Tag Archives: free agents

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?

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Interview: Alex Anthopoulos with TSN’s Mike Richards

AA spoke with Mike Richards of TSN Radio and did not say much more than he already has this fall. The team has needs in the starting rotation and it will look to address them first either through free agency or trade. The rest of the off season could hinge upon the team’s success in acquiring a quality piece for the rotation early in the sweepstakes and therefore the team will be uber-aggro as the market opens up.

Speaking about the off-season, the GM is eager to get going, explaining that the front office “had a meeting this past week, just with respect to free agency, and also trade scenarios. There’s no doubt about it, the first domino to fall for us is to add to the starting rotation. We have needs beyond that, but it starts there, and if that does not get done, we’re not going to go anywhere. So that’s got to get done, one way or the other. We’ve looked pretty hard at the free agents– we’ve done some comparisons and so on– we’ve tried to see where we might line up with teams in terms of trades, and who might be available. There’s a few names that are out there that are available that aren’t out in the mainstream media– because obviously clubs want to keep that quiet. So, that’s really the first thing that we’re going to try to get done fast– if we can be aggressive, and get one starter in some capacity early, that would be great. You can’t dictate the time frame, but we’re definitely going to try to move fast.”

It will be interesting to see if the Jays actually do acquire an under-the-radar name when the market opens or if AA was merely positioning in order to retain some leverage with this year’s class of free agent starting pitchers. After all, he’s basically declared the Jays are willing to pay, even overpay, for starting pitching this offseason (though he doesn’t believe he’s said too much because he felt like it was pretty obvious).

Jeff Blair: I live under a bridge; I charge a toll

If you like reading a GM’s words sliced and diced to fit one man’s feather-ruffling narrative, then I highly suggest reading Globe columnist Jeff Blair’s exercise in troll-o-nomics, “Jays left to wheel and deal their way through offseason“. Blair begins his article by reporting that revenue increased across the board in 2012 and as a direct result the Blue Jays’ payroll will increase for 2013.

Isn’t that good news then? No, says Blair, because the window for spending their way to success closed last season when “bold, budget stretching moves” were a sure bet. Forget that last offseason there were far more question marks than now including a bullpen which was in shambles, uncertainty about the expected performance of potential key cogs in Lawrie, Rasmus, and EE, and/or the presence of low-cost prospects/freshly healthy veterans that could perform at or near any free agent acquisition’s level. Forget that apart from Bautista, the core of the team prior to 2012 was not yet at their peak (much less their decline) phases and the team could have used another year of experience and development to best determine its long-term needs.

This off-season, “bold, budget stretching moves” are not fashionable with Blair because there are “at best, two front-of-the-rotation pitchers on the free agent market.” The one he names, Zack Greinke, he identifies as a pitcher who previously blocked a trade to Toronto. Even if he were convinced to come to Toronto, Blair believes, it would take a leap of faith of AJ Burnett-ian proportions to acquire him. True, the Jays took a rather big leap of faith in awarding Burnett a 5-year, $55 M deal in 2006, but Blair is actually understating the risk the Jays would take on to lure Greinke north of the border. Greinke will likely become the highest-paid pitcher in history this offseason for at least the 6 years and $144 M that pending free agent Cole Hamels signed for with the Phillies. AJ Burnett got paid like a top No. 2 in his prime when the Jays inked him, not an elite No. 1 in his prime.

An AJ Burnett-ian leaps of faith during the upcoming offseason will likely get the Jays what they got in 2006… a No. 2-3 starter at a price below what legitimate No. 1’s made/make. A Burnett-ian leap would likely get the Jays an Anibal Sanchez, a Dan Haren, an Edwin Jackson or maybe even a Jake Peavy. It gets the Jays a front-of-the-rotation starter with a few question marks and it gets them for a term that bridges the gap until the Lansing 3 will conceivably be ready to contribute. Not sure what Blair’s got against that.

However, Blair believes for some reason that this year’s crop of free agent starters is different and are incapable of transforming the Jays into a playoff team as opposed to CJ Wilson (5 years, $77.5 M), Yu Darvish (6 years, $60 M + ~$50 M), or Mark Buehrle (4 years, $48 M) who were available in 2012. Even with the acquisition of last year’s top free agent starter CJ Wilson and the midseason acquisition of Greinke failed to bring the Angels to the playoffs. Wilson was a massive disappointment for the Angels in his first year by producing just 0.4 bWAR. He should be expected to bounce back to have productive seasons but the Angels will likely have a hard time getting value out of Wilson considering his age.

Yu Darvish wound up rated as the best pitcher of the litter by bWAR in 2012, but considering the fact that he had yet to even throw a pitch in the Majors, to say his signing didn’t take a leap of faith far beyond AJ Burnett-ian proportions would be simply dishonest. Mark Buehrle was good for his typical 200+ innings after his move to the NL but will be 37 when his deal expires and despite his success it still seems unlikely he’d have maintained his form for the life of the deal in the AL East. ICYMI, Miami did not make the playoffs though another team, the Washington Nationals and good luck charm and free-agent acquisition Edwin Jackson did.

Not every team can have a legitimate No. 1 on their roster, there’s not enough to go around. Nor do they need them. In 2011, the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series without a legitimate No. 1. They did have a wealth of quality No. 2-3 pitchers which provided the pitching necessary to not only get to the playoffs (pre-second Wild Card) but to win it all. Sometimes, it’s enough to have a potent offense (which the Jays possess already when healthy), a strong bullpen (which the Jays have done well to put in place this year) and a well-balanced quality rotation.

But hey, when guided by troll-o-nomics, it’s not about honesty but page views. Disagree with the Jays’ front office if you will Blair, but at least attack them with some basis in the way the world works.  The Jays’ season was a complete disappointment that has the fan base, especially the more irritable/irrational crowd, feeling a bit edgy and quite impressionable. It’s a perfect time to be a dick and rile them up some more. But leave that for the bloggers in their parent’s basements. If you’re writing for a big outfit, you have a greater responsibility to properly inform the people of Toronto and the rest of the country.

Note of Honesty: I no longer have the privilege of reading @GloBlair’s tidbits of realness on twitter for I have been blocked by the Globe columnist for having the audacity to question how Phil Kessel could not be considered a bright spot of the 2011-12 NHL season for the Toronto Maple Leafs. He had career highs in several semi-important categories… like goals, assists, and points.

Anthopoulos’ end of the season news conference

Gregor Chisholm’s coverage of Alex Anthopoulos’ season-ending news conference in which he discusses the team’s need for “quality” starting pitching, the ability to target a wider variety of players this offseason including free agents, the increased payroll that will be available, the ability to overpay for a free agent when it meets a specific need, and the need for a high on-base/good contact bat to complement the power hitters currently on the roster.

North of the Border

Here is Alex Anthopoulos’ final news conference of the season. I apologize in advance for a typo here and there. I wanted to post this tonight but also have articles in the works for the main site but it has been a bit rushed. Instead of waiting any longer, though, he’s Anthopoulos:

Top priority this offseason?

“The starting rotation. A lot of where our team goes is going to be predicated on what we do with the rotation, it’s clear we have needs there, especially with the guys that were injured, they are not going to be ready for the start of the year or even the middle of the year. That’s definitely going to be a major area of our concentration in the off-season.”

Leadership an issue?

“It could be a combination of things, people define it in so many different ways, there are so many examples of it…

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