Tuesday, the Rockies and A’s swapped oft-injured/disappointing lefthanders Brett Anderson and $2 million for Drew Pomeranz and minor leaguer Chris Jensen.
We’ve been running a series where we compare the players involved in trade packages to those in the Mets organization. This concept works a lot better when there are more players involved. Both the Dexter Fowler to the Astros and the Doug Fister to the Nationals deals involved at least three players. With more players, we can be a little looser about assigning a type of player and tweaking around the edges to make the values roughly match.
Anderson is the more expensive player, and the one who has performed better, when he’s healthy in the big leagues. He’s a groundball generating machine; his gb% has risen from 50.9% in 2009 to 54.6% in 2010 to 57.5% in 2011, to 59.8% in 2012 and then 62.9% in 2013. That’s as clear a trend as one could possibly hope to see. On the other hand, his games started and innings pitched by year has been heading in the opposite direction – falling each year.
Games Started IP
2009 30 175.1
2010 19 112.1
2011 13 83.1
2012 6 35.0
2013 5 44.2
For his career, he owns a 3.81 ERA, a 3.56 FIP, and an 8.2 fWAR but only a 6.1 RA9-WAR. Those last two numbers illustrate well how the WAR metric for pitchers is calculated. RA9- WAR is read as “WAR calculated by runs allowed per nine innings. Standard fWAR uses FIP, which rewards groundballers.
Anderson’s injury history covers most of his body parts: head (concussion), lower back (stiffness/tightness), left elbow (strain/inflammation/Tommy John surgery), right knee (hyper extension), upper back (spasms), left thumb (sprain), right ankle (sprain), right foot (stress fracture). Is the Tommy John surgery in 2011 the most significant? Or is it the sum of all the injuries?
Anderson is no longer cheap, and cutting costs was clearly a major factor for the A’s. He is owed $8 million in 2014 and his contract calls for a club option of $12 million in 2015 with a $1.5 million buyout.
Anderson is not the kind of injury-risk pitcher the Mets have signed in the last few years. Instead, the Mets have made smaller one-year gambles on Chris Capuano ($1.5 million in 2011), Chris Young ($1.1 million in 2011 and a minor league deal in 2012), Shaun Marcum ($4 million in 2013), Daisuke Matsuzaka (MLB minimum in 2013). On a payroll at or below $90 million as the Mets have run recently and seem poised to run in 2014, the $8 million Anderson will earn in 2014, or more precisely, $6 million net the $2 million Oakland sent along, just does not fit.
Anderson is big (6’4″, 235 lbs) and can touch 93 mph with his fastball although he sits 91-92 mph.
Drew Pomeranz has pedigree. The Indians drafted him fifth overall in June 2010 out of Mississippi. A little over a year later, the Indians shipped him to Colorado to complete their trade for Ubaldo Jimenez.
What Pomeranz doesn’t have is results. He made four starts and four relief appearances a year ago for Colorado and gave up 25 hits and 15 runs in 21.2 innings. Most damning, moreso than the four home runs, were the 19 walks (!) against 19 strikeouts. He made 15 starts in AAA where he ran a 4.20 ERA, walked 9% of the opponent batters and fanned 26% in a season cut short by biceps tendonitis.
Stepping backward, Pomeranz put up good numbers across the board in 2011 with the Indians in AA in Akron. The Rockies promoted him to the big leagues after he was traded. While his topline ERA of 5.40 in four appearances is not impressive, the underlying stats say he was closer to holding his own: a strikeout rate of 17%, a walk rate of 6.5%, and a 2.59 FIP.
Pomeranz started 2012 in the big leagues, but the Rockies dispatched him to AAA after he ran a 4.70 ERA in his first five starts in which he had 20 strikeouts and 15 walks in 23 innings, that’s a strikeout rate of 18.5%, but a walk rate of 13.9%. Down in AAA, in the thin air of Colorado Springs, he was much better: 2.51 ERA in 9 starts and 46 strikeouts (22%) against 20 walks (9.4%) in 46.2 innings over nine starts. Note that his walk rate would still be above MLB or AAA averages. He finished 2012 in the Rockies’ rotation, eventually making 22 starts for a 4.93 ERA and a 4.81 FIP.
In terms of stuff, Pomeranz is extremely reliant on a fastball that averages 91 mph and a curveball in the upper 70s (that’s plus velocity) to go along with a seldom used changeup. In 2011 and 2012, he threw his fastball over 76% of the time – a rate that would have been the third-highest fastball usage among qualified MLB starters. At ESPN, Keith Law still calls Pomeranz’s curveball plus.
I forgot about Pomeranz’s other injury problems which include an appendectomy, and quad and hip issues. (Thanks Jay Jaffe.)
Pomeranz has a walk problem. It’s been over 9% in AAA and has spiked well above that in the big leagues. Oakland will have the luxury of sending him to AAA to try to get him right.
The Minor Leaguer
Chris Jensen is a big RHP (6’4″, 200) who the Rockies drafted in the sixth round of the 2011 draft from San Diego. In his age 22 season, he put up a 4.55 ERA with a 21% strikeout rate and a 5.8% walk rate in 152.1 innings in the hitter-friendly California League. Note however, that Jensen’s home ballpark in Modesto is one of the League’s two pitcher friendliest (along with San Jose). I probably saw Jensen in 2012 with Asheville, but whatever impression he made on me at the time did not survive a year and a half.
BP says Jensen was 91-94, touching 95 as a starter, with a 83-86 mph changeup and breaking ball at 77-80 that was inconsistent. Jordan Gorosh thinks he can be a “back-end starter who has the ability to log innings.” Law calls him “just a guy.”
The Mets really do not have a pitcher whose profile looks like Drew Pomeranz. Clearly, shedding Anderson’s salary was important to Oakland, in addition to the gamble on Pomeranz, who has 1.05 years of MLB service time. Thus, we will confine our search for comps to pre-arb players, preferably with something like a year of MLB service time or less.
Our service time/cheap requirement dispatches Dillon Gee and his 3.028 years of MLB service.
Jenrry Mejia and his 1.14 years of MLB service are close enough to Pomeranz. Mejia’s five start run in 2013 – 2.30 ERA, 27.1 IP, 27 K, 4 BB, was better than anything Pomeranz has strung together at the Major League Level. Mejia’s value should be depressed by the fact that thanks to Tommy John surgery and Jerry Manuel, he’s thrown 100 innings in a season only once and never exceeded 110. Mejia’s injury problems post-Tommy John surgery make him a fellow traveler with Pomeranz and Andersen.
If you want no MLB success, with control problems think Jeurys Familia.
If you want no MLB success, with success in AA, think Cory Mazzoni. Like Pomeranz, Mazzoni will likely start the 2014 season in AAA.
Jensen could be Rainy Lara or Tyler Pill. I kinda like the Lara angle better. He’s a low 90s fastball guy, with a changeup and slider that is decidedly his third pitch. He has size (6’4″) and a 3.76 ERA in the Florida State League but underwhelming peripherals (16% strikeout rate and 6% walk rate).
I think this deal is something like Jenrry Mejia and Rainy Lara for Brett Anderson. Anderson was due a minimum of $9.5 million – his 2014 salary plus his buyout – at the time he was traded.
Colorado took the more expensive player, with a longer big league track record with a huge injury report. Oakland took the cheaper guy with walk rate worse than average, with no big league track record of success and a shorter injury report. Both guys are gambles in their way.
Given the health risks on Anderson, and the cost, in dollars – especially on a ~$90 million payroll and players, he made little sense for the Mets in the winter of 2013.
The Savannah Sand Gnats ownership group is scheduled to meet with the Savannah City Council on Thursday to discuss the team’s vision for a new ballpark, the Savannah Morning News reports. The team will propose a public/private partnership similar to the franchise’s Fort Wayne Tin Caps relationship with the city of Fort Wayne.
In Fort Wayne, the city put up about $25 million, while Hardball Capital, which also owns the Gnats, invested about $5 million. However, in an interview with Sport Radio 102.1′s Seth Harp, Monday afternoon, Hardball Capital CEO Jason Frieir told Harp that when the full costs of operation and maintenance were factored in, the team bore the “majority” of the costs, “Over 30 years, in Fort Wayne, it was over 50% private money,” Freier said. “If you take all of the costs into account, we’re talking about something that primarily privately funded.”
In part, the impetus for this push in Savannah is the progress the city of Columbia, South Carolina is making toward building a new ballpark as part of their Bull Street development. Most recently, Columbia approved a feasibility study for a ballpark in November. Following the first meeting of the Bull Street Commission last week, WIST.com reported that “A contract on the study is expected by the end of January.”
Historic Grayson Stadium, the Gnats’ home in Savannah, is the oldest full-season ballpark in minor league baseball. While pretty from the outside, it lacks the modern amenities for fans or the teams and players of current facilities. The team within operates at a loss financially annually. As Freier explained to Harp, “[Ownership] have had to put money into this team every year… Attendance has doubled, but it’s not enough for the team to break even every year.”
The Gnats’ preferred site in Savannah is the Savannah River Landings, a 40-acre parcel on the East end of Downtown where development has stalled since the 2008 crash. The City is currently losing money on the site, “Savannah is paying debt service on that district around Savannah River Landing after the economic downturn stalled development and the site failed to generate enough revenue to cover bond payments,” per the Savannah Morning News. This is a big part of Hardball Capital’s argument, that a ballpark at the River Landings would turn the property around. “We believe we’d draw half million people a year to the River Landings site,” Freier said. “Turning this site from a revenue drain to a revenue generator would be one of the reasons the city would co-invest with us.”
The Gnats’ chances in Savannah, appear slim. As the Savannah Morning News drily put it, “With the city focused on building a $120 million arena in west Savannah, Hardball Capital will likely face a tough sell.”
This is not purely Mets news. The Mets’ Player Development Contract with the Sand Gnats expires after the 2014 season. If indeed the Gnats franchise moves to Columbia, SC, for 2015 or 2016, they will only do as a Mets’ affiliate if both sides want to renew their agreement. For the Mets, associating with a franchise playing in a new ballpark (with say modern workout, training and clubhouse spaces) makes for a better development environment for their players. On the other side, the Columbia [Insert Name Heres], playing in a new ballpark, in a growing region, would be attractive to not just the Mets, but other Major League teams looking for a new a-ball affiliate.
There is still no guarantee the Gnats will leave Savannah. Columbia, SC does not have a ballpark yet, while Savannah does.
While much of the world gathers at Disney World, to eat, drink, negotiate over players, celebrate retirements, and try to schmooze their way into a new nugget of information or job, lets talk instead about guys still playing ball: those in the Caribbean Winter Leagues. It’s been a slow week since we checked in last on this group.
- Wilmer Flores has played in three games in the last seven days, going 1-for-13. Overall, how’s this for strikezone control: 5 walks and three strikeouts in nine games as part of a .333/.425/.364 batting line.
- Juan Lagares was 1-for-4 with a walk last Monday, and then flew to New York to have his knee examined. It turns out his issue was not serious and his prescription was to rest his knee for three weeks.
That Bullpen Battle
- Joel Carreno had a solid week, allowing one run over four innings out of the bullpen with three strikeouts and a walk. In 13 games for Escogido, he’s allowed four runs, three earned with 14 strikeouts against three walks in 13.1 innings.
- Jeurys Familia threw once in the last week, and it was unfortunate: 0.1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 K. He’s now allowed four runs in his 2.1 innings of work over three appearances for Gigantes del Cibao in the DWL.
- Gonzlez Germen has not appeared in a game since November 30.
See You in Sin City (Projected Las Vegas 51s on Opening Day 2014)
- LHP Chase Huchingson tossed a pair of scoreless 0.2 inning outings in the last week. He’s yielding two runs, one earned on three hits, two walks and three strikeouts in his three innings of work over five games for Aguilas del Zulia in Venezuela.
- OF Cesar Puello had one single in each of his last three games, going a combined 3-for-11 this week. He’s sitting at .190/.218/.262 in 29 games for the Toros del Este in the DWL with one walk against 23 (!) strikeouts.
- SS Wilfredo Tovar has not played since November 21 for Navegantes del Magallanes in Venezuela.
And Our Player of the Week…
Congratulations Joel Carreno. Your four innings of work was ok. You’ve been good all winter-ball season. Step right up and take your medal.
The full list of the stats of the Mets’ players in Offseason Leagues is here.
Andrew Vazzano, SNY.tv
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I wrote a lengthy piece on the Mets’ interest in Curtis Granderson on November 13. I wrote that a four-year deal was a bad idea based on his top comparables and rising strikeout and whiff rates. That has not changed.
Basically, if you like this deal, you’re arguing one or both of: that Granderson will not age like the hitters he is most similar to, and that 2013 didn’t happen and any results from 2013 should be thrown out because they are tarnished by his hand and shoulder injuries.
Edit: Or perhaps you’re arguing that by the fourth year of Granderson’s contract (2017) the Mets will be in a position to run larger payrolls, and a likely 1.5 win player (max) making $15 million will not interfere with any other roster priorities.
More in a bit…
Link to Metsblog.
We’re going to play a (fun?) game that matches Mets prospects/assets to those involved in trades for other teams.
Yesterday, we looked at the Dexter Fowler to the Astros deal. Today, by popular demand, we’ll examine the Doug Fister to the Nationals trade.
Doug Fister, who will always be Dog Fister to me, is a very good, and probably underrated pitcher. By FIP, he’s 10th in baseball in the last three years. By RA9-WAR he’s 15th at 12.4 (nearly identical to Jordan Zimmerman and Gio Gonzalez and ahead of every Mets’ fans favorite: R.A. Dickey (12.0)).
The Nationals sent LHP Ian Krol, Robbie Ray and infielder Steve Lombardozzi to the Tigers for Fister.
The internet praised the Nationals and General Manager Mike Rizzo for his wheeling and dealing.
Dave Cameron at Fangraphs: “Maybe it’s the fact that Fister’s fastball sits at 89, or that he was a non-prospect for most of his days in the minor leagues, but barring an unknown injury that is about to wreck his value, it seems like 29 MLB teams are missing the boat on Doug Fister. If Fister were a free agent, he’d have been the best starter on the market by a good margin…..though, this just an outright robbery. In a market where the prices for mediocre pitchers are very high, the Nationals paid a moderate price for a very good pitcher.”
Keith Law at ESPN: “I can’t believe the Tigers couldn’t get more total value than this for Fister, who is easily a top 25-30 overall starter in the game; they might have traded more to fill needs than to maximize their return…. A lefty reliever, a backup at second and a non-top-100 prospect is just not a good return for two years of one of the top 30 starters in baseball.”
Ben Lindbergh at Baseball Prospectus is confused too. He calculates conservatively that Fister, who will earn ~$7 million in arbitration this winter, and more next time out, should be expected to provide ~$14 million in surplus value over the next two years. He writes, “Would a team pay $14 million for six years of Ray, six years of Krol, and four years of Lombardozzi? …. Or maybe there’s something else we’re missing…. It’s hard to believe that no other team would have offered a better package, had they all been aware of what Washington was about to give up … So where does that leave us? Either Dombrowski failed to shop Fister around, every other team failed to evaluate Fister properly, or none of us on the internet knows anything.”
Part of the answer, and it’s one Law hinted at, is that it appears Detroit was looking for a very specific combination of types of players when they set out to move a pitcher. Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos, via DJF, on Detroit’s Dave Dombrowski and his process for this move: “Dave’s great to deal with, he’s very candid and up front– he just said, ‘We looked at all of the organizations, and we’re looking for certain players, and we don’t know that we line up in trade with you guys.’ … So it was one of those things where we didn’t necessarily line up in trade… “
To read more of this story, click here
Robert and I try not to get burned by the Mets Slightly Hot Stove – with Grandy talk, Cano talk, and a chat about Howard Johnson and the Mets’ differing philosophies on hitting. Plus, the weekly dose of One Good Thing and One Bad Thing.
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Hot Stove Happenings
HoJo and Hitting Philosophies
One Good Thing, One Bad Thing (37:25)
Good: Experience Music Project, Mets will be better than 2013 in 2014
Bad: Bad MLB Trades, Granderson at 4 years
So last night as I was flying home, I took my first hack at lining up my Top 41 Mets prospects. I’m not sure when I’ll start them on this site. It’ll either be later this month or the first week of January.
This year, I first lined up about 60-some odd players, grouped by position. Then I synthesized the various position lists into one giant list all together.
Other techniques I’ve applied:
- During the 2010 and 2011 seasons (I think) I kept a running Top Mets guys list that I updated occaisionally throughout the season and then spent a whole lot more time tweaking in the off-season.
- In 2012, I did not keep a running list. Instead, I grouped by positions before combining into a whole list, but allowed myself considerable flexibility when moving from the single position list to my full rankings. I’m trying to be much more disciplined this year about making the positional and full rankings match.
This is where you, the reader come in. I’m going to be posting my position-by-position rankings. I have the list separated into: C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, CF, OF – Corner, RHP – Starters, LHP – Starters, RHP – Relievers, LHP – Starters. This will be your chance to argue for your guy, or against another.
One comment now after making the rough draft of the list: after about #16 or on the overall list, it’s really – for lack of a better word – squishy. The Mets’ group of players from #16 through the mid-30s this year seems really compressed in value. Or maybe I’m just getting jaded.
We’re going to play a fun game, match the Mets prospects/assets to those involved in trades for other teams. I don’t do this for every trade, only the ones that interest me for one reason or another.
Today we’ll take on the Rockies/Astros swap for Dexter Fowler and a PTBNL for Brandon Barnes and Jordan Lyles.
Earlier this offseason, the Mets were rumored to be interested in trading Ike Davis for Dexter Fowler. On the same day they traded Fowler, the Rockies also “addressed” their first base hole, by signing Justin Morneau.
Fowler will be 28 in 2014, and has significant home road splits (.298/.395/.485 at Coors and .241/.333/.361 on the road in 1291 PA). He’s owed $7.35 million in 2014, and will be arbitration eligible in 2015 before becoming free agent for 2016. Still, he’s in the prime of his career, has been a league average hitter, and while the advanced metrics don’t like his work in center, he should be an asset defensively in a corner.
For the Mets, he would have been an improvement on Eric Young Jr. in the outfield at the least, and potentially much more. So, what did it take to bring him to the Astros?
Turns out, very little.
The right-handed Lyles was a good prospect in a bad Astros’ system who has never figured out the big leagues. Since making his big league debut in 2011, he owns a 5.35 ERA with 259 strikeouts against 117 walks in 377 innings with 431 hits allowed and a ERA+ of 74 (!) or an ERA- of 141 and a -2.8 bWAR overall. His Baseball America rankings rose from #6 after the 2008 season to #3 the following year to the top spot in the system after 2010 when he was the #42 prospect in baseball. Lyles has a four-seam fastball at 93 mph, a sinker at 92 mph, a slider in the upper 80s, a changeup at 83 and a curveball around 80-81 mph. He throws his two fastballs over 66% of the time combined. Every pitch he throws carries negative value at Fangraphs.
Lyles’ strikeout rates from the last three years have actually declined from 16.1% in 2011, to 15.8% in 2012 to 14.5% in 2013. Meanwhile, his walk rate has ticked up from 6.3% to 6.7% to 7.6% in the last three years. Lyles was a relatively low strikeout guy in AAA as well with a 14.4% strikeout rate in 2010 and 16.3% in 2011.
Lyles is young and has prospect pedigree. That’s about it. At ESPN, Keith Law argues that Lyles’ numbers have been hurt by throwing in front of Houston’s poor defenses the last few years, “… he has been below-average but above that replacement-level baseline when measured on his own performance. Lyles has a good feel for pitching and above-average control, suffering from his lack of any clear out pitch.”
The Mets do not have a Jordan Lyles – a failed former first round pitcher.
- Perhaps the closest the Mets’ current roster, offers, when taking into account only production, is Carlos Torres who bounced from the White Sox to the Rockies to the Mets in the last four seasons.
- Dillon Gee, who is older than Lyles, has been appreciably better, putting up a 2.2 bWAR in 2013 with a 3.80 RA9, his first year below 4.00.
- Jenrry Mejia had never really had any big league success either in 2010 or 2012, combined for a -0.1 bWAR between those two years. Then, in 2013, after returning from Tommy John surgery, he returned with better fastball command, more feel on his changeup and a new slider that helped him to a 2.30 ERA/2.96 RA9 and a 0.5 bWAR in just five starts.
- Statistically, perhaps the best match for Lyles in the Mets’ system is former second round pick Cory Mazzoni. in AA this past summer, Mazzoni had a strikeout rate of 26.2%, a 6.7% walk rate, an opponents’ batting average of .268 and a 4.36 ERA/2.70 FIP. In 2010 in AA, Lyles had a 21.3% strikeout rate, a 6.5% walk rate, a .266 opponents’ batting average, and a 3.12 ERA/3.36 FIP.
If we divorce position from the discussion, the Met most like Lyles – a former first rounder who has flopped in the big leagues recently – is the guy the Rockies were rumored to be interested in: Ike Davis. He hit just .205/.326/.334 in 2013 on his way to a 0.2 bWAR. That leaves out his productive, but short 2011, and his long slog through 2012 when he was still worth 0.9 bWAR.
The second player the Rockies acquired,, Brandon Barnes, who will be 28 in May 2014, is a 4th outfielder. He’s hit .233/.282/.330 in his two partial big league seasons in 2012 and 2013. Barnes is not as good as the 4th outfielder the Rockies traded to the Mets in 2013: Eric Young Jr., himself a career .258/.325/.338 hitter in 404 big league games.
If the Rockies were not interested in reacquiring Young, perhaps 25-year old Matt den Dekker (.207/.270/.276 in 63 PA) would have sparked their interest as an extra outfielder.
So, after picking up Lyles for the back of their rotation, and a Barnes for their bench, the Rockies signed Justin Morneau, who will turn 33 in 2014, for two years at $13 million. The great Dan Szymborski fired up his ZiPs machine to project “Morneau in Colorado 2014: 280/343/457, 104 OPS+ 0.9 WAR. 2015: 277/339/453, 102 OPS+, 0.5 WAR.”
Again, Morneau’s 2014 projection is awfully similar in bWAR to what Ike Davis actually produced in 2012. And Davis would probably be $3 to $5 million cheaper over the next two years. Of course, there’s that messy issue of 2013 as well.
From the Rockies perspective if they had done the deal with the Mets for say Ike Davis and Matt den Dekker for Fowler, they would have needed to add a starting pitcher from the free agent market or another trade. Those – free agent pitchers – are expensive, but most are better than Lyles. Also, Morneau is a safer bet than Davis, although Davis has more upside given their ages.
A package from the Mets centered around Dillon Gee for Dexter Fowler would have given the Rockies a better pitcher, although without the coveted “former Top Prospect” tag that Lyles carries.
Or maybe the Mets felt that they were better off committing the $7.25 million they would have had to pay Fowler to Chris Young, who will cost only money and not players. Still, the Mets have an open outfield spot remaining. An outfield of Juan Lagares/Young/Fowler, all three with centerfield pedigree, would have been very good defensively (and run a low batting average, but we digress).
Given the Rockies’ moves Tuesday, it certainly seems as though the Mets had the pieces to have acquired Dexter Fowler from Colorado. Fowler is younger than the remaining major free agent outfielders, like Curtis Granderson and Shin Soo Choo, and will require a fraction of the financial commitment.