CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

<< Previous Article
Fantasy Article Fantasy Team Preview: ... (11/14)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article One Move: American Lea... (11/12)
No Next Column
Next Article >>
An Agent's Take: Appro... (11/14)

November 14, 2013

One Move

National League East

by Craig Goldstein

the archives are now free.

All Baseball Prospectus Premium and Fantasy articles more than a year old are now free as a thank you to the entire Internet for making our work possible.

Not a subscriber? Get exclusive content like this delivered hot to your inbox every weekday. Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get instant access to the best baseball content on the web.

Subscribe for $4.95 per month
Recurring subscription - cancel anytime.


a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Purchase a $39.95 gift subscription
a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

This is the sixth and final installment in the One Move series. If you'd like to check out any of the previous editions in this series, you can find them here: AL East, NL West, AL Central, NL Central, AL West.

We wrap up the series with a look at each of the teams in the NL East. This was the most painful division for me, as I think most of the teams are where they are, with the Braves and Nationals at the top and the Mets and Marlins at the bottom, and the Phillies planted firmly in 2008. The only obvious move to me was the one suggested for the Nationals, so if you can come up with something better for any team involved, let us know in the comments. I thoroughly enjoyed the debate on the last article.

Atlanta Braves
The Move: Investigate Trading Craig Kimbrel
I have to admit that this is not an original notion to me, not that any of these have been, but I specifically pilfered this one from Mark Smith of Talking Chop, who wrote exactly why the Braves should trade Kimbrel this offseason. I’ll try not to rehash what he says, because you really should read the article. Long story short though, Kimbrel is about to get paid handsomely (upwards of $6.5M) and the Braves don’t have the largest budget in town. What they do have is an extremely competent bullpen that operated in spite of major injuries (Venters, O’Flaherty) and a GM who seems especially adept at assembling them. They have backups in place in the form of Jordan Walden and Jonny Venters (if healthy), not to mention David Carpenter as a viable option. Acknowledging that Kimbrel is the best closer out there, but also that closer is not necessarily the position to which a team wants to be allocating a ton of resources, the question of course becomes what the Braves could get for him.

Detroit is an oft-mentioned landing place as they are seemingly on the lookout for an answer at closer year in and year out. The issue of course is that Atlanta’s preferred return would include a second baseman, and that’s not something Detroit can offer. Drew Smyly and Nick Castellanos might intrigue, but then again, that might be too rich for Detroit’s blood. Another option that does include a second baseman is Anaheim who is reportedly looking to deal Howie Kendrick, though it’s hard to imagine why they’d be interested resolving closer while opening a hole of their own at second base. Perhaps the three years of control on Kimbrel could sway them (or others) though.

In the end there’s no obvious solution but there’s also not a wrong one. If they hold on to Kimbrel, the Braves will retain the services of the best closer in baseball and have the opportunity to trade him later on… oh no. That’s why “investigate” was included above. In the end the answer might be that there’s nothing to the Braves liking, and that’s ok. Still though, they should keep an open mind, as it well could make them a better team.

Miami Marlins
The Move: Don’t Trade Giancarlo Stanton
The frustrating part of this exercise is that Ben and I wanted to be reasonable with our suggestions. Perhaps they’d stretch reality a bit because the particular team wouldn’t spend that type of money at this juncture, but we wanted to at least keep it in the realm of possibility. And that’s why the Marlins are so vexing. They’re not a bad team. They’re young and exciting, with real talent. Spending on some free agents to fill in the gaps could make this team very viable in the near future, but I can’t in good conscience make that my “move” because they’ve shown zero interest in doing so outside of a one year frenzy that they backtracked on a year later. In the meantime, we’ll work with a suggestion that seems more feasible, as it’s one that Miami management has already embraced.

It’s obviously irksome to see a superstar wasting years of his career playing for a go-nowhere team and an odious owner. With that said, this Marlins team is closer to contention than it might seem, with guys like Christian Yelich, Jose Fernandez, and Stanton at the forefront of that effort. With other pieces already there (Marisnick, Ozuna, Eovaldi, Turner) and more on the way (Nicolino, Heaney, Moran), this is a team that requires a few breaks, but shouldn’t be bottom of the barrel for long. Keeping Stanton around is essential to selling the idea of competition in the near future, which seems loathsome until we consider that competition in the near future isn’t necessarily a hoax. We’ve seen the Marlins willing to pay for talent when they think they can compete (think Pudge), and once this younger core shows their promise, it’s not unreasonable to think they’ll do so again. With that in mind, paying Stanton as their one expensive piece in the meantime is an utterly defensible move from an utterly offensive owner.

New York Mets
The Move: Sign Shin-Soo Choo
It’s unlikely the Mets will be competing in the upcoming season, not with Matt Harvey on the shelf, anyway. That does detract from the value in signing an impact-now type like Choo, but this is an option worth exploring anyway. With Harvey back in 2015, they’d have a likely rotation of Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jonathon Niese, and Noah Syndergaard, which would be at least solid, even if the prospects don’t pan out as expected. They’d have a lineup with David Wright and Travis D’Arnaud, Daniel Murphy is his walk year. Adding Choo to the 2015 lineup, as well as the next few years would give the Mets another big bat and a formidable on-base presence ahead of Wright.

Choo certainly has his flaws, including a declining ability to hit left-handed pitching but 68% of his at-bats came against right-handers and he still produced a .357 OBP against southpaws. Add in that athletic players tend to age a bit more gracefully, and Choo should last in an outfield corner. He might not be worth his yearly salary by the end of the contract, something that can be said for most free agents, but he’d likely still return moderate value and can help the club transition from the bottom of the division toward respectability. While he did turn down the Reds’ qualifying offer, Choo would not cost the Mets their first round pick, as that is protected, costing a second round pick instead. Choo would only be one piece of course, and others are needed but he’s a piece they could add now, with the future in mind.

Philadelphia Phillies
The Move: Hire That Extern
Okay, maybe not that specific extern as it’s hard to be sure exactly how versed in advanced analytics he is as arbitration cases tend not to rely on advanced metrics. What is clear is that the Phillies do not rely on advanced metrics, or if they do use them at all, do so grudgingly. There are those that would have GM Ruben Amaro’s head on a silver platter if given the chance and those desires are understandable to a point. He’s made some poor decisions (the Ryan Howard contract chief among them), but he’s also made some quality ones (Utley’s recent extension comes to mind. While the negative may outweigh the positive at this point, at least in magnitude if not by sheer volume, that doesn’t mean the current situation is unworkable… if tweaked.

What I’m suggesting is at least a partial change in philosophy. While that’s unlikely to happen and might be easier with a new head on the organization’s shoulders, this is similar to my suggestion of Manny Acta as bench coach for Don Mattingly (the Dodgers instead went with Tim Wallach). Perhaps there is someone who can cover Amaro’s weaknesses, allowing his strengths to shine through. It’s hard to say the answer is definitely in the acceptance of advanced analytics, but it’s harder to justify that ignoring that information is the way to go. If the Phillies could integrate additional knowledge and analysis into their current structure, they’d likely be better off in the long term. It’s not that they can’t compete the way they’re going now, and it’s not necessary that their current management team be replaced. An open mind to a different way of thinking might help though, and the first step towards that happening would be getting someone’s foot in the door as an actual hire and not a loaner from MLB headquarters.

Washington Nationals
The Move: Chase Back-End Starters (Multiple)
The Nationals have been mentioned as candidates to land either David Price or Jeff Samardzija or some other top-of-the-rotation (TOR) type arm (thought Samardzija’s inclusion in that genre is probably up for debate). It’s perplexing. It’s not like the Nationals lack TOR arms, with Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Jordan Zimmermann on board. What the Nationals have lacked in recent years, and the chief reason I presume Sir Mix-a-Lot is not a fan, is depth on the back end.

Edwin Jackson was healthy and serviceable in the four-spot in the Nationals rotation two years ago, allowing them to rotate arms through the fifth spot, mostly Ross Detwiler. In Jackson’s place they signed Dan Haren, who was good when healthy but not healthy enough, of late. That run continued with the Nationals as he hit the DL thanks to some shoulder irritation. Haren did make 30 starts in 2013, though he only accrued 170 innings across them. Where disaster really struck the Nationals was in the fifth spot. Detwiler originally manned the position, but injuries eventually forced the Nationals to lean on the likes of Taylor Jordan, Nathan Karns, Ross Ohlendorf, and Tanner Roark throughout the season. Jordan and Roark performed well, if not slightly above their heads, and Ohlendorf was solid while healthy.

While the kids performed well (with the exception of Karns), it just as easily could have gone the other way. And what if one of the other starters did get hurt? The Nationals lack of depth at the back of their rotation won’t hurt them come the playoffs, but they’ll need to improve that area to get there. With Haren a free agent, chasing two or three starters would behoove them, even if some are minor league with invites to Spring Training. The names for these options range from more expensive (Josh Johnson, Phil Hughes, Colby Lewis) to mid-tier guys (Paul Maholm, Barry Zito) to dumpster diving (Chris Capuano, Shaun Marcum, Jeff Karstens (he’d still qualify for River Wizard status!)). These aren’t exciting options with the exception of Johnson, possibly, but the Nationals have excitement. What they need is quantity.

The popular move here would be to trade Adam LaRoche and move Zimmerman to first, and while I think that move is necessary in due time, cutting bait and eating LaRoche’s contract isn’t the move for me. Live with it for another year and let him walk in 2015, shifting Zimmerman at that time.

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

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

BP Comment Quick Links

Kevin Brown

You think the Mets actually pony up and throw money at a big name like Choo? I think they are more likely to go for a lesser guy like Peralta.

Nov 14, 2013 08:08 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Craig Goldstein
BP staff

I don't know which is more likely to be honest, they've already met with Peralta but I recall seeing them interested in Choo (which means nothing). This is what I *would* do, if I were them.

Nov 14, 2013 08:10 AM
 
FredOwens

Jordan Walden is not a closer. The Angels knew that and when the Braves used in in save situations he was unreliable to say the least. His motion makes the delivery hard to repeat so he has the control issues that cost him his closers role in LA. Watching him all year for the Braves and I did watch every game he was in, in 9th inning situations he was noticeably uncomfortable.
I don't disagree that trading Kimbrel is theoretically a good move but I'd want a a Mark Teixeira trade like haul of prospects for him. That would require a Rangers (serendipitously) or Cardinals kind of farm system to supply and neither would have that need as a priority.
Another consideration is the way Wren is viewed by fans. His BJ Upton signing is acknowledged universally as a horrible overpay. He's about to let Tim Hudson walk with an offer that Tim "wouldn't consider" and Uggla is collapsing as we watch. Trading Kimbrel without returning David Price for example might result in a fan explosion he couldn't survive even if it's theoretically the right move.

Nov 14, 2013 08:10 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Craig Goldstein
BP staff

I'm not sure the fans are who he should worry about. If he's pleasing his superiors then he's doing just fine. Uggla and BJ Upton are certainly dings to his resume, but he's done plenty of good in Atlanta. I don't get the sense that he's on the hot seat at all.

As for Walden, I did not watch every game so I can't speak to his nerves in the ninth inning. My general thought is that if you can be good in the eighth, you can be good in the ninth, though I know there are exceptions to that. Even so, having a "hole" at closer is preferable (to me) than having a hole somewhere else.

I think a haul similar to Teixeira or returning Price is out of the question. You're talking about a guy who throws 70 innings or so, and is about to get very expensive. TB certainly won't trade one $$-headache for another. Generally, I think that GMs should worry less about fan reactions (though, some thought is natural) and more about what the right move is. If you keep making right moves, fans will learn to trust you.

Nov 14, 2013 08:16 AM
 
FredOwens

The Braves haven't fired a GM is so long they've forgotten how and Liberty Media simply want profit. Wren's use of the Braves' checkbook has been very questionable and many of the trades were head scratchers but that's another discussion.
I wouldn't expect the Rays to trade Price straight up either but the way the team is structured right now they would have to be blown away with something like that to make a trade like that this year. Next year is a different story.
Walden just walks to many people. That's how he lost his job in LA he hasn't improved. Of the list in the post David Carpenter is the one most likely to be used. Venters would have to show he's able to throw strikes consistently enough to get hitters to swing at that slider again. Even when he was on that roll two years ago he had stretches where he was wild as a March hare. If his stuff returns it's good enough but the mental aspect wasn't there.
Certainly you can catch lightning in a bottle for a year with a closer, look at the 20 or so Cox had over the run. But in the post season they weren't good enough and they rarely lasted longer than a season. The ninth inning is mentally a different situation. There are numerous cases where that's been shown to be true. Tigers, Red Sox, Cardinals, Dodgers all showed that was true this year.

Nov 14, 2013 16:51 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Craig Goldstein
BP staff

I don't disagree that a ninth-inning mentality *can* be a thing, but I also disagree that your examples showed it to be true. Uehara was at one point deemed not good enough to be an 8th inning guy and became the best 9th inning guy in the league. Benoit was never a 9th inning guy until this year. Same with Jansen. Fernando Rodney wasn't good enough until he went to Tampa Bay. Over and over again non-closers become closers...and we still claim a mythical quality to closers. Joe Borowski was a closer for goodness sake! I'm not saying that there isn't an example where someone can't handle it, I'm sure there is, but I'm not sure that Walden is the example.

Also, to say he didn't improve his walk situation is just plain false. He cut his walk rate by 3 percent over his previous career low. There have also been multiple closers who have walked a ton of guys. To pretend that that's the thing blocking Walden is silly.

Again, I wasn't demanding that the Braves trade Kimbrel, I said they should explore it. They're not going to get a package similar to Price or what they gave up for Teixeira and to say that need to is false as well.

Nov 14, 2013 16:57 PM
 
NatsReviewCharlie

I like your assessment of the Nats. As far as LaRoche, I agree they should probably stick with him for the year. But with his enormous splits vs RHP and LHP, think they should go after a RHH who can platoon with LaRoche and be a factor off the bench? Maybe Youkilis and Reynolds come to mind.

Nov 14, 2013 09:07 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Craig Goldstein
BP staff

Thanks for the kind words. That's probably a good idea, though of course I doubt management would be willing to admit their mistake so quickly. It's definitely something worth considering (or even shifting Zimm to 1B against LHP and finding a better glove at 3B who is adequate versus LHP. Or Zimm to 1B, Rendon to 3B, and Espinosa to 2B against southpaws. Lots of options).

Nov 14, 2013 09:10 AM
 
NatsReviewCharlie

I'd think shifting Zim vs. LHP would cause more noise than management deciding to "improve the bench with a veteran power hitter" and then seeing how LaRoche looks. If his hitting and LHP sucks through April, they can start playing that bench hitter more in those situations. Not quite as much as of an admission of a mistake.

Nov 14, 2013 09:16 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Craig Goldstein
BP staff

Agree it would cause a stir, but it might be the best thing to do on-field. It definitely won't happen though. Getting a power source for the bench is a definite need and could be a sly way of easing LaRoche off of LHP. It's a good idea.

Nov 14, 2013 09:19 AM
 
newsense

Maybe they can bring back "Mighty" Morse

Nov 14, 2013 12:15 PM
rating: 0
 
NatsReviewCharlie

He didn't do a whole lot this year to prove that he can hit from either side of the plate. But it would certainly be a popular choice

Nov 15, 2013 08:09 AM
rating: 0
 
mblthd

Tyler Moore is a very good RHH. He scuffled last year but he'll rake if given a steady supply of ABs.

Nov 15, 2013 10:25 AM
rating: 0
 
Lindemann
(852)

Zim's defense was definitely below par for most of the year, but he appeared to be recovering his former prowess for the last couple months. I'd say any talk of him moving to the cold corner is premature, both for the LaRoche contractual reasons and the need to see whether the improvements of August and September represent a return to form. Zim's offense is slightly above-average at first but near-elite at third, and he's being paid as a near-elite player - why not try to get all the value you can from him?

Nov 15, 2013 05:40 AM
rating: 0
 
NatsReviewCharlie

I 100% agree with this. Zim's a star at third base, he's a middle of the road 1B. If he can play third, he should. 20 Es are ok, even the best 3B is gonna make 10. (And I know Es aren't the best measure of defensive ability, but with Zim it helps because his problems have been with throwing).

Nov 15, 2013 08:12 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Craig Goldstein
BP staff

I agree he should stick at third for about a year, but whether he's a star at third and middle of the road at first is less the question than "are the Nationals a better team, defense included, if Rendon is at 3B, Espinosa is at 2B, and Zimmerman is at 1B, starting in 2015 when LaRoche is gone." I'd argue they are, instead of leaving Zimmerman at third base if his defensive doesn't improve significantly. It's only a one year sample but his range in 2013 was drastically worse. I'll assume that's an outlier for now, but we have to consider it might not be.

Nov 15, 2013 08:18 AM
 
NatsReviewCharlie

Yeah, if they could get a 2B to hit at least as well as Espinosa did before Sept 2012, then it makes sense. But I'm skeptical that Espinosa can do that again. Maybe it's the shoulder injury that they refuse to get surgery on, but he isn't the same guy right now.

Nov 15, 2013 08:49 AM
rating: 0
 
FastballVelociraptor

That Sir Mix-A-Lot reference was fantastic

Nov 15, 2013 13:42 PM
rating: 0
 
You must be a Premium subscriber to post a comment.
Not a subscriber? Sign up today!
<< Previous Article
Fantasy Article Fantasy Team Preview: ... (11/14)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article One Move: American Lea... (11/12)
No Next Column
Next Article >>
An Agent's Take: Appro... (11/14)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Fantasy Article TTO Scoresheet Podcast: Talking Keepers and ...
Fantasy Article Player Profile: Neftali Feliz
Fantasy Article Fantasy Players to Avoid: Relief Pitchers
Premium Article Rumor Roundup: Trout Pulling the Trigger
Premium Article Raising Aces: Under the Gun 3.0
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: All the Reliever News ...
Some Projection Left: The Severino Enigma

MORE FROM NOVEMBER 14, 2013
Premium Article Perfect Game Presents: Before They Were Pros...
Skewed Left: Why Deserving MVPs Don't Win
An Agent's Take: Approaching the Offseason
Fantasy Article Fantasy Team Preview: Oakland Athletics
Premium Article Minor League Update: AFL and Winter League R...
Internet Baseball Awards: AL Player of the Y...
Internet Baseball Awards: NL Player of the Y...

MORE BY CRAIG GOLDSTEIN
2013-11-25 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Team Preview: Kansas City Royals
2013-11-21 - Premium Article Transaction Analysis: Four Teams Bet on Boun...
2013-11-15 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Team Preview: Chicago White Sox
2013-11-14 - Premium Article One Move: National League East
2013-11-13 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Team Preview: Texas Rangers
2013-11-11 - Premium Article One Move: National League Central
2013-11-07 - Premium Article One Move: National League West
More...

MORE ONE MOVE
2013-11-14 - Premium Article One Move: National League East
2013-11-12 - Premium Article One Move: American League West
2013-11-11 - Premium Article One Move: National League Central
2013-11-08 - Premium Article One Move: American League Central
More...