free agent market for the team’s need. He’ll fit in nicely with Kyle Seager and Robinson Cano in the middle of the order. The rotation is still strong, as Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma provide All-Star level production while young arms like Paxton and Taijuan Walker round out the rotation with Happ (if he didn’t pitch himself out of a rotation spot). The Mariners are primed to strike, especially with a Josh Hamilton-less Angels club that has far more question marks than Seattle does heading into the season. While PECOTA was generous with a duplication of the 2014 record, it wasn’t generous enough. Seattle will win 90 or more games in 2015.
- 2015 Season Preview: Arizona Diamondbacks (3/1/2015)
- 2015 Season Previews: Atlanta Braves (2/28/2015)
- 2015 Season Previews: Baltimore Orioles (3/4/2015)
- 2015 Season Previews: Chicago Cubs (4/1/2015)
- 2015 Season Previews: Chicago White Sox (3/4/2015)
- 2015 Season Previews: Cincinnati Reds (3/11/2015)
- 2015 Season Previews: Colorado Rockies (2/24/2015)
- 2015 Season Previews: Houston Astros (3/1/2015)
- 2015 Season Previews: Kansas City Royals (2/25/2015)
- 2015 Season Previews: Milwaukee Brewers (3/11/2015)
- 2015 Season Previews: Minnesota Twins (2/21/2015)
- 2015 Season Previews: New York Mets (4/1/2015)
- 2015 Season Previews: Philadelphia Phillies (2/20/2015)
- 2015 Season Previews: Pittsburgh Pirates (3/22/2015)
- Season Previews: Miami Marlins (3/25/2015)
When the Seattle Mariners acquired first baseman/outfielder Logan Morrison from the Miami Marlins via trade for relief pitcher Carter Capps on the same day that the club signed first baseman/outfielder Corey Hart away from the Milwaukee Brewers via free agency, I felt that there was something strange to the deal. The Mariners already had a lot of options at first base, albeit not tremendous ones, in Justin Smoak, Jesus Montero (who has likely moved off of catcher and is a first baseman/DH), and Dustin Ackley (who appears to be a utility player and has experience at first base from his time playing the position at North Carolina). Adding familiar, more successful names, particularly with Hart and the huge Robinson Cano signing was one thing, but how does Morrison really fit in with the Seattle club?
After making some noise in his first 185 games of his career for the Marlins by posting a .259/.351/.460 with 45 doubles, 11 triples, 25 home runs, 90 RBI, and a 150:95 K:BB in 812 plate appearances, Morrison has bombed to a .236/.321/.387 triple-slash since the start of the 2012 season, with 28 doubles, five triples, 17 home runs, 72 RBI, and a 114:69 K:BB in 667 plate appearances. There is still some production there, but Morrison hasn’t been nearly as impressive; however, considering that he is still just 26, there would seem to be some time for him to get his career back on track. But will it be in Seattle?
In addition to the gluttony of first basemen in Seattle, Logan Morrison is an absolute nightmare in the outfield, as he has posted a -26.9 UZR in his career as a left fielder, which is, of course, much worse than the -4.3 UZR that he has provided as a first baseman. After Corey Hart missed all of the 2013 season due to micro-fracture surgery on his right knee, it is safe to assume that he will either be the Mariners’ new DH or first baseman, which could be troublesome for the Seattle defensive outlook if it forces Morrison to the outfield on a full-time basis.
Which brings me to the continued efforts and rumors of a David Price to Seattle trade…After likely losing James Loney to free agency (especially considering his rumored $9-10 million annual salary that he is seeking), the Tampa Bay Rays could still use a first baseman, as the current roster makeup would leave a lot of playing time for Sean Rodriguez at first base, which doesn’t seem like a smart, Rays-like idea. So, could it be possible that the Mariners stole Morrison, which they did in acquiring him for a bullpen arm in Carter, to package him with other, in-house players in a deal for David Price?
It isn’t as if Logan Morrison could be the central figure in the Rays’ return in a deal, but three years of team control on a player with enough of a bat to be useful within Tampa’s unconventional, stats-driven ideology would make him an intriguing addition. With Cano at second base, Nick Franklin appears to be available, and while he isn’t much of a defender at shortstop, the Rays have Yunel Escobar through the 2014 season, with slick fielding shortstop Hak-Ju Lee coming up the prospect pipeline. Franklin could take over second base in 2015 if the Rays decline Ben Zobrist‘s 2015 option (very unlikely with a $7.5 million salary and his yearly effectiveness), or the club could utilize Zobrist all over the field, as they have done over the last several seasons. Taijuan Walker, the 21-year-old top prospect of the Mariners, continues to be the key name mentioned as the centerpiece of a deal, and by packaging this trio to Tampa Bay, the Mariners rotation would have one of the most frightening rotations this side of the Greg Maddux–John Smoltz–Tom Glavine Braves, and Tampa would have affordable, young, major league ready talent that they continually covet. (Side Note: The Mariners gave Corey Hart the No.27, Walker’s number from 2013…were they suggesting something here?)
The Mariners shocked the world when they swooped in and signed Robinson Cano to a ten-year, $240 million deal, and they appear to have moved from a slow and steady rebuild to a team looking to contend immediately. With a unique blend of young talent in Ackley, Franklin, Brad Miller, Mike Zunino, and Kyle Seager already around, the addition of Cano, Morrison, and Hart seemed to implode the existing philosophies on where the team was heading in a matter of a week.
Morrison may not be a star, but he could have been the additional piece needed to pluck David Price away from the Tampa Bay Rays. While there have been plenty of questionable moves by Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik over the last several seasons, the acquisition of Morrison wasn’t one of them, and as the team looks to continue to make bold moves to turn itself into immediate contenders, it will be interesting to see how many more deals and signings could be made in the Pacific Northwest to bring a winner back to the house that Griffey built.
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 Doug Fister Trade
Washington Nationals get: RHP Doug Fister
It 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.
Houston Astros get: CF Dexter Fowler
Fowler 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.
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?
This 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.
Why 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
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.
Wendy Thurm (@hangingsliders) had a post at Fangraphs discussing the National TV contracts for Major League Baseball and the value that they will provide for each team. Within the article, Thurm had several valuable bits of information:
“ESPN will pay MLB $700 million per year for the right to broadcast games exclusively on Sunday nights, other games (non-exclusively) on Monday and Wednesday nights, extended highlights for Baseball Tonight, the Home Run Derby and other All-Star activities (but not the game) and one Wild Card Game. The deal also includes national and international radio and digital rights.
MLB announced a new national TV contract with Fox and TBS, which also covered the 2014 through 2021 seasons. Under that deal, MLB will receive $800 million per year in combined revenue from the two networks, in exchange for broadcasts rights for the Saturday game of the week on Fox, the Sunday game on TBS and all of the postseason games — save for the one that will be broadcast on ESPN. Fox also retains the rights to the All-Star Game.
That’s $1.5 billion in national TV revenue per season that will go into MLB’s Central Fund, or $750 million more than under the contracts that just expired. MLB can spend money from the Central Fund in a variety of ways, but it’s been assumed in the reporting that the league will distribute the TV money to the teams. If so, each team will receive $25 million more in national TV revenue in 2014 through 2021 than they did in 2013.
Teams aren’t obligated, of course, to use all or even part of that additional $25 million on player salaries. That money can also be helpful to expanding a team’s national and international scouting operation, or its data analysis department, or marketing, or all three.”
Beyond the television money being received directly from Major League Baseball, each team has their very own local television contract, as well. The dollars being tossed towards clubs has reached absurd levels, as the Los Angeles Dodgers will bring in $340 million per season through 2032 in local television money alone, meaning roughly $390 million including the money coming from MLB. When the Dodgers have that kind of money coming in before averaging 46,216 fans per home game, ranking No.1 in 2013 MLB attendance, you can see the revenue and profitability that comes from these mega deals.
The money is huge, and when you factor in how many teams are being extra cautious with the contracts that they hand out, it makes it seem unreasonable for clubs to cry “small market” any longer. There is no “small market” when a team is streaming revenue of $43 million from television contracts like the Pittsburgh Pirates and Miami Marlins were in 2013, and that number will go up to $68 million with the additional $25 million in 2014. And, while so many were upset with the Marlins and their owner, Jeffrey Loria, for the club’s consistent losing, fire-sales, and sticking Miami with an expensive stadium with a Triple-A worthy roster playing each night, it can’t be as hard as it is for Houston’s fans to watch the Astros pocket $105 million in television deals in 2013, while fielding a team with a payroll of $26 million.
With international signing limits and caps on spending within drafts, it doesn’t seem fair that owners and teams are able to sit on millions of dollars of revenue while doing very little year in and year out to field a competitive team. Certainly, the Astros are utilizing the wizardry of Jeff Luhnow to develop a dynamic farm system, which is ranked in the upper-half of the league after being one of the most vacant systems in all of baseball for nearly a decade. However, if other teams decided to gut their major league rosters to build in the same manner, how could MLB and its commissioner tell fans that they were fielding a solid product?
When the Tampa Bay Rays, Oakland A’s, and Boston Red Sox publicly entrenched their baseball operations within data analysis and the sabermetric way, they also committed to spending wisely and finding value, possibly bargains, by linking players and their abilities to areas that the club needed to improve. By signing their young players to lucrative contracts early in their careers, the Rays were able to manage the long-term salary of their stars by avoiding the arbitration process, while, simultaneously, taking on a huge risk by investing in a player who may battle an injury or be unable to make adjustments when the league caught up with their skills. Evan Longoria, for example, was signed to a six-year, $17.6 million deal (with team options for 2014 through 2016), after just seven days in the majors. The A’s have been very careful with their payroll over the years as Billy Beane has utilized the Moneyball way to build success out of a spacious ballpark and on-base driven offensive players, though that has changed with players like Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick being key members of more recent teams. Boston, on the other hand, seems to have learned their lesson from the failures of mega-contracts that were given out to Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, shipping the huge deals to the Dodgers and finding payroll relief and success through finding strong character players, which landed them a championship this season behind the leadership of new additions like Jonny Gomes, Mike Napoli, and Shane Victorino.
When looking at teams that have created unique ways to be competitive, though, does it show a pattern or a method to success, or can spending money guide a team to a title? The Dodgers, for example, have over $190 million committed to their payroll in 2014 before free agency has even started. Add on the rumors of the club is interested in acquiring David Price via trade with the Rays and being a major player in the posting process and negotiations with Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka, and the Dodgers could have a starting rotation (that’s right, five guys) earning over $100 million in 2014. The New York Yankees tried for several years to build a contender through free agency, but the club was most successful when they were building from within with Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, and Andy Pettitte in the mid-to-late 1990’s and early 2000’s…though, they did win a title in 2009.
No team can duplicate the science that one team has perfected, but they can certainly try. As teams like the Twins and Marlins continue to try different techniques in finding success, one thing remains evident: they need to spend money to be successful. The Twins have struck gold with recent international signings and drafts, adding Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano to their system, but how will they help Joe Mauer at Target Field with the terrible pitching that they continue to produce? The Marlins tried to buy success when they signed Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle prior to the 2012 season. That experiment lasted all of one season before Miami sold off several pieces to rebuild with prospects that they received from the Blue Jays.
Every team should be active when free agency begins. There is no excuse for the “small market” teams when each team is receiving nearly $50 million dollars from MLB each season from the league’s national TV deals. Add on a minimum of $18 million for local TV deals (which the Marlins and Pirates have, lowest of all teams), and you’re looking at $68 million in revenue before the team takes the field, provides marketing space in the stadium, sells a ticket, or sells a t-shirt this season. Of course, there are operating expenses for a team and their employees, but how much exactly? Why exist if the owner is more focused on the bottom line and profitability of the club than the club’s long-term success? After all, we’re talking about billionaire owners paying millionaire players, and every time an owner complains about how much money they aren’t making, you can look at the figures that were provided above and laugh…as you make five-figures and save for months to pay $200 or more to take your family of four to a game once or twice per season.
Another major question could be: is there too much money in baseball? If a team like the Dodgers is bringing in nearly $400 million in revenue on television deals alone, how can the Pirates and Marlins compete against them? The Dodgers could sign Tanaka, trade for Price, and add Robinson Cano to play second base, and the club would still have nearly $150 million in annual salaries before reaching $400 million, over five-and-a-half times the amount that the Pirates and Marlins have in revenue. If or when Clayton Kershaw reaches free agency, if or when Mike Trout reaches free agency, and if or when Bryce Harper reaches free agency, what are the smaller revenue clubs to do? My answer to that…see the Tampa Bay Rays, who compete in the AL East with much smaller revenue numbers than the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, and even the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles, by being smarter, more creative, and careful as to how they have built their roster each season.
And if there is still concern about your team and wanting to cry “small market”, remember this:
Another season has finished and with only ten teams having successful, playoff-bound seasons, it is time for the other 20 teams to look forward to the 2014 season. After 162 games, you probably have a pretty good idea of what your team needs. Below, you’ll find a list of upcoming free agents. Who would you like your team to sign? Comment away!!!
Robinson Cano, 2B, 31: Although ESPN’s Buster Olney reported that Cano wants a ten-year, $305 million deal, it would seem nearly impossible for the middle infielder to get anything close to that, even when considering all of the television money coming in for clubs. How far are the Dodgers willing to go over the luxury tax threshold? Are the Angels willing to shell out more money to 30-plus year olds after watching Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols not live up to expectations? Everyone knows that the Yankees are trying to slim down their payroll…it just doesn’t seem likely. After watching Cano hit like a corner outfielder while playing second base over the last nine years, he is clearly the top talent available in the entire free agency market.
Shin-Soo Choo, OF, 31: Choo showed his worth by getting on base exactly 300 times in the 2013 season (162 hits, 112 walks, and 26 HBP) while reaching the 20 home run/20 stolen base level for the third time in his career, helping solidify a Cincinnati lineup that had been seeking a strong leadoff hitter for what seems like decades. He proved that he was at least capable of handling center field in Cincinnati, but his defensive metrics have been pretty miserable over his entire career wherever he plays, although, Choo can make up for it at times with his strong arm. Shin-Soo Choo will be highly coveted by outfield-needy clubs this offseason and those clubs will likely get several solid seasons out of the South Korean-born, on-base machine.
Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, 30: Ellsbury had a fine season, leading MLB in stolen bases (52) while being a tremendous defensive center fielder. He will likely get paid huge dollars for his 2011 season (32 HR, 105 RBI, .928 OPS), even though his next best season was the 2013 season, when he hit nine home runs, drove in 53 runs, and posted a .781 OPS. More Michael Bourn than Matt Kemp, Ellsbury will be an asset due to his speed and defense as a strong outfield option, and while he doesn’t have the on-base skills that Choo possesses, he is a fine leadoff hitter.
Brian McCann, C, 30: McCann is going to be a rich, rich man. With the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and Texas Rangers seeking help at catcher, he’ll have plenty of suitors. After reaching 20 home runs for the seventh time in eight full seasons despite playing in just 102 games, McCann has proven that his shoulder woes are behind him and that he can continue to be an offensive asset to a club going forward. Still pretty weak behind the dish (24-percent caught stealing this season and the same for his career), McCann’s bat will carry him and utilizing him in the American League at DH will do wonders for his career and whoever signs him.
There are some solid options available at catcher, here. McCann is obviously the top option with Saltalamacchia as the next best option. Navarro seems to have been around forever and the Cubs got a lot out of him this season while using him sparingly, posting an .856 OPS and 13 home runs over just 266 plate appearances, making him a somewhat attractive, cheaper option. The rest offer solid veteran depth, which has tremendous value with so many good young catchers in the league.
Abreu is the highly-coveted Cuban defector, full of power and mystique, who will likely get a Yasiel Puig-like contract, maybe better. Several solid veterans are available who can handle first base, many of them (Hart, Napoli, and Morneau, in particular) having some injury concerns. With the right type of deal, any of these players could provide tremendous value to a club seeking leadership, while having enough talent remaining to be productive as platoon options, starters, or multi-position use (1B/DH primarily).
Best Available Middle Infielders
Cano is the true treat here, but former All-Star talents exist, although several of them have been and will continue to be risky due to injury histories. Like many of the corner infielders that are available this winter, there are several players who could provide solid production, but it could come with a limited role as a platoon player while providing the old phantom value that comes with being a strong veteran with clubhouse presence.
Carlos Beltran, 37; Marlon Byrd, 36; Choo; Nelson Cruz, 33; Rajai Davis, 33; Ellsbury; Jeff Francoeur, 30; Curtis Granderson, 33; Corey Hart, 32; Raul Ibanez, 42; Mike Morse, 32; Juan Pierre, 36; Grady Sizemore, 31; Delmon Young, 28;
There could be tremendous value in the outfield this winter, as teams will be able to get aging veterans like Ibanez (if he comes back), Beltran, or Byrd, all having excellent 2013 seasons, at an affordable, short-term deal. At the same time, Cruz, Granderson, Hart, and Young could post numbers that would make them equals to the top players available (Choo and Ellsbury) if everything breaks right.
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.
Adam 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.
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.
However, 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:
— Ben Lindbergh (@ben_lindbergh) September 6, 2013
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.
But 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 Curse, which 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?
It 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.
Regardless 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.
- It doesn’t matter that the Lerners are the wealthiest owners in baseball (halfstreetheartattack.com)
- Pujols’ contract rising, production declining (espn.go.com)
- Votto’s value extends way beyond plating runs (mlb.mlb.com)
- About that 12 year contract for Harper (halfstreetheartattack.com)
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.
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.
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
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;
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.
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.
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
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;
With the season underway and some fans already looking forward to next year, even this early, it is a good time to look down on the farms for some names that you should get to know. Everyone knows who Wil Myers, Dylan Bundy, and Oscar Taveras are at this point, so these are players performing at elite levels who may not be household names…yet.
Ventura tends to be overlooked due to his height. Despite being just 5’11” and 180 pounds, the soon-to-be 22-year-old with a mid-to-upper 90’s fastball is doing all that he can to create some hype and become one of the top prospects in baseball. Prior to the 2013 season, Ventura was ranked by Baseball America as the No.85 prospect and by MLB.com as the No.60 prospect in baseball. While he could end up in the bullpen due to his reliance on his dominant fastball and excellent curve, he could still improve his changeup enough to become a rotation fixture in Kansas City. His last two starts have been absolutely dominant in Double-A, as he has a 0.00 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, and a 20:5 K:BB in 11 innings. Tim Lincecum, Whitey Ford, and Pedro Martinez had some success as pitchers under six feet tall, so don’t squash the idea that Ventura could dominate as a starter.
Henry Owens, LHP, Boston Red Sox
The anti-Ventura, Owens is a 6’6″ left-hander with three solid pitches in the Red Sox organization. While other young pitchers, like Allen Webster, Anthony Ranaudo, and Brandon Workman, are thriving in the system’s higher levels, Owens is dominating in High-A and demonstrating statistics that match his skills, something that wasn’t true last season. Owens is missing more bats and, while he won’t turn 21 years old until July, could see a few starts in Double-A this season. The Red Sox have to be excited about the progress that he has shown this season.
Garin Cecchini, 3B, Boston Red Sox
Cecchini is Owens’ teammate with High-A Salem, and while he doesn’t possess the normal hitting skills of a dynamic corner infielder, he is seems to be a robotic producer. Cecchini currently leads the Carolina League in total bases, and while he has just four home runs, his 19 extra-base hits, 10 stolen bases, and .468 on-base percentage show the type of talent that he has. At 22, it may be time to wonder if he’ll be able to produce enough pop to be valuable at third, especially with the Red Sox potentially moving Xander Bogaerts off of short in the future; however, hits 38 doubles last season could turn into home runs as he continues to fill his 6’2″ frame. He’s a pure hitter and possesses sabermetric skills that the Red Sox front office is known to drool over.
D.J. Baxendale, RHP, Minnesota Twins
This is really digging deep, but after striking out 10 while not allowing a run over seven innings in his last start, Baxendale could finally get noticed. A 10th round pick out of Arkansas in the 2012 MLB Draft, Baxendale was moved to starting pitcher this season by the Twins. Due to the club’s horrific starting pitching, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him move quickly if he continues to have this type of success. His strikeout rate isn’t going to overwhelm you, but the fact that he doesn’t allow many free passes is very encouraging. The only scouting reports that I’ve seen on him mention a 3/4 arm slot, an 88 to 91 mph fastball, and an average to solid slider and curve, but his ability to thrive while pitching in the tough SEC while at Arkansas as a reason to not count him out. Mound presence and confidence can go a long way in success, and Baxendale’s early results show that he could become useful for the Twins.
Rob Refsnyder, 2B, New York Yankees
You have to assume that Robinson Cano isn’t going to be leaving New York anytime soon, and it is questionable as to whether he will ever move off of second base if or when he does sign a long-term extension with the Yankees; however, what are the Yankees going to do if Cano doesn’t re-sign with the club? Nearly all of their top prospects are outfielders and with the club sitting on the declining skills and lofty contracts of Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, will the club look for an expensive free agent option to replace him if he does leave? Robert Refsnyder doesn’t have a name that should be familiar to anyone, but if he continues to hit the way that he has this season, he could quickly become a part of the Yankees’ plans. A 5th round pick out of the University of Arizona in the 2012 MLB Draft, Refsnyder won the Most Outstanding Player award in the 2012 College World Series by leading the Wildcats to the title. While his introduction to professional ball in 2012 wasn’t fantastic, he did show solid on-base skills and a little bit of speed. He has already been promoted to Tampa this season and he has responded with a 1.055 OPS in his first 20 games after posting a .933 OPS in 13 games in Low-A. He is short on home run power but he does have solid gap power, speed, and excellent plate discipline. If he maintains this production, it wouldn’t be too crazy to see him as a second baseman and leadoff hitter for a Cano-less Yankees team in a couple of years.
Roberto Osuna, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
Osuna just turned 18 years old in February and, while most boys his age are gearing up for high school graduation and prom night, Osuna is pitching for the Lansing Lugnuts and overmatching his competition in Low-A. At 6’2″, 230 pounds, Osuna has a solid frame that seems capable of handling a lot of innings, which could still grow. Hopefully, it wouldn’t grow like Bartolo Colon…Regardless, Osuna has very good stuff, he appears to have very good control, and if he keeps the ball in the park, he could be a tremendous asset for the Blue Jays. After several trades this winter to upgrade their club (which hasn’t worked out so well), the club could use an excellent season from Osuna to rebuild their minor league system.
Stetson Allie, 1B, Pittsburgh Pirates
Taken in the 2nd round of the 2010 MLB Draft after posting a 1.29 ERA with 134 strikeouts in 60 innings as a senior in high school, the Pirates had hoped that they had another first round talent in Allie, after taking Jameson Taillon earlier in the draft. Allie didn’t pan out, as he posted some horrific numbers while on the mound (7.76 ERA, 2.18 WHIP, 29:37 K:BB in 26.2 IP) before he was moved to first base. While it didn’t go so well last season, the 2013 season has been a bit kinder to him. It is still the Sally League (Low-A) and Allie is 22 years old, but he is showing very good power and is second in the league in total bases. He is a long way off and he has a lot to prove, and his age could become a factor in the Pirates philosophy in moving him through the organization, as well. He does live, though, and you have to root for a guy who had such tremendous stuff and lost it so abruptly.
Wins Above Replacement, better known as WAR, came to the forefront of MVP balloting last season for many voters. Mike Trout, who, according to Fangraphs.com had a 10.0 WAR lost the AL MVP award to the Triple Crown winning Miguel Cabrera, who had a 7.1 WAR.
WAR can be calculated in various ways, as there is not one, established way of calculating the statistic. Fangraphs and Baseball Reference (position players and pitchers) are my go-to sites for different statistics, and they both calculate WAR differently (click on the above hyperlinks to read how they do that).
Due to the inconsistency in the statistic and the inconsistency in the overall value of the statistic (as evidenced by the number of baseball writers that didn’t consider the difference in value in Trout and Cabrera in 2012), should fantasy baseball consider using WAR as a summative (end of season) statistic, adding it to a 5 X 5 league for additional player values, or should it be used as a way to value players as you approach your 2013 fantasy drafts?
I wanted to see what the 2012 ESPN Player Rater, the 2013 ESPN Player Projections, the 2012 Fangraphs.com WAR Rankings, and the 2013 ZiPS WAR Rankings could show based on player performance. Below is the table that I created:
|2012 ESPN Player Rater||2013 ESPN Rankings||2012 WAR||2013 ZiPS WAR|
|1||Mike Trout||Ryan Braun||Mike Trout, 10.0||Mike Trout, 7.4|
|2||Ryan Braun||Mike Trout||Buster Posey, 8.0||Miguel Cabrera, 6.5|
|3||Miguel Cabrera||Miguel Cabrera||Ryan Braun, 7.9||Giancarlo Stanton, 6.4|
|4||Andrew McCutchen||Robinson Cano||Robinson Cano, 7.8||Clayton Kershaw, 6.4|
|5||R.A. Dickey||Andrew McCutchen||David Wright, 7.8||Buster Posey, 6.2|
|6||Josh Hamilton||Matt Kemp||Chase Headley, 7.5||Robinson Cano, 6.1|
|7||Fernando Rodney||Albert Pujols||Andrew McCutchen, 7.4||Felix Hernandez, 6.1|
|8||Justin Verlander||Carlos Gonzalez||Miguel Cabrera, 7.1||Ryan Braun, 5.9|
|9||Clayton Kershaw||Joey Votto||Justin Verlander, 6.8||Justin Verlander, 5.7|
|10||Craig Kimbrel||Prince Fielder||Jason Heyward, 6.6||Cliff Lee, 5.7|
|11||Alex Rios||Troy Tulowitzki||Adrian Beltre, 6.5||Joey Votto, 5.6|
|12||Adrian Beltre||Justin Upton||Yadier Molina, 6.5||Troy Tulowitzki, 5.3|
|13||Edwin Encarnacion||Justin Verlander||Aramis Ramirez, 6.5||Andrew McCutchen, 5.3|
|14||Chase Headley||Clayton Kershaw||Michael Bourn, 6.4||Zack Greinke, 5.3|
|15||David Price||Giancarlo Stanton||Aaron Hill, 6.2||Adrian Beltre, 5.2|
|16||Aroldis Chapman||Buster Posey||Felix Hernandez, 6.1||Dustin Pedroia, 5.2|
|17||Robinson Cano||David Wright||Martin Prado, 5.9||Madison Bumgarner, 5.0|
|18||Adam Jones||Adrian Beltre||Ben Zobrist, 5.9||Carlos Gonzalez, 4.9|
|19||Matt Cain||Josh Hamilton||Alex Gordon, 5.9||Evan Longoria, 4.8|
|20||Gio Gonzalez||Jose Bautista||Clayton Kershaw, 5.5||David Price, 4.8|
|21||Aaron Hill||Evan Longoria||Austin Jackson, 5.5||Ben Zobrist, 4.7|
|22||Jered Weaver||Felix Hernandez||Gio Gonzalez, 5.4||Bryce Harper, 4.7|
|23||Aramis Ramirez||Hanley Ramirez||Ian Desmond, 5.4||Matt Kemp, 4.7|
|24||David Wright||Stephen Strasburg||Torii Hunter, 5.3||Matt Cain, 4.7|
|25||Carlos Gonzalez||David Price||Matt Holliday, 5.1||Jose Bautista, 4.6|
|26||Prince Fielder||Dustin Pedroia||David Price, 5.1||Yadier Molina, 4.6|
|27||Buster Posey||Ian Kinsler||Yu Darvish, 5.1||Gio Gonzalez, 4.6|
|28||Jose Reyes||Jason Heyward||Zack Greinke, 5.1||Matt Wieters, 4.5|
|29||Billy Butler||Jose Reyes||Joe Mauer, 5.0||Brett Lawrie, 4.5|
|30||Cole Hamels||Matt Cain||Miguel Montero, 5.0||Ian Kinsler, 4.5|
|31||Kris Medlen||Edwin Encarnacion||Jimmy Rollins, 4.9||Yu Darvish, 4.5|
|32||Albert Pujols||Cliff Lee||Prince Fielder, 4.9||Roy Halladay, 4.5|
|33||Matt Holliday||Cole Hamels||Bryce Harper, 4.9||Joe Mauer, 4.4|
|34||Michael Bourn||Adam Jones||Chris Sale, 4.9||Carlos Santana, 4.4|
|35||Johnny Cueto||Starlin Castro||Cliff Lee, 4.9||Stephen Strasburg, 4.4|
|36||Jason Motte||Jay Bruce||Josh Reddick, 4.8||Cole Hamels, 4.4|
|37||Jason Heyward||Bryce Harper||Angel Pagan, 4.8||Jered Weaver, 4.4|
|38||Ian Desmond||Billy Butler||Wade Miley, 4.8||Jason Heyward, 4.3|
|39||Felix Hernandez||Jered Weaver||Johnny Cueto, 4.8||CC Sabathia, 4.3|
|40||Kyle Lohse||Zack Greinke||CC Sabathia, 4.8||Ryan Zimmerman, 4.2|
|41||Carlos Beltran||Adrian Gonzalez||Adam Jones, 4.6||Adam Wainwright, 4.2|
|42||Jim Johnson||Brandon Phillips||R.A. Dickey, 4.6||Albert Pujols, 4.1|
|43||Chris Sale||Craig Kimbrel||Max Scherzer, 4.6||Prince Fielder, 4.1|
|44||Giancarlo Stanton||Chase Headley||Dustin Pedroia, 4.5||Austin Jackson, 4.1|
|45||Derek Jeter||Jacoby Ellsbury||Ryan Zimmerman, 4.5||Jose Reyes, 4.1|
|46||Curtis Granderson||Matt Holliday||Jose Reyes, 4.5||Anthony Rizzo, 4.0|
|47||B.J. Upton||B.J.Upton||Cole Hamels, 4.5||Starlin Castro, 3.9|
|48||Melky Cabrera||Yadier Molina||Edwin Encarnacion, 4.4||Dexter Fowler, 3.9|
|49||Jimmy Rollins||Gio Gonzalez||Josh Hamilton, 4.4||Chase Headley, 3.9|
|50||Jonathan Papelbon||Adam Wainwright||Jake Peavy, 4.4||Miguel Montero, 3.9|
|Adam Wainwright, 4.4||Adrian Gonzalez, 3.9|
When I was compiling this sheet, there were names within the top 50 players in baseball and several surprises. Furthermore, the lack of rhyme or reason when it comes to ranking players in fantasy baseball is evident through the ESPN rankings from the 2012 season compared to the sites rankings for the 2013 season. For example, R.A. Dickey went from 5th overall in 2012 to outside of the top 50 in 2013.
When looking at the WAR rankings for the 2012 season, names like Michael Bourn, Aaron Hill, Yadier Molina, Alex Gordon, Martin Prado, and Ben Zobrist popped into the top 20 spots in player value. Certainly, their defensive skills come into play here, but isn’t there value in defense that could be used within fantasy baseball? Would defensive zone ratings come into play and how would that destroy the value that Miguel Cabrera creates for himself on offense?
While fantasy baseball players would be apprehensive to the idea of bringing defensive value into their games, wouldn’t WAR be a better way to show true player values within fantasy sports, as it is in real-life baseball? How could you add WAR to your fantasy league – as a running statistic (similar to ERA and WHIP, which can change dramatically from game to game), or should it be a single counting statistic that can be added at the end of the regular season?
Shouldn’t a player like Ben Zobrist, who ranks as the 11th most valuable position player in baseball the last three seasons, be considered an asset in fantasy baseball due to his value on the real diamond? Sure, his .259 batting average brings down his value, but he is just one of nine players over the last three seasons to hit 50 home runs and steal 50 bases, while posting an OPS of .792 with solid on-base skills to go along with his multiple position eligibility (2B/SS/OF).
There is no perfect way to determine player values from year to year, especially when regression can come from aging, change of scenary, teammates moving to another club, or injuries. While you probably don’t want to draft a player like Chase Headley, Zobrist, or Alex Gordon in your first 20 picks, there is value in the consistency of overall production, as WAR grades out baserunning for position players, as well, which is why Trout and Braun have so much more value as the No.1 or No.2 pick than Cabrera.
WAR is valuable in fantasy preparation, and while it can be inconsistent, the same can be said for batting average, ERA, WHIP, wins, and any other statistic used in compiling player values.
The bigger challenge is how WAR can become an asset as a part of your fantasy league, and not just a method for determining the value of players over the course of the season.
- What If Mike Trout Stumbles? (thebaseballhaven.mlblogs.com)
- Why Mike Trout won’t regress in 2013 (espn.go.com)
- Posnanski on HBT: Revisiting Trout vs. Cabrera (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com)
- Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy: Vital Tips to Drafting a Championship Team (bleacherreport.com)