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February 27, 2012

Transaction Analysis

Nats Extend Zimm

by R.J. Anderson

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

ANAHEIM ANGELS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Signed RHP Jason Isringhausen to a minor-league deal. [2/22]

Isringhausen just won’t quit. With a 40th birthday coming in September and more arm operations than he cares to count, Izzy will enter camp eyeing a middle relief job for the second straight spring. Isringhausen pitched well for the Mets last season—even taking over as closer for a time—until injuring his back. He attempted to gut it out, and by doing so sabotaged his seasonal numbers.

That’s the long and short of life with Isringhausen. He might give a team 40 quality innings before succumbing to injury, or he might blow his elbow out in camp and never return. No, Isringhausen does not have the stuff he used to, but he mixes and matches what he can throw—a low-90s four-seamer, high-70s yakker, and high-80s cutter—enough to get outs. The Angels have enough bullpen depth to sustain an Isringhausen flameout, so taking a flyer on Izzy is a low-risk maneuver.

NEW YORK YANKEES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Signed RHP David Aardsma to a one-year deal worth $500 thousand with a club option for 2013 worth $500 thousand with incentives. [2/22]

The Yankees are always focused on the present, but signing Aardsma is more about the future. Aardsma missed 2011 with hip and elbow issues, and a July Tommy John surgery means his status for 2012 is up in the air. New York could have another veteran relief option if Aardsma can heal within 14 months of the surgery; otherwise, Aardsma’s rehab progress will determine whether the Yankees exercise the 2013 club option. 

Is Aardsma worth the wait? If he can regain his pre-surgery stuff—the mid-to-upper-90s fastball, a slider, and a splitter—that has translated into more than a strikeout per inning during his major-league career, then the Yankees are getting a useful late-innings reliever. Should Aardsma fail to return to form, the cost isn’t worth worrying about. Consider signing Aardsma a prudent move—one that a small-market team would have been wise to make.

TEXAS RANGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired LHP Kelvin De La Cruz from the Indians for cash considerations. [2/21]

Formerly a promising young arm for the Indians, De La Cruz’s stock has dropped thanks to arm issues and sustained wildness. De La Cruz is a gangly southpaw with plenty of velocity and a good breaker, but a complex delivery burdens his ability to control those offerings. Cleveland moved De La Cruz to the bullpen late in the season after watching him walk the Eastern League over the past two seasons, and the uptick in strikeouts is encouraging—even if the walks were still there.

Texas is acquiring a live arm with the chance to be a major-league reliever at little cost. The only downside is that De La Cruz has one option remaining, so the Rangers will have to work fast to find him a home.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Re-signed 3B-R Ryan Zimmerman to a six-year contract extension worth $100 million with a club option for a seventh year worth $24 million, effective following the 2013 season. [2/26]

Argue all you want about whether Zimmerman or Pablo Sandoval (or David Wright or Hanley Ramirez) is the National League’s best third baseman; only one of them has the contract worthy of the title.  The only third basemen with more Wins Above Replacement Player since 2009 are Sandoval (by a negligible amount), Alex Rodriguez, Adrian Beltre, and Evan Longoria. That ranking comes with the caveat that Fielding Runs Above Average is not as fond of Zimmerman as other metrics.  There is no questioning Zimmerman’s bat, however, as his three-year True Average compares favorably to the likes of Nelson Cruz, Justin Upton, David Ortiz, and Ryan Howard.

There will be much talk about the risk in tacking on another six (possibly seven) years to Zimmerman’s current contract, but there is risk in any six- or seven-year deal, and this deal is akin to the one given to Ryan Braun last spring. Granted, Zimmerman has more injury questions than Braun did. He missed more than two months due to abdominal surgery last year and had labrum surgery back in 2008. But if the Nationals are confident that Zimmerman can recover and will keep himself in tiptop shape, then why not keep the best by paying him like the best?

Add in that Zimmerman would have reached free agency after next season—right as the core began to gel—plus his status as the face of the franchise, and you can understand why the Nationals wanted to get this out of the way. Of course, there will be talk about what, if anything, Zimmerman’s extension means for Anthony Rendon. The sixth-overall pick in last June’s draft is a good, polished third base prospect—which just so happens to be Zimmerman’s position. Should Rendon make his way to the majors, the Nationals will have a decision to make. It’s a long way off, but it shouldn’t be too surprising if Zimmerman is eventually slid across the diamond, if only after Rendon is tried at second base. Still, having too many All-Star caliber third basemen is a problem worth having.


R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here

Related Content:  Ryan Zimmerman

13 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Nathan

Zimmerman is the best defensive 3B in the NL, right? In that case, why wouldn't it be Rendon moving to 1B?

Feb 27, 2012 02:26 AM
rating: 0
 
SC

Not even close. Fangraphs has Polanco, Sandoval, McGehee, Roberts and Headly above him on UZR. Polanco, Sandoval, Roberts and McGehee also rate better at FRAA. So he's above average defensively (by those metrics) but not much more.

Feb 27, 2012 06:56 AM
rating: 1
 
bluesman98

I trust my eyes more than I trust BP's FRAA. Some of the FRAA ratings are basically a joke. For example: Carlos Gonzalez in the latest PECOTA's is a -4 and Seth Smith is a +7. EVERY writer at BP should be sentenced to watch replays of every Colorado Rockies game last year and then be made to explain how their FRAA has any relevance at all amongst any serious baseball fan. Most of what BP does is wonderful---but sometimes their numbers fall flat in a reality context--and Gonzalez -4 and Smith 7 in FRAA--is exhibit A of why I will never look at their FRAA ratings seriously ever again.

Feb 27, 2012 07:23 AM
rating: -1
 
SC

I remember this one time this one guy made a good play.

Have your eyes watched every play made by every player during every game of every season? If not, while FRAA may have it's flaws, the data input shortage of your eyes suggests they are useful for little more than anecdotes.

Feb 27, 2012 07:43 AM
rating: 3
 
bluesman98

No, but I watched at least 150 Rockies games last year either at the ball park or on TV and similar for the entire career of Seth Smith and Carlos Gonzalez. If you are trying to tell me that Seth Smith is not only a better outfielder than Carlos Gonzalez but a definitively better (7 to -4)--you need to start watching tiddlywinks---maybe you could understand that better. Maybe FRAA works better for infielders than outfielders but in this case the two players FRAA ratings are a complete and total joke.

Feb 27, 2012 08:48 AM
rating: -1
 
SC

Instead of being condescending, perhaps you would look at the other ratings system that I cite, which agrees with you. UZR sees both Gonzalez and Smith as below-average, but Gonzalez's much better arm makes up the difference in their range. I'm sure you've seen Gonzalez do some nice things, but the data say he has a well below average range, and is not a good defender.

Doubtless your watching baseball games with your face knows better than a sophisticated model using a three-year rolling-average with none of the biases that plague human observation. Congratulations.

Feb 27, 2012 11:22 AM
rating: 2
 
bluesman98

You are being trapped by just looking at a number system. There are just too many variables for it to be totally 100% reliable. I am not saying that what they do is not without merit--there is plenty of merit in the various fielding range systems that have come out. However, they are not perfect and are not an end allbe all for the last word on a player defensively. To say that Carlos Gonzalez has below average range for a major league outfielder is an amazingly ignorant statement.
Congratulations to you for being the all knowingall wise baseball expert on every player in the game--many who I am guessing you have never seen in person--just by looking at numbers on your computer.
I know it would be impossible--but I would LOVE for you to sit down and watch every defensive inning for the Rockies for the last two years and then I would LOVE for you to try and explain your statement that Gonzalez has "well below average range".

Feb 27, 2012 12:03 PM
rating: -3
 
SC

You've confused passion for evidence. Also, I'm pretty sure that's not what LOVE means, all caps or not, or if it is, something has gone horribly awry in your life.

Perhaps you could find something other than "I watch alotta baseball" to back up your statements about Gonzalez. And without watching all the other teams, how would you even know what "average" was?

I've offered several metrics, however flawed, that agree that he has below average range (23rd of 37) for NL OFs:

http://tinyurl.com/72bg8vn

You've offered invective and claims about your ability to watch a lot of Rockies baseball.

Feb 27, 2012 12:51 PM
rating: -1
 
prs130

Zimmerman has tremendous value as a fielder -- his downside comes on throwing errors. And many of those came in a rash last year as he was returning from the abdominal strain. Moreover, the Nats blame the his throwing motion for the ab strain in the first instance, and they've insisted that he modify his throwing motion to avoid future injuries. So a Zimmerman apologist could plausibly blame the bad metrics on those factors while still insisting that he's a great 3B.

Feb 27, 2012 11:18 AM
rating: 1
 
apbadogs

Is it silly to predict a Nationals World Series title within the next 5 years?

Feb 27, 2012 06:37 AM
rating: 1
 
lmarighi

Definitely, since World Series titles are kind of a crap shoot (2003 Marlins, 2006 Cardinals, 2010 Giants). But I would not bet against you if you were talking about playoff appearances. . .

Feb 27, 2012 08:48 AM
rating: 5
 
onegameref

Can Ethier point to this extension as a near starting point with the Trolley Dodgers too? He seems intent on pouting and grousing and giving a lot of monosyllabic answers these days due to no extension. Kemp got his, Kershaw too. Any projection as to what Ethier might be worth on the open market?

Feb 27, 2012 16:31 PM
rating: 0
 
rweiler

It's hard to compare Zimmerman with Sandoval; Zimmerman is clearly better than the over weight Sandoval, but probably not quite as good as the 'in shape' Sandoval.

Feb 28, 2012 14:55 PM
rating: 0
 
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