Nov 24

Free Agent Fun with Comps: the DHs

Kendrys MoralesThis is part 8 of an ongoing series featuring a breakdown of the current free agent players at each position. Positions completed so far: catchers, first base, second base, shortstop, third base, left field, and remaining outfielders.

As mentioned in my earlier posts, I’m assessing the current free agent players seeking their respective paydays by comparing each player with his historical comp. Then, after painstakingly looking over the numbers, I determine if I’d bet on the current free agent to perform better over the next few years or go with the comp.

It’s that simple.

All comparisons are pulled using the Similarity Score by age from Baseball-Reference and all free agents were borrowed from the listing at MLB Trade Rumors.

Today, I discuss the DH.

DH

Of the players listed as designated hitters on the Trade Rumor’s website, I’ve covered the majority of them in other postings. Of those that remain, those that are retiring or likely to retire outnumber those that I’ll discuss below and there are as many potential Major League managers in this group (for this year) as there are full time DHs.

Retiring

Adam Dunn is calling it quits, retiring at 34 after 14 years of lots of walks, lots of strikeouts, and lots of arguments on whether he’s truly valuable or not. The young me would have called you crazy for arguing Dunn had any relative value on a baseball field. He started out his career way back in 2001 as a subpar left fielder with the Cincinnati Reds, doing his Adam Dunn thing by walloping, walking, and whiffing or as I like to call them Dunn’s True W’s.

I would have hated him if he were a Met. That’s not true. I would have loved him in compared to the likes of Shinjo and Joe McEwing, and let’s not even discuss those Roger Cedeno years, but I would have hated all those strikeouts and the passive-aggressive style of play that came to take over baseball.

Jonah Keri did a nice piece on Dunn for Grantland, so I won’t go too crazy with the details, but in the big picture, he hit 40 or more home runs six times in his career, 30 or more another three times, and finished with 462. He’s also one of four players to strike out 200+ times in a season, whiffing 222 times in 2012 to fall one shy of Mark Reynold’s record of 223. Of course, in that same year, Dunn walked 105 times, eclipsing the 100 walk mark for his eighth and final time. That’s a pretty extraordinary event really. He either walked of struck out 47% of the time that season and 44% of the time for his career. Add in home runs, and Dunn walked, whiffed, or walloped in half of his plate appearances.

Possibly Retiring

There’s no official word yet, but two players amongst this group who likely will be retiring are Jason Giambi and Raul Ibanez. Ibanez has been named as a finalist for the Rays managerial opening, which probably means his playing days are over. If the Rays don’t hire him, the Yankees may be interested in him as a coach as well. Gone are the days of Frank Chance playing first and coaching the Cubs, and Pete Rose was the last player to serve as both coach and player, so if Ibanez is ready to take over official duties as a manager, then he’ll be switching to coaches shoes rather than cleats.

Another player who may be hanging up his player’s spikes is Giambi, though it’s not official yet. According to Deadspin, Terry Francona has called Giambi his “manager-in-waiting,” and it seems like only a matter of time before this actually happens. Giambi will be 44 next year, and he played just 26 games in ’14, missing over half of the season due to either a rib fracture, a calf strain, or left knee inflammation. At 44, there’s only so much ibuprofen can do. I’m 38 and had an abdominal cramp just lifting my sorry butt from the sofa. Sometimes it’s time to admit that the gray in our hair isn’t highlights.

All players listed below are sorted by career bWAR.

Current Player Age Closest Comp Favorite Comp Pick
Jason Giambi 44 Andres Galarraga Dave Winfield
Raul Ibanez 42 Cy Williams Steve Finley
Corey Hart 33 Reggie Sanders Trot Nixon Sanders
Kendrys Morales 31 Gordy Coleman Juan Rivera Morales
Ryan Doumit 34 Eddie Bressoud Tim Teufel Doumit
Jonny Gomes 34 Paul Sorrento Henry Rodriguez Gomes
Jason Kubel 33 Marty Cordova Jayson Werth Cordova
Delmon Young 29 Al Oliver Darin Erstad Oliver

DHs by Comps

Jason Giambi1.  Jason Giambi – Giambi hasn’t played in over half a season’s games since 2010, and he’s been hanging around since on one-year deals for bupkis. He loves baseball. I think it’s great he wants to hang around the clubhouse and hang out with the fellas. It’s time, though, that he did that as a coach.

Giambi will always be remembered for his 2005 apology for <shrugs>. At the time it was an extremely confusing press conference, one that made Giambi something of a joke until about a week later when Jose Canseco’s book Juiced came out and started all kinds of steroid related silliness that included a Congressional hearing, great Rafael Palmeiro sound bites, the Mitchell Report, and a few thousand articles exploring the depths of sports writers’ shock, dismay, outrage, and/or guilt for not being aware of all this.

Giambi was a five-time All Star, the AL MVP in 2000, definitely should have won it in 2001 when he came in second to Ichiro, and finished fifth one other time. He’s hit 440 career home runs with nearly a .400 career OBP. I don’t want to write out his stats for the last few years. You can look them up.

Andres Galarraga retired after playing seven games at the age of 43. This one’s a tie.

2.  Raul Ibanez – Ibanez’s career took off for real after leaving Seattle and signing with the Royals on a minor league contract in 2001. That year he hit .280/.353/.495 with 13 home runs (or one fewer than he’d hit in five partial seasons he’d spent with the Mariners from 1996-2000). The Mariners certainly didn’t care. They had Ichiro in left, Mike Cameron in center, and won 116 regular season games. With Ibanez playing left, would the Mariners have won 118 instead?

Last year was a big drop off for Ibanez as he became unplayable against left handed pitchers (something he’s struggled with throughout his career but reaching epically disastrous proportions of .024/.109/.049 last season in a meager 47 at-bats) and failed to reach double digits in home runs for the first time since 2000. Maybe 2013 wasn’t happening again when he hit 29 home runs—aided largely by the 24 home runs he hit in the first half, but still—but the Angels bargained for more than 57 games. Probably. Who knows? Everything else worked in Anaheim last year. Maybe they knew this would happen too.

Cy Williams was an offensive force at 41 albeit in 66 games. He hit .292/.471/.554 with five homers and had an OPS+ of 147. Hey, at 42 he hit .471 in 21 at-bats. He didn’t play at 43, which is probably the same for Ibanez. Push.

3.  Corey Hart – covered with first basemen.

4.  Kendrys Morales – Like Stephen Drew, Morales played the arbitration wait and sign game and lost. After refusing the qualifying offer from Seattle, Morales eventually signed with Minnesota in June for 8 million. He then proceeded to have the worst season of his career, hitting.218/.274/.338 in combined duty with the Twins and Mariners and being worth -1.0 bWAR overall.

The great news is that he can’t receive the qualifying offer this year.

In hindsight, this was a disastrous deal. He lost out on about six million last season, and he’s unlikely to make that money back in 2015. If anything, he’ll probably sign a one-year deal in the 4-5 million range, making that one Scott Boras (his agent) gamble likely worth at least 10-12 million in lost wages for Morales.

Of all this group, Morales is the youngest (he’ll be 31 next season) and his years in Anaheim and Seattle prior to 2014 were productive. Last year was a punt, but I imagine Morales will return to have a few solid seasons.

The best things about Gordy Coleman are his name, he was born in Rockville, MD, and he looks like he belongs on Home Run Derby. I loved watching reruns of that show back in high school. Whither has thy gone?

That was not Gordy. Mickey Mantle and Harmon Killebrew appeared in that particular episode, but Gordy could have appeared (in 1959, when the show was filmed, Coleman appeared in a scant six games for Cleveland, but whatever) and competed for wonderful cash prizes. A show filled with eventual Hall of Fame players and forced to give awkward on-air interviews. Oh man. This was great stuff.

At the age of 31 Gordy shared first with another eventual Hall of Famer Tony Perez, and his career was over at 32.

Morales wins.

5.  Ryan Doumit – I either missed Doumit with the catchers or he wasn’t listed at the time, but he appears in the DH grouping so everything works out. Like Morales, Doumit enters the free agent market after having a pretty bad ’14. In 100 games with the Braves, in which he was used largely as a pinch hitter, he hit .197/.235/.318 while striking out nearly 30% of the time. The latter is otherwise known as the Atlanta school of hitting.

While he technically can call games behind the plate, he hasn’t been used primarily as a catcher since 2011 when he was with the Pirates. Asking him to suit up and begin framing pitches again at 34 is probably not the best idea at this point in his career, so that either limits him to a backup catcher, outfielder fill-in role or a spot as DH.

In his last contract, he signed a two-year deal for 3.5 per, and he’ll probably sign for just south of that in his next contract.

At 34, Eddie Bressoud was worth 2.0 bWAR for the Mets, coming in fourth on the team behind Dennis Ribant, Ken Boyer, and Ron Hunt. Of the top five players on that 1966 Mets team by bWAR, only one, Jack Fisher, played for the team in ’67. The Mets turned a career year by Ribant into three decent seasons of Don Cardwell, traded Boyer along with Sandy Alomar for peanuts; and missed out on some more borderline All Star years by Ron Hunt by trading him for flotsam. If the Mets don’t trade Hunt off, he probably goes down as the best second baseman in Mets team history.

Why do you care? I don’t know, but three years later this team won it all.

Oh, and Doumit is the pick.

6.  Jonny Gomes – covered with left fielders.

7.  Jason Kubel – covered with left fielders.

8.  Delmon Young – covered with left fielders.

 

Player Count Position
Mike Macfarlane 3 Catchers
Scott Servais 3 Catchers
Ben Oglivie 3 1B
Robby Thompson 2 2B
Johnny Berardino 2 SS
All unique 1 3B
Josh Willingham 3 LF
Jim Lemon 3 LF
8 players 2 OF
6 players 2 DH

Similar Players by Count

 

Next I look at the starting pitching.

Kendrys Morales photo credit: Keith Allison via photopin cc
Jason Giambi photo credit: permanently scatterbrained via photopin cc

Nov 19

Free Agent Fun with Comps: Center & Right

Nick Markakis

This is part 7 of an ongoing series featuring a breakdown of the current free agent players at each position. Positions completed so far: catchers, first base, second base, shortstop, third base, and left field.

As mentioned in my earlier posts, I’m assessing the current free agent players seeking their respective paydays by comparing each player with his historical comp. Then, after painstakingly looking over the numbers, I determine if I’d bet on the current free agent to perform better over the next few years or go with the comp.

It’s that simple.

All comparisons are pulled using the Similarity Score by age from Baseball-Reference and all free agents were borrowed from the listing at MLB Trade Rumors.

Today, I discuss the remaining outfielders.

OUTFIELD

Chris Young has already re-signed with the Yankees at a reasonable 2.5 million dollar one-year deal, which is more in line with what he probably should be making than the 7.25 million he received last offseason with the Mets. In fact, when the NY Post’s headline announces the deal as “Yankees re-sign Mets bust,” you have to figure last season in Flushing didn’t go as Sandy Alderson had hoped. Young played well in pinstripes, hitting three home runs in 23 games and playing solid defensively in left, but his time with the Mets produced a regrettable four months that by advanced metrics came out as the worst outfielder on the team. That includes a then 39-year old Bobby Abreau who was signed to a minor-league contract and whose appearance on the team I first thought was a joke.

Abreau played well, considering he was 39 years old and had been out of professional baseball for over a year.

So, the Chris Young era didn’t exactly leave fond memories.

Abreau announced his retirement in September, but another former NY outfielder isn’t ready to do the same. Ichiro Suzuki plans on returning to baseball at the age of 41, and if he were to somehow find a way to play in 140 games again next season he would be the first 41-year old player to do so since Craig Biggio in 2007. Biggio was unplayable at that age, producing a -2.1 bWAR, and considering Ichiro has been hovering around sub level the last two seasons, temper your expectations for 2015.

Other than that, in this group we have the perpetual promise of Colby Rasmus (I’ll discuss him in detail below), the peculiarly affordable Nick Markakis, and the superhuman power of Yasmani Tomas. Oh, boy. This group will be fun.

All players listed below are sorted by career bWAR

Current Player Age Closest Comp Favorite Comp Pick
Ichiro Suzuki 41 Kenny Lofton Lofton Suzuki
Torii Hunter 39 Dave Parker Joe Carter Parker
Alex Rios 34 Amos Otis Andy Van Slyke Rios
Nick Markakis 31 Gregg Jefferies Edgardo Alfonzo Markakis
Chris Young 31 Mike Cameron Cameron Cameron
Colby Rasmus 28 Chris B. Young Ron Gant Rasmus
Nori Aoki 33 Algie McBride McBride Aoki
Nate Schierholtz 31 Darrin Jackson Rob Mackowiak Jackson
Tony Campana 29
Yasmani Tomas 24

Outfielders by Comps

1.  Ichiro Suzuki – We’re four years removed from the last time Ichiro made the All Star team, but the future Hall of Famer is still a capable player entering his 40s. He swiped 15 bases last year, which is pretty shocking considering most people his age pull a muscle stepping out of the bathtub. It’s well known that he doesn’t walk, a skill that hasn’t improved with the wisdom of years. His 5.5% walk rate placed him in the bottom 20% of all players with 350+ at-bats, and his ISO of .056 was next to last. He can still play outfield, and the strong arm remains. He had four outfield assists last season.

Kenny Lofton was out of baseball by 41, but he was still good at 40. I miss Kenny Lofton. I remember fondly how he seemed to hit laser beams in that ’95 World Series in every AB. I haven’t looked at the stats, but his line drive % must have been 110. Don’t tell me if it’s not true. I have my beliefs. For this, Ichiro tops him, but he should probably think about retirement soon.

Torii Hunter2.  Torii Hunter – At 38, Hunter hit .286/.319/.446. His 111 OPS+ ranked 24th for all outfielders, and he was three years older than the next oldest player ahead of him. His bat still plays. Unfortunately, the Torii Hunter defense (the kind that ruins baseball) the world has grown accustomed to over the years has been in steady decline over the past couple of years and his -18.3 UZR in 2014 was the third worst for any qualified outfielder.

Any drop off with Hunter’s bat means his value is rock bottom, and while it doesn’t appear like he’s in decline—he hit double digit home runs for a 14th straight season—one of these days it’s going to happen.

Dave Parker was worth 1.1 bWAR at 39 then was sub-replacement after that. I like Hunter, but I don’t think he outpaces Parker.

3.  Alex Rios – Even Alex Rios couldn’t escape the wicked voodoo that was going on in Arlington last season as by early September his right thumb got infected and he ended up missing the remainder of the season. Seeing how Ron Washington just so happened to resign the same day (unrelated most likely, but who knows?) no one seemed to really care all that much for Rios’ departure. No, the no one caring probably had more to do with the Rangers being 53-87 at the time and Rios having a fairly tepid season.

Rios isn’t the most consistent of players. He oscillates between All Star worthy with seasons of sub-replacement value. By that measure, since last year was barely above replacement level he’s due. He’ll be 34, but he still has the legs to steal some bases and hold his own in the field. Will he be an All Star again?

That ship has probably sailed.

Once turning 34 Amos Otis was still a legitimate offensive weapon for the Royals, but the power he showed in peak years was largely gone. Even discounting Otis’ last quarter season in Pittsburgh, I think Rios surpasses him.

Barely.

4.  Nick Markakis – Orioles fans have been in denial about Markakis for the past four years or so. He’s a good player, a fine defender in right with the ability to hit and work the count (a near impossibility on a team of such free swingers), but the player that jacked 20+ home runs in his early 20s is never coming back.

I like Markakis. He’s a two-time Gold Glove winner and will consistently find ways to bring value to the team. Reportedly, he’s likely to re-sign with the Orioles in the 10-12 million dollar range, and that sounds about right.

Gregg Jefferies. Where do I even begin? As a kid, I bought into the great Mets hype machine that said Jefferies was going to be one of the best. He replaced one of the Mets beloved players in Wally Backman and was compared to Mickey Mantle. His 1989 Topps rookie card (scroll to the bottom) was one of my favorite cards. It was basically like every photo I had of me growing up in Little League only this time it was this guaranteed HOF player in my team’s uniform. 1988 the Mets destroyed the NL and ended up catching Orel Hershiser at the wrong time. With Jefferies now on the squad, 1989 was going to be the year the Doc, Sid, and Strawberry added that second World Series title.

Well. It didn’t really end up like that.

Jefferies played okay as a Met, but he never fulfilled the crazy expectations heaped upon him and a lot of the blame for the Mets falling short of winning the East was tossed his way. Things got so bad that he eventually composed a nine-paragraph letter that addressed the constant criticism and was read on WFAN. In it, Jefferies states, “I have never claimed to be the future of the Mets; this was a label that was put on me.” Ugh. That didn’t go over too well. He was sent to the Royals in December of 1991.

For this exercise, Markakis comes out on top.

5.  Chris Young – When Young was with the Diamondbacks, his walk rate sat around 11-12% and his OBP around .330-.340. Coupled with the 20 or so homers he would hit, he was an All Star level (he made the game in 2010) outfielder. Now? Since leaving the desert, he’s been worth less than a win in two seasons and hit 23 home runs total (less than what he hit in his All Star year).

My poor eyeballs grew tired of watching him strikeout seemingly every time there was a runner in scoring position, and by his splits, that’s not far from the truth. 1 Let’s just say, I don’t recall too many moments like this last season with the Mets. With RISP, he hit .222/.320/.420 with 17 strikeouts in 81 at-bats, around 21% of the time. That’s consistent with what he did throughout the year, so there’s that.

Hooray for consistency!

He’s still a good outfielder, can make plays, and he did perform extremely well with the Yankees in limited action.

Mike Cameron came to the Mets at the age of 31 at hit 30 home runs while swiping 20 bases. After the team signed Carlos Beltran in January of 2005, Cameron unhappily moved to right and then later that season the collision happened. He never played another game for the Mets and was traded to the Padres in November.

In eight seasons after passing 30, Cameron accumulated 16.7 bWAR. I don’t think Young comes close.

Colby Rasmus6.  Colby Rasmus – Here’s Rasmus’ profile from 2009 prior to him being called up by the Cardinals. Five tools. Elite center fielder. Can do it all. Doesn’t it seem like we’re still waiting for that player to arrive?

Rasmus was drafted by the Cardinals in the first round of the 2005 amateur draft and was basically their top prospect until being called up. After a solid, if not spectacular inaugural season at the age of 22, he hit 23 homers and hit .276/.361/.498 in his sophomore year. The sky was the limit. The feud with Rasmus and Tony La Russa got so bad the Cardinals traded him to Toronto in 2011 for peanuts. The story got worse once Rasmus’ dad ripped La Russa after the trade, and Rasmus essentially had one All Star quality year in 2013 and struggled offensively in ’14.

On top of all that, last season Rasmus missed 33 games to a hamstring strain, the second season in a row where he’s missed 30+ games with another 24 games lost in 2011 to a wrist sprain, and by this September he was benched to give management the opportunity to see younger players. By mid-September Rasmus gave a 21 minute long interview where he opened up about his childhood and current mindset.

I bring all this up because that interview is both insightful and troubling. This is a kid who had absolutely zero joy for baseball. Listen to him discuss his childhood and he’s as emotionless as discussing what kind of bread he wants with his sub. His childhood was “work.” He didn’t remember it fondly. He thought it was “worth it,” big difference. When asked what the perfect end to a season would be, Rasmus said, “. . . play baseball and enjoy it with my teammates and be a part of the team . . . and just in a good place.”

Take into account that Rasmus had been benched for two weeks, so he was likely upset, but those aren’t the words of someone ready to play professional ball. He needed a hug, not people criticizing his routes to balls in the outfield. His childhood story, as recounted in the interview, reminded me of the baseball equivalent to Todd Marinovich and his father, where Rasmus’ dad essentially drove his sons to athletic dominance with the psychic consequences be damned. When the hell has baseball been fun for him? I don’t know what happened in St. Louis with La Russa or a vet dominant team that added to Colby’s misery, but baseball certainly wasn’t a release from all of his despondency.

I’m rooting for Colby Rasmus. If baseball isn’t the answer, then I hope he finds what is. He stated that “so many people are always just poking and prodding at me. I felt at times like a, like an animal at the zoo. You know, you just keep poking at them until one day they bite back at you.”

Everyone has his limit.

Rasmus’ closest comp is his list mate Chris Young. At 28, Young left Arizona to enter into his recent down years. I don’t care if Rasmus ever plays another inning. If so, I’ll go with Rasmus. I hope he finally finds the right situation.

7.  Nori Aoki – After being traded to Kansas City from Milwaukee for Will Smith, Aoki put up his typical solid season with the bat, working the counts and reaching base at a .350 clip. His home runs went down, moving from Miller Park to Kauffman Stadium will do that sort of thing, and his limited range in right was exposed. In the World Series, manager Ned Yost removed Aoki from right, shifting Lorenzo Cain there for games in San Francisco.

I don’t see this improving with Aoki turning 33.

Algie McBride started playing professional ball in the 19th century. He apparently could hit pretty well. He also wore a malformed hunk of leather on his hand and attempted to shag flies so who knows about his defense. If you’re wondering why I don’t just pick someone else, all of Aoki’s comps are from the 30s and 40s. Talk about old school.

I’ll take Aoki.

8.  Nate Schierholtz – Schierholtz has always hovered around replacement since entering the Majors at 23, but last season with the Cubs, he bottomed out. A career .264 hitter, Schierholtz hit .192/.240/.300 with the Cubs before being released. He was then picked up by the Nationals after Nate McLouth was lost for the season. With the Nats, he did do this once, which was his only homer with the team.

Will his bat come back? He’ll never be mistaken for an offensive force, but he was above average prior to 2013. He can also play pretty good defense, a must since he’s likely to earn a minor league contract and become a reserve.

Darrin Jackson put in his best season at 30, then was just above replacement after. Then one is probably a push, but I’ll pick Jackson.

9.  Tony Campagna – He’s spent the past four years bouncing between Triple A and the Majors, hitting ok (until the collective stink that was in Arizona this year caught up with him too) but without a bit of power.

Thor10.  Yasmani Tomas – When your agent says that you have “way more” power than Jose Abreau that’s saying something. Agents would never lie about these things. It’s like the Internet. Everything said is the truth.

Tomas appears ready to sign somewhere, but who knows what will come from Cuba’s next star. He’ll be playing at 24 next season, and he’s 6’4 and 230 pounds of muscle. Please, let the Mets open up the vault for this guy.

Hey, look, down in the suitors, the Mets are listed!

Others covered in previous posts:

Covered with second basemen: Emilio Bonifacio

Covered with left fielders: Endy Chavez, Nyjer Morgan, Tyler Colvin, Nelson Cruz, Chris Denorfia, and Scott Hairston

Running count of players appearing most in similarity lists:

Player Count Position
Mike Macfarlane 3 Catchers
Scott Servais 3 Catchers
Ben Oglivie 3 1B
Robby Thompson 2 2B
Johnny Berardino 2 SS
All unique 1 3B
Josh Willingham 3 LF
Jim Lemon 3 LF
8 players 2 OF

Similar Players by Count

 

Next I look at the designated hitters.

Nick Markakis and Torii Hunter photo credit: Keith Allison via photopin cc

Colby Rasmus photo credit: james_in_to via photopin cc

Thor (photo altered) photo credit: JD Hancock via photopin cc

  1. Because I like to confirm what these stupid eyeballs are telling me

Nov 17

Free Agent Fun with Comps: the Left Fielders

Melky Cabrera

This is part 6 of an ongoing series featuring a breakdown of the current free agent players at each position. Positions completed so far: catchers, first base, second base, shortstop, and third base.

As mentioned in my earlier posts, I’m assessing the current free agent players seeking their respective paydays by comparing each player with his historical comp. Then, after painstakingly looking over the numbers, I determine if I’d bet on the current free agent to perform better over the next few years or go with the comp.

It’s that simple.

All comparisons are pulled using the Similarity Score by age from Baseball-Reference and all free agents were borrowed from the listing at MLB Trade Rumors.

Today, I discuss the left fielders.

LEFT FIELDERS

Alfonso Soriano has already announced his retirement, mercifully bringing an end to the 8-year/136 million dollar contract he signed in 2007. Even at the time Soriano signed, I remember it being widely panned, but in retrospect, I wonder just how bad the deal was. When he signed that deal, he was a five-time All Star, four-time Silver Slugger recipient, and finished third for the 2002 AL MVP and sixth for the 2006 NL MVP. He was legitimately a great player, and great players get paid big bucks.

Post signing, he hit 30+ home runs three times, 20+ another four, and had just two seasons where his OPS+ was below 100. Even his reputation for high volume strikeouts looks downright charming compared to today’s players. Striking out 25% of the time doesn’t seem so abnormal now, does it?

Then again, if we look at the cost of a win in today’s game, that might give us a little better insight. Using Matt Swartz’s breakdown of dollars per WAR over the years, here’s how the deal played out:

Season $ / fWAR Soriano’s fWAR Soriano’s Salary + / – %
2007 5.6 6.6 10,000,000 +269.6
2008 6.2 3.8 14,000,000 +68.29
2009 6.4 -0.2 17,000,000 -107.53
2010 6 2.8 19,000,000 -11.53
2011 7.6 1.0 19,000,000 -60
2012 6.5 3.7 19,000,000 +26.58
2013 7.4 3.0 19,000,000 +16.84
2014 7.7 -1.1 19,000,000 -144.58
Overall 6.675 19.6 136,000,000 -3.8

Soriano Contract Value

I used a conservative 4% increase in win value for 2014 since Swartz’s article dated back to late March, but it works for this quick breakdown. In that ugly, convoluted way, the contract that came to define his career doesn’t look that bad.

Happy trails, Soriano. I’m going to miss you.

Also in the retirement category is Josh Willingham. Prior to the last two seasons where Willingham has dealt with damage to cartilage in his left knee and a wrist fracture that sidelined him through April into May, Willingham was a career .261/.362/.483 hitter with 167 home runs and an uncanny ability to get hit by pitches. His 89 HBP has him ranked 13th in the Majors at that time, but if you break that down by games played, he jumps up to 10th by getting beaned once in every 10.6 games. Why is that important? Getting on base is a skill, and Willingham had that skill.

Willingham was traded to the Royals in August, so he was part of one of the best postseasons I can recall in a long time. He also made this barista happy. If he changes his mind about retiring, he can still hit.

And get hit.

With that long introduction out of the way, I’m going to do something a little different for this group. There are 18 players listed as left fielders, three of whom have been covered elsewhere or recently retired, but that still leaves 15 that I could try to write nice/snarky things about while boring you to tears.

No thanks. I’m going to touch upon just a few, separating them into tiers, and discussing some of them as a group.

All players listed below are sorted by career bWAR

Current Player Age Closest Comp Favorite Comp Pick
Melky Cabrera 30 Mark Kotsay Gregg Jefferies Cabrera
Nelson Cruz 34 Gus Zernial Wally Post Cruz
Ryan Ludwick 36 Jim Lemon Casey Blake Lemon
Chris Denorfia 34 Brady Clark Deion Sanders Denorfia
Reed Johnson 38 Tom Paciorek Jay Payton Paciorek
Nyjer Morgan 34 Frenchy Bordagaray Bordagaray Bordagaray
Scott Hairston 35 Craig Paquette Paquette Paquette
Tony Gwynn, Jr 32 Ty Cline John Cangelosi Gwynn
Mike Morse 33 Geronimo Berroa Raul Ibanez Morse
Endy Chavez 37 Myril Hoag Dave Roberts Chavez
Jonny Gomes 34 Paul Sorrento Henry Rodriguez Gomes
Jason Kubel 33 Marty Cordova Jayson Werth Cordova
Delmon Young 29 Al Oliver Darin Erstad Oliver
Mike Carp 29 Scott Stahoviak Steve Bilko Stahoviak
Tyler Colvin 29 Laynce Nix Ricky Ledee Nix
Cole Gillespie 30

Left Fielders by Comps

POTENTIAL ALL STARS

Melky Cabrera and Nelson Cruz are about as close to a sure thing as you’re going to find in this group, and calling Cruz a left fielder is charitable. He’s primarily a DH, making a start in right or left when the need arises (or Showalter wants to throw the world a curve), and forcing him to spend too much time in the field isn’t something a team ever wants to do. That likely limits his options to the AL, but 40 home runs will bring suitors.

Both Cabrera and Cruz received the qualifying offer from their respective Eastern division team, and both rejected it. I doubt if it really matters. Both are good enough to warrant the forfeiture of a draft pick, and both will be paid well as they’ve reestablished their values with one or more seasons beyond PED shame.

1.  Melky Cabrera – The last time Cabrera played a full season was in 2011, and after missing nearly half of 2013 with a bothersome left knee, he saw his ’14 ended abruptly after fracturing his right pinky finger while on the bases. He was enjoying his finest season since 2012, proving to all that he could survive on talent alone.

He’s not exactly the defensive wizard that’s been circulating around the internet these days, but he’ll make heady plays and has a good arm (exhibits A, B, and C). His 13 assists were tied for second in the AL, behind only Yoenis Cespedes’ 16.

Once turning 30, Mark Kotsay fought a never ending battle with a balky lower back and lost his mojo. Melky wins this one.

2.  Nelson Cruz – The clip below sort of sums up Cruz’s season:

Just when you think Cruz is finished, he’s given about all he can, he returns with a vengeance to put a hurting on you. He hit 40 home runs last season, 13 in the month of May, and you wonder if he could have done more damage if he hadn’t basically punted the months of June through August by hitting .214/.283/.389 with 15 homers in 80 games. Talk about a seasonal dichotomy of two extremes.

He has power to all fields (the playoffs proved that) and will crush baseballs if given the opportunity. What else is there to say?

Gus Zernial reminds me of someone who make a cameo in the Brady Bunch. That was really Don Drysdale in that episode, but whatever. Zernial crushed baseballs at 34, then he stopped one year later. Cruz will not.

ONE-YEAR RENTALS

Everyone else. Technically, this is the truth. All of the remaining players are largely interchangeable, some offering the possibility as late inning defensive subs and others to be used strictly in platoons. Out of the remaining 17 players, there are only a few that could be considered starters under the right circumstances, though not a one of these gentlemen comes without questions.

A wise GM would present a one-year deal to Delmon Young, Chris Denorfia, or Nyjer Morgan and be terrified about offering anything more extensive.

Delmon Young3.  Delmon Young – Young entered the league in 2006 at the age of 20 and will be 29 in 2015. He’s been traded twice, signed to a series of one-year deals since ’13, and will probably exist year-to-year like this until retirement. The talent that made him the first pick in the 2003 amateur draft still shows itself with his bat. Last season, in a half season with Baltimore, he hit .302/.337/.442 with seven home runs, and his pinch hit double in Game 2 of the ALDS was key for helping the O’s come from behind against Detroit. He won’t ever be mistaken for a fielder, but he can DH and make an occasional pit stop in the long grass.

Al Oliver was a five-time All Star for three different teams once turning 29 and lived as a down ballot MVP candidate. There’s really no contest.

4.  Chris Denorfia – Denorfia won’t exactly wow you in any one category, but prior to 2014 he was a solid outfielder for San Diego who did a little bit of everything to help the team win. From 2010-13, Denorfia’s lowest season of OPS+ was 104 and he never once dropped below .335 for OBP. In the field, he could also make plays like this.

He struggled last year, and after the Pads traded him to Seattle, where he was asked to platoon, he struggled even more.

At 34, you wonder if this is a sign of a decline.

Brady Clark at 34 was through as a Major League starter and played 54 games total across two seasons with the Dodgers, Padres, and Mets. I’ll go with Denorfia.

5.  Nyjer Morgan – Nyjer Morgan doesn’t walk, isn’t particularly gifted at stealing bases, and hasn’t been a Major League starter since 2011. In this group, that makes him a legitimate buy low candidate. After spending 2012 largely floating around the various Milwaukee outfield spots and as a pinch hitter, he went to Japan to play for the Yokohama DeNA BayStars. He returned to play 15 games for Cleveland in ’14 before spraining his PCL and missing the remainder of the season. Maybe the player that made this leaping grab still exists. I wouldn’t bet more than a one-year deal to see if Beast Mode is legit.

Frenchy Bordagaray has an even cooler name than Nyjer and really could hit a little but couldn’t play defense all that well apparently. He made an appearance in the ’41 Series for the Yankees, winning a ring with DiMaggio and the boys.

By those standards, I’m going with Frenchy.

OLD & INJURED

All of the remaining groupings should be a subheading under one-year rentals, but I’ll break them apart, discussing a few of the players more than others.

6.  Ryan Ludwick – Last season Ludwick returned from a torn labrum to hit about at Ludwickian levels, .244/.308/.375, with nine home runs. The lefty swinging outfielder has moments of brilliance with the bat, notably in 2012 and his All Star campaign in 2008 with the Cardinals, but over the years he’s settled into the productive if unspectacular range of .240 to .250 with low double digit homers.

Asking Ludwick to give a full season of innings is asking too much, and at this stage in his career he’s probably good for 120 games. His defense isn’t all that great, so his value comes largely with the bat.

Jim Lemon was out of baseball after 35. Ludwick has one season, 2012, above replacement level since 2010. I’m going with Lemon.

BENCH / 4th OUTFIELDERS

This is the spot where everyone else in this group resides. I won’t spend a great amount of time discussing them. Some of the players, such as Jonny Gomes and Jason Kubel, are worth adding as platoon splits. Heck, sign both of them and you’d have the perfect pairing to handle both lefties and righties.

Endy Chavez once did this:

Yadier Molina then did this and brought eight years of famine to Flushing, but I still love you Endy for the moment.

Chavez isn’t the same player. I want him to hang around. I want him to be that guy. He can’t get after the ball like he used to, but he still does enough with the bat to be a spot starter and a reminder of those bittersweet days.

I also really like Scott Hairston, but wow does that 2012 season with the Mets look like a complete anomaly. As a fourth outfielder, pinch hitter with the Nationals last season, Hairston faired okay. This walk-off sac fly might have been the highlight of his ‘14, but that was an exciting game.

Running count of players appearing most in similarity lists:

Player Count Position
Mike Macfarlane 3 Catchers
Scott Servais 3 Catchers
Ben Oglivie 3 1B
Robby Thompson 2 2B
Johnny Berardino 2 SS
All unique 1 3B
Josh Willingham 3 LF
Jim Lemon 3 LF

Similar Players by Count

Next, I discuss the remaining outfielders.

Melky Cabrera and Delmon Young photo credit: Keith Allison via photopin cc

Nov 15

Free Agent Fun with Comps: the Third Basemen

PabloSandoval

This is part 5 of an ongoing series featuring a breakdown of the current free agent players at each position. Positions completed so far: catchers, first base, second base, and shortstop.

As mentioned in my earlier posts, I’m assessing the current free agent players seeking their respective paydays by comparing each player with his historical comp. Then, after painstakingly looking over the numbers, I determine if I’d bet on the current free agent to perform better over the next few years or go with the comp.

It’s that simple.

All comparisons are pulled using the Similarity Score by age from Baseball-Reference and all free agents were borrowed from the listing at MLB Trade Rumors.

Today, I discuss the third basemen.

THIRD BASEMEN

If you’re a GM in serious need of a third basemen, break out the secret code to your owner’s Swiss bank account, go Ocean’s Eleven on some random Vegas hotel, or seek financial backing from Martin Jacobson because it’s going to get expensive. There are two legitimate difference makers in this group with Hanley Ramirez willing to move to third (or left or wherever the grass, and money, is greener) and the biennial postseason hero Pablo Sandoval. Also in this group is Chase Headley, and once outside of Petco Park’s offense destroying confines he proved to the baseball world that he’s still pretty darn good.

This year is something of a unique occurrence with this many (yes, two former All Stars and a couple of top 10 MVP finishers count) quality third basemen who are young enough to provide lasting value have hit the market together. Prior to ’14, the 2010 offseason (after both reestablishing their representative value by signing one-year deals in 2009) brought Adrian Beltre to Texas at 32 and Orlando Hudson, depending on how rose colored your glasses were, to Minnesota at 33. 2009, then, comes pretty close to the mark with Hudson and Chone Figgins coming off All Star appearances and Beltre available. With the 2014 class, there’s a potential superstar in Ramirez, who was Hall of Fame bound at one point, and with all three fairly safe bets to return 3-4 wins per year.

All players listed below are sorted by career bWAR

Current Player Age Closest Comp Favorite Comp Pick
Hanley Ramirez 31 Nomar Garciaparra Ryne Sandberg Ramirez
Chase Headley 31 Charlie Hayes Charlie Hayes Headley
Pablo Sandoval 28 Richie Hebner Robin Ventura Sandoval
Alberto Callaspo 32 Jim Davenport Ken Caminiti Davenport
Mark Reynolds 32 Jose Cruz Jose Cruz Reynolds
Jack Hannahan 35 Kurt Bevacqua Rick Schu Bevacqua
Donnie Murphy 32 Eric Munson Jayson Nix Munson
Chris Nelson 29 Hector Luna Geoff Blum Nelson
Kelly Johnson 33 Bill Hall Robby Thompson Johnson
Ed Lucas 33 Jack Saltzgaver Pete Orr Saltzgaver

Third Basemen by Comps

1.  Hanley Ramirez – covered with shortstops.

2.  Chase Headley – For those of us who didn’t watch a lot of the Padres over the last few years, Headley existed as something of a perpetual trade rumor, his name constantly floated with the promise of a prospect windfall to the fortunate Pads. It sort of became an indictment on Headley that the Padres’ windfall never materialized. Headley started 2013 on the DL after fracturing his thumb in spring training and then suffered through a torn meniscus to his left knee, making that 31 homer, 145 OPS+ of 2012 look like the MLB equivalent of Modern English.

Last season, Headley accumulated an assortment of injuries that included a calf strain, a herniated disc, and most notably being hit in the mouth by a Jake McGee fastball. Unlike Giancarlo Stanton, Headley was able to return after the injury, acquitting himself nicely with a .293/.420/.488 line in the Yankees final 13 games.

It’s still to be determined if Headley will ever reach those 30 home runs again, but outside of San Diego somewhere in the 15-20 range sounds doable. He might not be an early 30s Beltre at third, but Headley fields the position well (this, this, and this are but a few examples) and he’s averaged around 4 bWAR over the last five seasons. The other players that have done that have names such as Cabrera, Beltre, Longoria, and Wright.

After entering his 30s, Charlie Hayes had a few okay seasons, played on the 1996 Yankees championship team, and otherwise bounced around for five different teams. If Headley stays healthy, he surpasses Hayes’ final six seasons next year.

3.  Pablo Sandoval – Defensively, if you look at both UZR and Baseball-Reference’s dWAR, Sandoval is sort of all over the place. If you watched the Kung Fu Panda this postseason, you know him as the second coming of Brooks Robinson.

This one is for the Robinson fans.

Sandoval has played for three San Francisco championship teams, has absolutely destroyed the baseball in the last two of them, and he’s basically taken up residence on the bases when the October lights shine brightest.

Getting to October is the tricky part, and keeping Sandoval in the lineup hasn’t always been easy. He’s had surgery to the hamate bone in both wrists in two separate years and has also missed additional time due to various ailments. Last season was the first he’d seen 150+ games in a season since 2010. There’s also the matter of his ever troublesome weight, though the switch hitter has apparently dedicated himself to keeping trim. Oh, and about that switch hitting thing: last season, Sandoval hit just .199 as a right hander, a huge drop off from his career average of .270 and perhaps just a blip in an otherwise respectable career from the right side. He won’t hit with power there, but at least he could hit.

After turning 29, Richie Hebner hit double digit home runs five times and averaged around two wins until he was 33. He was then moved around the diamond, playing first for the Tigers, then as a part time outfielder for the Pirates and Cubs.

The postseason is too fresh for me to pick Hebner, but this one is tougher than it sounds. Will Sandoval stay healthy? Was last season just a goofy season from the right side? Is he destined to be a DH somewhere?

Los Angeles Angels third baseman Alberto  Callaspo (6)4.  Alberto Callaspo – With the Angels Callaspo earned 3.4 bWAR in 2011 and ’12 while starting at third with an occasional spot start at second. He had a pretty good eye, took some walks, and hovered around league average or just above with the bat and a solid glove. I don’t know where that Callaspo has gone, but he’s been MIA since ’12. Was it the platoon at second with Eric Sogard that did it? Was it the hamstring strain in July that led to his .197/.248/.246 second half swoon last year? His wRC+ of 42 in the second half put him firmly in the Darwin Barney category of unplayable.

Occasionally, he did make a play in the field. That’s pretty cool.

Jim Davenport had one decent and one really good season left in him after reaching 32, earning 1.2 and 3.5 bWAR in 1966-67. He was at a replacement level after that. Judging the last two seasons, I’d take Davenport’s certainty.

5.  Mark Reynolds – covered with first basemen.

6.  Jack Hannahan – Hannahan never played one game at third last season for the Reds (there was a more pressing need at first with Joey Votto out), but he’s on my list. Go figure. He did play there in 2013, so I didn’t arbitrarily assign him here. He missed 103 games due to a torn labrum that required surgery, and in the 26 games he did appear in he hit an underwhelming .188/.220/.250. Not exactly the scenario a soon to be 35-year old free agent dreams about when trying to secure that one last payday.

For his career, Hannahan has had just two seasons where he’s earned more than one win (2.5 bWAR in both 2008 and 2011), and he’s been in the red the last two, but we can probably give a pass for 2014.

He bats left-handed, so there’s always a bench role somewhere, but he doesn’t hit righties particularly well. He does play a decent third base, so we’re back to a bench / spot starter role.

Kurt Bevacqua earned -0.6 bWAR total in his final four seasons after turning 35. He had a sweet mustache, though, so he’s my pick.

7.  Donnie Murphy – Murphy was drafted in 2002 by the Royals and has essentially bounced around the minors since, appearing in the Majors for 40 or so starts each year and usually coming in at or just below replacement. He’s had moments of brilliance, particularly in ’13 with the Cubs when he hit eight home runs in August and 11 total in 46 games and last year when he hit two homers (half his season output) for the Rangers in a June outing against Oakland. Maybe he finished the year with .196/.268/.330 batting line, but he crushed that first home run to centerfield.

He’s also nimble on the bases.

Eric Munson was out of the game after appearing in one game at 31. Maybe Murphy hits another hot streak, but I’m betting on the under.

8.  Chris Nelson – The 2004 amateur draft is now the Justin Verlander draft, unless you’re the Padres who selected Matt Bush. Chris Nelson was drafted ninth in that draft by the Rockies, with players such as Jered Weaver, Billy Butler, Stephen Drew, and Gio Gonzalez drafted after. Of the players to reach the Majors from that first round, Nelson’s -2.3 career bWAR is the lowest.

It will probably not surprise you that Nelson spends his time moving between Triple-A and the Majors, playing around 30 games a year. He’s been known to hit a home run from time to time, but for the most part, he’s a useful player to have in the system when you trade your starting third basemen to the Yankees.

Hector Luna spent his age 29 year in the minors, was a pinch hitter for the Marlins in 2010, spent another year in the minors, and spent 2012 in a few games with the Phillies. He was worth around -0.5 bWAR over that time.

Nelson is probably good for replacement level.

9.  Kelly Johnson – covered with second basemen.

10.  Ed Lucas – covered with second basemen.

Running count of players appearing most in similarity lists:

Player Count Position
Mike Macfarlane 3 Catchers
Scott Servais 3 Catchers
Ben Oglivie 3 1B
Robby Thompson 2 2B
Johnny Berardino 2 SS
All unique 1 3B

Similar Players by Count

Next, I discuss the left fielders.

Pablo Sandoval photo credit: phoca2004 via photopin cc

Alberto Callaspo photo credit: Keith Allison via photopin cc

Nov 13

Victor Martinez Re-signs. Super.

VictorMartinezWhen you have roughly 71 million tied up in three aging stars as the Tigers do, your window to win is now. After last season’s wack-a-doo resigning of Miguel Cabrera to an 8-year/248 million dollar extension, the Tigers might as well push their remaining chips into the center of the table and go for broke. Don’t let the fact that this sort of strategy didn’t work out too well for Felix Stephensen dissuade you.1 What else can the Tigers do, however? Four years and 70 million on a very soon to be 36-year old is the cost of doing business.

I’m sure the Internets will hate this deal. We tend to hate these things. If four years is what it took to resign Martinez, and honestly, 70 million is a fairly reasonable rate these days, then give the man 4 years. At 35 he was a legitimate MVP candidate, even when account for the positional devaluation of someone who rarely needs a glove.  Using Matt Swartz’s estimation of cost per win, with a very reasonable 4% increase over the next few years, Martinez would likely have to average out to around 1.5-2 fWAR to make the deal worth it. The list of DHs that were able to produce at that level past the age of 36 is fairly sizable. Along with the names of players like Edgar Martinez and Paul Molitor, you know, all-time greats, there are a few sprinklings of Rico Carty and Brian Downing as well. It will be fine.

The Tigers didn’t have many other options here. Their farm system isn’t producing any blue chippers anytime soon, and last season’s top prospect Nick Castellanos, who probably should be the DH, is mangling third. Maybe the Tigers could have tried to go a little younger here, look to shoulder their way into Chase Headley discussion and move Castellanos to DH (or what, try to snake Billy Butler away from his heart’s desire in Kansas City? He’s a .330/.374/.492 hitter lifetime at Comerica Park, and he’s only 29. You know, the more I read that the more I really like that idea) or keep the spot open for Cabrera.

Speaking of Cabrera, he’ll likely only be playing at an elite level for a few more seasons anyway, and the much chronicled decline of Justin Verlander’s velocity is real. He’s now tossing fastballs a tick above 93 per, down 2 mph from his Cy Young/MVP halcyon days of 2011. Give Martinez his money, hope the eight games he lost to soreness in his lower back isn’t the precursor of some Marco Scutaro-like lower back system breakdown, and move onto decisions about Max Scherzer and David Price.

According to Spotrac, the Tigers are on the hook for just 127 million so far for next year, even after the Martinez signing. There are still a lot of holes left to fill, but there’s wiggle room if the team wants to keep the payroll around last season’s 161 million. If that’s the case, you can probably forget resigning Scherzer or just plan on Scherzer and the remaining roster replete with a diet of Nyjer Morgan (why does that move make sense to me all of a sudden too?) and Kyle Farnsworth one-year veteran minimum types.

Regardless of what happens with Scherzer, a full season of Anibal Sanchez and Price will keep this team in games, and the offense will still score runs. Can the defense knock enough balls down to prevent them? Well, a full season of Jose Iglesias will help some with that, but he might be forced to cover third as well.

The Tigers will still be the team to beat in the Central next season. If they take some of their payroll and fix the bullpen, they might even hang around in the playoffs long enough to make another Series run.

Victor Martinez photo credit: Keith Allison via photopin cc

  1. This is what happens when a bad lower back forces you to be unable to sleep. You find ways to place poker references into all of your articles. Trust me, there are more. Sigh.

Nov 13

Free Agent Fun with Comps: the Shortstops

asdrubalCabrera

This is part 4 of an ongoing series featuring a breakdown of the current free agent players at each position. Read part 1, part 2, and part 3.

As mentioned in my earlier posts, I’m assessing the current free agent players seeking their respective paydays by comparing each player with his historical comp. Then, after painstakingly looking over the numbers, I determine if I’d bet on the current free agent to perform better over the next few years or go with the comp.

It’s that simple.

All comparisons are pulled using the Similarity Score by age from Baseball-Reference and all free agents were borrowed from the listing at MLB Trade Rumors.

Today, I discuss the shortstops.

SHORTSTOPS

This year there are at least three legitimate quality shortstops on the free agent market with one potential difference maker. After losing a sizable portion of 2011 to shoulder surgery, being dealt to Los Angeles in 2012, and suffering through thumb and hamstring issues in 2013, Hanley Ramirez played a large chunk of 2014 (until an oblique strain forced him to the DL in August) to prove to teams he could continue to produce at a high level. Ramirez is the real prize of this group, though executives will have to take a leap of faith that he’ll stay healthy and interested to produce at the price range he’ll be asking.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Stephen Drew. He was fairly miserable after sitting out until June, and after recording his worst offensive season in his career, he’ll probably be forced to sign a one-year deal to reestablish his value. For how much, though? If last season was any indication, he and agent Scott Boras might have to pay some GM to bring Drew in on a minor league deal.

Other than that, Asdrubal Cabrera is the only member of this group to the left of thirty but has the range of someone pushing 40. He can still hit, though, with the ability to hit gap-to-gap and will reach double digit home runs.

All players listed below are sorted by career bWAR

Current Player Age Closest Comp Favorite Comp Pick
Hanley Ramirez 31 Nomar Garciaparra Ryne Sandberg Ramirez
Asdrubal Cabrera 29 Jhonny Peralta Craig Biggio Peralta
Stephen Drew 32 Alex Gonzalez Shawon Dunston Gonzalez
Clint Barmes 36 Eddie Bressoud Kevin Elster Barmes
Jed Lowrie 31 Tim Teufel Tim Teufel Teufel
John McDonald 40 Juan Castro Juan Castro Castro
Jonathan Herrera 30 Juan Bonilla Alex Arias Bonilla
Ed Lucas 33 Jack Saltzgaver Pete Orr Saltzgaver

Shortstops by Comps

1.  Hanley Ramirez – Up until a few years ago, Hanley Ramirez had entered that rather unenviable category of baseball prodigies who had, for one reason or another, failed to repeat their early career successes as they matured. Maturity, in fact, was one of the reasons why Ramirez fell on hard times—he was benched for failing to hustle while in Miami—injuries played a much larger role in his decline. Injuries to his elbow, back, shoulder, and thumb have cost him time, and even last year, one relatively pain free by Ramirez’s standards, saw him strain his oblique near season’s end.

When he does play, though, look out. Though appearing in only 86 games in 2013, he hit .345/.402/.638 with 20 home runs and still came in eighth in the NL MVP race. Just think what he would have produced if he had been in the lineup prior to June. 2014 wasn’t nearly as amazing as ’13, but he did manage 40 more games and as far as offensive weapons at shortstop in today’s game, there’s Troy Tulowitzki, Ramirez, and everyone else. His 3.5 bWAR from last year was one of his worst seasons and still bested by just five other shortstops. If he’s healthy, he will put up big numbers.

Oh, he does things like this a lot too:

I could watch the helmet spin around his head like pinwheel all day.

At 31, Nomar Garciaparra wasn’t the player he was in his youth with the Red Sox. A wrist injury sapped him of his power (though he did hit 20 home runs in 2006 at the age of 32) and his ability to hit for a high average.

This one seems like a gimme. Ramirez will trounce Garciaparra’s twilight years, right? I’m taking the over on this one, but all those injuries would make me lose sleep signing him to anything over 3 years, which he’s certain to receive.

On a side note, in his top 10 comps, Ramirez had four Hall of Famers: Ryne Sandberg, Joe Torre, Tony Lazzeri, and Travis Jackson. Also listed were Robinson Cano, Miguel Tejada, Derek Jeter, and Dustin Pedroia.

Wow.

2.  Asdrubal Cabrera – It’s always fun to read in other’s reviews of Cabrera how he’s only a few years removed from being an offensive force with the Cleveland Indians and how, given just the right bit of luck, he might be that again. Don’t get your hopes up. I saw enough of Cabrera when he was with the Nationals to know that he has legitimate power, hits to the gaps really well, and keeps infielders extremely busy by rolling over on pitches. Does that make me an expert? No.

Just an observation.

He’s two years removed from being an All Star and while he makes some nifty plays in the field, his range is pretty limited at this point. He will make plays like this and this and this. I don’t know if the Nationals can afford to resign Cabrera, but if not, I’ll miss him. Keep in mind that he’ll be 29 in 2015, not 35. If he signs for over three years, he might need a unicycle to reach pop-ups near the foul line by the end of the contract.

Jhonny Peralta has made the All Star game twice since reaching 29 and last season accumulated the most bWAR of any shortstop in the majors. I’m going with Peralta on this one. Cabrera might not reach Peralta’s average season of 3.5 through the life of his next contract, much less in each of those individual seasons.

3.  Stephen Drew – Everyone knows the story of how Drew and agent Scott Boras tried to skirt around the qualifying offer / compensation rules by waiting until after the amateur draft to sign with a team. That decision cost Drew around 4 million dollars last season and probably about 20-30 million more in his upcoming contract.

Sometimes things go bust.

Last season Drew hit just .162/.237/.299 with seven home runs and played just well enough in the field to only be worth -0.3 bWAR for the season. After being traded to the Yankees, he played out of position at second, acquitted himself nicely in the field however, but was still basically worth -0.6 bWAR.

Alex Gonzalez hit for double digit home runs seven times in his career, and he had a solid glove that helped the 2003 Marlins win the World Series. After having surgery on his ACL in 2012, he’s come back but hasn’t really been the same. I’m not saying Drew is done. I think last season was just some bad mojo going on and he’ll rebound to play okay. I still don’t think he reaches the production of Gonzalez, however.

4.  Clint Barmes – Barmes once hit 23 home runs (in Colorado but still) and has hit close to .290 twice in his career. In those two years, however, his home/road splits were so extreme that it’s little wonder that he’s settled into a .240 hitter outside of Coors Field. Last year he missed 1/3 of the season due to a strained groin and plays pretty well in the field (okay, one more) to be a net positive despite the limited bat.

He’ll be 36, probably will be signed to a one-year deal, and will provide just enough value in the field to be worth half a win or so.

Eddie Bressoud was out of baseball after 35. Barmes wins!

JedLowrie5.  Jed Lowrie – By the time I publish this, I imagine the Mets will have already signed Lowrie, and I’ll have to talk myself into this deal as well. Lowrie’s power went somewhere last year after suddenly appearing in 2012. Of course he fractured his right index finger, which cost him 16 games, and you sort of need that top hand for hitting. Whatever. He shouldn’t be such a tease. If you promise 15 homers, you better deliver.

The general consensus by people that know things is that Lowrie isn’t long for short with his ultimate destination either second or third. Lowrie’s big advantage is that he’s a switch hitter (like Cabrera) with a little more power from the left side but a better overall hitter from the left. He’s probably not the .290 hitter he was in 2013 simply because of an unusually high (for him) .319 BABIP, but .250 with 12-15 home runs is reasonable.

After the age of 30, Teufel had two seasons where he hit 10 or more home runs and was probably worth a few wins total. Regardless, Teufel wins this because I love Tim Teufel. Teufel wins this because of a story from Jeff Pearlman’s The Bad Guys Won.

Teufel, not exactly a drinker, made an effort to be social with his ’86 Mets teammates. One night at a bar named Cooters in Houston, Texas, Teufel happened to be extremely drunk. After leaving the bar with a beer, Dale Bristley, an off duty police officer working club security, yelled at Teufel to bring the beer back inside. Teufel, typically a mild-mannered, accommodating man, did not willing comply:

As related by Pearlman:

Either way, Bristley snapped. He reached for the beer, which caused the out-of-his-head Teufel to cock back his right fist and lunge toward the officer. Even at his most muscular the second baseman had as much business throwing a punch as Kurt Waldheim did joining B’nai Brith. Teufel was a softie, and softies do not engage in barroom brawls with cops. The doormen on duty, Sandy Hooper and Nate Wishnow, grabbed him by the arms and waist and pulled him away from Bristley. Wishnow came from behind and right-jabbed twice at Teufel’s stomach, sending him stumbling to the ground . . . Standing atop the fallen Teufel, [Wishnow] looked down and said, ‘You know, for an athlete you’re a pretty big wimp,’ Teufel, battered and drunk, could only sigh.

28 years later I make things right. Lowrie spent one season in Houston, which makes Teufel our unequivocal winner. Plus, I was a big Tim Teufel fan growing up. Reason and sense never trump childhood memories.

I still believe Mister T is a pretty awesome cartoon.

6.  John McDonald – John McDonald (you wanted me to write Old McDonald, didn’t you?) will be 40 next season is probably through as a regular in the Majors. If needed, he could play shortstop or third, and he’s at that point where he’d likely sign cheap on a one-year deal. For his career, he’s hit lefties okay, but not so much last year, and you really can’t expect a 40 year old man to hit anything other than a remote.

Juan Castro stopped playing baseball at 39, which means he cost less in terms of wins and money than McDonald did last year.

I’m picking Castro.

7.  Jonathan Herrera – covered with second basemen.

8.  Ed Lucas – covered with second basemen.

Running count of players appearing most in similarity lists:

Player Count Position
Mike Macfarlane 3 Catchers
Scott Servais 3 Catchers
Ben Oglivie 3 1B
Robby Thompson 2 2B
Johnny Berardino 2 SS

Similar Players by Count

Next, I discuss the third basemen.

Asdrubal Cabrera and Jed Lowrie photo credit: Keith Allison via photopin cc

Nov 11

Free Agent Fun with Comps: the Second Basemen

emilioBonifacioEmilio Bonifacio in 2013 with Toronto

This is part 3 of an ongoing series featuring a breakdown of the current free agent players at each position. Read part 1 and part 2.

As mentioned in my earlier posts, I’m assessing the current free agent players seeking their respective paydays by comparing each player with his historical comp. Then, after painstakingly looking over the numbers, I determine if I’d bet on the current free agent to perform better over the next few years or go with the comp.

It’s that simple.

All comparisons are pulled using the Similarity Score by age from Baseball-Reference and all free agents were borrowed from the listing at MLB Trade Rumors.

Today, I discuss the second basemen.

SECOND BASEMEN

There’s a reason the Seattle Mariners signed Robinson Cano to a 10-year 240 million dollar contract last season. Even at the age of 31, he was an impact player at a position where value is usually fairly tepid. Entering last season, Cano had already accumulated five seasons of 5+ bWAR (an arbitrary cutoff, but one I used to distinguish the All Star level and borderline), which was tied for third all time. He now has six, tied for second with the likes of Chase Utley, Roberto Alomar, and Ryne Sandberg.

You pay for those guys. Why I bring that up is that you won’t see a player like that this year. Not even close. Rafael Furcal was a three time All Star and legitimately spectacular when he was a shortstop with the Braves…about a decade ago. He still had two Hall of Fame players in his top three for comps though.

That’s nice.

There are a few players such as Emilio Bonifacio and Rickie Weeks who are relatively young enough (will be 30 and 32 in the upcoming season) that you take a flyer on, especially Bonifacio who is likely the one candidate amongst this group to provide real value over the life of any deal signed beyond one year.

All players listed below are sorted by career bWAR

Current Player Age Closest Comp Favorite Comp Pick
Rafael Furcal 37 Al Dark Pee Wee Reese Dark
Mark Ellis 38 Marco Scutaro Mike Bordick Ellis
Kelly Johnson 33 Bill Hall Robby Thompson Johnson
Rickie Weeks 32 Damion Easley Robby Thompson Easley
Ramon Santiago 35 Alvaro Espinoza Alvaro Espinoza Santiago
Emilio Bonifacio 30 Alan Bannister Alan Bannister Bonifacio
Jonathan Herrera 30 Juan Bonilla Alex Arias Bonilla
Ed Lucas 33 Jack Saltzgaver Pete Orr Saltzgaver
Josh Wilson 34 Eddie Pellagrini Augie Ojeda Wilson
Brandon Hicks 29
Chris Valaika 29

Second Basemen by Comps

1.  Rafael Furcal – Furcal missed all of 2013 due to Tommy John surgery and missed a total of 153 games in 2014 because of a hamstring strain. In the nine games he did play for Miami he was about what you’d expect someone not playing in nearly two years would be. Since entering his 30s, he’s missed 601 games in total, or about 53% of the possible games played over those seven seasons. He’s not the shortstop he was back in the day when he was terrorizing the NL East for the Braves, and the last time he actually stole a base was in 2012, so maybe he still has speed, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

At 37 Al Dark put up borderline All Star numbers for the Chicago Cubs and was slightly better than replacement level for the Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Braves in 1960. I don’t think Furcal comes close to the 3.5 bWAR Dark put up in those two seasons. I wish he would, though. I miss the Furcal that terrorized the Mets in those days.

2.  Mark Ellis – Ellis entered the season on the DL with tendonitis in his knee and was on the DL again prior to season’s end with an oblique strain. Why is this important? Because he’ll be 38 next year and these are injuries that aren’t really fluke ones. They happen because the body is aging and muscles and ligaments aren’t as spry as they were in youth. When he did play, he hit just .180/.253/.213 and had an OPS+ of 32. I don’t think Ellis is as bad as all that going forward, and he still can field his position. Don’t ask him to be your starter, and I think a team will do just fine.

Marco Scutaro is Ellis’ closest comp, which makes any assessment trickier. Last season, at 38, Scutaro missed all but five games for the World Champion (obligatory) Giants because of chronic lower back issues. Ellis will provide enough value off of the bench to surpass Scutaro going forward.

Aging sucks.

3.  Kelly Johnson – Toronto and Tampa were the only two teams Johnson didn’t start for in the AL East last season, and he was somehow traded intra-division twice (from the Yankees to the Red Sox, then from the Sox to the Orioles). Only in New York did he play above replacement level, though he did log some meaningful innings at third for the O’s after Chris Davis was suspended. That he didn’t do too much in those games shouldn’t surprise anyone since he’s about two years removed from being productive. Does he still have any power left? He won’t hit for a high average, but he still has a decent glove.   He’ll be just 33 entering ’15, so he’s a good bet to rebound and hit 12-15 homers.

Bill Hall was out of baseball after the age of 32. Johnson should top that.

4.  Rickie Weeks – Weeks is the other former All Star in this group, making it to the game in 2011. Although Weeks has had a fine career, hitting 20+ homers three straight years from 2010-12 and hitting double digits six times, doesn’t it seem like he’s always been more potential than reality? He’s had some solid seasons, reaching over three bWAR twice in his career, but it seemed like he should do so much more. Given the opportunity, Weeks can absolutely crush a batting practice fastball:

From 32 on Damion Easley was often injured, never played a full season and played just well enough to stay employed on the  veteran minimum. I don’t think Weeks is done as a player, but I still don’t see him exceeding Easley’s later year accomplishments, especially if he’s leaving hitter friendly Miller Park.

5.  Ramon Santiago – To put this season’s list of free agents into perspective, Santiago tied for first in bWAR with 0.6. In 75 games as a utility infielder for the Reds, Santiago hit .246/.343/.324 with an OPS+ of 91. As a utility infielder, he provides value and will be cheap to sign. Ask the Nationals if it’s nice to have decent, low cost utility infielders hanging around for when the starters go broken.

I always liked Alvaro Espinosa when I was a kid even if he did play for the Yankees, but at the age of 35 he was through. Santiago will surpass Espinosa’s -0.6 bWAR at that age, but don’t get charitable and give him a second year.

6.  Emilio Bonifacio – That Bonifacio logged more time in centerfield last season than he did at second doesn’t matter for this list. He can play second, spending the majority of his time there prior to 2014, and if you ask him to play out of position you sometimes come across scary things like this. He will likely never reach that 2.7 bWAR he achieved in 2011 with the Marlins (where he hit an obscene .372 on BABIP and stole 40 bases), but he’s a legitimate threat to swipe a bag. I wouldn’t bet on him turning into a patient hitter either. He’s actually regressing in that department, decreasing from a career high of walks in 9.1% of his plate appearances in 2011 to just 6.1% of the time this past year. He hits well enough that he’s not a wasted at bat (just don’t ask the Braves, though, where he sort of became a strikeout machine with 36 K’s in 118 official at-bats). He is handy with the glove, and he offers the most upside of any in this group.

At 30, Bannister enjoyed one of his finest seasons, accumulating 1.2 bWAR while hitting .267/.347/.353. Because of injuries and, well, not being all that good that about totaled Bannister’s entire ledger until he retired in 1985.

Bonifacio should eke past that total next year.

JonathanHerrera7.  Jonathan Herrera – What do a lot of these guys have in common? They are largely utility fielders at this point, bouncing around the infield whenever needed. Herrera logged innings at second, short, and third for Boston last season, recording an OPS+ of 69 in his 42 games in Beantown. His offense declined after leaving Coors Field if you don’t take park effects into consideration, but for 1.3 million he played okay. He’ll field his position, make the occasional start, and luck into a walk from time to time.

Juan Bonilla played 23 games for the Yankees when he was 31, and that was the end of his career. As far as I know, he isn’t related to Bobby Bonilla, which is worth extra points on top of the 0 bWAR he earned in 1987. I think Herrera will hang around, settle in comfortably at replacement level or below, but for this exercise, Bonilla wins.

8.  Ed Lucas – Would it shock you to learn that Lucas spent time all over the infield for the Marlins last season? No. Okay, then. Lucas isn’t going to wow you with his on-base skills, but if he gets on second, watch out. That stolen base was his only one of the season, but it came against Cole Hamels so it’s worth 10. I mean that. Bad things happening to Hamels on the diamond  is like a gigantic thumbs up, karmically speaking.

Lucas’ closest comp is Jack Saltzgaver. His greatest claim to baseball was playing on three Yankees World Championship teams in 1932, 1936-37. I’m guessing those teams won because of guys like Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, et al. Tony Lazzeri was the starting second baseman. It was tough being a bench player for the Yanks, but Saltzgaver still wore pinstripes.

Saltzgaver wins this one because he probably told better stories.

9.  Josh Wilson – Things got so bad for the Texas Rangers last season that Josh Wilson’s 0.4 bWAR in 24 games ranked seventh for their infielders (the Rangers sort of employed a throw spaghetti against the wall strategy for their roster, by the way) and made him four times more valuable than Rougned Odor who played the majority of the innings at second. Wilson has spent the majority of his career bouncing around the minors while making stops in the Majors to provide a good glove without much offense. He also went to the same  high school (Mount Lebanon HS) as former Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson, which I found to be cool.

Eddie Pellagrini had something of a breakout year at the age of 35, which was sandwiched between two sub replacement seasons. Wilson will surpass the -0.8 accumulated by Pellagrini over those three years, but it will be entirely with his glove. The trick will be finding a roster spot. When he plays he’s a net positive.

10.  Brandon Hicks – There’s really no reason to believe that Hicks can actually hit at the Major League level. He has a bit of power, totaling eight home runs for the Giants in 71 games last season while hitting .162/.280/.319, but the Giants had a better hitter in their pitching staff (Madison Bumgarner, who apparently does everything well). Hicks 72 OPS+ still makes him an offensive juggernaut in this group, however. He still earned a ring for his time prior to being designated for assignment.

He’ll sign a minor league contract somewhere, make brief visits to the Majors to fill in from time to time (like say when you’re starter misses time with back pain) and will play at replacement level, which is the definition or something.

11.  Chris Valaika – The last in our list, both alphabetically and by career bWAR, is Valaika who is another career minor leaguer who can play multiple positions reasonably well. When given a chance he won’t hit all that much, but he’s one of those guys teams have at Triple-A ready to fill in when needed.

Running count of players appearing most in similarity lists:

Player Count Position
Mike Macfarlane 3 Catchers
Scott Servais 3 Catchers
Ben Oglivie 3 1B
Robby Thompson 2 2B

Similar Players by Count

Next, I discuss the shortstops.

Emilio Bonifacio and Jonathan Herrera photo credit: Keith Allison via photopin cc

Nov 11

So, the Mets Sign Cuddyer?

MichaelCuddyerWell, it wouldn’t be a Mets offseason if they weren’t trying to address their perpetual outfield problem with veteran stopgaps. At least it’s not Jeff Francoeur. That’s something at least. Were the Nationals unwilling to listen for offers on Tony Tarasco? Couldn’t they at least try to bring Lance Johnson out of retirement?

The best thing I can say about the signing of Michael Cuddyer is that it’s for two years. The money is certainly reasonable at 21 million over two years. Cuddyer and his agent Casey Close took the certainty of 21 million (split out with 8.5 million in 2015 and 12.5 in 2016) over 15.3 from Colorado this season and who knows in ’16, maybe a series of one-year deals if he gets hurt. With Cuddyer limited to just 49 games in 2014 due to various thigh and shoulder ailments, 21 million is a pretty good deal, especially considering the Mets will be surrendering their 1st round draft pick in the bargain. My big hope is that Cuddyer comes in and helps the Mets gets re-Metsmerized.

I understand Sandy Alderson’s reasoning. It makes sense, sort of. Matt Harvey returns next season, and this team is loaded with pitching. They won 79 games in ’14, but the team outplayed their record by a few games. With the hope that David Wright’s shoulder makes a full recovery and Curtis Granderson rebounds to have a reasonably productive season, the team figures it’s just a few pieces away from contending in the East. Maybe. I’m not so sure Lucas Duda’s breakout season is sustainable and will Juan Lagares hit that well again? Is his ceiling more around .260?

He’s so good defensively it doesn’t even matter.

The Mets outfield was fairly putrid offensively last season. They collectively ranked in the bottom half of the NL in nearly every counting statistic except stolen bases, and with the addition of Cuddyer just under half of those (Eric Young had 30 of the outfielders 73) will be replaced. Of course, Cuddyer’s 114 career OPS+ will also replace that .229/.299/.311 line Young threw up last season as well. Even a rather conservative line of .270/.330/.400 out of Cuddyer with about 10-12 home runs would dwarf Young’s production.

The Mets haven’t exactly hit their 1st round picks out of the park when it comes to positional players. Baseball Prospectus has Brandon Nimmo and Dominic Smith projected to be solid regulars, which is fine. All first round picks don’t turn into superstars, but you kind of hoped for something more from Nimmo since just behind him was drafted Jose Fernandez followed soon after by Sonny Gray and Kolten Wong. It also sort of hurts that the Mets could have had Joe Panik, my new fan crush player.

Even if you wanted to punt that pick, giving up the draft slot money is tough. They’re giving up the potential of finding a player that slips or overpaying in later rounds if they’re lucky enough to find someone in a freefall.

All in all, I don’t hate the deal. I think the Mets could have gone after Nick Markakis or bet on Colby Rasmus. Heck, why not kick the tires on Melky Cabrera? Cuddyer is a fine player, but I have to believe that Markakis could provide reasonable offensive production at a similar cost with the added bonus of defense.

Cheer up, Mets fans. It could have been for four years and 60 million.

Michael Cuddyer photo credit: slgckgc via photopin cc

Nov 09

Free Agent Fun with Comps: the First Basemen

AdamLaRocheThis is part 2 of an ongoing series featuring a breakdown of the current free agent players at each position. Read part 1 here.

As mentioned in my earlier post, I’m assessing the current free agent players seeking their respective paydays by comparing each player with his historical comp. Then, after painstakingly looking over the numbers, I determine if I’d bet on the current free agent to perform better over the next few years or go with the comp.

It’s that simple.

All comparisons are pulled using the Similarity Score by age from Baseball-Reference and all free agents were borrowed from the listing at MLB Trade Rumors.

Today, I discuss the first basemen.

FIRST BASEMEN

The good news is that between the 10 men listed below, there are six All Star appearances, two Gold Gloves, four Silver Sluggers, and a few Top 10 MVP finishes between them. The bad news is that the most recent All Star appearance, Michael Cuddyer’s, happened in 2013 and he’s going to be 36 next year. The group totaled 2.7 bWAR (2.2 of that was due to Adam LaRoche) and since four of them will be playing 2015 in their age 35 or older years, the prospect of that number increasing is unlikely.

But, Billy Butler belongs to this group, and he pulled my favorite comps so far, so I’m giddy to write about this group.

All players listed below are sorted by career bWAR

Current Player Age Closest Comp Favorite Comp Pick
Carlos Pena 37 Andre Thornton Jeromy Burnitz Thornton
Lyle Overbay 38 David Segui J.T. Snow Segui
Michael Cuddyer 36 Rondell White Mike Sweeney Cuddyer
Corey Hart 33 Reggie Sanders Trot Nixon Sanders
Adam LaRoche 35 Eric Karros Paul O’Neill LaRoche
Billy Butler 29 John Olerud Keith Hernandez Olerud
Daric Barton 29 Babe Dahlgren Sid Bream Dahlgren
Mark Reynolds 32 Jose Cruz Jose Cruz Reynolds
Mike Morse 33 Geronimo Berroa Raul Ibanez Morse
Mike Carp 29 Scott Stahoviak Steve Bilko Stahoviak

First Basemen by Comps

CarlosPena1.  Carlos Pena – Pena played just 18 games in 2014 after being signed by the Angels to a minor league contract, released in March, then signed by the Rangers in late June. The 18 games he played weren’t particularly inspiring and honestly, Pena hasn’t been valuable as a legitimate Major League player since 2012. The days of Top 10 MVP finishes (yes, two of them!) and All Star games are long gone.

When Andre Thornton was 37 he hit .118/.206/.141 and struck out in 25 of his 85 official at-bats, good for 25.8% of his at-bats or slightly better than Pena’s career 26.8%. Thornton was worth -1.1 bWAR. I still take that certainty over Pena’s unknown.

However, Pena’s comps were the second best I’ve seen so far from a pure enjoyment level: Burnitz, Jay Buhner, Eric Davis, Kirk Gibson, and J.T. Snow just to name four. It reminded me of high school.

2.  Lyle Overbay – Overbay has been playing on a series of 1-year contracts since 2011 and this offseason won’t change that. He flirts with being marginally productive each year, but he hasn’t been consistently good since 2010. I was always a David Segui fan, but he retired at the age of 37 after playing just 18 games for Baltimore.

Overbay can still draw a walk, doesn’t strike out much, and fields his position reasonably well. If you’re depending on him for 121 games and 300 at-bats like the Brewers did last year, you’re in trouble. There was a reason that the Brewers were 12th in the NL in accumulated WAR at first base using the combination of Overbay and Mark Reynolds. There’s also a reason both are free agents heading into 2015.

This is probably over speculation at this point as Overbay has said he’s 99.9% certain he’s to retire. I guess Segui wins this by the graceful exit from a 14-year vet.

3.  Michael Cuddyer – The Rockies extended the qualifying offer of 15.3 million to Cuddyer, and he should jump all over that. He could look for more years, but he won’t get that much money elsewhere, especially if there’s a draft pick compensation tied to it. Cuddyer has missed quite a few games over the past three seasons due to various ailments, and he only appeared in 49 games last season due to elbow, shoulder, and thigh (both of them) issues. Take the 15.3 million.

Rondell White played 38 games in his age 35 season, hitting .174 with four home runs. Cuddyer will produce more than that just stumbling into the Coors batter’s box, so this pick is a gimme. I don’t know if Cuddyer is the .330 hitter he’s been this last two seasons, but he’s just a year removed from the All Star game.

Update: The Mets signed Cuddyer to a 2-year 21 million dollar deal 11/10/2014. Sometimes you can’t make this stuff up. I was so convinced that Cuddyer was going to take the one-year qualifying deal from the Rockies that I debated even adding him to this list of first basemen (also because, you know, he plays predominantly in right field, but whatever). I kind of want to close my eyes and pretend that the Mets made the news solely due to Jacob deGrom winning NL Rookie of the Year.

In their 53 years of existence, the Mets have had five seasons where an outfielder of 35 or older has recorded 2+ wins (as per Fangraphs) with the latest being Marlon Byrd (why not just resign him last offseason?!) before being traded in ’13.  The median wins is 0.4 with the middle 50 sitting between 0.1 to 0.775.

Let’s just say I’m not optimistic.

4.  Corey Hart – Hart was out of baseball in 2013 after microfracture surgery on his right knee, and hit.203/.271/.319 in Seattle. He hit six home runs last season, and he’ll be just 33 in ’15 so someone will take a chance and sign him. Reggie Sanders was a borderline All Star for three different teams from the ages of 33-35. He hit 20 or more home runs five times after 33, and was 20/20 (homers and stolen bases) at 36. Hart won’t reach numbers even remotely close to what Sanders produced.

5.  Adam LaRoche – I did a fairly sizable piece for District on LaRoche, so I won’t recount all of that here. The key points are that LaRoche will be 35, was productive last season, and will occasionally provide moments like this:

Karros could still hit at 35, was out of the game after 40 games at 36, and produced -1.4 bWAR in those two years. LaRoche will surpass that, but his range is starting to slip at first and he can’t hit lefties at all. LaRoche appeared in the MASN broadcast booth a few times this season with Bob Carpenter and F.P. Santangelo and co-owns Buck Commander, an Outdoors Network show, so I think I can safely argue that Karros is the far superior television personality. LaRoche has the better facial hair though.

6.  Billy Butler – Despite his postseason heroics, Butler was sub replacement this season. I like the big guy though, so I’m willing to dismiss that fact and call Baseball-Reference a bunch of filthy liars.

For this comparison, however, there really is none. John Olerud was one of my favorite Mets and part of one of the best infields in baseball history. From the age of 29 on, he won three Gold Gloves and was an All Star. He averaged nearly 5 bWAR from 29-34. Butler is very nice, but his career bWAR is less than Olerud’s 1998-99 seasons.

On a positive note, Butler wins hands down for my favorite list of comps: Olerud, Keith Hernandez, Will Clark, Harold Baines, and Nick Markakis. Heck, even Rafael Palmeiro is in there, mustached, popping Viagra and mainlining B-12 like nobody’s business.

7.  Daric Barton – Barton is young enough that a team will sign him, hoping for his prime years. Maybe. He takes a walk, hits the occasional homer, and strikes out a lot less than others on this list. He’s okay with the glove, despite this clip, so it’s not like you’d suffer much if he played a utility role.

I didn’t know who Babe Dahlgren was before this exercise, but from 29 on he made the All Star team (in 1943 when many of the players were off fighting in World War II) and finished 12th for NL MVP in ’44. He had a few solid seasons of 2+ bWAR between the ages of 29 and 32, which makes me think the Babe is the winner.

8.  Mark Reynolds – In the early going, Milwaukee was swapping out first with Reynolds and Overbay while moving Reynolds around to right and third to keep his bat in the lineup. Reynolds rewarded the Brewers with six home runs in April. He also hit .224/.302/.500 while striking out 31 times in 76 at-bats.

He finished with 22 home runs, something he’s done seven straight years. Yes, he strikes out a ton. Yes, he doesn’t even hit his own weight. Watching him in the field is always something of an adventure.

He still beats out Jose Cruz, Jr. just by the simple fact that Cruz could barely hit at all (gone was the power from his youth) once he turned 32 because of reoccurring back issues. It’s almost a toss-up, since Cruz provided enough defensive value that he actually accumulated a total of 1.6 bWAR at 32-33.

Reynolds will sign somewhere. He’ll crush home runs. He’ll strike out 30-35% of the time. He’ll hit .210. I wonder if he’ll resign with the Orioles and Buck Showalter will convince him that he’s the second coming of Lee May. We’ll see those strikeouts decrease, the average increase, and the team make the World Series.

9.  Mike Morse – I’m fudging a bit here because Morse plays left field with the occasional start at first when Brandon Belt is hurt, but he’s listed as first basemen here because he made a few starts there. Go figure.

Mike Morse is a very strong man, and when he extends his arms very good things can happen (unless you root for the Cardinals). When he plays, he’s valuable. If he’s fighting off shoulder, hand, wrist, thigh, back, foot, and/or ab (this is just a quick glance at his injury history by the way) injuries, he’s sub replacement. He’ll be 33 next season, so caveat emptor.

Geronimo Berroa was a find player in his late 20s and early 30s but by the age of 33 he was done. Morse will surpass that easily as long as he doesn’t destroy his quadriceps by sprinting out to left or trip over the bullpen mounds or something.

10.  Mike Carp – Mike Carp did a little bit of everything last season, playing first, left, and subbing in at third for an inning or two. He was another player the Texas Rangers tried at first, found that wasn’t really all that good and was designated for assignment.

Scott Stahoviak never played a game after appearing in nine games for the Twins when he was 28. Someone will give Carp a chance next season, maybe, but they’ll get someone sub replacement for their troubles. The simple math tells me that not accruing anything is better than going into the red.

Running count of players appearing most in similarity lists:

Player Count Position
Mike Macfarlane 3 Catchers
Scott Servais 3 Catchers
Ben Oglivie 3 1B

Similar Players by Count

Next, I discuss the second basemen.

Adam LaRoche photo credit: Photo Phiend via photopin cc

Carlos Pena photo credit: Keith Allison via photopin cc

Nov 08

Free Agent Fun with Comps: the Catchers

RussellMartinphoto credit: Malingering via photopin cc

One of the best parts about the bitter disappointment of your favorite team not winning the World Series (or not making it to the postseason again or finishing below .500 for the sixth straight year) is that you can dream about all of the free agents they won’t be able to afford because of a well-publicized Ponzi scheme.

This time of year is fun.

But, in the spirit of the holiday season, with as much joy as I can summon, I’d like to provide one more article1 to ranking the current crop of free agents. Since there are so many articles out there already, and my list will look identical to Keith Law’s because I would steal shamelessly, I’ve decided to discuss each player based on Bill James’ Similarity Score as provided by Baseball-Reference.

The concept is simple: I find the player closest to a particular player based on age, and then I decide if I’d offer the former player a contract or the current one. It’s goofy. It’s silly. It’s just the sort of thing that will help me cope with the prospect of another season with Wilmer Flores at shortstop or a Jed Lowrie overpay.

In today’s post, I discuss the catchers.

CATCHERS

Ugh. J.P. Arencibia is the youngest free agent amongst the catchers, and at the downright youthful age of 29 he’s the only one under 30. Russell Martin is the obvious prize with perhaps someone taking a flyer on a 35-year old Gerald Laird having a bounce back season, but the group doesn’t inspire confidence. It’s largely a group of back-ups (as opposed to legitimate backstops) and one-year rentals.

For those not willing to surrender a draft pick or 14-15 million a year for Martin, Nick Hundley is available and will likely draw significant interest.2 There’s also Geovany Soto who sits precisely at the median group age of 32, which has no significance other than he’s not destined to be a team’s bullpen catcher by season’s end unlike a few of the others.

All players listed below are by career bWAR and free agent listings via MLB Trade Rumors.

Current Player Age Closest Comp Favorite Comp Pick
Russell Martin 32 Frankie Hayes Tony Pena Martin
A.J. Pierzynski 38 Benito Santiago Carlton Fisk Santiago
Geovany Soto 32 Ozzie Virgil Jason Varitek Soto
David Ross 38 Kelly Stinnett Elrod Hendricks
Gerald Laird 35 Jeff Reed Scott Servais Reed
Nick Hundley 31 Scott Servais Scott Servais Hundley
John Buck 34 Jody Davis Darren Daulton Buck
J.P. Arencibia 29 Duke Sims Mickey Tettleton Sims
Chris Gimenez 32
Brett Hayes 31
Wil Nieves 36 Frank Grube Dixie Howell Nieves

Catchers by Comps

1. Russell Martin – Martin wins this by default over Hayes since Frankie played just five games for the Boston Red Sox in his age 32 season, hitting .154 and having an OPS+ of -17, which would make this only a legitimate debate if we subbed in Darwin Barney for Martin. Tony Pena had some decent seasons in him after 32, notably in 1990 when he hit .263/.322/.348 and in 1991 when he won a Gold Glove. Even if Pena was the closest comp, I’d still go with Martin. I’d limit my exposure at two years if possible, but a deal short of four years isn’t bringing Martin to town and likely isn’t worth the draft pick compensation.

2. A.J. Pierzynski – Santiago played in 55 games in the two years after his age 38 season, and I’d still take him of Pierzynski. He looked old last season, and I can’t imagine he’s going to get better with age. If he’s willing to sign for the league minimum, Pierzynski will find some takers, but he won’t make the 8+ million he made last year when he signed with the Red Sox in the offseason.

Soto3. Geovany Soto – This one is similar to Martin in that Virgil played just 12 games with Toronto in his age 32-33 seasons. I always liked Ozzie when he was with the Braves. I wanted to pick him regardless. Still. Soto will sign with someone, and he’ll be just good enough to be a valuable backup to spell your starter, but he’s not the guy who started for the Cubs back in the early aughts.

4. David Ross – Ross will be 38 and hit just .184/.260/.368 for Boston last season in 50 games. He did hit seven home runs. That’s nice. Kelly Stinnett hit .159/.207/.232 in his age 37 season and called it a career. You can draw your own conclusions.

5. Gerald Laird – Wow. Laird sort of turned back into Gerald Laird again last season didn’t he? After two surprisingly productive seasons with Detroit and Atlanta in 2012-13, Laird reverted to the offensive black hole from his former years. Eh. Whatever. As a backup making around 1.5 million, you can’t go wrong. For this exercise, I’d still opt for Reed who had one decent season before becoming sub replacement (and that’s even playing in Colorado).

6. Nick Hundley – Buyer beware. Hundley’s closest comp had one good season and two okay ones before entering his age 31 season (essentially the same resume Hundley boasts), and Servais was sub replacement after. Maybe watching him play with Baltimore softened me on Hundley, but I’d take a flyer. He’s 31, likely won’t cost too much, and he has a little pop in his bat. The Orioles will probably resign him if they can get him cheaper than five million a year, but I think he signs elsewhere for more.

7. John Buck – I’m a little sweet on Buck after how he carried the Mets offense (loosely speaking) in April 2013. He hit nine home runs that April, then proceeded to hit seven more total since then. I really liked Jody Davis too, but he played 12 games when he was 33 and retired. Buck will sign somewhere, as a backup, and probably be sub replacement level, but he gets my vote because of April and he was part of the trade that brought Noah Sydergaard and Travis d’Arnaud to the Mets.

Thanks for the memories, JB!

8. J.P. Arencibia – Duke Sims hit 23 home runs when he was 29 and 18 the year prior (he reached double figures in four straight seasons from 1967-1970), but once he reached his 30s he was kind of through. Arencibia posted three straight seasons of positive bWAR prior to last year, and will likely sign somewhere for a decent enough salary. I’d still take Sims. The obvious player here to choose is Mickey Tettleton and those ridiculous guns of his.

Poor Ben McDonald. Tettleton crushed 30+ homers in four seasons after turning 30 (three straight from 1991-93) and walked over 100 times in five seasons from age 29 on. Let’s just say that’s not Arencibia. I miss Mickey Tettleton. I’m glad his name popped up in the similarity rankings.

9. Chris Gimenez – Gimenez has bounced around the minors for a decade, making occasional visits to the Majors. I want him to sign somewhere because he’s too good for slow pitch softball and he has a dream to play big league ball. There are no comps listed other than every other guy who’s worked his butt off to wear a professional jersey.

10. Brett Hayes – Hayes will resign somewhere because baseball is a superstitious game, and he played 32 total games for the Royals last two seasons (27 in ’14) when they went above .500 for the first time in a decade and appeared in 40 total games for the last two seasons where the Marlins were above .500 (never mind the subsequent two years in Miami. The Royals, savvy as ever, saw a pattern and dropped him before the curse could kick in.). The Mets would be wise to lock him up for two years.

11. Wil Nieves – Frank Grube was out of baseball from 1937-40 and returned to play 18 games with the St. Louis Browns when he was 36. He hit .154/.195/.205. Nieves will surpass those lofty standards. Still. Nieves is 37 and fits the Phillies model of older players without a lot of upside. He’s not leaving PA.

Well, that was fun. I’ll next move onto first basemen.

Geovany Soto photo credit: Bill Hunter via photopin cc

  1. This is not true. There will be many, many such posts.
  2. I just wrote that and meant it. This group is depressing.

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