January 22, 2010
Prospectus Hit and Run
O-Dog Waits, Edmonds Campaigns
I disagree with the idea that Hudson wouldn't have accepted arbitration. He most likely would have and would be due a raise. And would Wolf really be off the market right now were he not free? I don't think we can say that either. I think Collett [sic] is rather more justified with a little hindsight. The Dodgers can do better than those 2 for a lot less.
We don't know the answer to what might have happened had either or both of these players been offered arbitration by the Dodgers. But let's examine them in the context of the 10 Type A free agents who were offered arbitration this year:
Player Pos Age WARP Old New Yrs Dollars Chone Figgins 3B 32 7.2 LA Angels Seattle 4 $36 mil Matt Holliday LF 30 6.7 St. Louis St. Louis 7 $120 mil Marco Scutaro 2B 34 6.5 Toronto Boston 2 $12.5 mil Orlando Hudson* 2B 32 6.1 LA Dodgers -- Jason Bay LF 31 4.7 Boston NY Mets 4 $66 mil Randy Wolf* SP 33 3.8 LA Dodgers Milwaukee 3 $29.75 mil John Lackey SP 31 3.3 LA Angels Boston 5 $82.5 mil Rafael Soriano RP 30 3.1 Atlanta Tampa Bay** 1 $7.25 mil Jose Valverde RP 32 3.1 Houston Detroit 2 $14 mil Mike Gonzalez RP 31 2.2 Atlanta Baltimore 2 $12 mil Rafael Betancourt RP 35 2.1 Colorado Colorado 1 $7.5 mil Billy Wagner RP 38 0.6 Boston Atlanta 1 $7 mil *: Not offered arbitration **: Via trade after signing
I've ranked the players according to 2009 WARP to serve as a reminder that both Hudson and Wolf had strong seasons. Hudson made the All-Star team for the second time in his career, won his fourth Gold Glove, and set career bests in both EqA (.286) and WARP even with the September sitdown which soured his relationship with Joe Torre. Wolf, despite being credited with just an 11-7 record, set personal bests for starts (34) and innings (214
At this point, all 10 of the Type As have signed contracts for 2010. Seven of them did so with new teams, thus costing their signing teams either a first-round or second-round draft pick. Of those seven, Wagner's was the only one-year deal, though it included a vesting option for 2011. The questionable exchange of the expected yield of a first-round pick was canceled out by Gonzalez's departure. Boston's potential loss of a first-rounder was canceled out, too (and wow, the reports surrounding Bay's exit are starting to paint an unpleasant picture). Of the remaining three Type-A free agents, Holliday signed a huge multi-year pact with his previous team, and Betancourt and Soriano accepted arbitration and signed with theirs. The latter's acceptance caught the Braves by surprise after they'd signed Wagner and Takashi Saito, so they quickly flipped him to Tampa Bay.
The sample sizes are obviously small here, but I think we can make some inferences. Let's start with the guy who signed. Given the perception that Type-B free agent Andy Pettitte had no plans beyond returning to the Yankees, Wolf was clearly the second-best starting pitcher on the market after Lackey. He'd even had a better year than Lackey both by traditional standards (the latter was 11-8 with a 3.83 ERA in 27 starts) and the more advanced metrics. The next tier down, both performance and dollar-wise, appears to be Joel Pineiro (two years, $16 million with the Angels) and Jason Marquis (two years, $15 million with the Nationals), a pair of Type B free agents who are both low-strikeout worm killers coming off their best seasons in at least half a decade. As is Wolf for that matter, though he's considered less of a one-year wonder because the perceived value of his 12-12, 4.30 ERA, 0.5 WARP 2008 showing is boosted by his late-season run with the Astros.
The team that signed Wolf was the Brewers, who managed to go 80-82 while finishing last in the league in starter ERA (5.37) and SNLVAR (8.0), and thus in dire need of rotation help. As it happens, the Brewers finished with a record more or less at the point of inflection where the marginal dollar value of an additional win starts to climb, so it doesn't take too great a leap of faith to suppose that they might have been willing to rationalize the punting of the draft pick handcuffed to Wolf had he been offered arbitration. Perhaps that would have lowered their bid on the pitcher somewhat, but I don't think it would have lessened their desire for a multi-year deal. Even if the entire Milwaukee option wasn't on the table if Wolf had been offered arbitration, it's certainly possible that another team which fancies itself a contender (correctly or not) might have been willing to make that same choice. The Mets come to mind, and in a world where they also sign Bay, Wolf would have only cost them a second-round pick. Perhaps the Angels, who having lost two Type As were already going to net compensation picks, would have valued his services more highly than Pineiro. All it takes is one team.
As for Hudson, while he lacks the versatility of Figgins and Scutaro-the other infielders in this set, neither of them perfect comps-he's got a longer track record of above-average play than either. He's stuck in a strange market, though. Consider that the Giants, who at 88 wins finished near the summit of the marginal dollar value of a win curve, chose to lock up the similarly aged but significantly inferior Freddy Sanchez for two years before the World Series even ended, rather than wait to see how the market unfolded. Then, of course, Brian Sabean moves in mysterious ways. Sanchez underwent season-ending knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus, and the word on the street this week is that he just underwent shoulder surgery, threatening his opening day availability. Maybe they should have had Boston's doctors give him a physical.
The Twins still have a rather sizable opening at second base after getting a combined .209/.302/.267 performance with sub-par defense (-3 FRAA) from their keystone kops (an article on such lineup dead spots is in the pipeline for Monday), though as Steve Goldman reminded the other day, "With the Twins asking for a professional-level infield is apparently like Oliver Twist asking for more gruel. It's just unthinkably demanding and presumptuous." The Nationals have been sniffing around the O-Dog's house, too, though it's not like signing him makes great sense.
At this juncture, Hudson probably would have been better off had he been offered arbitration and accepted. His comments about Torre weren't over the top by any means, but were critical and certainly fueled the impression that he had no desire to return. The Dodgers may have taken them too personally, leading to a suboptimal business decision. Hudson found himself in the bargain bin last winter because he (and/or his agent, Paul Cohen) misread the market by searching for a long-term, big-dollar deal during an exceptionally tough winter. He's apparently seeking a larger payday to make up for last year's shortfall, though he did wind up making about $8 million thanks to his performance bonus. A report linking him to the Nationals suggests he's asked for $9 million for 2010. It's not that he's not worth it. At an average of 4.3 WARP per year over the past four, he is. But with none of the big-money contenders particularly in need of a second baseman, the O-Dog is out in the cold.
Jim Edmonds, who incidentally has the same agent as Hudson, made headlines earlier this week by announcing his intention to make a comeback, whether with the Cardinals or another team. The 39-year-old sat out last year after spending 2008 with the Padres and Cubs, hitting a combined .235/.343/.479 with 20 homers in 401 plate appearances. That season was a real tale of two cities. After being traded out of St. Louis over the winter, he looked totally done in San Diego (.178/.265/.233 with one homer in 103 PA) before drawing his release in early May, but enjoyed a strong rebound in Chicago (.256/.369/.568) in helping the Cubs to a division title.
Strong enough that it was rather surprising he didn't play in 2009, at least until one considered the toll Edmonds' all-out style of play had taken on his body over the years; from 1995 (his first full year as a regular) through 2007, he averaged just 131 games per year, most notably missing more than 100 games in 1999 due to a shoulder surgery that had it been undertaken earlier the previous winter would have cost him far less time. A four-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glover, Edmonds compiled a helluva highlight reel with his play as a center fielder for the Angels (1993-1999) and Cardinals (2000-2007), becoming particularly famous for his diving catches but also drawing criticism for hotdogging and malingering.
Joe Sheehan advanced the notion that Edmonds had a shot at the Hall of Fame a couple of times in recent years, and he's not the only one. In terms of JAWS, Edmonds scores very well, ranking among the top 10 center fielders of all time thanks to a very strong peak capped by a monster 2004 in which he helped St. Louis win the pennant, finishing third in the league with 9.7 WARP (one win ahead of teammate Albert Pujols) via a .341 EqA (.301/.418/.643 with 42 home runs). Here's the center field leaderboard:
Player EqA RARP RAP FRAA Career Peak JAWS Willie Mays* .330 1227 872 217 161.3 75.0 118.2 Ty Cobb* .330 1207 847 -10 139.1 70.3 104.7 Tris Speaker* .320 932 604 114 122.6 61.0 91.8 Mickey Mantle* .342 1067 804 -58 112.5 66.3 89.4 Joe DiMaggio* .326 705 494 54 87.0 60.1 73.6 Ken Griffey .301 791 467 -83 79.7 51.9 65.8 Jim Edmonds .300 548 327 102 72.2 51.1 61.7 Billy Hamilton* .305 453 250 56 66.2 46.5 56.4 AVG HoF CF .306 563 308 19 68.3 44.0 56.1 Andruw Jones .278 366 127 182 61.3 47.4 54.4 Richie Ashburn* .288 399 124 121 61.6 46.9 54.3 George Gore .294 337 164 88 62.5 44.6 53.6 Carlos Beltran .290 422 219 95 57.1 48.1 52.6 Jimmy Wynn .304 521 285 -2 57.1 47.6 52.4 Andre Dawson* .285 527 190 -11 59.6 40.2 49.9 Bernie Williams .291 533 274 -32 57.3 40.9 49.1
The bottom five here have been hot topics lately. Gore and Wynn you met last week, a couple of days before Beltran underwent a surgery which caught the Mets with their pants on the ground. Dawson, of course, was elected to the Hall of Fame earlier this month, and Williams, well, everybody wants to know what I think about his chances at reaching Cooperstown. There are 10 other center fielders in the Hall below the ones shown; after Duke Snider (47.0) the quality quickly drops off as guys with short careers (Larry Doby, Kirby Puckett) mingle with ill-considered Veterans Committee picks such as Lloyd (the Wrong Poison) Waner and Hack Wilson.
As for Edmonds, his case is strengthened because he was the real deal defensively. His 93 FRAA in center field (he accumulated the remainder in right field) is tied for 17th all-time, and on par with a pair of his overlapping contemporaries in Beltran and Mike Cameron:
Player FRAA Willie Mays 220 Andruw Jones 167 Paul Blair 164 Curt Flood 160 Chet Lemon 139 Devon White 138 Richie Ashburn 115 Tris Speaker 112 Dom DiMaggio 103 Mike Griffin 103 Willie Davis 101 Fielder Jones 100 Gary Pettis 99 Carlos Beltran 94 Mike Cameron 94 Garry Maddox 94 Jim Edmonds 93 Jim Piersall 93 George Gore 91 Jimmy McAleer 91
Edmonds' problem is that on the traditional merits, his Hall case is a very mixed bag. The biggest problem he faces at the moment is that he has "just" 1881 career hits, and as noted in the Bobby Grich comment last week, the BBWAA hasn't elected a player from the expansion era (1961 onward) who compiled less than 2000 hits. Furthermore, like Grich and other qualified candidates such as Tim Raines and Ron Santo, who have been underserved by the electorate, Edmonds derived a great deal of his value from his high walk rate; he drew unintentional passes in 11.5 percent of his plate appearances, and topped 90 four times. His 382 homers are tied with Jim Rice and Frank Howard for 56th on the all-time list, sandwiched alongside two other recent early retirees, Larry Walker and Albert Belle. That's not enough to be a plus.
Edmonds does get a boost from his post-season performances. He made trips with six Cardinals squads (two pennants, one world championship) as well as the Cubs, and hit well (.274/.361/.513, a good match for his career triple-slashes of .284/.377/.528). Of his 13 post-season homers, 10 came in his first seven series, with at least one in each; His 12th-inning walkoff homer off Dan Miceli in Game Six of the 2004 NLCS forced a Game Seven, which the Cardinals won, thus advancing to meet the Red Sox. Edmonds had a lousy World Series, though, going 1-for-15 as the Cards were swept.
Edmonds finished in the top five in MVP voting in 2000 and 2004, but never won the award. Despite winning Gold Gloves for two pennant winners, he scores below average on the Hall of Fame Standards and Hall of Fame Monitor measures, and never led the league in anything (the Black Ink test). Such numbers suggest he's not likely to get much traction in the Hall of Fame voting, and it's difficult to see how his return could change that. Having averaged just 85 hits over his final two seasons, he'd need two more years to get to 2000 (and to 400 homers) particularly if he takes on a platoon role, which he's reportedly willing to do.
The guy proved he could still play during his final season, and if he still has the ability to do the job at a high enough level after laying off a year, why not make a comeback? At the very least I'd bet my nickel he outhits former Angels teammates Garret Anderson and Darin Erstad. Maybe even Troy Glaus, who's younger but with an even spottier health history. Of course, any veteran on such a comeback trail is probably one hamstring, back or shoulder strain away from packing it in during a spring comeback, but I hope we get to see whether Edmonds has anything left.