Craig Edwards FanGraphs Chat – 11/14/2019


Craig Edwards: Let’s get things rolling. For your reading displeasure, I wrote about the worst teams in baseball over the last decade and in baseball history as well as every franchise’s worst team.


Craig Edwards: and talked about free agent trends over the past few seasons here:…


mike sixel: Rumor has it Odorizzi will sign his QO. Like Ryu last year, this seems to make sense to me (not predicting he’s as good as Ryu…..). He gets 18 million, and is a FA next year without the QO attached. Thoughts?


Craig Edwards: It’s a surprising decision, for sure, if that’s what ends up happening. There is a pretty strong class of mid-tier starting pitchers this year, though most teams could use one. It worked out well for Ryu as his market is a lot better. Lance Lynn had to take a one-year deal below the QO a few years ago when there were probably two-year deals on the table and while he might not have gotten as much as he’s worth, he ended up okay. We’ll see how Keuchel does. We normally think of taking the QO as avoiding risk, but that’s not really the way it is for Odorizzi. He can probably get $30 million or something no matter what happens to his market. The risk is taking the QO and performing poorly. The reward is taking the $18 M now and then getting $40 M or more next season and doubling his downside. For a pitcher who is already making a lot of money, shooting for a bigger payday down the road does make some sense. I don’t know that it is the right move given how much pitching teams need, but it isn’t crazy.


resumeman: With respect to service time manipulation, would something work like you get 1 full year of service time when you end your rookie status? That would remove it from the calendar and attach it to, you know, time of service. I’m sure it won’t work for some reason but it seems to make more sense than “before some unspecified date in April…” Just curious


Craig Edwards: That’s a lot less complicated than my proposal.…


Craig Edwards: though teams would still engage in manipulation and not bring players up and there could be a bunch of IL shenanigans as players on the IL accrue service time but that doesn’t usually affect their rookie status.


Gary: Hey, Craig! Can I refer back to your prospect valuation methodology? I’m wondering if you think all organizations should value prospects roughly the way you calculated, or if clubs should adjust their formula to account for whether they’re contending or rebuilding. Not sure that really makes sense, but would be glad to hear your thoughts.


Craig Edwards: No, the valuation is a rough estimate for all teams. Teams should value a win higher or lower at different times and sometimes a win in 2020 is very valuable while other times, the win in 2021 or 2022 is more valuable. It all depends on where a team is in terms of contending with the valuations I proposed as a rough guideline generally.


John Jaso Jingle Heimer Schmidt: If you’re Manfred, what penalties are handed down for the Astros scandal?


Craig Edwards: When it happened to the Red Sox, they got a fine and Manfred threatened all teams with loss of draft picks for future penalties. That was in…late 2017. It probably isn’t a coincidence that some are trying to put out there that the Astros stopped stealing signs in late 2017. It gives them a better defense to say, yes you got us, but after the Red Sox thing, we stopped. That’s also why there’s a need to look at other years. If they find something past the Red Sox penalties, a seven-figure fine and the loss of at least one high draft pick, maybe a second rounder next year, first rounder year after, would seem appropriate.


Baseball Guy: What percentage of team hitting production these days comes from differing ability (and I suppose, willingness) to steal signs and read tipped pitches?


Craig Edwards: I would think very, very little. I think there are individual players who are good at picking up tipped pitches and there are individuals who might benefit a bunch from stealing signs, but when we are talking across 30 teams, I wouldn’t think the league-wide impact could be that great.


Logan: Fangraphs has Puig as the 18th best free agent in this year’s class, projected for 3 years / 39 MM; MLBTR has Puig as the 37th best free agent in this year’s class, projected for 1 year / 8 MM.  Which prediction comes closer to reality?


Craig Edwards: so the over under in this situation is 23.5? That’s an interesting one. I’ll take the over just because 2/25 seems pretty reasonable.


Ryan: Fangraphs and MLBTR both expect Madison Bumgarner to secure a much larger deal than Jake Odorizzi, but Steamer projects Odorizzi to be considerably better.  Which of the two would you prefer to sign?


Craig Edwards: For equal dollars, I still take Bumgarner, but if we are talking about $30 million difference, I go with Odorizzi.


Nick: Fangraphs’ current depth charts project the Mets as the second-best team in the NL (behind only the Dodgers, and ahead of the Nats, Braves, and Phillies by several WAR).  Free agency will obviously change the projections, but do you foresee the Mets as NL East favorites going into next year?


Craig Edwards: That’s pretty surprising. The question is do the Braves get five wins, the Nats and Phillies get about 9? I’m not sure if the Mets are going to do a whole lot to improve their position but the Braves are probably going to get a hitter and a pitcher or two that should push them up. I think the Nats and Phillies will get pretty close, too. Should be a really interesting race.


Brendon: The Jays apprently spoke with Grandal, and have stated publicly how their young catchers are drawing a lot of trade interest. How much value do you see Jansen and McGuire having on the trade market?


Craig Edwards: It’s hard to tell. Yasmani Grandal is the only good FA out there. We know Willson Contreras might be available. Looking at the depth chart for catchers, we see the Rangers, Nationals, Astros, and A’s as contending teams that could use an upgrade. I’m sure those guys have some value and could get a decent piece, though I’m not sure bringing Grandal in at a position where they are relatively strong it is a great move. Trading depth to fix other areas isn’t a bad idea, but trading depth and then trying to fix that same area with money is kind of odd.


Brood550: Bryant for Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin, Edwin Rios, and Marshall Kasowski? That get it done?


Craig Edwards: Dustin May alone should get that deal done if the Cubs are trying to get the best value for Bryant, but I don’t think the Dodgers would give him up for Bryant when they could sign one of the two very good third basemen already on the market and keep one of the top 10 prospects in baseball.


Lyle: Your recent article about FA crowd sourcing suggested increased playing time for younger players is driving down salaries for mid-tier free agents, but do we know which way the causation actually runs?  Suppose teams decide they don’t want to spend as much because, e.g., ownership prioritizes staying in the black above maximizing championship odds.  That would lead the teams to fill holes in their roster with minimum-salaried minor-leaguers, rather than spending on free agents.  And in this scenario, the lack of spending would be causing the shift towards younger players, rather than the other way around.


Craig Edwards: except, for the most part, the older players are still playing, they are jut getting less money. And for many of them, they aren’t playing as well.


Craig Edwards: Teams just being cheap is definitely part of it, but it isn’t all of it. Older players aren’t as good as they used to be relative to younger players. Some of it could be PED testing and a lot of it, I think, is just due to the lack of expansion coupled with more international talent with better scouting, development and knowledge on pitchers.


Tito Landrum IV: Cardinals’ prospect Dylan Carlson has precisely one minor league season where his batting average was above .251 and his slugging percentage was above .426 (with non-elite BB%).  Why is there such consensus prattle about him being such a top prospect?


Craig Edwards: For one, scouts say he’s really good. For another, even if you were to look at just the stats, more context is needed. In 2017, he was in low-A Peoria as an 18-year-old, several years younger than the majority of players there and he held his own, showing good on-base skills. The next season, he played nearly all year in Palm Beach, still very young for his age in a league and park that kills offense. His .138 ISO was better than average and he still showed good OBP skills. Then, still young for his age, he crushed everyone. He’s advanced quickly after being drafted at 17 and held his own against older players before breaking out, and that matters.


John Stamos: Is Fangraphs planning on doing any deep dives into the Astros (or other teams?) sign-stealing operation? There seems to be tons of video and stats to surveil to provide further insight into the matter.


Craig Edwards: I’ll probably have something on it next week, but using stats is going to be incredibly hard to prove either way. It’s just too much of a macro look at very isolated plays. Also, how much the Astros actually benefited from this shouldn’t actually matter. It’s the cheating that’s wrong and the point. If a pitcher is using an emery board and it shows that he pitches better on some pitches, but a bunch of the pitches are balls because he doesn’t have control, should the pitcher escape punishment. If a player uses steroids, but hurts himself lifting weights, doesn’t he still get punished. I’m curious to know how much this helped the Astros, but I’m not sure we have a great way of finding out and it could be a distraction over the actual cheating, which is the important thing.


FirstPitchStrike: In keeping with the trend of your recent article, are the 2003 Marlins the worst team ever to win a World Series title? If not, which team is, in your opinion?


Craig Edwards: I think they are probably in the middle of the pack. The team put up around 45 WAR, which is pretty good. Without digging too deep, I’m guessing the 1987 Twins are up there. They were barely over .500 and didn’t have a great WAR that year.


Dmitri: If one stipulates that it is impossible to truly detect every case of electronic sign stealing, why not just take a laissez faire approach and rely on the teams to protect themselves? While there will of course be pace of play concerns, teams are able to devise sufficiently complex signs to defeat this type of behavior anyway.


Craig Edwards: When teams are feeling aggrieved about something, they haven’t always done the best job of protecting themselves. It’s impossible to truly detect a lot of things that are bad. That’s not a reason to try and stop cheating or to make it legal.


Dan: Could a team pay a player to exercise a player option? How about paying them to decline a qualified offer if the two parties valued these things enough to agree to agree on a price? Or does cba prevent such things?


Craig Edwards: In the first instance, they could offer the player a higher contract on a one-year deal, which would do the same. As for the latter, the team doesn’t have to issue a QO, but once they do, they lose the power of the decision and they can’t trade them until June or something like that, I believe.


Dmitri: Fair enough, but would you then outlaw a runner on second base stealing a sign? Cheating is cheating, no?


Craig Edwards: Sign stealing isn’t cheating if no video is used. That’s the cheating part. Using people not on the field in real time to figure out signs and then relay them to people on the field.


Herm: So a certain Mets journalist turned deGrom’s CYA victory last night into a Twitter screed about how deplorable it was for the team to have the CY and the ROY and still finish in third place- even though they were competing against the Braves and the team that ultimately won the World Series.  He basically suggested that their 86 wins were meaningless because they didn’t make the playoffs, and that there was no value to them having competed and almost made the playoffs. Is his take warm trash, or am I being too sensitive because I find this particular journalist to be a troll, a tool, and a trooll?


Craig Edwards: I don’t know what you are talking about for the most part, but deGrom had an 11-8 or whatever won-loss record and that’s not something that really happened a lot before the last 10 years and team record and a pitcher record are often linked so it would be hard for a CY winner to be on a team that wasn’t good to begin with. ROY seems somewhat random in terms of winning teams so probably wouldn’t really signal much anyway.


JB: Who would you put in the Hall off the modern era ballot ?


Craig Edwards: Simmons and Miller for sure. Then Whitaker, then maybe Munson.


andy: where on maslow’s hierarchy of needs is the cardinals’ need for some bulk SP innings? i feel safe saying it’s somewhere between the need for physical safety and the need for full self-actualization, but that’s a lot of territory.


Craig Edwards: belonging and loving, probably, but maybe esteem. close call.


Bad Bill: The worst-team article was interesting, notably the fact that two teams (A’s and Jays) had their worst post-WWII seasons, in the same league, in the same year (1979).  Any chance that that happens again soon?  One wonders about Baltimore and Detroit.


Craig Edwards: It can’t be Detroit because it should be impossible to beat their 2003 team and hopefully the Orioles can’t do worse than they did in 2018. Reds-Giants in the next couple of years might be a possibility.


Chardo: Why are the Cardinals so cheap re: FAs? DeWitt claims that their operations don’t make as much as everyone thinks they do, but it seems like to me like he’s pleading poverty while he and his cohorts are really manufacturing money trees. What do you think?


Craig Edwards: Dewitt is just saying the company line. The Cardinals make a lot of money. What is “wildly profitable” to use his language leaves a lot of wiggle room. The Cardinals have missed out on some big free agents that don’t look like terrible decisions, but then they’ve used that money on mid-tier free agents and relievers to the point where they would have been better off just signing the bigger deal. That they then go around and give away huge, unnecessary extensions, makes it less about the money and more that they are just bad in free agency and the uncertainty that comes with it.


Assistant TO the GM: What do you think happens with Miguel Andujar? The Yankees seem to have a enviable logjam at 3B with the emergence of Gio Urshela last year, and it’s hard to ignore how much of an upgrade he is defensively over Andujar (even if Gio’s advanced defensive metrics are below average). Is Andujar’s bat real enough to secure him a spot at say, 1B?


Craig Edwards: It should be, but it is really hard to tell until he starts playing a bunch. There’s also the issue of whether he could handle first base. He might be better in the outfield or just at DH. He might be a better fit on another team, but the Yankees would have to sell low relative to a year ago.


Gway: Hello Craig and thank you for the chat! The Cardinals are in an interesting position this offseason, there are a couple of FA options who would be clear upgrades, but they are beyond what the Cardinals typically spend. The mid-tier free agents offer less of an upgrade or are at a position where the Cardinals have a younger player or prospect they may want to have a look at. What would you say is the theme of the Cardinals offseason?


Craig Edwards: Cardinals 2020: Internal Improvements on Offense and Rolling the Dice on back-end starting pitching like its week-old leftovers in the back of the fridge.


Jason N: If the Padres use their farm to acquire Whit Merrifield, Kris Bryant and unload the  Myers contract, plus sign a Tier 2 arm (Wheeler/Ryu type) how far away from the Dodgers does that leave them?


Craig Edwards: One more good player, probably. Unless the Dodgers get better this offseason.


Buccpocalypse: The Pirates have still yet to name a full-time GM.  How much of a set-back is not having a GM until 2+ weeks after the World Series for their offseason trades or signing(s)?


Craig Edwards: For free agent signings and trades, probably not that much given their position, but rule five guys and minor league free agents, non-tender candidates, etc., I would think they will have to cram a ton of work in at the last minute.


robert: why are the cardinals so down on tyler o’neil?  he got no playing time down the stretch despite not being injured, was left off the october roster and isn’t factoring into their plans for next season


Craig Edwards: Maybe he was injured? I think he should get a shot next season, so we’ll see what he can do then.


Bebo, Sr.: If Odorizzi does take the QO, does Wheeler’s value blow up?


Craig Edwards: I don’t think it affects it much.


Trent: Suppose deGrom wins a third Cy Young at some point in his career?  Does that make him a legitimate Hall of Fame candidate even though his counting stats and overall WAR total–because of his age–will be lackluster at best?


Craig Edwards: I think three Cy Youngs will be pretty tough to overlook. I wonder if Johan Santana’s case would be any difference if he had won three instead of two. I think deGrom still might get overlooked for a while given some other great pitchers in this era.


Craig Edwards: That’s all the questions I can get to today. Thanks everyone.

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