D’Backs Land Yasmany Tomas

After weeks of rumors linking him to the Phillies, Braves, Padres, and Giants, Yasmany Tomas has reportedly signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks, according to MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez. The deal guarantees Tomas $68.5 million over six years, but critically, it apparently contains an opt-out after the fourth year; a concession which may have allowed the D’Backs to sign Tomas for less than the reported asking price.

Kiley McDaniel wrote up Tomas back in September. I’ll quote liberally from that piece here:

The consensus is that as a prospect Tomas ranks behind White Sox 1B Jose Abreu, who got six years and $68 million before the season, as Tomas is a riskier bat with less of a track record and a little less raw power. Many scouts prefer (Rusney) Castillo, who got seven years and $72.5 million last month, as Castillo is a plus-plus runner that can play an up-the-middle position and is a little better bet to hit for some scouts, as well.

That said, Abreu and Castillo were both signed for their age-27 seasons while Tomas will be 24 next year and should be big league ready at some point in 2015. Scouts on the low-end for Tomas mention Dayan Viciedo as a comparable while more scouts think Yoenis Cespedes is a better offensive comparison, though Cespedes is quicker-twitch athlete with more speed and defense value.

While Kiley was attempting to compare and contrast the recent Cuban free agents for market valuation reasons, his projected peak line is almost a dead ringer for what Justin Upton has done in the big leagues, as I noted last week. Kiley’s guess of a .275/.350/.480 would equal out to about a 130 wRC+ in a neutral park, so even if he’s a minor defensive liability, that line would still make Tomas an above average player, probably in the +3 WAR range.

However, reports suggested that some teams felt that he profiled more as a DH, and if the defense is more Michael Morse than Brandon Moss, that could limit his overall value, especially in the National League. Whether this turns out for Arizona might depend entirely on how well he’s able to field his position; the D’Backs probably don’t need another Mark Trumbo, though Tomas will also expected to be a better hitter.

With just four team-controlled years, the D’Backs are buying Tomas’ age 24-27 seasons, and allowing him to potentially hit free agency again at perhaps the peak of his career. This seems like a near perfect fit for Tomas, as he gets $68 million in guaranteed money if he sucks, and yet he still gets a chance for a mega-contract if the power is as advertised. The opt-out could even give him the leverage to renegotiate into a much-larger deal with Arizona in a year or two if he follows the Cespedes/Puig/Abreu career path, as I’d imagine the White Sox would already be looking to tear up their deal with Abreu if he was only three years away from free agency.

By giving the fourth year opt-out, the D’Backs are limiting their own upside if Tomas hits, while still taking on all the risk associated with projecting performance from a guy who has never played in the U.S. before. However, a $68 million risk isn’t really that substantial of an investment anymore, and if he hits like scouts have been projecting, he should easily be worth the contract before he opts out. If Arizona backloaded enough of the money so that they can substantial value in the first four years of the deal, then the benefits could easily be worth the risk.

If Tomas is more of a DH than an outfielder, or if his raw power isn’t accompanied by a decent approach at the plate, the D’Backs could end up paying $68 million for a player who might fit better in the AL. That said, even if that does prove to be the case, he’d probably still have some appeal to teams in the junior circuit, and the price tag is low enough that he shouldn’t be too terribly hard to move if it comes to that; after all, we just saw Billy Butler get 3/$30M from the A’s, and Tomas has now signed for a similar annual average value.

Cuban free agents have proven to be remarkable bargains of late. The opt-out will serve to make this one less of a bargain, most likely, but it still seems like a reasonable risk for the Diamondbacks to take. $11 million per year for right-handed power might quickly look like a bargain if the rest of the skillset is even reasonably passable.


Fitting Yasmany Tomas in San Diego

Pablo Sandoval has joined the Red Sox. It’s not surprising that the Giants were right there in the race for his services. More surprising is that the Padres apparently were, too. And according to reports, all the teams made similar offers, so it’s not like Sandoval is chasing extra millions to Boston. An interesting thing to think about is whether the winner’s curse applies to a situation in which no one really out-bid the competition. An also interesting thing to think about is what the Padres intend to do. It’s a team under new management, and they seem to want to be active.

This is taken right from Dave’s chat earlier Wednesday:

12:04
Comment From AJ Preller
I made a run at Pablo Sandoval but it didn’t work out. What should I do now?

The Padres, to date, have been heavily connected to Yasmany Tomas. One isn’t accustomed to seeing the Padres hot in pursuit of any expensive available player, but he’d appear to be exactly the right kind of fit. In theory, at least, if not in reality, and while Tomas is by no means guaranteed to end up in San Diego, that’s the sort of area where the Padres should probably be putting their money. It’s important that one understands where the Padres are today.

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Win a Free Copy of THT 2015!

Have you heard? The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2015 is now available for sale. You can check out the table of contents and read some excerpts from the book. When you finish that you can purchase it from our independent publishing platform, Createspace, in print form, or from Amazon in print or Kindle form.

But wait, there’s more! Because we’re giving folk, and since it’s the beginning of the holiday season and all, we want to give you a chance to win yourself a free copy of the book. Today is your final chance to win a trivia contest based on one of the articles in the book (we also ran contests yesterday and Monday). The first person to post the correct answer in the comments will win a free physical copy of the book (sorry, no free Kindle version). It’s just that simple!

Today’s question comes to us from Matthew Murphy’s article entitled “Teams Capitalize on Antiquated Arbitration System.” In it, Matthew deploys that old standby, the blind player comparison. Here is the comparison table:

Blind RP Comparison, Career Stats, First Time Arbitration Eligible
Player IP K ERA FIP WAR Arb. Salary ($M)
Player A 231.1 315 2.76 3.44 2.1 $3.80
Player B 277.0 309 2.96 3.91 3.0 $1.65
Player C 202.0 270 3.03 2.88 4.2 $1.60

So, the question before you today then, dear reader, is this:

Can you name all three players in the blind comparison?

Good luck! And to our stateside readers, Happy Thanksgiving!


Neil Weinberg FanGraphs Q&A – 11/26/14

2:37
Neil Weinberg: Hey all. Queue is open and we’ll begin at 3pm. Remember priority to stat/data/FG info questions, but anything is fair game. I’m @NeilWeinberg44 if you’re looking for me on Twitter. See you in a few.

3:00
Neil Weinberg: Alright. Let’s get started. A little light on questions so far, so today’s the day to get stuff answered.

3:01
Comment From 804NatsFan
What is that picture I see? Sandlot football for dads… w/ uniforms! (Sans helmets?)

3:01
Comment From zurzles
WHAT IS HAPPENING TO MY CHAT WHEN DID THIS HAPPEN AM I SAFE

3:01
Neil Weinberg: People have strong opinions!

3:01
Neil Weinberg: As always, if you know of a better service than CIL, we are all ears.

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The Teams With the Most Committed Money, By Year

All of the numbers that I’m about to dive into are subject to change — they will change mightily, and rapidly, as the proverbial baseball stove reaches nearer to its sizzling apex. Still, I was curious to know: which of baseball’s teams have committed the most money from this point forward?

Some baseball teams have access to vast resources — vast even when compared to other Major League teams — but none has access to infinite sums. The teams who have committed the most money from this point forward are the most likely to make advances towards premier free agents, or the most likely to lucratively extend their own young talents: these are the teams with money to spend. And yet, paradoxically, these same teams are in some ways the least likely to make the same advances: the outsized financial commitments they giddily made in the past could be the very thing that forces a team into conservative stewardship from here on out. The further we advance into the future, the more the severity of certain long-term contracts becomes apparent. That ink might as well be cast in concrete.

Tabulations courtesy of spotrac. Arbitration figures are not included because they are ultimately unknowable, and rookie contracts are not included because they are too small to be bothered with amidst this mighty storm of money.

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Dave Cameron FanGraphs Chat – 11/26/14

11:10
Dave Cameron: Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Let’s be thankful for an hour or so of baseball conversation.
11:10
Dave Cameron: The queue is now open.
12:03
Comment From Bret
A couple of reports out of Toronto are that the Jays have given Melky Cabrera a deadline to respond to their offer (believed to be 3-years / $39M) by the Winter Meetings. If you were Melky’s agent, do you advise him to take it?
12:03
Dave Cameron: Yeah. I don’t think he’s worth any more than that.
12:04
Comment From Cicero
Since Cargo and Tulo are unlikely to return value until health is more sure, shouldn’t the Rockies at least look to move Morneau, Stubbs and Rosario?
12:04
Dave Cameron: I disagree with the premise. I would bet several teams would pay for Tulo’s upside, even coming off the surgery.

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In the AFL, Cubans Continue to Confound

Most of the Arizona Fall League attendees have been seen enough that the scouting community has a well developed opinion on each player before they arrive in the desert. Even that year’s draftees (such as Nick Howard and Trea Turner this year), while new on the pro scene, were heavily-scouted, top-of-their-class players who many have seen at least a time or two and have some sort of background with. This year saw three reasonably high-profile Cuban prospects get Fall League reps in Raisel Iglesias, Rusney Castillo and Daniel Carbonell who had scarcely been seen on domestic soil by scouts.

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FG on Fox: Suggesting a Blockbuster

The Red Sox had too many hitters before they signed both Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez to lucrative contracts, and now, they have perhaps the deepest line-up in all of baseball. But they still don’t have any pitching, and they simply don’t have enough spots in the line-up to spread around between their talented hitters. Rarely has a team’s need to make a trade (or two) been so obvious.

However, finding a natural trade partner for Boston’s needs is a little tricky. Their most obvious trade chip, Yoenis Cespedes, has the right-handed power that a number of teams seek, but because he’s only under contract for one more season, the teams that will be most interested in acquiring his services are teams that are trying to win in 2015. And teams that are trying to win next year are unlikely to part with the kind of pitching that the Red Sox covet; after all, if you’re trying to win next year, you probably want to hang on to your frontline pitching, since you’ll need it yourself.

There is one contender who has signaled a willingness to move a frontline starting pitcher: the Washington Nationals. With both Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister set for free agency after next season — as well as shortstop Ian Desmond, center fielder Denard Span, and relief ace Tyler Clippard — the Nationals are in a position where it might make sense for them to degrade their 2015 team slightly in order to make sure they don’t experience too steep off of a drop-off after next season. Zimmermann, in particular, would likely return a significant trade package, given his recent excellence and reasonable price tag.

But the Nationals simply don’t have any need for Yoenis Cespedes, or really many of the other pieces Boston might use to try and land an ace. Their outfield is stacked as it is, and their only real glaring hole is in the middle infield, where they need a second baseman for 2015 and likely a shortstop for 2016, after Desmond hits free agency. The Red Sox aren’t trading Xander Bogaerts or Mookie Betts for a rent-a-pitcher, however, and so the Nationals don’t really seem to match up with the Red Sox that well.

Perhaps there’s a way to make a deal work between the two teams, however, if we can identify a third team that covets the right-handed power the Red Sox have for sale, and has an extra talented middle infielder to send to the nation’s capital. Enter the Seattle Mariners.

Read the rest on Just a Bit Outside.


What Do the Giants Do Now?

Whether or not the deal for Pablo Sandoval was a good deal, the Giants are now faced with the unenviable task of finding a replacement in a bad market for third basemen. The good news is that they probably have close to $100 million they can spend on finding a solution. What might be their best way forward?

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Six GIFs from Jose De Leon’s Last Start That I Just Watched

Earlier today, the author published a pair of leaderboards featuring the top regressed hitting and pitching performances of the four Caribbean winter leagues. Among the other revelations present in that post was one on the topic of right-handed Dodgers prospect Jose De Leon, a pitcher who (a) was drafted in just the 24th round a couple years ago but features (b) above-average velocity and (c) something better than above-average strikeout rates over two years of affiliated baseball.

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What Happens When You Pitch In Front of the Monster

Lately, Tony has written some pieces touching on the Fenway park factors. Though he’s provided detail, you already had some understanding of how the park plays. The Green Monster is unlike pretty much anything else in the game today, and it changes what happens to balls in play. To right field, and to center field, Fenway is more or less fair, if not a wee bit pitcher-friendly in places. To left field, though, and especially to left-center, balls that would be outs elsewhere clang off the Monster for singles or doubles. Every so often, the Monster will claim a would-be dinger, but that’s little consolation to pitchers; if they give up a ball headed to left, it’s probably putting a guy on base, and maybe in scoring position.

There’s nothing subtle about the Green Monster. You can’t miss it. It’s right there, casting a shadow over everything, and what it does makes absolute sense. Of course it leads to more singles. Of course it leads to more doubles. Of course it makes that part of Fenway hitter-friendly. Pitchers know all about it when they go to work, so I got to wondering, does that in any way change the way the pitchers pitch? I’m going to go ahead and spoil the rest of this article: yes. You already know how. The remainder is just going to confirm your suspicions.

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Win a Free Copy of THT 2015!

Have you heard? The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2015 is now available for sale. You can check out the table of contents and read some excerpts from the book. When you finish that you can purchase it from our independent publishing platform, Createspace, in print form, or from Amazon in print or Kindle form.

But wait, there’s more! Because we’re giving folk, and since it’s the beginning of the holiday season and all, we want to give you a chance to win yourself a free copy of the book. So today and tomorrow (and yesterday), we’ll be running a trivia contest based on one of the articles in the book. The first person to post the correct answer in the comments will win a free physical copy of the book (sorry, no free Kindle version). It’s just that simple!

Today’s question comes to us from Chris St. John’s article entitled “Not All Fly Balls Are Created Equal.” In it, Chris developed a metric for the expected run value (xRV) of fly balls. A bit of explanation:

For example, say a ball is hit 400 feet to straight center and hangs in the air for 5.3 seconds. Of the balls hit with this trajectory and using the ranges given above, there were one error, 46 fly outs, 16 doubles, nine triples and 12 home runs. Using the run value for each, the expected run value (xRV) for this trajectory is 0.72.

Chris breaks down the trends, as well as the leaders and laggards for average xRV from 2012-2014. We’ll focus on the latter today. The question before you today then, dear reader, is this:

Can you name three of the bottom five players in average xRV from 2012 through 2014?

Keep in mind that you’re looking for players who have played with some regularity.

Good luck!


Q&A: Reid Nichols, Milwaukee Brewers Director of Player Development

Reid Nichols is in charge of a Brewers system heavy on youth. The majority of Milwaukee’s top-rated prospects aren’t yet old enough to drink. Their ceilings are high, but they face long climbs to Miller Park.

Nichols has been the organization’s Director of Player Development – his official title includes Special Assistant to the GM – since 2002. His 13 years have featured numerous success stories, with the likes of Ryan Braun, Khris Davis, Yovani Gallardo and Jonathan Lucroy progressing through the minor-league ranks. As Brewers’ fans are well aware, other highly-regarded prospects have failed to meet expectations.

A big-league outfielder from 1980-1987, Nichols was the farm director – and for one year the first base coach – for the Texas Rangers before coming to Milwaukee.

——

Nichols on interdepartmental cohesion: “From my end it’s kind of been the same with the player development side. Our basic philosophy is to help make that bridge from the minor leagues to the major leagues as smooth as possible. Baseball is baseball. Nobody’s trying to recreate the game.

“I’m in the draft room with the projections of both of our rookie teams. I discuss that with our scouting director and the cross checkers, so they know who’s playing where. The first five to eight rounds, they pick the best player available. I stay out of that – they spend months working on their draft board – but I do tell them what we have and who is going to play. Read the rest of this entry »


A Statistical Report for All the Caribbean Winter Leagues

For much the same reason that he published a final statistical report last week for the Arizona Fall League, the author is publishing here a combined statistical report for the various Caribbean winter leagues — again, not necessarily because such reports are of great utility for evaluating players, but because they provide a means by which to participate in those leagues which doesn’t also require a substantial investment in transportation and lodging.

In this case, what the author has done is to identify the regressed hitting and pitching leaders in the Dominican Winter, Mexican Pacific, Puerto Rican, and Venezuelan Leagues separately. What he’s then done is to combine the hitting and pitching leaders of those leagues into a pair of top-10 lists, which one can find below. Note: all ages are as of July 1, 2014.

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Evaluating the Red Sox Spending Spree

The Red Sox came into the winter with a clear need for starting pitching, and a lot of money to spend. Yesterday, they spent a big chunk of that money, adding $41 million in AAV to their payrolls for the next four or five years. And yet, today, they still have the same glaring need for starting pitching. Evaluating the wisdom of the Red Sox spending spree is an interesting challenge, because unlike most free agent signings, these feel like half of the transaction.

We can still evaluate the signings of Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez based on the production the Red Sox should expect going forward and the money that was surrendered to acquire that future production, but we don’t really know the whole picture here. The signings of two of the winter’s premier free agent hitters very likely mean that Yoenis Cespedes is getting traded, and I think Mike Napoli might be on his way out of town too. What the team gets back in trade, and how they choose to reallocate money that could be saved through those trades, will affect what else the Red Sox can choose to do this winter. They know they need pitching, and it seems essentially impossible that they won’t make further moves to address that need; moves that were made possible by these signings.

So without those pieces of information in place, I’m hesitant to draw any strong conclusions about the new contracts given to Sandoval or Ramirez. If the team trades Cespedes and Napoli for young arms, then spends the $25 million in savings on Max Scherzer, then these moves start to more clearly address the team’s need for a frontline starter. But we don’t know if they’re going to do that. We don’t know what they’re going to do, so we can’t be too strongly convicted about whether these signings were a wise use of resources.

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Jeff Sullivan FanGraphs Chat — 11/25/14

9:03

Jeff Sullivan: Are we ready to baseball chat?

9:03

Jeff Sullivan: I’ve given the queue a few minutes to get going and subsequently settle down

9:03

Jeff Sullivan: So let’s talk about god knows what

9:04
Comment From garth algar
i fear change

9:04
Comment From CecilFieldersButtPlug
well this looks funny

9:04
Comment From neal
what the heck is this interface?????

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Let’s Find a New Team for Yoenis Cespedes

The Boston Red Sox, as you might have heard, currently have an outfield glut. There is ten pounds of outfield meat in their five pound bag. Something has to give, and that something is likely Yoenis Cespedes.

When the Sox acquired Cespedes from Oakland in the Jon Lester trade, it felt more like a rental than a long-term investment in the player. Cespedes’ unique contract allows him to become a free agent at the end of the 2015 season, so Boston put themselves in an enviable position. They received an established big leaguer in exchange for their walk-year ace and got an up-close and personal look at a potential big free agent bat.

Whether or not a look under Cespedes’ hood informed their decision to sign both Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, that’s the route they went down. Now Cespedes is trade bait, the precious “right-handed power” commodity in a marketplace clambering for those skills. He’s headed into his age-29 season, he’s owed $10.5 million this year, and there’s going to be a line around the block to bid for his services. Where might he land?

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The Most Extraordinary Thing About Jose Molina

Barry Bonds. You remember Barry Bonds. If he’s been on your mind recently, I’d bet it’s because Hall of Fame voting is again upon us. Bonds is arguably the greatest player in the history of the sport and this is his third year on the ballot. It’s arguably the greatest player in the history of the sport‘s third year on the ballot, because arguably the greatest player in the history of the sport wasn’t elected to the Hall of Fame in either of his first two eligible years. But I digress. Despite your personal opinions on Bonds, including recent allegations of him glassing, his numbers are staggering. Search pretty much any offensive leaderboard where a high number is a good thing and Bonds will have some of the highest numbers.

I’m gonna switch gears here, and I’m gonna switch tremendously. We were just talking about Barry Bonds and now we’re going to talk about Jose Molina. Has that ever happened before? It will all make sense in a minute.

The Tampa Bay Rays released veteran catcher Jose Molina on Thursday, ending their three-year stint with the pitch-framing aficionado and perhaps putting a fork in his 15-year major league career. Molina has remained a major league player far longer than many imagined largely due in part to the skill named in the prior sentence; he’s never really been able to hit, but his ability behind the plate has always made up for his lack of ability at the plate. This year, however, his offense dropped to a new low and seemingly tipped the scales. Jeff already wrote about all this when it happened and there probably shouldn’t be two Jose Molina posts in a week, but Jose Molina’s offensive performance in 2014 — similar to Barry Bonds in the early 2000′s — was of historical significance. It was just the type of significance for which one would rather not be recognized. But we might not have another opportunity to talk about this, so it’s now or never. I hereby submit Jose Molina as: Bizarro Barry.
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Hanley, Panda and the Monster

No, this is not the title of a new children’s book, or a remake of Kukla, Fran and Ollie. I’m dating myself with that one. After a relatively quiet weekend baseball-wise, it’s the big story of Thanksgiving week. The Boston Red Sox made a huge splash, diving hard into the position-player end of the free-agent pool, remaking a significant portion of their offense in the process. Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval are now set to move into the most distinctive offensive environment in the game, one defined by the presence of a large man-made structure in left field: the Green Monster. What does the Monster hold in store for the two newest members of the Red Sox? Read the rest of this entry »


FanGraphs Audio: Dave Cameron Analyzes All of Just Monday

Episode 507
Dave Cameron is both (a) the managing editor of FanGraphs and (b) the guest on this particular edition of FanGraphs Audio — during which edition he discusses mostly just one Monday’s transactions, including Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval and Kyle Seager.

Don’t hesitate to direct pod-related correspondence to @cistulli on Twitter.

You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or other feeder things.

Audio after the jump. (Approximately 36 min play time.)

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Play