Posts tagged ‘Free Agents’

Branyan is Way Undervalued

Russell Branyan

It seems tha tevery time I read an article or see a rumor of a team that is
looking for a firstbaseman it centers around three free agents:  Derek Lee, Adam LaRoche, and Jorge Cantu. Lee wants $8M-$10M, LaRoche apparently has options to weigh and the Orioles are all over him. It is rare, if ever, that I hear the name Russell Branyan mentioned. Heck, even Troy Glaus gets a mention or two. Here is a quick comparison of Branyan and the guys mentioned above over the past three seasons:  (more…)

December 23, 2010 at 2:52 pm 7 comments

Crawford is Perfect Addition to Red Sox

Carl Crawford

I wrote the other day asking if Carl Crawford was one of the top 30 players in all of baseball.  Well, if he isn’t, he is sure is being paid like one.  The Boston Red Sox have signed Carl Crawford to a 7-year $142M contract.  The deal will take Crawford through his age 35 season, leaving little room for a decline phase on this seven year contract.  Believe me when I say that Crawford is worth every penny.

Crawford is coming off of the best season of his young, yet long career.  He hit .307/.356/.495 with an OPS+ of 134 and wOBA of .378, 47 stolen bases, and 21.2 UZR/150 for a career high 6.9 fWAR.  Crawford also set a career high with 19 homeruns, 141 wRC+, and .188 ISO.

We already know that Crawford is the best defensive leftfielder in the game and possibly the best defensive outfielder overall.  He has made more plays out of his zone than any other player at any position over the past three years.  Sure, Fenway may hurt some of his range but it will allow the centerfielder to play a few steps to his left and feel like he will get burned in the left-center field gap.

I am not sure how the Red Sox will do their lineup.  My guess is that, on most nights, Crawford will bat behind Dustin Pedroia in the 2-hole, where I believe he belongs.

In 2651 plate appearances Crawford’s has hit .305/.349/.463 from the 2-hole.  By far his best spot in the lineup throughout his career.  I also love the 2-hole for him because he hits best with men on base, especially with men on first, forcing the firstbaseman to hold the runner thus leaving a bigger gap on the right side of the infield. 

In 296 plate appearances last year Crawford hit .350/.399/.555 with men on base.  This is not to say that he has some “special clutch skill” but to show that he exploits the holes created by the defense when men are on base.  Crawford’s plus-plus speed also makes it difficult to double him up.  He only grounded into 2 double plays all year.  With Pedroia getting on base 37% of the time Crawford should have no problem hitting well above .300 this year with a shot at .320+.

This move makes the Red Sox immediate favorites in the AL East.  Sure, they may be left handed heavy, but they have a deep rotation and an incredibly deep and young bench.  Oh, and the best leftfielder in the game.

December 9, 2010 at 9:55 am Leave a comment

Pena to Cubs Makes Sense for Both

Carlos Pena

The Chicago Cubs have signed firstbaseman Carlos Pena to a one year deal worth $10M.  Pena, coming off his worst season as a Ray, was worth only 1 Win Above Replacement (fWAR) last year, or, roughly, $4M.  Pena has been in a steady decline phase since his breakout year in Tampa Bay in 2007.  Take a look:

 Year  fWAR  AVG  OBP  SLG   OPS+   BB%   wOBA 
 2007  6.2  .282  .411  .627   172  16.8  .430
 2008  4.0  .247  .377  .494  129  15.8  .374
 2009  2.8  .227  .356  .537  133  15.3  .374
 2010  1.0  .196  .325  .407  102  14.9  .326

That is some serious decline in every category from 2007-2010.  So, why did the Cubs give Pena a $10M deal?  I have a few reasons why.

One reason is that the combination of Wrigley Field, getting out of the AL East, and hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo can help Pena get his bat back on track.

Another reason is that the Cubs were targeting a good defensive firstbaseman.  Pena fits the mold.  The addition of Pena will help rangy youngster Starlin Castro turn more of his errant throws into outs.

The last reason is that Pena has a ton of “intangible” value thanks to his clubhouse leadership and positive demeanor both on the field and off.

The Cubs still have holes all over their roster.  The addition of Pena does not make them playoff favorites in 2011 but it does give the Cubs a player that will help the younger players mature, give Pena the best opportunity to find his swing, and hopefully give the Cubs a draft pick or two when/if Pena leaves via free agency after the 2011 season.

Although $10M is a risk, I believe we will see a version of Carlos Pena that will justify his 2011 contract and allow him to hit the market next offseason with even better hopes of a multi-year deal, making this deal a win-win for him and the Cubs.

December 8, 2010 at 5:04 pm 1 comment

Is Crawford a Top 30 Player? ESPN Doesn’t Think So

Carl Crawford

If you frequent ESPN.com you probably have noticed that they post “List Rankers” that allow visitors to rank the players they have chosen for a certain category.  The most recent one posted is Baseball’s Best Players and you can rank the top 30 players, chosen by ESPN, in whatever order you prefer.  The list varied from obvious choices like Albert Pujols, Evan Longoria, and Miguel Cabrera to not-so-obvious choices like Paul Konerko, Tim Hudson, and 126M dollar man Jayson Werth.  You could probably argue for a few people to make the Top 30 list but none more than Carl Crawford.

In 2010, Crawford was an All-Star, won a Gold Glove, won a Silver Slugger Award, lead the league in triples, had on OPS+ of 134, +52 baserunning, and finished tied for 6th in fWAR with 6.9.

He has played 9 seasons in the Majors and will start the 2010 season at the tender age of 29, or, right in the middle of his prime.  In those 9 seasons he has been one of the most dynamic players with 1480 hits, 215 doubles, 105 triples, 104 homeruns, and 409 stolen bases.  He has lead the league in stolen bases 4 times, triples 4 times, and PwrSpd 2 times.

Over the past 3 seasons he has a +77 in leftfield, that is 35 more than the next closest leftfielder (Matt Holiday at +42) and 15 more than the next closest outfielder (Franklin Gutierrez at +62).

Here are some ranks of Crawford’s since he debuted in 2002:

 Stat  Total  Rank Since 2002
 Triples  105  1st
 Stolen Bases  409  2nd
 RF/G  2.23  1st
 Total Zone Runs  62  1st (among LF)
 Hits  1480  14th
 AVG.  .296  19th

Bill James also gives Crawford a 30% chance of reaching 3000 hits and a 6% chance of reaching 1000 steals.  Both are marks that, if reached, are sure tickets to Cooperstown.

As the best defensive outfielder in the game, Crawford has it all:  Speed, Power, Defense, Baserunning, Developing Power, and he is just entering his prime, coming off of the best season of his career as a 28 year old. 

I dare say that if Crawford had been playing for the Yankees the past 9 season ESPN probably would have had him on this list but, instead, they completely whiffed and left him off their list when he is without a doubt one of the 30 best players in the game.

December 7, 2010 at 10:00 pm 2 comments

Harang Deal Could Be a Steal

Aaron Harang

The San Diego Padres have struck a deal with starting pitcher Aaron Harang for 1 year and $3-$3.5M. This could end up a major steal of a deal for the Padres.

From 2005-2007 Harang’s numbers were very consistent and All-Star caliber. From 2008-2010, though, Harang’s numbers have been on a steady decline:

Year IP HR/9 ERA FIP
 2005  211.2  0.94  3.83  3.67
 2006  234.1  1.08  3.76  3.68
 2007  231.2  1.09  3.73  3.71
 2008  184.1  1.71  4.78  4.79
 2009  162.1  1.33  4.21  4.14
 2010  111.2  1.29  5.32  4.60

We see a huge decrease in innings pitched, a huge increase in HR/9 rate, and a huge increase in ERA, with his FIP also rising but not quite as much.

Harang’s career GB% is 37.9, meaning he gives up a ton of flyballs, something that no doubt hurt him in Cincy. Moving to Petco should help, at worst, bring his HR/9 rate back to what it was prior to 2008.

Moving to Petco also means that Harang will have a rangy outfield with Cameron Maybin, Will Venable, Ryan Ludwick and Aaron Cunningham, hopefully helping a BABIP that has gone consistently up (in order) from 2007-2010: .298 to .317 to .339 to .346

Other than health, the biggest hurdle is Harang’s drop in K/9 and rise in BB/9. The weird thing is that you usually see a decrease in velocity with a drop in K rate but Harang actually had his 2nd best fastball velocity (90.5), 3rd best slider velocity (82.5), and 2nd best curveball velocity (76.6) since his first full season in 2004. The problem seems to be in his command. His zone% was by far a career worst at 43.6%. His previous full-season worst was 52.1%.

Even if Harang is fully healthy he might have a hard time finding his form that made him a 5 WAR pitcher from 2005-2007. He will need to miss more bats but I see no other reason why he cannot come close to reaching that 2005-2007 form with the help of Petco and his rangy outfield.

December 5, 2010 at 12:43 pm 1 comment

Andruw Jones Might Be an Upgrade in RF

Andruw Jones
(AP Photo)

The Chicago White Sox struck a heck of a deal with OF/DH/1B Andruw Jones that will pay him a base salary of $500k with the potential for $1M more, a figure he will surely reach with moderate playing time. I absolutely love this deal for the White Sox even though they will not give him a starting job, at least not right off the bat.

The White Sox are likely going to lose outfielders Scott Podsednik and Jermaine Dye this offseason and they have already lost backup outfielder DeWayne Wise. The White Sox needed some outfield depth and that’s why they signed Jones.

The White Sox already have Carlos Quentin in left and Alex Rios is more than capable of patrolling center, but they are slated to have Mark Kotsay, Alejandro De Aza or some other quad-A player in right. Bleh. That gives them no power in an outfield corner spot. Not good. I think Andruw Jones could and should be the man in right field next season and, check this, he may actually be an upgrade over the beloved Jermaine Dye.

Jermaine Dye posted a sad and pathetic UZR/150 of -24.5 in right last year. Add that to a .250/.340/.453 slash line and .344 wOBA over 574 plate appearances and you end up with a -0.3 WAR player. That’s right, -0.3. He was below replacement level last season. In 2008 he was a 1.7 WAR player but in 2007 he was a -0.7.

Andruw Jones posted a UZR/150+24.9 in 148.2 outfield innings and +25.4 in 39.2 innings at first base. Small sample sizes, I know, but add that to his .214/.323/.459 slash line and .338 wOBA in only 338 plate appearances and you get a +0.8 WAR player. In 2008 he was a dismal -0.9 WAR player but in 2007 he was a +3.6.

Jones, in my opinion, can still play center but would be plus in a corner spot. And he moves to Chicago’s homer prone windy park and he brings his 49.5% flyball rate with him. All these things added up (and hopefully some off field conditioning) and I think the White Sox could have at least a +2.0 WAR player if they give him 500 plate appearances in right field.

-stats from fangraphs.com

November 27, 2009 at 11:10 am 2 comments


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