Monday, February 10, 2014

Yankees Roundtable!

It has been over a year since we last checked in with fellow Yankee/baseball fans Jeff and Steve about the state of the Yankees. But, after such an active offseason for the pinstripes the time was ripe for another Yankees Roundtable. 

Our email conversation started with a generic question from me and the three of us just took it from there. As usual, it was fun for the three of us and I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did, in all of its unedited glory. 

Question: The Yankees have obviously had a busy offseason (goodbye Robbie and hello Ellsbury, Beltran and Tanaka) and it looks like it's finally starting to slow down. With that said are you a fan of the big moves that were made? 

Steve: I'm upset that Cano is gone, and I'm gonna continue to be upset about it all year. Any time you lose an elite guy--one who hits like a beast and plays middle infield--it hurts and I'm sure it'll be the thing to point to all year whenever the Yanks might hit a snag.

That said, it set some things in motion that I'm psyched about. Major contracts for the best guys on the market. I'm especially fond of the McCann and Tanaka signings. Maybe instead of posting for and nabbing Tanakdog they spend $50M on Garza or 60 for Ubaldo and use the rest for S. Drew and Balfour. Honestly, that's probably a more reasonable way to spend the money. But it seems the floor on Tanaka is ~3.75 ERA, 8 K/9 in as many innings as the can squeeze, and the upside is titillating.
My favorite part of the offseason is that the Yanks blew away the bullshit $189M figure. Slow-play decoy or whatever that was, it's clearly a non-factor now and the big bad Yanks just bankrobbed free agency. I will never feel bad about the Yankees spending money. They make the most, spend the most.

Jeff: Great response Steve, and thanks Ben and Steve for including me in this!

To start, I think the Yankees and their fans are in for a real surprise heading into their first season without Mariano Rivera.  The Yankees haven't had to question the 9th inning since Mariano Rivera took over as closer in 1997.  In the first season without Mo to cover the 9th, we as fans have to ask ourselves:  is David Robertson closer material?  The some statistics on their surface look promising; highest WHIP in last 3 years of 1.17 and a career 11.79 K/9 IP. However, any fan who has watched Robertson in the 9th inning when a save situation is at hand knows he isn't Mariano Rivera; he even has 2-3 blown saves per season when he has never been a genuine closer. If Robertson can't handle the 9th, it's going to be a long season. Similarly, do Yankees fans feel confident in the bullpen entering the season?  What does Matt Thornton have to offer?  Will Shawn Kelley regress?  I personally am very excited to see what Preston Clairborne has to offer in his sophomore campaign in the pen and what Dellin Betances will show with the new opportunity as a one inning option.

I have to agree with Steve that I am upset to see Cano go.  However, I am glad the Yankees didn't enter into an Albert Pujols-like 10 year contract with him either.  Still, without Cano at 2B, the infield looks extremely thin entering 2014.  It would be really nice to see the Yankees not have to rely on Kelly Johnson and Brian Roberts as
everyday players.  

As far as the FA signings, I am very excited to see what Tanaka has to offer (especially since I think if the Yankees hadn't signed Tanaka that money would be going towards the overrated Ubaldo Jimenez). McCann is an intriguing signing.  I don't see him catching for too many years though, especially if Gary Sanchez comes knocking on the door in a year or two.  The FA signing I'm most upset about, however, is Jacoby Ellsbury.  Seven years and $153 million for someone whose top asset is speed.  Most alarming is that much money for a leadoff
hitter with a career .350 OBP.  I would have preferred to see the money go towards Shin Soo Choo.  Choo turned down a seven year, $140 million offer.  Choo is only one year older than Ellsbury but has a career .389 OBP (including a .423 OBP last year for Cincy).  Is a leadoff hitter's primary purpose not to get on base?  Choo also has the greater power stroke.  Finally, I do enjoy the Beltran signing, despite his age.  Beltran, as long as he stays healthy, should be a steady middle of the lineup source of RBI and has always produced in the playoffs.

My overall impression of the offseason is that it's more of the same. However, more of the same is the reason the Yankees found themselves old/crippled and missing the playoffs last season.  It's the tail end of the core four from the late 90's and it's time the Yankees focus on improving the farm system.  With the best draft pick entering this season since the 90's all the Yankees proceeded to do was sign multiple Type A free agents and lose their top draft picks.  The Yankees need to learn a lesson from World Series Champion Cardinals and focus on rebuilding the farm system.  While I agree with Steve that it's nice to see the Yankees invest so much money into the team, signing 30+ year old FA's who are at the tail end of their prime only prevents the Yankees from developing players who will be a foundation of the organization for years to come.

Biggest questions entering the season:
1.  What will the bullpen have to offer?
2.  Will CC be the ace the Yankees need?  What does Tanaka have to
offer?  What does Pineda have to offer?
3.  Do Jeter and Teix each have 140+ games in them for this season?
Will Kelly Johnson and/or Brian Roberts be productive?

2014 will be an interesting one.  Let's Go Yankees!!

Ben: Well Jeff, that's a lot to process. Give me a minute to read that. OK, let's discuss...

It looks like we are all in agreement that losing Robbie hurts. One of the knocks on the Yankees is that they can't seem to develop players from within, as you pointed out Jeff. Since the core four, Robbie is really the only guy that has produced at a star level. His loss will hurt on the field for the Yankees and off the field for their precious fans.

I'm also happy the Yankees said goodbye to the $189 million limit and went into FU mode spending hundreds of millions of dollars, quite literally. However, I fear their spending might be sub-optimal.  Jeff, you make some great points regarding Ellsbury. There are a lot of question marks there for a $153 million man. However, I slightly disagree with Choo being a better alternative. Although Ellsbury relies on his speed, players like him actually tend to age well and he plays a more premier position whereas Choo is relegated to the corners. However part II, the Yankees already have a B-Grade Ellsbury in Gardner. 

I'm a fan of the McCann signing, it rights a wrong in letting Russ leave last year. I am also excited by Tanaka but I think I would prefer what Steve mentioned in spreading the wealth around a little more evenly. Assuming their offseason is done, the Yankees still have some alarming holes considering all the money that was spent. 

With all of that said, do you guys think the Yankees offseason is done? Will they get another reliever? It's hard to imagine the Yankees entering the season with their current infield. Any potential trade targets you see, either around the corner or during the season?

Steve: The remaining market on free agent relief pitchers is paper thin. Dotel, K-Rod, Frank Frank, Marmol, Farnsworth...yuck. I kinda like the idea of giving a one-year deal to Oliver Perez, who had something of a renaissance last year in Seattle. But the Yankees already have their lefty in Matt Thornton.

Looking at the deals given out recently to Jason Hammel and Scott Baker, one-year deals for less than 10 mill, why not grab someone like Paul Maholm for cheap. Keep David Phelps in the swingman role, strengthening the bullpen a bit while adding an insurance starter. Barry Zito is out there too, just sayin.
Honestly, the options look limited at this point. Chase Headley's name has been thrown around, which would be a great fit if not a major upgrade. Brett Gardner will be the trade chip until he's gone. And the Yanks have a few pieces close to the bigs that might entice. Would love to see them make an infield upgrade, but it's hard to see where it can be done. Guys?

Ben: The relievers that available are pretty middling. But you might be on to something by strengthening the rotation a tad. Paul Maholm has a lot of faults, soft tossing fly ball lefties in Yankee Stadium aren't the greatest, but it would give the Yankees a few extra bullets for their 5th starter. 

But, if they're going to look at other pitcher options, why not think bigger at a guy like Ubaldo Jiminez? I'm less interested in Bronson Arroyo (for obvious reasons) and Ervin Santana (fly-ball prone) but if the Yankees are going to open up the bank why stop at just over the $189 and not go all in with Ubaldo? Ubaldo has been very up and down in his career and here is certainly some worry about his 2nd half last year being more of a blip than a trend but he's also rumored to be going to Toronto. Snagging a competitors target while solidifying the rotation sounds like a very Yankees-esque move to finish a very Yankees-esque offseason. 

I would run for the woods if I was a team with a smaller budget or a team that would be relying on Ubaldo to duplicate his 2014 but the Yankees just need a solid 4th or 5th starter and Ubaldo would be one of the league's best in that role. David Phelps is a capable and intriguing-ish quasi-innings eater (high praise, right?) and Michael Pineda is still lingering around for sure but I'd prefer having them as backup plans which inevitably come to fruition when talking about starting pitchers staying healthy. 

As far as the IF is concerned, Headley is a name that keeps coming up. I imagine the Yankees have an eye on him but are worried about his 2013 season. Maybe they're waiting to see if he can turn it around this season before engaging in some trade talks, even if that will make his price higher.  

None of the Yankees current prospects are too good to give up, and although we've talked about how they need to improve their farm and get some young talent in there, the greatest value the Yankees prospects could give based on the current model is a trade. But the IF options look a little meager. Depending on what happens with the Cubs and Reds however, Jeff Samardzija and Homer Bailey start looking like some trade targets...

Jeff: Great responses all, I'm enjoying this!

As may have been implied from my first response I am very iffy about the bullpen going into this season; in particular I'm not very confident with Robertson as closer.  Would be very interesting if they can develop once stud SP prospect Betances into a closer (his numbers were very good in AAA once he was converted into a reliever I believe (writing this from my phone and can't look up)).  I would like the Oliver Perez signing (why does the bullpen have to be restricted to only one lefty reliever?) and was really hoping to see the Yanks sign Crain.  Fernando Rodney (I don't think he's signed yet?) might be intriguing too.  Like I said earlier, strength of bullpen really depends on second Yankees seasons of Shawn Kelley and Preston Clairborne.  

As far as the infield goes, also as I wrote previously, not feeling confident at all in having both Kelly Johnson and Brian Roberts slated as starters.  Yankees options also become thinner if they are going to try and sign another infielder with Michael Young retiring (for the record, I would've preferred the Yankees signing Young over Youk last season).  They could always resign Mark Reynolds and have him split with Kelly Johnson?  Nothing very exciting out there and nothing exciting in the farm system.  With all of the excess outfielders and the terse infield depth I would have enjoyed seeing the Brett Gardner for Brandon Phillips swap happen.  

As far as the SP go, I am hoping Pineda fits in as the 4/5 the Yankees need right now.  I don't think the Yankees should go out and sign Ubaldo (as I think he is overrated) or Ervin Santana (as Ben pointed out very fly ball prone).  What I would like to see is the Yanks make a move for Justin Masterson out of Cleveland (either through FA or trade).  I think Masterson is a better version of Chien Ming Wang and his propensity for ground balls would work very well at Yankees Stadium.  He really took the step up in Cleveland last year and could be a solid #2 in the Yankees rotation for years to come.  His name excites me a lot more than Homer Bailey or Jeff Samardzija (Ben suggestions).  

One note that I didn't mention in my first response is my new appreciation for Joe Girardi.  Was not a huge fan of his as a manager prior to last season (even with the WS in 2009).  What he did with the team last season considering all of he injuries and age was brilliant, and I look forward to Girardi being manager for many years to come.

Steve: Good stuff, Jeff.

I'm not worried about Robertson at closer. Obviously you don't replace Mo (good call bringing that up). But D-Rob has been one of the best relievers in the game for the last few years and I don't see why he can't bring that into the ninth. It'll be the 7th, 8th to worry about now. Maybe they avoided the Rodney/Balfour types to give Robertson some confidence going into the ninth inning role, but that'll prove to be a mistake. Agree that Crain would have been a great get.

I'm not on board with acquiring Brandon Phillips' decline. I know the hole at 2B is huge, but Gardner is just a straight-up more valuable piece. I'd way rather see him used to net someone like Bailey. I agree that Masterson is a nice trade target, but I see Bailey as head and shoulders above him.

At this point, if the Yanks are gonna spend more money, it's gotta be for the infield, and Stephen Drew is the guy. Cashman said the "heavy lifting" is over, so maybe they really are done spending. If they do, it's gotta be for Drew. I'd be surprised if they spent more for Ubaldo/Arroyo.

Ben: Unfortunately Mark Reynolds signed with Milwaukee (as did Lyle Overbay) and similarly, Carlos Pena was given a minor league deal by the Angels. With Mark Teixeira's wrist supposed to hurt him at least for the first half of the season, it's unfortunate the Yankees let both of those guys go elsewhere. If Teixeira misses any time this season the Yankees are going to be in big, big trouble. Their options include another Overbay-esque type player or Soriano/Beltran with a first base mitt. #notgood.

I'm not worried about Robertson closing for this team but I am worried about their bullpen. As Jeff says, the Yankees have some intriguing options in Preston Claiborne and Dellin Betances but you would like more intrigue with the mop-up and have someone else to rely on in the later innings. I think the contract that the Rays gave Balfour would have been awesome in NY, even if the Yankees would have to spend a little bit more. I'm not necessarily a fan of giving up a draft pick to help the relief, but the Yankees need to do something to improve the pen. I don't believe they need a "proven closer" but they need good pitchers in the pen, and right now that's a debatable statement. 

I would love for the Yankees to sign Stephen Drew. I don't actually think he's all that great but the Yankees are relying on sticks and glue and the aura of Derek Jeter. As we mentioned, if they are going to break open the bank, then break it open. The draft pick is valuable and would be going to Boston which would kind of suck, but so would missing out on the post season again. 

As for Brandon Phillips, I think Gardner is a better player and I wouldn't make that kind of deal as is. I do like Bailey though, and depending on if/when the Reds realize they messed up this whole offseaon and want to reset, why not think big? A big deal acquiring Bailey and Phillips for Gardner and a couple of their prospects that disappointed in 2013 (Williams, Austin, Heathcott) could maybe get the job done although it's likely unrealistic as of now. 

While I would like the Yankees to do more heavy lifting, Cashman's statement is likely accurate as there isn't much lifting to be done really, outside of Stephen Drew, Ubaldo Jiminez and Ervin Santana. I refuse to even add Arroyo's name to that mix, as an announcement of him on the Yankees would make me nauseous. 

The Yankees course of action might be to push their luck and if it breaks (or when Brian Roberts inevitably gets hurt) to take a look at the midseason trade market. One thing is for sure, the Yankees are going to be on all year long. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Mazel Tov Frank Thomas, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux!

There are well more than ten viable Hall of Famers on this year's ballot and considering voters are only allowed to check the names of ten players, that would seem to be a problem. Theoretically it still is but considering only Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and Frank Thomas were inducted today, the problem would seem to be with the BBWAA.

However, rather than spend countless words arguing about the voting public of the HOF, the Baseball Writers Association of America, let's take some time to congratulate Frank Thomas, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux.

Greg Maddux is surely one of the best pitchers of all time and given the environment he played in, one could make a compelling case for him as the best pitcher of all time. Maddux owns four Cy Young Awards, lead the league in ERA four times, won 355 games and has a career ERA (3.16) and WHIP (1.14) that would make fantasy owners drool. Maddux's longevity is obviously well known but take a look at his numbers from 1992-1998:

127-53, 2.15 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 0.4 HR/9, 1.4 BB/9

Over a seven year stretch Greg Maddux averaged 18 wins with a 2.15 ERA over 239 innings pitched. Everyone appropriately talks about Pedro's peak, but that's essentially just as good. Plus he also threw over 5,000 innings. I'd say that is Hall of Fame worthy, although there are a few numskulls who decided not to vote him in with some very flawed logic.

Tom Glavine is certainly deserving as well and it's fitting that he goes into Cooperstown with his former teammate. Glavine didn't always look pretty on the mound, walking batters and nibbling on the corners but 305 wins later, Glavine finds himself going to Cooperstown. Glavine's FIP based WAR is an impressive 64.3  (41st all time) but his RA-9 based WAR paints a more accurate portrayal of his skills at 88.0 (29th all time).

Frank Thomas always had a hall of fame nickname (The Big Hurt) and now he has a hall of fame career to go along with it. We all know about Albert Pujols, but Thomas was essentially Albert before Albert. From 1991-1997 Frank Thomas averaged .330/.452/.604, for a 182 OPS+, winning two MVPs. Thomas wasn't consistently as good as that for the rest of his career but he still hit 265 homers from that point on along with two top-five MVP finishes. For his career Thomas hit .309/.419/.555 with a 154 wRC+ and 521 home runs. For comparison's sake, Miguel Cabrera has a career 152 wRC+ and that's without his decline phase. The Big Hurt could really rake.

Unfortunately I only have to talk about three players here but that's a conversation for another day. Congratulations to these deserving players and here's to hoping the 2015 class will be larger as there are certainly many deserving players left. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Quick Thoughts: Weekend Wrap Up

If there is one thing we have learned during this offseason it's that baseball teams have a lot of money to spend. That idea certainly did not change this weekend. A quick recap:
  • The best way to improve your team is to upgrade your biggest weakness. The 2013 Yankees had many weaknesses, the fact they were over .500 is somewhat impressive. But, by and large the catcher position was the glaring hole. As a team the Yankees catchers (Chris Stewart, Francisco Cervelli, Austin Romine and a tad of J.R. Murphy) hit for a combined 61 wRC+, which ranked 26th in the league. Now, the Yankees have Brian McCann, signed to a five-year $85 million deal. It's a lot of money but with the current times, $17 million for McCann actually doesn't seem too too bad. The Yankees received 0.9 WAR from their catchers last year and McCann, who ranks as one of the best offensive and defensive catchers in the league projects by Steamer to be worth 4.8 WAR. Granted that's a rough estimation and McCann has missed a few games over the last few years, but even on the low end, McCann projects to be worth at least three more wins than their current crop of catchers. McCann might not be a good catcher or a catcher at all towards the end of this deal but if he does his thing for the first 2-3 years, it should be a solid signing for the Yankees.
  • Like the Yankees, the Cardinals realized best way to improve is to fix your weakness. The Cardinals have fewer weaknesses than the Yankees and most teams but they certainly have a hole at shortstop that Pete Kozma just isn't filling. Lat year, the Cardinals' shortstops were worth -0.3 WAR. The Cardinals essentially did not have a major league caliber player at SS all year, now they have Jhonny Peralta, signed to a four-year $52 million deal. Earlier in his career Peralta graded out as a below average SS but somehow over the last few years he's been above average. I'm not entirely sure what to make of that but the Cardinals certainly value defense and I don't think they would completely punt it just for Peralta's offense. Speaking of his offense, although he's been inconsistent, Peralta still an above average hitter (career 102 wRC+) playing a premium defensive position. The Cards are paying some decent coin for Peralta's services but they were also able to upgrade their biggest weakness without having to trade one of their young aces. Peralta may not be worth $52 million over the course of his contract, but because of him the Cardinals are still able to throw Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez out there, and that is a lot of value.
  • The Yankees and Robinson Cano aren't looking any closer to agreeing on a contract but there isn't much buzz about him being linked with any other team. The Dodgers spent a bunch of cash on middle infielders from Cuba and unless the Rangers decide to dive all-in following their Prince Fielder acquisition, I don't see any other players for Cano. His $300 million demand is a joke and the Yankees will likely end up signing him for a more reasonable, eight-year $200 million deal. The fact that $200 million might be considered reasonable, tells us a lot about the current free agent landscape.
  • Josh Johnson to San Diego was the early front runner for best free agent signing of the offseason, pitching or otherwise but Dan Haren to LA might take the cake now.  A one-year $10 million deal for Dan Haren carries little risk and a lot of reward. Haren isn't a pillar of stability but he still threw 176.2 innings in 2012 and 169.2 innings last year. His 4.67 ERA last year is a little unsightly but a 3.67 xFIP might tell a different story. In 64.2 innings pitched from August on, Haren had a 3.34 ERA and a 58/12 K/BB. Haren can struggle with the long ball but he still has fantastic control (1.64 BB/9) and ant least an average ability to miss bats (8.01 K/9; 9.1% SwStr%). That combination for $10 million in this market, is a steal for the Dodgers. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Peter Bourjos for David Freese

A trade went down today and although it's not as sexy as the Prince Fielder variety, (if one can think of Prince Fielder and sexy in the same sentence) it's not a meaningless trade either.

The Cardinals essentially swapped third basemen without a job, David Freese for Peter Bourjos from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Angels have a hole at third base so this certainly fills a need but any way you want to slice it, Peter Bourjos is the better player here. David Freese isn't as bad as his 2013 campaign (106 wRC+/1.3 WAR) but he's also likely not as good as "peak" in 2012. Freese doesn't carry a great glove and his productive years have been a result of fortunate balls in play as he doesn't have too much power with a career .427 SLG and .141 ISO. 

Meanwhile, the Cardinals are now able to slide Matt Carpenter to third base, use prospect Kolten Wong at second base, move Jon Jay to right field to replace Carlos Beltran and finally have themselves an actual center fielder playing the position. With one swap, the Cardinals solidified four positions and gave themselves some nice insurance in case super prospect Oscar Taveras isn't ready. Nice work.There will be worse fielders playing in center in 2014 than Jon Jay but anyone who watches the games could see he's not particularly great with the glove. Bourjos happens to be one of the best fielders in the game. I could illustrate that fact with a slew of advanced stats but just know that the Angels had Mike Trout playing left field because Peter Bourjos was on the team. 'Nuff said.

Considering David Freese was a surplus for the Cardinals coming off of a down year, he was a solid buy-low option for whichever team wanted to acquire him. However, buying low provides that you do just that, and the Angels did not do that here. Bourjos has yet to play an entire season (some coaching/some injury issues) but if and when he does, on the heels of his glove, he would certainly be a more valuable. But, he's no slouch with the bat as he's also a totally acceptable hitter as well. In 1,136 plate appearances Bourjos has a 96 wRC+. That's a league average hitter who happens to be one of, if not the best center fielders in the game. I said I didn't need any stats, but what the hell, since he entered the league in 2010, only four out fielders have been more valuable with the glove. The kid can play.

Fernando Salas is also going to Los Angeles with Randal Grichuk coming over to St. Louis. I don't know much about Grichuk, but he's a top-10 prospect in the Angels farm system. He won't turn 23 until August and just hit a decent .256/.306/.474 in AA this season. Who knows how Grichuk will end up but Fernando Salas has little to no value, Grichuk certainly has some. 

Early next season, David Freese will be 31 years old with two years of team control. Peter Bourjos will be 27 years old with three more years of team control. Bourjos is cheaper, better and the Cardinals will have control of him for a longer time. It's basically impossible to say this isn't a great trade for St. Louis.  The Cardinals don't have the budget that some teams do but the rich certainly got richer here. 

Quick Thoughts

There is a lot of movement going on this offseason and not every bit of rumor, trade or signing is worthy of its own post (necessarily), so consider this a greatest hits. Or at least a few sweet samples:
  • Chris Young signed a one-year $7.25 million deal with the Mets today. With Marlon Byrd the Mets outfield was looking bleak and without him they were relying on Juan Lagares, Eric Young Jr. and whatever Lucas Duda could pretend to be out there. Safe to say, they needed some OF help and Chris Young provides that. Young's stock has plummeted in recent years but he can play CF and at least still hit lefties well. The problem is against righties. Young had a 67 wRC+ against right handed pitchers in 2013 but a more respectable 88 wRC+ in 2012.$7.25 million is a lot for a part-time player but if Young can play adequate CF defense and up his production against righties, it's a low-risk move for the Mets that fills a need.
  • Of course, even with Young the Mets need some more OF help and they've also been linked to Nelson Cruz. Signing another out fielder is the right idea but Nelson Cruz might be a land mine. Cruz used to be a more athletic, five-ish tool player who could run a bit and field his position. Nowadays, while he can still hit home runs he brings no value on the bases for in right field. Cruz will demand a multi-year deal and it wouldn't surprise me if he had one solid year on his next contract but my guess is it gets drowned out by the other years. If I'm a Mets fan, I hope this stays a rumor.
  • The Royals signed Jason Vargas to a four-year $32 million deal, essentially replacing free agent Ervin Santana. The dollars being thrown around this offseason is a little ridiculous but it's basically the new normal. Teams have more money to spend than ever before and they're clearly spending it. However, four years at $8 million a year for essentially a league-average pitcher is a little wonky. It's true that it's essentially the same deal that Jeremy Guthrie signed (plus a year) but that implying that Guthrie's deal was a solid one isn't necessarily correct. The Royals want to get over the hump, it's important to have several guys throw at least league average innings to compete, but giving Vargas four-years isn't an optimal use of their resources.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Trade

The rumors yesterday afternoon rang true by the evening time as the Rangers and Tigers essentially swapped all-stars with Ian Kinsler going to Detroit and Prince Fielder moving to Texas. 

The trade isn't exactly a simple swap as Detroit is also throwing $30 million to Texas (paid out in the final five years of the contract)  but as far as the players are concerned, Prince and Kinsler are the only pieces moving. We still have a lot of offseason left to see how everything else shakes out, but this is certainly too big of a trade to not analyze immediately after.

Of course, several people have already written several great words on the trade, including Dave Cameron here and here and Jonah Keri here, but the more the merrier right?

The Tigers entered the offseason with essentially three designated hitters, Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez. Prince Fielder and the $168 million owed to him until 2020 was largely and appropriately considered an immovable contract but moved he was for Ian Kinsler. With this trade, Miguel Cabrera and his achy groin can now move to a position more suitable to his size, Nick Castellanos can move back to the hot corner or the Tigers can resign Jhonny Peralta and Victor Martinez can comfortably play out his final year in Detroit at DH. 

Although the Tigers are sending $30 million to Texas in the deal, that doesn't start until 2016 and for the next two years, have $48 million to spend that was previously allocated to Prince. The Tigers were originally committed to $168 million to Prince, now with Ian Kinsler ($62 million) and the $30 million going to Texas they've secured $76 million to play around with. That's some significant coin. When you add in the fact that Kinsler's contract is somewhat front-loaded, that Victor Martinez is off the books next year, and that Tigers are paying the Rangers in 2016-2020, the Rangers have plenty of cash to spend. Whether that means they will resign Max Scherzer, brin gin a top tier free agent like Shin-Soo Choo or what, I don't really know. 

However, what I do know is that before this trade the Tigers didn't have many options and were resorting to possibly having to move Scherzer. Now, the Tigers filled their need at second base with Omar Infante's departure, they aren't looking to move their recent Cy Young Award winner and have some serious elbow room both in this offseason and in the future. Elbow room is important. 

Regardless what the Tigers do after this move, this has to be considered a big, big win for them. They had a hole at second base and money tied up in three players playing the same position handcuffing the team. With one trade the Tigers fixed all of those problems. Even if Prince was a more valuable player than Kinsler this would be a nice swap but that isn't even true. While Fielder certainly hits better than Kinsler he does it at first base, Kinsler makes his money at second base. Prince is an unquestionable iron horse essentially playing in every game since he's entered the league while Kinsler is prone to miss several games each year, but including those missed games Kinsler has accrued 12.8 WAR since 2011 while Prince has 11.9. There might be a selection bias there, including Kinsler's career year in 2011, but Steamer projects Kinsler to be worth 3.6 WAR in 2014 and Prince 3.7. Any way you want to slice it, these players have equal value, the only thing not equal is the salaries they're being paid.

Meanwhile, while I certainly think it's a fantastic trade for the Tigers, that doesn't mean it's a horrible one for the Rangers. The Rangers entered the offseason with a crowded infield, one of Elvis Andrus, Jurickson Profar or Ian Kinsler had to go, or switch positions. The Rangers also lacked punch in the lineup losing Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli last year to free agency and while I doubt the Rangers wish they were paying Josh Hamilton $25 million for the next few years, Mitch Moreland isn't really making the Rangers forget their absence.

So with this trade the Rangers were able to fix their middle infield log jam, allowing their prized prospect to play and they received a big bopper at a position of need. That's not bad but they're also paying a pretty penny for it to happen. I have a lot of issues with Prince Fielder's body type and just paying first basemen a lot of money into their thirties in general, but a seven year/$138 million deal for Prince isn't necessarily breaking the bank. It's not considering what else they could have acquired for Kinsler, but the trade market for a second basemen in his 30s, even a great one, might not be as fruitful as I would have normally assumed.

Overall, as I said, I count this as a huge win for the Tigers and a wait-and-see for the Rangers. Jonah Keri has a good point bringing up the TV money the Rangers will have flowing in but with this trade the Rangers are closer to making their bed and getting ready to sleep in it. The Tigers now have the flexibility to buy a nicer bed for themselves or dress it with Egyptian cotton, even though I might prefer your cheaper, standard T-Shirt sheets.

I was shocked a few years ago when the Tigers signed Prince, now I'm a little shocked they were able to trade him and his contract. Either way, this is a fantastic start to the hot stove season and I can't wait to see what follows and how Prince Fielder's body is going to look in 2018. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

2013 MVP Awards

I won't speak too much about the MVP Awards, which will be announced tonight as my thinking has largely remained the same since I talked about them in early September.

Alas, it's impossible for me to say nothing about it either.The top of my ballots from September remain the same in November. I still think that Andrew McCutchen was the best player in the National League, which in my mind makes him the MVP. Even if the Pirates finished in last place, McCutchen, for better or worse, would remain my personal choice. Of course the Pirates didn't finish in last place as they made the postseason, so hopefully the BBWAA gives him credit for that. Whether or not it's misguided (and it would be in my opinion), McCutchen deserves the award.

Unfortunately, while McCutchen was a great hitter, he didn't lead the league in RBI like Mr. Paul Goldschmidt. However, although Goldy led the NL in RBI (129) and HR (36), his 156 wRC+ was only slightly better than McCutchen (155), as playing in Pittsburgh isn't the same as Arizona. Context matters. Moreover, considering they are essentially equal hitters with the bat, the fact that McCutchen plays a more demanding position, plays it well and can run the bases makes it a no brainer for me.

National League

1) Andrew McCutchen
2) Yadier Molina
3) Clayton Kershaw

In the American League, my thinking has changed much either since September. It actually hasn't changed much since last season when it was Trout vs. Cabrera Part I. In 2012, Trout was actually on par with Miggy with the stick but this year Miggy wasn't certainly better with a 192 wRC+ compared to Trout's 176. But of course, all the caveats that applied last year are still relevant today. Trout plays CF (mostly) and plays it very well, he steals bases (33/40) and is generally one of the best baserunners in the game, netting the third most runs in the AL on the base paths.

Meanwhile, although Miggy is unworldly with the bat he can't really field. He plays a premier position but he also lost the most runs of any fielder in the league this year. Chris Davis should net a lot of votes, maybe more than Trout, because he hit for power on a good team but unsurprising to anyone who reads the Bias, Trout is my pick. Wins Above Replacement (WAR) isn't an end-all-be-all statistic but it's telling that Trout's 10.4 number is significantly higher than Miggy's (7.6). And if you happen to prefer Baseball-Reference's WAR calculation, Trout (9.2) still bests Caberera (7.2) by a wide margin.

One last thing to note is some Josh Donaldson love. In September I mentioned him as a sort of footnote in the "best of the rest" but now, I'd probably rank him 4th. A jack of all trades and master of none, Donaldson provides + value everywhere on the diamond and is a large reason why Oakland was so successful.

American League

1) Mike Trout
2) Miguel Cabrera
3) Chris Davis
3a) Josh Donaldson