Tanner Roark Heads North

Amidst a flurry of activity surrounding Gerrit Cole and Anthony Rendon at the Winter Meetings, the Blue Jays bolstered their starting rotation with an under-the-radar free agent signing. On Wednesday afternoon, Toronto agreed to a two-year, $24 million deal with Tanner Roark.

The Blue Jays had 21 different pitchers start a game in 2019, the most in the majors. While a handful of these starters were relievers acting as openers, it’s still a shocking amount to work through in a single season. With Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez traded mid-season, there were moments in September when the pitching probables for Toronto were filled with TBDs.

After trading for Chase Anderson earlier this offseason, the Blue Jays continued to shore up their thin rotation by adding Roark, and they paid a bit of a premium for his durability. He’s made more than 30 starts in five of the last six seasons, with a stint in the bullpen in 2015 as the lone outlier. And though his innings total dropped to 165 in 2019 after three straight seasons of 180 innings or more, he made 31 starts split between Cincinnati and Oakland. His new pact with the Blue Jays has an average annual value higher than Kiley McDaniel ($10m AAV) or the crowd ($9.6m AAV) projected. With such a shaky rotation, the consistency and reliability of Roark was likely a factor in that slightly elevated salary. Read the rest of this entry »

Dan Szymborski FanGraphs Chat – 12/12/19

Avatar Dan Szymborski: It’s a-me, Szymio!

Mark6: When will Jays 2020 ZiPS projections be published?

Avatar Dan Szymborski: At a time I am aware of!

Kiermaier’s Piercing Green Eyes: You know what the Yankee pinstripes always needed? A curvy swoosh advertisement right on the front. Thank you MLB for continuing to advocate for what’s best for baseball.

tommy timberlake: Do you think the Mets are simply adding depth by signing both Porcello and Wacha, or could it be a precursor to a trade involving Syndergaard, Stroman or Matz?

Avatar Dan Szymborski: Who knows with the Mets. I think it’s more likely a trade would happen in the spring than now.

Read the rest of this entry »

Cole’s Contract Opens Door for Happ Trade

Just as an earthquake can send shockwaves across a region for days, a high-magnitude free agent signing can create ripple effects for other teams around baseball.

On Tuesday, the Yankees agreed to sign Gerrit Cole to the richest pitching contract in history, getting their man for $324 million over nine years. While the top free agent is now officially off the board, the decision-makers in front offices across the league aren’t resting quite yet. In fact, the Yankees began preparing for the reality of signing Cole before the deal was even completed, with Joel Sherman reporting on Monday that the team is “actively” trying to trade J.A. Happ.

Happ is entering the second year of a two-year, $34 million contract, meaning that he will count for $17 million for luxury tax purposes. We currently project the Yankees’ 2020 payroll to be approximately $250 million, already putting them above the $208 million tax threshold. Even if the Yankees clear Happ’s salary in a trade, Cole still puts them well above the threshold, but at that point, it’s more than worth it. For New York, the key isn’t as much getting below the tax as it is getting below $248 million. For every dollar spent up to $248 million, the tax is solely monetary. Beyond that point, however, a team’s highest draft selection is moved down 10 slots. That’s why the Yankees (or any team) can blow pretty far past the tax without having to worry about impacting anything other than their owner’s checkbook. Read the rest of this entry »

David Price’s Trade Value

With the Red Sox trying to cut payroll and increase profits at the expense of the on-field product, it would make sense that the team might try to deal one of their most expensive players. David Price put up a very good season for the Red Sox in 2016 and helped the club win the World Series in 2018, but he made just 22 starts last year and began the offseason recovering from surgery on his wrist. When he did pitch this season, Price was effective, with a 3.62 FIP and 2.6 WAR despite just 107 innings, but the 34-year-old only threw 24 innings after the All-Star Break and his health is a huge question mark. Despite those concerns, Jeff Passan is reporting that teams are inquiring about the possibility of acquiring the left-hander.

Given the present injury concerns, determining Price’s trade value is a bit difficult. Dan Szymborski provided the following ZiPS projections for Price over the next three seasons:

ZiPS Projection – David Price
2020 9 6 4.01 23 23 128.0 121 19 36 137 114 2.4
2021 8 6 4.20 21 21 113.7 111 17 32 118 109 1.9
2022 7 6 4.35 21 20 111.7 111 18 32 115 105 1.7

Read the rest of this entry »

Blake Treinen and the Dodgers Are a Great Match

At the end of 2018, Blake Treinen was riding high. He finished sixth in AL Cy Young voting, a placement befitting his absolutely outrageous season. He threw 80 innings of 0.78 ERA, 1.82 FIP relief, the best relief season by RA9 WAR in the 21st century and the sixth best by fWAR. He earned a $6.4 million salary in arbitration, and entered 2019 as the anchor of a fearsome bullpen.

Ten days ago, the A’s chose not to tender Treinen a contract. The dominant days of 2018 looked far gone; Treinen was below replacement level this year, and it’s easy to see why: his walk rate spiked from 6.7% to 13.9%, while his strikeout rate concurrently fell from 31.8% to 22.2%. Where a year ago he was an elite strikeout pitcher with a below average walk rate, this year he was just bad. His nine home runs allowed were also a career worst, and the combined package just didn’t work at all.

So when the A’s non-tendered him, it was somewhat surprising but not unthinkable. They run a shoestring operation, and spending on relievers is a risky way to spend scarce resources, particularly when said reliever was so bad last season. He wasn’t due much of a raise in arbitration — MLB Trade Rumors projected a $7.8 million salary — but the A’s decided they’d be better off finding relievers elsewhere and saving the money.

Yesterday, everything went all funny. The Dodgers signed Treinen to a one-year, $10 million deal, and, well — you’re not supposed to get non-tendered and then make more as a free agent. The whole reason teams crave controllable players so much is that arbitration awards tend to come at a discount to free agent prices. Non-tenders happen when teams expect a corner case in arbitration (generally for closers and dingers, but also award wins and prior salary awards) to create a distorted market. Read the rest of this entry »

Anthony Rendon Is an Angel on the Infield

Anthony Rendon is stoic on the field. Watching a Nationals game during his tenure, there was always opportunity to play a fun sub-game: watch Rendon for a grimace, or a sigh, or any indication that he was upset. You could go whole games without seeing it; he was simply out there working, staying in the moment, comfortable in himself and focused on the next pitch, the next ball to field, the next rally.

While it’s probably unfair to generalize a player’s on-field demeanor to their life, it’s a natural impulse. And so I can’t help picturing Rendon and his wife celebrating his new deal with a head nod, or perhaps a knowing smile, and a glass of wine on the patio. Staying in the moment; focusing on the next task at hand.

The next task is now teaming up with Mike Trout to win the World Series. The Angels signed Rendon to a seven-year, $245 million contract tonight, making him the third highest paid player in baseball on an annual basis, behind only Trout and Gerrit Cole (and tied with former teammate Stephen Strasburg, though without the deferral chicanery). The contract, first reported by Jon Heyman, is straightforward: seven years, $35 million each year, with a full no-trade clause and no opt outs. Read the rest of this entry »

Anthony Rendon Is a Los Angeles Angel

One of the last unsigned stars available, third baseman Anthony Rendon found his new home Wednesday night, signing a seven-year, $245 million with the Los Angeles Angels as first reported by Jon Heyman. Rendon, who finished third in the National League MVP voting and made his first All-Star appearance in 2019, hit .319/.412/.598 for 7.0 WAR in 2019, all career bests. A key member of the World Champion Washington Nationals, Rendon’s departure leaves a giant hole in D.C.’s lineup.

That Rendon has achieved this much is a fantastic comeback story given the obstacles he faced early in his career. While it’s hard to characterize a first-rounder as a true underdog, Rendon had multiple ankle surgeries in college from injuries and partially broke his other ankle in his second professional game for the High-A Potomac Nationals in a non-contact injury. But since 2015’s knee and abdomen injuries, he’s managed to stay healthy and crucially, the injuries didn’t appear to thwart his development. Over the last four years, Rendon’s only averaged 15 missing games a year. That’s not Ripken-like, but it’s enough to put the injury worries on the back-burner.

Among position players, Rendon has been fourth in WAR over the last three years, behind only Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, and Christian Yelich. Read the rest of this entry »

Effectively Wild Episode 1469: The Cole-Powered Yankees

Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller debate the merits of a possible Mike Trout fun fact, banter about Nomar Mazara and the evolving definition of “slugger,” discuss the record Gerrit Cole contract and its implications for the Yankees, the battle to be the best team in baseball, the Dodgers and Angels without Cole, baseball’s competitive balance, Scott Boras, the perplexing free-agent market, and more. Then they review the last 16 of Bill James’s 30 recent suggestions for counteracting baseball’s slowing pace of play and rising strikeout and home-run rates, and Ben talks to Rob Arthur of Baseball Prospectus (1:32:33) about the findings of MLB’s latest study on the baseball’s behavior, the causes of the record homer rate, and the future of offense.

Audio intro: Jale, "Nine Years Now"
Audio interstitial: The Apples in Stereo, "Same Old Drag"
Audio outro: Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, "Tearing at the Seams"

Link to Beyond the Box Score draft post
Link to Ben on Cole implications
Link to David Schoenfield on the highest-paid pitchers
Link to Travis on foul balls
Link to ESPN story about the ball
Link to Rob’s story about the ball
Link to Bill James Handbook 2020
Link to order The MVP Machine

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Michael Wacha Tries to Make Good With Mets

Michael Wacha was once one of the most promising young pitches in the game. In 2013, he pitched the Cardinals to the World Series, winning NLCS MVP. Through his first dozen starts in 2014, Wacha put up a 2.78 FIP, 2.45 ERA, and a 1.8 WAR that was among the top 15 pitchers in the game. Shortly thereafter, Wacha was diagnosed with a scapular stress injury that would ruin the rest of 2014, leaving him an innings eater the following three seasons, and something less than that over the last two years. Wacha hit free agency for the first time having barely held on to a rotation spot for most of the season and having failed to make the Cardinals postseason roster. The Mets, seeking depth in a rotation that already includes Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, and Steven Matz, opted for a low-risk deal to position Wacha to close out the rotation with a one-year, $3 million contract that, with incentives, could bring the total to $10 million, as first reported by Joel Sherman.

Wacha still has his signature changeup, but his fastball rarely missed bats and he allowed 16 homers on the pitch last season. His strikeout rate dipped below 20%, and he might have been hurt by the rise in home runs last year. While Busch Stadium is a home run suppressor, Wacha gave up a ton of long balls both at home and on the road, though his road numbers were particularly brutal, with a 6.17 FIP. An indication that he probably wasn’t fully healthy, Wacha’s velocity moved all over the place throughout the season. Mike Shildt did say that Wacha was healthy as the season ended, but that he didn’t make the postseason roster due to a lack of need for an extra starter. Read the rest of this entry »

Giants Add Veterans Gausman and Cozart

The Giants made two acquisitions Tuesday evening, signing pitcher Kevin Gausman to a one-year contract and acquiring infielders Zack Cozart and Will Wilson from the Los Angeles Angels for future considerations.

These moves aren’t quite as earth-shattering as the Gerrit Cole signing, but both have short term upside for the Giants, which is consistent with the team’s goal of not completely gutting the roster while rebuilding.

Kevin Gausman is a long-term favorite of mine, and the $9 million the Giants will pay him in 2020 strikes me as a reasonable risk to take given the upside he represents. His stint with the Braves in 2019 is one he’d be happy to forget thanks to the 3-7, 6.19 ERA line he put up in 16 starts. It’s very easy to lose sight of the fact that his 4.20 FIP was nearly two runs better than his actual ERA, which was inflated by a .344 BABIP. Gausman’s strikeout rate had faded in recent years, dipping to a lackluster 7.3 K/9 in 2018, so his 9.6 K/9 in Atlanta was roughly a 30% improvement, which generally portends pleasant results rather than what actually happened.

When looking at Gausman’s 2019 hit data, the ZiPS projection system expects a BABIP of .309 rather than his actual .334. That’s still on the high side, but is enough to drop his batting average against in Atlanta from .290 to .252. Batters actually had the lowest exit velocity against Gausman since 2015 at 86.9 mph, which partially explains why even a struggling Gausman didn’t see his homer rate tick up. Read the rest of this entry »