Saturday, 28 February 2015

Nobody Likes You

Image: National Post
Dioner Navarro, in 2014, was worth 2 WAR, per fangraphs, and 2.3 WAR per baseball-reference.  That's entirely reasonable, especially for a guy who sat on the bench every 5th day to make room for Josh Thole's ability to catch a butterfly.  Either story puts him comfortably in the top 30 catchers, by WAR, in baseball, which should suggest that he'd be a starter, right?  Especially on teams that don't have a guy in that top-30?  Stands to reason.

Another guy who stands even more firmly in that top-30, and, in fact, inside the uppermost echelon of catchers, is Russell Martin, who, if you need reminding, signed with the Blue Jays as a free agent back in mid-November, prompting Navarro to request a trade so that he can catch everyday, wherever he plays.

I guess the question needs to be asked, then: why is Dioner Navarro still a Blue Jay?

A couple of factors have Navarro snookered in to bench duty, at the moment.

Navarro, per Steamer, is projected to only provide 0.7 WAR this season, mostly due to the fact that he currently slots as a backup catcher, and possibly DH, for the Jays, though I'm sure the fact that he hadn't seen 400+ MLB PA's since 2009 has something to do with that as well.  Still, in a situation where he's given the #1 catcher's job, he's seeing more plate appearances than what's been projected.  The problem is that even if we aggressively project Navarro to be roughly what he was in 2014 (we'll call it 2.0 WAR just to be neat), there still aren't going to be a whole pile of buyers.

Let's turn our attention to Fangraphs' positional depth charts for catchers.  Scrolling down that list, we can immediately remove a whole pile of teams from the Navarro sweeps.  We can immediately discount teams like SF, CLE, KC and STL (and others) who have a couple of rocks behind their plates (I suppose Posey could play some 1B, but Andrew Susac would then play).  We can remove teams like CHC, LAD and MIN, who all have guys who are in the same relative zone from a projected WAR standpoint, and thus wouldn't be getting a clear upgrade in Navarro, making it useless to give up assets.

We can remove a team like PIT, who went from one of the best, in Russell Martin, to a bunch of unheralded guys (26th in cumulative projected WAR) who share some of the less tangible, less measurable defensive qualities that Martin has.  We can remove a team like Boston, who, even if they weren't the Jays' immediate competition for the division, and thus pretty unlikely to help each other, have youngster Christian Vazquez, as well as veteran Ryan Hanigan as a quality pair, and top prospect Blake Swihart waiting in the pipeline, just in case.

We can remove the Braves and Diamondbacks, who certainly have some ugly catching situations at the moment, but those are hardly their biggest problems, and improving by a win or two at catcher-- and giving up an asset for one year of a $5MM catcher while doing it-- isn't likely to save them from mediocrity.  We can probably remove the Marlins, given that they have Jarrod Saltalamacchia under contract and is certainly a bounceback candidate.

Simply, Navarro has been a trade candidate, if we don't believe everything we hear, for the entire offseason, save for the two weeks before Russell Martin signed.  We've seen a few moves for catchers this offseason-- the Cubs, Rays, Rockies, Padres, Pirates and Dodgers (and more) all acquired catchers this winter, and all happened after the Martin signing, so they all likely could have had Navarro if they wanted.

The only real teams that might make sense are the Tigers, if Alex Avila can't catch due to concussion issues, and maybe the White Sox, though they appear willing to have Geovany Soto and Tyler Flowers split time.  Throw in Milwaukee, I suppose, if they shift Lucroy to 1B when the "Adam Lind hitting against LHP" experiment goes sour.  If the A's decide that Steven Vogt is better used elsewhere, they may eventually end up interested, but it seems as though they're going with him and Phegley for now.

If a team decides that their current situation may not be good enough, the Jays will then need them to convince the other to give up something to take Navarro.  Of course, if there's only one team looking for him, there wouldn't be much leverage, especially when other, cheaper, marginally worse options are out there, such as Wilin Rosario.

I think the most likely situation for a Navarro trade is to find a team partway through the year that finds their catcher injured or terrible, and go from there.  Catching is tough on the body, and there always seems to be a star catcher out for an extended period come midseason, or someone like Saltalamacchia, who dropped off pretty dramatically last year relative to 2013.  The best way to move Navarro, at the moment, would be to bide time and wait for someone to lose their catcher.  Navarro, after all, has a reasonable contract, and, more importantly, has the unfortunate distinction of being the best catcher in baseball who is currently out of a starters' job despite being qualified to start.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

On Batting Orders

I keep hearing Gibby say it, and I just don't really want to believe it, because it seems so horribly wrong to me.  I mean, let's not pretend that I'm not about to write a small essay about a batting order, in 2015, as if it's something that means a lot.  But still, come on.

What I'm talking about is Gibby's answer to one of the questions at tonight's State of the Franchise Address, where someone asked how they were going to take care of the "weak" bottom of the order.  Gibby, as he is wont to do, answered the question in a pretty awesome manner, saying, among other things, that the person asking the question was confused.

Gibby mentioned that the top half is strong-- so strong, in fact, that it makes the bottom half look weak by comparison, and that it would look totally reasonable were it not for the ridiculous pop starting things off.  That's probably a halfway reasonable thing to say, I suppose.  No team is stacked top-to-bottom without some riffraff or question marks hanging in there, and there are certainly some possibilities for platoon spots in there as well, which should at least mask some of those deficiencies.

Anyway, that's not really what I'm talking about here, we're just trying to put more words in there so it looks like I've got a great big point to make, when in reality, it's a minor issue.  Optimal lineup vs. least optimal lineup is the difference between about 2 wins a season, and there's no way that Gibby is going to run a lineup out there everyday without it being really, really close to optimal, to this point where we're probably looking at much less than a single win over 162 games.

That doesn't take away my right to build a mountain about this though, god dammit.

Gibbons seems to have the top of his order set and ready to go:
Reyes
Martin
Bautista
Encarnacion
Donaldson

 and then the next series of names he mentioned before trailing off leads us to believe that there will be some combination of Navarro/Saunders, and then, I suppose, Smoak, Pompey, and whoever plays 2B on a given day.

My issue is with the 2-hole.  Mathematically, this is the most or second-most important slot in the batting order.  Bautista and Edwin are projected to be pretty similar hitters, and definitely the two best on the team (per Steamer's wOBA projections), but Bautista said at one point or another last year that he'd rather hit third (can't find a link here, but I'm fairly certain I didn't imagine that), and Gibby likes to have Edwin hit behind Bautista.  If Reyes is #1, Bautista #3 and Edwin #4, and those are all set in stone, then that's fine, I guess.  We'll work around it.

Sticking Martin in the 2 just kind of sticks in my craw though.  Josh Donaldson projects to be the third best hitter, by wOBA, at .360, on the roster, ranking ahead of Martin, ahead of Reyes, and ahead of Michael Saunders, among others.  Martin, on the other hand, projects for a .337 wOBA.  That's still plenty good, but if the only options are having those two players in the 2- or 5-holes, a 27-point wOBA difference in a spot in the order that comes to the plate significantly more often could make a world of difference.

The second issue I'm having revolves around the days that Martin doesn't play.  Martin has started between 106 and 118 games at Catcher each year since 2011, which is plenty durable, but is still only about 70% of all of his teams' regular season games.  That leaves something like 40 games that they've got to go move someone else from their homes and stick them in to the 2-spot.  Wouldn't it just be easier to have Donaldson there in the first place?

Heh, this probably isn't worth anywhere near as many words as I've devoted to it.  Josh Donaldson is ours now, and perhaps I'd just like to see more of him, squeezing in that extra couple dozen plate appearances per year.  That can't be a crime.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Howard They Live with Themselves?



God.  Can't believe I'm writing this.

I read Mike Petriello's piece on Fangraphs last night, in which he lists a few new homes for Ryan Howard, with Toronto being one of them.  Now, Howard sucks, and is owed a shitload of money over the next two seasons, so we really don't have to worry a whole lot about this; the Phillies are going to trade Howard, and they're going to eat a big, big percentage of the $60MM that Howard is owed between now and the end of next season, and it's going to be a pretty small-time prospect going back the other way, whichever teams bites.

The big thing with Howard, per Petriello, is that he doesn't have a position to play, or at least doesn't have the ability to play one well.  Sure, he's a first baseman by virtue of the fact that he's played first base for Philadelphia for several years now, but he's also done a pretty horrific job of that, from a defensive standpoint.  So basically, he's a DH.  Which eliminates 14 of the 29 teams out there right off the bat.

He also points out that of the remaining 15 (i.e. AL) teams, most of them already have their own current situations at 1B/DH, with Baltimore, Tampa and Toronto being the exceptions (and those teams all have stuff going on, to the point where Howard may not even fit there).

Finally, he points out that Howard has been much better hitting the ball in the opposite direction, as opposed to pulling the ball, for the last few years.  There are some fancy charts and graphs in there, but all we really need to know is that Howard has done the bulk of whatever damage he's done over the last two seasons down the LF line.

OK then.  Let's talk about all that.

Within Petriello's piece, he links to a pretty dandy little study that ESPN did on park factors.  Within that link, we'll note that LF in the Skydome yields a HR on 1-in-5 flyballs, with a .307 isolated slugging, both the highest rates in baseball.  The Dome also has some slightly above average rates to both CF and RF, but nothing in that area.   Comparing that to Citizen's Bank in Philly, we see some pretty average park factors for left and centre fields, and some above average numbers for RF, which don't really affect Howard all that much since he doesn't really use that field.

Howard hits a slightly above-average number of fly balls and liners, and a slightly below average number of grounders, but they're not so terribly far away from league-average totals that we should even bother freaking out about it.  What we should at least look at, though, is Howard compared to Justin Smoak, who Howard would likely be fighting with for a spot were a trade to actually happen.

Here are Smoak's fly ball spray charts for the last two years, similar to what Petriello posted for Howard, though he didn't opt to leave line drives in for Howard's for whatever reason, and I totally would have, but meh.



 Now, I notice a few things here, and the numbers back that up.

  • There's a certain value to not popping the ball up in the infield, especially in foul ground, and Smoak does that, while Howard appears to not.  One of the above links suggests that the league average infield flyball rate hovers around 11% (which seems totally high to me without ever having looked this up before, but I dunno).  I'd guess that power hitters tend to pop more balls up in the air, but that's just me speculating.  Either way, Smoak is kicking around right at that 11.5% mark for his career, and somewhere around 9% for the last two seasons.  Howard, on the other hand, has a career rate of 1.7%, and is way, way lower than that over the last few years.  That's certainly not the be-all and end-all of hitting, but it's hard to tag up and score on a popup 7 feet from the plate.  Flyballs and grounders can at least turn in to hits some of the time, too.
  • Smoak didn't get a whole lot of plate appearances in the bigs this year, but his power clusters are pull-ey.  The Dome is better than Safeco to LF and CF, but is vastly worse (again, from a HR and ISO perspective) to RF.  Ole' pitcher-friendly Safeco is actually the third-best hitters park to right-field for both HR's and ISO (The Dome isn't too far away for ISO, but HR/FB% is about 5.5% away).
Now, if we look at some general stats, we'll realize that this isn't anything we shouldn't already know-- Howard has always been a better hitter than Smoak.  In Smoak's best year (2013), he managed a 111 wRC+, and he doesn't exactly have favorable platoon splits in either direction.  As bad as Howard's been for the last few years, a big chunk of that is his negative defensive value, his negative baserunning value, and the positional hit for being a 1B, he's been a better hitter than Smoak (though Steamer likes Smoak much more).  That's not to say that all that stuff goes away if he turns in to a DH in Toronto, nor does that take away from the upside that Smoak has inside, untapped.

Smoak is only 28 after all, and he hit .337/.422/.502 in AAA last year.  Sure, all that proves is that he can hit AAA pitching, something he's done very well over 750 or so plate appearances since 2009.  And he's already in the organization.  And he only costs $1MM.  And he's still under team control, arbitration eligible next year from a $1MM starting point.

I don't necessarily think it's likely, or a good idea for that matter, that the Jays acquire Howard.  But a guy at Fangraphs said it was possible.  And then I looked in to it.  And the numbers kind of fit.  I'd honestly prefer Smoak, for all of the reasons listed in the above paragraph, but dammit if the numbers and park factors don't make a reasonably compelling case, especially when you consider the projections for 2015, as they look right now, the Jays are within a reasonable reach of being the best team in the division, and they're obviously trying to go for it. 

Ultimately, there's more of a factor than just "should they do it?"given the whole $60MM over two years thing, and then 0.0 WAR over the past four years thing, there's a pretty good chance that a deal would go to shit.  But there's a fit.

Pretty fucking scary to me.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Jays get Canadianer

Canada TV
Hey!  I kind of called this one!  Don't believe me?  Suck it.  Here's what I said in that particular post:
Speaking of rumor season, apparently Michael Saunders and Jack Z aren't seeing eye-to-eye in the Skydome Seattle.  Saunders, of course, is Canadian and seems to crush the Jays every time he plays them.  He's probably a part-time/ platoon player, but there's still upside there, and he was worth 2 WAR this year, powered by a .273/.341/.470 slash, and some roughly average fielding across the outfield.  He's actually a pretty reasonable comparison/replacement for Colby Rasmus.  He'll make ~$3MM in arbitration this season, and doesn't have a place to play full time in Seattle.  Perhaps a Saunders/Pillar platoon situation?  Mayberry fits in there as well.  Could do worse.

Now, that post was made under the guise of Melky signing elsewhere, and the Jays needing to go out and figure something else out to fill the roster.  I don't necessarily think that the Saunders deal precludes the Jays from bringing Melky back, but it doesn't not mean that either.  If the Jays want to hand the reigns over to Dalton Pompey, it's easy enough to stick Saunders in LF as the lefty half of a platoon-- Saunders has a career .279 obp against lefties, though his 2014 numbers, albeit powered by a .372 babip, look quite a bit nicer.

That probably leaves Kevin Pillar as the other half, which seems totally reasonable given Pillar's ability vs. lefty pitching and pretty good defense.  Pillar and Saunders can both handle CF as well , just in case something goes wrong with the Pompey experiment.

Of course, the offseason isn't over yet, either.  Let's say Melky re-signs and is the everyday left fielder.  Again, a Saunders-Pillar platoon doesn't (and shouldn't!) preclude a Melky deal.  It certainly opens a door for another trade there somewhere.  Whether that means that the Jays flip Saunders, or have some kind of combination of part-timing/benching/optioning he, Pompey and Pillar, I have no idea.  This offseason has been fucking nuts so far though, and we're not even at the winter meetings, which is where shit usually goes down.

As for Happ... well, I'd rather have Saunders for $3MM than Happ for $6.7MM.  And the Mariners don't even need a back-end starter!  Not yet, anyway.  Maybe they're looking to acquire an impact bat, and use Taijuan Walker to get it.  Much like the Donaldson trade, this trade makes a lot more immediate sense for the Blue Jays than it does for the other guys, so there is probably another shoe to fall here.  I doubt the M's acquired a $7MM pitcher just to throw him in at #6 or 7 on their rotation depth chart.

This trade certainly did make me think, though.  One of my favorite things to do in my spare time is to look and see where players come from, so to speak.  Not in the literal sense.  I don't really care that Happ was born in a city called Peru.  I'm more interested in how he became a Blue Jay, and what he cost, in terms of money or prospects or players.

Happ was acquired from Houston a few years back in that giant clustercock of a trade that saw 10 players exchange hands.  The Jays sent Ben Francisco, Francisco Cordero and a couple of minor leaguers to Houston for Happ, Brandon Lyon, and David Carpenter.

Carpenter was mostly useless to the Jays, in that he provided a few innings of mop-up before being the throw-in that allowed the John Farrell trade to happen.  Of course, that turned in to the Jays giving away Yan Gomes and, to a lesser extent, Mike Aviles for Esmil Rogers, who was also given away.  Which actually, when you think about it, uhh... Aviles and Rogers would both be at least kind of useful, at least at the present moment.

Anyway, Lyon was also mostly useless, in that he was only around for the last couple months in a mostly lost season, and then left, never to be seen or heard from again.  This trade may as well have been a bunch of prospects and two shitty contracts for Happ.  This is my long-winded way of saying "Hey guys, let's look at the trade where we gave up a bunch of practically free, controllable-for-years prospects in exchange for 2.5 years of JA Happ."  For simplicity's sake, we'll look at the money involved on the major league side (i.e. Lyon/Carpenter/Happ vs. Francisco/Cordero), and then the prospecty stuff.  Let's just say that it was halfway through the season, for the sake of dividing salaries in 2.

As far as I can tell, Happ ($2.35MM), Carpenter ($500k) and Lyon ($5.5MM) made $8.35MM between them, of which the Jays paid half. so ~4.2MM.  Cordero ($4.5MM) and Francisco (~$1.5MM) basically means that the Jays took on an extra $2.2MM in salary and gave up a bunch of low-level prospects in order to get a guy who could throw major league pitches for a team who was using Joel Carreno and the bad Jesse Chavez and Chad Jenkins and SIXTEEN STARTS FROM CARLOS VILLANUEVA.  So yeah, kind of need a guy to start and maybe serve as depth for the next year.  Borrow from the distant future to help the present and near future.

Rather than going incredibly in-depth and pretending to know what I'm talking about when it comes to prospects that I've never seen and don't know pitch velocities, etc...  let's just say that none of them have shown up on the MLB top-20 prospects list for the Astros.  Now, we should probably remember that the Astros have a really deep system, even after graduating a bunch of guys to the bigs in the last few years.  That's what sucking and rebuilding for like seven years will do.  Still, I remember when the Jays had a top-3 farm system and don't exactly remember hearing a whole lot about the guys outside their top-20 (to be fair, though, top-20 spots tend to go to guys fresh out of the draft, not guys who have been toiling in the minors for a few years).

Carlos Perez has since been traded to the Angels, and is probably going to fight for a backup catcher role, now that Hank Conger has been traded.  Everybody else appears to be either some degree of distance away from contributing to the big league roster if they ever do, or getting old for prospects.  To wit:

  • Joe Musgrove is 22 and finished a season of A- ball, though he put up reasonable numbers.
  • David Rollins will be 25 in a few weeks, and has had a pair of trips through AA with reasonable, but uninspiring numbers.
  • Asher Wojiwhatever will be 26 in a few weeks and took a step back in performance in his second trip through AAA this year (in the PCL, mind you, which has some silly offensive numbers).
  • Kevin Comer is still hanging out in A ball and is pitching out of the bullpen, giving up a lot of hits.
So yeah, the Jays pretty well took $2.2MM and an expensive-for-his-skillset, 31 year old, arguably at the peak of his value, and turned him in to an outfielder who fills a need that they can control for two years.  That's not exactly a fair exercise to conduct when it comes to prospects, but whatever.  I think the Astros were looking for a pile of guys, hoping to have one of them hit it big, rather than finding one single prospect who had a lot of upside.  Two years forward, the Jays still weren't going to get a good prospect for Happ.

Not to mention the Canada.  Pretty fun deal for the Jays all around.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Jays Acquire MVP Candidate


Hey how would you guys like to have another Jose Bautista?  Probably a lot, right?  Maybe you'd give up Brett Lawrie for one?  You'd better.

Well, Josh Donaldson is mucho better, and has more club control than Lawrie, albeit at a much higher price.  But holy fuck Donaldson is good.  He's a guy who is coming off of 7.7 and 6.4 WAR seasons these last two years.  To compare, Jose Bautista's two best seasons ever are 7.7 and 6.5 WAR.  Ever!  Those two seasons?  His 54HR breakout, and then his follow-up.

Basically, Donaldson is fucking good.  Career .268/.347/.458 kind of good.  And he did that playing half of his games in Oakland, and another good chunk in Anaheim.  His home-road splits suggest that he's really good away from Oakland.  And hey! We're talking about the AL East here.  Skydome, Fenway, Yankee Stadium... this is bandbox central (not that park factors aren't factored in to WAR).  And defense!  He's really good at defense!

As for the package-- Lawrie is sort of the ultimate upside guy who just hasn't really put it together yet.  He's quite a bit younger than Donaldson, and will be cheaper, but he also comes with the injury risks, the inconsistency, and the fact that he's only under club control for three years, which is less than Donaldson.  Makes sense to include other pieces.

I suppose that's where Nolin, Graveman and Baretto fit in.

Nolin, for his part, is a lot better than his 92347 ERA in 4 big league innings would suggest.  He's done well in the minors and will fight for a rotation spot in Oakland's rotation sooner than later.  Graveman is also a guy.  He happens to be pretty old for a prospect, but Jesse Chavez was like 31 or something when he was briefly good, so late-bloomage does happen.  And it's not like he's trying the same thing over and over either-- he added a cutter and started getting a shitload of groundballs, moving up from A-ball to the majors in a single season. He will also fight for a rotation spot.

Barreto is only 18, but scouts seem to drool all over him.  He probably won't be a shortstop in the future, but he's crushed every league he's played in since he was 10.

All things considered, the Jays gave up quite a bit to land a potential MVP.  And MVP's should cost a lot.  Especially when they have four (!) seasons of control.  At age 29 (opening day age, anyway), and at 2.158 of service time, he's controlled at a discount through his prime years.  That's good!

I guess the only real issue here is exactly what the Jays are giving up, in terms of their 2015 team.  It's not Lawrie, or Barreto, because Lawrie is replaced, and Barreto isn't a MLB asset yet.  Graveman and Nolin, though, are young, controllable pitchers, and serve as depth.  What if 2012 or 2013 happens again, where all the pitchers either get hurt or suck?  That depth raises the floor.  We might be back to the days of Chien Ming Wang or Ramon Ortiz if things go south.  It's probably not THAT bad; Daniel Norris is there, Marco Estrada and JA Happ are there.  That other guy is there.  And who knows who else might show up and be this year's Graveman?

As for 2015... AA isn't fucking around, is he?  There is little market for 2B at the moment.  The relief pitcher market hasn't developed at all yet.  This could entice Melky to come back and fill the LF void.  Meanwhile, there's some sort of Reyes-Martin-Donaldson-Bautista-Encarnacion situation going on, and it's still November.  Most teams don't even start their offseason until the winter meetings.  This is sweet.  How good would Melky look in there?  Especially with the switch-hitterness of it all, stuffed in with all those right-handed bats.

I would hasten a guess that AA is after it this year.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Who Might Want Dioner Navarro?

The Star. Image credit, but also subject.
Hey, so there might be a bit of a surplus behind the plate now.  Let's examine that.

AA has said multiple times now that moving Navarro isn't exactly a priority, since he believes that Dio (a) did a great job in 2014, and that (b) there are probably DH at-bats out there, and you can always let Martin have a day off here and there.  That's not a really great thing for Navarro, from a career or financial standpoint.  Not catching everyday is probably going to make it tough once he's asked to catch everyday again.

I guess it's possible that he stays around, but again, that probably kills his next contract pretty badly.  Martin could end up getting hurt, for example, and then the Jays are glad they kept, but obviously you can't just hold a guy ransom just in case an injury comes up, especially when you're paying him $5MM in a walk year.  Simply, the best thing for Navarro is to be behind the plate, playing practically everyday.

I suppose, then, that it's probably more likely that Navarro gets moved, and he probably moves to a team that needs a catcher, or at least needs one more badly than the Jays do.  The Jays do have a few clear spots that need to be patched up, so obviously a club that can help with a 2B/3B, a LF, or a reliever would make more sense than others.  Having said that, there's not a whole bunch of extra value there with Dio-- he was a 2-ish WAR player this past year, and is scheduled to make $5MM in his last year before free agency.  Steamer forecasts him to be worth just 0.6 WAR, but they also only suggest that he'll play 63 games*.  His projections suggest that he'll improve offensively, defensively and on the basepaths, but that his playing time will be way down.  I assume that this is because his 139 games played in 2014 was a career high, and that he hadn't broken 100 games played since 2009.

*- I'm pretty sure this projection was released before the Martin signing, and the numbers shouldn't really reflect the Martin acquisition, or any positional dicking around.  He'll likely see more DH plate appearances if he stays in Toronto, which changes an awful lot as far as a WAR projection is concerned with regards to the positional replacement value, but his projection shows low playing time because of his 2010-2013 playing time.

Navarro showed this past year, though, that he can be passable behind the plate and provide reasonable offence at it, especially for a catcher.  It's hard to play catcher.  Catchers get hurt a lot, or start to suck at a moments notice.  Catchers have a lot of work to do beyond catching a ball or hitting a ball.  Catchers are good to have.  So who wants a catcher?  And for that matter, what other catchers are out there?

I'm going to use Fangraphs' positional depth charts to check this one out.  The first thing I see there is probably the most interesting piece of info I've got; all free agent catchers are garbage right now.  This is something that we already knew, or at least know now, now that Russell Martin is off the market.  In fact, we were told that today by AA at the presser, when he said something like "It's not that we wanted an upgrade at catcher, we wanted Russell Martin.  There was no other catcher out there that we wanted."  He also pointed out that he wanted to put all of his eggs in the Russell Martin basket because there weren't other catchers out there, so his market wasn't going to take a while to create itself and develop steam.

That list of available catchers is headed by Geovany Soto, and includes another 7 or 8 guys who aren't projected to get on base 30% of the time.  Doumit, Hundley, Buck, Arencibia, Ross... not really a stunning list.  Sure, you can take a flyer on a guy there, and maybe hit something with Hundley, or get it through JPA's head that he doesn't have to swing at everything.  But Dioner Navarro, albeit more expensive and owned by someone else at the moment, is better than all of those names.

There are a bunch of teams out there that don't really have a whole lot to worry about as far as catching is concerned, whether that be because they have elite guys (i.e. Posey, Lucroy), guys with bigger contracts (McCann, Suzuki), or young guys (d'Arnaud, Ramos) who already man the position.  There are definitely teams out there, though, who could look to upgrade, or at least find a guy to split time.

(By the way, it isn't lost on me that I'm using Steamer's projected WAR totals to try and find a team that could use an upgrade at catcher, while Navarro is only projected to be worth 0.6 himself.)

Pittsburgh
Current Catchers: Chris Stewart (0.8 projected WAR), Tony Sanchez (0.7 projected WAR), Francisco Cervelli (0.3 projected WAR).

I'd say this is a bit of a dark horse candidate, despite the fact that they just lost their starting catcher.  Stewart and Cervelli are both pretty good pitch framers, which kind of fits a pattern, given Russell Martin (they also just traded for Cervelli, if that's worth anything) and pitch-framing isn't counted in catcher WAR, so this doesn't really tell the whole story.  I expect Pittsburgh values their current crop more than Steamer does.  Still, none of these guys really seem like an everyday catcher to me, but we'll see.  Pittsburgh ranks 29th in projected catcher WAR, for whatever that's worth.

Atlanta
Current Catchers: Christian Bethancourt (1.2), Evan Gattis (0.6)

Bethancourt is 23, and is good defensively, so I'd guess that they're looking to have him play everyday, and see if the bat develops, but that bat doesn't look like it's going to develop.  There have been rumors of an Evan Gattis trade recently too, so Atlanta may need a hand there.  If they move Gattis, they'll need another catcher, unless I'm missing something.

Dodgers
Current Catchers: AJ Ellis (2.2), Drew Butera (0), Tim Federowicz (0.2)

AJ Ellis 2.2 WAR!?!?  Steamer might be broken.  Ellis hit .191/.323/..254 this past season, but my God that walkrate.  A bit of babip help and yeah, he's a serviceable catcher, but it doesn't seem like an LA Dodgers kind of thing to rely on Ellis to bounce back from a rough year.  They were in on Martin, it would appear, so I wouldn't be shocked if the Dodgers were in on Navarro.

Arizona
Current Catchers:  Miguel Montero (3.2), Tuffy Gosewich (0), Jordan Pacheco (0)

This one is kind of contingent on the DBacks trading Miguel Montero, whose name has come up in a few rumors.  Otherwise, there's not much of a fit.

Outside Shots

  • The White Sox rank 28th in projected catcher WAR, but they have a couple of younger guys on their chart at the moment, so they may want to let Tyler Flowers and Josh Phegley play.  If they decide to make a couple moves and try to contend this year, Navarro might make a bit more sense.
  • Tampa could probably use a hand behind the plate, but same-division trades don't really seem too likely.  We can say the same about Baltimore, depending on Matt Weiters' health.
  • The Tigers had kicked around the idea of non-tendering or possibly trading Alex Avila.  If the latter happens, Navarro could make sense.
  • Mike Zunino's stat page is completely absurd.  Looks a lot like a young JP Arencibia one, actually.  He hit .199/.254/.404 with 22 HR's, a 3% walkrate, and a 32% k-rate.  He's still young, but the Mariners would like to win (they lead the division in projected WAR, by the way), and could maybe use some help from Navarro for a year.
It's hard to say that Navarro poses as a true upgrade over any of the above mentioned guys.  Navarro is pretty bad defensively relative to his peers, and that's without taking framing in to account, which would kill Navarro's value a bit more.  His bat is an upgrade over most catchers out there, though, and that's something that might end up working in the favor of the Jays.

AA said today at his presser that he's looking for deals, but that nothing is close to being done.  Frankly, I believe him-- there's nobody who badly needs a league-average-or-so catcher.  Most good teams out there have someone, and most bad teams aren't going to give anything up to get a $5MM catcher for one year just to bring them up a win or two.

Monday, 17 November 2014

For Canada!


Holy cow.  This day.

I don't think I've entirely digested this whole thing, and I certainly haven't even bothered with the math behind this, both in terms of money spent and wins or production or whatever.  It's cool though!

Before I even bother with my own opinions, Jeff Sullivan smashes the fuck out of one, talking about how the Jays have literally never had an elite catcher-- Ernie Whitt had a couple nice seasons, and Pat Borders was really good accidentally once too.  I'm sure there's more good stuff out there, but this is the only thing I've read to this point, and I did so from work on my lunch break from my phone.

Should be interesting to see what the Jays do with their lineups this year.  Obviously we don't want to assume that the offseason is over yet, but as it stands right now, I'd guess that Martin plays the bulk of the games behind the plate, and Dioner Navarro would DH most days.  Navarro can certainly step in and give Martin a day off here and there, but I wonder if either could step over and play first for Edwin every now and then.  We've also been told that Reyes and Bautista are going to get more DH days, so maybe it's just some sort of rotating DH door and Navarro gets shopped or something.  There are definitely teams out there who need a catcher though, and you could do a lot worse than a 1 year, $5MM copy of Dioner Navarro.  Even if he's a 2 WAR player, there's surplus value there in a pretty barren catching market.

It's quite possible that this spells the end for Melky Cabrera in Toronto.  Pretty much any money earmarked for Melky has gone to Martin.  Then again, the Jays are apparently checking in on Hanley Ramirez, Jon Lester and Andrew Miller.  I'm not entirely sure, in the scenario where the Jays sign one of Lester or Hanley, they would lose their compensation pick for Melky walking away.  Either way, they've already surrendered their first pick, so picking up a second big free agent only coughs up either the 30-something'th or the ~50th pick in the draft, keeping the other one.  It's only money.  And it's not my money.  And Rogers has all the money.  Let's go.

To boot, the Jays have a bunch of money coming off the books after this season.  Let's just backload a bunch of contracts and spend money when it's available.  Hey, Jon Lester!  We'll give you $6MM for this season, and then a shitload for the next five.  Sounds good?  Yeah.

But what if that's it for the spending?  What if everything else is patchwork?  The Jays have made three "moves" this offseason, and none of them have really addressed the big holes on this club.  Sure, the Gose trade brought in a second baseman, but he's not a big league second baseman yet.  Maybe he wins the spot in spring training, or maybe Maicer Izturis comes back and performs reasonably well, but meh.  The bullpen hasn't been addressed.  Kevin Pillar is probably the opening day LF if the season starts today, which is kind of shitty when facing a lefty, and borderline depressing if facing a righty.  We're also relying on a 21 year old as the starting centre fielder.  There's no way this offseason is even close to being over.

That's enough negativity though, because the Jays just attracted a top free agent.  Five years, $82MM.  Yeah, it's expensive, but it's not like guys are just lining up to come play in our shitty stadium, on our shitty surface.  We've been hearing it for years now-- it's hard to attract guys to Toronto, and that's why the Jays need to pay a bit more, whether that comes in the form of money or years or prospects (i.e. the Reyes deal, or the Dickey deal).  I'd guess that the Jays had to kick in the fifth year in order to get this done, and yeah, whatever.  At $82MM over five years, though, we're only looking at approximately 11 WAR needed for the Jays to break even.

11 WAR over five years shouldn't be terribly difficult to attain, if Martin can stay on the field.  Hell, he was worth nearly five last season alone.  Do we expect him to do that ever again, starting at age 32?  Doubtful.  Shouldn't need to though.

It's hard to complain about this.  Because it's awesome.