Archive for July, 2015

Cubs Look for Depth, Add Dan Haren and Tommy Hunter

During the winter meetings this past December, we heard about Dan Haren’s fierce desire to stay in Los Angeles as a member of the Dodgers, with the right-hander even going so far as to say he would retire if he were traded. Dodgers’ GM Andrew Friedman called Haren’s bluff, shipping him to Miami with Dee Gordon in what turned out to be a chain of events resulting in the Dodgers nabbing Howie Kendrick from the Angels. With this trade deadline, there was no such threat of retirement from Haren: he’s now moving to Chicago to add depth to the Cubs’ rotation.

Though the Cubs kicked the tires on some of the better pitching help on the trading block, there was never really the sense that they needed to pull that particular trigger, as their rotation currently sits in the top five in baseball for ERA, FIP, and xFIP. With a starting four of Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, Jason Hammel, and Kyle Hendricks — each of whom have made at least 20 starts this season while contributing at least 2.0 WAR — the Haren deal represents a depth move to fill innings in that fifth starting slot down the stretch. Given Haren’s impending free agency this winter, the move is also purely about 2015.

Haren should be an upgrade 0ver the Cubs’ current weak options for their fifth starting spot. Even though he’s dealt with a continued velocity decline (his average fastball velocity has fallen 4 MPH since 2011, down to 86 MPH this season), he’s found a way to make it work, relying on his curveball and cutter more to post numbers that, on the surface, look good (namely a 3.42 ERA in 2015).

The ominous news comes when we dig a little deeper: he currently owns the highest strand rate of his career (82.5%), the lowest BABIP (.248) and is showing extreme fly ball tendencies this season (he’s second-highest among qualified starters in fly ball rate, at 49.1%). That final issue could become a problem with the move to Wrigley, as he’s going from a very pitcher-friendly home park in terms of home runs to a more neutral home run setting. Giving up home runs has always been an issue for Haren, and they could pose a serious problem should that high fly ball rate mix poorly with a less forgiving environment.

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Padres Negotiate With All, Strike Deal With None

Every season, teams play roughly 100 games before the trade deadline. During that time, there are two kinds of teams: buyers and sellers. As sellers, it is their job to give buyers a hard time to trade worthwhile players to the buyers in exchange for players to be used in the future or moving financial obligations that selling teams no longer wish to possess. By all accounts, the San Diego Padres were clearly in the sellers’ camp, yet they held on to all of their players, both potential short-term rentals like Justin Upton, Joaquin Benoit, and Ian Kennedy and longer-term players like Tyson Ross and Craig Kimbrel. The Padres have desirable players on their team, and the decision to hold onto all of their players is curious, although they did make a small move, acquiring lefty reliever Marc Rzepczynski.

After the trade deadline passed, Padres general manager A.J. Preller was said to believe the Padres had a chance to make the playoffs this season:

The Padres, as presently constituted, do not look like a playoff team. They are 49-53 with a -53 run differential, and BaseRuns, which strips out sequencing, indicates the Padres have actually been pretty lucky, as their BaseRuns record is actually five games worse than their present one. Our projections do not seem to hint at any great improvement moving forward either, as the team is projected to finish with an 80-82 record. They are currently eight games out in their division and 7.5 games out of the wild-card spot. More troubling than the deficit in the standings, they would have to pass four teams that all appear to be as good or better than the Padres to make the postseason. Their current playoff odds are under 4% for this season. Preller is either delusional or he simply could not get the type of return on his players that he expected. Given the huge amount of rumors associated with the Padres over the last few days, it is fair to assume the latter.

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Projecting the Prospects in the Cespedes Trade

Just minutes before the non-waiver trade deadline, the Mets finally landed the offensive spark plug they were looking for. They swung a deal for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for pitching prospects Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa. Here’s what my fancy computer math has to say about these two minor league hurlers and their respective big league futures. Read the rest of this entry »

Pirates do Pirates at Deadline: Neat Little Moves

The Pirates seem to be perennial buyers at the trade deadline, and though there’s often pressure on the team to make the big move for an ace or a big first baseman, they usually make smaller moves that cost them less. So, in getting reliever Joakim Soria for infielder JaCoby Jones, lefty starter J.A. Happ from the Mariners for Adrian Sampson, and Michael Morse from the Dodgers for Jose Tabata, they spent this year’s trade deadline doing exactly what they’ve done in the past: working around the edges, making neat little moves.

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Mets Finally Land Big Bat in Yoenis Cespedes

On the back of a terrific young rotation, the Mets are contender-ish this year, and so for the last few months, there has been a steadily increasing cry to improve the team’s feeble offense. After all, the Mets position players are 27th in wRC+, and even after acquiring Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson, this was an offense that didn’t really inspire much confidence. And so, the Mets have been looking for a slugger they can stick behind (or maybe in front of) Lucas Duda, and after walking away from Carlos Gomez on Wendesday night, they’ve reportedly landed Yoenis Cespedes right before the deadline.

The cost was a couple of solid but not spectacular prospects. Michael Fulmer is the headliner in the deal, and while Kiley McDaniel gave him a 45 FV grade before the season, he told me he’d bump him up to a 50 based on the improved slider and command he’s shown this year. Still, it’s mostly a toss-up whether he’s a starter or a reliever, and he’s sticking with his Joba Chamberlain comparison, so this isn’t exactly a premium pitching prospect that the Mets just surrendered. Luis Cessa, the second prospect, is more of just an arm-strength guy with average secondary stuff; Kiley mentioned he’s still a 40 FV and compared him to the pitching prospects the team gave up to get Uribe and Johnson last week.

The big concession here is that they only control Cespedes through the end of the season, as he’s not the multi-year player they were looking for earlier. After the Gomez deal fell apart, and they apparently decided not to meet the Reds asking price for Jay Bruce, rentals were really the only options on the table, so at least they got the best rental position player left. Cespedes is currently in the midst of the best season of his career, already putting up +4.2 WAR in the first 100 games of the year, though he shouldn’t be expected to keep playing at that level; the Mets are probably buying about +1.5 WAR over the remainder of the season.

In fact, for all the long-running talk about the Mets as a landing spot for Troy Tulowitzki, Cespedes actually projects to be a better player over the rest of the 2015 season. His combination of power and quality defense make him a well above average player even in a normal year, and the Mets are acquiring him when he’s performing at the peak of his abilities. And they got to keep most of the best parts of their future in tact in order to do it.

So, realistically, the questions are more about how Cespedes fits in New York than whether about this is a fair price to pay for a good player; it pretty clearly is, given the other trades we’ve seen this week. But while the Mets have long been searching for offense, Cespedes is still a bit of an awkward fit for New York.

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Projecting the Prospects in the Carlos Gomez Trade

Days after acquiring Scott Kazmir, the Astros went out and bought more players last night. This time around, they acquired Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers in exchange for four prospects: Brett Phillips, Domingo Santana, Adrian Houser and Josh Hader. Let’s take a look at how this quartet of minor leaguers projects. (Note: WAR figures denote WAR through age-28 season.)

Brett Phillips, 3.7 WAR

Brett Phillips, 21, has split the 2015 season between High-A and Double-A where he’s hit .320/.377/.548 in 97 games. Phillips hit for gobs of power (.268 ISO) at the former location, but it’s yet to show up (.142 ISO) at the latter. Still, his ability to get on base has enabled him to post a 133 wRC+ since his promotion. Phillips also has above-average speed, which shows up in his stolen-base numbers.

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Trade Deadline Chat-A-Palooza

Dave Cameron: With the deadline coming up in a few hours, but a lull in significant moves, let’s spend a bit of time talking about what might go down.

Dave Cameron: I’ll be around for a bit, but will have to bail to go write if anything major happens.

Dave Cameron: So let’s talk trade stuff until then.

Comment From Brandon
What will the Haren return look like?

Dave Cameron: I bet the Cubs are giving nothing of consequence but agreed to cover some of the money that was already covered by the Dodgers. So Marlins might just be double dipping to get even more cash.

Dave Cameron: Just speculation, but would be a Marlins thing to do.

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Kiley McDaniel Prospects Chat – 7/31/15

Kiley McDaniel: Running out to the car to get the charger for my laptop. Will answer questions alongside my Chipotle bowl in moments.

Kiley McDaniel: I’m here!

Comment From AJ Preller
Can Javier Baez stick at short?

Kiley McDaniel: I don’t think so, but some people think maybe. I think at best it’ll be like Corey Seager where it’s fringy and you put up with it for a few years if he hits, then eventually move him before he makes the big money.

I mentioned the whispers about Baez’s makeup when I was lower on him than the other publications two years ago and it seems like those whispers are getting louder. In general, iffy makeup guys that have trouble with their bread and butter (hitting for Baez) can’t be asked to also do another thing slightly out of their comfort zone, skills-wise (play shortstop). I’d hope for second, settle for third and hope it isn’t right field.

Comment From Pale Hose
Oh, look it’s Kiley.

Kiley McDaniel: It is.

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Recent History’s Biggest Trades Within the Division

Here’s one of baseball’s ol’ conundrums: to trade within the division or not. On the one hand, every team, in theory, participates in a trade only because they believe their team will ultimately reap the greater bounty. So who better than to reap great bounties from, then, if not one’s divisional foe?

But then again, if one is positioned as the “seller” in the trade, receiving future prospective talent in exchange for future veteran experience, aren’t you boosting your rival’s odds of making the playoffs? Which thus raises your rival’s odds at reaping the previously unavailable bounties, i.e.: increased revenues the following season, attainment of status as a desirable free-agent destination, glorious championship booty?

But then again, if you are truly reaping the greater trade bounty, won’t these additional spoils be, in due time, gloriously available to you?

I will not attempt to answer any of these questions. Instead, with some notable shifting around within their division during this most manic of weeks — Scott Kazmir, Jonathan Papelbon, Juan Uribe — I wanted to know which intra-division deal (completed before the July 31 non-waiver deadline) of the last decade saw the most WAR changing hands in that season. I’m looking at the most impactful trade within each division, and without considering value from the trades that came in future seasons or transactions. (Also: I’m using Baseball-Reference WAR here, as B-R splits up WAR by team played for within the same season.) Ordered by the divisions that saw the least to most WAR shifting hands:

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JABO: The Tigers Turned a David Price Profit

We know that the Tigers aren’t pleased to have wound up in this position. They’ve been one of baseball’s most win-now organizations in recent years, and nothing about the 2015 roster construction really conveyed an impression of “building for the future!” Rather, there’s been concern that the Tigers are headed for a cliff, on account of all the money they have tied up in declining players. And when that’s what the future looks like, you at least hope that you can win soon. This year, the winning hasn’t happened. The Tigers had to acknowledge their situation, and sell. There’s no way that was an easy call for them to make.

There is a silver lining, though, one other than simply understanding that sports are frivolous entertainment and there are far more important things in the world. That’s the steady and constant silver lining in the background. There’s a particular silver lining to the Tigers having dealt David Price to the Blue Jays. If the Tigers had their wish, they would’ve given the ball to Price in Game 1 of the ALDS. They got him for two years for a reason. But the return package the Tigers got from the Blue Jays is strong. The group, headed by Daniel Norris, instantly helps the Tigers’ system, and the return seems at least equivalent to what the Tigers gave to get Price in the first place. Which was a year ago, when Price was available for two playoff runs, not one.

Put it another way: Dave Dombrowski traded for Price. Price helped the 2014 Tigers win the AL Central by one game, and then he pitched in the playoffs. Granted, the Tigers got swept, but they got to use Price for their opportunity. Then they had Price for another four months. Now he’s been traded, for a strong group of young players. Even though Price himself has lost some value, given his imminent free agency, it looks like the Tigers managed to turn a profit here, overall.

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