What To Do About Shortstop?
We knew it already, but the Tigers confirmed today that Iglesias is out for the year. Stephen Drew is playing for the Red Sox. Andrew Romine and Danny Worth have played very poorly. The Tigers are trying to win a championship and they have the worst offensive tandem at shortstop in at least a decade. Something needs to be done, although their current four game lead in the Central despite an awful stretch gives them time. They don’t need to do something tomorrow, but they need to do something before too long.
From the shortstop position this year, the Tigers have hit an impressively poor 32 wRC+ (.222 wOBA). That’s 12% behind 29th place. They’ve collectively offered -1.0 WAR. Worth has good defensive ratings, but an awful batting line in 46 PA. Gonzalez was awful across the board. Romine has been the best hitter of the bunch, but he’s still be terrible in the highest number of PA and his defense, which has potential, has not been good enough to be redeeming.
All together, it’s been a sorry unit. That’s not their fault. None of them are starting major league shortstops. I wouldn’t mind Romine or Worth as utility infielders because they have some useful skills. Both are worthwhile on the bases and in the field. Worth can pitch, apparently. But they aren’t good enough to start or split the starting job. We knew that when the season started and we know that one third of the way through. They’re in over their heads. That’s a fault of management, not a fault of the players. If the Tigers asked me to play center field and hit 7th, I would totally do it. I would be terrible, but I wouldn’t say no. And Romine and Worth are more than just a little better than I am. It’s not their job to retire for the good of the team, it’s Ausmus’ job not to play start them and it’s Dombrowski’s job to give him a different set of players.
We knew this was going to be a problem. When Iglesias went down, Dombrowski didn’t replace him. He went out and traded for two shortstops who weren’t close to starting shortstops. I’m not entirely sure why, but that’s what he did. Maybe it was designed as a stop gap or a bargaining strategy with Drew. Maybe it was supposed to hold them over while they waited for news on Iggy or for Suarez to prepare for battle. I can’t say.
But we know that it’s not tenable. You look at Romine’s .200 average and think, if he gets to .250, this could work. That’s not true for two reasons. One is that he doesn’t walk enough for that .250 average to equal a respectable OBP and, two, he doesn’t hit for any carrying power. You can hit .250 if you can slug .350 and play good defensive. I’m not sure Romine can do any of those things if you ask him to play most of the time. In a bench role, I think he could do fine. In a starting role? I don’t. He’s given us no reason to think otherwise.
What can be done?
Jimmy Rollins might do the trick but he can refuse any trade and has been vocal about not wanting to be moved. Ben Zobrist could be available, but the Rays don’t have to move him and the Tigers don’t have a lot to deal for a player who should be in high demand. Alexei Ramirez could go, but the White Sox aren’t far enough out of it. The Diamondbacks have lots of shortstops, so that might work. Asdrubal Cabrera is an obvious candidate, as long as the Indians don’t ask for too much.
None of those are both likely and sexy. Suarez, the Tigers only real in house option, might be knocking on the door. In fact, he might as well open the door and come right in. The Tigers have a black hole at short and the trade market is pretty limited. There are upgrades out there compared to the status quo, but I don’t know if many of them are better options than Suarez right now, especially when you factor in the transaction cost and the limited need in 2015.
Suarez can hit, but there’s a platoon issue. He can field, but he’s not a star. He’s an imperfect solution to bad situation. The team has many strengths, but the team isn’t invincible. We knew this was a cost-cutting and restructuring season. We thought we could fake our way through and make a pennant run anyway. That still may happen, but there are cracks in the foundation.
Zobrist is the name on the list that makes the most sense, but even he isn’t the superstar player he once was. He could play four months at short and then move to the OF next season. The Rays would be right to ask for a nice return, but it might be worth it. The Tigers have to do something at SS and probably something in the bullpen. The OF should get a boost from Dirks and the rotation will settle back in. You can make the playoffs with this roster, but the odds of finally going the distance don’t look great once you’re there.
There’s still time, but once the draft is over this week, there won’t be much more left.
Porcello, Smyly, and Never Having Too Much of a Good Thing
An issue of some contention this offseason has been what to do about the Tigers surplus of starting pitchers. You see, the Tigers have six of them and only five slots in the rotation. Many fans and commentators have characterized this as a problem, but it really shouldn’t be thought of in this way. Seriously, when is having too many good players a problem?
Following said belief about having too many starters, these same people have often advocated for trading Rick Porcello. The reasons for dealing Porcello are straightforward. First, his contract is heavier than Drew Smyly’s, so the team could reallocate more cash if they deal Porcello instead of Smyly. Second, fans perceive Porcello as an inferior pitcher to Smyly or at least less valuable because he doesn’t throw with his left hand.
I, however, am here to discuss this situation in a different way. The Tigers should keep both Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly.
Let’s first lay out the possible options:
A) Keep both
1) Porcello starts, Smyly relieves
2) Smyly starts, Porcello relieves
3) Porcello starts, Smyly starts in AAA
B) Trade one
4) Trade Porcello
5) Trade Smyly
When we look at it with all of the options in front of us, it’s much easier to see which make the most sense. I would argue that Option 3 is the ideal one for three primary reasons.
Reason 1: The Tigers gain little by trading either player. There is no one on the trading block right now who they could get for either pitcher that would improve the 2013 club. The Tigers could add a prospect or add depth at another position, but they can’t get better in the short run given the options. The team wants to win now. Why should they trade their pitching depth, which is lacking after Smyly and Porcello, when they will likely need it at some point in 2013?
Reason 2: Smyly should start so that he can continue to develop. If the team moves him to the pen, they are likely stunting his growth for the long term.
Reason 3: I think Porcello is better than Smyly for 2013. Porcello has four 2-3 WAR seasons already and has never missed a start due to injury. His strikeout numbers have trended up each season with his walk numbers coming down. His FIP has dropped every season of his career. He’s also still just 24 years old – at least 2-3 years before the average pitcher peaks. Porcello could easily be a 3+WAR pitcher in 2013 and has shown no reason to think he will break down and every reason to think 2013 will be his best season so far.
Smyly, on the other hand, is not nearly so well defined. He’s only a year younger and has less than twenty major league starts and less than fifty professional starts. His rate stats are quite good and he easily looks to be a promising young player, but he hasn’t pitched enough to know these things. Smyly has an injury history and less experience. I’m not sure which pitcher will be better in for their career, but Porcello has a big head start and is a much more certain quantity. There are always things that you don’t see coming, but I’d rather be predicting off four years of data than less than one.
If we merge those reasons together, we’re left with Option 3. This gives the Tigers depth should one of their pitchers get injured and it allows Smyly to develop for the day that he is called upon to be full time starter. The Tigers lose nothing in keeping both pitchers for the start of the 2013 season except the opportunity cost of the trade they could make right now – but none of those trades look that great.
The Tigers should keep Porcello and Smyly for 2013 and start with Porcello in the rotation and Smyly leading the Mud Hens staff. They can always adjust from their throughout the season, but you can’t untrade Rick Porcello if Max Scherzer blows out his elbow in May.
2012 Season in Review: Miami Marlins
69-93, 5th in the NL East
Man, it was a bad year to be a Marlins fan. Your ownership and front office lay out a bunch of cash to sign big free agents and your city builds you a new stadium, but then, everything collapses underneath you like the trap door in front of Mr. Burns’ desk at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant.
Ozzie Guillen said he respected Fidel Castro. The stadium has the ugliest centerfield statue that anyone could imagine. (Read: I literally couldn’t come up with a bigger eyesore if it was my job to design it) The team played bad. The owners traded everyone who made any sort of money for a less than inspiring haul and Giancarlo Stanton has no one to play catch with this year.
Stanton had a great year (5.8 WAR, .290/.361/.608, good defense), and a couple other guys contributed nicely led by Jose Reyes (4.5 WAR and now a Blue Jay), Justin Ruggiano (2.8 WAR, still a Marlin!), and Omar Infante (2.4 WAR, now a Tiger). Everyone else either got traded before they could cross the 2.0 threshold or didn’t produce that much.
Hanley Ramirez, Mark Buehrle, Josh Joshson, Emilio Bonifacio, Infante, Reyes, Heath Bell, Anibal Sanchez, Gaby Sanchez. These were all members of the Marlins core on Opening Day who have been traded since.
A lot of people liked the Marlins to be a contender this year. I didn’t because I saw the Nationals, Braves, and Phillies being too good to overcome, but I didn’t expect the Marlins to only win 69 games. That’s fewer games than the Mets. The Mets!
Josh Johnson had a good year (3.8). Ricky Nolasco (2.7) and Mark Buehrle (2.1) were respectable. Anibal Sanchez (2.3 before the trade) was also very good. The staff was probably good enough. The bullpen probably wasn’t.
The team was just bad. The owners were worse. The fans are the victims. A team on the way up sputtered and the pilots hit the eject button. The 2013 Marlins will be Giancarlo Stanton and a lot of people you’ve never heard of. The statue will still be there.
But there’s no Ozzie, so that’s something.
2012 Grade: What’s worse than an F?
Early 2013 Projection: 66-96
Is Now the Time to Trade Justin Upton?
So the pundit echo chamber buzz of the week is about the Diamondbacks listening to offers on Justin Upton, their 25 year old RF coming off a down season. You may remember him from such posts as, “I Thought He Would Win MVP this season.”
Needless to say, I saw a good deal of potential in Upton entering this season and haven’t lost a ton of faith in him after a meh 2012.
But should the Diamondbacks trade him?
As always, it depends. If someone makes a really good offer, you should always take it, but if we’re talking about reasonable offers, I would argue it depends a lot on what players you get back.
That sounds like a stupid answer, but I mean it in a very specific way. You should trade Upton now if you’re getting back big league players. For example, Dave Cameron at Fangraphs evaluated an Upton for Andrus deal. That’s a deal you take.
But if it’s for prospects, I’m waiting.
But not because I’m someone who wants to see proven talent and all that, I’m waiting because this is the wrong time to trade Upton. His value is never going to be lower. He’s coming off a down season that followed a great year. You’re selling low on your most valuable asset if you deal him now.
That’s a fine strategy if the deal you want won’t be available during the season. The Rangers won’t deal Andrus or other big league pieces in July. So if you want an MLB level guy, pull the trigger.
If you want a massive prospect haul, wait. Those guys will be available in July because the team you’re dealing with won’t have to subtract from the big league team to get Upton, and they’ll be more desperate. The options will be more limited.
There are 3-5 OF on the market right now who can be as good as Upton in the short run. At the 2013 deadline, that number should be much lower.
Hold on to Justin Upton because he’s either going to help you contend in 2013 or bring you a bigger return than dealing him now.
Tigers Perspective: Lots of people are asking if the Tigers should target Upton, but I can’t see them doing it. I don’t know for sure what Arizona is asking for, but I think you’re talking about Castellanos, Smyly, and more. That’s a high price to pay for a player coming off a down season. The Tigers have a loaded 3-4-5 combo for the next two seasons and a solid leadoff man. They need depth more than they need star power. Pass.
Trade Grade: Royals Nab Santana
The Royals really like buying low on starting pitching and they did it again today. Ervin Santana joins the AL Central as Kansas City sends minor league lefty Brandon Sisk the other way to the Angels.
Santana had a very poor season in 2012 and is owed $13 million in 2013, but the Royals were willing to gamble to improve their pitching staff in hopes of becoming a relevant baseball team in one of the weaker divisions in the sport.
He posted a -0.9 WAR this season to go along with his 5.16 ERA and 5.63 FIP. In 2010 and 2011 he was above 2.0 WAR and had ERAs under 4.00 to pair with his very strong 5.8 WAR in 2008.
Santana’s had four 200+ inning seasons in his career and is entering his age 30 season. While I certainly wouldn’t offer him a long term deal, a one year contract is of pretty low risk for someone who can bring some upside and has no-hit stuff when he’s right.
From a player for player standpoint, the risk was worth taking, the real question is if $13 million is worth it for someone coming off such a bad season. Obviously the Royals think 2012 was an outlier and the real Santana is more like the 2010 and 2011 versions. The Angels take the other side.
It’s hard to imagine that this is the best way to spend $13 million this offseason for a club that needs multiple starters to really explode onto the scene, but if they are willing to expand the payroll it’s a risk worth taking.
Bruce Chen, Luis Mendoza, Felipe Paulino, and Danny Duffy are the other four members of the Royals projected rotation at this point, but Chris Volstad and others will enter spring training with their sights on a spot.
Dayton Moore and the rest of the Royals front office needed to target starting pitching this offseason given that their top two pitchers by WAR both came out of the bullpen in 2012. Santana is a risk worth taking if they’re going to increase payroll. If they’re allocating most of their offseason budget on Santana, however, I’d give them a failing grade.
On the Angels side, they got a live body for a player they didn’t want anymore, so you can’t really complain. They’ll likely use some of that Santana cash to bid heavily on Zach Greinke.
Free Agency starts Saturday, so stay tuned for updates.
Trade Grade: Heath Bell, Chris Young on the Move
Because today is the Day of No Baseball ©, anything remotely baseball related is getting prime space on SABR Toothed Tigers. That anything is a three way trade between the Diamondbacks, Marlines, and A’s.
Today, the Marlins sent RP Heath Bell to the Diamondbacks in a three team deal that shipped Diamondbacks’ OF Chris Young to Oakland and A’s minor league infielder Yordy Cabrera to Miami. Cliff Pennington is also coming to Arizona as part of the trade. Cash considerations were also involved.
While the monetary details are critical in evaluating this deal, let’s take a look at how each team came out of this assuming the Marlins ended up defraying some of the cost from Oakland.
Gave up: Heath Bell
Got: Yordy Cabrera
The Marlins signed Bell to a 3 year, $25 million deal last winter during their winter meetings binge that included a $9 million team option for 2015 that becomes automatic if Bell meets certain criteria. They seemed ready to cut him loose early on in the deal, and pulled the trigger today. Buyer’s remorse set in for Miami after a rough 2012 campaign that saw him post a 5.09 ERA in 63.2 innings with a BB/9 of 4.10. His FIP was certainly better than his ERA, but he still only posted a 0.4 WAR and seemed to be on bad terms with manager Ozzie Guillen.
The Marlins are running from a bad signing and are probably relieved to be doing so. Bell had two excellent seasons with the Padres in 2009-2010, but regressed significantly last season despite keep his save total above 40 for a third straight year. His strikeouts came down big time and his FIP and ERA both shot up. This seems to be a case of a team chasing saves, despite saves being a terrible indicator of how a reliever performed.
Yordy Cabrera doesn’t seem to be a big prospect, but does seem to have some tools that will translate on offense, including some decent pop from the right side. Most of what I’ve read seems to indicate he will have to move to a corner spot to have a shot in the big leagues.
Gave up: Yordy Cabrera, Cliff Pennington
Got: Chris Young
Cabrera won’t be missed in Oakland too much and Cliff Pennington is hardly a vital player to the A’s. Pennington had a strong 3.9 WAR in 2010 based heavily on his good defense at SS, but has never broken the 2 WAR mark in any other season. He lacks power and has been getting on base less than he used to, so Oakland can replace him pretty easily.
The addition of Young is interesting. He’s owed $8.5 million next season and has an $11 million option ($1.5 million buyout) for 2014. 2012 was Young’s sixth full season in the big leagues and he’s put together some pretty good campaigns. Both 2010 and 2011 saw him post 4.6 WAR and he managed to post a 2.8 WAR this season despite only playing 101 games. He’s never had a high average or OBP, but the defensive metrics love his glove and he does hit for power.
The other thing I like about Young in this deal is that his worst seasons seem to go hand in hand with a low Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP). Generally speaking, BABIP can fluctuate for reasons that have nothing to do with talent (think opposing defense and luck), so Oakland might be making a smart bet that Young can bounce back in 2013.
What makes this more interesting for Oakland is that Josh Reddick and Yoenis Cespedes are definitely part of their 2013 OF along with Young, which opens up some of their other pieces for the trading block. We all know Billy Beane is pretty good at getting a lot back in trades, so this could give him an opportunity to make a profit on some players who played over their heads in 2012.
Gave up: Chris Young
Got: Cliff Pennington, Heath Bell
The Diamondbacks may have grown frustrated with Young’s low average and OBP, and they could afford to with Kubel, Upton, and Parra as OF options for 2013. Parra’s glove is excellent, so he can make up a lot of Young’s value pretty easily.
The Diamondbacks added Pennington to complement their plan of controlling the leagues supply of contact hitter utility infielders (think James MacDonald, Willie Bloomquist, etc). I can’t say Pennington is a game changer for Arizona, but he doesn’t hurt to have around.
Bell is the wild card in this deal because we don’t know how much of his struggles the last two years are irreversible. He’s had a couple of strong seasons in his career, but he’s getting older, so it’s tough to say. If he bounces back, he’s a great add, if not, he’s next to useless. He walked more hitters, gave up more hits, and gave up more homeruns in 2012 than he did previously, so the Dbacks are betting on that being a fluke rather than a pattern. Chase Field is not a friendly place to get hit hard compared to Bell’s previous stops in San Diego and Miami.
This feels like a change of scenery deal that could benefit everyone. The Marlins got Cabrera back in a deal that allowed them to dump Bell. Basically, this was better for them than keeping Bell.
I think the A’s did great here. Adding Young without giving up anything too critical could help them with a boost from Young and the freedom to trade some of their currently overvalued assents.
The Diamondbacks will love this deal if Bell bounces back, otherwise, this was foolish. Young could easily provide a more useful return if they allow him to rebuild his value a little in 2013 before dealing him.
Most of all, I think the players are the big winners. Young and Bell were in situations where they were losing playing time and unhappy with the arrangement. They may not bounce back, but they will get their shot.