Archive for November, 2014

Sunday Notes: Brewers, Raines, Carpenter, Castro, Cuba, Reds, much more

Tyrone Taylor is happy to be in the Milwaukee Brewers organization. He could just as easily be roaming the outfield at Cal State-Fullerton. Football was another option, as Taylor rushed for over 1,500 yards in his senior year at Torrance (CA) High School.

Playing baseball for a living has always been his dream.

“I really just played football for fun,” Taylor told me. “I had a blast doing it, but I’ve known I want to be a professional baseball player since I was a little kid. I got letters from schools about football, and it was a hard decision not to go college, but once the Brewers showed how interested they were, my mind was made up.”

Taylor signed for $750,000 as Milwaukee’s second-round pick in 2012. It was enough for him to forgo Fullerton and dive headlong into the not-so-glamorous lifestyle of a minor-leaguer. Culture shock came fast.

“I’d heard I was going to Helena and expected it to be pretty populated, as it’s the capital of Montana,” explained Taylor. “But we cruised in there on the smallest plane ever and the airport was almost like a cabin. I was pretty overwhelmed by that. My first full year was in (Appleton) Wisconsin which, being a 19-year-old kid from California, was kind of lonely. There wasn’t much to do. It’s been a great experience though.” Read the rest of this entry »

Franklin Barreto: The Key to the Josh Donaldson Trade

I’ll try to complete the FanGraphs analysis of the Josh Donaldson deal, with Dave covering the A’s perspective of the deal and Drew Fairservice covering it from the Jays perspective while I’ll jump in with the prospect end of things. Those two prior pieces do a good job analyzing the various angles of this deal, with the main question being what the next few moves are for Oakland, since they seem far from done shuffling their roster.

Dave’s piece made the points that the gap between Donaldson and Brett Lawrie may be smaller than 2013-2014 would lead you to believe, so if one of the prospects end up as a star or a piece that can be used in another deal, it could swing the balance of the deal toward Oakland.  There’s an expectation that Lawrie won’t match Donaldson’s production, hence the three minor leaguers included. While Lawrie will be the player watched most closely in 2015 from this deal, one exec I talked to last night said Franklin Barreto is the key to the deal, so let’s start with him.

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FG on Fox: Making a Player Out of Yasmany Tomas Scouting Reports

It was the Diamondbacks who managed to swoop in and get Yasmany Tomas signed to a contract. The raw terms are six years and $68.5 million, which is a bit lower than what was expected, but then that skips over the critical opt-out clause after year four. The clause is a benefit to the player and not to the team, so the clause has significant value, and you barely have to value it at anything to conclude that Tomas signed what’s effectively the biggest contract yet for a Cuban. While his deal doesn’t have the highest sum, it is the most player-friendly.

It remains to be seen what the Diamondbacks do with Tomas. It remains to be seen what the Diamondbacks do with the rest of their roster, and it remains to be seen whether this deal will end up being worth it. Arizona now has an extra-crowded outfield, with first base occupied by a young superstar, so it seems like some pieces will have to be moved around. That’s something to be thought about another day. For this day, let’s consider, what kind of player might Yasmany Tomas be?

There are a handful of good scouting reports out there to be read. Scouting reports provide a good idea of the current understanding of a player’s various strengths and weaknesses, and Tomas has been written up by Ben Badler and Kiley McDaniel, among others. My intention here is to take things one step further. Drawing upon what’s been written by people like Badler, McDaniel, and Jesse Sanchez, I want to identify player comparisons such that I can find an estimate of Tomas’ overall value. This, then, is a bit of an experiment, but let’s make a player out of the Yasmany Tomas scouting reports.

Read the rest on Just A Bit Outside.

So What Are the A’s Doing Anyway?

Four months ago, the A’s made the biggest splash of the summer, trading elite prospect Addison Russell in a package that landed them both Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. It was a clear go-for-it trade, giving up a player rated as one of the 5-10 best prospects in baseball in exchange for a short-term upgrade, as they were renting just a few months of Hammel’s services, and only getting another year and change from Samardzija. It was the kind of deal that the team would likely regret if they didn’t have a deep playoff run in either 2014 or 2015. They followed up on that aggressive stance by trading Yoenis Cespedes for Jon Lester, moving even more of their assets into the present at the expense of the future.

We know what happened to finish out 2014; the A’s played very poorly down the stretch, lost out in the division race to the Angels, and then saw the Royals literally outrun them in Game 163. The window that the team worked so hard to open slammed shut in their face. Lester and Hammel are both going to pitch elsewhere next year, and Jed Lowrie and Luke Gregerson are almost certainly going to find new homes this winter as well. Next year’s A’s were simply never going to look like last year’s version, and the A’s just made extra sure of that by trading away their best player, third baseman Josh Donaldson.

On the surface, it’s easy to look at this move and think that it suggests the A’s are switching back into a build-for-the-future mode. Beane’s post-trade comments even suggest that this is perhaps the right interpretation of this trade. From’s Jane Lee:

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Toronto Keeps Upgrading, Adds Josh Donaldson

After the 2011 season, it seemed improbable that the Blue Jays would ever trade Brett Lawrie. He was the native son who exploded onto the scene, bounding his way into the hearts of baseball fans from Victoria to Corner Brook. Always a great hitter in the minor leagues, Lawrie hit .293/.373/.580 with 9 home runs in a 40-game big league tease that set completely unrealistic expectations .

Three injury-ravaged and underwhelming seasons later, Lawrie and three prospects are gone and Josh Donaldson is the new starting third baseman in Toronto as the Blue Jays try to accomplish one goal: reach the playoffs for the first time in a generation. No passport or sentiment will stand in their way as they try to end a long streak without playoff baseball.

Adding Donaldson is a significant upgrade for the Jays, as any team would expect when they pick up one of the premier players in baseball. Conservatively, switching out Donaldson for Lawrie is about a two win upgrade on talent alone. Lawrie’s spotty injury history and inability to translate his minor league offense at the big league level suggest it might be an even bigger gulf.

With two top-ten MVP finishes and 53 total home runs in the last two years, the Jays get a star – a star moving from an offensive sinkhole to a very friendly space for right-handed power hitters. Donaldson is an older player, heading into arbitration for the first time (he’s a Super Two) as well as his age-29 season. Unlike the A’s side of the deal, the four years of control that come with Toronto’s new third baseman is purely secondary to his ability to help them win in 2015.

The Jays wanted an upgrade and, according to Alex Anthopoulos, it was the inclusion of Lawrie in the talks that brought this deal to life. They sell low on Lawrie, who always hit before struggling (mightily at times) at the big league level. He’s as talented a player as there is, one Oakland hopes they can reshape into a more well-rounded big leaguer.

His talent is undeniable, Lawrie is perhaps the defensive equal of Donaldson at third base, and like Oakland’s Fielding Bible Award winner, Lawrie is a former catcher. Perhaps Oakland can get the countless moving parts of his swing in order and awaken the one tool that brought him to the big leagues at 21.

Toronto also gives up a very promising international free agent in Franklin Barreto, a shortstop at 18 with his stock on the rise, fast-rising pitcher in Kendall Graveman, and slightly stalled prospect in Sean Nolin. In terms of bulk control years, the Jays give up a lot. But that future surplus value finishes a distant second to the chance the Jays are building the best team in their division.

Some might look at the Jays rotation and wonder if they have the talent to win a championship. To that I say: look around. The state of the game swung so heavily in favor of pitchers, adding Donaldson’s bat to the likes of Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista — to say nothing of Russell Martin — suggests the Jays believe the road to the postseason is paved with extra base hits.

Like the Red Sox, the Jays seem focused on piling more offense on top of their already-deep pool of sluggers. In Donaldson the Blue Jays add another home run threat who actually strikes out at a below-league average rate. As the league heads in one direction, it appears Toronto is headed in another.

It is easy to search for additional meaning in this trade and the Blue Jays interest in Josh Donaldson. Simply put, they targeted a great player they thought could help their team win a division title and more. They added a player who saved more than 30 runs with his glove since 2012 while putting up a 125 wRC+. His 14 WAR over the last two years trails only Mike Trout and Andrew McCutchen. Rather than hope their third baseman realized his potential, Toronto acquired one of the best in the game.

It also signals Toronto is serious about overhauling their clubhouse culture, though there is no better cure for a divided clubhouse than a whole pile of wins. Any team that boasts Reyes-Martin-Bautista-Encarnacion-Donaldson at the top of their batting order figures to give pitchers fits, though another left-handed bat in that mix (Reyes switch hits, the rest are all righties) must be a priority.

There is still work to do in Toronto, as huge questions loom in left field as well as second base. Their presumed starting center fielder is 43 big league plate appearances into his career (barely 200 PA above A-ball for Dalton Pompey, another Canadian.) They might not be done yet, but adding an elite ballplayer for the second time in two weeks is a nice way to head into the Winter Meetings.

Deals like this are how teams climb from the 80-85 win treadmill to the 90-win tier of World Series favorites. As they did with Russell Martin, the Blue Jays looked at a decent (and affordable) spot on their roster and thought they could improve it. They gave up a chunk of their identity and whole lot of prospect capital to do it, but it looks like these aren’t your older brother’s Toronto Blue Jays – though I’ve said that before.

D’Backs Land Yasmany Tomas

After weeks of rumors linking him to the Phillies, Braves, Padres, and Giants, Yasmany Tomas has reportedly signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks, according to’s Jesse Sanchez. The deal guarantees Tomas $68.5 million over six years, but critically, it apparently contains an opt-out after the fourth year; a concession which may have allowed the D’Backs to sign Tomas for less than the reported asking price.

Kiley McDaniel wrote up Tomas back in September. I’ll quote liberally from that piece here:

The consensus is that as a prospect Tomas ranks behind White Sox 1B Jose Abreu, who got six years and $68 million before the season, as Tomas is a riskier bat with less of a track record and a little less raw power. Many scouts prefer (Rusney) Castillo, who got seven years and $72.5 million last month, as Castillo is a plus-plus runner that can play an up-the-middle position and is a little better bet to hit for some scouts, as well.

That said, Abreu and Castillo were both signed for their age-27 seasons while Tomas will be 24 next year and should be big league ready at some point in 2015. Scouts on the low-end for Tomas mention Dayan Viciedo as a comparable while more scouts think Yoenis Cespedes is a better offensive comparison, though Cespedes is quicker-twitch athlete with more speed and defense value.

While Kiley was attempting to compare and contrast the recent Cuban free agents for market valuation reasons, his projected peak line is almost a dead ringer for what Justin Upton has done in the big leagues, as I noted last week. Kiley’s guess of a .275/.350/.480 would equal out to about a 130 wRC+ in a neutral park, so even if he’s a minor defensive liability, that line would still make Tomas an above average player, probably in the +3 WAR range.

However, reports suggested that some teams felt that he profiled more as a DH, and if the defense is more Michael Morse than Brandon Moss, that could limit his overall value, especially in the National League. Whether this turns out for Arizona might depend entirely on how well he’s able to field his position; the D’Backs probably don’t need another Mark Trumbo, though Tomas will also expected to be a better hitter.

With just four team-controlled years, the D’Backs are buying Tomas’ age 24-27 seasons, and allowing him to potentially hit free agency again at perhaps the peak of his career. This seems like a near perfect fit for Tomas, as he gets $68 million in guaranteed money if he sucks, and yet he still gets a chance for a mega-contract if the power is as advertised. The opt-out could even give him the leverage to renegotiate into a much-larger deal with Arizona in a year or two if he follows the Cespedes/Puig/Abreu career path, as I’d imagine the White Sox would already be looking to tear up their deal with Abreu if he was only three years away from free agency.

By giving the fourth year opt-out, the D’Backs are limiting their own upside if Tomas hits, while still taking on all the risk associated with projecting performance from a guy who has never played in the U.S. before. However, a $68 million risk isn’t really that substantial of an investment anymore, and if he hits like scouts have been projecting, he should easily be worth the contract before he opts out. If Arizona backloaded enough of the money so that they can substantial value in the first four years of the deal, then the benefits could easily be worth the risk.

If Tomas is more of a DH than an outfielder, or if his raw power isn’t accompanied by a decent approach at the plate, the D’Backs could end up paying $68 million for a player who might fit better in the AL. That said, even if that does prove to be the case, he’d probably still have some appeal to teams in the junior circuit, and the price tag is low enough that he shouldn’t be too terribly hard to move if it comes to that; after all, we just saw Billy Butler get 3/$30M from the A’s, and Tomas has now signed for a similar annual average value.

Cuban free agents have proven to be remarkable bargains of late. The opt-out will serve to make this one less of a bargain, most likely, but it still seems like a reasonable risk for the Diamondbacks to take. $11 million per year for right-handed power might quickly look like a bargain if the rest of the skillset is even reasonably passable.

Fitting Yasmany Tomas in San Diego

Pablo Sandoval has joined the Red Sox. It’s not surprising that the Giants were right there in the race for his services. More surprising is that the Padres apparently were, too. And according to reports, all the teams made similar offers, so it’s not like Sandoval is chasing extra millions to Boston. An interesting thing to think about is whether the winner’s curse applies to a situation in which no one really out-bid the competition. An also interesting thing to think about is what the Padres intend to do. It’s a team under new management, and they seem to want to be active.

This is taken right from Dave’s chat earlier Wednesday:

Comment From AJ Preller
I made a run at Pablo Sandoval but it didn’t work out. What should I do now?

The Padres, to date, have been heavily connected to Yasmany Tomas. One isn’t accustomed to seeing the Padres hot in pursuit of any expensive available player, but he’d appear to be exactly the right kind of fit. In theory, at least, if not in reality, and while Tomas is by no means guaranteed to end up in San Diego, that’s the sort of area where the Padres should probably be putting their money. It’s important that one understands where the Padres are today.

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Win a Free Copy of THT 2015!

Have you heard? The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2015 is now available for sale. You can check out the table of contents and read some excerpts from the book. When you finish that you can purchase it from our independent publishing platform, Createspace, in print form, or from Amazon in print or Kindle form.

But wait, there’s more! Because we’re giving folk, and since it’s the beginning of the holiday season and all, we want to give you a chance to win yourself a free copy of the book. Today is your final chance to win a trivia contest based on one of the articles in the book (we also ran contests yesterday and Monday). The first person to post the correct answer in the comments will win a free physical copy of the book (sorry, no free Kindle version). It’s just that simple!

Today’s question comes to us from Matthew Murphy’s article entitled “Teams Capitalize on Antiquated Arbitration System.” In it, Matthew deploys that old standby, the blind player comparison. Here is the comparison table:

Blind RP Comparison, Career Stats, First Time Arbitration Eligible
Player IP K ERA FIP WAR Arb. Salary ($M)
Player A 231.1 315 2.76 3.44 2.1 $3.80
Player B 277.0 309 2.96 3.91 3.0 $1.65
Player C 202.0 270 3.03 2.88 4.2 $1.60

So, the question before you today then, dear reader, is this:

Can you name all three players in the blind comparison?

Good luck! And to our stateside readers, Happy Thanksgiving!

Neil Weinberg FanGraphs Q&A – 11/26/14

Neil Weinberg: Hey all. Queue is open and we’ll begin at 3pm. Remember priority to stat/data/FG info questions, but anything is fair game. I’m @NeilWeinberg44 if you’re looking for me on Twitter. See you in a few.

Neil Weinberg: Alright. Let’s get started. A little light on questions so far, so today’s the day to get stuff answered.

Comment From 804NatsFan
What is that picture I see? Sandlot football for dads… w/ uniforms! (Sans helmets?)

Comment From zurzles

Neil Weinberg: People have strong opinions!

Neil Weinberg: As always, if you know of a better service than CIL, we are all ears.

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The Teams With the Most Committed Money, By Year

All of the numbers that I’m about to dive into are subject to change — they will change mightily, and rapidly, as the proverbial baseball stove reaches nearer to its sizzling apex. Still, I was curious to know: which of baseball’s teams have committed the most money from this point forward?

Some baseball teams have access to vast resources — vast even when compared to other Major League teams — but none has access to infinite sums. The teams who have committed the most money from this point forward are the most likely to make advances towards premier free agents, or the most likely to lucratively extend their own young talents: these are the teams with money to spend. And yet, paradoxically, these same teams are in some ways the least likely to make the same advances: the outsized financial commitments they giddily made in the past could be the very thing that forces a team into conservative stewardship from here on out. The further we advance into the future, the more the severity of certain long-term contracts becomes apparent. That ink might as well be cast in concrete.

Tabulations courtesy of spotrac. Arbitration figures are not included because they are ultimately unknowable, and rookie contracts are not included because they are too small to be bothered with amidst this mighty storm of money.

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