Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Winter Meetings: Day 2

Baseball's Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tennessee got off to a quick start yesterday with a number of free agent signings including Mike Napoli, Joakim Soria, Angel Pagan, and James Loney. No contract was signed that totaled more than $40 million, but each contract signing improved the club involved, and made the players involved all rich men with secure jobs, something the average American cannot claim. So, what happend in day 2?

Dan Haren
Washington Nationals sign Dan Haren to 1-year $13 million contract: The Nationals are always making headlines with their pitching. Most recently, the club traded young fireballer Alex Meyer to the Twins in exchange for center fielder Denard Span. That move opened up a lot of moves for the Nats involving position players, but while tons of rumors have been flying concerning Adam LaRoche and Michael Morse, it was the Nats rotation that got a boost on day 2. Haren, most recently rumored to have been traded from the Angels to the Cubs, should be happy about this deal. He has a chance to bounce back and prove he deserves a longer term deal going into 2014, while simultaneously making $13 million for one year's work. Haren's numbers last year were not good, and combined with a hip injury, he didn't look like a player who could garner more than $10 million for one season going into 2013. Haren projects well according to PECOTA due in large part to his recent history, which has been very good. Harne's drop in fastball velocity isn't a good sign, but the better pitcher learn to get around drops in velocity by throwing more strikes on the corners, and outsmarting hitters using pitch selection and movement. Here's the best part of this deal, Haren doesn't have the pressure on him that he could have had elsewhere. The Nationals may be a playoff contendor, but Haren isn't the 1st, 2nd, or even 3rd starter for D.C.'s team, he's 4th at best. If Haren can post the 3.51 FIP Bill James expects him to, he'll provide plenty of value to the Nats. The Nationals are paying a steep price here for someone trending the wrong way, but it's only for one year, and the Nationals, while built to win now, are also built to win in 2 years.
My Grade: B

Shane Victorino
Red Sox sign Shane Victorino to a 3-year $39 million contract: First of all, congrats to Shane on this contract. Victorino will receive 30% more money per season over the course of his deal with the Red Sox than Angel Pagan will receive in his deal with the Giants. So did the Red Sox overpay? The first reaction on Twitter was that this deal won't work out well for the Red Sox. Much of this reaction is based on Victorino's 2012 performance. After 4 straight seasons over 100 wRC+, Victorino managed only a 94 in that category. In addition, Vicctorino's .310 wOBA, .128 ISO, and 8.0% BB rate were all 5 year lows for the Flyin' Hawaiian. On the other hand, Vic stole 39 bases last season, and hit left-handed pitchers to the tune of a .391 wOBA. Shane's defense and base running remained fixtures of his overall value last season posting a 2.3 UBR, 2 DRS, and 4.4 UZR last season splitting time between the Phillies and the Dodgers. The reason this deal works well for the Red Sox isn't necessarily clear on the surface, so let's look deeper. Victorino hits better from the right side than the left, and what sits so obtrusively in left field at Fenway Park? If you guess the Green Monster, you would be correct. In order to get on base at Fenway, all a hitter needs to do is hit a ball off of the Green Monster, which is located only 320 or so feet away from home plate. Once Shane gets on base he is a threat to steal, allowing bigger bats like Johnny Gomes, David Ortiz, and Mike Napoli to knock him in. Defensively Victorino can play right field, and if the Red Sox decide to move Ellsbury at the trade deadline, Shane can move from right to center field. The Red Sox signed Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino for 3 years at a combined total of $78 million. B.J. Upton recently signed a 5-year $75.25 million contract. So the Sox get two older players for about the same amount of money as the Braves got Upton. Looks bad, but Victorino and Napoli are more projectable, whereas Upton was signed based a lot on unproven talent. Seems like the Red Sox are making smart signings, not flashy ones.
My Grade: B+ (Sure, this might not turn out the way the Red Sox want it to, but it gives them enough options to make me think it will work out well for both sides.)

As usual, hundreds of rumors for all sorts of players were thrown around today. Some included Diamondbacks young studs Tyler Skaggs and Trevor Bauer, while others concerned R.A. Dickey and Justin Upton. From what I can tell, the second that Zack Greinke works out a deal with either the Dodgers or the Rangers (currently the two likeliest candidates), we will see a lot more signings. The other interesting factoid is that Michael Bourn remains unsigned. A Scott Boras client, Bourn, like Prince Fielder last season could go another month without signing a contract, but my guess is that he ends up with a contract in the next 2 weeks. For more on the Winter Meetings, check out the Summerpastime Facebook page at www.facebook.com/SummerPastime or check out the Summerpastime Twitter feed at @summerpastime.

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