Saturday, December 15, 2012

Recent Movement: Part II

Free agency and the MLB offseason stop for no one. Following the usually bustling Winter Meetings, numerous free agents have signed with teams and trades have been consummated. In our first installment, I looked at contracts signed by Zack Greinke, Kevin Youkilis, Ichiro Suzuki, and others. In this follow up post I'll look at some of the contracts signed in the last three days including big names like Josh Hamilton and Anibal Sanchez as well as minor ones like Mike Adams and John Lannan. So, without further adieu, let's begin.

Josh Hamilton in Halo Red
LA Angels sign OF Josh Hamilton to a 5-year $125 million contract: With Zack Greinke safely secure in a Dodgers jersey, the next biggest name remaining unsigned until now was Josh Hamilton. According to sources, prior to signing this multi-year deal with the Angels, Hamilton's suitors included the Texas Rangers, Philadelphia Phillies, and Seattle Mariners. Notice how I didn't mention the Angels as a team noted to be interested in Hamilton. No one saw the Angels coming, but LA has a history of swooping in as a mystery team to sign big name free agents. Last offseason Jerry Dipoto and Arte Moreno made a big splash by signing Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson to multi-year deals. This offseason, the Angels revamped their pitching staff, but no one suspected them of needing another outfielder. Nonetheless, Hamilton is now a halo, staying in the same division, but moving a bit further west.

So, what does Hamilton bring to the table? Hamilton is a top hitter. While in Texas, Hamilton put up great offensive numbers including both power numbers and hitting for average.
2008 0.384 132 32 0.226 4.1
2009 0.321 85 10 0.158 1.4
2010 0.445 175 32 0.274 8.4
2011 0.369 126 25 0.238 4.1
2012 0.387 140 43 0.292 4.4
As you can see, Hamilton is the prototypical middle of the order hitter, He creates runs at above average rates, hits home runs regularly, and in 4 out of the last 5 seasons he has been an overall offensive juggernaut. In the field, Hamilton has shown to be adequate, posting solid UZR numbers in every season in Texas other than 2012. With the impending move from the more demanding position of center field to a corner outfield spot, Hamilton's defensive numbers should return to above average rates. Hamilton brings the entire package to Los Angeles. The Angels made a bold move here. They are a wealthy team, with major money coming in from a big TV deal, but most though the Angels were done spending after picking up Pujols and Wilson. Instead, Hamilton joins Pujols and Mike Trout as a three-headed monster in the Angels lineup. 

Interestingly, the Angels signing of Hamilton fits well with the other moves the team has made this offseason. The team ridded themselves of the talented underachieving Ervin Santana as well as Dan Haren replacing the two starters with Joe Blanton and Tommy Hanson. Hanson and Blanton are solid innings eaters, but without a solid offense, these two pitchers won't make the difference between Angels wins and losses. Well, with the addition of Hamilton, the Angels added the cog that will help the Angels win games despite average pitching. With Trout, Hamilton, and Pujols making up 3 of the first 4 spots in the Angels batting order, opposing pitchers will have to tread carefully. 

My Grade: A- (Okay, so no one saw this coming, but it actually makes a lot of sense for both the Angels and Hamilton. Hamilton moves away from Texas, but joins a team with one of the best managers in baseball, and most importantly a team willing to give him more than a 4-year contract. Hamilton wanted stability, but most teams saw him as volatile given his off the field problems with substance abuse. The Angels needed another big bat in their lineup to provide value in place of the departing Zack Greinke. It's odd to think that the Angels could replace Greinke's production on the mound with a bat, but value is value, and instead of giving up fewer runs, the Angels are just going to score more. Both lead to more victories.)

Red Sox sign RHP Ryan Dempster to a 2-year $26.5 million contract: You might be asking yourself, do the Red Sox have a thing for players making $13 million AAV? Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, and now Ryan Dempster will all make ~ $13 million per season over the course of their contracts with the Sox. Victorino and Napoli aside, let's focus on Dempster's recent deal. Dempster is somewhat of a phenomenon in that his career took off after crossing age 30 threshold. Ever since Dempster turned 30, he has posted an average fWAR of 3.6 per season as opposed to an average fWAR of 0.8 in the 5 years prior to turning 30. This portrays a pitcher who has always had talent, but figured it out later in his career. That type of turnaround only comes from someone who has the intelligence to adapt towards falling velocity on his fastball, and the acumen to learn how to fool hitters by locating and mixing up his pitches. PECOTA projects Dempster to put up 1.7 and 1.2 WARP in 2013 and 2014 respectively, making him worth just about the amount of money he will be paid in those years. The Red Sox are definitely not stupid, and whether Dempster ends up becoming a trade candidate at he 2013 deadline or a solid #3 starter for a contending Sox team, Ben Cherington and company can be assured to get a solid value out of Dempster. Dempster gets outs by throwing a hard sinker that has a solid pitch value, enough to consistently get Dempster GB% numbers above 43%. Combine those numbers with a K/9 rate of ~ 8.00, and you've got a pitcher that keeps the ball in the ballpark, but misses plenty of bats as well. As long as Dempster continues to pound the strike zone, keeping his BB/9 low, he should provide the value that PECOTA forecasts he will.
My Grade: B+ (The Red Sox should get solid value out of Dempster, with the key to his deal being the length of the contract, not the dollar amount. If the Red Sox are contenders in 2013, Dempster will surely be a significant component, but if they falter, he would be the perfect trade candidate at the 2013 trade deadline. Most teams in contention would love a right-handed veteran who gets ground balls at a reasonable salary and with one year of control under his belt.)

Anibal Sanchez
Tigers sign RHP Anibal Sanchez to a 5-year $80 million contract: So what do we have here? Every big name free agent on the 2012-2013 market has changed teams. Greinke went from the Angels to the Dodgers, Hamilton switched AL West teams going from Texas to LA, and B.J. Upton moved from Tampa to Atlanta. Finally, a top free agent who decided to stay with his 2012 team for the future. As this article shows, Greinke and Sanchez compare fairly favorably, except that Greinke has shown glimpses of ace status pitching, while Sanchez seems to top out at a #2 starter. Still, Sanchez's new $80 million contract bests C.J. Wilson's deal deal from last offseason, so how did this deal get done? It was reported that the Cubs had offered Sanchez a deal similar to the one Wilson got last season from the Angels, until Sanchez decided to give the Tigers a last shot at besting the Cubs' offer. The Tigers swooped in, and signed Sanchez, effectively stealing him from the Cubs. Sanchez obviously wanted to return to Detroit, but then why would he want to leave? The Tigers are contenders who need Sanchez to solidify their rotation behind Justin Verlander. Sanchez is young (28 years old), durable (3 straight seasons with at least 195 innings pitched), keeps the ball in the park (.92 HR/9 in 2012), and most importantly, projects well in the future. At $16 million AAV, Sanchez will need to continue his > 3 win success in order to justify the money coming his way. Whether he can accomplish this feat is unknown, but given the Tigers' other option, this was probably the best decision for the franchise. 
My Grade: B (A+ for Sanchez seeing as he's probably getting more money than he's worth, but only a C+ for the Tigers. Theoretically they could have spent that money more wisely because Sanchez isn't a sure thing. It'll be interesting to see if Sanchez lives up to this deal, or becomes an overpaid #4 starter.)

Mike Adams
Phillies sign RHP Mike Adams to a 2-year $12 million contract: Ruben Amaro continues to stupefy Phillies fans by making prudent, intelligent, and understated moves. First he traded for Ben Revere instead of paying boatloads of money for Josh Hamilton or Michael Bourn, next he traded for Michael young instead of signing Kevin Youkilis, and now he's making smart decisions to upgrade the bullpen. Mike Adams is about as solid of a bullpen pitcher as is out there. Adams won't blow you away, but he throws a very good cutter and curveball that fool hitters from both sides of the plate, forcing them to hit the ball on the ground, but more importantly keeping the ball in the park. Adams, even in home run friendly Texas, kept his HR/FB % below 8%, which is an incredible feat. Since 2006 only three Texas relievers have kept their HR/FB % below 8%, and they are all considered top of the line relief pitchers (Joaquin Benoit, Neftali Feliz, and Darren Oliver). Adams has been durable, providing an average of ~ 59.0 innings pitcher per season since 2008, doing so in San Diego and Texas. It is important for late inning relievers to be able to pitch in higher-pressure situations, and Adams does just that, posting positive WP/LI numbers in his last 5 seasons as well as a 1.27 clutch in 2012. At age 35, it makes sense that Adams is looking for a veteran team with playoff hopes as well as a multi-year contract. The Phillies must have been thrilled to keep Adam's annual salary to an average of $6 million, willingly giving the righty pen pitcher more than a single year deal. Adding Adams to lefty Antonio Bastardo, righty Philippe Aumont, and closer Jonathan Papelbon makes a lot of sense, and solidifies the Phillies bullpen.
My Grade: A (There is little to be said against this deal. The Phillies aren't paying a lot for a solid late inning reliever with experience, and an inability to give up home runs, which is a must in home run friendly Citizens Bank Park. Adams gets the security of a 2-year deal, something most relievers over the age of 35 get.)

Phillies sign LHP John Lannan to a 1-year $2.5 million contract: Ruben Amaro continues to impress. The Phillies trade of Vance Worley and Trevor May to the Twins in exchange for Ben Revere left the Phillies with a hole in their rotation. This is precisely the hole that the Phillies expect John Lannan to fill. Lannan spent most of his time in triple A last season due to the plethora of pitchers the Nationals had on their roster including Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Edwin Jackson, etc... So, why would the Phillies want a pitcher who couldn't even crack an opening day roster in 2012? Well, John Lannan is a very specific type of pitcher. He, like Mike Adams, keeps the ball in the ballpark, and more importantly keeps the ball on the ground. In his career, Lannan has put up some abysmal strikeout numbers (career 4.71 K/9), but has compensated for his inability to miss bats by posting a career GB% of 53%. While Lannan will give up his share of base runners, with runners on base, he has a 50% ground ball percentage, showing his ability to keep runners from scoring by forcing hitters to ground into double plays. The Phillies have solid up-the-middle defense in the combination of Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley, a duo that should make Lannan look very good. In looking at a comparison between the departed Worley and Lannan we see a two pitchers who produce similar value but do so in completely different ways. Worley combined solid K/9 rates with good left on base % to keep his ERA down, while Lannan uses the ground ball to get most of his outs. So the equation for this deal is as follows: Ben Revere + John Lannan = Vance Worley + Trevor May. Does this make sense? Well, it probably does. The Phillies have a group of young pitchers all close to being able to compete for the 5th spot in their rotation including Jonathan Pettibone and Brody Colvin, so signing Lannan to fill that spot for one season makes a lot of sense. Here's what PECOTA projects for the Phillies 2013 rotation: 
2013 WARP
Roy Halladay 4.2
Cliff Lee 3.6
Cole Hamels 3.6
John Lannan 0
Kyle Kendrick -0.3
Total 11.1
My Grade: B (Now the Phillies sport three ground ball pitchers in their rotation to go along with strikeout gurus Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee. Lannan is a cheap replacement for Vance Worley, and he's only under contract for one year. For Lannan, this contract means an chance at redemption. A chance to show every team that he can still pitch, and that the Nationals were fools for relegating him to triple A. Citizens Bank park is a home run friendly venue, but doesn't lend itself to lots of other extra base hits, so if Lannan can keep the ball on the ground and in the park, he should perform well in 2013)

The free agent market looks to be shaping up. With Hamilton off of the market it is only a matter of time before Nick Swisher, Cody Ross, and Michael Bourn have new contracts. Multiple teams still need outfielders and those are three very good ones. Pitching-wise, with Greinke and Sanchez signing contracts, teams will begin to scramble to complete their starting rotations with those pitchers left on the market. In my next column, I'll look at the two, and soon to be three big trades made since the end of Baseball's Winter Meetings. 

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