Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Jays get Canadianer

Canada TV
Hey!  I kind of called this one!  Don't believe me?  Suck it.  Here's what I said in that particular post:
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.

Now, that post was made under the guise of Melky signing elsewhere, and the Jays needing to go out and figure something else out to fill the roster.  I don't necessarily think that the Saunders deal precludes the Jays from bringing Melky back, but it doesn't not mean that either.  If the Jays want to hand the reigns over to Dalton Pompey, it's easy enough to stick Saunders in LF as the lefty half of a platoon-- Saunders has a career .279 obp against lefties, though his 2014 numbers, albeit powered by a .372 babip, look quite a bit nicer.

That probably leaves Kevin Pillar as the other half, which seems totally reasonable given Pillar's ability vs. lefty pitching and pretty good defense.  Pillar and Saunders can both handle CF as well , just in case something goes wrong with the Pompey experiment.

Of course, the offseason isn't over yet, either.  Let's say Melky re-signs and is the everyday left fielder.  Again, a Saunders-Pillar platoon doesn't (and shouldn't!) preclude a Melky deal.  It certainly opens a door for another trade there somewhere.  Whether that means that the Jays flip Saunders, or have some kind of combination of part-timing/benching/optioning he, Pompey and Pillar, I have no idea.  This offseason has been fucking nuts so far though, and we're not even at the winter meetings, which is where shit usually goes down.

As for Happ... well, I'd rather have Saunders for $3MM than Happ for $6.7MM.  And the Mariners don't even need a back-end starter!  Not yet, anyway.  Maybe they're looking to acquire an impact bat, and use Taijuan Walker to get it.  Much like the Donaldson trade, this trade makes a lot more immediate sense for the Blue Jays than it does for the other guys, so there is probably another shoe to fall here.  I doubt the M's acquired a $7MM pitcher just to throw him in at #6 or 7 on their rotation depth chart.

This trade certainly did make me think, though.  One of my favorite things to do in my spare time is to look and see where players come from, so to speak.  Not in the literal sense.  I don't really care that Happ was born in a city called Peru.  I'm more interested in how he became a Blue Jay, and what he cost, in terms of money or prospects or players.

Happ was acquired from Houston a few years back in that giant clustercock of a trade that saw 10 players exchange hands.  The Jays sent Ben Francisco, Francisco Cordero and a couple of minor leaguers to Houston for Happ, Brandon Lyon, and David Carpenter.

Carpenter was mostly useless to the Jays, in that he provided a few innings of mop-up before being the throw-in that allowed the John Farrell trade to happen.  Of course, that turned in to the Jays giving away Yan Gomes and, to a lesser extent, Mike Aviles for Esmil Rogers, who was also given away.  Which actually, when you think about it, uhh... Aviles and Rogers would both be at least kind of useful, at least at the present moment.

Anyway, Lyon was also mostly useless, in that he was only around for the last couple months in a mostly lost season, and then left, never to be seen or heard from again.  This trade may as well have been a bunch of prospects and two shitty contracts for Happ.  This is my long-winded way of saying "Hey guys, let's look at the trade where we gave up a bunch of practically free, controllable-for-years prospects in exchange for 2.5 years of JA Happ."  For simplicity's sake, we'll look at the money involved on the major league side (i.e. Lyon/Carpenter/Happ vs. Francisco/Cordero), and then the prospecty stuff.  Let's just say that it was halfway through the season, for the sake of dividing salaries in 2.

As far as I can tell, Happ ($2.35MM), Carpenter ($500k) and Lyon ($5.5MM) made $8.35MM between them, of which the Jays paid half. so ~4.2MM.  Cordero ($4.5MM) and Francisco (~$1.5MM) basically means that the Jays took on an extra $2.2MM in salary and gave up a bunch of low-level prospects in order to get a guy who could throw major league pitches for a team who was using Joel Carreno and the bad Jesse Chavez and Chad Jenkins and SIXTEEN STARTS FROM CARLOS VILLANUEVA.  So yeah, kind of need a guy to start and maybe serve as depth for the next year.  Borrow from the distant future to help the present and near future.

Rather than going incredibly in-depth and pretending to know what I'm talking about when it comes to prospects that I've never seen and don't know pitch velocities, etc...  let's just say that none of them have shown up on the MLB top-20 prospects list for the Astros.  Now, we should probably remember that the Astros have a really deep system, even after graduating a bunch of guys to the bigs in the last few years.  That's what sucking and rebuilding for like seven years will do.  Still, I remember when the Jays had a top-3 farm system and don't exactly remember hearing a whole lot about the guys outside their top-20 (to be fair, though, top-20 spots tend to go to guys fresh out of the draft, not guys who have been toiling in the minors for a few years).

Carlos Perez has since been traded to the Angels, and is probably going to fight for a backup catcher role, now that Hank Conger has been traded.  Everybody else appears to be either some degree of distance away from contributing to the big league roster if they ever do, or getting old for prospects.  To wit:

  • Joe Musgrove is 22 and finished a season of A- ball, though he put up reasonable numbers.
  • David Rollins will be 25 in a few weeks, and has had a pair of trips through AA with reasonable, but uninspiring numbers.
  • Asher Wojiwhatever will be 26 in a few weeks and took a step back in performance in his second trip through AAA this year (in the PCL, mind you, which has some silly offensive numbers).
  • Kevin Comer is still hanging out in A ball and is pitching out of the bullpen, giving up a lot of hits.
So yeah, the Jays pretty well took $2.2MM and an expensive-for-his-skillset, 31 year old, arguably at the peak of his value, and turned him in to an outfielder who fills a need that they can control for two years.  That's not exactly a fair exercise to conduct when it comes to prospects, but whatever.  I think the Astros were looking for a pile of guys, hoping to have one of them hit it big, rather than finding one single prospect who had a lot of upside.  Two years forward, the Jays still weren't going to get a good prospect for Happ.

Not to mention the Canada.  Pretty fun deal for the Jays all around.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Jays Acquire MVP Candidate

Hey how would you guys like to have another Jose Bautista?  Probably a lot, right?  Maybe you'd give up Brett Lawrie for one?  You'd better.

Well, Josh Donaldson is mucho better, and has more club control than Lawrie, albeit at a much higher price.  But holy fuck Donaldson is good.  He's a guy who is coming off of 7.7 and 6.4 WAR seasons these last two years.  To compare, Jose Bautista's two best seasons ever are 7.7 and 6.5 WAR.  Ever!  Those two seasons?  His 54HR breakout, and then his follow-up.

Basically, Donaldson is fucking good.  Career .268/.347/.458 kind of good.  And he did that playing half of his games in Oakland, and another good chunk in Anaheim.  His home-road splits suggest that he's really good away from Oakland.  And hey! We're talking about the AL East here.  Skydome, Fenway, Yankee Stadium... this is bandbox central (not that park factors aren't factored in to WAR).  And defense!  He's really good at defense!

As for the package-- Lawrie is sort of the ultimate upside guy who just hasn't really put it together yet.  He's quite a bit younger than Donaldson, and will be cheaper, but he also comes with the injury risks, the inconsistency, and the fact that he's only under club control for three years, which is less than Donaldson.  Makes sense to include other pieces.

I suppose that's where Nolin, Graveman and Baretto fit in.

Nolin, for his part, is a lot better than his 92347 ERA in 4 big league innings would suggest.  He's done well in the minors and will fight for a rotation spot in Oakland's rotation sooner than later.  Graveman is also a guy.  He happens to be pretty old for a prospect, but Jesse Chavez was like 31 or something when he was briefly good, so late-bloomage does happen.  And it's not like he's trying the same thing over and over either-- he added a cutter and started getting a shitload of groundballs, moving up from A-ball to the majors in a single season. He will also fight for a rotation spot.

Barreto is only 18, but scouts seem to drool all over him.  He probably won't be a shortstop in the future, but he's crushed every league he's played in since he was 10.

All things considered, the Jays gave up quite a bit to land a potential MVP.  And MVP's should cost a lot.  Especially when they have four (!) seasons of control.  At age 29 (opening day age, anyway), and at 2.158 of service time, he's controlled at a discount through his prime years.  That's good!

I guess the only real issue here is exactly what the Jays are giving up, in terms of their 2015 team.  It's not Lawrie, or Barreto, because Lawrie is replaced, and Barreto isn't a MLB asset yet.  Graveman and Nolin, though, are young, controllable pitchers, and serve as depth.  What if 2012 or 2013 happens again, where all the pitchers either get hurt or suck?  That depth raises the floor.  We might be back to the days of Chien Ming Wang or Ramon Ortiz if things go south.  It's probably not THAT bad; Daniel Norris is there, Marco Estrada and JA Happ are there.  That other guy is there.  And who knows who else might show up and be this year's Graveman?

As for 2015... AA isn't fucking around, is he?  There is little market for 2B at the moment.  The relief pitcher market hasn't developed at all yet.  This could entice Melky to come back and fill the LF void.  Meanwhile, there's some sort of Reyes-Martin-Donaldson-Bautista-Encarnacion situation going on, and it's still November.  Most teams don't even start their offseason until the winter meetings.  This is sweet.  How good would Melky look in there?  Especially with the switch-hitterness of it all, stuffed in with all those right-handed bats.

I would hasten a guess that AA is after it this year.

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.)

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.

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.

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.

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?  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!


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.


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.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Offseason 2015: The "Brett Lawrie plays 2B" Edition

Photo pilfered from Jason Miller
My next couple posts will likely be following the same basic template of determining who to go after this offseason, dividing each up based on the position of available (or potentially available) players out there that can help fill the various holes in the Jays' lineup.  It's certainly possible that the Jays just don't have any money and use internal options, in which case, God bless our souls as fans and let's 2016!

Alex Anthopoulos has a few options internally for most of those spots-- Anthony Gose, Kevin Pillar, Dalton Pompey and Steve Tolleson can all play the outfield, Brett Lawrie and Maicer Izturis will be back, along with Tolleson, Ryan Goins and Danny Valencia, who can man infield spots, and there are various young-ish, cheap arms in the organization that can probably come out of the bullpen and stick a thumb in the dam until something better comes along.

But that's kind of been the strategy for the last couple years, and it hasn't seemed to work, so perhaps it's time to look outside the organization to fill at least some of the holes.   We'll start with 3B, since that's the position that is immediately the most interesting to me.  For the sake of the exercise, I'm using Fangraphs' leaderboards and MLBTR's list of 2015 Free Agents when I mention anything about how good people are at baseball or how free agenty they are.

Josh Donaldson (Trade)

Buster Olney wrote yesterday that he thinks Josh Donaldson gets traded this offseason.  I think that's a complete crock of horseshit and he's only saying that because the A's lost their wild-card play-in game, and therefore have to break the whole fucking team apart.  Donaldson was a 6.4 WAR player in 2014, making somewhere in the range of $500k.  He's arbitration eligible for the first time this year. I'd guess that he'll make $5MM or so this trip through arbitration, but it could certainly be less, given that a good chunk of that value is defensive.

Donaldson is going to get expensive fast, so the A's may decide to move him at some point, but I really don't think that it's this year.  He'll still be plenty affordable even in 2016, and the A's are still good.  They opted to spend about $25MM on a bullpen this year, including $10MM on Jim Johnson that they eventually just ate. This isn't the Moneyball Oakland A's anymore, and even if they were, there are probably more likely to trade the handful of guys on the team making $5MM+ who aren't worth 6WAR.

Having said all of that, if they do trade Donaldson, it would be for a huge haul.  Three cost-controlled years of an elite 3B, in an offensively starved era of baseball, would take a shitload of good prospects/major league ready players.  I'd guess one of Stroman, Hutchison, Lawrie or Sanchez would need to be involved, and that's definitely just the start.  Remember the pricetag for Samardzija this year?  That, plus more.  I'm suddenly afraid that Boston has the prospect depth and the need at 3B.

Pablo Sandoval (Free Agent)

Brian Sabean tends to hang on to his players, so I wouldn't at all be surprised if the Giants re-signed Panda over the next couple months.  If not though, he'd be worth a decent look.  His 5 WAR (i.e. skinny) days are probably behind him, but that doesn't preclude him from being a useful regular with some upside.

He's been an above-average player the last three years (as in "above-average but not excellent" for those three years, excellent before that), has remained reasonably healthy for the duration of his career, is alright defensively, and will be 29 years old on opening day.  I can see plenty of reason why he'll be sought after by several teams, which probably means that he gets a qualifying offer if he leaves SF.  It will probably take a 3 or 4 year deal, at $13-16MM per to get it done, but I can think of worse people to have in the middle of the Jays' lineup.

Chase Headley  (Free Agent)

Headley was traded mid-season from San Diego to New York, which means that he'll be the only 4 WAR 3B on the market, and without a compensation pick attached.  He's also a switch-hitter, an elite defender, and has a career walk-rate above 10%.  2015 will be his age-31 season, so he's not old by any stretch, and he clearly has some good baseball left in him, based on the .262/.371/.398 line and +12.8 runs of defensive value he put up post-trade (58 games) this year.  Sure, that's playing in Yankee Stadium, as opposed to pitcher-friendly Petco, but still... 4.4 WAR, and no comp pick sounds mighty tempting.

Trevor Plouffe  (Trade)

I have no idea if the Twins would be willing to move Plouffe, given his excellent 2014 and relatively cheap contract, but I think it's worth a stab.  The Twins are still pretty bad, and are probably going to tread water at best until their farm system delivers.  They have Miguel Sano in the woodwork, but Plouffe can play all over the diamond (albeit not very well), so there are certainly ways to get both in the lineup if Sano even stays at 3B.

Plouffe, for his part, hit .258/.328/.423 in 136 games this season, with 14 HR's and a 9% walk rate.  Somewhat pedestrian, until you remember that he's playing half of his games outdoors in Minnesota, where I'm pretty sure it snowed at least once this baseball season.  Adjusted, that's a 112 wRC+.  You could do worse.  He's going to hit arbitration for the 2nd time this offseason, and will get something like $4MM.  If Minnesota is willing to listen, I think this is realistic.  Minnesota seems to think they can contend every year though, before ultimately losing 95 games.

Todd Frazier  (Trade)

This one is a longshot, and hinges on the Reds breaking it down entirely.  Frazier hits arbitration for the first time this offseason, and was worth 4.7 WAR in 2014, so that's some cheap production.  The Reds definitely don't need to trade him, as they can probably trade a bunch of expensive, soon-to-be free agents and build it back up before Frazier's team control is up, but if they do decide to move a bunch of their starters (Latos, Cueto and Leake are all free agents after 2015), they may want to break the whole thing down and get value for Frazier, instead of have him be good on a terrible team.  Frazier will be a cheaper, slightly-worse-but-still-very-good version of Donaldson and would cost a shitload (he's basically Donaldson without the defense).


The only other real quality option I see is Aramis Ramirez.  He and the Brewers have a $14MM mutual option on 2015, but those rarely get exercised.  Ramirez was roughly league average this season over 133 games.  His power numbers are down, he's becoming worse defensively, and he's missed time in three straight years.  He'll also be 37 midway through the season.  Might be worth a shot on a 1-year deal, though I'd worry about the turf.  He is Dominican though!

Other than that, I don't really see a whole lot else.  Fortunately, Brett Lawrie can also play 3B, which means that the pool of available associates can grow to include 2B as well, which is next up.  2B is not exactly swimming with available talent though, so maybe moving Lawrie to 2B is the best way to improve the team.

I think Plouffe and Headley are probably the two best ideas here.  Headley will be sought after and might be able to leverage his way in to a nice contract, but it's one that probably won't go too far south given how good he is defensively.  Plouffe is a bit more risky, in that he really only has one good season under his belt, from a WAR perspective.  He'll only cost prospects though, which is obviously a bonus if there isn't a whole lot of money to spend, and his offensive skillset translates really well to the dome.  He can play the outfield or 2B in a pinch, which could help against lefties (i.e. getting Tolleson in the lineup) if we see a situation where Anthony Gose is the regular CF and Melky leaves or something.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Looking to 2015

Busy summer.  I'll try harder.

I had a thought last night, and remembered that I have an avenue for with which to write those thoughts down when relevant.  As such, here goes.

I don't exactly have a ton of faith in the 2015 version of the Jays, as it stands right now.  I think, for the most part, that AA assembled his team for three years with the Dickey and Reyes/Buerhle trades.  It can't be a coincidence or a mistake that AA traded off all of his high-level prospects in the 2012 offseason, meanwhile having most of a team signed through 2015.  Obviously the idea was to win during those years, and then figure it out in 2016/17 when that comes, since the strong low-level farm system would graduate to the bigs by those years, and all kinds of contracts would be off the books.

The reason I don't have faith in the '15 club, of course, is because it's going to be more-or-less the same club that didn't win enough in '13 and '14.  There was reason to have faith this season, because of all the injuries and starts from Chien-Ming Wang.  It's not the same team, obviously-- full season of Bautista, full, non-tumored season of Melky, solid performances from starters-- but this team is still like 15 games back in the division.  And that's a Baltimore team who hasn't gotten anything out of Matt Weiters, and a combined 0.8 fWAR from Ubaldo Jimenez and Chris Davis.

Anyway, my somewhat verbose and mostly opinion-based point is that the team will be fairly similar next season, and even with the 5 wins of regression that the O's are due, it still might not quite be enough.

Dickey, Buerhle and Hutchison* are all practically guaranteed to be back next year, as are Bautista, Edwin, Lind, Reyes, Lawrie and Navarro.  Those are the expensive guys, at least-- there are guys like Stroman, Tolleson, Mayberry, Cecil, Goins, Valencia, the bullpen, etc. who are either 0-3 players making the league minimum, or are hitting arbitration salaries and are cost-controlled.  None of whom will make a shitload of money, so we won't really worry a whole lot about that, whether they even get contracts offered to them or not.  The bulk of the money is being paid to the first 8 guys I named there.

*- Hutchison might get to Super-2 and has had a pretty reasonable season.

The Jays have $96MM committed to salary for 2015, before totalling in arbitration salaries, club options and league-minimum salaries.  So that's not including, say, the ~$500k owed to the guys making the minimum-ish (Gose, Stroman, Goins, Loup, Redmond, Jenkins, Tolleson) or the relatively small salaries owed to Cecil, Mayberry, Valencia, Francisco, etc., assuming they're all retained, which they won't all be, or the cost of retaining McGowan ($4MM), Happ ($6.5MM), Morrow ($9MM), Lind ($7.5MM) or Thole ($2MM?)-- I expect McGowan and Morrow's options to be declined.  Once all that fun stuff is tallied up, we're looking at something like $125-140MM already committed to 2015.**

**- I'm using this spreadsheet, taken from Cot's, plus guesstimating on options, arbitration, and non-tenders on this one.  I'm certainly not an expert on arbitration salaries, so I sort of guessed there, but I don't think that should be so far off that it takes away from the point.

I have Happ, Thole and Lind getting their options exercised, Morrow, Santos and McGowan getting declined.  McGowan could get his exercised, I suppose, given that his bullpen slash against is .205/.279/.377.  I also have Juan Francisco, George Kottaras, Munenori Kawasaki and Dan Johnson being non-tendered, with Danny Valencia and Jon Mayberry getting an arb offer to go along with the obvious offers to Lawrie, Cecil and Hutchison.  Don't think Delabar got enough service time this year to get super-2.  Either way, I don't think it's going to make a huge difference in the grand scheme of things.

The big thing with that spreadsheet, however, is the subtraction of Melky Cabrera, Casey Janssen and Colby Rasmus.  That's $19MM off the books, with practically all of that going to Mark Buerhle, Jose Reyes, and Dioner Navarro's raises, plus arb raises, so the Jays have right around as much committed to next year ($~130MM) as they spent this season ($137MM), and there will be holes on the roster 7 days from now.

The Jays have already announced that they plan on extending a qualifying offer to Melky, which should be in the $15MM area, and I'd guess that there is some mutual desire to sign Melky back for another couple years.  I'd ballpark his deal at 3 or 4 years, somewhere around $11-14MM/season, though it really depends what kind of discount he'd give the Jays, and how much we agree with his defensive numbers pulling his salary down.  If we trust Fangraphs or Baseball-reference, Melky's defense has cost the Jays about a win this season.  There's also the PEDs thing.

Rasmus has a replacement, and has in fact already been replaced, so let's not worry about that.

Janssen's departure will leave a pretty obvious hole in the bullpen.  Sure, that could be patched up by moving people around (i.e. letting Loup/Cecil/whoever close, calling up Jenkins or Delabar or Rasmussen full-time), but at the end of the day, Janssen has been really solid since becoming a reliever, save for the half-season immediately after getting sick and losing a bunch of weight and strength.  It seems as though Janssen is gone, because I expect someone is going to see 4.5 years of success against 0.5 seasons of poop and call it a hunch.  I'd totally be on board with having Janssen back next year, though, and expect to be very sad when he signs with Tampa Bay or Oakland, even with the reduced strikeouts.

The options with Janssen are to re-sign him in the $5MM/yr range, or to go find someone else that can be in the bullpen in his place.  If it's going out and finding a closer, it's going to cost at least that much.  If it's going out and getting a random warm body, it's probably going to be a cheaper option that perhaps isn't quite as reliable, but at the end of the day, pre-illness Janssen was on pace to be worth about a WAR.  Not a horribly difficult amount of production to replace.

My issue with letting him walk, though, is that there are already holes in the bullpen with Janssen.  They won't keep Sanchez in the bullpen (they had better not, anyway), and McGowan probably isn't worth exercising a $4MM option for.  When your third best reliever, and best righty, is Todd Redmond, there may be an issue.

Let's just assume that Melky and Janssen re-sign, and for simplicity's sake, for $10MM and $5MM respectively (backload the contracts, see if I care).  That's $15MM on top of ~$130MM.  $145MM for:

Thole Navarro
Lind Encarnacion Lawrie Reyes Valencia Izturis
Bautista Mayberry Gose Cabrera

Dickey Buehrle Hutchison Stroman Happ
Loup Cecil Janssen Redmond

Depth/minor leaguers.

That last category can include whoever it needs to to fill the roster, though 4 relievers probably isn't enough-- Pillar, Tolleson, Kawasaki, Goins, Pompey, Delabar, Sanchez, Nolin, Jimenez-- but it's probably not incredibly important unless one of those people takes over for someone listed above (injury, for example) and pulls a 2 WAR season out of their ass.

$145MM is an $8MM or so increase compared to this year.  Don't you think that if an extra $8MM next year is fine, that an extra $8MM this year would have been too?  Like at the trade deadline?  Or even before the year?

I guess you could decline Happ's option and trust Nolin/Graveman/Sanchez/Norris to fill the rotation, or stick Graveman in the bullpen, or trade Buehrle for absolutely nothing other than salary relief, but that's all kind of academic at the end of the day-- this team apparently wasn't good enough to win and they should have a pretty similar, albeit worse roster next year, even if they can re-sign Melky.

That's because it's not all money; the bulk of these guys are getting older.  Hutch/Stroman/Gose/Lawrie are obviously exceptions to that, but there's a lot of people on the wrong side of 30 in this team.  Reyes (currently 31), for example, isn't really providing a whole lot of defense at short these days.  Bautista (33) just played his first full season in 3 years, while Edwin (31) and Lind (31) have both missed time with injury.  Dickey (39) has been, by definition, average for the last two years, and Buehrle (35) probably isn't a 3+ WAR pitcher going forward.  Happ, Izturis, Navarro, Tolleson, Valencia, Mayberry, McGowan and Redmond will all be at least 30 at some point next season.  I'm not saying these guys all suck, or will suck next year, but it shouldn't surprise us if we see some decline, since typical peak is age 27-29.

The plan was to win last year.  The plan was to win this year.  The plan is still to win next year, before turning it over to the next wave.  Stroman, Sanchez, Hutchison, Lawrie, Norris, Pompey and Gose, another year or two down the line, looks like a pretty good foundation to build around.  Beyond that, I don't think it's a mistake that Bautista, Encarnacion, Dickey, Buehrle, Janssen, Melky, Navarro, and Happ all have contracts whose guaranteed years expire either after this season or next (Romero and Morrow were supposed to fit in to this as well).

The Jays have just $27MM committed to 2016 (options, buyouts and arbitration take that up to a conservative estimate of $65MM, assuming Bautista and Edwin get their options exercised, $5MM each for Hutch and Lawrie in arb, $4MM for Cecil; Options for Dickey, Thole and Izturis bought out). That leaves a shit tonne of room to extend guys like Stroman, Sanchez and Hutchison if needed, but it also leaves room for guys in the farm to develop and find themselves in the bigs with plenty of payroll flexibility.

Beyond that, the Jays have been incredibly aggressive in the last couple drafts, trying to stock themselves with as much high-upside talent as possible. This year, though, they went ahead and grabbed a bunch of college guys who will hopefully be ready to contribute around 2016-2017, or will at least be close enough to the bigs that they can be useful trade bait.

I realize this may all sound a bit convenient, and predicting the future isn't exactly easy at any point in time, so I guess the big takeaway from all of this is that even if they're terrible in 2015, which they won't necessarily be, the Jays have 1 player under a guaranteed contract for 2016 and beyond, and that's Jose Reyes. Even if there isn't some grand plan for 2016, there's no way that everyone that's on the team right now will be both (a) good, and (b) willing to re-sign here come 2016. The combination of money to spend (even if Rogers is holding out on us!), some quality young guys in the bigs right now, and some really good recent drafts might make this a cheap little juggernaut a couple years from now.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Today, in Poorly Managed Games

I'll start this one off by saying that I really like Gibby, and think he's a pretty good manager in general. The big things that a manager is responsible for are done more-or-less correctly: he manages his bullpen better than most, he flirted with the idea of Bautista in the 2-hole for a while before eventually succumbing to being a people-person, and he'll even give you a pretty nice soundbite every now and then when explaining what's on his mind.  Gibbons, especially when compared with that clown beside him in the above picture, is a great manager.

If I have one complaint about his style, though, it's the way he gets his guys to run in to outs way too often, especially with the offense that he's got at his disposal.  Today's game, for example, saw an awful lot of that.  There was the good old bunt-to-stay-out-of-a-double-play-for-a-double-play trick, which made me want to break something.  Obviously, it's ultimately the player that happens to not get the bunt down successfully, but there are just so few situations that warrant donating an out to the other team that you could probably get away with never bunting ever and being okay.  And the Jays still scored 7 runs!  Play for the big inning, you might get a big inning every now and then.  Play for one, you apparently don't even get that.

Ron Roenicke, on the other hand, makes me glad that we have Gibby, bunt forceouts and all.

This may have been the most poorly managed game I've seen in years, and I watched a shitload of Reds games over the last few years when Dusty Baker was hitting Zach Cosart and his sub-.300 OBP 2nd all the time.  It's not batting order optimization is worth a whole hell of a lot over the course of a year, especially when most managers are reasonably close to optimal, but you just know that someone who bats their worst non-pitcher batter in the 2-hole consistently does something way worse fairly often too.

Anyway, let's go through this game and cringe at all the things managers did today.

  • Gibbons comes out to argue a call that got overturned after a review, which automatically results in an ejection.  This may or may not have been because he was thirsty, and he maybe just wanted to stir his team and home crowd up, so we'll kind of let this slide for now.  Pretty silly though.
  • Roenicke got tossed on a not-even-close check swing call on a ball that hit Steve Tolleson on the foot.  Perhaps he and Gibby both needed a beer.
  • Roenicke questionably lets Wily Peralta start the 7th inning, his fourth turn through the meat of the lineup, having thrown something like 107 pitches to that point.  Both Melky and Bautista get on base to start the inning.
  • Gibbons pinch-hits for Lind, presumably because Roenicke brought a lefty in, only to have the replacement bunt, planning to give away an out anyway.  May as well let Lind try to accidentally run in to one, as helpless as he is vs. LHP, or let Mastro swing away and take advantage of the platoon situation.  The result, however, was a double play that turned a first-and-second-nobody-out spot in to a 2nd-base-with-two-out spot, and let the Brewers bypass Edwin Encarnacion via an intentional walk, thanks to 1st base being open.  Assuming Mastroianni gets his bunt down successfully, it's still 2nd-and-3rd with 1 out, and Edwin is still getting walked to bypass the better hitter and to set up a double play.  In total, sub Lind for 2 outs, further Bautista, and a skip-your-turn for Edwin.  We also don't know that his spot in the order won't come up again in a higher leverage spot, which it did.
  • With 2 outs in the 7th, Anthony Gose is brought in to pinch-run for Bautista, taking him out of the game in a tie-game in which his spot is likely, though not guaranteed, to come up again in the 9th.  Of course, this doesn't matter if the game is close, or if Bautista is feeling sore.  I would guess that there's a bit of fear that Bautista's hamstring isn't at 100% and the idea of him busting it for home and sliding in on a close play is at least a bit scary.  Still, with two outs, there's a decent chance that it makes absolutely no difference and that Bautista is coming out of the game way too early.
  • I suppose I can live with Loup coming in and facing all those righties, but you're going to have to rely on McGowan or Santos in a spot like that.  Maybe they weren't available.  A rather small complaint.
  • I'm assuming Gibby is in the tunnel calling the shots after his ejection, so having Gose bunt there is stupid, although less so than the Mastro one.  It might make sense if Bautista is in the game, but it's Darin Mastroianni in his place.  Roenicke (or whoever he was barking orders at from the dugout) promptly brought in a RHP, who struck Mastro out....
  • ... and pitched to Edwin with a base open and two outs.  That pitcher happened to be Brandon Kintzler, who has a not-insignificant reverse platoon, meaning he's been much worse vs. RHB this year.  On deck is Dioner Navarro, who, as a switch-hitter, would be batting lefty, which would favor Kintzler.  Kintzler not only pitches to Edwin, but he gives him 3 balls in the first 4 pitches, getting behind and in to a hitter's count.  The result is a three-run shot and the end of a ballgame that apparently neither of these two first place teams really wanted all that bad after all.  Francisco Rodriguez, meanwhile, did not pitch against Encarnacion and was of little impact during that 2-out, 2-on jam, since he was sitting in the bullpen.
All in all, that wasn't a great look for either manager.  I hate to soapbox about bunting so much, yet here we are.  Having said that, bunting cost the Jays 3 outs, including two at third base.  That's a whole inning!  I'm about as big a Gibby apologist as there is out there, and he certainly does more good than bad, but that was a bunch of bad, compounded by a lack of execution.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Upgrading Second (or Third?) Base

Image stolen from The Star

Alright, so Brett Lawrie's out for another couple weeks, which means that if the Jays weren't standing pat figuring out what to do with the 2B situation before, they definitely aren't now.  I think we can all agree that Lawrie moving to 2B was a temporary solution, and that is made pretty evident by the way Juan Francisco has swung the bat in the last month or so.

Francisco, for the year, is swinging a .235/.315/.530 bat (128 OPS+), and that's certainly some decent production relative to other 3B's.  He's the lefty part of a platoon, and when he isn't being exposed to lefty pitching, he's obviously better, coming with a .264/.344/.586 line vs. RHP.  Things could be worse, especially when the next best option is, like, Munenori Kawasaki or Steve Tolleson or Jonathan Diaz or Ryan Goins or whoever.

The obvious problem here is that the bulk of Francisco's production came early on in the season.  Humor me while I cherry-pick some stats. I kind of guesstimated where the halfway point would fall, as far as plate appearances are concerned, so as to not make this a completely arbitrary endpoint, so there's still a flaw in what I'm doing here, but still; In Francisco's first 26 games with the Jays this season (102 PA's), he hit .292/.373/.629, with 8 HR's, 11 walks, and 36 strikeouts.  Since then, he's played 29 games (23 starts, 82 PA's) and has batted .173/.244/.413 with 4 HR's, 6 walks, and 33 strikeouts.  I'm sure I could make that look worse if I tried, but whatever, that's not the point.

The point is that he had a really hot start, and has sucked since, and teams are now adjusting to his tendencies of SWANGing and not being able to handle a breaking ball.  Despite the red-hot start, his offensive numbers for the season (slash-wise, anyway), when adjusted for park and league, are almost perfectly in line with his career numbers.

Which isn't saying anything in one way or another... he's a perfectly serviceable as a platoony-type backup guy that can fill in when Brett Lawrie can go play 2B and Ryan Goins is seriously considered as a candidate or whatever.

Which brings us to Steve Tolleson, I guess.  He's kind of the bizarro-Francisco, with less power and more defense.  He also has 3 hits in June.  Neither he, nor Juan Francisco are exactly world-beaters.  Both have holes in their swings, and neither are especially good defensively (Tolleson doesn't exactly have a reasonable sample though).

So yeah, Lawrie in a month or so, at which time, he'll come back in the lineup everyday, hopefully taking Tolleson and Francisco's place, as opposed to taking Muni's.  I say this, because I'm hoping Muni's spot gets replaced long before then.

Ideally, Lawrie can go back to 3B everyday, and the Jays can find someone who plays 2B. In theory, however, Lawrie can play 2B everyday if needed, which means the Jays are on the lookout for either a 2B or a 3B, which certainly widens the talent pool from which to search.  Let's have a look, the same way we did pitchers last week.

AL East

As is always the case, trades from within the division are rare.  The Yankees and Orioles are certainly still in the thick of it, and aren't going to strengthen the Jays.  The Red Sox aren't likely to help out either, and certainly aren't doing so in the form of Dustin Pedroia.  The Rays are pretty unlikely to trade Ben Zobrist within the division, but it would be friggin' awesome if they did.  He can play several positions serviceably, is still very good with the bat (walks!), and is still under contract next season for cheap.  If the Rays decide the Zobrist is available, he'd be a worthy upgrade for several teams, so the price should be steep.

AL Central

The Tigers aren't selling, and don't have anything really all that good in the infield anyway.  The Royals probably aren't either, though they may look to dangle Omar Infante if someone were to make an offer.

I don't think Cleveland opts to move any of Kipnis, Santana or Chisenhall, but they really need pitching, so who knows?  Still doubt it.

I wonder what the Twins would want for Trevor Plouffe.  He's going to start getting expensive (2nd time through arbitration this coming season), and the Twins have a couple of infield prospects coming through the pipeline that they might rather give playing time to.  Plouffe's numbers are deflated thanks to playing in some shitty ballparks (Minnesota, Detroit), but he still shows some power, the ability to walk, and versatility around the field.  Mashes lefties too. Let's get that done.

As far as the White Sox go, they might want to move Gordon Beckham, but that doesn't really scream upgrade.  He can get on base and kind of hit one out of the park by accident.  He's mashing lefties this year, but is usually pretty neutral as far as platoons go.  He's under control next year as well.  Might be a fit, but meh.  Conor Gillaspie is having a career year offensively, but upon closer observation, he's got a .388 babip and is a platoon guy at best.

AL West

The A's are buying, and probably kind of like what they have going on in their infield. The Angels aren't going to sell while they're in the wild card lead, unless it's a swap of something that they can address a weakness with.  There's nothing extra there, and they don't have any glaring weaknesses.  The Mariners currently hold the 2nd wild card, so unless they fall apart, they'll be buying as well.  Plus, Cano and Seager aren't likely to go anywhere.

Would the Rangers trade Adrian Beltre?  I doubt it, but maybe?  They need to make room for Profar with one of Andrus, Odor and Beltre, but that probably won't be an issue that they address until the offseason.  Odor isn't exactly a blue-chipper, so it might not even matter.

The Astros don't need to trade any of their infielders, as they're all either young, not good yet and under control for a while, or Jose Altuve, who is young, under control for a while, and good.

NL East

Atlanta is actually probably looking for a 2B, what with Dan Uggla being terrible and all.  The Nats apparently don't want to trade Danny Espinosa, but a change of scenery might do him some good.  There's going to be a little roster crunch when Bryce Harper comes back, and the odd man out will either be Espinosa or Denard Span, though both would be entirely serviceable bench bats, of which you need plenty in the NL.  The Marlins will sell if they come back to earth, which seems pretty likely.  Casey McGehee would be really interesting if he becomes available, but again, the Marlins would need to start losing soon.

The Mets probably don't want to trade Daniel Murphy, but that would be a nice fit if they change their tune.  Murphy is a good hitter, fields a respectable 2B, and has a year of control left after this season.  The Mets, though, apparently don't want to trade him at the moment, according to everything about him on MLBTR today.  You'd better believe that the Jays are in if Murphy is available though.

As far as the Phillies go, Utley has already said that he won't waive his no-trade clause, and the Phillies probably aren't going to trade him anyway.  There are no other options here, so let's move on.

NL Central

The Brewers are in the lead in that division, but they could still feasibly move Rickie Weeks, not that he's done anything of note in 3 years now.  The Cardinals are either sitting pretty in the infield, or buying something, so they're out of the question.

I'm not sure the Reds or Pirates believe that they're out of it yet, but if they do decide to sell, I don't really see a fit.  Nobody in the Pirates middle infield is all that good, and the Pirates seem to enjoy Pedro Alvarez too.  The Reds would probably trade Brandon Phillips if someone came asking, but he's signed through 2017 for like $72MM or something.  Todd Frazier seems pretty much entrenched in Cincinnati, but you never know.

Luis Valbuena is suddenly good, so maybe the Cubs sell high on him?  Otherwise, there's nothing useful there.

NL West

The Giants haven't gotten much production from 2B, and they'll look to improve there if Joe Panik doesn't pan out.  The Dodgers are buyers.

The Diamondbacks have Aaron Hill and Martin Prado, if they choose to sell, but Aaron Hill might be back to being bad Aaron Hill, and he's under contract through 2016, so if he is bad again, then it's an all too familiar albatrossy kind of thing.  Martin Prado might suck now too, actually.  Striking out more, walking less, decrease in power, etc.  Prado is also signed through 2016, although he has a much better history of being good than Hill, so there may be something left in that particular tank.

The Padres might trade Chase Headley, but it might be too late for them to get any real value from him.  He'd be a pure rental, he's making $10.5MM, and he might not even be league-average anymore.  Might be a flyer, especially getting him out of Petco.

Finally, with the Rockies, I'm not sure why they'd trade LeMehieu or Rutledge since they're both still young and cheap, nor am I certain either is an upgrade, but it could happen, I guess.

So yeah, there are a few candidates at 2B, but it's expanding the search field to 3B that really makes a few options appear.  I kind of like the idea of Trevor Plouffe if the Jays are in to cheap options, but there are some bigger names that could really bring the house down if they're available and, more specifically, available to the Blue Jays.  Zobrist, Beltre and Murphy would all be big additions for this year and next, but again, it's unknown whether those guys are available and if the Jays have what it would take to get that deal done.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

In Your Clubhouse, Taking Your Pitchers: NL Edition

He looks like a fucking alien
Dig right in, I guess.

NL East

Atlanta, Washington and Miami are all within a game of each other, but are also all a few games out of the wild card hunt.  If anything shitty happens in the division race, they're a lot more likely to be out of the playoff race entirely.  Anything is possible with these three teams as far as the division goes.

Atlanta could possibly consider moving a pitcher even if they aren't out of the race, but I kind of doubt it.  Some sort of pitcher-for-outfielder deal could happen, I guess, but I suspect Atlanta tries to add something using their prospect depth more than anything.  If they fall out of it, Ervin Santana and Aaron Harang are both free agents, and they could probably sell high on Gavin Floyd too.  Sounds kind of wild, but a Colby Rasmus trade isn't entirely out of the question of they don't think he re-signs, and maybe a rental-for-rental trade could happen with Ervin.

Washington pretty much has no impending free agents, and have a reasonably good team right now, which suggests that they won't be making any major selling moves if they start losing.  They're more likely to acquire a piece that will help them next year too.

Miami is kind of a surprise contender right now, but they're all really young and under control for several years.  Nate Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez are going to anchor that rotation for another few years behind Jose Fernandez, and the rest of the rotation has largely disappointed.  They've got some young guys coming through the system right now, so they might end up moving guys for some missing pieces down the road, but I largely expect Miami to either stay put, or to buy something that stabilizes the rotation and make up for the lack of Jose Fernandez.  I could see Steve Cishek being traded.

The Mets could really do anything.  They've gotten reasonable production out of Wheeler (not happening), Niese and Colon so far, and those guys would all be upgrades over JA Happ if both teams are willing.  Colon is signed through 2015 and is 40 years old, which always sounds risky, and Niese is a roughly league-average pitcher signed through 2016 (with club options taking him through '18).  Again, the Jays have said that they prefer rentals, but I wonder if they'd listen if discussions started-- The Mets should have Matt Harvey back next year, and need to eventually make room for Syndergaard, deGrom, Montero, and Jenrry Mejia if they want him to start (I feel like I'm forgetting someone from this system too).  It's hard to have too much pitching, especially during a rebuild, but I count 8 guys right there, plus Dillon Gee, for five slots.  Gee is a pretty strong candidate to move, especially given his low ERA but high FIP/xFIP, but that's more likely a move to a bad team that wants to take a flyer on him.

The Phillies are the most interesting team in the East.  They suck so bad, and they're paying so much money to do so.  The problem is that they gave pretty much everybody no-trade clauses.  They probably don't want to trade Chase Utley anyway, but he just signed his extension this past offseason and has a full no-trade, which, thanks to a provision written in to Cliff Lee and Ryan Howard's deals, gives them full no-trades too.

Cliff Lee is currently hurt, though he's apparently pretty close to rehabbing.  Scary thought, acquiring a recently injured (elbow, at that), 35 year-old who is owed about $45MM+ over the next two or three years (vesting option/buyout).  Pretty good pitcher though.  Oh yeah, he's got full no-trade protection that he'd need to waive.

Cole Hamels is pretty good, but is owed another $100MM or so through 2018 and would cost a ton.

AJ Burnett had a great year last year, and started this year killing it as well, but that's gone to shit.  He got beaten up pretty badly throughout the duration of May, though his last two starts have been a lot better.  Mind you, those two starts have come against the Padres and the Cubs, but there's still probably something there.  Worth monitoring anyway.  He's got a bit of a wacky contract situation for next year-- it's a mutual option for $15MM, or a player option for $7.5MM that has some escalators for games started.  And of course, limited no-trade.

There's nothing else really interesting there-- maybe Kyle Kendrick?  Kind of sucks-- but the Phillies really should be gutting this team and reloading for the future.

NL Central

I imagine the Brewers will be buyers.  They're in first place in the division with a 3.5 game lead, despite a run differential that suggests they should be right around even with STL.  STL is still projected to win the divison, but the Brewers have done enough to this point that they'll at least contend.  That leaves Cincinnati, the Cubs and the Pirates

It's hard to say what the Reds are up to.  They obviously still have some really good pieces, but they've disappointed two years in a row now.  That Bailey contract already looks like a mistake, and the Phillips one isn't much better.  Injuries have played some part in this, so they might just decide that they're still good and keep it together for next year.

If they do blow it up, they could eat some of Phillips' contract and get something back from the number of teams who are weak at 2B, they could move Latos for a good haul, they could move Chapman for a great haul, and they could move Johnny Cueto for a metric shit-tonne.  Mike Leake still has a year of control left and is only 26, and Alfredo Simon could be a good sell-high candidate, given that unsustainable ERA in the 2's.

I don't expect Cincinnati to blow it up, but if they do, it would be fireworks.

The Pirates have Francisco Liriano, a would-be rental that is sure to be moved, and has some decent peripheral stats.  He's given up HR's at an unreasonable rate, and his LOB% is way down, which mostly boils down to small sample bad luck.  ZiPS and Steamer projections both predict his performance to regress.  The only real problem is an increase in walks, but his line drives are down, his groundballs are up, and a 3.48 xFIP is pretty solid.

The Cubs are really the team that everybody is watching right now.  Jeff Samardzija might be the prize of the trade deadline, but Jason Hammel, Edwin Jackson and Jake Arrieta are all apparently on the block as well.  Samardzija has another year of control, and has pitched his bag off this year so far.  He'll cost a shitload, but it may be worth it to a team that is still looking to contend next year.  The Cubs are apparently scouting the Jays' minor leaguers, having looked at Daniel Norris recently.

Jason Hammel seems more the Jays' pace at the moment, however.  He's on a one-year deal and will be a strict rental.  Whatever's left on his $6MM deal is certainly affordable, and he's only under contract for another couple months, so he won't be incredibly expensive in terms of prospects.  He's having the best year of his career, and is only getting kind of lucky with batted balls.  He's striking out a lot of guys, is walking practically nobody, and even though his groundball rate is down, he's not giving up many HR's.

Edwin Jackson has a really high babip and isn't stranding any runners, but his FIP and xFIP like his work so far this year.  I still can't imagine having any interest in that contract though.  Arietta has pitched excellently for the Cubs so far, with FIP and xFIP under 3.  I'd expect he'd be expensive. Travis Wood has been reasonably good as well, and would probably be a slight upgrade over Happ, but he has 2 arbitration years left, so I don't expect the Cubs to trade him.

NL West

The Giants are going to go for their once-every-two-years World Series run, and are expected to buy.  The Dodgers are far from out of it, with their roster.    Everyone else is fucked.

The Rockies had it going early on, but have since cooled it down severely.  Jorge de la Rosa is a free agent-to-be, and is somehow giving up runs at an above-average rate, despite a .251 babip and a somewhat reasonable walk-rate.  Of course, a 15.9% HR/FB rate is a culprit, and Coors Field has something to do with that.  I'm nowhere near smart enough to try and determine what that could mean pitching out of Toronto, but JdlR could be a reasonable target.  He's actually a better pitcher at Coors than away from it for his career, which is sort of weird.  Tough case.

Jhoulys Chacin is another interesting guy.  He's got one more year of control through arbitration after this one, is still only 26, and had a 4+ WAR year in '13, despite being largely mediocre so far this year.  He's been fairly good away from Coors Field over his career, and the Rockies could decide to move him since he's getting more expensive.  It would certainly be selling low on him, so a deal seems unlikely there.

The Padres have gotten good production out of both Ian Kennedy and Andrew Cashner, despite being 14 games out of first place.  Both are on pace for 3+ WAR seasons, are getting more expensive, and are on teams that don't really have any chance of winning incredibly soon.  There's a Petco factor, mind you.

The problem there is that neither is a free agent until after 2015, so the Padres certainly don't have to trade either this year, even if they don't feel like exploring extensions.  I would expect them to look at extending Cashner for sure, but both are certainly trade candidates if someone is looking to control a player through next season.  Cashner is younger, and full of upside, while Kennedy is a bit more established as a league-average-or-maybe-a-bit-better pitcher with a ceiling.

Again, we need to be mindful of parks and leagues/divisions (i.e. pitcher vs. DH), but both have very good numbers this year and would be welcome additions.  I feel like Kennedy could be had for a respectable price, and that the Padres should listen and build up a young core.

Finally, the Diamondbacks have seemingly been out of it since the first two weeks of the season.  Brandon McCarthy is a free agent at the end of the year, and has been his regular old league-average self, complete with a bunch of ground balls and A 22.7% HR/FB RATE?!?!? ARE YOU SERIOUS?

This might be material for another post, or maybe google to see if someone's written it yet, but that's an outrageous amount of HR's and the only real question is whether or not he's throwing a bunch of beachballs.  His fastball velocity is up 2 MPH, he's struck out batters at a rate that's better than his career norm while keeping walks really close to what they've been, and he's getting more groundballs than ever.  By xFIP, which is better than FIP for samples of half a season, he's been pretty damn good, and his underlying numbers appear to be OK, so I think he'd be worthwhile to take a shot on since there can't nobody sustain 22.7% HR/FB, even in a bandbox like Chase Field or the Skydome, especially since his career rate is less than half of that, and roughly half of his career innings are in extreme hitter's parks (TEX and ARI).

Bronson Arroyo is signed through next year with an option/buyout for '16, which just sounds silly.  I doubt the DBacks would trade Wade Miley, as they'd be selling low.

So there you go.  As of right now, there aren't really a whole lot of guys that make a ton of sense, but there could certainly be some wiggle room.  Jason Hammel is the one sure shot to be traded and to have a nice market, assuming he stays healthy, and the Jays really should be all over that if they want a rental, but Francisco Liriano and Brandon McCarthy are two other names to keep an eye on, especially if their performance starts to match their peripherals.  We'll certainly know more over the coming weeks, as teams get larger samples of data to look at, and the playoff picture becomes more pronounced.