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Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Wild and Wacky 2014 Offseason

It has been a weird offseason.  Not really specifically for the Giants, but just for baseball.  Here it is, mid February, and there are still a lot of quality free agents available.  I can't remember an offseason quite like this.  Pitchers and catchers have ALREADY REPORTED and here's just a quick list of some readily available free agents along with their 2013 stats:

Stephen Drew (SS): .253 AVG, .777 OPS, 13 HR, 67 RBI, 6 SB
Nelson Cruz (OF):  .266 AVG, .833 OPS, 27 HR, 76 RBI
Kendrys Morales (1B/DH):  .277 AVG, .785 OPS, 23 HR, 80 RBI
Ubaldo Jimenez (SP):  13 WINS,  3.30 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 194 K's
Ervin Santana (SP):  9 WINS, 3.24 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 161 K's
Oliver Perez (RP):  3.74 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 74 K's (in 53 IP)
Andrew Bailey (RP):  8 SAVES, 3.77 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 39 K's (in 28.2 IP)

Those are some legit major league baseball players.  Stephen Drew seems to be playing cat and mouse with the New York Mets.  I can't for the life of me understand why the Mets don't just step up and sign him.  Now, they very well may lose him to the Red Sox who just "found" some money when Ryan Dempster decided to not play in 2014.  Regardless, Drew remains on the market.  He plays a position where his offense and defense are above average yet he lingers in free agency.  Odd.  Nelson Cruz comes with question marks as he was a PED user but the guy got a shade over 400 AB's in 2013 and look at his numbers.  Those are the type of numbers you take a risk on.  You extrapolate those numbers over a full season and he's still an offensive machine in the outfield.  Yet he remains unsigned. Kendrys Morales?  You're telling me an AL team couldn't use his pop at the DH position?  It's ridiculous that these guys are still available.

Then there's the pitching.  There's no doubt that Masahiro Tanaka's prolonged posting drama caused teams to wait on signing any notable MLB free agents.  But even so, the fact that Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana, two of the markets best starters, are still available when pitchers are throwing from Arizona and Florida mounds is pretty amazing.  We've seen cases like this before, where some unlucky free agent who has draft pick compensation attached to him, has to wait until the spring to get signed. Kyle Lohse was the pitching culprit last season while Michael Bourn was the positional guy.  But to see these quality guys still available now is pretty crazy.

This offseason as a whole has been somewhat wacky.  Even discounting the slow developing free agent market, teams chose to splurge on position players while staying relatively disciplined when it came to pitchers.  Let's take a look at how the top 15 position player contracts contrast sharply to the top 15 pitcher contracts.

Positional Players

Robinson Cano (SEA):         10yrs/240M (AAV = 24M)
Jacoby Ellsbury (NYY):         7yrs/153M (AAV = 22M)
Shin-Soo Choo (TEX):           7yrs/130M (AAV = 18.5M)
Brian McCann (NYY):           5yrs/85M (AAV = 17M)
Mike Napoli   (BOS):             2yrs/32M (AAV = 16M)
Curtis Granderson (NYM):     4yrs/60M (AAV = 15M)
Carlos Beltran (NYY):            3yrs/45M (AAV = 15M)
Jhonny Peralta (STL):             4yrs/53M (AAV = 13M)
Derek Jeter (NYY):                 1yr/12M (AAV = 12M)
Carlos Ruiz  (PHI):                 3yrs/26M (AAV = 8.5M)
AJ Pierzynski (BOS):             1yr/8.25M (AAV = 8.25M)
Marlon Byrd (PHI):                2yrs/16M (AAV = 8M)
Omar Infante (KAN):             4yrs/30M (AAV = 7.5M)
Juan Uribe (LAD):                  2yrs/15M (AAV = 7.5M)
Alexander Guerrero (LAD):     4yrs/28M AAV = 7M)

Pitchers 

Masahiro Tanaka (NYY):      7yrs/155M (AAV = 22M)
Tim Lincecum (SF):               2yrs/35M (AAV = 17.5M)
AJ Burnett (PHI):                   1yr/16M (AAV = 16M)
Hiroki Kuroda (NYY):          1yr/16M (AAV = 16M)
Matt Garza (MIL):                  4yrs/50M (AAV = 12.5M)
Ricky Nolasco (MIN):            4yrs/49M (AAV = 12.25M)
Bronson Arroyo (AZ):           2yrs/23.5M (AAV = 11.75M)
Tim Hudson (SF):                  2yrs/23.0M (AAV = 11.5M)
Scott Kazmir (OAK):             2yrs/22M (AAV = 11M)
Dan Haren (LAD):                1yr/10M (AAV = 10M)
Bartolo Colon (NYM):           2yrs/20M (AAV = 10M)
Joe Nathan (DET):                 2yrs/20M (AAV = 10M)
Brian Wilson (LAD):             1yr/10M (AAV = 10M)
Scott Feldman (HOU):           3yrs/30M (AAV = 10M)
Josh Johnson (SD):                 1yr/8M (AAV = 8M)

With Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana still available, the pitching market still has a chance to get heated but for the most part teams didn't extend themselves too much with pitchers.  Tanaka was the only pitcher to get anything over 4 years (so far) and while some of the annual average values seem high, it is clear teams decided to spend more for less commitment.  Also, as a Giants fan, it's pretty jarring to see that Tim Lincecum is thus far the 2nd highest paid free agent on this list.  If Timmy had gone to free agency, he probably wouldn't be a Giant.  But he also probably wouldn't be making 17.5M.  Had the Giants known the market would play out the way it has with pitchers, they may have very well let Timmy test it.  That being said, I'm glad we have him over, let's say, Arroyo. 

So again, an overall weird offseason.  There was a good amount of spending but aside from the mega deals to Cano, Tanaka, Choo, and Ellsbury teams didn't really commit long term to players.  As teams have locked up stars and young promising players earlier and earlier, the free agent market has seen less attractive pieces becomes available.  That's part of the reason we don't see quite the feeding frenzy as before.  Yet still, it's impressive to see teams be responsible despite the influx of new cash from TV deals and revenue sharing... aside from the Dodgers and Yankees of course.  

Given what players have received on the open market, it's fair to say that Brian Sabean did a pretty good job at getting value.  Pence's deal (5yrs/90M) now looks like a steal compared to what Ellsbury and Choo received.  Javier Lopez was retained at what seemingly was the going rate for impact relievers.  And Sabean got Morse and Vogey on 1-year deals for roughly 6M each.  That's a LF bat with a career .281 AVG and an .808 OPS and a starting pitcher that was an All-Star in 2011 (and could have / should have been in 2012) for a total of 12M.  He also nabbed Tim Hudson, the active MLB win leader, for 2yrs/23.5M.  That's a solid deal as well.  Really, the only deal that appears cringeworthy is Lincecum's 17.5M overpay.  But again, had the Giants not overpaid prior to Timmy reaching free agency, they would have likely had to sign another free agent pitcher to replace him anyways.  Not a bad offseason Sabes.  Especially given how weird an offseason it has been....













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