MLB Recent Transactions

by Bill M on November 25, 2013 · 0 comments

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MCCANN TO THE YANKS

The New York Yankees were atypically quiet last offseason, and they were rewarded by missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008 and only the second time since 1996.  Hal and Hank Steinbrenner aren’t their father, throwing money around like a, well, Steinbrenner, but they know damn well that this will not stand with the Pinstripe faithful.  Hence, the Yankees got back to their free agent poaching ways yesterday as they threw a ton of cash at catcher Brian McCann (5-years/$85M, $100M if his option year vests).  Despite my disdain for the Yanks, this move makes a lot of sense…which makes me more disdainful.

Catcher was a virtual black hole for the Bombers last year as they combined for a slash line of 0.213/.290/0.298 for an abysmal 588 OPS.  The absolute suck cannot be overstated.  And the sting was made worse following the greatness of Jorge Posada and the competence of Russell Martin over the last 15 seasons…that’s a long time of good catching.

Enter McCann, one of the top 2-3 catchers in baseball over the last 9 years.  He’s accumulated 27.0 WARP (from Baseball Prospectus) in his 8 full seasons.  For comparison, Posada, a potential Hall of Famer, earned 38.0 WARP in his prime 8 seasons from 2000-07.  Not quite up to Jorge’s level, but still a very valuable player.  On top of that, he’s presided over an excellent Braves pitching staff and has earned a good reputation for handling a staff.  He’s only slightly below average in throwing out would be base stealers (24% for career, league averaged 27.2% in 2013), so he won’t be a liability stopping the run either.

Catchers notoriously blossom offensively a little later in their careers, but hitting has never been a problem for McCann.  He’s hit over 20 home runs in all but one of his full seasons in the majors, including last year in just 356 at bats.  He has a career 823 OPS and 117 OPS+, quality for any player, outstanding for a catcher.  Plus, he’s a rarity in that he’s a catcher who bats lefty.  This is outstanding with the short porch in Yankee Stadium.

All is not puppy dogs and ice cream, however.  McCann has a lot of mileage for a guy just turning 30.  He logged between 138 and 145 games per season from 2007-10, which is a heck of a lot for a catcher.  The wear and tear began to take its toll in 2012 as the previously durable player developed a shoulder issue that dogged him throughout the year and resulted in his worst offensive season.  Then last year he missed 30 games recovering from offseason surgery to fix the problem.  As he enters his 30s, injuries are more likely, not less.  It helps that he signed with an AL team so he can DH on off days and maybe even get a few more of them, but health is going to be the primary concern with this contract.

From a fantasy standpoint, this is probably the best case scenario for McCann owners.  He moves to the AL, so he should get more at bats as he DHs on off days, and that short porch should find a few more HRs for him.

RANGERS/TIGERS BLOCKBUSTER

I’m a little late chiming in on this one, but it’s rare that you see teams swap star players, and that’s exactly what the Rangers and Tigers did this week.  The Tigers sent 1B Prince Fielder and $30M to the Rangers for 2B Ian Kinsler.  This is honestly about as win-win as you’re ever going to see in a big deal.

For the Tigers, they actually free up a bunch of money because of how huge the Fielder contract was, and they can now use that to sign Scherzer or fill other holes.  But probably the biggest impact will be Miggy Cabrera moving back across the diamond to 1B.  The two years at 3B were a boon for fantasy owners, but they were disastrous for the Tigers team defense.  The man simply could not handle the position, and he’s actually a pretty good defender at first.  They also get one of the top offensive threats at 2B, normally not a plus position offensively.  Finally, their top prospect Nick Castellanos, who’s been playing LF since he was blocked by Miggy, can move back to his natural position at 3B.

The Rangers get a power hitting 1B in Fielder at a reasonable rate with the cash that came over with him.  They also open up 2B for heralded former top prospect Jurikson Profar, the consensus #1 prospect in baseball going into the 2013 season.  It’s interesting that probably the biggest impact for both teams is more about players other than the ones who were actually traded.

From a value standpoint, I was surprised to see that Kinsler has earned more WARP (32.5) than Fielder (25.0) in 300 fewer games.  Part of that is because Kinsler has actually had some fantastic defensive metric seasons where Fielder has been pretty bad most of his career, but that’s just part of it.  Kinsler has flat out been more valuable so far in their careers.

Now, Fielder and Kinsler are both stars, but they are both coming off relatively off years, and they will both be on the wrong side of 30 after Fielder’s next birthday in May.  Fielder is two years younger, but with this body type (i.e. fat ass), he is less likely to age gracefully.  That said, he has been tremendously durable so far in his career, never playing fewer than 157 games in any season, and only missing 1 game in the last 5 seasons.  Kinsler has not been as reliable, having 6 stints of 28 days or more on the DL in his career, including in 2013.

From a fantasy perspective, Fielder moving to the hot Texas air in a band box stadium is a plus.  Kinsler moves to a less friendly hitting environment, but he’ll be batting in front of Miggy, which is the most enviable position in baseball.  Both should be just fine.

CARDS SOLVE SHORTSTOP PROBLEM…SORT OF

The Cardinals biggest, maybe only, Achilles heel in 2013 was at the shortstop position.  With Rafael Furcal succumbing to Tommy John surgery, the Cards were forced to watch the severely offensively challenged Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso play hot potato with the starting SS job.  So bad.

There was all kind of internet speculation that they would put together some of their vaunted organizational talent and try to pry Troy Tulowitzki from the Rox or Elvis Andrus from the Rangers.  If you listened carefully, however, all talk from the organization itself was that they didn’t want to trade any of their prospects.  The rumors of not trading prospects were proven true as they signed free agent Jhonny Peralta Sunday to a 4-year/$52M contract.  My first inclination was that is way too much money.  After doing research for this blog, I still do, but he’ll be a big upgrade over the vortex of suck that St. Louis got from SS in 2013.

Peralta generally considered an offense-minded SS with a questionable glove.  The reality is that neither of those ideas is particularly true.  He’s only had four good batting years in 10.5 major league seasons and one other middling year.  And when he’s not good, he’s well below league average hovering around 700 OPS.  That’s better than average at SS, and certainly still better than either Kozma or Descalso has ever been, but below the average player.  And in fairness to Peralta, when he’s good, he’s really good providing over 800 OPS, which is money at SS.  He also happens to be coming off of one of those good seasons, although it was marred by a 50 game suspension for being linked to Biogenesis, casting some doubt on who the real Peralta is.

As for the glove, using the Baseball Prospectus defensive metric Fielding Runs Above Average (FRAA), he’s coming off his best season since 2006 with an excellent 8.2.  The rest of his career he’s been around zero or just under.  He’s also not known for having tremendous range, but he’s around average in the Scoresheet defensive range score.  He’s also become pretty sure with his fielding, not exceeding 10 errors in a season since 2009, and even that year his errors were primarily at 3B rather than SS.  The sum total take away here is that he’s not a liability defensively at SS despite his reputation.

From a fantasy point of view, he’s going to be in an excellent lineup, so he should have plenty of run producing opportunities.  The Cardinals just know what they’re doing, so he may thrive by the organizational influence.  If he can keep up the momentum from 2013, he’ll be a great asset, but he’s never had consecutive good seasons so be prepared for the bad.

References: Baseball Prospectus, Baseball-Reference, FanGraphs, Scoresheet Fantasy Sports, and Baseball America
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