Posted tagged ‘Detroit Tigers’

Tigers Trade Doug Fister to Nationals

December 3, 2013

This evening the Detroit Tigers traded starter Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals for Steve Lombardozzi, Robbie Ray, and Ian Krol. The Tigers continue their busy off-season but I’m not so sure I’m a fan of this deal.

Doug Fister is a very sold #2-#3 pitcher. From 2010 through 2013 he has posted fWAR’s of 2.6, 5.2, 3.5, and 4.6. He has consistently posted a mid 3’s FIP and has excellent control. While he may not strike a lot of batters out, he has a great walk rate and ground ball rate, so he doesn’t give up many home runs. The result of walking few batters and allowing few long balls means he’s effective at not giving up runs. He will be turning 30 in 2014 and is cost-controlled through the 2015 season.

Steam projects Fister to have a 3.3 fWAR in 2014. At $5mil a win, that’s $16.5mil in value. If he is a 3 WAR pitcher in 2015 at $5.25mil a win, that’s $15.75mil in value for a two year total of $32.25mil. Fister made $4mil in 2013 after his season arbitration eligible season. Using the 40/60/80 rule we can expect Fister to make $9.9mil in 2014 and $12.6mil in 2015. However, I don’t think that’s realistic. One reason being that his salary increase from 2013 to 2014 would be over a 100% increase. I think we can more reasonably look at a $6.5mil contract for 2014 and a $9-$11mil contract in 2015. As a result, his net value for 2014-2015 is an estimated $16mil.

Steve Lombardozzi will be cost-controlled for the next four years. He is a second baseman but can be used in the utility role for Detroit between second, short, third, and the corner outfield. While he has a great minor league track record, he has struggled mightily in his first two seasons at Washington. His above average BB rate in the minors has fallen to 3.7% through 700+ PA leading to a career wOBA of .281. Ouch. Now, he may still have potential yet because he is young and has a minor league track record. But starting in 2015 he will have to be paid a few million dollars to produce at replacement level production.

The Tigers will also be getting relievers Ian Krol and Robbie Ray. Now, Ray still is a starting pitcher. But through three minor league seasons he has struggled with walks and home runs, which points to a career as a future reliever if he can’t fix his problems. Ian Krol is a former starter himself before the Nationals converted him to a reliever. He is a lefty which is valuable out of the pen and had a decent rookie season. The Tigers have been trying to fix their pen for a couple seasons now so one can see where they are coming from in this trade.

I just don’t think you trade a great starting pitcher for your utility guy and a couple relievers. The Tigers don’t have any ready replacement for Fister in the rotation and his production at the ML level over the next two seasons will be greater than anyone they are getting back in the trade. As a team that is looking to win it all NOW I don’t see how the team helps them NOW.

As for Washington, they get a solid starter for their backup second baseman and utility player and some relievers. I like it from their perspective. They have a good rotation as it is and the addition of Fister will help separate them in a relatively weak division (outside of Atlanta). I don’t think the package Washington is giving up is worth the $16mil of value they will be getting from Fister.


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.

Robinson Cano’s Fair Market Value

November 10, 2013

Four players in MLB history have signed contracts in excess of $200mil. In 2001 and 2008, Alex Rodriguez signed two $200mil+ contracts, becoming the first player to sign a contract worth $200mil or more. 2011 saw two players top the $200mil mark with the Angels signing of Albert Pujols and Tigers signing of Prince Fielder. This past year saw Joey Votto signed an extension that will pay him north of $200mil. The fifth player to join this club will be Robinson Cano.

During the past season the Yankees offered Robinson Cano an extension worth $165mil over seven years. Cano rejected the offer and his agency instead told the team that Cano could be signed for roughly $300mil over ten years. Such a contract would make Cano the highest paid player in sports- by far.

So the question being asked by everyone is: what is Robinson Cano worth? $300mil, $165mil, or somewhere in between? Well, let’s answer that question. First, I will look at his past few seasons as well as his projections for 2014. Then I will project that going forward over the life of a hypothetical contract. After coming up with an estimated figure, I will compare him to similar players and assess other factors that come into play.

Robinson Cano has established himself as the best Yankee on a team that features Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and CC Sabathia. In doing so he earned five All-Star selections, five Silver Slugger Awards, two Gold Gloves, a World Series Championship, a World Baseball Classic Championship, and a World Baseball Classic MVP Award. According to FanGraphs, Cano has been worth $162.7mil throughout his career while earning about $56mil, for a value of $106.7mil. So after years outperforming his contract, Robinson wants to finally cash in- and then some.

A lot of times people make the mistake of thinking a player should get paid based of their career. While it’s true a contract is based on how a player has performed, forecasting the future is equally important. So basing a contract off his whole career can have problems- Robinson Cano is a much different player than he was a rookie back in 2005.  However, there is merit in looking at recent history. Here are his numbers from 2010-2013 (Total/Season Average):

Games: 640/160

Hits: 774/193.5

Home runs: 117/29.25

BA: .312

OBP: .373

SLG: .533

wOBA: .386

wRC+: 142

UZR: 8.9/2.225

DRS: 38/9.5

fWAR: 25.4

fWAR/650PA: 6.03

So over the past four years Robinson Cano has been an MVP level player. His offensive numbers are all excellent, his defense is above average, and his WAR value represents that. From 2010-2013 Cano is second to Miguel Cabrera in WAR as well as hits- by one single hit. Moreover, he is second in games played to Prince Fielder. So Cano is an all-around player who can be relied upon to take the field every single game. That is an aspect of player that is often overlooked and something which will help Cano’s free agency case.

Based on the average of his past four seasons Robinson Cano figures to be about a 5.5-6.5 WAR player in 2014. Both CAIRO and Steamer project Robinson to have a 5.6 WAR in 2014. So what does a $/WAR cost? Of late there has been some debate. FanGraphs likes to forecast this value whereas Lewie Pollis has recommended looking at it retrospectively. FanGraphs has $/WAR around $5mil whereas Lewie Pollis has it at $7mil. Personally, I like the way FanGraphs does it, so I will start my analysis with a $/WAR of $5mil and will adjust for inflation each season at 5%. I will also decrease his projected WAR by 0.5 each season.






Average Salary

































































On face value it appears that over the next ten years the estimated worth of Robinson Cano is about $200mil or $20mil per season. That is a far cry from the $300mil his agency is asking for. Moreover, if you stop at year seven you get a 7/$162.95mil contract. As mentioned earlier, the Yankees offered Cano $165mil for seven years of service. It looks like the Yankees were a lot closer to Cano’s estimated value than CAA.

Now, this is a general fair market value assessment. But each team is not created equal. Robinson Cano will be worth more to a team in the playoff hunt than a bottom of the barrel team. So realistically, we can rule out any non-contenders from signing Cano. If they did want to sign him it would be in their best interests to offer him less money because he isn’t worth as much to them. And doing so would take them out of the market.

One way we can see if a team would have interest in Robinson Cano is by looking at Win Curves, which is explained below by Vince Gennaro:

In order to sort out these effects for each team, we can turn to the regression analyses to estimate the win-curve for each team (discussed in more detail in an earlier chapter). By analyzing historical data that captures fan behavior, we can ultimately assign an estimate of a dollar value for each win. More specifically, the model estimates the change in a team’s revenues at various levels of team regular season wins. For example, the Houston Astros are expected to generate $1.2 million more revenue as an 81-win team versus an 80-win team. That’s equivalent to saying the value of the Houston Astros’ 81st win is $1.2 million. At the extremes, the Pittsburgh Pirates 71st win generates about $300,000 in incremental revenue, versus the $4.2 million that accrues to the Yankees for their 90th win.

Figure 3  $ Value of five wins

TEAM     78-83    86-91

CHC      4.8      15.9

NYM      7.1      18.0

LAD      3.8      15.1

BOS      5.8      13.3

LAA      5.2      11.8

CLE      5.0      12.5

TOR      4.3      12.5

CWS      5.2      14.9

SF       6.2      15.2

ATL      6.1      9.6


OAK      3.0      7.7

STL      5.1      13.9

PHI      4.5      14.5

HOU      5.9      12.5

SEA      5.8      16.1

MIL      3.8      8.5

TEX      2.7      11.4

MIN      3.0      6.8

DET      3.4      10.4

AVERAGE: 4.2      11.7


SD       3.3      10.8

ARI      3.6      11.3

BAL      3.1      12.3

NYY      5.6      18.4

CIN      2.6      7.5

PIT      2.3      7.3

TB       3.9      9.1

FLA      3.5      9.0

KC       3.6      7.4

The teams that most likely will be in the Robinson Cano sweepstakes are the Yankees, Orioles, and Tigers. Teams that could be in that I ruled out include the Blue Jays, Royals, Nationals, Cubs, Dodgers, and Giants. Although the Blue Jays could use a second baseman, I don’t see Cano being in their plans. While they have money, the team has finished below .500 the past two seasons. Despite a roster that might compete on paper, I think the team is too well-run to throw nine figures at Cano for a long term contract to get them over the hump. The Royals are an emerging contender but do not have the financial capability to spend on Cano. The Nationals are a playoff contender with money. But they recently filled second base with top prospect Anthony Rendon. Moreover, it appears that Washington would want to save their pocketbook for Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg while still dealing with Jayson Werth’s contract. The Cubs could upgrade at second base but are too far away from competing and any upgrade Cano brings will be minimal. He may make the team a .500 team which will bring in less revenue for the club then going from good to great. The Giants are a team that could compete in the NL West, but already have Marco Scutaro at second base. Could they throw him aside for Cano? Sure, but I don’t think that will happen. Finally, the Dodgers were seemingly the favorites to land Cano all season, but signed a Cuban second baseman earlier in the off-season.

So that leaves us with the Yankees, Tigers, and Orioles. Although there are no 2014 forecasts available (that I could find) each of these teams figures to have a shot at the playoffs, in staggered odds. The Tigers should project around 90 wins, the Orioles should project around 85 wins, and the Yankees should project at 80-81 wins. So each team is in the most influential part of the win curve for revenue, but at different stages.

Let’s start with the Yankees. Although it’s a bit optimistic, the Yankees probably will forecast to an 80-81 win team. For them, according to Gennaro’s win curve, that is worth an additional $5mil in revenue. Granted this is seven years later and the Yankees play in a new stadium, are valued more, and their YES Network has gone up in value as well. But either way, moving from 80 wins to 85 or 86 wins won’t have much of an impact on their revenue.  This is because Yankee fans expect a winner every season and being above average won’t cut it. With expensive ticket prices and merchandise, fans are more hesitant to spend money on the Bombers when they are not dominant. This past season is great evidence, as the Yankees won “only” 85 games and a decrease in both attendance and TV ratings. Moreover, with two Wild Card spots, teams should focus on getting to 88-90 to qualify for a spot. With Cano estimated to have a 5.6 WAR in 2014, he alone will not get them to the part of the win curve that will a large uptick in revenue.

However, if the Yankees are able acquire a pitcher such as Tanaka from Japan and get positive contributions from Michael Pineda, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and sign another impact player, the team could then forecast as a 90 win team with Cano. The difference between 85 and 90 wins for the Yankees will be at least $20mil in additional revenues. So depending on certain circumstances, Cano can be worth anywhere from $5-$20mil in additional value for the Bronx Bombers. This means a 10/$220mil contract or 7/$184mil if the team doesn’t want to go as long on years.

After the Yankees I believe the Tigers should be considered the favorites for Robinson Cano. The Tigers have been a 90+ win team for the past couple seasons and 2014 should be no different. They are returning the key pieces of their starting rotation (Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez) as well as their starting lineup minus a second baseman. Enter Cano. By adding Cano the Tigers can jump from a 90 win team to a 95 win team that should be among the favorites to win the World Series. For the Tigers this jump in wins should bring in an additional $10-$15mil in revenue. Going further, revenue goes up with a World Series win and Cano would increase their World Series odds. So the Tigers could be in a similar situation to the Yankees, where Cano could bring in, at least, an additional $15 or $20mil in value.

Finally, we arrive at the Baltimore Orioles, who I consider a long shot for the All-Star second baseman. Baltimore is a city that reacts well to winning. In 2007, going from 78-83 wins would have only generated an extra $3.1mil of revenue but going from 85-91 wins would have generated $12mil in additional revenue. Again, the amount of revenue generated would be greater than it was in 2007, but the value would be around $12mil. So the Orioles should want to tack on an extra $12-$15mil for a Cano contract offer.

So far I have been looking at Robinson Cano’s performance value and its impact on a potential bidders win curve. There are two other factors to take into account- risk factor and marquee value. Risk factor has two components according to Vince Gennaro, quality and quantity. Quality is a player’s performance (WAR/650 PA) while quantity is games played. Robinson Cano would be a low risk player because his performance quality does not vary according to his playing time quantity. He consistently plays 160 or more games a year. A low risk player has his value adjusted up 10%. Although it’s tough to project how he will age, I will still apply this 10% to the life of his contract. So we have $198.09mil x 10% equals $217,899,000 for a ten year contract. If a team can sign him for seven years, that would be $179,245,000.

Along with risk factor, Cano’s value can go up or down based on his marquee value. Vince Gennaro writes that marquee value has four factors: personal qualities, performance factor, continuity factor, and team brand value. Robinson Cano meets three of the aspects of personal qualities as he has a positive image; he is recognizable being in the top twenty for jersey sales and a strong presence in the Latin community; he is relatively accessible; however, being a native Spanish speaker, his articulate quality takes a dent. The team brand value is 2.5 x the baseline revenue.

Looking at the Yankees, this means that the brand value is $1.425bil (2.5 x $570mil revenue). Taking the above factors into consideration as well, Cano has a marquee value in New York of $5,343,750. This will be different for Detroit and Baltimore because of different revenues and a lack of continuity factor. In Detroit Cano has a marquee value of 1,837,500. In Baltimore Cano has a marquee value of $1,575,000. My revenue figures are from Bloomberg Sports franchise valuations.

So to backtrack: Robinson Cano, over ten years, has a fair market value of $198.09mil. In New York, his value would shoot up to $243,242,750mil. This is from a risk factor of +10%, $20mil in performance value based on the win curve, and $5.34375mil in marquee value. For the Yankees, a fair contract for Cano is 10/$243,242,750mil (~$24.32mil per). Over seven years a fair contract is $204,588,750 (~$29.23mil per).

In Detroit, a fair ten year contract offer is 10/$239,736,500 ($23.97mil per). In Baltimore a ten year contract offer should be 10/$231,147,000.

If Robinson Cano wants to take the money and run, then staying in the Bronx looks to be his best option. Detroit can offer a near identical contract because they are very good with favorable World Series odds. If Cano is the cog that helps them lift the trophy then they will see even more revenue than I accounted for. Despite that, he is still just as valuable if not more valuable to the Yankees. He will keep them a contender in the near future and if the Yankees can re-load over the next couple seasons, then he will still be an impact player when the team is again competing for a shot at the World Series. Moreover, the Yankees have a very unique win curve because of their market and the Yes Network. Keeping the team competitive will net them more revenue than any other team so the Yankees do have incentive, when looking at their bottom line, to spend big to keep Cano in pinstripes. As for the Orioles, they could spend big on Robinson Cano, but to spend as much as Detroit or New York would be a bit of an overpay, especially for a somewhat small market team that might be looking to save some money for a Manny Machado extension.

To recap (Ten year):

Neutral context fair market value: $198.09mil

Yankees Value: ~$243mil

Tigers Value: ~$240mil

Orioles Value: $231mil

Additional Notes:

*According to FanGraphs the average salary of the top five players for the past few seasons has been $24-$25mil. Based on my estimated ten year contract offers, Robinson Cano would be expected to earn about $24mil a year, which falls in line with how the game’s top players have been paid. So Robinson Cano has two options- take the years for a “discounted” per year price, or take a contract with shorter years but get paid more per year because he will be paid greatly for his prime seasons. By asking for 10/$300mil he wants to have a cake and eat it too (although I’m sure it’s a negotiating tactic).

If I was a team, I would prefer the option of paying more per year if it means a shorter contract. Super long contracts are very risky because anything can happen. Either way the team will still be paying a ton of money so I would tack on a few million more if it means my long term commitment is shortened.

**Remember, a lot of the number crunching in this is based off estimations. I started his WAR values at 5.6 in 2014 and decreased it by 0.5 each season. If you want to start him higher or lower that will make a difference. If you want to increase his decline phase by more than 0.5 WAR each season that will make a difference. If you want to adjust for inflation differently that will make a difference. This is how I see it and one can easily see it a different way.

***According to FanGraphs crowd sourcing, fans think Robinson Cano will sign for 8/$196.2mil at $24.5mil per year.

****Robinson Cano has accumulated 37.1 fWAR from 2005-2013. Based off my estimates, he will accumulate another 33.5 fWAR through the 2013 season. That would give him a career total of 70.6. Every second baseman with a WAR over 70 has been selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Most recently, Roberto Alomar was elected with a 63.9 fWAR. If things hold up, Robinson Cano could very well be a Hall of Fame inductee and prime candidate to have his number retired, if he does stay in the Bronx.

*****I would like to analyze his future performance value with comparisons to similar players. At the moment, I do not have the capability to do so. I would compare him to current second baseman as well other past second baseman with similar numbers and body types.

Tigers get Doug Fister, David Pauley

July 30, 2011

In return for the pair of pitchers, Detroit will send Casper Wells, Francisco Martinez, and Charlie Furbush.

Doug Fister is 27, with four more years of team control. Pauley is an okay relief pitcher. For the next 4.2 years of Fister, I figure he’ll produce about 15 WAR. That should be worth about $76.5mil. However, next year he will probably sign a deal worth about 450K and from there should make about $3mil, $4.8mil, and $8.6mil in arbitration. That’s a total of $16.9mil, meaning he alone is a value surplus of $59.6mil. However, my WAR estimates could be way too radical. In his first full season, Fister posted a 2.9 fWAR and he figures to post a 4.0+ fWAR in 2011. Using that, I predicted a 3 WAR in 2012, 3.5 WAR in 2013, 4.0 WAR in 2014, and 3.5 WAR in 2015. That seems legitimate,  but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him post much lower totals. Leaving Safeco will hurt, but he will be going to another pitchers park in Comerica.

Now, neither Martinez, Wells, or Furbush were top ten prospects in the Tigers organization. Fursbush looks like he could be a mediocre arm either as a backend starter or reliever and Wells is an older prospect who can hit, but doesn’t have a high ceiling. Martinez is a young prospect, but one who doesn’t look like he can hit and a like and is just a filler.

I could get into the values of the prospects, but all I know is that it’s not close to Fister’s value. I think this is a steal for Detroit, who really needs a SP and they got him without giving up a big name prospect who they could still use to acquire Ubaldo Jiminez or Hideki Kuroda. Meanwhile, I think the Mariners are big time losers. Wells can hit a little, but he’s not going to set the world on fire. I know Seattle needs prospects and offense, and pitching is strength, but they could have done much better with Fister. I mean, he’s a good, young, cheap pitcher. So even trading him in the first place is iffy, but to get such a bad return is a big question mark to me.

There might be prospects going to Seattle in the deal, but for now, it’s a bad trade for them. Big win for Detroit.

Divisional Preview: AL Central

March 29, 2011

Following a season in which the Minnesota Twins won the division by a comfortable margin the 2011 AL Central should feature a much more competitive race at the top and some exciting young players at the bottom. The Tigers and White Sox spent big in the offseason bringing in power at the DH spot in the form of Adam Dunn and Victor Martinez, but will they be enough to take down the two time defending division champs? As for the remaining teams in the division, fans should be looking past 2011 and into the future. Both the Royals and Indians have young talent at the major league level or on the cusp of making the big club. Without any further discussion here, let’s get to the predictions.

1) Minnesota Twins (91-71)

The two times defending AL Central Champions did not make any big splashes in Free Agency this off season aside from retaining Carl Pavano and Jim Thome, but they brought in Japanese SS, Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Nishioka does not project as a star at the major league level, however he provides the Twins with depth in the middle of the field and some speed at the bottom or top of the lineup. For a more detailed scouting report of Nishioka check out Patrick Newman of Fangraphs here. Pavano provides the Twins with a serviceable #2 pitcher behind Francisco Liriano who trade rumors have been circling around for most of the off-season. Thome is unlikely to see similar results to 2010 when he posted a .437 wOBA, his best since 2002 but as a bat off the bench, part time DH and insurance policy to Justin Morneau, Thome should provide the Twins with excellent value once again.

The Twins winning the division will come down to a few things. First is the health of Justin Morneau. Returning from the highly publicized concussion last summer, Morneau could provide the Twins with a second MVP caliber bat in the middle of lineup to go along with Joe Mauer. If Morneau can stay healthy and even come near his 2010 production the Twins are the one team in the division that has the opportunity to run away from their competitors. Second is the ascension of Francisco Liriano to elite status in the American League. Following a 6.0 WAR season where he never saw his ERA catch up to his peripherals, Liriano could be in the mix at the end of the season for the AL CY Young award. The Final piece to the puzzle is the rest of the rotation and return to health of Joe Nathan. Can Carl Pavano provide another 200+ quality innings, will Brian Duensing provide 160 innings and push 3 WAR, and what about Kyle Gibson who could force his way into the rotation by mid season. The Twins have depth in the rotation, star power in the lineup and the knack for out producing expectations every year and as a result my pick to win a third straight division crown.

Players to watch: Justin Morneau, Tsuyoshi Nishioka

2) Chicago White Sox (88-74)

The always entertaining Chicago White Sox spent big dollars this offseason to add DH Adam Dunn from the Washington Nationals and to retain all-star 1B Paul Konerko. The $56 million spent on Dunn should improve what was a middle of the pack offensive club in 2010. Dunn has posted 38 or more home runs in all of the last seven seasons and never has he had a wOBA below .365 in that time. To go along with Dunn the White Sox have Konerko coming off a career year. Unlikely to repost 39 home runs or a .415 wOBA the White Sox would be pleased with anything close to career norms of .273/.356/.498 from Konerko this season. The biggest question mark in the 2011 White Sox lineup will be at 2B. Which Gordon Beckham should the Sox expect? The one who posted below replacement level numbers in the first 3 months of 2010 or the one who posted wOBA’s of .410 and .388 during the summer months. The answer of course is somewhere in the middle, Beckham has all-star potential at 2B, but likely not in 2011.

The 2011 White Sox season will come down to the rotation though. With a bullpen anchored by Matt Thornton and Chris Sale giving up leads late in games won’t be the teams issue, and scoring runs as discussed won’t be the problem. However with Jake Peavy not ready for opening day and reports from his doctor that 60 pitches might be his maximum at this point the top of the rotation has a really big red flag. Throw in the always inconsistent Edwin Jackson and White Sox fans could be on the edge of their seat all season trying to get through the first six innings. One thing we do know, Mark Buehrle is going to pitch 210 innings have an ERA around 4.00 and give the White Sox 3.5-4.0 WAR. If Gavin Floyd and John Danks could provide similar numbers the White Sox could challenge the Minnesota Twins in 2011, but as of opening day I do not see that happening.

Players to watch: Gordon Beckham, Chris Sale

3) Detroit Tigers (84-78)

Like their AL Central counterpart the Tigers spent big money on a DH this offseason, giving a 4 yr $50 million dollar contract to former Red Sox and Indian Victor Martinez. Although Martinez may see some time at catcher his primary duty will be as protection for AL MVP favorite Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera for all his off the field issues including a much publicized arrest early in Spring Training for DWI is still considered the American League’s best hitter. For the Tigers to be competitive the middle of the lineup Cabrera, Martinez and Maglio Ordonez will have to be excellent. With those three and young CF Austin Jackson at the top of the lineup the Tigers could score in north of 780 runs this season and push for the AL Central title but it seems unlikely at this point with two better teams ahead of them.

There are some very bright spots for the Tigers in the rotation however. Anchored by my pick for AL Cy Young this season, Justin Verlander and up and coming star Max Scherzer the Tigers sport what is the best 1-2 in the AL Central for 2011. Couple these two with Rick Porcello who has shown signs of being a competent to good #3 starter in age 20 and 21 seasons and Detroit Tiger fans have a lot to look forward to in the rotation over the next few years. However the #4 and #5 spots in the Detroit rotation are major question marks. Phil Coke makes the move from the bullpen to the rotation. In his two full years in the bullpen with the Yankees and Tigers, Coke has posted xFIPs of 4.13 and 4.40 of course in limited work where his left handedness could be used to exploit platoon splits. Coke was a starter early in his minor league career and if he can provide the Tigers with anything close to his bullpen numbers in the rotation and 150-160 IP they would be overjoyed. The final spot in the rotation will belong to Brad Penny who has either not been very good or hurt the last few seasons. If Penny has found a time machine and can give the Tigers anything close to what he was pre 2008 then the Tigers may end up with a fairly deep and stable rotation. Too many question marks surround this pitching staff and bullpen and several positions on the field to be overly bullish on the Tigers projections, thus the third place finish.

Players to watch: Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello

4) Cleveland Indians (66-96)

Cleveland barely edges out Kansas City for 4th place in the 2011 AL Central because their current roster construction is just a bit better than the Royals. Indians fans do not have a whole lot to look forward to in 2011 and without a lot if any top end of the rotation starters in the high-minors it may be a few years before the Indians are contenders again. All is not lost in Cleveland though. The Indians have a legitimate star in RF in Shin-Soo Choo who has posted back to back 5.0+ WAR seasons and will likely be the team’s representative on the all-star team. Along with Choo in the OF is Grady Sizemore the once budding super-star is attempting a comeback from major knee surgery and expectations should be kept at a minimum until he shows he is healthy. However the biggest reason to watch an Indians game this season is the young catcher Carlos Santana. Buster Posey got all the hype last season and deservedly so, but the Indians had themselves an offensive machine behind the plate for the 46 games he played before a gruesome knee injury ended Santana’s season. Posting 2 WAR, and a .382 wOBA in only 192 PA, the Indians could be looking at the anchor to their next round of rebuilding. Aside from that the Indians don’t look to have much else, the rotation is lead by Fausto Carmona who teases fans with flashes of brilliance and Justin Masterson whom posted a 3.87 xFIP over 180.0 IP proving some of the doubters wrong in 2010.

Players to watch: Grady Sizemore, Matt Laporta, Carlos Santana

5) Kansas City Royals (62-100)

In an offseason where they traded away their best player in Zack Grienke, and had Gil Meche return over $10 million dollars when he decided to retire, gutting an already weak rotation there is reason to be excited for the first time in years. With a deep farm system (for more information click here and here) the Royals will at some point add to their roster this year at least one if not a handful of high end prospects including Mike Montgomery, John Lamb, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer. However with a current roster that includes a rotation of Luke Hochaver, Jeff Francis, Kyle Davies, Bruce Chen and Vin Mazzaro it is very hard to envision the Royals not losing 100 games in 2011 and if they did not call any of those prospects up this year anywhere from 105-110 losses could be on the table. All is not lost on the current major league roster though. Joakim Soria will continue his dominance in the bullpen, Billy Butler will continue to be a very good hitter, Kila Ka’aihue should hit enough this year before being displaced by Hosmer at some point to build up some trade value during the off season and the Royals can hope that Alex Gordon becomes even a fraction of what they once thought he would be.

Players to watch: Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, Any of the Mid-season call ups

Orioles trade for Mark Reynolds

December 6, 2010

In return, the Orioles are sending relievers David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

This is just a ho-hum trade. Mark Reynolds will not be a difference maker in Baltimore. Reynolds will make $5mil this season and $7.5mil next season. If Reynolds can be a 2 WAR player over that time, he will bring value to Baltimore above his contract and be a solid everyday player. But he is not a difference maker or a young kid, so he is just a short term solution until the team is better positioned to make a run at the playoffs in 2013 and beyond.

In return, they gave up two relievers. So they didn’t go overboard giving up prospects or talent for an okay player like Reynolds. On the other hand, the D-Backs are continuing to solidify their bullpen, which was historically bad for much of last season. Neither trade should have a big impact on either team, but for each side the trades make sense for where they are in their development and what goals they want to accomplish.

What I do want to comment on is Adrian Beltre and how he has gotten screwed within the past 24 hours. From the rumors I’ve heard, his three biggest suitors were Boston, Oakland, and Baltimore. Boston no longer has a need for a third baseman. The same goes with Baltimore. Oakland withdrew their offer since Beltre has ignored them since he wanted a bigger deal. Other teams that might be interested are Detroit and the Los Angeles Angels, but those teams also want Carl Crawford and want him more. Moreover, Beltre no longer has leverage. At this point, his price has dropped and he will have to take what he can get. It’s been a rough day for him to say the least.

Victor Martinez and Aubrey Huff sign

November 24, 2010

Victor Martinez agreed to a 4/$50mil deal with the Detroit Tigers while Aubrey Huff signed a 2/$22mil deal (that includes an option) with the San Francisco Giants.

Here is what I said regarding Victor Martinez:

Quote: So I think it’s fair to project him as a 4.5 WAR player in 2011 with a decrease of 0.5 WAR moving forward each season. Without adjusting for inflation and using an estimated market rate of $4.4mil per win, over a four year deal he would be worth about $66mil.

Yikes, I thought he’d get away more than $50mil. If I were to project him again, I would start him at 4.0 WAR, not 4.5. The reason being he may just be a DH who catches once in a while, which really zaps his value. Either way, if I start him at 4 WAR and start at $4.5mil per year and go up from there, I still get around 4/$66mil for him. So the Tigers got a steal. But it might be wasted money either way. The Tigers are more a .500 team than a contender, and Martinez probably won’t be catching in four years. This money could have been better spent.

Moreover, if Martinez mainly DH’s over the length of his deal, I would start his WAR estimates at 3.0 in 2011. If that is the case, over four years he’d be worth 4/$44.5mil. So yeah. It’s a relatively fair price for Martinez, but in Detroit’s case I do not think it’s money well spent.

As for Huff, I said:

Quote: At the end of the day, I expect Huff to sign a two year deal worth around $10-$13mil a year with inflated salaries in the current market thus far.

Well, he signed for $11mil per year. That’s fair value and makes sense for San Francisco.


Valuing the 2011 free agent class: Carl Crawford

November 14, 2010

Alongside Cliff Lee and Jayson Werth, Carl Crawford is the biggest name on the free agent market. So far he has been linked to the Los Angeles Angels, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, and Detroit Tigers.

2010 was Crawford’s best season as a professional, as he posted a line of .307/.356/.495/.378/141 and 6.9 WAR over 663 PA. His OBP, SLG, wOBA, wRC+, and WAR were all career highs, and he was phenomenal with the glove once again.With a season like that, it’s quite obvious why a lot of teams are licking at the bit to sign him.

However, he will turn 30 during the 2011 season and is a speed and defense type player. If any of those attributes goes, his overall value will take a hit. Defense tends to decline as players age, so that is the risk of paying Crawford eight figures in his mid-thirties. But if he stays athletic, Crawford could be a good player for a long time.

Although his offense will surely regress from 2010 and we may never see him hit that well again, his defense should continue to be superb. Yes, defense tends to decline as a player ages, but there are exceptions. Crawford is freakish athlete who has long been considered the best defensive outfielder alongside Ichiro by fans and defensive numbers. Speaking of Ichiro- another freakish athlete-he is someone who has not seen a dip in his defensive performance. While more fielders go the way of Tori Hunter than Ichiro, I believe Crawford keeps himself in the type of shape that will allow him to continue to be a premium defender well into his thirties.

With that said, I think Crawford will be a serviceable player going forward. I think he will only be a mediocre hitter by the time his deal is up, but his defense will make him valuable. In 2011 I think he’ll be worth about 5.5 WAR with a win being worth $4.5mil. So lets make a table to see how his value will stack up down the road.

Inflation, inflation, inflation. A 3 WAR being worth $21mil in the 2016 market? We’ll see about that, but in this type of analysis you’re supposed to increase the $ per WAR by 0.5 each year.

So yeah, Carl Crawford could be worth a 6/142mil deal or 5/121mil deal. In reality I don’t think he actually get paid that much, but he will definitely receive a nine figure contract for five or six years. And yes, I do think it’s realistic he averages about 4-5 WAR from 30-35.

I think he signs in Los Angeles. The Angels REALLY want him. Although I could see him Boston. However, I think Boston would be more inclined to sign Werth than Crawford. But that’s just a hunch.


Get out and vote: Roberto Clemente Award

September 8, 2010

Public voting for the Roberto Clemente is now open via

While this isn’t is the most recognized award, it is my favorite. Roberto Clemente is my favorite athlete, and person, that I have had the pleasure to read, hear, and learn about. Not only was he a fantastic baseball player, but he was an active humanitarian as well.

So I just want to get the word out about the award so a deserving candidate can be honored by the legacy of the great Roberto Clemente. The award is given to the player who, “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team”.

Personally, I voted for Curtis Granderson. I read about his charities while he played in Detroit, and he has continued to be a fantastic role model for kids in New York.

Los Angeles Angels trade for Dan Haren

July 25, 2010

In what will be the biggest news of the day (and possibly the week) the Los Angeles Angels have traded for Dan Haren. The Angels seemingly jumped in out of nowhere to get this deal done when the favorites were the Yankees, Tigers, and Phillies. So they must have put together some amazing package considering they wanted Joba Chamberlain from New York and Andrew Oliver from Detroit, right? Wrong.

In return for the annual Cy Young candidate, the Arizona Diamondbacks will be receiving Joe Saunders, prospects Rafael Rodriguez and Patrick Corbin, as well as a player to be named later.

Yeah, dumb. A well below average pitcher, a minor league RELIEF PITCHER, and a prospect who ranked #22 in the Angels system prior to the season. For Dan Haren.

Apparently the 29 year old Joe Saunders and a relief pitcher are more attractive than a 24 year old Joba Chamberlain and Manny Banuelos, a top ten prospect in the Yankees system. Even if the Yankees didn’t want to give up those two, Ivan Nova and Zach McAllister are better prospects than Patrick Corbin and Rafael Rodriguez.

I’m not going to delve too much into each player involved, but just on a player to player comparison, there is no comparison. Joe Saunders or Joba Chamberlain? Give me Joba every time. I know he is a reliever (right now) and has been a big let down. But he is more talented than Saunders. He is five years younger than Saunders. He has more cost-controlled seasons and is cheaper than Saunders. He has more potential than Saunders. As a relief pitcher who has thrown 1/3 the innings of Saunders in 2010, Joba has a better WAR.

But let’s say New York truly wouldn’t give Joba up. Let’s look at Ivan Nova and Zach McAllister instead. Neither is a stud prospect, but both are currently in AAA and close to ML ready, if not already. They don’t have much upside, but they should at least be better than Joe Saunders- and they would be under control for a combined twelve seasons, compared to two for Saunders.

As for the rest of the deal- Rafael Rodriguez? Really? A 26 year old RELIEF PITCHER? That guy is gonna be pretty damn valuable, huh Arizona. A relief pitcher for Dan Haren. Just cracks me up. He has been pretty damn good in the PCL, a huge hitters league, but relief pitchers offer so little value and are so unpredictable year to year. Unless he is the next Mariano, I doubt he’ll even be a D-Back in the long term (the same goes for Saunders).

Patrick Corbin could be a decent player. His upside is the middle to end of the rotation. He is a good enough prospect for ‘Zona to take on- assuming the other players in the deal are better. But they aren’t. He is in A ball right now, so he is still far away. You can read a scouting report on him here. Apparently he profiles a lot like Joe Saunders. Oh boy.

Not too long ago I addressed a potential Dan Haren trade to New York and broke down Haren’s value. I said he would bring a team about $23.4mil in value. So how did Arizona make out? Well, they got Joe Saunders for the next two seasons. Let’s say he is 1.5 WAR in 2011 and 2012. With a market rate of $4.4mil per win, that would be worth $13.2mil. But they need to pay him about $1mil this season plus 2011 and 2012. Using the 40/60/80 arbitration scale, he would make about $5.9mil in 2011 and $10.6mil in 2012. That’s a total of $17.5mil. Subtract that from his $13.2mil in value and you get -$4.3mil. Eeesh- ‘Zona is in the red right now. I don’t believe Rafael Rodriguez would be a top 100 pitching prospect, but I’ll be generous and say he is a B level prospect even though he is 26 and a relief pitcher. A B level pitching prospect is worth $7.3mil. While Patrick Corbin isn’t even a top ten pitching prospect in the Angels system, I’ll be generous again and label him a top 76-100 pitching prospect. That’s worth $9.8mil. So let’s add it all up! -$4.3mil + $7.3mil + $9.8mil = $12.8mil.

Josh Byrnes, where art thou? What a pathetic trade from Arizona’s point of view. Not only did they take the worst offer on the table, but they didn’t get anywhere near fair value in return. Ouch.

From the Angels point of view, what a steal. Whether the trade helps them in 2010 or not- and I doubt it will since they are too far behind in my estimation- a steal is a steal. Plus, it sets them up to be a pretty damn good team in 2011 depending on their off-season. Their rotation now features Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, Joel Piniero, and Ervin Santana. In the off-season I could easily see them signing Javy Vazquez on a 1/8 or 2/16 type deal to give them a pretty dominant rotation. Early rumors are they will chase Carl Crawford as well. If they do that, with their projected 2011 rotation, they could pry the AL West crown back from the Rangers.

As for the Yanks, they walk out losers again. They were a mere minutes- no, seconds- away from landing the best pitcher going in the AL in the form of Cliff Lee. Now they went into the Haren talks as favorites again and walked away empty-handed. If the D-Backs were taking a shitty package like that, I would have loved to have Haren. However, I’m not overly disappointed. I will be though, if the Yankees truly desire SP right now. I DO NOT want Roy Oswalt or Ted Lilly. This non-trade better not push the Yanks in that direction. Andy is supposed to be back sooner than expected, so I would wait it out and install Ivan Nova into the rotation.

I want to end this post by saying: LOL, Arizona D-Backs GM fail. The PTBNL better be Kendry Morales or Jered Weaver, because when we look back on this trade in a decade, it might just be one of the worst trades in that time span.

Honestly, Arizona was better off keeping Haren. I know they want to re-build, but he is a top 10 NL pitcher with an affordable contract. When you rebuild, he’s the player you keep. They have core talent and aren’t far away, so they don’t need a fire sale. Whatever pieces they get from Kelly Johnson or Adam LaRoche could be enough to get them back on track. But when they do trade those other two players, there is no way they can get any value in return. Teams will look at this trade and laugh if Arizona even asks for a decent prospect. And if they really HAD to trade him, I can’t believe they didn’t think they could do better. I mean, an AS level pitcher, in his prime, with an affordable contract, under team control for 2-3 more seasons. The fact the other team would control him beyond 2010 should instantly bump up his value. But I guess not.

LOL ‘Zona.

EDIT: I want to add- by the time Haren’s contract runs up in 2013, Rodriguez and Saunders may not even be D-Backs and Corbin may not have even made his debut yet.

The D-Backs would have payed Haren $25.50mil in 2011 and 2012. Through arbitration they will probably pay Saunders $17mil. Is the $8mil difference worth it?