Saturday, 29 October 2011

Big Papi could bring Big Return

David Ortiz
Photo by Keith Allison licensed by Creative Commons
With news coming out today regarding impending free agent David Ortiz and the Blue Jays, it has got a lot of people in Toronto talking about Big Papi as a possibility in Toronto. He's big, he's friendly, and he is exactly what Toronto needs, that big left handed bat. He has the obvious connections to the Jays with John Farrell having been the pitching coach over in Boston and Jose Bautista being among his best friends in the MLB, which only betters the odds of dealing getting done. Still, Ortiz may not be that true marquee free agent that many Toronto fans are looking for, but if the Jays can't or won't get a Fielder or Pujols, Ortiz is a very nice backup option. He has the potential to be as good a hitter, will command a much better contract (for the Jays), and could end up being the better long term option.

This year Ortiz took a big step up in his production after a couple lackluster seasons with the Red Sox. He went from 0.3 fWAR and 2.6 fWAR seasons in '09 and '10 to a vintage Ortiz 4.2 fWAR season. That number is only ~1 win behind Fielder and ~2-4 wins behind Pujols depending on your thoughts on him going forward. Added on to that with Fielder and Pujols you get a little more certainty of production as they have put up fairly consistently good numbers over the past three years, but the difference that you get between Ortiz and the other two players is good, but is not worth the extra $10 million dollars in the average annual salary that it will take to sign one of the two.

Obviously Ortiz isn't and won't be of the same calibre a player as Pujols or Fielder, but the length and value that the Jays will get out of a contract with Ortiz makes him much more appealing. What we do know is that Pujols is pushing for a 10 year $300 million deal and Fielder is looking to beat Mark Teixeira's 8 year $180 million deal with the Yankees, either of those guys could become an albatross contract for the Blue Jays. On the other hand Ortiz is looking for a much more reasonable 3 year offer at an average annual value of a third of what Pujols is asking for. The added benefit of a possible Ortiz signing is that if he is only signed for those two years then the Blue Jays would be able to make a serious run at Joey Votto when he is a free agent in 2014. Votto being a player that the Jays have coveted for a while and would likely make a run at if they didn't have another highly paid first basemen, such as Fielder or Pujols.

Some Jays fans are pointing to Frank Thomas as a comparable for a possible Ortiz signing and they are right there is a few similarities. Both were seeking two year contracts and both are DHs at this point in their careers, but the similarities end there. First when Thomas signed his contract with the Jays he was 39 and right now Ortiz is only 36. Second when the Jays signed Thomas he was just coming off a good year, but for him a good year meant only a 2.7 fWAR. That 2.7fWAR is roughly the same as Ortiz's lead-up season and 1 and half wins away from Papi's WAR this year. Thus you can in no way compare the two players, it is a situation to situation basis and is really no different from comparing Darvish to Dice-K, it can't be done.

Soon enough we will see what really happens with Ortiz as the offseason officially commences at 12:00 AM on Sunday, but it seems like a reasonable belief that the Jays will at least be in on Ortiz. He may cost a first round pick by that time, but the Jays have two first rounders in 2012 and can easily get first round value out of any of their picks in the first 3 rounds barring any changes to the CBA. I'd like to see the Jays take a shot at Ortiz, he'd be an excellent stop gap while the Jays young players develop and gives them a shot at Votto in 2014. It would be a "win now" move to many of the Jays fans asking for such and would certainly shut many of them up for the foreseeable future. It is a win-win-win move and would be well responded by this Jays fan and hopefully many others feel the same.

Follow me on Twitter @HouseOfTheBB and voice your opinion in the comments below

Sunday, 23 October 2011

A Whole New World

Vernon Wells
Photo by Keith Allison licensed under Creative Commons
What if...

What if the sky were orange, what if water were red, what if there was world peace, what if the Yankees moved to Timbuktoo.

These are all obviously examples of "what ifs", they describe a scenario in which is seemingly impossible to imagine ever happening. Just last season a "what if" in Jays nation, was what if the Blue Jays could trade away Vernon Wells? Well last offseason that "what if" was fulfilled as the Angels foolishly took Vernon Wells away from the Jays and now this offseason that "what if" that was fulfilled has led me to another what if. What if Vernon Wells had never been traded?

It seems like an odd proposition to think about as it will never be undone, but what is interesting about this trade is how much it effected not only the Blue Jays but the entire goings  of the entire 2011 season.

If Vernon Wells had never been traded, where would the Jays be. Would us fans be thinking about the possibility of signing a big name free agent? Would the Jays even be half as far in their rebuild process? The answer to both of these questions is probably no and the reasoning being that as some forget Vernon Wells was owed 86 million dollars between 2011-2014. Currently the payroll obligations for 2011 will be just over $50 million after arbitration. With Wells tacked on that number jumps up, closer to $75 million. Then the question becomes, can the Blue Jays front office realistically sell it to the fans and to Rogers that they need to go out and spend $20-$25 million on a guy and put the payroll up to and probably over $100 million for the 2012 season after the Blue Jays just finished 81-81. I'm not even sure Anthopolous could sell that idea to himself and he is the king of negotiation. 

Along with the lack of interest in big name free agent that would have come with Vernon Wells still on the roster, the Jays whole rebuilding process would have been set back at least a couple years. First off with Wells still on the roster the Jays would then have four left fielders and an even bigger logjam in the outfield. Second despite the fact that Anthopolous was long a proprietor of Rasmus prior to the mid season trade between the Jays and the Cardinals, it is hard to imagine Anthopolous acquiring Rasmus and adding what would be a 6th outfielder, even if he had the option to stuff Thames and Snider in the minors. To go along with that would have been the whole feel that the Jays would not have been on the upturn of their rebuild. It is a pretty fair statement as it is hard to imagine a team to be thought of on the upturn of a rebuild, when they are paying a guy $23 million dollars to be worth 3 wins above replacement at the most.

It probably would not changed Alex Anthopolous' philosophy or approach as he would go about his business the same whether the Jays had no albatross' versus if they had 5. What it does change is the outlook for fans and for others across the league. As Kevin Goldstein describes in one of his recent Up and In podcasts, the Blue Jays are now the flavour of the month, which is hard to see them being if they had an albatross contract dampening the outlook of the team. 

Take the Angels themselves for example, they have a bolstering farm system and if the not the best then the second best prospect in baseball in Mike Trout. Despite that you still hear that they are paying Vernon Wells $20+ million and Torii Hunter $17+ million rather than the positives with the team because in many cases it makes for a good story.

Getting back to the rest of the league had Vernon Wells not been traded? Would we have the same two teams in the World Series? Would those two teams even be in the World Series. It is an unusual thing, but the Blue Jays had a big influence on this years World Series matchup. There is 6 ex-Blue Jays (7 if you count Patterson) on the two World Series teams, most of which would not have been on the teams had Vernon Wells not been traded.

Starting with the Rangers, the Rangers currently have two ex-Blue Jays on their roster in Mike Napoli and Michael Young. Had Wells not been traded Michael Young still would have been there, but Napoli would not. With that said, Mike Napoli hasn't been stellar in the postseason, but he's been good and at times the difference maker. As well going off fWAR, had the Rangers not had Napoli furing the regular season, it's possible they would not have made the playoffs. This season Mike Napoli had a 5.6 fWAR, which means he contributed ≈ 5 wins to the Rangers. What it also means is that he took ≈ 5 wins away from the Angels. The final standing in the AL West had the Angels 10 wins out of 1st. So had the Angels kept Napoli, who knows, maybe its them in the World Series and not the Rangers.

Then with the Cardinals, they currently have four ex-Blue Jays on their playoff roster roster in Chris Carpenter, Edwin Jackson, Mark Rzepczynski, and Octavio Dotel. Like the Rangers had Wells not been traded the Cards would have had Carpenter, but likely not Jackson, Scrabble, or Dotel, and all three of these guys were key contributors to the Cards in their race to get to the playoffs and the run that they've had at the World Series. During their regular season Cards tenures the three players acquired in the Colby Rasmus trade produced a total of 2 fWAR (Jackson 0.7 fWAR, Scrabble 0.4 fWAR, Dotel 0.9 fWAR). Those two added wins were all the Cards needed to make the playoffs  as they beat out Atlanta by only a game. Now in the playoffs the key ROOGY performances by Dotel, the bullpen solidification by Rzepcznyski, and key starts by Jackson have all been vital in the playoff success of this team. 

Its amazing that when you look back at a single trade or single move that it seems like it only effects the two teams involved, but in truth it can effect so much more. That one single move between the Angels and the Blue Jays has just snowballed into something much bigger as it indirectly created this world series matchup. As well the snowballing will continue for the Blue Jays as they improve from dividends paid in the Vernon Wells trade. That one single moment has become for the Blue Jays an extra draft pick, a centerfielder of the future, and hope that things will get better for the Bluebirds. Three invaluable assets to the Blue Jays organization. 

Friday, 21 October 2011

Why Votto, but not Fielder

Photo's by OlympianX and Keith Allison both licensed under Creative Commons
Since the what seems like forever Jays fans have wanted Toronto born first basemen Joey Votto on his hometown team the Blue Jays, but it is only recently that rumors have really started to "heat up" if you can really even call it that. Buster Olney said on Twitter, "Rival executives getting signals that the Reds won't shop Joey Votto -- but that they are fully prepared to listen to offers.". This was encouraging, but then in an interview with Reds beat writer Mark Sheldon,  Reds GM Walt Jocketty said on the subject of trading Votto, "We haven’t talked about it. I wish that people would stop writing it, why would we trade one of the best players in the game? We’re trying to win.” 

Obviously those are some pretty strong comments that should be taken into consideration when going after Votto. Though despite that strongly worded quote from Walt Jocketty, it doesn't mean that Votto in a Jays uni is completely impossible, but I'm guessing that because of those comments Jocketty will probably take the same route Kevin Towers took with Justin Upton last year. Essentially meaning that he will listen to offers, but that you would have to blow away the Reds to obtain Votto. In the end it should also be the same outcome of the Justin Upton rumors, with no trade happening. Votto may be traded, but probably not this offseason, even if his value is at its peak.

What I want to know is why exactly do we want to trade for Votto, when there is a better option on the free agent market in Prince Fielder. Votto obviously includes the plus of being able to play first base at an above average level and the fact that he is Canadian definitely doesn't hurt, but Prince Fielder, with the right contract, is clearly the better option. He is younger, he is only a marginally worse hitter , and most of all he won't cost the Blue Jays anything other than cash (which can easily be spent if Anthonpolous feels it is warranted) and a 1st round draft pick, which the Blue Jays have two of in 2012.

Starting off on the value aspect, here are the stats of the two players on the past three years.

Prince Fielder
2009 25 162 719 103 177 46 141 2 3 110 138 .299 .412 .602 1.014 166 356
2010 26 161 714 94 151 32 83 1 0 114 138 .261 .401 .471 .871 135 272
2011 27 162 692 95 170 38 120 1 1 107 106 .299 .415 .566 .981 164 322
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 10/21/2011.

Joey Votto
2009 25 131 544 82 151 25 84 4 1 70 106 .322 .414 .567 .981 156 266
2010 26 150 648 106 177 37 113 16 5 91 125 .324 .424 .600 1.024 171 328
2011 27 161 719 101 185 29 103 8 6 110 129 .309 .416 .531 .947 156 318
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 10/21/2011.

Prince Fielder's fWAR has been an average of 5.1 and Votto's has been a better, but not otherworldly better at 6.3 fWAR. Though once you take fielding completely out of the equation the gap closes a bit as Fielders average offensive contribution to his fWAR over the past three years is 4.5 wins and Votto's is 4.7 wins. When you consider that if on the Jays Fielder will be most likely be DHing quite a bit, it seems reasonable to assume that there wouldn't be a giant value gap between Fielder and Votto. Either would be a huge upgrade over both Encarnacion and Lind, but for what it would take to acquire the two, it easily gives Fielder the edge. 

To acquire Joey Votto would be a monstrous task. First he's obviously not a free agent nor is he an obvious trade candidate with two years still left on his contract, so a trade for him could take a lot. Some people were suggesting that the Jays should trade something along the lines of Anthony Gose, Travis d'Arnaud, Drew Hutchison, Deck McGuire, and then some of the high end arms in the lower minors like Noah Syndergaard and Justin Nicolino. If the Jays could get Votto for this, then I would go right ahead, but I along with others can easily see that this isn't an adequate package for a guy who is a year removed from an MVP season in which he had 7.3 fWAR. 

A more accurate representation of what it would take to acquire the former MVP would be something along the lines of Brett Lawrie and Ricky Romero. It may look nice to have that hometown hero, but is it really worth it to give up Lawrie and Romero to do so. First off Lawrie has some of that same patriotic appeal that Votto has as well as the fact that he is cost controlled and is projected to be a future star. Then to add on Ricky Romero who is the unquestioned leader of the pitching staff  and the only guy who is a lock to throw 200 innings, it becomes way too much to give up.

Besides by adding Votto to the 2012 roster you really aren't gaining much if anything at all in terms of added value if what you are giving up is Brett Lawrie and Ricky Romero. This year Votto had a 6.9 WAR season and it is quite reasonable to expect him to reach those heights again. But Lawrie and Romero combined this year put up 5.6 WAR and it isn't unprecedented to expect even more value next year out of Lawrie and Romero than out of Votto. Sure some of Lawrie and Romero's value would be added in other ways, but if you assume you get Snider/Thames replacing Lawrie's production and one of the young pitchers replacing Ricky's production it would be exceedingly close to the value added with Votto over Encarnacion. Combined Lawrie and Romero provide probably an extra 5 wins over their replacements, but Votto over Encarnacion is only 5.5-6 wins added, so unless Lawrie completely tanks next season Votto doesn't add much to the Jays. 

Despite the obvious marketing positives of having the best Canadian player in the MLB on the only Canadian team, giving up what it would take to acquire Votto is too much. If the Blue Jays truly want a first basemen now then Fielder is the only option. He's only 27 and if you can get him for less than 7 years, then I'd say jump on it. It doesn't matter even if the Jays pay Fielder upwards of 22.5 million a year, the real issue with him is the long term sustainability. Plus Fielder adds that big bat that the Jays supposedly need, without taking away the prodigy himself Brett Lawrie. In the end I don't think it will be failure whether or not the Blue Jays get a big middle of the order bat this offseason or not, but if they do want to acquire someone, why not Fielder.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Yu the Answer?

Yu Darvish
Photo by Keith Fujimoto licensed
by Creative Commons 2.0
This Article is a Continuation of a FanPost on Bluebird Banter if you haven't seen that you can view it here.

After three straight offseasons in which there was great speculation as to whether or not Yu Davish will, it seems like this year it will finally happen. With that said there is no doubt in anyones mind that Yu Darvish will be probably the best prospect to hail from Japan in a while, and the attention that he is getting from major league teams is definitely warranted. He is highly projectable at 6' 5" 216 lbs and would be the tallest Japanese import player ever from the NPB. To go along with the projectability Darvish holds electrifying stuff with a fastball that can reach 96 and sits around 92, a slider that is said to be absolutely nasty, as well as a curveball, changeup, and forkball that are all supposedly solid pitches.

The stats Darvish has put out in the NPB definitely backs up the stuff.
As you can see Darvish has absolutely lit up the NPB this year and looking at his past stats we can see that he has consistently improved year to year with career numbers this year that include a 1.49 ERA, a 1.62 FIP, a 10.5 K/9, a 1.41 BB/9 all to go along with an average of 8 1/3 innings per start. These numbers are absolutely ridiculous and quite possibly the best ever in the NPB, at least for a starter who is still only 25. 

When MLB fans are making an opinion on whether or not they want there team to sign Darvish they are basing it mostly off the fact that Japanese ballplayers haven't always historically been able to translate well over to the MLB. Specifically fingers are pointed at the man who was the biggest post in NPB history, Daisuke Matsuzaka. Of course we all know of Dice-K as the overpaid oft-injured #4 starter for the Red Sox and rightly so, but that doesn't mean in any way that Darvish and Dice-K should be seriously compared to each other. Darvish and Dice-K are completely different, they have different injury histories and much different stats and stuff and in the end Darvish is just flat out better and more predictable than Dice-K.

Regarding the injury history, during his time in the NPB Daisuke Matsuzaka was not necessarily an injury prone player, but he did have a couple seasons in which he missed significant time. One season in particular was during the 2002 season in which Dice-K only pitched 73. 3 innings due to nagging injuries throughout the season. Another little tid bit of information was that prior to that injury filled season Dice-K had pitched 240 innings for the Seibu Lions, an absolutely ridiculous number these days for a guy who was only in his third season in the big leagues and who at the time was only 20 years of age. In the MLB at that time even top prospects are throwing only at the very most 180 innings and Dice-K beat that by 60 innings. This fact that Dice-K pitched 240 innings at 20 and also that he pitched 180 innings in the NPB at age 18 are often reasons that are pointed to, to explain the injury filled 2002 season as well as the injuries that have incurred while within the Red Sox organization. 

Whether it is true or not is unknown at least by the fans, but what is encouraging is that by looking at Darvish's IP numbers you can see that he was more eased in to the league than Matsuzaka was. Darvish's the innings numbers in his first three years are 94.1, 149.2, and 207.2 innings pitched. Definitely more promising than the 180, 167,  and 240 innings pitched that Dice-K had in his first three years in the NPB. As well Darvish unlike Matsuzaka has avoided any major injuries while pitching in the NPB, and was not taken off the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters roster for injury until 2009, which was his fifth season with the team. The team only classified the injury as "shoulder fatigue" and soon after being removed from the roster Darvish was reinstated and eventually got back to his former self.

Looking at the stats it doesn't even compare between Darvish and Matsuzaka. Yu Darvish holds a lower NPB career ERA and FIP by more than half a run and his career K/9 may not be higher than Matsuzaka, but Yu has been consistently improving year after year, which has culminated with a sweet 10.5 K/9, a level Dice-K never reached. As well when you bring back the projectability factor, it seems pretty safe to say that Darvish is headed for a brighter future then Dice-K, who at the time of signing some were calling a future ace in the MLB. Obviously the "future ace" tag wasn't exactly warranted for Dice-K but for Yu Darvish it is safe to say that it is at least a very good possibility.

Now that we know Darvish is good it brings us to the question and possibility of Darvish becoming a Jay. The Blue Jays obviously need top end pitching and Yu Darvish could be the risk and reward that the Jays are looking for. Earlier in the year it was reported that Anthopolous was over in Japan scouting Darvish and recently Blue Jays President and CEO Paul Beeston was interviewed by the Toronto Star's Richard Griffin in an article seen here.

In the interview Richard Griffin asks Paul Beeston about the possibility of a Darvish signing and the potential marketing possibilities to the asian community in the GTA. Beeston's response showed that he was somewhat holding back on us, but he did say, "I think those people at Rogers who never heard of him before, now know this player is in existence." To me this means that at least the Jays have done due discussion on the possibility of a signing, which is evident by AA's trip to Japan as well as the fact that ownership has been talked to about him, but past that it is hard to tell. You might infer that because Beeston didn't really want to comment on the particular subject that the Jays may be taking a shot at Yu Darvish as a serious consideration, but you could also just say that Beeston probably wouldn't want to talk about it to change any potential postings and contract negotiations.

In the end we will see the outcome, but with the scouting and Beeston's comments to me at least it seems like the Jays are putting heavy consideration into it. If the Jays are willing to buck up the money now, then they may see Darvish become an ace of the staff, but they also run the risk of getting another #3 starter. With the projected $100 million plus investment that it would take to acquire Darvish, which includes the posting fee and the contract, it seems like it would be a heavy risk. Though as we have seen with Anthopolous at the helm it seems like the Jays aren't afraid to take risks as long as they are smart risks (See Jose Bautista's Contract). I would love to see the Jays take a chance at Darvish, but with the evident possibility of high posting fees put out by both the Red Sox and Yankees it would seem like a slim chance that the Jays end up with Darvish, but in the off chance that they do we can only hope he lives up to expectations, unlike the last great Japanese import.