Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Alex Anthopoulos' first moves

Yesterday was the second anniversary of the hiring of Alex Anthopoulos as the Toronto Blue Jays general manager. During the next couple weeks, we’ll be chronologically going through his transactions and looking at the results of each one.

On October 3, 2009 the Toronto Blue Jays announced that their vice-president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulous would become their new general manager after the dismissal of J.P. Ricciardi.

Anthopoulos’ first order of business was figuring out who would be brought back as major league free agents and who was not to come back to Toronto. Major leaguers, Kevin Millar, Marco Scutaro, Rod Barajas were all granted Free Agency. As was John McDonald, although he would be re-signed on November 25th to a 2 year, $3 million contract. He was a slightly above replacement level (WARs of 1.1 and 0.9 during those two seasons) before his trade with Aaron Hill for Kelly Johnson. That trade will be covered in a future post.

Kevin Millar retired from baseball after being release by the Cubs after the 2010 spring training. As a platoon player in Toronto, he didn’t provide even replacement level value with a WAR of negative 0.7. Barajas had played well for the Jays during his two seasons with WARs of 1.5 and 1.0, but by signing with the Mets, he would allow the Jays to receive the 41st pick in the 2010 draft as compensation. Scutaro was very good for the Blue Jays with WARs of 4.1 and 5.5 in 2008 and 2009. He also became the bigger prize, by letting him go via free agency, the Jays received the 34th and 80th picks in the 2010 draft when he signed with the division rival Red Sox for two years at $12.5 million.

Scutaro during his two contract years with the Red Sox put up WARs of 2.5 (oWAR of 2.3, dWAR of 0.2) and 1.4 (oWAR of 2.5, dWAR of -1.1) and OPS+ of 92 and 110. Offensively, he was everything the Red Sox wanted him to be, adding 2 wins in each season but his defense regressed in 2011 and lessened his value. It will be interesting to see if the Red Sox buyout his option year at a cost of $1.5 million or keep him on for $6 million this off-season. As for Barajas, he was moved from the Mets to the Dodgers in August of 2010 and put up an OPS+ of 97 and a WAR of 1.2, great value for his contract..

Looking at these stats, both players were above average after leaving the Blue Jays, with Scutaro adding 2.5 and 1.4 wins in the two seasons of his contract and Barajas a combined 1.2 wins above replacement level between the Mets and the Dodgers. The average cost per win has been estimated by some to be around $4.5 million meaning that both these players were bargains for their new teams. However, the Red Sox did give up the 80th pick in the draft along with the salary to sign Scutaro.
Was there ever a chance either of these players would have re-signed with Toronto? Tough to know, however they both would have been useful players for the Blue Jays, tomorrow let’s look at how they were replaced in the lineup.

Monday, October 03, 2011

The Vernon Wells Trade

It’s not often that one transaction is said to cost a general manager his job but in the case of Angels GM Tony Reagins it is said that this is exactly the case. Reagins thought the Angels were one good outfielder away from making the playoffs and in the off-season, he came together with two other teams to acquire exactly that in Vernon Wells. The outfielder was once a 5th overall pick in 1997 and had manned centre field for the Toronto Blue Jays since 2002. In 2003, he finished 8th in MVP voting and won a silver slugger. The next season he won his first of 3 straight Gold Gloves, however he had not given the Jays above replacement level defense in 3 years according to the dWar stat. He was coming off an All-Star season of 30 home runs and an OPS of .847 but even though there was no clear replacement at his position the Jays were willing to deal him because of the 4 years left on his contract at $21 million or more per season (of which the Jays paid $5 million for the first season).

In the end, Reagins traded two players catcher Mike Napoli (flipped for Frank Francisco making this a 3 way trade) and outfielder Juan Rivera. The Jays essentially dumped his contract, receiving about Replacement Level performance from the combination of Rivera and Francisco (however they may keep Francisco or add a compensatory draft pick after this season).

In sports and in the bedroom, it is always important in a three-way to make sure that all parties end up satisfied with the outcome. In this case, it is pretty obvious that the Angels did not end up being satisfied. Looking at the short term, they shipped out two players making $11 million and received $5 million in cash from the Blue Jays, therefore Vernon Wells’ salary difference was of only $7 million for the 2011 season. Just like renting a movie starring Jennifer Aniston instead of seeing it in theatres, It was still an overpayment…Vernon Wells, spent the majority of his time in LF, a defensive position with less value than his usual home of CF, had an OBP of .248, a SLG of .412 (An OPS of .660 for those scoring at home) and a batter VORP 4.0 (tied for 306th in the league). He still had 25 home runs, a category in which he ranked 2nd for the Angels. Juan Rivera, dumped in favour of Wells, actually had a higher OPS during his time with the Jays (before being again dumped, this time to the Dodgers), .666, and had a VORP of 4.7. When looking at Wins Above Replacement, Rivera made the Jays 1.2 wins worse during the 2011 season while Wells only made the Angels -0.3 wins worse. Was it worth the $7 million to add the .9 wins to their lineup? Well, was the switch worth the 5 dollars you spent at Blockbuster….errr…the local video store?

But wait! The Rangers also gave up another player in this trade…Mike Napoli! He was seen by the Angels as a sub-par defensive catcher (negative dWar value in three straight years) however the Rangers still had him start 57 games there along with 45 games between first base and designated hitter. Napoli rewarded them by hitting 30 home runs (the type of power that Wells was expected to bring to the Angels lineup) and showing increased patience at the plate for an OBP of .414. His OPS was of 1.046 which would have placed him second in the American League if he had enough at bats to qualify and he added over 5 wins to the Rangers lineup. The defensively sound Jeff Mathis had the majority of at bats at catcher for Anaheim and had an OPS of .484…which makes Wells look like a stud in comparison. If you’re looking for him on the VORP leaderboard, scroll down…lower…lower…did you get to Adam Dunn yet? Yes? Ok just a bit higher…there he is resting at 1154 of 1173 with a VORP of negative 7.6…his Wins Above Replacement showed with a decent value of only costing the Angels 0.3 games The rookie Hank Conger who was seen as the reason Napoli was no longer needed was not much better with an OPS of .638 and VORP of 5.6 and a WAR of 0.3. Bobby Wilson also took at bats at catcher for the Angels, and was equally unimpressive with a WAR of 0.1.

Why did Tony Reagins “resign”? Well in this trade, he gave up almost 5 wins while adding $7 million in salary for the 2011 season. He also added $69 million in future salaries…however it is important to note that his team did finish 10 wins above .500 and 2nd in their division. The Rangers ended up the big winner with a player who added over 5 wins to their lineup above replacement level while the Jays essentially gave up Wells in exchange for freeing themselves of over $76 million in player commitment. Some of that saved money went into a long-term contract for Jose Bautista but the Jays will have to hope for a better performance in centre field from Colby Rasmus or a newcomer if they hope to contend and forget about their long-time centre fielder. In the end, this was seen as the trade of the year by one general manager, Alex Anthopoulous, and he wasn’t even the one who added the most wins in 2011 in this transaction.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

So Hollywood ruined Moneyball...

I finally got around to seeing Moneyball last night and can't say that I loved or hated it. For anyone who hasn't seen it, stop reading now, but know that if you go and enjoy the movie as a Hollywood fulff piece, you should like it...if you're a hardcore fan of the book, fan of sabrmetrics or want to see lots of baseball scenes...forget it.

Why didn't I like it? Because the movie essentially starts in Mark Shapiro's office where Beane is negotiating for a player, Shapiro agrees only to have his fat special assistant disagree, and Shapiro agrees...this stuff happens in baseball, the GM can't know every player on the office. BUT then Billy Beane finds this fat assistant, figures out he's a disciple of Bill James and hires him away. This is where the movie lost me, for the benefit of short attention spanned movie watchers, Aaron Sorkin has molded together Paul Depodesta and JP Ricciardi into one character that is hired by Billy Beane during the off-season immediately before the "Moneyball season". Worse, "Beane" immediately buys into what Peter Brand is selling. Choosing to listen to him before his top scouts 3 weeks into his tenure into the front office and choosing the replacements for Giambi, Damon and Isringhausen on what seems like a whim.

I wasn't expecting a great history of sabrmetrics or anything but to make the most difficult decisions in baseball seem as easy to make as they do in this movie is like if "The Social Network" had Zuckerberg create the facebook we know today in 5 minutes.

Don't get me started on the fact that Beane all of a sudden begins speaking to players and making them buy into the whole OBP thing. They chose and trained these players to do exactly that, it's not like the players would all of a sudden listen to their general manager because he knows all.

So if you want to see an entertaining movie, go ahead go see Moneyball but don't expect anything like the book. The best chapter "the Trade Deadline" is portrayed in the movie and is a great scene that ssticks to what was written in the book. But there is a lot of silent brooding parts meant to get Brad Pitt an Oscar nomination including an awkward drive at the ending. However, the newly added ending scene is a great nod to real life. Ironic that I saw this movie minutes after my blackberry went off telling me that Theo Epstein may no longer the Red Sox gm.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Rocket trade

Roger Clemens is traded by the Toronto Blue Jays to the New York Yankees for Homer Bush, Graeme Lloyd, and David Wells.

He broke Jays fans’ hearts…and then did it again to all of his fans (Mitchell Report). After two fantastic Cy Young season with the Jays, the Rocket utilized a clause in his 4 year contract that allowed him to demand a trade. Although he later withdrew the demand, Gord Ash found a trading partner in the Yankees and dealt Roger Clemens to the division rival (seriously, he couldn’t have convinced Roger to accept a trade to a National League powerhouse? He had to deal him to the team the Jays were chasing for the division title?) In Clemens two remaining seasons on his contract, he pitched well (27 wins, 18 losses, ERA+ of 103 and 130 with over 175 innings pitched in both years) and won two games in the two World Series wins by the Yankees. Clemens stayed with the Yankees for three more seasons afterwards, appearing in two more World Series and winning the Cy Young award in 2001.

The prize piece in return for Roger Clemens was the portly left-hander David Wells, who made his return to Toronto after beginning his career with the Jays. In two years with the Blue Jays, “Boomer” had a better record than Clemens (37 wins, 18 losses), threw more innings (over 225 in both seasons) but his statistics were not as pretty (ERA+ of 102 and 123).

After two seasons Wells, like Clemons before him, requested a trade to a contender and was traded to the White Sox Kevin Beirne, Brian Simmons and Mike Sirotka. That deal was disastrous for the Blue Jays; the big piece of the trade was pitcher Mike Sirotka, who had suffered a torn labrum in the previous playoffs and would never pitch in a game for the Blue Jays, his career effectively over. Worse, was the fact that White Sox GM Ken Williams knew about this injury but that Gord Ash never asked for the proper information when trading for Sirotka. Beirne and Simmons had negligible impact on the Blue Jays…

There were two other parts received by the Blue Jays in exchange for Clemens; speedy second baseman Homer Bush and left-handed reliever Graeme Lloyd. Bush was not a fantastic hitter (OPS+ of 96 in 1999), however he brought a speed dimension to the Jays lineup in his first season (stealing 32 bases while mostly batting 9th). Injuries slowed him down in the 2000 season and he managed only an OPS+ of 33 and 9 stolen bases, although he rebounded in 2001 to achieve an OPS+ of 89. The inconsistent Bush was finally released in May of 2002 while again struggling with the bat (OPS+ of 48).
Lloyd spent only one season with the Jays and appeared in 74 games, throwing 72 innings with a 3.63 ERA and 136 ERA+ which did not come close to his statistics in 1998 (1.67 ERA and 264 ERA+).
If we look at Value Over Replcement Player, the statistic helps us break down the trade in it’s first two years this way:

Yankees: Clemens -> 1999: 27.8 2000: 46.2

Blue Jays:

  • Wells -> 1999: 29.8 2000: 47.4
  • Lloyd -> 1999: 14.3
  • Bush -> 1999: 26.9 2000: -20.1

When looking at VORP, Wells outperformed Clemens in both of the first two seasons after the trade and there was added value from Lloyd and Bush in 1999. However, without Lloyd and with Bush’s regression in 2000, the added pieces to the trade were useless for the Blue Jays in that season, even an actual nuisance to the roster.

When looking at this trade for only the two years where Clemens was still under contract (and before David Wells demanded the trade), this trade seems pretty even. Wells was paid less than Clemens and was his equal if not better in those two seasons. Lloyd contributed positively to the Jays bullpen while Bush’s two seasons almost cancel each other out. Clemens’ next two seasons coupled with receiving essentially nothing when trading Wells makes this seem like a worse trade but when taken in a two year timeline, Ash got good return in exchange for The Rocket, a player he signed as a free agent and therefore did not have to give up assets to acquire.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Batista, Frascatore for Plesac trade

June 12, 1999: Tony Batista is traded by the Arizona Diamondbacks with John Frascatore to the Toronto Blue Jays for Dan Plesac.

I don’t know why this is one of my favorite Jays trades, others come to mind (the Carter and Alomar trade) that were more important in the history of this team. But at the time, I was growing into a more passionate and more intelligent baseball fan (notice I did not say I WAS or am an intelligent fan, just that I was becoming and still am, more intelligent). This transaction came at a time where I lived and died by the team’s win/loss record (I had no girlfriend at the time) and in retrospective, I wish I had access to more information at the time as I knew nothing of Batista or Frascatore. Batista arrived and made an immediate impact, batting 2nd in the lineup in his first game and hitting a home run with that unorthodox swing along with batting in 4 during a 13-4 win by the Jays. Just for good measure, Frascatore came in for a perfect 8th inning of mopup duty. That same day, the Jays announced that their usual starting shortstop, Alex Gonzalez would be out for the season. Frascatore ended the season with an ERA+ of 144 in 37 innings and a VORP of 9.9 while Batista hit 26 home runs, with an OPS+ of 122 and a Value Over Replacement Player of 36.1 in is 98 games with the Jays.

This trade was a clear win for the Jays in it’s first season as it provided them with the shortstop they needed to compete in the AL East as well as what became a reliable reliever by giving up a left-handed specialist reliever. Plesac pitched superbly in his role for the Diamondbacks; 21.7 innings, an ERA+ of 139, VORP of 5.4 and holding left-handed batters to an OPS of .505. However, with the Jays, he was an unneeded asset as they already had Graeme Lloyd, who established a similar ERA+ of 136.

The Jays of course failed to make the playoffs (something that broke my heart then, now it’s a yearly occasion…did I mention that I didn’t have a girlfriend at the time?) In 2000 both Batista and Frascatore regressed while Plesac improved statistically. Batista shifted over to third base and hit 41 home runs, but only got on base 30.7% of the time, establishing an OPS+ of 102 while Frascatore threw 73 innings while only establishing an ERA+ of 93 and a value slightly over that of a replacement player. Plesac somehow became more dominant against RHB than LHB and in 40 innings pitched, his ERA+ was of 152 and his VORP of 6. Following this season, Plesac re-signed with Toronto. However, 2001 was not the season for Batista (271 at bats, 13 home runs, OPS+ of 67 before finally being waived) or Frascatore (16.3 innings, 209 ERA+, waived in May and never heard from again). In retrospect, 2001 should be known as the year the ace made his return as Roy Halladay returned to the Majors.

This trade makes for a great story…so much promise in the beginning, and then in an instant it was gone. The 27 year old Batista found some of his form once arriving in Baltimore and was even named to the 2002 All-Star team. Plesac threw well in his second stint with Toronto before being traded to Philadelphia for Cliff Politte, who like Batista and Frascatore before him showed lots of promise in his first half-season with the Jays only to falter in his second. I don’t know what the morale of the story is, perhaps it is that as a sports fan we should never become too excited about a transaction because anything can and will happen, for better or for worse.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Stark weighs in, Eckstein signing

Short update before the holidays, if I have any spare time, I'm going to work on correcting the articles and maybe some new articles...whatever the mood strikes me to do.

  • ESPN.com's Jayson Stark weighs in on the American League, asking J.P. Ricciardi and two other general managers (including one of my personal favs, Mark Shapiro) about what they do to attempt to vault the powers in the AL. Ricciardi says pitching depth could be the answer...

  • I've ignored to mention the fact that David Eckstein has been signed. The scrappy SS should bring a good leadoff bat to the lineup and spare Jays fans from seeing McDonald penciled in every day. Johnny Mac is probably already penciled in for any Halladay start to field those ground balls although Eckstein is not bad defensively as proven by this article. He had an OPS+ of 93 last season, a VORP of 20.7 and stole ten bases while only being caught once. He also brings two World Series rings to the locker room which is never bad thing. Plus an inexpensive one year deal reduces the risk, he'll be playing to get a bigger contract in the next free agent year.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Ricciardi Project Follow-Up

The Ricciardi Project was meant to be an objective statistical overview of the trades made by Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi in his first five seasons in that position.
Of the 27 trades analyzed in the document, 11 players from 7 of the trades them spent time in the Majors with the Jays or the team they were traded to by Ricciardi in 2007.

Chad Gaudin : Gaudin became a dependable, if not ordinary, starter for Beane and co. in the last season, logging almost 200 innings and going 11-13 with an ERA+ of 95 and a Value Over Replacement Player of 24.3 along with 10 win shares. Gaudin was traded for Dustin Majewski who was a fringe prospect for the Jays and was lost in the AAA portion of the 2007 Rule Five draft to Texas. Gaudin may turn out be a good number 3 starter in the Majors but he would not have had room on the 2007 Jays roster (although he would have been a better option than Towers before the emergence of McGowan and Marcum). Speaking of Towers…here’s an interesting read that over-values him, Towers is not at the same level as Silva…

The Bush/Overbay trade: Obviously when Ricciardi acquired Overbay he wasn’t thinking “I need a first baseman who will hit 10 home runs and get on base only 31.5% of the time”. Big things were expected of Overbay during the 2007 season and as he fought through injuries he could not live up to these expectations, only contributing 6 Win Shares to the team. The regression of Overbay along with Vernon Wells kept the Jays from contending and both will be looked upon to rebound this year. Luckily for J.P.’s public image both Gabe Gross and David Bush regressed during the 2007 season; Gross was able to again throw over 175 innings but was lucky to go 12-10 with an ERA of 5.12 and ERA+ of 88. Gross was again used off the bench by the Brewer but could not manage to get on base as often as in 2006, falling from an OBP of .382 to .329. When looking at VORP, the advantage goes to the Brewers for the second consecutive year as Overbay was -3.6, Gross was 2.9 and Bush was 13 Over Replacement Player and the two contributed 10 total Win Shares. 2008 will be an important season for Overbay to turn it around…

O-Dog and Glaus: The other blockbuster completed by the Jays management staff during December 2005 was to acquire power hitting third baseman Troy Glaus with Sergio Santos from the D-Back for Orlando Hudson and Miguel Batista. This trade has not quite brought upon the results Ricciardi was hoping for…
Hudson outperformed Glaus for the second year in a row while playing, arguably, better defense at a more difficult defensive position. He beat out Glaus in VORP 32.8 to 20.5, Win Shares, 20 to 14 and even RBIs 63 to 62 while earning $7 million less. The O-Dog is a free agent at the end of the year and should be expected to have a good contract year while Glaus was just named in the Mitchell Report…It’s not looking good for Troy to outplay Hudson this season.

Hillenbrand and Chulk for Accardo: Ricciardi hasn’t made many deadline deals since his arrival at the Jays (Stewart, Adams…?) but this one is a trade that needed to be made near the deadline because of clubhouse issues. The trade ended up working out really well for the Jays. When examining the trade with VORP, Hillenbrand actually contributed negatively to the Giants with a -6.3 VORP, however Chulk outpitched Accardo that season according to the stat: 2.1 to 0.6. Hillenbrand left San Francisco as a free agent and in 2007, Accardo became the de facto closer for a team missing B.J. Ryan, notching 30 saves and a VORP of 26.2 and contributing 12 win shares while Chulk was productive for the Giants with a VORP of 12.8 and 5 win shares.

Brian Wolfe: The pitcher received for Corey Koskie, who did not play in 2007, played a part in the Blue Jays bullpen during that season, appearing in HERE games and establishing a VORP of 13.5 while earning minimum salary and contributing 5 win shares. A good acquisition by Jays management for what was in essence a salary dump.

Eric Hinske: Apparently, the Player to be named later had a higher value as Hinske managed to negate the first year gains of 1.4 VORP with a 2007 VORP of -1.5 in limited at bats.