Thanks as always for the large volume of questions for this week’s mailbag. Before delving into this week’s questions, I’ll begin by stating (in light of a huge number of questions pertaining to these two) that it seems extremely unlikely for either Freddie Freeman or Jose Fernandez to be traded this offseason. Braves GM John Coppolella strongly denied the notion that he’d even entertain trading Freeman, and the Marlins would be selling low on one of the game’s premier pitching talents before he even becomes overly expensive. There’s clearly some level of animosity between agent Scott Boras and owner Jeffrey Loria/president David Samson, but the overwhelming media consensus since the initial mention of a Fernandez trade possibility is that the Marlins’ ace will remain in Miami, and that’s the expectation here as well.
On to this week’s topics…
“If the Twins were to trade Trevor Plouffe for a bullpen arm, what would a potential return be? What teams match up with the Twins for this hypothetical trade?” — Josh K.
The Angels stand out as the best fit to me and already have reported interest, with the Twins said to be intrigued by young right-hander Cam Bedrosian. He alone isn’t enough to land Plouffe, I wouldn’t think, but adding someone such as Trevor Gott, whose 96 mph fastball would fit the Twins’ desire of adding power arms, makes the notion more palatable. Plouffe has value as a solid defender at third with a league-average bat, but he’s not necessarily cheap and comes with only a couple years of team control remaining.
The White Sox have a clear need at third, but the two teams may not want to deal within the division. San Diego makes some sense as a fit, also, if they’re ready to move on from Will Middlebrooks and prefer to play Jedd Gyorko at second base while keeping Yangervis Solarte, Cory Spangenberg and Carlos Asuaje in utility roles. They have plenty of intriguing relief arms to discuss with Minnesota (e.g. Kevin Quackenbush, Brandon Maurer, Tayron Guerrero).
“Now that Brandon Crawford has been extended for 6/75, what is Brandon Belt’s value? He profiles similarly as a solid, albeit extremely streaky offensive threat, with elite defense for his position. Obviously that skillset is less appreciated at first base. What would a Belt extension be worth or conversely, what is his trade value for the Giants?” — Keevan T.
We have Belt projected at $6.2MM this winter, his third of four trips through the arbitration process as a Super Two player. Based on that, he’ll probably earn $9-10MM or so in his final arbitration year, so we’ll call it $16MM for his final two arb seasons. (Side note: a straight two, year, $15-16MM extension shouldn’t be entirely ruled out this winter, as the Giants have shown an affinity for locking in cost certainty without buying out free-agent years in the past.)
It’s hard to envision Belt’s agents at Excel Sports placing anything less than a $15MM value on his free-agent years. There’s a case to be made that he could earn more than that as a free agent right now, but he’s signing two years in advance, so there’s typically some form of trade-off. Freddie Freeman’s name probably gets dropped as a comp in these talks (Excel also reps Freeman), and his free-agent seasons cost about $21MM on average at the time of his signing. That was a rare pre-arb deal in which Freeman might not have taken too significant a hit in terms of pricing out his FA years, though, and I don’t think the Giants would be interested in paying Belt something like $19-20MM annually for those FA seasons.
Something in the vicinity of $83-85MM over six seasons would give Belt ~$17MM per free-agent season, but the Giants probably would have some hesitation due to his injury history and recent concussions. They’d probably try to drop the price down into the Crawford range based on that or knock a year off the contract entirely (something like five years, $65-67MM), but that could be viewed as too big a trade-off from the player side.
Belt probably doesn’t get the credit he deserves for his offense since he plays in one of the worst hitting environments in baseball, but his park-adjusted numbers suggest he’s been 30 percent better than a league-average bat over the past four seasons. That needs to fetch a young MLB contributor and further prospect value or at least one notable Top 50-ish prospect and some not-insignificant second-tier pieces. I realize that’s a highly generalized description of his trade value, but it’d be a fool’s errand to try to peg a specific team and return for his services.
“With the reports of the offers that Darren O’Day is getting from the Dodgers and Nationals among others, should the O’s have extended a qualifying offer to O’Day? Of course, the robust market is in part a result of him not having a QO, but it seems as though as the best reliever on the market and with strong bullpens being en vogue after the Royals’ run, he may have turned it down. Was the risk of him accepting just too high for the O’s?” — Dave S.
The fact that O’Day doesn’t have draft compensation tied to his name is a significant factor in his market. The only relievers we’ve seen reject a QO were David Robertson and Rafael Soriano. The former had a legitimate chance at the largest relief contract ever last offseason due to his save total, while the latter was coming off of a lights-out, 42-save campaign.
Saves aren’t compensated the way they used to be on the free-agent market. I do think they still inflate value, though, and O’Day’s numbers and age (he’s three years older than Robertson was when he hit the market) limit his earning power. $36MM is being mentioned as his absolute peak right now. If we assume something like 4/28 for his ultimate contract, then O’Day would be getting about 3/12 on top of a theoretical QO, which isn’t much for a pitcher of his talents and consistency. With that in mind, there’d have been a strong case for him taking the $15.8MM and trying again next winter.
“I’ve seen Daniel Murphy’s name connected to the Angels in many FA predictions/articles, obviously with good reason. His left handed bat could fill multiple holes in the Halos line-up and his versatility at 2B/3B seems to be just what Dr. Moreno/Eppler/Scioscia ordered. However, because he rejected a QO he’ll force the Angels to surrender their top pick (25th as of now). Is Murphy really worth the loss of that pick? Do you feel it makes more sense for the Angels to sign a top tier FA as a precursor to a Murphy signing in an effort to maximize their gains? Or is it more likely that Eppler holds the top pick due to it’s value as a building block for the future of his Angels?” — Jake T.
I do think it’s worth it for the Angels. Their farm system is in disarray at the moment right now, so I understand the want to preserve the pick. I feel like if Eppler were truly set on stockpiling picks, though, the qualifying offer would’ve been made to David Freese (who admittedly did have a case to accept but also one to reject as the only starting-caliber third baseman on the market). The Angels have also been loosely tied to names like Jason Heyward, who’d require draft pick forfeiture, and owner Arte Moreno has shown a willingness to spend to win now over building through the draft in the past. Murphy adds two or more wins to the Angels next season, balances out the lineup and could fit in at second or third base. He’s a great on-paper fit, and the Angels are clearly aiming to win in the near-term.
“Even after the Rays traded Nathan Karns, I’m getting the impression that they could trade another one of their young starting pieces. If they do, who do you think is most likely to go and what type of package could he net?” — Taylor L.
It’s not really Tampa Bay’s style to attach a bad contract — although given their lack of spending, they rarely have bad contracts — to something of value simply to clear payroll. They’d be selling low on Drew Smyly, Matt Moore or Alex Cobb, none of whom are expensive yet, and it’s tough to see them moving Jake Odorizzi, who isn’t even arb-eligible yet. Erasmo Ramirez makes more sense to me. I can envision the Rays feeling as though they acquired him, built up his value and profited off his strong season just before he begins to get expensive. They can probably get more than Mike Montgomery back for Ramirez at this point, and that was the initial cost of acquisition.
“What are your thoughts on the market for J.A. Happ? Initially, I thought 2/20 to 24 range would get it done. However, the fact he doesnt require draft pick compensation makes him a bit more attractive, no? Is he in that 3/30 range and upwards?” — Nathaniel M.
Happ’s in that 3/30 range for me after the turnaround he had in Pittsburgh. That might be more than the Pirates care to pay to retain him based on the short sample of dominance he had there, but I have to imagine he feels the Bucs were a large part of the success he had. And, we saw the Pirates pony up with $39MM for Francisco Liriano after he revitalized his career there. That Happ doesn’t require draft pick compensation does work in his favor, as does the shorter term for which he can be had.