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
Purpose Pitches: Pitch... (02/14)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Prospectus Hit List: T... (10/06)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Prospectus Hit List: W... (02/15)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Future Shock: San Fran... (02/14)

February 14, 2011

Prospectus Hit List

Winning the Winter, AL Edition

by Jay Jaffe

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.

Happy pitchers and catchers! In honor of the first real sign of spring, we're trying something new with the Hit List, namely this feature's first-ever offseason report card. Our PECOTA-driven Projected Standings will be along soon enough, but here we've subjectively graded each team while attempting to answer the question of who "won the winter" by best filling their needs via free agency, trade, and internal promotion, with an eye towards the future as well as the present, and a heavy dose of first-run PECOTA metrics. Our "we" is more than simply the royal kind this time around, as Tommy Bennett will share the Hit List responsibilities with me this season; we'll alternate coverage of each league to keep things fresh. Welcome aboard, Tommy! —JJ
RkTeam
Overall W-L
Week W-L
Hit List Factor
Comment

1


Blue Jays
A
.000
Flat

While it lacks the live audience drama of David Copperfield making the Statue of Liberty vanish, general manager Alex Anthopoulos earns honors for the winter's top magic trick, namely making Vernon Wells and his $81 million bloated contract disappear. Implicitly acknowledging that this may not be Toronto's year, Anthopoulos is banking on rebounds from players under club control who disappointed last year, rather than spending big on upgrades. Thus none of the new Jays is making more than Wells deal door prize Juan Rivera's $5.25 million, and if the price tags on relievers Frank Francisco (3.44 ERA, 0.7 WARP), Jon Rauch (3.72, 0.6) and Octvio Dotel (4.05, 0.3) look relatively high, so is the likelihood of at least one being flipped at the trading deadline.

2


Red Sox
A-
.000
Flat
Making by far the biggest spending splash in the game, the Sox upgrade the league's oldest offense and offset the losses of Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez by signing Carl Crawford (.276 TAv, 3.2 WARP) to a seven-year, $142 million deal and trading a bevy of prospects for Adrian Gonzalez (.304, 4.0). They augment their bullpen for the coming post-Papelbon era by landing Bobby Jenks (3.43 ERA, 0.8 WARP) and Dan Wheeler (3.46 FRA, 0.8), but left unaddressed is a rotation whose most expensive members underwhelmed last year, and a catching corps where the responsibility will be split between injury-prone, unproven Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.246 TAv, 0.8 WARP) and the aged Jason Varitek (.264, 0.6).

3


Rays
B+
.000
Flat
Undertaking their most significant makeover since emerging as contenders, the Rays trade Matt Garza for a generous haul of prospects, and shed Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and virtually their entire bullpen via free agency. While their 2011 hopes are hardly ready for the undertaker, the team chooses to defer gratification—they'll have 12 of the first 89 picks in the amateur draft—rather than spend with the big boys, patching their lineup on the cheap. Marquee additions Manny Ramirez (.300 TAv, 2.5 WARP) and Johnny Damon (.269, 1.5) sign for less combined than Pena's deal with the Cubs; the former fills a sinkhole at DH, the latter takes the pressure off top hitting prospect Desmond Jennings (.260, 1.2) to fill Crawford's shoes immediately on the heels of a less-than-stellar season in Triple-A. Garza's departure, on the other hand, opens a spot for Jeremy Hellickson (3.55 ERA, 2.8 WARP). It may not pay off in 2011, but this team knows how to wait.

4


Athletics
B+
.000
Flat
Unable to woo a marquee free agent like Adrian Beltre to their mausoleum, Billy Beane can afford to go the deluxe route to patch a bullpen that ranked 11th in WXRL, signing Grant Balfour (2.90 ERA, 0.9 WARP) and Brian Fuentes (3.47, 0.6). With his offense looking particularly removed from the team's Moneyball-era profile, he addresses a lack of punch and patience by trading very little for Josh Willingham (.290 TAv, 1.8 WARP) and David DeJesus (.266, 1.9), and signing Hideki Matsui (.278, 1.2). It may not be enough to catch the Rangers, but it's a damn sight better than the Angels' winter.

5


White Sox
B
.000
Flat
Kenny Williams spends big on boppers, signing Adam Dunn (.303 TAv, 2.8 WARP, and an AL-high 38-homers projection) to a four-year, $56 million contract and retaining Paul Konerko (.294, 2.2) via a three-year, $37 million deal; both should provide plenty of thunder, but the rest of the offense remains light in the OBP department, a situation not helped by the re-signing of A.J. Pierzynski (.239. 0.8) or the ascendance of Brent Morel (.254, 1.0). The departures of Bobby Jenks and J.J. Putz leave Matt Thornton (2.82 ERA, 1.3 WARP) in command of the closer role, augmented by a pricey Jesse Crain (3.93, 0.4), but much of the Southsiders' outlook comes down to the condition of Jake Peavy as he returns from a detached latissimus dorsi. PECOTA is optimistic (3.24 ERA, 5.0 WARP), the rest of us less so.

6


Rangers
B-
.000
Flat
Between missing out on Cliff Lee and making Michael Young angry enough to demand a trade, it's been a rough winter for headlines from the defending AL champs, but has it really been that bad? With a five-year, $80 million deal (plus a vesting option), Adrian Beltre (.270 TAv, 3.0 WARP) is the marquee addition, and while there's certainly reason to be concerned about the volatility of his career—not to mention the fact that the deal covers his age 32-36 seasons—it's worth noting that he took particularly well to a hitter-friendly park last year, and that he not only augments an already-strong defense, he replaces its weakest link. Speaking of weak links, Yorvit Torrealba (.246, 0.8) and Mike Napoli (.280, 1.9) shore up a shaky catcher's spot, with the latter also providing an assist at first base and/or DH whether or not Young (.266, 1.8) sticks around. Brandon Webb won't replace Lee or come anywhere close to his raw PECOTA projection of 173.2 innings (at a 3.63 ERA/4.2 WARP clip), but for $3 million, there are worse fliers to take, particularly given the young talent on hand.

7


Royals
B-
.000
Flat
As if on cue, Dayton Moore doubles down on last year's joke of a major league roster by signing both Jeff Francoeur (.249 TAv, -0.1 WARP) and Melky Cabrera (.251, 0.6) because hey, who needs to choose, and wouldn't Pedro Feliz (.231, 0.1) be a swell complement while we're at it? You can stare into the abyss long enough for those abysmal OBPs to stare back at you, but GMDM may yet have the last laugh, as he not only nets a considerable haul for Zack Greinke, he gets the Brewers to cart away Yuniesky Betancourt, avoids overpaying for Bruce Chen (4.55 ERA, 1.3 WARP) following an unlikely career year, takes a worthwhile flier on Jeff Francis (4.65, 2.2), and counts the days until the horde of blue chip prospects he's collected can exact their revenge on the doubters and the haters.

8


Orioles
C+
.000
Flat
It's quite likely that none of the name players they brought in will be part of their next winning team, and there's probably no place to go but down for 36-year-old Vladimir Guerrero (.283 TAv, 1.7 WARP) after his park-aided rebound in Texas. Thirty-five-year-old Derrek Lee (.288 TAV, 2.2 WARP) may be just another falling knife caught by a franchise that has specialized in Ginsu juggling for the past decade and a half, at the expense of, oh, a handful of fingers, while J.J. Hardy (.261, 1.9) remains an injury-riddled enigma, and the holes in the swing of Mark Reynolds (.280, 2.4) are still there for the exploiting. Still, there's no Garrett Atkins here, and having received bottom-of-the-barrel production at both first base and shortstop, with third base nearly as bad, the O's had to do something to keep the momentum going under Buck Showalter. None of their commitments is lengthy, bank-breaking, or blocking a blue-chip prospect (Josh Bell [.253, 0.2], please pick up a white courtesy phone...), and they may wind up with a nice rebound or two.

9


Mariners
C
.000
Flat
They did lead the offseason in arrests via Milton Bradley (.275 TAv, 1.0 WARP) and Adam Kennedy (.242, 0.1), but other than that, the Mariners keep an appropriately low profile this winter, knowing that they're more than a few moves from a return to contention. They plug two of their three Vortices of Suck by signing Miguel Olivo (.245, 0.9) and Jack Cust (.282, 1.6), and attempt to address the third by jettisoning Jose Lopez. Alas, the limp bat of Replacement-Level Killer Brendan Ryan (.235, 1.7) may not be enough to fill that gaping hole, and as the M's learned last year, spiffy defense only takes you so far.

10


Twins
C-
.000
Flat
After padding their payroll considerably last winter in preparation for their new ballpark, the Twins are paring this winter, letting their middle infield and four of their five most heavily used relievers depart. They retain Matt Capps (3.89 ERA, 0.4 WARP) and count on the return of Joe Nathan (2.17, 1.9), but how they'll match last year's bullpen success remains an open question. Also questionable is the decision to retain Carl Pavano (4.22, 1.5), which might portend trading Francisco Liriano (3.75, 3.6) given the organization's ability to mint pitch-to-contact strike throwers; and let's just say that the initial outlook on their new middle infield—Japanese import Tsuyoshi Nishioka (no PECOTA yet, though his stats and scouting reports don't compare favorably to Kaz Matsui) and Alexi Casilla (.235 TAv, -0.4 WARP)—may make them miss Little Nicky Punto. Biggest no-brainer: retaining Jim Thome (.297, 2.2).

11


Tigers
C-
.000
Flat
Despite shedding more than $79 million in expiring contracts—over half belonging to a quartet (Magglio Ordonez, Jeremy Bonderman, Dontrelle Willis, and Nate Robertson) who provided a grand total of 2.2 WARP in 2010—the Tigers aren't growing shy about spending their money in questionable ways. They re-up Maggs (.283 TAv, 0.9 WARP) to a one-year, $10 million deal, re-sign the OBP-challenged Brandon Inge (.243, 1.3) and Jhonny Peralta (.255, 1.7) to nearly identical two-year deals, and make DH-in-waiting Victor Martinez (.281 TAv, 2.7 WARP) and non-closer Joaquin Benoit (2.95 ERA, 1.3 WARP) their biggest-ticket items, with a four-year, $50 million pact for the former and a market-setting three-year, $16.5 million deal for the latter, a pitcher not known for consistency in performance or health. Added to the young and relatively affordable power pitching on hand, it may be enough in the AL Central, but plenty can go wrong here.

12


Indians
D+
.000
Flat
Is this thing on? In rebuilding mode, it certainly makes sense to avoid excessively expensive or lengthy entanglements, but you want to fog up the odd mirror now and then just to remind fans you retain an interest in being numbered among the living. Bringing back Austin Kearns (.256 TAv, 0.9 WARP) isn't a particularly impressive demonstration of that, and neither is importing Orlando Cabrera (.237, 0.2) to cause an identification crisis in the middle infield. At least there are the comebacks of Carlos Santana (.301, 3.9) and Grady Sizemore (.281, 2.1) to look forward to, right? Hello?

13


Yankees
D+
.000
Flat
You can't always get what you want, as Brian Cashman learned the hard way, so it's better to get what you need in case your big-ticket item is out of stock, lest you wind up digging in the bargain bin, loitering at Unclaimed Freight, or splurging for that belt-and-suspenders set because it was right there in the checkout aisle. Lacking a Cliff Lee to offset the departures of Javier Vazquez and Andy Pettitte, the Yanks face a rotation with Freddy Garcia (4.81 ERA, 1.3 WARP), Sergio Mitre (4.67, 1.0), or kids who've barely tasted the high minors as possible fourth and fifth starters, and that's while expecting a rebound for A.J. Burnett (4.56 ERA, 2.6 WARP). They're more successful at bagging a shiny extra closer in Rafael Soriano (2.74, 1.3), adding to their glut of questionable catchers via Russell Martin (.265 TAv, 2.4 WARP), and complementing their southpaw-bedeviled outfielders with Andruw Jones (.266, 0.8).

14


Angels
D
.000
Flat
Who is that new Angels owner, and what has he done with Arte Moreno? Having previously established his spending bona fides, Moreno winds up marching in lockstep with fellow owners as he complains about Carl Crawford's price and pulls up short in the Adrian Beltre sweepstakes despite glaring weakness at the hot corner. Further cognitive dissonance ensues with the Angels throwing good money after bad at relievers Scott Downs (3.06 ERA, 0.9 WARP) and Hisanori Takahashi (3.61, 1.8), though you can understand the impulse to spend on a unit which has run seventh in WXRL in each of the past two years after consistently ranking among the league leaders. Less clear—in fact not clear at all—is why the Halos would take on the remaining $86 million of Vernon Wells' (.268 TAv, 1.3 WARP) contract and guarantee more at-bats for Jeff Mathis (.212, -0.1). How the West was won? Not bloody likely.


The Prospectus Hit List rankings are derived from Won-Loss records and several measurements pertaining to run differentials, both actual and adjusted, from Baseball Prospectus Adjusted Standings through the close of play on every Thursday.

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

7 comments have been left for this article.

<< Previous Article
Purpose Pitches: Pitch... (02/14)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Prospectus Hit List: T... (10/06)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Prospectus Hit List: W... (02/15)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Future Shock: San Fran... (02/14)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Prospectus Feature: Good Deal?
Weekly Wrap: July 22, 2016
What You Need to Know: Ambition Can Lead Onl...
Premium Article The View From Behind The Backstop: This Is A...
The GM Trade Game!
Prospectus Feature: DRA 2016: Challenging th...
Premium Article Prospectus Feature: Nine Things We Would Cha...

MORE FROM FEBRUARY 14, 2011
Premium Article Future Shock: San Francisco Giants Top 11 Pr...
Purpose Pitches: Pitchers and Catchers Day
Premium Article Prospectus Preview: AL East 2011 Forecast
Premium Article Prospect Profile: Anthony Gose
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Value Picks at First, Third an...
The Week in Quotes: February 7-13

MORE BY JAY JAFFE
2011-02-23 - Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run: The Curious Case of ...
2011-02-18 - Prospectus Hit and Run: Never a Dull Moment ...
2011-02-16 - Prospectus Hit and Run: Check, Call, Reyes, ...
2011-02-14 - Premium Article Prospectus Hit List: Winning the Winter, AL ...
2011-02-12 - Baseball Prospectus Book News: Your First Lo...
2011-02-10 - Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run: The Five Disappointm...
2011-02-08 - Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run: I Saw 'em When, Part...
More...

MORE PROSPECTUS HIT LIST
2011-03-28 - Prospectus Hit List: NL Pre-Season Hit List
2011-03-28 - Prospectus Hit List: AL Pre-Season Hit List
2011-02-15 - Premium Article Prospectus Hit List: Winning the Winter, NL ...
2011-02-14 - Premium Article Prospectus Hit List: Winning the Winter, AL ...
2010-10-06 - Premium Article Prospectus Hit List: The Finale
2010-09-24 - Premium Article Prospectus Hit List: Crashing the Party
2010-09-23 - Prospectus Hit List: NL: Getting Sorted
More...