Posted tagged ‘Seattle Mariners’

Adios Robinson Cano

December 6, 2013

This morning Robinson Cano signed a reported 10/$240mil contract with the Seattle Mariners. With all the speculation in the past day I can’t say this is a surprise but I did not think he would sign with Seattle so fast- but I also didn’t think they would go to 10/$240mil so fast.

A month or so ago I wrote about what a potential Robinson Cano contract would look like. In it I surmised that a contract could be worth up to $198mil over ten years but also could be worth up to $240mil depending on the team. I do think Robinson Cano for ten years is worth $240mil- for the New York Yankees. For the Seattle Mariners he is worth closer to $198mil than $240mil so I have to say this a overpay. Not only is it an overpay but it’s an overreach in terms of years. Even if Robinson ages well, one has to imagine that the contract will be dead weight come 2021 and beyond.

If Seattle figures to be a possible playoff team in the near future and Cano is the piece that puts them over the hump then one can see why they would make this deal. As it stands, Seattle won 75 games in 2012. Nick Franklin, who was the expected starter at second for Seattle, is projected to have a 1.5 fWAR by Steamer and 2.6 fWAR by Oliver. Let’s split the difference at 2.0 fWAR. Cano is projected by each at 5.4 and 4.6 so let’s call it 5.0. That is a three win upgrade at the price of $24mil or $8mil per win. And it only jumps Seattle up to a nearly .500 baseball team.

Going forward Seattle could be a playoff team down the road. But by the time this happens, Cano will be in his decline and not as valuable as he currently is. Yet he will still be owed a lot of money could prevent the Mariners from signing players they could sign down the line to contend.

While a large contract made sense for the Yankees, especially in the short run, they did not want to go past seven years- and I can’t blame them for that. Long term contracts of that magnitude rarely turn out well and New York has learned that first hand with contracts they have handed out to Jason Giambi, Mark Teixeira, and Alex Rodriguez. With the money “saved” they can try to make up for the lost value in others- possibly by signing Masahiro Tanaka, Omar Infante, and Carlos Beltran or Shin-soo Choo. Granted, this will eat up more roster spots than the one spot Cano would have taken, but it could save them money and years.

As for Robinson, I can’t blame him. Yes, I wish he stayed. I wish he chose a plaque at Monument Park over $240mil. I wish he chose to be a Yankee legend over $240mil. But he earned a big payday and he took it as he and other players have every right to. Hopefully when he returns to the Bronx he isn’t greeted with a chorus of boos.

I think it’s also interesting that a Yankee star at the height of his career LEFT the Yankees. For Seattle of all places. Imagine this scenario playing out five years ago? Ten years ago? Even with the signings of Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury, it appears as if the Empire is dead.

Finally, Robinson Cano is the one player I can’t help but partial to. Not seeing him in the Yankee lineup everyday is going to hurt. Yet life goes on. Adios Robbie, and good luck in Seattle.

Hopefully this weekend I will put up a post outline what the Yankees should do now.

 

 

 

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.

The roadtrip from hell

May 27, 2011

Starting tonight the Yankees embark on a nine game road trip. They are heading to Seattle for the weekend series, then down to Oakland, and finally will cap off the road trip with a series at Anaheim.

While west coast trips are never fun, this doesn’t seem so bad. I mean, both Seattle and Oakland have terrible offenses, and Anaheim isn’t anything special. Well, take a look at the pitching match-ups.

Seattle: Felix Herandez, Michael Pineda, Justin Vargas

Oakland: Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez

Los Angeles: Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, Ervin Santana

Yup. That’s arguably the best three trio’s in the AL. Not only do we get to face them, but we face them on the road AND it’s a west coast trip. For real- we couldn’t have missed Weaver, or Felix out of the nine games? This has to be the worst scheduling luck I’ve seen. That’s seven possible Cy Young candidates right there. And we NEVER win in LA anyway. LA could throw their backup catcher against us and win*.

*At least Howie Kendrick is out. Otherwise we’d get shutout AND get ten runned.

And when the Yankees return home, they get Boston (and then Cleveland). Yay! And I bet they get Lester/Beckett/Clay with their luck.

Divisional Preview: AL West

March 30, 2011

The Rangers were baseball’s surprise team last season, surging past the American Leagues win leaders, Tampa Bay Rays, in the ALDS and then cruising past a heavily favored Yankees team in the ALCS. The Angels also fell from grace in 2010 while the Mariners, 2010s trendy pick, sucked.

1) Texas Rangers (87-75)

I think the Rangers still are a good team and still are up and coming with many young prospects yet to make debuts, but I believe they will take a step back in 2011. The main reason is pitching. First of all, they lost Cliff Lee, who by far was their best starter and helped them tremendously down the stretch and in the post-season. Second, I expect some regression to the mean from CJ Wilson and Colby Lewis. Both are good pitchers, but had especially good years in 2010 and should see some production decline. Moreover, CJ Wilson and Colby Lewis are now their #1 and #2 pitchers. Color me unimpressed if those are a team’s top two starters. Beyond that, they plan to give starts to Matt Harrison and Tommy Hunter, neither of whom are good. I am still a big Derek Holland, but it appears Texas still hates him.

However, the bullpen will be nasty once again. Obviously, Neftali Feliz is a freak in the bullpen, but the pen also has Alexi Ogando, Darren O’Day, Darren Oliver, Arthur Rhodes, etc,etc. Yeah, pretty good.

Plus, the lineup is good. They have Josh Hamilton, the reigning MVP, and one of the games more underrated hitters, Nelson Cruz, who I think could have a better offensive season than Hamilton in 2011. Kinsler is another good bat and the defense should be strong with Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, and Julio Borbon. The pitching will keep them from 90 wins, but as a whole this is a good team that should win the division.

Players to watch: Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz

2) Oakland Athletics (85-77)

The As were my sleeper team last year and are my “sleeper” team this season, but I have a tough time calling them a sleeper since everyone is picking them to upset Texas this season. They are this years Mariners. Except I don’t believe they’ll fall apart. For one, the pitching is better. Granted, they don’t have a legit ace like Felix Hernandez, but the whole staff is better. If Brett Anderson stays healthy, I think he’ll emerge as one of the best pitchers in baseball. Other arms include Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill, and Dallas Braden. And between Grant Balfour, Brian Fuentes, Brad Ziegler, and their other relievers, the pen should do their part in holding leads.

Offensively, the As will struggle, but it is an improved offense from last season. They added Hideki Matsui to DH, and despite his age, he is still a legitimate force on offense. However, I wonder how he will be impacted by the Colliseum. Oakland also added David DeJesus, a solid bat who also brings a solid glove to the table. Josh Willingham will also bring much needed area to the Bay. Although he will be a defensive liability in left field, the rest of the defense should be superb between Daric Barton, Mark Ellis, Cliff Pennington, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Kurt Suzuki, DeJesus, and Coco Crisp. If they have good fortune, much like San Diego last season, the As very well could win the West.

Players to watch: Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez, Daric Barton

3) Los Angeles Angels (81-81)

I love the Angels pitching staff. I really do. Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, and Ervin Santana might be the best top 3 in the AL. Joel Piniero and anyone besides Scott Kazmir are also good ends to the staff. The pen should be decent with Kevin Jepsen, Scott Downs, and Fernando Rodney.

However…the rest of the team is not so good. Vernon Wells could be “alright” but he isn’t a good fielder. Peter Bourjos is a stud fielder, but can’t hit. Callaspo, Aybar, Kendrick, and Trumbo represent a weak infield, especially offensively, in my opinion. When your best hitters are an old Bobby Abreu, Tori Hunter, and Vernon Wells, you’re in trouble. The Angels are in trouble. I have them at .500 because of their starting pitching. But if anyone of their big three gets hurt, lookout for the cellar floor.

Players to watch: Kendrys Morales (IF he returns), Hank Conger

4) Seattle Mariners (72-90)

Ah, now onto the lowly Mariners. Felix=stud. Michael Pineda=promising rookie. Rest of staff=poo poo. That simple. No point in breaking it down further than that, because that’s the end result of what any analysis would be. The bullpen isn’t any good either. Brandon League is a nice arm, but they are going to hope Aaron Laffey and Jamey Wright can hold the few wins they will get.

Offensively they still suck, but should be better than 2010. Ichiro is a rock, Figgins should be better, Cust adds some good OB skills, and Dustin Ackley is a Rookie of the Year candidate. But the team lacks power and the ability to get on base. That will mean few runs. Tough to win without scoring when the pitching isn’t that good. 2011 will be another long season.

Players to watch: Michael Pineda, Dustin Ackley

Adrian Beltre is likely headed to Arlington

January 4, 2011

The signing is not official yet, but it appears that Adrian Beltre will sign a 6/$96mil deal to be a Texas Ranger through the 2016 season. Damn, that’s a lot of money.

To me, this is kind of a risky deal. $96mil is a lot of money, especially when that money will be going to player who will be in their mid-thirties for the majority of the contract and said player gets more of his value from his fantastic defense. For a young team that can a World Series RIGHT NOW it’s good bring in quality players, but this deal could potentially handcuff them down the road. Yes, Texas is a growing market and they have visions of being a franchise that can support a $100mil+ payroll. But they have a lot of young/good players who will want expensive extensions themselves (Hamilton, Josh; Wilson, CJ; Cruz, Nelson; Feliz, Neftali). Giving an old Beltre $16mil a season may prevent them keeping a Nelson Cruz or CJ Wilson.

I do think Texas is a good destination for Beltre. He is a good hitter, but not as good as his 2010 season suggests. He has power and mediocre on base skills. In a pitcher’s park in Seattle, he put up average numbers. In a hitters park in Boston, with some good fortune, he put up amazing numbers. Texas is a hitters park as well, so I think between that and an age related decline in offensive skill, his offensive numbers should be somewhere between the numbers he put up in Seattle and Boston- but closer to Seattle.

Moreover, he will continue to be a quality defender. However, the glove does slow with age. Now, he is an elite defender so I don’t think he’ll forget how to field a baseball. What I do believe will happen is that he will from a +10 to a +15 fielder, to a +5 fielder. Defense is where he gets a lot of value, so if his defense declines some, Texas may find themselves overpaying for Beltre.

Looking ahead to 2011, I believe Beltre has a true talent WAR level around 4 WAR, which is pretty much what he was in Seattle. In 2011 I see him being worth 10 runs offensively, 10 runs defensively, 20 runs through replacement level, and he should have about a 2 run positional adjustment. So I am predicting a 4.2 WAR.

So yeah, according to my figures it’s about a fair deal. I can see that. However, that doesn’t make him worth. As I said before, it’s risky. He could pay off right now. The team is a World Series contender and he gives them a legitimate chance to win it all. Plus, he is still a quality player and will be worth $16mil in all likelihood. However, come 2014 and beyond, he could have the type of contract that Texas will be looking to unload.

As for Beltre, he proved patience is a virtue.

 

Why the Mariners plan did not work

July 29, 2010

Before the season began, the sexy pick to win the AL West was the Seattle Mariners. They had an innovative GM who put an emphasis on pitching and defense. And hell, they just traded for Cliff Lee. Yeah, the offense didn’t look good, but they weren’t supposed to give up any runs anyway.

But today the Mariners are 39-63, 20.5 games out in the West, and Cliff Lee is a Texas Ranger. As a result of the poor season, many people have criticized the Mariners plan of attack, citing that defense was overvalued. That’s not quite right.

Building a team on pitching and defense, or mainly defense, does work. Yes, having an all-around team or a balanced team probably works best, but a win is a win. As we found out last year, total team WAR correlates to W% with an R2 of 0.77. So if you have the best team WAR in baseball- whether you got it all through offense, defense, pitching, or a combination- chances are you have a great team on your hands.Yet it’s not working for the Mariners for a multitude of reasons:

1) The defense itself has been the “problem”. For a team that knew their offense was not good enough to win, they planned on having the top defense in the league. They signed Chone Figgins who rated as a good defender in 2009, re-signed Jack Wilson, and signed Kotchman to play first. In the outfield they already had stellar defenders in Franklin Guitierrez and Ichiro. But after playing 8184 innings as a team, their UZR is 14.2. It’s a good mark, but “only” the tenth best in baseball. That’s not good enough for a team that needed their glove work to be the best. In fact, divisional foes, Texas and Oakland, have better team UZR’s. When it comes to DRS, the Mariners are tied for tenth, at +34. So the defense has been good, but not as good as projected. And that’s the one problem with relying on defense- it can be unpredictable.

2) The offense. Everyone knew the offense was going to struggle, but not this bad. I thought they were actually going to be decent offensively after trading for Milton Bradley and signing Chone Figgins. But Bradley and Figgins have been the biggest culprits. In 278 PA, Bradley has a .289 wOBA. His career average is .353 and his 2009 wOBA was .345. Eeesh- his WAR is -0.1 WAR by the way. Meanwhile, Chone Figgins has a .297 wOBA in 439 PA, after posting a .358 wOBA in 2009. They have been major disappoints for a team that needed any type of offensive upgrade. The Mariners are dead last in baseball with a team wOBA of .289.

The pitching in Seattle has been pretty good. Missing Lee for a month did hurt and maybe that’s what did them in because of their slow start. But the defense and offense didn’t live up to expectations. And that’s the reason for the poor season- not the strategy to rely on defense.

Just look at other teams for proof that defense can win ballgames. The San Diego Padres have one of the best records in baseball and lead the NL West. They have a pretty bad offense that has a .310 wOBA but appear to have good pitching with a 3.76 xFIP. However, their E-F is -0.42. Wow! They don’t give up runs because of the defense. They lead baseball in UZR and are second in DRS. If they had a mediocre defense, that pitching staff would have an ERA closer to their FIP and the NL West race would be a lot closer than it is. And just looking at the UZR leader board, every team in the top ten is a winning team, with the exception of Arizona. Coincidence? I think not.

Placing value and emphasis on good team defense is important to winning games. It can help your pitching staff and ease the pressure and expectations of the offense. However, it can be the kiss of death if you rely on defense like the Mariners have, because defense can be unpredictable and if it doesn’t live up to expectations, well, just ask the Mariners what happens.

A-Rod, 600, and PED’s

July 29, 2010

As A-Rod continues his quest to home run number 600, it has come without much hoopla. While one would expect all major sports networks to follow his every PA, but only MLBN has done so. In fact, the story is not the home run, but rather the fact it has not received much attention. And why is that? Steroids.

Records are the most sacred aspect of baseball history and folklore. As kids growing up we learn about the Babe and 714 and Aaron and 756. We learned about Cy Young and 511 and Cal Ripken and 2632. Those numbers and records were pure and the essence of our love for the game. Once those records were ripped apart in what seemed like the blink of an eye, baseballs innocence was ruined to many. All those who contributed to the fall of the sacred baseball record books have became the target of fan disgust, and even hatred. So it’s no surprise no one cares about A-Rod and home run number 600. He cheated. That’s it, game over, you lose. He can hit all the homers he wants, but few will appreciate it. As the great Joe Posnanski writes:

But even to those who have come to grips with the Selig Era and the simple fact that all the numbers in the record books are distorted by one queasy fact or another, the 600 home run number STILL feels used up. It is like someone struggling to climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, reaching the peak and finding that people had already built a McDonald’s, a Home Depot and a Best Buy up there.

That statement is true. It sums up a feeling EVERY fan I have encountered has. And deservedly so.

But is the cold shoulder given to A-Rod and others like him fair?

The reason I ask is because there are all sorts of PED’s and some get a free pass while some do not. A big no-no is HGH. But most fans don’t understand HGH. It really doesn’t enhance performance. Rather, it helps players heal faster from injuries. The reason it’s a no-no is because it’s illegal. But if a player is ever caught using HGH, I wouldn’t care, and neither should you. The player probably took it to recover faster from an injury.

The next big one is anabolic steroids- mainly testosterone. If a player is caught using this, be upset. It’s meant to make you bigger and stronger. Does that make you better at baseball? No. But will it make you hit a ball farther or run faster or throw harder? Yeah, probably, because you get more out of your workout making you a better athlete.

Now, A-Rod tested positive for testosterone back in 2003. He said he used from 2001-2003, during his time as a Texas Ranger. Is he to be believed? That we may never know. By using the eye test, I believe he started using in 2001. He was a skinny dood on the Mariners. It wasn’t until he became a Rangers that his legs and body really grew. Additionally, his reasoning makes sense. A-Rod said he felt pressure after signing the highest contract in baseball history. We all know A-Rod had an identity crisis. So that reasoning fits in perfectly with his past mindset. In Seattle he played with other future HOF’ers in Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey Jr, and Edgar Martinez. The spotlight was never on him. But then he signed the biggest contract in baseball, which put a target on his back. He was the face of a franchise. He was the star and it was all up to him. So yeah, I do buy the pressure explanation he gave. As for more evidence, look at his stats from his debut through 2003. From 2001-2003 he had his three best seasons in HR and ISO to that point. Is that conclusive evidence? No- but it’s a start. At the same time though, offense in general was up during that time frame and he didn’t even post wRC+ or wOBA that were better than seasons he had in Seattle before he used.

But when did he quit? I would assume after 2003 when he was caught. If it means anything, his first season as a Yankee saw a big decline in production from his 2001-2003 seasons. Was that him adjusting to life without performance enhancers for the first time in three years? Maybe, maybe not.

A writer in SI said that if you take away his steroid years, he’d have around 358 homers currently. That is wrong. Assuming he only used from 2001-2003, he would have 443 home runs. But let’s be real. If he didn’t use, I doubt he would have homered zero times in three seasons. We can’t say how much steroids helped him. He was playing in a hitters park during a high scoring run environment during his age 26-28 seasons. Chances are he still would have hit 40-60 home runs and thus, still would have been just a few homers away from 600 anyway. It’s not like he was Barry Bonds on the downswing of a career. A-Rod will still getting better. And I mean, he was on pace to be an all-time player before he took steroids.

So why do I bring all this up? Greenies.

Anabolic steroids are the worst offense when it comes to doping in baseball (as of now). A-Rod and other record breakers used anabolic steroids. They got bigger and their performance was enhanced- to a degree we can’t gauge. But greenies or amphetamines are a dandy little PED as well. The benefit of greenies are:

amphetamines may provide some minor, short-term benefits. Current research shows that 10-30 mg methamphetamine may improve reaction time, and cognitive function, increase the feelings of alertness, decrease a sense of fatigue and increase euphoria.

Hmmm, let’s see. There are 162 games in a season, with few off days, lots of travel, little sleep, and some day games after night games. Sometimes a player will lag and not feel up to playing at his best. But pop a greenie and boom, you feel alert and ready to play. Moreover, you have improved reaction time and focus, which will help when you’re trying to hit a 95 mph fastball. Sure, with greenies it’s all psychological. You don’t actually lose your fatigue- the drug just fools your mind. But it is a benefit and allows players to maybe make a play or get a big hit they wouldn’t have got otherwise.

Greenies aren’t quite as bad as steroids, but I’d say it’s pretty darn close. And guess what? Lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of players used greenies. Bonds failed an amphetamines test. Hank Aaron lived on greenies. But people don’t understand the benefits of greenies, or underestimate them. The amphetamine problem has largely been ignored by the common fan. Yet if they fan took the time to realize the affect of greenies, then they would be as up in arms with them as they are with steroids. If that was the case, lots of players would be under scrutiny, not the select few like A-Rod who got caught with A-Rod.

No, I am not defending A-Rod. He used anabolic steroids, which is a big no-no. But if we are going to damn him for it, we need to damn people who used greenies as well (which is everyone). Hank Aaron? See ya!

It’s only fair.

OFFICIAL: Cliff Lee to Texas Rangers

July 9, 2010

Yup, it’s official. Cliff Lee and Mark Lowe will be going to Texas in exchange for Justin Smoak, Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke, and Matt Lawson.

Well, what a day.

This is a win-win for the two clubs involved. Seattle gets a very good return. Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero are interchangeable as far as I’m concerned. Both were top prospects entering the season with big time potential offensively. If anything, Smoak is the smarter move since he already is in the Majors, while Montero has struggled somewhat in AAA and still hasn’t put to rest notions that he cannot catch in the majors. However, Montero is projected to be a better hitter, with many comparing him to Miguel Cabrera or Manny Ramirez. While those are pretty optimistic comparisons, you get the idea. He’s also three years younger than Smoak. While David Adams and Zach McAllister are solid prospects, so is Blake Beavan, who has been pitching well in the PCL, a notorious hitters league.

Meanwhile, Texas all but assured themselves the AL West crown and bumped their World Series odds greatly. After the Yankees, I’d give Texas the best odds of winning the World Series over Tampa Bay, Atlanta, or any other team for that matter. They have a great defense, good offense, good bullpen, and now have an ace to compliment Colby Lewis, CJ Wilson, and Tommy Hunter. This team could be scary good from here on out. Yes, I know they are giving up six years of a cost-controlled player who will likely outproduce what Lee gives them the rest of the year. Yes, I know they gave a divisional rival four prospects for three months of Cliff Lee, but Texas has a deep farm system that wasn’t really dug into with this trade. Moreover, unlike New York, the marginal win value for Texas here is pretty big. Texas has never won the World Series before, so taking that into consideration along with everything else at play and it’s understandable as to why Texas would go all in for 2010. Plus, they’ll still get the two draft picks for Cliff Lee when he leaves.

As a Yanks fan, I can’t complain. I am glad we did not give up Jesus Montero and it’s a good thing he went to the financial shit hole that is Texas, because Cliff Lee will not be re-signing with them, making the Yankees the favorites to land him in the off-season. However, chances are we will face Texas in the ALCS. While we are still the better team, but in a seven game series anything can happen. Texas matches up well with us, so it will be a hard fought series. It should make for fascinating theater come October.

And Jack Z is a good, but crude GM. He played this beautifully. He used New York to drive up the price and once he got the offer he wanted from the Yankees, he pulled out to shop Lee around to the other suitors. However, we’ll see if his reputation takes a hit among the other GM’s. GM’s seem to covet their respectability among each other and other GM’s might see how Jack played New York and try to avoid business with him in the future. Either way though, Jack Z did play the game and was a big time winner.

Please tell me I’m dreaming

July 9, 2010

I woke up this morning to reports that the New York Yankees have acquired Cliff Lee for Jesus Montero, David Adams, and another prospect.

Gag me with a spoon.

Yes, with Cliff Lee the Yankees are all but the official 2010 World Series champions. But this is a poor, poor trade. Earlier this week I looked at possible Cliff Lee trades and this is what I said on a possible deal with New York:

Although it makes more sense for the Yankees to go after Lee in the off-season because 1)They wouldn’t have to give up prospects and 2)There is no space for him in the rotation unless Javier Vazquez is traded, you can’t count them out of any deal, especially with rumors that they are starting to get serious about trade talks. The most obvious player Seattle would want is top Yankee prospect, Jesus Montero, a consensus top five prospect in baseball. Top ten hitting prospects provide $36.5mil in value, so giving up Montero is a little excessive from the Yankees point of view, unless they receive additional pieces, such as bench or bullpen relief.

Of all the contenders for Lee, the Yankees need Lee the least, driving down his marginal win value for the Yankees. As a result, the Yankees should not even think of offering Montero for Lee. Sure, they are the current World Series favorites and landing Lee would make them the champs on paper, but it’s not worth giving up Montero when you can win the World Series without Lee AND still sign him come winter. Acquiring Lee means trading Vazquez, or demoting Vazquez or Phil Hughes to the bullpen, which isn’t happening. Moreover, the marginal win value of Lee over Hughes or Vazquez is very small.

This is not a wise long-term move. Sure, in 2010 it pays off, but Montero has a power bat that is capable of producing MVP seasons- whether it be at catcher, first base, or DH.

Lee is not worth Montero straight up. A top 10 hitting prospect is worth about $36mil in value. As I talked about in the earlier post, Lee will be worth close to $25.5mil to whatever team acquires him. HOWEVER, he is probably worth less than that to us since the marginal win value of Lee over Vazquez in minimal. Vazquez is projected to have a 3.79 FIP the rest of the season and Cliff Lee’s rest of season projected FIP is 3.11. Yes, it’s better, but Vazquez’s is still good. So is that small difference worth trading Jesus Montero? Simply put- no. No, no, no, no, no.

So we’re trading a top prospect for a MINIMAL upgrade of maybe 1-2 wins the rest of the season. Not worth it- especially considering the Yankees are World Series favorites without him and will probably sign him in the offseason anyway.

I said we can estimate Montero is worth $36mil through his first six arbitration years. But he is an amazing hitter. Lets say he moves to 1b and averages 2 WAR his first three seasons and 4 WAR his final three arbitration seasons. That would be around $81mil in value using a conservative $ per WAR.

I love you Cashman, but don’t do it. Do not pull the trigger on this blockbuster deal. I know the vision of winning a World Series in October is tempting, but don’t let it possess you into making a not-so brilliant move. Have faith in Vazquez, and have faith in the team winning the World Series without Cliff Lee. Keep Jesus Montero, who could be an impact player on the 2011 team, and look into acquiring Lee via free agency after the season.

Please.

Valuing a Cliff Lee trade

July 7, 2010

Last night emerged rumors that the Mariners were in talks with the Twins to send Cliff Lee to the Twin Cities for prospects Aaron Hicks and Wilson Ramos. While the reports saying this was a done deal proved to be false, it is clear the Twins are serious in their attempts to acquire the ace left-hander. So lets breakdown any possible Cliff Lee deal to the teams rumored to be in the sweepstakes.

Using research done by Victor Wang, Erik Manning created the below chart to show the estimate future net value provided by prospects:

Top 10 hitting prospects $36.5M
Top 11-25 hitters $25.1
Top 26-50 hitters $23.4
Top 51-75 hitters $14.2
Top 76-100 hitters $12.5
Top 10 pitching prospects $15.2
Top 11-25 pitchers $15.9
Top 26-50 pitchers $15.9
Top 51-75 pitchers $12.1
Top 76-100 pitchers $9.8
Grade B pitchers (as graded by Sickels) $7.3
Grade B hitters $5.5
Grade C pitchers 22 or younger $2.1
Grade C pitchers 23 or older $1.5
Grade C hitters 22 or younger $0.7
Grade C hitters 23 or older $0.5

That chart will be the basis for determining the fair value each team would need to give up to trade for Cliff Lee. First though, let’s figure out the value of Cliff Lee, assuming whatever team he is traded to becomes that division or league’s favorite to reach the World Series.

Cliff Lee trade value

Cliff was projected to earn $9mil this season according to Cot’s Contracts. With the season halfway through, whichever team he is traded to will only pick up half of that. So he’s owed about $4.5mil more this season. In 103 innings thus far, Cliff has a 2.22 FIP and 4.0 WAR. FG rest of season projections have him with a 3.08 FIP over 105 innings. Without doing exact calculations, if Lee pitches in line with his projections, he should post a 3.0 WAR. Using a rough estimate to determine the value per win (according to FG, he has been worth $16mil thus. Divide that by his 4.0 WAR and you get $4mil per WAR) Cliff Lee should be worth $12mil the rest of the regular season (3.0 WAR x $4mil per WAR). But we’re not done there. Whatever team lands Lee will also be landing two first round picks in the 2011 draft, as Lee is a type A free agent. According to Victor Wang’s research, a first round pick is worth about $5mil. So as it stands now, Cliff Lee is worth about $22mil. However, all marginal win value is not created equal. Lee will be going to a team that is in a heated divisional race, so those three wins he is projected to give a team down the stretch are even more important, meaning that each individual win he adds is worth more than $4mil to that club. Then factor in the high leverage postseason innings he would throw and the revenue he would generate through postseason tickets and merchandise, and his value would go up more. So let’s say that each WAR Lee adds to his new team is worth $5mil. Let’s also say he adds an additional WAR in the postseason to go along with the 3.0 he is projected to have in the regular season. Lee would now be worth $20mil (4 WAR x $5mil per WAR) plus the $10mil from the two draft picks, giving Lee a net worth of $30mil. However, the team that acquires him would have to pay the $4.5mil left on his salary, so that lowers his net value to $25.5mil. A hefty price, but certainly one a team can afford if they have plans to win the World Series in 2010.

Now that we know Lee’s current value, let’s see how some generic packages would stack up:

  • Stud hitting prospect would be more than enough for Lee
  • A top twenty five hitting prospect would be just about enough for Lee
  • A top 50 hitting prospect + a tiny piece such as a B or C level prospect would be fair value
  • Two top fifty pitching prospects would be more than enough for Lee
  • A top fifty pitching prospect and a top fifty hitting prospect would also be enough value to get Lee

Minnesota Twins

Right now it appears as if the Twins are the favorites to land Lee. If this happens I might stop watching baseball this season, because even if the Yanks finish the year ten wins better than Minny, they are not beating Lee/Liriano in a five game series. The two prospects Minny is rumored to be giving up are Aaron Hicks, an outfielder in A, and Wilson Ramos, a catcher in AAA. Aaron Hicks is a toolsy player with loads of potential but is still a couple seasons away and Ramos is a ML ready catcher who already has some PA in the majors this season. Before the season, Hicks was rated as the Twins best prospect, the nineteenth best prospect in baseball by BA and the twenty-sixth best prospect by BP. Some mid-season rankings have him falling down the rankings, below fellow Twins prospect Kyle Gibson. To be safe, lets consider Hicks a top 26-50 hitter. That means he is worth $23.4mil. Before the season, Wilson Ramos was considered the Twins second best prospect, the fifty-eighth best prospect in baseball according to BA, and sixty-fifth best according to BP. However, he’s had a poor showing in 2010, so let’s consider him a top 75-100 hitting prospect. He would be worth $12.5mil.

Clearly, the Mariners would be getting good value in return for Cliff Lee. Lee is worth about $26mil and they would be getting about $36mil of value in return. So, yeah, um, I’m really hoping this deal falls through because otherwise I will be a very angry person. As for the Twins- they may be giving up a lot for a rental, but Lee gives them a lethal rotation that could give Minnesota it’s first World Series trophy since 1991.

New York Yankees

Although it makes more sense for the Yankees to go after Lee in the off-season because 1)They wouldn’t have to give up prospects and 2)There is no space for him in the rotation unless Javier Vazquez is traded, you can’t count them out of any deal, especially with rumors that they are starting to get serious about trade talks. The most obvious player Seattle would want is top Yankee prospect, Jesus Montero, a consensus top five prospect in baseball. Top ten hitting prospects provide $36.5mil in value, so giving up Montero is a little excessive from the Yankees point of view, unless they receive additional pieces, such as bench or bullpen relief.

Of all the contenders for Lee, the Yankees need Lee the least, driving down his marginal win value for the Yankees. As a result, the Yankees should not even think of offering Montero for Lee. Sure, they are the current World Series favorites and landing Lee would make them the champs on paper, but it’s not worth giving up Montero when you can win the World Series without Lee AND still sign him come winter. Acquiring Lee means trading Vazquez, or demoting Vazquez or Phil Hughes to the bullpen, which isn’t happening. Moreover, the marginal win value of Lee over Hughes or Vazquez is very small.

A better offer would include another Yankees catching prospect, Austin Romine. He was rated the eighty-sixth best prospect in baseball by BA before the season, and has only gone up after his very solid first half at the AA level. In fact, Frank Piliere of Fanhouse has Romine as the fifteenth best prospect in baseball in his updated rankings. While I think that drastic move up the board is extreme, I believe it’s safe to label Romine as a top 51-75 hitting prospect, making him worth $14.2mil. Another prospect that could be dealt is Andrew Brackman. After a terrible 2009 campaign that left many labeling him a bust, Brackman has returned with vengeance in 2010, and has moved up the ladder to AA. He always had top prospect potential and may finally be realizing it. He should be, at least, a top 76-100 best pitching prospect. That would mean his value is $9.8mil. This package comes out to about $24mil. Obviously, it doesn’t top Minny’s offer, but New York could always add another B level prospect in Zach McCallister or David Phelps to make themselves an interesting trade partner for Seattle.

Tampa Bay Rays

According to Peter Gammons (so take it or leave it considering the source) there are talks of a BJ Upton to Seattle for Cliff Lee trade. These rumors sound far-fetched but are worth addressing. Upton is only making $3mil this season, and would be under team control through 2012, with expected raises in salary from arbitration. According to Rally’s WAR, Upton will finish with a 3.9 WAR in 2010, and his FG WAR is currently 1.2. So let’s say Upton will be worth 2 WAR going forward in 2010. That’s about $8mil and then minus the $1.5mil Seattle has to pay him and he’d be worth $6.5mil. Now, this is going to be poor analysis, but without any calculations, lets assume BJ Upton will be worth, on average, 3 WAR per season in 2011 and 2012. With win values expected to go up because of inflation, lets say Upton is worth a total of $26mil in 2011 and 2012 combined. I may be getting this wrong from studies I’ve read, but in his next arbitration case, lets say Upton sees a salary increase of 60% and then 80% in 2012. That means his 2011 salary will be $4.8mil and his 2012 salary will be $8.6mil. Take that away from his projected $26 WAR value for those two seasons and his net value would be about $13mil. $13mil + $6.5mil = $19.5mil.

But this is a tricky scenario for Seattle. On the surface it looks like getting only Upton in return is not worth it. However, he is just 25 years old. When he was 22 and 23, he put up seasons of 4+ WAR so the potential is there. 2009 was not a strong season, but he still put up an average 2.1 WAR and looks like he will at least match that in 2010. He’s swinging more, especially on pitches outside the zone, and is making less contact. But if he can correct that, he will easily surpass the $26mil in value needed to make a Cliff Lee trade fair. It might just be worth the risk for Seattle.

As for Tampa, I would say its a no-brainer. They play in the hardest division in baseball, so the win or two Lee will give them over Upton over the rest of the reason could be the difference between October baseball or no October baseball. They will also get two draft picks and Desmond Jennings looks ready to step in Upton’s spot and not miss a beat.

Texas Rangers

The Rangers boast one of the deepest farm systems in baseball and have top prospects in Justin Smoak, Martin Perez, and Tanner Scheppers. Smoak through 262 PA has been a major disappointment, highlighted by his 81 wRC+. But he was a top ten hitting prospect prior to the season and smoked the ball in AAA. He would probably be worth the $36.5mil in the deal. So it’s unlikely Texas would give him up to acquire Lee, especially with Rich Harden and Derek Holland expected back in the rotation by the end of the month. Martin Perez is a top ten pitching prospect which is worth $15.2mil and Tanner Scheppers is a top 11-25 pitching prospect, which is worth $15.9 mil. Again, I doubt Texas gives up TWO highly talented arms for a Lee rental. Another potential package could center around Perez or Scheppers, along with ML ready or caliber players in Julio Borbon, Max Ramirez, or Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

In the end though, I doubt Seattle trades in the division to Texas. Texas has pieces to give up, but I doubt they want to give them up. Considering how good their prospects are, I believe they would rather be patient knowing they will be World Series contenders for the foreseeable future, rather than go all in for this season.

Philadelphia Phillies

The team that traded big Cliff Lee in the off-season may be trading for him again a year later. Outside Doc Halladay, the Phillies staff has been underwhelming and the Phillies playoff chances are growing thinner by the day. The Phillies top prospect is stud Domonic Brown. The dood killed AA pitching and is killing AAA pitching at the moment. The Phillies have a crowded outfield, but he may force their hand to call him up sooner rather than later. Brown also creates an interesting scenario for Philly. Many believe Werth will leave via free agency after the season, opening up a spot for Brown. But by 2011, the Phillies window for winning the World Series will still be shrinking as key players like Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Ryan grow older and more injury prone. Will they cash in Brown for a chance to make their third consecutive World Series, or a keep a link to their future? I think they keep Brown. However, should they go all out for Lee, Brown will be fair value and then some for Lee.

St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals do not have a strong farm system or any ML players Seattle would want, which makes them a reach to land Lee. The only chance they have is to give up top prospect Shelby Miller. Miller is still quite a way from reaching the majors, but many lists have him as a top fifty prospect in all of baseball. By himself, he isn’t quite worth enough to match Lee’s value and the Cardinals don’t have too many worthwhile pieces to add. I don’t see the Mariners finding any deal with St. Louis worthwhile, which might just be fine with St. Louis.

New York Mets

The Mets have long been rumored to be in on the Lee sweepstakes, but with no specific rumors being mentioned. The Mets could give up Ike Davis, a current ML rookie with a 1.2 WAR in 289 PA. Will they want to give up a talented rookie hitter for a rental, that may or may not get them into the postseason? Probably not, especially since the value Davis will give them during his cost-controlled seasons will probably outnumber the value Lee will provide. On the farm the Mets have Jerry Mejia, who pitched out of the bullpen for the Mets this season and is in AA right now, back as a starting pitcher where he belongs. Mejia is a special talent and if we say he is a top 11-25 pitcher, he is worth $15.9mil. With Mejia, they could also throw in Wilmer Flores, a young shortstop already considered a top 100 prospect. Mejia and Flores could be enough value to acquire Lee, but compared to the packages of some other teams, this may not be enough.

Even though I believe Mejia will be a special pitcher, this is a deal New York should make. However, I don’t think Seattle will go for it because of other offers that  might be on the table.

Cincinnati Reds

Another long shot to acquire Lee, reports say the Reds want in on the sweepstakes, and would make a package centering around Yonder Alonso. Alonso was ranked the forty-fifth best prospect in the game by BA, but he hasn’t showed any real pop so far in the minors. He is a top 51-75 hitting prospect, so he is worth about $14.2mil. Along with Alonso, the Reds could also deal outfielder Clay Heisey, who has already been rumored in a trade for Carlos Marmol. Heisey has been hitting the ball well so far, but going forward should be average offensively and a little above average defensively. He should be worth about $6mil in a deal, so with him and Alonso the Reds still don’t have enough to get Lee. Throw in Travis Wood or Mike Maloney and then Seattle might be interested. Or a possible package could be Yonder Alonso and the Reds #1 prospect, Todd Frazier, but Cincinnati might be hesitant to trade their top two prospects.

Los Angeles Dodgers

LA don’t appear to be serious players for Lee, but they are a team that keeps popping up in rumors. A package of shortstop Dee Gordon- $14.2mil- and Chris Withrow- $15.9mil- could be enough to seal the deal for Seattle. Seattle might want more, but I think LA could be a serious dark horse candidate. I know they have financial issues, but $4.5mil isn’t much, and they have pieces to give up.

Conclusion:

These figures aren’t exact and neither are the packages that have been rumored by sources, or speculated by me, but it gives a good estimate of what type of prospects are necessary to give up if your team wants to acquire Cliff Lee. Keep these estimates in mind when evaluating a future trade, or trade speculation in your own thoughts.

I seriously believe the Twins are the favorites because their offer is the one firm offer that has been confirmed, and it appears to the best offer available, with the Mariners receiving about $36mil in value, compared to around $25mil for Minnesota. The deal would be a no-brainer for both teams. The Mariners would get two top prospects, and the Twins would boost their World Series chances.