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.