Are the Twins Trying To Play Moneyball With Their Pitching Staff?

24 03 2011

The Minnesota Twins have had an odd offseason to say the least. First, they trade away J.J. Hardy for relievers Jim Hoey (34.1 Major League innings and a 5.15 FIP) and Brett Jacobson (no Major League innings).

Then they openly discuss trading Fransisco Liriano. For those of you who do not remember, advanced statistics had Liriano as the third best pitcher in the Majors. Right behind Josh Johnson and Cliff Lee. Fangraphs also had his slider as the best slider in baseball.

They then told Nick Blackburn he will be a starter. Nick Blackburn had a 3.8 K/9, and a FIP of 5.09. You could make a case that he was the worst starting pitcher in baseball. All he had working for him was a 50.8% groundball rate.

They picked up lefty Scott Diamond from the Atlanta Braves. Diamond is a reliever who has a career 7.3 K/9 in the minors with some control issues.

The Twins put Pat Neshek on waivers and he was taken by the Padres. Neshek had an option left. I understand that Pat Neshek had a bad year last year (so did Fransiso Liriano his first year after Tommy John surgery) and not a very good Spring, but it’s Spring Training.  He was still striking out a batter an inning and keeping the ball in the park.

And now, it comes out that the Twins are interested in trading Kevin Slowey for relief pitchers. I’m not going to go into why that itself is stupid (Fangraphs wrote a great article about that.)

They drafted Alex Wimmers. Who throws his fastball at 88 MPH.

What are the Twins doing with their pitching staff? Especially with the bullpen. Last season, the Twins had a bullpen that was worth 18.8 WAR. Good for 6th in the league. Who was better? The White Sox, Rockies, Giants, Braves, and Red Sox. Now, they have blown up the bullpen.

What about the rotation? 5th in the leauge in WAR at 15.8. Who’s in front of them? Rockies, Red Sox, White Sox, Cardinals. Now, they have discussed trading 2/5th of that rotation.

The move to the bullpen will keep Slowey's innings down, and presumably keep him off the disabled list.

Or have the Twins heard of the Rule of 17? And do they think that the Rule of 17 would be most beneficial to Kevin Slowey?

For those of you who don’t know, the Rule of 17 is the theory that when a starer transitions to the bullpen, his K/9 will increase, his BABIP will decrease, and his HR/9 will decrease. All  by about 17%. So, in the case of Kevin Slowey, his K/9 will rise to 8.1, his HR/9 will fall to 1.2, and his BABIP will fall to .290. Most ERAs fall by about a run.

The move to the bullpen will keep Slowey’s innings down, and presumably keep him off the disabled list. And with the limited free passes he’s issued, and the increased K/9 we can reasonably expect, Kevin Slowey will be one of the more dominant middle relievers in the American League.

Maybe the Twins know what they’re doing with their pitching staff. The trades for Matt Capps, Brian Fuentes, Ron Mahay, and Jon Rauch all worked out pretty well for Bill Smith and company, but it seems that they have been going after every middling Minor League reliever they can acquire, and drafting hordes of Brad Radke clones in the last few years. Every move they’ve made involving pitching has me worried. Except for Slowey to the pen. That is assuming that they don’t trade him for someone like Joba Chamberlain.


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.

The New Orioles

12 02 2011

Posted by Brady

In 2010, the Baltimore Orioles had an infield that consisted of Ty Wiggington, Brian Roberts, Ceaser Izturis, Matt Weiters, and Miguel Tejada. And an outfield that consisted of Felix Pie, Adam Jones, and Nick Markakis. Luke Scott was the DH. Save for Roberts and Weiters, that whole infield is gone. Derrek Lee will be at first, J.J. Hardy at short, and Mark Reynolds at third. Nick Markakis is still in right, and Adam Jones is still in center. Pie will go to the bench, to the minors, or be moved, because Luke Scott needs to play somewhere, since Vladimir Guerrero is now the new Orioles DH. Buck Showalter has an offense. A ridiculously good offense.

Last season, Baltimore finished in 5th place in the AL East, and they scored 650 runs. They were 27th in runs scored, 20th in total bases, 24th in OBP….they were terrible. Just awful. They didn’t rank in the top half in any offensive category. But what about in 2011? The answer is in the new guys. Hardy, Lee, Guerrero, and Reynolds.

J.J. Hardy is slightly under a league average hitter with an OPS+ of 95. And he seems to have completely lost his home run power stroke going from 24 home runs in 2008, and 17 in 2009 and 2010 combined. His ISO in 2008 was .195 and in 2009 and 2010 it was .128 and .126 respectively. But what value does Hardy bring? It’s mostly in his glove. He put up a UZR of 8.1. Ranking behind Brendan Ryan, Alexi Ramirez, Cliff Pennington, and Stephen Drew in that category. Baltimore’s SS last year? Cesar Izturis put up a UZR of 5.1 . So, how big of an upgrade is it really? Izturis had an OPS+ of 50.

When Reynolds does get a hold of one, it is going over the fence. Hopefully Buck Showalter's staff will help him put more of them in play.

Mark Reynolds is the new Orioles 3rd baseman. We all know the knocks on him. He’s struck out 767 times in 2285 plate appearances, over 563 games. Including 200 times in the last 3 years. To put that in perspective, Reggie Jackson, the all time leader in getting struck out, never struck out 200 times in a season. It wasn’t until Jackson’s 6th season that he had reached Reynold’s pace. But what can he do right? Well, he is the proud owner of a career .241 ISO, and his mark last year of .234 had him in the top 20 in all of Major League Baseball last season. When Reynolds does get a hold of one, it is going over the fence. Hopefully Buck Showalter’s staff will help him put more of them in play. He’ll also need help with the glove, seeing as how he has a career -19 UZR.

Derrek Lee is now manning first base for the O’s. What is there to say about Lee that isn’t awesome? He has a .282/.367/.498 career line with a career  7.3 UZR.

As was the case with Derrek Lee, the same basic thing applies with Vladimir Guerrero. .320/.383/.567  over a 16 year career.

This future Hall of Famer has never seen a pitch he didn't like.

I once saw him hit pitch that bounced in front of him against the wall for a double. He’s big, he’s strong, and he hits it where he wants to hit it. Some people say he was the best free agent signing of the 2010 off season (though I say Jim Thome was),  and he’ll certainly be able to help this new Orioles team maybe break .500.

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.

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.

Billy Butler’s Extension: What Does it Mean for Eric Hosmer?

26 01 2011

Posted by Teix4MVP

Dayton Moore signed one of the game’s young dangerous hitters to an extension, locking up  first baseman Billy Butler until 2014 with an option for a fifth year. This contract makes him very affordable, as the most he makes is 12.5MM in 2015 if the Royals pick up his option that year. While that’s very good and all, there’s a looming problem at hand: Eric Hosmer. Hosmer is another 1B within the Royals stellar farm system. Hosmer was arguably the best high school hitter in the 2008 Draft, and was taken 3rd overall by the Royals. He played 3 games in Rookie League Idaho Falls, and hit .364.

The following year, Hosmer was moved up to Class A Burlington,  and had a respectable slash line of .254/.352/.384 in 79 games. He moved up to Class A+ Wilmington for 27 games that year, however he struggled, with a slash line of .206/.280/.299. That was all at age 19 in 2009, and overall he hit just 6 home runs. At age 20, he again returned to Wilmington last season and hit a sizzling .354/.429/.545 with 7 home runs in 87 games. The Royals decided to move Hosmer up to Double-A  Northwest Arkansas, and he responded with 13 home runs and a slash line of .313/.365/.615 in the 50 games there. His defense has also been very good.

Eric Hosmer is a very promising prospect in Kansas City's stellar farm system.

With those stats, it wouldn’t be crazy at all to assume that the Royals will move Eric up to Triple A Omaha during this year, or even to start the year. Most likely, a Double A callup to Triple A will come for Hosmer in mid-2011. That means it also wouldn’t be crazy to say that Hosmer should be ready by mid to late 2012, which is what I believe will be the case if injuries don’t get in the way. But the problem still exists: What will they do with him with Butler locked in at 1st?

There’s a comparable situation in baseball for the Cincinatti Royals. Joey Votto, the league’s reigning MVP, is signed through the next three years, blocking another first baseman with the Reds, Yonder Alonso. Alonso was moved up to Triple-A this season, and hit .296/.355/.470 there at age 23. The Reds are going to look to try Alonso at an outfield position this season, but his best position is at first. The Reds could probably trade him for more prospects this summer or perhaps trade him in a deal to acquire a piece to help them during a playoff run, like the Twins did with blocked catcher Wilson Ramos when they acquired Matt Capps from the Washington Nationals.

So, what can the Royals do with Hosmer? There are 3 ways I envision them handling things:

1. Trade him. I seriously doubt this happening, but it could. Hosmer would surely net a very good return for the Royals farm system. They could get a blue chip outfield guy and/or a very good pitcher for him. Hosmer is ranked second on many lists I’ve looked at for the Royals Top Prospects, so you have to imagine they’d need a very good return in order for him to get pried away. Heck, they’d have to get  BLOWN away by an offer if they were to deal the guy only ranked behind Mike Moustakas for the title of Top Royals’ Prospect.

2. Keep him and move Butler to DH. This solution I find much more likely than anything. Hosmer is very good at manning first, with surprisingly good range and soft hands. His arm is also very strong for a first baseman, making him a rare complete package fielder at first. Meanwhile, Butler isn’t so good. While the 1B UZR formula is pretty screwed up, Butler’s negative UZRs since 2008 make you wonder. If we look at his fielding % it’s not as bad. He’s posted a .995% in 2010 and a .992% in 2008 and 2009. But I’ve seen the guy, he’s really no wiz in the field. Any report you read will mention Butler’s glove as iron. Which makes Hosmer the ideal 1B guy and Butler the guy who could move to DH.

Billy Butler could force Eric Hosmer out of KC, or vice versa.

3. Trade Butler. This is a little bit more likely than the first, but several steps more unlikely than the 2nd. Bear that in mind, folks. When Hosmer comes up in 2012, Butler will be 26 and into the 2nd year of his 4 year contract. That means teams might try to grab him since he has an 8MM contract and could very well be one of the premier hitters in the game by that time. A trade of Butler could earn them a stellar return of at least an A prospect and 2 Bs. This could very well be what they need to finish off their young nucleus and finally be good. And Hosmer would get that position spot left open by Butler. This probably won’t happen, but at least it makes SOME sense.

4. Move Hosmer to the outfield. Didn’t originally want to put this one in, but let’s put it here for arguments’ sake. Hosmer could be a player who could be suited for the outfield because of his arm and surprising range. Butler could remain at first and problems would be solved. Except I don’t think Hosmer would be a good outfielder. His speed is below average, and Kauffman stadium is a doubles and triples type of park. I think Hosmer is just like Mark Teixeira. He’s a great fielder at first base, but he can’t play any other position. So I could be wrong, but I don’t envision this one happening.

Hosmer is up and coming for the Royals team. What do you guys think about this little situation?