Archive for Hot Stove 2011

Yankees Land Michael Pineda, Don’t Pay Retail

A few hours ago, news broke that the Yankees finally shipped Jesus Montero to Seattle for their premium right-handed starting pitcher. However, despite a couple of years of rumors and suggestions, Felix Hernandez is not the one donning pinstripes – the Yankees landed 23-year-old (in five days, anyway) Michael Pineda instead.

While Pineda isn’t King Felix, he’s a pretty terrific young pitcher in his own right. He jumped directly into the Mariners rotation out of spring training last year and was good enough to make the All-Star team in his rookie season. And, while Safeco Field is a nice place for a rookie pitcher to learn his craft, Pineda did most of the good work on his own.

Among qualified AL starting pitchers last year, only Brandon Morrow and Justin Verlander posted a higher strikeout rate than Pineda, who whiffed 24.9% of the batters he faced. His K% was better than David Price, CC Sabathia, and yes, even Felix. Pineda’s live fastball and willingness to live up in the strike zone led to a lot of swinging strikes, and that had nothing to do with the park he played in.

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Can Yoenis Cespedes Showcase Talents In MLB?

Yoenis Cespedes made his professional debut Thursday night in the Dominican Winter League. The much-hyped Cuban defector promptly went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts and a hit by pitch. At least there’s nowhere to go but up.

Although Cespedes has yet to establish residency outside of Cuba and is still ineligible to sign as a free agent, the market has largely cleared (outside of Prince Fielder), and thus the Hot Stove’s attention turns his way. Expect the hype to approach and potentially surpass that which surrounded Aroldis Chapman two years ago — Cespedes may not having something as tangible as a 100 MPH fastball, but he does have The Showcase. He also has a tremendous record as one of the Cuban League’s best hitters at just age 26. But it’s difficult enough to project the performance of solid minor leaguers, where data is largely complete and comparables abound. How can we even begin to filter through the noise in Cespedes’s excellent statistical record?

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What Should the Reds Do With Left Field?

The Reds entered the off-season with two possible paths forward:

1. Trade Joey Votto for a bushel of young players and accept a consolidation while breaking in the foundation of their next core group of everyday players.

2. Trade some of those young players for roster upgrades in an effort to win while they have Votto under contract.

They choose the second path, shipping Yonder Alonso and friends to San Diego for Mat Latos, sending Travis Wood to Chicago for Sean Marshall, and then using most of their remaining budget allowance to sign Ryan Madson to a one-year deal to take over as the team’s closer. While Latos offers both present and future value, the other moves only upgrade Cincinnati’s roster for 2012, and next winter, they’ll have a tough time retaining Madson, Marshall, and Brandon Phillips while also paying Votto the significant raise that his contract calls for.

So, the Reds are something close to being all-in on this season. If they win, they might create enough extra revenue to give Votto a long-term mega-contract and keep their franchise player. If they don’t win, however, then they’re going to have a hard time selling Votto on re-signing, and they’ll have to explore moving him before he can leave via free agency. That’s not a good scenario, and so the Reds should be highly motivated to maximize their positive outcomes in 2012.

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Vicente Padilla: High Risk, Medium Reward

The Red Sox entered the 2011 season with high hopes of winning their third championship of the millennium. Best laid plans didn’t come to fruition as the events of that wild and wacky final day of the regular season kept them out of the playoffs entirely.

Their offense wasn’t to blame, as the Red Sox posted a league-leading .351 wOBA and 116 wRC+. Their bullpen led the junior circuit in WAR and FIP as well, while throwing 517.1 innings. That innings total was the second-highest in the league, indicative of their major problem area: the rotation.

While the Red Sox starting rotation wasn’t atrocious, it certainly didn’t live up to expectations. It posted the highest walk rate in the American League, and finished in the bottom third in all of ERA, FIP and SIERA. Josh Beckett and Jon Lester pitched well, as did Clay Buchholz over his 14 starts. Everyone else left much to be desired.

After seeing the Yankees eek solid seasons out of Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia, the Red Sox seem to be adopting a similar approach for the 2012 season. Instead of looking for major splashes, or even above average reinforcements like Edwin Jackson and Roy Oswalt, the Red Sox have signed Aaron Cook, and are currently engaged in talks with Vicente Padilla. Cook makes some sense, in spite of his recent struggles to stay on the mound, because he offers one of the best groundball rates in baseball when healthy, and averaged close to 4 WAR from 2006-08.

Padilla is another story, as he carries various forms of risk and has never really offered much reward. Minor league deals are almost never detrimental to the signing team, but expectations should be significantly tempered for Padilla, even if he somehow manages to stay healthy.

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Madson to Cincinnati

Walt Jocketty and his Cincinnati Reds have signaled to the baseball community that they believe the NL Central to be ripe for the taking in 2012.

The organization has been extremely bold this offseason. They opted to leverage several of their young, valuable assets — namely Yonder Alonso, Travis Wood, and Yasmani Grandal — to acquire Mat Latos and Sean Marshall, in hopes of complementing a potent offense that posted the fourth-best team wOBA in the league last season and catapulting the team into the postseason.

Cincinnati ratcheted up that aggressiveness even further on Tuesday evening by inking closer Ryan Madson to a one-year, $8.5M contract.

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Chicago Cubs Sign LHP Paul Maholm


NOTE: The left-handed Paul McCartney should NOT be
confused with his Maholmish southclaw brethren.

Late Monday night, Paul Maholm broke the news via his own Twitter account that he has signed with the Chicago Cubs. This morning, Bruce Levine reported that the deal will pay him $4.25 million for 2012 with a $500,000 buyout of a $6.5 million option for 2013, so the deal will either be 1/4.75 or 2/10.75. This puts his guaranteed money at just slightly less than what the Indians took on to acquire Derek Lowe. If he pitches well and the Cubs pick up the option, he’ll essentially have gotten the same deal as Chris Capuano. The market for this kind of pitcher has been pretty clearly defined.

What can we expect from Maholm? And is he a good fit for the Cubs rotation?

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Kendrick Extension a Good Value for Angels

Looking at Howie Kendrick’s performance record, it seems odd that he has only played two full seasons. Those two seasons — his two most recent campaigns — paint a starkly different picture. If Kendrick performs the way he did last year for the foreseeable future then the Angels scored big by extending his contract before he reaches free agency, but even a baseline Kendrick performance will make this contract a good one.

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The Manny Market

It really seems as if Manny Ramirez wants to play in the major leagues in 2012. He’s had a rough go of it since last April, having a brief and ineffective stint with the Tampa Bay Rays that ended when he retired to avoid the ignominy of a 100-game suspension for a positive PED test. Yes, Manny brings baggage, and he will be 40 in May. However, despite the way things ended in 2011, Ramirez has a long record of impressive offensive production. It is hard to say which teams might actually be interested, but what teams even have a place for him? Not many, and league-wide interest (understandably) seems tepid so far. But if we scour the league, some possibilities do appear.

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The Rangers’ Pursuit of Madson

The Texas Rangers took an interesting approach at the 2011 trade deadline. Instead of seeking big-time impact talent in the lineup or rotation, they sought to shore up the bullpen. Jon Daniels worked out deals with the Orioles for Mike Gonzalez and Koji Uehara, and when it seemed like Heath Bell was headed to Texas, it turned out the Rangers’ bid was awarded the prized Mike Adams. Gonzalez was set to hit the free agent market after the season, while both Uehara and Adams were under control for the 2012 season as well.

The impact of the newly acquired bullpen trio was tougher to measure statistically — which is the case for most relievers, especially over minute samples — but the bullpen was certainly improved. In the end, however, best laid plans didn’t come to fruition and Uehara was left off of the World Series roster. The Rangers even fielded calls pertaining to his availability this offseason. This, despite a fluky high home run rate that spat in the face of his 23 strikeouts and one walk over 22 innings after the trade. Regardless, all available evidence suggests that Uehara remains a relief stud, and over a full season has a better chance to make his impact felt.

And in spite of his “struggles” the Rangers still intended to further shore up the bullpen this offseason, signing Joe Nathan, seriously pursuing Andrew Bailey and considering both Gonzalez and Ryan Madson. Their activity suggests that they want to reduce the risk of bullpen attrition by employing numerous top-notch relievers, especially at the back end. This invites the multi-million dollar question: should they sign Ryan Madson given their circumstances?

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Padres Ready To Tango With Cash(ner)

It’s generally assumed that the Padres will have no trouble putting together a good pitching staff because of the park they play in, and while they have generally given us little reason to think otherwise, last year the Friars didn’t get such great relief work. Enter Andrew Cashner, who was traded to San Diego this afternoon along with prospect Kyung-Min Na for prospects Anthony Rizzo and Zach Cates.

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How Much Of Zambrano Is Left For Miami?

The dream NotGraphs roster has officially been assembled. On top of Logan Morrison and Ozzie Guillen together in the same clubhouse and on the same Twitter, Miami will now house the other noted Chicago fireball, Carlos Zambrano. The Cubs ate $15 million of Zambrano’s $18 million salary for the privilege to ship him down to Florida in exchange for former top prospect and current disappointment Chris Volstad.

With Miami building a contender this offseason through the acquisitions of Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle but still ostensibly looking up at Philadelphia and Atlanta for the NL East, the addition of Zambrano on the cheap could be what pushes the Marlins into the playoffs — that is, if he has anything left in the tank.

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Eternal Returns: Coco Crisp and Athletic Rebuilding

Not everyone from the 2011 Oakland Athletics is leaving town. Last night Buster Olney reported that the As had re-signed their center fielder from previous two seasons, Coco Crisp, to a two-year deal guaranteeing the 32-year old $14 million dollars with an option for a third season. Some may doubt whether Crisp is really worth the money, particularly given his health record, but the more interesting question is what this means for the As seemingly-eternal rebuilding effort and future.

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Full Count: A Twins Offseason on the Brink

Despite losing 99 games in a season sponsored by Murphy’s Law, the Twins entered an offseason in which neither building to contend nor rebuilding really fully made sense. For one, the team lacked the liquid assets required for a rebuild; its more valuable commodities were either inked to long-term deals, or the player was coming off an injury-riddled campaign. Or both.

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White Sox Are Stuck In The Middle

The White Sox cleared payroll this weekend, trading Carlos Quentin and Jason Frasor to the Padres and the Blue Jays, respectively. As Eno Sarris predicted a month ago, Chicago didn’t get spectacular returns for either player. But the question still remains — why aren’t the White Sox tearing it all down and starting over? The answer might be because they can’t.

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Making Sense of the Quentin Acquisition

The Padres acquired Carlos Quentin over the weekend by sending prospects Simon Castro and Pedro Hernandez to the can-anyone-tell-if-they-are-actually-rebuilding White Sox. At first glance, the move doesn’t make much sense for the Padres. Quentin’s attributes may not translate to the spacious PETCO Park and he is about to enter his final year under team control. Further, the Padres aren’t really in a position to contend in 2012, where a slugging corner outfielder could be the difference in a tight race.

Even if they were, this deal is worth scrutinizing because Quentin is a tough player to peg. He can hit, but plays the field about as bad as a corner outfielder can. His home run totals can partly thank the friendly dimensions of US Cellular Field — fifth-highest park factor for homers in 2011 — whereas dingers are suppressed in his new digs. And given his contractual status, the Padres aren’t even going to get a great deal out of this, as Quentin will likely cost around $8 million before being able to file for free agency.

However, trades like this are always interesting to discuss because they shed light on an element of transaction theory. Mainly, they elicit questions about why a team in the Padres situation would even bother acquiring Quentin. Before delving into their mindset, though, let’s take a closer look at Quentin himself.

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Is Byrd the Word For Washington?

The acquisition of Gio Gonzalez certainly bolstered the Nationals starting rotation and bumped up their postseason odds. It wasn’t a splash of the Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder ilk but with Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann, Gonzalez will help form a fairly formidable trio. However, the Nationals aren’t finished just yet.

In addition to their rumored interest and pursuit of Prince Fielder to replace Adam LaRoche at first base, the Nationals are also in the hunt for a centerfielder. Last season, they expressed interest in both Michael Bourn and B.J. Upton. The former was eventually traded to the division-rival Braves, while the latter posted a .449 wOBA in September as the Rays won the Wild Card on the season’s final day.

But the Nationals are still looking to shore up their outfield. Center field remains a legitimate weakness on a team with sights on significantly improving and potentially contending for a playoff berth. As it currently stands, there are four realistic options: trade for Marlon Byrd, trade for B.J. Upton, sign Coco Crisp, or shift Jayson Werth over while installing someone else in right field.

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Ryan Madson: Loser of the Offseason

Ryan Madson has had a successful career spent entirely with the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies signing of Jonathan Papelbon early in the offseason effectively ended that chapter of Madson’s career, but he entered the offseason as either the best or second-best available closer.

Madson was going to get paid, and it was just a matter of which team would see past his “inexperience” at the position and opt for his services over, say, Heath Bell or Francisco Cordero.

Unfortunately, best laid plans haven’t come to fruition, and it seems with each passing day that he will end up being the loser of the offseason: a very good player forced to sign for less than he would have had he hit free agency a year earlier or later.

Because so few remaining teams have both the need and payroll flexibility to give a multi-year deal to a closer, it’s looking like Madson’s first foray into free agency will result in his eventual employer getting a bargain.

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Joe Saunders: A Fit for the New-Look Marlins?

So far this season, the Miami Marlins nabbed a trio of marquee free agents while also being heavily connected with eventual Angels’ signees Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. After a quiet couple of weeks, the team might be in on another deal, albeit this time with a less sexy name: Joe Saunders.

Saunders makes some folks cringe because he was the big-league player the Diamondbacks got in the Dan Haren trade. Baseball fanatics know that Tyler Skaggs — who also was acquired in the deal — is a very well-regarded prospect; but to the casual fan, the trade looked like a Haren-for-Saunders salary dump. Saunders’ performance did little to quell that sentiment: He posted only 1.9 WAR in almost a season-and-a-half before Arizona non-tendered him this fall. Read the rest of this entry »


Cubs, Reds Discussing Possible Trade

According to Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi of FOX Sports, the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds are conferring about a possible deal that would send left-hander Sean Marshall to Cincy in return for fellow-southpaw Travis Wood. It is not immediately clear if other players are being discussed as a part of the deal.

Though no trade has been agreed upon as of yet, the move would significantly help both teams within the context of each organization’s blueprint for future success.

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Making Sense of the Giants’ Off-Season Moves

I can’t. Make sense of the Giants’ off-season moves, that is.

Last season, the Giants were 28th in the majors in wOBA (.294), 29th in wRC+ (83) and 29th in runs scored (570). Yes, the Giants lost Buster Posey at the end of May and Freddy Sanchez in June to season-ending injuries, and they lost Pablo Sandoval — their most effective hitter — for six weeks in the early part of the season. But the Giants added Carlos Beltran at the end of July, and after a slow start due to a wrist injury, Beltran posted a .404 wOBA over his final 161 plate appearances. The Giants simply couldn’t overcome career-worst seasons from Aaron Rowand and Miguel Tejada, who were released at the end of August, and poor offensive performances from Aubrey Huff and Andres Torres.

The only other teams with sub-.300 wOBAs in 2011 were the Mariners, Padres, Twins and Pirates, all of whom ended the season with losing records. The Giants finished 86-76 on the strength of their pitching. Obviously. So heading into 2012, the Giants were sure to focus on significantly upgrading the offense, right?

Not really.

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