During the 2011 off-season the Chicago Cubs acquired Theo Epstein, who was the General Manager of the Boston Red Sox at the time. The Cubs only had to give up minor leaguer Chris Carpenter. Epstein became the Cubs' President of Baseball Operations, and Jed Hoyer was hired as the new General Manager.
One of the first moves that Epstein made was signing free agent starting pitcher Paul Maholm to a one year contract for $4.75 million dollars, and an option for a second year. During his time in Chicago, Maholm accumulated 1.4 wins above replacement, according to Baseball-Reference.com. He also had a 3.81 RA/9, 16% KK%, and a 6% BB%. He wasn't an amazing pitcher by any means, but in a little over half a season he was worth $7 million dollars in value.
For those that don't know, value is calculated by multiplying a player's wins above replacement by $4.5-$5.5 million which what an average player roughly makes. You can also account for inflation, but for our purposes that isn't needed.
Epstein wasn't done though, and he flipped Maholm to the Braves for two prospects. They were 21 year old pitcher Arodys Vizcaino and 25 year old pitcher Jaye Chapman. Chapman is a reliever, and did see some time in the big leagues this past season. He struck out 24% of batters, but walked 20% as well. He only pitched 12 innings, so it's obviously a very small sample size, but the walks are something that he's always struggled with.
Vizcaino is the player that has the highest potential though. He was recovering from Tommy John Surgery and didn't pitch at all in 2012, but he's shown some flashes in the minors. At various levels he struck out over 20% of batters, and has shown a solid walk rate. In a brief stint in the majors in 2011 his fastball averaged 95 mph. It will be interesting to see how it was affected after the surgery.
Essentially Theo Epstein flipped a pitcher that wasn't heavily sought after, and acquired a team's #2 prospect, according to Baseball America.
Na hasn't been that impressive at all, and Cashner showed some flashes during the year.
In 87 games Anthony Rizzo was pretty impressive though. He had 1.8 wins above replacement, and was able to keep his strikeouts under control. Rizzo is 23 years old, and appears to be one of the better young first basemen in the game.
Epstein has made a flurry of other moves as well, but the two main ones that he's made this off-season could return the Cubs some very good value.
The first deal that I will look at is the one year-$5.5 million dollar deal that Scott Baker received. It also comes with $1.5 million in incentives.
Baker spent the past seven seasons with the Minnesota Twins, and when he was healthy he was one of their better pitchers. In seven seasons he has a career 4.15 ERA and a 3.95 FIP. That may not appear great, but in 2011 he had a 3.14 ERA and a 3.45 FIP.
Baker throws a four-seam fastball, a slider, a curve, a change-up,and a sinker. Here's a whiff/swing% look at his pitches.
His curveball did generate a lot more whiff/swings than usual in 2011, but keep in mind that he only threw that pitch fifty five times during the season. Besides his curve, his slider and change-up are the other two pitches that have had the most success in terms of whiff/swings. Outside of 2010, Baker's fastball whiff/swing% has remained fairly constant, sitting between 21-23%.
As you can see Baker has had 2.6-3.5 fWAR in each season since 2007, and he hasn't exactly been healthy during that stretch either. In fact, 2009 was the only season in which he made over 30 starts. In 2011 Baker appeared to be headed towards a career year. His 2.8 wins above replacement occurred in only 21 starts, but he missed a chunk of time due to an elbow injury.
Like I stated earlier, Baker signed for $5.5 million dollars and if he bounces back from Tommy John surgery he could provide much more value than that. It would seem likely that Epstein would try and trade him for prospects if that happened, but first we must wait and see.
A couple of days ago Epstein also went out and signed starting pitcher, Scott Feldman, to a one year-$6 million dollar contract. Feldman is coming off of a season where he posted 2.3 fWAR, and it was his second best season since the 2009 campaign.
Feldman doesn't strike out a lot of guys, but in the past he struggled a little when it came to preventing walks. In 2012 he managed to walk only 6% of batters, while striking out a career high 17% of batters.
Feldman is a sinker ball pitcher, but doesn't generate groundballs as often as the league leaders do with his sinker.
Feldman had his most successful season in 2009 when he was able to generate groundballs 50% of the time with his cutter, as well as nearly 50% of the time with his curveball. In 2009 that 50% GB% with his cutter ranked 12th in the game, so it was certainly one of the better cutters in baseball. 2012 was still a solid season, but he saw his GB% with his cutter and change fall pretty significantly. It will be interesting to see how he fares in Wrigley.
Feldman is signed for $6 million, which isn't too steep, and if he can duplicate 2012 it will be a nice bargain. Again, Theo probably has other ideas though, even if he follows a path similar to Paul Maholm.
The Royals reached one-year deals with both second baseman Chris Getz and pitcher Felipe Paulino, avoiding arbitration with both players. Getz, who slugged a career high .360 in 2012, signed a one-year deal worth $1.05 million. In three years with the Royals after being acquired for Mark Teahen, Getz has hit .255/.310/.301 with 0.7 WAR. He has made 887 plate appearances as a Royal, the most in club history for a player with no home runs (second is Jason Kendall with 490).
Felipe Paulino also signed a one year deal worth $1.75 million. The 29-year old posted an amazing 1.67 ERA in seven starts with the Royals before being shut down for Tommy John surgery. The deal represents a slight pay cut, and Paulino expects to join the Royals after the All-Star break. Since being acquired from the Colorado Rockies, Paulino has a 3.55 ERA in 27 starts with the Royals.
The deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players is 11 p.m. tonight. Players that are not tendered a contract can become free agents. The Royals lone remaining arbitration-eligible player without a contract is Luke Hochevar.
In other Royals news:
In an interview with Brian T. Smith, Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow says the only spot he really has to add a free agent is at the designated hitter spot. I call BS, because he could definitely add an outfield bat even if he believes in both J.D. and F-Mart. Whatever. At least he's a "Brett Wallace guy."
That statement got me thinking, though, about what he could possibly find on the free agent market. Cee Angi, in her great Designated Columnist column on Houston adding a DH, pointed out that there's a big area to mine here for marginal victories. If Houston can add an elite hitter to the spot, they'll help themselves immensely.
The problem is that doesn't often exist on the free agent market. I went through and culled out 19 free agents who signed in the past three offseasons to play designated hitter. Here's what I got:
The average years signed in that group was 1.4 and the average value of said contract was $9.7 million. Of course, that was thrown off a bit by some huge contracts mixed into some more pedestrian ones. If we take the median of those contract numbers, it falls down to $3 million, which seems more likely what a one-year contract would look like.
It also looks like for most pedestrian DH types, the most Houston could expect is 1.5 WAR, give or take an older hitter collapsing. There were a few cases of players overperforming there, but they were mainly big-ticket free agents that Houston probably won't have a shot at.
Here's also the point where we lament that Josh Willingham weren't on the market this winter. Wouldn't he make a perfect fit for that DH/outfield spot??
While most of these names are older players at the end of their careers, those guys didn't always produce and had the most volatility in their performance. Sure, Vlad Guerrero hit 29 dingers with the Rangers in 2011, but he didn't even make it out of the minors in 2012. Same with Manny and even with Hideki Matsui, to some degree.
There's no Jim Thomes (besides, you know, Thome himself) on this market, so who should Houston target here? I'm sticking with Cee's assertion that the guy who makes the most sense is Adam LaRoche. The guy hit .271/.343/.510 with 33 homers and 3.8 WAR last season, which falls favorably in line with those best value DH signings.
He won't be cheap, but may be more freely available now that the Nationals have traded for Denard Span. That opens up the bidding for him, but I'm sure Houston won't be the only team in there. I wonder if he'd take a one-year, make good deal for $8 or $9 million and then hit the market again next winter?
If Houston decides to go the aging veteran route, it looks like Travis Hafner fits that mold the best. He'd take a one year deal, maybe for around $3 million and provide decent offense. To me, that's the most likely scenario to happen here, whether it be Hafner or Raul Ibanez or possibly even old Jim Thome.
The Atlanta Braves have apparently traded starting pitcher Tommy Hanson to the Los Angeles Angles, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports via a tweet. According to Danny Knobler, the Braves will receive reliever Jordan Walden.
This move will save the Braves approximately $4 to $5 million dollars, the amount Hanson would have received in arbitration.
More details as they become available...
There was a time when Tommy Hanson was one of the most valuable commodities in baseball. The shoulder issue he ran into two seasons ago along with his diminished velocity and weight gain made him an expendable asset, and now he returned only a reliever coming off of a troubled season. Even though that is [...]
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The Braves have long been a pitching rich organization, and their top 5 prospects are all pitchers, including their top prospect from last season, their last two 1st round picks, this year's 2nd rounder, and a top international signee.
1. Julio Teheran, RHP
The Skinny: After being named the International League Pitcher Of The Year and Rookie Of The Year for Gwinnett in 2011 struggled mightily in a second season for Gwinnett in 2012.
The Good: Plus fastball that sits in the mid 90s and can touch 97. Changeup is also a plus pitch. Smart pitcher with a good game plan. Capable of pitching in three dimensions, in-out, up-down, fast-slow. Willing to let hitters put the ball in play and allow his defense to work behind him. Natural leader. Determined with a great work ethic. Still only 22.
The Bad: Curveball can be a plus pitch when it's on, but it's rarely on, often coming in a slurvy, highly hittable slop. Made changes to his delivery this season, which hurt his stuff and caused him to struggle all year. Strikeout stuff hasn't turned into strikeouts. Control isn't where you'd like it to be for a top prospect.
...in a perfect world...Teheran adjusts to his new delivery and fulfills his full potential as an top of the rotation star.
ETA: 2013. He'll be given a chance to make Atlanta's rotation out of Spring Training, but may need more even time in AAA Gwinnett.
2. Lucas Sims, RHP
The Skinny: Braves 1st round pick out of high school in 2012 who dominated for the GCL before being brought back to earth with Danville.
The Good: Classic power pitcher with plus fastball that sits in the mid 90s, occasionally hitting 97, a power slider, and a solid curveball. Big, strong frame. Likely to be an innings eater. Smooth, solid arm action. Fierce competitor. Life-long Braves fan who grew up in Lawrenceville, where the Gwinnett Braves play.
The Bad: Changeup is still a work in progress.
...in a perfect world...Sims becomes a top of the rotation starter and another homegrown star for the Braves.
ETA: 2016. He'll head to Low Rome in 2013.
3. Sean Gilmartin, LHP
The Skinny: Braves first round draft pick in 2011 who excelled for the GCL and Rome in 2011 before putting up an All-Star campaign with Mississippi in 2012. Struggled with Gwinnett in 2012 after a promotion.
The Good: Plus plus changeup. Outstanding, advanced mental approach to pitching. Gets the most out of his stuff. Easy, repeatable mechanics. Strong, athletic frame. Consistent and unflappable. Almost a sure bet as a prospect.
The Bad: Stuff is only ordinary. Little room for projection with either his stuff or his body. Unlikely to be a star.
...in a perfect world...Gilmartin becomes a solid middle of the rotation starter who is as consistent as any player in the game.
ETA: Late 2013. He'll head back to AAA Gwinnett to begin 2013.
4. Alex Wood, LHP
The Skinny: Braves 2nd round pick in 2012 who led a dramatic turnaround for Rome by dominating as the team's ace.
The Good: Great fastball that sits between 90 and 94 and can hit 96. Excellent control. Above average changeup. Big, strong body that should make him an innings eater. Hard worker. Natural leader and a clubhouse favorite.
The Bad: Slider is ordinary. Learning a curveball, but it's still a project. Unusual delivery that involves a windmill coil at the start and a slight hop backwards at the finish. Will have to keep his legs healthy to maintain a stress free delivery.
...in a perfect world...Wood develops into a solid middle of the rotation innings eater. In a less perfect world, he becomes a dynamite power lefty reliever.
ETA: 2015. Will move up to AA Mississippi in 2013.
5. Mauricio Cabrera, RHP
The Skinny: Top international signing who had a mediocre debut in the DSL in 2011 but pitched great for Danville in 2012.
The Good: Big time fastball that sits between 96 and 98. Tall with more weight and strength in his body than most foreign pitchers his age. Fearless on the mound.
The Bad: Secondary pitches are solid, but they'll have to improve for him to remain a starter. More of a thrower than a pitcher at this point.
...in a perfect world...Cabrera develops into a top of the rotation pitcher and becomes another great find for the Braves scouting department.
ETA: 2016. He'll head up to Low A Rome in 2013.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Royals and second baseman Chris Getz avoided arbitration Friday by agreeing a $1.05 million, one-year contract that includes up to $150,000 in performance bonuses.
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Andre Dawson 1995 Upper Deck SP – Silver It is always a good time when you can grab a card that you did not know existed. And that is exactly what happened when I found this ‘Silver’ version of Andre … Continue reading →
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NEW YORK (AP) — David Wright and the New York Mets agreed Friday to a $138 million, eight-year contract, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press.
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From MLB.com The Mets and third baseman David Wright have come to terms on a seven-year, $122 million extension that will keep the six-time All-Star and face of the franchise in New York, a source confirmed to MLB.com on Friday. … Continue reading →
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