Category Archives: MLB

Franken-Roster: Creating a Playoff Team from the Bargain Bin

With the vast majority of MLB free agents having found new homes, there is the temptation to dream about what life would be like if your team had somehow acquired all of the best free agents, costs be damned. Typically, teams don’t have that kind of money to spend though it seems like the Dodgers tried their hardest to do just that. However, what would a team like the Houston Astros look like if they were willing to spend in free agency in 2012 but only had a budget of $40M? Could they field a team that could reasonably compete for the playoffs with nothing but bargain bin free agents? Tampa Bay seems to be quite successful in turning cheap free agents into one-year Superstars, so it might not be as far-fetched as it sounds.

For the sake of this post, the new team will play in the AL and have exactly 0 players under contract for 2013 and nobody in the minors that would be above replacement-level. You can use nameless minor league depth (replacement-level players) in your lineup that cost the league minimum ($500k for simplicity). Players that are still unsigned can be signed for $5M X their average WAR from the last two years though the league minimum still applies (subtract .5 WAR per year if they’re over 33) or the average of those two seasons’ salary (whichever feels fairer – this is not rocket appliances). Players that have signed as minor league free agents but have accrued more than 6 years MLB service time have a salary of $1M, while those with less than 6 years get the league minimum. Don’t worry about performance bonuses. If they produce, the revenue from the gate will be put back in the team and will cover those costs. How would you spend your $50M?

Rotation:

It’s often hard for teams to acquire one quality pitcher through free agency to complement an already decent core of starters. Finding 5 of them seems an even more daunting task.

  • RHP Javier Vazquez – $4.5M (1.9 rWAR – 1.0 (aging penalty) X $5M)
    • 2011: 3.69/3.57/3.87 – ERA/FIP/xFIP – 3.2 fWAR
    • 2013: N/A
  • RHP Shaun Marcum – $4M
    • 2012: 3.7/4.1/4.21 – 1.4 fWAR
    • 2013 (Bill James): 3.63/4.01 ERA/FIP
  • RHP Bartolo Colon – $3M
    • 2012: 3.43/3.82/4.17 – 2.4 fWAR
  • RHP Rich Harden – $1M
    • 2012: 5.12/4.69/3.68 – 0.5 fWAR (82.2IP)
  • RHP Carlos Zambrano – $1M
    • 4.49/4.47/4.84 – 0.8 fWAR

Total: $13.5M

This is a rather rag-tag collection of starting pitchers, but they’re cheap and effective when healthy. Couldn’t find a left-hander, but perhaps I’ll use the gate revenue generated by mid-season to add one via trade.

Relievers:

  • RHP Brian Wilson – $2M
    • 2011: 3.11/3.33/3.91 – 0.5 fWAR
    • 2013: 3.48/3.12
  • RHP Jason Frasor – $1.5M
    • 2012: 4.12/4.10/3.76 – 0.2 fWAR
  • RHP Matt Capps – $1M
    • 2012: 3.68/4.49/4.18 – 0 fWAR
    • 2013: 3.46/3.74
  • RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo – $1M
    • 2011: 4.06/3.96/4.16 – 0.2 fWAR
  • LHP Hisanori Takahashi – $0.5M
    • 2012: 5.54/3.93/3.79 – 0.2 fWAR
    • 2013: 3.38/3.8
  • RHP Takashi Saito – $0.5M
    • 2012: 6.75/7.09/4.96
    • Career: 2.34/2.81/3.26
  • LHP – Minor League Guy (not Jean Segura) – $0.5M

Total: $7M

It’s going to be tough to fill the position players with all this money dedicated to my pitching, but I’m modelling myself after the 2012 Rays/A’s that competed on a shoestring because of their quality pitching.

Starting Position Players:

  • Kelly Shoppach – $1.5M
    • 2012: .233/.309/.425 .316 wOBA 96 wRC+ 1.2 fWAR
  • 1B Lyle Overbay – $1M
    • 2012: .259/.331/.397 .314 wOBA 91 wRC+ 0.1 fWAR
      • 2012 vs. RHP: .323 wOBA 97 wRC+
      • Career vs. RHP: .356 wOBA 116 wRC+
  • 2B Jeff Keppinger – $4M
    • 2012: .325/.367/.439 .352 wOBA 128 wRC+ 2.8 fWAR
  • 3B Placido Polanco – $2.75M
    • 2012: .257/.302/.327 .279 wOBA 71 wRC+ 4.1 FLD 0.6 fWAR
    • 2013: .279/.331/.368 .303 wOBA
  • SS Hiroyuki Nakajima – $3.25M
    • NPB: .302/.367/.475 – .834 OPS
  • LF Melky Cabrera – $8M
    • 2012: .346/.390/.516 .387 wOBA 149 wRC+ 4.6 fWAR in 501 PAs
    • 2013: .295/.348/.432 .338 wOBA (though I think that’s a little light)
  • CF Andres Torres – $2M
    • 2010: 6.9 fWAR .358 wOBA 125 wRC+
    • 2012: .230/.327/.337 .297 wOBA 87 wRC+ 1.7 fWAR
    • 2013: .240/.328/.370 .307 wOBA
  • RF Reed Johnson – $1.75M
    • 2012 vs. LHP: .311/.354/.444 .348 wOBA 117 wRC+
    • 2012 vs. RHP: .263/.315/.339 .289 wOBA 77 wRC+ (0.5 fWAR)
    • 2013: .272/.325/.382 .299 wOBA
  • DH Travis Hafner – $2M
    • 2012: .228/.346/.438 .342 wOBA 119 wRC+ 0.6 fWAR in 263 PAs
    • Career: .258/.363/.446 .347 wOBA 135 wRC+ 22.2 fWAR in 4483 PAs

Bench Players:

  • 1B/OF Juan Rivera – $1M
    • 2012: .244/.286/.375 .287 wOBA 81 wRC+ -0.8 fWAR
    • 2012 vs. LHP: .323 wOBA 106 wRC+
    • Career vs. LHP: .351 wOBA 115 wRC+
  • Henry Blanco – $0.75M
    • Career: .227/.276/.331 .286 wOBA 65 wRC+
    • 2013: .218/.276/.331 .270 wOBA
  • INF Cesar Izturis – $0.5M (Cheated here, but I don’t think he’s worth $1M. Sub in minor league depth)
    • 2012: .241/.254/.343 .259 wOBA 58 wRC+ 0 fWAR
    • Career: .255/.294/.323 .273 wOBA 62 wRC+ 54.2 FLD
  • OF Bobby Abreu – $1M
    • 2012 vs. RHP: .312 wOBA 96 wRC+
    • Career vs. RHP: .385 wOBA 136 wRC+

Total: $29.5M

Grand Total: $50M

Who says you need to have superstars making the league minimum to compete in this modern world? I’d actually prefer to change a couple guys for their opposite handed equivalents but have spent far too much time on this as it is… Do you dare assemble a team of free agents that could rival me for $50M or less?

Josh Johnson’s Agent: Jays’ newly-acquired players could be flipped

In a radio interview on the Jeff Blair Show, Josh Johnson‘s agent Matt Sosnick speculated that the Jays may not be done dealing quite yet as the market for a pitcher like his client could be such that Alex Anthopoulos can’t resist flipping him for top prospects to a team like the Yankees or Texas. Sosnick felt there was a missing element to the trade because the Jays were uncharacteristically ballooning the payroll by ~$30M for 2013 alone basically overnight. If given the opportunity to shed some of that payroll while acquiring young, controllable and talented prospects, Sosnick might be right that Anthopoulos would hedge his bets.

However, considering the years and salary remaining, the Jays would likely prefer to flip the aging Mark Buehrle to a contender for prospects and use the savings towards an extension for Johnson or a pitcher from the current free agent class who is younger or has higher upside. There are legitimate concerns about whether Buehrle’s loss of velocity was masked in 2012 by his move to the NL and an extreme pitcher’s park. It’s unclear whether his stuff will play in the AL East where his 85 mph average fastball could wind up in the seats with the bandboxes in New York and Boston. At $16M AAV salary, Buehrle must produce more than 3 WAR a season to provide fair value (assuming $5M per WAR) which he just reached in Miami in 2012. With the expectation of a .5 WAR decline as he exits his prime, there is a chance his contract could be a real pain in the Blue Jays’ side by the time it ends after the 2015 season.

Josh Beckett and the Ocelots

In environmental news, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher and chicken/beer enthusiast Josh Beckett has begun legal action against an oil pipeline company who is planning to build its pipeline through his Texas ranch’s property. Beckett has claimed that his ranch is home to members of the endangered ocelot species of big cats and that the company’s construction would violate Federal law. Kudos to Beckett if he truly cares for the well-being of the ocelots and not about being able to sleep in without construction noise during his offseason.

The Giants Move On After Holding Off the Reds

After allowing the tying run to come to the plate for what seem like the thousandth time following their 6-run 5th inning punctuated by Buster Posey’s grand slam, the Giants’ Sergio Romo stranded runners on first and second by getting Scott Rolen to strike out swinging. This followed an epic at-bat vs. Jay Bruce who fouled off a tonne of pitches before finally flying out to left. The Giants will wait to face the winner of St. Louis and Washington.

A’s walkoff on Coco Crisp’s single; Force Game 5 with Tigers

A great game likely to be overshadowed by Raul Ibanez’ heroics for the Yankees. The A’s came back to tie the game in the bottom of the 9th after having stranded two runners in the 8th. An error by Fielder and a wild pitch by Scherzer cost the first run which should have set up Stephen Drew in scoring position but he was signalled to third and was gunned down at third with plenty of time as Miguel Cabrera blocked third perfectly.

The Tigers tacked on an insurance run but it wouldn’t be enough. A leadoff single to Josh Reddick in the 9th and doubles to Josh Donaldson and Seth Smith would tie the game. After a foul out and strikeout, Coco Crisp came up and smacked one into right that scored Smith to win the game.

Beyond the Box Score: New WARi (now with moar WAR)

There has always been an inherent problem with comparing players using competing WAR calculations because they are calculated on a different scale. Beyond the Box Score’s Bryan Grosnick attempts to level the playing field between the competing WAR calculations.