Monday, December 3, 2012

Winter Meetings: Day 1

Today was day 1 of the infamous winter meetings. For those of you unaware, Baseball's winter meetings occur every year around the first week of December. It is a week full of most of Baseball's executives, reporters, agents, and coaches who gather in a hotel to perform a number of activities. Front offices look to improve their clubs, agents look to get their clients signed to lucrative deals, coaches give interviews, and reporters disseminate the mounds of information they compile.

This year the winter meetings are being held in Nashville, Tennessee at the Gaylord Osprey Hotel and Convention Center. In the past, the meetings have lacked the fanfare that has more recently become commonplace, but due to the high profile free agents, infinite number of possible trades, and most importantly the MILLIONS, and I capitalize that word for a reason, of dollars thrown around, Baseball's Winter Meetings have become the event of the offseason.

So, let's recap a bit of the action we have already witnessed on just the opening day of the meetings.

Mike Napoli
Red Sox sign C/1B Mike Napoli to a 3-year $39 million contract: First, at this year's winter meetings, this is Ben Cherington's Red Sox, not John Henry's Red Sox. By that I'm implying that Cherington now has the reins to the Red Sox horse, music to the ears of Red Sox fans sick of signings like Carl Crawford. With Cherington making mostly autonomous decisions, his front office penned Mike Napoli to a three-year contract with an average annual salary of $13 million. Napoli played the last 2 years for the Texas Rangers, catching, playing a bit of first base, and DHing for Ron Washington's club. In 7 seasons, Napoli has been worth 20 wins according to Fangraphs, 16.8 wins according to Baseball-Reference, and 21.2 wins according to Baseball Prospectus. He's a versitile player, having the ability to both catch and play first base. The Red Sox already signed David Ross to a 2-year deal, and retain both Ryan Lavarnway and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, so why would the team make this deal? First, the Red Sox needed a first baseman, so if their plan is to have Napoli (-4 DRS at catcher, 0 DRS at 1st base) at first base, this seems like a good deal as far as that position is concerned. If the team expects Napoli to catch even 50 games, it points towards Cherington compiling as much catching talent as possible in a market where few catchers remain with numerous teams looking for catchers. Essentially, it allows the team to trade someone like Saltalamacchia or Lavarnway for a better return than they would regularly see. Napoli is a masher; he hits for power, and is patient at the plate (.248 career ISO, .356 career OBP). Bottom line is, the Red Sox got a solid player at a position they needed for a reasonable contract.
My grade: B+ (could become an A if the team can move Saltalamacchia for a decent prospect)

Giants sign Angel Pagan to a 4-year $40 million contract: Pagan had been quite the enigma in Baseball circles in that he has previously been traded for Andres Torres, but he's also put up 3 seasons of 2.9 wins or more (Fangraphs). Due to the Giants recent World Championship, Pagan is far more a household name than before, but many might be surprised at a $10 million annual average salary for a center fielder that had to compete with Michael Bourn, Josh Hamilton, B.J. Upton, and Shane Victorino in the center field market this offseason. On the other hand, just like Upton's recent signing with the Braves, this contract looks like a perfect fit. Pagan is 31, and might not be playing center field in 2 seasons, but the value he adds by getting on base, and adding more than a .400 slugging percentage gives him the potential to easily be worth 2.0 wins per season, which is the number he must achieve to justify his new average annual salary. The Phillies and Giants were said to be the two main players for Pagan, and not too surprisingly, Pagan resigned with the world champions. The Giants got a player that could play two solid seasons in center followed by 2 Melky Cabrera-like seasons in either corner spot, while doing a great job setting the table at the top of the Giants lineup. Sure, Pagan is set to regress a bit over the next few years, but if he can put up even 75% of his average annual production, we will look back on this deal as a steal for San Fran.
My Grade: A- (good for player, good for team, only randomness can screw with this one)

Joakim Soria
Ranger sign Joakim Soria to a 2-year $8 million contract: The Rangers have recently made it a priority to sure up their bullpen. This has a lot to do with affects their starting pitchers feel from the immensely hitter friendly ballpark in Arlington, and the team's desire to get solid talent for reasonable prices despite the drastically inflated market for relievers. Soria is coming off of his 2nd, yes I said 2nd, not first, reconstructive UCL surgery (commonly know as Tommy John Surgery). Soria is a 28-year-old righty reliever who has never had a season in which he didn't post at least a WARP, rWAR, or fWAR less than 1.0. That might not sound like much, but given the fact that relievers throw 30% of the innings that starters do, being worth $5 million a season is nothing to sneeze at. What surprises me here is the length of the deal, Rarely do pitchers coming off any arm surgery get more than a one-year deal, but Soria got 2 years. This bodes well for fellow free agent reliever Brian Wilson (also coming off of TJ Surgery), but also shows that the Rangers think Soria will return to his previous form. The average annual salary of $4 million per season represents the concerns the Rangers have, but more so, it shows just how inflated the market for relievers has gotten. With pitchers like Jonathan Broxton and Brandon League getting incredibly inflated deals for their given skill sets, the Rangers would rather go after an injury plagued player than with upside than a proven reliever for way too much money. Maybe if every team didn't employ the ridiculous pitcher for an inning bullpen system none of this would have happened.
My Grade: B (could be great, could be awful, not a lot to lose for the Rangers either way)

James Loney
Rays sign James Loney to a 1-year $2 million contract: This deal intrigued me a lot. I recently wrote about Loney's potential to be a serious bounce back candidate for next season. He has continued to get on base and play good defense, two things the Rays look for in their players. Due to the hype surrounding Loney when he played in LA, most see his recent production as putrid as opposed to average. In order to satisfy this deal, Loney needs to be worth ~ 0.3 wins (Fangraphs) at the end of the 2013 season. Bill James projects him to post a .319 wOBA, with a .337 OBP, and .127 ISO. PECOTA sees Loney as a 1.5 WARP player next season (worth more than $8 million), with a .345 OBP, and .143 ISO. The Rays have little money to spend, and usually pursue improvements in their club via trade and not free agency due to those financial constraints (come on Rays fans, support your team). In this case, the Rays got a steal. In an offseason in which Loney was in the top 4 in the 1st baseman market, Tampa irked out a deal in which they will essentially pay Loney pennies. One thing is for certain, Loney will play above average defense at first base, something he has done almost every season he's played. With a number of ground ball pitchers, and good infield defense, this can only further's the Rays' ability to subdue opposing offenses, even when the ball is put in play. I projected Loney to make more than $6 million for next season at a 1-year deal. He's getting less than 1/3 of that money in this deal. My Grade: A (The only person unhappy with this deal is Loney's agent?)

For more on the winter meetings, I recommend following or checking out Ken Rosenthal, John Paul Morosi, Buster Olney, or Tim Kurkjian on Twitter. Come back tomorrow for a recap of day 2 of the winter meetings.

No comments:

Post a Comment