Dee Gordon Becomes An Outfield Experiment

The hot stove is warming up, and as always, Jerry Dipoto is the one stoking the fire.

Now, you might say, don’t the Mariners already have the most expensive second baseman in baseball? Why yes, yes they do. So why are they trading for Dee Gordon? Because they’re not acquiring him to play second base.

The Mariners have put a heavy emphasis on athleticism in the outfield under Dipoto’s regime, and with Jarrod Dyson now a free agent, the team is apparently betting on Gordon’s speed translating into similar results in the outfield. And there’s no question that Gordon is one of the very fastest players in the game.

By sprint speed, he’s nearly equal to Byron Buxton and Billy Hamilton, maybe the two best defensive outfielders alive. Of course, it has to be noted that he’s also right next to Delino Deshields, another exceptionally fast former second baseman who moved to the outfield, but has split his time between LF and CF because he hasn’t impressed enough to be handed a regular job in CF. Speed obviously matters, but it is not, in and of itself, determinative of outfield ability.

That said, Gordon was a very poor defensive SS early in his career and worked to make himself into a strong defensive second baseman, so he’s already learned a new position and made himself more valuable once. If Gordon can do it again, turning his raw speed into upper-tier range in center field again, then he could be a nice player for the Mariners.

Gordon isn’t a great hitter, but his baserunning is so valuable than he’s been an above-average offensive player throughout his career, and he’s at +26 runs of offense over the last four years, since his 2014 breakout in LA. If you pair an above-average offensive player with potentially above-average center field defense, that’s an impact player, which is obviously what the Mariners are hoping for.

In order to bring Gordon to Seattle, they took on the rest of the $38 million he’s owed and surrendered one of the few good pieces they had left in their farm system.

Nick Neidert was one of the team’s best arms, even without a super high ceiling, while Chris Torres and Robert Dugger are low-level lottery tickets who aren’t without value. This wasn’t a straight salary dump for the Marlins, who got three guys worth watching in return.

But along with Gordon, the Mariners also get another $1 million in international bonus money, which is obviously being acquired to try and get Shohei Otani to sign with the Mariners. They gave up another prospect last night to acquire $1 million from the Twins, so the plan is pretty clearly to surrender whatever necessary to give the organization the best chance possible to win the Ohtani derby.

And given how valuable he is, any marginal improvement in that sweepstakes is probably worth surrendering decent-but-unspectacular prospects. Ohtani is probably worth some team’s entire farm systems by himself. He’ll instantly become one of the most valuable resources in whatever organization he joins. If this deal helps the Mariners land Ohtani, the price paid becomes inconsequential.

And if Gordon turns into a good defensive CF, then this could very well be a nice move on its own merits. So there’s clearly upside here for Seattle.

But there’s plenty of downside too. Ohtani might go elsewhere. Gordon might end up not taking well to the OF, and then the team would have an expensive corner outfielder with a light bat, or a second baseman who pushes Robinson Cano to first base, both options limiting their offense. And the farm system continues to be strip-mined for short-term gains, so if the Mariners don’t win, all this borrowing from the future won’t look so good in a few years.

It’s not entirely correct to say that the Mariners are “Ohtani or bust” at this point, but they really need him. And if they get him, they won’t care that they don’t have a farm system anymore.


Francisco Liriano: A Left-Handed Relief Option

This author hopes your team isn’t in need of an impact left-handed reliever. The free-agent market is short on product. Mike Minor, the top lefty relief arm available this offseason, just signed a three-year, $28 million deal that some regard as outrageous. (Although Dave Cameron and the crowd each predicted a three-year $27-million deal.) And Minor was ostensibly signed to be a starter. Jake McGee and Tony Watson are the only remaining lefty relievers populating most top-50 free-agent lists, including Dave’s, and they will argue that Minor set the top of the left-handed relief market.

Of the 48 remaining free-agent relievers who threw at least 20 innings last season, 40 are right-handed. There are eight remaining lefties in the group and one — Boone Logan — is coming off a significant injury. Only two — McGee and Brian Duensing — are projected to produce more than 0.5 WAR in 2018. Minor is, of course, off the market. The rest of the available arms — including Fernando Abad, Craig Breslow, and Oliver Perez — have flaws.

But there’s one player not included in the group who could be a left-handed reliever of interest and that’s the enigma that is Francisco Liriano. While the Rangers think Minor might excel as a starter, some teams might regard Liriano as a left-handed specialist — or a sort of multi-inning reliever to be paired with a right-handed starter.

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What the Cubs Might See in Tyler Chatwood

Right-hander Tyler Chatwood signed with the Cubs today for three years and around $40 million, according to Jon Morosi. The contract is about what one might expect. Dave Cameron, for example, called for Chatwood to receive $10 million a year for three years. The Cubs have given him more annually than Cameron expected. But for one of the youngest pitchers on the market, it’s not absurd.

But there’s also another reason for optimism regarding Chatwood’s near future besides just his relative youth. Given the tools at our disposal, there appears to be evidence that Chatwood’s stuff hasn’t fully translated into results.

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Here Are the Complete Front-Office Ratings

Earlier this very week, I ran a polling project. The question being asked was simple: What do you think of your favorite team’s front office? That is, the front office, independent of ownership. The front office, independent of things the front office doesn’t control. We all have opinions. None of us have actual concrete answers. The question is simple and impossibly complicated. But so many of you voted, and I promised to analyze the results. That’s what we have here — sort of a crowdsourced FanGraphs community front-office power ranking.

There’s no real perfect way to evaluate a front office. Never has been. FanGraphs tried to do it before, by gathering input from a bunch of its own writers, but that was eventually put to a stop, because it was too controversial. We can’t know, we can’t know for sure, but the results here are still significant. What’s truly being measured is how people perceive the various front offices. Wouldn’t you like to know about the perceptions, league-wide? Wonder no more. Here’s what we have, according to, at least, a strongly sabermetric audience.

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Cubs Sign Tyler Chatwood, Interesting Pitcher

The hot stove is flickering! There is actual news!

Chatwood was one of the more interesting free agents in this class. Mike Petriello made a case for why Chatwood could be this year’s Charlie Morton, a high-velocity guy with a high-spin curveball who just needs a change of scenery. He was always likely to sign with an analytically-inclined organization, and the Cubs certainly qualify.

Chatwood ranked 17th among our Top 50 free agents heading into the off-season, with projections that work out to roughly league-average pitching when he’s on the mound, with durability a legitimate question.

Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Dave Cameron 3 $10.0 M $30.0 M
Median Crowdsource 0.0 $0.0 M $0.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 0.0 $0.0 M $0.0 M
2018 Steamer Forecast
Age IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
28 128.0 10.4% 19.3% 53.4% 4.32 4.39 4.36 1.6 1.5

I projected he’d get $30 million over three years, but it sounds like he did a bit better than that.

At nearly $40 million, Chatwood is no huge bargain, but there are definitely things to like about having him as a back-end starter with upside. There’s also plenty of risk here, of course, and the fact that an upside play with a limited track record of success costs $40 million tells you that this is a good winter to be a free agent pitcher.


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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Eno Sarris — Baseball Chat 12/7/17

1:37
Eno Sarris: namesake intro

12:01
Ray Liotta as Shoeless Joe: Rafael Palmeiro. Discuss.

12:02
Eno Sarris: Athletes are born with that special kind of crazy that produced this recent news that he wants to try and come back at 53. 6% of the league was active when he retired.

12:02
Matty P: isnt the demise of Evan Longoria a bit overblown? Dave alluded to him having minimal trade value at this point. I think hes gotta still have a few good years left

12:03
Eno Sarris: Have a hard time believing he’s done being an impact player at 32. The league is hitting for power and his goes away? I bet he hits 30 this year.

12:03
Andy: You get a choice of one beer to drink on Christmas day… what are you drinking?

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Rockies Farm Director Zach Wilson on Riley Pint

Riley Pint has a golden arm and a sky-high ceiling. The 20-year-old right-hander reaches triple digits, which helped prompt the Colorado Rockies to take him fourth overall in the 2016 draft. He’s the best pitching prospect in the system and a potential big-league ace.

The numbers don’t reflect that. Since signing out of an Overland Park, Kansas, high school, Pint is 3-16 with a 5.40 ERA and a 1.70 WHIP. This past season, he walked 59 batters in 93 innings at Low-A Asheville. To say he’s a work in progress would qualify as an understatement.

Are the Rockies concerned? I asked Zach Wilson, the club’s director of player development, for his appraisal of the youngster’s development.

———

Zach Wilson on Pint: “Numbers are numbers, and in the development world, they don’t tell the whole story. As a matter of fact, they tell very little of the story. Walking [59] guys in fewer than 100 innings is going to raise a red flag to somebody staring at a stat line, but this was a 19-year-old in his first full season — and we were aggressive with him. The numbers weren’t a concern to us whatsoever. This was just a small part of the global developments scenario for Riley. He made strides.

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Ohtani Might Be Better Than We Thought

A couple weeks ago, I asked my colleague Jeff Zimmerman to help me find some Shohei Ohtani comps and make a projection for Ohtani based upon the Davenport Translations of his 2016 NPB stats. Remember, Ohtani missed much of last season due to ankle and thigh injuries. Per Davenport, Ohtani’s 2016 numbers equate to the following MLB performance as a then-age-21 hitter: 324 at-bats, 14 home runs, 34 walks, 89 strikeouts, a .306/.367/.512 slash line, and 133 wRC+. He’s 23 now.

I was trying to answer whether Ohtani would produce more relative value as a DH in the AL or as a pitcher not only batting but also pinch-hitting in the NL. (And, yes, he might end up playing in the field in the NL.)

Here’s the full list of performance comps Zimmerman provided for Ohtani the Hitter:

2016 Comps
Adrian Beltre
Aledmys Diaz
Tyler Naquin
Hanley Ramirez
Corey Seager
Andrew Toles

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Allow Me to Present an Incredible Baseball Coincidence

To make it clear right off the bat, this has nothing to do with Shohei Ohtani or Giancarlo Stanton. This has nothing to do with the current offseason market, and, frankly, this has nothing to do with baseball from any of the past few decades. This is just built around a historical fun fact, but, you know, we all need breaks. And we all need improbable fun facts.

You can probably think of a few baseball coincidences on your own. One I personally can’t forget is that both Ken Griffey Jr. and Stan Musial were born on November 21 in Donora, Pennsylvania. There’s Roberto Clemente‘s career ending at exactly 3,000 hits. I don’t know what you do and don’t remember, but I have a coincidence to add to the list. It takes a little explaining, but I think the destination is worth it. Maybe you won’t agree in the end, but I’ve been thinking about this since I found it by accident during a podcast last week. I feel compelled to speak my truth. I have to share this little statistical story.

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Effectively Wild Episode 1146: Unmaking Multiple Myths

EWFI

Ben Lindbergh and Jeff Sullivan banter about a baseball earthquake in Cleveland and the Miles Mikolas and Mike Minor signings, debunk myths about NPB pitchers and Pud Galvin, and answer listener emails about Shohei Ohtani and Chief Wahoo, Ohtani loopholes, Jerry Dipoto trading his way to Ohtani, the DH and Ohtani, free-agent players prioritizing factors other than money, how the Tigers could win the 2018 World Series, Jose Altuve’s high batting averages, “hit by pitches” vs. “hits by pitch,” paying up front for a 35-year-old Mike Trout, and Adam Jones’s comments about his slow pace between pitches, plus a “Stat Blast” about extreme NPB walk-drawer Kensuke Kondo and post-emails banter about Rafael Palmeiro’s amusingly far-fetched comeback attempt.

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The Dodgers Control the Giancarlo Stanton Sweepstakes

I think we all understand the present circumstances. The Marlins are trying to trade Giancarlo Stanton in order to clear payroll, and they’ve reached general agreements with both the Cardinals and the Giants. From the Cardinals, the Marlins would get talent and salary relief. From the Giants, the Marlins would get talent and salary relief. There are differences, obviously, but right now you’d think there are only these two finalists. Stanton has full no-trade protection, but he doesn’t want to stick around where he is, and so we’re getting to a decision point. Stanton will soon need to pick St. Louis or San Francisco.

Or neither. I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, but Stanton grew up and played high-school ball around Los Angeles. We’re not familiar with Stanton’s actual thoughts, but the consensus opinion is that Stanton’s ideal outcome would be a trade to the Dodgers. To this point, we haven’t heard much about the Dodgers’ trade interest. Stanton wouldn’t be the type of add they typically make. And yet, here we are. The Dodgers continue to loom over this whole thing.

Giancarlo Stanton? Stanton has plenty of leverage. But so do the Dodgers. The Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes are unusual, but so is this situation, with Stanton effectively able to hold out until he gets what he wants.

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The Second Half’s Most Improved Changeup

As much as certain aspects of pitching remain a mystery when it comes to analytics, we’ve figured out a few things about the changeup. Like, movement is good! And like, a bigger velocity gap is good if you want whiffs! Those sorts of relationships can be identified pretty easily. And since movement and velocity become stable really quickly, you can cut this sort of thing into smaller samples and still get meaningful results.

You can ask things like: whose changeup improved the most in the second half, when it comes to things like velocity and movement differential off the fastball? And then you can get answers.

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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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The Cubs Are Ohtani’s Other Outlier Finalist

The most curious entry on Shohei Ohtani’s list of seven finalists is the San Diego Padres. Given the club’s relatively diminutive market and general lack of competitiveness over the last decade, the Padres don’t immediately profile as a destination for a player of Ohtani’s magnitude.

But the Padres aren’t the only outlier. There’s another. If not quite as unexpected as the Padres, the Cubs certainly represent the second-most surprising team on Ohtani’s list.

The Cubs have the market. They also have a recent track record of success and the roster to compete in the future. They represent a geographic outlier among Ohtani’s remaining suitors, though. Of those seven final clubs, the Cubs are located in the eastern-most and coldest-climate city. For a player who seems to have a strong preference for playing on the West Coast and in ideal weather conditions, Chicago is a curious choice.

Ohtani eliminated every other NL East, AL East, NL Central, and AL Central club, en route to selecting his final seven teams. That he retained the Cubs must mean that he really likes something about the team apart from geography and market size. In other words, he really likes something about the Cubs that their decision-makers within the organization can control or sell.

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2018 ZiPS Projections – Texas Rangers

After having typically appeared in the hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have now been released at FanGraphs for half a decade. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Texas Rangers. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Batters
In 2017, six of the Rangers’ position players surpassed the two-win threshold. Only one of that group (Carlos Gomez, specifically) appears likely to play elsewhere next season. In light of that lone departure, one might expect something on the order of five players to record two or more wins in 2018. Dan Szymborski’s computer, however, clearly operates by a different sort of calculus.

Indeed, a brief examination of the tables below reveals that only Adrian Beltre (430 PA, 2.7 zWAR) is forecast by ZiPS to record two-plus wins next year. As for the other four returnees, all are projected to endure some manner of regression: worse numbers on contact for Elvis Andrus (656, 1.9) and Robinson Chirinos (270, 1.3); more strikeouts and fewer extras bases for Joey Gallo (507, 1.7); and what appears to be fewer runs from defense and probably baserunning for Delino DeShields (471, 0.4).

This isn’t the end of the bad news, either: all told, four positions on the rough depth chart below — catcher, second base, center field, and designated hitter — are accompanied by a rounded WAR figure of 0 or 1. A very dreary sort of binary code, is how one might characterize that.

One, desperate for an optimistic note, can find it in Willie Calhoun‘s projection (586, 1.9). Part of the return for Yu Darvish, Calhoun lacks a defensive home. What he doesn’t lack, however, is a promising offensive profile. ZiPS calls for markedly above-average contact and power numbers, represented by his 13.1% strikeout rate and .220 isolated-slugging figure, respectively.

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FanGraphs After Dark Chat – 12/5/17

5:49
Paul Swydan:

Which of Paul’s most listened to artists (according to Spotify) this year do you like best?

Kendrick Lamar (29.4% | 41 votes)
 
The Alchemist (2.1% | 3 votes)
 
Nas (9.3% | 13 votes)
 
Mobb Deep (3.5% | 5 votes)
 
Wu-Tang Clan (16.5% | 23 votes)
 
I like them all equally! (2.1% | 3 votes)
 
I don’t like any of these musical acts. (36.6% | 51 votes)
 

Total Votes: 139
5:52
Paul Swydan:

Which of Paul’s 9 most listened to songs of 2017 (according to Spotify) do you like best?

Your Wildest Dreams – The Moody Blues (9.8% | 12 votes)
 
Let’s Groove – Earth, Wind & Fire (13.1% | 16 votes)
 
Capt. Underpants Theme Song – Weird Al (7.3% | 9 votes)
 
Everything She Wants – Wham! (3.2% | 4 votes)
 
Saturday – Nathan Willett of Cold War Kids (0.8% | 1 vote)
 
I’m The One – DJ Khaled f/ Bieber, Chance, Lil’ Wayne (12.2% | 15 votes)
 
While My Guitar Gently Weeps – Regina Spektor (13.1% | 16 votes)
 
All Night – Big Boi (4.0% | 5 votes)
 
(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty – KC & The Sunshine Band (11.4% | 14 votes)
 
I don’t like any of these songs! (24.5% | 30 votes)
 

Total Votes: 122
5:58
Paul Swydan:

Do you think the Mikolas signing makes the Cardinals rotation deep enough to trade away a starting pitcher?

Absolutely (3.8% | 6 votes)
 
I think so (17.8% | 28 votes)
 
Meh (36.3% | 57 votes)
 
I don’t think so (30.5% | 48 votes)
 
Definitely not (11.4% | 18 votes)
 

Total Votes: 157
9:02
Paul Swydan: Hi everybody!

9:02
Austin: Thoughts on Drew Pomeranz for 2018?

9:02
Jeff Zimmerman: Hi

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That Thing Dan Otero Had in Common with Zach Britton

The Indians signed reliever Dan Otero to a deal yesterday. It wasn’t for much in baseball terms, $2.5 million over two years, and that might make sense. He doesn’t strike anyone out and is only projected to be a little bit better than league average. That’s if you look at his overall arsenal. If you pick one pitch, he’s got a good one.

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The Rangers Are Signing Mike Minor to Start

Coming into the offseason, the Rangers needed to add pitching. Just pitching, regular pitching, any kind of pitching. They looked thin in the rotation and they looked thin in the bullpen, and that makes things both complicated and entirely simple. Complicated, in that the Rangers needed plenty of help. Simple, in that there’s a lot of potential help out there. Already, the Rangers have added Doug Fister. Fister will help. The deal looks good.

The Rangers are one of the seven finalists for Shohei Ohtani. Obviously, landing him would be a dream. The team was also interested in Miles Mikolas, but he’s decided to sign with the Cardinals. Matt Bush is attempting a conversion from the bullpen to the rotation. And now, according to reports, the Rangers are signing Mike Minor to a multi-year deal. Minor entered the market as one of the most in-demand available relievers. The Rangers could use him as a reliever — but, apparently, Plan A is to convert him, too. Minor will get a chance to start, and the Rangers might end up with a six-man rotation.

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Kansas City Signs First of Prospects Granted Free Agency in Atlanta Scandal

Two weeks ago, commissioner Rob Manfred announced the punishment for Atlanta following illicit efforts by former general manager John Coppolella to avoid exceeding bonus-pool limits in international free agency. At the center of that punishment: the dissolution of contracts for 12 players acquired by means that violated league policy.

Today, one of the more promising ex-Braves has signed with the Royals. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports:

The signing by Kansas City of right-hander Yefri Del Rosario is notable for a couple reasons. One, because he represents the first of the former Atlanta prospects to sign with another team. And two, because Del Rosario’s deal might provide clues as to the bonuses likely to be received by the 11 other players in question.

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