Archive for the ‘General’ Category

What Other Moves Will the Cubs Make This Offseason?

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

For the first time in more than a half decade, the Cubs were among the most active teams at the Winter Meetings. They added one of the two best available free agent pitchers in left hander Jon Lester, brought back Jason Hammel to help solidify the middle to back of the rotation, and traded for catcher Miguel Montero. As the Cubs’ signing of reliever Jason Motte showed yesterday, though, the Cubs are not done this offseason. While the rumors of what they are looking for vary (a big bat in the outfield or a bench veteran with a great clubhouse reputation?), these are the moves that I think are most likely. As a quick note, though, I’m not including “just getting rid of a guy” moves, so Edwin Jackson is not included here despite a pretty high likelihood of not being on the roster by the end of spring training, despite being due $22 million over the next two seasons.

MOST LIKELY CUBS TO BE TRADED:

Welington Castillo (C): There are two primary reasons that the Cubs brought in Miguel Montero to replace Welington Castillo as the team’s primary catcher. First, Castillo does not hit right handed pitching well. Montero, who bats left handed, has done most of his offensive damage over his career against right handed pitching. Second, Castillo is among the worst pitch framers in baseball, while Montero is one of the best.

While a Montero/Castillo platoon clearly makes sense from an offensive perspective, from a receiving perspective the Cubs would face a big drop off during games against left handed pitchers. And there is a veteran free agent backup catcher our there who also hits left handed pitching very well, without the huge decrease in pitch framing ability: David Ross. Ross also was Jon Lester’s personal catcher for the last few years in Boston, and would probably be cheaper through free agency than Castillo would be in arbitration.

Short version: if the Cubs bring in Ross, Castillo will be traded. If they don’t, Castillo won’t.

The likely return for Castillo is hard to predict because, aside from being a poor pitch framer and receiver he’s a good defensive catcher. He throws runners out at a strong rate and generally controls the running game well. So a team that emphasizes pitch framing, which more and more are every year, would be willing to give less for Castillo than a team that isn’t yet convinced by the framing data. He’d be worth someone who is at least useful, but probably no one to get excited about. Castillo is predicted to receive $2 to $2.3 million in his first year of arbitration in 2015.

Luis Valbuena (3B/2B):  Heading into the offseason, I wasn’t sure what the Cubs were going to do with Luis Valbuena. He’s a starting caliber 3B or 2B on most teams, and at least worthy of being the strong half of a platoon on nearly any team. Moreover, as a guy who builds a lot of his value by drawing walks and playing solid defense, he won’t get as much through arbitration as the 25 home run types who don’t otherwise get on base. He’s predicted to make about $3.1 million in his second year of arbitration.

Here’s the rub: once Kris Bryant comes up, likely in mid-April after the extra year of team control is secured, Valbuena won’t have a starting spot on the Cubs if Bryant is initially plugged into third base as most expect. You typically don’t get the most value out of a starting caliber player by sticking him on your bench, since another team that needs that starting caliber player will probably have someone else that you need. Yet the Cubs still had a potential need for Luis Valbuena, at least at the start of the offseason: Javier Baez insurance. Baez clearly needs to make a lot of adjustments to succeed at the MLB level, and it’s not clear that a demotion to Triple A isn’t in his future next season.

Enter Tommy La Stella. La Stella is not an ideal starting second baseman, but he can hold the position down respectably long enough for the Cubs to not feel their only backup plan to Baez is promoting Addison Russell earlier than they want to.

Valbuena could bring a good amount in a trade due to his value over the past two seasons and relatively cheap last two years of team control.

Travis Wood (SP):  The Wood story is pretty well known: he was great in 2013, but likely in an unsustainable fashion due to more average peripherals. In 2014 he was just all around worse, with not only having his results fall to his peripherals, but having his peripherals get worse. It’s essentially presumed at this point that Travis Wood has the first shot at the fifth spot in the rotation, but I’m not positive the Cubs won’t add another starting pitcher before all is said and done.

Even if the Cubs don’t add another starting pitcher, Wood could be dangled towards the end of spring training if Jacob Turner impresses, or Tsuyoshi Wada just clearly looks like the better option. Unfortunately, at this juncture it is unlikely Wood would bring much in the way of return. Due to his strong 2013 performance, Wood entered arbitration at a pretty $3.9 million in 2014, and that’s going to guide his arbitration award upward over the next two years as well. Odds are, at the most, you’re getting some other play who is approaching being overpaid in arbitration that also struggled last season. If this were one of the last three years, the Cubs would hold on to Wood in the hopes he could regain value. With the Cubs looking to compete in 2015, they might not feel that is an option now.

THE TARGETS

The Pitchers

Kris Medlen (SP): The starting pitching market has really thinned out over the last week, with really just Max Scherzer and James Shield at the top before you get to the fliers. The Cubs won’t be in on either of those top two guys, so we can go straight to the fliers. I was going to list Brett Anderson as my favorite among them, but he signed a 1 year, $10 million deal with the Dodgers last night. So my new favorite on that list is Kris Medlen, who was non-tendered by the Braves. Medlen was a quite good pitcher for the Braves as recently as 2013, and no one was better in the second half of 2012. The problem with Medlen is that he’s going to be coming off his second Tommy John surgery, which does not have the successful return rate as guys who have had their first Tommy John surgery. If the Cubs sign Medlen, they’d probably want some rather team friendly option to keep him for 2016, since he probably won’t pitch in the Majors until close to mid-season.

Too numerous of arbitration eligible mid to back of the rotation options to list that potentially could be available via trade: These would be the guys that the Cubs would be most likely to receive in a Valbuena or Wood trade. For Valbuena you probably get a legitimate mid-rotation guy with a couple of years of arbitration left. For Wood you probably get a little less.

The Outfielders

Colby Rasmus (CF): The Cubs have reportedly met with the former Cardinals top prospect, who has solid power and plays good center field defense, but doesn’t get on base and strikes out way too much. He’d have to be a guy the market passes over for me to be interested, a guy on a one year prove you can put it together deal. My biggest problem with Rasmus is that there’s some team out there that shouldn’t view him like that: a team that doesn’t strike out a lot but also doesn’t hit for a lot of power. The Cubs of the near future will only be that team if something goes really, really wrong with the prospects.

Nori Aoki (RF/LF): While Aoki doesn’t come with the former prospect credentials that Rasmus does, he could be a great fit for the Cubs. He gets on base through a combination of an average walk rate and extremely low strikeout rate, posting at least a .349 OBP in each of his three seasons in the Majors. He’d be a great table setter for the Cubs in front of the multitude of power bats. Also, while Aoki’s rather… interesting… fly ball routes have become the stuff of legend, he’s a decent outfielder, and should be helped by moving from right field to left, which he would with the Cubs.  Personally, this is a situation where I’d prefer the former Brewer to the former Cardinal.

Jonny Gomes (LF): Gomes has long been said to be a guy the Cubs want to bring in to be a part of a left field platoon with Chris Coghlan if the Cubs don’t add a regular there. I don’t really get it, largely because I don’t see how he’s any better of a hitter than Justin Ruggiano and Ruggiano is a far superior fielder. I understand that Gomes is supposed to be an awesome clubhouse presence, but that should only be a consideration if the players are otherwise pretty equivalent, or one of the players is an outright clubhouse cancer. I just don’t think Gomes is Ruggiano’s equal at this point. And if I don’t think you’re Ruggiano’s equal, it means I don’t think you’re a very good baseball player.

Justin Upton (LF): The Braves already traded Jason Heyward to the National League’s version of the evil empire this offseason, and are rumored to be shopping Justin Upton, who is in the last year of his contract, as well. I know what you’re thinking: it’s going to cost way too much to get a guy we’d only have for one season! My retort: look at what the Cardinals gave up for Heyward: a starter who lacks the secondary pitches to be a top of the rotation piece and a prospect who most think is more likely to be a reliever. Plus, the Braves didn’t get that for just Heyward. They got it for Heyward and Jordan Walden, a quality relief pitcher in his own right.

If the Cubs are going to trade Luis Valbuena for a current MLB player, they should at least reach out to the Braves to see if they could exchange him for Justin Upton. Valbuena provides the Braves with a significant and cost effective solution at third base for two years, which should appeal to them. Upton would provide the Cubs with a veteran middle of the order bat who could take some pressure of some of the prospects next season. The real question is if the Cubs should be trying to trade Valbuena for a current player, or use him to continue to keep the farm system stocked.

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What Jason Motte Means For The Cubs Bullpen

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

I was all set yesterday to put up my opening day roster projection when I read about the Cubs signing Jason Motte. So, I scrapped it. If you missed the news yesterday, the Cubs were announced on Twitter to have signed the bearded right hander to a $4.5 million deal over one year. I have not read if the deal includes a player or team option, but assuming it doesn’t, it’s a low risk, high reward signing. Motte’s career numbers look like this:

Year Age Tm ERA G GF SV IP HR BB SO FIP WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9
2008 26 STL 0.82 12 4 1 11.0 0 3 16 1.04 0.727 4.1 0.0 2.5 13.1
2009 27 STL 4.76 69 14 0 56.2 10 23 54 4.81 1.412 9.1 1.6 3.7 8.6
2010 28 STL 2.24 56 13 2 52.1 5 18 54 3.29 1.127 7.1 0.9 3.1 9.3
2011 29 STL 2.25 78 27 9 68.0 2 16 63 2.48 0.956 6.5 0.3 2.1 8.3
2012 30 STL 2.75 67 58 42 72.0 9 17 86 3.12 0.917 6.1 1.1 2.1 10.8
2014 32 STL 4.68 29 10 0 25.0 7 9 17 6.49 1.520 10.4 2.5 3.2 6.1
6 Yrs 3.03 311 126 54 285.0 33 86 290 3.55 1.109 7.3 1.0 2.7 9.2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/16/2014.

As you can see, he missed all of 2013, which was due to Tommy John. He returned last year to the Cardinals pen and was more hittable and far less effective than before the surgery. That’s usually the case the first year returning. The reports I’ve read see the return to normal, if that is going to be the case, in the second year. If that holds true, then Motte could be a huge piece to an already improving bullpen.

As of right now, I don’t think he’s even in the closer conversation or even the setup conversation. I think the Cubs would admit that they are happy with what Hector Rondon did last season in the 9th to give him that role this season. You can probably slot Pedrop Strop and Justin Grimm into the mix in the late innings as well, which fills four of the expected seven (sigh) slots. Neal Ramirez should grab another spot, giving us five. That should just leave a need for a guy that can be a longer man if needed and a lefty.

I don’t think we’ll sign a lefty this off-season, but rather would give guys like Zac Rosscup, Tsuyoshi Wada, or Joe Ortiz a shot to earn the spot.

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Under The Radar Free Agent Position Players

Monday, December 15th, 2014

We’re in the middle of December, which means we’ve already passed the Winter Meetings. There was quite a bit of movement going on (Jon Lester signing with the Cubs, Jeff Samardzija heading to the White Sox, Yoenis Cespedes being shipped to Detroit) which will only get the ball rolling for the rest of the offseason. While there are still some big names out there, like Max Scherzer and James Shields, there are a few names that aren’t quite getting the press that they deserve. These three players will be able to contribute to a team next year and they won’t cost you and arm and a leg.

Mike Morse (1B/OF)

Last year, Morse came into the offseason off of one of the worst years of his career, hitting just .215 over the course of the year and compiling 13 home runs in only 88 games played. It wasn’t the contract year that he was looking for, but things wound up paying off.

 

He signed with the San Francisco Giants and it ended up being a great deal for both sides. For Morse, he re-established his value by posting a .279/.336/.475 slash line with 16 homers in 131 games and for the Giants, they received a power threat who helped them take home their 5th World Series title in 5 years.

While Morse won’t be mistaken for one of the game’s top sluggers, he does really well for himself at the plate. He is not an all-or-nothing power hitter like many role players are, as he’s able to get on base pretty consistently. He’s played quite a few positions in his career, but he realistically should try to find a home in the American League where he can DH. He’s an impressive hitter, but he’s one of the worst defensive players in all of baseball.

Alex Rios (OF)

After signing a big contract with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2008, Rios saw his career take a huge step downward, much like his former Jays teammate Vernon Wells. This led to the team trading him to Chicago, where after a few up-and-down years (culminated by a 2012 season that saw him receive MVP votes) he found his way to Texas to play for the Rangers.

He once again proved that he had turned his career around and helped the Rangers in their playoff push (they ultimately missed the playoffs in Game 163). Unfortunately, things just weren’t the same last year as they were the year prior, both for the team and for Rios. The team fell into the cellar of the American League West and Rios seemed to lose all of the power that was once in his bat.

Even without any power, however, Rios could still play an important role on a contending team. He killed left-handed pitching last year (with a .325/.353/.545) and dealt with a few nagging injuries, so the lack of power could have been a fluke. Another added bonus is that he has never played in the playoffs, so he may be willing to take a pay cut for the right team.

Stephen Drew (SS/2B/3B)

Stop laughing; I’m serious.

After sitting out half of last season due to a first round pick being attached to him, it was clear that Drew was pretty rusty when he signed with the Boston Red Sox in late May. He never really got it going at the plate, to say the least, even after being traded to a more favorable hitters park in Yankee Stadium.

While he didn’t get his bat up to par, his glove kept him on the field. He’s known around the league as one of the better defensive shortstops in all of baseball, but his versatility is also a plus. He’s capable of playing second and third in addition to shortstop, which adds to his value.

Coming off of the season that he had last year he won’t be looking to cash in for a big payday. His value that he prevents on defense is enough reason to sign him, but he could be a bounce back candidate with the bat. Even if he hits just .230 or .240 he immediately becomes a consistent above-average middle infielder, so I’d take my chances on a one-year deal with him.

Are there any other players that aren’t receiving the attention that they should be? If so, why should they be getting more press?

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What Does Your Opening Day Roster Look Like?

Friday, December 12th, 2014

On this lazy Friday morning, with the winter meetings now complete, I want to pose a question to you. I’d like you to post your opening day roster as the team stands right now. On Monday, I’ll break down who I think will be there and why.

Have fun.

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GirlieView (12/11/2014)

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

GirlieView Definitions

  • Lizzie = A funny, timely quote made on the VFTB site by our writers or commenters.
  • Lizard = The best Lizzie.
  • MVL = Most Valuable Lizzie’er: The person with the most Lizzies in the period under review (usually the past two weeks.)
  • Top 10 of the 2014 Offseason = The folks with the most aggregate Lizzie points YTD (1 point for every Lizzie, 3 points for every Lizard.)

As you already know, this is all completely subjective and according to my whims.

Lizzies

  • Outstanding work EVW, Buhsmills on you this Thanksgiving Day. I give thanks to green vines, sunny summer days at Wrigley, the W flag when it fly’s and Lizzies- not necessarily in that order.
  • Oh man – the best Thanksgiving ever. Thanks Lizzie!
  • I’m thankful EVW pulled his head out of his ass and improved the leaderboard, and I’m thankful we found our Johnsons. And for the rest of you guys and my family and job and stuff. Go Cubs.
  • I’m thankful for excel – without it what would become of the spreadsheet
  • More importantly, what would become of you?
  • As an accountant I’m also thankful for Excel, although I generally keep my spreadsheets limited to work purposes.
  • I’m thankful I’m not an accountant.
  • I’m thankful that it was 72 degrees in Omaha when I caught my flight back home Saturday. I’m thankful that I’m an owner of the best team in the NFL. And I’m also thankful that I am not an accountant.
  • I’m thankful for my daughter being home for Thanksgiving, my son being studious; my wife being the best cook on the planet; our treadmill and endorphins…and you all.
  • Aaron freaking Haarang.
  • I’ll give the Cubs slightly better odds than the Red Sox and Giants, although there’s always the mystery team to be concerned about as well. If the mystery team is the Cardinals, however, we may need to cancel Christmas.
  • If the mystery team is the Cardinals, I am all for canceling 2015.
  • I hate premature anything.
  • I wonder if Dave Martinez is waiting to see where Lester (and his wife) land before committing to his own future.
  • That’s great, but I said something funny on the newer post so let’s wrap this up.
  • Wait…wasn’t that the batboy?
  • I hurried right over here in search of a funny comment – was not disappointed.
  • Where is said funny comment? We already have one person who grandiosely self promotes and disappoints, don’t need another.
  • It’s the one up there about the batboy. I said “Wait…wasn’t that the batboy?”
  • Narry a snicker.. Maybe it needs a smatering of Johnsons mixed in.
  • Wait…wasn’t that the batboy’s johnson?
  • Yes that’s better. A hardy LOL to you sir.
  • VFTB must behaving technical difficulties, that funny comment hasn’t been posted yet. I will check back later, I have to go promote myself in grandiose fashion else where.
  • I equate being known as a good bunter with being known as a guy that likes to ride a scooter. Fun to do and probably personally rewarding, but not really something you want known about yourself.
  • So the “S” in SBardo stands for scooter?
  • Not according to my wife, but if I told you what SHE says it stands for, I’d get banned.
  • I don’t know – things are really slow on the blog right now. I doubt if Lizzie would ban you – maybe scold you a bit.
  • I get you two mixed up all the time.
  • How about Moises Alou and his comrades that would pee on their hands…what was that worth in the world of WAR?
  • It’s well established that pee hands is worth 0.5 WAR.
  • That would be the fPEE stat over at fangraphs.
  • what if you just had a bad run of luck with your pee?…pee hands WAR needs a BABIP to sort that out.
  • Now that Lester is the ace for the foreseeable future, I’d love to see the Cubs add another #2/#3 type guy. It’s not a need, it’s a luxury…but one that would instantly make them a formidable contender.
  • WhooHoo!!!
  • Log that in as 2 WhooHoos.
  • it is hard to type a really good excited shout.
  • Just hit the keys real hard.
  • Caps lock helps too.
  • Also add a lot of !!!!!!!!!!

Lizard

  • This is what year 4 of a 5-year plan looks like, guys. We’ve been trying to say this. Go Cubs!

Shout Outs

  • No one had their very first 2014 off-season Lizzie this time so let’s have a shout out for everyone! Thanks for being here!

MVL

  • Congratulations to Eddie von White, our Most Valuable Lizzie-er this time! Third time around, go Eddie!

Top 10 of the 2014 Offseason (one point for each Lizzie, three points for the Lizard)

1. Eddie Von White
2. Doc Raker
2. jswanson
4. Seymour Butts
5. Doug S.
6. Dork
7. Jerry in Wisconsin
8. Jedi
9. Noah Eisner
10. Buddy
10. Sean

Chit Chat

It’s hard to believe, but the next GirlieView will run on Christmas Day! If you could ask the Cubs to make one more move as a gift to you between now and Christmas what would it be?

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Reactions to Tuesday’s Mass Cubs Hysteria at the Winter Meetings

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

As I was driving in to the office yesterday, I was thinking about the baseball off-season. I was a bit frustrated at how long the process is from start to finish when it comes to the big names being traded or signing new contracts. When it comes to the NFL or the NBA, there is a ton of buildup to the day the period opens and then a slew of moves within the first week or so. Then it’s about done. It’s not that way with the MLB off-season and that frustrates me. Instead, we’re stuck listening to rumor after rumor (which I hate) and watch people create spoof Twitter accounts to try to get their one minute of fame by tricking a certain four letter network. It’s all so petty. Yesterday, however, when it comes to the Cubs in particular was exciting. If you were like me, you went to bed refreshing Twitter for that last nugget of info that might suggest when and where Jon Lester might end up. This morning we got our answer so let’s talk about the things that went down yesterday.

Late last night it was reported that Lester had made his decision and had chosen the Cubs. The deal is reported to be six years and $155 million. Before you react, let me remind you of three things. 1) The Cubs current payroll is ridonkulously low. 2) To acquire an impact talent on the free agent market, you have to “overpay”, and 3) When all is said and done with this Wrigleyville expansion, the Cubs are going to be swimming in an even deeper pool of money than they already are.

I don’t even look at the cost of the deal. I look at the player and see how he fits into the plan and when I do that, I smile. Lester instantly slots in at the top of the rotation with Jake Arrieta right behind him. We talked a little about the rest of the rotation a week or so ago. At that time it was Arrieta and a bunch of depth, but no real locks. With the addition of Lester and Jason Hammel, we know three locks for sure. Most likely Travis Wood slots in there as well since the Cubs wouldn’t have picked up his contract for this year to convert him to the bullpen. Unless he is traded, Wood should be in the rotation. Beyond that, you have a ton of guys making their case for the last spot. It figures to be a fun spring training watching guys battle for the last spot. Yes, you read that correctly. I said I might even be looking forward to spring training.

Overall, this was a move that had to be made either this off-season or next. The impact bats are basically ready to go. If you’re going to be true to the rebuild then you have to be ready to bring in the arms when it’s time. If it wasn’t Lester, it would have been David Price or someone of that ilk. I’m good with it being Lester.

What excites me the most about the signing is that there was talk that the Cubs, if they landed Lester, would also look to bring in an impact bat to go with him. It’s hard to say exactly who that will be, but you’d have to figure it to be an outfielder given that you don’t want to block anyone at the other positions. I don’t see that guy left on the free agent market, so if it was going down this year, it would have to be via trade. Nick Markakis would have fit perfectly, but he signed with Atlanta.

With the acquisition of Miguel Montero behind the plate, I would also look for the Cubs to try to deal Welington Castillo this off-season and sign David Ross to back up Montero given Lester’s familiarity with him and the fact that he’s played in and won a World Series. That’s the kind of presence you bring in to show the young guys what it’s like when Kevin Costner isn’t available to bring in.

It was a wild ride yesterday. We’ll see what today holds.

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Happy Jon Lester Day?

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

There are a lot of rumors right now for the Cubs. Since nothing is official, we’ll just wait till they are.

  • Jon Lester decision down to the Cubs and the Giants with a resolution expected today or Wednesday at the latest. I still say he chooses Chicago.
  • Cubs are rumored to be involved in a deal to bring in Miguel Montero from the Diamondbacks
  • Supposedly Jason Hammel is coming back, though terms have yet to be officially announced.

Discuss

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Breaking Down The Free Agent Pitching Market

Monday, December 8th, 2014

After a bit of a layoff, I’m back at it. Given that the season has come to a close, my weekly story is going to have to switch up a little bit. With free agency in full swing and the Winter Meetings underway, this seems like the perfect time to take a look at what the market has to offer over the next few months.

The Cream of The Crop

Max Scherzer

Living in Michigan, I’ve had the opportunity of watching essentially every Scherzer for the Tigers over the past 5 seasons. He’s had some pretty good teammates in the rotation with him (Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, Doug Fister, etc.) but over the past three years it’s safe to say that he’s really taken his game to a different level.

Coming to Detroit, Scherzer had a bit of a control problem and really wasn’t able to command his pitches all that well. He’s figured that out now, which makes him one of the more lethal pitchers in all of baseball.

He’s not mentioned with the Clayton Kershaw’s and Felix Hernandez’s of the league, but he’s still more than capable of anchoring a rotation. At 30 years old you have to wonder how well his repertoire is going to age (given that he works off of his mid-90’s fastball), but for the next few years, at least, he should be a solid investment.

Jon Lester

Though it’s debatable as to who is the best starter on the market this offseason between Lester and Scherzer, it has become clear that Lester is going to be the first one to sign. With Scott Boras representing Scherzer, he’s going to wait to see how the market plays out before accepting anything, which makes Lester’s signing all the more important.

Whichever team signs Lester is going to acquiring one of the best left-handers in baseball and much like Scherzer, a bonafide ace. He was at the top of the Boston Red Sox rotation for the past 6-½ years (with two World Series titles under his belt) and they reluctantly shipped him off to the Oakland Athletics, where he shouldered the load in their playoff push.

He’s 31 years old, but given the fact that he doesn’t rely on overpowering hitters and has had no injury problems throughout his career, Lester should be as safe a bet as any on the free agent market this offseason.

James Shields

He doesn’t belong in the same conversation as Scherzer and Lester, but he was the leader of the Kansas City staff that wound up leading the team to an improbable World Series appearance.

His regular season was impressive (though he somewhat drastically outperformed his FIP), but his numbers took a dip when October rolled around. “Big Game James” didn’t live up to his nickname this year, which may end up hurting him in negotiations; even it is an incredibly small sample size.

He will be 33 once the 2015 season begins, which will also work against him. I don’t see him getting $100+ like the two aforementioned starters will, but I will say that he’s the most likely to leave the team he played for in 2014.

Second Tier

Ervin Santana

After waiting out the market last year and going without a contract until March, you have to believe that Santana will be a bit more eager to get a deal done within the next month or two. With the way that he pitched last year, he shouldn’t have any problems finding a suitor.

He will soon be 32, but it’s clear that he has quite a few more innings left in him. He pitched far better than his 3.95 ERA from last year indicates and although he has had quite an inconsistent career, he could easily plug into a #2 or #3 spot in most team’s rotations.

Francisco Liriano

It’s been quite a whirlwind of a career for Liriano, who many saw as the future of the Minnesota Twins rotation while he was a youngster behind Johan Santana. Following a few surgeries to his elbow, Liriano’s stock massively fell off the table as he failed to get back on track.

Now 31, Liriano has reinvented himself over the past few seasons in Pittsburgh and is looking to cash in. His track record and injury history might hurt him, but what is working against him the most is the draft pick compensation that is tied to him. He’ll still get in the $40 million range, but I don’t know if I’d personally be comfortable with that.

Kenta Maeda (If posted)

It seems like every year there are a few international players that draw the eye of the scouts around the league and this year is no different. Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas has already signed a big deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Japanese right-hander Kenta Maeda could be the next domino to fall.

He’ll be just 27 years old when next season rolls around and he’s been one of the best pitchers in Japan over the course of the last 3 seasons. He has a low to mid 90s fastball, a big 12-6 curveball, a decent slider and a major league-ready slider in his arsenal and although he won’t be in the Yu Darvish/Masahiro Tanaka level of starter, he could fit in the middle of a rotation.

Fliers

Justin Masterson

Once a top prospect in the Red Sox organization, Masterson has had a tumultuous last few seasons. From a breakout All-Star campaign in 2013 to a disappointment of a 2014 season; it’s tough to tell what he’s going to bring to the table. At his best, Masterson will keep the ball in the park and eat innings, but at his worst he won’t find the strike zone and would be useless to a team.

Josh Johnson

It’s starting to feel like Johnson is going to be in this section every year, but I just can’t bring myself to give up on him, which seems to be the attitude of most general managers in the league. He was once one of the top pitchers in baseball, but injuries have derailed his promising career. It’s not going to take much, but if Johnson can get healthy after another Tommy John surgery, he can be very, very productive.

Brandon Beachy/Kris Medlen 

The Atlanta Braves turned some heads recently when they declined to bring back this pair of oft-injured starters, but it’s not hard to see their line of thinking. Beachy is coming off of a second Tommy John procedure and Medlen is rehabbing from one, as well. When healthy, either of these two can provide support at the back end of a rotation. I’d prefer Medlen to Beachy given their medical records, but either can be seen as a low-risk, medium-reward type of player.

How do you rank the top pitchers in this year’s free agent class? Are there any under-the-radar names that you have your eye on?

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The Flat Bat Awards

Friday, December 5th, 2014

While 2014 continued the overall decline in power of recent seasons, it was something of a renaissance for bunting. In particular, Billy Hamilton and Dee Gordon took advantage of their first full seasons of major league playing time to attempt 43 and 40 bunt hits, respectively. With their speed, that approach makes a lot of sense, and their .349 and .500 batting averages on those attempts demonstrates its effectiveness. However, both players fell short of the top 10 bunters based on batting average.

We give the Flat Bat Award every season to recognize the best bunter taking into consideration his bunts for hits and sacrifice bunts. Here are the batting average leaders on bunt-for-hit attempts with a minimum of 10 attempts:

2014 Bunt Hit Leaders
Name Bunt Hit Results Batting Average
Carlos Gomez, MIL 8 out of 11 .727
Denard Span, WAS 8 out of 11 .727
Jarrod Dyson, KC 9 out of 13 .692
Jean Segura, MIL 8 out of 12 .667
Asdrubal Cabrera, CLE-WAS 8 out of 12 .667
Brandon Guyer, TB 7 out of 11 .636
Alejandro De Aza, CWS-BAL 7 out of 11 .636
Leonys Martin, TEX 17 out of 27 .630
Erick Aybar, LAA 10 out of 16 .625
Junior Lake, CHC 6 out of 10 .600

 

You can make a compelling case that Dee Gordon’s 20-for-40 was more valuable to the Dodgers than Carlos Gomez’s and Denard Span’s 8 of 11 on bunt-for-hit attempts, but there is one bunter who renders that debate unnecessary. That is 2013 Flat Bat Award winner Leonys Martin. Martin secured 17 bunt hits on 27 attempts, which is just three hits fewer than Gordon in 13 fewer attempts.

Next, here are the most successful sacrifice bunters with a minimum of 10 attempts:

2014 Sacrifice Bunt Leaders
Name Sacrifice Bunt Results Percentage
Jean Segura, MIL 10 out of 10 100%
Brett Gardner, NYY 13 out of 14 93%
Shelby Miller, STL 13 out of 14 93%
Zack Wheeler, NYM 12 out of 13 92%
Mike Aviles, CLE 11 out of 12 92%
Tanner Roark, WAS 11 out of 12 92%
Aaron Harang, ATL 9 out of 10 90%
Stephen Strasburg, WAS 9 out of 10 90%
Doug Fister, WAS 9 out of 10 90%
Jose Ramirez, CLE 13 out of 15 87%
Johnny Cueto, CIN 12 out of 14 86%

 

There is not much overlap with the two lists as most of the best sacrifice bunters from 2014 were pitchers. The one player who is on both lists, Jean Segura, happens to be the only player with 10 or more sacrifice attempts and a 100 percent success rate on those attempts.

As efficient as Segura was as both a sacrifice bunter and a bunt hitter, his eight bunt hits are fewer than half of Martin’s total. Meanwhile, Martin fell short of the sacrifice bunt leaderboard, but he did succeed on 7 of his 10 sacrifice attempts. His bunt-for-hit prowess is more than enough to bridge that gap, and that’s why Leonys Martin wins his second consecutive Flat Bat Award.

Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week®, www.statoftheweek.com.

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