Archive for July, 2014

2014 Trade Reaction Roundup

Well, that’s about the most active trade deadline I can remember, though it might not feel that way if you live in Philadelphia, Colorado, or Toronto. Still, some big deals happened, some small deals happened, and a bunch of players are changing uniforms. We’ve written about most of the deals, with multiple angles on all the big ones. To make them easy to find, here’s one big post to find all our reactions in one spot. As we add more write-ups, we’ll add them here as well.

Thanks for hanging out and breaking all kinds of FanGraphs traffic records, everyone.

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Don’t Write Off The Rays End Of The David Price Deal Just Yet

Today was quite the deadline spectacle, with two of the best pitchers in baseball, Jon Lester and David Price, changing uniforms. The Lester deal hit early, and it was an eye-opener, with the “buyer” A’s “selling” their #4 hitter, Yoenis Cespedes in the process. The movement of established players, such as Cespedes, Allen Craig and Joe Kelly, by buyers in pursuit of their needs came to be one of the themes of the day.

As they often do, however, the Tampa Bay Rays zigged while everyone else zagged, and “sold” ace lefty David Price to the Tigers in a three-team deal that sent Austin Jackson to the Mariners, and lefty starter Drew Smyly and infielders Nick Franklin and Willy Adames to the Rays. The reaction of many media outlets to the Rays’ take had a quizzical or even disappointed tone. It takes a little more analysis – and an understanding of the way the underfunded Rays need to do business – to see what they’re up to here. To put it simply, the Rays are trusting their solid organizational evaluation skills as they have many times in the past, and see an abundance of talent and team control in this three-player package. Read the rest of this entry »

In Austin Jackson, Mariners Land Decent Player and Massive Upgrade

In one of the smaller moves of the day, the Mariners dealt Abraham Almonte and another minor leaguer to the Padres for Chris Denorfia. It wasn’t a trade that caught much attention, because neither of the younger guys is of any real consequence, and Denorfia is a rental having a down season. It was just something that flew by, completely under the radar, and now something you should consider is that Almonte began the season as the Mariners’ starter in center field.

So it could be said that, later on Thursday, the Mariners addressed a need that was ever so desperate. They didn’t end up with David Price, but they did get themselves involved in the deal, adding Austin Jackson and subtracting Nick Franklin. Jackson has only another eight months of team control, and it would appear he might’ve peaked in 2012. But while Jackson hasn’t been playing like a star-level player, for the Mariners he ought to be an upgrade of some very real significance.

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Tigers See the A’s Jon Lester, Raise Them David Price

The last two years, the Tigers have beaten the A’s in the American League Division Series. In both years, it went the full five games, with the A’s falling just short. The A’s have spent the last month trying to make sure that doesn’t happen again, loading up their rotation with Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel, and now Jon Lester.

Maybe the Tigers would have done this anyway. We’ll never know, of course, but what we do know is that the Tigers acquired David Price this afternoon, bolstering their own rotation to make a pitching staff that is unlike anything we’ve seen in a while.

This is what their current starting five has done over the last calendar year.

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2014 Trade Deadline Live Blog

Dave Cameron: So, we’re 75 minutes from the deadline, and most of the big moves have probably already happened, but we’ll spend the next couple of hours live blogging the rest of the run up to 4 pm, and the spillover that happens after. Come hang out with us.

Dave Cameron: Alright, I’ve got the chat on one screen and Twitter on another, so let’s chat for a while.

Dave Cameron: Plan is to go for a few hours, but things could change depending on what breaks. if David Price gets moved, I’ll have to go write about that, so we’ll see.

Dave Cameron: And, as you guys probably guessed, the queue is very full. Please don’t be mad if your questions don’t get answered.

Paul Swydan: Dave, I heard we traded Cistulli and a package of interns to the Rays for David Price? True, false?

Dave Cameron: And we have news: Asdrubal Cabrera has been traded somewhere.

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Cardinals Improve by Adding Lackey, Subtracting Craig

Wondering if the Cardinals felt good about Michael Wacha’s shoulder or Shelby Miller’s general existence? Wonder no more, because less than 24 hours after picking up Justin Masterson from Cleveland, they’ve now added John Lackey from Boston, for the not-insignificant price of Joe Kelly and Allen Craig.

Yesterday morning, the St. Louis rotation looked something like this:

  1. Adam Wainwright
  2. Lance Lynn
  3. Joe Kelly
  4. Shelby Miller
  5. Carlos Martinez / Marco Gonzales

Now, it’s potentially a bit more like this:

  1. Wainwright
  2. Lynn
  3. Lackey
  4. Masterson
  5. Miller / Martinez

Is that better? It’s certainly different. Read the rest of this entry »

The Red Sox Second Trade Affirms 2015 Focus

An hour ago, we posted Paul Swydan’s review of the Jon Lester/Yoenis Cespedes swap from the Red Sox perspective, noting that Boston chose a shorter term big leaguer over a deal for prospects who were likely going to be several years off. And now, they’ve made a second deal — shipping John Lackey to the Cardinals for Allen Craig and Joe Kelly — that reaffirms that this is not a team looking to do any kind of rebuild.

This one isn’t quite as straight forward as the Lester-for-Cespedes deal, since that was a rental for not-a-rental, while the Red Sox could have held onto Lackey for 2015 due to the clause in his contract that gave the Red Sox a league minimum option on his deal due to his 2011 Tommy John surgery. However, there was legitimate concern that Lackey wouldn’t actually pitch for the league minimum next year, and given that he’ll be 36 in a few months, he had some leverage in the form of retirement. If Lackey really didn’t want to take the mound for the same salary as some guy from Triple-A, he could have walked away, leaving the Red Sox to either give him a raise/extension or to get nothing for the option.

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Sam Fuld and Completing the A’s

I’m going to tell you something you’re not going to like. You’re going to think this is stupid, and you’re going to want to dismiss this as rubbish, but, I mean, let’s just get right to the point. If nothing else, this is where we’ll start. Early Thursday, the A’s gave up Yoenis Cespedes and more for Jon Lester and more. A little later Thursday, the A’s gave up Tommy Milone for Sam Fuld. Losing Cespedes opened up a spot in the outfield; adding Fuld plugged it. Here is a fun fact:


Cespedes: 2.9 WAR / 600 plate appearances
Fuld: 2.5 WAR / 600 plate appearances

Obviously, Cespedes has a thousand times more natural talent. Obviously, Cespedes has more potential and a higher ceiling. Obviously, Cespedes is younger. Obviously, that’s a little deceptive because Fuld has spent a lot of time as a defensive replacement. Obviously, we can trust the defensive metrics only so much, and obviously, Cespedes is the more marketable player since he has some of the purest right-handed power in the sport. But here is the general message: Sam Fuld is not far and away an inferior overall player, compared to Yoenis Cespedes. At least, they’re somewhat close. And this year, specifically this year, Fuld’s been worth the same WAR in a fraction of the time. So you can see why the A’s are happy to get Fuld back, a few months after designating him for assignment.

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Red Sox Focus on 2015 in Jon Lester Trade

Breaking up is hard to do. Jon Lester is without a doubt one of the 10 best pitchers in Boston Red Sox history. Since he returned to full-time duty with the Sox in 2008, he made 80 more starts than any other Red Sox pitcher. He was one of three players still around from the 2007 World Series championship team. Trading him is going to sting in a way that hasn’t stung for Red Sox fans since Manny Ramirez was traded, or depending on your feelings towards Ramirez, since Nomar Garciaparra was traded. But this wasn’t a typical trade, and getting Yoenis Cespedes back in return for Lester and throw-in Jonny Gomes does take some of the sting out of this deal, and signals to the Sox fan base that they aren’t looking to rebuild.

Cespedes is the power bat the Red Sox have been coveting. It was the one thing, as Buster Olney noted this morning, that isn’t really plentiful in their otherwise stacked farm system. His powerful bat, combined with good defense, makes him a player that really isn’t going to be available on the free-agent market this winter either. Giancarlo Stanton wishcasting has been a thing in Boston for some time, but in order to land Stanton, the Sox would have hard to part with enough prospects that it would have been close to a zero-sum return. They didn’t exactly get the next-best thing — Stanton ranks eighth in isolated power this season, while Cespedes ranks 27th — but considering what they had to give up, it might as well have been. It’s only for one year, as thanks to the contract he signed, Cespedes must be non-tendered, so there will be no compensation pick if he hits free agency after the 2015 season.

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Eno Sarris Baseball Chat — 7/31/14

Eno Sarris: I’m here! Barely! Much reduced.


Comment From Billy Beane
Lester for Cespedes? Who in the blue blazes saw that one coming?!?!? Overall thoughts on the blockbuster?

Eno Sarris: It’s crazy. I don’t think I like it. They have to score some, too, and I thought Cespedes — who might be slightly overvalued — was a good foil to Donaldson and Moss. I like going three deep in the middle.

Eno Sarris: Of course that rotation is pretty sweet now.

Comment From Bobo
Is giving up Taveras in a 14 team keeper where he will be $9 next year worth it for a 2 month rental of Madison Bumgarner? Need a pitching boost.

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Jon Lester and the A’s Fascinating Big Bet On 2014

Well, this was probably not what we thought a Jon Lester trade was going to look like. After speculating about which team would unload their farm system for a rental, the answer is none of them; instead, the A’s used Yoenis Cespedes to land the Red Sox ace, and picked up Jonny Gomes as a replacement for the right-handed slugger they just traded away. This is a fascinating deal from a lot of angles, but let’s focus on the A’s side of things for a second.

Very clearly, the A’s believe that they can win the World Series this year, and are aligning their roster to give themselves the best chance to do that. And this is probably the perfect storm for the a team in the A’s position to go for it; the Red Sox are bad, the Yankees are mediocre, the Phillies are awful, and the Cubs and Mets are still rebuilding. There is no $200 million behemoth standing in the A’s way this year, at least not unless the Dodgers get to the World Series, and it isn’t clear that the Dodgers are better than the A’s anyway. The Angels and Tigers are still around, but the Angels might have to play their way in through the Wild Card game, and the Tigers pitching staff looks a little less fearsome than it has in past years.

The A’s are in go-for-it mode not just because of their own roster this year, but because this is the kind of year in which it makes sense for a small-market team to push their chips and try to take advantage of the league’s parity. It’s why Jeff wrote that Lester to Pittsburgh would make sense. The door is open for a low-revenue team to have a parade this winter, and the A’s are responding to that opportunity by trying to kick the door in.

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Prospect Watch: Deadline Acquisitions

Each weekday during the minor-league season, FanGraphs is providing a status update on multiple rookie-eligible players. Note that Age denotes the relevant prospect’s baseball age (i.e. as of July 1st of the current year); Top-15, the prospect’s place on Marc Hulet’s preseason organizational list; and Top-100, that same prospect’s rank on Hulet’s overall top-100 list.

James Ramsey, OF, Cleveland Indians (Profile)
Level: Triple-A Age: 24.7   Top-15: 7th   Top-100: N/A
Line: (Double-A, Cardinals) 11.0% BB%, 23.5% SO%, ..300/.389/.527 (161 wRC+)

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NERD Game Scores for Thursday, July 31, 2014

Devised originally in response to a challenge issued by viscount of the internet Rob Neyer, and expanded at the request of nobody, NERD scores represent an attempt to summarize in one number (and on a scale of 0-10) the likely aesthetic appeal or watchability, for the learned fan, of a player or team or game. Read more about the components of and formulae for NERD scores here.


Most Highly Rated Game
Atlanta at Los Angeles NL | 22:10 ET
Julio Teheran (149.1 IP, 96 xFIP-, 2.4 WAR) faces Clayton Kershaw (112.1 IP, 51 xFIP-, 4.1 WAR). The latter continues to have recorded the best single-season park-adjusted xFIP among all qualifiers since 2002 — i.e. the first year for which that kind of metric is available. Here’s who’s second: the 2002 version of Curt Schilling (52 xFIP-). And here’s who’s third: the 2002 version of Randy Johnson (57 xFIP-).

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Los Angeles NL Radio.

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The Other Thing about Aroldis Chapman

I understand the lot of you are preoccupied with thinking about the imminent trade deadline. I understand some might think I write about Aroldis Chapman too much. But Chapman is maybe the funnest pitcher in baseball, so I wanted to take a moment to share a fun fact that has to do with what people don’t talk about when they talk about Chapman and his unparalleled skills. You can go right back to thinking about the deadline in a few.

The Chapman story, of course, is about his fastball, of course. People who hardly know anything about baseball know that Chapman throws the baseball faster than anybody else. It’s the kind of fact that appeals to both die-hards and casual come-and-go sorts, and the heater makes every Chapman appearance a spectacle. After every pitch he throws, all eyes in the ballpark turn toward the radar-gun display. There’s injury concern when Chapman throws a heater slower than his body temperature. Chapman is crazy specifically because people can’t imagine squaring up a fastball at 100+ miles per hour. You think of Chapman and you think of whiffs, because the fastball seems downright unhittable.

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The New And Improved Jon Lester

As the grains in the hourglass slip away toward the trading deadline, Jon Lester has become the most focused-upon target of buyers. As recently as a month ago, this didn’t seem to be a particularly likely scenario, but the surge of the Tampa Bay Rays and the plunge of the Boston Red Sox has caused the wheel to spin from David Price to Lester. While Lester has been exceptional this season, his 2013 performance would be characterized as no better than solid, and he was one of the game’s biggest disappointments in 2012. What has happened to bring Lester from there to here, and is his current form sustainable going forward? Read the rest of this entry »

Effectively Wild Episode 504: Lester, Lackey, and the Red Sox as Sellers

Ben and Sam discuss Boston’s incentives to consider trading two of their top starters on trade deadline day.

Job Posting: Pirates Quantitative Analyst

Quantitative Analyst

Reports to: Director of Baseball Systems Development

Location: Bradenton Florida

Job Summary
This position will focus on creating and analyzing baseball data sets through the use of advanced statistical analysis with the tasks of creating, implementing, and maintaining predictive models to aid in the decision making process. The position will report to the Director of Baseball Systems Development and act as a resource to other staff on the proper use and implementation of statistical techniques and their suitability for baseball analysis.

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The Cardinals Will be Good for Justin Masterson

For some time, it’s been evident that the Cardinals could use some help in the starting rotation. They matched up well for all the big names, with the only question concerning the organization’s willingness to part with a major prospect. Word is, the Cardinals might still part with a major prospect for a big name, but midday Wednesday the Cardinals zigged and dealt for a guy who was good a year ago, a guy with a 5+ ERA.

Justin Masterson, who’s still on the disabled list, is going to St. Louis, and going to Cleveland is prospect James Ramsey. The Indians aren’t giving up, but they no longer had room for Masterson, and they turned him into actual value. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have at least addressed a short-term hole, improving without dealing from the top of the farm. At best, Masterson is an impact splash. At least, even the somewhat troubled version is a better fit with the Cardinals than with the Indians.

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Neil Weinberg FanGraphs Q&A – 7/30/2014

Neil Weinberg: Hey everyone, let me remind you of the guidelines.

My job here is primarily to serve as something of a Site Educator. This means that I’m responsible for providing resources to readers about our data, advanced metrics, and how to make use of the features available at the site.

My Twitter handle is @NeilWeinberg44 and if you want to get in touch about these kinds of questions at times other than 3pm on Wednesdays, that’s where to find me. It’s my job, so take advantage of it.

With that said, I will prioritize “how does this work?” and “what does this mean?” type questions during the chats, but feel free to ask regular questions about anything as well. Although if you’re here for fantasy advice or prospect talk, I’m probably less helpful than some of our writers. Deadline questions welcome too.

Think that’s it, queue is open and we’ll start at 3pm!

Neil Weinberg: Also, two points of business: 1) There is a gentleman fixing my car’s windshield, so at some point I will disappear in order to pay him. 2) I injured by right index finger over the weekend so my typing is a tad slower than usual. I’ll make up for both by chatting for a long time.

Comment From Chris
That’s what you get for parking behind Fenway.

Comment From Jobber
Did you injure your right finger in the same travisty that harmed your windshield?

Neil Weinberg: I now realize how alarming those two facts were side by side.

Neil Weinberg: And no, they were not the same incident. Burned my finger in a small grease fire, windshield was hit by a rock. Windshield is fixed…finger less so. Let’s chat!

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The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

The Fringe Five is a weekly regular-season exercise, introduced last April by the present author, wherein that same ridiculous author utilizes regressed stats, scouting reports, and also his own heart to identify and/or continue monitoring the most compelling fringe prospects in all of baseball.

Central to the exercise, of course, is a definition of the word fringe, a term which possesses different connotations for different sorts of readers. For the purposes of the column this year, a fringe prospect (and therefore one eligible for inclusion in the Five) is any rookie-eligible player at High-A or above both (a) absent from all of three notable preseason top-100 prospect lists* and also (b) not currently playing in the majors. Players appearing on the midseason prospect lists produced by those same notable sources or, otherwise, selected in the first round of the current season’s amateur draft will also be excluded from eligibility.

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