Over the past week, I have been previewing the Miami Marlins' upcoming offseason and weighing the team's various options. Do the Marlins go for a signing this offseason who could help the team beyond this season or do the Fish opt to trade Josh Johnson and their other short-term assets and look to 2014 to rebuild their roster? Which option would best fit the Marlins' plans for 2014 and beyond and get them closest to contention by then? It is an interesting question for a team that is cutting payroll, rebuilding, and at the same time attempting to maintain a respectable performance in the face of a disgruntled fan base.
Well, Fish Stripes has an idea of what exactly the Marlins should do in 2013, and while the 2013 plan is not as elaborate as the old 2012 plan was due to the team's relative roster inflexibility, the club could still pull off a plan like this one. Interestingly enough, this plan is a hybrid of the case for buying and case for selling that were proposed last Friday. Given the team's relatively light budget, the 2013 season is mostly a lost cause, but if the Marlins can find a bargain or two this offseason while utilizing whatever assets they have remaining, they should be setting themselves up decently for 2014 while putting their best face forward in 2013.
1. Sign Giancarlo Stanton to a long-term extension.
Of course, this was the number one factor of our Fish Stripes Offseason Plan last season, but it remains the most important thing for the Marlins to do. Furthermore, it will remain the most important thing for the Marlins to do until they actually accomplish this goal. The Marlins have recently stripped down the 2012 core to its very essence, the two players whom the team deemed most important for the future of this team. One is Jose Reyes, who is signed for another five seasons to a free agent contract unlikely to be dealt due to its relatively large size. The other player is Stanton, who remains a year-to-year player in his final pre-arbitration season.
The Marlins have a more recent track record of holding onto their star players with long-term deals that buy out free agent years. Hanley Ramirez received his six-year extension that bought out three free agent years during his final pre-arbitration year, and it was a good move both for the Marlins and for Ramirez. It is likely the team would have done the same thing for Josh Johnson had he stayed healthy, but because he remained out for so long, the Marlins only gave him a four-year extension after his 2009 comeback season.
The extension decision is just as important with Stanton as it was with Ramirez in 2008. The Marlins need to lock up their franchise player to a long-term deal, and chances are they need to do it as quickly as possible to avoid both quickly rising costs and the likelihood that Stanton will not be willing to sign long-term. If the Marlins wait until arbitration or wait to see the results of the 2013 year, the team may cost themselves a lot of money during the arbitration years versus if they signed a deal now. Another breakout campaign from the highly impressive Stanton and the team's efforts may get priced out of range. Furthermore, the longer the team waits, the more likely Stanton may choose to go for a shorter extension that takes him through arbitration rather than guaranteeing free agent seasons.
This offseason may be the most important for the Marlins with regards to signing Stanton. It could be close to the last chance the team has to lock him up through free agent seasons.
2. Trade Josh Johnson
Josh Johnson is one of the Marlins remaining on the roster with with one year remaining in their deal. But unlike Ricky Nolasco and John Buck, both of whom would struggle to get any return in the free agent market, Johnson still has some value to a team interested in acquiring starting pitching. A number of clubs who may want assistance in their rotation could take a gamble on Johnson on a one-year contract and trade a decent prospect in return.
The Marlins' decision on Johnson really hinges on whether the team thinks he is worthy of an extension or whether the club will let him walk after 2013. Given the team's decision to cut into payroll down to $80 million, there is a good chance they will pass on a long-term deal for Johnson, meaning the Marlins are likely to only have him for the remainder of this year. Since 2013 is not likely to be a competitive season, the club's best option for 2014 and beyond, when the team has a shot at contention, is to acquire a potential long-term asset with Johnson.
This situation is even more important given Johnson's health concerns and his draft pick compensation status. If the team trades him now, they minimize the risk of his value collapsing by avoiding a potential injury in-season. Beyond that, trading him now also gives the acquiring team a chance at draft pick compensation.
Since the Marlins will not attempt to go for it in 2013, the best move for the Fish, despite my previous thoughts, would be to trade him for future value to strengthen the next contending Marlins team.
3a. Sign Angel Pagan to a free agent contract
Another interesting aspect of trading Johnson is that it opens an additional $13 million in next year's budget. The Marlins may be interested in signing a player if they open up that much available space, and one guy the club could consider is Angel Pagan, who is a coming off a very solid season for the San Francisco Giants. Pagan works for the Marlins as either a corner infielder or center fielder on a team that will need one of the two positions filled at least. In addition, unlike more intriguing players like Michael Bourn, Pagan will not cost as much, as he is likely to earn around $10 million to $12 million a year. If the team opens up salary space by trading Johnson, they would certainly be able to afford a four-year contract for Pagan.
Pagan also plays well for Marlins Park, as he is both an adept (though not Gold Glove-caliber like Bourn) outfielder at both positions and a gap hitter with baserunning speed rather than a power hitter who might get lost in the long-distance walls of the stadium. Of all of the players in this year's free agent class, Pagan makes the most sense in a monetary and team concept sense for a multi-year deal.
3b. Sign Melky Cabrera to a free agent contract
If the Marlins would not like to swallow a multi-year deal, the best one-year contract available is Melky Cabrera. With Cabrera, the team would have an edge, if only because there may be a distinct lack of suitors for his services this season following his drug suspension. The downside is that the team will not get any benefit for next year, and a Cabrera signing would really be best paired with Josh Johnson remaining on the team so that the club can roll the dice and attempt to catch breaks on the way to contention in 2013. Nevertheless, Cabrera could be a great move for a Marlins team that is desperate for talent in the outfield and is looking for a relatively cheap potential burst of wins.
3c. Explore bargain free agent outfielders
Outfield is the spot with the most depth in this year's weak free agent class, and that even extends into the dregs of the class. Bargain basement guys like Nyjer Morgan, Grady Sizemore, and Scott Hairston could be had for pennies on the dollar and without multi-year deals, and the club would basically be handing flyers out to players who could man the job but would not cost the Fish much to find out. Each of these players was a league average player sometime in the last four seasons, and each has had ups and downs since then, thus deflating their value. If the Marlins are adamant on not spending any money, they could go after these options for the outfield.
This set of moves, combined with the current roster, would not bring the Marlins to contention status. Given what is listed, this is both a reasonable and most realistic set of signings and moves for the team, and it would be a set of moves that does less to maximize 2013 and more to lay a foundation for the incoming 2014 group that should be much better.
What do you Fish Stripers think? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
Since the New York Yankees did not make a qualifying offer worth $13.3 million to catcher Russell Martin makes him a free agent, and gives GM Brian Cashman another vacancy to fill. One would believe that Martin is the Yankees first-choice to bring back,[...]
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Joe Morgan 2012 Topps Update – ‘Golden Greats’ I really like Joe Morgan. He is one of the most well-rounded offensive talents from the 1970′s and many of the numbers that he put up were unheard of for a second … Continue reading →
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When thinking about former New York Yankee greats the name Yogi Berra always comes up. He ranks among the best of catchers in baseball history. He has often said that any ball he can hit must have come from a good pitch and that widens the strike zone.
Besides catching for some good pitchers, some who pitched some no hitters, Yogi loves to talk to the batters from behind home plate. It often drives hitters crazy with a distraction that foils their power of concentration. And so much for mind games in baseball.
Just put yourself at a social event where you're having a drink among people who can't stop talking. Your lucky if you can get a word in edgewise at a party. Does it drive you crazy? Probably so. I think you get the picture of what I'm talking about.
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2012 was the season of rookies for the Colorado Rockies. Our home-town club gave 1899 plate appearances to rookies, tops in MLB. Rookie pitchers in purple faced 2009 batters over the course of the season, sixth in MLB. Add the 459 batters faced by Alex White, who was ineligible for rookie status by just 1.1 IP, and Colorado would be second only to Oakland.
The prevalence of inexperience is usually a strong indicator of few post-season accolades, but there is always the Rookie of the Year Award. So do the Rockies get any recognition there? Thirty-five SBNation bloggers (including Andrew Martin and myself) were given a ballot to name up to three players, and not one single Rockie got as much as a third place vote. So no.
The tabulations for both leagues follow.
Bryce Harper started exceptionally well, followed by an exaggerated lull midseason. He rebounded late in the season to hit .270/.340/.477 with 22 home runs while playing well above average defense in center field. That was good for a rookie season in the neighborhood of 5 WAR, fulfilling his considerable hype to the point of being SBNation's uncontested Rookie of the Year. His season was actually pretty under-the-radar thanks to another teenager...
You knew SBNation bloggers couldn't get this wrong. Mike Trout had one of the best rookie seasons in MLB history, reflected in his unanimous crowning. Japanese import Yu Darvish had a comfortable lead in second place, while Cuban phenom Yoenis Cespedes was the only other player to get more than one second place vote. Former Diamondback Jarrod Parker gets the distinction of getting the most votes of any player who hails from the United States.
It is time for the annual baseball awards, and while there will be much bellyaching regarding the future of some awards this season, there is no debate about who is winning this season's SBN Awards for baseball. The SBN Awards voting has already been tallied, and the winners will be announced this week alongside the actual awards. Today, we start off with the Rookie of the Year award!
This year, the Rookie of the Year was a particularly obvious voting for both leagues, one more so than the other. In one league, one rookie player towered over the rest and was so dominant that he may very well win the MVP award for his league as well. On the other side, another highly-touted rookie got off to a great start and had enough to take the award even after a slow second half. Who were these winners? Take a look at the final tallies!
The results of the National League ballot should be a small surprise at best, as it was expected that Harper, if he made the majors this season, would be the leading candidate for Rookie of the Year. What was surprising is that Wade Miley, a relative unknown who was competing for a fifth starter job with the Diamondbacks, ended up being not only the second place finisher, but an extremely close second place finish. Miley had a terrific year, but Harper was good at the plate and on the field, including surprising a number of people by showing great range in center field. It is going to be a bright next few seasons for the Nationals with Harper helping to anchor the lineup.
The American League voting comes as no surprise, as Mike Trout was the sole candidate worthy of the award. It was not for a lack of other good rookies, as Yu Darvish and Yoenis Cespedes would have been great candidates in any other season. But with the absurd, historically great season that Trout just had, it is not surprising to see him pull out an overwhelming victory.
Congratulations to Bryce Harper and Mike Trout, your 2012 SBN Rookie of the Year Award winners!
When Justin Upton was in the minors he was one of the more hyped prospects in a while. After playing 151 games from 2007-2008 Upton finally broke out during his 2009 campaign. He was only 22 years old, and it appeared that the sky was the limit for the younger brother of B.J. Upton.
From 2009-2011, Upton was one of the best outfielders in all of baseball. During that time he totaled 14.2 fWAR, which comes out to 4.7 WAR per season. Not bad for a guy in his early twenties.
In 2009 he had a solid season, posting 4.8 WAR, but took a little step back in 2010. The following season he really broke out and posted a 6.4 WAR. Many thought Upton was finally reaching his potential.
In the above chart Upton ranks sixth among all outfielders in fWAR since 2009-2011, and is even ahead of a guy named Josh Hamilton. He displayed impressive power, but his plate discipline was a bit of a problem. Ultimately it appeared that we had a little star on our hands.
Justin Upton was not the same player that we were used to seeing. His ISO dropped from ..240 to .150, a change of .090 points. Besides the drop in power though not much else changes. Even though his K% rose by .6%, he actually saw his BB% increase by over 1%. Seeing his plate discipline improve is definitely a positive.
In 2012 he hit more groundballs as well. His career average groundball percentage is around 40%, but in 2012 he hit groundballs 43%. When he had his breakout year he only hit groundballs 37% of the time. Upton suffered a thumb injury nearly the whole season though, and that could definitely be a big reason as to why Upton saw such a huge drop in his power production.
After swinging at pitches out of the strike zone 30% of the time last season, Upton saw that number fall back to his career average of 26%. When he was swinging at those pitches out of the strike zone he was making contact 5% more of the time. Everything else remained fairly similar, although his overall contact percentage rose by 3%.
Upton also saw a pretty significant home and away split. While it's expected that one performs good at home, Upton was far worse on the road in 2012 than he was in 2011.
In 2011 Upton did a good job showing above average power both at home and on the road. He was also to post an above average wRC+ while away from Chase Field.
2012 was a different story though. On the road his power was non-existent, and he was creating runs 21% worse than league average. Now this could also be a direct result of his thumb injury.
I believe a lot of Upton's struggles can be due to his year long thumb injury. Upton is also just beginning to enter his prime, but it appears that he's fallen out of favor with the Diamondbacks. Two potential trading partners that have been thrown around lately are the Rays and the Rangers. It will be interesting to see if one of those teams are able to pull off a deal, but I don't know if I'd be in such a rush to trade a player that was an MVP candidate two seasons ago.
We have seen 376 Johnny Giavotella major league plate appearances and, quite frankly, it has mostly been a ghastly experience. No one believed that the former second round pick would be anything more than even an average defender, but many thought that Giavotella would hit. Could he hit enough to justify his glove? That was the real question.
However, in addition to, at best, marginal fielding (that may be stretching it, by the way) Johnny has mostly flailed at the plate as well. A triple slash of just .242/.271/.340, an OPS+ of just 67, a wOBA of .254, wRC+ of 55....pick an offensive number, there are not any good ones. He slugged just .304 in 2012, robbing Johnny of the one positive thing we scrounged around to find after the 2011 season: he had more power than Chris Getz.
Still, here we are just 376 plate appearances into his major league career. Is it time to offer arbitration to Chris Getz? Should the Royals peel a few bills off the free agent bank roll for an upgrade at second? I am willing to listen on those and other options for second base because, despite gaudy AAA numbers, Giavotella has yet to pass the eye test.
As part of this discussion, I thought it might be interesting to take a look the all too often used approach of looking at past players who have struggled early. Let's survey players who played the majority of their early years at second base, came up since 1970, compiled at least 300 plate appearances in their first three season and were, shall we say, dismal early on.
Using OPS+ as our tool (imperfect as it may be, but it was an easy search and it's Monday), we find that the immortal Tom Lawless was worst with an OPS+ of 51 from 1982 through 1985. A surprising number two on the list was Brandon Phillips, whose OPS+ of 52 in his first 453 PA's came via a triple slash of .210/.251/.317. Hmmm...
According to this search, there were 36 second basemen who were worse early (offensively) than Giavotella. Among those were former Royals Frank White and Terry Shumpert. Lagging just a short distance behind Johnny was our pal Chris Getz and just in front of him is another player we often hear mentioned when talking about Giavotella: Marcus Giles.
To be honest, one through thirty-seven on this list is not exactly a who's who of great second basemen. Other than Phillips, Giles and White, and maybe Luis Castillo, a lot of these names are recognizable but mostly as journeymen. There is a lot of Al Newman, Garth Iorg, Billy Ripkenish names on the list and, glancing very quickly and using an ever fading memory (I'm old, you will be too someday), most of those guys got, you know, field a ball with regularity.
Are you done with Giavotella? Do you give him more time and, if so, how much?
The prospect hound in me says that one should through some more regular plate appearances Giavotella's way to be certain those minor league numbers are just a mirage. The 'let's-get-this-team-winning-soon' part of me thinks that maybe the Royals' offense might become good enough that they should go defense first at second. Given that Irving Falu and Tony Abreu combined will cost about what Chris Getz will, should Kansas City duct tape second base together for 2013 and hope that Christian Colon takes a step forward?
This discussion, almost certainly, is a probably third in priority this off-season behind the starting rotation and when/who Wil Myers displaces Jeff Francoeur, but it is an issue. With 40 man roster and arbitration concerns looming, it is also an issue that Dayton Moore will be forced to address, at least in part, very soon.
It seems as though anything that could go wrong did go wrong for the Colorado Rockies in 2012. Any decision the front office made, whether it was through injury, poor planning, or just plain rotten luck was almost certain to blow up in their face. It was just that kind of year.
There was however one major decision the organization made in 2012 that seems to have played out very close to the way the club had envisioned. Last winter, the Rockies announced that they were adding a humidor to Security Service Fieldin Colorado Springs (home of their AAA affiliate the Sky Sox). The result? Offensive numbers have plummeted - Even while they were simultaneously on the rise in the big ballpark further north in the state (I plan to dive more into that topic a bit later in the offseason.)
Below is a chart (you can click on the chart to get a larger image of it) showing just how much offense declined in 2012 at Security Service Field compared to the rest of the Pacific Coast League (PCL). Despite the average number of runs per game remaining right about where they have been over the last six years in the league, there was a noticeable drop in number of runs scored in Colorado Springs. In the second column "PCL Runs Per Game (Total)", you have the average number of runs scored by both teams combined in all the PCL games played that year. In the next two comumns, I split the the total runs in Colorado Springs in half - First with the average number of runs the Sky Sox offense put up per game (home games only), and then the average number of runs the Sky Sox opponent scored per game (home games only). Finally, the the column on the far right shows both the total average runs scored per game (by both teams) in Colorado Springs for that year, and also how many runs above average it was compared to the rest of the PCL that season.
As you can see, there was only 1.35 more runs per game scored in Colorado Springs this season than there was in the average PCL ballpark. However, this alone doesn't mean that the humidor worked. It's entirely possible that the Sky Sox just had one of their worst offenses in the last six years as well as one of their best pitching staffs in last six years. So in order to get an even better read on what the new humidor has done, we have to compare the home and road numbers of the team.
So that's what we will do in these next two charts. The green chart looks solely at the Colorado Springs offense, showing both the number of runs scored at home and on the road, and then adding up the difference. The blue chart does the exact same thing only it looks at the opponent's offense - Or basically how opponents faired against Sky Sox Pitching.
As you can see above, the smallest difference between the number of runs scored at home and on the road for both the Sky Sox and their opponents was in 2012. This makes what the naked eye saw all but official - The humidor in Colorado Springs did its job in 2012.
As in year's past, the SB Nation baseball network has banded together and voted on the major baseball awards this season. All votes were cast by the end of the season, and each site in the network got two votes. With a resounding margin, Washington's 19-year old phenom Bryce Harper took home this year's honors, beating out Arizona pitcher Wade Miley by almost 50 points and racing ahead of Cincinnati's Todd Frazier by a lot.
Harper came on strong early in the season, fell off in the middle, but still finished with very respectable numbers for the year. He hit .270/.340/.477 this season in 597 plate appearances, adding 22 home runs, 18 stolen bases and 98 runs scored.
Here are the voting results in their entirety:
The Harrell vote came from me. My ballot went Harper, Miley and Harrell. I almost put Frazier in that third spot, but what Harrell did this season, on a team that was pretty wretched by the end of the year, swayed me to be a little partisan.
I voted for Bryce Harper, Wade Miley and Norichika Aoki. When we cast our ballot, wOBA still had stolen bases calculated into, now that it's been taken out of it's calculation I'm starting to wonder if I should have gone with Frazier instead. Frazier looks like the better hitter, better base runner and about the same defensively as Aoki. That said I'm still happy with Aoki as my third choice. He played more games than any of the other rookies, he doesn't strikeout, he walks at an average clip and he plays average defense. Plus I love his swing and he was a little more memorable to me this season than Frazier was. It's also the third choice and my giving a third place vote to Aoki didn't really affect much in the grand scheme of things.