Archive for July, 2009

Rolen to Cincy

Man-crushes can die hard. Reds’ GM Walt Jocketty has swapped Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Roenicke and Zachary Stewart for Scott Rolen. This is the second time Jocketty has traded for Rolen, but now under very different circumstances.

The Reds playoff hopes are nil, and this isn’t the same Scott Rolen of old. Granted, he’s hitting much closer to the Rolen of old with a .320/.370/.476 line, but that’s largely inflated by his .347 BABIP. Even with some falling off, Rolen still is an above average hitter at his position. His defense is no longer Brooks Robinson-esque, but he’s still slick with the leather – his UZR/150 last season was 8.5, this season 8.

Rolen is due around $20 million, including the rest of this year and the next, and reportedly Toronto is going to foot a portion of the bill. For the Reds’ sake let’s hope it is a good piece of the contract. Rolen is a moderately safe bet to be worth 2.5-3 WAR next year, and has upside to be worth 3.5-4 if he can stay healthy. That’s a big if. In the process, the Reds give up cheap players.

Edwin Encarnacion is due to make $4.75 million next year. With the stick, he’s fine, with the leather, he’s terrible – he’s been a career -12 UZR per 150 and is -23 per 150 this season. He’s probably a 1.5 win player next year, making his contract pretty fair.

Josh Roenicke looks like a decent middle reliever who will be glad to get off the Louisville-Cincinnati shuttle. His fastball has some giddyup and he throws a solid cutter as well.

Zachary Stewart is the “get” of the trade. He has a 92-95 MPH fastball with good sink and a hard cutting 82-85 MPH slider. He’s quickly climbed the ladder, pitching at High-A, Double-A and now Triple-A this season, and has a cumulative 2.92 FIP in 92 innings pitched. He pitched mostly out of the bullpen last year but is showing some good promise as a starter. He’s a solid B grade pitcher.

Rolen doesn’t make the Reds a contender next year, and he certainly doesn’t make them one this year. He’s a good player, but I just can’t understand this from Cincy’s perspective. Toronto must be be ponying up a lot of cash. Even if they are, I still can’t quite wrap my head around this.

Peavy to the White Sox (For Real This Time)

Jake Peavy has been traded to the Chicago White Sox for the second time this season. Unlike last time, Peavy has waived his no-trade clause to complete the transaction. San Diego gets four arms and Chicago gets a recovering Peavy with a torn ankle tendon. Back in May, Dave covered the Peavy aspect of a potential deal, but this was prior to his injury which could leave him sidelined for the remainder of the season. Most of what Dave wrote then still applies now, so rather than rehashing arguments of the past, let’s look at the eight-armed monster San Diego acquired in return .

Baseball America ranked Aaron Poreda as the White Sox’s best pitching prospect entering the season. A first round pick out in 2007, the 6’6” southpaw throws a hard fastball that can reach the upper-90s, a power slider, and your garden variety change-up. He made his major league debut earlier this season and has worked out of the pen for the White Sox 10 games, striking out 12 in 11 innings and walking 8. To date he’s torn Triple-A Charlotte up, generating 15.2% whiffs as a starter. If that isn’t appealing enough, he also produces a large number of groundballs.

BA listed Clayton Richard as the White Sox third best prospect entering the season. He’s another tall left-handed starter but unlike Poreda doesn’t feature a blazing fastball or powerful breaking pitch. Instead, Richard works in the low-90s with a sinking fastball and mixes a change-up, slider, and occasional cut-fastball into the strike zone. In 136 big league innings, Richard has a 4.28 FIP and has thrown 58% first pitch strikes. He attacks the zone and works quickly.

Adam Russell has worked exclusively out of the bullpen the past two seasons, including 22 appearances for the big league team last season. He was solid, working with a strong fastball that sat at 95, two breaking pitch offerings, and a seldom used change. Russell is 6’8” and throws from a number of arm slots, as you can see here:


Finally we reach 6’6” righty Dexter Carter. A college arm, Carter’s fastball touches the upper-90s and his low-minors numbers are flat out insane; striking out 232 batters in 186 innings and walking only 57. So much for control issues at this point, huh?

The Padres seemed to get a nice return on a guy who they tried dealing two months ago for basically the same thing. Somehow Kenny Williams didn’t mind the injury or the fact that Peavy is becoming less of a bargain by the day and gave Kevin Towers and company four live arms resting on four giants.

The Padres would have to field the tallest rotation in history if Chris Young, Poreda, Richard, and one (or both) of Russell/Carter make it, right?

LaRoche Traded Again

We really needed a clean one-for-one swap that featured players of the same position. Thankfully Boston and Atlanta answered the call, giving us Adam LaRoche for Casey Kotchman.

LaRoche heads back to Atlanta after a few days in Boston and two and a half years in Pittsburgh. His wOBA is an average .328, but he should hit a little better down the stretch as his BABIP recoups to normal LaRoche levels. He’s a touch below average defensively and if nothing else gives the Braves a left-handed bat, but they aren’t gaining much, if any, value here because of LaRoche’s pending free agency.

Kotchman on the other hand is under team control for an additional two seasons. Essentially, Boston traded a third of a season of LaRoche for two additional seasons of Kotchman and the two are basically equals. LaRoche hits a bit better, Kotchman fields better, but at the end of the day they look almost exactly alike in the WAR column.

Presumably Kotchman plays the bench role that LaRoche would’ve, and allows Mike Lowell, Victor Martinez, or even Kevin Youkilis to be lifted or swapped around if needed.

Maybe Bobby Cox doesn’t like Kotchman or Frank Wren wanted to add some left-handed pop, but this is basically a tit-for-tat deal, and tat is a free agent at the end of the season. Unless there’s something beyond the surface here, I’m not really sure I get the move for the Braves.

Martinez To Boston

The Red Sox were clearly not content with a roster that is already among baseball’s best – they wanted to upgrade, and they were willing to kick the tires on every all-star that might be available. The one they landed on, Victor Martinez, is a great fit for their roster.

Martinez can catch when Varitek isn’t, can play first when Lowell needs a day off, or can DH when Francona wants to give David Ortiz a breather. By adding Martinez to the C/1B/DH rotation, the Red Sox can essentially platoon Ortiz/Lowell/Varitek, giving them a constant platoon advantage and keeping the older legs fresh. Versatility and depth are often very useful in a playoff series, and the Red Sox now have that in spades.

The price to acquire Martinez hasn’t been officially solidified yet, but it sounds like its headed by Justin Masterson and Nick Hagadone. The Red Sox had held off on trading Masterson for several years now, but finally found a player they deemed worthy of giving up the right-handed sinkerball specialist.

For the Indians, Masterson is the kind of major league ready arm they needed to move Martinez. He should slide right into their rotation and help imrpove their run prevention immediately. As a groundball and strikeout guy, Masterson’s upside is something like Gil Meche. He doesn’t have the knockout secondary pitches to be an ace, but he profiles as a solid middle of the rotation starter. I’m a fan, and Cleveland should be happy to have picked him up in the deal.

Hagadone is more of a risk/reward guy, a big arm strength lefty who has already had Tommy John surgery and is working his way back to full health. He’s been used as both a reliever and a starter, but Boston always projected his stuff to work in the rotation if he could stay healthy. He’s a couple of years from the majors, but power LHPs with a chance to stick as starters are valuable commodities.

From Cleveland’s perspective, they get two good young arms, one of whom can step right into their rotation. That makes this a win, even if dealing Martinez away hurts their offense quite a bit. From Boston’s perspective, they dealt from depth that they could afford to lose in order to get an all-star caliber player who fits perfectly into their roster.

This is a win-win. Good deal for both clubs.

The Twins Acquire Orlando Cabrera

The Twins picked up shortstop Orlando Cabrera from the As, looking to solidify their middle infield as they chase the Tigers and fend off the White Sox in hopes of a AL Central title.

Cabrera replaces Nick Punto at short for the Twins, a major offensive upgrade. Cabrera has a rest of the season ZIPS projected wOBA of .316, while Punto a meager .287. Over the maybe 200 at-bats he will get this is a 5 run upgrade. Calculating the difference in defense is a little tougher. Cabrera’s UZR has been very bad this year, but UZR is prone to rather large fluctuations. It is better to just use his career numbers, +5 UZR/150, as our best guess for him going forward. Over Punto’s career he is a +15 UZR/150 shortstop, but that is over only 1.5 seasons, not really enough to be confident. Plus he is only a +3 UZR/150 second baseman. Combining those and regressing our best guess is that he is around a +7.5 UZR/150 shortstop. So the difference is fielding is probably less than a run over only 50 games.

EDIT: It looks like I was wrong here. The Twins are going to shift Punto to second and Brendan Harris to the bench. So Cabrera’s offense replaces Harris’ and Punto defense at second replaces Harris’. Harris has a projected wOBA of .296, so Cabrera’s .316 over 200 PAs should be worth 3.5 runs. I think Harris is probably about -5 run defender at second while Punto something like a +5 run defender. Over 50 games this is another 3 runs. So over all probably still about half a win. Thanks to the commenters for pointing this out.

All told this is about a half a win gain for Twins, not an insignificant number in the thick of a playoff race. Cabrera does not have any value beyond that. His contract says he cannot be offered arbitration, so he will not be any worth picks if the Twins do not resign him. Last year Cabrera was a Type A free agent and he felt, rightly, that status depressed his value, so he included this clause in his current contract.

The Twins gave up their 2008 second round pick, 21 year old shortstop Tyler Ladendorf. Ladendorf had a great 74 plate apperances in rookie ball with an OPS over 1.2, but has had a tough 65 at-bats since being promoted to A ball, with an OPS of 0.559. He fell just outside of John Sickels top 20 Twins prospects, but Sickels likes him thinking he has the tools to stay at short.

I like the deal. The Twins are exactly the type of team, in tight contention for a playoff spot, who should be dealing. Thus even half a win is quite valuable to them. Cabrera’s contract limited his value, because he cannot be offered arbitration, so the As did a nice job getting something of value for him.

Halladay’s Stuff

The big name we will hear a lot today either because he is or is not traded is Roy Halladay. Dave Cameron broke down his value and if he is traded we will have analysis of the trade here. Until then I thought it would be cool to look at his stuff.

For the past two years he has had five strikeouts for every walk and over half of his balls in play have been groundballs, amazing. Here are the pitches he does it with.


Interestingly his pitch proportions against RHBs and LHBs are quite similar. He throws a lot more changeups against lefites, but the proportions for his other pitches are very close.

|                   | vRHB | vLHB |
| Two-Seam Fastball | 0.34 | 0.31 |
| Cutter            | 0.39 | 0.43 |
| Curveball         | 0.26 | 0.20 |
| Changeup          | 0.01 | 0.06 |

His cutter and curveball are both amazing, worth 1.5 and 2 runs above average per 100 over his career, respectively. The cutter’s worth comes from his ability to get it in the zone over 60% of the time while still getting a healthy number of whiffs (14%) and a good amount of GBs (48%). His curveball is a whiff-machine, it has the third highest whiff-rate of any curveball in the game this year 39%, while still being in the zone 44% of the time, fairly high for a curveball. His two-seam fastball, is also very good worth about half a run over 100 pitches. It gets most of its value because it induces 65% groundballs per ball in play. Tons of strikes, tons of groundballs, and a fair number of whiffs, what more could one ask for?

Combine those two amazing pitches with one very good one and you have one of the greatest pitchers in the game.

Washburn To Detroit

Over the last 24 hours, as rumors circulated that the Mariners were leaning towards hanging onto Jarrod Washburn, the collective Seattle fanbase prepared for another trade deadline disaster. We were used to those, after all.

However, we can unplug our noses and breathe again, because Jarrod Washburn has been traded to the Detroit Tigers for Luke French and Mauricio Robles.

As a Mariner fan, this trade makes me want to jump up and down and hug someone. The M’s turned a 35-year-old lefty strike throwing flyballer who is due $3.5 million over the rest of the season and then becomes an expensive free agent into a 24-year-old lefty strike thrwoing flyballer who is due $0 over the rest of the year and won’t be a free agent until after 2015. And they got a 20-year-old lefty with huge strikeout numbers in A-ball to boot.

French isn’t going to be an ace, but let’s be honest, neither is Washburn. His value is entirely tied to an ERA that is, quite simply, a fluke. His 2.64 ERA is more than a run lower than his 3.75 FIP… and his FIP is deflated by an unsustainable 6.4% HR/FB rate. In reality, Washburn has pitched like a guy who deserves an ERA more like 4.4, but thanks to the wonders of good defense, a ballpark perfectly suited to his skills, and some good luck, he has the appearance of something more than a back-end starter.

A back-end starter, though, is exactly what he is. The addition of a sinker and confidence in his big slow breaking ball have allowed him to marginally improve this year, but the step up is in small percentages, not large gains. Tigers fans wondering what to expect from Washburn should be thinking a mid-4s ERA, as long as you put some good defenders behind him on days he pitches.

Worse for Detroit, Washburn is a Type B free agent, but offering him arbitration would be borderline insane. Coming off a career year, with a previous $10 million salary, he’d easily get $14 or $15 million if taken to arbitration, and he’s probably not even worth half that as a free agent. So, while the Tigers give up a couple of interesting young arms for a rental, they won’t even get draft pick compensation when he leaves this winter.

Mariner fans are rejoicing for good reason. They just moved an overvalued asset for a couple of interesting, cheap young pitchers. This is a great trade for Seattle. Detroit? I think you’re about to be disappointed by what you acquired.

Getting Nothing Dunn

Today is deadline day, and as Chris Needham points out so well, the Nationals have been quiet. Too quiet.

Apparently the Nats are so loaded with talent and potential for the coming years that they don’t need to make a change. At least that’s how you could read it considering all the moves they haven’t made and how two-thirds of the league’s players have seemingly changed hands.

The Nationals are on their way to losing well over 100 games this season and even the most die-hard idealist isn’t expecting them contend anytime soon. Their attendance is one of the worst in baseball despite their nifty new facilities. Let’s face it; the team may as well be back in Canada for all Washington fans care at the moment. They have one thing in the world to look forward to as fans: Signing Stephen Strasburg. So why are the Nats not in full blown fire-sale mode, a la Pittsburgh? They have some assets.

Needham pointed out a few, including Nick Johnson and Josh Willingham. Johnson is healthy this season and still gets on base at a high clip. ZiPS projects Johnson to produce a robust .380 wOBA the rest of the season. He’s going to be a Type B free agent, meaning you can buy Nick Johnson and he comes with the added bonus of a draft pick. Not much not to like.

Josh Willingham is quietly having a fantastic season, putting together a .300/.410/.586 line. Bear in mind his batting average is nearly thirty points higher than his career standard, but Willingham has been a consistently productive hitter, with a career .372 wOBA. He picked a great time to have a career year, as he’ll be arbitration eligible for the second time this off-season, making him due for a raise.

But what about Adam Dunn? Why is no one talking about him? The Prophet of the Three True Outcomes Cult is putting together yet another strong offensive season, posting a .407 wOBA. Granted, he’s been downright grisly in left field (-12) UZR, but there has to be a contending team out there with a 1B/DH on their wish list. Matt Holliday, Dunn is not, but he’d bring comparable offensive production, just keep the Big Donkey away from the outfield.

The only stumbling block I can see that would deter a team from trading for Dunn is that he has 1 year, $12 million left on his contract after the season. While that might not be ideal for some buyers, in view of the fact that he’ll most likely be a 3-4 win player next year, that’s really not all that exorbitant.

The Nationals are a terrible team with a rather weak farm system. They need all the extra dough they can scrape up just to sign Strasburg, and more talent than the Zimmerman(n)s and Derek Norris to build around their future ace. It’s a quarter to midnight, Mr. Rizzo. Do the team’s future GM a favor and don’t just keep his seat warm. Give him or her a head start at rebuilding this mess.

updated: I stand corrected, Johnson is just short of Type B status. He’s still a decent trading chip, though.

Pirates Trade John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny

Nobody can accuse Neal Huntington of being inactive. In the past few weeks Huntington has turned these guys:

Nate McLouth, Nyjer Morgan, Sean Burnett, Eric Hinske, Adam LaRoche, Jack Wilson, Ian Snell, Freddy Sanchez, Tom Gorzelanny, and John Grabow

Into these guys:

Charlie Morton, Jeff Locke, Gorkys Hernandez, Lastings Milledge, Joel Hanrahan, Eric Fryer, Casey Erickson, Argenis Diaz, Hunter Strickland, Jeff Clement, Ronny Cedeno, Nathan Adcock, Brett Lorin, Aaron Pribanic, Tim Alderson, Kevin Hart, Jose Ascanio, and Josh Harrison

Let’s focus on the last few names on each list for this post.

Grabow is a lefty who fares decently against batters of both hands and generates quite a few grounders. He’ll qualify for free agency following this season and the likelihood of the Pirates re-signing a decent but not great reliever is pretty low. He should fit in the Cubs pen fine and well.

Gorzelanny would’ve been eligible for arbitration following this season, but he’s spent all but eight innings worth in the minors. With a few solid seasons under his belt, Gorzelanny struggled last year, but he’s dominated Triple-A, striking out 85 in 87 innings. He’s a lefty who works off his fastball and breaking stuff while mixing some changes in as well. It’s easy to see Gorzelanny in a starter or reliever capacity for the Cubs down the road.

Hart headlines the Pirates return. Baseball America ranked Hart as the Cubs sixth best prospect entering the season. He’s appeared in 36 games for the Cubs over the last three years, starting only three of them, which has resulted in a 4.32 FIP to date. His command has been much better in the minors and he’s pitching well in Triple-A for the third consecutive year. He throws a fastball in the low-90s, a cutter, curve, and every once and a while, a change. Like Gorzelanny, Hart will report to Triple-A.

Ascanio is a relief arm who gets by on his mid-90s fastball and change-up. He gets swings and misses and could join the Pirates bullpen immediately.

Harrison is a 2008 draftee from the University of Cincinnati. His tools are questionable but his numbers have been decent to date. A college second baseman, Harrison is only 5’8” and plays all over the diamond; second and third base as well as the outfield. He doesn’t walk or strike out a lot.

Back to the Pirates trades as a whole, I ran the math for service time. Without including 2009’s service time, the Pirates have traded 28 years worth of team control time for 95 years worth. Obviously not every player acquired is going to reach the majors or be attractive enough to keep through their first six years, but wow, talk about adding some depth.

The 2003 List Gets More Public

Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz had their names leaked this morning as being part of the list of MLB players that tested positive for performance enhancing drugs in 2003 during what was supposed to be a secret test conducted by Major League Baseball to find out the extent of the problem. They are not the first, proceeded by Sammy Sosa and Alex Rodriguez among others. For Ortiz’s part, he did confirm that he was informed that he was on the list.

Ortiz was supposed to be one of those names that would elicit a big reaction from the baseball fandom at large. Roughly 12 hours after the news first started breaking, it seems that the expected reaction amongst fans is far more tepid that the one the media forecasted. Big surprise there as it certainly appears that fans, for the most part, simply do not care anymore. Ortiz did not let the media storm deter him from leading the Red Sox comeback win over Oakland in Boston today.

I am not writing to discuss what should be done about the 2004 record books, or anything like that. It is my, unsubstantiated, belief that a large portion of baseball (and football and basketball and and and…) players were juicing in some form or another. And that includes pitchers as well as hitters before you start mouthing off about how home run records from the era all need to be asterisked.

I did want to point out though that probably the best result for MLB at this point would be if that entire 2003 list was leaked at once. That way the media could handle it all in one news cycle and be done with it instead of names getting floated out piecemeal every couple of months to start the story anew. Of course, MLB itself cannot just release the list as per conditions of getting players to agree to the test in the first place, but I wonder if there is not a way for MLB to engineer a way for the list to become public knowledge while avoiding liability.

Whatever happens, I am glad that the reactions that I have been reading and hearing since the news broke has mostly been one of uncaring. Let us move on already.