Questioning Eric Wedge

18 06 2012

Posted by Will

Eric Wedge

It is time for Wedge to start playing the youth of the team more often

When the Mariners hired Eric Wedge in the winter of 2010, I had to say that I liked the move. Wedge had turned Cleveland from a young and inexperienced ball club into a playoff contender in just a matter of years. He is now the head of another young and inexperienced team in Seattle, and I have to question his decision making.

Twelve of the twenty-five players currently rostered are twenty-six years of age or younger. John Sickels of Minor League Baseball said prior to the season that Seattle had the fourth best minor league system in the game, and with the progression of arms Danny Hultzen and Taijuan Walker, the team is about to get even younger. Even with this plethora of youth on the major league roster and more talent on the way, Eric Wedge is still insistent on playing the struggling veterans.

One issue is Wedge’s infatuation with catcher Miguel Olivo. While there is good reason to have Olivo on the roster because of his ability to call a good game and occasional glimpses of power, he should be used as a back-up or in a platoon role at best. Everytime he steps up to the plate, you might as well hand the opposing team free outs – his 56 wRC+ and 13.5 K/BB ratio are certainly not of much help to the club. While he has thrown out 13 of 38 runners, good for 34% of all runners, Jesus Montero has thrown out 6 of 27 runners, good for 29% of all runners, while contributing much more to the team with the bat (99 wRC+, which is essentially league average). John Jaso, in limited playing time, has produced twice as much WAR as Olivo while managing to post a 123 wRC+ with .358 OBP and a BB% higher than his K%-it would seem to make a lot more sense to let Jaso stick around as the starter and give Olivo the boot to the bench.

A glaring issue on this team is Chone Figgins. Fans are clamoring for his release with good reason-in the past two seasons, he has posted -2.1 WAR, good for the worst in baseball over that time span. Yet, Figgins still continues to collect his annual $9 million pay check while being of negative value to the club. While I’m sure the front office understands that he is a lost cause, I am under the impression that they are looking for a team willing to take on even the slightest amount of cash remaining on his mammoth contract that he inked in 2009. Figgins’ seemingly automatic strikeouts (25% K%) are wearing on fans and it’s time to take action and release him as soon as possible.

Chone Figgins

Figgins has been of negative value since joining the ball club in 2009

Another developing problem is Ichiro Suzuki, who has meant so much to this team and the city of Seattle over his eleven year playing career, but his age is slowly but surely becoming a hurdle. Two years ago a .300+ batting average with 200+ hits was just expected out of Ichiro. Those days are now behind us. This year he’s posted a .255 average with an 80 wRC+ to date, simply not getting the job done. His skills on the base paths and gold glove caliber defense are still assets to the team, but on the same token this level of play is no longer worthy of receiving everyday playing time; he has played in sixty-seven of seventy games thus far. With Franklin Gutierrez returning, it is assumed that Michael Saunders will switch to a fourth outfielder role, while he is deserving of much more after posting 2 WAR and swinging a hot stick. I’m alright with Ichiro getting regular playing time, but not at the expense of young players that are actually contributing when given the chance.

As a wrap, this team has many flaws and it’s essential that Eric Wedge, Jack Zduriencik and crew do their part to correct these things in order to maximize the teams’ production and get fans to the ballpark. I like Eric Wedge and I would hate for the team to have to fire its eighteenth manager in its thirty-five year history, but it’s time for him to step up his game.

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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.





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.





The Albert Pujols Ripple Effect

23 02 2011

Posted by Teix4MVP

Now, we all know about the fact that the best hitter in baseball was not extended by the Cardinals before his deadline, and we all know he’s a free agent after this season ends. But what we all overlook are some key stories to watch due to Albert not re-signing yet, because they could really change the MLB as we know it whether it be this season or the next few years. Here are a few I think that Albert can indirectly affect.

Prince Fielder’s New Contract

Another power hitting first baseman will be on the market after this season. Prince Fielder and the Milwaukee Brewers aren’t really a fit anymore because of Fielder’s contract demands and the Brewers’ flexibility not matching up. So Fielder will hit the open market as the best first baseman available.

Well, not exactly if Pujols hits the Free Agent market as well. Fielder’s body type will open him up for more injuries as he gets older, making it hard to compete with Pujols. Fielder’s hitting, while being very good and consistently with the top numbers, definitely cannot compete with Pujols’ elite hitting combined with ultimate consistency. Pujols’ glove is simply superior to Prince’s not-so-stellar one. So really, Pujols is superior to Fielder in pretty much every way. In improving your ball club, you want Pujols even if he is older. Why? WAR

Fielder's hope for a massive contract could explode if Albert hits the open market.

from the past five years tell you. Fielder’s WAR from the past 5 seasons: 1.3, 5.3, 2.7, 6.9, 4.1, showing a jump or fall every year. Pujols’? 8.3, 8.4, 9.3, 8.7, 7.3. Pujols for his career has never had a WAR lower than 5.7 by the way. Fielder should really be hoping that Albert and the Cardinals reach a deal by the time the offseason hits, or else Fielder will be even further than he already is from reaching his desired contract of 8 years, 180MM dollars, the same contract that  Mark Teixeira received. Pujols will definitely play a big part in Fielder’s next contract.

C.C. Sabathia

Pujols also affects C.C. Sabathia. Why? Well, Sabathia has an opt out clause Yankees GM Brian Cashman included when Sabathia first signed with the Yankees that allows him to hit the market again. This clause could possibly nab him more years/money like his teammate that also opted out of his contract, Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod managed to secure a 10-year commitment and enough cash to make him the highest paid player in the game, so Sabathia could do the same in hopes of making significantly more cash and years. If Albert hits the market, it doesn’t really affect Sabathia, as he is an ace pitcher and Albert is the best hitter in baseball, so there will be no competition at a position. However, if Albert doesn’t hit the free agent market, things could change very quickly for Sabathia. He would not only be the best free agent starter on the market, but also the best player on the market. Teams that aren’t even interested in signing those kind of guys still check in on them even if it is to just drive up the price for their rivals. And there’s never a surplus of good pitching. All the big market clubs would be interested, and losing clubs like the Nationals or Royals looking to complement their young talent could make attempts at him, and don’t count out the Yankees either. Sabathia’s opt out clause looms large on the Yankees’ and their fans’ minds, and the thought of a no-Sabathia rotation in 2012 could mean the end of the world….for the Yankees’ regular season and playoff hopes. Pujols will certainly either help or not change Sabathia’s decision whether or not to opt out.

The Cardinals’ Rotation and Young Stars

You may be wondering why this is relevant to Albert Pujols. Well, it’s not just dealing with him, it’s also dealing with Matt Holliday, Kyle Lohse, and Chris Carpenter. That’s right:financial commitments. Payroll for the Cardinals last season was just under 95MM dollars. That’s with Pujols having a 16MM salary. With 30MM per year included, or even 25MM, that pushes the Cards’ payroll over 100MM dollars, something Bill DeWitt Jr. has never done before. This is very bad indeed, but it affects the Cardinals’ stellar rotation. Chris Carpenter makes 15MM dollars this season, and the Cardinals will probably have to buyout his option for 2012 to clear up space for Pujols. It also

Adam Wainwright and the Cardinals' rotation could be influenced by Pujols' contract if he re-signs for 25MM+.

might not allow them to extend Adam Wainwright past his 2012 option. Kyle Lohse’s bad contract takes him through 2012, so they would either have to eat a lot of his salary to clear room or include a more desirable player in a deal, or both.

Jaime Garcia and Colby Rasmus are both arbitration-eligible after the 2012 season. While it probably isn’t a big deal now, Pujols will be getting into the middle of his contract right when Garcia and Rasmus hit free agency. Garcia was good for the Cardinals in 2010, posting a 2.70 ERA and a 13-8 W-L record, and compiling a 3.2 WAR. Rasmus also was good, hitting for a .270/.361/.498 slashline, hitting 24 home runs and compiling a 3.5 WAR. They are going to keep improving, maybe becoming 4-5 WAR players if everything goes right. They could be traded or leave for free agency due to Pujols’ massive contract if he gets it. So basically, the entire Cardinals team and its future are dependent on the result of Pujols’ contract.

Negotiations between the MLB and the MLBPA about a new CBA

Well, the current CBA expires after this year, and you can bet Albert can and will be used as a reference during those talks. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa already made an accusation about Albert being used as a weapon in this battle, saying that the Players’ Association was telling Albert to run up his price tag. While MLBPA head Michael Weiner shot that down, one has to wonder if that could be a sticking point. To me, it certainly is, because it could swing salaries into the owners’ favor or further help the players. I don’t think that Pujols was directly told to drag out his negotiations, but at the very least his name and situation will be mentioned during CBA talks before, during, and after the 2011 regular and post seasons.

The Cubs’ Fan Support

WARNING: If you are a Cardinals fan, please promptly scroll down to the end of the page where I conclude this piece.

Okay, the worst nightmare for any Cardinals fan is not only losing Albert, but losing him to the hated Chicago Cubs. Which could happen if Pujols hits the free agent market. The Cubs would apparently offer him the A-Rod Contract, which is 10 years along with a 275MM or more. That would be at least as bad as LeBron James leaving for Miami, and probably a lot worst. The name Albert would probably be expelled from all baby books. The St. Louis area would go crazy. The Cardinals might collapse, because even if they have Matt Holliday and Colby Rasmus to lead the offense, Albert hitting in the 3 spot against the Cubs would kill them.  But enough from the Cards perspective. If the Cubs DO sign Albert, it’d appear to be the team’s best hope to win a World Series in over 100 years for fans. It’d take up the first base spot which has been vacated, and it would give the best hitter since Ryne Sandberg to the Cubs. If they don’t sign him, however, it could be a PR nightmare. Longtime Cubbies fans could groan and complain about letting their best chance at the coveted Fall Classic trophy slip through their fingers or, more appropriately, their pockets. It would suck the morale out of fans and maybe they might stop buying some of the most expensive tickets in the MLB. So Albert and his chance at free agency has basically the entire Cubs’ fan base drooling and waiting, and could either turn them towards or away from trusting management.

Albert Pujols could affect much more than just himself with this big decision of his. As you can see, Albert is just a stone dropped into a pond, and the ripples stretch all across the league, both onfield and off it. What will matter is how big the ripples are, and how far they reach into the future.





An Act of Desperation

26 01 2011

Posted by BaconSlayer09

After watching the Red Sox ink Carl Crawford to a 7 year deal and the division rival Rangers sign Adrian Beltre to a 5 year contract, the Angels front office must have gotten a bit jealous.  While that’s understandable, by no means does it justify the actions that Tony Reagins and company pulled off this past weekend.  In a true move of desperation, the Angels took on the $86 million contract of Vernon Wells, one of the worst contracts in all of baseball, in exchange for Mike Napoli, Juan Rivera, and $5 million.

Vernon Wells bounced back in 2010 with a .362 wOBA. His highest mark since 2006.

It doesn’t matter how you view this trade, the bottom line is that the Angels made an incredibly irresponsible financial move in order to make some noise this off-season and appease the common fan. Nevertheless, the noise from the trade has been all but positive and even the average fan will realize just how horrendous of a trade this is in the very near future.

Vernon Wells is not a bad player. He’s definitely flawed, but he has his strengths. For one, he’s a pretty good hitter. He’s not the hitter he was when he initially signed his current albatross contract back in 2006, but he’s still a solid hitter, especially for a center fielder. The problem is that he’s not really a center fielder anymore. Ultimate Zone Rating points out that Wells has been worth -36 runs in center field during the past three seasons, Defensive Runs Saved has Wells at -28 runs over the past three campaigns, and Tom Tango’s Fan Scouting Reports have Wells at -19 runs over the past two years. In terms of raw numbers and the eye test, Vernon Wells is no longer the legit center fielder he once was in the early 2000s. In fact, he’s probably one of the worst full-time defensive center fielders in baseball. In order for Wells to live up to the rest of his contract, he’d have to produce somewhere around 20 wins above replacement at $4.5 million per win. The only problem is that Wells has only been worth 25.1 WAR in his entire 12 year career. At 32 years old and past his prime, qualitative analysis tells us that Wells isn’t going to live up to the rest of his contract.

We can, however, approximate how much value Wells will most likely produce over the next 4 seasons by using a combination of Bill James, CAIRO, and FanGraphs Fan Projections. According to these three systems, Wells is going to sport a .340 wOBA in 632 PAs for 2011. These would be very good offensive numbers for a center fielder. The only problem is that Peter Bourjos, fielding extraordinaire,  has center field locked up. With Torii Hunter in right and Bourjos in center, the only position for Wells to play is left field. This is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because playing left field requires a lot less range. Wells’ lack of range has been his greatest flaw as a defender in the past three years, where he’s racked up a total of -40 range runs. The move to left field will most likely turn Wells into an average defender. The curse is that he reduces his value by nearly 10 runs due to the positional adjustment. With his .340 wOBA in 632 PAs and league average defense in LF for 148 games, Vernon Wells is projected to produce 2.3 WAR in 2011. If we take this figure as a measurement of his current talent level, we can then regress this number by .5 wins for his first two seasons and .7 wins for his last two. I am doing this because the regression level at age 32 compared to age 34 is not the same (see why here).  To make this more accurate, I will also inflate the value of a win by 6% every season. By doing this, we can see just how much Wells will contribute during the 4 years left on his contract.

  • 2011 (32) – 2.3 WAR ($10.4 million)
  • 2012 (33) – 1.8 WAR ($8.6 million)
  • 2013 (34) – 1.1 WAR ($5.6 million)
  • 2014 (35) – 0.4 WAR ($2.2 million)

This model is not extremely accurate, it’s just a well thought-out guesstimate. But what it tells us is that Wells will be an average player for about two seasons, a very good bench player for one, and then a replacement level player for the last season of his $86 million contract. In the 4 years that Wells might spend in Anaheim, he is projected to produce 5.6 WAR and $27 million in value. That’s $59 million short of what he’s being paid. Even if we pegged Wells as the player he was last season (a 4 WAR player) for the next 4 seasons, he will produce 16 WAR, which comes out to $78 million in value. Still $8 million short of what he’s being paid. So even in an almost perfect scenario where Wells does not regress a single bit during his age 32-35 seasons, he will still be overpaid.

Napoli's shortcomings as a catcher have limited his playing time under Mike Scioscia.

What’s even worse about this trade is that the Angels gave up a good player to get a mediocre one. For whatever reason, Mike Scioscia dislikes Mike Napoli. On one hand, I understand why. Napoli’s a bad defensive catcher and Scioscia, being a former catcher himself, really wants a guy who can save his pitchers some wild pitches and call a good game. However, when the guy who will replace Napoli is a .195 hitting Jeff Mathis, you have to wonder if Napoli is sleeping with Mike Scioscia’s wife. Napoli has averaged 2.8 WAR over the past three seasons and has shown he can be an adequate defender at first base. Combined projections have Napoli at 2.9 WAR for 2011. The other piece of the deal is Juan Rivera, who had a down year in 2010 in comparison to his solid 2009. Rivera will most likely get decent playing time as a left fielder in Toronto. He’s probably a guy with a 3 WAR ceiling, but will  most likely produce 1 to 1.5 wins based on playing time. So in a sense, the Angels gave up 4 wins of talent in exchange for 2 wins of talent. In the process, they also took on $81 million in salary and only shed $11 million. So they lose about $9 million in the exchange of talent alone for 2011. Then there’s the $70 million gap in salaries. If Wells will only earn $27 million of that $70 million back, that’s a loss of $43 million. Bringing us to a net loss of $52 million for the Angels. Talk about financially irresponsible.

In a period where every team is trying to squeeze the most value out of their dollars, the Angels seem to be doing the exact opposite. Sure, teams like the Red Sox have spent far more this off-season, but at least they’re spending their money in a responsible way by acquiring pieces that will at least yield enough value to match the contract. We’re talking about a $50 million net loss for the Angels right now. That $50 million could have gotten them 4 years of Adam Dunn or Victor Martinez this off-season. Hell, the $81 million investment they made by trading for Wells could have gotten them Adrian Beltre. Instead, they’re stuck with a very average player on the brink of a sharp decline. If the Angels follow up their first losing season since 2003 with another bad season in 2011, heads will turn in management and Tony Reagins might find himself in the job hunting market.





Albert Pujols Traded to the New York Yankees

17 01 2011

Posted by Teix4MVP

This is all imaginary.

Albert Pujols is entering the final year of his contract.

The Yankees have signed Albert Pujols to a 10 year, 300MM contract extension after they acquired Pujols from the Cardinals for Jesus Montero, Brett Gardner, Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, Phil Hughes and David Robertson. Brian Cashman spoke after the deal was announced saying, “We had the extra 300 million lying around so we thought, why not?” Pujols decided to break off negotiations earlier than the Spring Training deadline and demanded a trade, said a source with the Cardinals. “We were extremely taken aback when Albert decided he did not want to negotiate anymore,” the source said. Pujols was interviewed by PTaPP, saying “New York is where I always dreamed of being. St. Louis was nice, but I feel like New York was where I was always supposed to be.”

The Yankees will probably be using Pujols in a DH role as 1B is occupied by Mark Teixeira. Teixeira had to say this about Pujols: “He’s a fantastic player and hopefully he can guide us to a 28th pennant.” CC Sabathia was quoted as saying “He’s a great guy, a fantastic personality…Whenever we need him, he’ll come up in the clutch.” Alex Rodriguez declined comment, muttering on the way out “Who cares if he has the biggest contract now…I’m still the prettiest. I’M STILL THE PRETTIEST!” Pujols’ number 6 jersey was flying off the racks, and 17 people were arrested fighting for the jerseys.

Meanwhile, in St. Louis, fans were crying at several bars over the loss of Pujols. Pujols jerseys were burning in the streets, and at least 92 bobble heads of the former beloved slugger were found, smashed in the street. Said one fan, “He’s a traitor.”  Bill DeWitt Jr., owner of the team, posted the following on the team’s website:

Dear St. Louis, All Of Missouri and St. Louis Cardinals Supporters Wherever You May Be Tonight;

As you now know, our former hero is no longer a St. Louis Cardinal.

This was announced with a several day, narcissistic, self-promotional build-up culminating with a national TV Press Conference unlike anything ever “witnessed” in the history of sports and probably the history of entertainment.

Clearly, this is bitterly disappointing to all of us.

The good news is that the ownership team and the rest of the hard-working, loyal, and driven staff over here at your hometown Cardinals have not betrayed you nor NEVER will betray you.

There is so much more to tell you about the events of the recent past and our more than exciting future. Over the next several days and weeks, we will be communicating much of that to you.

You simply don’t deserve this kind of cowardly betrayal.

You have given so much and deserve so much more.

In the meantime, I want to make one statement to you tonight:

“I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE ST. LOUIS CARDINALS WILL WIN AN MLB CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE  FORMER ‘KING ALBERT’ WINS ONE”

You can take it to the bank.

If you thought we were motivated before tonight to bring the hardware to St. Louis, I can tell you that this shameful display of selfishness and betrayal by one of our very own has shifted our “motivation” to previously unknown and previously never experienced levels.

Some people think they should go to heaven but NOT have to die to get there.

Sorry, but that’s simply not how it works.

This shocking act of disloyalty from our own “King” sends the exact opposite lesson of what we would want our children to learn. And “who” we would want them to grow-up to become.

But the good news is that this heartless and callous action can only serve as the antidote to the so-called “curse” on St. Louis, Missouri.

Brian Cashman has alot of payroll flexbility to play around with.

The self-declared former “King” will be taking the “curse” with him across the nation. And until he does “right” by St. Louis and Missouri, Pujols (and the town where he plays) will unfortunately own this dreaded spell and bad karma.

Just watch.

Sleep well, St. Louis.

Tomorrow is a new and much brighter day….

I PROMISE you that our energy, focus, capital, knowledge and experience will be directed at one thing and one thing only:

DELIVERING YOU the championship you have long deserved and is long overdue….

Bill DeWitt Jr.
Majority Owner
St. Louis Cardinals

Pujols declined comment on the letter. Many had the opportunity to voice their opinion on this. One fan from the Bronx said, “Amazing pick up, the Yankees are sure to win the AL East now.”

A few days later, Earth is attacked by UFOs and is subsequently taken over. They make Derek Jeter king of humanity(as if he wasn’t already). Then several meteors strike Earth and it explodes.