Author: Matthew Pouliot

Jason Bay

Mariners add Jason Bay on one-year deal

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This is what’s known in the business as taking a flier.

According to Andy Martino of the New York Daily News, the Mariners have added Jason Bay on a one-year contract after he hit .165/.237/.299 in 194 at-bats last season and then accepted a buyout from the Mets. The Mariners will see if Bay can can recapture the form that helped him bat .267/.384/.537 with 36 homers and 119 RBI in his last year in the AL with the Red Sox in 2009. In the three years since, he’s batted .234/.318/.369 with a total of 26 homers in 986 at-bats.

Bay is a native of British Columbia and he already lives in Seattle in the offseason, so it’s the perfect situation for him.

Bay’s addition won’t stop the Mariners from continuing to pursue bats. They’ve been mentioned in connection with free agents Josh Hamilton, Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher and Adam LaRoche, as well as in the Justin Upton trade speculation. If the Mariners do pick up another hitter or two, it’d seem to close off any route Bay might have to a starting job. Realistically, he’s probably going to end up competing with Casper Wells for one spot on the bench as a DH against lefties and occasional backup outfielder, and he’ll need a big spring just to have a shot.

Jeff Keppinger for $12 million is a bit of a reach

Jeff Keppinger
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Obviously, it’s a good idea not to give three-year contracts to part-time players unless you have to. Unfortunately, in this winter’s free agent market, the White Sox felt they had to. Jeff Keppinger probably had multiple teams interested in him at $8 million for two years, so the first team to go to $12 million for three was the one that got him.

In Keppinger, the White Sox are getting an infielder who provides most of his value as a starter against lefties. He’s a lifetime .269/.321/.358 hitter against righties, and he doesn’t make up for it with his glove, which is poor at second and probably a bit below average at third.

Keppinger’s list of comparables doesn’t make him look like a very good bet as he heads into his age-33 season. Keppinger hit .296/.341/.402 with 21 homers and five steals from ages 30-32. I found nine other second and/or third basemen who posted OPSs from .720-.770, hit fewer than 40 homers and stole fewer than 20 bases from ages 30-32. Here’s how they performed from 33 onward:

Steve Buechele: .177/.262/.215, 29 OPS+ in 130 AB
Jamey Carroll: .274/.353/.333, 89 OPS+ in 2,162 AB
Mike Gallego: .225/.299/.292, 59 OPS+ in 612 AB
Vance Law: .209/.303/.276, 66 OPS+ in 134 AB
Dave Magadan: .280/.382/.372, 101 OPS+ in 1,057 AB
Joe Randa: .282/.339/.432, 100 OPS+ in 1,748 AB
Johnny Ray: .277/.308/.371, 92 OPS+ in 404 AB
Denny Walling: .252/.320/.355, 88 OPS+ in 812 AB
Joel Youngblood: .252/.323/.353, 92 OPS+ in 842 AB

Carroll, of course, is still going.

Magadan would seem to be a nice comp for Keppinger, but he was the far better hitter (he was also left-handed). Magadan had a career 116 OPS+ prior to turning 33, whereas Keppinger is at 97. Randa had more power than Keppinger, but he’s the best hope for the White Sox here, as he was a better old player than a young one.

Buechele and Ray only made it to 33. Law actually went to Japan for his age-33 season before coming back and playing one more year in MLB.

While Keppinger is a useful player, he’s a worse bet than he was a year ago, when he was also a free agent (he was non-tendered by the Giants) and when the White Sox had no interest in him.  The White Sox already had a right-handed hitting third baseman in Brent Morel who may well prove to be the better player once defense is factored in. I realize funds are limited, but I think the White Sox would have been better off trading Gavin Floyd or Matt Thornton to free up money for a bigger offensive upgrade than they were giving Keppinger $4 million for each of the next three seasons.

Stephen Drew wants a two-year, eh, maybe a five-year deal

Stephen Drew
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Stephen Drew is and always has been the top shortstop in free agency, but he definitely comes with some question marks after missing almost a full year with a broken ankle and then returning to hit .223/.309/.348 in 287 at-bats last season. Some have thought he might take a one-year deal and then to strike it big after a healthier season in 2013.

Then again, why not try to strike it big now first? While MLB.com’s Tigers writer Jason Beck says that word is that Drew “is going for at least a two-year deal,” the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser reports that Tigers sources told her agent Scott Boras was looking to go as long as five years in talks with Detroit.

Beck says the Tigers were looking at Drew strictly for the short term, preferably on a one-year deal. The Red Sox seem to favor two- or three-year deals, so they might be more up Drew’s alley. They could certainly use the shortstop upgrade and the left-handed hitter after adding righties Mike Napoli and Johnny Gomes and a switch-hitter who is much better against lefties in Shane Victorino.

The A’s, Red Sox and Tigers are considered the top suitors for Drew. There’s also been some talk about him playing third for the Yankees or perhaps joining the Cardinals, who have an iffy Rafael Furcal at shortstop and an unsettled second base situation.

The Hall of Fame case for Tim Raines

Tim Raines
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I’ve long hesitated to make the Tim Raines Hall of Fame pitch, simply because there’s a website already dedicated to the cause that does a far better job of it than I can here. Still, I figure I can have a quick go at it, and if nothing else, it means a few more people might check out Raines30.com for the better pitch.

Raines’ Hall of Fame problem is Rickey Henderson. Raines might be the second best leadoff hitter off all-time, but he played at the same time as the best. Also, he was a left fielder without much power and he never won an MVP award or came particularly close.

On the other hand, Raines was quite possibly the NL’s best player in a five-year span from 1983-87.  WAR thinks so, placing him ahead of Mike Schmidt, Tony Gwynn and Dale Murphy. Raines hit .318/.406/.467 during that span and averaged 114 runs scored and 71 steals per year. During those five years, only Henderson scored more runs (572-568) and only Wade Boggs had a better OBP (.443 to .406). And those two were playing in the other league.

Raines led the NL in average and OBP in 1986, but 1987 may well have been his best season. After sitting out the first month because of baseball’s collusion against free agents, he hit .330/.429/.526 with 123 runs scored in 139 games. He was so feared that he was intentionally walked 26 times, even though he was one of baseball’s premier basestealers.

Unfortunately, Raines ceased being a superstar pretty young, and while he was still an asset as a role player into his upper-30s, he’s not getting much Hall of Fame credit for those years. The entire body of work is worthy, though. While Raines wasn’t Rickey Henderson, he was a very good match for Tony Gwynn.

Raines finished his career with a .385 OBP, a .425 SLG and a 123 OPS+ in 10,359 PA
Gwynn finished his career with a .388 OBP, a 459 SLG and a 132 OPS+ in 10,232 PA

Raines scored 1,571 runs and drove in 980
Gwynn scored 1,383 runs and drove in 1,138

Raines stole 808 bases and was caught 146 times
Gwynn stole 319 bases and was caught 125 times

B-ref WAR has Raines at 66.2, good for 97th all-time. It has Gwynn at 65.3 wins, 102nd place all-time.

Obviously, it’s commonplace throughout history to trump up one Hall of Fame candidate by matching him with another, typically one barely over the borderline. Gwynn, though, was a sure-fire Hall of Famer, getting in on the first ballot with one of the all-time highest percentage of the votes. And the one real difference between him and Raines was hits. Raines had 2,605 hits and Gwynn had 3,141. That’s a difference of 536. However, Raines had 1,330 walks to Gwynn’s 790, a difference of 540.

I think Raines is also well over what should be the borderline for Cooperstown. He mixed in five years of true greatness into long career in which he was almost always an asset. It’s a career that’s clearly worthy.

Rockies acquire reliever Wilton Lopez from Astros

Wilton Lopez
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As the Denver Post’s Troy Renck first reported, the Rockies have acquired reliever Wilton Lopez from the Astros for right-handers Alex White and Alex Gillingham.

Lopez was nearly traded to the Phillies for right-hander Tyler Cloyd and catcher Sebastian Valle last week, but the deal fell apart, reportedly because the Phillies’ physical brought up red flags. Tonight’s deal is official, suggesting that he passed a physical with the Rockies.

Lopez went 6-3 with 10 saves and a 2.17 ERA in 66 1/3 innings for the Astros last season. He’s pitched 60 innings with a sub-3.00 ERA each of the last three years. Possessing some of the best command of any reliever in the league, he’ll fit in nicely in front of Rafael Betancourt in the Rockies pen.

White was one of the two top prospects the Rockies got from the Indians for Ubaldo Jimenez in 2011, but he’s been a disappointment since. He went 2-9 with a 5.51 ERA and a 64/51 K/BB ratio in 98 innings for the Rockies last season. Getting out of Coors Field should help him, though his ceiling no longer seems as high as it appeared a couple of years ago. He’ll be a strong candidate to claim a spot in Houston’s rotation next spring.

The 23-year-old Gillingham, a 2011 11th-round pick, was 6-8 with a 3.66 ERA and an 83/28 K/BB ratio in 123 innings for low-A Asheville last season.