Archive for July, 2016

Orioles Acquire Unexciting, Generic Innings Sponge

The Marlins had to pay a decently high price for Andrew Cashner. Jon Morosi is unironically tweeting about the ongoing Jeremy Hellickson sweepstakes. It’s important to establish the market context in which the Orioles have now traded for Wade Miley. It’s been obvious for months the Orioles could use some help in the rotation. The farm system didn’t make it realistically possible for them to look at higher-level solutions. They’d have to settle for what they could afford. Wade Miley is what they could afford, with the Mariners getting Ariel Miranda in exchange. There’s no money changing hands. This is about as uncomplicated as a move can get, with Miley being tremendously dull and still presumably helpful.

That’s the thing about the Orioles. Even though they’re a first-place team, it’s a team that had issues. Recent results be damned, the Orioles, in theory, can hit. We all know they can relieve. The rotation has been bad behind Chris Tillman — so bad that Wade Miley is an improvement. There aren’t many contending teams that Miley would make meaningfully better, but that’s the Orioles’ burden and blessing.

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Scouting the Yankees’ Return for Andrew Miller

The package netted by Brian Cashman and the Yankees in exchange for Andrew Miller is headlined by two big names in OF Clint Frazier and LHP Justus Sheffield (both of whom project as average-or-better regulars for me) and supplemented by two potential relievers in RHPs Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen.

Clint Frazier was the fifth-overall pick in the 2013 draft out of Loganville High School in Georgia. He was signed away from his commitment to Georgia with a $3.5 million bonus, the most lucrative bonus in Indians draft history. Frazier was a high-effort spark plug with elite bat speed, though he didn’t look like your typical high-upside prep draftee.

Before the draft, most organizations were correctly skeptical about Frazier’s long-term ability to play center field despite some of the run times he was posting (he ran a 6.6-second 60-yard dash at East Coast Pro) because of the way they anticipated his body to fill out. Frazier was listed at 5-foot-11, 185 pounds as an amateur but has grown into a listed 6-foot-1, 190, though he’s probably heavier than that. Despite his likely corner-only destiny, Frazier’s bat speed and advanced feel for hitting made him a worthy top-five selection, even if he had atypical physical projection.

Because of the superhuman circumference of his biceps and his generally muscular physique, Frazier is most often body-comped to Popeye the Sailor Man, a reference I hope doesn’t elude the youngest of our readers. Though he posts some plus run times to first base because of a natural jailbreak, he’s only about an average runner whose middling speed is masked by visible effort and good base-running instincts. Frazier’s speed and feel for center are enough that I think he’d be passable there in an emergency, but I wouldn’t advocate him playing there everyday. I think that, given his size and build just shy of age 22, Frazier is likely to slow down as he enters his prime. His arm strength should allow him to play in either outfield corner (though I think he fits best in left), where I believe he’ll be an average defender at maturity.

Frazier’s 80-grade bat speed has helped him generate a .278/.360/.452 career batting line. He’s hit despite the excessive loop his hands take back to the ball, a mechanical hiccup that I think causes his barrel to arrive late and robs him of the ability to pull the ball consistently. This could dilute his game power a bit, but Frazier is strong enough to muscle some of those balls out to right field anyway, and the new Yankee Stadium will be particularly kind to this flaw. Though his swing features a good bit of effort and Frazier has struggled some with strikeouts throughout his minor-league career, he still projects as an average Major League hitter. Again, the bat speed is the primary reason for this, but Frazier has shown that he has some barrel control and the ability to make adjustments in the middle of at-bats, as well. Reports on his makeup are glowing.

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Cardinals Strengthen Bullpen Without Paying Top Dollar

As the going rate for elite relievers continues to make grown men and women blush, it’s increasingly evident that there’s value in not needing to get into the market for the crème de la crème of relievers. Through the hefty prices paid in the acquisitions of Craig Kimbrel, Ken Giles, Aroldis Chapman and, now, Andrew Miller, contending teams are making it clear that they value having that lights out guy at the back of the bullpen perhaps even more than we may have once thought. Fortunately for the St. Louis Cardinals, when they lost their closer, Trevor Rosenthal, first to under-performance and then (perhaps not coincidentally) to a rotator cuff injury, they had an internal alternative which kept them from needing to wade into the deep end of the relief pitching market.

Seung Hwan Oh has been absolutely dominant for the Cardinals this season first as a set-up man and, for the last month, as a closer. The 34-year-old right-hander who had been tremendously successful in both South Korea and Japan has posted a 1.69 ERA and a 26.4 K-BB% since being signed by St. Louis this past winter. His 1.94 FIP ranks tenth among relievers in baseball this season. With the loss of Rosenthal, the Cardinals could have pursued the top names on the relief market this month, but Oh gave them the freedom not to. Instead, they made a relatively quiet transaction this morning picking up left-handed reliever Zach Duke from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for 23-year-old outfield prospect Charlie Tilson — a deal which was announced in true old-school fashion by the teams themselves.

In 2014, Zach Duke posted a surprisingly strong season out of the bullpen for the Brewers. He was 31 at the time and it was his first full season in a major league bullpen after scuffling along as an under-performing starter for most of his 20s. That one great season led to the White Sox giving him a 3-yr/$15M which was heavily mocked at the time due to his age and lack of a successful track record. It would appear, however, that the White Sox were either on to something or extraordinarily lucky as Duke has continued to be a solid reliever since signing the contract.

Since the start of the 2014 season, he has thrown 157 innings to very impressive results: 2.87 ERA, 27.9 K%, 58.2 GB%. He walks more batters than you might like — 10.0% walk-rate — but it’s hard to complain when the overall results are as strong as his. The key to his success has been a curveball which misses bats — the whiff-rate on his curve this season is 43.9% which ranks 12th of 41 MLB relievers (min. 100 curves) — and a sinker which induces grounders on 67% of balls in play. This has resulted in him posting an impressive combination of strikeouts and grounders over the past three seasons.

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Scouting All the Prospects in the Andrew Cashner Trade

The Padres have continued to load up their farm system with interesting pieces, this time netting power-hitting first-base prospect Josh Naylor and low-level fireballer Luis Castillo in exchange for Andrew Cashner and others.

Naylor, a native of Ontario, stood out during his showcase summer because of his big raw power but wasn’t seen as a potential first rounder until he began to rake against advanced international competition with the Canadian Junior National Team late the next spring. By draft day, there was buzz that Philadelphia was interested in him at 10, but he fell to 12 where the Marlins made him their second big-bodied first-round selection in as many years. I was not a fan of the pick at the time and remain skeptical of Naylor, but he does have some impressive tools that might allow him to clear the high offensive bar required of a first-base-only prospect.

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There Are No Villains in the Jonathan Lucroy Story

Perhaps it’s fitting that, in a trade season without any big name stars, the biggest story that may emerge before the deadline is a deal that didn’t happen. As August noted over on InstaGraphs, the Indians and Brewers appeared to have struck a deal for Jonathan Lucroy last night, but this morning, Lucroy’s representatives informed the Brewers that he wouldn’t be waiving his no-trade clause in order to facilitate a trade, effectively killing the deal.

Whenever a player refuses to go along with an agreed-to trade, there’s always a backlash. If you’re a Brewers fan, you’re probably frustrated that a guy who has no future with the franchise prevented the team from landing a package of quality prospects, especially after making public comments the last few months about wanting to play for a contender. If you’re an Indians fan, you’re probably frustrated that maybe the best player on the market just refused to join your team, and instead of having a loaded roster headed into October, the team still has a big hole behind the plate. And if you’re August Fagerstrom, you’re frustrated that you had to throw away a nearly-finished article on the Indians decision to push all-in, and lose a nifty cooking analogy in the process.

So there’s a lot of frustration out there, since Lucroy’s decision prevented a lot of people from getting what they wanted. But this is one of those times when it’s definitely worth remembering that ballplayers are people, and when it comes to making decisions about his life, Jonathan Lucroy doesn’t really owe us anything.

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Indians Attempt to Go All In, Still Wind Up with Andrew Miller

The recipe goes like this. Take an American League-best 59-42 record and sauté it in a 67-year World Series drought. Chop up a recently revamped, sneakily excellent farm system and add it to the pan, along with some league-worst catcher production and a relatively thin bullpen. Let cook for one trade deadline, pour over the long-term perils of building a team around starting pitching, and season with a touch of championship envy from your neighbors across the street. It’s the perfect recipe for pushing all-in, pulled straight out of the Cleveland Indians cookbook.

Let’s get the details out of the way now. Late last night, Ken Rosenthal broke the Jonathan Lucroy news, which has now fallen apart and is a story all of its own. This morning, Rosenthal broke some more news, as he’s wont to do, regarding Andrew Miller. The Miller news is official — no take-backs! — and the details are as follows:

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NERD Game Scores for Sunday, July 31, 2016

Devised originally in response to a challenge issued by sabermetric nobleman 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
Baltimore at Toronto | 13:07 ET
Tillman (132.1 IP, 103 xFIP-) vs. Sanchez (132.1 IP, 80 xFIP-)
The purpose of this brief entry is twofold: first, to note that Aaron Sanchez continues to produce excellent strikeout and walk numbers relative to his ground-ball rate and, second, to experiment with a graph-making utility created by FanGraphs employee Sean Dolinar. The following visual, which illustrates the former, is the fruit of the latter:

Sanchez 2

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Baltimore Television or Toronto Radio.

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The Yankees Have Been Impressively Rebuilt

You’ll have to forgive me if I think of Andrew Miller as the travellin man. Now in his 11th major league season, Miller is headed to his sixth major league team, all east of the Mississippi. But unlike most journeymen, for the most part the teams acquiring Miller have been quite excited about the possibility. The latest team to celebrate getting the lanky lefty are the Cleveland Indians, who are now looking quite formidable. But they’re not the only team looking formidable. The Yankees may no longer be in 2016 contention, but they’re setting up well for 2017 and beyond.
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Sunday Notes: Cards Bowman, Kinsler, Span, SABR Miami, Moore, more

Matt Bowman isn’t your stereotypical baseball player. The St. Louis Cardinals rookie right-hander majored in economics at Princeton, and his senior thesis looked at how much a win is worth in free agency. He doesn’t fit the physical profile, either. A slender 6-foot-even, he looks more like… well, an Ivy League economist.

Last year he pitched like one. In 140 innings for Triple-A Las Vegas, Bowman went 7-16 with a 5.53 ERA and a 4.95 K/9. To little surprise, he was left unprotected by the Mets, who had selected him in the 13th round of the 2012 draft. The last thing he expected was for a team to gamble on him in the Rule 5.

“I was surprised that I got picked up,” admitted Bowman. “I didn’t feel that I deserved a 40-man spot with the Mets and I certainly didn’t think that any team would be looking at me as someone who could contribute, or even hide, on a major league roster. When my agent said the Cardinals picked me up, not a whole lot of it made sense. These guys are perennial contenders and I was coming off a terrible year in Triple-A.”

The 25-year-old’s level of honesty and humility are also atypical. When I asked if he’s surprised at how well he’s pitching, I received an answer I wasn’t expecting. Read the rest of this entry »


Padres, Braves Exchange Toxic Assets

Note: this is all pending physicals, so

Follow-up note: physicals complete! Trade official. Update included at the very bottom.

Usually, we’re at least able to focus on the baseball side of things. Even though we all recognize that baseball is a business, we’ve gotten good at ignoring that part, focusing on the more baseball-y parts of player transactions. Business matters some in the Mark Melancon trade, but it seems mostly about the Nationals getting a good closer, and the Pirates getting some longer-term pieces. You know, baseball stuff. We’re all in it for the baseball stuff, after all, because the business part is seldom entertaining.

The Padres and Braves have made a business move. Oh, sure, there’s a baseball side, kind of. The Braves must see something in Matt Kemp, something they didn’t see in Hector Olivera. To help cover some of Kemp’s remaining cost, the Padres are reportedly including $10 – 12 million. It would be possible to look at this and think only about the roster implications. But this is mostly just a money move, and from where I sit, the Padres are coming out ahead.

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Nationals Acquire Elite Reliever for Relative Bargain

The Washington Nationals started with their sights on Aroldis Chapman. They’d deemed their bullpen to be in need of an upgrade, and Chapman was the most obvious candidate. Obviously, that didn’t happen. And not only did it not happen, but the return for Chapman was so high that clubs still interested in Andrew Miller could be seen as effectively priced out. From Washington, the Yankees reportedly asked for top prospect Lucas Giolito in exchange for Miller, and no matter what the tweets say, that was never going to happen.

So the Nationals had to lower their sights a bit. But they didn’t have to lower them far, because after Chapman and Miller, they might have gone out and gotten the next-best thing:

It’s a trade that makes sense for both teams, as they all should. The Pirates may not be strong current contenders, but they remain future contenders, if that makes sense. We’ve got their playoff odds at 16%, which is still very much in the race, but makes them a longshot. What the Pirates have beyond this year, though, is a strong core coupled with a handful of promising, near-ready prospects that ought to keep the club’s contention window open for years to come. They’re not going away anytime soon, but they’ve been largely done in this season by uncharacteristically poor starting pitching.

So they moved an expiring piece. Mark Melancon’s been a fixture of Pittsburgh’s recent revival, but he’s gotten expensive, and he’ll be a free agent at year’s end. Teams like the Pirates typically don’t retain relievers like Melancon when they hit the market, so they got what they could. That means Felipe Rivero, a lefty reliever who touches the high-90’s in the majors right now, and that means Taylor Hearn, a lefty (future) reliever who stands 6-foot-5 and touches the high-90’s in the minors right now. They’ve got Rivero for five more years. They’ve got complete control of Hearns. The Pirates sold, but not really. They made this year’s team slightly worse in going from Melancon from Rivero, but they’ve made future year’s teams better by adding Rivero (and Hearns) for a player who was set to be gone anyway. It’s the perfect kind of retooling move for a small-market team operating within a window of contention.

And yet, it’s hard not to view this return as relatively light, at least up against what the Yankees just received for Chapman. The Yankees got a top-25 prospect in Gleyber Torres, a fringe-100 prospect in Billy McKinney, a pitcher capable of starting with major league success under his belt in Adam Warren, and then some. Speculation around a Melancon-to-Washington trade invoked names like right-handed starter Erick Fedde, who ranked 61st in Baseball America’s midseason update. The actual return featured a pair of lefty relievers. Exciting lefty relievers, but lefty relievers nonetheless; one of whom has already had his clock started, the other of whom didn’t crack top-10 prospect lists in the Nationals’ system at the start of the season.

Of course, Chapman throws 105 and because of that, is Aroldis Chapman. Melancon isn’t that. But he’s closer than one might think! Like, for instance, since joining the Pirates in 2013, Melancon’s 1.80 ERA is the lowest among all 255 pitchers with at least 200 innings thrown. He’s been better at preventing runs than literally everyone over the last three-plus years. And while he might not do it with the sort of eye-popping stuff to which we’re accustomed from seeing of the game’s top relievers, there’s no arguing with the results:

Most Valuable Relievers, 2013-Present
Name IP K% BB% K-BB% GB% HR/9 ERA FIP WAR RA9-WAR tWAR
Aroldis Chapman 218 44.2% 10.9% 33.3% 37.8% 0.54 2.03 1.81 8.5 8.2 8.4
Dellin Betances 229 40.7% 9.0% 31.7% 48.2% 0.55 1.88 1.89 8.0 8.5 8.3
Kenley Jansen 240 37.8% 5.6% 32.2% 35.2% 0.71 2.13 1.95 8.4 8.1 8.3
Mark Melancon 260 23.8% 4.2% 19.7% 56.8% 0.31 1.80 2.27 6.9 8.7 7.8
Wade Davis 183 32.2% 8.8% 23.4% 45.3% 0.15 1.08 1.97 6.0 9.3 7.7
tWAR: 50/50 split of RA9-WAR and FIP-WAR

Again, the style is a bit different, but when we’ve talked about the Chapman’s and Jansen’s and Davis’ of the world, Melancon’s been right there all along. Here’s another way to view things, if you’re not as keen on using WAR to evaluate relievers:

Win Probability Added, all relievers, 2013-Present

  1. Mark Melancon, +11.74
  2. Tony Watson, +10.63
  3. Zach Britton, +10.55
  4. Wade Davis, +10.42
  5. Dellin Betances, +10.07

By WPA, no reliever’s been more valuable than Melancon during his time in Pittsburgh. By WAR, it’s only Chapman, Betances, and Jansen. You see the second name there on the WPA leaderboard also plays for the Pirates, so it’s not like they’re suddenly hurting for high-leverage relief options, and Watson will still be there next year, too. But the Nationals just added one of the game’s elite to an already great bullpen.

Not that there aren’t flags with Melancon. I’m hesitant to call them red flags, but they’re orange or maroon, maybe. His walk rate is still great, but it’s also the highest it’s been during his Pittsburgh tenure. The curveball’s being spotted less often at the bottom edge of the zone, and is more often winding up in the dirt, and batters are laying off:

Brooksbaseball-Chart

Fewer swings against the curve explains the slight uptick in walks, and it explains the downtick in ground balls — the curve has always been Melancon’s big ground ball pitch. Melancon doesn’t possess top-shelf raw stuff, so he’s thrived by limiting walks and homers. Limiting walks and homers are predicated on elite command, and there’s some evidence that the command could be starting to slip. For now, though, the command still looks great. And those maroon flags can be the next team’s concern, anyway; the Nationals only care about the next three months.

Funny thing about the Nationals bullpen is, before the Melancon trade, they were projected for 1.8 rest-of-season WAR, and after  they’re Melancon trade, they’re projected for… 1.8 rest-of-season WAR. But what they’ve done is shift their leverage, the sort of thing that a WAR projection might struggle to grasp. Melancon is now clearly the best option in Washington’s bullpen, and he’ll receive the most important innings. Less important innings are to follow for Jonathon Papelbon, as should be the case. Shawn Kelley remains elite. It’s the kind of 1-2-3 punch we’ve become accustomed to seeing in the late innings of playoff games.

And while I’ve referred to the cost as a bargain within this post, it’s really only a bargain relative to Chapman. Really, it’s the kind of return we should expect for three-plus months of an elite reliever. The kind of return we might’ve expected, say, a week ago. The Chapman move was just an outlier, for whatever reason. Take that how you will. The Pirates retooled, as they should have. The Nationals improved their high-leverage innings for the stretch run by acquiring one of the game’s best run preventers. It looks like a win for both clubs, and yet somehow it also feels like something of a steal by Washington, based on what we’ve recently seen. Maybe the Pirates could have done better for Melancon. Or maybe the Cubs just gave up a ton for Chapman.


NERD Game Scores for Saturday, July 30, 2016

Devised originally in response to a challenge issued by sabermetric nobleman 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.

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Most Highly Rated Game
Washington at San Francisco | 16:05 ET
Lopez (4.2 IP, 25 xFIP-) vs. Peavy (104.2 IP, 120 xFIP-)
With the exception of all the “runs” he allowed, right-hander Reynaldo Lopez’s major-league debut last week was more or less an exercise in best-case scenarios. Regard: he exhibited elite arm speed while recording an equally elite strikeout- and walk-rate differential. He also neutralized left-handers completely by means of his curveball. Regard, more: of the 20 curves he threw to them, 14 were strikes (70%) and zero were put into play.

Here’s an example of that curveball and those lefties:

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: San Francisco Radio or Television.

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The Best of FanGraphs: July 25-29, 2016

Each week, we publish north of 100 posts on our various blogs. With this post, we hope to highlight 10 to 15 of them. You can read more on it here. The links below are color coded — green for FanGraphs, brown for RotoGraphs, dark red for The Hardball Times and blue for Community Research.
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Effectively Wild Episode 933: Your Most Elite Emails

Ben and Sam answer listener emails about player development what-ifs, Aroldis Chapman and elite relievers, a team that could control the weather, Mike Trout and Barry Bonds, and more.


NERD Game Scores for Friday, July 29, 2016

Devised originally in response to a challenge issued by sabermetric nobleman 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
Washington at San Francisco | 22:15 ET
Scherzer (141.2 IP, 78 xFIP-) vs. Samardzija (128.0 IP, 101 xFIP-)
Thought experiment: imagine a universe in which everything is exactly the same except that, during the opening credits of TV’s Laverne & Shirley, the title characters chant “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. Scherzer! Samardzija! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!” — instead of Schlemiel and Schlimazel, like in this present universe we all occupy. What are the implications? Support your answer with evidence. Or, alternatively, ignore this paragraph altogether.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: San Francisco Radio or Television.

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What Happened to Jeurys Familia’s Splitter?

The Mets have been scuffling for quite a while now. After posting an impressive 15-7 record in April, they have gone 38-41 since May 1st and currently sit in third place behind the Nationals and Marlins. They’re still very much alive in the playoff race — our playoff odds give them a 32.8% chance of making it at least as far as the wild-card game — but, to state the obvious, they’re beginning to run out of time to get themselves back into playoff position. Suddenly, every loss is placed under a microscope and, over the past two days, that’s been an unfortunate development for closer Jeurys Familia.

On Wednesday night, Familia blew his first (regular season) save in almost exactly a year and then, roughly 18 hours later, he blew another. The outings themselves aren’t particularly important. There was a mix of command problems, hard-hit balls, and horrendous batted-ball luck over a span of 13 batters faced. What is important, though, is taking stock of Familia’s season as a whole and what has or hasn’t changed for the pitcher who suddenly emerged as an elite back-of-the-bullpen arm during the Mets’ stretch run a year ago.

If you remember one thing about the profile of 2015 Jeurys Familia, it’s probably that he developed and began utilizing a pitch unlike anything anyone else threw in baseball. As outlined by Jeff Sullivan last October, Familia added a splitter averaging 94 mph to his arsenal in mid-August. No one throws a splitter in the mid-90s — that’s not a thing people do. And yet there was Familia suddenly incorporating this devastating pitch just in time for the most significant stretch of Mets baseball in a decade and a half.

What made Familia particularly dominant was that he paired this new absurd splitter with an already unfair sinker. His upper-90s fastball with stellar movement was (and is) a devastating pitch in its own right. In fact, during yesterday afternoon’s rough outing, the pitch was on display in all its glory:

Ninety-eight mph with extreme run? Yeah, that’ll play. He generates 28.7% whiffs per swing on the pitch, which is second only to Zach Britton’s otherworldly 40.8% rate. When batters do make contact on Familia’s sinker, it’s typically in the form of a grounder. In fact, his sinker is generating grounders this season at the highest rate of his career per BrooksBaseball.

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The Case for Keeping Josh Reddick

Josh Reddick is the near-ideal trade candidate. He’ll be a free agent at the end of the season, he’s continued to hit ever since rebounding from a disappointing 2013 campaign, and he’s playing for a team in the Oakland Athletics that’s eight games under .500 and has virtually no chance at the playoffs. Reddick is headed to free agency in market populated by few decent players, suggesting there’s little expectation of a return to the A’s, a small-market club relying on young players to compete. All that said, there’s a case to be made that the A’s need not move Reddick at the deadline if they fail to receive a solid offer.

The market for corner outfielders hasn’t been great for sellers or free agents over the past year. A year ago, minor deals were made for Shane Victorino, David DeJesus, David Murphy, and Gerardo Parra. Yoenis Cespedes netted a good package for the Detroit Tigers headlined by Michael Fulmer, and even Cespedes was brought in to play center field. Jay Bruce, on a selling Reds team, stayed put. Carlos Gonzalez, on the selling Colorado Rockies, stayed put. Justin Upton, despite pending free agency, stayed put with the Padres. The latter three players were all producing offensively, but the Padres opted to take a draft pick for Upton, while the Rockies and Reds decided to hold on to their outfielders to try and get better value later.

Then, last offseason, the Rockies and Reds still couldn’t find any offers to their liking. As a result, the Rockies opted to trade the younger, cheaper Corey Dickerson to the Tampa Bay Rays for reliever Jake McGee. Jason Heyward got paid as did Justin Upton, but Cespedes ended up with an unusual three-year deal despite an MVP-type season. Alex Gordon did fine to get four years and $72 million — and Gerardo Parra was fortunate to get a three-year deal from the Rockies — but Dexter Fowler and Austin Jackson both had to sign one-year deals, while Colby Rasmus avoided the market altogether by accepting the qualifying offer. The FanGraphs crowdsourced guesses overshot it on almost all of the outfielders.

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Finding a Fair Price for Chris Sale

This deadline has, thus far, been pretty boring. When Andrew Cashner and Eduardo Nunez are headlining notable trades, you know it’s a slow market. There is one guy who could change all that though, and could have a significant impact on how the postseason shakes out. That guy, of course, is Chris Sale.

The White Sox ace is a legitimate difference maker; even with just a couple months left in the season, he still projects to add another +2 WAR to whatever team he’s on, not counting what he’ll do in the postseason. He’s a high-end player in the prime of his career, and since he’s signed for three more years after this one, he’s also one of the most valuable assets in the sport.

When we did the Trade Value series a few weeks ago, I ranked Sale as the 15th most valuable trade chip in the game. Here is the table that we used to summarize his value.

Team Control WAR Total +17.1
Guaranteed Dollars $12.0 M
Team Control Through 2019
Previous Rank #6
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2017 28 +6.1 $12.0 M
2018 29 +5.7 $12.5 M
2019 30 +5.3 $13.5 M
Team Option

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Marlins Add Andrew Cashner, Colin Rea for Stretch Run

One need only glance at the Marlins’ projected starters over the next few days to determine where the team could use an upgrade. Jose Urena, a hard-throwing right-hander whose stuff hasn’t translated to strikeouts out of the bullpen or in the rotation, will pitch tonight’s game. Tomorrow, Jarred Cosart is scheduled to pitch — and he has a 15% strikeout rate and 11% walk rate over his career. The Marlins apparently didn’t like the look of that situation going forward, especially if Jose Fernandez’s innings need to be managed and/or if Wei-Yin Chen is unable to return from the disabled list soon.

So, they’ve conducted a trade, which reportedly includes the following pieces (arranged in approximate order of name-recognition):

The Marlins get:

The Padres get:

As for the Marlins, they receive an immediate boost from adding Cashner to the rotation. While his season numbers (which include a 4.76 ERA and 4.94 FIP) look pretty ugly, Cashner seemed to have boosted his trade value over the last few weeks. As August Fagerstrom noted recently, he’s been much better since coming off the disabled list:

Cashner’s picked up a half-tick on his average fastball. Pre-disabled list, 15% of his fastballs went 96 or harder. These last four starts, he’s reached that upper-tier of velocity on 21% of fastballs. The walks are down from a bit over 9% to a bit under 6%. The strikeouts are way up, from 15% to 28%, because Cashner is missing plenty more bats. He’s missing more bats inside the zone, perhaps due in part to the added life on the heater, and he’s missing more bats outside the zone, and that’s because of the slider. The slider is really what this is all about.

Cashner’s slider has been more effective of late, and if he can maintain his current run, he should be able to hit his roughly league-average projections and represent an improvement over where the team stands right now. If the playoffs started today, the Marlins would be in, playing in a one-game playoff with the Cardinals for the right to play the Dodgers in another one-game playoff to qualify for the divisional series.

However, the projections see the Cardinals as the better team going forward. They actually see the same for the Mets, who are a game and a half behind the Marlins and Cardinals. The chart below shows the playoff odds before the trade for the teams that look to be in the hunt for the second wild card. The Marlins are in orange, essentially in a dead heat with the Mets and behind the Cardinals.

chart (9)

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Jeff Sullivan FanGraphs Chat — 7/29/16

9:05
Jeff Sullivan: Hello friends

9:05
Jeff Sullivan: Welcome to baseball chat

9:05
Bork: Hello, friend!

9:05
Jeff Sullivan: Hello friend

9:05
Section 118: Why have I not heard any chatter at all re: Oakland shipping people off?

9:06
Jeff Sullivan: Hill has been hurt, Gray has been mediocre, Reddick is part of a saturated outfield market, and Valencia is basically on the level of Steve Pearce

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