Archive for July, 2010

Marlins Acquire Ohman From O’s For VandenHurk

The Florida Marlins snagged some lefty relief in exchange for an injury-prone Dutchman in a low-key deadline deal, acquiring Will Ohman from the Baltimore Orioles for RHP Rick VandenHurk.

While Leo Nunez and Clay Hensley have turned in strong seasons, Florida’s relief corps ranks 11th in the National League in xFIP (4.36) and 14th in Win Probability Added (-1.5). Dan Meyer pitched capably last season after washing out of the Athletics’ system, but he has a 4/12 K/BB ratio in 9.1 big league innings this year and hasn’t done much to redeem himself at Triple-A (12/7 K/BB, 5.26 FIP in 21 IP). Control-challenged Renyel Pinto was let go earlier this season and has since signed with St. Louis. Taylor Tankersley (career -0.8 WAR in 114.2 major league innings) doesn’t inspire confidence.

As such, the Fish sought a seasoned lefty and got one in Ohman. Whether he helps much is subject to debate, though. The soon-to-be-33-year-old missed most of the 2009 season following left shoulder surgery and signed a minor league contract with the O’s this past winter. He’s got a nice-looking 3.30 ERA, but with over five walks per nine frames handed out, Ohman holds a 4.40 xFIP in 30 IP. His career xFIP versus lefties is 3.62, compared to 4.92 against right-handers. Ohman has been moderately useful against same-handed opponents, but left-handed batters aren’t trembling at the prospect of facing the former Cub, Brave and Dodger.

From Baltimore’s perspective, the club gives up a guy with a 4.76 projected FIP from ZiPS for a 25-year-old with a history of missing lumber and missing starts. Originally signed out of the Netherlands back in 2002, VandenHurk has struck out nearly a batter per inning during the course of his minor league career, with 3.8 BB/9. He sits 91-92 MPH with his fastball, mixing in a hard mid-80’s slider and a changeup.

He comes with plenty of drawbacks, though. For one, the 6-5 righty can’t stay healthy — he scarcely pitched at all in 2005 and 2006 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, missed time in 2008 with ulnar neuritis and was put on the shelf with elbow inflammation last season. VandenHurk is also an extreme fly ball pitcher, with a 37 GB% in the minors since 2005 according to Minor League Splits. That leads to lots of round trippers. In 155.2 major league innings over the 2007-2010 seasons, Rick has gotten grounders just 27.8% of the time. As a result, he has surrendered 1.56 HR/9, and that’s without a sky-high home run per fly ball rate (12.3%). VandenHurk has fooled plenty of hitters (8.79 K/9 in the majors). But all those big flies, coupled with ample walks (4.63 BB/9), have led to a 5.19 FIP and a 4.87 xFIP.

Chances are, this trade won’t have a profound effect on either team. Ohman’s a so-so southpaw, and VandenHurk can’t seem to stay off the DL for any sustained length of time. Still, the swap gives the Marlins a better lefty than Tankersley and the O’s a live arm who could play some part on the next relevant Baltimore club.

Royals Trade Away Ankiel, Farnsworth

Rick Ankiel and Kyle Farnsworth represented exactly why so many in the sabermetric community constantly deride Dayton Moore and the front office in Kansas City. “Trusting the process” meant bringing in players like Ankiel and Farnsworth and paying them way too much money, given Kansas City’s lack of big-time Major League talent outside of Zack Greinke and Joakim Soria. Contracts like those given to this pair of players are why the Royals franchise has been stagnant for my entire lifetime, and why another sub-.500, fourth or fifth place season is inevitable in Kansas City.

It’s not that Ankiel and Farnsworth are terrible players – Ankiel has good power and can play solid defense in a corner spot. Farnsworth throws hard enough to get strikeouts, and his control is better than perceived, making him a good, but not great relief pitcher. Both players are decent pieces on playoff teams, but aren’t going to do anything for a rebuilding franchise. Throw in the fact that these two players make a combined 7.25M this season (including option buyouts) and there was no reason that the Royals shouldn’t try and move the pair at the deadline, even if it was just for salary relief.

The Royals brought in more than salary relief in their deal with Atlanta, as Gregor Blanco, Tim Collins, and Jesse Chavez will join the Royals organization. This isn’t exactly a big time haul, but there is a discernible amount of talent present here. Blanco, 26, isn’t exactly much of a prospect any more. He has a decent eye at the plate and good speed, but no power to speak of and average contact skills. ZiPS projects a .305 wOBA with a 11% walk rate, which will make for an okay role player if he can handle center field, but not much more.

Bryan Smith covered Tim Collins earlier, as he was part of the package Atlanta brought in for Yunel Escobar.

In terms of pedigree, it’s outrageous to think that 5-foot-7, 155-pound Tim Collins could rank ahead of Reyes, a big-bodied former second-round pick. This is the type of thinking that Collins has long been susceptible to, and the thinking he’s consistently outpaced. In 130 games at the minor league level over four years, Collins has a 2.40 ERA, 13.6 K/9 ratio and 5.9 H/9 ratio. He lives in the strike zone, and brings deception and sneaky velocity everytime he touches the mound… It’s hard to think that Collins has a long career ahead of him, but naysaying this guy has essentially become pointless.

Jesse Chavez is a replacement level, super fly-ball reliever who misses enough bats to draw strikeouts but just can’t keep the ball in the park. His presence in this deal is negligible.

Overall, this isn’t exactly a huge win for Kansas City, and the players that the Braves are bringing in will certainly help them in their stretch run. However, this deal is a step in the right direction by the KC front office, as they managed to dump some salary and bring back some potential value in the process. It won’t matter if they continue to make the same mistakes in the free agent market that they have in the past. Still, it’s hard to argue with the process employed by Dayton Moore and the rest of his front office here.

The Giants Add Pen Arms

Ramon Ramirez

This is the second time Ramirez will pitch in the National League West. Previously he spent the 2006 and part of the 2007 season with the Colorado Rockies. He performed well then by FIP measures before being traded to Kansas City. The rest of the story is more mainstream as he was dealt to Boston for Coco Crisp and has since struggled to replicate that magical 2008 season. His numbers this year are actually pretty close to what they were in 2009 with the exception of an increased homer rate, hence why his xFIP is actually lower this season by nearly a half run per nine.

In exchange, the Giants give up 24 year old Daniel Turpen. He’s a relief prospect with nice numbers in Double-A. It’s safe to say this is the lesser of the outputs today by the Giants.

Javier Lopez

Here’s the marquee deal and sort of head scratcher. Lopez is a true blue side-arming left-handed specialist. Lopez’s overall numbers are nothing special this year and digging deeper he’s hade more success against righties than lefties, an abnormality in his career (his career FIP versus lefties is a full run lower). Lopez was a bargain bin pickup and not exactly something to give up talent for, yet that’s what Brian Sabean did.

Joe Martinez gets groundballs against righties and struggles versus lefties. He relies on a low-90s, high-80s fastball along with a curve and change. He’s only made 13 appearances in his major league career and six came as a starter. He seems likely to head to the bullpen where his upside could be a right-handed specialist.

That deal alone probably favors the Pirates. Somehow, Neal Huntington also grabbed John Bowker in the deal. Bowker isn’t particularly valuable – he’s a 26 year old first baseman with 513 career plate appearances and a .294 wOBA – but there’s something intriguing about his seemingly newfound ability to reach base. Over the last two seasons in Triple-A (more than 600 plate appearances) Bowker has walked 97 times and struck out 101 times. Before that, Bowker had struck out 370 times while walking 136 times.

He’s a little older and maybe he never becomes anything but a tease. Still, as a throw-in the Pirates could do worse. The question is where he’ll play on the major league team with Garret Jones, Lastings Milledge, Jeff Clement, and eventually Ryan Doumit splitting time in right field and first base. Then again, having a ton of potentially useful options is a new thing for Pittsburgh.

The Giants didn’t drastically overpay in either case, it just seems like a case of tunnel vision in the Lopez deal.

New York Yankees Acquire Kerry Wood

At 65-37, The New York Yankees have a better than 90 percent chance of making the playoffs according to Cool Standings. With no gaping holes and a potential blockbuster for a starting pitcher no longer on the table, the Bombers have bolstered the DH spot with Lance Berkman and upgraded with bench with Austin Kearns. Now, the Yankees have added Kerry Wood from the Cleveland Indians in an attempt to strengthen the bridge to Mariano Rivera. The Indians will send cash (approximately $1.5 million of Wood’s remaining $3.6 million salary) as part of the deal, while picking up a player to be named later from the Yankees.

Wood, 33, inked a two-year, $20.5 million deal with the Tribe prior to the 2009 season. Suffice it to say, Cleveland’s return on investment has been poor — Wood compiled just 0.2 WAR in 75 innings with the Indians. His xFIP was 4.11 in 55 frames last season, as he missed lots of bats (10.31 K/9) but walked 4.58 batters per nine. In between DL stints for a strained Latissimus muscle in his back and a blister on his right index finger in 2010, Wood has 8.1 K/9, 4.95 BB/9 and a 5.04 xFIP in 20 IP. The Texan has an $11 million club option for the 2011 season that would have been guaranteed if he finished 55 games this season, but that ship has obviously sailed. And, that option won’t be exercised. The Yankees might, as Rob Neyer said, “have more loose money than a Saudi prince,” but there’s no chance of them retaining Wood at that price.

As a unit, Yankees’ bullpen ranks fourth in the American League in xFIP and seventh in Win Probability Added. Mo remains marvelous, and both Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson have pitched much better than their ERAs would indicate. The extra relief arm won’t hurt, though. Given Wood’s injury problems and bouts of wildness, he shouldn’t be expected to dominate — ZiPS projects him for a 4.05 rest-of-season FIP, with a strikeout per inning and nearly four walks per nine frames. But, considering the apparently minimal price tag to pick up Wood and the lack of depth in the Bombers’ ‘pen, he’s a worthwhile addition.

Dotel to the Dodgers

Ned Colletti looked to be done after acquiring Scott Podsednik, Ryan Theriot, and Ted Lilly, but with minutes to go before the deadline bell rang, the Dodgers GM pulled off a deal that will send Pittsburgh closer Octavio Dotel to Los Angeles for RHP James McDonald and OF Andrew Lambo. The Dodgers will reportedly receive cash from the Pirates as well, as Dotel has $3.5 million left on his contract.

Dotel will certainly help the Dodgers bullpen, but as was discussed in the Lilly deal, the question is how much. He has a 3.84 FIP/4.06 xFIP/3.50 tERA on the season, pretty much right around where he was in 2009. ZiPS thinks he’ll have a 3.50 FIP for the rest of the season (as well as a 3.86 ERA). He’s a solid upgrade to the bullpen, but I’m still not sold that this is what puts the Dodgers over the top. There’s a lot of baseball left to play and they’re pretty far back (seven back of San Diego, four and a half back of San Francisco), having to climb over two good teams.

What did they give up? Well, too much. McDonald is still a young, live arm who has had MLB success and is doing very well in Triple-A this season. Meanwhile Andrew Lambo was rated as the Dodgers #3 prospect this off-season by our own Marc Hulet. He currently is hitting .271/.325/.420 as a twenty-one year old in Double-A, and is highly regarded among prospect enthusiasts.

The Dodgers bullpen has had some serious struggles, and it doesn’t look like Jeff Weaver or any of the other guys recently used by manager Joe Torre were going to become saviors any time soon. However, the question isn’t whether or not Dotel upgrades the pen (he definitely does). It is still whether or not these deals will be the tipping point in LA’s hopes of making the playoffs. If they are not, then Ned Colletti just paid a whole lot in cash and prospects for marginal help than won’t have any real impact.

FanGraphs Deadline Day Chat

Join us as we spend the afternoon talking rumors, trades, and all things deadline related.

Ted Lilly and Ryan Theriot to the Dodgers

Word is coming out that the long-awaited rumor of Ted Lilly to the Dodgers is happening, and the Boys in Blue will also be receiving infielder Ryan Theriot when the dust settles. However, for a Dodgers team that is currently seven games out of the race in the NL West, this move is a bit puzzling.

Ted Lilly is not having that good of a season, despite what the shiny 3.63 ERA will lead you to believe. His 4.50 FIP (4.49 xFIP) means he actually is having a pretty medicore year, especially since he’s coming off a solid 2009. In a post detailing Sell High Candidates on July 12th, I wrote the following of Lilly:

Lilly is comimg off of a huge 2009 where he posted a 3.65 FIP and 3.98 xFIP, good for 3.7 WAR. His K and BB rates, however, have been disturbingly poor this season, as his K/BB went from 4.19 last year to 2.71 this year. But for teams that aren’t looking too deeply at those numbers, Lilly’s 4.08 ERA may be appealing. Teams will envision him as a 3-4 starter in a good rotation, when really he’s just not pitching well right now. If the Cubs could pry away outfield prospect Kirk Nieuwenhuis from the Mets, it would be a steal.

I’d say Lilly’s BABIP hasn’t fully regress at .261, but he may be a pitcher who is able to get low BABIPs against (stress the “may”), as his career BABIP is .285. Here are his marks over the latter part of his career:

2002: .241
2003: .303
2004: .272
2005: .301
2006: .300
2007: .272
2008: .283
2009: .270
2010: .261

Still, Lilly’s peripherals are not holding up, as the lefty is striking out less batters and walking more. Still, ZiPS thinks he’s good for a 4.19 FIP for the rest of the season, and he’s a free agent after the year. The Dodgers currently have Carlos Monasterios starting games, but the usual reliever has a 5.14 xFIP and ZiPS thinks he’d have a 5.68 FIP the rest of the way. While that’s an upgrade of about ~1 run per game, the Dodgers probably could’ve found a replacement pitcher for Monasterios that didn’t cost as much as they gave up (prospects Brett Wallach and Kyle Smit).

Is Lilly the tipping point in the Dodgers’ playoff run? Probably not, and neither is Ryan Theriot, also acquired in the deal. Jamey Carroll, the current Dodgers second baseman, has a .322 wOBA thanks to a .374 OBP. ZiPS thinks he’s good for a .311 mark for the rest of the season. Theriot currently has a .291 wOBA and ZiPS likes him for .310 for the rest of the season. Not much of an upgrade; in fact, probably not an upgrade at all. However, Theriot is gritty, and looks like a younger version of the Janitor from the show Scrubs (who, ironically, played the first baseman for the Cubs in the movie Rookie of the Year, an all-time classic). Moreover, the Dodgers are trading Blake DeWitt in the deal, who has a .319 wOBA and is predicted to go .323 the rest of the way via ZiPS. So the Dodgers trade for one second baseman for a worse one while probably cutting playing time for another good one. That doesn’t help you make the playoffs.

Cardinals Add Jake Westbrook, Lose Ryan Ludwick

The NL Central figured to be a battleground once again this year, but few, I’m sure, had the Reds in it as late as July. Yet there they are, just a half game behind the St. Louis Cardinals. We’ve heard that the Reds probably won’t make a deal, which leaves the window open for St. Louis. Adding Jake Westbrook could be a move that helps propel them to the Central crown.

The Cardinals have a strong top of the rotation with Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, and Jaime Garcia, but have had trouble filling in the rest of the staff. Brad Penny, who was pitching well before suffering an oblique injury, has faced further setbacks during rehab and his return this season is questionable. Kyle Lohse might return soon, but he was horrible in nine starts this year. Jeff Suppan hasn’t produced the worst results, but with 1.8 homers per nine and more walks than strikeouts he’s a disaster waiting to happen.

Garcia presents an additional problem. While he has pitched better than anyone could have hoped this season, he does have a workload limit. His career high in innings pitched came in 2006 when he threw 155 innings in Class-A. He threw 122 innings in 2008, but last year, because of injury, he managed just 37.2 innings. The Cardinals might keep him in the rotation through the year, but it’s tough to project a pitcher heading into uncharted — or at least recently uncharted — waters. Adding another starter helps hedge that concern.

Westbrook hasn’t had a very good season, a 4.65 ERA to go with a 4.67 FIP and 4.41 xFIP. He missed all of 2009 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, so it’s possible that his results improve as he continues to pitch. He hasn’t realized that type of trend through the season’s first four months, though, so perhaps a significant improvement is a bit optimistic. He is, however, a sinkerballer who will work with a pitching coach who has helped many pitchers develop the pitch successfully. Perhaps his pairing with Dave Duncan will help him rediscover his old form.

It wasn’t all gain for St. Louis, though. As part of the deal they’ll send their starting right fielder, Ryan Ludwick, to San Diego. He’s part of a powerful outfield trio that can not only hit, but also play defense. Ludwick’s three-year UZR/150 is 4.7, which puts him fifth among major league right fielders. It looks like the Cardinals will run with Jon Jay in right. He has hit well in limited time this year, but considering his minor league numbers (.799 OPS in 1767 PA) and his current BABIP (.446). The move will also give Allen Craig, the team’s No. 7 prospect heading into the season, a chance. His minor league numbers are a bit better than Jay’s, a .883 OPS with even better numbers in 829 AAA PA, so this could be his opportunity to claim his spot in right.

Still, it seems a curious trade-off for St. Louis. They’re right around league average in run scoring at 4.40 runs per game, and while Jay and Craig have some potential, it’s unlikely that they’ll replicate Ludwick’s production through the end of the season. Meanwhile they’re taking a gamble with Westbrook. There’s a good chance he’ll improve, both because of the move to the NL and Duncan’s tutelage, but he’s no sure thing. If he continues pitching like he has in Cleveland and Ludwick continues hitting, it will be a net loss.

Pirates Lift Chris Snyder

Nobody expected the Pittsburgh Pirates to be buyers at the deadline, but here we are. Today the Pirates finalized a deal to acquire Chris Snyder (and minor league shortstop Pedro Ciriaco) from Arizona for Ryan Church, Bobby Crosby, and D.J. Carrasco.

The Pirates already have Ryan Doumit under contract through next season (with two club option years thereafter) which makes Snyder an interesting acquisition on the major league level alone. Throw in Tony Sanchez in High-A and the Pirates have the makings of a catcher surplus. Why take on Snyder, though, when the team isn’t competing now nor later? Because look at the cost it took to acquire him.

Crosby and Church are both over 30 years of age and have a combined wOBA of .511. Carrasco is the best player going the other way and he’s a middle reliever. In return, the Pirates get a catcher who hits around league average. That’s an asset. The word right now is that Pittsburgh will not move Snyder, and Doumit will play some first base and right field while splitting catcher duties. That doesn’t mean a deal will not happen at some point before the 2011 season begins, and if one does happen the Pirates (presumably) will not have the same sense of urgency to dump without bringing back costs as the Diamondbacks currently do which (should) suggest a better return closer to Snyder’s market value.

You can take some tinfoil and tape it to a cardboard box but that doesn’t raise the value. That is essentially what the Pirates did, and then they dealt that cardboard box for a television. I know nothing about Ciracio but I don’t think he’s a negative value unless he somehow leads to the destruction of the entire Pirates’ minor league system.

The aftermath of this deal won’t be felt for a while. The initial impact, though, makes it hard to blame Pittsburgh for taking advantage of a sweet opportunity.

The Ryan Ludwick Trade: San Diego’s Perspective

In a surprising move, the Padres have pried outfielder Ryan Ludwick away from the Cardinals as part of a three-way deal with the Indians. In exchange, the Padres will be giving up two (currently unknown) prospects, and it appears one will go to the Indians with the other reporting to St. Louis.

Ludwick has been a hitting machine this year, raising his LD% into the 22% range, thus reaching base at a higher rate. He has kept the strikeouts in check, and is walking at the same rate he was last year. Add in a SLG% that has risen closer to .500, and you have a hitter good for a .354 wOBA. It’s not quite the .406 wOBA season he had in 2008, but it’s still good. However, transitioning to Petco poses a potential problem. But it’s not the biggest worry in the world, because even if Ludwick’s home runs decline, he should still be able to crush doubles into the gaps.

On the defensive end, Ludwick won’t kill the Padres while attempting to cover ground in spacious Petco Park. UZR has been very kind to him this year, and he projects to be a slightly above average defender going forward.

The Padres have been trying all kinds of things in right field, with six players seeing at least five games there. Will Venable has seen the biggest chunk of playing time, but his offensive game hasn’t been up to snuff. He’s a good defender, but not a player who’s on the same level of Ludwick.

Next season will be Ludwick’s final turn through arbitration, and it won’t be cheap. Ludwick’s 2011 salary will likely be around $8 million, which could make him the Padres highest paid player. He’ll be worth the money, but you have to give props to San Diego ownership for be willing to shell out the bucks to put a winning team on the field. This is a good move by the Padres, who show they are willing to spend money to win, and stay competitive in a tight NL West race.