Author Archive

The One I Never Thought I Would Write

I wrote my first post for FanGraphs on April 14th, 2008. It was about Gabe Kapler’s return from managing to be a productive big leaguer. It referenced WPA/LI as our version of a modern statistic and talked unironically about how Kapler was keeping up with Casey Kotchman. It wasn’t great.

Since then, I’ve published 3,501 other posts (or chats). Hopefully, most of them were better than that first one. In these last 10 years, the site has changed a lot. In 2010, I went from a freelancer to the company’s first full-time employee, then was joined by a host of absurdly talented coworkers, many of whom now also get to do this for a living. FanGraphs went from a niche site into the mainstream, and along the way, I’ve seen our little corner of the baseball world help change the language of baseball fans.

It’s been a remarkable run. But for me, it comes to an end today. This will be my last post at FanGraphs.

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Maybe “Super Teams” Are Ruining the Offseason

It’s January, and the story of the offseason is that it’s actually lived up to its monicker. Outside of Giancarlo Stanton and Shohei Otani‘s respective moves to new teams essentially on the same day, MLB clubs have been in hibernation this winter. And so instead of evaluating trades or free-agent contracts, we’re left instead to ponder what is causing the inaction.

The potential culprits are numerous. If you’re inclined to see owners as evil profiteers, it’s easy to talk yourself into a collusion theory. Or this is the consequence of the Players Association accepting a luxury tax that might be acting as a de facto salary cap. Or maybe it’s just that every team has figured out that prices go down as spring training draws closer, so now everyone is trying the same wait-it-out game plan. Or maybe these particular free agents just aren’t that good. Or maybe it’s that next year’s free agents are too good.

Each of those theories seem to have some validity, and I think there’s probably a bit of most of that going on. But I think there’s also an explanation that makes everyone’s passivity perfectly rational: a lack of sufficient divisional competition to create the sort of pressure that justifies high-risk free-agent signings.

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Dave Cameron FanGraphs Chat – 1/3/18

12:04
Dave Cameron: Happy 2018, everyone.

12:04
Dave Cameron: I hope everyone enjoyed their holidays.

12:04
Dave Cameron: We’ll start a few minutes late today, but should be chatting in about five minutes.

12:10
Dave Cameron: Alright, let’s get this party started.

12:10
Desperate, confused Marlins fan: Finally! a chat!

12:11
Dave Cameron: That’s right! We’re back, even in MLB is still apparently on vacation.

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Wade Davis and the Long-Term

Today, the Rockies agreed to sign Wade Davis to a three year, $52 million contract, capping an off-season of bullpen spending that also saw them give $27 million each to Jake McGee and Bryan Shaw. The Rockies’ plan couldn’t be more obvious, as they are loading up on relievers in the hopes of bullpenning their way through October. With their trio of free agent relievers pushing Adam Ottavino, Chris Rusin, and Mike Dunn to earlier-game situations, the Rockies now have one of the deepest bullpens in baseball. If they were able to roll out that group in the postseason, they could be dangerous.

The problem remains getting to October, however. We projected the Rockies for 79 wins before they signed Davis, so adding him will move the forecast up to 80 wins, most likely. And if you think that’s just Steamer being overly negative, it’s not just us.

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Dave Cameron FanGraphs Chat – 12/20/17

12:01
Dave Cameron: Happy Wednesday, everyone.

12:01
Dave Cameron: Will begin the chat as soon as I finish this InstaGraphs post on Longoria trade.

12:01
Dave Cameron: Back in a few!

12:09
Dave Cameron: Okay, hi everyone.

12:10
Dave Cameron: Let’s talk some baseball for the last time in 2017.

12:10
Jay: Why do the Giants want Longoria when they didn’t get Stanton or Ohtani? The Dodgers aren’t going away the next few years.

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The Indians Should Trade for Manny Machado

Since the Orioles started listening to offers for Manny Machado, people have been trying to find the best trade partner for Baltimore to match up with. Unfortunately for Dan Duquette, the list of teams that have a glaring need at either SS or 3B and are in position to pay what it will take to land a one-year rental is pretty short. Teams like the Astros, Dodgers, Nationals, Red Sox, and Cubs are pretty well set on the left side of the infield. Peter Angelos doesn’t want Machado on the Yankees. The Phillies make sense as a bidder for Machado next year, but not really this year.

That has led to a situation where teams like the White Sox and Diamondbacks are being mentioned as leading suitors, even though they don’t really fit what we’d think a Machado buyer would look like. The Cubs and Red Sox have gotten some mentions, but deals with those teams don’t actually make all that much sense. Especially with the Orioles apparently looking for big-league ready pitching in exchange, finding a team that lines up with Baltimore on a trade for their franchise player isn’t particularly easy.

But there’s one team that has the assets Baltimore is looking for, the incentive to make a substantial upgrade in 2018, and a spot for Machado in their line-up. The team that should land Manny Machado? The Cleveland Indians.

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Let’s Talk About Manny Machado’s Trade Value

Manny Machado is on the trade block. And rightfully so, as the Orioles are not very close to the other contenders in the AL East, and are looking at losing Machado, Zach Britton, and Adam Jones to free agency next winter. There is simply too large a divide to justify holding those guys and hoping the team lucks into a Wild Card spot, so moving their best pieces while they have the most value is the rational decision.

That said, as I’ve ready some of the suggested offers various teams could make to bring Machado to their city, it seems there remains a disconnect between the understanding of Machado’s abilities and Machado’s trade value. It’s unquestioned that Machado is one of the best players in the world. He’s a star, and will be paid accordingly in free agency next year. But for anyone acquiring him, he’s a one-year rental, with some fringe benefit of being able to try to get him to give you a discount in free agency next winter. That’s worth something, but it isn’t worth the kinds of packages that people seem to expect.

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Winter Meetings Live Blog, Day 3

12:02
Dave Cameron: Welcome to the third day of the winter meetings, where the big news of the day is… Anthony Swarzak? Michael Pineda? Jake McGee?

12:02
Dave Cameron: To say it’s been dull so far would be the understatement of the year.

12:02
Dave Cameron: So let’s talk about what teams should be doing that they aren’t.

12:03
Bernie: Brewers fan so this may be silly, but would a Domingo Santana for Jackie Bradley Jr swap make sense for each side? Red Sox get RH power, Brewers get defensive flexibility.

12:03
Dave Cameron: Would make lots of sense for MIL, because Bradley > Santana, so they’d get the better player. Would make BOS worse.

12:04
Jim: What are the chances McCutchen is traded by the end of the week?

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Would You Pay More for Ozuna or Machado?

At some point today, it will probably be announced that the Cardinals have acquired Marcell Ozuna from the Marlins, likely for some combination including Jack Flaherty and Sandy Alcantara. Ozuna isn’t quite Giancarlo Stanton, but St. Louis wants another good outfielder, and they have the pitching the Marlins are looking for.

But yesterday, it came out that the Orioles are willing to listen to offers for Manny Machado. They also are looking for arms, and reportedly want a pair of MLB-ready pitchers in exchange for their franchise player. While the Cardinals infield is more crowded than their outfield, Machado would still represent a substantial upgrade for them at either SS or 3B, and it’s fair to assume they kicked around the pros and cons of pursuing him as their big bat acquisition.

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This Zack Greinke Rumor is Weird

I will admit that I haven’t, at any point this winter, thought about the Diamondbacks trading Zack Greinke. They just won 93 games and reached the NLDS. They have Paul Goldschmidt under team control for two more years, but A.J. Pollock and Pat Corbin for just one. Their window to win with this group is not going to be open very long, but they haven’t made any real noise about rebuilding, at least not publicly. And if they’re going to try to win again in 2018, they probably need Zack Greinke to do it.

Right now, we have the Diamondbacks projected for 84 wins, putting them two wins behind St. Louis for the top Wild Card spot in the NL. The Cardinals are clearly looking to upgrade their roster, and are probably close to landing Marcell Ozuna from Miami, if I’m any good at reading tea leaves. There is a bit of a gap between AZ and the fringe NL contenders, so the Diamondbacks could get worse and still think they’re as good as Colorado or San Francisco, but reducing their chances of making the playoffs would be a weird strategy in Pollock’s walk year.

Of course, if they don’t move Greinke, they have no shot of re-signing Pollock, so perhaps if they thought they could free up enough money to keep Pollock in Arizona past this year, moving a good chunk of Greinke’s contract could make sense. So, yeah, if someone wants to take most of the deal, and you think you can use it to keep the rest of the core together longer, maybe that’s worth thinking about.

But there’s this rumor kicking around that has the Rangers and Diamondbacks talking about a Greinke trade that just doesn’t make much sense to me.

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How the Marlins Did and Didn’t Mess Up

In a few hours, the Yankees will hold a press conference here in Orlando to officially welcome Giancarlo Stanton to their organization. They landed the reigning NL MVP just 24 hours after he vetoed trades to the Giants and Cardinals and said New York was one of just four destinations he would approve a trade to. Left with minimal leverage, Derek Jeter and Michael Hill engineered a trade with Jeter’s old club, sending Stanton to the Bronx for Starlin Castro and a couple of low-level prospects.

The reaction to the decision has been almost universally negative. The Marlins’ new ownership group began their tenure by behaving much like the old one, dumping their best player to cut payroll. Instead of hope and change, it looks like more of the same in south Florida.

But while Jeter has made a number of apparent missteps since taking over as the head of the organization, and made some mistakes with the Stanton negotiations specifically, I think it’s also worth pointing out that, on a pure baseball level, the Marlins seemed to come out okay here.

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The American League Is Becoming the National League

Over the last few years, the difference in parity between MLB’s two leagues was remarkably striking.

Nearly every team in the AL — the White Sox and A’s being the notable exceptions — entered 2017 thinking they had some kind of shot at the Wild Card spot, and the Twins ended up securing a position in the play-in game with an 85-77 record. 9 AL teams won between 75 and 85 games last year, and while there were a few really good teams at the top of the pile, the AL was mostly known for its fairly even distribution of talent.

The NL, on the other hand, was a league of stars and scrubs. The Dodgers, Cubs, and Nationals won their divisions by a combined 37 games, and the most of the teams that weren’t trying to win last year — Braves, Phillies, Padres, and Reds — were in the NL giving free wins to their opponents. The NL’s stratification brought about calls to fix “tanking”, because the league had almost nothing in the way of a middle class.

This winter, it looks like the AL might be heading towards the NL model. While he hasn’t officially waived his no-trade clause yet, it sounds like Giancarlo Stanton is going to end up in New York for some combination of Starlin Castro and lower level minor leaguers. With the Yankees taking on just $260 million of Stanton’s deal without giving up anything of huge value, this is a pretty clear win for New York.

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Choose Your Own $38 Million Starting Pitcher

Yesterday, Tyler Chatwood signed with the Cubs for $38 million over three years. Given his velocity and run prevention at altitude, there’s a reasonable case to be made that Chatwood comes with enough upside to make this a very intriguing bet by the Cubs.

But while Chatwood remains interesting, one thing he can’t be described as is durable. He’s had Tommy John surgery twice (once in high school), missed nearly all of the 2014 and 2015 seasons, and has never thrown more than 158 innings in a season. The history of guys who have already had Tommy John revision surgeries is not very good, and quite simply, Chatwood’s health is a legitimate question mark. While the Cubs bought some real upside here, there is also a non-zero chance that they just spent $38 million to watch Chatwood spend most of the next three years rehabbing his elbow.

So, if we were plotting all pitchers on a risk/reward graph, Chatwood would be about as far from the middle of the graph as a point gets. Interestingly, though, the market also recently decided that the guy at the very opposite end of this spectrum is also worth $38 million over three years.

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Making a Stanton-to-LA Trade Work

In the next few days, it’s expected that Giancarlo Stanton will decide whether he’s going to waive his no-trade clause to join the San Francisco Giants or, less likely, the St. Louis Cardinals. Those are the two teams that have struck deals with the Marlins, and both made their pitch to him in person last week. Stanton has appeared to be holding out hope that the Dodgers would get into the mix, though to this point, no public reports have suggested they’ve seriously engaged the Marlins in discussions.

The Dodgers’ reticence likely has to do with their CBT tax position. Acquiring Stanton would put them over the tax threshold again, and, as I laid out in my argument for why the Dodgers should be interested, acquiring Stanton would probably force the team to choose between re-signing Clayton Kershaw or making a big run at Bryce Harper in free agency next winter. And according to Ken Rosenthal, the Marlins aren’t interested in taking back any current payroll in a Stanton deal, as they try to trim their 2018 player expenses to under $90 million.

But despite the Marlins’ apparent tunnel vision here, there still might be a way for both sides to get what they’re looking for, and it’s one of Friedman’s go-to moves: the three-way trade.

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Dave Cameron FanGraphs Chat – 12/6/17

12:00
Dave Cameron: Happy Wednesday, everyone.

12:01
Dave Cameron: This week’s book recommendation, for those with toddlers: Hunting the Daddyosauarus. Super fun.

12:02
Dave Cameron: Let’s get to the coldest of cold stoves.

12:02
Ray Liotta as Shoeless Joe: How poorly does Jeter have to run the Marlins to have a negative pWAR (popularity WAR) in the mainstream baseball world? What about his pWAR in the New York markets? Like, if Jeter sends Giancarlo Stanton to the BoSox and Dombrowski fleeces Jeter, he’s dead to Yankees fans, right?

12:02
Dave Cameron: Michael Jordan is the obvious corollary. He’s run two NBA franchises into the ground as an executive, and I don’t think Bulls fans care at all.

12:03
Big Papi: Red Sox are still the AL East favorites, right?  I was worried that NY would get Ohtani, but without him they still look like a WC team.

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This Week Could Change The Giants’ Fortune

Over the last decade, the Giants have been one of the most successful franchises in the game, winning 831 regular season games and, of course, three World Series titles. Along the way, there have been plenty of important weeks, most notably in October, when Madison Bumgarner and friends stepped up and played their best baseball at the most important time of the year. But while the Giants’ recent past has been full of big moments, this week might be the one that determines the Giants future for the next decade.

Obviously, the team’s pursuit of Giancarlo Stanton has dominated news about the team so far this off-season, and Stanton would certainly make the team significantly better. But as Jeff Sullivan noted recently, the Giants aren’t really in a position to just trade for Stanton and think that solves their problems. I’m going to steal a graph from his post, showing the current projected standings in the NL based on the Steamer projections.

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The Dodgers Should Pursue Giancarlo Stanton

The Giants want to trade for Giancarlo Stanton. So do the Cardinals. Both teams have reportedly agreed to the “framework” of deals with the Marlins, meaning that if Stanton waived his no-trade clause, a deal could be completed to either team in short order. But as of this point, Giancarlo Stanton is still a Marlin, and the prevailing line of thought is that he’s stalling for time, hoping that his hometown Dodgers decide to get in on the action.

Certainly, Stanton would make the Dodgers better. He produced more WAR by himself (+6.9) than the team got from their entire outfieldCody Bellinger and Chris Taylor racked up a good chunk of their WAR while playing the infield — and would certainly represent an upgrade over some kind of Joc Pederson/Kik√© Hernandez platoon that the team is currently slated to run out in left field. By keeping him away from the Giants, they wouldn’t have to subject their left-handed rotation to facing him 19 times a year. And they’d again be the clear favorites to win the NL West, and probably the NL pennant as well.

But to this point, it doesn’t seem like the Dodgers have gotten involved in a serious way. While things could always change, LA currently seems somewhat content with the possibility of Stanton joining their arch-rivals, preferring to continue their plan of spreading their payroll around rather than concentrating their spending on a few top-tier players. But in looking at their situation, I think there’s actually a case to be made for the Dodgers to swoop in and take Stanton for themselves.

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The Giants and the Skill Trap

The Giants are trying to trade for Giancarlo Stanton. To that end, Bobby Evans, Brian Sabean, and Bruce Bochy met with Stanton and his representatives in Los Angeles last night, the Marlins apparently willing to let some suitors make a pitch directly to Stanton, who possesses a no-trade clause. According to multiple reports, the Giants are willing to absorb either most or all of his remaining contract in order to compensate for the lack of high-end talent they have to offer, hoping to appeal to the Marlins’ desire to move as much money as possible rather than focus on talent brought back in return.

The reason the Giants are going all out for Stanton is pretty clear and is summed up in tweets like these:

The 2017 Giants were one of recent history’s weakest teams, in terms of power, once you adjust for the home-run spike that helped everyone else in baseball party like it was 1999. They hit just 123 homers as a team, 27 fewer than the next lowest total (recorded by the Pirates) and 98 fewer than the Dodgers, who won NL West. Thus, every rumor about Stanton and the Giants points out how much they need him, because he would fix the thing at which they were worst last year.

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Don’t Trade Jackie Bradley for Jose Abreu

If there’s been one fairly easy prognostication this winter, it’s that the Red Sox are going to sign one of the expensive free agent hitters available in this class. Dave Dombrowski has historically not been shy about spending big to upgrade his roster, and has also shown a propensity for building rosters around power. The Red Sox ranked 27th in home runs last year. This is probably not something he wants to repeat.

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Dave Cameron FanGraphs Chat – 11/29/17

12:04
Dave Cameron: Happy Wednesday, everyone.

12:05
Dave Cameron: I’m gettting a little bit of a late start today, but we’ll fire this thing up in a couple of minutes.

12:11
Andrew : Will Stanton be traded by the Winter Meetings and too what Team?

12:11
Dave Cameron: Since we’re dealing with a guy who has never run a team before, it’s hard to know what Jeter is going to do.

12:11
Dave Cameron: My guess is the teams that are interested will eventually tell the Marlins that they’re moving on if they don’t get an answer.

12:12
Dave Cameron: And I wouldn’t be shocked if that happened next week.

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