So that just happened.
A grand experiment that originated as a bar bet between two drunken salesmen at a hotel bar in a Buffalo hotel bar* resulted in 30 strangers wasting hundreds of work hours exchanging emails furiously to trade fake players and offer fake money to create their fake teams. I think Brick even killed a guy. Here are just a few of my initial reactions.
*-may not have actually happened
First of all, this exceeded even my expectations of how much freakin' fun it was. Some of you seemed to think you were bothering me by emailing me with offers but it was like crack cocaine for me. It was amazingly fun to try to bid up players and my work day was brightened every time I saw that email inbox pop up (you'd be surprised to learn I was actually highly productive this week at work as well). I hope each of you had as much fun as I did.
I thought salaries were inflated, but not ridiculously so. I could actually see salaries inflating like this with the new TV deals coming in 2014. The crazy contracts handed out in this simulation were not unlike teams in the winter of 2006 when GMs were handing out bad deals like candy (Alfonso Soriano, Bary Zito, Gary Matthews Jr., Alfonso Soriano, Gil Meche, Jeff Supan, etc.). I think it is clear the Blue Jays are drastically increasing payroll this year, and while we can quibble with the exact numbers, I didn't think their numbers were too far off. In the future I would perhaps consider giving pre-set payroll caps to each team (as well as perhaps some other instructions, like don't trade the face of the franchise Andrew McCutchen!), but I thought the threat of public derision was a sufficient guard against teams getting crazy with overall payrolls.
What really led to the escalating deals was that everyone wanted the same thing. There are certain internet darlings - Anibal Sanchez, Brandon McCarthy, Melky Cabrera - that are well-liked by the stat crowd because they are underrated by the mainstream media. But in this simulation, they become way overrated because everyone thinks they are underrated. Meanwhile, many players the mainstream media think are overrated - Jeremy Guthrie, Kyle Lohse, Michael Bourn - were underrated in this simulation and were had for bargains.
Also there was a feeding frenzy on Monday, but by Wednesday the simulation almost came to a standstill. At that point I was trying to get a deal - any deal. And most players after that could be had for bargains. A.J. Pieryznski, Shane Victorino, Joe Saunders, and most of the relievers were had cheaper than I thought they would go for because there was so little interest in them.
I was impressed with how engaged most everyone was. I knew this was a huge time commitment for everyone, and while things came up (the Cardinals GM had to bail early, the Rangers GM had jury duty), people found a way to at least participate.
Anyway, I want to thank you all for participating, and I hope to make this a yearly event. Congrats to you all.
Here is the final Free Agent tracker. If you'd like, please post your team name, and who you acquired (trades and free agency) and who you gave up (trades and free agency)
I'm curious to hear how your experience went. I wasn't privy to most of the trade talks. How much negotiation was there? What GMs were easiest to work with? Were you surprised how crazy the numbers got for free agents? Post your overall thoughts.
There was not too much action on the fourth and final day of the Winter Meetings in Nashville when it comes to free agency or major trades, but there was a draft!
The Rule 5 draft, as it's known, was held this morning and it landed the Miami Marlins two shiny new players for just $50,000 each. In the major league portion of the draft, the Fish selected Dodgers outfield prospect Alfredo Silverio, who we'll be discussing for the purposes of this piece.
It is rare that selections from the Rule 5 Draft go on to become superstars, but that's not to say there isn't value to be found in this lesser-known part of the baseball season. Guys like R. A. Dickey, Jose Bautista, Dan Uggla, and perhaps most notably Johan Santana, have all been names selected during the Rule 5 draft in the past.
For a club like the Marlins that is clearly attacking this offseason by trying to infuse as much value into their recently-depleted organization as possible, the Rule 5 draft presents the opportunity to find a "diamond in the rough,' so to speak. With the outfield being one of the biggest question marks going into next season, the Fish could be hoping that their selection, Alfredo Silverio, is said diamond.
The 25-year-old Silverio was signed by Los Angeles as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2003 and has slowly made his way up the Dodgers' organizational prospect rankings. In 2011, he put up fantastic numbers in Double-A Chattanooga, hitting .306/.340/.542 with 16 home runs, 42 doubles, and a league-leading 18 triples. Silverio's play even garnered him a Futures Game selection, where he went 1-for-4 with a home run off of then-Cleveland Indians prospect Drew Pomeranz.
Silverio made his way to fifth on John Sickels' Dodgers organizational rankings before last season, as Michael Jong pointed out yesterday. Silverio was seen as a toolsy outfielder that had started to really put things together until a recent string of misfortune.
On January 23rd of this year, Silverio was injured in a significant car accident while in the Dominican Republic and suffered injuries to his head, shoulder, elbow, and neck, as well as concussion symptoms that lingered long after the accident. His injuries eventually forced him to undergo Tommy John surgery in May. The timing could not have been worse for Silverio, as he had just been placed on the Dodgers' 40-man roster two months prior and invited to spring training. It seemed as though the organization was genuinely excited to see if he could follow his stellar 2011 season. Despite never being seen as a can't-miss prospect, it really did appear as though Silverio was finally maximizing his potential and getting ready to at least make some sort of impact at the big league level in the near future.
There has yet to be a definite timetable for Silverio's return, if at all, and clearly the Marlins organization should do what is in the best interest of his long-term health. By rule, the Marlins must either keep Silverio on the active roster or disabled list for the entire season, or else they will be forced to offer him back to the Dodgers at a lower price.
We probably will not know for a while whether or not Alfredo Silverio will make any direct impact for the Fish this season, but if he is able to get healthy, he'd certainly be one of the most inspirational and impressive comeback stories we've seen in a long time.
Johnny Bench Was A 14-Time All-Star!!! Arguably the greatest catcher of all-time, Johnny Bench made the All-Star team in 14 of his 17 seasons as a major league baseball player. A member of the Cincinnati Reds for the duration of … Continue reading →
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After belting 32 home runs at Triple-A Las Vegas and taking home the 2010 Pacific Coast League Most Valuable Player award, J.P. Arencibia appeared to be on the fast track to a starting catching job with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Two seasons into his career, though, Arencibia’s name has been in the rumor mill more often than it hasn’t.
One obvious reason is that the Blue Jays have top prospect Travis d’Arnaud waiting in the wings. However, d’Arnaud has an injury history, has no Major League experience, and is one of but many options the Jays have looked at to replace or split time with Arencibia.
Jose Molina, Jeff Mathis, Bobby Wilson, John Buck and Eli Whiteside have all spent a bit of time on the 40-man roster the past two seasons under the auspices of "catching depth." But if the Jays were at all interested in Arencibia in the long-term, it seems we would have heard d’Arnaud’s name in rumors at least once beyond that silly Jurickson Profar rumor from the early offseason.
Perhaps the situation is not a knock on Arencibia. After all, d’Arnaud is highly regarded, ranking anywhere from sixth to 37th depending on the site and time frame you pull from.
So what if Arencibia moves? What can an acquiring team expect? Is he in "he is who he is" territory as a mediocre-defense, high-power, low-OBP bat, or does he have some upside left at just 26 years old (27 when the season starts)?
Who He Is
As mentioned, Arencibia is a high-power, low-OBP catcher in the mold of many before him. Some numbers from the last two seasons:
It’s obvious that Arencibia has a problem with being over-aggressive, swinging too often, at bad pitches, and missing. Still, when he makes contact he hits the ball hard enough that he basically becomes a league-average catcher given a full workload. His defense improved this year, too, anecdotally and based on Fangraphs metrics, though I didn’t include this here because a) he’s still not very good and b) catching metrics seem to be fairly fickle still.
What Can He Become
You obviously can’t just suggest to Arencibia that he be more selective and retain his power. It’s certainly possible that an aggressive approach allows him to give each swing a full-go without fear of reprimanding for his K-rate (I could pull count data to try and back this up and show him as an early-count aggressor, but I don’t really have the time).
Since catchers are a rare breed, I thought I’d dig into B-Ref’s season finder to see some historically similar players through two years and how they progressed. I searched for catchers who, in their first two years, had an OBP less than .300 and an ISO greater than .175 (minimum 400 plate appearances). Arencibia was the only one.
So I loosened the thresholds to an OBP less than .325 and an ISO greater than .150. Now we have Arencibia plus 10 others, shown below.
As you can see, it’s not an encouraging list for Arencibia (or Wilin Rosario, for that matter).
Hold Up, Wait a Minute
At this point I realized that searching only for "2 years + 400 PA" was a bit off since, even though Arencibia still qualified, based on B-Ref’s application of "seasons" Arencibia has technically played three (he had a cup of coffee as a reward for his 2010 campaign).
When I loosened the criteria to "first three seasons" and "500 plate appearances," we get 19 results. The list includes Miguel Olivo, Lance Parrish, Jason Varitek, personal favorite Pat Borders, and some others who carved out semi-decent careers. Oh yeah, and Johnny Bench.
So, for catchers who, with at least 500 plate appearances in their first three seasons combined, and with OBPs under .325 and ISOs over .150, does Arencibia have a shot at improving and being more "good" than "meh"?
Sure, rWAR might not be the best gauge given the difficulties quantifying catcher defense. But the facts remain:
*Arencibia is off to a very unique start in his career.
*Generally, players with this profile don’t last very long.
*Johnny Bench did, but he also saw a huge spike in his OBP in Year 3, which Arencibia won’t.
With all of that in mind, it’s tough to envision Arencibia ever becoming an everyday catcher, at least one not in the Olivo mold of "yeah but we COULD upgrade." I hope he does, because I'm a big fan of the guy, but the evidence isn't encouraging.
I've been remiss in getting an article up on this for the last couple days. Check back, because I will update as events unfold.
Last weekend, we were asked to participate in a Mock Winter Meetings exercise hosted by our SB Nation sister site, Royals Review. I was lucky enough to jump on last minute to serve as the Co-GM of the Houston Astros with Royals Review contributor KCTiger. KCTiger and I have been swinging deals and signing free agents for the last couple days. Next week, we will collaborate on an article talking about our experience as Astros "GM" for the week.
For now, I'll list the moves we've made so you can discuss them. I will explain our goals and reasoning behind the moves in the next post. We operated under a budget of about $35 million, not including the $5 million owed to Wandy Rodriguez.
Boy, did KCTiger and I love this trade, and our acumen was validated by the immediate outrage of Royals fans on the message boards. There was a lot of early action on Norris, and we were able to use that to maximize our return.
Francoeur's inclusion in the Royals deal was at the insistence of the Royals. The Cubs trade was a salary dump. As a bonus, we added a guy whose last name is "Jokisch."
We struck early when Jurrjens was non-tendered, and it's a good thing we did. The pitching market went nuts shortly thereafter. We saw deals like Brandon McCarthy for 4 years $55 million, and Zack Greinke signing for 6 years, $175 million. We liked the risk that Jurrjens would bounce back to be the almost 2-WAR pitcher he was in 2011.
And we have our DH. There are mixed opinions on Raburn, but we liked his price, positional flexibility (OF, 1B, 2B, 3B, DH), and we truly believe he's closer to the guy who hit .280/.340/.475 in 2010 than the guy who only hit .171 last season. With the budget so tight, we feel like this was a strong catch.
This is another trade I love. Lopez' value is at its peak, and F-Rod is one year away from arbitration. The inclusion of F-Rod allowed the return to be two of the Phillies' top 10 prospects. Valle was the prize here - he is the #7 prospect catcher in all of MLB according to MLB.com. He immediately is the top catching prospect in the Astros' system, and has a ceiling as high or higher than Jason Castro's. Walding is a powerful young 3B who has a major league future.
Our biggest priority was a rotation anchor, and we landed one. Marcum is actually a very reasonable cost for this sim, though he has injury worries. We felt the injury thing overblown, as he has averaged 173 innings per season since missing all of 2009. Marcum hasn't posted an ERA over 4.00 since 2007 (4.13).
We liked the way our budget lined up, but still felt we could make a smart addition to the roster. Roy-O will bring fans back to the park, but more importantly we feel he has what it takes to be a sub-4.00 ERA pitcher still. His maturity, professionalism, and experience will be a good example for Jurrjens and Lyles (or whoever comes up mid-season to take their shot). Make no mistake: we aren't giving up on our top prospects. But a bit more time in the minors won't hurt them, and with injuries and the uncertainties surrounding those prospects, Lyles, Jurrjens, and Keuchel, we thought this was a smart roster move.
I needed a veteran bullpen piece, and so I added one. Fake GM CRPerry13 notes that Capps will not be in consideration for the closer's role, even if Wesley Wright is traded.
The deals will continue through the end of the week. What do Astros fans think of these moves so far?
Johnny Bench’s Second MVP Season – 1972! Bench was an unstoppable force during the 1972 baseball season. Hitting .270 along with 40 home runs and 125 RBI, Bench solidified himself as the greatest hitting catcher in baseball history. During that season, … Continue reading →
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The Atlanta Braves are continuing to shore up their bench and backup spots, and could be close to signing former Yankees utility infielder Ramiro Pena, according to a report in a Mexican news site (in Spanish).
Pena is a switch-hitting shortstop who has played for parts of the last four seasons in New York, backing up shortstop, third base, and second base. Pena is currently playing in the Mexican Pacific League, and doing quite well, putting up a .302/.432/.477 slash line.
The article indicating his offer from Atlanta is dated today, but yesterday the Braves signed Blake DeWitt to a minor league contract, another utility infielder with Major League experience. Adding yet another utility infielder seems redundant, but I guess they're realizing some fears from last season when they went through several shortstops and ended up having to trade for Paul Janish. It may also underscore the notion that the Braves don't consider Tyler Pastornicky a reliable backup shortstop.
The deal doesn't seem to be official yet, so we'll keep you updated on whether or not he signs. If he does, he would likely compete with DeWitt in spring training for a backup infield spot. A reader also pointed out that Janish is likely to miss the first month of the season recovering from an injury, so additional bodies will be needed.
This off-season's free agent market market is in no way historic.
Not only are the biggest stars, Zack Greinke and Josh Hamilton, serious question marks, but the secondary prizes are not names that anyone expects to light the world on fire.
After Greinke, the market for starting pitchers is interesting. Below I listed the top free agent starters not named Greinke:
According to most, Sanchez would be the best consolation prize if a team lost out on Greinke.
However, former St. Louis Cardinals starter, Kyle Lohse had the best ERA among the free agents, and many think he also could be a big prize.
MLB Daily Dish ranked Lohse as the #9 free agent this off-season and fifth-best starter, behind Greinke, Sanchez, Kuroda and Haren.
In 2012, the righty posted a career best FIP (3.51) and ERA (2.86). He also won over 15 games for the first time in his career; which for some teams would make him a hot commodity on the free agent market.
FIP and ERA weren't the only ways in which Lohse excelled.
He posted his highest K% (16.6 percent) since 2006, and he also walked the fewest percentage batters of his career.
Sounds like a really valuable pitcher that you'd want to sign, right?
Don't be fooled by Lohse's shiny 3.76 K/BB, his strikeout minus walk percentage (K-BB/PA) was just about league average.
In most cases, a league average K-BB% leads to a future ERA that is also around average.
In the past couple of months, I've developed a predictive pitching metric that is similar to kwERA.
Predictive FIP (pFIP for short) like regular FIP, is based solely on strikeouts walks and home runs.
Also, pFIP uses just one year of data; thus, the pFIP I'll discuss for Lohse is just based on 2012.
As I noted earlier, Lohse put up career numbers in Ks and BBs, and he also did not give up many home runs.
Yet, pFIP projects him to have a 4.09 ERA, next season. Essentially, pFIP is calling for an over 1 run regression towards his peripherals and towards the mean for Lohse, next year.
Here's where he ranks among the free agents list above, in terms of pFIP:
pFiP (projected ERA)
Lohse ranks in the middle of the road among these starters, settling in between Blanton and Marcum, as the seventh-best out of eleven starters.
In 2012, the average ERA for starters was 4.19; thus, Lohse is expected to be just about average next year if you trust pFIP.
Lohse's 2013 projected ERA for 2013 ranks behind that of Tim Lincecum and Francisco Liriano (a free agent not considered in the top of this class).
To make matters even worse, Lohse will be 34 next year, and is coming off a career year that came during a contract year, at the age of 33.
In September, one report from a source who spoke to a GM about Lohse ended up with a projected 3-year $40 million deal for Lohse.
FanGraphs Crowdsourcing, which most years ends up being pretty accurate, has Lohse pegged at 4 years $52 million.
My best guess is Lohse will receive some where between 3 and 5 years with an average annual value in a range betweeen $12-16 million.
Interestingly, this projected deal would be similar to the 4-year $41 million deal Lohse signed in 2009, with St. Louis.
Under those expectations, in order to break-even on this deal Lohse would need to be a 2.5 (Baseball-Reference) to 3.5 (FanGraphs) win player depending your preferred system at the start of the deal (assuming a 0.5 WAR decline and 5% inflation).
Is Kyle Lohse a 2.5 rWAR or 3.5 fWAR pitcher?
If Lohse can have a repeat of his 2012 performance rates then the free agent contract he'll most likely receive,would finish as a break-even.
The only problem with that is 2012 was a career year.
According to my projections, Lohse is not going to come close to repeating that performance.
To make matters even worse, WAR has a playing time component. WAR is essentially: Rate stat (FIP or RA9) with adjustments) * Playing Time (IP) - Replacement
I failed to mention earlier that 2012 was not only a career year for Lohse in walks, ERA, FIP, etc., but he also threw the most innings of his career.
His 211 innings marked only the third time he had gone over 200 innings, in his career.
In 2009 and 2010, Lohse had back-to-back seasons in which his fWAR was below 1 and his rWAR was negative (-2.4 WAR in 2010).
Those replacement-level (or below) seasons were due in large part by three stints on the disabled list; which significantly cut down his number of starts.
I'd be shocked if Lohse can keep throwing 200+ innings over the next three to five years, he simply does not have the track record.
In conclusion, don't give big money and years to a pitcher on the wrong side of 30, who is coming off of a career year, and thus is due for regression.
Seriously, it won't end pretty, trust me.
You can follow Glenn on twitter @Glenn_DuPaul, for updates on the #DontSignLohse twitter campaign.
Not Cashman? Are the Yankees brass pulling another Rafael Soriano type move here?
There was also an article by Joel Sherman in today's New York Post where he says that George Steinbrenner and the old Yankees brass would never pass up on the chance of getting Josh Hamilton in Pinstripes, which is very true. At the end of the day, this could just be another baseless Winter Meeting rumor, but it will still be interesting to see how this whole thing plays out.
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