Tag Archive | "Free Agents"

The Free Agent Lohse Down

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The Free Agent Lohse Down

Posted on 28 January 2013 by Will Emerson

As spring trainging rapidly apporoaches, there are still some ballplayers looking for a place to call home this upcoming summer. The most prominent of which are probably Michael Bourn and Kyle Lohse (Austin Kearns just misses landing in this tier of free agents, but only by a hair). Well Bourn may find his new identity in Flushing very shortly if those Metropolitans can skirt that pesky rule about giving up draft picks. Let’s take a look at that for a hot minute.

klohse

Goodness knows, we would not want the Mets to miss out on a first round draft pick. They could very well miss out on drafting the next Lastings Milledge, for crying out loud! Heaven forbid! I mean really, truthfully, Mets, what are you really gonna get with your 1st round pick? Hmmm? Your recent track record is not, well, sepctacular in that department. Okay, I am being a bit harsh on the Mets 1st round picks, because their recent picks, with the exception of Matt Harvey, have yet to get to the majors. So, sure, a bit harsh, maybe? But the last Mets first rounder to consistently produce at a high level would be David Wright. Wright was drafted in 2001. The best 1st rounder before him? Arguably Preston Wilson in 1992 or maybe Jay Payton in ’94. So, really Mets, do you really need this pick, when you can get a known commodity in Michael Bourn? Just some food for thought there. But, alas, I digress, let’s get back to the other remaining prominent free agent, Kyle Lohse.

I am positive that plenty of teams could use and possibly have interest in Kyle Lohse and why wouldn’t they? Did you see what he did in 2012?! The surface statistics are eye-popping! 16-3, with a 2.86 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP. Wow! I’m sure many were/are thinking the same thing is me. “What?! Really?! Kyle Lohse?!” Mind boggling would be a way that I would describe these numbers. But I’ll dig a little deeper into the numbers in just a bit, cause an advanced stat nerd like myself does not hold much stock in these superficial statistics. So, if you said there was a starting pitcher on the market who posted those numbers last season for a playoff team, you would think the offers would be pouring in, right? Pouring in, folks! What team out there would not want that in their rotation, right? If only it were that easy. Unfortunately, for Lohsey, and agent Scott Boras, it is not. Instead of Kyle’s celly ringing off the non-existent hook (cause it’s a cell phone and thus has no hook) all he has been hearing is a cricket chorus.

First, and foremost, do not feel the need to shed any tears for Kyle Lohse. He did turn down $13.3 million to return to the Cardinals, so he is certainly not someone who needs our pity. Second of all, aside from having to beat that offer, Lohse also has that whole draft pick compensation thing attached to signing him as well. So, that will drive some prospective suitors away, for sure, especially of they are on the fence about this asking price. Still though, 16-3 with a sub-3 ERA? That has got to be worth a good chunk of change you would think. Edwin Jackson is making $13 million in 2013. Jackson was 10-11 with a 4.03 ERA in 2012 and he got paid, so why no love for Lohse? Even if the numbers are way above what Lohse should be tossing up there ( and they are), he has still got to be worth a decent offer, no? It appears that Major League teams are increasingly more savvy when it comes to looking deeper into a pitcher’s stats and many, like yours truly, see Lohse’s 2012 season as mostly smoke and mirrors and you are about to kind of see why.

Although Lohse had an ERA under three in 2012, his xFIP was just south of four at 3.96 and his BABIP of .262, which made him an extremely lucky pitcher. So you can see there is a regression a comin’ friends. Using Edwin Jackson as a comparison once more, E-Jax had an xFIP  of 3.79 and a BABIP of .278 in 2012, so this is a fair comparison for Lohse. So that $13.3 million should look pretty good for Kyle. But the problem with getting Lohse the contract he wants does not stop there. Not only do many people doubt the legitimacy of Lohse’s 2012 numbers overall, but they doubt how well he can pitch outside of Busch Stadium or even not as a Cardinal. Kyle’s ERA was over a full run higher on the road than at home. While the difference in xFIP is not as significant, it was still a third of a run higher on the road. So all else being equal, not only should that $13.3 million look pretty darned good, but it may be the best bet for Lohse at this point, even though he wants a multi-year contract. Well Kyle, (may I call you Kyle?)that multi-year contract is probably not showing up at your doorstep anytime soon, so you may need to start thinking about just pitching in 2013. Expecting last year’s numbers from Lohse would be downright silly, to say the least, so the best best bet for him would be to sign whatever one year deal he can grab and prove he can be solid once again and look for more dough in 2014.

As I mentioned, a good amount of ballclubs could certainly use Lohse’s services even if, as expected, he regresses closer to his xFIP. Early projections have an ERA around 3.70 for the upcoming season, which is still not terrible, but it is no 2.86. Kyle is unlikely to put up ace numbers in 2013 and he can’t be playing the market as if he is going to, because no one else seems to be doing that. I think it is quite safe to say no one is buying into last season’s numbers from Lohse. The early projected numbers for 2013 peg Lohse as a third or fourth starter in a rotation. The good news though is although his ERA is looking to regress, his xFIP has been improving each of the last three seasons. In 2010 it was 4.79, down to 4.04 in ’11 and slightly lower 3.96 last season. On the other side of that coin, that minor improvement in xFIP, will still, most likely, not translate into an ERA below 3.50 in 2013. Or will it? Hey, ya never know, right? After all his 2012 xFIP should not have translated to anything remotely close to a 2.86 ERA, but somehow that’s the number that will appear in the ERA column on the back of Kyle Lohse’s baseball cards next to 2012. The bottom line here, Kyle, is you need come down off your pedestal and know your actual worth and if you think you’re worth more, you’re gonna have to go out and prove it. Until that day comes, sir, you keep your ear to the grindstone.

 

 

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The State of The New York Mets Entering Winter Meetings

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The State of The New York Mets Entering Winter Meetings

Posted on 21 November 2012 by Trish Vignola

Characterizing himself as “more optimistic” than he was two months ago, Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said Tuesday that trading either David Wright or R.A. Dickey would be a last resort for the team. Speaking in Far Rockaway, Queens, where he and pitcher Matt Harvey served meals to Hurricane Sandy victims, Wilpon said his first priority is still to ink Wright and Dickey to contract extensions. The Mets’ backup plan is to enter next season with those two on their current expiring contracts. Their final option is the trading block.

“We hope to have a resolution,” Wilpon said to mlb.com. “And you know what? Part of that resolution might be that we get deals done with both of them or one of them. Part of that might be that they both come back and play for us next year. They’re both under contract. This is not a free-agent situation. This is not an arbitration situation. They’re both under contract. We have all the flexibility in the world with that.”

Wright and Dickey are entering the option years of their respective contracts, after which they can become free agents. General manager Sandy Alderson hinted that the thinking might be focused on signing those players to new deals or looking to trade at least one of them. As recently as last week, Alderson said that he would like to have clarity on the situation by the Winter Meetings, beginning Dec. 3. Nonetheless, Wilpon said he would rather retain both players on their current contracts than trade either of them.

“The process is ongoing — that’s all I can say,” Wilpon said to mlb.com. “I know there’s some misconception in the marketplace about what’s going on, and that’s because we’re not talking and the other sides are not talking. I don’t want to get into where we are, what offers have been there, what haven’t. The process is ongoing. It’s a good process right now… They’re both important to the franchise and fan favorites. So we’d like to keep it that way.”

Rumors have swirled regarding the Mets, though the team has made no official moves outside of Minor League signings. Earlier this month, Alderson preached caution regarding trades, while still naming Dickey, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee as potential candidates for a deal. Harvey brushed off speculation that the rotation will not report to Port St. Lucie, Fla., in February intact.

“It’s baseball,” Harvey said to mlb.com. “A lot of it is a business and everybody’s trying to win, so trades are always possible. Not being here, not being in New York is always possible. You never know, but I’m happy to be here. I’m happy to be a New York Met. I’m ready for the season to start.”

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Breaking Bad: Houston Astros

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Breaking Bad: Houston Astros

Posted on 09 August 2012 by Dennis Lawson

Baby, you can drive my…..train?

This year marks the 51st year of play for the Houston Astros as a franchise.  In those 51 years, the Astros have lost more than 74 games in a season 35 times.  The team’s current record stands at 36-76 after the first 112 games of the season.  As losses accumulate, the Astros move incrementally closer to the franchise’s worst year ever which consisted of a 56-106 mark set in 2011.  Then again, it might be too much to ask them to go 20-30 down the stretch.  For a team winning at just a .321 clip, the idea of winning at a .400 pace  represents a jump.

Obviously, Jeff Luhnow chose to raze the team and start from scratch.  With new ownership, new management, and a new league (next year), I find it difficult to imagine that the team will be a real contender for several years.  Need a potential nightmare scenario for the Astros?  Just imagine a team that has drawn just 1,167,069 in 54 home games this year losing even more fan support over the next few years.  Going south of the current pace of 21,612 per home game seems likely this year, and the freefall could easily continue below the 15,000 mark eventually.

Maybe they have a plan for reigniting interest and expediting the rise from well below mediocrity, but that plan must require a  considerable amount of time, a significant financial commitment to free agents, or both.  Without packing Minute Maid Park beyond 50% capacity, the possibility that nobody will witness the baseball revolution in Houston without a ticket looks like a very large possibility.  Here are a few suggestions for getting people to pack the stands.

  • Have a “Landscaper’s Night Out” game and guarantee that the roof will be closed.  After living in Houston, I can honestly say that no city has more hard working men and women in the landscaping business than Houston.  These folks can go 12-14 hours per day with just a few short breaks, and they simply never complain.  Offer them a cool place, some cold beverages, and a baseball game in the shade, and you will have a guaranteed contingent of workers falling asleep in the bleachers.
  • Partner with the geek team from NASA and offer a “Pilot the Mars Rover” night where lucky winners selected via a lottery between each inning gets 15 minutes to steer the rover.  This promotion would be even better with some “I’m With Geek Boy” t-shirts for sale as well.  PI * 7 rounded to the nearest whole number would be a great price for this t-shirts.
  • Sponsor a “Mix Tape Night”, and give a discount to any of the 25,000 DJ’s in H-town who have a mix tape they want to tell everyone about.  Selected pieces get played over the PA, and the crowd noise meter reaction helps choose the winner.
  • Beg MLB and mostly Bud Selig to schedule as many games against the Cardinals and Cubs as possible.  There may be no easier way to pack the Juice Box than to bring the Rebirds or Cubbies to town.
  • Go with a “Drive the Train” day at the ballpark.  All fans with a paid admission get an opportunity to buy into a drawing, and the winner gets to drive the train at Minute Maid.  The money goes to charity, and the winner gets to play conductor for 1 day.
  • Convince former owner Drayton McLane to return to the park for a “Drayton McLane Dunking Booth”.  $5 for 3 chances to hit the target with a baseball.  $10 gets you the opportunity to just bean McLane directly.

You can keep your t-shirt launchers, mascots, and racing condiments.  Houston needs to go big and get creative, and nothing says “creative” quite like allowing fans to pilot a NASA asset millions of miles away.

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mlbtrade

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Leave the MLB Trade Deadline Alone

Posted on 03 August 2012 by Chris Caylor

In the aftermath of another busy trade deadline in MLB, I have seen a few national baseball writers call for the non-waiver trade deadline to be moved into August. Their primary rationale is the second wild card team, which thus far has achieved its desired goal: to keep more teams in the hunt for the postseason (or at least allow more teams to believe they have a shot, even temporarily). Indeed, eight AL teams are within six games of the wild-card, while five NL teams are within six games. That’s 19 teams with a reasonably realistic chance to play some October baseball – the best kind.

With more teams in the hunt, you might logically conclude this situation would lend itself to more intense, frenzied trading activity. Bidding wars for players conducted by the bottom-feeder teams in an attempt to turn their fortunes around; smaller market teams going for broke by acquiring a stud player stuck on a bad team.

Sadly, that conclusion is incorrect. The new collective bargaining agreement signed in November 2011 changed how the trading game is played. The Bleacher Report article by Zachary Rymer does a terrific job breaking down the details.

In short, Type A and Type B free agents no longer exist. If Team 2 signed a Type A free agent from Team 1, Team 1 was compensated with Team 2’s first-round draft pick. If a Type B free agent were signed, then Team 1 was awarded a “sandwich” pick between the first and second rounds of the next draft.

Example: Ryan Dempster is scheduled to be a free agent at the end of the 2012 season. He likely would have been classified as a Type A free agent. If he signs with a team other than the Rangers, Texas would have received that team’s first-round draft pick AND a “sandwich” pick between the first and second rounds. If Dempster were a Type B free agent, the Rangers would have gotten a sandwich pick only. Under the new agreement, Dempster is strictly a rental. The Rangers get no draft picks if he leaves as a free agent after the season.

From this point forward, pending free agents that spend the entire season with the same team can be offered one-year contracts equal to the average salary of the 125 highest-paid players from the prior season. The team would only get a draft pick if the player turns down that offer and signs with a new team.

The draft pick compensation is completely different now too – picks are now called “competitive balance” picks. I don’t even begin to understand that part of it yet. My brain already hurts from the whole qualifying offer business.

The bottom line: these changes have completely negated any potential uptick in trading activity the second wild card team would have generated. Teams are understandably reluctant to part with young talent (the game’s most valuable commodity) for what might turn out to be a one-game-and-done appearance in the postseason. So some baseball writers suggested moving the trade deadline back to, say, August 15, to allow the races to sort themselves out and the true contenders to emerge. While that reasoning seems defensible at first, there are several reasons to keep the deadline where it is.

First of all, the new draft-pick rules and second wild card are big adjustments by themselves, but they both came about this year. Some teams are proactive; others reactive. Some teams probably did not plan on being in the hunt in 2012 (Orioles, A’s). Some time to adapt should be expected. Major League GMs are smart people (well, except for Dan O’Dowd). I would expect by next July that they will a much better handle on using the new rules to assemble their ballclubs. Let’s see how the strategy develops over the next few years before we start clamoring for deadline date changes.

Second, moving the deadline back lessens the overall impact a player can have with his new team. Jeff Sullivan of SB Nation recently called a trade made at the end of July “skee ball in the dark.” Teams already think long and hard before giving up prospects or younger players for two months of a marquee player (plus October if all goes well). Moving the non-waiver trade deadline into August would be like putting the skee ball targets on wheels. Imagine getting only six weeks’ production from a guy in exchange for six years of team control for each prospect traded away. That is a massive risk. Those 2-3 starts, 5-6 saves or 50-60 at-bats lost in late July/early August might be the difference between reaching the postseason and hitting the golf course. Also, if a player slumps or adjusts slowly to his new team, he has less time to make up for it.

If a team isn’t going to get as much use out of a rental player, they will be unwilling to pay such a premium for one. Accordingly, teams with rental players to trade likely will be unable to obtain the bounty of talent they seek. If they want the draft picks, they will need to keep the player all season and then make him a qualifying offer. Players under team control beyond the current season will become even more valuable.

Finally, trading season in baseball isn’t over. Players who clear thru waivers still can be traded to any team. If a player is claimed, a deal can be worked out with the team that claimed him. Some fascinating deals have happened in August over the years. Cliff Lee is a prime example of a player who could be dealt this month. Cutting the potential August intrigue in half would be a mistake.

Considering the questionable decisions Bud Selig has made in the past – All-Star Game/World Series home advantage, disavowing instant replay, etc. – the idea of changing the non-waiver trade deadline should be dropped ASAP. I, for one, definitely do not want him tinkering with it.

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Will The Rangers Go Ham?

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Will The Rangers Go Ham?

Posted on 10 May 2012 by Dennis Lawson

 

Going HAM

Reportedly, the Rangers declare great interest in signing Josh Hamilton to a contract extension.  Naturally, expressing such interest comes straight from the “GM for Dummies” handbook.  If the club fails to appear genuine with this interest, then Team Hamilton (represented by agent Michael Moye) has every reason to use the “disrespected and unloved” approach to shun any and all overtures from the Rangers.  If the club legitimately has such interest or at least creates such a perception, then Team Hamilton loses potential leverage that might prove useful in forcing the club’s hand on an extension.

Therein lies the problem for both the Ranger and Hamilton.  If the club lacks 100% commitment to getting this extension done, then at some point down the road one or both sides could find themselves in baseball’s equivalent of an arranged marriage.  The Rangers may have the guy they want, but they may be taking on a lot greater risk than they would like.  Hamilton could finish his career with Texas, but he may do so with the sense that he is not truly wanted there.

Why would the Rangers NOT want a legitimate MVP-caliber player?  Well, the reasons are varied.  Some may be easily dismissed, but others may have some staying power.  All are worth examination.

  1. The immensely talented Hamilton costs the team $13.75M this season, and has 1 more year of arbitration eligibility.  A bump into the $16-17.5M range would not be a stretch.  Beyond that year, he could consume somewhere in the neighborhood of $15-20M a season for 6 or 7 years (or more).  With guys like Mike Napoli and Colby Lewis set to become free agents after this season and $80.6M already committed to next season, the two sides would either have to agree to a back-loaded deal, or the Rangers would ostensibly have to push payroll in the direction of $125-130M for 2013.
  2. If anybody might be considered stricken with bad injury luck, it might be Hamilton.  He has only played 150 games or more in a season once, and that happend way back in 2008.  Since then, he has played 89, 133, and 121 in the seasons leading up to 2012.  For a guy who CAN carry a team, the concern is whether or not he can stay healthy enough to carry a team.
  3. Despite his great start (.406/.458/.840/1.298 with 14 HR and 36 RBI), the reality remains that Hamilton’s 162 game average projects to .313/.370/.556/.926 with 35 HR and 121 RBI.  Even if he plays 130-140 games a year with those same numbers, we are talking about somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 HR and just under 100 RBI.  Is that work $15M+ for a potential best-case scenario?

In all fairness, Hamilton falls into the category of true “difference makers”, but will retaining him mean Nelson won’t stay beyond 2013?  Keep in mind that the Rangers already have $55.4M committed to 5 players for 2014 (Ian Kinsler, Adrian Beltre, Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, and Elvis Andrus).  With guys like Neftali Felix, Alexi Ogado, and Mitch Moreland under cost-controlled circumstances for a few more years, the Rangers have the flexibility and the money to keep Hamilton.  The question is whether or not they should.

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