10 most likely to be traded – Infielders

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Mark DeRosa (Indians) – With Grady Sizemore back, the Indians aren’t
likely to sell just yet. Still, at least as big of a problem as being
10 games behind is that they have four teams ahead of them in the AL
Central. DeRosa has been talked about as trade bait for close to two
months now, and the Indians have soured on him as a third baseman after
originally acquiring him to play the position. Given that he’s on pace
for about 30 homers and 110 RBI, it shouldn’t be a problem getting more
for him in trade than they would by letting him walk for draft picks at
season’s end.

Garrett Atkins (Rockies) – It certainly doesn’t bode well for
Atkins’ future in Colorado that he’s been given a total of one at-bat
with the DH available in Anaheim the last two games. At this point, the
Rockies are looking at giving him up for a fraction of what they would
have asked for a year ago or keeping him on the bench and letting his
trade value decline further. It’s unlikely that Atkins has completely
forgotten how to hit; while he was positively brutal during May, he
posted a .247/.289/.429 line in April and he’s at .256/.356/.410 in 39
at-bats during his limited opportunities at month. That he isn’t much
of a third baseman is a problem, one that really cuts into his value,
but he’s gone from overrated to potentially underrated in a hurry.

Nick Johnson (Nationals) – While some free agents-to-be are more likely
to stay with their current teams because of the ramifications of
draft-pick compensation, it only makes Johnson more likely to go. Since
Johnson was limited to 38 games last year, there’s little chance that
the Nationals will receive a pick by keeping him and letting him walk
at season’s end. Perhaps on his way to his first healthy season since
2006, Johnson is currently hitting .315/.423/.444. The OBP is no fluke
and Johnson is a quality defender, so he’s the Nationals’ best
bargaining chip as they attempt to add more young talent to their
organization.

Adam LaRoche (Pirates) – The comments he made after the Nate McLouth
trade didn’t help matters, but LaRoche was already unlikely to finish
the season in Pittsburgh. A divorce would be best for both parties, as
it’d surely help LaRoche to have a chance to ply his trade for a
contender as he heads into free agency at season’s end. While he’s been
a reliable first baseman since the day he debuted in 2004, he’s still
never topped 90 RBI in a season, partly because he sat against lefties
early on and partly because he’s hit in some poor lineups. However,
it’s also the case that his power has tended to disappear in big
situations. A few key homers down the stretch for a more visible team
might do wonders for his reputation as he enters the market.

Orlando Cabrera (Athletics) – There’s no denying that Cabrera has
been one of the AL’s weakest regulars this season, but at least the
price should be right. The A’s have no reason to hold on to him, as he
could well accept arbitration if the team tries to get draft picks for
him this winter. Cabrera is coming off three straight seasons with at
least a .280 average and a .330 OBP, and he was the AL’s best defensive
shortstop in 2008. He’s probably not through as a useful starter.

Aubrey Huff (Orioles) – It was about this time a year ago that Huff
really took off on his way to a .304-32-108 season. However, outside of
that three-month run in 2008, he’s been strictly an 800-OPS guy since
2006. The Orioles, who inked him to a three-year, $20 million deal
prior to 2007, could opt to try to re-sign him for a couple of years,
but they’d likely be better off moving on, especially if they could
cash him in for a couple of prospects this summer. Because of the lofty
RBI totals, he’ll probably be more attractive to some than LaRoche.

Dan Uggla (Marlins) – The Marlins are still a long way from being
out of the race, but unless things go very well over the next month,
both Uggla and Jorge Cantu will be trade candidates. Uggla’s average
remains down, but he has improved to .239/.357/.465 this month and he’s
on pace for 30 homers and nearly 100 RBI. There’s almost no chance that
he’ll be back with the Marlins next season, since he’s due to become
their most expensive player at $7 million-$8 million.

Freddy Sanchez (Pirates) – While it’s always Jack Wilson’s name that
comes up in trade rumors, his double-play partner is at least as likely
to be dealt this summer. If they keep him, the Pirates will have to
decide whether to pick up his $8 million option for 2010 or buy him out
for $600,000. He’s probably worth the cash, but he is 31 and second
basemen tend to age especially badly, making it unlikely that he’ll
still be a quality regular when the Pirates are next ready to contend.
He’d be an upgrade for the Giants, White Sox, Twins, Brewers, Cubs,
Angels and Cardinals.

Felipe Lopez (Diamondbacks) – Lopez could help all of those same
teams. Maybe. While Sanchez is a legitimate .300 hitter, Lopez is 40
points above his career mark in batting .303/.356/.420 this season. On
the plus side, he is cheaper, both in terms of salary and probably in
the talent that it would take to acquire him.

Miguel Tejada (Astros) – The Astros probably won’t be in the thick
of the NL Central race come September, but they’re also unlikely to
give up and start selling off veterans, no matter how much they could
use some young talent. As is, they’re still just six games back in NL
Central and five in the wild card. Tejada is a weak defender at
shortstop and he’s back hitting nothing except singles lately after his
brief power surge in May, but there’s no one in the organization who
would serve as an adequate replacement.

Chipper Jones says the Mets are his pick to “go all the way”

Braves Spring baseball
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Chipper Jones may believe some weird things but he’s pretty savvy and clear-eyed when it comes to analyzing baseball.

Remember back in 2013 how he picked the Dodgers to beat the Braves in the NLDS? And how, because of his perceived “disloyalty,” Braves players had an immature little temper tantrum and refused to catch his ceremonial first pitch? Yeah, that was a great look. If I was more inclined to the hokey and irrational, I’d say that created “The Curse of Chipper” and that it condemned the Braves to two straight years of sucking. Hey, people have built careers on curses sillier than that.

Anyway, kudos to Chipper for apparently not giving a crap about that sort of thing and, instead, saying what he thinks about baseball. Stuff like how he thinks the Mets are going to win it all, saying “They’re really setting the bar and they’re my early-season pick to probably go all the way.”

Keeping in mind that anything can happen in baseball, it’s as good a pick as any other I reckon. Even if it means he has to say that the team who was his greatest rival during his playing career — and whom he thoroughly owned during that time — is better than the one that pays his salary now. Or any other one.

Did Tony La Russa screw Jim Edmonds’ Hall of Fame candidacy?

2011 World Series Game 4 -Texas Rangers v St Louis Cardinals
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Yes, that’s a somewhat provocative question. But it’s still an interesting question, the relevancy of and merits of which we’ll get to in a second. I pose it mostly so I can tell you about some neat research a friend of mine is doing and which should make Hall of Fame discussions and the general discussion of baseball history a lot of fun in the coming years. Bear with me for a moment.

There has long been a war between metrics and narrative. The folks who say that so-and-so was great because of the arc of his story and his career and those who say so-and-so was not so great or whatshisface was way, way better because of the numbers. Those views are often pitted as irreconcilable opposites. But what if they weren’t? What if there was some data which explained why some players become narrative darlings and others don’t? Some explanation for why, say, Jim Rice is in the Hall of Fame while Dwight Evans isn’t despite having better numbers? An explanation, that isn’t about voters being dumb or merely playing favorites all willy-nilly? What if there was some actual quantitative reason why favorites get played in the first place?

That’s the thesis of the work of Brandon Isleib. He has just finished writing a very interesting book. It’s not yet published, but I have had the chance to read it. It sets forth the fascinating proposition that we can quantify narrative. That we can divine actual numerical values which help explain a player’s fame and public profile. Values which aren’t based on some complicated or counterintuitive formula, but which are rooted in the very thing all baseball fans see every day: games. Wins and losses. The daily standings. Values which reveal that, no, Hall of Fame voters who made odd choices in the view of the analytics crowd weren’t necessarily stupid or petty. They were merely reacting to forces and dynamics in the game which pushed them in certain ways and not others.

“But wait!” you interject. “Jim Rice and Dwight Evans played on the same dang team! How does Brandon distinguish that?” I won’t give away all the details of it but it makes sense if you break down how the Red Sox did in certain years and how that corresponded with Rice’s and Evans’ best years. There were competitive narratives in play in 1975, 1978 or 1986 that weren’t in play in 1981 or 1987. From those competitive narratives come player narratives which are pretty understandable. When you weight it all based on how competitive a team was on a day-to-day basis based on how far out of first place they were, etc., a picture starts to come together which explains why “fame” works the way it does.

From this, you start to realize why certain players, no matter how good, never got much Hall of Fame consideration. And why others’ consideration seemed disproportionate compared to their actual performance. All of which, again, is based on numbers, not on the sort of bomb-throwing media criticism in which jerks like me have come to engage.

Like I said, the book won’t be out for a bit — Brandon just finished it — but in the meantime he has a website where he has been and, increasingly will be, talking about his quantification of narrative stuff, writing short articles posing some of the questions his book and his research addresses.

Today’s entry — which is what my headline is based on — isn’t really numbers-based. It’s more talking about the broader phenomenon Brandon’s work gets at in terms of trying to figure out which players are credited for their performance and which are not so credited and why. Specifically, it talks about how Tony La Russa, more than most managers, gets the credit for his success and his players probably get somewhat less than they deserve. In this way La Russa is kind of viewed as a football coach figure and his players are, I dunno, system quarterbacks. It’s something that is unfair, I think, to guys like Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen and will, eventually, likely be unfair to players like Adam Wainwright and Matt Holliday.

It’s fascinating stuff which gets to the heart of player reputation and how history comes together. It reminds us that, in the end, the reporters and the analysts who argue about all of these things are secondary players, even if we make the most noise. It’s the figures in the game — the players and the managers — who shape it all. The rest of us are just observers and scribes.

Corey Seager tops Keith Law’s top-100 prospect list

Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager warms up before Game 1 of baseball's National League Division Series against the New York Mets, Friday, Oct. 9, 2015 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
Associated Press
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Yesterday it was the top farm systems, today it’s the top-100 prospects from ESPN’s Keith Law.

As Law notes, there’s a HUGE amount of turnover on the list from last year, given how many top prospects were promoted to the bigs in 2015. Kris Bryant seems like a grizzled old veteran now. Carlos Correa too. Eleven of the top 20 from last year’s list have graduated into the bigs. Are we sure it’s only been a year?

So, obviously, there’s a new number one. It’s Corey Seager, the Dodgers’ infielder. Not that everything has changed. Byron Buxton is still number two. This will obviously be his last year on the list. If you want to see and read about the other 98, go check out Keith’s excellent work.

And yes, like yesterday’s farm system rankings, it’s Insider subscription only. There were comments about how much you all hate that and I am sure there will be many more of them today. I get that. No one likes to pay for content. I was somewhat amused, however, by comments that said things like “hey, maybe if we don’t click it, they’ll have to give it to us for free!” Maybe! Or, more likely, the content simply will cease to exist!

It’s good stuff, folks. There aren’t many paid sites I say that about.

Ozzie Guillen to manage again. In Venezuela

Ozzie Guillen Getty
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With Dusty Baker getting back into action with the Nationals and with there being at least some moderate sense that, maybe, inexperienced dudes might not be the best choice to manage big league clubs, I sorta hoped that someone would give Ozzie Guillen another look. Nah. Not happening.

Not that I’m shocked or anything. I can imagine that, under the best of circumstances, a guy like Guillen is hard to have around. He tends to find controversy pretty easily and, unlike some other old hands, Guillen never claimed to be any kind of master tactician. He famously said that he was bored during games until the sixth or seventh inning when he had to start thinking about pitching changes. Refreshing honesty, yes, but maybe not the sort of dude you bring on to, say, be a bench coach or to mentor your younger coaches or to show your hand-picked manager the ropes. Nope, it seemed like Guillen was destined to stay in broadcasting with ESPN Deportes or someone and that his days in uniform were over.

But they’re not over! Guillen was hired yesterday to manage the La Guaira Sharks of the Venezuelan Winter League next offseason. It’s not the bigs, but it is is first on-field gig since he was canned by the Marlins in 2012.

 

Guillen managed the White Sox from 2004-11 and was voted AL Manager of the Year in 2005, when Chicago won the World Series. He may be a bit of a throwback now, but he knows what he’s doing. While I can’t really say that a major league team would be wise to hire the guy — I get it, I really do — a selfish part of me really wants him back in the bigs. He was fun.