Yesterday, I wrote that Curtis Granderson was not worthy a four-year contract and that the Mets should stay away.
Now comes word, or rumor, that the Mets are interested in former Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz. According to Kristie Ackert in the Daily News, “the Mets are going hard after (and may be the early leader for) Nelson Cruz.” Jon Heyman at CBSSports also thinks the Mets are “in on” Cruz. However, Adam Rubin at ESPNNY wrote that “a team insider severely downplayed to ESPNNewYork.com the likelihood of signing either [Nelson or Cruz].”
As with a lengthy contract for Granderson, a three-year deal for Cruz would be a similar mistake. At ESPN, Jim Bowden predicted that Cruz would earn a three year contract for $48 million, for an average annual value of $16 million. The crowd-sourced project at Fangraphs saw him as signing for 3 years/$31.8 million or $10.6 annually.
Here are the most relevant facts:
1. Cruz is 33 years old. Most 33 year old baseball players decline rapidly.
2. He is not special. His baseball reference WAR the last three years: 1.3, 0.4, 2.0. He has one season above 2.3 in his career, his age 28 season in 2010 with Texas (4.3). Fangraphs WAR from the last three years: 1.3, 1.1, 1.5.
3. In his career away from Texas, he has hit .242/.299/.435 in 1590 PA. No, this is not a small sample.
4. Since turning 30, he has hit .263/.319/.489 in 392 games over three years in 129 games a year.
5. As the recipient of a qualifying offer, he will cost the Mets a second round pick.
Less relevant to me, but germane to many: he was suspended 50 games in 2013 for his ties to the Biogenesis clinic. Mets fans should recognize that players with PED suspensions can come back and hit (ahem: Marlon Byrd).
There is already a literature about the dangers of signing Cruz including Dave Schoenfeld at ESPN, and Dave Cameron at Fangraphs and USS Mariner.
We played this game yesterday with Curtis Granderson, but lets take a look at Cruz’s top 10 most similar hitters and how they have aged in their age 33 seasons and beyond. Again, the WAR listed is bWAR and accounts for all of the value these players provided in their year XX seasons and every one after. Again, I have eliminated players whose careers ended in 1970 and earlier.
Uhhhhhh. [runs away screaming]
Starting in their age 33 seasons, these eight players totaled 14 WAR, an average of two per player. However, to be fair to Cruz, five of these guys, Hawpe, Willingham, Werth, Ross and Ludwick have not completed their age-35 seasons, the potential third year of Cruz’s deal. On the other hand, they have not aged well.
However, in their recently completed age-34 seasons, they accumulated the following bWAR:
Cody Ross was worth 2.5 wins in Arizona in his age 32 season.
Jayson Werth’s 2013 was better than any single one of Nelson Cruz’s seasons. Werth has three seasons – 2009, 2010, 2013 – that are as good as Cruz’s best in 2010, which itself was an aberration in Cruz’s career. There is no reason to think that Cruz will magically get dramatically better in his age 33 and 34 seasons, like to peak Werth level.
If the price of a win on the free agent market is really $7 million, signing Cruz for two years at $10-12 million per year for a total of $20-24 could give a team some short-term right-handed power assuming he can average 1.5-1.7 wins the next two years. Anything else is just throwing good money after bad for the decline years of a player who is not that good to begin with.
Do the Mets need outfield help? Oh, yes. Do they need Nelson Cruz at anything longer than a two year commitment? Oh, no.
See, the secret to contention is not actually signing corner outfielders in their mid-30s to lengthy deals. Shhhhhh…..
Robert and I are joined by ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin from the GM Meetings to talk about all the MLB and Mets Hot Stove rumors and news. Also, the future of the Mets bullpen, and the weekly dose of One Good Thing and One Bad Thing.
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ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin calls in from the GM Meetings
Bullpen, your season is over, what’s next? (23:05)
One Good Thing, One Bad Thing (36:25)
Good: Current college hoops talent, there’s always baseball to talk about
Bad: Marlon Byrd contract, Mets budget
The hot rumor action on Tuesday connected the Mets to free agent outfielder Curtis Granderson. Oh, the Mets were “serious” about liking him and planned to set up a meeting with his agent. And while I was writing this, apparently a team insider “downplayed” the Mets’ interest in Granderson. Granderson’s agent was so encouraged by the early-winter flirting that he is now asking for a four-year deal. That’s a problem. The Mets should not sign Curtis Granderson to a four-year deal. No team should.
A four-year contract would lock up Granderson’s age 33, 34, 35 and 36 seasons.
In 2013, his age-32 season, coming off back-to-back 40+ homer seasons with the Yankees in 2011 and 2012, he hit .229/.317/.407 in 61 games. His season started late – in May after he fractured his forearm in Spring Training. Then, after playing just eight games in May, a broken left pinkie kept him out until August. For what it’s worth, he had a strong August – .278/.394/.444 with six doubles and three homeruns and a 27/18 K/BB ratio in 27 games. Then in September, he stopped walking, hitting .177/.233/.375 with a 36/7 K/BB. His whiff percentage spiked in September and his strike zone discipline cratered.
Beginning of the end, or small sample size?
Baseball reference lists Granderson’s top comparables, and for the Mets, or any team interested in signing the Grandyman, it should be a scary list.
Here are Baseball Reference’s top 10 most similar players to Curtis Granderson through his age-32 season:
1. Ron Gant
2. Bob Allison
3. J.D. Drew
4. Roy Sievers
5. Jose Cruz
6. Jason Bay
7. Wally Post
8. Jesse Barfield
9. Bobby Thomson
10. Kirk Gibson
The historical names are fun, but lets drop anyone who’s career ended in 1970 and earlier because it was a different game 40+ years ago. That eliminates Allison, Sievers, Post and Thomson and leaves us with six players.
Using Baseball Reference’s amazing career calculator the following gives the career bWAR totals for this group beginning in their age xx season.
|bWAR 33+||bWAR 34+||bWAR 35+||bWAR 36+|
Beginning at age 33, this group totaled 21 bWAR for the duration of their career, an average of 3.5 (I’m rounding here because decimals on WAR give a false sense of accuracy). By age 36, three of the six were out of baseball, and it’ll likely be four out of six when Jason Bay decides to walk away to watch his kids ski and hang out with and listen to Pearl Jam. (Note: if my retirement includes watching my kids ski, skiing with my kids, or hanging out with Pearl Jam, I’d be one really happy dude.)
Gant, who hung on until age 38, is perhaps a best case for Granderson. After finishing fifth in the MVP balloting in 1993 with Atlanta, he missed the entire 1994 season, his age-29 year, after breaking his leg in an ATV accident. He bounced around after that, putting together strong seasons at 30 and 31 with Cincinnati and then St. Louis. Like Granderson, Gant had a down year at age 32 (83 OPS+) his lowest since his age 25 year. From age 33 on, he posted OPS+s of 114, 97, 106, 95, 125 while playing for six different teams. Gant, like Granderson started his career as a centerfielder, but after playing the position at -27 runs in total zone, in 1991, the Braves wisely moved him to left as his primary position (and all pre-Andrew Jones, who did not debut until 1996). From age 33 forward, Gant’s seasonal bWAR peacked at 2.1 at age 34, never to exceed two again.
J.D Drew is a great cautionary tale. He posted a strong, and perhaps underappreciated 2009 season with Boston when he was 33, hitting .279/.392/.522 for a 134 OPS+ and a 4.3 bWAR in 139 games. He was solid, but clearly declining a year later at 34 (.255/.341./452 – 109 OPS+ – 3.1 in 137 games) but was done at age 35 when he hit .222/.315/.302 – 68 OPS+- -0.9 WAR in 81 games. He was out of baseball at age 36.
Decline and injury came in a hurry for Gibson after his MVP performance and post-season heroics in 1988 – his age 31 season. He played 100 games just twice more after that point in 1991 with Kansas City and 1993 with Detroit. Gibson was basically a league average hitting from 1989 – 1993 (his age 32-36 seasons) combining for a 105 OPS+ and 85 games a season. He then bounced back to have, a for me, inexplicable age-37 year with Detroit in 1994 when he hit .276/.358/.548 for a 130 OPS+ and a 2.3 WAR, his first above two since 1988.
The Granderson Offensive Decline
So, has Curtis Granderson shown any indication that he can buck the rapid decline his most similar hitters experienced from their age 33 seasons forward? In a word, no.
These are Granderson’s base rates in his secondary statistical categories from his age-27 season onward. What do you notice? His big homerun years with the Yankees were driven by a spike in HR/FB. Is there any reason to think that will spike again as he ages? No.
Now, about that rising strikeout rate. Lets take a look at his swing rates and contact rates from the last four years (remember 2010 and 2011 were his Yankees peak and 2013 was abbreviated). O-swing percentage is just the percentage of pitches outside the zone a batter swings at. O-Contact percentage is the number of pitches outside the zone which a batter swings at that he connects on. Z Contact is the percentage of pitches inside the strike zone at which a batter swings that he connects with.
O-Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact %
2010 25.6 60.1 89.9
2011 25.7 60.8 88.1
2012 29.5 58.9 81.0
2013 31.3 54.5 80.0
In the last two years, Granderson has chased more pitches outside the zone and made contact with fewer. Can the Mets teach him to lay off pitches out of the zone again? Maybe.
Moreover, and more damning, when he has swung at pitches inside the strike zone in the last two years, his contact percentage on such pitches has plummeted.
The advanced defensive metrics have split a little on Granderson in his last four years with the Yankees, but all agree that among his last full seasons, 2011 was poor and 2012 was worse.
UZR is all over the place on Granderson’s defense in center, giving him UZR/150 the last four years of 9.0, -5.3, -18.5, 21.4 (small sample size on ’13). He was negative his last two years in Detroit in 08 and 09.
Total Zone is more charitable on the whole for his Yankee years: -1, -4, -12, 5. BIS Defensive Runs Saved from average tell a similar story: 12, -6, -10, 3 (’13, coming all three outfield positions).
The ranges on 2012 suggest Granderson cost the Yankees at least full win by playing center.
Since the start of 2011, Granderson has been a below average defender in center and getting worse. Granderson’s declining defensive abilities should push him to a corner over the life of a four-year contract.
At the plate, he is chasing more pitches outside the strike zone and connecting on fewer. He is connecting on fewer inside the zone. As a result, his strikeout rate has spiked.
His big homerun seasons in Yankee pinstripes were the result of a HR/FB spike that has disappeared in last year, and was well out of line with his career norms.
Players most similar to Granderson were at best league average players from age 33 forward, and most fell well short of that mark and were in fact out of baseball by their age 36 seasons, the last covered by a potential four-year contract.
Granderson turned down the Yankees’ qualifying offer of $14.1 million dollars. In previous years, free agent wins cost in the range of $5 million per win. Granderson would need to be a three-win player moving forward every year to reach that mark at $15 million annually. I suspect that there will be inflation in this market, but I also suspect based on Granderson’s own performance and his most similar players that his decline will be steep and in fact, has already begun.
Two-year commitment? Ok. Four? Run away.
- At Amazin’ Avenue, Chris McShane takes a very careful look at Travis d’Arnaud’s struggles blocking pitches in the big leagues. I noticed on a few pitches that he’s wincing rather than trying to catch the ball with his chest protector. He also reaches late a few times. I look forward to a followup when d’Arnaud has both more big league time and more time working with the big league pitchers in 2014.
- Mets first rounder Dom Smith talked to througthefencebaseball. He also apparently said something silly/homophobic on twitter. I missed the original tweet sequence, but here’s his apology.
- LHP Chase Huchingson is headed down to Venezuela to play winter ball. He was suspended for 50 games in late August for a second failed test for a drug of abuse.
The plan for Thor? The same as it was for Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. He will start the season, in Noah Syndergaard’s case 2014 in AAA, and once he has passed the deadline for super-two status, is pitching well, has convinced the Mets he can succeed in the big leagues, and when there’s a need in the roation, the Mets will call him up.
Via Andy Martino in the New York Daily News
Lets start Monday around here with a look at the Mets playing baseball in the Arizona Fall League for the Scottsdale Scorpions.
There are few surprises.
RF/LF Cory Vaughn - Hits in four of his last five contests have moved his batting average up 20 points so that the 24-year-old is hitting .254/.329/.394 in 18 games. Once again, Vaughn owns a huge platoon split: .318/.464/.455 with a homer and five walks in 22 AB against lefties and .224/.255/.367 with four extra-base hits including three triples, two walks and 13 whiffs in 49 AB vs. righties. Vaughn’s platoon splits have been strong now for the last three years. It’s a thing. He hits lefties, but does not hit righties.
“3B” Aderlin Rodriguez - A week shy of his 22nd birthday, Rodriguez is hitting .203/.215/.234 in 17 games in the AFL. He’s played seven games at first and seven at third with each of his last five appearances at either first base or DH. He has yet to draw a walk while striking out 16 times. Remarkably, he’s hitting .050/.050/.050 (1-for-20m 0 BB, 7 K) against left-handed pitching. It used to be the case that lefties would attack him with soft stuff away and he would lunge, chase and make himself an easy out.
C Cam Maron – The 22-year-old Maron has hit safely in four straight games to lift his AFL line to .227/.370/.273 with two doubles 10 walks and 10 strikeouts. That’s typically Maron-ish. He hit .235/.327/.295 with 0 HR, 38 BB and 49 strikeouts in 84 games for St. Lucie this past summer. He’ll probably go to double-A in 2014 to back up Kevin Plawecki.
RHP Hansel Robles – Two starts ago, when he threw in a stadium with pitchfx, he was 89-91 in the first two innings with a slider at 85-86 and changeups at 85-87. He touched 92 twice in the first three innings. By the fourth inning, he was 88-90 and his first offering of the inning was classified as a fastball at 86 mph.
His numbers look solid: 2.40 ERA, 15 IP, 13 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 15 K. The “how” for a young pitcher is as important as the results, and Robles’ fastball velocity - Dillon Gee-ish – is just not impressive. Again, there are under 15 starting RHP who average under 90 with their fastballs. Robles also has relatively little separation on changeup from his fastball. It’s hard to see Robles as anything more than a back-end starter or middle reliever.
Robles made 15 starts for St. Lucie this year and was ok: 3.72 ERA, 83 H, 66 K/29 BB in 84.2 IP. That’s a 18% strikeout rate and a 8% walk rate.
RHP Cody Satterwhite – The last time he threw in a pitchfx game, he was 89-92, but touched 93 and 94. His slider was 79-81 (below average velocity), while the changeup was 83-84. His AFL line: 1.64 ERA, 11 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 HR, 4 BB, 10 K.
RHP Chasen Bradford - Bradford has been very effective out of the Scorpions’ bullpen, in fact he has not allowed a run yet in his 10 innings. Again, the “how” matters; he’s been sitting 89-91, and touching 92 and mixed in his mid-80s slider a lot. His AFL line: 10 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 HPB, 1 BB, 8 K
Maybe there’s a useful middle reliever in here.
RHP Jeurys Familia - He’s still throwing hard: sitting 94-95 with a few 93 and 96 mixed in. His slider is 83-85. And yet the results have not been there yet: he’s allowed runs in four of his seven appearances. His total line: 8 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 1 HR, 4 BB, 10 K.
The Silver Slugger is awarded to a single player per position, determined to be the most valuable offensively, in both the American and National Leagues as determined by Major League Baseball’s coaches and managers.
When it comes to thirdbase in the National League in 2013, the League’s managers and coaches picked extremely poorly in selecting Pedro Alvarez. In his age-26 season, Alvarez hit .233/.296/.473 in 152 games for the playoff-bound Pirates. He led the National League in two categories: homeruns (36) and strikeouts (186).
On a plate appearances basis, he was a mid-pack thirdbaseman offensively. By wOBA, Alvarez (.330) was seventh in the NL behind David Wright (.391), Aramis Ramirez (.366), Chris Johnson (.354), Ryan Zimmerman (.353), Juan Uribe (.334), and Pablo Sandoval (.331). wRC+ tells the identical story, slotting Alvarez seventh among Nation League hot-corner handlers.
Stepping back from advanced statistics, Alvarez was 17th in on-base percentage and second in slugging behind David Wright.
Wright played only 112 games and thus, did not reach 20 home runs or qualify for the NL batting title. He still was more valuable at the plate not just on a rate basis, but in terms of aggregate production than Alvarez. By Batting runs above average, Wright crushed Alvarez 29.7 to 9.9. That’s worth two wins on the field.
Alvarez was one of only two National League thirdbasemen to hit over 20 homeruns joined by only Ryan Zimmerman. Zimmerman had a strong overall season, hitting .275/.344/.465 in 147 games for the disappointing Nationals, who like Wright’s Mets missed the playoffs. Both Chris Johnson and Juan Uribe had nice seasons for the playoff-bound Braves and Dodgers, but neither has a real clear claim to being the best-hitting third baseman in the National League.
It’s not a stretch to say that hitting home runs was the only productive thing that Alvarez did in a better than average manner in 2013. Well, that and whiff, as he struck out in 30% of his plate appearances.
And somehow, National League managers decided that Alvarez’s ability to hit homeruns made him the best hitter in the league at the position. That’s wrong.
Robert Brender and I are joined by ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick to talk all things Mets and the MLB offseason. Also, a look at Matt Harvey, the future of the Mets starting rotation, and the weekly dose of One Good Thing and One Bad Thing.
Email the show at mostlymetspodcast (at) gmail.com.
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Talking Mets and MLB Offseason with ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick
Starters, your season is over, what’s next? (17:45)
One Good Thing, One Bad Thing (34:05)
Good: Instant Replay in AFL, Goodbye and Thanks to Johan
Bad: Rafael Furcal rumor, New NCAA baseball
In his age 23 season, the injury-prone Ceciliani missed a week with a hamstring strain in August, but still played in a career-high 113 games for AA Binghamton where he hit .268/.322/.380 with 17 doubles, six triples and six homers, and a 6.3% walk rate and a 22.8% strikeout rate. He was also 31-of-38 (82%) stealing bases. The left-handed hitter split his time between centerfield (58 games) and left (48 games).
He hit .243/.304/.350 in 103 AB vs. lefties in 2013 and .276/.328/.390 in 315 against righties.
He does not profile offensively in an outfield corner at all. His only hope of starting everyday is in centerfield. Even there, he would struggle to put up a .300 on-base percentage in the big leagues as pitchers will exploit his aggressive approach. On the other hand, he runs well, and offers the ability to play center or left, but does not have the arm for right.
Ceciliani is most likely to stick as a fourth/fifth outfielder who can add speed/defense in LF off the bench and picks up some spot starts for a MLB team against right-handed pitching. He is Rule 5 eligible for the first time this winter (if you’re curious, the full list is available here) and I do not expect the Mets to add him to the 40-man roster this winter.
Jeff Paternostro has his Top 30 Mets Prospects up. It’s solid.
Jeurys Familia threw 96-97 in the AFL Rising Stars game over the weekend, but hung a changeup at 87 mph that Brett Nicholas hit for a home run. It’s cool that Familia is trying to throw his changeup in the AFL, but I think it’s likely that Familia will be a fastball/slider reliever in the big leagues. There are many relievers who thrive in MLB who throw changeups, roughly never.
At Beyond the Box Score, Chris St. John looked at historical walk and strikeout rates for Top Prospects in a-ball. His first conclusion: High [walk]/High [strikeout] players have the best chance, while the players in trouble tend to gather towards average. Of his consensus Top 190 prospects who passed through a-ball in 2013, the only Met on the list, Kevin Plawecki earns a 27% chance of greater than .001 batting runs AND 1,500 plate appearance.
At Baseball America, J.J. Cooper argues that the current Options/Rule 5 system hurts international free agents who sign at the age of 16 because MLB teams must add them to their 40-man rosters earlier than their domestic counterparts who are older when they sign both out of high school and college. His two solutions, both of which must be collectively bargained:
It would help even the playing field if MLB and the Players Association adopted a rule that made players eligible for the Rule 5 draft after six years if they sign at age 16. Alternately, the international signing age could be increased to 17.