Sunday, February 14, 2010

N.L. Central Offseason – Team by Team

Chicago Cubs

Dec. 31:  Cubs sign Marlon Byrd to a three-year contract worth $15 MM.
The thinking here is that Byrd can be their starting center fielder.
Let’s take a look at Marlon Byrd’s recent history first:
2007 454 10 307 355 459
2008 462 10 298 380 462
2009 599 20 283 329 479

Not bad for a center fielder.  But Byrd was playing for Texas those seasons – in hitter-friendly Ameriquest Field (or whatever the hell it’s called now).
Here’s what My Darlin’ Marlon did on the road those years:
2007 230 6 259 304 410
2008 224 3 297 362 411
2009 292 6 285 322 419

I believe the word I’m looking for is … erp!  (Byrd is a career 272/322/393 hitter on the road.  Double erp!)

As if that weren’t enough, here’s* what the various defensive metrics think of Admiral Byrd (note that UZR and +/- are only for Byrd’s work in center field):
YEAR FRAA UZR/150 Plus-Minus
2007 -2 1.2 -2
2008 3 15.3** 1
2009 -7 -9.5 -3
* – Notes on the table:  1) FRAA stands for Fielding Runs Above Average, according to Byrd’s page on  2)  UZR/150 is Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 games.  It represents the number of runs above replacement (not above average, as with the other two metrics) by the Byrd as a center fielder.  UZR is calculated by  3)  Plus-minus is a system developed by John Dewan, and it measures the number of runs a player saves above or below what an average player at that position would save.  Stats are courtesy of Bill James Online (which is available only by subscription).
** – either Byrd is a late bloomer on defense, or else UZR is dodgy per 150 games.

I think I can safely say:
Triple erp.
Next year, anyone?

Cincinnati Reds

Dec. 19:  Reds sign Scott Rolen to a two-year contract extension worth $13 MM.
Rolen is getting even older and even more brittle.  First, the Reds had to overpay (with prospects) to acquire him, and now they’re taking a two-year gamble on a 35-year old injury risk under the delusion that they’re building a contender.  (More on that delusion later.)

Jan. 5:  Reds sign Josh Anderson to a minor league contract.
Anderson isn’t really an impact player, but he is the only player in major league history from my hometown of Somerset, Kentucky, and that alone merits a mention.

Jan. 11:  Reds sign Aroldis Chapman to a six-year contract worth $30.25 MM.
Levity aside, it’s great to see the Reds take a (calculated) risk on young talent like this.  Chapman may flame out or just end up as a closer, but with his potential, this isn’t a bad gambit.
The only problem is that this signing just illustrates the lie perpetrated by the commissioner’s office that the system is “broken,” and that an international draft is possible.  The Reds, a team with a mid-level payroll from one of the smallest markets in baseball, just signed a talent away from the Yankees and Red Sox for not much more than the Phillies are paying Shane Victorino (and for twice as long).
Any time you hear any bullshit from the baseball (or media) establishment about the “broken draft,” just cover your ears and say to yourself, “DRIVE DOWN COSTS!” and you’ve found their real intent.

Feb. 1:  Reds trade Willy Taveras and Adam Rosales to Oakland for Aaron Miles and a PTBNL.
As bad a decision as it was to sign Taveras, at least GM Walt Jocketty is man enough to admit it.

Feb. 1:  Reds sign Orlando Cabrera to a one-year contract worth $3.02 MM, with a mutual option for 2011.
Three million is a perfectly reasonable amount to pay to a light-hitting, sharp-fielding shortstop.  But while Cabrera is indeed light-hitting, I don’t think his fielding is as sharp as his reputation.

Houston Astros

Dec. 10:  Astros sign Pedro Feliz to a one-year contract worth $4.5 MM.
“How should I know what the going rate is for mediocrity?” said Wade.

Dec. 12:  Astros sign Brandon Lyon to a three-year contract worth $15 MM.
The average contract given to mid-level, free agent relief pitchers is steadily decreasing in value.  This is not an average contract.

Dec. 14:  Astros sign Jason Michaels to a one-year contract worth $800,000.
Is there an echo in here?

Jan. 12:  Astros sign Brett Myers to a one-year contract worth $5.1 MM, with a mutual option for 2011.
This, however, really is a pretty good deal.  Myers should add three-four wins to the Astros, easily.  So say hello to wins number 70, 71 and 72, Houston fans …

Milwaukee Brewers

Dec. 4:  Brewers sign Gregg Zaun to a one-year contract worth $2.15 MM.
Zaun isn’t a big asset any more, but in a world where Jason Kendall gets two years and Carlos Ruiz gets three, this is an acceptable deal for an acceptable catcher.

Dec. 14:  Brewers sign Randy Wolf to a three-year contract worth $29.75 MM, with a club option for 2013.
This contract carries a good deal of risk, but the team had a glaring need for pitchers, and Wolf helps fill it.  The Wolf deal is reminiscent of the contract given out to Jeff Suppan in 2007, except that it’s cheaper and has a lot more upside.  There is a good risk of collapse here, as Wolf’s durability is very questionable, but with their hitting prospects entrenched in the majors and little on the farm to follow, the front office needs to upgrade the pitching now before they start to lose their key players.

Dec. 16:  Brewers sign LaTroy Hawkins to a two-year contract worth $7.5 MM.
The good news about LaTroy Hawkins is that he hasn’t posted an ERA above 4.50 since 2001.  The bad news is that his 3.92 mark from 2008 better represents his underlying talents, and that’s not nearly worth $7.5 million.  Hawkins also turned 37 in December, and his strikeout rate has dropped to just barely adequate.
For a team with such limited resources, as well as more pressing needs than the middle relief corps, this is a tough move to defend.

Jan. 18:  Brewers sign Jody Gerut to a one-year contract worth $2 MM.
Even if Gerut is just a fourth outfielder, he’s probably worth this.  After a great comeback in 2008 with San Diego (296/351/494), he took a steep dive in 2009 with the Padres and Brewers (230/279/376).  But I’d take this gamble if I were the Brewers, especially since their starting center fielder (Carlos Gomez), could use a hitter to make up an offense/defense platoon.

Jan. 22:  Brewers sign Doug Davis to a one-year contract worth $5.25 MM.
This is a good deal for the Brewers.  But I’m not happy, because this puts Davis on the same team as Dave Bush.  And I have a hell of a time telling them apart.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Dec. 10:  Pirates sign Bobby Crosby to a one-year contract worth $1 MM.
I’m not too optimistic that Crosby can be an everyday player again, let alone regain his Rookie of the Year glory.  But the Pirates’ infield options are pretty ugly, and if you can play shortstop and hit your weight, I guess you’re worth a mil to a second division team.

Jan. 13:  Pirates sign Ryan Church to a one-year contract worth $1.5 MM.
Here again, the salary is well in line with the expected production.  Church can’t really play center, so his value as a fourth outfielder is diminished.  But then it’s not like a bench player is going to be the difference between making and missing the postseason.

St. Louis Cardinals

Oct. 27:  Cardinals name Mark McGwire hitting coach.
Get over it.

Dec. 8:  Cardinals sign Brad Penny to a one-year contract worth $7.5 MM.
This is one of the best moves of the offseason.  Not that it’s going to win the pennant for them, but it’s a great value for a good price.  Penny should thrive under pitching coach Dave Duncan, and as long as he stays healthy, he’ll easily make the contract worthwhile.  Penny has struggled in recent years, but he’s not been as bad as his reputation.

Jan. 7:  Cardinals sign Matt Holliday to a seven-year contract worth $120 MM, with a club option for 2017.
I really think the Cardinals should have considered other options before agreeing to this deal.  I’d bet on Holliday aging better than Jason Bay, but even then he’ll likely be overpaid.  There are a lot of creative solutions to be had when you have $120 million to work with, and I think the Cardinals should have capped their offer to Holliday at a lower dollar value and shorter duration than this.
This also means that the team is, once again, spending an inordinate amount of money on a handful of players, and this will only get worse if they sign Albert Pujols to an extension.  I like the core of Pujols-Holliday-Carpenter-Wainwright, but that leaves you very little money for the other 21 slots, and it’s not like the team has a swath of cheap, promising rookies on the way (Colby Rasmus excepted).


NOTE:  Once again, all contract information is taken from every baseball writer’s favorite webpage, Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

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