Friday, December 9, 2016

Left Field Smackdown: Mac Williamson vs JD Martinez

Bobby Evans and Brian Sabean all but said the Giants are done with any significant deals for this Hot Stove League season.  Both have said that at some point you have to trust your farm system to give what you need and they are comfortable with some combination of Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker manning LF in 2017, at least to start the season.  Specifically, Bobby Evans has pointed to Adam Duvall as an example of what they don't want to see Mac doing for some other team when he could have been doing if for the Giants.  Of course, it's an open question whether Duvall ever would have put up similar numbers with the Giants, but that's another long story.

At least one prominent Giants oriented blogger is still beating the drum for JD Martinez with comments making it sound like the outcome of the 2017 season hangs in the balance of this decision and anything less than a trade for JD Martinez is tantamount to the Giants choosing money over winning.  In the process, some numbers of questionable comparability have been thrown out there making it look like Martinez is almost a sure bet to give the Giants at least 2-3 extra wins on the season which may be the difference between winning or losing the NL West.  Let's take a closer look and try our best to make sure we compare apples to apples rather than apples to macadamia nuts.

We'll start with a couple of assumptions:  1.  Both players will be full time starters and will remain injury free for a full season.  For round numbers sake, we'll say they both get 600 PA's.  2.  We'll agree that Steamer fWAR projections are a reasonable mean out of a range of possible performances for both players.

First, let's look at the raw data for both 2016 performance and Steamer projections for 2017:

JD Martinez:

2016:  .307/.373/.535, 22 HR, 9.5 BB%, 24.8 K%, fWAR= 1.8, 517 PA.
2017(Steamer):  .275/.337/.486, 27 HR, 8.0 BB%, 26.2 K%, fWAR= 1.9, 605 PA.

Yes, Martinez average fWAR for the past 3 years is close to 4, but he had a 4 and 5 fWAR in 2014 and 2015 with a sharp drop off on defense in 2016 which caused his value to plummet.  Whether he recovers his D or not is a big part of the equation for or against.  Steamer splits the difference and projects him to be merely bad in the field instead of awful.

Mac Williamson:

2016:  .223/.315/.411, 6 HR, 10.2 BB%, 27.6 K%, fWAR= 0.5, 127 PA.
2017(Steamer):  .253/.317/.413, 9 HR, 7.4 BB%, 24.3 K%, fWAR= 0.5, 284 PA.

A couple of points here.  Mac's 2016 projected to 600 PA gives him 29 HR's and an fWAR of about 2.4.  His 2017 Steamer/600 PA would give him 19 dingers per 600 PA and an fWAR of about 1.2.

Now, fWAR is supposed to be environment neutral, so we'll stipulate that based on equal PA's, Martinez mean projection would produce 0.7 more Wins than Mac.  It's not nothing, but it's a far cry from a 2-3 game difference!

Next, let's take a look at the impact of Park Factors.  Steamer's projections for 2017 assume the player will remain in the same ballpark as 2016.  Let's go ahead and accept that JD Martinez will hit 27 HR's in 2017 if he remains in Detroit, a rather dubious projection seeing as how he's only topped it once in his entire career!  Looking up Park Factors, I was surprised to learn that Comerica Park is now actually a slightly homer-friendly ballpark with a weight of 1.14 favoring HR's while AT&T Park is, by far, a fearsome HR killing machine with a weight of .700.  So, you take Martinez' projected 27 HR's, divide by 1.14 and multiply by .700 and you get a projection of 19 HR's in AT&T Park, exactly the same as Mac's 600 PA projection!  Combine that with JD's less than stellar D and it's not a good look.  Factor in the cost in prospects of trading for Martinez plus the 2017 salary difference plus the single season of control, and I don't think it's a tough decision to give Mac Williamson his big shot to be the Giants LF of the future in 2017.

Hot Stove Update: Cardinals to Sign Dexter Fowler

It looks like St Louis will be the destination for FA OF Dexter Fowler.  The deal is rumored to be for 5 years/$80 M or $16 M AAV.  Fowler is a player I've liked since he was a prospect in the Rockies system.  He's just been a late bloomer turning in 2 excellent seasons the past 2 years with the Cubs.  He's entering his age 31 season so the contract will take him through his age 35 season.  The back end of the deal may not be perfect for the Cardinals but they should get 2-3 more seasons of his prime performance before he starts to tail off or get more injuries.

The Cardinals were looking at a starting OF of Piscotty in RF, Grichuk in CF and Tommy Pham in LF.  Fowler will take over in CF with Grichuk moving to LF and Pham will be the 4'th OF and might play some 1B.  Just taking a quick peek at the Cardinals roster and I'm surprised by the lack of power in that lineup which looks downright Giantsy.  Not sure of what kind of hitters they have coming along in their farm system, but I would say they need to hope their pitching holds up bigly over the next 2-3 seasons.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Soannie Torres RIP

Baseball is a game of numbers.  Those numbers have given millions of people untold joy and wonder for close to a century and a half.  When we focus on the numbers, which we must to understand and fully enjoy the game, it is easy to forget that the people who make those numbers, the players, have lives and families, joys and sorrows of their own.  Today we learn the crushingly sad news that the wife of Andres Torres(who will go down in history as a great Giant, never mind if it was just for one season), Soannie Torres, lost her battle with cancer.

I don't know much about Soannie, but I know enough about Andres Torres to know that he must be devastated.  Andres did not just have a great season on the field and by the numbers in 2010, the first time the San Francisco Giants won the World Series.  He made the entire organization better with his spirit.  When he wasn't on the field, he went around enthusiastically greeting everyone he saw as if they were a long lost friend, and to him, they probably were.  Throughout his career, Andres had to overcome coaches who insisted that he had to be a slap hitter and ADHD, a condition that made it a battle to focus every day.  Now he has to battle through the loss of his wife and the mother of his young daughter.

I've always felt a sense of protectiveness toward Andres.  Underneath the athleticism, the determination, the creativity, and enthusiasm I have always sensed a childlike vulnerability.  He was traded by the Giants to the Mets for Angel Pagan.  The next season, when he was a free agent, he declined a contract offer from the Mets and basically begged the Giants to take him back because he loved the team and the city so much.  I recall feeling a sense of alarm when I read that he sold his World Series ring.  You generally don't do something like that unless you need the money.

Remember Andres Torres in your thoughts.  You might consider contributing to the Soannie Torres Memorial Fund which you can do by going to the story in csnbayarea.com and clicking on the link at the bottom of the story.  I hope the Giants find a way to keep Andres Torres in their family and do what they can to help him succeed in the rest of his life.  And fans, never forget that without that one great season in Andres Torres' career, the Giants probably would not have won that first championship in 2010.  And if they did not win it then, who knows what would have happened in 2012 and 2014?

Hot Stove Update: Chapman to the Yankees and a Blockbuster Trade

There were 3 big moves made on Day 3 of the Winter Meetings.  Perhaps the biggest surprise was the announcement that Ian Desmond and the Colorado Rockies agreed on a 5 year/$70 M contract.  Now, Desmond had a nice bounceback season last year with the Rangers, but wow!  5 years seems a bit long for the 31 y.o and $70 M a bit long on the total dollar side.  The Rockies are about the last team I would have predicted as a destination for Desmond as it is not clear what need they are filling.  I have to think there may be a trade or 2 coming down the pike for the Rockies.

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Having lost out on the Chris Sale auction, the Nationals turned their attention to another White Sox star, Adam Eaton.  They gave up about as much as the reportedly offered for Sale, RHP Lucas Giolito, RHP Reynaldo Lopez and RHP Dane Dunning.  That seems like a steep price for an OF who averages about 14 HR and 14 SB per season, but Eaton's high OBP and his plus-plus D gave him fWAR's of 3.1, 3.7 and 6.0 over the past 3 seasons.  He is also just 28 yo and has 5 years left of control left on a very team friendly contract.  He may well have more future value to the Nats than Sale would have!

Last year, Giolito was considered one of the top 2 pitching prospects in the game, but Tyler Beede outpitched him in the Eastern League and his MLB record was 5-3 with a 4.95 ERA in 44 IP.  He's still young at age 22 and has plus stuff, so I'm probably being a bit too hard on him. Lopez is smaller than the 6'6", 255 lb Giolito, but he is another hard thrower with some early MLB experience under his belt.  Dunning was a first round draft pick in 2016.  I guess those can be traded now?  Probably a win-win trade, but the Nationals gave up a lot and I really like how the ChiSox are managing this fire sale!

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Lastly, the Big Kahuna!  The big city lights were too much of a lure for Aroldis Chapman and he's headed back to the Yankees for 5 years/$86 M.  It's a huge price for a closer, but Chapman is a unique player and a major game changer on the field.  Gotta tip your hat to the Yanks who didn't give up much of value when they traded for Chapman last offseason, then flipped him for their future SS, Gleyber Torres, then got him back yesterday, so now they have both him and Torres!  Nicely done!  Of course, you can't make moves like that without the deep pockets backing you up, but it's still a nifty move on Brian Cashman's part.

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Kenley Jansen is now on the clock as the top FA left on the market.   The Nationals have an awful lot invested in that team to be like the Giants in 2016 and flush it due to a lack of a closer.  Gotta think they are going to go large in Jansen. He already reportedly has an $80 M offer on the table from the Marlins where he would be reunited with Manager Don Mattingly.  Is it possible the Dodgers may be the ones left standing when the music stops on the Closer game of musical chairs?

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The Giants created space on the 40 man roster for Mark Melancon by trading RHP Chris Heston to the Mariners for a PTBNL.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Hot Stove Update: Giants Dumpster Diving

The Giants made a couple of "dumpster dive" moves yesterday, which is probably about all we're going to get before the season starts.  They signed RHP Bryan Morris and C Tim Fedorowicz to minor league deals with spring training invitations.  Morris' deal is actually a conditional MLB contract calling for $1.25 M plus another $750 K in incentives if he makes the 25 man roster which seems likely if he is fully recovered from last season's back surgery.

Bryan Morris was a JC pitcher who caught some helium in the 2006 draft and the Dodgers selected him #26 overall.  He missed the entire 2007 season with TJ surgery.  He was traded to the Pirates after the 2008 season and did not make his MLB debut until 2012.  He is a groundball machine, putting up solid numbers in 2013-2015 with the Pirates and Marlins:  18-12, 2.80, 215 IP, 3.77 BB/9, 6.40 K/9, 58.6 GB%.  His pitching repertoire includes a sinking FB 93-95 MPH which he throws about 50% of the time, a Cutter at 88-90 MPH which he throws about 35% of the time and a slider at 82-85 MPH which he uses like a changeup about 15% of the time.  He missed most of 2016 after undergoing back surgery.  He is expected to be fully recovered by spring training.

Fedorowicz is a fringy backup catcher who has shuttled between AAA and the majors for several years.  You may remember him as a backup C with the Dodgers for a couple of seasons.  He gives the Giants some depth at C which they were sorely lacking since the trade of Andrew Susac last season.

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The Rangers Re-signed Carlos Gomez to a 1 year/$11.5 M contract.  Gomez is coming off not 1, but 2 injury plagued seasons and $11.5 M seems to be the floor for any veteran player with a chance to be average.

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The Rays signed C Wilson Ramos to a 2 year contract, obviously knowing he will likely miss the first half of the 2017 season after tearing his UCL late in 2016.  When healthy, Ramos is one of the better catchers in the game.

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Red Sox also signed 1B/DH Mitch Moreland to a 1 year $5.5 M contract which seems like a bargain for the Sox compared to what Gomez got from the Rangers.

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Wade Davis seems to be headed to the Cubs in a straight up trade for OF Jorge Soler.  Davis is a frontline closer if fully healthy while Soler still has huge upside despite a sputtering start to his MLB career.

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This might be decision day for Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen.

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Nationals are believed to be not interested in trading for any other pitchers after losing out on Sale.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Hot Stove Update: Red and White Sox Pull Off Blockbuster

With Winter Meetings talking heads breathlessly reporting that Chris Sale was all but a National, the Red Sox swooped in and made an offer the Nationals could not top and the White Sox could not refuse.  I mean, once Yoan Moncada was in on the deal, the Nats would have had to add Trea Turner, which they were not going to do.   So it was the Bosox dealing from an almost obscene surplus of prospect talent that got this deal done.

We all know what Chris Sale is.  He's one of the true aces on MLB.   He'll combine with David Price to form a lefty 1-2 punch in the 'Sox rotation.  It's a power move by Dave Dombrowski who is well known for using his farm system to trade for star veterans and Sale is about as elite a talent as you can get.  Still, every deal has its risks.  Sale was not lights out all season last year and had 2 months where is ERA was well north of 4.  His unconventional delivery makes my elbow hurt just to watch it and he's been long rumored to have intermittent twinges in it.  Then there is the personality, which come to think of it, should fit right into the Red Sox clubhouse!

In landing Sale, Dombrowski pulled the trigger by including one of the most highly touted and hyped prospects I can remember, Yoan Moncada.  Moncada is a true 5-tool athlete who seems to be able to actually play.  He has shown modest power, but has stolen 95 bases in 193 minor league games.  While he has shined on the field, he has already developed a bit of a reputation for being injury prone, which may have been part of the reason Dombrowski was willing to let him go.  On the other hand, Dombrowski has never let a prospect's reputation stand in the way of a trade for a veteran star.

I absolutely loved Michael Kopech before the 2014 draft.  I thought he had tremendous present physicality and velocity with the most room to fill out of any HS pitcher in that draft.  He has gained a reputation for velocity in the minors, routinely hitting triple digits on radar guns including one pitch reported to be 105 MPH, although that particular pitch is in dispute.  He's had a couple of off-field hiccups with a banned substance bust and a clubhouse fight with a teammate.  Some risk here, but the ceiling is very high.

Luis Alexander Basabe, twin brother of Luis Alejandro Basabe, is a promising OF from low A Ball last year and Victor Diaz is a somewhat promising pitcher from the lower minors.

So, that is the haul the ChiSox got for Chris Sale.  Can't do much better than that, although there are never guarantees that any prospect is going to make it in the majors and the bust rate on multiple prospect trades is very high.

Dombrowski got the guy he wanted dealing from a position of overwhelming surplus talent, which you really can't fault him for.

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Earlier in the day, Dombrowski helped out the BrewCrew's rebuild by sending 3 pretty good prospect out for underrated RHP reliever Tyler Thornburg.

Thoughts on Mark Melancon

Mark Melancon was a well known college closer at Arizona who ran into arm problems during his junior season.  He was taken by the Yankees in round 9 of the 2006 draft and pitched that summer in short season ball, but underwent Tommy John surgery and missed all of the 2007 season.  He came back strong in 2008 working his way up to AAA by the end of the season.  He made his MLB debut with the Yankees in 2009.  He bounced between AAA and MLB in 2010 and was traded to the Astros midseason for Lance Berkman.

He recorded an ERA of 2.78 with 20 Saves for the Astros in 2012, but was traded in the offseason to Boston for Jed Lowrie and Kyle Weiland.  He got off to a terrible start in Boston and was optioned to AAA.  He as called back later in the season, but finished with an ERA of 6.20 even though his K and BB ratios remained strong.  That offseason, he was shipped to the Pirates in a multi-player trade.  His career really took off in Pittsburgh starting as the setup man for Jason Grilli but quickly working his way into the closer role.  His numbers from 2016 are representative of the past 4 seasons with the Pirates:  2-2, 1.64, 71.1 IP, 1.51 BB/9, 8.20 K/9.  He is a strong groundball pitcher with 54.2 % GB's.  He also keeps the ball in the yard with a 6.3% HR/FB.  Looked at another way, his GO/AO has approached 2.00 over the past 4 seasons and he allowed just 10 HR's in 289 IP.  He gets about twice as many GIDP's as he gives up HR's.

Melancon is not a classic closer in that he does not throw particularly hard.  He averages just under 92 MPH on his 4-seam FB, but he only throws it about 10$ of the time.  His workhorse pitch, which he throws about 70% of the time, is the cutter which he throws almost as hard at an average of 91.0 MPH. It's a great pitch that he can use to jam left-handed batters and work the outside corner on RH batters.  His main secondary offering is a knuckle curve which also serves as a changeup at 81 MPH.  All 3 pitches are at least above average in terms of effectiveness by Fangraphs rating with the Cutter being his most effective pitch and a definite plus offering.

By all measures, Melancon should be the shutdown closer the Giants sorely lacked last year, which should also stabilize the rest of the bullpen and allow Bruce Bochy to return to the more traditional bullpen roles he is comfortable with and bullpens seem to like.  The only dark cloud on the horizon is that he might be nearing the end of the shelf life for his TJ surgery which occurred 8 years ago.  If that were to happen off the bat, the Giants would be stuck with a large 4 year contract.  They seem to be hoping they can get at least 2 good seasons out of him as he has an opt out after 2 years.  The way the Giants front loaded the contract when you add in the bonus money makes you think their ideal scenario would be to get 2 great seasons out of him then let him opt out and take the TJ risk to some other team.