Tag Archives: Free Agency

The Mariners Sign Endy Chavez

mariners

According to Jon Heyman of CBS, the Mariners have signed 35 year old corner outfielder Endy Chavez to a minor league contract. Chavez had signed a minor league deal with the Royals over the off-season, but really struggled statistically (which is not predictive but descriptive), and was released earlier this week. Mariner fans might remember Chavez from 2009, as he was part of the very complicated Indians/Mets/Mariner trade that got the Mariners Franklin Gutierrez, Mike Carp, Jason Vargas, Maikel Cleto (who they used to get Brendan Ryan), and others. Chavez would play 54 games with the Mariners in 2009 at about a replacement level. He then suffered a devastating injury when he ran into Yuni Betancourt. This would end his Mariner career, and he wouldn’t play in the big leagues in 2010.

In 2011, Endy made a somewhat successful comeback with the Texas Rangers, playing in 83 games at roughly a league average level (according to Baseball Reference) with conflicting defensive numbers (DRS had him at league average, UZR at above league average, and FRAA at below league average). He played most of the year in centerfield, but turned less balls into outs than league average (and it wasn’t particularly close). The Orioles then signed him to a 1.5 million dollar deal for 2012 and he played really poor, worth up to a win below replacement. He played mainly the corners, and again, his defensive got mixed reviews (the same systems that liked him in 2011 liked him in 2012 etc.).

As a 35 year old outfielder, it is probably not a stretch to say he is no longer a good defender, which hurts Chavez’ value since he has never been any kind of power hitter. In fact, he has a career ISO under .100 and had a .076 ISO in 2012. For comparison Brendan Ryan has a career .083 ISO and had a .084  ISO in 2012. Chavez has always hit sort of a like a slick fielding shortstop, well below league average OBP, BB %, and OPS/wRC. All the systems agree that he used to be a good fielder, and this is how he stayed in the big leagues for so long. However, it should be noted that he has never been a real full time player, playing over 140 games once and over 130 games four times (the only four times he has played at least 100 games).

What about his 2011? As he played like a league average player for about half a season. This is what a team will find attractive in Chavez as far as track record goes. He was with Texas, but he was actually better on the road that season, so it doesn’t appear to be a Ballpark in Arlington fluke. BABIP does seem to be some kind of explainer here though, as he had a .321 BABIP with the Rangers in 2011, and a .227 BABIP with the Orioles in 2012. His career average is .293 about normal. So is there a reason for the big difference, or was it simply randomness? Batted ball data may help us in this regard. He has always been an extreme groundball hitter, but his career low was in 2011 with the Rangers, and it is actually the only season he has been under 50% in his career. He hit more fly-balls than he ever had before, but he also had the best infield hit percentage of his career. So there was a mixture of luck/randomness and some true talent changes going on in 2011 for Chavez. In 2012, his GB % went back to normal (in fact, right on career averages), as did his infield hits. He still had above average speed, as I clocked him at 4.12 to first, but it didn’t play in game situations like it did in 2011 (at least according to speed score).

In 2011, the average ball he hit (non-bunts) went 243.447 feet according to Baseball Heat Maps. In 2012, it was 238.85. While we have seen that batted ball distances do see an increase in the Ballpark in Arlington, he didn’t have positive home/road splits, so this doesn’t seem to be the explanation. It seems more likely that he was just not hitting the ball as well. When you break down his batted balls by distance and percentage, it breaks down almost linear, Chavez hit more balls deeper (relatively of course, as he hit just 1 ball over 370 feet with the Rangers, and none with the Orioles) in 2011, and more balls softer in 2012. What about the direction of balls? Chavez was much less successful on flyballs with the Orioles, which makes sense considering what we saw with the batted ball distance change. Of course, even with his meager batted ball distance, he didn’t have a lot of infield flyballs, so I can’t think that we can say that his .447 OPS on flyballs as an Oriole has a lot to do with just bad luck. He had a smaller OPS on line drives and groundballs as well. We can’t really quantify how hard he was hitting the groundballs, but it is probably safe to say that the difference is mostly randomness. With both the Orioles and the Rangers, most of the balls he hit went up the middle. However, he pulled more balls with the Rangers, and actually went to the opposite field more as an Oriole. I think the spray charts demonstrate the difference:

chavez 2011 chavez 2012

The 2011 chart is much more balanced, while it is clear the 2012 chart makes him look like a right-handed hitter. While hitters can obviously get too pull happy, they are usually more likely to succeed, especially from a power standpoint, when they are pulling the ball instead of going the other way (there are some exceptions, but in general terms). So was he pitched different? He did change divisions (though stayed in the American League), which means he is going to be facing different pitchers more, which could change how he hit.

Based on the most basic pitch types, Chavez actually saw more fastballs in 2012 and less cutters and sliders. He did see more curveballs, but less changeups. The average velocity of both the curveballs and the fastballs both saw upticks as well. This may help explain why he saw a slight dip in contact percentage (the most correlative statistic from year to year for hitters). He was just facing better pitches and pitchers. He didn’t swing at more pitches out of the zone, but when he did, he was less likely to make contact, though he was a little more likely to make contact on pitches in the zone. He saw pitches in the strikezone 5 % less of the time in 2012. Even though he wasn’t hitting for any kind of power, pitchers felt no need to throw pitches in the strike zone to him. It also seems, if looking at Brooks Baseball’s hitter maps is any indication, pitchers were also throwing inside to him more in 2012. He also, something he didn’t have a big problem with in 2011, couldn’t lay off of high pitches:

chavez swing map

Of course, it will be much more helpful to look at the kind of pitches that he was missing and having success with in both 2011 and 2012. Looking at just whiffs, he was way more likely to swing and miss at pitches over the plate in 2011 than 2012. He was a little more likely to swing and miss at pitches down in the zone however. In 2012, it appeared that he could only hit high pitches for flyballs, while he could hit pitches lower in the zone for fly-balls in 2011. The problems (which also appears when you look at TAV) seem to stem from when he made contact on pitches in the strike zone. He was able to be more successful on pitches in the zone in 2011 than in 2012. Why? It could be bat speed. He did get around on and pull more balls in 2011. In 2012 he couldn’t do it. This could be why pitchers were throwing more inside on him in 2012. We are working with some pretty small sample sizes, so it is pretty hard to break down his success on fastballs, but it isn’t a crazy conclusion based on the data we have seen.

He is a guy who doesn’t bat hardly at all against lefties anyway, which is fine, because he is still available for about 75 % of the time. He isn’t a full time player anyway, so he may be more of a guy that is useful against non-hard throwing right-handers (sort of the anti Ibanez, who is really good against right-handed fastballs, but struggles against breaking pitches). Steamer is projecting him as a below replacement player for 2013 (they believe he is a below average defender at this point), with average speed, but really poor batting numbers. His signing doesn’t change my projected 25 man roster, and he seems destined for Tacoma. If the bat speed comes back there, then maybe he can help the Mariners if one of their corner options (probably at least two of them) go down. If not, then he is just an organizational guy who can move around the outfield for the AAA team.

Kameron Loe Scouting Report

loe

The Mariners have signed 31 year old right-handed reliever Kameron Loe to a minor league contract. Loe, a former 20th round pick by the Texas Rangers in 2002, had pitched the last three years for the Milwaukee Brewers but was non-tendered after the 2012 season. In 542.1 career MLB innings, Loe has a career 95 FIP – but -2.6 WAA. Loe pitched for the Rangers from 2004-2008 as both a starter and reliever before pitching in Japan in 2009. Loe pitched in just 5 games for the Softbank Hawks, all as a starter, and really struggled, with a 4.86 kwERA. He had to pitch most of the year in the Japanese minor leagues (the Ni-Gun), throwing 44 innings with a 4.64 kwERA. Justin Germano was a teammate of his in Softbank’s Ni-Gun, and actually performed better statistically with a 3.93 kwERA (though, not counting 2012, Germano has not been as successful in the Majors as Loe). He then came back to the States for the 2010 season, and started in the Brewers AAA as a starting pitcher in the PCL. After posting a 4.48 kwERA (and a distressingly low 79 FRA +), the Brewers called him up to help with the bullpen. Since then, he has pitched exclusively out of the bullpen and has been below average but above replacement, earning about 4 million dollars in that time.

When just looking at Loe from a scouting perspective, Loe is a very attractive pitcher. At 6-8, Loe looks like a NBA Center, and gets great downward plane on the ball. His delivery is extremely simple, his release point data looks pretty good, and he has solid movement on his pitches, especially when it comes to downward action. On his release point data, here is his 2012 chart:

chart(7)

This is fairly consistent, other than the two obvious dots towards the bottom. I went through the game logs to find the two pitches and found that they were from May 20th against the Twins. So I watched that outing and saw, nothing. It was an error in the Pitch F/X system. In 2011, there were a few errors as well, as shown below:

chart(8)

Just like he never dropped down to throw any pitches sidearm, Loe never decided to throw a couple pitches left-handed. It is not just FanGraphs either, as Brooks Baseball shows the same mistakes. It was just a mistake in the system, so ignore them.

If NPB Tracker data is right, Loe was missing a lot of velocity in Japan, but he isn’t, and never really has been, a guy who throws hard. In fact his lack of a plus fastball puts him in pretty exclusive company when it comes to successful bullpen pitching. In 2012, his sinker (he rarely throws a 4-seam fastball) averaged 90.13 MPH, after averaging 90.21 in 2011, and 89.95 MPH in 2010.

Statistically, Loe took a step back in 2012. Of course, a lot of his problems were due to homers, and we are talking about single season relief statistics, which are very volatile. Here is Loe’s batted ball distances (non-bunts) over the last 3 years.

2010: 265.138

2011: 265.669

2012: 259.195

Not only is that remarkably consistent, he was actually better in 2012 than the previous two years. How about the defensive/home run independent metrics?

xFIP- SIERA kwERA
2010 82 2.91 3.85
2011 72 2.34 3.54
2012 91 3.21 4.01

They all say pretty much the same thing, 2011 was his best year, 2012 was his worst year. There wasn’t much of a velocity difference, as we saw above. He did throw less strikes by about 1 % in 2012 compared to 2011, but he still threw strikes 65.3 % of the time, which is impressive, especially for a reliever. He actually had a better zone percentage, meaning he actually threw a higher percentage of pitches in the strike zone in 2012. With that said, he threw less first pitch strikes than in the past two years, and had less swinging strikes than in 2012.

There is a weird classification problem going on with his slider and curve, because of course there is. Loe doesn’t use one hardly at all, and uses the other one about a quarter of the time. In just watching Loe, it looks like a curve to me, but it averages nearly 80 MPH, which would certainly put it in the hard curve category. Of course, that would be an extremely soft slider. I wanted to compare it to other Mariner curveballs, so I made this silly looking graph below using their average horizontal and vertical movement (by inches, and I manually put them in). Each square is 5 inches, now for the key:

Loe is the smiley face, and I put him in black and red just so he will stand out. Even though he isn’t pitching with the Mariners anymore, I put Jason Vargas in there, as the cloud, for comparison. The fat moon is Joe Saunders, former Mariner Kevin Millwood is the puzzle piece, Carter Capps is the circle with an x in it, Felix is the upside down triangle, Hisashi Iwakuma is the cylinder, Erasmo Ramirez is the cross, and James Paxton is the arrow. What Jon Garland was before his year off is the arc, and Tom Wilhelmsen is the sun.

curveballs

As you can see, Wilhelmsen’s curve has the most dramatic horizontal + vertical movement (which would seem obvious for even the casual Mariner fan), while Capps has the most horizontal movement. Vargas’, Saunders, and Paxton’s curves all move the other way since they are left-handers, and the movement horizontally or vertically is not very dramatic. Felix’s, as you would expect in just watching him pitch, has significant vertical movement, but not really any horizontal movement, while Millwood’s curve looks pretty good, as does Iwakuma’s. Loe’s has significant horizontal movement, but not really vertical movement.

If theoretically, we decided that Loe’s pitch is a slider, how would it compare? In velocity, it would be in the worst 30-40 sliders out of the 296 relief pitchers that have thrown at least at least 200 sliders. The pitch has a lot of horizontal movement, even compared to sliders, which would put him in the top 20, closest to Octavio Dotel. While we saw that he doesn’t have great vertical movement compared to other curveballs, compared to sliders, he has some of the best negative vertical movement, compared to the slider of Billy Wagner, who still had a good slider at the end of his career. So depending on whether you classify the pitch as a curveball or as a slider significantly effects how you view the pitch. If you call it a slider, it is a pitch you view as slow in velocity, but with good movement. If you call the pitch a curve, you note it’s good velocity, but that it doesn’t really have good vertical movement.

If called a curve, his pitch ranks as the 39th best in whiff/swing (36.10 %), and 97th best in GB/BIP % (47%). If it is a slider, it is 115th in whiff/swing, and 107th in GB/BIP. Again, it is better if looked at as a curve, but either way, it is a slightly above average to good pitch.

Loe is one of the more aggressively “throw low in the zone” pitchers I have even seen, as evidenced by his heat map.

loe heat map

As you can see, he works low and mainly arm-side. He obviously realizes that he doesn’t throw hard, throws mainly sinkers and slider/curves, and does a good job of keeping the ball low. When splitting the heat maps by season, we notice that Loe isn’t working as much to the arm-side, and is working glove side more as well. Since his overall numbers were a little worse in 2012, and he didn’t have a velocity drop, one wonders if this change is one of the reasons he took the step back. He threw the curveball/slider a little more in 2012 compared to 2011. He especially seemed to throw it a little more to lefties in later counts. Previously, he threw it more to righties when ahead than lefties when ahead. He changed this in 2012, spreading it about equally. Again, playing with the heat maps, this seems to explain why he worked a little more glove side in 2012. However, it doesn’t really explain the increase in homers, as he gave up 1 with the curve/slider in 2011 and 2 in 2012, and they were both hung in the strike zone.

Throwing less sinkers could explain why his ground-ball rate was slightly lower in 2012 than it had been in 2010-2011 (though 57.3 GB % is still extremely good), as we saw that his curve/slider is a worse ground-ball pitch than his sinker. However, his actual sinker was less effective (though still at 61%!) at getting grounders in 2012 than it was in 2011, and it also got less whiff/swings. His curve/slider was actually more effective according to batted ball distance in 2012 than 2011 (~260 feet to ~270 feet), and his fastball/sinker was as well (~259 feet to ~265 feet). So it is hard to see what actually caused the problem when it came to power, but throwing more breaking pitches could easily explain why he is throwing less strikes and has a less impressive strikeout to walk ratio.

Loe, as a sinkerballer, doesn’t miss a lot of bats, instead, relying on the extreme ground-ball rates mentioned above. Despite the lack of strikeouts (14.5 % in his career, 18.2 % in 2012), his sinker is actually in the top 20 since 2007 in whiff/swings, and in the top 100 in ground-balls. Perhaps because he throws just 2 pitches almost exclusively (with changeups only about 1 % of the time), he Loe has some really large platoon splits, especially when it comes to strikeouts and walks. However, since changing to just a reliever with the Brewers, the platoon splits have lessened.

He did have some minor elbow soreness in May, but he missed just a week, and has been relatively healthy his whole career. Loe isn’t as good as Shawn Kelley, who the Mariners just traded, but he provides some nice Josh Kinney insurance. In many ways, he is the very opposite of Kinney as a right-handed reliever, as he throws mainly sinkers, doesn’t walk many, and doesn’t strike many out. He has shown he can get right-handers out most of the time, and from a scouting perspective, you have to love the big right-hander with a repeatable delivery. The risks of decline can basically be ignored as he can easily be stashed in AAA if he doesn’t look good in spring training.

Scouting Reports on the Mariners Two Newest Minor Leaguers

niesen

According to Matt Eddy of Baseball America, the Mariners made two small minor league signings in January, left-handed pitcher Eric Niesen and outfielder Kurt Fleming. I don’t know if they are invited to Major League Spring Training or not, but probably not.

Eric Niesen is a 27 year old who has worked mostly as a reliever over the last two years. Niesen was drafted by the Mets in the 3rd round in 2007 out of Wake Forest. He spent 2007 to 2011 in the Mets organization, with mediocre peripherals (nothing special, but nothing bad) before he hit a serious wall in AA, getting 3 chances at the level, throwing 188.1 innings split between a starter and a reliever with a kwERA of 4.94. He then spent 2012 with the Long Island Ducks, throwing 69.1 innings, mainly out of the pen, with a 3.97 kwERA. Obviously, that is not impressive numerically for a reliever in Independent ball, so what do the Mariners see in Niesen as a possible roster filler in the upper minors? According to older scouting reports, he is a guy who can reach the mid 90s. At 6-0 tall, it is not that surprising that he moved to the bullpen, but it is a little surprising that he started for so long. He also has a changeup that evidently is not very good, along with a slider that is better. He evidently had pretty big platoon splits (3.71 SIERA against lefties and 5.15 SIERA against righties in 2011) through out his career that were blamed on his 3/4 arm slot. There are actually quite a few good videos of him on YouTube that you can watch, which I did to get a better look at him throwing and his delivery. His velocity and fastball is quite impressive and passes the eye test. However, his delivery was an absolute mess with the Mets and it isn’t surprising he walked over 6 guys per 9 innings in AA. He comes closer to what I would call sidearm than 3/4ths and has a whole lot of moving parts. It starts with the leg kick, which seems to give him deception, but absolutely throws off any fluidity that you would expect a pitcher to have. His arm clearly drags, and his body motion is awkward.

His slider looks really slurvy, as it is clearly not a hard slider, and has drastic horizontal break (and not as drastic vertical break). His changeup has some occasional arm-side tail, but for the most part does not look impressive. It clearly looks like he would rather use the off-speed pitches to end counts rather than the fastballs, but it seemed like he was leaving them up. In 2011, he did have a good ground-ball rate in both A+ and AA, but he was old for the levels. The good news is that he is a guy, that even out of the pen, can throw at least two and maybe three pitches (depending on whether you want him throwing the changeup out of the pen) at good velocity and not straight. Everything seems to move pretty well, which may give him command issues, but he shouldn’t be hittable (although he has been in the past). Niesen seems to rely on the slider a lot, and it doesn’t look quite like a MLB pitch to me (which isn’t surprising since he is 27 and hasn’t made the Majors yet). He does seem to have a legit fastball though, which is always valuable from the left side. From watching video of him pitching with Long Island, it appears that he still has the same very strange delivery. There is a good chance that he plays the Steve Garrison role in 2012, pitching as a lefty in the pen or as a starter, and perhaps getting a shot at AAA.

Kurt Fleming is a 21 year old outfielder that was drafted in the 8th round by the Braves in 2010. He spent the last 3 years with the organization, mainly playing in rookie ball before a cup of coffee with the A-ball team in 2012. He played mainly centerfield with a mediocre range factor of 1.67 and career FRAA of -6.2. He didn’t really hit either, which is why he was stuck in rookie ball, with a .645 career OPS, 5.5 BB%, 18.8 K%, and .104 ISO. He still doesn’t look like he has developed fully as a player body wise, as he still looks very lanky and awkward. It looks like he has a hard time with breaking balls, and pitch recognition, which helps explain the numbers. His swing also isn’t very fluid and his eyes come off his swing very early. I timed him at about 4.21 to first base, slightly above average for a right-handed hitter, but again,if he fills out, that will regress. He is a switch hitter, but I only saw him bat from the right side. According to his career splits, this is his stronger size.

fleming

Formerly a pitcher, Fleming threw 86 MPH with a curveball (68 MPH), slider (75 MPH), and change (71 MPH) as a 16 year old in 2008 according to Perfect Game. A conspiracy theorist might speculate that the Mariners might experiment and put him back on the mound. When I went back and watched him play on MiLB.TV, he did have a strong arm, though his throwing motion was a little weird. He seemed to have decent range and athleticism out in the field, but seemed to struggle a little bit with jumps and reads.

Fleming is a lower minors guy, but he is still young. Depending on what the Mariners are planning to do with him, he should start in Clinton, or maybe even High Desert (if changed to a pitcher, he would start in extended spring training and probably the AZL).

Mariners Bring Back Raul Ibanez for Some Reason

Raul+Ibanez+Seattle+Mariners+v+New+York+Yankees+BlHH7818jjVl

The Mariners have signed Raul Ibanez to a one year contract worth 2.75 million, bringing him back for a third round in Seattle, according to Ken Rosenthal.

Ibanez was picked in the 36th round in 1992 and he would reach the Majors with the M’s in 1996. He would play in 231 games for the team through 2000 before he was granted free agency (and would sign with the Royals). He was a horrible hitter, with a 73 OPS +, OBP under .300, and just 7 stolen bases. He was equally bad defensively according to defensive metrics, and was a below replacement player. The Mariners then signed him as a free agent before the 2004 season, and he stayed with the team until 2008. This stint was much more successful. In fact, he was a completely different player (other than being bad defensively). He was an excellent hitter, and was an above average regular for those 4 seasons. Since then, he has completely regressed. His defensive problems got even worse (to where he is a flat out embarrassment) , and his bat regressed enough where he is not only not an average player anymore, over the last 3 seasons he has basically become a replacement player.

While he had a 102 wRC+ (104 OPS +) in 2012, it comes with plenty of caveats. As Chris Crawford pointed out, Ibanez hit .208/.269/.365 on the road (that is, not Yankee Stadium) in 2012. He also can hit only right-handed pitching. The few times he did try to bat against lefties, it was a complete disaster (32 wRC + in 2012), while he had a solid 115 wRC +. As we have talked about all off-season, the Mariners really needed an outfielder who could hit right-handed pitching. If nothing else, Ibanez seems to be able to do that. He is a dead fastball hitter, looking mainly to pull the ball, which worked great in Yankee Stadium. There are some positive things when looking at Ibanez’ 2012. Not only did his home run percentage go up, his walk percentage and strikeout percentage also improved. However, again, this comes with some caveats. He had the platoon advantage 10% more of the time, showing that he was used better (will Eric Wedge use him correctly?), and according to average batted ball distance, he didn’t actually hit the ball as hard (268.294 feet in 2011 to 263.454 in 2012).

raul-ibanez-p1

So Ibanez is a left-handed hitting, horrible defensive outfielder, with large platoon splits and plate discipline issues. The Mariners have the younger version of this in Eric Thames, who they gave up Steve Delabar for. Thames still has an option left, so (as I have actually advised anyway) he could start the year in Tacoma, but it really makes us wonder why Ibanez was necessary. The Mariners traded Trayvon Robinson to get a utility player, but they have replaced him with outfielders that aren’t that much better than him, if at all. Neither Bay or Ibanez provide any baserunning value and are both bad defensively. Neither are guaranteed to hit any better, and they are more expensive. The Mariners will also have to move someone else off the 40 man roster, perhaps in a trade, or perhaps in a DFA. According to my 40 man roster ranking, this would mean Carlos Peguero would be removed. This would make a lot of sense, as the Mariners could give up on trying to use Peguero as the left-handed hitting outfielder, as Ibanez takes that place. The Mariners don’t have room at DH (Morales, Montero, Jaso, and even Bay), meaning Ibanez will most likely have to play defense, which scares me. I am not sure that the offensive upside of the guys they have acquired this off-season offsets what they will lose defensively by playing these guys out in the field. I am not sure if this shows a change in the philosophy of the front office concerning defense, or that they think the offense will offset the defense.

Nick Swisher and the 12th Pick

New York Yankees at Baltimore Orioles April 24,  2011

According to Jon Heyman, while the Mariners would be willing to forfeit their 1st round pick for one of the elite free agents that declined a qualifying offer, Nick Swisher is not one of the players the Mariners would be willing to give up their 1st round pick to sign. The Mariners pick 12th overall in the 2012 draft.

According to normal aging curves, Swisher should have just started his decline.We aren’t in the negotiation room, but let’s say that 5 years 90 million dollars will land Swisher. According to the aging curves above, by the end of the contract, Swisher will be minus 30 runs, 3 wins, from what he is now. In fact, the breakdown should go like this (rounding for ease, and we are just looking for estimates):

2013=0

2014= -10

2015: -15

2016: -20

2017: -30

So I used the average WAR out of the 3 major WARs over Swisher’s last 3 previous seasons (so 2012 rWAR+2011 rWAR+2010 rWAR+2012 WARP + 2011 WARP + 2010 WARP+2012 fWAR+2011 fWAR+2010 fWAR, the divide the sum by 9), to get a bigger sample size. This will be the 2013 (the first year of the contract, where we are rounding down to 0 runs lost for the age 32 season) projection and we will use the regression curves against this projection.

2013: 3.5 WAR

2014: 2.5 WAR

2015: 2 WAR

2016: 1.5 WAR

2017: .5 WAR

This is a projected 10 WAR over the 5 year contract, worth just about 50 million dollars according to the general rule that 5 million dollars equal 1 win over replacement (there have been some suggestions that this year’s free agency is breaking these rules/methods, but there have still be some really team friendly deals in free agency this year. There have been a few odd contracts, but there is every off-season. While the Dodgers are certainly going big, I don’t think it is impacting the free agent market as much as many are saying, especially since the Yankees have been relatively conservative. So perhaps the average WAR $ is going up a little, but there is still reason to act somewhat rationally in free agency). One could say that this aging curve is aggressive, and that since research seems to suggest that patient hitters age a little better. However, Swisher is already struggling defensively, and will need a permanent switch to 1st within the next couple of years. So it looks like the suggested contract would be an “overpay”, though the Mariners really need a corner outfielder/1st baseman. The Mariners have shown that they are usually willing to spend, but they also operate on a limited budget with dwindling attendance. I don’t care whether or not the Mariners’ front office makes money or not, but they do. The owners will give a limited payroll to the front office, and the front office has to spend it wisely.

So what about the value of the 12th overall pick? Thanks to Baseball Reference, of the 48 players in history drafted in that selection, 31 have made the Majors. Of course, since below replacement is extremely poor, I usually count those players as “not MLB players” and remove them. There have been 9 players drafted 12th overall that made the Majors, but did not play at a Major League level (at least according to Baseball Reference’s WAR). This makes it 22 of 48 players that were actual MLB players, or about 46%. Of course, the general rule is that you should not judge a draft (unless you do it immediately of course) until 5 years afterwards. The last two 12th overall picks have not made the Majors, but the 3 previous have, and have all played at an above replacement level. We are projecting Swisher to have about 10 WAR over the 5 year period (so basically, play like a MLB regular), and only eight of the 48 picks, or 16.66 % of them, have more than a 10 WAR for their career (with Nomar Garciaparra, with his 42 career WAR, 33.8 WAR in his first 6 years of service). I would say that the percentage of Swisher having a 10 WAR over the next 5 years is much more than 16.66%. So from a non dollars standpoint, Swisher, assuming he wanted to sign with Seattle, which reports say he might not be able to, is the safer choice, though the draft pick has the higher ceiling. How about from a dollars standpoint?

Gavin Cecchini, last year’s 12th overall pick, signed for 2.3 million dollars, obviously a big drop from the projected 90 million dollars for 5 years of control for Nick Swisher. Even with arbitration salaries in years 4 through 6 in the Majors, the drafted player will be much cheaper than Swisher. The conservative, or move with the highest likelihood of success, is keeping the draft pick.

It is too early for mock drafts in all likelihood as the 2013 spring season hasn’t been played, but that isn’t stopping some from doing mock drafts (if you want to see even more mocks, check this site out). Here, we will look at who three mocks have the Mariners selecting. I have seen the first two extensively, and even wrote a little about the first one. I found a little video on YouTube for the first and third as well.

MyMLBDraft: Bobby Wahl

I think Wahl is widely seen as a reliever int he scouting community, but he has a good fastball and curve to go with his high effort delivery.

Jonathan Crawford

Florida just seems to grow pro prospects on trees these days. Crawford has an elite fastball that gets up to 96 MPH and higher.

 3B Kris Bryant San Diego

Bryant is already a corner player, but he is considered to be a guy that could hit for some elite power.

What is the likelihood of any of these three players being as good as Nick Swisher, even through just his 2013 to 2017 seasons? Not good. Even though Swisher was picked 16th overall, only 6 of the 12th overall picks have even been better than Swisher over their careers according to rWAR. Something else that has to be considered is the current front office. Jack Z can be fired. Picking the draft choice over Swisher (again, assuming that the Mariners are actually faced with such a choice and Swisher is interested in coming here on a 5 year/90 million dollar deal) would delay success. Even if one of those players (or another one not listed above) turns out to be better than what Swisher will be over the next 5 years, it will be delayed. Even an advanced college pitcher would take at least a couple of years to even reach the Majors. More so than Jack Z trying to save his job, King Felix has an expiration date. It may be after 2014 when his contract is up. He may leave Seattle. He may stay and sign an extension, but eventually he won’t be an ace anymore. The Mariners’ 2013 first round pick may be ready by then, but he may not be. It usually isn’t wise to build a team around one player, as the Mariners themselves have seen, even King Felix hasn’t been able to make them a true competitor. However, it would be quite a shame to have one of the best pitchers in baseball for an extended amount of time, and somehow not be able to build a winner around him. This may be the strongest argument for signing a free agent like Swisher that would cost a draft pick (the same applies to Michael Bourn obviously), even though 3.5 wins in 2013 probably wouldn’t put you over the top in the tough AL West.

Mariners, meet Nick Swisher – Swisher, Mariners

Nick Swisher Mariners rumors
Nick Swisher Mariners rumors

Hi Nick Swisher!

 

The Mariners badly wanted Josh Hamilton. Well, that didn’t turn out the way we all wanted, eh?

It’s time to turn our attention elsewhere folks. Meet the next best hitter on the free agent market. Yes, he’s been talked about, a lot. Nick Swisher would actually be a better fit for the Mariners. As of today, what is the teams biggest weakness? Offense…right? Of the nine offensive positions, which is currently the biggest question mark? Right Field, right? Take a wild guess what position Nick Swisher plays?

You could argue that Brendan Ryan at shortstop is a greater liability than say, Casper Wells would be if he became the Mariners’ everyday right fielder. His defensive value, something I think is overrated, gives him a bit of a pass however.

Swisher would be a safer bet because it’s highly likely his deal will come $8-10 million per year cheaper than what the Angels gave Hamilton. He’ll also plug right into the last outfield spot, and bat third or fourth on the lineup. Hamilton would have done the same, in left, with Michael Saunders or Franklin Gutierrez going to RF. But, Hamilton would cost 30-40% more and likely only play 90% as often as Swisher.

How does a guaranteed .265, 35+ doubles and 25 HR sound? It’s not Josh Hamilton numbers. But Swisher is as safe a bet to give you 150 games with an OBP around .365. That would instantly make him the best hitter on the Mariners. Only Kyle Seager compares in numbers. In 30 more plate appearances for Seager, he walked 30 fewer times than Swisher. Not much of an edge but enough that adding Swisher would give the Mariners at least two somewhat decent bats.

The beauty with Swisher is his versatility. Now he’s no Mark McLemore, playing everything but pitcher and catcher, but, he could very well relieve Justin Smoak at first base if he struggles yet again with the Mariners. Smoak did finish off last season pretty strong and I have faith that he’s finally going to put a solid season together. It is nice to have that insurance policy that Swisher offers.

Some Interesting Non-Tenders

sweeney

Friday night (9 Pacific Time) was the deadline for teams to decide whether or not to tender their arbitration eligible players contracts. The Mariners tendered John Jaso, Shawn Kelley, Brendan Ryan, and Jason Vargas contracts. They signed Josh Kinney to a deal and non-tendered Robert Andino. This makes Andino a free agent. One wonders why they would trade for Andino if they are just going to let him become a free agent. Perhaps they had been negotiating a deal with him and couldn’t quite get an agreement. He could still possibly sign with the team, but is not obligated to, which is an interesting move. All the tenders are unsurprising except perhaps Vargas, who I identified as a guy who could get non-tendered since he is projected to make around 7 million dollars and the fences are coming in. No word yet on how much Kinney will make (but it is a MLB contract), as they are avoiding arbitration, but I will update on the Forums when it is announced.On other teams, some relatively interesting players that could be helpful to the Mariners were not tendered contracts. The real common thread between these players is injury problems, but many of them can also be got on team friendly deals.

Jeff Karstens:

His 103 ERA – and 87 FIP – in 2012 was most likely driven by small sample size (90.2 innings), but he has a 114 FIP – (111 ERA -) in 592.1 career MLB innings, mainly as a starter. This is better than Blake Beavan, so it is clear that he would fit in the Mariners rotation. However, it is easy to overrate Karstens. He is a very back of the rotation starter who has injury problems. We shouldn’t overrate his small sample size 2012 and his fastball velocity is a pretty poor 89.1 on average. He mainly relies on a sinker, a soft slider, a slow curve, and a change that saw a spike in velocity. He gets ground-balls, but he doesn’t strikeout many batters, although he doesn’t walk many either. The main difference in pitch selection in 2012 (from his career averages) is that he is going to his curve more with 2 strikes against both lefties and righties. This could explain the jump in strikeout rate. He is also apparently releasing the ball more from a sidearm angle than he previously did:

This scares me, even though he didn’t have much platoon splits in 2012. I am afraid that with the injuries and sidearm angle that Karstens will be paid like a back of the rotation starter, only to move to the ‘pen. I think he is interesting, but hardly underrated.

Manny Parra is also a pretty popular guy when it comes to available non-tenders. Parra has a career ERA over 5 (124 ERA -), but has a FIP – of 105, which really looks like a 4th starter. He has a pretty crippling .337 career BABIP that has torched his overall numbers. In 513 career innings, he has a decent 20.3 K % with a too high 11.1 BB %. He has a career 1.04 HR/9IP, which isn’t bad when you take into account that he pitched in Milwaukee. However, he has been worse on the road, much worse. I was really surprised and even had to double check this on different sites to make sure this was true. He also comes with a laundry list of injury issues:

I would really hesitate to give either Karstens or Parra guaranteed deals. Parra gets a lot of ground-balls, throws hard, and has a good mix of pitches, so you can see why he is attractive. He doesn’t have large platoon splits (at least not for his career, his 2012 small sample size included large platoon splits) and hasn’t been greatly better as a reliever (meaning the problem isn’t that the Brewers have been trying to start him).

Ryan Sweeney:

Ryan Sweeney is a left-handed hitting outfielder (has mainly played right-field, along with some center and left) that has a career 103 wRC + against right-handed pitching. He has had injury problems in his career and has not hit lefties at all, but he could be a real platoon bat that the Mariners could use. The defensive metrics give him mixed reviews, and he really isn’t much of a baserunner. He is a below average player for sure, especially when you count his platoon splits, but he can be very helpful for a team that needs a left-handed outfielder (just the like the Mariners need. Most of his success has actually come the other way, which should play better at Safeco (even with the moved in fences). While I would offer Parra and Karstens (though he will most likely get a MLB contract) minor league contracts, I would give Sweeney a guaranteed roster spot and 2 to 3 million for the season with an option year. He isn’t going to hit for really any power, but he gets on base and hits right-handed pitching while holding his own in the outfield. The Mariners could really use this, especially considering the at-bats they gave to Carlos Peguero last year.

Scott Atchison is coming off an extremely successful year in the bullpen with the Red Sox with a FIP – of 62. In 209.2 career innings, the 36 year old has a 85 FIP -. Obviously the age (and an injury history) makes a multi-year deal unworkable, but a small guaranteed deal is not unreasonable. He doesn’t throw hard, but relies on his slider over half the time, much like Josh Kinney. Perhaps what the Mariners decide to do with Kinney will decide whether or not Atchison has any value with the Mariners.

Mike Pelfrey is interesting from a back of the rotation perspective. Coming off Tommy John Surgery, Pelfrey won’t be ready for the beginning of the season, but most likely will be a minor league contract player. He has a career FIP – of 105 with a good ground-ball rate. This is over nearly 900 MLB innings, and yet he is still only 28. He has a good fastball, a manageable walk rate, along with a low walk rate. He doesn’t strikeout a lot of batters, but the rest of the skill set works pretty well.

Jesus Flores could be a potential fit at catcher after playing in 83 games for the Nationals in 2012. He played at a replacement level, but he has 1014 plate appearances in his MLB career and a 1.7 fWAR. He is not much of a hitter, and the Klaassen catcher rankings had him ranked as one of the worst catchers in baseball defensively in 2012, but he is a warm body that would probably require just a minor league contract. He could be an option at AAA, or at worst, a fill in until Mike Zunino is ready at the big league level.

Andres Torres to be Non-Tendered: Should the Mariners be Interested?

torres giants

According to recent reports, the Mets are going to non-tender center fielder Andres Torres, which would make him a free agent. Torres had a monster year in 2010 where he had an ISO of over .200 (with a 125 wRC +), 26 stolen bases, along with playing mainly (and a plus) center field. This made him one of the more valuable players in baseball.

Since then, Torres has taken steps back, as he had a -.3 WAA in his last year with the Giants (2011) and was traded to the Mets (along with Ramon Ramirez) for Angel Pagan. Pagan would have a career year (2.2 WAA) and help the Giants win the World Series again while Torres played at a league average rate (0.0 WAA, 87 wRC + but plus defense and baserunning).

Torres is a switch hitter, one that is better against LHP than RHP, so it hurts his value somewhat with the Mariners need hitters that hit right-handed pitching more than hitters that hit left-handed pitching. The Mariners don’t really need a centerfielder, and would probably much prefer a big slugging corner outfielder. On the other hand, while both Michael Saunders and Franklin Gutierrez both play centerfield, but Gutierrez is no sure bet to stay healthy, and the defensive metrics (for what it is worth) like Torres better than Saunders. When determining Torres’ value, it becomes imperative to try to understand just how real his 2010 was. Is Torres’ 2013 season more likely to be closer to his 2010 level or his 2011-2012 level? Speaking purely in odds and probability, Torres is most likely to stay at the 2011-2012 level, but there is a chance that his real ceiling is 2010, which makes him extremely valuable.

The first question when looking at why a player changed always seems to be about approach, so I looked at his swing maps. Here is his swing map from 2010:

Here is it from 2011 to 2012:

It seems like he is swinging less in the strike zone (and perhaps outside of it as well) according to these maps. He has seen more pitchers per plate appearance over the last couple years than he had earlier in his career. In 2012, he started swinging at less pitches than he had in previous years according to percentages and started making more contact. His batted ball rates were also somewhat strange as well, as he hit less fly-balls overall in 2012, but more infield fly-balls, along with more line drives and grounders. His average batted ball distance in his good 2010 season was a very good 269.111. In 2011, it dropped all the way to 253.922 and dropped even further in 2012 (251.119). So he is clearly losing his power (as the drop in his HR % shows), but in 2012, he took a step forward with his peripherals, walking more and striking out less. This is encouraging.

There are some great GIFs of Torres’ swing over the years here. He has had a weird career path, breaking into the Majors in 2002, only to find himself up and down and not in the Majors from 2006-2008. It wasn’t until 2009 that he started to establish himself as a major leaguer. I took a look at his spray charts, hoping to find how and why Torres regressed.

2010:

2012:

If nothing else, the power was absolutely gone. He went from being a guy who had power to all fields to a guy that really didn’t have power to any field. Torres is 34. The days of Torres being one of the more interesting players in the majors are gone. He is on the wrong side of the aging curve. Because he was such a late bloomer, Torres was only an all-star type player for about 214 games.

I honestly have no idea what a contract for Andres Torres will look like once he gets non-tendered. I can’t imagine it would be more than a couple of years, and my guess would be that he would take a one year deal in an effort to rebuild his value. But I don’t know that. I am curious as to how much Torres would cost, as even if you believe that his last two years are what he is going forward (that is, his 2010 was fluky or not what he is any longer), he was worth 17.7 million dollars according to FanGraphs’ War $ over the last two seasons (or 8.85 million per year). According to MLB Trade Rumors’ arbitration eligibles projections, Torres projects to get just 3.2 million dollars in 2013. Unless the Mets think he is going to get more money than that, then it doesn’t make any sense to me for them to non-tender him. If they do, then it would make a lot of sense for the Mariners to see if they can bring him in. If your expectations are reasonable, Torres can be a nice player that helps a team out.

Copyright © 2015. Powered by WordPress & Romangie Theme.