Posts tagged Zack Greinke
Today, Saturday November 3rd, marks the beginning of the MLB Free Agency period. After a long, disappointing season that saw the Blue Jays create more questions than they answered, free agency and the allure of the limitless potential of the offseason has become the focus among the Blue Jays media and blogosphere. As it was one year prior the words Blue Jays and rumour have almost become synonymous and the transactions haven’t even started yet.
The difference is this year unlike last, there seems to be a definite desire for an increase in payroll. As Shi Davidi noted earlier this week Alex Anthopoulos is definitely ready and willing to increase payroll, even stating that, “[the Jays] will be able to look at players we wouldn’t have been as serious about or wouldn’t have fit.” In his article, Davidi speculated that this increase could reach the heights of the $95 million range, which as he notes would leave roughly $15 million in spending money for the 2013 offseason.
After a season which saw 3/5 of the projected rotation spend significant time on the disabled list and the other 2/5 regress past imaginable levels of performance, it’s no surprise that Anthopoulos has made the starting rotation a priority with this newfound increase in payroll. Those in the media as well as the blogosphere have speculated on such options as Zack Greinke, Edwin Jackson, Brandon McCarthy, Anibal Sanchez, and recently declared free agent Dan Haren. Of that list, all of the options seem feasible, save for Greinke, which leaves four pitchers to pine for and analyze until most (hopefully not all) sign with teams other than the Blue Jays, but that’s the pain and fortune of being a Blue Jays fan.
The first of the four pitchers is ex-Blue Jay Edwin Jackson, who MLBTR predicted to be the only one of their Top 50 free agents to land in Toronto. On the surface the thrill of signing a pitcher with Jackson’s unpredictability and general lack of impressiveness seems almost non-existent, because he isn’t exactly the type of pitcher who you would expect to be the missing piece in the quest for a playoff spot. He’s coming off a good year, results wise, but the figures that he’s reportedly looking for aren’t exactly appealing
However Edwin Jackson is exactly the type of pitcher many of us are often describe. He’s an average MLB starter who fits fine into the middle of a rotation and he hasn’t pitched less than 180 innings since his first full season as a starter. Moreover once you realize that in the worst year of Jackson’s career, save for his Devil Rays days, he still posted an fWAR better than any Blue Jays pitcher this year, he seems like a much more appealing option. Even if he’ll never be what he was once projected to become, he is a more than satisfactory option for the middle of a rotation it only depends on whether or not he can get the contract he wants this time around.
The second of the four pitchers is everyone’s favourite Twitter follow, Brandon McCarthy. As a player with perhaps the largest social media following of any in the MLB, McCarthy’s name gets brought up in reference to a plethora of topics, but especially in comparison to the potential signing of other free agent starting pitchers. Toronto is no different, the online baseball community here has become just as enthralled with McCarthy as any other major league fanbase. Be that it may this mindset has gotten in the way of analysis of McCarthy as a pitcher and a free agent option for the Jays.
Brandon McCarthy is a pitcher who has had four 60-Day DL stints and four 15-Day DL stints in his seven season career. He’s also a pitcher who is coming off a skull fracture and a brain injury that some say he’s lucky to come out of functioning to the extent that he is. With regards to McCarthy as a person, what happened to him is terrible and shouldn’t be wished upon anyone, but with regards to McCarthy as a pitcher, signing him may not be the smartest baseball move when he hasn’t pitched since the incident. He’s an alluring figure because he has the potential to be great as we saw in 2011, but there’s no way of knowing how he will pitch once he gets back on the mound or how long he will stay on the mound for before sustaining another injury.
The third of the four pitchers, Anibal Sanchez, could easily end up being the best overall signing. Over his career Sanchez has been an afterthought in discussion, be that because he can be unpredictable or because he was on the same team as Josh Johnson for a majority of his career. Even this offseason, where Sanchez could be the second place prize to whomever doesn’t get or can’t afford Zack Greinke. This is despite the fact that over the last three years Sanchez is 16th in all of baseball in fWAR, above noted pitchers like Josh Johnson, James Shields, and Yovani Gallardo, yet he still doesn’t get the attention he deserves.
Also over those three years Anibal Sanchez’s walk rate has consecutively fallen as has his flyball rate, while he has increased his groundball rate and maintained a relatively consistent strikeout rate. All of those facts are positive trends towards Sanchez’s free agent case, but once again the problem lies in the pay. In FanGraph’s contract crowd sourcing they found a 4 year $52 million contract to be most likely and other estimates have been similar. While an average annual value of $13 million doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for surplus value, it’s a bargain in comparison to the deals given to C.J. Wilson and Mark Buehrle last winter.
The last of the four pitchers, Haren may perhaps be the most interesting of the bunch. Following the apparent fallout of a deal that would have sent him to the Cubs in exchange for Carlos Marmol the Angels declined their $15.5 million option and instead opted to pay the $3.5 million buyout. Within the confines of that deal there has been an abundance of speculation as to why the deal fell through. Some speculate that it was the medicals, other the money, but either way it stems from Haren’s inability to perform to the level he did in the past.
The often cited reasoning behind Haren’s ineptitude during the 2012 season has been his drop in velocity, but as Michael Barr rather excellent noted in a recent FanGraphs article there’s quite a bit more to it. Barr referenced Haren’s declining velocity, but also his declining swinging strike rate, Zone% as well as his increasing Contact%. While Haren’s numbers in September are encouraging and a case could be made for signing him, the inherent risk of signing a player coming off a down season and an injury could outweigh the potential that Haren offers. Ultimately, like many free agent deals, it will come down to years that Haren is offered. If there is a team out there willing to give Haren a four (or even five?) year contract then there’s no point in trying to beat that. On the other hand if Haren is looking to re-establish some value on a one year deal then give him all you can and hope for the best.
On the whole, the Blue Jays appear to willing to go after one of these bigger name free agents, but with a budget that still looks limited to a certain extent due diligence will be key in the decision to sign any free agent pitcher, or position player for that matter. As it stands the Blue Jays don’t have a whole lot of room for error if they plan on running an efficient payroll with the hopes of a playoff berth. Perhaps unfortunately, as @cantpredictball has taught us, this game we love is inherently erratic, but the key is to squeeze out every bit of added probability for success possible. The Jays can be successful in that manner, but we must wait and see.
Depending on who you ask the 2011-2012 offseason for the Jays could be classified as any number of things. On one hand Anthopoulos hasn’t addressed all of the pieces on his wish list, having only bolstered the bullpen, but not acquired the middle of the order bat and front of the rotation starter that I’m sure both he and the fans wanted. Though on the other hand he did address the most pressing need, the bullpen, by acquiring Sergio Santos and Jason Frasor through trade and signing Darren Oliver in free agency.
Some people would call that a quiet offseason, but those three changes to the 25 man roster are the same amount that the Yankees have made. Maybe the fans are just a wee bit spoiled from last offseason when there was five trades (6 if you count Olivo) plus another two major league signings, but theres no way anyone can expect that pace to continue. Last offseason many of those trades and signings were completed to fill roster spots, but this year is that really needed?
Before the year Kyle Drabek had, some pegged him as a guy with #2 starter upside and before all his injuries Dustin McGowan had top of the rotation stuff. What’s to say one of those two starters or even a player like Henderson Alvarez doesn’t step it up and improve. Beyond that even a player like Brett Cecil could return from mediocrity, or a player like Brandon Morrow could finally live up to his peripheral stats. Of course this is for the most part highly unlikely, but with this much uncertainty in what the above players could do and also what players like Travis Snider, Colby Rasmus, Eric Thames, and even Brett Lawrie might do, why rush the process?
Looking at the Jays record last season they finished at exactly .500 a record of 81-81 and ten games out of a playoff spot. Some players will surely improve and having Brett Lawrie at third instead of Jayson Nix is definitely a plus, but how can we know how good the team will truly be? Using Sky Kalkman’s WAR Calculator as well as the Bill James projections (via Fangraphs) I found that James puts the Jays’ win count around 90 wins, but he also puts both the Yankees and Red Sox at around 105 wins meaning he thinks the Jays are still 15 games worse than the beasts of the east. Looking at other projections systems the sentiment seems to be similar.
In the latest Cairo projected standings (A projection system I generally like) they have the Jays at 78 wins and 15 games out of a playoff spot. No matter what projection system you use be it Bill James, Marcel’s, PECOTA, Cairo, or even just your gut feeling, there is very little way to work the numbers such that they end up with the Jays in a playoff position. As well according to the two projection systems I cited, not even 2001 Barry Bonds would push the Jays into the playoffs in 2012.
With all that said there’s no need to punt the season and call it quits now (like the Oakland A’s), but rather take a wait and see approach and with knowledge gained in 2012 to put that towards a better team in 2013. By 2013 prospects like Anthony Gose, Deck McGuire, Drew Hutchison, and Travis d’Arnaud will likely be pushing for spots on the 25 man roster out of spring training. As well if the Jays feel like they are really one player away at the point a quick look at MLBTR’s 2013 Free Agent Class page shows that top of the rotation starters Matt Cain, Cole Hamels, and Zack Greinke could all be potentially available with a more than formidable supporting cast of Anibal Sanchez, Francisco Liriano, and Brandon McCarthy all of which have had at least one 4 WAR season in the past two seasons.
Of course any number of these guys could be extended particularly Hamels and Cain, but with a more certain team going in to 2012, the Jays will have a better view on what their financial flexibility will be as well as their playoff proximity. Furthermore rather than attempting to acquire a top of the rotation starter in a weak market (i.e. 2011-2012 offseason) they would be doing it in a saturated pitching market. We saw what happened to a less saturated pitching market this year when Buster Olney tweeted that free agent starters Roy Oswalt, Edwin Jackson, and Hiroki Kuroda were dropping their asking prices. As well as the major pay cut that Madson took because of a saturated closer market. All even more reason to wait out the 2012 season. And as an added bonus in 2013 there is the possibility that there may be two wildcard teams an indescribable addition to the Blue Jays playoff chances.
On the whole despite what some may believe the Jays haven’t and won’t really “need”anything this offseason. Anthopoulos recently responded to the question of whether or not the roster the Jays have now will be the one they have going in to spring training while on the FAN 590 stating that, “Right now I would say yes, but I’m hopeful that something breaks in the next 2-3 weeks.” Some are hopeful that this means something will happen, but I take it as Anthopoulos just continuing the interest in the team, but still stating that he pretty much has his team set for spring training. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is your choice, but in my opinion I am more than happy with the Jays offseason. They addressed their biggest need without sacrificing too much of the future and they left themselves in a position to let players like Travis Snider the ability to work out their issues. Here’s to a hopeful 2012 that gives us a better picture of what is to come in 2013 and beyond.
|Photo by ElCapitanBSC Photo by SD Dirk Photo by Keith Allison
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