Free Willy

Walt Jocketty and the Cincinnati Reds signed Willy Taveras to a two-year deal this weekend. The financial terms of the deal have not yet been disclosed, but the team plans on leading Taveras off and putting his glove in centerfield. Taveras will be replacing Corey Patterson, who, in 392 PA last season was worth -25.5 runs with the bat while supplying league average defense in center. Patterson made $3 mil in salary in spite of his -$5 mil fair market value. Essentially, by playing Patterson for 135 games, the Reds would have had to spend $5 mil more just to get back to zero wins above replacement from his roster spot.

Taveras had a disappointing 2008 season, posting a .301 wOBA while playing -7 run defense in centerfield. He, too, “cost” his team money, though not nearly as much as Patterson. Willy earned $2 mil in actual salary despite being worth -0.8 mil. He did, however, manage to steal 68 bases.

In 2007, Taveras hit .320/.367/.382 for the Rockies with a wOBA of .344. He only played 97 games but still managed to match his 2006 stolen base total of 33 swipes. His offense has never been superb, but Taveras could always stake claim as a menace on the basepaths. And, prior to 2007, his UZR ratings pegged him as a very solid fielder.

Taveras’ defense has taken a turn for the worse recently. After posting +7 and +13 UZR ratings in 2005 and 2006, Taveras was worth -10 runs in 2007 and -7 runs last season. His lack of offensive prowess may not have mattered as much while he stole a ton of bases and manned centerfield ably. In 2008, only the baserunning facet of these skills seemed evident.

For the 2009 season, Taveras projects to be at -12 offensive runs and between -2 and +2 runs with the glove. For the sake of this analysis, let’s call him a -12 run hitter and 0 run fielder, deeming him average at the tough position. Playing around 140 games with 540 PA, Patterson would receive an additional +20 runs for value above replacement level as well as adjusting for his position.

Added to the offense and defense, this makes Taveras +8 runs, or roughly +0.8 wins, next season. This would mark an improvement over the -0.2 wins in 2008 and the +0.6 wins the year before.

At the 2009 fair market value of $5 mil/win, this makes Taveras a $4 mil player. He signed for a two-year deal, which would be valued at anywhere between $7-8 mil based on these projections. We will know more about the contract’s terms this week, in order to compare his actual received salary to the fair market value.

If Willy can find and harness his offensive numbers from 2007 while reverting to the defensive performances seen prior to the same year, these numbers vastly shift. With a .332 wOBA and +5 run defense, and the same number of plate appearances, Willy becomes a +2.4 win player. His fair market value in this case is closer to $12 mil.

By signing Taveras, Jocketty and the Reds are likely paying him somewhere in the vicinity of the +0.8 wins while holding out plenty of hope that his actual value inches closer to the +2.4 win mark. A few aspects of his performance will need to revert to prior instances of success for this to take place, but it still seems more sound than throwing Patterson out there for another season. Well, more sound assuming that they are not paying Taveras an exorbitant fee.

As long as the deal stays much lower than the $12 mil fair market value based on his “extremely optimistic” projection, it isn’t an awful signing.

The deal does, however, depend a lot on the hope that the Taveras from 2008 is not truly Willy. Two-year deals based on a hope are awfully risky, so this will be considered a win for the Reds if and only if his production improves. It might not be considered a loss if the average annual value is even lower than the $4 mil fair market value based on his actual projection if the production fails to improve. Still, for an organization with some nice young pieces in place, a two-year deal based on a hope seems like an odd move.



Print This Post



Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Russell
Guest
Russell
7 years 9 months ago

I think you meant Taveras is projected to be -12 runs offensively, not Patterson, at the beginning of the 5th paragraph? Though Patterson is also projected to be between 10-14 runs below average, and a league average defender. Taveras seems more likely to beat projections, I just hope the Reds aren’t paying too much to give him the chance.

If Taveras is between -2 and 2 runs defensively, but playing centerfield (+2.5 positional adjustment.) Wouldn’t that make him ~2 runs above average, so -12 offense, 2 defense, and 20 replacement give him a +10 runs?

NickP
Guest
NickP
7 years 9 months ago

Does FanGraphs wOBA include SB/CS?

I think the answer is yes, but I want to make sure.

D Wrek
Guest
D Wrek
7 years 9 months ago

If Walt agrees with your “optomistic” projection, I dont have much issue with this signing. But what I dont undertand is why they got him to lead off. Becasue hes fast? Its not like you cant steal bases from the 7th or 8th spot in the lineup. I know there probably wont be as many oppurtunities, but then again you cant steal first…

Jason T
Guest
Jason T
7 years 9 months ago

I had a thought about Willy the other day. Would it make sense to bat him 8th, right in front of the pitcher? He’d probably get walked a little more often (which would help), and is always threat to steal. If he can weasel his way into 2nd with the picher up, that makes the sacrafice a little easier. Thoughts?

Rick
Guest
Rick
7 years 9 months ago

It seems to me that generally speaking, speed is most useful ahead of low SLG batters, when bases are more difficult to acquire via base hit advancement and outs less costly in regards to the expected run value of the inning.

Taveras’ OBP alone suggests he belongs at the bottom of the order, but I would argue that his speed only augments the suggestion.

Maitland
Guest
Maitland
7 years 9 months ago

If they had someone else to hit leadoff and Taveras plays more like 2008 than 2007, then bottom of the order is probably the best fit. Taveras not getting on base hurts them less and his speed can serve as a potential spark plug or rally starter from the bottom.

philosofool
Guest
philosofool
7 years 9 months ago

This is exactly right. Speed on the bases is least useful in front of extra base hitters. Also, low OBP is most damaging at the front of a line up. Taveras has no business being slotted above a 7th in the order.

Isaac
Guest
Isaac
7 years 9 months ago

Real-life performance aside, Tavares could be fantasy gold next year, even more than he was this past season. While his OBP was less than stellar last year, there is reason to9 hope it will improve, that being that despite his career high 20.1 LD rate, he posted a career low .298 BABIP. A rebound in batting average alone woul give his OBP a solid boost and give him even more oppurtunities to steal bases, but he also showed improved plate patience, posting a relatively good 7% walk rate. Combine the improved plate patience, the expected rebound in BA and his very old-school manager and you now have a potential 80 SB player.

Eli F.
Guest
Eli F.
7 years 9 months ago

Any idea what this does to Chris Dickerson? Bill James was pretty high on him this year, though those numbers looked rediculously optimistic.

Isaac
Guest
Isaac
7 years 9 months ago

I assume it bumps him to left field, which it makes it imperative that his highly optimistic Bill James projection is close to spot-on.

philosofool
Guest
philosofool
7 years 9 months ago

I actually wonder whether playing half your games in the Coors OF screws up your fielding. With the exception of Holiday, Colorado OFs have terrible defensive scores. In the case of Hawpe, part of the explanation has to be that he’s a terrible defender. However, Taveras drop in defensive skills corresponds to his move from Huston to Denver. While I don’t know what the age/defensive correlation numbers are like, I’d be really surprised to find out that Taveras, who turned 27 on Christmas, is over that hill. He’s obviously still lightning on the base paths. Perhaps the best explanation of his current lousy defense is that Coors screws him up?

We know balls don’t fly right in Denver, which is likely to make them more difficult to play. Moreover, when half of the balls you field fly like they’re in a vacuum, my guess is that it messes with your reactions.

JoeR43
Member
JoeR43
6 years 9 months ago

I know who’s going to be a first round selection in a Badness Fantasy Baseball league in 2010.

Of course Yuni Betancourt will be #1 in every league.

wpDiscuz