Archive for November 2013

The 2014 Hall of Fame Ballot is STACKED

November 26, 2013

With newcomers such as Greg Maddux and Mike Mussina, in addition to returning players such Jeff Bagwell and Edgar Martinez, the 2014 HOF ballot is ridiculous. I don’t know how less than ten people could get elected this time around.

Returning players who should be in:

Larry Walker

Alan Trammell

Curt Schilling

Tim Raines

Mike Piazza

Edgar Martinez

Roger Clemens

Barry Bonds

Craig Biggio

Jeff Bagwell

That’s ten people right there! Too bad writers can only vote for up to ten people. Here are the newcomers who are sure fire HOF’ers as well:

Frank Thomas

Mike Mussina

Greg Maddux

And two more potentials on my standards: Tom Glavine and Jeff Kent.

If most of these players don’t make it then imagine the backlog come 2015 with the addition of Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Gary Sheffield, and Nomar Garciaparra.

 

Jhonny Peralta’s New Contract and its Implactions on the Next CBA

November 25, 2013

Last night the St. Louis Cardinals signed Jhonny Peralta to a 4/$52mil contract. And the baseball world is furious about it.

Many people are upset that someone can be suspended because of PEDs for fifty games and still get a $52mil payday. The suspensions are supposed to be deterrents to using steroids. But if suspended players can still have the potential of earning millions of dollars then the suspensions will not stop players from using steroids.

If one really wants to tackle this issue they would look at why players use in the first place. At the top of the list is financial reasons. Maybe not to go from making $10mil to $20mil but to go from poor to rich. Most users are minor league players who make $10k or players who come from very, very poor areas and are willing on taking the 1% chance of going pro so they can provide for their family. If you do the risk-reward analysis- 50 games suspension or huge payday- the payday will win almost every time.

Players as well as fans are upset. One disgruntled player is Brad Zeigler who took his complaints to Twitter. A lot of players do want to clean up the sport because they are tired of the mess PEDs have created. After 2016 the current CBA will expire. And one can be sure that PEDs will be a major sticking point this time around.

Although it seems that both parties want to get rid of steroids I think there will be contentious debate. Although the MLBPA represents players who want to abolish steroids it still has to protect those players that do use. So increasing suspensions or penalties may be off the table for them. MLB will probably want to increase first time user suspensions or even have a one strike and your out rule. No way will MLBPA agree to that. Again, they need to protect its players so it won’t allow MLB to throw players out for one failed test.

The next labor negotiations will certainly be interesting and for everyone’s sake let’s hope they can resolve the issue peacefully.

Yankees Sign Brian McCann

November 24, 2013

Late this evening the New York Yankees signed catcher Brian McCann to a 5/$85mil contract with a vesting option that would bring the deal to 6/$100. I was concerned the Yankees would overvalue Brian McCann with a $100mil+ contract for five years, and they did overpay, but I’m more indifferent than upset with this signing. It has good qualities and bad qualities.

Year

Age

xWAR

$/WAR

Value

Salary

2014

30

3.6

5

18

17

2015

31

3.1

5.25

16.23

17

2016

32

2.6

5.51

14.33

17

2017

33

2.1

5.79

12.16

17

2018

34

1.6

6.08

9.73

17

2019 (Option)

35

1.1

6.38

7.02

15

Total

13/14.1

70.45/77.47

85/100

I based my WAR predictions on his Steamer forecast for 2014. They have Brian McCann putting up an fWAR of 3.6. From there I decreased it by 0.5 each season. I think his Steamer forecast looks right on and I think as he ages he will decline similar to a 0.5 per season decline. However, one could feel differently. If you think he will be a full-time DH by year three or four and want to decrease his WAR because of that (losing the positional value) then go ahead.

If McCann stays for five years then according to the value I have him accumulating he will reach 83% of his salary. If his option vests he will reach 77% of his salary in value produced.

So while it IS an overpay, I like that the deal in the short run when his production and value will be in line with his salary. Although the Yankees still have a lot of work to do to contend in 2014 and the near future, it’s better for their bottom line to try and stay a contender than tank for a few years. While they need better player development and to produce some in-house stars, a better strategy for their business is to refuel and reload. They can do that with this contract. In three years Gary Sanchez may be ready to take over full-time catching duties. McCann can catch part-time and DH for two years and focus on his offense.

On the flip side, could this money be better spent elsewhere to improve this team? To be honest, I’m not sure. Chris Stewart is slated to be the starter for 2014 while Francisco Cervelli is suspended for 50 games. McCann is a three win upgrade over Stewart and will be paid like it. After that, the Yankees can ease in their catching prospects while McCann gets the majority of starts and gets some time at 1b and/or DH to keep his bat in the lineup.

One downside is losing a draft pick. But the Yankees are probably figuring to they will gain some if they lose Curtis Granderson and Hiroki Kuroda. Although with a reinvigorated focus on growing farm one wonders if this McCann contract is worth losing a first round pick- a pick which could always be franchise changing.

As for the rest of the Yankees off-season I would like them to re-sign Robinson Cano (but not to anything above $250mil), sign Tanaka if he is posted, sign re-sign Kuroda (depending on years and/or price), and sign Omar Infante to play third base.

Angels and Cardinals trade Bourjos, Freese

November 22, 2013

Today the Los Angeles Angels traded outfielder Peter Bourjos to the St. Louis Cardinals for past World Series MVP David Freese.  Through the deal the Angels are able to fill their hole at third base while the Cardinals pick up some outfield depth with the expected loss of Carlos Beltran.

When you look at why both teams made the deal I think it’s a fine trade for each team. I believe Peter Bourjos has more value but it’s still fine trade for LA. They needed a third baseman and Peter Bourjos was just a fourth outfielder in LA. St. Louis had depth in the infield so Freese was expendable while they pick up some needed outfield depth.

Peter Bourjos is a 27 year old outfielder with great defensive skills who has proven to a valuable player in the Brett Gardner mold when given a chance. In his only full season, 2011, he posted a 4.2 fWAR. He has posted less than 600 PA in each of his other three seasons combined. He has accumulated an impressive amount of fWAR over that time. Granted, WAR is just a framework and not an be-all end-all type of metric- but it is useful. In fact, his career WAR/650PA is 5.15. Now, that’s over four seasons with three of them as a backup outfielder so his rate WAR is inflated a little bit. But it still shows he is a good player and can be a valuable member of any team as a starting outfielder. With the trade St. Louis can shift Matt Carpenter to third, put Kolten Wong at second, and have an outfield of Bourjos, Craig, and Jay/Taveras.

As for LA, they needed a third baseman. Freese isn’t as valuable as Bourjos in general, but for the Angels he might be. LA already have Josh Hamilton and Mike Trout in the outfield, with a couple other youngsters in the mix. However, their third baseman was Chris Nelson. Freese, according to Steamer projections, expects to a be two win upgrade over Nelson. Moreover, while Steamer projects Bourjos to be worth over two wins, that’s with nearly 500 PA. If LA was only going to give him only 200 PA again, then Freese would project to be more valuable in LA than Bourjos.

Freese is entering is age 31 season and has more two years arbitration years. Bourjos will be 27 and has three more arbitration years. So again, I do think Bourjos is more valuable in a neutral context. In the perspective of each team though, the trade makes sense.

Tigers, Rangers Swap Fielder, Kinsler

November 21, 2013

In shocking news (to me) that came out of left field (to me) the Detroit Tigers have traded Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers for Ian Kinsler. Wow.

This happened so fast that my head is still spinning as I try to make sense of it and evaluate the trade. All we know right know is that it is a straight-up trade with the possibility of some money being exchanged. For now I will analyze it as a straight-up trade and can edit in some opinion if more information is revealed.

After the 2011 season the Tigers signed Prince Fielder to a 9/$214mil contract. This is not only the highest contract on the Tigers, but one of the highest in baseball history. From 2011-2013 he put up fWAR’s of 4.9, 4.8, and 2.2. His wRC+ over that span is 160, 153, 125 and his defense has been rather poor, as one would imagine.

After the 2012 season Ian Kinsler signed an extension with the Rangers to the tune of 5/$75mil with a $10mil club option in 2018. From 2011-2013 his fWAR was 7.3, 3.0, 2.5. His wRC+ has ranged from 123 to 100 to 105 while playing above average defense.

In this trade the Rangers will be trading four years and $62mil of Kinsler for seven years and $168mil of Fielder.

Taken on face value this seems like an unfair trade. The Tigers will be reducing payroll while getting a good second baseman. Moreover, they will be on the hook for less years in a long term contract. However, we know the analysis doesn’t end right there.

Why did the Tigers make this trade? Prince Fielder was a star athlete and hit in the heart of the lineup. He made the All-Star team both seasons in Detroit and was the best hitter on the team, outside Miguel Cabrera, both seasons. Moreover, he has led baseball in games played the past few seasons. However, he is a big, power hitting first baseman who will be thirty in 2014 and be paid $24mil a season through 2020, his age 36 season. His B-R similar players list is scattered with players who saw a steep decline in production after age thirty.

Here are two graphs from a FanGraphs article written by Eno Sarris.

What these graphs are trying to say is that hitters decline around age thirty. The graphs show BB%, K%, GB%, and ISO- all components of a power hitter like Prince Fielder. From 2009-2012 Fielder had an OBP above .400 and BB% in the 15% range. However, it has dipped the past two seasons to 10.5%. His K% went from about 12% in 2012 to 16% in 2013 (although his career average is about 17%). His GB% has actually lowered the past two seasons, but his ISO has shown the expected dip that the above graph expects.

By most estimates we should expect a less dangerous Prince Fielder going forward. He won’t be bad, but between poor defense and declining offensive skills, $24mil for Prince Fielder is a steep price to pay for Detroit, Texas, or any team.

At the same time, Ian Kinsler is going through a similar decline phase. He will be 32 in 2014. His offense and defense have taken a hit from his peak season in 2011. However, Kinsler’s decline won’t be as bad as Fielder’s. First off, the Tigers won’t be on the hook for as many years and as much money as the Rangers will be with Fielder. Moreover, Kinsler holds a lot more positional value at second base. Going further, while he has probably peaked defensively, Kinsler is still an above average fielder. And while we won’t see anymore .364 wOBA seasons out of him, he has a good BB% and superb K% rate and GB% still. While we should expect all those to decline, he will still be an average offensive contributor for the remaining years on his contract. So at an average of about $15mil over the next four seasons, we can expect Kinsler to match those expectations more so than Fielder and his $24mil AAV contract.

So, after that roundabout analysis, let’s get back to the question- why did the Tigers make this trade after giving Fielder a nine year contract just two seasons ago? Well, Fielder is entering the decline phase of his career, but still was owed $168mil over seven seasons. All that for a future DH. Meanwhile, Kinsler would be on the Detroit payroll for three less years and for over $100mil less in payroll money.

When it comes to the ball field it makes sense as well. Without Omar Infante the Tigers needed a second baseman. Kinsler not only gives the Tigers a second baseman, but it gives them a quality second baseman. To fill the hole at first, the Tigers can move Miguel Cabrera there (a defensive liability at third) and then fill third base with top prospect Nick Castellanos. The $100mil in savings can go towards re-signing players such as Max Scherzer and Miguel Cabrera. And the end of the day the Tigers really shouldn’t project to lose any projected wins for the 2014 season.

As for the Rangers, I think the trade still makes sense despite what I said about Prince Fielder before. In 2013 the Rangers got a combined 0.4 fWAR from first base. Prince Fielder is an immediate upgrade, albeit at the cost of $24mil. The trade also opens up a position for top prospect, Jurickson Profar. Instead of paying $16mil for Kinsler in 2014 they can play Profar for the league minimum and get similar on-field production and/or value. In a sense, the Rangers are paying just an extra $8mil over the next couple seasons to upgrade at first base and allow Jurickson Profar to start full time at the league minimum.

My only qualm is the long term impact this deal will have for Texas. Fielder’s contract will be a heel in a few seasons and by that time Profar will no longer be a league minimum player. However, Texas is built to win now and after being so close to winning a title the past few seasons, Texas realizes their window is closing and wants to capitalize.

Essentially, I think this a win-win trade for two AL pennant contenders. While I like the deal more for Detroit, I can see where Texas is coming from in making this deal. Although I do think Fielder will continue to decline, playing in Arlington opposed to Comerica will surely slow that decline.

EDIT: Detroit is sending $30mil to Texas, so Texas is effectively paying $138mil over years for Fielder. That is much better value for Fielder, but it will still be a tough contract on the payroll come 2016 or 2017 and beyond. However, it makes the deal that much better for Texas in the short run, the trade still makes a lot of sense for Detroit.

Phillies Spend Over $40mil in First Week of Free Agency

November 20, 2013

Last week the Philadelphia Phillies were the first team to dip into the free agent market, signing Marlon Byrd to a 2/$16mil contract. Now the Phillies have re-signed catcher Carlos Ruiz to a 3/$26mil deal. That’s 5 years and $42mil to players aged 36 and 34 respectively.

Now, each player on a AAV basis is not getting a lot of money. Byrd is getting $8mil a year and Ruiz is getting slightly more than that. The problem is that an old, mediocre team is giving money and multi-year contracts to old, mediocre players. Steamer projects Marlon Byrd to produce 0.6 fWAR in 2014 and a more respectable but optimistic 3.1 fWAR for Carlos Ruiz. Even worse, in 2015 they will be on the hook for over $16mil between these two and over $8mil in 2016 for a 37 year old catcher.

The real problem I have with these moves is when you frame it this way: the Phillies are shelling out $42mil for two players in their late thirties who are not going to bring a lot of value to the franchise. In 2013 the Phillies payroll was nearly $160mil. So these two players would make up a whopping 25% of that payroll. As of now the Phillies have $104mil in payroll commitments. Add in the $16mil for 2014 they now have to pay for Byrd and Ruiz and those two players currently make up about 33% of the Phillies current payroll. That is not good.

The $42mil should be spent a lot smarter. Use it to keep players through arbitration. Use it to buy younger, cheaper players that may be available. Reinvest in the farm system which has struggled for the Phillies. Do anything but spend it on mediocre players with no value for a projected 2014 Phillies roster.

MLB, NPL Reach Posting Sytem Stalemate

November 15, 2013

In sad news on MVP Day, MLB and the Nippon League have broke off negotiations for a new posting system of Japanese players. This means Japanese players will have to wait nine years until they are able to join MLB as a free agent. It also means Tanaka probably won’t get to a grace a MLB mound in 2014 (or wear pinstripes which makes me sad).

MLB wanted to fix the system because teams complained that bid prices were escalating out of control. The solution was to make it so that the winner of the bid would only pay on average of the top two bids put in. So if Team 1 bid $50mil and Team 2 bid $40mil, Team 1 would pay $45mil.

That is a poor solution, in my opinion. If the point to drive down high bids, this will do the opposite. If a team knows they will pay less than their winning bid for player, then they will bid even more, and end up paying more in the end. Think about it. Let’s say your team thought $50mil was a worthwhile price for a bid. If you win the bidding, you will pay less than you bid. So to be safe teams will then pay more than the $50mil they thought a bid was worth. So in the end, bids will just continue to escalate.

All we can do is hope NPL owners and MLB can hash an agreement before 2014.