Author Archive

Should Anyone Sign Derrek Lee?

Derrek Lee hasn’t retired just yet. According to Ken Rosenthal, Lee is looking to play during the upcoming season, but he’s looking for the “right opportunity.” Lee struggled early on last season, but managed to turn his season around upon being traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates — albeit, in a very small sample. Still, Lee’s resurgence with Pittsburgh hasn’t led to a ton of offers. Given the current state of the position, Lee probably shouldn’t be selective about his opportunities.
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Positional Power Rankings: Second Base

For an explanation of this series, go ahead and read the introduction. All the posts in the series can be found here.

We’re going to continue our positional power rankings series by focusing on the keystone. While playing time for some teams were relatively easy to figure, there were more than a few teams that have serious question marks at second. As Eric Seidman explained yesterday, the goal here is to determine how much value the position will produce. So while you will see Michael Young make an appearance on this list, his WAR only reflects his value at second base. Enough talking, let’s do this.

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Brewers, Axford Working On Extension

John Axford is ready to be a Milwaukee Brewer for a very long time. Though he’s the only player on the Brewers’ current 40-man roster without a contract for the upcoming season, Axford and the Brewers have communicated about a potential long-term extension that would buy out his remaining arbitration years. Given that he’s coming off a season in which he emerged as one of the best closers in the game, now is a good time to secure his future finances. But given the volatility of relievers, the Brewers might be better off letting the Ax-man go year-to-year a little longer.

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Royals Take A Page From Rays, Extend Perez

Salvador Perez just joined a very exclusive club. By signing a five year, $7 million guaranteed contract — which includes three additional option years — with the Kansas City Royals, the 21-year-old catcher joins Evan Longoria and Matt Moore as players who have signed significant extensions before accumulating a year of major-league service time. While Longoria’s and Moore’s contracts are considered major steals for the Tampa Bay Rays, the Perez deal is a bit more uncertain. With the Royals starting their build a competitive team, they need to be sure they’re extending the right players.
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Chone Figgins, Leadoff Hitter

The Seattle Mariners are looking for any way to get some value out of Chone Figgins. Since joining the team, the 34-year-old has been one of the worst regulars in the game. So to salvage what’s left of his contract, the Mariners are making Figgins a leadoff hitter — again. It’s a last ditch effort to improve his value, though it’s unclear whether Figgins’ contract can be saved.

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Can Arizona Win Without Stephen Drew?

Stephen Drew could miss the start of the 2012 season. The soon-to-be-29-year-old has been slow to recover from a devastating ankle fracture, which ended his season in mid-July. With the Arizona Diamondbacks defending their National League West crown, Drew’s return will play a big role if the D-Backs plan to repeat.

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The Best Pitches of 2011: Sliders

Yesterday, Carson Cistulli kicked of our coverage of the best pitches of the 2011 season — and the pitchers responsible for throwing them. Carson looked at fastballs, and I’ll be covering sliders. Carson laid out the number of criteria he considered when putting together his list, so, instead of writing it again, I’ll just link to his article.

I considered the same factors as Carson when looking at sliders, but also paid closer attention to relief pitchers. Some relievers actually throw sliders more than they throw their fastballs — think Brad Lidge or Carlos Marmol — so I felt it was important to weigh wSL/C a tiny bit more than Carson. Because while relief pitchers weren’t able to rack up a strong cumulative value in the category due throwing fewer innings, they deserve credit for having a wipeout slider. Without further introduction, let’s see who made the list this past season.

Note: The average movement for a slider in 2011 was 1.9 H-movement and 1.0 V-movement.
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Marlins Make Offer to Cespedes

Just three days after Yoenis Cespedes toured their new ballpark, the Miami Marlins have reportedly offered the 26-year-old outfielder a contract.

The contract is allegedly for six years, but the financial details are shaky at this time. While the initial report suggested the deal was worth $40 million, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald is hearing the Marlins offered less money. Unless the Marlins have offered significantly less than $40 million, Cespedes’ contract will likely break the record for Cuban-born players. That slot is currently held by Aroldis Chapman, who received a six year, $30.25 million contract from the Cincinnati Reds.

Signing Cespedes would be a huge gain for the Marlins, who currently lack a true center fielder on their roster. The Chris Coghlan experiment was a disaster last season, causing the Marlins to turn to Emilio Bonifacio. While Bonifacio experienced a breakout season, much of his success was a result for a .372 BABIP, which was the second highest BABIP among qualified hitters last season. His defense has been acceptable in the outfield over his career, but he posted a -2.6 UZR in center this past season.

We don’t know what kind of defense Cespedes will play in center, but we have already taken our best guess at what his bat will produce. Jack Moore noted that Cespedes was probably less of a risk than other Cuban-born players, and Clay Davenport projected Cespedes’ stats based on his performance in the Cuban league. Based on Davenport’s research, Cespedes should hit .260/.325/.457 in the majors. Those numbers would put him in line with the average center fielder, who hit .261/.325/.406 this past season. What sets Cespedes apart from the typical center fielder is his power potential. Few center fielders are capable of hitting 20+ home runs each season. Even if Cespedes is a slightly below-average defender, his bat should make him the best option to play center on the Marlins.

While Cespedes is likely the Marlins’ best option in center, it’s unclear how soon he’ll be able to make an impact in the majors. At 26, he’s much older than the typical prospect, but he’ll likely need time to adjust in the minors before he’s ready to take on major league pitchers. Cespedes will already have to adjust to numerous lifestyle changes once he begins his professional career in the US, which, I would imagine, can be very stressful. If the Marlins promote Cespedes before he’s ready and he struggles, that’s one more thing Cespedes will have to worry about.

Still, Cespedes’ potential makes him an intriguing candidate for most major league teams. The Marlins, in particular, are in need of a center fielder, and Cespedes looks like an ideal fit for them. Even if he’s not with the team initially, he’ll definitely make an impact at some point this season. The race for the NL crown should be tight this season, and signing Cespedes strengthens the Marlins’ chances to contend for the division.


Rich Harden to Miss 2012

According to CSN’s Ray Ratto, who attributes this piece of news to Peter Gammons, Rich Harden will miss the upcoming season due to a torn capsule in his shoulder.

While a visit to Dr. James Andrews is never a good thing, it almost seemed inevitable for Harden. After a tremendous 2004 season, in which he compiled a 4.5 WAR in 189.2 innings, Harden’s career has been riddled with injuries. Harden has been on the DL at least five times since 2005 — really six if you count his lat injury last season — with arm-related injuries, but he’s also had trouble with his back, hip and obliques over his career. Though his injuries haven’t affected his ability to strike out hitters, Harden’s effectiveness and stamina have suffered.

Though he still missed considerable time this past season, Harden managed to reestablish some of his value with his return to Oakland. He maintained a high strikeout rate and got his walks back to an acceptable level. Harden actually remained healthy enough to be involved in a potential trade to the Boston Red Sox at the deadline. The Red Sox declined after looking at Harden’s medical reports. While his 5.12 ERA was worse than his 4.69 FIP and 3.68 xFIP suggested, the A’s made him a free agent this winter.

Interest in Harden this winter has been mild. While there was some talk that Harden could be used as a reliever, nothing materialized. A move to the bullpen may have allowed Harden to limit his innings, but he’s probably not the type of guy who should be pitching consecutive days. Pitching fewer innings could have maximized Harden’s value, but he would still have to be handled with extreme care. Harden probably would have pitched so infrequently that teams didn’t think it was the worth the trouble to take a chance on him.

Gammons responded to the story this morning, claiming Harden has always been hurt, and will finally come back healthy in 2013. While that might explain Harden’s past arm issues, one has to wonder how the injury went undetected for several seasons as Gammons’ tweet seems to suggest.

Now that he’s expected to miss the 2012 season, Harden’s career could be over. And he’s only 30. After having a major shoulder surgery, teams are going to be concerned with how he’ll hold up next season. Injury prone veterans coming off torn capsule surgery aren’t the most desirable free-agent targets. Unless Harden comes back stronger than ever, this could be the end of the line.


Manny Being Relevant?

The Baltimore Orioles have had preliminary talks with Manny Ramirez. While Eric Seidman recently detailed some veterans who may be forced to retire due to lack of interest, Ramirez seems to be an outlier. He’ll be 40 in May — and he still has to serve a 50-game suspension — but teams are still interested.

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Prior, Webb on the Comeback Trail

Stop me if you think that you’ve heard this one before. According to Nick Cafardo, both Mark Prior and Brandon Webb are on the comeback trail once again.

Everybody knows Prior’s story by now. A former second overall pick, Prior had a tremendous 2003 before injuries started to derail his career. He last pitched in the majors in 2006, and posted a terrible 6.56 FIP in just 43.2 innings. Since then, Prior has bounced around to different minor league teams, trying to recapture some of his old magic. His former pedigree continues to get him chances, but things don’t look promising for Prior. Following sports hernia surgery, Prior will begin working out for teams in March.

Webb’s last meaningful game took place on opening day 2009. Following five straight seasons with at least 200 innings pitched, the former Cy Young only last four innings before succumbing to a shoulder injury. Since shoulder surgery, Webb has failed to regain his velocity. He’ll throw for teams at some point in March in hopes that someone will give him one more chance in the bigs.

Both players have some history of elite production in the majors, otherwise, this would be a non-story. While it would be a great narrative if either player made it back to the big leagues, the odds are stacked against them. Here’s hoping for the best for the former aces.


Hanson Ready for Spring

According to Mark Bowman of MLB.com, Tommy Hanson will be ready for spring training. Hanson was on his way to another strong season when a small tear in his rotator cuff was discovered in August. The tear did not require surgery, and the team shut down Hanson for the remainder of the season.

Had the Atlanta Braves made the playoffs last season, there was some speculation that Hanson would have rejoined the team after two months of rest. The Braves’ collapse down the stretch probably benefitted Hanson, as he’s had the entire offseason to rest and rehabilitate his shoulder. If Hanson had pushed himself to pitch in the playoffs before he was ready — and re-injured his shoulder — there’s a good chance his outlook would be less rosy today.

While we won’t know how well Hanson is doing until we see him pitch again, this comes as positive news for the Braves, who are also managing past injury issues with Tim Hudson and Jair Jurrjens. Hudson had back surgery during the offseason but is expected to be ready for spring training, and Jurrjens will be returning from a knee injury that cut his 2011 season short.

With Randall Delgado and Julio Teheran nearly ready to contribute — and Kris Medlen returning from injury — the Braves are one of the few teams that can get by if one of their pitchers suffer a setback.

Having a healthy Hanson would be a substantial gain for the Braves. Considering the team missed out on the playoffs due to injuries, Hanson’s recovery is the first sign that the team could be in line for a successful playoff run this season.


Boston Unlikely to Add Starter

According to Alex Speier, the Red Sox are unlikely to add another starting pitcher before the season begins. The Red Sox have been linked to both Edwin Jackson and Roy Oswalt in recent weeks, but neither player currently sees Boston as their landing spot. Jackson allegedly has better offers elsewhere, and it’s been widely speculated that Oswalt wants to pitch close to home next season.

Outside of Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, the Red Sox’s last two spots in the rotation are up for grabs. With Alfredo Aceves, Andrew Miller, Daniel Bard, Vicente Padilla, Carlos Silva and Aaron Cook all vying for those slots, the Red Sox could benefit from adding an effective veteran like Jackson or Oswalt. While back injuries limited his effectiveness this past season, Oswalt still managed to put up a 2.5 WAR in just 139 innings pitched. He’s much less of a risk on a one year deal, but that’s somewhat moot if he doesn’t want to play in Boston. Jackson would also be a good fit and won’t require a lengthy financial commitment, but the Red Sox reportedly only offered $5 or $6 million on a one year deal.

The Red Sox could choose to increase their other to both players, but the team is dangerously close to surpassing the luxury tax. While the Marco Scutaro trade was supposed to clear up salary for another starting pitcher, that money might be reallocated if the Red Sox have to go to arbitration with David Ortiz, who filed for $16.5 million. The team countered with a $12.65 million contract — a small increase from Ortiz’s $12.5 salary in 2011. Unless the Red Sox are confident they can beat Ortiz in a hearing, it seems likely that he’ll receive a raise. As with most cases, the team might be better off avoiding a hearing altogether and settling with Ortiz for something around the midpoint.

While the Red Sox could certainly use another starter, their desire to stay under the luxury tax may prevent them from significantly raising their current offers to Jackson or Oswalt. Unless Jackson or Oswalt are willing to lower their asking prices, it sounds like the Red Sox might just enter spring training with their current collection of starting pitchers.


Should Mike Trout Hook A Starting Job?

Mike Trout is the catch of the day when it comes to center field prospects. After posting a gaudy .338/.422/.508 slash line in the minors, Trout made his big league debut this past season. Though his performance wasn’t all that impressive, Trout still has one of the highest ceilings of any prospect in baseball. But even though Trout no longer needs to prove himself in the minors, he may find himself back there again this season. That’s because the Los Angeles Angels currently have five potential starters in the outfield for just three spots. Can Trout steal away a starting job, or will he be left swimming upstream all season?

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Brandon Beachy’s Secret Weapon

Brandon Beachy turned in one of baseball’s most surprising performances this past season. After rising through the Atlanta Braves’ minor league system in 2010, Beachy wrestled the fifth starter slot away from Mike Minor in 2011. The undrafted Beachy shocked the baseball world, posting a 28.6% strikeout rate, 3.19 FIP and 3.16 xFIP en route to 2.8 win season. While his success was unexpected for many analysts, Beachy had a secret weapon that may have been the key to his transformation.

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Is Tim Lincecum Taking a Big Risk?

Tim Lincecum has done more than enough during his career to merit a big contract. But after reportedly turning down a five-year offer worth “at least $100 million” — and instead opting for a two-year, $40.5 million extension with the San Francisco Giants — it appears Lincecum will wait to sign that huge free-agent deal. Lincecum has been one of the best starters in baseball since his debut — winning back-to-back National League Cy Young awards in his first two full seasons — and he’s definitely in line for a big payday. But given pitchers’ unpredictability, Lincecum’s decision to play the free-agent market could come back to haunt him.

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Making Sense of Brandon Morrow’s ERA

Brandon Morrow is set to sign a three-year, $20 million contract extension with the Toronto Blue Jays. The deal reportedly includes a $10 million option or a $1 million buyout in 2015. While we don’t have the particulars of the deal at this point — including how much Morrow could make in each of his three seasons — it’s sure to create some arguments among fans.

In Morrow’s two seasons with the Blue Jays, his 4.62 ERA has been below-average among American League starters. Yet Morrow’s FIP and xFIP during the same time indicate that he should be one of the league’s better ones. As a result, many stat analysts have predicted a major improvement from Morrow. But until his ERA matches up with his advanced stats, Morrow is going to remain a frustrating player.

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Seattle Mariners, Pitcher Salesman

Prospect trades are incredibly difficult to evaluate. Trades of this ilk often depend on the future production each team receives from their acquisitions, making it nearly impossible to know for sure which team will come out on top without the benefit of hindsight. In order to deal Michael Pineda, the Seattle Mariners had to consider many factors; including the current state of their franchise and the cost of developing young pitchers. While it will take years to know definitively which team won the deal, trading one of the best young pitchers in the game was the right decision for the Mariners.

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Giants Extend Vogelsong

The San Francisco Giants are hoping 2011 was the beginning of great things for veteran pitcher Ryan Vogelsong. After posting mediocre numbers that led to a three-year stint in Japan, the 34-year-old returned to the United States with a vengeance this past season, posting a 2.71 ERA in 179.2 innings. The Giants rewarded that performance on Wednesday and signed Vogelsong to a two-year, $8.3 million extension.

Since they already had him under team control through arbitration for 2012, the contract essentially just buys out his 2013 season (for something like $4 to $5 million in salary) when he would have otherwise been eligible for free agency. Given Vogelsong’s inconsistent career, making the decision to lock him up now seems a little odd. Is there reason to believe that Vogelgong’s 2011 performance represents a true step forward that would justify guaranteeing his 2013 salary in advance?

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Is Fernando Martinez Worth a Waiver Claim?

Fernando Martinez‘s time as a New York Met might be coming to an end. To make room for Ronny Cedeno and Scott Hairston on its 40-man roster, the Mets  placed Martinez on waivers. While it seems that Martinez has been around forever, the former top prospect is only 23 — which means he could be an intriguing option for some other team.

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