Archive for Instanalysis

Felix Hernandez Reportedly Getting Blockbuster Contract

At present, Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander, and Clayton Kershaw are three of the very greatest starting pitchers in the game. They’re also all two years away from free-agent eligibility, so there’s been talk of long-term contract extensions. Dave wrote about this subject last month, and he estimated that Hernandez could end up with a seven-year commitment worth about $150 million. That would be five years at $22 million apiece, attached to the end of the two years for which Felix is already signed.

Thursday has brought news of no confirmations. However, it’s also brought a report out of USA Today that Hernandez and the Mariners have agreed to terms on a seven-year deal worth $175 million. Follow-up reports say it isn’t official, and that there are still some little issues to work out, but the hard part looks to have been conquered. While the numbers might change a bit, it seems this should get finalized, and Hernandez should end up with a five-year contract extension, plus raises in 2013 and 2014. What we’re looking at is a seven-year commitment to a pitcher with a $25 million average annual value.

Read the rest of this entry »


Chris Carpenter Hurt and Probably Finished

Earlier Tuesday, word got around that the St. Louis Cardinals had called an afternoon press conference. Word got around because the Cardinals spread it. Immediately, there was some speculation that the Cardinals had made an acquisition. There was also speculation that the Cardinals were going to announce a long-term contract extension for a player or coach. But then there were whispers that the news conference would have to do with Chris Carpenter‘s future, and many began to expect a retirement announcement. Carpenter has not retired, but retirement doesn’t appear to be far off.

Carpenter’s coming off major surgery, and he started throwing early on this offseason to test his body. Recently, he informed the Cardinals that he’s feeling similar symptoms to the ones he experienced a year ago. He’s going to get himself examined, but the Cardinals all but wrote him off for 2013, and they repeatedly referred to Carpenter in the past tense. This is not a Chris Carpenter retirement article, but you can consider it just one step below.

Read the rest of this entry »


A’s Get Jed Lowrie, Astros Get Power

Some weeks ago, there was talk that the A’s were interested in trading for Jed Lowrie, while in return, the Astros were interested in getting Chris Carter and a young pitcher. Sometimes rumors reported in such a way are based in fact, and sometimes rumors reported in such a way are based in fantasy. Monday evening, the A’s swung a trade to get themselves Jed Lowrie. As part of the return, the Astros got themselves Chris Carter and a young pitcher.

The actual, complete specifics:

To Oakland: Jed Lowrie, Fernando Rodriguez
To Houston: Chris Carter, Brad Peacock, Max Stassi

Read the rest of this entry »


The Mets’ Low-Risk Bullpen Rebuild

Last offseason, Mets GM Sandy Alderson spent just $17.8 million on Major League free agents. Most of that when to Frank Francisco ($12 million) and Jon Rauch ($3.5 million), and the club also absorbed Ramon Ramirez‘s salary ($2.75 million) in the ill-fated Angel Pagan trade. Those three were supposed to join incumbents Bobby Parnell and Tim Byrdak to give the Amazin’s a solid relief unit, but instead the new additions combined to post an underwhelming 4.34 ERA (3.89 FIP) and 0.3 WAR in 163.2 innings.

Francisco, 33, signed a two-year contract last winter and will remain with the Mets this year. He had offseason elbow surgery and the team is openly concerned about whether he will be ready in time for Opening Day. Both Rauch and Ramirez have been allowed to walk as free agents though, plus Byrdak is expect to miss most (if not all) of 2013 following shoulder surgery. For most of the winter it appeared Parnell and rookie left-hander Josh Edgin were the only locks for the team’s Opening Day bullpen, but Alderson has gone to work in the last two weeks by signing low-risk and relatively high-reward relief options.

Read the rest of this entry »


Nick Johnson Retires, FanGraphs Weeps

Eight times on base. Had Nick Johnson reached base just eight more times in his ten-year career, he would have become just the 41st player in history to leave the game with a .400+ OBP (min. 3,000 PA). Eight times on base in ten years. I say we blame the Orioles, because it was with them that he reached base just 33 times in 102 PA last season (.326 OBP). He went into the season with a career .401 OBP.

Johnson, 34, retired from baseball earlier this week according to WFAN’s Sweeny Murti. He leaves the game as a favorite of statheads everywhere thanks to pure hitting ability — career .268/.399/.441 (126 wRC+) — that never quite received the respect in deserved. Quotes, like this one said to our own David Laurila last summer, stand out as well…

Read the rest of this entry »


Mets Grab Themselves a Cheap Shaun Marcum

We begin with a Shaun Marcum timeline. Marcum debuted in the majors in 2005, and he got progressively better through 2008. He missed all of 2009 due to Tommy John surgery. In 2010, as a Blue Jay, he started on opening day. Following 2010, he was traded to the Brewers for top prospect Brett Lawrie straight up. In 2011, he posted a sub-4 ERA over 33 starts. In 2012, he posted a sub-4 ERA over 21 starts, having missed time with elbow discomfort. But he pitched before the discomfort, and then he came back to pitch after it. Marcum’s a not-unreliable 31 years old. As a free agent, you’d think Marcum would be able to get himself a reasonably hefty contract. Instead, he’s signed with the Mets for a year and $4 million. He could earn an additional $2 million, but only if he hits his incentives.

As always, that counts as a hefty contract by our non-baseballing standards. Marcum will out-earn many CEOs! Such luxury! But for the sake of comparison, Mike Pelfrey signed for a year and $4 million, with $1.5 million in possible incentives. Scott Baker signed for a year and $5.5 million, with $1.5 million in possible incentives, and last season he didn’t throw a pitch. Kevin flipping Correia signed for two years and $10 million, and he’s Kevin Correia. On that basis alone, it seems like the Mets got themselves a pretty good deal. On that basis alone, it seems like Marcum should’ve had more of a market.

Read the rest of this entry »


Orioles Continue Inactive Offseason By Signing Jair Jurrjens

Despite surprising everyone by winning 93 games and qualifying for the postseason last year, the Orioles haven’t done much of anything this winter. Other than re-signing Nate McLouth, all of their moves have been small trades (Danny Valencia, Trayvon Robinson, Yamaico Navarro), minor league signings (Daniel Schlereth, Zach Braddock, Travis Ishikawa), or waiver claims (Luis Martinez, Alexi Casilla). Their most notable moves to date were extending GM Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter through 2018.

Baltimore continued their nondescript offseason yesterday by agreeing to sign right-hander Jair Jurrjens to a one-year contract worth $1.5 million that could reach $4 million through incentives. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports had the scoop. Jurrjens was just awful with the Braves last season, pitching to a 6.89 ERA and 5.64 FIP with nearly as many walks (18) as strikeouts (19) in 48.1 innings. They sent him to Triple-A not once but twice, where he managed a 4.98 ERA and 4.62 FIP in 72.1 innings. His season effectively ended in early-August due to a groin strain.

Read the rest of this entry »


Cubs Sign Scott Hairston, Edge Closer to Hopeful Season

The Yankees, Mets, Braves and Phillies were all in pursuit of Scott Hairston, and it wasn’t until last week that it appeared the Cubs even had a chance. Now the oft-wanted role player is joining the Chicago Cubs on a 2-year deal worth up to $6 million after incentives.

Hairston’s well-documented ability to hit left-handed pitching (119 wRC+ against lefties, 86 wRC+ against righties) has earned him quality playing time in the majors, but never a starting gig. That trend should continue as he joins a Cubs outfield alignment already featuring a pair of lefties in David DeJesus and Nate Schierholtz.

Schierholtz has a career 96 wRC+ against righties and 90 wRC+ against his brother southpaws. On the merit of two consecutive strong seasons against right-handers (123 wRC+ in 2011, 126 wRC+ in 2012), Schierholtz figures to earn a hearty 500 PA as the Cubs anti-righty platoon mate.

DeJesus, meanwhile, owns a much more pronounced platoon split. His strong defense across the outfield and 117 wRC+ against righties keeps him in the lineup most days, but his 80 wRC+ against lefties may make him — despite being the more proven hitter — a possible platoon partner for Hairston as well.

All told, Hairston and his surprise suitors together make an increasingly interesting team, rich both in flaws and talents. With Hairston and a few other Scotts — Scott Baker, Scott Feldman, Kyuji Fujikawa (“Scott,” to his friends, I believe) — the Cubs look like they may need a hunting cap in 2013. The playoffs may not be out of reach.
Read the rest of this entry »


Jaso, Morse Move Around In Three-Team Deal

When the Nationals acquired Denard Span, it essentially meant they’d have to choose between Adam LaRoche and Michael Morse. When they re-signed LaRoche to a multi-year contract, it essentially meant Morse would have to be traded. One might have thought this would have reduced the Nationals’ negotiating leverage, but a three-team trade on Wednesday saw the Nationals still manage to turn Morse into legitimate value.

The overall summary, in case you haven’t seen it:

To Seattle, from Washington: Michael Morse
To Oakland, from Seattle: John Jaso
To Washington, from Oakland: A.J. Cole, Blake Treinen, PTBNL

Read the rest of this entry »


Boras Finds Rafael Soriano a Home in D.C.

Coming into the offseason, Rafael Soriano had a choice: return to the Yankees in 2013 for $14 million, or opt out, collect $1.5 million, and become a free agent. Consensus around these parts was that Soriano should stay put. Soriano opted out. The Yankees extended to Soriano a $13.3 million qualifying offer, and there was a strong argument that Soriano should accept it and stay with New York. Soriano turned it down and entered the market with compensation reducing his appeal. Many of those players who declined qualifying offers have struggled to find the contracts they wanted. For a while, Soriano’s market, at least publicly, wasn’t developing. It was unclear for a while what was going to happen to Rafael Soriano, and it was easy to conclude that he’d made the wrong decisions.

Soriano just signed a two-year contract with the Nationals worth $28 million. He turned down $14 million over one year, a year in which he wouldn’t close much, and ended up with $14 million over two years, years in which he’ll at least initially be the closer. There’s also a $14 million vesting option at the end, just in case the contract wasn’t good enough for Soriano already. Soriano, and his agent Scott Boras.

Read the rest of this entry »


Kelvim Escobar: Delicate, Unkillable

The Brewers signed Kelvim Escobar to a minor-league contract with a spring-training invite. You know the story with these no-risk pseudo-commitments. Teams sign interesting names to these contracts every year, and this offseason we’ve seen Jeremy Bonderman get a deal, and Scott Kazmir get a deal, and Dontrelle Willis get a deal. I’m probably forgetting others. These contracts frequently go to players who used to be something, on the off chance that they might be something again. Most often, the players don’t contribute much, and they’re forgotten about until the next round. Minor-league contracts are great for winter conversation, and by and large irrelevant come April and May.

Escobar, sure enough, used to be something, like the others. He’ll get a chance to make the Brewers’ bullpen out of camp, if he pitches well. With Escobar, whether he’ll pitch well is the second question. Whether he’ll pitch is the first question. Escobar has been through more injury problems than most, and it’s somewhat incredible that he’s racked up more than 1,500 big-league innings. Though he hasn’t added to that total in a while, there was a time that Escobar was able to throw on a regular or semi-regular basis.

Read the rest of this entry »


Shaun Marcum’s Winter of Silence

Shaun Marcum is a pretty good Major League pitcher. He’s been in the show since 2005 and owns a 3.76 ERA and 4.25 FIP in a little over 900 career innings. That’s a 90 ERA- and 101 FIP-, respectively. Like most pitchers though, it took Marcum a few years to really hit his stride. Since 2008 he’s pitched to a 3.57 ERA (88 ERA-) and a 3.97 FIP (97 FIP-) in a bit less than 700 innings. He did miss the entire 2009 season due to Tommy John surgery, but that’s a solidly above-average performance.

Marcum just turned 31 years old last month and is a free agent this offseason. You probably knew that already, but a lot of casual fans might not since there have been very few mentions of his name on various rumor-churning sites. Casual fans also might not realize Marcum is a pretty good pitcher either, but that’s besides the point. We have ourselves a perfectly capable right-handed starter who has been worth at least 3.0 RA9-wins in five of the last six seasons he’s pitched and is having trouble finding a job. It doesn’t make sense, especially with only five weeks to go in the offseason.

Read the rest of this entry »


Adam LaRoche Finally Caves, Re-Signs

Adam LaRoche lost a lot of 2011 to injury, okay, and in 2012 he had himself a bounceback season, okay. Sometime during the season, the Nationals approached LaRoche — a free-agent-to-be — about a contract extension. Nothing was agreed to; the Nationals were willing to give LaRoche two years, and LaRoche was seeking three years, citing a desire to stop bouncing around. Come the offseason, the Nationals extended to LaRoche a qualifying offer, and LaRoche turned it down; LaRoche was seeking three years. LaRoche kept on seeking three years. On Tuesday, LaRoche re-signed with the Nationals. He re-signed for two years, with a mutual third-year option. I’ll quote Amanda Comak:

“[The negotiations] were pretty much not moving for a couple months,” LaRoche said. “It got to a point at one time where I really thought ‘OK, I probably am not going back to Washington.’ We were in talks with some other teams and things were looking promising and Washington wasn’t budging.”
[...]
The deal, which a source said is the same one that had been on the table for the first baseman for much of the offseason[...]

Read the rest of this entry »


Things for You to Know About Brett Myers

We begin.

Brett Myers is on the Indians now

On a one-year contract, with a second-year club option. The whole deal is said to be worth $7 million, and Myers will go back to starting after spending all of 2012 in the bullpen. In two bullpens, as it were. Myers has done this before, as he was basically a full-time reliever in 2007, and then a starter between 2008-2011. If the Indians turn out to not like Myers as a starter, they can move him back to relief — he’s their player, after all, and he’s demonstrated his versatility — but he’s a starter first. And the Indians’ top starter is arguably Justin Masterson or Zach McAllister, so, yeah. There’s a need.

Read the rest of this entry »


Rangers Nab A.J. Pierzynski

To date, it hasn’t been the offseason that the Texas Rangers wanted it to be. There’s still plenty of time, and the team still has plenty of talent, but the Rangers have been looking to make a move of significance. Later Thursday, they were able to make one, locking up free-agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski. And more, while Pierzynski is coming off arguably the best season of his entire big-league career, the Rangers got him for one year and $7.5 million. While Pierzynski doesn’t make the Rangers into something they weren’t by himself, he fills a need with so little risk the Rangers could hardly afford not to sign him.

With Geovany Soto and Eli Whiteside, the Rangers already had catchers, but they didn’t have good catchers, or left-handed-hitting catchers with a fair amount of power. While it’s presently unclear exactly how Pierzynski and Soto will split time, Pierzynski has exceeded 500 plate appearances in every season but one since 2003. In that one, he reached 497. Pierzynski has proven that he can handle an awful lot of work, and Soto just batted .198.

Read the rest of this entry »


Angels Clear Logjam, Land Jason Vargas

The acquisition of Josh Hamilton gave the Angels what they wanted, but it also left the Angels with a little problem: between Peter Bourjos, Mark Trumbo, and Kendrys Morales, they had too many good players for too few spots. This was, as they say, a nice problem to have, and the Angels also felt they had a need for another innings-eating starting pitcher. So in a move surprising only because it went down between two teams in the same division, the Angels and Mariners have exchanged Morales and Jason Vargas, straight up. With one move, the Angels solved two perceived problems.

The whole trade is simple. It’s easy to understand, like an example transaction in Trading 101. The Angels had too many bats and too few starting pitchers, so they traded a bat for a starting pitcher. The Mariners wanted a bat more than they wanted to keep one of their starting pitchers. Morales didn’t fit in one place and he does fit in the other. Morales has one year left until free agency, and he’s projected to make just under $5 million. Vargas has one year left until free agency, too, and he’s projected to make just over $7 million. There are no prospects, no cash considerations, no players to be named later. Few transactions are this uncomplicated.

Read the rest of this entry »


Brad Lidge’s Memorable Moment

If we were to sit down and create a list of the five most memorable baseball moments of the 21st century, the home run Albert Pujols hit off Brad Lidge in Game Three Five of the 2005 NLCS would be on it. It’s not even a question of if it would be on the list, but where. Baseball has a way of making your jaw drop — think David Freese, Aaron Boone, Bill Buckner — and that homer certainly qualifies. The crowd going dead silent in an instant, Andy Pettitte saying “oh my gosh,” the thud of the ball off the window … we remember it like it was yesterday.

Fair or not, that homer is the first thing that jumps to everyone’s mind when they think of Lidge. He was arguably the most dominant relief pitcher in baseball at the time, pitching to a 2.10 ERA (2.44 FIP) with 14.15 K/9 (39.4 K%) in 165.1 innings from 2004-2005. His 157 strikeouts in 2004 were the most by a pitcher who pitched exclusively in relief since Mark Eichhorn struck out 166 batters in 1986. Eichhorn did it in 157 innings. Lidge did it in 94.2. Carlos Marmol is the only pitcher to come within 25 strikeouts of Lidge’s total since 2004 (138 in 2010).

Earlier this month, Lidge quietly announced his retirement from baseball following a career that spanned parts of eleven seasons. He ranks 37th on the all-time saves list with 225, sandwiched right between Hoyt Wilhelm and Gene Garber. At some point next year Huston Street will pass him, then J.J. Putz will pass him the year after. Lidge is third on the Astros all-time saves list behind Billy Wagner and Dave Smith, and fourth on the Phillies all-time saves list behind Jose Mesa, Steve Bedrosian, and Mitch Williams. His place among history’s greatest closers won’t get him remembered, but that homer will.

Personally, there are three things about Lidge that stick out to me. First, it’s that utterly insane 2004 effort. Craig Kimbrel just had a season for the ages, but in 2004 Lidge pitched to level that wasn’t too far below Kimbrel’s while throwing 51% more innings in much less pitcher-friendly era. Secondly, it’s the strikeouts. Among pitchers who have thrown at least 600 career innings, a list that is 1,741 players deep, Lidge’s 11.92 K/9 and 30.9 K% are tops among right-handers and second overall to Wagner. During the PITCHf/x era, batters whiffed at his slider with more than 45% of their swings. That doesn’t even include his peak 2004-2005 seasons.

Third, it’s how that homer by Pujols supposedly screwed him up. Lidge allowed runs in two of his next three postseason outings that year after allowing runs in two of his first 13 playoff games. He pitched to a 5.28 ERA and 3.79 FIP the following season, which was wildly out of line with his career norms, and was demoted out of the closer’s role. Pujols had broken him, as the story goes. A year later he was traded to the Phillies for a package headlined by Michael Bourn only to have a brilliant 2008 campaign (1.95 ERA and 2.41 FIP) that resulted in a World Championship. If the Pujols homer is the first mental image you see when you think of Lidge, this is probably second.

Lidge, who turns 36 this weekend, was never really the same after that 2008 season, though there was no jaw-dropping moment to build a narrative around. He was relatively young but his arm was not — throwing slider after slider in 65+ appearances year after year takes a toll on a pitcher physically. Very few guys are built to throw 50%+ sliders over the long haul. Injuries were starting to pop up, his command was starting to slip, all sorts of perfectly normal age-relate things started to set in. Lidge was broken for good this time, but not because of Pujols.

Fittingly, Lidge’s final act as a Major Leaguer was a strikeout. He unceremoniously whiffed Freddy Garcia in extra innings of an interleague game against the Yankees this summer after allowing the go-ahead runs to score. Washington designated him for assignment a day later and no team picked him for the remainder of the season. Lidge retires with 799 strikeouts, 225 saves, several seasons as one of baseball’s most dominant relievers, a handful of Cy Young and MVP votes, and one really bad pitch that he’d like to have back. Despite a great career, he’ll always be remembered for being on the wrong end of one of baseball’s most memorable moments.


Phillies Find Back-End Bargain In John Lannan

Kyle Kendrick is generally underrated in the realm of back-end starters, but the Phillies still came into the offseason seeking rotation depth behind Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels. That need grew even greater two weeks ago when the team used Vance Worley to acquire Ben Revere. With veteran back-end arms aplenty on the free agent market, Philadelphia managed to find a bargain in former National (and rival) John Lannan.

Lannan, as Phillies fans surely remember, started his big league career by breaking Chase Utley‘s hand with a pitch back in 2007. The bad blood has lingered for years, and the Fightin’s have done a damn good job of exacting revenge over the years — Lannan has pitched to a 5.53 ERA (~5.80 FIP) against the Philadelphia compared to a 3.80 ERA (~4.30 FIP) against everyone else. The 28-year-old southpaw has responded by hitting more than twice as many Phillies (11) than players on any other team. Think of it as a light version of Pedro Martinez vs. the Yankees.

Read the rest of this entry »


One Drew Was Not Enough: Red Sox Ink Stephen

The Red Sox have been one of the baseball’s most active teams on the free agent market this winter, inking David Ross, Jonny Gomes, Shane Victorino, Koji Uehara, and maybe Mike Napoli (depending on a recent hold-up with his physical) as they look to pick up the pieces following a last place finish in 2012. Their August blockbuster with the Dodgers freed up hundred of millions of dollars in payroll space, and so far that money has been put back into the team in the form of sensible, short-ish term contracts. The pitching staff still needs work, but up until the today the only position they had not addressed was shortstop.

The internal options were not all that appealing. Ivan DeJesus Jr. hasn’t played much shortstop in recent years and Pedro Ciriaco managed an 85 wRC+ (2.9 BB%) in 272 big league plate appearances this year. Prospect Jose Iglesias is a wizard with the glove, but he owns a .251/.302/.287 career batting line. In Triple-A. In almost 800 plate appearances. There’s a minimum acceptable level of offense at the big league level, and it’s not very likely the 22-year-old Iglesias can provide it right now. Defensive skill only goes so far.

Read the rest of this entry »


Josh Hamilton Signs With Angels Out of Nowhere

Let’s begin with the news: Josh Hamilton is a free agent no longer. As of Thursday, he’s agreed to a five-year contract with the Angels reportedly worth $125 million. That breaks down easily to come out to an average annual value of $25 million. As of Wednesday, the Rangers looked like the favorites to get Hamilton locked up, and it was said that Hamilton would give the Rangers a chance to match any offer before he committed himself to another organization. According to Jon Heyman, the Rangers were actually given no such chance, as they were simply told that Hamilton was leaving. Reports suggest the Rangers wouldn’t go higher than four years. The Angels gave five. Five is greater than four.

Now let’s follow with some recent history. The Angels weren’t even mentioned seriously as a Hamilton suitor until Thursday morning. It looked like it would be the Rangers, with the Mariners and the Phillies somewhere on the dark-horse periphery. In fact:

Read the rest of this entry »