At The Asking Price, Swisher is a Better Sign Than Hamilton

10 11 2012

Posted by Will

Hamilton is a stellar player, he’s just not worth his asking price.

Most consider outfielder Josh Hamilton to be the cream of the crop of this year’s free agent market. It’s certainly hard to argue with that statement; Hamilton hit more home runs in the first two months of last year than any one Seattle Mariner managed to post over the whole season. But in taking his seven year, $175 million asking price into consideration, I’d much rather have Nick Swisher at a much lighter asking price on my team than the overly expensive Hamilton.Hamilton is as talented as anybody in the game, but $175 million is too much. Way too much. His $25 million average annual salary would give him the third highest annual salary in the history of the game behind Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees ($27.5 million) and Albert Pujols of the Angels ($25.4 million), and tied with Ryan Howard of the Phillies. His overall asking price would make him the eighth richest player in the history of the game, behind Rodriguez ($275 million), Pujols ($254 million), Joey Votto ($225 million), Prince Fielder ($214 million), Derek Jeter ($189 million), Joe Mauer ($184 million) and Mark Teixeira ($180 million). Hamilton has a number of flaws, both on the field and off the field, that should prevent teams from breaking the bank on his services.Over the course of his career, Hamilton’s been suspended a number of times due to drug and alcohol abuse, dating back to the start of his career in 2003. He’s very injury prone, as he has only played in 148 or more games once in his six MLB seasons. He is also seen as an inconsistent player; after starting out the first two months of last season hitting .370/.422/.763 with 23 home runs and 57 runs batted in, he then proceeded to slug a whopping .200/.286/.395 with 8 home runs and 25 runs batted in the following two months, finishing out the season hitting .278/.349/.559 with 14 homers and 44 runs batted in. In other words, the first third of the season he looked like the clear MVP frontrunner, the next two months he looked no better than a bench player, and at the end of the season he wasn’t an MVP, but he wasn’t a benchwarmer either.

While Hamilton has loads of upside, I’d much rather have Nick Swisher, who isn’t nearly as talented as Hamilton, but also won’t cost nearly as much and offers a lot more consistency.

Swisher has been very consistent throughout his career.

Since the 2009 season kicked off, Swisher has posted no less than 3.2 WAR but no more than 4.1 WAR. He’s averaged 3.75 WAR over that time, and using the 1 WAR/$4.5 million rule, Swisher has essentially been close to a $17 million player. Early reports out of the GM meetings say that Swisher will likely have to settle for a three or four year deal at about $11-13 million a year, which certainly falls short of his asking price of Jayson Werth-esque money.

Let’s just say that Hamilton decides to settle for a 25% discount and ends up signing for a six year, $130 million deal. Since 2009, Hamilton’s been a $20.5 million/year player, so you’re still going to be overpaying for him, even at a hefty discount. Even if a team decided to sign Swisher for say, five years and $75 million, quite a bit more than the reported contract he’ll likely have to settle for, you’re still going to be saving yourself a good $10 million which could be utilized to acquire other useful assets for your ballclub.

You may think that Swisher’s stats have been inflated due to playing in the hitter’s bandbox in New York, but he’s actually posted nearly identical stats away from Yankee Stadium since 2009, when he was traded from the White Sox:

Home: .269/.372/.460
Away: .267/.362/.504

Swisher has been a model of consistency throughout his career, and if teams are looking to get the best out of their buck, he would be a solid sign. While Hamilton is an outstanding player, he is likely going to be overpayed by a desperate team that will be constrained by his contract for the better part of the next decade.





Troy Tulowitzki vs. Hanley Ramirez

28 01 2011

Posted by Brady

Lately, I’ve been watching a lot of MLB Network. And for those of you who do not have MLB Network, they are currently running a 10 part series called “Top 1o Right Now”. They go through all nine positions on the baseball diamond, and manager, to determine who the best is right now. And while most of the positions should be pretty easy to figure out (Pujols, Mauer, Longoria, Cano, blah, blah, blah) I got to thinking about the shortstop position. And for my money, it comes down to two players. Troy Tulowitzki and Hanley Ramirez. The difficult thing about deciding who the better player is how much weight you put on different aspects of the game. Especially with players this similar.

There is a reason Troy Tulowitzki has a Gold Glove, and Hanley Ramirez doesn't. We might as well be comparing Derek Jeter to Ozzie Smith.

Both Tulowitzki and Ramirez are middle of the order hitting shortstops with power oozing out of them. For their careers their ISO is virtually the same. Tulowitzki at .205 and Ramirez at .207.  Not only do they have virtually the same amount of power, they strike out at similar rates. 18.1% for Ramirez. 19.1% for Tulowitzki.

One however could make a case that Ramirez is very lucky, having never posted a BABIP under .327. His career mark is a spit-take inducing .347. Tulowitzki’s .319 mark seems paltry by comparison.  Keeping in mind that Ramirez is doing this in Sun Life Stadium.

Park Factors have that at a 105 (above 100 favors hitters, under 100  favors pitchers) and Tulowitzki is putting on his clinic at Coors Field, which comes in at 115!

This seems to be one time where Coors Field  comes into play. When it comes to OPS+ (which adjusts for ballparks) Troy Tulowitzki comes in at 114. Though, over the last two years he’s put up an OPS+ of 134. Compared to Hanley Ramirez’s 135 career mark, and 136 over the last two years.

I just find it AMAZING that Hanley Ramirez is a short stop. His bat plays anywhere. Stick him at first, and leave him there. Forever.

Since these are both shortstops, we would be hapless to not mention defensive contributions. There is a reason Troy Tulowitzki has a Gold Glove, and Hanley Ramirez doesn’t. We might as well be comparing Derek Jeter to Ozzie Smith. Tulowitzki has given Colorado 20.4 UZR and Hanley Ramirez has given Florida -39.3 UZR. As a former middle infielder, that makes me cry. Ramirez has negative marks in every advanced defensive metric imaginable. Where as Tulowitzki has positive marks in them all, except RngR (Range Runs Above Average). He has a career mark of -3.2. Hanley Ramirez? -24.6. That means that he has to almost go to the left when the ball goes to his right. I just find it AMAZING that Hanley Ramirez is a short stop. His bat plays anywhere. Stick him at first, and leave him there. Forever.

Doing this research just cemented what I already believed. Troy Tulowitzki is the best short stop in baseball. He may hit less away, but who doesn’t?

If I am the head of an expansion team, I am doing everything I can to get Troy Tulowitzki at my short stop position. And leaving Hanley Ramirez in a galaxy far, far away.





Breaking Down The DH Market

8 01 2011

Posted by Brady

This season there are 3 super premium options for the designated hitter role. Two of which will definitely have a job somewhere if they want it, and one….might not. Naturally, I am talking about Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero, and Manny Ramirez.  These are three aging future Hall of Fame hitters with limited defensive skills, who can still hit the ball a mile. All three of them have their advantages and their disadvantages. Let’s break it down, shall we?

Jim Thome

Anyone who has read my work on Pine Tar and Pocket Protectors in the past knows that I have always been, and will always be a huge Jim Thome fan. He’s Jim Thome. Who doesn’t love him? In any season where he’s played in 100 games his career LOW in home runs is

His ISO was a ridiculous .282, and at age 39 he just had what you could call a career year.

23.  You know exactly what you’re getting from him every year. Just pencil him in for 25 bombs and let it go. But he does more than just launch baseballs. 1679 walks. That is good for ninth all time and first among active players. He owns a .278/.404/.559 hitting line, and an OPS+ of 147.  His ISO is a ridiculous .282, and at age 39 he just had what you could call a career year.

As far as any issues with Thome, it’s pretty clear. The only man who has been rung up more than Thome is Reggie Jackson. He can’t be nor does he want to be a full time player, and he’s a career .238 against left handed pitchers. He can’t even play an emergency 1B. He hasn’t touched a glove since 2007, and that was only for one game.

Manny Ramirez

His plus side is so ridiculously similar to his former Indian teammate that it’s barely worth talking about. 555 home runs, .998 career OPS, and a 155 OPS+. Everything that Thome can do, Manny Ramirez can do, just a little better. .312/.411/.586 career hitter. The only thing that Manny Ramirez can’t do with a bat better than Jim Thome is pure extra base power. Ramirez only has a .274 ISO. But

The only problem with Manny Ramirez is that he is Manny Ramirez.

over their careers, Manny and Thome have been virtually just as valuable. Thome brings a career 73.5 WAR to to Ramirez’s 72.2

The only problem with Manny Ramirez is that he is Manny Ramirez. Do I really need to recap this? How many problems did he have in Boston? How many problems did he have in Los Angeles? How many problems did he have in Cleveland? I can’t think of many in Cleveland….but that was 10 years ago. Cleveland is his ideal destination. It seems like he wants to finish where he started. Any team looking to sign him better be careful, as he hasn’t had 500 PAs since 2008. He is still a game changer. But only when he wants to be.

Vladimir Guerrrero

How can anybody not what Vladimir Guerrero on their team? Over the course of 162 games he averages 35 home runs.  And while Thome and Ramirez average 40 and 39 respectively, he has one thing that they don’t. An uncanny ability to not strike out. How does

How can anybody not want Vladimir Guerrero on their team?

he do it? He has an uncanny ability to make contact, and good contact, on any pitch in any count, in any situation against any pitcher. The man doesn’t strikeout, but the man doesn’t walk. He his, however a career .320/.383/.563 career hitter. Only Babe Ruth, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, and Jimmy Foxx have a .320 average and 400 or more home runs.  His ISO is lower than Thome and Ramirez, at .243 but his OPS+ is right in line at 143.  Throughout his 15 year career Guerrero has contributed 61.7 WAR to the Expos, the Angels, and the Rangers.

I’ll be honest, I tried to think of any cons to a team trying to sign Guerrero, other than being old, there isn’t a lot. He doesn’t have a significant injury history. He’s reached 600 PAs every year but one since becoming a full time player. And he is a suitable back up outfielder. Teams start a lot worse (Delmon Young) than Guerrero. In my personal opinion, he is the best option at DH this year.





The Top 10 Off-Seasons of 2010

26 12 2010

Posted by BaconSlayer09

In just one week, 2010 will be behind us and 2011 will be well on its way. So to fit this new year’s occasion, we here at Pine Tar and Pocket Protectors will look at the top 10 teams who did well in free-agency and trades in this current 2010-2011 off-season. The teams are ordered based on a scoring system and my opinion. They will both be weighted equally. The system only takes into account the players the team acquired (not who they lost); therefore, it can be slightly skewed. This is why I took the liberty to make my own opinionated rankings to possibly balance any of the flaws from the scoring system out.

Carl Crawford received the biggest contract of 2010.

The scoring system includes four components: WAR added by acquired and re-signed players (based off 2010 stats, does not include options, and weighted 50%), Investment per WAR (based off 2010 stats and 2011 salaries, weighted 30%), Invested dollars per player (total invested money of all contracts divided by number of players added, 10%), and Total dollars invested (10%). Each component will be ranked from 1 to 10, the team with the highest ranking gets 10 points for that category, the lowest ranking gets 1 point. The highest score a team can achieve is 10 points. Now that we have the technicalities out of the way, let’s get to the rankings.

1. Boston Red Sox
WAR Added – 13.4 (1st)
Investment per WAR – $2.24 MM (6th)
Investment per Player – $27.33 MM (10th)
Total Investment – $164 MM (10th)
My Ranking – #1

I don’t think this ranking comes as a surprise to anybody. Boston added two superstars in Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, but they did it at the expense of a $142 MM dollar contract to Crawford over a whopping 7 years and possibly a 7 year extension for Adrian Gonzalez sometime in 2011. Nevertheless, you can’t say that you aren’t impressed by the amount of talent the Red Sox got in the two, as they combined for over 12 WAR last season. The Red Sox also added Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler to strengthen the depth of their bullpen. The only real loss from Boston’s 2010 roster is Adrian Beltre. However, the 7.1 WAR he produced will be easily replaced by whatever Crawford and Gonzalez will provide in 2011.

Greinke gives Milwaukee a true ace.

2. Milwaukee Brewers
WAR Added – 10.4 (5th)
Investment per WAR – $2.06 MM (2nd)
Investment per Player – $8.73 MM (6th)
Total Investment – $34.9 MM (6th)
My Ranking – #2

The Brewers’ biggest weakness in 2010 was their starting pitching. Outside of Yovani Gallardo, no other starting pitcher on their staff produced over 2 wins above replacement. Doug Melvin went out of his way this off-season to repair the broken staff and he has done a phenomenal job thus far. He first acquired Shaun Marcum from the Toronto Blue Jays for hot shot prospect Brett Lawrie. Two weeks later, Zack Greinke joined Marcum, Gallardo, Wolf, and Narveson in one of the best rotations of the National League. Of course, the cost was steep and Milwaukee’s upgraded rotation came at the price of pretty much the entire farm system. Nevertheless, it makes the Brewers serious contenders for at least the next two seasons.

3. Philadelphia Phillies
WAR Added – 7.9 (6th)
Investment per WAR – $1.7 MM (1st)
Investment per Player – $62.75 MM (10th)
Total Investment – $125.5 MM (9th)
My Ranking – #3

The Phillies got some criticism this past season for trading Cliff Lee in order to get Roy Halladay. The harsh words were at their loudest when the Giants knocked off the Phillies in the NLCS. Meanwhile, Cliff Lee was making the Yankees’ hitters look like little leaguers in the ALCS. Two months later, the criticism for Ruben Amaro Jr. on that trade has faded. Why? Because Cliff Lee is in Philadelphia again and nobody really expected it. All off-season, the general public was led to believe that Lee was going to sign with either the Yankees or the Rangers. However, the Phillies popped up at the last second and grabbed Lee, signing him to a 5 year $120 MM deal. The Phillies also re-signed Jose Contreras. Thus far, those have been the only two transactions by Philadelphia. Nevertheless, the signing of Lee gives the Phillies one of the best rotations of all time and makes them serious World Series contenders.

Cliff Lee's return to Philadelphia was one of the most surprising moves of the off-season.

4. Detroit Tigers
WAR Added – 11.5 (3rd)
Investment per WAR – $3.33 MM (10th)
Investment per Player – $17.55 MM (7th)
Total Investment – $87.75 MM (7th)
My Ranking – #5

With about $70 million coming off the books this off-season, Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski wasted no time in signing two of the bigger free agents on the market in Joaquin Benoit and Victor Martinez. Benoit’s deal came first and if you read some of my other posts, I’m not the biggest fan of it. It totally changed the expectations of other non-closers and screwed up the market. However, Benoit does improve their bullpen and Victor Martinez is somebody who can hit behind Miguel Cabrera and make sure he’s not intentionally walked a billion times in 2011. Besides the two additions, the Tigers also re-signed Jhonny Peralta and Brandon Inge, both at fair market value. The Tigers were a decent team in 2010, the additions of Martinez and Benoit should put them in much greater contention with the Twins and White Sox for the AL Central division title in 2011.

5. Los Angeles Dodgers
WAR Added – 12.2 (2nd)
Investment per WAR – $2.49 MM (8th)
Investment per Player – $7.12 MM (5th)
Total Investment – $56.95 MM (6th)
My Ranking – #7

This might be one of the bigger surprises on the list. Yes, the Dodgers have had a pretty decent off-season and no, they really didn’t add anybody too significant. Juan Uribe was their biggest new addition, but they also added some decent pieces in Matt Guerrier, Jon Garland, and Tony Gwynn Jr. Nevertheless, a good portion of their 12.2 WAR added comes from the re-signed Hiroki Kuroda and Rod Barajas, who combined for 5.5 WAR. The list of players the Dodgers got aren’t all too impressive all by themselves. However, things add up and you somehow end up with a team that acquired 12.2 WAR. Even so, I don’t think these moves put them over the top in the NL West whatsoever.

6. Oakland Athletics
WAR Added – 7.8 (7th)
Investment per WAR – $2.47 MM (7th)
Investment per Player – $3.85 MM (3rd)
Total Investment – $19.25 MM (2nd)
My Ranking – #4

None of the position players Billy Beane acquired this off-season are flashy, but they all have something in common – on base percentage. Beane acquired David DeJesus early in the off-season. He then signed Hideki Matsui to a reasonable one year offer and yanked the underrated Josh Willingham from Washington for two minor leaguers. One of the weaknesses of last year’s A’s team was power and Beane partially addressed the issue by getting Willingham and Matsui. DeJesus brings high OBP and defense, something that the A’s have emphasized for a long time. The A’s also signed two reclamation projects from Texas – Brandon McCarthy and Rich Harden. I think both will compete for the 5th spot in the A’s already stacked rotation. The other teams in the AL West should look for the A’s in 2011, they’re going to be a serious contender for the division.

Dunn brings consistency and left handed power that the White Sox lacked last year.

7. Chicago White Sox
WAR Added – 11 (4th)
Investment per WAR – $2.89 MM (9th)
Investment per Player – $23.25 MM (8th)
Total Investment – $116.25 MM (8th)
My Ranking – #6

The White Sox are going all in for 2011, but it didn’t seem that way when the off-season began. Rumors were flying that the White Sox would head towards the rebuilding route and let the products of their weak farm system ride it out. However, that was not to be, as GM Kenny Williams signed Adam Dunn to a 4 year contract and then re-signed A.J. Pierzynski on the same day. A week later, Williams would welcome back Paul Konerko with a 3 year contract. The South Siders did lose both J.J. Putz and Bobby Jenks in the bullpen, but signed Jesse Crain to fill the void. Overall, the White Sox put themselves in a position to be heavy contenders for the AL Central title. As always, there’s a lot of question marks with the team. Whether those question marks go the way the White Sox’ way will determine Chicago’s fate come October.

8. San Diego Padres
WAR Added – 7.5 (8th)
Investment per WAR – $2.22 MM (4th)
Investment per Player – $3.03 MM (1st)
Total Investment – $24.2 MM (3rd)
My Ranking – #9

I know what you’re thinking, how the hell can a team that loses Adrian Gonzalez have a good off-season? That’s a very good question and I can’t even explain it too well. But the scoring system obviously sees the value in getting the best bang for your buck, which is what the Padres are doing. They used the $5.5 million Gonzalez was going to be paid in 2011 and signed Orlando Hudson to a two year deal. Hudson has shown to be a very solid 3 WAR player when healthy. In addition, they traded for Jason Bartlett, who had a pretty poor season in 2010, but did show his potential in 2009 (even if it was probably a career year). They also signed Aaron Harang to a reasonable deal and I fully expect Petco Park to make Harang’s numbers look good again. The Padres may not have signed or acquired anybody too worthwhile to replace A-Gon, but as I said before, these things add up and you can probably look at the prospects they got in return for Gonzalez as a plus. In the end, the Padres may be one of the top teams in the NL West next season.

9. Atlanta Braves
WAR Added – 5.5 (10th)
Investment per WAR – $2.46 MM (6th)
Investment per Player – $3.43 MM (2nd)
Total Investment – $13.7 MM (1st)
My Ranking – #8

The Braves made just one major off-season move this past year and that was trading for Dan Uggla. Fortunately for Atlanta, that’s a pretty influential piece. How influential? Well, 5.1 of the 5.5 WAR Atlanta added belonged to Uggla. The Braves also got some bullpen help in the form of George Sherrill and Scott Linebrink, both are veterans coming off bad seasons. In Sherrill’s case, he’s actually had recent success and can be an effective LOOGY. Linebrink? Well, let’s just say the trade was a straight up salary dump. After a very impressive campaign in 2010, the Braves didn’t need to do that much work this off-season. They’ve done enough so far by acquiring Uggla and that should go a long ways in their conquest for a playoff spot in 2011.

Werth might have been overpaid, but he brings consistent production to the Nationals.

10. Washington Nationals
WAR Added – 6.8 (9th)
Investment per WAR – $2.2 (3rd)
Investment per Player – $26.68 MM (9th)
Total Investment – $133.4 MM (9th)
My Ranking – #10

The Nationals did manage to add one of the biggest free agents of the off-season in Jayson Werth, but they probably overpaid at 7 years and $126 million. Werth and Ryan Zimmerman make a nice tandem as far as franchise players go, but the Nationals are missing key pieces in numerous other places, like the starting rotation and bullpen. Werth is technically Adam Dunn’s replacement in the lineup. However, can you imagine Dunn, Werth, and Zimmerman in the same lineup? Unfortunately, that was not meant to be. The Nationals also signed Rick Ankiel and are hoping for Chen-Mien Wang to magically heal from his injuries since they signed him to a one year incentive-laden deal. Werth was a nice surprise for Nationals fans, but I doubt they’ll be anything more than a .500 team in 2011 at best, especially in a stacked NL East.

Unfortunately, this is only a list of 10 teams and there are some other teams who did okay for themselves this off-season. The Orioles really upgraded their infield with the acquisitions of Hardy and Reynolds. They would probably be 11th if the list was made of 15 teams. The Rockies were pretty busy, but I’m not really sure their use of money was the best, so they might have made the top 15 list. The Giants could be another possibility, since they did get Huff and Burrell back. There are a handful of different teams you can put on this list and it would look okay.

If you have any suggestions about this list, please post them in the comments. I don’t think this list is the most accurate either, so I’d like some feedback. This scoring system was developed by me in like an hour so it’s not the most accurate. However, I can’t say that I don’t like how the list ended up. There’s a few blemishes here or there, but it looks decent overall.





Benoit and the Tigers Changed the Relief Market

22 12 2010

Posted by BaconSlayer09

Benoit's great 2010 netted him a wealthy 3 year contract.

On November 19th, the Detroit Tigers made the first big free agent splash of the 2010-2011 off-season by signing 33 year old relief pitcher Joaquin Benoit to a 3 year $16.5 million deal with 3-plus million dollars in incentives, a deal that could possibly be worth around $20 million by its conclusion.

Benoit, who had a career year with Tampa in 2010, was coming off of surgery that caused him to miss the entire 2009 season when the Rays signed him to a minor league deal. The Dominican native rewarded the Rays with 60 innings of 1.34 ERA relief in 2010. Along with that, Benoit posted a high K rate of 11.19 per 9 innings and a freakishly low walk rate of 1.64 per 9 frames. Although his 1.34 ERA is unsustainable in the future, Benoit’s high K rate and low walk rate are reasons to be optimistic about Benoit’s next three years in the bullpen. However, just how optimistic should you be about a 33 year old relief pitcher with arm issues in the past that just came off a career year in which he was uncharacteristically lucky? Apparently, really optimistic if your name is Dave Dombrowski.

Matt Thornton has been baseball's most consistent setup man in the past three seasons.

I understand that the Tigers had around $70 million coming off the books and they can spend their money however they like, but that doesn’t mean you go out and overpay a reliever, especially one that is almost 35 who just came off an arm injury. Whether or not this deal made sense is one thing, but how it affects the rest of the market is another. Had Benoit signed a bit later, guys like Scott Downs, Matt Guerrier, and Jesse Crain might not have gotten 3 year deals in the 8 figure range. Nevertheless, the Benoit deal was a precedent and it gave the aforementioned guys a lot of bargaining chips, resulting in some fairly risky deals.

As most people know, middle and setup relief pitching always fluctuate on a year to year basis. The explanation is simple. Relief pitchers pitch less innings and one year, they may get lucky and the next, they may not. This is mostly because relievers are failed starters who have their faults and those faults could be exploited given the correct sample size. However, there are constants, albeit very few. Here the top 8 relief pitchers (non-closers) who have been consistent and efficient over the past three years (WAR dollar values are in parenthesis calculated at 4.33 million dollars per win).

  • Matt Thornton – 200 IP, 2.7 ERA, 2.46 FIP, 6.6 WAR ($28.6 MM).
  • Hong-Chih Kuo – 159 IP, 1.75 ERA, 2.18 FIP, 4.7 WAR ($20.4MM).
  • Grant Balfour – 181 IP, 2.98 ERA, 2.94 FIP, 4.2 WAR ($18.2 MM).
  • Darren Oliver – 203 IP, 2.71 ERA, 3.18 FIP, 4 WAR($17.3 MM).
  • Ryan Madson – 213 IP, 3 ERA, 3.11 FIP, 3.8 WAR ($16.5 MM).
  • Mike Adams – 169 IP, 1.81 ERA, 2.49 FIP, 3.8 WAR ($16.5 MM).
  • Rafael Betancourt – 189 IP, 3.9 ERA, 3.33 FIP, 3.6 WAR ($15.6 MM).
  • Scott Downs – 179 IP, 2.42 ERA, 3.25 FIP, 3.5 WAR ($15.2 MM).

From this list we can see only two relievers, Thornton and Kuo,  have been worth more than $20 million in WAR value over the past three seasons. Although the rest of the guys on the list are all very good relief pitchers, most of them don’t come all that close to the $20 million mark that Benoit will get if he gets all his incentives. This year, the estimate is that a win above replacement is worth around $5 million. If we don’t put inflation into the calculation (for simplicity sake), that pretty much says Benoit needs to put up at least 3-4 WAR over the next three seasons in order for the Tigers to break even on their contract. But what about all the other multi-year deals these other reliever signed? Here’s a breakdown.

  • Matt Guerrier – 3 years (2.4 WAR expected, 0.2 WAR over last three seasons).
  • Jesse Crain – 3 years (2.6 WAR expected, 1.7 WAR over last three seasons).
  • Bobby Jenks – 2 years (2.4 WAR expected, 1.9 WAR over last two seasons).
  • Scott Downs – 3 years (3 WAR expected, 3.5 WAR over last three seasons).
  • Joaquin Benoit – 3 years (3.3 WAR expected, 1.3 WAR over last three seasons).

Downs was the only free agent reliever who signed for a fair amount given his value in the past three seasons.

So from the looks of this, every team might have overpaid for their relief pitcher with the exception of the Angels with Downs. Although some of these figures are very, very close, we all have to realize that we must take regression into account for every one of these guys. None of the listed pitchers are all that young and they’re all starting to reach their 30s or mid 30s. So regression is not out of the picture at all. The inflation I didn’t take into account could possibly offset some of the regression (since each win will be worth more as time goes on), but in the end, the point is that most of these relievers got overpaid, mostly as a result of the precedent set by Benoit’s deal.

It’s very hard to find good, consistent, middle relievers and setup men these days. That was shown through the first set of relievers I listed. You’ll be hard pressed to find more than 15 non-closing relievers who can average a WAR of 1 or above in a three year period. Perhaps that’s why Dombrowski and the Tigers front office went all out to get Benoit. Maybe they saw how important a good back end of the bullpen is through teams like the Padres and Rays. Whatever they saw or thought, I still don’t think they made the best of moves by overpaying Benoit and setting a bad precedent. Because now a handful of other teams are stuck with some risky contracts as a result. Not to mention the Tigers are stuck with a $16.5-20 million commitment to a 33 year old reliever.





Revisiting the Cliff Lee Trade: Part Three

7 12 2010

Posted by Teix4MVP

So as Wilchiro and MagicSox have already told you, Cliff Lee has been traded along for prospects and whatnot, and he has performed well everywhere he went, whether it be in Philly or Seattle, or Cleveland. After the addition of Lee to the Mariners, many picked them to win the AL West. However, when the Mariners were quickly smacked out of contention, they decided to trade their second ace, who they would lose to free agency after the season.

It was hard to see Lee go, but M's fans knew it was all for the good.

At first, it looked like the Yankees were going to get him (I remember refreshing the website MLB Trade Rumors every 10-20 minutes just to see if they’d get a deal done) with a package centered around top 5 prospect, catcher Jesus Montero. The deal looked done; that is, until the Mariners opened up conversations with the Rangers again after they apparently didn’t like the package that also included prospect David Adams and probably Zach McAllister (who was later dealt for Austin Kearns) and liked a package centered around Justin Smoak more, along with guys like Blake Beavan, Matthew Lawson, and of course, the now-infamous Josh Lueke. They made the deal, sending Lee (and an out-for-the-season Mark Lowe) to the Rangers on July 9th, So, I’m going to break down the players as they’ve progressed through this year. Let’s start with the player(s) the Rangers got.

The Texas Rangers received:

Cliff Lee (and cash)

The 32-year-old Cliff Lee didn’t perform as well as expected in Texas. He went 4-6, had a 3.98 ERA, and saw his WHIP jump to 1.058 from .945.  His BB/9 went from .5 to 1.0, and his SO/BB dropped from a godly 14.83 to 8.00. His September was pretty good, as he went 2-1 with a 1.93 ERA, but in August he went 1-4 and had a 6.35 ERA. He was a great clubhouse presence for the upstart Rangers, and he led them straight to the World Series in the Playoffs. He defeated two of the best offenses in baseball, the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees, easily, giving up just 2 ERs in 24 innings pitched. He allowed just 14 baserunners (he had just one walk allowed) and he struck out 34 batters. And just like that, Lee and the Rangers had reached the World Series, the first the franchise had reached against the San Francisco Giants. The Rangers looked like the favorites to many, particularly because of their ace, Clifford Phifer Lee, and he was starting Game 1. He was 7-0 in his career during the playoffs, and he looked to improve to 8-0 against the Giants hitters, who didn’t have a 30 HR guy.

Or a 100-RBI guy.

Or even a 90-RBI guy.

They DID end up showing Cliff Lee what it was like to lose, actually handing him 2 losses and a 6.94 ERA. He had an over 10 WHIP, compared to a .375 WHIP against the Yankees and a .688 against the Rays. And just like that, the Rangers had lost their first World Series, and their ace was sent towards his first huge payday and a decision of what team to join next season.

Mark Lowe

This was an interesting addition to the trade. Lowe was out for the season with a back surgery, but managed to make it back at the very end of the regular season, pitching in 3 games but had a 12.00 ERA. In the postseason, he pitched in 2 games, and gave up 5 earned runs. At age 27, he isn’t a prospect player, so he was included in the deal as a probable throw-in, although the Rangers want him. He’s arbitration-eligible, so look for him to  be in the Rangers plans for 2011.

Mark Lowe has a fastball that reaches 100 MPH at times, and he could be an elite pitcher in the Texas bullpen in 2011.

The Rangers’ GM Daniels was widely praised for making this deal, as he greatly improved his team’s chances to make it to the playoffs but also did it without giving up any of his blue chip minors prospects. Lee was the obvious prize of the trade, but look for Lowe next season, as he’s one year removed from 75 appearances and a 3.26 ERA, although that should go up due to the park he’s now pitching in. The Rangers have the financial flexibility to sign the best free agent this year’s class has to offer, although the offer has to stack up against those of the Yankees, Phillies, Red Sox, Angels, and Tigers, among others. The Rangers do have an edge in the Lee negotiations, however, as Texas is close to his Arkansas home. Whoever signs Lee will get an immediate impact pitcher.

Let’s move on to the M’s part of the deal, starting with the centerpiece, rookie first baseman…

Justin Smoak

Smoak came up to replace the struggling Chris Davis at first base on April 22. He struggled in his time with the Rangers, having a slashline of .209/.316/.353, which wasn’t much better than Davis’s mark of .192/.279/.292. But this does not take away from Smoak’s potential. Smoak was a top fifteen prospect entering the season, rated by Baseball America and MLB Network. He has a solid glove at 1B as evident by a UZR of 2.2, and has drawn comparisions to stars such as Mark Teixeira and Lance Berkman in the past. This guy looks like the real deal.

Josh Lueke

Lueke shows a ton of potential and this is shown by an impressive year, going 5-2 with a 1.86 ERA in 50 games. He posted alot more K’s then he pitched innings, and he will likely be utilized in the Mariners bullpen entering the 2011 season. When acquired, the Mariners were not aware of previous problems with rape, and that is why they have begun to dangle him on the trade market.

Blake Beavan

Justin Smoak was the centerpiece of the Lee deal. He has drawn comparisions to Teixeira and Berkman.

Blake Beavan is a solid piece. At 6’7″ 250 pounds, Beavan posted great numbers in three levels with Texas and Seattle this year, going 14-8 with a 3.90 ERA in 168.1 IP. It doesn’t seem like he blows anyone away with just 101 K’s on the season, but this shouldn’t be an issue as long as he is getting the outs. Beavan is currently in AAA Tacoma, and could fight for a spot in the rotation out of Spring Training, depending on the health status of recently re-signed lefty Erik Bedard.

Matthew Lawson

Lawson was essentially a throw-in piece who likely won’t play a huge part in the Mariners future plans, and will likely be used as trade bait, as he is blocked by stud prospects Dustin Ackley and Kyle Seager. He did post decent stats on the year, though, hitting .293/.372/.439 with a solid OPS of .815.

Although it was hard for Mariners fans to see Lee go after such a great offseason followed by a solid 2009, it was evident that a trade was on the way. Jack Zduriencik likely got a maximum return for the lefty, considering the status of his contract and the demands for his salary. This was a trade that worked perfectly for both sides; the Rangers got one of the best pitchers in baseball in Lee who eventually led them in their surge to the World Series, with a fireball arm in Lowe who has a shot as the closer slot if Feliz becomes a starter in 2011. The Mariners got their future 1B in Smoak who fits perfectly with their plans with his left handed bat, solid glove and marginal power, a couple of solid bullpen arms in Lueke and Beavan, and a young 2B in Lawson. This trade was a win-win for both sides.





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!