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March 22, 2012

Transaction Analysis

The One Where They Sign Extensions

by R.J. Anderson

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired C-R Humberto Quintero and OF-R Jason Bourgeois from the Astros for LHP Kevin Chapman and a player to be named later. [3/20]

Dayton Moore continued a busy March by acquiring two defensive-minded players this week.

Knee injuries to Salvador Perez and Manny Pina left the Royals with Brayan Pena and little else behind the plate. Quintero is little else at the plate, with a True Average so bad that he tops only Cesar Izturis, Jeff Mathis, and Brandon Wood since 2009, but he brings value to a team with his defensive abilities. For reasons unclear—perhaps the ankle and back issues that plagued his 2011 season—Quintero saw his normally great caught stealing rates dip below the league-average mark this year.  One has to assume Quintero will throw like his old self in 2012, but even if he doesn’t, Quintero still receives credit for being a good receiver and blocker.  

Bourgeois has defensive ability and his offensive performance fares better in fantasy baseball, thus making him the rare player who offers value in the real world and fantasy world alike for completely different reasons. A slasher at the plate, Bourgeois is all about putting the ball in play and letting his speed do the rest. He doesn’t walk often, so he needs to maintain a batting average on balls in play over .300 to buoy an otherwise empty on-base percentage. When Bourgeois does get on base, he shows the ability to be an efficient stealer (82 percent success rate through his first 56 attempts).  In a fourth outfielder role, Bourgeois can be an effective pinch-runner and defensive substitution. Anything more, and the Royals will have bigger problems on their hands than Bourgeois’s shortcomings.

TEXAS RANGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Re-signed LHP Derek Holland to a five-year extension worth $28.5 million that includes two club options worth a total of $22.5 million. The option years include incentives that could push the total value of the deal well over $50 million. [3/20]

Why would Jon Daniels guarantee more than $20 million to a pitcher with a career earned run average of 4.73? To start, most of the damage came in 2009. Holland, then a cherub-faced 22-year-old rookie, allowed 94 earned runs over 138 1/3 innings pitched—including a late-season stretch where he allowed more than a run per inning pitched during his final seven starts. After handling a major-league portioned workload in 2011 without struggle, Holland is no longer a baby. He may have fallen shy of 200 innings by six outs, but Holland did lead the American League in shutouts with four. Plus, babies can’t grow mustaches. Even if they could, they wouldn’t have the wherewithal to do things like this (GIF via an honorable commenter at Lone Star Ball):

While Holland may not be a baby anymore, but his skills could still use further maturation. The biggest knock on Holland nowadays is his inconsistency. Consistency is difficult to quantify and often feels like filler analysis, but there might be something to these claims in Holland’s case. Since 2010, Holland has recorded quality starts in 50 percent of his outings. The league-average rate for pitchers with 30-plus starts over that same period is 57 percent. Only four other pitchers besides Holland managed quality starts in fewer than half of their starts and held an earned run average lower than 4.00: Jonathan Sanchez, Ivan Nova, Scott Baker, and Bruce Chen. Some credit is due to the Rangers’ outstanding defense, but it helps that Holland is brilliant when on.

The combination of handedness, stuff, inconsistency, and a new extension makes comparing Holland to Gio Gonzalez a requirement. Gonzalez has roughly 40 more days of major-league service time and better surface numbers than Holland, hence an additional $20 million in guaranteed money. Dig deeper, and the difference in pay appears to overstate the difference in performance:

Career Stats

Holland

Gonzalez

GS

63

89

QS%

40%

54%

ERA

4.73

3.93

FIP

4.39

4.07

WARP

2.9

4.9

K/BB

2.34

1.94

The Nationals will walk away happy should Gonzalez fulfill some of his upside, and the Rangers will skip away jubilant should Holland fulfill some of his.

SAN DIEGO PADRES
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Re-signed C-R Nick Hundley to a three-year extension that does not replace Hundley’s 2012 agreement. The total value of the extension is $9 million with a club option worth $5 million for the 2015 season. [3/20]

‘Tis the season for general managers to sign their up-the-middle position players to lengthy contract extensions. Josh Byrnes ties Dayton Moore on the unofficial scoreboard by locking up his second center-of-the-field player in Hundley.

Evaluating Hundley is all about context. His .259/.323/.435 line since 2009 is unimpressive to the naked eye, but you need to consider that he plays in PETCO Park—though, as Jason Collette recently pointed out, Hundley has performed well at home. You can either adjust his line upward to consider the park or allow True Average to do the work for you. Hundley’s .279 True Average puts him in the company of hitters like Jay Bruce, Mark Reynolds, and Nick Markakis. Oh, and unlike those three, Hundley is a catcher. The league-average catcher had a .252 True Average in 2011, making Hundley a well above-average offensive backstop.

As solid as Hundley’s offensive contributions appear, his defense is less redoubtable. He does keep balls in the dirt in front of him, however, and he has improved as a thrower, outing a career-high 36 percent of attempted thieves last season. But there is room for improvement, as Hundley’s framing continues to receive unfavorable marks. Further, Hundley has yet to tally more than 308 plate appearances in a season. Hundley went on the disabled list twice last season—once due to a strained oblique and another due to right elbow surgery—while in the past, the Padres opted for timeshares.

Still, Hundley’s overall package combined with this contract make him one of the league’s better values behind the plate. Keep Hundley’s desirability in mind as the Padres continue to foster Yasmani Grandal and Austin Hedges on the farm. Grandal could be ready for major-league duty by late 2012, meaning Byrnes could turn around and flip Hundley and his new contract for some additional help sooner than later. In fact, it would be a surprise if the Padres were the team exercising Hundley’s option come 2015.


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

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