April 2013

AL East Notes: Sox, Jays, Rays, O’s, Yanks

In a poll of over 13,000 MLBTR readers, 9.72% ranked the Rays' Andrew Friedman as the best GM in baseball (technically his title is executive vice president of baseball operations).  Friedman ranked behind only the Athletics' Billy Beane, who received 13.65% of the vote.  Other notes from all five AL East clubs:  

  • Aside from the obvious factor of money, a chance to win is what compelled free agents to sign with the Red Sox during the offseason, writes WEEI's Rob Bradford.  Left fielder/designated hitter Jonny Gomes relished the fact that the team's core players had something to prove, saying, "The opportunity to play in Boston with these guys having a chip on their shoulder was what I signed up for."  At 18-7, the Red Sox have the best record in baseball with about 85% of their season remaining.
  • The Blue Jays, meanwhile, are 9.5 games behind the Red Sox with a 9-17 record.  Dave Cameron of FanGraphs finds it unlikely the Jays will be one of the expected handful of clubs to play around .600 ball from here on out, which is what they'd reasonably need to do for a shot at a wild card.  Furthermore, Cameron notes, "The mid-season trade deadline gives teams with slow starts less time to fully realize their natural regression, since they have to make a buy-or-sell decision when April represents 25-30% of their season, not 16% as it will at season’s end."
  • "I'm not sure if the Rays feel like he's polished enough to join the club just yet," writes MLB.com's Bill Chastain in reference to top prospect Wil Myers, while noting the right fielder's solid .309/.402/.457 line in 97 Triple-A plate appearances to date.
  • Veteran righty Freddy Garcia has been named the International League pitcher of the week, notes Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun.  Having made five starts, Garcia now has the ability to opt out of his minor league contract with the Orioles.  Rather than Garcia, 25-year-old Zach Britton is getting tonight's start in Seattle.
  • "Plans are in the works" for Hideki Matsui to sign a one-day contract to ceremoniously retire a Yankee, writes George A. King III of the New York Post.  Matsui spent his first seven MLB seasons with the Yankees, compiling a .292/.370/.482 batting line with 140 home runs.
  • 26-year-old Yankees righty Phil Hughes posted his third consecutive quality start yesterday against the Blue Jays.  Hughes, who turns 27 in June, projects to be the youngest established free agent starter after this season.  One alternative for teams that prefer young starting pitchers is South Korea's Suk-min Yoon, a Scott Boras client who was born a month after Hughes and will be eligible for free agency after the season.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Rising Position Players

Our 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings only go to ten, so many quality players miss the cut.  Here are some position players in contract years who are on the rise as the season's first month draws to a close:

  • John Buck, C.  The Mets' backstop has eight home runs on the season, but a .279 OBP as well.  If his power has returned, perhaps he can ultimately compile a line similar to his .281/.314/.489 performance in 2010, which led to the three-year, $18MM contract with the Marlins.
  • A.J. Pierzynski, C.  Pierzynski is slugging .474 on the young season, a potential hint that last year's power surge wasn't a fluke.  Or at least that he's taking better advantage of his home parks.
  • Mike Napoli, 1B.  Now a full-time first baseman, Napoli's 108 plate appearances are more than a quarter of what he averaged the past two seasons.  If avoiding catching allows Napoli to reach 600 plate appearances (and 100 RBI) for the first time, perhaps he can reinvent himself as an everyday player, silence concerns about his hip, and snag his first multiyear deal.
  • Mark Reynolds, 1B.  Will Reynolds return to 35 home run heights this year with the Indians?  The former strikeout king has quietly pushed his K rate down under 25%, which would be a career first if it holds up.
  • Omar Infante, 2B.  Infante's bat has come alive for perhaps the first time since he joined the Tigers.
  • Michael Young, 3B.  Young has never walked in 8% of his plate appearances in a season, but so far this year he's at 10.2%.  Another season above .300 wouldn't hurt, either.
  • Nate McLouth, LF.  100+ runs seem possible for the Orioles' leadoff hitter, especially if his career-best 15.7% walk and 9% strikeout rates hold up to some degree.  McLouth currently leads the American League with a .455 OBP.
  • Nelson Cruz, RF.  If Cruz reaches 30 home runs for the first time since 2009, he'll be popular in a free agent class light on proven sluggers.
  • Travis Hafner, DH.  A month into the season, Pronk has a line reminiscent of his 2004-06 heyday with the Tribe.  As always, it will be a question of health.

The Worst Extensions From Two Offseasons Ago

More than $1.1 billion across 117 contract years was committed to 32 players with less than six years of Major League service time during the 2010-11 offseason extension period, spanning October 2010 through April 2011.  Ryan Braun, Adrian Gonzalez, and Troy Tulowitzki each signed extensions worth more than $100MM.  Two years removed from this extension period, which contracts now appear the most regrettable?

  • Dan Uggla has provided some value over the past two seasons, hitting 36 home runs in 2011 and drawing a good amount of walks last year.  Still, at .223/.326/.416 since the contract was signed, the Braves' second baseman has fallen short of the level of production that compelled the team to commit five years and $62MM.
  • Chad Billingsley's three-year, $35MM extension didn't look bad when it was signed in March 2011, but it covers 2012-14 and Tommy John surgery will take a big bite out of the righty's innings for the Dodgers.
  • The Marlins' Ricky Nolasco has a career FIP of 3.83 against an ERA of 4.47, so he is probably overvalued by a FIP-based method.  Nolasco is finishing out a three-year, $26.5MM extension, and the Marlins are expected to have to eat money or take back salary in order to move him.
  • Cubs reliever Carlos Marmol signed a three-year, $20MM extension.  Former Cubs GM Jim Hendry guaranteed Marmol's final two arbitration years and also bought a year of free agency for $9.8MM.  Perhaps Marmol was an unhittable strikeout machine in 2010, but he'd also shown a penchant for walking six or seven batters per nine innings.  Once Marmol became just a bit more hittable, the wheels fell off.  
  • With the player coming off a .254/.324/.350 season, was it really necessary to buy out one of Jason Bartlett's free agent years?  Former Padres GM Jed Hoyer did so at a cost of $5.5MM for 2012, only to release the shortstop in August of that year.

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Who’s The Best GM In Baseball?

The job of a Major League general manager is an extremely demanding one.  Player acquisitions are complicated, from trading with other teams to negotiating with agents.  Beyond working with the rest of the baseball operations staff on transactions and contract issues, the GM must communicate with scouts, coaches, medical staff, and the media, and prepare for the draft.  Our question today: who's the best?  Please note that while some of these people do not technically have the title of GM, they seem to be the team's closest approximation.

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AL Notes: Carp, Overbay, Grossman

The Red Sox's offseason trade for Mike Carp appears to be paying dividends, the Providence Journal's Brian MacPherson reports. Carp is currently hitting. 455/.500/.864 in a very small sample after joining the Red Sox from the Mariners in February. "We've always liked him as a hitter," says Sox GM Ben Cherington. "There's a history of getting guys out of Seattle, the tough hitting environment. It was a combination of a pretty strong minor-league track record and some big-league success and, subjectively, our scouts have always liked his swing and approach." MacPherson says Carp is part of a recent trend in which the Red Sox cheaply acquire former prospects (like Jeremy Hermida, Andrew Miller, Mike Aviles and Franklin Morales) with the idea that they might take steps forward that they didn't with their previous organizations. Here are more notes from around the American League.

  • Lyle Overbay didn't know where he would be headed at the end of spring training before ending up with the Yankees, Vince Z. Mercogliano of the LoHud Yankees Blog writes. The Red Sox had released Overbay, but he quickly found a home with the injury-ravaged Yanks. "My agent was on the line from the get-go. He obviously thought that this might be a fit, and Milwaukee," says Overbay. "Realistically, I think this and Milwaukee were the only chances that I had in that short amount of time."
  • The Astros' main objective this year is to see which of their young players can be long-term contributors, GM Jeff Luhnow tells Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. One of those young players is outfielder Robbie Grossman, the main piece the Astros acquired when they traded Wandy Rodriguez to the Pirates last July. Grossman made his big-league debut last week after a strong start for Triple-A Oklahoma City.

NL Notes: Gattis, Quintero, Nelson

The emergence of Evan Gattis as a power threat could soon create a logjam at catcher for the Braves, MLB.com's Mark Bowman writes. Brian McCann is nearly set to return from the disabled list, but the Braves don't want to demote Gattis (who has six home runs), and it's too early to get rid of Gerald Laird, in part because the Braves signed him to a two-year contract over the winter. (Laird has also hit well in limited time so far.) Jason Heyward's recent appendix surgery could create a temporary opportunity for Gattis in the outfield, but as the season progresses, it could be interesting to watch Atlanta's catching situation. McCann is a free agent after the season, and as Jeff Todd noted last week, Gattis' emergence, if it continues, could make the Braves feel better about McCann's likely departure. Here are more notes from around the National League.

  • The Phillies recently designated catcher Humberto Quintero for assignment, but they want him to clear waivers, Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Now that Carlos Ruiz is returning from his suspension, the Phillies have settled on Erik Kratz to be his backup. But they want more veteran catching depth in their organization, and they value Quintero's big-league experience. "There's a chance he could still be with us, and selfishly, we hope he is," says assistant GM Scott Proefrock.
  • The Rockies are waiting to see what happens to infielder Chris Nelson, who they designated for assignment on Sunday, according to MLB.com's Thomas Harding. Nelson was the Rockies' first-round pick in the 2004 Draft. "It's important to honor Nellie and what he's meant to this organization," says Rockies manager Walt Weiss. "Personally, my relationship goes beyond player-manager. They brought him in and worked him out before the Draft, and I was out there taking ground balls with him in front of our entire scouting department, and I was with him in our Minor League system."

Orioles Acquire Chris Snyder

The Angels have traded catcher Chris Snyder to the Orioles for minor-league pitcher Rob Delaney, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports . MASNSports.com's Roch Kubatko notes that the Orioles will add Snyder to their active roster, which presumably means that he will serve as the backup to Matt Wieters while Taylor Teagarden is on the disabled list with a thumb injury.

Snyder, 32, was hitting .342/.388/.684 with Triple-A Salt Lake. He hit .176/.295/.308 in 221 at bats with the Astros in 2012.

Delaney, 28, struggled in three outings for Triple-A Norfolk in 2013, but was effective as a Triple-A reliever in 2011 and 2012. He has pitched a total of six big-league innings in his career, including five with the Rays in 2011.

MLBTR Originals

A look back at the original reporting and analysis found on MLBTR this past week:

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Week In Review: 4/21/13 – 4/27/13

Here's a look back at the week that was at MLBTR.

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NL Central Notes: Cubs, Garza, Cardinals, Weeks

Tomorrow is the 30th anniversary of the infamous Lee Elia tirade against the Wrigley Field faithful where he unleased 37 "bleeps" in 187 seconds. Elia would remain as manager of the Cubs for just four more months. John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle chronicles how times have changed for Major League managers. Four reporters were present for Elia's rant and only one had a microphone which captured the event for all posterity. Shea reminds us today there are interview rooms, social media, and live post-game press conferences shown on regional and national sports networks. As a result, Shea says managers have to be more articulate, polite, and thoughtful. Giants manager Bruce Bochy echoes that sentiment, "It's different when you just see pen and paper. When there's a camera there, you have to remind yourself." Elsewhere from the NL Central Division:

  • Cubs manager Dale Sveum refuses to name a closer telling reporters, including the Chicago Tribune's Paul Sullivan, "I'm not going to really mess with anything right now in our bullpen. It's about as good as it can be right now." The Cubs are 7-for-13 in save opportunites with three different relievers notching a save including Kevin Gregg, who leads the team with three despite being recalled only two weeks ago.
  • Matt Garza, number seven on MLBTR's 2014 Free Agent Rankings, was scheduled to throw a bullpen session today and is on track to make three or four minor league rehab starts, reports David Furones of MLB.com.
  • Speaking of Garza, Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald revisited the trade which brought the right-hander to Chicago and notes just one of the eight players invovled in the deal is currently playing in the Majors. Miles sees the trade as a wash, a viewpoint shared by MLBTR's Steve Adams who examined the Garza trade in a Transaction Retrospection last month.
  • The Cardinals' imploding bullpen saw its ERA rise to 5.93 after surrendering six runs to the Pirates today. MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch tweets the status quo cannot continue, but the team does not have many in-house options. Langosch also tweeted injured closer Jason Motte played catch for the second consecutive day indicating his arm responded well to yesterday's session.
  • For the second straight season, Rickie Weeks is off to a slow start offensively with only seven hits in his last 69 at-bats. Adam McCalvy of MLB.com speculates Weeks will have a long leash because no one in the front office wants to start the service clock of Scooter Gennett, the Brewers' sixth-best prospect according to MLB.com, just yet.