Tuesday, November 16, 2010

4 comments Tony DeMarco Goes Bargain Shopping...Maybe Does Not Understand the Definition of "Bargain"

Tony DeMarco has a list of players who are bargains this offseason on the free agent market. My definition of "bargain" is a player who signs a contract with a team that is far below his actual worth to that team. I'm not sure if Tony believes that definition is what a bargain is defined as being or not. He seems to believe a bargain is a player who signs for a lot of money but hasn't previously been seen as a good player or an under-the-radar player. He also brings up Manny Ramirez in the discussion, who I am pretty sure won't end up being a bargain for a team. I'm not good at predicting the future, but combine the fact he would probably retire rather than accept a bad offer and his agent is Scott Boras...and I am not sure he will be a bargain.

At 33, Huff was coming off one of his worst seasons, one that ended in failure as a stretch-run pickup by the Detroit Tigers. AT&T Park sure isn't the ideal place for a left-handed pull hitter to go, but Huff signed anyway, and you know the rest.

Then he became a free agent and was overpaid by a team. What, that hasn't happened yet?

I am a big Aubrey Huff fan. More so than many people, but the last time he put up a line like he did in 2010 (.290/.385/.506, 26 HR) was 2004 and he didn't quite meet those 2010 splits either. Huff can play multiple positions, so he has that going for him, but he is probably going to go get overpaid this offseason. That's the problem with bargains or guys who are underrated. Eventually they don't become bargains (see: Abreu, Bobby).

It just goes to show that you don't always have to pay top dollar in the free-agent market for quality production. Talk about return on investment, the Giants got their team leader in homers, RBI, runs, on-base percentage and OPS.

Great signing by the Giants. If Huff puts up those numbers this year, he could possibly be making almost triple his 2010 $3 million salary.

We'll stay away from the well-publicized early lines on the elite free agents — Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford, Jayson Werth, Rafael Soriano, Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko, Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre.

Instead, we'll go around the diamond with a focus on under-the-radar potential bargain producers:

I'm going to nitpick and say Konerko and Dunn may very well end up being bargains. They are two guys who I think will get passed over and provide good value to the club that signs them. Whatever. Let's just focus on the good players that have played for a good team on the East Coast lately (which is essentially what this list made by DeMarco consists of) or have interest from a team on the East Coast. Sounds good to me.

Toronto's John Buck picked the right time to reach career highs in the Triple Crown categories (.281-20-66) at $2 million in 2010.

So John Buck had a career year just in time for free agency and he is now a bargain? A guy who had a career year and his value is at its highest right now...is a bargain? Isn't this the opposite of what a bargain would be? Shouldn't a bargain be a guy whose value is low, but his production is high and not the other way around?

In an era when everyday catchers are scarce, he's a solid 110-120-game-per-year guy.

That's not really an "everyday catcher" that's a guy who plays 3 out of every 4 games. Buck hit his career high in games played this year at 118, so he isn't a solid 120-game-per-year guy quite yet.

Buck is also a solid .243/.301/.421 guy, which are his career splits.

His career high in batting average? That would be in 2010 at .281.
His career high in on-base percentage? That would be in 2010 at .314. Yes, .314.
His career high in slugging percentage? That would be in 2010 at .489.

Buck had a career high in nearly every single statistical category, except for triples and steals, in the 2010 season. This includes strikeouts when he met his career high with 111 and walked 16 times. This to go along with a .314 OBP.

Reportedly, the Red Sox are interested in Buck, which would be a good move depending on the amount of money they have to pay for him. That's the problem, his value is at its absolute peak right now, which makes him not a bargain. He's the 2nd best available at a talent-starved position in this free agent class.

And it's no coincidence Yorvit Torrealba keeps ending up on winning teams, playing key roles on the 2007 Colorado Rockies and 2010 San Diego Padres. He's a clutch performer, excellent handler of a staff and a strong clubhouse presence. In other words, a perfect half of a time-share situation.

Ugh...fine. If Torrealba gets signed for a time-share situation, then I can handle this. I still can't help but notice he had one of his best years in a long while this past year.

The offense-starved Mariners declined an option on Jose Lopez, and that means somebody is going to buy low and benefit.

That team that benefits? The Mariners if they don't re-sign Lopez this offseason. I know, he's not a bad player but he's also not a starter, so if he will learn to embrace the utility player role and get paid like it then I see no issues in his free agency future.

Yes, Lopez was part of a complete team offensive collapse in 2010. But he doesn't turn turn 27 until Nov. 24

"Yes, Lopez may have been a terrible offensive everyday baseball player this past year, but he is young! That means he is young, which is better than being old and being terrible because at that point no one will give you a contract."

and in 2008-09 averaged .285-21-93-.765 OPS and 41 doubles playing half the time in a pitcher-friendly park.

Just taking a peek at his career splits on the road and at home, doesn't make me believe he will thrive away from Safeco Field. He has 94 more at-bats away from Safeco for his career and has 4 more home runs, 9 less doubles, slugs .413 on the road and has a BABiP at home of .262 and .292 on the road. Yes, he is slightly better on the road, but not so much it would make me change my complete opinion of him.

Put him in a hitter-friendly home park, and let's see what happens.

Put any hitter in a hitter-friendly home park and see what happens. Usually his numbers will increase. Lopez's career road splits are .280/.312/.413.

For 2010 he hit .246/.281/.370 on the road. For a guy who needs to get away from Safeco Field he wasn't extremely successful away from Safeco.

During his "breakout" 2008 year he actually hit better at Safeco than on the road:

2008: Home (.313/.329/.511), Road (.280/.314/.374)

2009 was a completely different story for him:

2009: Home (.229/.254/.387), Road (.313/.348/.535)

So who really knows if Lopez will be benefit from a different park? He very well may benefit, but there is also a history that shows he may not be an everyday player no matter what park he plays in.

I'm not sure if he is a bargain.

There are bigger first-base names available, including Derrek Lee, Carlos Pena and Lance Berkman — all of whom have reached the end of pricey long-term deals

These are three guys who fit the mold of a bargain like Aubrey Huff. Veteran players who still have enough skill to play but aren't seen as young enough to get a long-term contract. These three guys could very well end up being bargains, but Tony DeMarco discounts them because they just got out of pricey deals...which is just what happened to Aubrey Huff. He needs to look at the symmetry of Aubrey Huff's situation last year and the situations these players are currently in. There is some symmetry in them getting out of long-term deals and being older.

It will be interesting to see what contract Manny Ramirez is willing to accept. But there's a real good chance he'll have to sign for a low guarantee and incentives.

Which is something a Scott Boras client often signs for. Scott Boras is well known for making his players earn their contract and not pursuing the most guaranteed money. Please...Manny Ramirez will be on the free agent market until a team is willing to make him a multi-year deal or a big one year contract. There will be a team that does this (probably) and Boras/Ramirez are perfectly content to wait out the market just like they did a few years ago when Ramirez re-signed with the Dodgers. Manny and Boras won't sign a contract with a team until they get what they want. I doubt Manny will be a bargain.

OK, we know the Brewers made a mistake in giving Bill Hall a big deal a few years ago. But that's expired, and Hall is a very productive right-handed threat who can play a couple of positions. Like Izturis, Hall could be a nice National League player, especially in a hitters' park.

What is the fascination with hitters' parks? Most MLB players will be better hitters in a hitters' park, that's why they call them "hitters' parks." So if Bill Hall going to a hitters' park is a requirement for him to be a bargain then that makes him like other free agent hitters on the market right now.

Few players in the game today possess the power and throwing arm of Rick Ankiel.

He's terrible. Don't let anyone fool you otherwise.

He's been in a spiral since his big 2008 season in St. Louis, but maybe that splash hit at AT&T Park in the division series will spark something. There has to be a place for his power against right-handed pitching and the ability to play center field.

Rick Ankiel's batting statistics after the Game 2 winning home run: 0-4 with 2 strikeouts and 2 walks.

If Ankiel didn't hit very well immediately after the "splash hit" why would he hit better and gain more confidence 6 months after he hit that playoff home run? Some team is going to have to sign Ankiel to a pretty low salary for me to consider him a bargain and not just another decent centerfielder who has power if he ever can make contact or stay healthy.

Left-hander Jorge De La Rosa won't come cheaply; he'll sign a deal that could top Ted Lilly's recent three-year, $33 million pact with the Dodgers.

So how in the hell can a pitcher that gets $11 million per year minimum with a career ERA of 5.02 be a bargain? He's never pitched more than 185 innings in a season, he's never had a WHIP under 1.315 and his career low in ERA is 4.22.

De La Rosa will be a good left-handed pitcher for the team that signs him, but if he gets close to $11 million per year there is no way in hell he is a bargain in any sense of that word. Joe Sheehan likes him and I like him too...but don't think he is a bargain at $11 million per year.

But De La Rosa still fits in the under-the-radar category.

This isn't an "under-the-radar" list, this is a list of free agents that are bargains. There's a difference and mixing and matching these words creates confusion. You created the criteria, please stick to it.

He has some of the best left-handed starter stuff in the National League, has figured out how to command it, and few realize that from June 1, 2009 — until he tore a finger ligament at the end of April — he went 19-4.That makes his 8-7-4.22 final numbers in 2010 a bit deceiving.

That's fine. I can buy that. The fact still remains he will be 30 years old when the 2011 season starts and he isn't a pitcher that has shown he can throw a lot of innings in a season and he has health issues. De La Rosa may be a good signing for some team, but not at $11 million per year. I don't care if he is left-handed or not, he isn't a bargain at that amount of money.

So we'll look instead to closer/setup types and outstanding setup relievers. Three excellent places to start are Toronto, Tampa Bay and Minnesota. All had deep, excellent bullpens in 2010 but undoubtedly will lose parts of them.

Again, we get a list of pitchers that are coming off good seasons and going into free agency. These aren't necessarily guys who will command bargain salaries for 2011.

In Toronto, that could mean Scott Downs, Kevin Gregg and Jason Frasor. In Tampa Bay, that could be Grant Balfour, Dan Wheeler and Joaquin Benoit

So this list essentially includes three of the best relievers on the market. I would say there may be a bargain in here somewhere, but is Tony DeMarco looking for the best relievers on the market or the bargains among the relievers? I'm not sure even he knows what kind of list he is putting together.

And you don't figure Minnesota will hang onto Brian Fuentes, Jon Rauch, Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier and Ron Mahay.

So you heard it here first. Three free agent relievers for the Blue Jays and Rays and four of the Twins free agent relievers are all bargains. That's 10 bargains from three teams! What a deal!

So I don't know if Tony DeMarco was trying to make a list of bargains, which is what the entire article was supposed to be about...or he was making a list of under-the-radar players, which is what he seems to think Jorge De La Rosa represents...or he just made a list of free agent relievers who have skill, which is what he ended up doing for the entire "Relievers" category. No matter what he was trying to convince or show us, I'm not sure he succeeded.


Anonymous said...

"Yes, (Jose) Lopez was part of a complete team offensive collapse in 2010. But he doesn't turn turn 27 until Nov. 24"

I heard a similar defense of Melky Cabrera as a bargain. LOL. He sucks...but he's young!!

Anonymous said...

Also, De La Rosa is very unlikely to be a bargain because the starting pitching market is extremely thin. After CLiff Lee the most "attractive" names are probably Pavano and De La Rosa. That's pathetic. Pavano has enough of an injury history to prevent him from getting more than a 2-year deal, but it seems to me that some pitching-starved team is going to overpay for De La Rosa. That guy really hasn't done much to earn a 3+ year deal at this point, but he will likely find one out there somewhere because there really aren't many decent alternatives on the free agent market.

Similarly I think a guy like Berkman, coming off a down year, will be a bargain because the DH market is oversaturated with guys like Vlad, Matsui, Thome, Manny, Berkman, Dunn, Damon, Magglio, Jose Guillen, and Pat Burrell. So Berkman will likely have to settle for a lower amount of money simply because teams can find cheap alternatives if Berkman's demands are too high.

Martin said...

Have to mention Tim Keown did an article railing against Kobe for being in the Call of Duty: Black Ops commercial...cause it sends the wrong message to young black teens who are being shot in Oakland...or something like that. It's terrible. The first paragraph reads like it was written by a 6th grader.

Bengoodfella said...

Anon, I'm pretty sure that was a reason that Melky Cabrera was a bargain. I've always enjoyed the idea a player may be a better bargain because he is ineffective and young. The bargain part is based on the idea he will get better, which may not happen.

I don't think De La Rosa will be a bargain either. He's a LH pitcher and is a FA. Those guys generally aren't cheap. Yes, De La Rosa has had some good stretches but I don't think you are getting a 200 inning guy when you sign him. I could be wrong, but $11 million per year isn't a bargain to me.

I think Konerko is going to be a guy who doesn't get a lot of interest and then signs a one year deal and hits the ball well. I can see Berkman as a bargain as well. He can't hit RHs that much anymore, but he is a good LH hitter and he can still play 1B if needed.

If the Braves didn't have a LH 1B already then I would want Berkman as a platoon guy...maybe. Boy, the DH market is really croweded isn't it?

Martin, I will have to check that out. You are a bargain b/c you gave me a great tip on an article and I don't have to pay you.