Ten Stray Thoughts On A Friday

For many, Friday represents the end of a long work week that’s filled with heavy doses of drudging, sludging and other words that don’t actually exist but rhyme with “udging” and connote menial and tedious tasks that are ultimately distasteful. It’s my hope that at the end of such misery, at that moment in time that only occurs on a Friday afternoon when it’s too far away from closing time to leave work early, but too late in the day to start anything new, you’ll join us here to read some random observations about baseball and contribute your own thoughts on the subjects that are broached.

So, without further ado, I present this week’s Ten Stray Thoughts On A Friday:

The Justin Upton Trade

There is no one in all of baseball for whom I hope to have a more successful season than Justin Upton next year. He’s capable of great things, and in two of his four full seasons, he’s shown that. Last year, he didn’t. The year before last, he was an MVP caliber player. Oh, and he’s only 25-years-old. And so, the Arizona Diamondbacks traded him along with third baseman Chris Johnsonto the Atlanta Braves for Martin Prado, Randall Delgado, Nick Ahmed, Zeke Spruill, and Brandon Drury.

I think the underratedness of Prado might have a bit to do with the public verdict of the deal, which favored the Braves heavily. Certainly, the Braves acquire the better player in Upton, but it’s not as though the Diamondbacks were sucker-punched by the deal. They know what they’re acquiring, going to the lengths of ensuring that a contract extension was within reach with Prado before signing off on the deal.

Yes, the ability to create additional years of team-control is a factor in the trade that should be considered. However, it should also be remembered that there’s a possibility that the Diamondbacks will invest more money and receive less value from Prado through an extension than the Braves draw from paying $38.5 million to Upton for the next three years.

A lot has been made of reports that Kirk Gibson consulted heavily on the deal. In general, having a manager’s input probably isn’t a terrible idea. However, redesigning a roster in his image likely is. The real issue I have with Arizona is the lack of direction they’ve seemed to have this off season.

Perhaps this is best seen in comparing what they would have acquired from the Seattle Mariners – Taijuan Walker, Charlie Furbush, Stephen Pryor and Nick Franklin – and what they did acquire from the Atlanta Braves. This offseason has seen the team build their bullpen for the upcoming season, attempt to sell their best asset for future talent and then seemingly relent to go halvsies with the immediate and what happens down the road.

Today In Yawns: The Rays Want Out From Their Lease Whoopty Doo

If you haven’t heard that the Tampa Bay Rays have a terrible lease on their stadium that lasts until the apocalypse, you either own ears that are averse to whining, or you’re not a baseball fan. On Thursday, Rays owner Stuart Sternberg said that he wants to keep his team in the region, but “Major League Baseball at this point no longer believes in the Tampa Bay area.”

Major League Baseball responded by releasing the following statement:

The Commissioner has had conversations with Stuart Sternberg and is disappointed with the current situation in the Tampa Bay market. The status quo is simply not sustainable. The Rays have been a model organization, averaging nearly 92 wins per year since 2008 and participating in the Postseason three times, including their inaugural World Series in 2008. Their .565 winning percentage over the last five years is second among all American League Clubs and third in all of Major League Baseball. Last year, the 30 Major League Clubs averaged nearly 2.5 million in total attendance; the Rays, who finished with a 90-72 record, drew 1,559,681, which ranked last in the game. The Club is an eager contributor to worthy causes in the Tampa and St. Petersburg communities and takes pride in meeting the social responsibilities that come with being a Major League franchise. We are hopeful that the market will respond in kind to a Club that has done a marvelous job on and off the field.

Yes. The Rays are good. Their attendance is bad. However, relocation isn’t really going to happen. Think about it. In your lifetime, how many Major League Baseball teams have been relocated? Where would a team relocate? How are we even talking about this?

The Rays have no leverage in their quest to get a better stadium deal. Major League Baseball’s statement is an attempt to grant them some. However, nothing new is really being said that hasn’t been said over the last four years.

Why Aren’t The Rangers In On Michael Bourn

It’s been reported that the Texas Rangers aren’t interested in Michael Bourn, which to me, given their current depth chart, would suggest that they’re fine with the idea of giving regular playing time to Craig Gentry or Leonys Martin in center field.

I don’t know how the team can justify that, especially considering that the club went from being tenth in attendance in 2011 to third in 2012. In addition, they signed a large regional television contract, and managed save money on not bringing back Josh Hamilton or Mike Napoli at higher costs than what they’re worth. Yes, they probably paid too much for A.J. Pierzynski, but the catcher position isn’t exactly flush with options, as far as offensive contributions are concerned. Overall, their salary commitments for the coming season will be slightly less than the previous year.

Unless I’m completely underrating the use of a Gentry/Martins platoon – ZiPS projects 3.2 total WAR from a combined 725 plate appearances – Bourn seems like the obvious choice. Perhaps even moreso now that we’re in the late stages of free agency, and the player’s options seem to be between the New York Mets and Seattle Mariners. Yeah, have fun with that, Michael.

Baseball’s Best Outfielders

Now that the Atlanta Braves boast an outfield – from left to right – of Justin Upton, B.J. Upton and Jayson Heyward, they’re likely considered in the running for having the best three outfielders in all of baseball. The other candidates that come to mind:

  • Los Angeles Angels (Josh Hamilton, Mike Trout, Does It Even Matter)
  • St. Louis Cardinals (Matt Holliday, Jon Jay, Carlos Beltran)
  • Washington Nationals (Bryce Harper, Denard Span, Jayson Werth)

If you pretend that Corey Hart is an outfielder and has knees which won’t crumple, you could also include the Milwaukee Brewers with Ryan Braun and Norichika Aoki. Maybe you could anyway, with Carlos Gomez’s glove in center field.

Last year, the Angels, on the strength of Mike Trout’s phenomenal season, Torii Hunter’s career year and Mark Trumbo’s BABIP, accumulated the highest amount of Wins Above Replacement from outfielders in the league. They lose Hunter for the coming season, but gain Hamilton and hopefully hand out fewer plate appearances to Vernon Wells. My money is on the Nationals outfield to win this coming season’s title, and ZiPS would agree.

Bryce Harper is going to have a monster year, isn’t he?

The Blue Jays Outfield

If the Toronto Blue Jays had the least bit competent center fielder, they would count themselves among the best outfields in baseball. They don’t. Never mind the nonsense that the Gregg Zauns of the world spout about visible effort and grittiness and whatever ridiculous mantra that’s written in a fancy font above doorways in Kirk Gibson’s house, Rasmus hasn’t performed the way that one would expect after his 2010 break out season in St. Louis.

The Cardinals traded Rasmus for what was essentially a song. Yes, they used that song to win the World Series, but they could afford to do so because of Jon Jay, who emerged last season as an enormous prize. Among qualified center fielders over the last two seasons, Rasmus ranks dead last in WAR. Only Ben Revere and Drew Stubbs have been worse hitters.

The Toronto Blue Jays will most likely start the 2013 season with Anthony Gose at Triple A. Whether you believe in the September/October version of Gose, which hit well at the Major(ish) League level, you have to admit that his defensive abilities, which typically peak early for premium defensive positions, are superior to those belonging to Rasmus. So, if Rasmus hits like Rasmus has been hitting over the last two years, an 87 wRC+, how much worse would Gose do in those situations batting ninth?

According to ZiPS, Gose’s defensive abilities wouldn’t make up for his offensive shortcomings in comparison to the production that Rasmus is projected to provide, but it would be close. Of course, Gose only played in 56 big league games last year. Over that time, he provided more than five runs above average in base running and two runs above average with his glove. He played left field most of the time, and would be immediately more valuable in center.

He looked absolutely awful at the plate last year, but he does almost everything else that one can measure incredibly well. All together, it likely makes him an average center fielder at the age of 22. If Rasmus can’t provide average production, there’s little reason not to give Gose a chance, which make the team’s current center fielder a likely non-tender candidate for 2014.

Mark DeRosa, A 25th Man?

The Toronto Blue Jays signed Mark DeRosa this week, reportedly to be the team’s 25th man. Does Mark DeRosa qualify as a 25th man. Over the last three seasons, 487 batters have had as many or more plate appearances as Mark DeRosa. Out of those 487, DeRosa ranks 464th in WAR.

If we assume that the average team carries, on average, 13 position players on its roster throughout the year, while acknowledging that there are 30 teams in the league, we naively imagine that a 25th man should be ranked in the top 390 players over the last three years. We also realize that DeRosa would be more suitably called a 27th or 28th man than a 25th man.

Say what you will about the Omar Vizquel signing last season, at least it wasn’t for guaranteed money. The Blue Jays signed glorified bench coach Mark DeRosa for $750,000, plus a team option for 2014. That’s not a lot of money, but it’s hilarious, nonetheless.

All The Designated Hitters

Last week, we poked fun at the Seattle Mariners for having as many as seven players on their active roster whose defensive abilities are best described as designated hitter. This week, with the Delmon Young signing, we turn our attention to the Philadelphia Phillies.

Now, the number of designated hitters on the Phillies roster isn’t as obvious and blatant as that of the Mariners. However, it’s worth mentioning that Seattle at least has the excuse of the designated hitter actually being a position for which they’re allowed to field a player. For Philadelphia, I only count three players who would be better off DHing. Unfortunately, they’re all starters and likely make up a larger percentage of their every day lineup than the Mariners.

This Week In Hilarity

Is there a less fitting place for Shaun Marcum, the most fragile of pitchers, to sign than the New York Mets, the baseball team with the worst reputation for handling injuries. I don’t know if that reputation is truly warranted or not, but it certainly exists. The fact that it cost them only $4 million to convince the pitcher to come to New York suggests that there wasn’t a whole lot of interest in the pitcher elsewhere.

I can’t explain how that is remotely possible, considering that about a third of the teams in Major League Baseball could use Marcum as a mid-rotation starter. It’s next to impossible to believe that he was traded for Brett Lawrie only two years ago.

Your CBA Is Not My CBA

The Mets continue to challenge baseball’s generally accepted truths by threatening to challenge the wording of the CBA. New York is interested in signing Michael Bourn, but isn’t exactly enamored with the idea of giving up a first round draft pick to do so. According to the rules of the CBA, the top ten picks in the draft are protected from being lost to compensation. The Mets finished last season as the tenth worst team in baseball. Because the Pittsburgh Pirates failed to sign Mark Appel, whom they drafted eighth overall, they receive the ninth pick in this year’s draft, thus pushing New York to eleventh.

The spirit of protecting the top ten picks seems to be to increase the competitiveness of those teams that finished so lowly the year before. In that spirit, pushing a team out of the protected ten because another team didn’t sign their draft pick the year before seems counterproductive. However, the language surrounding this rule isn’t open-ended by accident. The previous collective bargaining agreement protected the top 15 picks from compensation, specifically mentioning compensation picks as another item all together. The new CBA doesn’t do this. It was taken out with purpose. Whether that escaped the attention of the MLBPA – which has promised to assist the Mets should they appeal the language – or not doesn’t matter. The rules have changed, and should be honored as such.

Earl Weaver R.I.P. (August 14, 1930 – January 19, 2013)

Earl Weaver passed away last week. Christina Kahrl does the incredible baseball mind a befitting service with her essay for Baseball Prospectus.

You do not need me to tell you that we will not see his like again. The job in the dugout has changed, the responsibilities of a skipper have changed, and perhaps most fundamentally, the game itself has changed. But however mechanically I might mound up that kind of obviousness risks missing something equally obvious: In his work, Earl was a teacher, and the lessons he offered to all, big and small, inside the game and out, remain as valuable today as they were 30 or 40 years ago.