Showing posts with label winter meetings. Show all posts
Showing posts with label winter meetings. Show all posts

Sunday, December 04, 2016

The 2016-17 Baseball Winter Meetings Begin

The 2016-17 MLB Winter Meetings begin tonight and with the CBA out of the way, we can only hope that this cranks up the heat in the Hot Stove and provides plenty of action to get us excited about the 2017 baseball season. I spend most of the winter pretending Fantasy Football is just as interesting as Fantasy Baseball (it is not) and visiting sports betting sites as I eagerly await the trades and free-agent signings that provide fodder for articles like this one.

The rumors are already starting of major deals close to fruition - the Dodgers are rumored to be close on re-signing starter Rich Hill to a three-year $48 million contract; the Astros (more below) have reportedly agreed with Carlos Beltran on a one-year deal for $16 million; Jon Heyman is reporting that both the Nationals and Giants have four year $60 million offers out to Mark Melancon; Derek Norris is back with the Nationals; and finally the Yankees are supposedly in the driver's seat on 34-year old slugger Edwin Encarnacion despite being in rebuild mode.

So, on the eve of the Winter Meetings lets look at a couple of the more interesting baseball transactions of the winter thus far and their fantasy ramifications.

The Eric Thames Signing

As a Chris Carter owner this was not my favorite transaction of the week. The fact that I had been attempting to trade high on Carter's 41 homers had a little something to do with it. Carter of course has been designated for assignment and is headed for free agency. Rumors have the Orioles, Yankees and Blue Jays at least mildly interested. But what do the Brewers have in Eric Thames?

Eric Thames was a solid prospect for the Toronto Blue Jays who had a decent debut season but spent the next two seasons getting sporadic major league at-bats between the Blue Jays and Mariners. He went to South Korea to play in the KBO and became a star player, an MVP in fact. He hit for massive averages, got on base a ton and hit homers like Cecil Fielder back in the day. He even stoles bases and had the KBO's only 40/40 season. And now? He is a Brewer.

Only a few hitters have managed to make their way from the KBO to MLB but surprisingly the ones that have found their skills mostly translated. Clay Davenport who I love for his statistical translation between U.S. leagues and places like Cuba and Japan has suggested that Thames is for real and should hit for average and homers (and even steal some bases) now that he is back in the states. His projected slash based on 2015 numbers suggested a slash of  .333/.389/.628 with 30 homers. I'll bet a few bucks on that projected outcome.

The Jean Segura Trade 

Given the going rate for pitching in Major League Baseball it is a bit surprising that more writers haven't dove deeper into the players accompanying Jean Segura from Arizona (though Mitch Haniger is quickly gaining a sleeper label in fantasy circles) in return for promising potential ace and controllable starter, Taijuan Walker. And just about everyone has ignored the possibilities that Ketel Marte represents.

Jean Segura had a great 2016 season with the Diamondbacks and will go down as the best acquisition made by the LaRussa/Stewart Regime. Arizona's Chase Field is a great environment for a hitter and the change of scenery probably helped a lot as injuries and personal tragedy were clearly a drag on his performance in Milwaukee. The tools for this performance have always been there and despite weaknesses in his batting eye, he makes excellent contact, has decent power and the speed to steal 30-plus bases per season. In 2016 he hit the ball harder and Chase field definitely had an impact on his performance. Moving to Seattle's Safeco Field may sap a bit of that power and batting average but I expect he will still be a strong fantasy producer with a BA closer to .270 than .300 and closer to 10 than 20 homers. That said being in the American League and a potentially strong lineup in Seattle he should score plenty of runs and have better RBI potential even in the leadoff spot.

Mitch Haniger may be priced out of sleeper range by the times most drafts start. According to Baseball America, Seattle officials are certain that Haniger will be on the major league roster to begin the 2017 season, most likely as the starting left fielder. Haniger has largely come out of nowhere after re-modeling his swing with a leg kick fashioned after players like A.J. Pollock and Jose Bautista to tap more into his natural power. Haniger already had a decent batting eye and all the tools you would want in an outfielder but had failed to impress statistically. In 2016 he exploded for 30 homers (and 12 stolen bases). He is almost universally being projected to hit for a decent average (.250 or so) and around 20 homers in a full season in the majors, that might be light.

Zac Curtis had a great minor league season but blew up a bit the majors (just like the rest of the Diamondbacks bullpen). From all reports his stuff is just average but his minor league strikeout rates are intriguing. He is not worth a draft pick but at some point he might be a useful source of lefty relief pitching with K-potential.

Taijuan Walker has almost everything you want in a pitcher. He has great stuff, solid control, good strikeouts and induces ground balls. His only real flaw is allowing homeruns. His hr/fb rate for his career is just under 14 percent. Steve Gilbert of says Walker is working on adding a two-seam fastball to his repertoire. In theory this could boost his ground ball percentage and reduce the number of costly fly balls a bit. Its something to watch in Spring Training.

Ketel Marte is almost a light version of Segura. He has the same tools just on a slightly lower scale. He advanced through the minors very quickly rarely spending an entire season at a level and skipping levels without missing a beat despite always being among the youngest players in his respective leagues. Unlike Segura he has shown patience at the plate and the ability to draw walks, until 2016 anyway. In his first full season in the majors his walk rate was a bit disappointing despite his history and he chased more pitches than usual as well. To me this sounds like the over eagerness of a young player in the majors to impress the masses. He also suffered a variety of injuries to his hamstring, neck and ankle and dealt with mononucleosis in 2016 and had two stints on the disabled list. With a return to health in the offensively productive environment of Chase Field I expect he is a lot closer to his 2015 level of performance than the 2016 level. The Diamondbacks appear ready to let him start the season at shortstop and see what happens which bodes well. With his potential on-base skills he should be able to earn a spot near the top of the lineup and score a ton of runs and steal close to 30 bases.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Hot Stove Junkie: Over Dose at the Winter Meetings!

The Winter Meetings seem like an eternity of moves ago at this point. But the impact of these moves is still being evaluated as these moves have been followed by even more moves. This is the second post about the moves of the last couple of weeks and my third version of this article due to some stupid glitch with my save function. Yes, it is agonizing, thanks for asking. Not as many links as usual because honestly I did not save them and I do not feel like searching for them again. The next post will include the most recent moves as of this weekend and I will finally be up to date.

Your Pal 


Dee Gordon and Dan Haren Traded to the Miami Marlins

There has been a lot of pessimism expressed online regarding Dee Gordon's ability to be a even a productive  player going forward and even the most optimistic views often suggest that Gordon might be okay hitting at the end of the lineup rather than leading off. The silly part is a lot of this is based almost entirely on Gordon's second half walk rate and slumping down the stretch. Gordon had a very long season. He played winter ball before the season, and then came into the 2014 season fighting for a job. This was his first full season in MLB. He had a career high in plate appearances after the shortest offseason of his career. Fatigue is a bitch.

The Steamer Projections I see quoted often do not give Gordon any credit for his minor league and career babip levels. Gordon bunts for hits and uses his speed to great advantage and that has almost always led to higher than average babip levels. He also takes walks. No, he isn't the African American God of Plate Patience but he is not some ultra aggressive three percent walk guy either. Gordon was a good prospect who almost always performed well in the minors. His major league debut in 2011 was fantastic which made the 87 game audition in 2012 look all the worse. He went back to the minors in 2013 and rocked it. He fought back to the majors in 2014 and he rocked it. I am betting he rocks it in 2015 as well. He was a 40 dollar player in 2014. Even if you expect quite a bit of regression, the anticipating playing time alone should make him worth 25 or so. I bid 30 without a problem.

The Dodgers were dumping Dan Haren and the Marlins were only too happy to accept the possibility of adding him to their rotation for free. If he retires they use the money to sign a first baseman or a different veteran starter.he's probably a safe pick at 5-8 dollars, assuming he doesn't retire.

What the Marlins Gave Up

What shocked me most about this deal is that the Dodgers were the ones trading for prospects. In fact they paid the entire salary of both Dee Gordon and Dan Haren to the Marlins (and they get this money even if Haren decides not to play). The prize prospect of the group was Andrew Heaney. The Dodgers also received Enrique Hernandez, Austin Barnes and Chris Hatcher.

Andrew Heaney projects as a solid mid-rotation starter and some evaluators see him as a potential front-line starter. He has a solid low to mid-90's fastball and two other solid pitches. He should excel in a pitcher's park in front of a good defensive team. Though that will not be with the Dodgers, as you probably know by now. He will probably cost you more than I would be willing to pay for a rookie starter in an AL-Only league but given a full shot I think he will be at least league average this season for a pretty good team. He'll get wins to go with solid strikeouts.

Enrique Hernandez is a 24-year old who can take a walk and has a strong contact rate. He does not have much power or speed but looks like he could become a decent role player or lower tier starter at second base. He might have been a solid $1-3 sleeper in NL-only leagues with the Marlins. If he remains a Dodger he will be a reserve at best and unlikely to get enough at-bats to give him value in most fantasy leagues.

Austin Barnes has split time in the minors between catcher and second base. His offense looks nice, really nice. He walks a lot. He makes excellent contact and has solid power (even if he is not really a homerun hitter) and has more speed than the average catcher. If nothing else he should be a solid and versatile reserve for the Dodgers at some point and that moment could be relatively close. I'd take him as a one-dollar second catcher in a deep NL-Only.

Chris Hatcher will be 30-years old soon but does not have a ton of major league experience. He did however have an excellent season in the Marlins bullpen in 2014. He was a catcher until the 2011 season when he switched to pitching. He has a good arm and I see him becoming a valuable piece of the Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen which needed some more depth. He isn't likely to have a ton of fantasy value but if Jansen went down with an injury it would not shock to see him as a closer possibility.

Despite some underrating of Dee Gordon, I don't think anyone would argue this isn't a pretty good haul of prospects for him. Andrew Friedman was known for building his rosters from the bottom out in Tampa Bay. It was very important to him that he had strong reserves and depth in place and obviously the Dodgers are adopting that philosophy as well.

Then the Dodgers shipped Heaney to the Angels for Howie Kendrick.

Howie Kendrick is a good player. He never developed into the batting champion that some saw in his future as a prospect but he hits for a solid average. He has solid but unspectacular power. He runs well but is not a prolific base stealer. He plays strong defense at second base. His game should not change much in the move to Dodger Stadium. I have a hunch he'll bat second in the lineup behind Carl Crawford so they can keep Yasiel Puig in more of an RBI spot. He is a 25 dollar player.

Rutledge is not that good. He received a certain amount of hype in Colorado but the 20/20 potential once thought possible for him never materialized and playing in Colorado didn't help. If he only managed a few dollars of value in Colorado how much will he be worth in Angel Stadium? Not enough for me to bid on him. He and Grant Green can battle it out for most useless starting middle infielder in fantasy. 

They Love This Trade in Colorado
Jairo Diaz is a Potential Closer for the Rockies

Diaz throws the ball hard! He seemed to put it together at Double-A in 2014. He has three solid pitches so I guess the potential to start is still there but he has the potential to be a devastating closer and the Rockies do not have an established closer of the future at this point. The strikeouts will be there, if the control sticks around he will be extremely popular this time next year. I plan to invest. I would not hesitate to spend 5-8 in keeper leagues, at the right time in an auction I could see going a few dollars further but not too much more than that.  

Brandon McCarthy Signs with the Dodgers

Brandon McCarthy is a very good pitcher when healthy. He has solid control and induces ground balls. He isn't an amazing strikeout artist but he gets the job done. The biggest issue he has is with health. He and the Dodgers seems to believe that a workout regimen has solved the shoulder issues, though his owners will need to hope his luck improves as well. Not just so that his results are closer to his skills but so that he can avoid balls to the face and other accidents of fate. Typically he has not been very valuable for fantasy purposes (usually less than 10 bucks) but his second half showed what could happen if the skills and results converge. I think the 10-15 area is a fair gamble but that embraces quite a bit of risk. 

Is Brandon McCarthy the Next Jason Schmidt?

Matt Kemp and Tim Ferderowicz were Traded to the San Diego Padres

Matt Kemp suffered through a couple of years of injuries to his shoulder, hamstrings and ankles before finally regaining his mojo during the second half of the 2014 season. Although he is clearly the best of the Dodgers offensive weapons when healthy, the new Dodgers management had a problem with his defense. Kemp has never been rated as a good center fielder (by the stats I mean) but there was a point not that long ago where you could probably project him as a solid defender on an outfield corner. This was not the case in 2014 but as his legs get back into shape and he is able to resume his workout routine I do not believe it is ridiculous to project him as a tolerable defender (or even better) on one of the corners. I mention the defense because there is a lot of talk about how bad the Padres outfield defense will be. I think that is being overstated a bit. (more on this on the next report - coming soon)

But for fantasy purposes I think the bat is back and minus the stolen bases I believe we will see Kemp's MVP form. If we could project his second half out to a full season he would be a clear first round pick. He walks enough. He may not walk more than he strikes out but that is not necessary. His career eight percent walk rate is just fine. This is especially true because Kemp has a career .292 batting average and .349 OBP with a career wRC+ of 128, and this is even with the lousy injury years included. His wRC+ was 140 in 2014 and that was with a lousy first half. In the low offense era his bat is worth even more. You can count on a good to great batting average and 20-25 homeruns. I have a hunch he will hit more homers but going from Dodger Stadium to Petco Field is a huge decline in hitting environment, especially as far as right-handed power is concerned. I would spend 25 on him in an NL-only without hesitation but I would not bid over 30 due to the park factors and injury history.

A Look at Matt Kemp's Defense

The Change to Kemp's Batting Mechanics

Tim Ferderowicz has been around a while but with little opportunity to play in the major leagues. He is just 27 years old and has a reputation as a solid defensive catcher who is also a patient line drive hitter at the plate. As a pitch framer however he is mediocre at best depending on which measures you use. Given the chance to play he would probably be a fantasy asset with his bat and would not hurt a pitching staff despite not receiving the bonus points that pitch framing provides. He projects as the major league back-up for the Padres and should receive more at-bats than he did with the Dodgers the last few years. I like him for a buck or two in the end game and probably qualifies as a sleeper given his length of service without fantasy value.

Yasmani Grandal hits well for a catcher with nice power but not much batting average (in the majors, he did hit for average in the minors so there is the potential for better). He takes walks and makes decent contact by modern standards anyway. He has been a pretty lousy defensive catcher by traditional standards but has been a solid pitch framer which is likely part of the appeal for the Dodgers. If he starts at catcher he should be a popular fantasy option. I am not as ready to declare him the Dodgers starting catcher as some seem to be. Pitch Framing is important but it isn't everything. He is probably a 10-15 dollar player in keeper leagues but I do not have much faith in his ability to keep a job as a starting catcher.The way Andrew Friedman has built his teams tells me he values having strong reserves and Grandal could back up at catcher and first base. The Dodgers front office may not think much of Ellis but they could look to add a more established catching option with both the pitch framing and traditional defensive skills for the position. Jason Castro comes to mind.

The Dodgers Continue to Re-Work Their Catching Depth

Joe Wieland projects as a back-end starter or decent relief pitcher in the major leagues. He was terrible in 2014 after returning from various injuries. I do not like his upside enough to invest in him but I expect he will make frequent appearances in the Major Leagues in 2015.

The Dodgers flipped Zach Eflin who they received in the Kemp deal and lefty pitching prospect Tom Windle to the Phillies for shortstop Jimmy Rollins and cash. This is a pretty good deal for the Phillies who need to add real prospects in the worse way. However Jimmy Rollins is a great get for the Dodgers who manage to replace most of Hanley Ramirez's offense while improving the shortstop defense greatly. The Dodger pitching staff should only benefit by having a better defense behind them.

Rollins is obviously on the downside of his career but is still a very productive player and a fantasy asset at shortstop. He is still a 20/20 threat though that possibility is reduced a bit by Dodger Stadium. The only real downside is in the batting average. His contact rate has been falling which probably says something about his bat speed fading a bit. However with the state of offense in baseball these days, Rollins is only slightly below average in the BA category. He has been about a 20 dollar player and is moving to a much better lineup. I bid 20 with confidence.

Tom Windle spent 2014 in the California League where he had a nice strikeout rate and decent control but mediocre results. Those results are not as meaningful at this level especially when its the hitter friendly California League. He should debut in Double-A for the Phillies and projects as a solid mid-rotation starter. Windle is a decent pick in a really deep minor league system but in leagues with smaller farm teams I think you can do better, especially considering the poor track record of the Phillies in pitcher development.

Zach Eflin should also debut at Double-A this year. He is more of a ground ball pitcher than a strikeout artist, though he has the potential to improve his K-rate. He was mediocre in one of the better minor league pitching environments in 2014 but still projects as a mid-rotation starter with some upside. I don't see him as must get minor league pick but is a solid pick in deeper farm systems.

More on the Phillies' New Prospects

Ervin Santana seems to building a career as the ace for teams that cannot afford an ace. The Royals, then the Braves and now the Twins will use Santana to front their rotation. He is durable and usually an effective pitcher with a good number of strikeouts, reasonable control and that tends to help him collect wins. The fantasy reality (eh) is that he is closer to a ten dollar starter than an ace. In keeper leagues he is probably a 10-15 dollar starter who might get a few dollars more due to name value. The Twins are collecting some solid pitchers in their rotation. I think the hope is that the farm system will eventually provide the ace they really need. Hopefully, the advancement of some of their better prospects will get some of the first basemen out of the outfield and allow the defense to contribute to the pitching stats. 

The Reds Traded Alfredo Simon and Mat Latos to the Tigers and Marlins

By some measures the Reds were the best defensive team in the National League, this contributed greatly to Alfredo Simon out-performing his skills by metrics such as xFIP. Still, the Tigers should have their best defensive team in years to start the 2015 season and seem to have a knack for getting the most out of starting pitchers (relievers not so much). If Simon fails it will not doom the Tigers.

The Tigers will still have David Price, Anibal Sanchez and Justin Verlander to front the rotation. With the solid and potentially better than projected Shane Greene, plus a few pitching prospects that can at least approach the level of the league's fourth and fifth starters, the Tigers rotation is still in good shape even without Simon. I would consider Simon only in the endgame and he is likely to go for more than that in most leagues. I like Greene a lot more and would pay in the high single digits, 8-10 in keeper leagues has room for some profit in my opinion. 

Eugenio Suarez was a first round pick in 2013 was contributing to the Major League Detroit Tigers in 2014, not an unprecedented feat but still an impressive accomplishment. The article linked below compared him to Didi Gregorious and that isn't a shabby return for an over achieving 33-year old journeyman pitcher. Throw in Jonathan Crawford, a solid if unspectacular pitching prospect, and the Reds did well in this deal.

Zack Cozart is a pretty good defensive player but his bat is not great. His homeruns numbers dropped off quite drastically in 2014 and his already middling batting average sunk to almost intolerable levels. Suarez will either begin the year in the minors or as a reserve bat. However, if Cozart does not rebound he could find himself watching Suarez take his position as the 2015 season continues.

Mat Latos Returns Home to Florida

Mat Latos also out performed his skills during the 2014 season but he has a much better reputation as a starting pitcher and much of his skills (and tool decline - his velocity was drastically reduced in 2014) can be laid at the feet of various injuries that robbed him of a large portion of the regular season. Latos was probably not at 100 percent at any time during the 2014 season and if he can return to health there is a decent chance that he can return to being a front of the rotation type. The Marlins are certainly betting on his rebound. It is difficult to say the Marlins overpaid or that the Reds sold too low with the injuries still a huge question mark. That said, with the entire rotation entering its final season before free agency, the Reds did well to secure a MLB ready starter with six years of control left, throw in a catching prospect that gets on base and it makes sense even if it was not a sexy move. For the Marlins they have little to lose. They are deep in their major league rotation and have a nice bunch of pitching prospects for depth.

Minor League Ball on the Prospects

The Texas Rangers Trade Prospects For Ross Detwiler

Ross Detwiler was a decent fifth starter for the Nationals until the rotation got loaded with all-stars and he was pushed to the bullpen. The Rangers are in need of veteran rotation depth due to injuries and lots of young and unpredictable arms. But do not mistake the adjective "decent" to equate to "fantasy value" of which he has very little at this point. 

Minor League Ball on the Prospects 

The Royals Sign Free-Agent Kendry Morales

Sitting out half the season is not good for your stats or your prospects for signing a high-value long term contract. I have a hunch that with a full spring training and a full season of at-bats he will put up something close to his 2012-13 numbers something in the range of .270/.330/.450 20-25 homers and 15-20 dollars worth of fantasy value.

The Cubs dealt prospects Zack Godley and Jefferson Mejia to the Arizona Diamondbacks and received veteran catcher Miguel Montero. Montero has been in a steady fade the last couple of seasons. It did look like he was rebounding in the first half of the 2014 season but he was so incredibly bad in the second half that it's difficult to tell there were any positives to his 2014 season. Montero is still an excellent pitch framer and the Cubs are starting to put together a solid pitching staff. This is a big move for the Chicago Cubs but not a big deal for his fantasy value. A bid of 8-10 is value but this would not have provided any profit the last two seasons. 

Why Miguel Montero is Perfect for the Cubs

Minor League Ball on the Prospects

The Cubs also committed $155 Million to free agent starter Jon Lester to front their rotation and help lead their young team into contention. Lester is a fine pitcher but probably a bit overrated. If he were moving to a severe pitching environment I might be more optimistic but he is closer to a 20 dollar starter than a 30 dollar one. 2014 was probably his best season and he was worth about 25 dollars and that includes his incredible weeks with the Oakland A's in their extreme pitching environment. Moving to the National League probably earns him a small boost from his career level performances. Bid 20 -25 and you should get your money's worth. If your bids approach 30 or more there are better places to spend it. 

The Jon Lester Factor 

Epstein and Cherington's Contrasting Management Styles

The Red Sox Add Rotation Depth 

After losing out on Jon Lester, the Red Sox made rapid fire transactions to add reliable innings to their rotation.They sent outfielder Yoenis Cespedes (who they acquired in the Lester deal last summer) and reliever Alex Wilson to the Detroit Tigers for Rick Porcello. They sent Ruby De La Rosa and Allen Webster to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Wade Miley. The Red Red Sox completed their trio of new starters by signing free agent (and former farm hand) Justin Masterson to a one-year incentive laden deal. These starters all have something in common. They induce ground balls and pitch to their defense.

The Red Sox defense is a work in progress. They have been a good defensive team the last few years but this year they have again managed to change over almost the entire lineup. Pablo Sandoval is the new third baseman. He has usually been a defensive positive but his irregular conditioning efforts have contributed to occasional inconsistency. Xander Bogearts is moving back to shortstop. He has a good reputation from the minor leagues but has not played short on a regular basis in the majors. Christian Vasquez will be the new full time catcher. Vasquez has the reputation of an elite pitch framer and solid traditional defensive catcher stats, but he is a rookie and there are likely to be growing pains. The Red Sox will feature three new outfielders. Mookie Betts, a rookie and converted second baseman, will be the center fielder. In small samples he has been good in center field but he is learning the position on the fly. Rusney Castillo has been a center fielder in the past but is moving to right field for the Red Sox. Castillo was a defensive positive in his ten game audition last year. In left field is Hanley Ramirez a career shortstop. Ramirez still has the speed to make up for some mistakes but he will also have to deal with the Green Monster. Obviously the Red Sox think the defense will come together well but it could take some time.

Rick Porcello has been on the verge of a breakout the last couple of seasons. He has proven to be durable and reliable to both the Tigers and fantasy owners. The only real flaw in his game is a mediocre strikeout rate. There have been indications in the past of a boost to his k-rate but it has never really come together. Perhaps working with an elite pitch framer gives him the boost necessary to make it happen. I like him at 15-20 dollars, that may be a little high if you do not believe the strikeouts are coming.
Wade Miley is another elite ground baller with a better history of strikeouts than Porcello. In fact his k-rate seems to be on the rise as he refines his pitch sequencing. He works the edges of the zone and that has led to lots of swing and miss. But despite these skills his results have not matched up. This is at least partially due to the Diamondbacks typically lousy defense and their ballpark which pumps up the opposing offense. Fenway should prevent a few homeruns at least and the Red Sox defense should count as an improvement even with the expected growing pains. His fantasy value has been in the single digits (or less...) since his 17 dollar 2012 season. I have a hunch his value will rebound this year but I would keep the bidding in the single digits and leave plenty of room for profit. 
Justin Masterson also induces ground balls at an elite level. He gets the strikeouts too but has not managed to produce consistent fantasy value as his ERA has been all over the place. Part of this is his periodic control problems and minor injuries that mess up his mechanics. In 2014 it was a knee problem. When he is right, Masterson is a 15 dollar starter and he has a bit of upside at that price.


The White Sox sent infielder Marcus Semien (who will play shortstop for the Athletics) and Prospects Chris Bassitt, Josh Phegley and Rangel Ravelo to the Athletics for one guaranteed year of right-handed starter Jeff Samardzija and giant right-hander Michael Ynoa. The Athletics designated Jorge De Leon to make room on the 40-man roster for the incoming players.

Jeff Samardzija has begun to earn his reputation as a front line starter. His ground ball rate has risen the last four seasons. His strikeouts are at about a K per inning. His ERA projectors such as xFIP have been in a steady decline as he gains pitching experience. The Shark has less experience than most pitchers his age because he spent his amateur years playing football. I like him a lot and I think he is about to have a true breakout season as he heads into free agency for the first time. He was a 20 dollar starter in 2014 and in 2015 I will bid 25 with confidence in keeper leagues. 

GM Rick Hahn on Ynoa:
“Yeah, nobody asked about him — I was surprised,” Hahn said. “Ynoa was a true target of ours. This is a kid with a big arm, with a multi-pitch mix. He certainly has a plus fastball and a plus slider and a feel for two other pitches, as well.”
Michael Ynoa was hugely hyped as a international prospect and is still young despite what seems like an eternity in the minors. He has a triple digit fastball and a solid slider. The change-up is a work in progress. Last season the Athletics moved him to the bullpen and as you might expect his strikeout rate soared. His control is still shaky but from the bullpen it is not as great an issue. He has the stuff to be a dominating closer and will get a shot to join the major league bullpen in 2015. I would bet a few bucks on him.

David Robertson spurned the Yankees (who made a similar offer by some reports) and signed a four year $46M contract with the White Sox. The deal includes a limited no-trade clause which allows him to block trades to at least five teams per season. Robertson was a top tier closer last season and that should not change with the White Sox. You can bid 20-25 for one of the better closers in the game. 

Despite trading away some of their better players, the Athletics still look like contenders to me. They have less star power but greater depth that they'll use to fill some of the weak spots that plagued them in 2014. There was some interesting speculation spreading around the Athletics Blogs that the A's would use the cash savings on Cuban second baseman Jose Fernandez. You can be certain that they are not done making deals.

Marcus Semien will start at shortstop for the Athletics.He can probably manage average range but his arm is weak for the position. He is likely just a stop gap at short until Daniel Robertson is ready to take over sometime this summer. Then in theory, Semien moves to second base. His first season was mostly a disaster but he finished strong. He will not be the last rookie to struggle in his first season in the majors. Semien isn't likely to hit for a great average but it should be tolerable. He will give you a great on-base percentage and provide nice pop. He has 20-plus homer potential and could kick in 10 stolen bases in a full season. I like the kid and think he will do well in Oakland. I would bid 10 or so in keeper leagues but he has not earned that yet.

Chris Bassitt was a 16th round pick and has exceeded expectations since. He has a mid-90's fastball with nice sink. He complements the fastball with a solid and improving slider and a change that needs work but should become at least average. He missed half the 2014 season with a broken hand. He was dominate at Double-A to finish the season. He has been given a mid-rotation projection by some scouts and I like that projection. He has a chance to contribute to the Athletics rotation or bullpen this season, but there is a lot of competition for those roles. I would bid a few bucks on him if he makes the team. 
Josh Phegley can hit a bit. He is not very selective at the plate. He does not draw walks. However, he also does not strikeout much especially for a power hitter. He has 20-plus homer power and has hit for average in the minors. He has not shown much with the bat in the majors. Behind the plate Phegley has a good arm and can throw out runners but is not great at the other aspects of catcher defense such as calling games and pitch framing. If you like drafting one dollar catchers you could do a lot worse than a guy with his power and contact skills. He will back-up Stephen Vogt in Oakland.

Rangel Ravelo is a player I really like. He has good plate discipline and an excellent eye at the plate. he collects walks and makes strong contact. He has hit for average and has developing power. He has just average speed at best but is good on the bases. He was drafted as a third baseman but was moved to first soon after. He can also play a passable corner outfield position. I am certain the Athletics value that versatility but his bat is what makes him truly valuable. I will definitely spend a minor league pick on this player.

The Pittsburgh Pirates Re-Sign Francisco Liriano

The deal is for three years and $39M. This deal works for both teams. Obviously Francisco Liriano receives the security of a long term deal. He also gets to stay in the pitching environment that has allowed him to rebuild his career. The Pirates need someone to front their rotation until Gerrit Cole and their younger pitchers are more established. Liriano is a 10-15 dollar starter, he may get a few bucks more for name value.

The Pirates also acquired left reliever Antonio Bastardo from the Philadelphia Phillies.

It is a minor deal with little if any fantasy significance but makes the Pirates bullpen a little stronger as Antonio Bastardo gives them the needed second lefty arm. The Phillies get Joely Rodriguez a decent starting pitching prospect who projects to be at worst a solid lefty reliever. It works for both teams. Neither has significant fantasy value. 

The Cardinals Signed Corner Infielder Mark Reynolds

Mark Reynolds could find himself relieving Matt Adams against lefties. He hit 22 homeruns in 378 at-bats with the Milwaukee Brewers. The Cardinals have been masters at finding at-bats for their bench players. Still, do not pay for the 22 homers. Reynolds is an endgame pick and paying more than that is going to reduce your team's overall value.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Hot Stove Update: Ooddles and Ooddles of O's

Note: This article has been through a few revisions, and I even managed to lose half of it. I'll update the rest of the transactions including all the trades tonight.

Baseball's Winter Meetings are all wrapped up and the Action has been almost non-stop. This has to have been the most entertaining Winter Meetings in years. The teams seems to have plenty of money to spend and the players are not waiting very long to grab it.

The Baltimore Orioles seem determined to move from also-ran to contender this season. They don't have the experienced high-end talent that the Red Sox and Yankees do, but they've found it incredibly difficult to convince the best free agents to take their money. They've turned to the trade market to fill their needs instead. The Mark Reynolds acquisition is covered below. They are also pretty close to completing a deal for shortstop J.J. Hardy for two middle relievers. They've also agreed on a new contract for Koji Uehara, who will probably act as their closer.

It looks like the Zack Greinke trade will have to wait until Cliff Lee makes a decision. He seems to be holding out for a seven-year contract but so far it doesn't look like anyone is biting. There was a rumor of a mystery team offering a seventh year but that looks like a story started to get the other teams thinking. The Yankees have been willing to go six years, the Rangers, five years. There are probably other bidders but they have not been revealed publicly.

The Justin Upton idea seems to have faded out of the news. But this too may be a second choice for teams that were hoping to sign Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth. With Crawford now off the market the Upton talks could heat up again, especially if the Yankees fail to acquire Lee.

Hisashi Iwakuma will not be joining the Oakland Athletics and they will get their posting fee back. This seemed like an odd move for the Athletics from the beginning. I think they severely underestimated what it would take to sign top Japanese talent.

Major Free Agent Signings

The San Diego Padres signed free agent RHP Aaron Harang.

The Padres filled the spot left vacant by Jon Garland by signing veteran starter and once upon a time Reds ace, Aaron Harang. Harang has decent control and though his strikeout rate has fallen in recent seasons he still maintains a respectable rate. His biggest problem seems to be elevated BABIP and homerun rates. These are problems that Petco Park will definitely lessen if not solve. Harang has also seen his groundball rate fall slightly over the years which hasn't helped his results. The change of scenery could (and should) do wonders.

Harang should come very cheaply in most leagues in 2011. I recommend him as a late round pick or single-digit bid, especially in NL-only leagues.

The Washington Nationals signed free agent RF Jayson Werth.

Many Stat Nerds are all worked up about this deal. They claim that Jayson Werth is too old, with not enough track record to deserve such a contract. They criticize the Washington Nationals for spending too much of their budget on one player. I have a few problems with this view.

First, no one outside of MLB has any idea what the Washington Nationals can spend and stay within the black. Washington D.C. is not a small market. The Nationals may have chosen to keep the payroll small while they built up the farm system, that does not mean that they could not have spent more. There is also a significant value to bringing in top tier talent that goes far beyond their field production matching their salary.

Also, Werth may not be in his twenties any longer but I find it ridiculous that so many analysts seem to believe that players will essentially drop dead when they reach 35-years old. Or that a player will decline at a nice regular, predictable rate.

Werth is a very good hitter and defensive outfielder. He has spent most of his time in right field but is capable of manning center field. He walks a ton, and makes pretty good contact for a power hitter. He has excellent plate discipline and should hit for good batting averages most years. He is an excellent fantasy player who hits homers and steals bases. The move to Washington should do very little to change that.

The Arizona Diamondbacks signed free agent 3B Melvin Mora.

Mora is fading fast. However, he still gets on base at a fairly decent rate. His power is nearly gone but is a fairly disciplined hitter who makes very good contact, which means he will usually hit for a decent batting average. For fantasy purposes he is not much of a Mark Reynolds replacement but he is likely a temporary fill-in (along with Geoff Blum) until a prospect like Matt Davidson or Bobby Borchering is ready to take over. I'd avoid Mora until the Dollar Dayz. but then happily throw him into a CI spot.

The Chicago Cubs signed free agent 1B Carlos Pena.

Carlos Pena has seen enough success in his career that he probably deserves the benefit of the doubt when it comes to bouncing back (at least a little) from his horid 2010 season. The Cubs showed some faith in Pena by signing him to a one-year, $10 million deal. Pena is actually on a three-year decline in BABIP which is pretty scary. He has never been much of a BABIP guy (career .279) but last season's .222 rate was a disaster and 2009's .250 was not much better. But even if bad luck played some part in the last two seasons, at 32 a major improvement is not a great bet. I suggest fantasy owners avoid Pena unless he comes with very little risk, I mean dirt cheap, and replaceable on a whim.

The Kansas City Royals signed free agent RF Jeff Francoeur.

What the hell s Dayton Moore thinking? The man makes it impossible to root for him. In the Royals write-up I've been composing in my head (for the Fantasy Guide I'll be offering to readers in February) I wanted to suggest that despite the horors of the major league roster, Moore was due some praise for re-building the farm system. But for every honor point he gains, there is a move like this.

Moore has drooling over Jeff Francoeur since the Braves first started to show signs of frustration with him. Moore of course came from the Braves system that raised Francoeur. There have been rumors of Frenchy joining the Royals forever. Now they've got him and given him the outfield spot they traded David DeJesus to open. Can you sense my head shaking?

Francoeur is a decent contact hitter but lacks patience and plate discipline. If he ever gained any real plate discipline we might see evidence of his once significant power potential . But since he will swing at anything and is now residing in a ballpark that robs homers, the chances have shrunk even further. Fantasy owners should avoid him completely unless he gets on an insanely good lucky streak. That means don't draft him.

The Colorado Rockies re-signed free agent LHP Jorge De La Rosa.

Jorge De La Rosa is durability, slightly better control and a nice pitcher's park away from having every thing you want in a starting pitcher. He collects strikeouts in bunches, induces groundballs about half the time, and consistently gives you that "this is the year he breaks out" feeling. Unfortunately, this will be the fourth season since he first gave us that feeling. Still, he should be an average starting pitcher in front of an above average offense which means he has a shot at wins. I would definitely take another shot at him, just don't break the bank thinking this is the year, again.

The Boston Red Sox signed free agent 2B Drew Sutton.

Buried under the avalanche the hype of the Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford moves was this smaller gem. The Red Sox picked up Sutton as a minor league free agent. Sutton is a player I've liked for a while. Obviously, he won't be stealing a starting spot from Dustin Pedroia, but he should be a very useful utility player. He can play all over the infield and outfield and is useful with the bat. He is very patient at the plate, and shows good discipline. He is also a better contact hitter than the evidence of his brief Major League appearances might suggest. He has 20 homer and 20 steal potential. I like him a lot, late, in AL-only leagues.

The St. Louis Cardinals signed free agent RF Lance Berkman.

There was a story going around that the Cardinals were going to move Matt Holiday to right field so that Lance Berkman could play left field. That isn't going to happen, according to Tony LaRussa, who told MLB Network that Berkman would be in right field. Many analysts seem to hate this move by the Cardinals because it puts Berkman back in the outfield. Berkman has not played the outfield since 2007, and has never been a good defensive outfielder. But they can hardly play him at first base, can they?

The Cardinals are obviously willing to sacrifice some outfield defense for offensive production. For that they need Berkman to rebound from his lousy 2010 season. Berkman is still a patient hitter, with solid plate discipline. Very little has changed in his game other than his BABIP and his ISO. If this was not the second consecutive year that Berkman's BABIP has dropped below .300, I'd call it bad luck. But that's probably not the whole story.

Berkman has battled through injuries the last few seasons and that may be the difference, but that just means that we also need to know that Berkman is actually going to significantly healthier than he was the last two seasons. This is extremely difficult considering he has averaged 522 at-bats the last two seasons despite the injuries. He plays through them and that is probably hurting his numbers.

I like the chances of Berkman bouncing back if he is healthy. I suggest potential fantasy owners pay special attention to Berkman in the spring. Watch for signs of pain, look for wincing, limping and sitting out consecutive home games. He is a decent sleeper but also a risky one.

The New York Yankees re-signed free agent SS Derek Jeter.

This has been covered so much, and Derek Jeter is so well known that it seems silly to spend much time with this transaction. Jeter is the same patient, disciplined hitter he has always been. A poor BABIP was the only real sign that he slipped last season. He will bounce back closer to his career levels. Also note how disturbed Jeter was by the negative rumors surrounding the negotiations. His feelings were hurt and that could be extra motivation for a guy that hasn't needed much in the past.

Other Significant Transactions

San Francisco Giants re-signed free agent LF Pat Burrell.

Los Angeles Dodgers signed free agent C Rod Barajas.

Boston Red Sox signed free agent RHP Brandon Duckworth.

Chicago White Sox re-signed free agent C A.J. Pierzynski.

Boston Red Sox signed free agent RHP Jason Bergmann.

RHP Joel Peralta elected free agency.

LHP Hideki Okajima elected free agency.

LHP Andrew Miller elected free agency.

RHP Chien-Ming Wang elected free agency.

San Diego Padres signed RHP Luis Perdomo.

Cleveland Indians signed free agent 3B Jack Hannahan.

Philadelphia Phillies released RHP Jesus Sanchez.

Cincinnati Reds signed free agent 3B Miguel Cairo.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

The Red Sox Go Crazy! Gonzalez Deal is Off, For Now...

There is a slight chance that you've already heard about Adrian Gonzalez coming to Boston. Well, there is a good chance the deal is off. It may or may not happen but it is probably is worth looking at. On Friday, the Red Sox and Padres agreed on a deal that would send three prospects and a PTBNL (Player To Be Named Later) to San Diego in exchange for first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and a small window to negotiate a contract extension with Gonzalez. The quality of the PTBNL is probably largely dependent on whether the Red Sox are able to sign Gonzalez within the window. However, there are conflicting reports about this and as of the negotiating deadline (2pm, Sunday) there was no extension agreement. It was originally believed that the Red Sox would take Gonzalez even without the extension but obviously that may not be the case.

The Red Sox are parting with at least three top ten prospects but this still looks like a great deal for the Boston Red Sox. The acquisition will move gold glove first baseman, Kevin Youkilis back to his old third base position. Youkilis was once a potential gold glove third baseman as well, but was moved to fit Mike Lowell into the lineup after the Red Sox received him in the Josh Beckett acquisition. Youkilis may not be quite the third baseman he was, but he should still be a solid defensive third baseman.

Gonzalez would be moving from Petco Park, one of the most extreme pitchers' parks into Fenway Park, one of the better parks for hitters. Fenway would provide a slight boost to Gonzalez's power numbers but it would do much more for his batting average. Gonzalez likes to send flyballs to the opposite field where they went to die in Petco, but would bounce off the Green Monster for singles and doubles.

Gonzalez is streaky but also a fairly disciplined hitter. He has a essentially equal distribution of flyballs and grounders, a consistent 20 percent of his batted balls are linedrives. He has a strong walk rate of 11.4 percent in his career and makes strong contact, especially for a power hitter. In Fenway Park I would confidently expect him to bat .300-plus with around 40 homeruns.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Visit the Winter Meetings

Read this Sports Illustrated Article and you'll get a real sense of what it would be like to visit MLB's Winter Meetings.

MIDNIGHT AT THE Bellagio, and the slot machines are ringing, the Big Six wheel clicks, blackjack dealers are dispensing 13s, and Lou Piniella poses for a photograph with a Chicago family in town to catch the Vegas Christmas spirit. A cocktail waitress looks for the man who ordered the 7 & 7, and she can't find him, so several baseball men nobly raise their hands and chips to save the fair maiden and her orphaned drink. Dice tumble, ice clinks, cards pop, scouts argue about a player who has been out of the game for 20 years, baseball writers stalk the scene like Depression Era hoboes pressing their noses against a restaurant window. Smoke chokes the air, and three women who look to be just off the set of The Real Housewives of Orange County wander through the scene wearing "dresses" (quotation marks necessary), stopping traffic, but only for a moment, because then talk of a three-team trade heats up. The voice of Sinatra croons Let's Face the Music and Dance over the casino sound system, and Tommy Lasorda asks if anyone's heard any more about the Jake Peavy deal. More than anything, however, my feet are killing me, absolutely killing me, because I didn't take to heart the advice of the king.

The king of this year's baseball winter meetings in Las Vegas is an 81-year-old scout for the Kansas City Royals named Art Stewart. He is barely 5'7", and he never played at a level higher than semipro in Chicago, but he's the Sinatra of the baseball bat pack, the chairman of the hoard, the guy behind the guy behind the guy. He has been coming to the winter meetings for 45 years, going back to his scouting days with the New York Yankees, back when he signed the outfielder Norm Siebern by throwing in a working stove for Norm's mother. Art knows everybody, and everybody knows Art, and he will admit that the game has changed, the money has changed, even the baseball people have changed. But there's one thing that hasn't changed, one rule that never changes, and it is this: The secret to the winter meetings is to stand on your own piece of carpet.

"Don't stand on the bare floor," he says. "You have to protect your feet."

You laugh? Don't laugh. See, it's midnight at the Bellagio, and what's happening? All those people who did not find their place on the carpet, all of those eager baseball men who have spent the last five or six hours downing drinks and recalling ballplayers who haven't played in 20 years and proposing deals and standing on the marble floors, well, now their feet hurt. Look at them shifting back and forth. "They're dropping like flies," is how Art puts it, and he adds that over his many years, he's seen countless good guys make bad baseball trades simply because their feet hurt.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Thursday, December 11, 2008

More Updates From the Winter Meetings

The trades just keep coming from Major League Baseball's Winter Meetings. I've written more updates on the blog and now of course I share them with you.

CC Sabathia Agrees to Pitch for the New York Yankees
In the end the New York Yankees refused to take no for an answer. CC Sabathia had no issues with playing in New York his problem was that he really wanted to live and play on the West Coast. Unfortunately for Sabathia none of the West Coast teams were willing to step to the plate. It might have dragged on even longer but Brian Cashman was so determined to sign him that he left the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas to meet with Sabathia and his wife in San Francisco. Cashman also added another year onto the contract and gave Sabathia the ability to opt out of the contract after three seasons.The final deal was for seven years and $161 million.
Closer J.J. Putz Traded in Three Team Deal
The Mets received closer (now set-up man) J.J. Putz, outfielder Jeremy Reed, and right-hander Sean Green from Seattle. The Mariners received outfielder Franklin Gutierrez from the Indians and, from the Mets, right-hander Aaron Heilman, center fielder Endy Chavez and four Minor Leaguers -- first baseman Mike Carp, right-hander Maikel Cleto, left-hander Jason Vargas and center fielder Ezekiel Carrera. The Indians received right-hander Joe Smith from the Mets and infielder Luis Valbuena from the Mariners.
The Detroit Tigers Acquire RHP Edwin Jackson
The Detroit Tigers have sent outfielder Matt Joyce to the Tampa Bay Rays for right-hander Edwin Jackson. The trade fills a need on both teams. The Tigers needed a healthy starter to eat some innings. While the Rays needed a corner outfielder.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

More from the Hot Stove Junkie

The latest Hot Stove Junkie is posted on Lots of interesting moves last week to analyze.

The Boston Red Sox Sign another Japanese Pitcher
I ran into Boston Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein last week. I wanted to ask him about his off-season plans but he just kept repeating the same phrase.

I'm turning Japanese
I think I'm turning Japanese
I really think so
Turning Japanese
I think I'm turning Japanese
I really think so
I'm turning Japanese
I think I'm turning Japanese
I really think so
Turning Japanese
I think I'm turning Japanese
I really think so

After walking away in confusion, I heard some news that rather explained it. The Red Sox had just signed their third Japanese pitcher. Right-hander Junichi Tazawa signed a three-year deal for $3.3 million. Tazawa is just 22 years-old. He will begin the 2009 season pitching for the double-A Portland Sea Dogs. Translating Japanese numbers to relevance for fantasy leaguers has always been a problem but Tazawa appears worthy of top prospect status. He spent the last four years pitching in the Japanese Industrial League for Nippon Oil where he was 13-1 with 5 saves and a 0.80 ERA this season in 21 games. He struck out 114 batters to just 15 walks in 113 innings. He is someone to watch, but I would not go nuts for him just yet.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Winter Meetings Update

The Winter Meetings were quite active today with some expected moves and some not so expected. The rumors of even more moves were running rampant. I've been writing updates for the blog all day between sessions with my 11-month old niece who has become quite the mimic. She can almost perfectly imitate her grandfather's smoking cough, it is even more hilarious than it sounds. I'm summarizing all the moves here, check out the links for the complete analysis.

Today's Moves

The Detroit Tigers have reached an agreement with shortstop Adam Everett on a one-year deal for $1 million.
The Detroit Tigers have reached an agreement with shortstop Adam Everett on a one-year deal for $1 million. The signing is pending a physical for Everett. Believe it or not this is an okay move for the Tigers even if it does nothing for fantasy leaguers. The Tigers could not afford (or at least were unwilling) to sign one of the better free agents. They were engaged in trade talks with the Pittsburgh Pirates to acquire shortstop Jack Wilson. Trading for Wilson would have been a much worse move.

The Los Angeles Dodgers reached contract agreements with free agents Casey Blake (3B, LAD) and Mark Loretta (2B, LAD). Blake received a three-year contract worth $17.1 million. Loretta received a one-year deal worth $1.25 million to act as the teams utility man.
These are decent deal for the Dodgers who have made lots of terrible free agent deals in recent years . Both are signed relatively cheaply and not for many years. They also aren't paid so much that they couldn't be moved to the bench or another team should a younger player emerge.

Francisco Rodriguez was expecting to sign a bank breaking contract as the best closer on the market. Instead he has agreed to a nice but not groundbreaking deal with the New York Mets who played him and the market almost perfectly. K-Rod's deal is for three-years and $37 million.

Rodriguez is one of the best closers in baseball and an excellent fantasy option. However, it is important that owners know that Rodriguez is not the fireballer he was a few years ago. Rather than throwing his fastball 97-98 mph, he throws it 93-94. It may not seem like a huge distinction but it is to major league hitters. He claims to have taken some off his fastball to increase his control. If that's true it isn't working. In 2008 his K/9 fell from over twelve four straight years to 10.14 in 2008. At the same time his BB/9 has risen to nearly 4.50 the last two seasons.

The re-building baltimore Orioles opened a spot for the best prospect in the minors when they traded catcher Ramon Hernandez to the Cincinnati Reds for outfielder Ryan Freel and two minor leaguers - infielders Justin Turner and Brandon Waring.
Ryan Freel should be a versatile reserve for the Orioles playing all three outfield positions and second and third base when necessary. Freel has decent on-base skills and good speed that he uses to steal bases at about a 75 percent success rate. Freel is an excellent pick-up in deeper leagues for his versatility and stolen bases. In shallower leagues he doesn't have much value unless he gets more consistent playing time.