2012 Chicago Cubs: First Base

15 11 2011

Full speed ahead! Two posts just a few hours apart? Yep, it’s happening. This time, we’re going to venture into a more treacherous area for the Cubs: FIRST BASE.

On the surface, you have a very curious player in Carlos Pena. There is the side of him that mashes, and the side that…well…does not. Guys like Pena have always confused me–if you have such a good eye at the plate that you can manage 101 walks, then how can your eye be so bad that you strike out 161 times while also hitting just .225? Adam Dunn (until this year) has been the same way; these guys are great at taking pitches, but they also cannot make consistently strong contact to save their lives. Pena had a solid season because he plays a decent defensive first, and he hits for power from the left side, something Tyler Colvin failed to repeat for the team after a sneaky 2010.

Pena came on a questionable one-year, $10 million deal that includes $5 million in deferred payments for January 2012. That means he is not there for the Cubs next season, and they have some pre-Christmas shopping to do. Whether or not that shopping amounts to a superstar, a stopgap, or nothing remains to be seen. Certainly, though, the Cubs have a load of options on the market and within their own ranks.

The free agents start with three familiar faces. Pena is out there once again, though he has Scott Boras on his side, king of numerical Twister. He will sit there and shower Pena with praise for those walks and bombs, while saying the strikeouts and horrid average are not that big of a deal. In his mind (and, probably, an AL team), that is worth 2-3 years at his 2011 rate of $10 million or so. Maybe he takes a little less, bypasses the deferred payments, and gets the multiple years that way. However it happens, Pena does not seem like a great fit for the Cubs. They still need that unicorn of lefty power bats, but they are unlikely to compete in a time where Pena is going to do his most damage, as he is not all that young.

Sticking with the Boras team bring us to a divsion rival’s former bat, Prince Fielder. The Cubs would likely kill many times over to have a player like Prince. He plays OK defense (not great), hits from the left sdie (while crushing any and all challengers on the mound), and plays first. Of course, the Jim Hendry era (I have yet to THANK GOD that is over) rears its ugly head even after its death on this one. The Soriano and Zambrano contracts still sting and make any Cubs fan (myself included) cringe at the thought of a contract that pays even more than those clunkers. That Z and Sori still eat so much payroll is cause for concern itself.

The Cubs HAVE to pay Matt Garza eventually (thanks again, Jim!), hopefully soon. They also need a lot more than just a first baseman, so that $20+ million per season will not be a cure-all. It is certainly a start, but it is a pricey one at that. It might not be a bad time with the contract, since many million of dollars have been cut form the 2011 payroll, including Aramis Ramirez, Kosuke Fukudome, Jon Grabow (Hendry strikes again), Pena, Samardzija, and so on. The Cubs could afford Fielder if they wanted, but do they?

Then you have his superstar partner in financial crime, Albert Pujols. If the Cubs will not pay Fielder, certainly Albert is no different, right? Maybe not. Prince is their perfect fit, but Albert is Albert Pujols. Though a righty–not the ideal fit of a lefty–Pujols is bigger than life at times. He would draw more fans than Fielder, something that is STARTING to become a slight problem in Wrigley, and he should outperform Fielder for about 5 more seasons. He is the best hitter in MANY years (and the best juice-free one–we think–in decades). There is no other Albert Pujols, no way.

Still, Theo is in charge of the Cubs now. It was not until 2011 that Epstein threw a bunch of money (and prospects) at a first baseman. Before that, he had castoff David Ortiz, patch job fellows like Doug Mientkiewicz and Kevin Millar,  and Boston-grown Kevin Youkilis. That is just the first name in many farmhands Boston brought to the table. You then have Pedroia and Lester, and several others. In fact, some mention that Theo is not the best at free agents deals (see: Crawford, Carl and Lackey, John). One thing people REALLY love with Epstein is his ability to grow a winner. Signing Fielder for Pujols breaks from that idea. In Theo’s world, Herculean hitter Dan Vogelbach of the Cubs’ 2011 draft class will be their future. We do not know much about him beyond SERIOUS power, but Theo works from within more than anything, or he swings a trade (see: Gonzalez, Adrian and Beckett, Josh).

So we are at the small-time options. These might be a mixed bag, but many are there. Of course Vogelbach starts it off. The 2011 pick is nowhere near ready, so he is going to have to take a breather and toil in the minors. Tyler Colvin had some work at first in late-2010 and 2011, but he also was a horrible hitter this season. New Cubs manager X might choose to let him try again, we just do not know on that. He could also be used to replace Fukudome in right or Reed Johnson in the fourth outfielder role. We next turn to the other side of the plate and meet Bryan LaHair.

LaHair is sort of tough to read. The guy just turned twenty-nine, meaning there has to be SOMETHING someone did not like that kept him from the majors for so long (minus 150 ugly plate appearances in 2008 with Seattle). This season saw LaHair rise to the occasion, working out as the AAA hitter of the year for the Iowa Cubs. Hitting a league-healding 38 home runs with a pretty .331 average, LaHair got a little attention from Chicago late in the season. Beware the small sample size, but Bryan did pull off a decent .288 average, .885 OPS, and a pair of MLB homers.

After the three key free agents and three in-house options, you get to start looking at guys like Michael Cuddyer or bringing back Aramis for a positional change (note: Aramis’ agent says that he is done in Chicago). Really, there are only two options that jump out. Pena just will not be of use going forward, so paying serious dollars for a stopgap is pointless. For all of his greatness, making Theo’s first major move as GM the biggest gamble in team history would possibly be a disaster for him, so that leaves Albert out. Some could argue Prince is a bigger gamble, but he will probably be 2-3 years short of Albert’s contract, along with perhaps $5-8 million under in annual salary. The dollars and length make Prince a reasonable risk. He is younger as well, meaning he will be further from his end when the Cubs can compete, likely in the 2013-2014 window, if we’re lucky.

Other than that, you have to stick with who is already here. Again, Vogelbach is not going to be ready until 2014 or so, one would think (depending on how he progresses, maybe 2013 or 2015), putting him out of the question. Really, playing a platoon game might work. The Cubs could let Colvin and LaHair battle it out in Arizona, giving the starting nod to whomever stands out. If neither does, let LaHair be the lefty killer and Colvin his left-handed counterpart (meaning Colvin would get the majority of the chances). If the gamble is on one or the other, LaHair is probably the better bet. He has not proven he cannot hit, while Colvin struggled last season, to put it lightly.

Prince would be an amazing guy to get for ticket sales and generally great production. If Theo is scared of another Crawford move, he should probably let LaHair get first crack at the job come February, seeing as he is a more natural first baseban than Colvin. It is a tough call I would hate to make, that is for sure. The Cubs have a serious issue with this, and Theo is going to have to put all of his talent to task to solve it…once he gets the team a manager, of course.

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2012 Chicago Cubs: Catcher

15 11 2011

posted by Keith (cubs223425)

It seems that we’re back, and I get first dibs on kicking it off. Little difference: I’m going to started putting my name (Keith) on my posts, rather than my post name (cubs223425). Maybe I’ll put both, like I am on this one, we’ll see how I decide to go. As a Cubs fan, I feel obligated to start with analysis of the Cubs. I’m going to go position-by-position with this, deciding towards the end if I want to do pitching as rotation and bullpen or staff-wide. We’re going to start, though, with the catcher position.

The format of this post will likely be mimicked on the others, and the first order of business is the past. Since 2008, the Cubs have leaned on Geovany Soto at the catcher position, with Koyie Hill curiously rostered behind him. Soto did a good job in many instances, but he was certainly not without flaws. One of the biggest is that he was hurt quite a lot in 2009 and 2010, averaging 103.5 games played those two seasons. 2007 saw him play a robust 141 games, and 2011 had an acceptable 125 appearances behind the plate. When evaluating his offense, it is a bit tricky.

Soto has both good and bad things to his game.  On the positive side, he has a history of putting up a solid OBP (career .348). His power is not elite, but it is above-average when he is healthy (we would likely see 18-22 HRs consistently from Soto, if he could manage 130+ games played). Then we have the cons: consistency being the big one. His average never stays the same. His per-season batting averages from 2008-2011: .285, .218, .280, .228, respectively. In 2011, that .348 career OBP was bogged down because of his .310 OBP during that campaign. This leads to a conundrum going forward: should Soto even be with the Cubs in 2012?

Obviously, in terms of pure value, yes. Soto is an above-average catcher, and an overall benefit in most instances. However, the Cubs might not need him. For 2012, the Cubs are not likely to win. For that reason alone, trading him might be a better idea, a chance to reload a little bit on the farm and save on his likely $5 million+ salary (an arbitration bump from his 2011 salary of $3 million). If not for Jim Hendry, the Cubs would likely have a major league-ready option to replace Soto in Chirinos, but we’ll ignore that rant. They still have a pair of other nice catchers that could get a crack at the job for next season anyway.

My personal preference is Welington Castillo. Though not in a lot of time, Castillo had solid AAA numbers in 2011. He popped 15 home runs in 251 plate appearances, meaning a 20 homer season from him in the majors is a possibility. His .351 OPS is certainly a number worth looking at in the majors. Perhaps in a full-time role, a catcher with 20+ home runs and an OPS at or over .800 could happen.

Then there are those who believe in Steve Clevenger. Just 25, Clevenger had some VERY tasty numbers in the minors. In 120 games, his OPS was .857, though it was more from the OBP (.383) than the power (.475 SLG). He certainly looks like a possible long-term solution, but giving Castillo a chance first seems logical. Regardless, the intent is to replace Soto.

As said before, the Cubs are likely going nowhere next season. They just lack too much (as I will cover in more articles) to compete. After that, Soto is going to get ANOTHER raise, and will hit free agency after 2013. For 2013, it is tough to see the Cubs really going anywhere in terms of a deep playoff run, but two years is forever in baseball. With that though, what is Soto worth to the Cubs, a few more homers and fans? The sooner you trade him, the more you are likely to get back (the catcher market is not exactly amazing, and two years of Soto is more than just one year of him). So where does this leave the Cubs at catcher?

Hopefully, without Soto. Trading him to help kick-start Theo Epstein’s farm overhaul would save them on a few million for 2012 and 2013, give the younger guys Castillo and Clevenger a chance, and add to the depth of prospects the Cubs seem to somewhat lack. The Cubs should let Castillo start 2012 as their starter. If he does not work out, let Clevenger try. There really is nothing to lose in terms of meaningful wins and losses. At worst, the Cubs lose a couple more games (Soto is about a 2-WAR player, 3 tops). At best, the Cubs save money, add prospects, and start the Epstein era early with strong play from Castillo and/or Clevenger. There really is no reason to not try.

Above all else: PLEASE do not bring Koyie Hill back.





Chris Carpenter–What Should the Cardinals Do?

28 02 2011

Posted by cubs223425

So, it is going to be a rough year for the Cardinals. Granted, as a Cubs fan, I cannot say that I am saddened by that fact, but I am saddened that arguably the best pitcher in baseball for the past two years is out for all of 2011. Added with a questionable decision to swap out Brandan Ryan for Ryan Theriot (seriously, why does Skip Schumaker get to stay?!) and the fan base’s concern over the state of Albert Pujols’ contract, there are sure to be some dreary days ahead.

Now, we all know that Dave Duncan is a dark wizard from another dimension and can make a pumpkin like Kyle Lohse into something good (for a short stretch; just long enough to rob the STL front office), so we cannot just call the season a lost cause because of one starter, great though Wainwright is. However, if the expected is reality, and the 2011 season is a roller coaster doomed from the start in St. Louis, there is another pitcher that might have to face a tough future–Wainwright’s mentor, Chris Carpenter.

After stellar outings in 2005 and 2006, Carpenter pretty much punted on 2007 and 2008 due to injuries. Then he had a career year in 2009, and one could argue that he had the Cy Young robbed from him. 2010 saw another solid year for the Cards’ co-ace, and the weight of the team’s pitching staff will be rested on his shoulders more so than ever.

Again, we are calling 2011 a negative season for the Cardinals, so his jersey might change at some point. Carpenter’s not a cheap commodity; few talented pitchers are, and such a case is a 99% impossibility at his age in this era of inflated contracts. A poor outing as a whole by the Cardinals could lead them to deal Carpenter, and there are absolutely going to be suitors for a high-end pitcher, especially when the receiving team could pick up his $15 million option, meaning he could be more than a CC-Milwaukee rental. However, there is one issue: even if the Cardinals struggle this season, is trading Carpenter the best option for the team?

That question is a tough one to answer. The biggest problem, of course, is the price tag. With the Pujols extension on the horizon (every Cardinals fan in the world hopes), keeping Carpenter on the payroll with a possible $9 million Wainwright option and the $17 million+ of Matt Holliday might not be feasible. Sure, the team is likely to increase payroll to levels that they have yet to see in St. Louis, but even that might not be able to withstand Holliday, Carpenter, Lohse, Wainwright, and Westbrook if Pujols gets his desired $28-30 million per season, a number that could eat upwards of 30% of the team’s payroll alone. Those financial restrictions will be lessened by young, cheap players like Rasmus and Garcia, and possibly Shelby Miller, when he arrives. Still, the mentioning of Shelby Miller is another points as to why the team could move him–the farm’s not too strong.

Some nice pieces have been raised in STL, but there aren’t a whole lot of top, young players in the system nowadays. Trading Carpenter could change that. Imagine if the Yankees are in a heated battle with the Red Sox and Rays near the deadline. They have often been known for being willing to sacrifice the farm to win now, and that could play into the Cardinals’ hands. Maybe they could grab a package with Dellin Betances or Manny Banuelos? Or what if the Twins are short an arm and will add short-term payroll while offering a promising young player like Ben Revere? There are teams with deep minors that could come knocking, and it could be to the benefit of the Cards to move Carpenter and reload that minor league system as much as they can.

The move isn’t without negatives, though. Prospects are prospects, and they aren’t guarantees. And at what point do you decide to trade Carpenter, in terms of record and time left to make a playoff push? If the team is 5 games back with a division leader coming up at home right after the deadline and they have Banuelos on the table, what do they do? Well, we’re not the front office, so that'[s not for us to decide. They also risk a 2012 with the same problem as 2011–losing an ace and having little pitching depth to fill a back-end hole, let alone a front-line starter one.

If it came down to my call, I would say trading Carpenter is the best decision for the club going forward. The financial benefits could be too great to turn down. It would shed a good chunk of payroll, and the team needs that at the table to hand over to Pujols. Filling up a thin upper-tier minors would be nice as well, whether getting one top guy or 2-3 mid-level ones. Wainwright’s not likely to be at full strength again until the middle of 2012 regardless, so even holding Carpenter for 2012 might be a waste, then they might end up making the decision to trade him in 2012, when he’s more expensive, a year older, and unable to come with an option for the receiving team, clearly lowering his value. The Cardinals would be well-off to plan for this season with selling at the deadline in mind, as there is likely going to be a lot of trouble ahead, and they could have some decent trade chips in Carpenter, Franklin, Theriot, and more to use at their leisure to help down the road.

Lord knows that with the money Pujols is going to be getting, cheap, cost-controlled talent is something that they are going to need.





Kerry Wood Returns

18 12 2010

Posted by cubs223425

Recently, we have seen a few deals go down with the Cubs. Carlos Pena was brought in to fill the 1B void, as I had suggested from the get-go (hooray for occasionally correct predictions!). Rumors about a Chris Davis deal were out there, but it was not meant to be (I didn’t want to trade Chirinos for him right after getting Pena anyway). Carlos Zambrano was mentioned in trade speculations to the Yankees (PLEASE take him!). Mark Prior was–in the saddest news since his last injury–inked to a deal with the Yankees (I seriously let out a Darth Vader, “NOOOOOOOOOO,” when I saw that). Then there was the best news of all: Kerry Wood has returned to Chicago.

Woody's back!!!

Following a two-year hiatus in Cleveland and New York, Wood is back. His contract was a little bit quizzical, though. He only got $1.5 million with some incentives, which showed–like the Cliff Lee signing, but to a greater extent–that who he played for superseded what he played for (in terms of dollars, at least). Still, there have been some crazy contracts given to relievers in the last couple of offseasons (Brandon Lyon, anyone?), so that he could only manage a base salary of $1.5 million from the Cubs almost seems exploitative on the part of the team. Regardless, seeing him take the mound for the Cubs again will be awesome.

After a horrendous start to the 2010 season, Wood was (also sadly, seconded only by Mark Prior) sent to the Yankees. Despite that, Wood pitched like the man he was setting up–Mariano Rivera–by putting up a sparkling 0.69 ERA over26 innings, in which he allowed just one home run and struck out 31. That led to a horrifying spectacular 625 ERA+ (seriously, what?!). As a whole, the season was actually rather ho-hum, due to the fact that his Cleveland stint involved a 6.30 ERA. Over all of 2010, that ERA+ drops all the way to 133, and that 0.69 ERA inflates to 3.13, a tad higher than you would want to see from your setup man. And, of course, durability might be an issue.

Since saving 34 games in 66 1/3 innings for the Cubs in 2008, Wood has seen his inning drop to 55 in 2009 and 46 in 2010. Hopefully that is not a trend, because seeing Wood gleefully return to Chicago only to see him have the same injuries that plagued the start of his career would be an awful knife in the heart of a fan base that already had to deal with the passing of Ron Santo less than a month ago (R.I.P, Ronnie).

But I do not foresee that as the case. I am expecting a solid 50+ innings from Wood in 2011, which will probably involve 25-30 holds and a 2.85 ERA and a 10.5 K/9. Now I’m not one for predictions (I rarely make preseason WS picks, or even high-hoped divisional picks), but I feel pretty safe with that. The ERA might be on the low side, but as a setup man, rather than a closer, Wood will probably pitch to lefties less frequently, with Marshall picking up the lefty setup duties.

So, welcome back, Kerry. And, just a suggestion, if your annual charity bowling event happens, do Santo a solid and donate the money to diabetes research this year.





Who Would You Rather Have? McCutchen Vs Rasmus

28 11 2010

Posted by cubs223425

With 33 SB's on the year, McCutchen can defiently fly around the basepaths.

Over on the forum, there has been a game called “Which Player Would You Rather Have?” It has really taken off, with over one hundred posted inquiries in just eight days. Basically, you pick two players that you find to have similar value, then ask which the replier would prefer to have. Whomever replies gives a name, often with a short reason, then presents the next pair to choose between. This thread has gotten me curious to one comparison in particular (which I’m not sure has been proposed, but I would be shocked if it wasn’t) is a pair of elite  prospects, Colby Rasmus and Andrew McCutchen.

The two have a lot in common. They were born just 60 days apart in 1986. They play the same position (center field). Both were taken in the first round of the 2005 draft–McCutchen 11th,    Rasmus 28th. Both have the ability to hit for average and power, while swiping some bases. They are both capable of becoming the top player at the position. As identical as they might sound, they do have some differences.

For starters, the defense has a gap. Rasmus came up and immediately posted a +9.1 UZR in center in 2009, though he regressed to a -6.5 UZR, possibly due to some nagging injuries. McCutchen, on the other hand, has been considerably worse. His -1.3 UZR in 2009 was tolerable, but 2010’a -14.4 is Adam Dunn-like ineptitude. Now McCutchen plays in a strange park with Pittsburgh, but you can only make excuses and provide hope for so long. He might improve, but he is probably just going to be Nate McLouth in center all over again (WARNING: If he gets a Gold Glove with an ugly season like McLouth, rioting will ensue). Long-term, I would expect Rasmus to stick in center no matter what, but if McCutchen continues this awful escapade, then I would expect Pittsburgh to give another player, perhaps Tabata, a chance in center.

Preventing runs is a big part of baseball, but those that produce them almost always get the spotlight in the common fan’s eyes, even in this saber movement. That is where the styles of Rasmus and McCutchen are most noticeable. Colby Rasmus is the power-speed player, while Andrew McCutchen is the speed-power guy. Rasmus will never be a high-upside base stealer, and McCutchen will never be a middle-of-the-order power threat. The question is, who would you rather have there?

McCutchen is likely to be the more consistent offensive commodity. He is likely to produce a solid .280-15-30 line every year, and he could reach up towards .300-20-40. He will mostly project in the first or second spot in the lineup, as he keeps a more steady OBP and can steal bases at a high rate. Rasmus is another story.

Colby Rasmus will save you almost as many runs as he creates.

There is more risk and reward with McCutchen’s St. Louis counterpart. While he produced a similar OBP and a higher OPS, Rasmus can be a more streaky hitter. On average, the numbers will likely sit around .275-27-15. That can have some leeway, though. His more strikeout-prone swing could see him have a season where his numbers drop to about .260-23-10. In those years, he will have to become a more efficient base stealer to keep his overall offensive game in the mix when the All-Star ballots come around. At the same time, his power and ability to get on base could give his team a line around .285-35-20. Those number won’t set the world on fire, but for a center fielder, those are great, especially if he goes back to those 2009 UZR levels.

Now I’m not some psychic, nor do I like to predict statistics in baseball, because one little adjustment can lead to something where McCutchen has a great or awful year, or Rasmus could become more patient or shorten his swing and become more consistent. He could even have some crazy .300-40-30 year, but I would not bet money on it.

As an overall offensive threat, give me McCutchen. This might have something to do with my being a Cubs fan, but that top-of-the-order speedster is something I crave. Having to watch the likes of Kosuke Fukudome and Ryan Theriot lead off makes me green with envy when I see a guy hitting .300 and stealing 30+ bases.

So, who do I want? My answer is Rasmus.If I was talking about fantasy baseball, I would probably prefer McCutchen. He will guaranteed help you get some Hrs and SBs without risking your team’s batting average (in category leagues) or lose you points for striking out (in points leagues that penalize such things).

However, I am talking about real-life baseball, where millions of dollars and World Championships are on the line. When it comes down to decision time, I want Rasmus because of his defense. Either player could be at the top of his position on offense, but that is why I want the Cards’ guy–he can do it on defense, too. McCutchen will set your team up to score. Rasmus will knock guys in and stop guys like McCutchen from getting triples by not making as many mistakes in the field. As a complete player, the Cardinals appear to have the superior talent.

But, again, I am not a psychic. Don’t come crying to me if you lose money betting on Rasmus and lose!





Contraction in Baseball: An Economic Gain (Part 2)

4 11 2010

Posted by cubs223425

In Part 1, I looked at factors to consider before contracting baseball teams from the league. To add on, I evaluated teams that I ultimately determined were not worth removing from the league, along with presenting which teams I WOULD consider for contraction from the league. Those

The Mets have been known in the past to spend a lot of money on older veterans, leading to losing seasons

teams are: The San Diego Padres, the Florida Marlins, the New York Mets, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the Cleveland Indians. This portion of the article will cover which teams would best serve the league by taking the fall.

Since my last posting, I have added on as to what I will use to determine for a team’s contraction considerations. Baseball is, first and foremost, a business. Forbes produces an annual list of team values, offering up a team worth, along with a percentage change from the previous years. This will be key to see how a team’s worth is measured in terms of dollars and cents. As I stated before, though, a pure dollar value is not all that affects a team.

Winning is the ultimate goal of a team, so while a team might not have a high worth in terms of dollar value, it can still be a winner and provide a solid baseball product. Attendance (provided by ESPN here) is to be considered too, along with local TV ratings (provided by Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal’s RSN ratings). Payroll figures can be found here. Now, on to the teams:

All stats in parentheses are from 2010. RSN rating leader is St. Louis Cardinals at 9.70, and the lowest rank is shared by the Oakland Athletics and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, at 1.23.

Cleveland Indians (Record: 69-93; Attendance: 17,395; RSN Rating: 3.13): If I was to name this team with a song, it would be Green Day’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.” I mean, what happened here? Cleveland was rocking and on the way up with masher Travis Hafner, up and coming stud Grady Sizemore, and two strong starting pitchers named C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee, plus a decent young arm in Fausto Carmona. They also sported one of the league’s top catchersi n Victor Martinez.

And since those days? Cleveland managed to have the lowest average attendance in the majors, and was tied for 28th in terms of attendance percentage (just 40.1). C.C. is now CC, and was shipped to Milwaukee for a flop in Matt LaPorta after a Cy Young season. Cliff Lee had a studly 22-3 season to win his own Cy Young, shortly before being shipped off to Philadelphia for four prospects that I’m pretty sure they don’t miss too greatly. Martinez was traded for Masterson (who is the master of inconsistency, if anything) and a solid, young arm in Nick Hagadone that we have yet to see in the majors. Hafner got hurt and looks like he is just done. His OPS+ has been solid, but he hasn’t broken 120 games played since 2007. Carmona’s 148 ERA+ in 2007 has been followed by a 2008-2010 stretch with a 72 ERA+. Sizemore looked like the superstar after a 2008 in which he hit .268 with 33 HR and stole 38 bases. Now he’s managed a combined 139 games in two seasons (just 33 in 2010). Still just 28, it’s way too early to write him off, but he might get too expensive too quickly and get jettisoned like Sabathia and Lee.

Despite being above Kansas City in the standings in 2010, they lack the rich vein of prospects that the Royals have. Still, they have some quality minor league players; one I particularly like is Drew Pomeranz. Just getting healthy and getting the young guys up should help them, so I think Cleveland deserves a chance to see the full return of their fire sale–we saw how it worked for Florida.

New York Mets (Record: 79-83; Attendance: 32,401RSN Rating: 3.25): Last semester, I did a PowerPoint presentation on how much a baseball team spends on wins. The highest cost per win average? The New York Mets, at over $2 million per win. In 2010, they upped their won total from the 70 in 2009 to 79, so that cost is likely lower. However, I would still put my money on the Mets as the team with the highest cost per win, though the Yankees and Cubs might be higher.

Their RSN rating sits at 16th, their payroll is fifth, they have had two consecutive losing seasons, and they haven’t reached the playoffs since 2006. The fallout with Francisco Rodriguez makes that investment look even worse, adding to the bad contracts of Luis Castillo, Oliver Perez, and Carlos Beltran, among others. However, the new front office should stabilize the team, and it would be rather unfair to not allow Sandy Alderson and the rest of the new management members a chance to fix this mess, as they aren’t THAT far removed from their last competitive run,

Florida Marlins (Record: 80-82; Attendance: 18,825;RSN Rating: 3.05): This one might seem a little odd. The Marlins have been consistently competitive, while keeping a very modest payroll. And with a new stadium on the way, scraping this club now seems like a very shaky and questionable move. A team settled with one of the best middle infield combos in the league in Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla, an overpowering ace in Josh Johnson, and a young stud in Mike Stanton probably shouldn’t be dismantled.

However, there are some problems with this franchise. Twice now, it has gutted its roster after a championship. It took baseball’s explicit complaints to get them to give Josh Johnson a modest, team-friendly extension. This new ballpark is also another example of their cheapskate owners’ dirty tactics to rob the fans of money and on-field production. This has led to a team whose ticket sales rank 28th in the league and 22nd in percentage. The local TV ratings are 20th in the league, and the payroll sits 26th in the league.

San Diego Padres (Record: 90-72; Attendance: 26,318;RSN Rating: 4.79): 2010 might have saved the Padres from the chopping block. The team was looking to move All-Stars Adrian Gonzalez and Heath Bell, but they managed to showcase a potential new ace in Mat Latos, while going from projected last-place finish to nearly reaching the playoffs, if not for a late-season collapse (a la the New York Mets) that opened the door to the World Champion San Francisco Giants to get their crack at the postseason.

But even this awesome surprise hasn’t saved the team. The payroll is still minuscule, ranked 29th in the league in 2010, ahead of only the Pirates, and one of two under $40 million. Ownership has still shown an unwillingness to spend to keep Gonzalez, so an early stumble could mean an immediate loss of Gonzo and Bell to trades and a full-scale rebuild mode. With the loss of those two, it becomes Mat Latos

Many fans speculate that Mat Latos could potentially become the Padres' next Jake Peavy

and a rather scary few years that will likely end with a decent team in around 2014, just when Latos is going to command a payday San Diego won’t pay, leading the loss of that ace. This could become an ugly cycle of rebuilds if the team won’t ever move the payroll into the $60 million+ range.

There is hope, though, even if it isn’t a lot. Latos, as stated before, is a stud. He could be what San Diego wanted out of Chris Young and more–maybe even their next Jake Peavy. Kyle Blanks was terrible this year, but he also did not have a lot of time to play, and his bat might be able to take over for Gonzalez in the long-term. Everth Cabrera showed some skills on the basepaths in 2009, and Donavan Tate is a promising hitting prospect in the outfield.

Pittsburgh Pirates (Record: 57-105; Attendance: 19,918;RSN Rating: 3.44): Here is a franchise that is hard to like at all. I cannot recall their last REALLY GOOD pitcher that actually stuck around (really, any guesses?). Jason Bay and Nate McLouth had talent, but they were sent away and have brought little back thus far (though we should hear from Gorkys Hernandez before all is said and done). The team hasn’t had a winning season in 18 years, and it is staring at yet another top pick–the first overall, in fact.

The TV ratings are actually rather solid at 16th in the league, but that’s where that ends. Pittsburgh was 29th in payroll in 2009, with a pitiful team salary just shy for $9 million. In 2010, they actually cut it to 30th in the league, spending just under $35 million on the MLB roster. Some of that went to scouting, but in a rather large market, this is still inexcusable. The Pirates were 27th in per-game attendance at PNC Park, and 25th in attendance percentage.

So, moment of truth. Who goes? I’ve been thinking of it a lot for a couple of days, and I am set on the Pirates and the Marlins. These teams have some of the most horrendous baseball showings in the league’s 100+ years. Why did I choose them? Read on…

The Pirates are the pinnacle of mediocrity. Even with young talent in Tony Sanchez, Pedro Alvarez, and the dynamic Andrew McCutchen, I don’t see any way this team avoids the big 2-0 in terms of consecutive losing seasons. Honestly, I wouldn’t be all that shocked if they broke 25 with the pitiful rotation they are marching out. They had plenty of opportunity to sell high on both Zach Duke and Paul Maholm, but now they are stuck with two mediocre lefties headlining a starting five that looks even worse as a whole. With the Marlins, the story is rather different.

It is hard to not appreciate what the Marlins bring to the field. They lack a big payroll, but they frequently challenge and beat the Mets and Phillies, and the scouting is top-notch. They managed to take their World Series ace Josh Beckett and a solid bat (well, he was) in Mike Lowell, and actually be the runaway winners in the trade. They netted a top-2 shortstop in Hanley Ramirez (and he was the #1 by far until this year, IMO), and they actually shelled out the money to keep him around long-term. Giong into 2012, this new ballpark of there will draw a big crowd in a more marketable area with a face like Hanley to lead away. But the ballpark

After winning the World Series in 2003, the Marlins dealt Beckett and Lowell to the Red Sox for Hanley Ramirez. That trade has panned out for them in a huge way

is why I want this team gone.

Rather recently, it was reported that the ownership of the Marlins lied about its financial status to get more money from the state to fund its new home. Of the $634 million to be spend on the ballpark, Florida’s ownership group (led by Jeffrey Loria) will pay just $155 million. That leaves the taxpayers to foot a bill of $479 million for the stadium, or over 75% of the price tag. According to Yahoo, the taxpayers will be paying for this for a LONG time. The loans won’t be paid off in full until 2049, and the interest will end up adding to a loan total of $2.4 BILLION!

Now, is it really fair to tell the sub-20,00/game Marlins fans that they are losing their new stadium and baseball franchise because of the lying and cheating of its owners? No. But is it fair for the entire state to pay over $2 billion to build a ballpark most of them might never even go to? No. And, when it comes down to it, a state’s economic health is more important than baseball. Ideally, the government or SOMEONE stops this, but the only sure-fire way to fix the matter at this time is to kill it at the roots. If there is no baseball team to provide for, then there is no egregious payments that will kill the Florida economy for decades.

So, the Pirates and Marlins are gone. Where does that leave baseball in terms of divisions? Well, we are sitting at fourteen teams per league, so nothing will be 100% even. We will try our best to get it close, though, meaning each league will carry two 5-team divisions on one four-team one.

For the AL, everything can essentially be left alone. In terms of ideal fairness, you would pull the Rays out of the East. You could move the Royals to the West and the Rays to the Central, leaving the East with the Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Orioles. This would allow all 3 teams–the Yankees, Rays, and Red Sox–a chance to get into the postseason, which I think any pure baseball fan would enjoy. I think that is the best option to keep the Boston-New York rivalry intact while keeping competitive integrity intact.

The National League will require no other adjustments. The revamped NL East would open with the Phillies, Braves, Mets, and Nationals. The Central has the Reds, Cardinals, Cubs, Brewers, and Astros. The West rounds it out with the Giants, Padres, Rockies, Dodgers, and Diamondbacks.

As I said at the beginning of this article, contraction is highly unlikely in the league. Losing revenue is never a business’s first choice.  These choices are about more than just. Cutting these teams helps both to balance the leagues and to stabilize the long-term Florida economy. There are better, more complicated option that could be explored, and I might ramble on about them in the future, but this appears to be the most simple, immediate solution to the nation’s financial woes and the complaints from fans that the leagues lack balance.





Contraction in Baseball: An Economic Gain (Part 1)

30 10 2010

Posted by cubs223425

To start, let it be known that I do not believe that the following is what will occur within the game of baseball. It is simply what I believe to be the best course of action for the financial status of the league, along with the best course of action to achieve a better league. I want this to happen, but I do not think it will.

So, over the last several days on

Evan Longoria made it well known throughout the 2010 Season that he was not pleased with the Attendance numbers at Tropicana Field

the MLB Trade Rumors forums, there have been some discussions on baseball’s league and division formatting. People have stated displeasure with the 16-14 setup that is currently in place between the two leagues (16 teams in the NL; 14 in the AL). For some, they propose the league simply move a team over. However, that isn’t exactly a feasible solution.

As of now, baseball is a daily sport. Mondays and Thursdays are the only time that teams are consistently off throughout the year. Because of that, there are 15 games scheduled 5 days of almost every week. If the leagues were 15 teams each, then who would play the fifteenth teams each day? An odd number of teams will not work in a game that requires two teams to play. It would require considerably more doubleheaders or expanded interleague play to the point of almost one game per day. Since that idea has been mostly established as not being feasible, there are two other options: expansion or contraction.

Being the cynic that I am, I elected to handle the contraction article, and WAMCO is working on his own piece in favor of league expansion. In either instance, the idea is to add or subtract two teams, in order to set the American and National leagues on an even playing field in terms of team count, either at 16-16 in a 32-team league or 14-14 in a 28-team one.

Now this is not going to be a simple matter. To determine which teams would best be contracted, we will have to look at a variety of factors. For starters, the team’s popularity has to be considered. Even though the Yankees are a huge payroll with pinstripes, removing them would not be an option because they are also an enormous source of income for the league, which also means more for the other teams in revenue sharing.

Of course, winning is a large factor as well. Though the Rays might not even be drawing 20,000 fans per game, they have done an excellent job of building a winner through the scouting and player development departments. To reward an ownership group with playing the game the right way and succeeding with a giant axe in the back would be crazy.

Team history is also a factor. When comparing a constant loser like the Pirates to the Padres, the team with the 18-year streak of losing seasons might be the easy pick. Still, Pittsburgh has a rather rich baseball history, so just pulling the rug out from under that team might not be the best idea.

When it came down to it, I saw a lot of potential teams. For the sake of time and sanity, though, I elected the commonplace method of examining five teams is the best way to go. I’ve considered several portions of a franchise when I determined if it should be in the final five to be considered for removal from the league. When it came down to it, my personal preferences went to these teams: The San Diego Padres, the Florida Marlins, the New York Mets, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the Cleveland Indians.

Before we begin, though, let us cover all of our bases. I am sure there will be fans of some teams that think my choices are without merit, but those questions will be answered in the main portion of the article. Meanwhile, those same fans will start to throw other teams under the bus, suggesting that they are more deserving of a boot. I will quickly voer those teams, just to put those complaints to bed beforehand.

New York Yankees: As I said, it is irrational to think that probably the biggest economic draw in the league would be an option, but many fans have a dire hatred for the way the Yankees operate. That is not their fault, though, as they are well within the league rules, and they feed back into the revenue sharing pool with the huge attendance and merchandise sales.

Tampa Bay Rays: The lack of a crowd draw for a playoff team is almost inexcusable, but they are winning, and how can we really fault them for that? There are plans for a new stadium in the next 3-5 years or so, meaning that the attendance woes will likely lessen over time.

Baltimore Orioles: This team has been a cellar-dwelling team for a long time, so looking at it would be reasonable as well. However, they are building

Building around young talent, such as center fielder Adam Jones, has kept Baltimore off of the hypothetical chopping block.

a great core of players, including  Brian Matusz, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, and Matt Wieters. They have also been showing a willingness to spend on a big free agent that could change the franchise, such as their efforts with Mark Teixeira before ye got Yank(e)ed away.

Houston Astros: My plan was to only cover NL teams, but I thought that a bit harsh. They were the fifth NL club I considered, but they have done a good job in the fairly recent past, and IO would like to see how they do in a rebuilding effort.

Arizona Diamondbacks: There were thoughts with this team as well. I think that having a professional team near a spring training site is desirable as well, and the team has some young talent. Also, their last World Series was fairly recent.

Washington Nationals: Ultimately, I felt that this team is just in a good location. Having America’s pastime in its capitol is almost a requirement, I think. Like Baltimore, they have started to build  a young core of talent. They were also willing to spend on Adam Dunn, and still might.

Chicago Cubs: As a Cubs fan, this suggestion baffles me. I had someone on the forums mention that the Pirates were not a reasonable choice because of their losing, but that the Cubs are more logical because of their World Series drought. Granted, part of the omission is probably my bias towards my team, but that is a small factor. They have the oldest park in the game, so they clearly are not drawing money from taxpayers like teams that have recently erected new homes like the Yankees, Mets, Cardinals, and Twins. Even without being a title contender in a while (2007 and 2008 were major disappointments), the team draws one of the top-10 largest crowds each year, if not top-5. The farm has improved of late, and they have a new owner, so I see good going forward.

There are my defenses for those teams. In Part 2, I will cover the main idea of my post, so stay tuned.

EDIT: Part 2 is up.