Tuesday, December 12, 2006

FA Signings by WARP-3 (Position Players)

Quick post with some analysis of the FA signings this offseason, as promised in an earlier article. What I've done here is taken Baseball Prospectus's WARP-3 value, and weighted it 3-2-1 in favor of the most recent seasons - so 2006 has the most weight. WARP-1 is described as "The number of wins this player contributed, above what a replacement level hitter, fielder, and pitcher would have done", but WARP-3 is adjusted for difficulty, and accounts for 162-game seasons (not really necessary since the seasons in question were 162 games). What I'm basically trying to show here is the amount of money teams paid per year (AAV = Average Annual Value) per WARP-3. This is quick and dirty, and doesn't take into account certain aspects of the player, but should serve as a baseline for analyzing some of these signings.

The graph file is pretty big, so hopefully it is readable. If you would like the original Excel email me for it at Bosoxwest@yahoo.com.

Spreadsheet here:

The interesting thing to note here for Sox fans is of course where Drew and Lugo fall in the mix. Drew is getting around $250K less per WARP-3 per year than Soriano, and about $100K more per year than Matthews Jr. In the abstract this isn't great in and of itself, except when you take into account the fact that Soriano's contract has three more years on it than Drew's and the fact that 2006 was Matthews Jr's career year almost by a factor of 2. In that upper echelon of AAV per WARP, outside of Soriano and perhaps Ramirez, there's no player I'd rather have than Drew, and given the years the contract looks pretty good. The Lee contract, as previously noted, is a fucking joke - pardon my french.

The Lugo signing, once again, looks very, very good. Look at the names above him, and it becomes pretty clear. Interestingly, the Cora signing looks absolutely ridiculous on paper. I guess they're paying for intangibles.

The best positional bargains of the offseason thus far? Kevin Millar, and Adam Kennedy. Of the guys who could play every day and help the team (Counsell and Clayton will be bench players), these guys signed for very short money in the current market. In baseball, as in all other areas of life, it does not pay to be an unathletic-looking white guy.

I'll try to take a look at pitchers in the coming weeks. It's a bit trickier, but we'll see how the trending works out.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Red Sox Select Nick Debarr in Rule 5 Draft

In today's Rule 5 Draft the Sox picked up big righty reliever Nick Debarr. Debarr was a 14th round pick by Tampa Bay in the 2002 amateur draft. Debarr is 6' 4" 220 lbs. and pitched for Visalia in the California league last year. He came back last year from Tommy John surgery, apparently very well.

Here's a quick scouting blurb on him from Rays Baseball in 2004:

"DeBarr is a hoss; 6’4, 220, 20 years-old, possess a low-90’s fastball that BA thinks could improve as DeBarr continues to add strength, a plus splitter and a decent slider. He had better results when he became more aggressive, a trait he will need to keep as he moves up to Bakersfield this year."

What do we like about Nick? A good K rate (avg. 6.8 but nearly 8 last year), has fixed the K:BB rate (up to nearly 4:1 last year after a tough previous season), and a low WHIP (1.13 last year), and of course he has the prototypical "pitcher's build". What's not to like? Well, he's only had success at high-A, so he's a longshot to stick on the 25-man roster for the season. He'd really need to surprise.

Naturally, when your bullpen features Mike Timlin, you want to amass as many options as possible, and if Debarr can locate his fastball and in fact has a plus secondary pitch, he could help this team. Under normal circumstances we could decide we like him and trade or send cash to Tampa Bay to keep him, but since Tampa Bay despises our FO that might be tough. It may well be a situation where we throw him into the fire, and it's sink or swim. Or, I guess he might be a trading chip to be used in the near term, or kicked back to TB.

At any rate, for $50K, it seems like a reasonable chance to take. As I've always maintained, nothing's more fun than rooting for the longshot, so here's to Nick.

The other positive outcome from the Rule 5 Draft is that exposed Red Sox prospect Chad Spann was not claimed by any team. This probably explains why he was left unprotected. Spann has a ways to go yet, certainly defensively, but has the potential to be a big-league contributor, so I'm happy he stays with us. Moerover, Pawtucket already has a lot of holes on that team, and I don't want them to suck. So there's that.

And a week until the Matsuzaka deadline...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Sox Sign Two, Get Raped By Media

It appears that Manny is staying, and Drew and Lugo are coming on board, and essentially the Sox are spending a boatload of money. Really, there should be no surprises here. They've looked at trading Manny for the past three years, and it hasn't happened, and their demands have escalated if anything, due to the absurd free agent costs in the current market. The reports on Drew and Lugo have positioned the Sox as the front-runners for weeks now. They had the biggest needs, the wherewithal, and they pulled the trigger.

First off, let me say that I haved mixed feelings about these signings but no doubt everyone does. What I am comfortable accepting is that given today's market these are not only fair, but probably good contracts. Before we start going berserk about Drew's injury history or Lugo's LA stint, which we can certainly do, we have to start with the new baseline: the contracts of Soriano and Lee.

Soriano signed an 8-year, $136 million contract. This contract is staggering, of course. Lee, who was signed to a simply terrible contract, will get $100 million for 6 years in Houston. Taking a WARP average of the last five years, those guys are getting paid roughly $2.5 Mil (Soriano) and $3.7 Mil (Lee) per WARP, or Win Above Replacement Player.

I am guessing that the average AAR per WARP at somewhere in the vicinity of $2.2 Mil, for this offseason, but I will research further. The Soriano deal makes some sense from this perspective, in that he was one of the best available players - it's really just the number of years that scare you. The Lee contract is ridiculous no matter how you slice it (and reportedly he turned down a fatter offer from SF because they completely and utterly suck). He hits. That's it.

Now, on to the Sox signings. Drew first. Drew is getting the same AAR as Soriano per WARP at $2.5 Mil per - again, using an average of his last five years. Here's the thing there - Drew's productivity was greatly hampered by injury. Taking an average of his three healthy years, he's only getting about $2.1 Mil per WARP. So, and this has also been discussed ad nauseam, if healthy Drew is a good signing, even looking at the big numbers in the contract, according to the current market cycle. Thanks to all the negative press, people are conveniently ignoring the fact that he is the closest thing to a 5-tool player to hit the market in years. If it weren't for the injury history, he simply couldn't be had. We're taking the risk. End of story.

So. The knocks on Drew of course are that he is injury-prone (which he is), and that he doesn't play with "passion". The first is a semi-legitimate beef, since he has missed a lot of time over the years. However, he's had two fluke bone breaks, and has also received praise from former managers for playing while hurt. I tend to think this is just bad luck for the most part. I mean, he's no Nomar, that's for goddamn sure. The second is just garbage. Sure, everybody loves Trot Nixon's dirty style of play (and media presence) but you'd be arguing pretty hard to convince me Manny's been "playing with passion" the past years. All we should concern ourselves with is the production. Their personalities are their own.

As an aside, the biggest complainers about Drew's lack of passion are the Dodger fans, who hail from Los Angeles, the most spiritually abject place on the planet. I mean, please. It's getting to the point where we should remove the word "irony" from the dictionary.

The Lugo signing, and I will be the first to point out that I was for keeping Gonzalez on the cheap when it was still an option, and before Soriano had destroyed the marketplace, may turn out to be a steal. He's only getting $1.9 Mil AAR per WARP, and by all accounts he will perform at a higher level in Fenway, and in this lineup, than he has historically. I don't know - I liked Gonzalez's glove a lot, but Lugo brings a lot of different facets to the team. We'll see, but again, based on his historical performance, and compared to the current market rates, he'll be underpaid! Insane.

Now, let me be clear: I've gone through this exercise just to make Sox fans feel better. Really, the Sox simply needed to sign both players since Manny was not going to bring their replacements back. We needed a right-fielder with some power and defensive ability. We needed a #5 hitter. We needed a SS. We're a big market team and we went out and bought the best we could find. That is all.

What we're seeing now in the media, and within the fanbase IMO, is a significant backlash due to the Matsuzaka posting outcome being followed by the Manny trade circus (and anti-climax) and the two big FA signings. Right now the Sox are the 800-lb. gorillas in the room at the winter meetings. The Yanks already have a massive lineup they could hardly expect to improve upon, and just needed to quietly acquire a couple of arms. Notice that the $26 Mil they shelled out to talk to future #4/#5 starter Igawa didn't cause even a ripple in the media. They'll probably sign Pettitte on a one-year deal to finish his career, and he'll be a key piece to what is looking on paper like a championship-caliber team. And nobody is saying anything because the Sox are stomping around the offseason table like Godzilla. Oh, and also, the stomping makes for good copy.

The position many of us will find ourselves in - even moreso than we do already - is that of Second Bully. For years we've defined ourselves as the Galahad of the baseball world: cursed, ever questing for the Holy Grail of a Series title while battling the Dragon from New York. Well, the grail is ours as of 2004, and with this offseason, the Sox have officially begun breathing fire in the eyes of the rest of baseball. This of course does not change our situation one bit - we are still chasing the biggest payroll in American sports in the toughest division in MLB, and we'll do what we have to do. When all is said and done, there's just one requirement: win. However, it's clear the days of sympathetic fans from other cities are long gone.


If you are at all interested in the future of the Red Sox roster, take a trip to the Sox Prospects Wiki: http://soxprospects.wikispaces.com/. One stop shopping.