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.

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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.





The Winter Meetings. The Recap.

10 12 2010

Posted by Brady

The Winter Meetings are now over. And a grand total of 50 players switched teams and organizations. Not counting the Rule 5 Draft. Let’s recap!

Werth's $126 million deal started the barrage of moves at the winter meetings.

We all know about Jayson Werth’s mega deal. He’ll be getting $126 million over a 7 year span. He’ll be getting the big bucks from the Nationals until he’s 39 years old. It’s hard for me, personally to be upset about this move for either parties. Jayson Werth gets to be a part of a great young core that will consist of Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Wilson Ramos, and Jordan Zimmerman. And the Nats get perennial 30 home run power, good defense, and good speed. It’s to big of a contract, but let’s be real. The Nats weren’t going to get anyone close to Werth’s skill, without paying big bucks.

The Red Sox also had a big week. They acquired Adrian Gonzalez, but had to give up top prospect, Casey Kelly to do it. This also involves a shady handshake deal. After Opening Day, Gonzalez will sign an extension. This way the Sox don’t have to pay the luxury tax. They also got Carl Crawford. 7 years, $142 million. This is a much better deal than Werth. Crawford is younger, better, and has been better for longer.

In a surprise move, the Blue Jays sent Shaun Marcum to the Brewers, and got Brett Lawrie. Good for both teams. Toronto needed a middle infielder, and the Brewers needed good pitching.

Seattle fixed their catching problem with Miguel Olivo, who was behind the plate when Greinke had his great 2009 season and when Jimenez had his dominant first half. It makes me wonder what Felix Hernandez will do next season. They also got middle of the road slugger, Jack Cust.

The Red Sox one-upped the Natonals' signing of Werth by signing Crawford to a $142 million deal.

The Padres got Jason Bartlett from the Rays, a long with Casey Kelly and power hitting first base prospect, Anthony Rizzo.

The Pirates continued their love affair with mediocre starting pitching, after signing Scott Olson. They also ended up with Matt Diaz, Kevin Correria, and Cesar Valdez.

The Phillies brought in Dennys Reyes and Brian Bass. Very much a pair of “meh” moves. But they don’t have a big laundry list of things to do this off season.

The Minnesota Twins got a pair of relievers for J.J. Hardy. Brett Jacobson and Jim Hoey. I don’t expect to see either of them in the majors this year.

The Brewers got Shaun Marcum, as we already covered, and Wil Nieves from the Nationals. Washington is feeling pretty good about their catching duo of Ivan Rodriguez, and Wilson Ramos.

The Dodgers have apparently grown weary of Matt Kemp’s defense in center. They have brought in leather specialist Tony Gwynn Jr. and Trent Oeltjen. They also signed Dioner Navaro to  replace Russell Martin behind the plate.

Remember This SI cover? Looks like Dayton Moore's one and only love is now in his hands.

In a very Dayton Mooreish move, Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francouer are both now members of the Kansas City Royals (both former Braves!). Apparently the Royals have given up on 2011 already in 2010. Either that, or they like doing the Tigers, the Twins and the White Sox favors.

The Houston Astros acquired the the Ryan Rowland-Smith. The Australian native seems to be lacking an identity, and has been bouncing back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen, and this last year, he may have been the worst pitcher in the game. Good luck to Houston and Rowland-Smith.

The Detroit Tigers picked up two pieces. Chris Oxspring from the Padres. Oxspring is a 28 year old reliever who made his debut this year. He’s always been a middle of the road pitcher, but he will strike you out. Then he’ll walk you. They also picked up Omir Santos. Santos is a catcher, who is a lot like most back up catchers. Good glove, bad bat. His bat is so bad, that he might as well be swinging a broomstick.

The Colorado Rockies signed super utility man, Ty Wiggington to a $8 MM contract for 2 years, and a club option for an third year. Wiggington can play every position other than catcher and pitcher. But, he cannot play them well. Good signing for the Rockies, as Wiggington’s bat plays very well as an off the bench utility option.

Cleveland acquired back up catcher and first baseman, Paul Phillips. Phillips has never played in more than 30 games since his career started in 2004.

With Crawford and Gonzalez, the Red Sox have one of the best lineups on paper in all of baseball.

The Chicago Cubs signed first baseman, Carlos Pena. It’s a one year deal, and it’s around $10 million. Pena is seeking to fix his reputation after posting a sub-Mendoza line 2010 season. He also gives the Cubs a monopoly on Carloses. Good luck with that, Cubbies.

The Baltimore Orioles robbed the Minnesota Twins by getting J.J. Hardy for a pair of relievers. They also got power hitting, strike out record setting slugger, Mark Reynolds. Also, Brendan Harris will be wearing orange and black. Maybe Buck Showalter can teach him how to do something.

The Atlanta Braves have a LOOGY in George Sherrill. Sherrill is coming off his worst season in 2010, but should be able to bounce back.

And finally, the D’Backs have a closer in J.J. Putz, a third baseman or first baseman in Melvin Mora, a reliever in Kameron Mickolio and a pitcher in need of a role in David Hernandez.

It was a very, very busy three days in Orlando, and some teams got better (Baltimore, Boston, Washington and Milwaukee) and some teams got worse (Minnesota, Kansas City, and Pittsburgh).

We are still waiting on decisions from Cliff Lee and Carl Pavano, but other than that, most of the drama from the off season is over. Only 72 days until pitchers and catchers report!