RAR has Longoria, Ibanez as MVPs through May

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Fan Graphs is a site that I couldn’t live without and has a great stat called Runs Above Replacement
(RAR) that combines offensive and defensive contributions while
comparing players to “replacement-level” guys at the same position.

For example, how many runs would the Cardinals lose if they had to
replace Albert Pujols with a random first baseman called up from the
minors? Last year the answer was 89.2 runs, which led baseball.

While not perfect, Runs Above Replacement is an excellent way to
examine all-around contributions and can be used to determine the top
MVP candidates based strictly on their between-the-lines performance.

Now that May is in the books I thought it would be interesting to update the RAR leaders through the season’s first two months:

AMERICAN LEAGUE        RAR          NATIONAL LEAGUE        RAR
Evan Longoria 33.1 Raul Ibanez 28.7
Joe Mauer 27.1 Albert Pujols 26.6
Jason Bartlett 27.1 Mike Cameron 26.5
Ian Kinsler 25.6 Ryan Zimmerman 26.3
Marco Scutaro 25.3 Hanley Ramirez 26.1
Kevin Youkilis 25.0 Adrian Gonzalez 26.0
Nelson Cruz 23.9 Matt Kemp 25.2
Victor Martinez 23.3 Chase Utley 23.0
Aaron Hill 23.2 Justin Upton 22.1
Torii Hunter 22.2 Ryan Braun 20.8

Evan Longoria ranked as the best player in baseball through the end of April
and he’s still atop the RAR leaderboard a month later, hitting
.327/.396/.623 with 13 homers, 20 doubles, 55 RBIs, and excellent
defense in 51 games overall. Through his first 173 career games,
Longoria has been 86.7 runs better than a replacement-level third
baseman.

Joe Mauer has amazingly vaulted into the No. 2 spot among AL
position players despite spending all of April on the disabled list,
which shows just how spectacular he was in May. Mauer hit
.414/.500/.838 with 11 homers and 32 RBIs in 28 games while logging 176
innings at catcher last month, guiding Twins pitchers to a 4.19 ERA
with him behind the plate after the staff posted a 5.26 ERA in April.

Raul Ibanez ranked second among NL position players in RAR through
the end of April and barely slowed down in May, hitting .312/.366/.661
with 10 homers and 29 RBIs in 28 games to take over the top spot from
Mike Cameron. Of course, Ibanez is having by far the best season of his
14-year career, topping his previous high OPS by nearly 200 points, yet
has been all of 2.1 runs better than Albert Pujols.

At the other end of the RAR spectrum, Garrett Atkins (-13.3) and Delmon Young (-12.2) rank as the least valuable all-around players in their respective leagues, with Brian Giles (-10.5) and David Ortiz (-11.8) not far behind.

Phillies, Red Sox interested in Carlos Santana

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The Phillies and Red Sox appear intent on pursuing free agent first baseman Carlos Santana, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports. Santana rejected a one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Indians on Thursday and is expected to draw widespread interest on the market this winter. The Mets, Mariners, Angels and Indians could make a play for the infielder, though no serious offers have been made this early in the offseason.

Santana, 31, is coming off of a seven-year track with the Indians. He batted .259/.363/.455 with 23 home runs and 3.0 fWAR last season, making 2017 the fourth-most valuable year of his career to date. Although he was primarily stationed at first base over the last year, he could step back into a hybrid first base/DH role with the Red Sox, who are hurting for infield depth with Hanley Ramirez still working his way back from shoulder surgery.

As for Santana’s other suitors, the Mariners are far less likely to pursue a deal after trading for Ryon Healy last Wednesday. Neither the Mets nor the Phillies have a DH spot to offer the veteran infielder, and the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins appears to be blocking the way at first base. Then again, Santana may not find a more enticing offer outside of Cleveland, where Edwin Encarnacion might otherwise be the club’s best option at first base. During the GM meetings, Indians’ GM Mike Chernoff said he “love to have both [Santana and Jay Bruce] back” in 2018, but hasn’t backed up that love with any contract talks just yet.