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December 30, 2004

Prospectus Triple Play

Arizona Diamondbacks, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals

by Baseball Prospectus

Arizona Diamondbacks

  • Comings and Goings: The Diamondbacks' roster movement so far:

    Coming:

    
    Player               VORP           Contract
    Craig Counsell        8.7           2 years/$3.1 MM
    Troy Glaus           19.7           4 years/$45 MM
    Royce Clayton        17.3           1 year/$1.35 MM
    Russ Ortiz           33.1           4 years/$33 MM
    Kelly Stinnett        5.7           minor league deal
    
    Going:
    
    Player               VORP           New Team
    Greg Colbrunn       -4.5            Texas, minor league deal
    Jeff Fassero          .6            San Francisco, minor league deal
    Riche Sexson         7.3            Seattle, 4 years/$50 MM
    Carlos Baerga       -0.2            still free agent
    Danny Bautista      14.4            still free agent
    Mike Fetters       -10.2            still free agent
    Matt Mantei         -8.2            BOS, 1 year/$750K
    Quinton McCracken    2.9            still free agent
    Shane Nance         -3.2            non-tendered
    Shane Reynolds      -4.7            still free agent
    Scott Service       -4.2            still free agent
    Steve Sparks       -11.8            still free agent
    
  • Bad News For People Who Love...Um...Bad News: Joe Sheehan aptly summed up the Troy Glaus signing with the following choice words: "His contract--I'll call this one now--is untradable the moment he signs it..."

    Rather than recycle what he wrote--we'll just echo that Glaus for four years and $45 MM = bad--let's move on to the other infield signings of Royce Clayton and Craig Counsell. It's possible to defend the Clayton signing. It's a one-year deal, and it's not like he's blocking some stud shortstop prospect. Arizona has a lot of utility infielders on their 40-man roster, none of whom can really play shortstop. He's also great on 0-0 pitches, plus he's put up great numbers when facing a pitcher for the third time in a game and...wow. OK, it's really hard to defend this signing without resorting to statistical silliness. The market was absolutely saturated with shortstops this offseason, and if all you really want is a singles-hitting shortstop with a defensive reputation, that's the time to see if Jose Morban's phone rings. Frankly, it would have been better (read: cheaper) to see if the real Alex Cintron would stand up in 2005; Cintron's 2005 PECOTA forecast sees him at .277/.320/.400, while Clayton's got a Coors-aided .269/.327/.403. That's eerily similar, actually. As it stands, Cintron is likely trade bait.

    Counsell will likely be welcomed back as a sort of prodigal son, returning from the slovenly lifestyle of excessive beer and cheese consumption in Milwaukee. His 2005 PECOTA projection of .245/.321/.331 seems about right. He can't and won't slug .400 and, like Clayton, he doesn't get on base enough to be considered a better option than what Arizona already had. Scott Hairston's defense at second base might have been...creative, but he's a better bet to post a useful OBP at the top of the lineup than Counsell. It's interesting to note that Counsell saw 4.04 pitches per PA in 2004, and that despite seeing so many pitches, he didn't have a high walk total, high strikeout total, or high batting average. He didn't so much "choose his pitches" as he did "witness them." Happy memories of 2001 aside, this signing makes zero sense. It's Matt Kata with a goofy batting stance, and at five times the price.

  • Even Better Than the Real Thing?: The good people at Morningstar Farms produce lots of vegetarian goodies that look an awful lot like their meat counterparts. Make no mistake about it, though: a Morningstar Farms "burger" is not meat, and should never be confused with meat. It is wheat gluten, tapioca starch and yeast extract.

    This is basically Russ Ortiz. He looks like a pitcher. He sweats. He seems nervous, genuinely concerned even, when he walks the bases loaded to start the sixth. Braves' announcer Don Sutton spent all of 2003 and 2004 praising Ortiz's gumption and sticktoitiveness. His curve ball actually curves, dontchaknow. But six times out of ten his pitches are nowhere near the plate. Ortiz has long been helped by good pitchers' parks and good run support, but his very high walk rate and pedestrian strikeout rate are trouble. The BOB plays as a hitters' park, and he'll have both a lousy defense behind him and a lousy offense in front of him. Ortiz for four years and $33MM has a chance to make the Jaret Wright signing look good.

Detroit Tigers

  • Comings and Goings: Detroit's free agent news:

    Coming:

    
    Player               VORP           Contract
    Troy Percival        15.7           2 years/$12 MM
    
    Going:
    
    Player               VORP           New Team
    Esteban Yan          17.7           ANA, 2 years/$2.25 MM
    Al Levine            12.3           still free agent
    Eric Munson          3.8            non-tendered
    
  • Moving in the Wrong Direction: Troy Percival is now the Tigers' closer, having signed for two years/$12 MM. Here are some worrisome numbers:

    
    Year     K/9I     HR/9    BB/9
    2000     8.82      .9      4.8
    2001    11.08      .5      2.5
    2002    10.86      .8      3.8
    2003     8.76     1.0      4.2
    2004     5.98     1.1      3.2
     
    Moving from a somewhat neutral park in Anaheim to a pitchers' park in Detroit will help hide his decline, but he's not worth anything near six million bucks. With the 2004 Tigers bullpen both anonymous and mediocre, and with Ugueth Urbina's mother's kidnapping situation still unresolved, one can see how Detroit would want at least a modicum of stability in their pen for next season. Signing an overvalued power pitcher who is losing his power precipitously is not the best way to go about adding that stability, however. Paying Percival far more than he's worth while simultaneously letting Esteban Yan sign for far less elsewhere is curious. Shiny "Proven Closer" label aside, Percival's basically a warm body at this point; there's not as much of a difference between him and Yan as you might think. Ten million dollars over two years is a lot to gamble to find out, though.

  • Who's on Third? Well, not Eric Munson, who was non-tendered on December 21. We could charitably call Munson's 2004 "challenging" but, in all seriousness, he's pretty clearly not the player that the Tigers thought he'd become. His departure leaves a vacancy at third base, a vacancy that will require some creativity to fill as no internal solution seems likely.

    Brandon Inge re-signed, agreeing to a one-year deal worth $1.35 MM. Inge had himself a pretty useful season in 2004, and played the majority of his innings at third base. No one's arguing that he should start there in place of Munson, though; 2004 was Inge's age-27 season and likely his career year. His OBP was .340; his highest before this was .266. His .453 SLG was largely a product of a power spike that saw him hit 13 home runs and 7 triples. It's interesting that triples affect a player's SLG column, yet are more an indicator of speed than power. Inge has decent speed, but the fact that five of his triples were hit in Comerica just screams "fluke." While both his ABs and hits have gone up each of his four seasons, his doubles output has stayed largely the same, meaning that he's adding lots of singles each year.

    This isn't a bad thing. While the triples were largely a fluke, perhaps the home run power is for real. Inge plays a credible third base, and can sit in at catcher and center field; finding a single player to play those three very different positions has some value. If he chips in anything close to a .340 OBP, as he did in 2004, then all the better. As a utility player, Inge is exactly what you'd want: he has the ability to play a few different positions, and the ability to spot start when a regular becomes injured or ineffective (*cough* center field *cough*). Heading into 2005, we're at least wondering whether or not Inge will hit. We know Joe McEwing won't.

  • He's Got Legs and He Knows How To Use Them: The Tigers also re-upped Alex Sanchez for 2005 for the same $1.35 MM that they gave Inge. While much has been made of Sanchez's basestealing deficiencies, 2004 was out of line with his career numbers:
    
    Year          SB     CS    SB%
    2001           6      2    .75
    2002          37     14    .73
    2003 (Mil)     8      6    .57
    2003 (Det)    44     18    .71
    2004          19     13    .59
    
    This doesn't excuse the signing, though. Alex Sanchez is still Alex Sanchez, and he's still on the wrong side of the 75% break-even rate for stolen bases. He missed some action in 2004 with various leg problems (hamstring, thigh), and if those recur, what little value he had could be entirely gone; if his speed returns and he accumulates some steals at about a 71% rate, that'll be a lot of counting stats that might increase his value come July 31 when a playoff team tries to get a Dave Roberts at a bargain price.

    Much of Sanchez's batting average is tied up in infield hits, and if he loses that, he's toast. It's absurd to pay over a million bucks for a center fielder who won't hit the ball out of the infield, especially when the Tigers already had such a player earning the league minimum: Exavier Logan, otherwise known as Nook. I mean, come on: Exavier Prente Logan? That's a great name. That has to count for something, right? Right?

Kansas City Royals

  • Comings and Goings: Kansas City's free agent list:

    Coming:

    
    Player               VORP           Contract
    Kevin Appier         -5.2           minor league deal
    Luis Ugueto          DNP            minor league deal
    Jose Lima            28.0           1 year/$2.5 MM
    
    Going:
    
    Player               VORP           New Team
    Joe Randa            20.1           CIN, 1 year/$2.25 MM
    Kelly Stinett        5.7            ARI, minor league deal
    Dennis Reyes         11.0           SDP, 1 year/$550K
    Miguel Asencio       DNP            non-tendered
    Juan Gonzalez        4.4            still free agent
    Desi Relaford       -10.8           COL?
    
  • I'm Crazy For You But Not That Crazy: What's this? Zack Greinke, not necessarily assured of starting on Opening Day? And a few inane quotations about how there are plenty of good candidates available within the current rotation? Who exactly are these "good candidates," and how, precisely, are they better than Greinke? Of course, fretting over who gets the ball Opening Day is not really a good way to spend one's time. But this is ultimately a cheap and easy way into a look at the Royals rotation. Here's what they did in 2004 (minimum: 10 starts):

    
    Player                GS      VORP
    Darrell May           31      -1.2
    Brian Anderson        26      -8.0
    Jimmy Gobble          24       8.5
    Zack Greinke          24      36.4
    Mike Wood             17       2.2
    Dennis Reyes          12      11.0
    
    Greinke was clearly the superior pitcher in Kansas City last year, and with no competition. May has been traded to San Diego, ostensibly replaced in the rotation by Jose Lima, recently inked to a one year, $2.5 MM deal. Virtually guaranteed a spot in Kansas City's rotation, Lima returns to K.C. after reclaiming his career in Los Angeles. While we'll have plenty of fond memories of his time in L.A. (including, but not limited to, this playoff game, he's not likely to improve on his recent performance. He still doesn't strike anyone out (he's been under six whiffs per nine since his disastrous 2001 with Houston), and the impeccable control he had in 2004 reversed a recent (though small) trend of relative wildness. When a team's Web site champion's a recent signee's veteran leadership before his position is even mentioned, be afraid. Be very, very afraid.

    In other Royals rotation news, Miguel Asencio turned down the Royals' offer of arbitration, but there's a chance they will re-sign him. Given the almost inexplicable free-agent market for mediocre pitching this offseason, he was probably right to hold out for more money. Coming off Tommy John surgery, though, and the fact that he's Miguel Asencio, he's unlikely to have many serious suitors.

  • Nobody {Messes} With DeJesus: With Carlos Beltran gone (and he's not coming back), the center-field job was handed to prospect David DeJesus:

    Before the All-Star Break: .164/.253/.179 in 67 ABs
    After the All-Star Break: .314/.385/.453 in 296 ABs
    Total for season: .287/.360/.402 in 363 ABs

    While Beltran's offense will be missed, it's not like they replaced him with a slouch. DeJesus' minor league track record suggests good OBP, good BA, above-average defense, and low home run totals. That'll play.

    One thing DeJesus definitely does not share with Beltran is basestealing acumen: eight successful steals in 19 tries is not so good (See: Sanchez, Alex above). His minor league numbers aren't much better, either: 19 successes against 14 failures. But when SB% is your largest concern with a prospect, you're in pretty good shape.

  • I Don't Know's on Third: Like the Tigers, Kansas City has a third base hole to fill, with Joe Randa having moved on to the Reds. Desi Relaford was the only other player to see significant time at the hot corner in 2004, and he's likely a Rockie for 2005.

    The Royals appear to have two options. The first is Mark Teahen, whose contract was just purchased from Omaha. Is he ready? In three minor league seasons, he's a .287/.368/.411 hitter, with 18 home runs in 1256 career ABs; most of this minor-league line was compiled in pitcher's parks, so we can throw him a bone, albeit a small one. His power numbers are a bit low, though he's demonstrated impressive control of the strike zone at all levels. Allard Baird took some heat for publicly saying he wanted a third baseman and catcher in return for Beltran last year, as some people thought it limited his options; rather than get the best possible players available regardless of their position, he settled for the best "third baseman and catcher" set. Teahen might not be cut from the Scott Rolen mold of third basemen, but Bill Mueller has value.

    It can only be assumed that if Teahen's not ready, the job will go to option number two: Chris Truby, signed to a one-year deal in November. Truby's career line is .231/.269/.388. Advantage: Teahen.

  • The Sisco Kid: Dayn Perry ran down the list of Rule 5 eligibles this year and determined that Andy Sisco could be the real prize. The Royals snagged him with the second pick overall, which could work out very well for both parties; though he's arguably better suited for Omaha, it isn't like Sisco will have to be buried as the 13th man on the staff, and his presence alone might dispel any crazy notions that Jaime Cerda could/should ever be used as a LOOGY. Of course, Rule 5ers tend to hit the DL in May or June with a surprise case of "Mystery Arm," the only known cure of which is roster expansion.

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Premium Article Prospectus Matchups: P... (12/29)
<< Previous Column
Prospectus Triple Play... (12/29)
Next Column >>
Prospectus Triple Play... (01/04)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Can Of Corn: Wishes fo... (12/30)

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