Archive for July, 2012

Hindsight is 20/20: The Scott Rolen Trade


Photo Courtesy of Getty Images via Daylife

Official Transaction:
Three years ago today, July 31st 2009, the Blue Jays sent Scott Rolen and $4 million to the Cincinnati Reds for Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Roenicke, and Zach Stewart.

The Situation:
At the time of the trade Scott Rolen was 34 years old and in the midst of a typical Rolenesque season. He had a 121 wRC+ and was playing his usual top notch defence at the hot corner. At the time the Blue Jays owed Rolen ~$4 million for the rest of the 2009 season and then $11 million in 2010. Following the trade it was reported that Rolen had asked to be traded for personal reasons.

WAR Since Trade:
Scott Rolen 7.3 fWAR

Edwin Encarnacion 6.9 fWAR
Josh Roenicke 0.0 fWAR
Zach Stewart 0.2 fWAR

At the time of the trade there seemed to be a very mixed reaction to the transaction in its entirety. On one hand the Blue Jays gave up a player in Scott Rolen who was having a nice little season, but on the other hand the Blue Jays were 11.5 games out of a playoff spot and it looked like it was maybe time to sell.

In terms of the return it may not have been exactly what was expected for a player who was performing to Rolen’s level. In Encarnacion the Blue Jays got a “third baseman” who was touted as a player who at 26 had not yet reached his potential. As for the other players in the trade Roenicke and Stewart were two Reds minor leaguers who ranked uniformly on the border of the Reds Top 10 Prospects. Following the trade Roenicke was praised as the closer of the future, but as we now know that didn’t really happen.

As for Stewart he finished the 2009 season in fine fashion and ended up at and I kid you not #1 on the Blue Jays’ 2010 Baseball America Top 10 Prospect List. However that list doesn’t include any of the players from the Halladay deal who would be traded for a couple of weeks after that prospect list was posted. Furthermore despite his #1 ranking Stewart found no spot  on the Baseball America 2010 Top 100 Prospects List.

As time moved on Josh Roenicke became somewhat of an afterthought in that trade and he has gone on to become a fringy MLB player. As well despite what fans were told of Encarnacion’s potential it sure didn’t show up in game action between 2010 and 2011. If anything it seemed all of the players that came back in the Rolen trade would never really pan out as expected.

Of course some of that feeling was mitigated when at the 2011 Non-Waiver Trade Deadline the Blue Jays included one of the Rolen pieces, Zach Stewart, in a trade for Edwin Jackson. Edwin Jackson would later be traded for everyone’s favourite Georgian Colby Rasmus.

At the time of the trade it seemed like the Blue Jays were kind of caught in a corner. Rolen wanted to be traded and as is in the world of professional sports when a guy wants to go somewhere else you at least need to look around. Because they “had to” trade him they likely got less than they could have for him.

By FanGraphs WAR measures before the 2012 season the Blue Jays were down a total of 4 wins in that trade. However now that Edwin Encarnacion has become what people projected him to become the trade suddenly looks different.

Not until 2012 has it looked like the trade brought back the Blue Jays players of any particular use. Zach Stewart was a nice prospect who never really panned out…but was useful in the Rasmus trade. Josh Roenicke was a nice prospect, but was an older prospect and it may not have been crazy to expect what has become the outcome of his career.

As for Edwin, in 2012 he has produced at a level far higher than anything he has produced to in his career and it doesn’t seem unsustainable for the future. Not only that, but the 163 wRC+ that Edwin has thus far in 2012 is higher than any weighted runs created plus that Rolen has produced in his entire career.

Now that the Blue Jays have signed Encarnacion for the next three years they will hold him for his age 30 to potentially 33 seasons and an average annual price of $9.7 million. On the other side of things the reds are paying Rolen $6.5 million dollars for 2012, the last year of a two year contract, but are getting Jamey Carroll like hitting production. As of now the Reds have got more production on their side of the trade, but at a higher cost. Going forward the Blue Jays have found a player in EE that will become a mainstay in the lineup with the potential for more.


Getting to Know Brad Lincoln


Photo Courtesy of Getty Images via Daylife

12:23 AM: Travis Snider pulled mid game and replaced with Yan Gomes

12:25 AM: Travis Snider hugging teammates and coaches as he leaves the field

12:30 AM: No one has a clue where Snider is going…many speculate it to be for Matt Garza

12:32 AM: Shi Davidi tweets Blue Jays trade Travis Snider to Pirates for Brad Lincoln

12:33 AM: Twitter goes wild

Now that we have chronicled what amounted to a hectic ten minutes lets talk about it. My initial reaction to the trade like many others was something akin to confusion and a state of dumbfoundedness. Mostly because for one “the Blue Jays frickin’ traded Travis Snider!” and for another I simply didn’t know enough about Brad Lincoln.

Here’s a primer on Mr. Lincoln.

Brad Lincoln was drafted 4th overall in the 2006 MLB Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Going in to the 2007 season Baseball America ranked Lincoln as the No. 67 prospect on their Top 100 Prospects List. That same year Baseball America gave Brad Lincoln the prestigious title of having both the Best Fastball and the Best Curveball in the Pirates farm system. All of this praise was despite Lincoln missing significant time in 2006 due to an oblique injury.

Going in to the 2007 season Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus said that in a perfect world Lincoln would be a No. 3 and potentially even a No. 2 starter. Kevin also noted that the Pirates expected Lincoln to move quickly potentially even reaching AA by the end of the 2007 season.

Both Lincoln’s and the Pirates’ plans were derailed in April 2007 when Lincoln went under the knife and got the now infamous Tommy John surgery. That surgery would force Lincoln to miss the entire 2007 minor league season.

In 2008 and 2009 Lincoln would go on to produce uninspiring results for the Pirates hiA, AA, and AAA affiliates, but would still receive a call up in the latter portion of the season. In his short time in the majors Lincoln would produce (if you can even call it that) a K/BB rate among the leagues worst and an ERA, FIP, and xFIP all above 5.00. In 2011 a similar situation would come to fruition. this time Brad Lincoln showed himself to be much more of a ground ball pitcher, but the results he produced were not much better with an ERA, FIP, and xFIP above 4.00.

Getting towards the present, Brad Lincoln began the 2012 season as a seemingly washed out 27-year-old pitcher in AAA. After a short stint in AAA Indianapolis Lincoln was once again called up to the big leagues, but this time in a relief role.

Lincoln has started 5 games this year, but has excelled out of the pen. In totality Lincoln has produced a 25.1 K% and 5.9 BB%, but in relief the K% jumps up to 29.9%, which ranks 21st in the league and the BB% changes to 6.0%. Lincoln’s relief K/BB ratio sits at an even 5.00, which ranks 16th in the league.

Some of this newfound success comes from the fact that Lincoln has posted a ridiculous 99.3 LOB% in relief this year, but keep in mind that relievers generally have higher and flukier left on base rates. Moreover Lincoln has added a couple of MPH on his fastball and it appears that the added MPH are not just a relief mirage because in his 5 starts this year Lincoln has maintained a similar velocity to that of what he has produced out of the bullpen.

As well, being that he has been in the bullpen Lincoln has been able to amplify his two best pitches, his fastball and his curveball, using both at rates ranking at career highs.

All of this has amounted to quite an interesting reliever…one who leads all qualified relievers with a 0.50 ERA on the year, has a 2.31 FIP that ranks 8th among qualified relievers and a 2.78 xFIP that ranks 14th among qualified relievers.

It hurts to give up Travis Snider, it really does. I was among those who believed in Snider’s potential and those who pleaded for his inclusion on the 25-man roster at the beginning of the year. However in Brad Lincoln the Blue Jays are getting an extremely valuable late inning reliever that could become one of those Vinnie Pestano/Sergio Romo types.

The creator of Meats Don’t Clash Mondays will truly be missed, but the return that the Blue Jays got for him is not as bad as initially believed. I didn’t like the trade at first, but as I went deeper and deeper into Lincoln’s stats and scouting reports I became more and more acclimated to the idea of the trade. Brad Lincoln isn’t Matt Garza, but he isn’t that bad and he is under team control until 2018.

This is an official farewell to Travis Snider, best of wishes in Pittsburgh.

Making Sense of The Hanley Rumours


Picture Courtesy of AP Photo via Daylife

On Monday after a trade that sent starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez and infielder Omar Infante to Detroit we learned that despite their offseason free agency splurge the Marlins are ready and primed to sell. This morning in a report from USA Today’s Bob Nightengale we heard that the Blue Jays are interested.

With regards to a possible Hanley trade there is a few things we need to get out-of-the-way.

1. Hanley Ramirez can play shortstop
In his MLB career Hanley Ramirez has played 829 games at shortstop and looked to continue playing there until the Marlins signed Jose Reyes this offseason. The subsequent action to the Reyes signing was to move Hanley to third base.

2. Hanley Ramirez should not play shortstop
Despite playing 829 games at shortstop in his career, Hanley is really not a very good shortstop. In fact from the time of his call up until he was moved off of shortstop after the 2011 season Hanley was the second worst shortstop in the league by UZR standards and only moves up to third worst by DRS standards. Beyond that the scouts haven’t exactly been kind to Hanley either.

3. Hanley Ramiez is not a bad hitter
Over the last two years Hanley has produced a .245/.328/.405, which amounts to an even 100 wRC+. However looking at some of Hanley’s more intricate stats this year one can see that his ISO is up ~50 points to .183 or that his batted ball data is back to where it was in the early part of his career. He is replacing ground balls with fly balls while keeping a consistent line drive rate…ultimately it is producing more home runs. He has even pushed his contact rate up above his career average of 82.2%.

The thing that really seems to be hurting Hanley this year is his .271 BABIP, which is 4 points lower than it was last year and still a whole 62 points below his career average. Beyond that one might speculate that the large confines of Marlins Park may be hampering some of his offensive production.

In fact if you look at Hanley’s hits at Marlins Park and overlay them on the Rogers Centre you can see Hanley may even have had a few extra home runs if he was hitting in Toronto.

The dots that are not dark blue would not be home runs at Marlins Park
Picture via Katron

Now getting away from all the technical stuff and towards the trade itself one can see that there are definitely a few logistics that would need to be sorted out. First off the Blue Jays already have a shortstop in Yunel Escobar who is more than capable of staying at the position. Granted Yunel has produced a wRC+ of 75 that currently ranks 14th last among qualified batters and 7th last among qualified shortstops, but Yunel’s pull is his defence at SS…something Hanley somewhat lacks.

Part of what makes this trade complicated is that the Blue Jays would likely have to include Yunel in a deal, which puts Hanley at shortstop for the Blue Jays. Ideally you don’t want to put Hanley at shortstop,  instead you’d like Hechavarria to be able to stick there. In order for that to happen it would require Hanley to move to another new position, second base, something he may not be too inclined to do. I’d speculate what else the Blue Jays would have to give beyond Escobar but to tell you the truth I’m not exactly sure who to include.

The reason being that on one hand Hanley seems to be an undervalued asset at this point with the way he has played and it would appear that the Marlins are selling low…assuming they don’t know anything we don’t. On the other hand despite his struggles Hanley has been the 8th best player in baseball per fWAR between 2006 and 2012. The fact that Hanley has been good in the past is why other teams like Boston, Oakland, Baltimore, and even Toronto are in the supposed bidding.

They see what Hanley can do, but the problem is they all can see it, making it a classic case of supply and demand. The supply of potential superstar players in the MLB is very low and the demand is obviously very high.

This doesn’t seem to be like the Colby Rasmus case as it appeared to the public that no one else was in on Rasmus…no one even knew Rasmus was on the market until the trade happened. With more teams in on Hanley the bidding will get higher and higher and it may come to a point where it is no longer a buy low…and not the ideal Alex Anthopoulos trade.

Beyond that when compared to the other contenders for Hanley, the Blue Jays don’t exactly line up perfectly in terms of what they have to offer.

With what all the logistics amount to a Hanley trade seems like somewhat of a pipe dream, but then again so did acquiring Colby Rasmus…so I guess we will have to wait and see.

As well like any other Blue Jays rumour this could all be hogwash and a month later we may find out that the Blue Jays were never in on Hanley at all…it could just be due diligence. Despite that it’s fun to speculate, so speculate away…just don’t get your expectations up too high and don’t let your speculation get too.

Have safe trade talk everyone…it’s what is best for us all.

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