Three underrated acquisitions

We’ve heard the sexier names that have gone off the board this offseason: Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran. But in the midst of these bigger transactions, lesser-known players are still garnering major league contracts. Here’s some analysis on three major league acquisitions you may have missed that could have impact in 2014:

1) Giants sign RHP Ryan Vogelsong to a one-year, $5-million deal (with up to $1.5 million extra in incentives)

In a market in which quality pitching is fetching a premium, many teams may have missed out on a generally low-risk, high-upside starter in Vogelsong, who returns to the Giants for about the price of one win in the current market. Vogelsong’s 2013 season was plagued by injury and poor pitching, as he finished the campaign with a 5.73 ERA and -0.6 fWAR. However, there’s reason to be optimistic.

First, Vogelson’s 2012 season was very stellar, as the righty posted 2.4 WAR and a 3.37 ERA (and xFIP of 4.15). Second, Vogelsong’s .320 BABIP, 64.6 LOB% (left-on-base percentage), and 13.4 HR/FB% (home run-per-fly ball percentage) are all likely to regress.

Steamer and Oliver currently project him for FIPs of 4.11 and 4.26, respectively, which are completely reasonable. If Vogelsong can tap into his 2012 form, he’ll be looking at serious money this time next year.

2) White Sox sign RHP Ronald Belisario to one-year, $3-million deal

We know they’re not concerned with money, but it’s curious that the Dodgers were willing to spend $10 million on Brian Wilson but not the ~$2.3 million Belisario was expected to receive in arbitration before being released by the club.

Belisario, like Vogelsong, had a mediocre 2013 after a fantastic 2012. Belisario had a 2.54 ERA and 3.10 xFIP in 2012, good for 0.7 WAR. His 2013, however, saw a decreased strikeout percentage and drastically increased BABIP, leading to a 3.97 ERA. Still, his 3.64 FIP showed it wasn’t all bad, and Belisario kept the excellent groundball percentage he’s had his entire career. Last year it was at 61.4 percent, which mitigates his high walk rate.

Considering Chad Qualls got a two-year deal at the same annual salary with an option for a third year worth $3.5 million, one has to think the Dodgers could’ve gotten a decent prospect for Belisario in the trade market. Anyway, this is the White Sox’s gain.

3) Yankees acquire SS Dean Anna from the Padres for RHP Ben Paullus

Even though there are a good number of teams in need of a shortstop, the Yankees got one for Jeter insurance who could very well start on many teams. Anna will be going into next season at 27, an age when many position players begin to peak. As our own John Kochurov put it succinctly last season, “Dean Anna is the most underrated player in all of professional baseball.” Playing for the Yankees this upcoming year, the secret may be out.

Anna has consistently hit in the minors, putting up a .331/.410/.482 line in Triple-A last season, good for a 140 wRC+. Steamer has Anna down for a 96 wRC+ next year, and Oliver has him at 89, both not bad numbers for a shortstop.

If you project Anna out for 150 games via Steamer, he sits at ~2.1 fWAR, which is above average. Meanwhile, he could always be a late bloomer who puts up a wRC+ above 100, in which case you could be looking at a 2.5-3.0 fWAR player. Not bad for a guy basically handed to the Yankees for free.

For the price of ~$9-10 million (or about 1.5 wins), you could get your hands on a fourth starting pitcher, a quality relief pitcher, and a starting shortstop whose downside projected wRC+ still would’ve bested the 2013 numbers of Alexei Ramirez, Jimmy Rollins, and Starlin Castro. Not every price in this market is insane.

Print Friendly
 Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Google+1Share on Reddit0Email this to someone
« Previous: Transaction Analysis Lightning Round: Pierzynski, Nathan, Ellsbury, and more
Next: Leverage Index by inning »


  1. @Bobbleheadguru said...

    A couple points about the Tigers under the radar moves:

    1. The three players the Tigers got for Fister will all be contributors for multiple years. 15 (or is it 16?) years of control, many at league minimum salary for Fister’s two. I figure they saved at least $40MM (v. the cost of equivalent free agents) over 5-6 years by making this trade. It completely covers the $30MM in payments that they will need to make to the Rangers to complete the Fielder/Kinsler deal.

    2. Tigers infield defense is now perhaps as much as 40 runs better than at the beginning of 2013. Every one of their infield positions have been upgraded by a better fielder.

    That may be good for a ridiculous 8 wins… or $48MM in value.

    I would love someone to look into either (or both) of these “back of the napkin” estimates I have made.

  2. studes said...

    Great coverage, Pat.  I missed the Dean Anna deal—I hope he gets to play.  Meanwhile, the crosstown Mets are looking for a shortstop, but couldn’t cut a deal like this?

  3. Pat Andriola said...

    Thanks, Dave. I’m shocked the Mets weren’t in on Anna; they have more than enough Paullus-type players in their system. It might’ve been a roster issue, but they easily could’ve cut Quintanilla (which they wound up doing) to make room for Anna. But alas, every team in baseball missed out on this deal, and maybe some organization just aren’t so high on the guy.

  4. Alex Bensky said...

    Well, it’s true that the players the Tigers acquired will be contributing long after Fister’s current contract is up. But contributing what?

    The Tigers got basically a couple of decent but not exciting pitching prospects and a white Ramon Santiago, in return for a very good starter.

    I’m willing to grant that Dumbrowski seems to know what he is doing, but I don’t see either of the pitchers as the key to solving the bullpen problem, and what they really need is a left fielder or third baseman, depending on where they put Castellanos.

    They still do; Rajai Davis is at best a platoon player.

  5. @Bobbleheadguru said...

    Thank for the feedback Alex… my response:

    1. If you were to rank the Tigers #1 (Cabrera) to #25 (Don Kelly), then Fister would rank somewhere between 5-10. Let us say he is #7.

    The Tigers traded 2 years of their number #7 player (at total cost $19M) for 3 players that will rank somewhere between #15-25 for a combined FIFTEEN years of service time (the majority of those years at league minimum salary).

    2. Take a look at Rajai Davis v. Lefties and combine with Dirks v. Righties. You will find a 2014 projected OPS of just under .800… with about 40 steals. That is exactly what the Yankees are hoping for with Ellsbury at almost 3x the combined salaries of Davis and Dirks for 2014.

  6. Mike C said...

    It isn’t about what they got but what they COULD HAVE GOTTEN.

    A bit hyperbole, I’ll grant, but they almost could have simply waived Fister and picked up what they did in the wire.

    The Cubs for more for two months of Garza than the Tigers did for two YEARS of a superior pitcher.

  7. @bobbleheadguru said...

    Mike C:

    Dombrowski has found “League Minimum Arbitrage”.

    Getting a player who is good enough to make the team AND is league minimum in salary is not easy. These type of players are extremely valuable.

    A free agent utility infielder or middle reliever costs $3MM/year. A free agent middle of the rotation starter costs $8+MM/year. Waiver players are clearly inferior to what they got.

    The Nationals are one of the few teams that the TIgers thought had three players who were good enough AND league minimum.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>