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.

Advertisements




Revisiting the Cliff Lee Deal: Part One

4 11 2010
 
 

 

Cliff Lee was a major key to the Phillies playoff success in 2009

Posted by MagicSox

Over the next couple of days, both Wilchiro and I will be working on a two-part Cliff Lee feature article.  I’ll be recapping the trade that brought him to Philadelphia from the Cleveland Indians, and Wilchiro will cover the deal where they shipped him to Seattle and Teix will analyze the trade to Texas that landed him in his second World Series.

We all remember the anticipation surrounding the sweepstakes.  For Indians fans who stopped by to catch a game during the early weeks of summer, you knew that every time you saw Cliff could be the last.  This was an Indians team far, far out of contention, relying on young players and having a pitching staff as awful as an AMC Pacer (that is, besides Lee of course, him being more of a Chevy Camaro).  The path of any team with such a poor record and a superstar on their hands is to trade him for multiple young prospects that will help the team.  The Indians had done the same the previous year, sending staff ace C.C. Sabathia to the Milwaukee Brewers for a number of young guns, including current Indians regulars Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley.  The path was simple, but Mark Shapiro knew that with Lee he had a goldmine; a player coming off of going 22-3 with a 2.54 ERA, the kind of starter a playoff contender needs to push it over the top.

I personally remember seeing Lee’s last home game for the Indians, July 16th, 2009.  A meaningless game against the Mariners, another team not going anywhere in October anytime soon.  Lee pitched a complete game, allowing one run and striking out six without giving up a walk, a fine outing.  His opponent on the mound was Garrett Olson, and the Indians made short work of him.  It ended up being a 4-1 Indians victory.  I felt happy for Lee and his excellent performance, but a nagging voice in my head said, “Wouldn’t it be nice to see him do this when it actually counts?”

Thirteen days later, Cliff Lee was traded to the Phillies in a 6-player deal.  Let me break it down right here:

Going to the Phillies:

SP Cliff Lee: Although Lee only gave them half a season of pretty good pitching (7-4, 3.39), he had a 7.4 K/BB ratio that would make most starters jealous, not to mention a sub-1 WHIP for the first time in his career.  However, his most valuable contributions to the team came in the playoffs.  Over the course of the NLDS, NLCS, and World Series, Lee had a 4-0 record with a 1.56 ERA, outdueling Ubaldo Jimenez and the Rockies in the opening game of the NLDS, pitching a complete game, 3-hit, 10-strikeout shutout in Game 3 of the NLCS against the Dodgers, and leading the Phillies to their only two wins of the 2009 World Series against the New York Yankees in Games 1 and 5.

It’s safe to say that Lee’s outstanding performance in the postseason was one of the main factors in why the Phillies made it as far as they did.  I’m going to give him four and a half stars out of five, the only thing keeping him from a perfect score being the fact that he only contributed for 2 months of regular season ball.

OF Ben Francisco: Francisco was coming off of a solid 2008 rookie campaign as the starting leftfielder for Cleveland, hitting .266 with 54 RBIs and a 1.4 WAR value (comparable right now to, say, Kurt Suzuki), along with a mediocre 2.7 UZR/150.  Not a starter on most other MLB teams, and a throw-in in deals like these.  Upon his arrival in Philly, he was moved to the bench (not being a better starter than Raul Ibanez), and proceeded to slug .526 as a pinch-hitter.  In contrast to Lee, Francisco did nothing during the playoffs, going 0 for 11 while only reaching base once.

In 2010, Francisco’s been hitting a pedestrian .252 with little to no power as Philadelphia’s fourth outfielder.  He provides spot-on defense in left with a 27.2 UZR/150, while he’s been horrid in right, with that statistic measuring -44.4 on that side of the field.  The bottom line is, Philadelphia acquired a slightly below-average hitting backup outfielder who can adequately fill in in leftfield, but is a liability anywhere else you put him.  I’m going to give him 1 and a half stars out of five, because this spot on the roster could be filled by someone with more speed, defensive skill, and pop in the bat.

Phillies’ average: 3 stars out of five

Going to the Indians:

SP Carlos Carrasco: Carrasco was a highly touted prospect for Philadelphia, dominating the lower ranks of the minors with his fastball, which topped out at 96.  Although some scouts questioned his command, the sheer ferocity of his fastball and the added bonus of two plus off-speed pitches (a changeup and a curveball) made him a very attractive commodity.  After a 2008 season in which he averaged over eight and a half strikeouts a game for AA Reading and had a successful taste of AAA Lehigh Valley, he was poised to take the International League by storm in 2009.  Despite an ugly ERA of 5.18, his high strikeout rating and velocity kept his value high.  After the trade, he reported to the Indians’ AAA Columbus affiliate, going 5-1 with a 3.19 ERA and holding opponents to a .196 batting average.  This made the Indians think that he was ready, and he proceeded to get absolutely hammered in the majors: 0-4, 8.87 ERA, as many walks as strikeouts, and giving up 6 home runs in 5 games.

The Indians still had faith in him

Jason Donald is best known throughout baseball for being called safe on Armando Galaragga's near perfect game that was blown by umpire Jim Joyce

despite that major rough patch, and have kept him in AAA all year for more much-needed seasoning.  He’s currently at 10-5 with a 3.71 ERA, respectable numbers.  His days of unreal K/BB ratios are gone, his strikeout numbers have tanked, and his BAA is higher than it used to be, but there is still potential there.  Baseball America ranked him as the #8 prospect in Cleveland’s system, and the #4 pitcher in the organization.  Carrasco has been one of the most puzzling pieces of this trade: I’m giving him 2.5 out of 3 stars, because the jury’s still out.  He could still be able to contribute to Cleveland whether as a starter or reliever, and just as easily he could flame out and leave baseball.  Only time will tell.

C Lou Marson: Marson was fresh off of two high-RBI seasons in 2007 and 2008 for Class A+ Lakewood and AA Reading.  Baseball America had him ranked #3 in the Phillies’ system, praising him as “the Phillies’ most polished minor league hitter, with the system’s best plate discipline and a professional approach.”  Pretty good for someone who hadn’t even turned 23 yet, eh?  He was hitting .294 for AAA Lehigh Valley at the time of the trade, with a 4 for 17 cup of coffee with Philly.  Like Carrasco, he reported to Columbus, and his batting numbers immediately dropped.  He only hit .243, with his OBP and and SLG in the low .300s. He has yet to shine in the majors since coming over in that trade from the Phillies.

SS Jason Donald: Remember the guy that was called safe on Armando Galaragga’s near perfect game on June 2nd, 2010? That was this guy. He was a top 10 prospect in the Phillies orgininzation in the 2009 season, and since then, he hasn’t done much. In 88 games with the Indians MLB club this year, he managed just a triple slash line of .253/.312/.378 with 4 homeruns and 24 RBI’s. He is most likely a career utility guy at best.

P Jason Knapp: This was the last piece of the deal. At the time, Knapp was having a bad year in the Phillies A-Ball team, with just a 2-7 record and a 4.18 ERA. He is now regarded as a highly touted prospect, as he was ranked #64 throughout baseball by Baseball America entering the 2010 season. Although he has a long road before he hits the majors, this guy is showing promise.

In part two, Wilchiro will be reviewing the trade that sent pitcher Cliff Lee to the Mariners in a blockbuster deal. I hope you enjoyed my post.





Doctober: This Toronto Fan’s Perspective

7 10 2010

Posted by WAMCO:

“Bittersweet.”

Amongst many Blue Jays blogs and websites and comments, this is the word I am consistently seeing with regards to Roy Halladay’s 104-pitch no-hit masterpiece in his playoff debut. If you told me five years ago that he would have this type of performance in his first playoff game, I would have believed you. However, there are some things that would have seemed strange: He pitches for the Philadelphia Phillies. In the National League division series. Less than one year after he was traded away from Toronto.

“Bittersweet.”

As a lifelong Blue Jay fan, it is difficult to know how to react to a situation like this.

“Bittersweet.”

For many Toronto fans, it is bittersweet to see Doc Halladay succeed with the Phillies, and not their beloved Jays

Roy Halladay is a winner; there is no question about it. Whether he was receiving appropriate run support or not while he pitched for Toronto, he still won games, and still dominated most nights. As a starting pitcher, he has been above 5.0 in WAR seven times in his career. He has lead his league in complete games in six of the past eight years. His other numbers are well known; the dominant ERA, WHIP, etc. Even if you are partial to pitcher wins, he’s had over 16 wins in seven of the past nine years. He is the total package. Add to that his incredible work ethic, his contributions to the community, and his influence on his fellow pitchers, and you pretty much cannot dislike this man, unless you are in the unfortunate position of being in the batter’s box against him.

“Bittersweet.”

The Blue Jays could not put a team together to surpass New York, Boston, or (more recently) Tampa Bay during his time in Toronto. Halladay, on two occasions, signed under-market extensions with the Blue Jays in order to make it work there. The team could not get over the hump. Despite their best efforts, they fell short every year. The man that the late, great Tom Cheek christened as “Doc” Halladay did not pitch in a playoff game for Toronto.

“Bittersweet.”

Toronto fans are torn. Halladay did ask out, in the end. He knew he was running out of time, and needed to make a move. On the other hand, all of the good things Doc did in Toronto will stick with many fans. I know this fan was on the edge of his seat from the sixth inning on last night. I know this fan jumped when the final out was recorded. I know this fan had a tear in his eye. Even though it is too bad it didn’t happen in a Blue Jay uniform, this type of performance couldn’t have been turned in by a better man. Those who saw the game were witnesses to baseball history, Blue Jay fans or otherwise. From where I sit, that is the bottom line.

“Sweet.”