Thursday, 20 November 2014

Who Might Want Dioner Navarro?

The Star. Image credit, but also subject.
Hey, so there might be a bit of a surplus behind the plate now.  Let's examine that.

AA has said multiple times now that moving Navarro isn't exactly a priority, since he believes that Dio (a) did a great job in 2014, and that (b) there are probably DH at-bats out there, and you can always let Martin have a day off here and there.  That's not a really great thing for Navarro, from a career or financial standpoint.  Not catching everyday is probably going to make it tough once he's asked to catch everyday again.

I guess it's possible that he stays around, but again, that probably kills his next contract pretty badly.  Martin could end up getting hurt, for example, and then the Jays are glad they kept, but obviously you can't just hold a guy ransom just in case an injury comes up, especially when you're paying him $5MM in a walk year.  Simply, the best thing for Navarro is to be behind the plate, playing practically everyday.

I suppose, then, that it's probably more likely that Navarro gets moved, and he probably moves to a team that needs a catcher, or at least needs one more badly than the Jays do.  The Jays do have a few clear spots that need to be patched up, so obviously a club that can help with a 2B/3B, a LF, or a reliever would make more sense than others.  Having said that, there's not a whole bunch of extra value there with Dio-- he was a 2-ish WAR player this past year, and is scheduled to make $5MM in his last year before free agency.  Steamer forecasts him to be worth just 0.6 WAR, but they also only suggest that he'll play 63 games*.  His projections suggest that he'll improve offensively, defensively and on the basepaths, but that his playing time will be way down.  I assume that this is because his 139 games played in 2014 was a career high, and that he hadn't broken 100 games played since 2009.

*- I'm pretty sure this projection was released before the Martin signing, and the numbers shouldn't really reflect the Martin acquisition, or any positional dicking around.  He'll likely see more DH plate appearances if he stays in Toronto, which changes an awful lot as far as a WAR projection is concerned with regards to the positional replacement value, but his projection shows low playing time because of his 2010-2013 playing time.

Navarro showed this past year, though, that he can be passable behind the plate and provide reasonable offence at it, especially for a catcher.  It's hard to play catcher.  Catchers get hurt a lot, or start to suck at a moments notice.  Catchers have a lot of work to do beyond catching a ball or hitting a ball.  Catchers are good to have.  So who wants a catcher?  And for that matter, what other catchers are out there?

I'm going to use Fangraphs' positional depth charts to check this one out.  The first thing I see there is probably the most interesting piece of info I've got; all free agent catchers are garbage right now.  This is something that we already knew, or at least know now, now that Russell Martin is off the market.  In fact, we were told that today by AA at the presser, when he said something like "It's not that we wanted an upgrade at catcher, we wanted Russell Martin.  There was no other catcher out there that we wanted."  He also pointed out that he wanted to put all of his eggs in the Russell Martin basket because there weren't other catchers out there, so his market wasn't going to take a while to create itself and develop steam.

That list of available catchers is headed by Geovany Soto, and includes another 7 or 8 guys who aren't projected to get on base 30% of the time.  Doumit, Hundley, Buck, Arencibia, Ross... not really a stunning list.  Sure, you can take a flyer on a guy there, and maybe hit something with Hundley, or get it through JPA's head that he doesn't have to swing at everything.  But Dioner Navarro, albeit more expensive and owned by someone else at the moment, is better than all of those names.

There are a bunch of teams out there that don't really have a whole lot to worry about as far as catching is concerned, whether that be because they have elite guys (i.e. Posey, Lucroy), guys with bigger contracts (McCann, Suzuki), or young guys (d'Arnaud, Ramos) who already man the position.  There are definitely teams out there, though, who could look to upgrade, or at least find a guy to split time.

(By the way, it isn't lost on me that I'm using Steamer's projected WAR totals to try and find a team that could use an upgrade at catcher, while Navarro is only projected to be worth 0.6 himself.)

Pittsburgh
Current Catchers: Chris Stewart (0.8 projected WAR), Tony Sanchez (0.7 projected WAR), Francisco Cervelli (0.3 projected WAR).

I'd say this is a bit of a dark horse candidate, despite the fact that they just lost their starting catcher.  Stewart and Cervelli are both pretty good pitch framers, which kind of fits a pattern, given Russell Martin (they also just traded for Cervelli, if that's worth anything) and pitch-framing isn't counted in catcher WAR, so this doesn't really tell the whole story.  I expect Pittsburgh values their current crop more than Steamer does.  Still, none of these guys really seem like an everyday catcher to me, but we'll see.  Pittsburgh ranks 29th in projected catcher WAR, for whatever that's worth.

Atlanta
Current Catchers: Christian Bethancourt (1.2), Evan Gattis (0.6)

Bethancourt is 23, and is good defensively, so I'd guess that they're looking to have him play everyday, and see if the bat develops, but that bat doesn't look like it's going to develop.  There have been rumors of an Evan Gattis trade recently too, so Atlanta may need a hand there.  If they move Gattis, they'll need another catcher, unless I'm missing something.

Dodgers
Current Catchers: AJ Ellis (2.2), Drew Butera (0), Tim Federowicz (0.2)

AJ Ellis 2.2 WAR!?!?  Steamer might be broken.  Ellis hit .191/.323/..254 this past season, but my God that walkrate.  A bit of babip help and yeah, he's a serviceable catcher, but it doesn't seem like an LA Dodgers kind of thing to rely on Ellis to bounce back from a rough year.  They were in on Martin, it would appear, so I wouldn't be shocked if the Dodgers were in on Navarro.

Arizona
Current Catchers:  Miguel Montero (3.2), Tuffy Gosewich (0), Jordan Pacheco (0)

This one is kind of contingent on the DBacks trading Miguel Montero, whose name has come up in a few rumors.  Otherwise, there's not much of a fit.

Outside Shots

  • The White Sox rank 28th in projected catcher WAR, but they have a couple of younger guys on their chart at the moment, so they may want to let Tyler Flowers and Josh Phegley play.  If they decide to make a couple moves and try to contend this year, Navarro might make a bit more sense.
  • Tampa could probably use a hand behind the plate, but same-division trades don't really seem too likely.  We can say the same about Baltimore, depending on Matt Weiters' health.
  • The Tigers had kicked around the idea of non-tendering or possibly trading Alex Avila.  If the latter happens, Navarro could make sense.
  • Mike Zunino's stat page is completely absurd.  Looks a lot like a young JP Arencibia one, actually.  He hit .199/.254/.404 with 22 HR's, a 3% walkrate, and a 32% k-rate.  He's still young, but the Mariners would like to win (they lead the division in projected WAR, by the way), and could maybe use some help from Navarro for a year.
It's hard to say that Navarro poses as a true upgrade over any of the above mentioned guys.  Navarro is pretty bad defensively relative to his peers, and that's without taking framing in to account, which would kill Navarro's value a bit more.  His bat is an upgrade over most catchers out there, though, and that's something that might end up working in the favor of the Jays.

AA said today at his presser that he's looking for deals, but that nothing is close to being done.  Frankly, I believe him-- there's nobody who badly needs a league-average-or-so catcher.  Most good teams out there have someone, and most bad teams aren't going to give anything up to get a $5MM catcher for one year just to bring them up a win or two.

Monday, 17 November 2014

For Canada!


Holy cow.  This day.

I don't think I've entirely digested this whole thing, and I certainly haven't even bothered with the math behind this, both in terms of money spent and wins or production or whatever.  It's cool though!

Before I even bother with my own opinions, Jeff Sullivan smashes the fuck out of one, talking about how the Jays have literally never had an elite catcher-- Ernie Whitt had a couple nice seasons, and Pat Borders was really good accidentally once too.  I'm sure there's more good stuff out there, but this is the only thing I've read to this point, and I did so from work on my lunch break from my phone.

Should be interesting to see what the Jays do with their lineups this year.  Obviously we don't want to assume that the offseason is over yet, but as it stands right now, I'd guess that Martin plays the bulk of the games behind the plate, and Dioner Navarro would DH most days.  Navarro can certainly step in and give Martin a day off here and there, but I wonder if either could step over and play first for Edwin every now and then.  We've also been told that Reyes and Bautista are going to get more DH days, so maybe it's just some sort of rotating DH door and Navarro gets shopped or something.  There are definitely teams out there who need a catcher though, and you could do a lot worse than a 1 year, $5MM copy of Dioner Navarro.  Even if he's a 2 WAR player, there's surplus value there in a pretty barren catching market.

It's quite possible that this spells the end for Melky Cabrera in Toronto.  Pretty much any money earmarked for Melky has gone to Martin.  Then again, the Jays are apparently checking in on Hanley Ramirez, Jon Lester and Andrew Miller.  I'm not entirely sure, in the scenario where the Jays sign one of Lester or Hanley, they would lose their compensation pick for Melky walking away.  Either way, they've already surrendered their first pick, so picking up a second big free agent only coughs up either the 30-something'th or the ~50th pick in the draft, keeping the other one.  It's only money.  And it's not my money.  And Rogers has all the money.  Let's go.

To boot, the Jays have a bunch of money coming off the books after this season.  Let's just backload a bunch of contracts and spend money when it's available.  Hey, Jon Lester!  We'll give you $6MM for this season, and then a shitload for the next five.  Sounds good?  Yeah.

But what if that's it for the spending?  What if everything else is patchwork?  The Jays have made three "moves" this offseason, and none of them have really addressed the big holes on this club.  Sure, the Gose trade brought in a second baseman, but he's not a big league second baseman yet.  Maybe he wins the spot in spring training, or maybe Maicer Izturis comes back and performs reasonably well, but meh.  The bullpen hasn't been addressed.  Kevin Pillar is probably the opening day LF if the season starts today, which is kind of shitty when facing a lefty, and borderline depressing if facing a righty.  We're also relying on a 21 year old as the starting centre fielder.  There's no way this offseason is even close to being over.

That's enough negativity though, because the Jays just attracted a top free agent.  Five years, $82MM.  Yeah, it's expensive, but it's not like guys are just lining up to come play in our shitty stadium, on our shitty surface.  We've been hearing it for years now-- it's hard to attract guys to Toronto, and that's why the Jays need to pay a bit more, whether that comes in the form of money or years or prospects (i.e. the Reyes deal, or the Dickey deal).  I'd guess that the Jays had to kick in the fifth year in order to get this done, and yeah, whatever.  At $82MM over five years, though, we're only looking at approximately 11 WAR needed for the Jays to break even.

11 WAR over five years shouldn't be terribly difficult to attain, if Martin can stay on the field.  Hell, he was worth nearly five last season alone.  Do we expect him to do that ever again, starting at age 32?  Doubtful.  Shouldn't need to though.

It's hard to complain about this.  Because it's awesome.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Gose Goes to Detroit

Globe and Mail
While you were sleeping, the Jays shipped Anthony Gose to the Tigers for 2B prospect Devon Travis.  It's one of those moves that I doubt anybody ever really notices, other than Jays fans and Tigers fans, but who knows?

The Jays acquired Gose shortly after the Halladay trade-- he was a guy that AA kept asking for from the Phillies, though they wouldn't budge.  Gose was then included in the Hunter Pence-to-Phillies deal, and ended up getting flipped for Brett Wallace, who had been flipped for Michael Taylor, who the Jays originally settled for when Philly wouldn't include Gose for Halladay.  This, in effect, makes Kyle Drabek the lone piece remaining from the Halladay deal, though that did also include Travis d'Arnaud, which turned in to R.A. Dickey and Josh Thole, so stop complaining.

And it's not like Devon Travis can't be anything, either... Keith Law ranked him as the Tigers' #1 prospect.  Which would be awesome if the Tigers had any farm system to speak of whatsoever.  Detroit, of course, is trying to win now, which doesn't exactly fit with hoarding prospects, so this does make sense from their standpoint.  Travis is only 23, and is blocked by Ian Kinsler at the moment, so even if he was good enough to provide MLB value, he probably wouldn't.  Gose, on the other hand, can platoon with Rajai Davis (or play everyday in CF, depending on what happens with Torii Hunter), but he's also good enough defensively and with his legs to produce something for Detroit.  Gose is a serviceable 4th OF who can come in late in games defensively or to pinch-run or both, and that's something that every top team is going to need at one point or another.

As for Travis, he was young for AA-ball this year, and put up a pretty nice .298/.358/.460 batting line in 2014, though I don't really have any context to that.  Hopefully it's not like playing in Las Vegas.  His minor league numbers look pretty good across all levels though, and at a middle infield position to boot.  A quick look at his stats reveal that he played a few games in CF this season as well, which isn't terrible, I suppose.

And of course, Stoeten called this without so much as saying it outright, so good for him.  It's why he's the best.  Dave Cameron also writes about this, which is surprising, I suppose.  The money quote out of Cameron's piece is actually a quote out of a Carson Cistulli piece:
Just a 13th-round selection in 2012 out of Florida State, Travis has produced markedly above-average batting marks at every level to which he’s been exposed, recording both excellent plate-discipline numbers and also high BABIP figures. The result: a slash line of .323/.388/.487 line in over 1,000 minor-league plate appearances. According to Steamer’s computer math, Travis — who enters his age-24 season next April — already profiles as a league-average hitter. That’s valuable for a player who also appears likely to handle second base.
That'll do just fine.  Ultimately, he still calls it a depth-for-depth move that shouldn't blow anybody away, but he also feels that the Jays are getting the upside in exchange for a piece that helps Detroit win now, and that helps the Jays immensely at a position where they've had a giant gaping hole ever since Aaron Hill stopped being good, which, I think, was a year that I was still using Windows Vista.

By all accounts, it appears Travis isn't quite ready to hit the bigs, so that doesn't preclude the Jays from exploring a trade for a 2B for 2015.  It's pretty easy to forget about Maicer Izturis coming back from injury (if he's even fully recovered), so they may just go with him and call it an offseason as far as 2B goes, having Ryan Goins or Steve Tolleson or whomever to hang out and be a backup.  And they really do love Goins' defense at 2B too, plus he's probably the guy who plays SS when Reyes gets a day off or DH duty.  I can't imagine they just cut Izturis, assuming he's ready to play opening day, but we'll see.  I still think there's room for a Howie Kendrick deal there somewhere, and Kendrick only has a year left before free agency, so it doesn't render this trade obsolete.

Whatever the story at 2B, the big takeaway is that Pompey has already won out over Anthony Gose, and as a switch-hitter, is above Kevin Pillar on the depth chart for now.  Ideally, if Melky does walk, the Jays will find someone who can at least handle CF duties, as opposed to using Bautista as the contingency plan in CF if things go south.

Whatever else happens this offseason, it's a lot more entertaining than the last one already.  CF certainly isn't the biggest issue to deal with here, and that's slightly more clear now.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Lind for Estrada


Marco Estrada, that is.  He of many homeruns.

It's not like Lind is incredibly valuable... a 141 wRC+ is worth about 1.6 WAR, thanks to fielding and DH and baserunning and the fact that he only had like 300 PA's due to his platoon issues. And at $7.5MM (plus an option), surplus value is reasonably small.

And it's not like Estrada is entirely awful either; two pretty decent seasons in his recent past, and he was good out of the bullpen this year after being relegated.

The Jays should save about $3MM on this deal when it's all over with.  Estrada is arbitration eligible for the final time this season before hitting free agency after 2015, and is expected to make $4.3MM, according to MLBTR.  Kind of begs the question as to why Dustin McGowan wasn't good enough for $4MM, but Marco Estrada is worth ~$4.3MM and dumping Lind (though that is kind of answered with the sentence that led to it).

I'd stick Estrada in the bullpen, but there is talk of him taking the 5th starter's role, and flipping JA Happ to the Angels for Howie Kendrick.  Maybe I'm wrong in my valuation of either/both of Happ and Kendrick, but I don't think there's a whole lot to that kind of talk unless there are some prospects tossed in.

Kendrick has been pretty damn good as a 2B these last few years.  Fangraphs WARs of 4.6, 2.7, 3.1 and 5.7 in the last four seasons, grading as a pretty good defender and a neutral baserunner over that time.

Happ had one of the better years of his career in 2014, but at the end of the day, he's a back of the rotation guy who didn't even start this season in the rotation.

The Angels need pitching pretty badly, but I just think they'd be better suited finding a free agent like McCarthy, Volquez, Santana or Masterson to fill that last rotation spot rather than sell low on Kendrick.  They don't need to trade him, after all... they can always move Freese.

I think the Jays would need to throw in some secondary pieces to make a Happ-Kendrick deal happen.  And if the concept of a Happ-Kendrick deal does happen, I'd be pretty surprised if another team didn't step in and offer something better-- Kendrick would be an upgrade at 2B for half the teams in baseball.  Second base is pretty fucking thin after the Cano-Altuve-Pedroia-Kinsler-Kendrick bunch.  Fortunately, the Angels do need starting pitching, and a lot of the teams that need 2B help don't have a surplus the way the Jays do.  I'm keeping an eye on the Nats to see what they do with Asdrubal Cabrera, because if he walks, they can probably figure something out.

I hope I'm wrong, because that would be a great coup for the Jays.

There's bound to be another shoe to drop here, and I'm pumped that it's offseason time so we can finally get this thing rolling.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Offseason 2015: Not Gose and Pillar

National Post
This isn't really the biggest problem.  2B/3B, the bullpen, and replacing Melky should probably all rank way, way higher than helping out CF.  That doesn't mean, though, that it isn't worth examining.  If there's a glass slipper out there, AA and crew aren't doing their jobs if they don't at least dip a toe in.

There are four guys* in the organization right now, excluding Colby Rasmus, who technically isn't a free agent yet but may as well be, that played CF at one point or another for the Jays in 2014.  One of them is Jose Bautista, mind you, who definitely shouldn't be playing CF unless it's a total emergency.  Other than that, though, there are some options.

*- Jon Mayberry Jr. has some experience in CF, but has graded fairly poorly defensively.  Probably no worse than Bautista, but UZR/150 has him at a -17.8 runs over a sample that equals out to most of a season, combining 5 years to get there.  Safe to say that's a bad idea.

Anthony Gose and Kevin Pillar platooned in CF towards the end of the year.  We're counting some games in RF and LF for both, as well as some pinch running and junk, but the two combined for 1.9 fWAR over ~400 combined plate appearances this year.  They also struck out 27 and 23% of the time, respectively.  Neither seem to be doing a whole lot to strike fear in to major league pitchers, though Gose is at least showing some patience at the plate, with a 9.1% walkrate in the majors in 2014, and both provided positive defensive contributions (according to both fangraphs and baseball reference).  Pillar shows a bit more offensive upside than Gose does, especially if he can stop swinging at EVERYTHING (see above) and take a walk or two, and he hits lefty pitching not terribly.

The other internal option is Dalton Pompey.  He's still fairly young and somewhat raw, so it certainly makes sense to stick him in the minors to start the year.  Depending on how he responds, though, he is looking more and more like the CF of the future.  If that's the case, perhaps it makes sense to just allow Gose and Pillar to platoon CF for the time being, rather than going out to find someone.

There really isn't much out there on the free agent market.  See for yourselves.  The most attractive option looks like Emilio Bonifacio, assuming Denard Span's option gets picked up.  Having said that...

Denard Span (Trade)

Span's option is a lock to be picked up by the Nationals.  He was a 3.6 rWAR (3.8 fWAR) player in 2014, and the option is only for $9MM.  The problem is that there's a bit of a logjam in Washington.  The Nats have sent Ryan Zimmerman to LF since he sucks at 3B now, which has opened the door for Anthony Rendon to take over.  Zimmerman is still under contract for another bunch of years for all the money, and they certainly aren't moving Bryce Harper or Jayson Werth.  Of course, Adam Laroche is a free agent, and the Nats have a pretty organic play here: move one of Werth or Zimmerman to 1B, keep Span in CF, let Laroche walk.

If the Nats do decide to trade Span, however, I'd expect the Jays to be at least somewhat interested.  It's a 1-year option, and they don't need to attract Span to Toronto.  Span can leave at the end of the year, and perhaps Pompey is another step closer to being ready for the everyday CF role.

Ben Revere (Trade)

The day will eventually come where the Phillies break it all down and retool.  If that's this year, then Revere is a decent piece.  He's approximately average (2.0 fWAR in 2014) and is manageable in CF with great wheels (49 SB in 2014).  He's still under team control for three arbitration years, though he was a super-two this season, so he's a touch more expensive than he otherwise would be.  He hardly walks ever, but his strikeout totals are low, and he's a low-slugging .300 hitter who runs fast enough to beat out a bunch of infield singles and then steal bases.  Could do worse.

Others

Others?  Already?  Yeah.  There's the previously mentioned Michael Saunders, I guess.  The Astros might be willing to move Dexter Fowler as he gets more expensive, but he's been pretty bad defensively the last few years.  Decent enough hitter though, and a nice walk-rate.

Who else?  Peter Bourjos has mentioned recently that he'd like to play more.  Bourjos is kind of a more expensive, right-handed hitting Anthony Gose, in that he's fast and good at defense, but we've already got one.

There's not much else out there worth going crazy for.  I feel like between the three guys within the org, someone can be worth giving everyday playing time to, or platooning, or going with the hot hand or whatever.  There are bigger issues to look at, in my opinion, such as the bullpen.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Offseason 2015: The "Replace Melky" Edition


But we always drank plenty of Melk.

I hope the Jays can re-sign Melky, because that's a nasty hole that he'd leave at the top of the order, but at the end of the day, free agency is pretty much an auction.  And in order to win an auction, you have to have money to spend.  It's not that the Jays aren't spending money, it's just that they appear to have already spent it all.

Beeston said a few weeks ago that payroll was going to go up, which, well, it almost has to if the team is to look approximately the same, with the addition of a warm body at either 2b/3b and all the bullpen patchwork that needs to be done.  We already kind of touched on this, but the amount that it cost to pay everyone in 2014 as pretty close to what's committed already for 2015, with holes left to fill.  So yeah, technically, it has to go up-ish-- that's still technically true even if it goes up by, say, fifty bucks.

The idea that payroll is "definitely going up", though, at least suggests that the Jays are either serious about bringing Melky back, or finding something reasonable to replace him, or at least to fill one of the other holes.  They could just go after scrapheap guys to fill spots, trying to find another Bautista or Encarnacion redemption arc and just letting the big contracts expire in preparation for 2016-- they may still go after Melky and do that with all other positions, which is the half-measure that we don't really need at all-- or they can actually try to assemble some quality at all the positions and maybe win for a change.

All the non-Cabrera options here assume that Cabrera has signed elsewhere, and that the Jays will be getting a comp pick.

Melky Cabrera (Free Agent)

We already know what we have here, so we'll not spend too much time on it.  Good offense, sketchy defense, and something in the neighbourhood of $15MM a season.  It would be cool if there were an easier place for him to play (e.g. 1B or DH), because he can't even seem to handle LF all that well.  And of course, Melky leaving isn't all bad; if he signs elsewhere, the Jays are saving $15MM or so, are not hamstrung in to playing an aging and increasingly immobile player for another 3-4 years, and they get a compensation pick in the 2015 draft.  We all know what kind of lotto ticket draft picks are, but sometimes those hit.

Another con to signing Melky: the Jays have a bunch of expiring contracts heading in to 2015.  Melky will obviously command more than one year, and thus, will tighten the admittedly very loose noose as far as the future budget goes.

MLBTR's Steve Adams may have lost his mind today, when he suggested 5 years and $66.5MM, but he does make a reasonable case for it.  I think the winner, whoever it may be, is the only one to offer four years, myself, but regardless, I also don't imagine the Jays go to 5 years.

Yasiel Puig (Trade)

Yeah, I know.  Probably not happening.  It's rumor season.

Michael Saunders (Trade)

Speaking of rumor season, apparently Michael Saunders and Jack Z aren't seeing eye-to-eye in the Skydome Seattle.  Saunders, of course, is Canadian and seems to crush the Jays every time he plays them.  He's probably a part-time/ platoon player, but there's still upside there, and he was worth 2 WAR this year, powered by a .273/.341/.470 slash, and some roughly average fielding across the outfield.  He's actually a pretty reasonable comparison/replacement for Colby Rasmus.  He'll make ~$3MM in arbitration this season, and doesn't have a place to play full time in Seattle.  Perhaps a Saunders/Pillar platoon situation?  Mayberry fits in there as well.  Could do worse.

Nick Markakis (Free Agent)

I kind of expect Markakis to make it to free agency this year.  Markakis has been a roughly league-average player since 2009, and the O's are pretty unlikely to exercise his $17.5MM option.  Markakis is a capable, or at least passable, right fielder, and probably wouldn't want to move to LF to appease Bautista, but I don't know the guy.

Yasmany Tomas (Free Agent)

The Market for Cuban defectors seems to just keep growing.  Yoesnis Cespedes, Rusney Castillo and Jose Abreu all signed the biggest contracts ever given to a Cuban at their respective times of signing, and all signs point to Castillo getting over $100MM, thanks to his age (24), power (apparently mucho), and lack of free agent compensation.  Very rarely can you find a high-upside free-agent and sign him through his prime without risking much of his decline phase, but we can look no further than Masahiro Tanaka to see just what teams will pay for that right.

The big caveat here is that Tomas is going to be expensive, and will have a whole bunch of teams looking to sign him.  It's very possible, though, that one of those teams will look to replace their current LF/RF with Tomas, and then trade off the incumbent as a consolation prize.

Matt Kemp/Andre Ethier (Trade)

With Andrew Friedman taking over in LA, it seems a bit more likely that there will be pressure to bring up Joc Pederson, or to at least fix the outfielder glut that the Dodgers have.  Friedman usually needs to trade expensive guys for prospects, since he's never had the luxury to have a bad contract or eat money in a deal; now he's going to have unlimited money, and should be able to get creative in freeing up some room with Kemp, Ethier, or Carl Crawford, I guess.

All of those contracts are pretty bad, and they're all corner outfielders at this stage of their careers.  Let's not worry about taking playing time away from Puig or Pederson anymore-- at least one of those contracts is going, and probably for pennies on the dollar.  If someone would take Ethier, that's probably better, since he's a glorified platoon player at the moment, but if not, Kemp probably still has a bit of value with his bat.  More likely is that he gets moved to a team who needs a DH, given his  -2.5 dWAR in 2014.  He's due ~$100MM between now and 2019, so I'd guess that the Dodgers would be eating $50-60MM just to give him away.

Norichia Aoki (Free Agent)

Aoki is a pretty interesting free agent, in that he's 33, and hits for absolutely no power, so he should be reasonably cheap.  He does get on base at a good clip though, and plays a pretty reasonable RF defense.  If the Jays miss out on everything, this could be a decent backup plan, especially as a guy who can get on base and set things up for the bigger bats.  He also hits lefty pitching much better than righties!

Others

Like I've written in both the 2B and 3B post, I think the Reds should blow everything up.  Wanna make some sort of bold move, AA?  How 'bout some blockbuster for Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce and, say, Johnny Cueto or Mat Latos?

  • Bruce is owed $26MM through 2016 (plus a club option) and was atrocious in 2014, so it would be selling low on someone who was worth 4 WAR just a year prior, but that's what blowing it up is.
  • Phillips is owed $39MM through 2017 for some reason, and isn't worth that much.
  • Cueto and Latos both have a year left before hitting free agency, but are very affordable (Cueto has a $10MM option, Latos should make about the same through arbitration) and very good pitchers... possibly even good enough to mitigate some of the risk of taking on $65MM worth of Phillips and Bruce.
I'm not smart enough to understand the mechanics of one of these kinds of deals and what would go back the other way, but if the Reds choose to explode, I would assume that they're selling anyone not named Votto and Frazier (Bailey?) that's making money or is within 2 years of free agency.  As such, the Jays could use an outfielder and a 2B, and Johnny Cueto is an upgrade over the entire rotation.  It's a bit of a longshot, admittedly, but so was the Marlins deal.

I can't really see why Nelson Cruz shouldn't be a target either, given the Jays struggles against LHP, but I think they end up getting outbid pretty comfortably if they even check in.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Offseason 2015: The "2B Experiment" Edition



I'm not going to lie.  This is going to be a lot less interesting than the previous post.  There's just not a whole lot at 2B.  I think it's a lot more likely that we see Lawrie at 2B more and more as we move forward, and I'll explain that in a minute.

You can have a quick look at the MLBTR 2015 Free Agent list and realize that holy fuck, Ryan Goins may be a viable option.  I mean, yeah, at the end of the day, Ryan Goins was below replacement level, on account of his 26 wRC+, so he's really not a viable option at all, but other than that. We can't forget, either, that Maicer Izturis will be back, and Steve Tolleson is totally serviceable in a platoon situation.

Since there's nothing out there, though, and someone has to play 2B... I dunno, suffice it to say that we're going to expand this to look at shortstops too, just to scrape the bottom.  I think it's reasonably safe to say that if the Jays have a lazy offseason, or are more worried about, say, re-signing Melky and building a bullpen, 2B is a spot in the lineup where we can just go with a platoon-ish situation and worry about rebuilding the rest of the lineup.

Anyway, that's probably enough words to qualify as a warm-up, so let's have a look.  Again, we're using the previously linked MLBTR Free Agent list, as well as Fangraphs' leaderboards.

Brandon Phillips (Trade)

Phillips is one of the more overrated players in baseball, in my opinion, but he's certainly had some good seasons.  He put up a big stink when the Reds signed Joey Votto to a big extension, and was then inexplicably signed to a 6-year extension to lock him up through age 36 or 37.  The Reds have since had Kris Negron emerge as a quality infield option.  If they can find a taker, I'd bet the Reds look to trade Phillips, even if they don't blow the whole team up.  I'd blow the whole team up, though.

Phillips, for his part, is a ~2WAR player going forward (sidenote-- wait, 2015 Steamer projections are out? (sidenote on the sidenote-- Edwin Encarnacion listed as a 3B, eh?)), owed $36MM over the next three years.  He's still a positive defensively, but that's about it.  Having said that, available second basemen aren't exactly good at hitting, so you could do worse than Phillips with the bat, even in his decline (wRC's of 101, 91 and 88 in the last three years).  There's very little, if any, surplus value there, so if Cincinnati wanted something in return, they'd need to eat some money.

For whatever it's worth, Phillips has been pretty healthy throughout his whole career, so the turf shouldn't be a huge deal.

Asdrubal Cabrera (Free Agent)

Cabrera was a shortstop, right up until the Expos acquired him at one of the trade deadlines and stuck him at 2B.  I'd guess that he would want to go back to playing shortstop, but I've never actually asked him since we've never met.  The Tigers and Yankees (and Dodgers, maybe), and probably more, need a fucking shortstop and there's really only JJ Hardy (and Hanley Ramirez, if he can still be considered a shortstop) available, so I'd be a little surprised if Cabrera is playing anything other than short in 2015.

Cabrera isn't exactly as good as he once was, but he's got a couple pretty good seasons under his belt, was a roughly average player in 2014, and he's not even 29 yet.  If he's open to playing 2B again, he may end up as a target, but I'd classify this one as unlikely.

Rickie Weeks (Free Agent)

I'm assuming the Brewers don't exercise Weeks' option for $11.5MM, because that would be insanity.  He put up .274/.357/.452 this year though, over 286 plate appearances in a part-time role.  There's probably very little upside there, but he's not Ryan Goins, which is as good as upside.  He hits lefties, which is something that happens already with Tolleson, so heh.  He probably gets the old 1-year deal forever, and at like $4-5MM so it's not a huge risk, but I just can't imagine him being a big upgrade over what's already in the organization.  Plus, the 2014 return to form was fueled by a .355 babip outlier, versus the .305 career norm.  Probably nothing.

Cliff Pennington (Trade)

Pennington should make about $4MM through arbitration this year, which is certainly affordable.  He's really a backup player, but he is serviceable defensively and he walks a lot.  Could be worth a flyer.  Not sure if the DBacks are looking to trade him or not, but it's not like he's completely irreplaceable or anything.  Again, we're scraping.  He's a switch-hitter, but is practically useless against righties, so, again, Steve Tolleson.

Others

Ben Zobrist was worth a bunch of WAR this year, but he only has one year left on his contract, and is a trade candidate, considering the way the Rays do business.  I'd be incredibly shocked if they traded him within the division, but I can dream.  Would be fucking sweet though.

If we're looking at shortstops, The Mariners might trade one of Brad Miller or Chris Taylor (Taylor seems like he's actually good, so they'd probably keep him), so if one of those guys wants to play 2B...

Of course, there's a glut of mediocre second base-types in the organization already; Izturis, Goins, Tolleson, etc.  We can also dream of Jose Reyes moving off shortstop and finding someone to fill SS, but that's probably at least a year away, if it ever comes.

And that's really about it.  There's just not a whole lot available out there.  There are a bunch of guys who are never getting traded (e.g. Pedroia, Cano, Altuve) and then a bunch of 1WAR guys that aren't really worth fussing about.

This is why I'm guessing that if a big infield upgrade comes along, it's going to be a 3B, moving Lawrie to 2nd full time.  Hopefully he likes it there.