Deadline Recap: Position Player Upgrades

With the non-waiver trade deadline past us, we can take a step back and see how each contender upgraded its roster. Because the season is two-thirds over, these players might not have an enormous impact. But for a contender sitting on the fringe, or a leader wanting to solidify its position, these acquisitions could make enough of a difference now, and then a bigger one come playoff time, when everyone starts from scratch.

To project the positional upgrade the team will receive, we’ll look at the wRAA the team has received so far from the position, the projected wRAA for the incumbent, and the projected wRAA for the replacement, based on ZiPS rest of season. We’ll assume 230 PA, which is based on a prorated 700 PA season. I’m leaving out defense, because I’m not comfortable projecting 1/3 of a season. I’m also leaving out guys such as Jerry Hairston, who are injury fill-ins rather than upgrades.

Atlanta Braves: Center Field

Braves wRAA from CF: -6.2 (25th in MLB)

Incumbent Jordan Schafer: -8.8 wRAA

Replacement Michael Bourn: 3.6 wRAA

Total Swing: 12.4 runs

Comments: That’s a one-win swing just on offense, which is huge for the Braves. It helps ensure their Wild Card lead, and perhaps will close the gap a bit between them and the Phillies. Again, this is a case where ZiPS ROS has undersold a player’s performance to date. Bourn currently has a .353 wOBA, so if he keeps the hot hitting going he’ll be even more of an upgrade — 7.6 wRAA, or a swing of more than 1.5 wins, just on offense.

Detroit Tigers: Third Base

Tigers wRAA from 3B: -20.9 (27th in MLB)

Incumbent Brandon Inge: -5.0 wRAA

Replacement Wilson Betemit: 1.6 wRAA

Total Swing: 6.6 runs

Comments: Inge was clearly done, both on offense and defense, and his ZiPS rest of season projection, .290 wOBA, was probably greatly generous. The other guy they’ve had playing third, Don Kelly, hits a similar ZiPS projection. Betemit, then, will net them more than half a win on offense going forward.

San Francisco Giants: Left Field

Giants wRAA from LF: 1.7 (13th in MLB)

Incumbent Cody Ross: 4.0 wRAA

Replacement Carlos Beltran: 10.4 wRAA

Total Swing: 6.6 runs.

Comments: The Giants have gone through many outfielders this year without much luck. Bringing in Beltran helps solidify that unit, and the lineup as a whole. They’re also probably expecting a bit more than his projected ROS stats, which are based on a .367 wOBA; he produced a .381 wOBA with the Mets.

Cleveland Indians: Right Field

Indians wRAA from RF: -13.2 (29th in MLB)

Incumbent Austin Kearns: -4.2 wRAA

Replacement Kosuke Fukudome: 1.4 wRAA

Total Swing: 5.6 runs

Comments: There was little chance that Kearns was getting 230 more PA this season, considering he doesn’t have that many to date. But he was part of a RF platoon with Travis Buck, and -4.2 wRAA is about the best we could expect from that tandem. Fukudome is a half win better than that on offense, despite his complete lack of power. There is a wild card here, in that Shin-Soo Choo is due back from the disabled list. His ZiPS ROS, based on a generous 150 PA, is 5.2 wRAA.

San Francisco Giants: Shortstop

Giants wRAA from SS: -28.7 (30th in MLB)

Incumbent Brandon Crawford: -8.4 wRAA

Replacement Orlando Cabrera: -4.0 wRAA

Total Swing: 4.4 runs

Comments: You could do a pick ’em among the three guys with time at shortstop for the Giants — Crawford, Mike Fontenot, and Miguel Tejada — and come up with a below-average producer with the bat. Crawford was in there for his defense, which makes a degree of sense. But both Tejada and Fontenot have ZiPS ROS projections right in line with Cabrera’s. Are the Giants really getting that much better defense from Cabrera? I guess they considered him a better bet than the other two.

St. Louis Cardinals: Shortstop

Cardinals wRAA from SS: -9.7 (18th in MLB)

Incumbent Ryan Theriot: -3.8 wRAA

Replacement Rafael Furcal: -0.2 wRAA

Total Swing: 3.6 runs

Comments: Again, the idea here is that Furcal outperforms his ZiPS ROS projection. It’s tough to imagine, since he’s been nothing but terrible this season. Perhaps he’s a change of scenery guy who will pick it up. That’s what the Cardinals have to hope for. Otherwise, he’s probably going to perform worse at the plate than Theriot.

Pittsburgh Pirates: First Base

Pirates wRAA from 1B: -12.0 (27th in MLB)

Incumbent Lyle Overbay: 1.0 wRAA

Replacement Derrek Lee: 4.4 wRAA

Total Swing: 3.4 runs

Comments: It’s not a huge upgrade, but it’s definitely something. Both Overbay and Lee have underperformed their projections to date, though it has Overbay as the overall worse option. There are issues with Lee, both in his performance and in terms of RHB at PNC Park, but he’d be hard pressed to perform worse than Overbay. The Pirates will gain a few marginal runs for it, and it’s not as though Lee cost them much to acquire.

Philadelphia Phillies: Right Field

Phillies wRAA from RF: -3.6 (22nd in MLB)

Incumbent Domonic Brown: 7.0 wRAA

Replacement Hunter Pence: 7.4 wRAA

Total Swing: 0.4 runs

Comments: Clearly the Phillies did not believe that Brown’s ROS projection of a .350 wOBA was accurate. Then again, this move was as much for the future as it was for 2011. They’ll head into 2012 with an outfield of Brown, Pence, and Shane Victorino. In terms of 2011 it’s still an upgrade of sorts, since Brown produced only 1.6 wRAA during his time in right. Of course, the Phillies still might be best served by replacing Raul Ibanez and his 0.4 wRAA in left.

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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.

34 Responses to “Deadline Recap: Position Player Upgrades”

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  1. Dan in Philly says:

    Charlie Manuel started Brown at #2 the day they traded for Pence. He was clearly sending a message “Dom, it ain’t your hittin’ we’re worried about.” Pence is a far superior defender, and speaking as one who watched Dom in the field, he just wasn’t ready to play RF in the majors. I think the FO didn’t want to look back and decide the reason they lost a possible WS was because of a terrible game or two in right field defense when the fix was so easy.

    Of couse locking up a good player for the next 2 1/2 years helps, too, so your point is well taken.

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    • balagast says:

      You are suggesting that the same team that puts Ibanez in LF everyday cares about OF defense?

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      • Dan in Philly says:

        I am tempted to take your post seriously and discuss why they keep Ibanez in LF, but I suspect you only were after a laugh with your post.

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      • Tom B says:

        it’s the .316 wOBA… isnt it…

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      • NEPP says:

        Ibanez has an .817 OPS since May 3rd. His bat has basically been solid for the past 3 months now.

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      • cthabeerman says:

        NEPP is absolutely correct, his .211/.258/.311 June is one of his most productive months in recent history…


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      • Alan says:

        So he’s been an average hitting left fielder if you completely ignore his worst month

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      • NEPP says:

        Yet he was fantastic at the plate in May and July…its almost as if he’s the same streaky hitter he’s always been.

        Defensively, he’s terrible but when he’s hot, he’s still a good hitter. As he’s shown for 2 of the last 3 months.

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    • UmYeah says:

      I think it’s more about the Phillies front office/Charlie undervaluing his ability to draw walks and the value therein. They just saw the low average, low HR’s, the fielding gaffs, and assumed he was a work in progress all around that would help the team less than Ibanez. As much as the bad fielding had to do with it, I’m pretty certain that they undervalued his offensive production too…and probably overvalued Pence’s as well.

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      • Deadpool says:

        Even then it makes little sense. They’re playoff bound and heavy favorites in the NL as they were. Why trade away two of their top three (debatable) prospects for such a marginal gain?

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      • NEPP says:

        No, they saw his adventurous fielding efforts in RF and realized that moving him to LF (a position that he’s basically never played) might not be the best idea during a playoff push.

        Putting him in AAA for a month to get reps in LF is probably the smartest thing they can do short-term. Brown is a terrible terrible defender in the outfield right now.

        Ibanez is atrocious too but at least he’s a known quantity. Brown misplays easy plays on top of terrible judgements on flyballs.

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      • NEPP says:

        @Deadpool: Because it sets up their OF for 2012 too…and gives them cost-certainty going into an off-season where they need to negotiate a long-term extension with Hamels (2012 is his final year of team control) and resign/replace Jimmy Rollins.

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    • The Dude says:

      Isn’t it about getting a RH bat?

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  2. AJ says:

    No Ryan Ludwick or Mike Aviles?

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    • sc2gg says:

      The article is about upgrades.

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    • Joe Pawlikowski says:
      FanGraphs Supporting Member

      Aviles is a backup. With Ludwick it’s too complicated a situation to break down in the above way. Platoons and injury returns and all that.

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  3. Evan says:

    Ryan Ludwick = upgrade

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  4. domingoes says:

    I don’t know how the Giants can compete in the post season without Cody Ross playing everyday.

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  5. The Ancient Mariner says:

    And I don’t think excluding Hairston makes since, because I don’t think he’s merely an injury fill-in — assuming Weeks comes back OK, I’d guess Hairston replaces Yuni.

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  6. DbacksSkins says:

    I know he didn’t come through trade, but the reason the Dbacks traded Allen is that Paul Goldschmidt was called up. That may be an upgrade right there.

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  7. GiantHusker says:

    So, for Zack Wheeler, the Giants get 2/3 of a win.

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    • DbacksSkins says:

      …in a season in which they’re almost guaranteed to make the postseason again.

      That’s why I’m glad Arizona didn’t break the bank.

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    • Jamie says:

      I think a reasonable assumption at the time of the trade was that a big chunk of Beltran’s PAs would be coming at the expense of Aaron Rowand, rather than Cody Ross, which would put Rowand’s -1.4 wRAA up there instead of Ross’s 4.4. But based on the lineups he’s put out there since Beltran arrived it seems like Bruce Bochy is incapable of making such a reasonable assumption.

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      • It would seem Bochy doesn’t see Beltran as a LF. It had been my assumption as well, that Beltran would end up in LF, but that seems to be Schierholtz domain at this point in time. Given his play defensively, that impacts Ross, in that CF is what’s left to him. That wouldn’t seem to be a good prospect, given his current level of defensive play.

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      • Fergie348 says:

        Because Beltran has been a plus defender in center and right, I think Bochy will play him mostly in right. I’m guessing that an underperforming Torres and replacement level Rowand get the majority of bench time down the stretch. The only deserving outfielders in AT&T right now are Beltran and Schierholtz.

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  8. hairball says:

    Does the fact that a team like SFG has such good pitching potentially reduce the # of runs that constitute an added win?

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  9. lolololool says:

    Colby Rasmus vs. Rajai Davis/Corey Patterson?

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    • DavidB says:

      Not a move to improve the Jays this year. Toronto would have to overtake three of BOS, NYY, TBR, TEX and LAA to make the playoffs.

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  10. Jon L. says:

    Actually, Derrek Lee has been red hot of late (and has demonstrated high upside in the past). I’m pretty sure they’re expecting him to greatly outperform Overbay the rest of the way.

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    • gonfalon says:

      agreed… and while I understand why the author of this article did not factor in defense, Lee’s glove (2.3 UZR) should also be a significant improvement over Overbay (-5.6 UZR).

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  11. Eric Dykstra says:

    How about Mariners Casper Wells over LF mess?

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  12. monkey says:

    Except the M’s aren’t competing any more, I agree.
    Casper has already improved the terrible lineup, improved the defense, and is young still with some upside.

    The M’s, despite having played their way out of contention, still managed to make moves that improved them immediately AND add young talent.
    Jack Z is a trade ninja.

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