Tag Archives: MLB

Trade Grade: Frazier to the White Sox

Last week, news broke that Todd Frazier was being traded to the White Sox in a three-team trade. Frankie Montas, Trayce Thompson, and Micah Johnson headed from the White Sox  to the Dodgers, and the Reds received Jose Peraza, Brandon Dixon, and Scott Schebler from the Dodgers.

Los Angeles Dodgers

There’s little to say about the Dodgers, who acted as facilitators in this trade. They exchanged three prospects for three better ones, who are closer to the majors.

Johnson and Peraza are similar players, so that part of the trade is a wash. Both are second basemen, both don’t hit well, and both are speedy. The only important difference is that Johnson is two years older than Peraza, so he has a lower ceiling.

Every time I see Trayce Thompson’s name mentioned, immediately afterwards, the writer notes that he’s the brother of Klay Thompson. Out of respect to the former, we won’t mention the latter in this article (hey, wait a second…). Anyways, Thompson, a righty outfielder, was a pleasant surprise for the White Sox last season, hitting .295/.363/.533 across the 44 games he spent in the majors. He’ll be a useful bench player in Los Angeles.

Montas is another solid pick-up. Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers’ GM, said that the team plans on trying him out as a starter, but he views the twenty-two year-old as a potential  “impact bullpen arm”. Los Angeles’ bullpen was shaky last season behind Kenley Jansen so Montas could help shore up the relief corps.

Although the trade overall was a blockbuster, the Dodgers were not directly involved in the Frazier aspect of it. However, the deal helps Los Angeles improve without incurring a significant cost, making it a solid, if unspectacular trade.

Grade: B+

Cincinnati Reds

The Reds were expected to trade away Frazier. It’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do, as the team is currently rebuilding and Frazier will be a free agent after the 2017 season. However, one would expect the team to receive a tad more for their star third baseman.

Looking at their return, it’s easy to wonder what they were thinking. It was the right move to trade Frazier, but the combo of Peraza, Dixon, and Schebler isn’t particularly special.

The latter two players are largely insignificant. Dixon, a second baseman, turns 24 in January. He’s a non-prospect; despite hitting nineteen homers over the past season, one that he split between High-A and Double-A, his OBP was a dismal .303. The 25-year-old Schebler is better than Dixon, but only slightly. He made it to the majors earlier this season for nineteen games, and didn’t acquit himself too poorly, but he struggled in Triple-A and, due to his age, he’s not as likely to improve as a younger player.

Peraza, the apparent headliner of the deal was a top prospect only a year ago, but has since been traded twice, going from Atlanta to Los Angeles and now to Cincinnati. He’s a second baseman and offers a nice amount of speed. However, that speed is mainly appealing to fantasy owners, and a slash line of .293/.316/.378 over 118 games last season in Triple-A isn’t anything to write home about.

In case this wasn’t bad enough for the Reds, they’re not going to have second base available for Peraza and Dixon because their Brandon Phillips trade with the Nationals fell through after Phillips refused to waive his no-trade clause. Phillips is owed $27 million over the next two seasons, so either the Reds will have to eat his contract or find somewhere else for Peraza and Dixon to play.

Not only was the return for Frazier awful, but there’s not even an open spot to play the players received, making this trade an utter catastrophe.

Grade: F

Chicago White Sox

The White Sox are the big winners in this trade. The three players they gave up are all solid, as we discussed above, but Frazier is a genuine star. In 2014, he hit 29 home runs before following that up with another 35 this past season. That kind of power is increasingly rare and Chicago did well to snatch Frazier up once he became available.

Frazier will pair with Jose Abreu to form a fearsome duo of right-handed power hitters. That one-two punch should wreak havoc in the cozy confines of US Cellular Field. Chicago’s lineup is solid from top to bottom, with Adam Eaton, Brett Lawrie, Avisail Garcia, Melky Cabrera, and others flanking the pair of sluggers.

In addition to Frazier being very good, this trade is beneficial for the White Sox because they will no longer have to start Gordon Beckham at third base. Beckham, put simply, is not good, and Frazier is a massive upgrade over him. In an American League ridden with parity, one big addition can result in a massive improvement in playoff odds, and, as we all know, once you get into October, anything can happen.

Grade: A

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Signing Grade: Heyward to the Cubs

Last week, news broke that Jason Heyward was signed to an eight year, 184 million dollar contract by the Cubs. The contract includes a pair of opt-out clauses, after year three and year four. Those clauses are contingent on Heyward reaching a certain number of plate appearances.

The big winner here is obviously Heyward. 184 million dollars is a massive amount of money, and, thanks to the opt-out clauses, he’ll be able to re-enter free agency at age 29 or 30, where he’ll be able to land another big contract.

Heyward has to thank Atlanta for its help. The Braves brought him up to the majors at age 20, allowing him to reach free agency at 26, unlike most others, who reach free agency in their late twenties.

This is a great deal for Chicago as well. Due to his relative youth, a lengthy contract isn’t much of a burden. The deal keeps Heyward (barring any opt-outs) in Chicago until he’s 34, when, while he’ll have left his prime, he’ll still be a solid player.

The best thing about this contract from Chicago’s point of view is that Heyward, despite being a free agent, is roughly the same age as the rest of their young studs. Heyward is 26, a day younger than Anthony Rizzo, while the rest of the young core consists of the 23-year olds Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, and Javier Baez, the 22-year old Kyle Schwarber, and the 21-year old Addison Russell. That lineup is loaded, and it’ll be loaded for the rest of the decade.

There’s only one potential problem. Heyward derives much of his value from his spectacular defense in right field. However, that’s where Soler plays, so Heyward, as of now, is expected to play in center field. He’s played there before, although not extensively; throughout his career he’s spent a total of 233 innings in center field.

The Cubs are fine with Heyward playing center field, but another option open to them is trading Soler, putting Heyward in right field, and then signing one of the free agent center fielders including Denard Span, Gerardo Parra, and Dexter Fowler, who played for the Cubs this past season.

Either way, when the only quibble with this contract is the mild problem of whether Heyward will be a good or great center fielder if he ends up playing there, it’s a pretty good deal.

Grade: A

Trade Grade: Castro for Warren and Ryan

Earlier this week, the Cubs traded Starlin Castro for Adam Warren and Brendan Ryan.

New York Yankees

Castro is a solid player. He can play both shortstop and second base, and flexibility at a pair of hard-to-fill positions is a valuable commodity in today’s MLB.

To get Castro, the Yankees gave up Warren and Ryan. Warren was expected to compete for a spot in the Yankees’ rotation this spring after pitching well last season, but now that he’s gone, New York will likely turn to CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova to compete for the fifth slot, behind Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino, Michael Pineda, and Nathan Eovaldi. Ryan was nothing more than an occasional starter at second base, the position that Castro will now occupy, so his absence won’t be missed.

Castro is an interesting asset. Although this will be his seventh season in the big leagues, he’s still only 26 and is signed through 2019, his age-29 season, with a club option for 2020. His contract isn’t onerous, as over the next four seasons, Castro is owed 37 million dollars, plus the club option, which will cost sixteen million dollars (or a one million dollar buyout).

On the other hand, since a spectacular first couple of seasons in the majors, Castro has regressed badly, with a .296 OBP last season. However, there may be reason for optimism. After moving from shortstop to second base last season, across 44 games, Castro played better defense while hitting .353/.374/.594. Obviously, Castro won’t put up those stats over a full campaign, but if he can approach his production from his first couple of seasons, then this trade will be a coup for the Yankees.

Grade: B

Chicago Cubs

I’m not sure why the Cubs made this trade. Yes, Castro was expendable because Addison Russell and Javier Baez will be occupying the middle-infield positions for the foreseeable future, but couldn’t Chicago have gotten something a little more useful for a young, relatively cheap player?

Ryan has a reputation for being a spectacular defensive shortstop, with his four year peak producing 12.4 WAR (as per Baseball-Reference). However, that peak was from 2009 to 2012, at which point his defensive production fell off a cliff, going from 3.6 dWAR (defensive WAR) in 2012 to .7 dWAR in 2013. Last season, he reached his nadir, producing negative value as a defender. He can’t hit for his life, which was acceptable when he was a world-class defender, but now that he can’t play defense any more, simply put, he’s an awful player.

The Cubs don’t need him whatsoever, with shortstop reserved for Russell for years to come, so I imagine he was just a throw-in and that Warren was their main target.

Warren pitched well last season, with a 3.29 ERA across 131.1 innings, including seventeen starts. This isn’t a fluke as his combined ERA across his three full seasons is 3.23. The problem is that there’s no space in the rotation for him, with Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jason Hammel, and Kyle Hendricks occupying every spot in the strangely J-heavy Chicago rotation.

Warren has also pitched in the bullpen, so he’ll likely begin next season as a reliever. He’ll be perfectly fine in relief, but is a solid reliever really worth Castro? Apparently, the Cubs think so, but I’m dubious.

Grade: C+

Trade Grade: Walker for Niese

Earlier today, news broke that the Mets were trading Jonathon Niese to the Pirates for Neil Walker.

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates were rumored to be going after pitching, and they got a decent starter on a great contract. To get this valuable asset, they gave up a good offensive second baseman.

By moving Walker, Pittsburgh frees up a starting spot. Last season, for six positions (CF, LF, RF, 3B, 2B, SS) they had seven players who needed to start. Now that Walker is gone, Josh Harrison, a flexible defender and a decent hitter, can move to second, and the players who deserve to start will start.

Niese is a great acquisition for Pittsburgh. The Pirate rotation is shaky behind aces Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano, and Niese is as dependable as they come. The lefty has an ERA of 3.65 over the last four seasons combined, which is a #3 starter nearly any team would be happy to have.

Additionally, Niese is even more valuable because of his contract. Niese is owed nine million dollars this season, with two club options for the two seasons after for ten and eleven million dollars, respectively, along with a five-hundred thousand dollar buyout if the option is declined. While thirty million dollars seems like a sizable amount of money to spend on a solid pitcher, in today’s league, where half-decent pitchers are seeking eighty-million dollars over five years in free agency, that’s a very good contract.

The Pirates didn’t get a coup with this deal. They didn’t rip the Mets off. Instead, they got exactly what they needed without giving up anything they couldn’t live without.

Grade: A

New York Mets

The Mets needed a second baseman after Ben Zobrist signed with Chicago and other than perhaps Daniel Murphy, Walker was the best available.

Niese was expendable due to the Mets’ wealth of pitching. New York currently has four of its five rotation slots occupied, between Jacob DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, and Steven Matz. With Zack Wheeler returning from Tommy John surgery in the middle of the season, there wasn’t going to be anywhere for Niese to pitch as a starter.

The Mets needed a second baseman to replace the departed Murphy, and Walker certainly fits the bill. Walker gains value due to his flexibility as a switch-hitter and, similarly to the player he was traded for, is remarkably consistent. Every season, Walker hits about .270 with a home run total in the mid-teens and an above-average OPS+. Anthony DiComo also noted Walker’s consistent production:

Walker is only under contract for this season, which means that the Mets can feel free to move on from him after the season and hand the reins to Dilson Herrera or Wilmer Flores. Until then, though, it’ll be nice to have yet another solid player to add to a roster full of them.

It’s tough to give up Niese because of his great contract and the fact that he was effective as both a starter and reliever, but Walker is a good player. I bet the Mets could have found a better offer, especially if they waited until the end of free agency for the teams who missed out on their starting pitching targets, but, again, Walker will help the team this season without bogging them down for years to come.

Grade: B+

It’s Official: The Mets are Back

I can’t stay quiet about this.

On Sunday Night Baseball, on national TV, I just watched the Mets finish off a sweep of the Nationals team that was picked by everyone in the world to run away with the NL East this season.

Everyone in the world was wrong.

Washington may end up winning the division, but, as of now, the Mets are tied with them atop it, and they’re not going away without a fight.

I was eight years old the last time the Mets were relevant, way back in 2008. Since then, all I’ve gotten to see has been season after season of win totals in the 70s and empty seats in Citi Field.

But that’s over now.

Sure, more fans are coming to the games, but you can figure that out from ticket sales. More important is that, for the first time in years, us fans are emotionally invested in this team.

For instance, last Wednesday night, as has been discussed countless times since then, Wilmer Flores cried on the field after hearing that he had been traded from the team he’s been part of for a third of his life.

Of course, he heard incorrectly and remained with the team, but nonetheless, Mets fans have been making it up to him. Chants and cheers have greeted him each time he’s stepped up to the plate, and on Friday night, he reciprocated.

On a 1-1 count, in the bottom of the twelfth inning, Flores slammed a walk-off home run, and the stadium erupted.

The next day, Flores went 0-4, so Lucas Duda was the hero, driving in all three Met runs with a double and a couple of solo homers.

And then Sunday night. Two outs and a man on first. Curtis Granderson hits a homer. The next pitch, Daniel Murphy does the same. And after a hit from the newly acquired Yoenis Cespedes, Duda hits yet another home run. That makes it nine home runs in his last eight games, an feat unprecedented in Mets history.

Now we have to talk about Cespedes. He’s a rental and a very good player, not a great one, but honestly, who cares? Sandy Alderson finally made the big splash that us Mets faithful have been dreaming about, proving that our pleas are not in vain, and that he’s been listening all along.

Even better, what did the Mets give up? A couple of minor league pitchers, who, even if they’re good, won’t make it onto the team because of the wealth of starting pitching the Mets currently enjoy.

Here’s a fun fact that illustrates the amazing combination of youth and talent the Mets’ starters possess. The three Mets starters over the weekend pitched 21 2/3 innings, gave up 5 earned runs, and struck out 25. Their combined age? 75.

No wonder no one wants to face the Mets in the playoffs.

In addition to Cespedes, Alderson made a couple of under-the-radar moves that improved the team, acquiring Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson from the Braves and Tyler Clippard from the Athletics. In both trades, Alderson gave up little of value, but added a couple of useful hitters and an elite reliever. In fact, because Jeurys Familia had pitched the last three games, Clippard earned the save in Sunday’s game.

The hitting is passable, especially now that Cespedes has been added, but at this point, they only need to score three runs to win.

With an improved lineup and dominant pitching the Mets are on the road to October baseball. And after sweeping the Nationals I think it’s now official: the Mets are back.

Breaking Down the Rays Rotation

The Tampa Bay Rays have overcome a slew of injuries to important parts of their team to remain in the running for the AL East crown, a single game out of first place. Now, though, some of those players are coming back.

Today we’re going to focus on the pitching side of the ledger, where the Rays’ entire starting rotation is fantasy-relevant.

We’ll begin with one of the early contenders for the AL Cy Young, Chris Archer, who has been absolutely phenomenal. There have been five starts out of seventeen total in which Archer has given up more than two earned runs. His 133 strikeouts rank fifth-best in all of baseball. In any way you spin it, Archer has been a top starter this season. His FIP supports his ERA and his success is likely to continue. Invest with confidence.

Next up is Jake Odorizzi, who was nearly as good as Archer before going down with an oblique injury last month. Odorizzi made his first rehab start on Wednesday, and it went as hoped, with a run, two hits, and a walk over four innings. The Rays are still deciding whether or not to have Odorizzi make another rehab start before activating him, but either way, time is running out to buy low. Odorizzi will come cheap comparatively, but expect him to pitch on par with top-20 starters such as Shelby Miller and Michael Wacha.

Like Odorizzi, Drew Smyly is injured, but Smyly isn’t expected to return from his shoulder injury until some time in August. Since coming over to Tampa Bay in the David Price trade last year, Smyly, in ten starts, has an ERA of 1.96 while striking out over a batter an inning. There’s no way he’ll keep it up over a full season, of course, but even once regression hits, Smyly will be a valuable asset for any team. He’s unowned in 68% of Yahoo leagues, and while there’s no need to pick him up now, as his return creeps closer, it would make sense to take a low-risk flier on him.

Matt Moore made his season debut yesterday against the Indians, giving up four runs over 4.2 innings in his first start in over a year after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He’s young, talented, and has nearly a strikeouts an inning over his career. There’s a lot of upside here. Until he shakes off the rust, it’s wise to monitor him closely from the sidelines, but once he does, Moore could be one of the best free agent pickups of the second half.

The fifth starter in the Rays’ fully healthy rotation is Nate Karns. Karns hasn’t lasted more than six innings in any of his last nine starts, capping his upside, but he’s safe and consistent, with only four starts all year in which he’s given up more than two runs. He’s helpful in strikeouts, and can help add counting stats while improving your ratios. Karns isn’t good enough to be owned in most leagues, but he’s an elite streamer and should be targeted each time he pitches.

There are three more pitchers who have made starts for the Rays this year: Matt Andriese, Erasmo Ramirez, and Alex Colome. Andriese has already been sent to the minors to free up his rotation spot for Moore, and Ramirez and Colome are likely to follow once Odorizzi and Smyly return. Colome is irrelevant for fantasy, but whenever either Andriese or Ramirez makes a spot start, they could be useful as streamers when they’re pitching at home, in the spacious Tropicana Park, or whenever either has an advantageous matchup.

Have a happy 4th of July weekend, everybody!

Six Rules Good Commissioners Follow

There are two things that can destroy fantasy baseball leagues: negligent owners and bad commissioners.

With owners who don’t pay attention, there’s nothing you can do until the end of the season, when you can kick them out, but the problem of having a Roger Goodell as the commissioner of your fantasy league can be easily addressed.

Keeping that in mind, here are six rules that all commissioners should follow, and if yours doesn’t, well, it might be time to find a new one.

1. It’s everyone’s league: You may run it, but your league belongs to everyone in it. Making decisions by yourself and ignoring the input of others is the fastest way you can get everyone in your league to despise you.

2. Remember that your league is a democracy: This is a corollary of the last rule. You volunteered to run your league, but only because everyone else agreed to let you do it. If you ever feel like you’re getting too haughty, remind yourself that just as they gave you power, they can take it away.

3. Use your veto sparingly: There is only one reason that you should ever exercise your right to veto a trade: if one owner is purposely making his team worse. There’s no other acceptable reason. If some idiot decides to trade Max Scherzer for Jose Quintana and thinks he’s making his team better, then that’s fine. You can try to talk him out of it, you can tell him he’s an idiot, and you can kick him out after the season, but unless he’s purposely trying to make his team worse to make the other team better then there’s nothing you can do.

4. Make sure everyone knows the rules of the league: This is simple. The best thing for you to do to address this problem is to write down all the rules onto a so-called “League Constitution”, print it out to give copies to everyone, and have each owner sign it. This was a problem for me last year when I joined a league midway through the season. The league actually had a written constitution, which I read and signed, but what the commissioner didn’t tell me was that co-managing wasn’t allowed. During the summer, one of the regular owners was away, and when I inquired about a potential trade, he directed me to someone who was running his team for him at the time. I ended up completing a trade with that co-owner, but when the commissioner realized that I had negotiated with him, the trade was retroactively vetoed and somehow, I was blamed for the whole mess. Always make sure that everyone knows the rules because if you don’t, then you lose the right to punish people for transgressing them.

5. Be transparent: If you make a rule then always have a reason. More importantly, have a good reason. Yeah, if you want to eliminate saves as a category, not having any closers is a reason, but obviously it’s not one that anyone else will accept. Before you do anything, make sure you’re able to explain it to your league.

6. Put the league before yourself: This is the big rule of thumb that every rule in this post falls under. Everything you do should be to improve the league, not to help your own team. It’s not complicated or hard to do, but it’s the most important rule of all.

Also, one quick NBA note: last Wednesday, the Nets held a Mason Plumlee meet-and-greet at the Barclays Center. On Thursday, the Nets traded hm. Ladies and gentlemen, your 2015 Brooklyn Nets!