Archive for the ‘New York Mets’ category

Is Corey Kluber a Legitimate Hall of Fame Candidate?

February 12, 2019

I was looking at Corey Kluber‘s career stats the other day, and I wondered if what he has accomplished in the last five years has made him a legitimate Hall of Fame candidate.  The short answer is no, not yet.

The player Kluber currently looks most like is Johan Santana.  Santana was MLB’s best pitcher for the five seasons between 2004 and 2008.  However, arm problems then ruined his career, and he finished 139-78.

Santana appeared on the 2018 Hall of Fame ballot for the first time, but he received only 10 votes and was dropped from the 2019 ballot.  I definitely think that in 25 or 30 years, the Hall of Fame’s Veteran’s Committee (or whatever they call it now or then) will notice that Santana’s career record looks an awful lot like Dizzy Dean‘s and maybe even Sandy Koufax‘s.  However, Santana might be hurt by pitching in the heart of the PEDs ERA.

Corey Kluber will be 33 this upcoming season, but he’s bigger than Santana, so maybe his arm will hold out better.  He’s probably only one more CY Young caliber season (i.e., on a par with four of his last five seasons) and another 55 career wins from what it would require for him to be a sure thing to reach the Hall of Fame eventually.

Advertisements

Maybe Free Agents Just Aren’t Worth It

February 3, 2019

On February 1st, I was planning to write a post about how strange it is that four of the top five free agents (at least according to mlbtraderumors.com) are still unsigned.  Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post beat me to it.  However, the title of his article got me thinking whether not signing free agents means not trying to win.

Analytics are showing that free agents aren’t worth the money they are getting in terms of actual performance on the free agent contracts they sign and that MLB teams are finally catching up, although it has taken them a long time to do so.

I thought it might be interesting to look at what last year’s top 50 free agents (according to mlbtraderumors.com) did in  2018, the first year of their free agent deals, when everyone expects free agents to be worth the most.  Everyone basically understands that signing a free agent is a win-now strategy and that players are overpaid in the latter years of their free agent deals to provide big value in the first year or two of their contracts.

So what were free agents worth in the first year of the new contracts they signed during the 2017-2018 off-season, which was the off-season when free agent contracts dramatically tightened up in terms of guaranteed seasons?  As it turns out, not what they were paid.

I used the average salary over the years of multi-year contracts, rather than the actual first year salaries, which are in many cases lower, because it was less work to calculate.  It also gives a more accurate value, in a sense, of what the team will end up paying annually for the term of the contract.

By my calculation, teams committed $441.9 million in first year salaries, and got total production value, according to fangraphs.com, of only $356.6 million in return.  Of the 47 free agents I included, only 12 players performed in 2018 at a level greater than their average annual average salary over the lengths of their contracts, while 34 performed worse, 10 of whom cost their new teams money by playing at a level below replacement level.  The 47 players have a remaining 62 seasons on their combined contracts, when as a group they will almost certainly perform at a lower level than they did in 2018, since free agents as a group do not age well at all.

Free agent contracts look like a lottery gamble for teams.  A team might hit it big with the kind of performance J.D. Martinez, Lorenzo Cain, Jhoulys Chacin, Miles Mikolas and Mike Moustakas gave their teams in 2018, but teams were more likely to get the the underwhelming and overpaid performances Yu Darvish, Eric Hosmer, Wade Davis, Zack Cozart and Jay Bruce gave their 2018 teams.

There are a lot of reasons why teams would continue to sign free agents, even if they are overpaid even in their first seasons with their new clubs.  It’s good public relations to sign free agents, particularly if you have lost one or more of your own players to free agency.  The cost in talent, compared to trades, of signing a free agent is very low (although the current collective bargaining rules make it more expensive in terms of talent for the wealthiest, highest spending teams to spend big on free agents, which has always been the driver of the free agent market).  It might be worth overpaying a free agent in order to plug a glaring hole in your line-up.

However, what I take from this information is that it makes little sense to sign a free agent, particularly one in the bottom half of the top 50, unless you are fairly certain one or two performances is all that is separating your team from making or returning to the post-season.  Rebuilding teams shouldn’t be signing free agents until they are truly ready to compete.  Even if you don’t have a replacement level player in your organization at the position you are looking to improve at, a replacement level player can probably be obtained cheaply from another organization, particularly when compared to the financial cost of free agents, even with the sharp tightening in the market the last two off-seasons.

While I still suspect that teams are engaging in some kind of soft collusion — maybe MLB is holding meetings where MLB’s analysts are lecturing teams on the actual value of free agents each November — in-house analytics departments for each team are probably telling teams the one thing they need to do with respect to free agents is sign them for fewer seasons than they did in the past.

mlbtraderumors.com predicted that Bryce Harper and Manny Machado would get respectively 14 and 13 season contracts at $30M per.  The reason they may not yet be signed is that, while teams are willing to pay the $30M per, they aren’t willing to guarantee more than eight or 10 seasons, even for free agents so young and so good.  The only rumors I have heard for either is that the White Sox may have offered Machado somewhere between $175M and $1250M for seven or eight seasons only.

The current collective bargaining agreement terms are devastating the free agent market, because the ten richest teams can’t spend like they once did.  The talent bite that comes from overspending the salary cap for three seasons in a row, in terms of draft picks and international amateur spending, is steep enough that the richest teams are all trying to keep close enough to the cap amount that they can dip under at least once every three seasons in order to avoid the most severe penalties.  It is the richest teams that drive the upper limits of free agent contracts, so the current rules are bound to effect free agent contracts in a big way.

Ballplayers Still Getting Paid

January 12, 2019

Even with the free agent market tight and the average player salary down in 2018 for the first time since 2010, the stars are still going to get paid.  That’s the message I’m taking away from all the arbitration compromises being announced.

Nolan Arenado will set an arbitration process record with somewhere between his requested $30M and the $24M the Rockies are offering him.  All of Mookie Betts ($20M), Anthony Rendon ($18.8M), Jacob DeGrom ($17M), Khris Davis ($16.5M) and Jose Abreau ($16M) will be earning more than $15 million in 2019 through the arbitration process.  That’s at least several lifetimes’ worth of income for most Americans.

More than free agency, the owners hate arbitration because it forces them to give their young stars huge raises.  That said, it’s hard to feel any sympathy for the owners, who are obviously much richer than the players and have figured out they can non-tender any player they don’t feel is worth his likely arbitration raise.

Given the competition between the rich players and the even richer owners, my sympathies are with the players, because they are the ones who put the cans in the seats.  That said, it’s hard to feel a lot of sympathy if players are making just a little less than in recent years’ past, when they are still making this kind of money.

You want to make the lives of professional players as a group — negotiate further increases in the major league minimum annual salary ($555,000 in 2019) and pay minor league players a living wage.  That’s the tide that would raise all boats.

Yasmani Grandal’s Shocking One-Year Deal with the Milwaukee Brewers

January 10, 2019

The Brewers have reportedly reached agreement on a one-year contract with Yasmani Grandal for $18.25M, well less than the four year deal at $64M guaranteed that mlbtraderumors.com projected.  It’s obviously a pillow contract for Grandal, who after turning down a four year offer from the Mets with at least a $50M guarantee couldn’t find any other similar offers.

It’s still a tremendous surprise.  Grandal is only 30 years old, and his average annual value for the Dodgers the last four seasons (according to fangraphs.com) is $22.48M, topping out at $28.7M in 2018.  It’s shocking he apparently couldn’t get a three-year offer for the same average annual value he’s getting on his one year deal with the Brewers.

The deal is obviously a coup for Brew-Crew and makes up (in my mind at least) for not taking a risk on bringing back Jonathan Schoop on a one-year deal.  Clearly, Grandal’s thinking must be that because he can’t receive another qualifying offer next off-season, a big year in Milwaukee will result in a much better offer next off-season than he received this off-season.  Now, Grandal and his agent need to pray for good health and a hot, hitter-friendly summer in Milwaukee.

The Milwaukee Brewers Sure Got a Lot for Keon Broxton

January 6, 2019

Somehow the Brewers managed to get three players from the Mets for Keon Broxton, a player whom the Brewers had no obvious need for.   That’s a win for Milwaukee in my book.

Bobby Wahl could still be an effective major league reliever, but one could argue that Broxton should merit a second sorta prospect.  The Brewers got two prospects, and while both are a long way from the majors, they definitely appear to have upside.

Adam Hill is a tall right-hander with Chris Sale‘s body who was a 4th round draft pick last June.  In his first year in the short-season New York Pennsylvania League, he struck out 26 batters in 15.1 IP.  So far, so good.

Felix Valerio is now an 18 year old 2Bman who in his age 17 season batted .319 with an .843 OPS in 303 plate appearances in the Dominican Summer League.  The DSL is not a good league, but to play like Valerio did in any professional league at his age is impressive.

Because Broxton runs extremely well, he still has a chance to amount to something entering his age 29 season.  Fangraphs says his center field defense is good enough if he can just hit a little better.  Maybe.  I still like this deal for Milwaukee, who got a lot of value for player who was expendable.

The Seattle Mariners’ Flurry of Moves

December 4, 2018

The Mariners look determined to be as bad in 2019 as the Baltimore Orioles were in 2018.  Not only are the M’s dumping their best veterans, they are also taking on a number of over-30 players who have contracts that won’t be easy to move after coming off of down years.

The Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz (and $20 million) for Jay Bruce, Anthony Swarzak, former first round draft picks Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn and RHP prospect Gerson Bautista trade is certainly a bold, exciting move by the Mets.  Robinson Cano hit well after coming back from his 80-game PEDs suspension, but he’ll be 36 next year and still has five years and $120M left on his contract.

Clearly, the Mets intend to compete in 2019 and 2020; and if they don’t make the NLCS in either of these seasons, the move is almost certain to be a bust.  Diaz is an exciting closer, but a closer can’t make a team that much better by himself.  The Mets are obviously hoping Cano can rise to the occasion of being on the big New York stage again.

The trade is surely a risk for the Mets, but playing in NY, they need to try to win most years.  The revenue streams available require the Mets to take bold moves to get better fast, even if that means spending some money.

The Mariners get three prospects and escape $100M of the remaining salary commitment to Cano, but took on a total of $36.5M to Jay Bruce and Anthony Swarzak over the next two seasons, in order to balance out the deal.  Both Bruce and Swarzak were pretty awful in 2018, but their remaining salary commitments are such that it’s hard to see the Mariners eating all or most of their remaining obligations. In short, both players will get every opportunity in early 2019 to show what they’ve got left.

The Jean Segura, James Pazos and Juan Nicasio for Carlos Santana and J.P. Crawford trade presumably means the M’s like Crawford a lot, and are, on balance, looking to dump as much salary as possible as they rebuild.  Santana is coming off a down year going into his age 33 season, and he’s still owed $41.7M for 2018-2019.  However, the M’s dump the $60M+ Jean Segura is still owed through 2022 and the $9M+ that Nicasio is owed for 2019.

It sure looks like the Mariners are going to be bad in 2019 in the hopes of securing top draft picks in 2020.  I feel sorry for the guys and gals in the M’s marketing department — it’s going to be a tough sell, although Carlos Santana gives them a name to pitch, and the M’s picked up a good and cheap youngish catcher to replace Mike Zunino in Omar Narvaez from the White Sox in exchange for the much more expensive Alex Colome.

What will be most interesting for M’s fans is what the team decides to do with its newly acquired, nearly major league ready prospects.  Bring them up at or near the start of the 2019 season, so they can learn their lessons at the major league level, or hold them down on the farm to build up their confidence, prove they are ready, and keep the service-time clock from running?  Nowadays, the biggest single consideration for the expecting-to-be-bad 2019 Mariners is probably to keep the service-time clocks from running.

Let outstanding AAA performance dictate when the prospects come up, unless the major league squad is so bad (and the gate is so poor) that you really do have to call the youngsters up to at least give the fans and the organization some hope for the future.

Free Agent Foo and Other Notes

November 3, 2018

mlbtraderumors.com posted its list of the top 50 free agents this off-season.  I was interested to see what they had to say after last year’s paradigm shifting free agent period.

Mlbtraderumors projects Bryce Harper to get 14 years at $420M and Manny Machado to get 13 years at $390M.  My guess would be that Harper gets between $350M and $400M and Machado gets $330M.  I think Machado hurt himself with a poor post-season, and I’m doubtful any team is going to be willing to completely blow out of the water the record-setting 13 year $325M deal that Giancarlo Stanton got a few years ago, at least to the extent that mlbtraderumors is predicting.

However, it will come down to how many teams are in the hunt for both players.  If either player gets three or four teams determined to sign him, then the numbers could be bigger than I’m saying.  For whatever reason, I think the Phillies will sign Harper and Yankees Machado, although the Yankees could pursue Josh Donaldson as a shorter-term, lower commitment alternative.

Patrick Corbin is the only player MLBTR projects to get a $100M contract, in keeping with last year’s off-season”s disappointing returns for all but the very best free agents.

I think somebody will pony up more than $50M for Japan’s Yusei Kikuchi, including the posting fee.  I will be surprised if a team does not allocate at least $60M total for the six years MLBTR is projecting.

If CC Sabathia does not re-sign with the Yankees, I would love to see him sign with either the Giants or the A’s on a short-term deal.  CC is from Vallejo, so you would certainly think he’d be receptive to an offer from one of the two Bay Area teams.

The Dodgers extended Hyun-Jin Ryu a $17.9M qualifying offer, but MLBTR anticipates the Dodgers will bring him back for three years and $33M.  If I had to guess, I would say that Ryu decides to do will have a lot to do with whether or not the Yankees or Mets have any interest in him.

As a Korean, I would imagine the NYC or LA, two cities with large Korean American populations, would be his preferred destinations.  Ryu is also the only player out of seven who might reasonably accept the qualifying offer if he wants to stay in LA but the Dodgers won’t offer him a multi-year deal between now and the decision date and/or he decides to bet that he’ll be healthier in 2019 and be able to set himself for another big contract next off-season.

Clayton Kershaw signed a new deal with the Dodgers that essentially adds a third season at $28M (plus incentives), on the two-year $65M contract he could have opted out of, although the new deal pushes back $3M to the final season so he will now earn $31M per.  For whatever reason, I had imagined a new five-year $125M deal for Kershaw with or without money pushed back to the new seasons.  The actual contract signed may reflect both the Dodgers’ concerns about Kershaw’s back problems and Kershaw’s realization that he may not want to pitch more than three more seasons given his back problems.  Dodger fans can at least rest assured that Kershaw isn’t leaving this off-season.