Edmonds’ Minor Problem with Kotsay’s Major Deal

We’re pleased to welcome Tommy Rancel as the newest member of the FanGraphs staff. His debut post is below.

Last week, Mark Kotsay signed a one-year deal with the Milwaukee Brewers worth $800,000 with incentives that could push it closer to $1.2 million. Kotsay receives a guaranteed major league contract despite coming off a season in which he hit .239/.306/.379 in just under 360 plate appearances for the Chicago White Sox. His .297 wOBA and 77 wRC+ last season were well below average, following a trend for Kotsay over the past few years.  If you’re looking for a silver lining on defense, look elsewhere – he hasn’t been a good defender for most of the past decade.

Brewers assistant GM Gord Ash said Kotsay will fill the role that Jim Edmonds held last year. He will serve as the team’s primary bat off the bench as well as the fourth or fifth outfielder with the ability to fill in at first base if needed. Just a few days after his name was mentioned by Ash when speaking of Kotsay, Edmonds returned to the St. Louis Cardinals, potentially to fill a similar role.

Edmonds missed all of 2009, but made a surprise return to the big leagues last year playing for the Brewers and later the Cincinnati Reds. In 272 plate appearances, the 40-year-old hit .277/.342/.507. He joined Matt Joyce as the only players in the majors with at least 10 home runs and 15 doubles despite logging less than 275 plate appearances. As a defender, he did an admirable job in the field earning positive marks in a limited role. In total, he was worth nearly 3 WAR. Not bad for a non-roster invitee.

Naturally, Edmonds received a minor-league deal from St. Louis while Kotsay is guaranteed major league money. What?

Outside of being five-years younger, Kotsay holds no considerable advantage over Edmonds. Edmonds is a superior offensive player, and despite the age gap, is likely still the better defender. Even if you expect regression from Edmonds offensively, he almost certainly will continue to produce at a level (or two) above where Kotsay is right now. Of course health and age are factors, but we’re not asking either to play 162 games.

Although Edmonds spent most of his time last season in friendly offensive environments, he did most of his damage on the road. In nearly equal – but small – sample sizes, he carried a .338 wOBA at home (131 plate appearances) and a robust .397 wOBA away (141 plate appearances). His home run-to-flyball rate was a manageable and repeatable 13.6%. In terms of BABIP, his .324 mark was identical to his career average; however, a line drive rate of around 30% won’t happen again.

Kotsay, on the other hand, could see a slighly positive regression in BABIP, but nothing significant. His plate discipline, especially in terms of strikeouts, is also a tick better than Edmonds. That said, there is nothing here to suggest he will close the wide lead Edmonds holds over him( unless of course Edmonds realizes he’s almost 41 and most 41-year-olds don’t have post wOBA near .370 which could certainly happen).

Since both are left-handed batters, we should also note that both players are likely to see the bulk of their playing time against right-handed pitching. Last year, Kotsay earned a modest .321 wOBA against RHP in 332 appearances. Meanhile, Edmonds’ .377 wOBA versus RHP (200 plate appearances) was once more markedly better. Both are small sample sizes of lengthy careers, but again it is unlikely Kotsay can best Edmonds here.

For the Cardinals, the minor league signing of Edmonds comes at no risk. At worst, he has nothing left in the tank and retires as a member of the organization. Because of his advanced age, the upside here isn’t tremendous (especially if he steals at-bats from Colby Rasmus), but if he comes in and provides league average production – or more – as a fourth outfielder/pinch hitter, it is still a good deal.

In fairness to the Brewers, they do get a hat tip for turning Edmonds into Chris Dickerson late last season. And even if Kotsay falls completely on his face, the maximum price tag of just over a million dollars does not cripple the franchise. The point is, if they wanted bring in a player to fill Jim Edmonds’ role, then why not just try and re-sign Jim Edmonds?



Print This Post



Tommy Rancel also writes for Bloomberg Sports and ESPNFlorida.com. Follow on twitter @TRancel


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
John
Guest
John
5 years 7 months ago

If I recall correctly, Edmonds suffered a relatively serious injury close to the end of the year that put the rest of his career in doubt. Maybe the Brewers assumed he was done for and didn’t even inquire as to whether Edmonds wanted to play another season.

Rob
Guest
Rob
5 years 7 months ago

The whole Kotsay thing is just strange. He’s being brought in mainly to back up 1B, which of course features LHer Fielder. He may play RF on occasion, but his defense is so bad that it is unlikely worth it. He’s going to hit off the bench but he really doesn’t improve upon Counsell offensively for pinch hitting duty.

Kotsay has neither offensive or defensive value.

sourbob
Guest
sourbob
5 years 7 months ago

Mark Kotsay must be the most likable dude in baseball to keep getting deals and shots like these.

brendan
Guest
brendan
5 years 7 months ago

maybe these GMs can’t forget when he was a plus defender in CF *10 years ago*

hunterfan
Guest
hunterfan
5 years 7 months ago

My eyes are telling me that recently it seems like more and more teams would rather sign the significantly younger, albeit worse guy, than the significantly older, better guy.

Vegemitch
Member
Vegemitch
5 years 7 months ago

But…. Mark Kotsay is old too!

Marcus
Guest
Marcus
5 years 7 months ago

He said “younger” not young.

Spottedcow
Member
Spottedcow
5 years 7 months ago

Welcome to FanGraphs Tommy.

The Kotsay signing is a terrible one for the Brewers. It makes absolutely no sense on so many different levels. The best theory I’ve heard for the signing is that the Brewers are doing this as a step to resign Rickie Weeks to a long term contract. Weeks and Kotsay have the same agent (Greg Genske). Maybe the Brewers are doing this as favor to Genske in order to soften the Weeks negotiations.

piper108
Member
piper108
5 years 7 months ago

Hopefully Edmonds will hit seven home runs to get to 400 for his career, that way the baseball writers have something to rally around come Hall of Fame voting time.

Forrest Gumption
Member
Forrest Gumption
5 years 7 months ago

There is absolutely no reason to give Mark Kotsay a major league contract in 2011. This is the worst thing the Brewers did all offseason.

Adam
Guest
Adam
5 years 7 months ago

Has anyone else noticed the Cardinals seem to be developing a tradition of bring back their iconic center fielders? McGee was traded by the Cardinals in 1990, then came back in 96 to finish his career with them. Lankford was traded in 2001, then came back in 2004. Now Edmonds!

Choo
Member
5 years 7 months ago

Skip Schumaker is sort of iconic, but as the undisputed Tony Gwynn/George Brett/Cal Ripken Jr./Edgar Martinez of the Cardinals, there is zero chance for a reunion.

Jason
Guest
Jason
5 years 7 months ago

Eh, if you think someone is trying to get the band back for one final tour, Jocketty in Cincy gets my vote. He’s had just about every ex-Cardinal come play for him the last couple years.

Hal
Guest
Hal
5 years 7 months ago

He had injuries to both achilles tendons. I thought he had said he was going to retire. Maybe the Brewers didn’t even know he was available.

Tomas
Guest
Tomas
5 years 7 months ago

Edmonds was practically immobile by the end of last season, I don’t think you can really count on him being above-average at anything anymore.

Kotsay is bad, but people are being way too harsh on the Brewers. They aren’t using him as their regular DH like the White Sox did, he’s the fifth outfielder (who probably won’t play in the field) and LHB with pop off the bench and is being paid less than $1 million guaranteed.

Some of you people have unrealistic expectations of what the fifth outfielder/PH brings to the table in terms of offensive ability…

Choo
Member
5 years 7 months ago

Offensive expectations for a 5th OF, PH and emergency 1B don’t have to be high or even medium provided the guy can run a bit, flash the leather, tell jokes, whatever . . . and that’s half of the problem. Kotsay played with a fork sticking out of his back last season. Unless he was hiding a wrist injury or something, expect more of the same.

The other half of the problem is money. For the league minimum, you can find in a guy who can do one or more of hit/field/run/jest provided you don’t already have one rotting in your system. Contact a team that has a few of those guys (most teams have accumulated a few of those guys by now), and you can probably pick your favorite in exchange for a scrap arm and one of Bob Uecker’s blazers from the 80’s.

shthar
Guest
shthar
5 years 7 months ago

When all you do is crunch numbers you loose sight of the fact that these are people.

People have to get along with people, and people rub other people the wrong way sometimes.

I don’t know which way the cookie crumbles in this example, but I’ll bet the people involved wern’t thinking about numbers at all.

Ender
Guest
Ender
5 years 6 months ago

Kotsay is the worst signing in the majors this offseason. He hasn’t been worth a spot on a major league roster for 6 years now and somehow got a major league deal.

wpDiscuz