Saturday, December 24, 2011

Offseason Christmas Wishlist

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house.
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse...

Neal Huntington may be asleep as well. Just take a look at some of Pittsburgh's questionable situations and their answers for them thus far.

Pittsburgh's last major league transaction sent Jose Veras to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for McGehee on December 12th. Pirates Prospects now estimates their 40-man payroll at approximately $46 million, which is at least $4 million less than their originally announced budget. I am satisfied with the way they answered most of their questions, but first base still leaves me wanting more. I would not be against them targeting an additional starting pitcher as well.

x Ryan Doumit contract option declined.
x Chris Snyder contract option declined.
o Rod Barajas signed for $4MM over 1 year.

   First Base
x Derrek Lee becomes a free agent and declines arbitration.
o Garrett Jones offered arbitration.
o Lee, Carlos Pena.

   Third Base
x Pedro Alvarez may have another dismal season.
o Casey McGehee acquired from Milwaukee.

x Ronny Cedeno contract option declined.
o Clint Barmes signed for $10.5MM over 2 years.

   Starting Pitcher
x Paul Maholm contract option declined.
x Ross Ohlendorf non-tendered and released.
o Erik Bedard signed for $4.5MM over 1 year.
o Wei-Yin Chen, Jeff Francis, Rich Harden, Edwin Jackson, Hiroki Kuroda, Joe Saunders.

John Mozeliak and the St. Louis Cardinals have my permission to have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

The Cards may have lost Albert Pujols, but signing Carlos Beltran and Adam Wainwright's return should recover any wins they may have lost without him while maintaining their $110 million payroll. Fantastic.
   First Base
x Pujols becomes a free agent and signs with Los Angeles Angels.
o Lance Berkman shifts from right field to play first base.

   Second Base
x Nick Punto becomes a free agent and signs with Boston Red Sox.
x Ryan Theriot non-tendered and released.
o Skip Schumaker resigned for $3MM over 2 years.
o Daniel Descalso, Tyler Greene, and Allen Craig are under team control through 2013.

x Rafael Furcal becomes a free agent.
o Furcal is resigned for $14MM over 2 years.

   Center Field
x Jon Jay is under team control through 2013, but should not play every day.
o Beltran could cover center field on rare occasions to allow Craig playing time in right field.

   Right Field
x Berkman shifts to first base.
x Craig will begin the season on the disabled list.
o Beltran signed for $26MM over 2 years.

   Starting Pitcher
x Edwin Jackson becomes a free agent.
o Wainwright returns from Tommy John surgery.

   Relief Pitcher
x Octavio Dotel becomes a free agent and signs with Detroit Tigers.
o J.C. Romero signed for $750K over 1 year.

Team Losses: x
Questionable: o
Acceptable: o

What more could I ask for Christmas?

Contract extensions for Andrew McCutchen, Yadier Molina, and Wainwright.

Thanks for listening, Santa.

Friday, December 23, 2011

2012 Mock Draft, Review & Recap

So there you have it. My first ever fantasy baseball mock draft before the 2012 Major League Baseball season. It was a privilege to perform this exercise with some of the most intelligent guys in this department.

BleacherGM made a list of everyone's draft pick and sorted them by round and team. I suggest checking them out to see how each team turned out. I am not sure if he plans to determine a champion of this draft, but I had my own theory. I decided to compile everyone's draft picks into an Excel spreadsheet and use Bill James' 2012 projections from FanGraphs.

There were two players whose projections were missing (Chris Young, Matt Moore), so I used the FanGraphs fan projections in their stead. I did not adjust several other players who may miss significant playing time (Ryan Howard, Ryan Braun, Allen Craig), could be demoted (Mark Trumbo, Mike Trout, Juan Oviedo, Mark Melancon, Francisco Rodriguez) or may have been promoted (Daniel Bard, Matt Capps, Chris Sale, Matt Thornton). There are still several months before spring training and opening day, which is why I chose not to adjust statistics based upon incomplete data and swirling rumors.

I'm not here to toot my own horn... Okay, maybe once. *honk*

My team ranked highly in all categories except home runs and saves. Abandoning those categories may have allowed me to win the batting and pitching crowns, though I wish my team had a more defined source of power. David Ortiz is usually great, but I would have preferred someone younger. I regret not drafting a second closer earlier, but several teams decided to draft more than just two to ensure they won the saves category. I gave up on saves after realizing this and chose to draft more quality starters instead to preserve the other four categories.

I know a lot of the guys were accrediting askROTObaseball with the best team as we chatted during the draft. He made some pretty strong choices, which explains why he is ranked second on my projected list. He won the runs and stolen bases categories by a landslide, which is why he could have afforded swapping one or two of his offense picks for more homers and runs batted in.

TribeBball was right behind him even though he placed quite a few absentee ballots. The power is definitely there, but at the expense of his batting average and quite a few stolen bases. He was also tied for the most saves due to drafting four relief pitchers and K-Rod's projection as a closer, even though he is currently setting up for Brewers in front of John Axford. These choices were detrimental to his win and strikeout rankings.

We may do this again sometime before spring training, so stay tuned if you'd like to see more fantasy baseball mock drafting.

I did receive one critique from an anonymous commenter on Wednesday (don't be shy next time!) who approved of three of my nine offense choices and only one of my seven pitchers. They left their preferences had they been in my shoes, so let's see if their team is an improvement over mine.

These changes would cause my rotisserie league score to slide down to 95 and I slip to a five point lead. BleacherGM would take over as the dominant offense, while RepLevel would assume control of pitching. These altered choices would provide more home runs, wins, and strikeouts at the expense of runs, batting average, ERA, and WHIP.

I probably would still favor my team compared to this even without the statistical comparison. Their reasoning makes sense, though I would not have drafted Howard due to his questionable season start due to his injury. In addition, I am just not the type to draft so many pitchers in the earlier rounds, especially since there are so many quality pitchers available in the later rounds.

Don't forget, blog reader! Choosing one player in favor of another does not necessarily mean everything will work out for your aforementioned team. Altering my draft picks would certainly cause repercussions throughout the draft which would cause the other managers to change their approach. For example, if I chose Carl Crawford instead of Jered Weaver, then rytwin would be forced to make a different selection and Weaver would land on a different team.

Time travelers should be careful when they alter the past, otherwise your best friend could be your dad.
(The Terminator)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

2012 Mock Draft, Rounds 13-16

As I stated previously, I am participating in a fantasy baseball slow mock draft being coordinated by Jeffrey from BleacherGM, which can be followed on Couch Managers. There are 14 teams and there will be a total of 16 rounds. The draft began on Tuesday, December 13th and was originally anticipated to last until sometime in February.

I took a short trip with my girlfriend, so I was out of town for about two days and had to rely on my queue a little bit. We returned Wednesday night where I saw there were only two picks remaining in the draft. It is now Thursday morning and there is no solid indicator, but it looks like the draft ended around 7:00am CST. We had the potential to finish last night, but I accept this ending as it means four of my five projections were accurate and it was still over a month quicker than expected.

224 picks / 213 hours = 0.95 hours per pick or 25.24 picks per day.

Round #13, Pick #178 - Clay Buchholz
I should have guessed the rest of the guys would begin scrambling for closers. I had quite a few starters ranked on top of my queue and Buchholz was drafted as a result of my being auto queued. If I had the opportunity to make a human intervention, then I would have selected one of the three closers drafted after me (Jordan Walden, Sergio Santos, Andrew Bailey). Buchholz missed a lot of 2011, but I still like him in my rotation even though he was a mistake.

Round #14, Pick #187 - Jaime Garcia
Garcia was a human decision, though fan-weighted. I preferred taking the young lefty from the defending world champions and attempt to scrape the bottom of the barrel for my last two picks.

Round #15, Pick #206 - Torii Hunter
You can criticize Hunter all you want. It's probably justified, especially considering the Angels' lineup is still up in the air. There are only two slots I consider set in stone: Albert Pujols at first base, batting third and Hunter in right field batting behind him. He should collect at least 20 homers, but perhaps his batting average will be rejuvenated due to Pujols' presence. Wishful thinking.

Round #16, Pick #215 - Frank Francisco
I had several bottom dweller closer options in my final round including Matt Capps, Jonathan Broxton, Francisco Rodriguez, Daniel Bard, and "Leo Nunez." I decided upon Francisco who was recently traded from the Blue Jays to the Mets. Earlier reports from New York show he is the most likely candidate to receive the team closer role, which makes sense given his great career strikeout rates (9.9 K/9, 2.5 K/BB).

*FanGraphs fans projection

Rounds 1 & 2
Rounds 3 & 4
Rounds 5 & 6
Rounds 7 & 8
Rounds 9 & 10
Rounds 11 & 12
Rounds 13 - 16

Critiques are welcomed!

Monday, December 19, 2011

2012 Mock Draft, Rounds 11 & 12

As I stated previously, I am participating in a fantasy baseball slow mock draft being coordinated by Jeffrey from BleacherGM, which can be followed on Couch Managers. There are 14 teams and there will be a total of 16 rounds. The draft began on Tuesday, December 13th and was originally anticipated to last until sometime in February.

Round nine was a bit of a struggle, but we rolled through round ten pretty quick. I even managed to take my 11th round draft pick before we stalled again. We probably would still be rolling along if BleacherGM would not have disabled auto queue. 159 picks were made in nearly 155 hours, which gives us an average of 0.98 hours per pick or 24.53 picks per day. Our draft rate has sustained a fairly steady pace as we creep closer toward the finish line. Only four rounds left.

Expected Date to Complete at Current Rate: Thursday, December 22, 2011
Latest Date to Complete at Maximum Rate: Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I should mention I will be taking a short trip starting Tuesday afternoon, so I may have to rely on my queue.

Round #11, Pick #150 - Yadier Molina
I believe you should not let your inner fan take control of your picks, which is why I actually regret picking Molina. He's one of the most popular players in St. Louis since Albert Pujols left the team and plays great defense, but it doesn't matter in an offense-only fantasy world. He was on top of the heap of leftover catchers with the catcher slot still open for three other teams. I would have considered taking a second closer this round, but all of the "tier two" closers were taken after my last pick.

Round #12, Pick #159 - Nick Markakis
I had Brandon Morrow on top of my queue to enforce my strikeout category, but he was taken just before me. Markakis was my silver medal in round 12. He plays for the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East, which means they face pitchers like CC Sabathia, Jon Lester, James Shields, and possibly Yu Darvish more often than other teams in weaker divisions. However he still manages to post 70+ runs and RBIs, 10+ home runs and stolen bases, and a respectable batting average in the .300 range.

*FanGraphs fans projection

Rounds 1 & 2
Rounds 3 & 4
Rounds 5 & 6
Rounds 7 & 8
Rounds 9 & 10
Rounds 11 & 12
Rounds 13 - 16

Critiques are welcomed!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

2012 Mock Draft, Rounds 9 & 10

As I stated previously, I am participating in a fantasy baseball slow mock draft being coordinated by Jeffrey from BleacherGM, which can be followed on Couch Managers. There are 14 teams and there will be a total of 16 rounds. The draft began on Tuesday, December 13th and was originally anticipated to last until sometime in February.

Five days have past, but progression stalled during round nine due to three managers using their full eight hour time limits. 136 picks were made in over 132 hours, which gives us an average of 0.97 hours per pick or 24.66 picks per day. As you can see, our rates are unfortunately trending upwards. It was a lot worse earlier until we had a recent draft "boost."

Expected Date to Complete at Current Rate: Thursday, December 22, 2011
Latest Date to Complete at Maximum Rate: Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Round #9, Pick #122 - David Ortiz
There is plenty of quality pitching still available, so much so I felt it would have been dumb to pass up on Ortiz again. He's 36 and on the decline, but I'm comfortable with him in my utility spot considering he accepted Boston's arbitration offer. Run production is a safe assumption as long he is a part of the Red Sox lineup.

Round #10, Pick #131 - Mat Latos
I was still under the firm belief that pitchers are abundant while good offense is becoming more scarce, but just could not pass up on the opportunity to snag Latos. Now he can be counted on for all categories since he was recently traded to Cincinnati, even wins. I think he's going to be a stud in 2012.

*FanGraphs fans projection

Rounds 1 & 2
Rounds 3 & 4
Rounds 5 & 6
Rounds 7 & 8
Rounds 9 & 10
Rounds 11 & 12
Rounds 13 - 16

Critiques are welcomed!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

2012 Mock Draft, Rounds 7 & 8

As I stated previously, I am participating in a fantasy baseball slow mock draft being coordinated by Jeffrey from BleacherGM, which can be followed on Couch Managers. There are 14 teams and there will be a total of 16 rounds. The draft began on Tuesday, December 13th and was originally anticipated to last until sometime in February.

Not quite eight full rounds completed in four days. 110 selections have been made in nearly 103 hours, which is an average rate of 0.94 hours per pick or 25.64 picks per day. I am quite surprised to see the pace is unchanged after waiting for close to a century for a couple guys last night and this afternoon. I hope things speed up as the girlfriend and I plan to take a trip next week before Christmas.

Expected Date to Complete at Current Rate: Thursday, December 22, 2011
Latest Date to Complete at Maximum Rate: Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Round #7, Pick #94 - John Axford
I'm fairly happy with my offense thus far and there were several upcoming options to help enforce it, but I knew the market for quality pitching would pass me by if I didn't act now. Craig Kimbrel was on the top of my queue, but was three slots too slow. I drafted Axford as my second choice who should assist my saves category, though there is some risk with Francisco Rodriguez in the same bullpen.

Round #8, Pick #103 - Matt Moore
I originally intended my followup selection to be a second top quality closer, but changed my mind at the last moment and opted for another starter. Once again my first choice was taken just before it was my turn. C.J. Wilson on the 101st pick is an amazing steal. I took Moore, the phenom from Tampa Bay. This will be his true rookie season, so hopefully there is no sophomore "slump."

*FanGraphs fans projection

Rounds 1 & 2
Rounds 3 & 4
Rounds 5 & 6
Rounds 7 & 8
Rounds 9 & 10
Rounds 11 & 12
Rounds 13 - 16

Critiques are welcomed!

Friday, December 16, 2011

2012 Mock Draft, Rounds 5 & 6

As I stated previously, I am participating in a fantasy baseball slow mock draft being coordinated by Jeffrey from BleacherGM, which can be followed on Couch Managers. There are 14 teams and there will be a total of 16 rounds. The draft began on Tuesday, December 13th and was originally anticipated to last until sometime in February.

Six rounds completed in three days. 89 selections have been made in over 82 hours, which is an average rate of 0.93 hours per pick or 25.80 picks per day. Some people are proving to be major hurdles in this draft, which makes it seem like a lot more time has past, but my impatience is probably caused by my baseball deprivation.

Expected Date to Complete at Current Rate: Thursday, December 22, 2011
Latest Date to Complete at Maximum Rate: Monday, January 30, 2012

Round #5, Pick #66 - Lance Berkman
I thought about using this opportunity to acquire another pitcher while guys like Jon Lester, Matt Cain, and Adam Wainwright were still available, but decided against it. I did not like many of the other first base options behind Berkman, which is why I decided to pick him up while I could. He's been an extremely consistent hitter with at least 20 homers and a batting average over .270 every season since 2000, excluding 2010. If he can do that in 2012, then the runs and RBIs will follow as long as he's in St. Louis.

Round #6, Pick #75 - Michael Young
While looking ahead at the rest of the position players available, I really wanted to fill third base before it was too late. I had queued Young and Kevin Youkilis before I went to bed, hoping to have drafted one of them before the morning. I ended up with Young, which is fine. He will be constantly scoring and driving in runs in the Rangers lineup thanks to his steady batting average of .280 or better. In retrospect, I wish I would have taken Brett Lawrie instead after realizing his potential in a full-time role, but at least Young will keep up my team's batting average.

Rounds 1 & 2
Rounds 3 & 4
Rounds 5 & 6
Rounds 7 & 8
Rounds 9 & 10
Rounds 11 & 12
Rounds 13 - 16

Critiques are welcomed!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

2012 Mock Draft, Rounds 3 & 4

As I stated previously, I am participating in a fantasy baseball slow mock draft being coordinated by Jeffrey from BleacherGM, which can be followed on Couch Managers. There are 14 teams and there will be a total of 16 rounds. The draft began on Tuesday, December 13th and was originally anticipated to last until sometime in February.

Four rounds completed in a little more than two days. As this article is published, 64 selections have been made over the first 54 hours. That's an average rate of 1.19 picks per hour or 28.4 picks per day, which means we could expect this draft to be finished in about eight days from when the draft began. Wednesday, December 21st is great compared to February as we will now have Christmas and New Years to ourselves.

It took a very long time for the draft to snake back to me in the third round. I knew I would not be able to stay awake to make my pick when it finally came to me around 3AM CST, so I filled my queue and hit the sack. I woke up this morning to find I had selected Jered Weaver, which is not a bad thing, but the next choice in my queue after him was who I would have really preferred. Mike Napoli would have been the big bat my current lineup needs who also has the ability to maintain a decent batting average and plays a position where those characteristics are unusual, but he was taken at the end of the round.

Round four had looped around quickly as it was time for my pick with the clock ticking when I sat down at the computer this morning. I really wanted to find that big bat, but also wanted to fill in a weak position before it was too late. I decided upon Ben Zobrist whom I have overlooked several years beforehand and only considered him now from what I had read. Rickie Weeks and Howie Kendrick were other options at the position, but I felt that Weeks' consistently low batting average would hurt me and thought it was too early for Kendrick. I would be ecstatic with this pick if the 2012 Zobrist is the same from 2011 or 2009.

Round #3, Pick #38 - Jered Weaver
This pick was a borderline mistake as I set my queue before I hit the sack last night and expected Weaver to be selected by one of the three teams before mine. The second player in my queue was actually my top choice as I hoped to use this round to acquire a big bat at a weak position, but Mike Napoli was taken before the round ended.

Round #4, Pick #47 - Ben Zobrist
I wanted to use round four to fulfill my desire of some power in an otherwise weak position. Rickie Weeks was a possibility, but his batting average would drag the team down. Howie Kendrick could have been another option, but not in round four. Rather than risk waiting, I chose Zobrist who has the power to hit 20-30 homeruns, drive in 80-90 runs, and potentially bat for a decent average.

Rounds 1 & 2
Rounds 3 & 4
Rounds 5 & 6
Rounds 7 & 8
Rounds 9 & 10
Rounds 11 & 12
Rounds 13 - 16

Critiques are welcomed!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

2012 Mock Draft, Rounds 1 & 2

As I stated previously, I am participating in a fantasy baseball slow mock draft being coordinated by Jeffrey from BleacherGM, which can be followed on Couch Managers. There are 14 teams and there will be a total of 16 rounds. The draft began on Tuesday, December 13th and was originally anticipated to last until sometime in February, but apparently everyone is anxious to try to prepare for 2012. Two rounds down, only 14 to go!

I landed in the #10 slot and quickly realized I would not be able to acquire any of my top three choices (Matt Kemp, Albert Pujols, Jose Bautista), but I definitely lucked out when it finally came time for my first round pick as Jacoby Ellsbury fell in my lap.

The second round was much more difficult as I hate to snag pitchers early in drafts and the guys I hoped would fall through the cracks were taken (Justin Upton, Carlos Gonzalez, Adrian Beltre, Curtis Granderson, Prince Fielder). I took a risk, which is unlike me in the second round, and decided upon Hanley Ramirez who had a terrible 2011. If everything pans out, then I have two guys with the potential to contribute in all five categories.

Round #1, Pick #10 - Jacoby Ellsbury
There were only three guys in 2011 to collect 100 runs, 100 RBI, 30 HR, and 30 stolen bases while also posting a batting average of .300 or better: Matt Kemp, Ryan Braun, and Jacoby Ellsbury. Kemp was taken in the first round and no one is going to touch Braun this early when he may have to serve a 50 game suspension, so there was little hesitation when I chose Ellsbury. I don't foresee him maintaining the disposition as a 30/30 guy, but would be happy with a 20/40 season. He's practically a knack for 100 RBIs and runs as long as he is healthy in a Red Sox uniform.

Round #2, Pick #19 - Hanley Ramirez
This was less of a given. I have a very hard time taking pitchers early in drafts, unless it's an auction and only for cheap, which is why I passed on guys like Roy Halladay and Clayton Kershaw. Bill James projects Hanley Ramirez to bounce back to similar numbers from 2010. There are very few shortstops who have the upside to hit 20-30 HR and steal 20+ bases while also maintaining a batting average close to .300. I settled on Hanley hoping 2011 was a fluke year. I would typically prefer my 2nd round pick to have less risk, but I just couldn't justify any of the other alternatives.

Rounds 1 & 2
Rounds 3 & 4
Rounds 5 & 6
Rounds 7 & 8
Rounds 9 & 10
Rounds 11 & 12
Rounds 13 - 16

Critiques are welcomed!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

2012 Fantasy Baseball Mock Draft

I will be a participant of a slow fantasy baseball mock draft which begins today Tuesday. It was supposed to start on Monday, but it was pushed back while we scrambled to fill the last few slots. The draft will be coordinated by Jeffrey from BleacherGM who provided an introduction on their website.

Here are some of the details:
"Today marks the start of our very first BleacherGM Fantasy Baseball Slow Mock Draft. We've assembled a great group of fantasy baseball enthusiasts, each with varying levels of experience. Over the next couple weeks we'll each draft a full roster for the 2012 season. I know it is very early, but it should be interesting to see how the draft positions of players change from last year and start to get a feel for which positions will be the most shallow, who will be this year's 'sleepers' and just how far Ryan Braun falls due to the very real possibility that he'll miss a significant amount of time to start the season.

Anyway, here are the rules. We will draft 16 positions; C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, OF, OF, OF, UT, SP, SP, SP, RP, RP, P, P and use the basic 5x5 Roto scoring statistics; R, HR, RBI, SB, AVG, W, S, K, ERA, WHIP.

Throughout the draft we'll have each team give thoughts on their picks. At the end of the draft we'll use some preliminary projections to crown a champion of BleacherGM's inaugural Mock Draft."

You can find a short bio for each participant on his website, so go check them out!

The draft will be performed on Couch Managers, so you should be able to follow it. I will gladly accept any criticisms you may have as it will almost certainly help out in my upcoming drafts.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Furcal Returns for Two Year Deal

The St. Louis Cardinals made a move I was expecting and signed veteran shortstop Rafael Furcal to a 2 year contract worth $14 million. The price was reasonable as I had predicted a seasonal salary of about $8 million. This acquisition supports the "realistic outcome" I theorized in my post on Friday. Check it out if you haven't read it yet.

Furcal is not a terrible baseball player, but he is a rather high risk at this price. He used to be a major threat on the bases who would steal 20+ bases per season. Now his greatest threat is to land on the disabled list for most of the season. He played in fairly unabbreviated seasons for the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers from 2002 through 2007, but has averaged only 92.5 games per season since 2008.

I understand the Cardinals did not want to give Jimmy Rollins the five year contract he desires. Not signing Rollins also allows them to avoid talking to Dan Lozano for a second time, which is probably ideal after their failure to sign Albert Pujols. I have a tendency to avoid confrontation, so I would have done the same thing in their situation.

This acquisition almost certainly indicates Ryan Theriot will be non-tendered. If they continue with the "realistic" route, then I'm willing to place a bet on seeing Nick Punto, Darren Oliver, George Sherrill, and Carlos Beltran pop up in Cardinals rumors.

Pittsburgh Pirates Offseason Outlook

I provided a followup piece to the Pittsburgh Pirates Report Card for Mr. Bill Ivie on Baseball Digest. It was actually published on December 1st, so it is lacking the latest information regarding their acquisitions of Erik Bedard, Nick Evans, details on the Rule V draft, etc.

The website was removed. The article can now be found here: Pirates 2012 Offseason Outlook

I apologize for the delay, but you can believe it's been a crazy week with the winter meetings and all.

Please go check it out if you've not already. Thanks for reading!

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Cardinals Nest Egg

Albert Pujols is gone. That's yesterday's news. As the St. Louis Cardinals management, bloggers, and fans move forward, we can only wonder what looms in the future.

Once again I am extremely depressed there is not a resource with 40-man payroll projections similar to Pirates Prospects. The best option for general bloggers like me is to combine Cot's Baseball Contracts with MLBTR's Offseason Outlook. It's not pretty, but please cut me some slack.

The Cards currently have approximately $80 million allotted before any arbitration agreements or including anyone with less than three seasons of service time. If you include my rough estimates with MLBTR's decision to tender Kyle McClellan and Jason Motte, then their payroll increases to just over $90 million. Derrick Goold reported this from the winter meetings in Dallas: "Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said the Cardinals will be targeting a $110 million payroll for 2012. John Mozeliak said not having Pujols as a part of that doesn't adjust the payroll downward." If this remains true, then they should have about $20 million worth of Pujols Fun Bucks to help repair the team.

MLBTR also suggests Skip Schumaker and Ryan Theriot are non-tender candidates, but there is no telling who the Cards will keep now that Pujols is off the roster. MLB Depth Charts indicates they should be shopping for a first baseman, shortstop, and left-handed reliever. They also want an extra outfielder to cover for Allen Craig while he is on the disabled list and provide backup for Jon Jay, or vice versa. It is extremely doubtful they will look at anyone in the catcher, third base, or starting pitcher market as they already have some of the best available locked in for next season. For the sake of trying to provide a balanced argument, I wanted to create a list of the best free agents still available who may be desirable to the Cardinals and sorted them by their WAR from last season with a value of one or greater.

I do not necessarily agree with acquiring a first baseman as they already have Lance Berkman and Craig who are both capable of playing first as well as a corner outfield position. The Cards also have prospect Matt Adams who most recently played AA ball in 2011 and will likely be promoted to AAA this year, which should allow him to be ready for his MLB debut either later next season or in 2013. Now that Albert is out of the picture, I want Adams to make a clean entry to the Major Leagues as soon as he is ready.

My desire to leave first base open eventually led to a small debate with my girlfriend's brother who feels we should sign Prince Fielder. He noted his first choice would have been Jose Reyes and I would have agreed with him had the Miami Marlins not beat us to the punch.

Eric Seidman from FanGraphs talked about Rafael Furcal, Jimmy Rollins, and Carlos Beltran as his preferred free agents. Rollins is the ideal candidate of the three with modest defense at shortstop and has been consistently healthy over his career, but it may be an awkward experience to speak with another Dan Lozano client and the Philadelphia Phillies may want to keep him. Beltran is aging quickly even though he is only 34. He may do well to fill in for Craig, but I would not want to see him in center field. Seidman also contemplates several trade targets in J.J. Hardy, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Alexei Ramirez. Any of these guys would be great acquisitions for shortstop, but I am wary to see what would be asked in return.

Michael Barr from RotoHardball speculates the Cardinals should achieve the same number of wins next season even with the loss of Pujols. Berkman shifts to first base, Craig plays right field full-time, and Adam Wainwright returns as the staff ace. He touches upon the same possibilities at shortstop as well as Beltran, but mentions the rumor of shopping Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook. If they are able to unload one of them, then they could pursue Roy Oswalt. This is extremely unlikely as both pitchers have full no-trade clauses in their contracts. If it were possible, I would have been a bigger fan of granting Mark Buehrle's wish to come to St. Louis.

Personally, I hope they take an adventurous approach and acquire Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes or an international free agent from Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan. Cespedes is an outfielder who could play center field full-time while Jay fills in for Craig until he returned from the disabled list. If not him then Beltran, Michael Cuddyer, Coco Crisp, or Josh Willingham would be more typical selections who could provide more depth to their outfield.

The more urgent area to fix is their middle infield. The market for second basemen is quite scarce, so it may be wise to bring Nick Punto back for at least another season unless they decide to experiment with Craig or Cuddyer at second. It would be great to see them sign a player like Munenori Kawasaki at shortstop, but I recall reading he only wants to play for the Seattle Mariners with Ichiro Suzuki. Otherwise Rollins, Furcal, or Ronny Cedeno are the only other legitimate choices.

The list of free agent left-handed relief pitchers is ancient, so I hope they decide to trade for somebody or get creative. Perhaps they could convince a left-handed starting pitcher from Japan to convert to the bullpen (Wei-Yin Chen, Tsuyoshi Wada), which is unlikely unless they opted to considerably overpay them. If somebody forced me to pick from the free agent pool, I would pick either Darren Oliver or George Sherrill.

I cannot accurately foresee their salaries, especially those supposedly arriving from overseas. The "fantastic" projection is almost certainly overpriced and quite an unrealistic expectation from the Cardinals front office, though it would be quite exciting. I would expect the "realistic" estimate to fall within the $110 million parameters, but it would cause our roster to be aged and brittle. Without further ado here are several variations of the Cardinals 25-man roster: current, fantastic, and realistic.

Current/Projected 25-man Rosters. New acquisitions in rose.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Pujols Has Flown the Coop

Albert Pujols will be in the Hall of Fame some day. When that day comes, the St. Louis Cardinals will retire his number and so will the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (formerly known as the Anaheim Angels, formerly known as the California Angels, and formerly known as the Los Angeles Angels).

The Angels signed Pujols to a $254 million contract over 10 years and includes a full no-trade clause. I honestly did not expect it after Albert repeatedly stated in the past his desire to be a Cardinal for life like Stan Musial. The Miami Marlins created some pressure, which made me quite nervous. The Marlins backed down from their previous offers on Wednesday, which relieved my tension and I eventually fell soundly asleep.

Allow me to provide foreshadow by tweaking a memorable quote from Futurama:

"Ooh, the jedis Cardinals fans are going to feel this one."

Albert Pujols at the 2008 All Star Game, via Facebook
I was a little restless in bed Thursday morning and decided to check Twitter only to find the news. I first saw it mentioned by ESPN and SportsCenter, then Twitter exploded with further depressing news.

Bob Nightengale: The #STLCards actually had only the fourth-largest offer to Albert Pujols, behind the #Marlins, #Angels and the mystery team.

Buster Olney: Agent competition always fascinating. Pujols gets $254 million... Just a little over A-rod's $252m. Never a coincidence.

Jenifer Langosch: Albert Pujols is going to miss those guaranteed yearly visits to PNC Park. He has a .376 average, 29 HRs and 85 RBIs in 89 games there.

Of course, unless you were hiding under a rock and only read my blog for some reason, then you know the Angels did not stop there. They also signed former Texas Rangers starting pitcher, C.J. Wilson, to a $77.5 million contract over 5 years, which includes a full no-trade clause over the first two years and partial in the last three. If you were shocked by the Marlins giving $191MM to three players, then the Angels paying two guys $327.5M would have given you a heart attack. It was slightly humorous when I read the Marlins actually had the high offer submitted for both players, yet they decided against them.

ESPN Stats: Angels signed Wilson & Pujols for $327.5M. KC, TB, PIT, SD, CLE, ARI and FLA owed a combined $327.8M to their opening day rosters for 2011.

MLBTR: Albert Pujols Signing Reactions

STL: Fear The Red: The Five Stages of Pujols Leaving

The Cardinal Nation blog: It’s ok. Just don’t insult us, Albert. It was about the money.

Viva El Birdos: The End of an Era: Pujols to Sign with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Pitchers Hit Eighth: Pujols Signs With Angels, Gets Free Disney Passes!

C70: Devastation

I-70 Baseball: Farewell A message for Albert the Machine from Stan the Man Bob Gibson on Pujols: 'He should have been a Cardinal for life'

I am not bitter or upset, though I am a little depressed with a now dated Pujols jersey. You would expect I would be desensitized from this behavior as a Pirates fan, but alas, I am not. I actually never owned a baseball jersey until I moved to St. Louis because I did not want to pay for a custom jersey, then have that chosen player leave. So much for that.

I trust this was the best decision for Albert and only wish it would have kept him in a Cardinals uniform. Cardinal nation may be frustrated, sad, angry, or some mixture of the three, but this blogger hopes he does not forget his 11 years in St. Louis because we will not forget him. I will continue dining out at Pujols 5 as long as it remains open and would gladly welcome him back to St. Louis, whether or not he wears Cardinals red.

Further analysis and speculation will come over the next few days.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Miami Marlins and Lucrative Spending

I preemptively answered this question asked by my sister's boyfriend regarding the Miami Marlins on Monday:
Hey Ryan,
I wanted to get your thoughts on the Marlin's new acquisitions in Jose Reyes and Heath Bell.

Hi Neil,
I think Reyes will be a good pick as long as he stays healthy and Hanley Ramirez actually agrees to shift to third. Bell is still one of the better closers, but he's on the decline. Their offense/defense looks good now, but pitching is still a major question mark. Who knows how much cash they have left now, if any.

They must still have a wad left in the wallet as they apparently raised their offer to Pujols. Why him and not Mark Buehrle, Edwin Jackson, or C.J. Wilson is beyond me.

I normally do not cover the Marlins, but I wanted to make an educated response when I was asked about their latest developments. This normally would not be an issue, but I was frustrated when I could not locate a blog or similar resource which projected the Miami Marlins 2012 payroll. Pirates Prospects has spoiled me, which led me to crunch the numbers on my own using Cot's Baseball Contracts and arbitration estimates from MLBTR's Offseason Outlook.

The list isn't perfect, but cut me some slack since this isn't one of my dedicated teams. This estimate initially showed $84 million allotted to their roster next season, then the Marlins just had to sign Buehrle to a 4 year, $58 million contract. This tentatively increases my projection to nearly $99 million unless his contract is This increases my projection to slightly over $90 million after discovering via MLBTR that his contract is back loaded like Reyes.

Of course this does not include the 10 year, $220 million offer to Albert Pujols that would have averaged $24 million per season, though it reportedly fell through before the Buehrle signing. Regardless of what was previously said, it does mean they have spent $191 million on three players in one week. It doesn't stop there. Apparently the Marlins still have an active offer out for Wilson and are now pursuing Prince Fielder.

What is going on in Miami? Check out their payroll over the past few years from Steve the Ump.

Marlins Payroll vs. Other MLB Teams, 2000-2011

The Marlins have consistently been a Major League Baseball team with a below average payroll. They have never crossed the seasonal average, though came relatively close in 2005 with $60MM only to begin the following season at a mere $15MM. That was the lowest payroll for a MLB team since 2000.

When will it end? At this rate the sky's the limit. $100MM? $120MM? $200MM?
Given Jeffrey Loria's sudden emulation of the late George Steinbrenner, I would not be terribly surprised.

Where did they suddenly get this money? Possible revenue share hoarding.

I am not going to question where this money came from, but I do wonder if they have the right people managing their finances. If this is actually money they had (wrongly) saved from revenue sharing or accumulated from other means, then so be it. If this is money they anticipate to generate in the future from the new stadium and new free agents, then that is a dreadful thought. When the new stadium fails to attract new fans, then there will be massive budget cuts. Perhaps this is why the Marlins refuses to offer anyone a no trade clause in their contracts.

It's possibly an escape plan from future financial emergencies, but let's hope the Marlins do not need to resort to using it.

Update #1: Wilson signed with the Angels and the Marlins are not interested in Fielder. Will the spending stop?

Update #2: Buehrle's contract is back loaded like Reyes, which reduces their 2012 payroll projection to ~$90MM.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Pirates Shop for New Ace

I talked about the Pittsburgh Pirates options for first base on Friday and concluded they should spend anywhere from $8.5 to $12 million for either Derrek Lee, Carlos Pena, or Michael Cuddyer. What is left for a new starting pitcher?

In the best case scenario with a $50 million payroll, the Pirates would have at least $4.5 million to use towards a starting pitcher, which may be enough for a decent option considering Chris Capuano just signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers today for two years at $5 million per season. He was my first choice, but I also had Erik Bedard on my wishlist. Battling Bucs and McEffect are in agreeance with me.

I know I did not go into great detail when I last looked at the starting pitcher market, so let's check out who is still available. Here are all their options (viable or not) sorted by SIERA from last season as well as over the past three seasons. I prefer SIERA to FIP because it weighs strikeouts more heavily, which is something I wish the Pirates organization would desire more from their starting pitchers. This allows the pitchers I want them to acquire to shine much brighter because I want there to be no confusion: I don't want Paul Maholm back in Pittsburgh.
Starting Pitcher Targets over One Season
In addition to those mentioned, the Pirates also seem to be interested in Nippon Professional Baseball league pitchers Wei-Ying Chen (age 26) and Tsuyoshi Wada (30). Their advanced statistics are generally unavailable, but Bradley Woodrum on FanGraphs did crunch the numbers to produce their FIP. Wada received a FIP of 2.64 while Chen scored a 3.33. If these values are accurate to MLB standards, then it would rank them among the top 25 starters in 2011 who qualified. Who knows how they will actually perform in America, but the possibility of an elite pitcher for only $5 million per year is exciting.
Starting Pitcher Targets over Three Seasons
Using a filter of simply anyone better than Maholm, I found the 13 best free agent pitchers still available. Eight were superior to him on both lists, two posted marginal numbers than him last season, and three were slightly better over the past three seasons:

Both ListsLast Season OnlyBoth Seasons
Erik BedardKevin MillwoodJoe Pineiro
Rich HardenJason MarquisAaron Harang
Bartolo ColonJeff Francis
Javier Vazquez*
Hiroki Kuroda*
Roy Oswalt*
C.J. Wilson*
Edwin Jackson** Too Expensive

I do not expect them to be players for Vazquez, Kuroda, Oswalt, Wilson, or Jackson as their asking prices will certainly be much higher than their budget. That leaves eight pitchers I would be happy to see in black and gold next season. Bedard, Harden, Colon, Millwood, Marquis, Pineiro, Harang, and Francis should cost anywhere from $1 to $6 million per season with a contract length of one or two years. These are feasible choices considering comparable pitchers have already signed contracts this offseason for $3 to $6 million. The pitchers from the Japanese market could request $5 million per season. If the Pirates' payroll is set even higher than $50 million, then it may even be possible to sign two pitchers instead of just the one.

This is ideal as they are affordable short-term investments and should pave the way for their prospects developing in the farm system, but what happens if their payroll becomes less than optimistic? Perhaps they overpay a first baseman, which is not unrealistic as players do not flock to Pittsburgh by choice, and they decide not to expand their payroll much beyond their initially proposed $50 million limit. It could effectively reduce their budget for a starting pitcher to zero. If this occurs, they will have two avenues: stick with their unaltered righty-heavy rotation or get creative. Time for a bake sale.

The Buccos would have plenty of depth at first as well as the outfield, so they may be able to release or trade Garrett Jones to save approximately $2.4 million (arbitration estimate). The other financial aid could come from a trade involving Joel Hanrahan. Closers are in high demand and reaching surprisingly high values. It would be crazy to not at least test the waters, especially as it could remove $4 million (arbitration estimate) from their current payroll and provide new prospects via a trade. Making these moves would have the potential to create $6.4 million that could be used toward a new starting pitcher.
Current/Projected 25-man Rosters. New acquisitions in yellow, positional/role changes in grey.
Optimal Outcome - $56MM
Lee accepts his arbitration offer at the value of $8.5 million and the two most exciting lefties are added to the starting rotation (Bedard and Chen) for $5.25 million each. The moves would shift Jones to the bench, while Correia would assume a role in the bullpen. This would raise their 2012 payroll to approximately $56 million, which is still true to their initial statement of "over $50 million."

Inferior Outcome - $47MM
Lee declines arbitration, which provides them a sandwich draft pick between the first and second rounds. They would divert their attention to another first baseman and eventually offer Pena $12 million. Overpaying him triggers a liquidation process, which ships out Jones and Hanrahan. This creates extra finances to sign an extra starting pitcher, but fans are disappointed it is a righty beyond their prime: Millwood. Evan Meek was the second choice for the closer role last season and would likely become the new closer if Hanrahan left. Fans become upset when their payroll fails to meet the promised estimate at the cost of two fan favorites.

Worst Outcome - $43M
Lee declines arbitration and receive their sandwich pick, but none of the other free agent first basemen acknowledge the Pirates' offers. They are forced to use a platoon consisting of Jones, Matt Hague, and Nick Evans. A below average starting pitcher is overpaid who does not utilize strikeouts and fails to provide the needed diversity in a right-handed heavy rotation. Promises of reformation, change, and increasing payroll are ignored by management, which causes outrage.

Can the Pirates find an average or better starting pitcher? Certainly, although I hope they do not succumb to dumpster diving for Aaron Cook.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Pirates Push for Lee

It has been over two months since the regular season ended and one month since the World Series finished. The Pittsburgh Pirates have spent the offseason trying to solve their problems in preparation for next season. Thus far they have filled their formerly empty positions at catcher and shortstop with Rod Barajas and Clint Barmes, respectively.

I previously speculated on an idea of how the Pirates could solve their positional woes with the money they were allotted earlier this month. My vision would have spent $8 million to acquire Kelly Shoppach and Nick Punto. I think Barajas was a fine addition as you should gather from my earlier praises, though acquiring Barmes was most surprising.

I do not intend "surprising" to come across as a bad thing; on the contrary, I am actually quite impressed. He may not have been the best in the entire group, however he was the best we could afford. He does not have incredible power or speed, but his defense is well renowned. What little power in his bat may disappear after leaving Coors Field and Minute Maid Park, nevertheless he should still be an upgrade over our former shortstop, Ronny Cedeno.

These two investments will cost the team $9 million in 2012. If Pirates Prospects' 40-Man Roster and Payroll is accurate, then they should have $37 million tied up on their current roster. Beginning the 2012 season with a payroll of $50 million or more should leave at least $13 million to procure a first baseman with power and a starting pitcher or two.

The Pirates acquired Derrek Lee from the Baltimore Orioles before the trading deadline and has expressed great interest in retaining him for next season and offered him arbitration, though we are not so sure the feeling is mutual. If Lee declines the arbitration offer, then I would expect the Pirates to abandon Lee, accept the first round compensation pick, and switch their focus to another player.

Many have been talking about Carlos Pena as an alternative to Lee, but there is also Michael Cuddyer. Among these three options for first base, all share near-identical fielding percentages though Cuddyer actually logged more playing time in right field than first. They all logged a positive UZR/150 this past season, though Lee was the only one to post a positive score over the past three seasons (2.9). Run prevention is nice, but I am certain Pirates fans would care more about run production and power.
First Base Targets over One Season
First Base Targets over Three Seasons
Their 2011 performances were extremely similar, but Lee was on the bottom with an OPS of .771, then Cuddyer at .805, and Pena on top with .819. Pena's score is spoiled by his poor batting average (.225), which was a depressing improvement over his previous season (.196). Lee shoots ahead when you look at their statistics over the last three seasons, but he is aging and is unlikely to improve very much from 2011. Each guy is a threat for 20+ home runs as long as they stay healthy.

Pena and Cuddyer both earned close to $10 million in 2011, while Lee earned $7.25 million. If Lee accepts arbitration or a new contract is conjured, then expect him to receive a raise over his 2011 salary. Pirates Prospects estimates it would be over $8.5 million. That said, it would probably take anywhere from $8.5 to $12 million to convince one of these guys to come to Pittsburgh, which has the potential to become the most expensive one year salary in franchise history over Matt Morris who earned over $10 million in 2008.

I will talk about their starting pitching options in my next article rather than only devote a paragraph or two.

Stay tuned.