Thanks as always for this week’s mailbag questions! We can’t answer ’em all, but be sure to join us for a chat — Steve (Tuesday, 2pm CST); Jason (Wednesday, 6:30pm CST); Jeff (Thursday, 2pm CST) — if we didn’t get to yours below.
Now that the PTBNL has been announced, how would you value the package that Texas gave up as opposed to what Cleveland had in place for Jonathan Lucroy? – Jonathan R.
With outfielder/infielder Ryan Cordell going to the Brewers, he bolsters a package that already included outfielder Lewis Brinson and right-hander Luis Ortiz. All three were considered top-ten prospects on a solid Texas farm, with Brinson and Ortiz also carrying consensus top-100 leaguewide billing. Remember, though, that this group of players also landed the Rangers right-hander Jeremy Jeffress, who was a quality asset in his own right.
By comparison, reports pegged the prospective deal with the Indians as involving a four-player package: catcher Francisco Mejia, shortstop Yu-Cheng Chang, outfielder Greg Allen, and righty Shawn Armstrong. By the prospect rankings, this group isn’t quite as impressive: only Mejia has been placed in the top-100 among all the game’s pre-MLB talents (in his case, only by Baseball Prospectus).
There are a couple of things to bear in mind here, though. First and foremost, prospect valuation is always-changing and is highly dependent upon any given team’s assessment. Both Brinson and Ortiz had their share of difficulties adapting to the upper minors; though they have had better results since the deal, the former doesn’t walk much and the latter hasn’t yet produced a lot of swings and misses. There’s a ton of upside there, but also some risk, even if Brinson’s glove props up his floor. Meanwhile, Cordell is already 24 and still seems to have some development ahead of him.
The other bunch represents a different mix of assets. Meanwhile, Mejia has had a breakout offensive year. Chang’s name came up in the Aroldis Chapman talks, and he has displayed emerging power this year. Allen delivers outstanding plate discipline, while Armstrong has a promising K rate and could step right into a big league pen.
Ultimately, the inclusion of Jeffress makes it hard to make a direct comparison. Certainly, the Indians package wouldn’t have delivered a headliner on the order of Brinson. But it’s not difficult to see why Milwaukee was intrigued by the return it had lined up — which included some rising prospects who seemingly fit well with the organization’s needs and philosophies. And it’s always wise to remind oneself of just how much you don’t know when it comes to prospects (generally and specifically!).
The Phils will go from worst record last year to almost breaking out of bottom 10 this year. If they add a veteran bat to go along with Maikel Franco, Odubel Herrera, Tommy Joseph and other youngsters can they get to the .500 mark and possibly challenge for a Wild Card in 2017? – Joe P.
You can never rule out a quick turnaround, especially for an organization that has huge spending power and no guaranteed money on the books beyond the remnants of the Ryan Howard and Matt Harrison contracts. Still, though, it’s asking a lot for the club to move into contention in 2017.
A few major free agent signings could change that, of course, but where’s the incentive for the new-look front office? Fans are already aware that a rebuild is underway, with the focus on developing a new core that has shown plenty of promise. And the coming free agent market is not only largely devoid of pitching talent, but lacks for particularly youthful, high-end hitters.
There’s little doubt that the Phils will at least look into adding a productive veteran or two, with aims of bolstering their lineup and clubhouse without hamstringing the team’s future. But it’s probably too soon to wish for a dedicated effort at building out the major league roster through free agency or trade. There are just too many holes to plug, young players who’d have to immediately maximize their talent, and pitching questions (including the health of Aaron Nola and Vince Velasquez and filling out the rotation and pen) that would need to turn out favorably to make contention likely.
With the Yankees still being the Yankees, and their relief corps seeming to be imploding as of late, is a guy like Aroldis Chapman or Kenley Jansen more likely to be targeted in the off season, or are more smaller upgrades in order if any at all? – Nick A.
Are you sure they are still really the Yankees of old? GM Brian Cashman didn’t sign a single major league free agent last winter, and they just sold off parts at the deadline despite having a shot at cracking the postseason!
Honestly, I wouldn’t expect a win-at-all-costs spending spree this winter, on relievers or otherwise. That doesn’t mean the organization won’t utilize its financial advantage in its quest to add arms, but I’d bet on a thoughtful application of the cash. Though some big contracts are leaving the payroll, there’s already nearly $150MM on the books for 2017, so now may not be the time to take on many new entanglements.
For the Yankees, generally, I foresee efforts aimed at building out the current roster while avoiding parting with young talent or committing too much future payroll. For instance, signing a qualifying-offer-bound free agent may not be appealing, but taking on a relatively expensive, but short-term contract may be palatable.
Ultimately, building up the pen while also addressing the arguably-greater need in the rotation will require a multi-part strategy. Of course, with Andrew Miller joining Chapman in departing at the trade deadline, the idea of striking for a top-tier reliever is all the more appealing. But that approach likely wouldn’t be dictated by the relief unit’s current performance or be pursued in isolation.
How do y’all feel about park-adjusted stats? I feel like Carlos Gonzalez is hyped, but he benefits a great deal from playing at Coors Field. How does that impact his value? – Deke
I’ll speak only for myself, though I expect our other writers would feel similarly. Teams don’t simply look at the back of the baseball card, so neither do I. They want to look beyond the results, which includes adjusting for park, situation, and other factors but also quite a bit more — ferreting out useful information from underlying statistics, incorporating scouting analysis, considering softer factors, etc.
That is to say: yeah, I think you have to adjust his numbers to account for the fact that he plays at a launching pad. If only we had an easy way to … oh, wait, Fangraphs (wRC+) and Baseball-Reference.com (OPS+) are among the places to go to find fully adjusted and scaled (to a league mean of 100) batting statistics.
Personally, I find that more useful than just looking at home/road splits. What people don’t seem to realize is that Coors (and other hitter-friendly parks) “help” a player regardless of whether they end up with better or worse results there. (In theory — if we could fully isolate simple good fortune and differences in fielding, pitching, etc. — a poor batting line would have been even worse if the plate appearances occurred at a pitcher-friendly facility.)
So, what do the numbers say about CarGo? Though he owns a shiny .284/.338/.527 batting line over the last two seasons, with 65 home runs in 1,195 plate appearances, that’s not even quite 15% above the league average. Now, the power production is always going to draw some added attention, but Gonzalez’s overall batting effort is largely commensurate with the sort of offensive production that Josh Reddick has produced in recent years — though his line doesn’t seem nearly as impressive since he has spent so much time at the Coliseum — and isn’t anything close to the monster numbers of, say, Edwin Encarnacion.
I’ve always been a bit bearish on Gonzalez’s value, myself, not only because of those considerations but due to his extensive injury history and declining speed on the bases. Perhaps that’s one reason that the club hasn’t received huge offers for his services despite a fairly reasonable contract. It’s fair to note, though, that metrics liked his glovework this year, and the $20MM he is owed for 2017 is especially appealing since it comes in a rental scenario. (An acquiring team would be taking a much more limited risk.) The bottom line is that there’s real value in CarGo’s contract, just not as much as you might expect when looking at the counting stats and triple-slash.