Archive for November, 2014

Yoenis Cespedes’ Name Value Exceeds His Trade Value

The Boston Red Sox have made two of the biggest splashes of the offseason so far by signing Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, and the only thing we know for sure is that they aren’t done. With potentially nine major league outfielders on the roster and a rotation that might currently feature Wally the Green Monster as the second best starting pitcher after the inconsistent Clay Buchholz, it’s clear that a talented-yet-lopsided roster still needs some work.

More than likely, that’s going to mean trading an outfielder. Maybe that will be Allen Craig or Daniel Nava or Jackie Bradley Jr., but the name that keeps popping up in rumors most often is Yoenis Cespedes, with the idea being that he’s be an attractive name and an established big leaguer who can help Boston land a badly needed pitcher. With Ramirez likely landing in left field and the trio of Rusney CastilloMookie Betts and Shane Victorino probably manning center and right, in some combination, Cespedes is now expendable.

Cespedes has name value, and there’s a whole lot of #narrative that says his departure from Oakland is what single-handedly sunk the Athletics’ season, even though we know that’s not actually true. His powerful throwing arm and Home Run Derby exploits could fill up the highlight films. As such, there’s a good chance Cespedes will be traded in the next several weeks. But when you look behind the headlines, what sort of player can another team really expect? And how much talent is that worth in a trade? Read the rest of this entry »

Yasmani Grandal, Catcher You Want To Have

When the Toronto Blue Jays made their somewhat surprising move to add Russell Martin, they didn’t just weaken the free-agent catching market. They decimated it. Sure, you could probably piece together a decent backup from guys like Geovany SotoNick Hundley or David Ross, but there’s no one close to being a full-time starter. Of the remaining free agents, there’s not a single one who’s even projected to manage even a lowly .300 OBP in 2015, according to Steamer projections.

That’s a considerable problem for some of the other teams that were expected to be heavily interested in Martin, like the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers, because their paths forward are less clear now. In Los Angeles, A.J. Ellis is better than his .191 batting average would indicate, but he’s also nearly 34 and coming off several serious leg injuries. The Cubs might need to stick with Welington Castillo, who’s coming off a poor season. The Pirates will replace Martin with a trio of catchers more suited to be backups; the current Rangers starter is 30-year-old Robinson Chirinos, who has less than a full season of major league play under his belt.

It’s not a good time to be looking for a catcher, is the point, and the main trade options being talked about come with questions of their own. (Arizona’s Miguel Montero has had two consecutive bad years and is still owed $40 million; Houston’s Jason Castro followed up a breakout 2013 with an atrocious 2014; Atlanta’s Evan Gattis has excellent raw power but can’t really catch.)

The flip side, of course, is that if you have catching depth, you’re in a favorable position. If you need a catcher, you want to call the San Diego Padres, and you want to ask for Yasmani Grandal. Read the rest of this entry »

Now Is The Time To Trade Johnny Cueto

Back in February in this space, I wrote that the Cincinnati Reds needed to trade Homer Bailey for offensive help sooner rather than later. The reasoning behind that was simple — in 2013, the Reds had finished a middle-of-the-pack 15th in team wRC+, and their disappointing offseason had consisted of watching the very productive Shin-Soo Choo depart while importing only mediocre backups Skip Schumaker and Brayan Pena.

Instead, the Reds signed Bailey to a long-term contract and attempted to get by with what they had, ultimately winning fewer games than they had since 2008. Though it didn’t happen in exactly the way we might have expected — stars Jay Bruce and Joey Votto each had poor years, whileTodd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco carried the load — the offense was indeed a huge anchor, sinking to an 83 wRC+ that wasn’t just the second-worst in Major League Baseball, it was very nearly the worst in the last 50 seasons of Cincinnati baseball.

Nine months later, the Reds are again in a similar position. This team, as constructed, doesn’t look like a playoff contender. There are plenty of holes in the lineup and limited dollars to fix that. Once again, the most appealing Cincinnati trade chip is a top pitcher entering the final year of his contract. This time, the Reds can’t make the same mistake and stand pat. It’s time to trade Johnny Cueto. Read the rest of this entry »

Chase Headley, Potential Free Agent Bargain

Let’s start with a pretty obvious statement: Pablo Sandoval will get paid handsomely this winter.

There’s not much controversy about that remark, of course. Sandoval just put up three consecutive above-average offensive seasons that were nearly identical to one another — his wRC+ numbers were 118, 116 and 111 — and he’s valuable with the glove as well, along with carrying the “playoff-tested” label of having been a part of three World Series-champion San Francisco teams. Considering he just turned 28, it’s realistic to expect similar production from him for at least the next few seasons.
ESPN’s Keith Law suggested recently that Sandoval could get four to five years at $15 million per season, and FanGraphs’ crowdsourcing effort suggested something close to that, at five years for $80 million. Even those seem a little low, really. Either way, someone will pay for Sandoval’s youth and value on both sides of the ball at an important position.
There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. But with Sandoval taking up much of the air in the third-base room, have we forgotten about Chase Headley, this offseason’s other main free-agent third baseman? Headley isn’t the offensive force that Sandoval is, and offense is what gets players paid. But is it really so unreasonable to think he might actually be a better value? Read the rest of this entry »

Who Could Be The Next Wade Davis?

When we talk about the still-controversial 2012 deal that eventually helped the Royals make it to the World Series, it’s generally referred to as “the James Shields trade.” Shields has been a huge contributor to the Royals (Game 1 of the World Series notwithstanding), but it’s easy to forget that he wasn’t the only piece the team got from the Tampa Bay Rays for Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi and others. The Royals also acquired Wade Davis along with Shields, and Davis has been an enormous piece of the three-headed bullpen monster that has made late-inning comebacks against Kansas City all but impossible.

Davis didn’t start out as a relief star, however. In fact, he didn’t even start out as a reliever. After two mediocre years in the Rays’ rotation, Tampa Bay shifted him to the bullpen, and he responded with a successful 2012 campaign. The Royals put him back into the rotation in 2013, where he was again disappointing, but sent him back to the bullpen this year. It’s a trick the team had pulled last year as well, getting an outstanding relief season from Luke Hochevar after five uninspiring years as a starter. Kansas City’s American League Championship Series opponent, Baltimore, also had three quality relievers in Andrew Miller, Zach Britton and Brian Matusz who had been shifted to the pen after many failed attempts to master a starting gig.

When pitchers are no longer asked to pace themselves for a six- or seven-inning outing, and can instead go all-out in shorter stints, the benefits are obvious. Velocity often increases, as it did for Davis and Britton. An ineffective secondary pitch, such as Miller’s changeup, can be discarded. This isn’t a new idea — even the great Mariano Rivera was once a middling starter — but it’s one that has yielded incredible success in the right situations.

So with that in mind, who might be the next Davis? Let’s identify a few starters, not older than 30, who have struggled in the rotation but remain good candidates to be successful relievers. Obviously, a Clayton Kershaw or David Price would be great in the bullpen as well, but they’re more valuable as starters. We’re looking for someone like Davis, who might not be equipped to help a team in the rotation but could be a lights-out reliever. Read the rest of this entry »