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December 12, 2013

Transaction Analysis

Pound 2

by Sam Miller and Ben Carsley

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American League
National League

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Signed 1B/RF-R Corey Hart for one year with a reported base salary of $6 million, with incentives that could add $7 million more. [12/11]

Acquired 1B/OF-L Logan Morrison from Miami Marlins in exchange for RHP Carter Capps. [12/11]

In making the case last year that we should be amazed by Buster Posey the player but not Buster Posey the comeback, we ran this table showing position players since 2001 who had missed a full season and come back. Their TAvs before are on the left, TAvs after on the right:

TAv Before Player TAv after
0.208 Cristian Guzman 0.308
0.212 Jason Castro 0.258
0.239 Tim Salmon 0.290
0.248 Kelly Johnson 0.285
0.250 Mark Ellis 0.307
0.252 Jayson Werth 0.302
0.260 Willy Aybar 0.257
0.261 Rocco Baldelli 0.288
0.264 Alex Gonzalez 0.220
0.285 Mo Vaughn 0.279
0.309 Kendry Morales 0.303
0.322 Nick Johnson 0.312
0.263 Aaron Boone 0.244

Caveats then, which are still applicable, and conclusions then, which are also still applicable: “That chart oversimplifies things: some of these players’ pre- TAvs might have been artificially low because of untreated severe injuries; some of the effects of the injuries might have shown up in the longer term; the parameters narrowly exclude Jesus Flores, whose recovery from a foul-tip shoulder injury has been depressing; etc. But at least it gives us a very general guide to ballplayer injuries: they suck, they take a while to heal, they can go bad, but they don’t, as a general rule, cost players their talent.”

Hart certainly had talent, particularly the sort of talent that you expect some GM to overpay for in the Great Power Panic of 2013. Consider the following lines from 2010 to 2012:

  • Corey Hart: .279/.343/.514
  • Granderson: .247/.337/.506

Now consider their 2013 seasons: One missed the entire year. The other missed two-thirds of the year, and when he played he hit his average fly ball 10 feet shorter and lost 80 points of isolated power. The injuries are different, but both have risk—Hart might never play a month straight again, but hand injuries can sap power for years. Grant a win or so of difference on defense + baserunning, but acknowledge that a seemingly smart front office gave the second guy four years and $60 million and be impressed that the seemingly dysfunctional front office scored the first guy for one year and just $5 million guaranteed. Without seeing Hart’s medical records—lol like I'd be able to conclude anything from Hart’s medical records—it looks like a pretty slick bargain in a world where inferior imitations are asking for $7 million and more comparable imitations cost 10 service years of mid- or bottom-of-the-rotation starters. He slots in perfectly at DH, where there won’t be as much stress on his knees and where his declining defense can retire to the country. Swell job by the messed up front office. A rose that grew from concrete!

Now that the Mariners have made their obligatory Dingers move, they can move on to other needs, like a rangy right fielder and somebody to throw strikes in the rotation and-- aw, crud, Morrison too?

Morrison, like Hart, plays corner outfield and first base and he plays them all poorly. How poorly is a matter of dispute, and goes a long way to determining whether you think he’s a replacement level player (as on B-Ref and FanGraphs, where his defense grades out at -36 and -50 over the course of his 363-game career) or nearly average (as you’ll find here, where he’s merely a -8 defender for his career). These sorts of clashes are never easy to resolve—as Colin Wyers once argued, bigger sample sizes might just calcify the misassumptions in each system—but if defensive metrics are immature they’re probably not incorrectly labeling plus defenders -50 defenders. Morrison’s glove certainly sucks.

You’ve identified a problem: Morrison and Hart can’t both play DH, so one will be on the field, and not even at first base (presumably), where Justin Smoak is coming off something of a breakout year (though his defensive metrics argue for DH duty, too).

While Hart was sitting out 2013, Morrison’s bat was. After putting up a 119 OPS+ from age 22-23 -- narrowly ahead of Jay Bruce, Matt Kemp and Jason Heyward -- Morrison’s power disappeared in 2012. Still, his .236/.321/.387 line in those seasons would have actually been better than the median for AL designated hitters last year, which is very faint praise but also means Michael Morse won’t be back.

So how does this play out? If Smoak doesn’t get traded for pitching, then it presumably goes like this: Hart plays right field as much as he can; Morrison plays right field as much as Hart can’t; and the Mariners have used up all the positions on the field to update their offense. There’s still a long offseason ahead, and there’s still a lot of years left for the Mariners to win something with this core. But, though Hart and Morrison make them better than they were this morning, it’s a pretty unambitious way to upgrade two very upgradeable positions. —Sam Miller


Logan Morrison

It didn’t really matter where Morrison ended up this offseason; it just mattered that he got out of Miami. While Safeco isn’t the hitter’s have we could’ve hoped for, it’s still much friendlier to left-handed power than is Marlins Stadium. Morrison will now also bat in a lineup with other real, live MLB players, and should have ample opportunity to score and drive in runs.

Next season is probably Morrison’s last chance in fantasy circles. Neither his 2012 nor his 2013 was terribly encouraging, but any modicum of BABIP luck should at least ensure that Morrison gets on base, and he still projects to hit 20-plus homers if given 500 PA. Overall, Morrison’s value as a Mariner is higher than it was as a Marlin, even if he’s more at risk of losing playing time down the road if he fails to produce.

Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero

It’s tough to properly rate these guys right now, but the M’s have certainly put a dent in the potential playing time of each player with the acquisitions of Morrison and Corey Hart. Smoak appears most likely to retain playing time for now, with Hart manning DH and Morrison heading to left field. Yet if the former top prospect struggles, it’s not difficult to envision a scenario in which Hart moves to first and Montero gets another crack at the DH job. If you’re hanging on to either of these players in a dynasty league—and let’s face it, some of you are—you need to feel a little worse about your odds of seeing these guys break out in 2014. Ben Carsley

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Acquired RHP Carter Capps from Seattle Mariners in exchange for Logan Morrison. [12/11]

A classic FIP/xFIP disagreement: By the former, Capps went from a closer-quality rookie (2.15 FIP) to a complete mess (4.73) in his sophomore year. By the latter, he was indistinguishable: 3.47 to 3.56. You get to decide how much you think a pitcher's abnormal HR/FB rates in small samples are meaningful.

Capps allowed 10 of his 12 home runs on a four-seamer that averages 96 mph with significant movement. His whiff rate on the pitch stayed steady, as did his velocity, as did his strike rate, and his groundball rate actually improved. And yet somehow one in five of those fly balls went over the fence last year, resulting in a .615 slugging percentage. According to Hit Tracker, only four of the 12 were “just enoughs,” so he wasn’t allowing cheapies.

Capps is relatively new to pitching still, he’s got a funky motion from a long frame, and his command was a problem even when he was dominant. And all that up and you can understand why the Mariners sent him back to Triple-A to find his center again:

“Carter has got to get his emotions under control on the mound, gather himself and not overthrow,” Stearns said. “He’s doing that a little bit. Terry Clark (Rainiers pitching coach) and I, we are going to work with him and turn this thing around.”

In other words, it’s far too simple to say that the home runs were just bad luck and he’ll revert to the mean. Still, if the going rate for an obnoxious first baseman who hits worse than the league average with Adam Dunn’s defense and an approaching arbitration payday is a raw relief arm coming off a terrible year, then the Marlins probably got the right raw relief arm coming off a terrible year.

Sam Miller is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Sam's other articles. You can contact Sam by clicking here
Ben Carsley is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ben's other articles. You can contact Ben by clicking here

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

BP Comment Quick Links


Great Read, Thanks Sam!

Dec 11, 2013 17:19 PM
rating: 4
John Carter

OK, so if Jesus Montero finds his bat, he's blocked! Interesting.

Dec 11, 2013 20:40 PM
rating: 1

Blocked for 2014, and that's if Hart is healthy all year. Plenty of market value in July for a player like Hart if the M's first big foray back into the market flops.

Dec 11, 2013 20:47 PM
rating: 0

If Jesus Montero can't hit better than Morrison or Smoak then he probably deserves to be blocked.

Dec 12, 2013 02:01 AM
rating: 8

It's kind of hard to find out which of your 4 DHs is going to hit best.

Dec 12, 2013 14:37 PM
rating: 2
John Carter

Well, five of you plussed Behemoth- how would you know if Montero can hit better than them or not?

Dec 12, 2013 20:12 PM
rating: -2

I think the idea is that if Montero hits and the others don't, Montero will get his chance. And if not, then he doesn't deserve the chance.

Dec 13, 2013 11:30 AM
rating: 0
John Carter

Thank you for the explanation. However, I still don't see the point of Behemoth's comment. Of course, if Montero still stinks in AAA while Smoak and the newly hired bad fielding hitters are decent in the Majors, Montero deserves to stay where he is.

I made my initial comment because Montero wasn't even mentioned except as part of the fantasy analysis, yet, he is the elephant in the room. (Pardon the cliche - and bows to the fabulous words of Sam Miller.) Montero has already blown away AAA - twice (2010 and 2011). Now that he is another year removed from his injury, he needs another few months of regular Major League at bats to prove he's a better hitter than Morrison, Hart, Ackley, and Smoak. The Mariners could use another impact player, which they are more likely to find in Montero than those other guys.

Dec 13, 2013 19:47 PM
rating: -1

Does he have any trade value? Is it possible he could be moved somewhere that is willing to take a chance on him?

Dec 12, 2013 10:35 AM
rating: 0
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