Volume 1 – Words that describe what you are reading
This is the first of what aspires to be a long term fixture at The Hardball Times. The goal is simple – to cover the four most interesting news stories in baseball from the previous week.
The coverage will mix links to existing articles with analysis from yours truly. The stories will be chosen as I see fit, which should leave plenty of room for discussion (ahem, bickering) in the comments section.
This weekly report is very much a work in progress – nothing is written in stone and there are no sacred cows here. As such, feedback is imperative. Tell me what worked. Tell me what didn’t work. Tell me what would have worked if only I had a modicum of journalistic skill.
But enough of me. I’m not news. This is (was).
#4 – Reds and Cubs swap Travis Wood, Sean Marshall
Baseball Prospectus’ RJ Anderson (behind paywall) described the deal as “trading with the enemy,” but neither team is likely to lose sleep over the trade.
True, you don’t often see division rivals making a swap, but there is a certain DNA that most intra-division trades possess. On the one side, you will find a team desperate to win now. The other side of the fence features a struggling, rebuilding team.
In this case, the Reds play the talent hungry, win now franchise. Sean Marshall provides the Reds with a hedge in case they cannot sign a free agent closer on the cheap. Excluding Ryan Madson, Marshall is better than all the relievers currently on the market. If the Reds can re-sign Francisco Cordero, they will have a potent bullpen, with Marshall and Nick Masset roving the 7th and 8th innings. If they fail to sign Cordero, then Marshall and Masset will battle for closing duties. Not a bad position to be in.
The Cubs play the franchise that doesn’t care what their rival does this year. They won’t be in the playoff mix, they just want to gobble up prospects and evaluate them.
Travis Wood is the meat of the trade, providing the Cubs with a back of the rotation left handed starter who is young enough to dream on. His results at the major league level have a Jekyll-Hyde look to them. See for yourself.
Dave Sappelt is interesting as a major league ready fourth outfielder. The best thing he has working for him is a high contact plate approach and the ability to play all three outfield positions. RedLegs Baseball has a nice scouting breakdown on him.
Speaking of contact, the third player going to the Cubs, 18-year-old Ronald Torreyes, neither walks nor strikes out. In 306 PA in 2011, Torreyes walked 14 times and struck out 19 times, rates of 4.6 BB% and 6.2 K%. Scouting the Sally’s Mike Newman took a look at Torreyes mid-season.
#3 – White Sox re-sign John Danks
The early reaction to John Danks five year, $65 million extension is to wonder what the White Sox are doing. General manager Kenny Williams announced earlier this offseason that the Sox were entering a rebuilding phase. Danks was considered their most valuable trade chip. Chris Cwik of Fangraphs discussed some of the puzzling aspects of the trade.
There are a few ways to rationalize this contract extension within the context of rebuilding. The White Sox are currently saddled with a number of veteran albatrosses, including Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Jake Peavy.
Strong rebound performances are not out of the question. In the unlikely event that this veteran trio all challenge for comeback player of the year, the White Sox could find themselves in the playoff picture.
Of course, this decision could have nothing to do with veterans. Danks was a prominent name on the trade block prior to the extension. Williams likely discussed names with several teams. If those talks were unsatisfactory, it makes a lot of sense to pursue a contract extension instead. Buster Olney noted (behind paywall) that the White Sox asking price was “extraordinarily high.”
The White Sox are, after all, a large market franchise. Even with a weak farm system, they could easily rebuild within the next five years. Williams is known for being very active in the trade market. With a few large contracts coming off the books in the upcoming years, he will have some money to spend in free agency or on expensive trade pieces. He also still has Carlos Quentin and Gavin Floyd on the trade block. Both should be worth a couple interesting prospects.
#2 – Rangers win right to negotiate with Yu Darvish
By now, the Darvish news has calmed down quite a bit. The Rangers won negotiation rights with a $51.7 million posting fee. The Nippon Ham Fighters gladly accepted the financial windfall. As THT’s own Chris Lund noted, the rest is speculation.
$51.7 million is quite a lot of money for a posting fee but it is by no means surprising. The Daisuke Matsuzaka posting fee of $51.1 million clearly served as a guideline here. While Dice-K has proven to be a disappointment, Darvish comes with a more impressive resume and better scouting grades.
The posting fee was the easy part. The next step for the Rangers is to actually sign the guy. And that could prove to be a challenge.
Darvish is rumored to be concerned about getting his fair share. He has complained about the posting system in the past and how it depresses Japanese player salaries. Yahoo’s Jeff Passan has some tidbits (bullet point 6).
Let’s explore a hypothetical example. Let’s say that Darvish wants a five-year, $75 million deal. He has little reason to care if the Rangers posted $1 or $100 million to negotiate with him, he wants to be paid. From the Rangers perspective, that pushes the cost of Darvish to $126.7 million or about $25 million per season. Surely, the Rangers do not see Darvish in the same light as CC Sabathia or Cliff Lee? Both sides will have to swallow some pride to reach middle ground.
The other interesting sub-story to come out of this is whether or not the Blue Jays were serious bidders. Initially, it was reported that the Jays had submitted an offer north of $50 million, meaning they missed winning the bid by a few hundred thousand dollars. Then came the rumors that no, the Blue Jays did not submit a bid over $50 million (see Olney article in the Danks section).
Ultimately, all we can do is speculate about what these conflicting reports might mean. Perhaps the Blue Jays had a specific total number in mind. Let’s say, for example’s sake, that the Jays were only willing to pay a total of $100 million over five years. That effectively limits their bid to roughly $40 million. Bidding more would bring Darvish’s payment under $12 million per year. There’s no point winning a bid and spending a month trying to sign a guy if it’s doomed from the start.
#1 – Nationals acquire Gio Gonzalez
Early reactions to the trade have been split. Some have praised the Nationals for acquiring a left-hand workhorse to join Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann. Others such as Keith Law (behind paywall) believe that the Nationals gave up a lot of good prospects for a good-not-great pitcher. A few like Mark Hulet and Ben Badler have expressed less common opinions.
The widely varying opinions are probably a sign that the Nationals and Athletics made a good trade.
Gonzalez is a big addition for the Nationals, even if he isn’t the ace they wanted. Injuries are always a risk with pitchers, but Gonzalez has been durable throughout his career. The Nationals will count on over 200 innings from their new pitcher.
The reason Gonzalez isn’t seen as an ace by many is because he walks too many batters due to suspect control. As general manager Mike Rizzo pointed out, his walk rate has improved every year – albeit at a slow pace. Gonzalez could also see some statistical improvement from switching to the senior circuit.
The Athletics have to be pretty excited about the prospect package they received. Cole is probably the best prospect of the bunch, although the furthest from the big leagues. He features a big fastball, struck out nearly 11 batters per nine innings, and limited walks in A-ball. However, an old saying, TINSTAAPP, comes to mind when perusing the notes on Cole.
Peacock is another interesting prospect who took a big step forward over the past season. He gained velocity over the course of the season and now features a plus fastball. Most importantly, he’s major league ready and could feature prominently in the Athletics rotation. He has the potential to develop into a better pitcher than Gonzalez. Potential is one thing, getting there is another. His breaking ball and change up are works in progress and his repertoire might not hold up well on the big stage.
The other major league ready piece, Milone, is one of those guys whose numbers and scouting reports diverge. Advanced command and control have allowed him to prey on minor league hitters, but his stuff is middling and that command and control might not be good enough to carry him at the major league level.
Norris is the hardest to get a read on. He has developed much more slowly than scouts hoped, but might yet be an above average major league catcher. His defense has improved considerably over the years and is now an asset. At the plate, he demonstrates patience and pop but can struggle to make contact. Currently, he strikes out and walks too often to make much use of his power.
Prospect watcher, John Sickels, provided his thoughts on the prospects involved in the Gonzalez trade.
Nothing in this trade is really as good as it appears at first glance. Gonzalez has that walk problem, Cole has a ways to go between now and the majors, Peacock’s repertoire is suspect, Milone’s stuff is mediocre, and Norris’s development at the plate has been slow.
Honorable Mention – Reds Acquire Mat Latos
This trade happened on the 17th which wasn’t technically during this week. The THT staff had a conversation about the Latos trade behind the scenes.
Once again, John Sickels did a nice job breaking down the prospects involved in the Latos deal.