I will get it out of the way right away: the heart of my plan involves trading a 27 year old starting pitcher on a team-friendly contract with an elite xFIP for a 30-year-old glove-first outfielder with only 700 PAs whose team thinks of as a platoon player. Then I plan on signing an outfielder with suspect defense, another 30-year-old, to a contract that people laughed at giving to Hunter Pence, and signing a 32-year-old shortstop with links to steroids, and spending money the team doesn't have on a 31-year-old relief pitcher. After all that, the team will be perilously thin to start the year at Starting Pitcher, and still rely on the most inconsistent position player EVAR! to provide middle-of-the-order production. What the hell am I doing?
AAOP '14: Adding Defense, Offense, and Position Player Depth
30 is the new [Market Inefficiency]
- TRAID Jon Niese and Luis Mateo for Craig Gentry, Wilmer Font, and C.J. Edwards (throw in Mateo).
- SIGN Shin Soo Choo to a 5 year, $90M contract.
- SIGN Jhonny Peralta to a 2 year, $14M contract.
- SIGN Jesse Crain to a 2 year, $12M contract.
- SIGN Tim Hudson to a 2 year, $17M contract.
- SIGN Johan Santana for 1 year, $500k on top of his buyout.
- TRAID Lucas Duda for Sean Rodriguez
Maybe I am missing something, and the centerpiece of my plan is doomed to failure, but the Rangers' Craig Gentry seems to me to be criminally underrated. Yes, he was 29 this year and only has 700 PAs in the majors, but he has been worth 8 fWAR over those 700 PAs. Here is a sample of outfielders since 2011 with at least 300 PAs, sorted by PA/WAR.
|Jacoby Ellsbury||Red Sox||103.7||16.3||64.4||33.9||19.1||16.1||1691||45||105||7.00%||13.80%||0.166||0.331||0.303||0.356||0.469||123|
|Jose Bautista||Blue Jays||105.5||15||104.8||-15.2||5||75.3||1582||98||21||16.40%||16.30%||0.278||0.267||0.271||0.395||0.549||154|
|Shane Victorino||- - -||126.5||14.1||44.6||30.5||16.3||22.6||1784||43||79||7.50%||12.20%||0.164||0.295||0.275||0.341||0.439||114|
Does that get your attention? Yet, the Rangers insist on platooning him with Leonys Martin. Yes, it's a small sample size, and yes, he is going to be 30 on opening day 2014. But he's Arb 1 and he will cost $1.1M with no long term commitment. He can play any position in the outfield, and his bat is at least league average, with an attractive OBP + SB combo that would play well at the top of the order.
Like Oakland trading away Gio Gonzalez prior to 2012, we have to sacrifice a pitcher, and Niese is the most attractive commodity. Texas will probably be looking to solidify their rotation now that Garza is a free agent. I tried to balance the trade, which I think most would say is slanted towards the Rangers, by adding a good bullpen piece and trading talented low-minors starters. Those specifics are not as important to me as getting Gentry.
I originally had the Mets signing Ellsbury, thinking a five-tool centerfielder patrolling in Flushing would be reminiscent of a certain Carlos Beltran, but a little historical comparison investigation changed my mind. The simple version is that the best comps I could find for Ellsbury (plus defense, plus baserunning, above average power, low walk rate, high twenties WAR through age 29) were mostly terrible after they turned 30. These are guys like Lenny Dykstra, Dwayne Murphy, Carl Crawford, Marquis Grissom, and Garry Maddox. All were All Star talents before 30, and only 6 out of the 22 comps I identified were worth more than the 20 WAR over 6 years it would take to justify the money Ellsbury will make.
Choo's comps, however, were better. His high OBP, high ISO counterparts, also worth high-twenties WAR through age 29, aged more gracefully, maintaining their plus hitting even when their defense declined. I would go up to 5 years, $90M, if necessary, to get an elite bat in the middle of the order and lock down an outfield position for the next few years.
I could make the case for Crain, but Dave Cameron is more eloquent. Good teams have above-average bullpens, and Crain for 2 years, $12M will add to Parnell and Black to make a case for one. He's 30, but 2 years is not a ton of risk, and Crain seems to have figured it out, with all his numbers trending in the right directions.
Do I think Peralta is a lock to be an All-Star Shortstop? No. That's why we can afford him at 2 years, $14M. If he is an All-Star, the lineup will have the punch it has lacked since 2008.
I made the case for trading Duda for Rodriguez in a previous FanPost. The team needs depth up the middle, and Rodriguez showed the Rays enough to start in LF for them down the stretch.
Hudson has been good, and I believe will be good. He has had a long track record of putting up quality innings, with 2013 as the only outlier. A two year deal gives the team some quality depth in the rotation. The veteran leadership is a big plus too, but that's not the reason for the signing.
I'm sentimental, and if you could get Santana for the same additional cost as Dice-K, I think you do it.
These acquisitions are an acceptable amount of risk to push the Mets into contention. If the kids develop, they can turn into trade chips. I was $5.5M over budget, so I'm not sure I qualify, but I think this is a solid plan for now, without risking too much of the future.
The Roster and Payroll
|OF Young, Jr.||1.5||1.9||−||=||+|
|Opt Lineup||if Davis Sucks|
So, 92 wins from an $85.5M payroll? More if Gentry turns out to be the beast I think he is? Sign me up.
By the way, FA signing amounts come from Fangraphs Crowdsourcing.