As recent posts have mentioned, there were two big things that went wrong for the Phillies pitching staff in 2012.Read the Rest...
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Chances are, your favorite baseball team is looking to acquire an ace. This is because every team in baseball wants a #1 starter. Does your team already have a #1 starter? Then it probably wants another one. Starting pitching is basically a commodity you cannot get enough of, especially at the elite level.
Zack Greinke appears to be cruising toward a contract that will pay him somewhere close to $25 million per season, because he is considered an ace. I love watching Zack Greinke pitch, and think he's phenomenal, but he's also not the best pitcher in baseball. Aces get paid.
I did a brief bit of digging, and made a list of all the pitchers that I would consider "aces" for 2012. My criteria were pretty simple, but a little subjective. I started with the top-30 leaderboards by ERA- and FIP- for starting pitchers. I made sure any ace was on both of those leaderboards, with one or two exceptions. I gave additional weight to previous ace-level performance, but also made allowances for young pitchers with strong minor league pedigrees or especially-great performances. Lastly, I added one pitcher who is considered an ace still, even if he didn't quite pitch like one in 2012. His name is Roy Halladay.
Anyways, here's my list of baseball's current aces:
That's 16, and it's not a bad number. There are a few that reasonable people might quibble over (Weaver, Sale, Cain come to mind), but I think that the majority of people might say that we're pretty close here. This list is an abnormally-small sample size, given the number of starting pitchers in the majors, but there is one interesting data point I'd like to bring up.
Point: You can't have an ace.
Okay, so maybe that headline's a bit misleading. But it's a little bit true. Of those sixteen names above, how many are "available"? Probably two: R.A. Dickey and Zack Greinke. [Note: Okay, maybe Cliff Lee also. But also maybe not.] Dickey is a trade possibility (though the Mets are reportedly asking for a lot), and Greinke is, like I mentioned before, likely to become one of the highest paid pitchers in baseball history.
Everyone else, well, they're not particularly easy to pry away from their teams. The Tigers wouldn't trade Justin Verlander if he swapped personalities with Delmon Young. The Nationals wouldn't trade Stephen Strasburg if he assassinated a U.S. Senator. Sure, if the Rangers wanted to trade Jurickson Profar, maybe they could pry David Price away from the Rays, but odds are, it ain't happening.
I want to show you something.
The first number is the amount of aces above who were signed by their 2012 teams as free agents. Those three (C.C. Sabathia, Cliff Lee, and R.A. Dickey) are the only ones where a team actually was able to just win a player by spending the most money. Greinke will join that group in 2013, if he stays on the ace list.
The second number is the amount of aces who were traded for, representing Zack Greinke, Roy Halladay, and Gio Gonzalez. All three trades were enormous investments by the team acquiring the ace. One might argue that, at least in the short term, they have all worked out.
The third number is the amount of aces who were signed or drafted, then developed, by their current ballclub. I include all the pitchers who've signed extensions / free agent deals with their club on this list, because that's a benefit that comes from signing and drafting your own ace. At some point, several of these players may get traded or leave via free agency. At the same time, some of these number one starters may lose that ace magic. Look at Tim Lincecum or Roy Oswalt as an example.
By the way, I did some back-of-the-envelope math about how many starters were either bought, bartered for or bred by their teams in 2012. For the six most-used starters for each team, I get the following numbers: 72 were acquired through through the draft / international free-agent process (not counting Asia, since those players normally go straight to the bigs), 44 were signed as free agents or off of waivers, and 63 were acquired via trade. One, Scott Diamond, was acquired through the Rule 5 Draft, so he kind of falls in the "other" column.
It's pretty telling, I think. A sizable amount of big-league starters are acquired through the traditional channel of draft-and-develop. We hear a lot about free agency and non-tenders and trades this time of year, but it appears, at least in terms of mass, that development is bringing the most big league starters to teams. And it also provides teams with aces that they don't get rid of very quickly.
Sometimes it doesn't take "advanced" numbers to show us something about player value. It only takes simple ones. If you want an ace (and you should), you'd better raise him yourself. And if you get the opportunity to acquire one, think twice about letting them go. They don't come around too often.
What is this, a "normal" week? No, it's the Winter Meetings when things are supposed to happen. Players are supposed to sign and trades are supposed to go down... and rumors of trades are supposed to be everywhere. But as far as the Atlanta Braves are concerned, so far not much has happened.
Braves interested in Bonifacio before got traded by MIA (Fredi G. had him w/Marlins), didn't know til this wk he might still be available
Bonifacio has always been a thorn in the Braves side, so it may seem to some Braves fans like he's better than he really is. One benefit of Bonifacio is that he can play multiple positions, much like Omar Infante, Bonifacio can play every outfield position and second, third, and short. I like that super utility value that he could provide. He's also fast on the basepaths and could lead off, though he's not an ideal leadoff hitter.
While the super utility value would be a plus for Bonifacio, I wouldn't necessarily want him holding down an everyday role in left field. But with other internal options developing for left, it would probably be worth giving him the left field job and keeping him in an everyday role in case he were needed to fill in at second, short, third, or center in the event of an injury. If someone like Evan Gattis proved ready for left field, then Bonifacio could slide into more of a bench role. Bonifacio assuming a super-utility role could also allow Juan Francisco to get more playing time at third, with Martin Prado moving to left.
Bonifacio certainly seems like the kind of player that the Braves like to have on their team. We'll see if it happens.
The Braves also signed a backup catcher according to Mark Bowman:
The Braves have signed catcher Matt Pagnozzi to a Minor Lg. contract. Pagnozzi will likely serve as ATL's backup until McCann returns
Rule 5 draft is today at 10am, and the Braves only have 36 players on their 40 man roster, so there's room to add. They added reliever Robert Fish last year, but he never pitched for them, spending the whole year on the disabled list.
The Miami Marlins have wrapped up their second day at the winter meetings, and it seems trade talks are heating up between the Fish and a number of other teams. On one hand, the Marlins seem more than interested in fielding offers for one of their players earning some salary. On the other hand, the team is taking a completely different direction with its other trade asset, ironically the one that wants to be dealt.
Escobar Dealt to Rays
The Miami Marlins were engaged in multiple conversations regarding the future of third baseman (as of right now) Yunel Escobar, who has yet to suit up for the team. Up to four teams are in on Escobar, with the Oakland Athletics seemingly at the front of the line at the onset. The A's may be offering a package built around prospects Brad Peacock and / or Grant Green, both of whom were in the middle of the top ten in a deep A's prospect pool heading into last season.
However, last night discussions with the Tampa Bay Rays hastened, and the team was closed a deal that would send Escobar to the Rays for at least prospect Derek Dietrich. Dietrich is a shortstop with the Rays organization, but it seemed he was supposedly destined for second or third base. Still, he displayed a decent bat thus far in the minors and is a college product, so the Marlins may find the appeal in him being almost major league-ready.
The Marlins apparently were not willing to wait out Escobar for an increase in his trade value and saw an opportunity to acquire a prospect who could assist them in the near future in a position of need. It is difficult to blame the team for that direction, but the value of the deal seemed fairly low on first blush.
Nolasco Not To Be Dealt (Or So They Say)
Ricky Nolasco may have requested a trade, formally or not, by having his agent Matt Sosnick speak to the public, but it seems the team has no interest in trading the right-hander. According to ESPN's Jayson Stark, the Marlins are not interested in trading Nolasco regardless of what was said.
#Marlins are telling teams inquiring about Ricky Nolasco that they're not trading him, despite agent Matt Sosnick's remarks yesterday.— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) December 4, 2012
It seems rather silly for the Marlins to insist that Nolasco be kept when they were so willing to trade all of the other players making significant salary on the team. He is not a piece who will remain with the team beyond 2013. The Marlins clearly cannot be happy with the extension they gave him given his production. It is very possible that keeping him through 2013, even until the trade deadline, represents a misuse of an already poor asset. At this stage, it is a mystery why the Marlins would be so active in trying to trade Escobar but so adamant in keeping Nolasco, who has less team control and less upside.
Then again, the Marlins likely insisted they were not going to trade Jose Reyes and Mark Buerhrle, and that eventually happened anyway.
Interest in Reynolds
The Miami Marlins were one of the nine supposed teams that showed interest in free agent first baseman Mark Reynolds. Reynolds was mentioned in an earlier article regarding the team's desire to find power for the lineup, but he represents something of a small issue on the Marlins' roster. As of recent seasons, Reynolds still has his power, but he has also struggled on the defensive side of the ball. He is an incapable third baseman at this stage in his career (one could argue that he always was), but now he seems to be a below-average defender at first base as well.
This is a problem because the Marlins already are suffering from a lack of defensive prowess. The team was seemingly ready to move Logan Morrison back to first base where he belonged, but a Reynolds signing would either put Morrison back in the outfield or Reynolds at third base, and neither move is tenable on the defensive side. Given Reynolds's significant offensive problems, the team cannot afford to give up any extra runs by sacrificing defense in a signing.
This is the latest on the Miami Marlins from the second day of the winter meetings. Tune into Fish Stripes for all of your winter meetings coverage as the final day finishes up.
- Not surprisingly, Juan Pierre has been welcomed back to the Miami Marlins with open arms. The fans are glad that he is back. The 35 year old outfielder is looking forward to the challenge with his new team because he remembers that in 2003, no one was giving the Marlins a chance to win the World Series. In this very difficult offseason, Pierre coming back to play for the Fish is one of the few bright spots.
- Mark Reynolds and Ian Stewart are possible options for the Marlins at third base. The Marlins will have the available resources to sign either player after they trade Yunel Escobar (possibly to the Tampa Bay Rays) (EDIT: Obviously, the trade has been completed. -MJ). One option the Marlins will not consider at third base full time is Greg Dobbs. Read more here.
- Joe Frisaro says that its the Marlins bullpen that will showcase the most competition heading into Spring Training. There could be up to three open spots in the 'pen. Consider Ryan Webb, Steve Cishek, Mike Dunn, and A.J. Ramos are projected to work out of the pen. A few more guys will have to prove themselves. Read more here.
- Despite all the negativity surrounding the Marlins and Giancarlo Stanton, Mike Redmond still believes Stanton will be fine. "He will be ready for Spring Training and be ready to go when the bell rings." Hopefully the skipper can convince Giancarlo to play his heart out this upcoming season. Read more here.
- Jack McKeon reflects this week on his time with Miguel Cabrera and Giancarlo Stanton. He coached both talents when they very young. He recalls speaking to both players about how hard they had to work to make it in the big leagues. And he says he never had issues with either player.
Around The League
- The Washington Nationals and Dan Haren have reached an agreement on a new contract. Reportedly its for one year and $13 million. The money is a bit high. However if things don't work out, it will be one and done for Haren in D.C.
At Fish Stripes
- Read the following for a recap of day one at the winter meetings. Mr. Jong shares the details on four players, including one unhappy right fielder.
- Want to know how Marlins players performed during the Arizona Fall League? Mr. Weston has all of the statistics for you. Read them here.
1978 HEADLINE: Pete Rose Joins The Philadelphia Phillies On this day in 1978, Pete Rose signed as a free agent with the Philadelphia Phillies. After spending the first 16 seasons of his big league career with the Reds, Rose would … Continue reading →
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While Cody Ross and Nick Swisher certainly can play everyday, neither constitutes the blockbuster[...]
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The Miami Marlins completed their trade to send Yunel Escobar away from Miami before he ever put on a Marlins uniform. Escobar will now be manning shortstop for the Tampa Bay Rays, who sent middle infield prospect Derek Dietrich in return.
In a way, both teams achieved something they wanted. For the Rays, they got a starting shortstop who has a good chance for a bounce back season after a rough 2012. For the Marlins, the team received a prospect who could presumably play second or third base, two positions of dire need in the organization, in return for a player who had questionable character and performance upside.
The problem is that the Marlins may have given up just a little too much on the current production side to fall just a little short on the potential future production aspect of the deal. Given Escobar's value and his cheap contract, it seems as though the Marlins could have squeezed a little more value from this trade.
Yunel Escobar's Value
We have already discussed Escobar's trade value as part of the mega-deal with the Toronto Blue Jays that sent him here in the first place. He struggled in his latest season with the Jays, and his approach was more aggressive than it had been seasons past, leading to a lower walk rate than we are used to seeing. Still, one has to believe that Escobar has a decent amount of potential to bounce back from that ugly year, as he is only a year removed from being a .290/.369/.413 hitter (.348 wOBA). As a shortstop, that holds great value, as I mentioned in the trade value article.
It seems almost impossible to guess Yunel Escobar at this stage. In his last three seasons, he has hit .266/.335/.358 (.312 wOBA), but that included a nice sandwich season between two uglier campaigns. Combine that with decent, though sometimes baffling, defense and you have a player who could easily be a three-win player next year. Adding Escobar likely improves the infield defense enough that, along with a bounce back of his bat, he could be a 2.5-win player in 2013 and decline as we usually project. The Marlins have two club options at $5 million a season after a $5 million salary in 2013. Assuming each year is picked up, Escobar could be worth $16.5 million in surplus value.
There is some concern, however, that Jays GM Alex Anthopolous likely knows more about Escobar than the Marlins do and may be selling low on his performance. Given his perplexing, up-and-down career, this may be a reasonable assumption, and I would be willing to knock him down to $13 million in surplus over the next three years.
Those appear to be at least passable assumptions about Escobar's current value in the trade market. At $13 million, the Marlins would at best be valuing him as closer to a league-average player in 2013 with a steady half-win per season decline. Last season, Escobar was a 1.7-win player when you take adjusted average of the three major Wins Above Replacement mechanics last season, and that was with a career-worst hitting year with a .253/.300/.344 line. If Escobar hits anywhere close to his three-year line of .266/.335/.358 (.312 wOBA), he should easily be an average player next season and hit that surplus value mark.
Derek Dietrich's Value
20) Derek Dietrich, SS, Grade C+: Good power, but poor strike zone judgment in Low-A and pending move to third base keep him from a higher grade at this point. With some adjustments could get into strong B range.
Dietrich did well enough in High-A to earn himself a promotion late in the year to Double-A, and he did a passable job at that level as well. The strike zone concerns remained a major problem, as Dietrich whiffed in almost 25 percent of his PA in Double-A while walking in less than five percent of them. But the fact that he got through two different levels with decent success has to be encouraging for Marlins fans and for prospect graders.
For the first time in his career, Dietrich began playing some second base, especially when he found himself at Montgomery with Hak-Ju Lee. He's really not a shortstop long term, and the ability to play around the infield will add a lot of value to his profile. After 2011, perhaps the biggest question about Dietrich was whether or not he was a player just beating up inferior competition. By continuing to hit well at Charlotte and then holding his own in Montgomery, I think he answered that question.
I think the subjective assessment of his 2012 season appears to be in conjunction with the eye test of his FanGraphs page. He displayed the same problems as he did at the previous level, but he held up decently and should at least get a B or B-minus grade heading into 2013. If we consult the value table from 2009 based on Victor Wang's oft-cited research, we can see that a B-ranked prospect is worth about $5.5 million in surplus value.
Now that he enters a middle-of-the-pack Marlins organization, he should slot in nicely into the middle infield either at second base, shortstop, or third base. It is true that the Marlins had depth issues at those positions, particularly second and third base. But a cursory glance at the trade values of both players and you will see that the Marlins did not get fair value for this deal. The team sent an admittedly difficult but still talented player to the Rays and did not receive enough prospects in return to meet the fair value of the deal. As nicely as Dietrich fits into the organization's bottom half of the top ten prospects list, he still was likely not enough return for the Marlins.
There are potential reasons for this move failing to meet expectations. The first is the incorrect evaluation of Escobar. We know that the Marlins are not highly analytic in their judgment of players. It is possible that the team noted Escobar's struggles and weighed them more heavily than perhaps they should have. In addition, the team may have knocked him down further based on his character problems that were placed front and center last season during the eye black homophobic slur scandal. This combination of a recent poor performance and character concerns may have pushed the Marlins to trade as quickly as possible rather than being patient for the best deal.
The reason why patience could have been a good virtue for the Fish in this case is that Escobar's erratic play could have lent itself to improving his trade value during 2013. Had the Marlins held onto him, the likelihood was that he would at least bounce back a little and rebuild some of his trade value, enough so that the team could deal him at the deadline or at the end of 2013. Instead, the Marlins chose to trade him after a career-worst season and a public scandal, essentially throwing him out at his lowest value. The worst thing that could happen in keeping Escobar is that he craters and the Marlins cut ties with him after 2013. But there is a decent chance that he can return to some semblance of his four-win self from 2011 and garner much more value to the team in a trade.
Alas, the Marlins settled for what we can only presume is the best trade the team could find now rather than waiting to see if they could get a better deal later on. As a result, the club got a potential second or third baseman for the future to fill a dire need in a thin minor league system, but the team settled for less-than-ideal trade value instead of waiting out a sunnier alternative.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum says he’s OK after former teammate Robin Yount accidentally shot him in the right ear and back with pellets during a recent quail hunt in Arizona.
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Yunel Escobar’s stay with the Miami Marlins lasted all of two weeks.
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