Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Hot Stove Update: Braves Stripped of 12 Prospects, Giants Could Benefit

The Commissioner came down hard on the Braves today declaring 12 of their prospects free agents including uber-prospect Kevin Maitan.  The decision was to remedy a series of dishonest maneuvers which enabled the Braves to sign more international prospects than they could have signed by following the rules.  The most egregious violations in my mind were multiple instances of promising prospects, including at least 1 draft pick, certain benefits to sign for less money then reneging on those promises.  Now THAT is lowdown, no-good and dirty pool!

What's interesting about this new pool of free agents is the rules the commissioner laid down for other teams to sign them.  The Giants may have gotten good news here.  The players can sign for any amount of money during a window in December and early January and are subject to international bonus pools.  What's interesting for the Giants is that teams can choose to use either their 2017-18 bonus pool or their 2018-19 bonus pool, but not both  The Giants cannot sign any prospect for more than $300 K out of their 2017-18 bonus pool, but they are only limited by their total pool in 2018-19.  So, the Giants have bonus pool money available to go after any of these prospects they might like and are not limited to $300 K per prospect.  In addition, the first $200 K of any signing bonus for these players does not count against the cap.

I don't pretend to know anything at all about any of these newly minted free agents except that Maitan has struggled a bit in pro ball and is not generally considered the elite prospect he once was.   This should be interesting!

Hot Stove Update: Giants Protect 4 From Rule 5 Draft

The Giants prepared for baseball's Rule 5 Draft, the exercise that annually makes the careers of 1 or 2 prospects and derails countless others, by adding 4 prospects to the 40 man MLB roster.  In compensatory moves, they designated utility man Orlando Calixte and OF/2B Micah Johnson for assignment and outrighted RHP Dan Slania to AAA Sacramento.  SS Engelb Vielma, who never appeared in a Giants affiliated uniform, was claimed off waivers by the Phillies.  The added prospects were RHP Tyler Beede, C Aramis Garcia, LHP DJ Snelton and RHP Tyler Herb.

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Beede was the Giants first round draft pick in 2014.  He has not rocketed through the organization as some expected given his pedigree, but has steadily climbed the ladder to AAA and the Arizona Fall League.  He started last season in AAA Sacramento.  Although he had his ups and downs over the season, most of his poor starts occurred in the ridiculously hitter-friendly environments of some of the home parks of the PCL they River Cats travel to.  In his final regular season start on July 19, he pitched 7 shutout innings before going on the DL with a leg strain.  To make up for lost time, the Giants assigned him to the Arizona Fall League where Giants fans went into a bit of a panic after he got shelled in his first start, but he then settled down to pitch really well in his next 3 starts.  Here are his 2017 pitching lines:

AAA:  6-7, 4.79, 109 IP, 39 BB, 83 K, GO/AO= 1.61.
AFL:  0-1, 4.50, 16 IP, 4 BB, 11 K, GO/AO= 1.13.

He allowed just 3 ER in 14 IP with 1 BB and 10 K's in his final 3 AFL starts to give him a great starting point for the 2018 season.

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Aramis Garcia was the Giants second round pick in the 2014 draft.  He missed a big part of the 2016 season with a facial injury suffered in a collision at 2B which put him back in San Jose to start the 2017 season.  He hit .272 with 17 HR's for San Jose then hit .282 after a late season promotion to AA Richmond.  He also went to the AFL and posted a .259 BA in 59 AB's.  He'll most likely start the 2018 season in Richmond with hope for a midseason promo to AAA with a September callup since he is now on the 40 man roster.

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DJ Snelton had a breakout season as a lefty reliever in 2017 dominating AA and continuing his success after a promotion to AAA with a stellar Arizona Fall League Campaign.  Snelton uses his 6'7" height to induce groundballs at a high rate by driving his 4-seam FB down in the strike zone.  Here are his 2017 pitching lines:

AA:  4-1, 1.66, 21.2 IP, 5 BB, 28 K, GO/AO= 3.63.
AAA:  4-0, 2.42, 52 IP, 18 BB, 43 K, GO/AO= 2.08.
AFL:  0-0, 2.25, 12 IP, 5 BB, 11 K, GO/AO= 2.29.

Snelton's addition to the 40 man roster should get him some early looks in spring training with an outside chance of making the 25 man Opening Day Roster.  More likely, he'll head back to AAA and be ready for a callup when needed.

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Tyler Herb was acquired from the Mariners organization midseason for cash, but he was really the PTBNL in the Chris Heston trade.  Herb is another strong groundball pitcher who put up interesting AA numbers both before and after the trade.

AA(Mariners):  6-4, 3.31, 98 IP, 30 BB, 88 K, GO/AO= 1.97.
AA(Giants):  2-3, 2.76, 65.1 IP, 18 BB, 48 K, GO/AO= 1.92.

Herb's ceiling is probably a backend MLB SP or a long reliever, but has a strong chance of reaching that.  I consider him a sleeper in the system.

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These 4 prospects now have 3 Option Years in which they can be sent down to the minors at any time without being exposed to waivers which extends their development time within the Giants organization.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Hot Stove Update: Trader Jerry Strikes Again!

Just a few days after saying he wasn't going to "go crazy" with trades this winter, "Trader Jerry" DiPoto, GM of the Seattle Mariners completed 2 more trades for 3 in 4 days.  As I reported in a prior Hot Stove Update, DiPoto kicked the Hot Stove League off by sending a pretty good reliever and a DSL SS to the A's for 3B/1B/DH Ryon Healy.  His second trade was to send hard throwing RHP Thyago Viera to the White Sox for $500 M in International Bonus Pool money.

Viera pitched last season in AA and AAA compiling a combined pitching line of 2-4, 4.00, 54 IP, 22 BB, 46 K's.  That line isn't so impressive, but Viera's FB has been clocked in the triple digits.  After the trade, there was speculation that DiPoto is trying to build a war chest to make a bid for Shohei Otani.  There may have been 40 man roster considerations here too.

Trader Jerry then turned around and acquired RHP Nick Rumbelow from the Yankees for 2 lower level minor league pitchers, JP Sears and Juan Then.  Rumbelow is 26 years old, 6'0", 190 lbs.  He has something like 15 innings of MLB experience to his credit, all in 2015.  He missed most of 2016 after undergoing TJ surgery.  His AAA line for 2017 was 5-1, 0.62, 29 IP, 8 BB, 30 K.  The Yankees have a 40 man roster crunch coming into tomorrow's deadline for protecting players from the Rule 5 Draft, and needed to trade Rumbelow or lose him for nothing.

JP Sears is an undersized LHP drafted in Round 11 in the 2017 draft.  He goes 5'11", 180 lbs.  He put up a line of 1-2, 0.65, 272. IP, 12 BB's and 51 K's over 2 levels after signing.  Then is a 6'1", 155 lbs. 18. yo RHP from the DSL whose 2917 line was 2-2, 2.64, 61.1 IP, 15 BB, 56 K's.  The Yankees were able to take a player they were going to lose anyway and turn him into 2 intriguing lottery tickets.  Nice trade for the Yanks.

I thought the Healy trade was OK from the Mariner's standpoint but Trader Jerry seems to be spinning his wheels a bit on these last 2, unless he lands Otani.  Then he gets the last laugh.

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We may see a few more of these kinds of trades today as the deadline for setting the 40 man roster looms.

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Bobby Evans all but confirmed that the Giants had at least inquired about a trade for Giancarlo Stanton.  His comment was that he did not think the Marlins would have fielded the offer at all if they did not at least think it was a possibility they would trade the slugger.  Evans left the impression that interest from the Marlins end is still a bit vague and they indicated they would only approach Stanton about waiving his no-trade clause after talks had progressed to a final offer.  I would add that the Giants would not be kicking the tires on Stanton if they did not think they could figure out a way to absorb his hefty salary.  MLBTR is reporting that the Cardinals have also made an offer for Stanton.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Armchair GM: Giancarlo Stanton May Be Less Expensive Than He Seems

Ken Rosenthal seems to think the Giants have actually submitted a trade offer to the Miami Marlins for Giancarlo Stanton.  He give no hints of any names involved except to say that the Giants are willing to take on a "sizable portion" of Giancarlo's contract which will certainly put them well over the Competitive Balance Tax(CBT) threshold.  This may be alleviated by trading 1 or more high priced current Giants players, possibly in the same deal with Stanton.

Now, notice in that discussion the Giants don't seem to be nearly as worried about what they have to pay Giancarlo was they are how much of a penalty they will have to pay for going over the CBT threshold.  Here's where Stanton's contract gives them some help.  Many analysts, including Grant Brisbee of MCC, seem to think Stanton's contract is for 10 years/$295 M and thus has an AAV which counts against the CBT of $29.5/season.  It doesn't.  The 10 years/$295 M is how much he has left on the contract, but the contract as originally signed was for 13 years/$325 M for an AAV of $25 M.  Unless they change the rules of how the CBT is calculated, even in the years he is scheduled to be paid $32 M, the CBT hit is still just $25 M.

Now, Rosenthal did not say the Giants would take on all of Stanton's contract, just a "sizable portion."  Let's say the Marlins agree to pay $50 M of Stanton's $295 M contract or $5 M per season X 10 years.  That reduces the Giants portion of the CBT hit to $20 M.  Now, let's say the Marlins also take Denard Span and the remainder of his contract exchanging short term salary for much larger long term salary relief.  The Giants are about $10 M under the CBT threshold and removing Span's contract would put them $20 M under before adding Stanton's now $20 M hit.  Voila!  The Giants have Giancarlo Stanton and are right at the CBT threshold.  See, he is affordable after all!

Of course this scenario would still leave the Giants some holes to fill, and in at least one case, backup catcher, they don't have any viable internal options, so they would still need to find additional salary relief.  I doubt the Marlins would take both Span and Pence, but that would be sweet if they did.  Unfortunately Pence has a no-trade clause and would have no reason to accept a trade to the Marlins so that's all but out as a consideration.  More likely the Giants would have to trade a Joe Panik or Brandon Belt or even Johnny Cueto or Jeff Samardzija to clear more CBT cap space but there are probably trade options available for all of those players.  I mean, once Eric Hosmer signs, Brandon Belt may seem like a cheap alternative even with the concussion history!

Of course, the Giants also have to think about extending Madison Bumgarner's contract in the next 2 years, but I'm already on record that they need to be listening to offers of MLB ready prospect packages for Bummy sooner rather than later.

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Then we have the question of whether Giancarlo will provide value for the cost of his contract.  For this, we'll use the actual money he is going to be paid.  We will also use the entirety of the contract as we all know it is likely to be underwater by the time it is completed.  As we all know, Giancarlo has been injured a few times.  His fWAR in a 8 year career has ranged from 1.9-6.9 with an average right at 4.  Apparently the current value of 1 fWAR is $9 M so in an average season, he's been worth $36 M.  The 6.9 came last year for a value of a whopping $62 M.

Eno Sarris of Fangraphs posted a  couple of theoretical decay curves to show there is a good chance he will provide that value.  One optimistic, yet reasonable, curve has him starting at his projected fWAR for 2018 at 5.4 and maintaining that for 3 years, then declining on a typical aging curve over the remaining 7 years.  His total WAR value for the life of that scenario would be over $400 M.  In a less optimistic scenario, you start at 5.4 and start the decline immediately.  You still get to $293 M over the course of the contract.

Of course, he could suffer an injury in the first season that accelerates the decline and the contract ends up a bust, but that is not the most likely scenario.

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Market cost of Wins is just one way for a blind man to look at the elephant of MLB contracts.  Another way is to ask whether he will bring in at least $295 M more to the Giants over the next 10 years.  This one is impossible to know for the average fan like me.  We do know that the Giants hate empty seats in the stadium and their business model depends on fielding a competitive team, or at least an interesting team to put butts in those seats.  Last year, the Giants weren't just a bad team.  They were a boring team.  By the end of the season, we were seeing an awful lot of green space in the stands at most games.  In addition, the Giants are part owners of the TV channel that carries their games on cable/satellite TV.  That revenue stream depends on advertisers and advertisers depend on viewers and the numbers are enormous.  Then there is merchandising, and surrounding developments which depend on the foot traffic the games bring to the area.  All told, it is likely that Giancarlo would bring in more money to the Giants than he would cost.

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What about the players traded to the Marlins in a Giancarlo Stanton trade?  Unfortunately, the one name that seems to have leaked out is Heliot Ramos.  There is one and only one player in the Giants farm system I consider untouchable, and that is Heliot Ramos. I will be crushed if the Giants trade him for anything, even Giancarlo Stanton.  They could trade the entire rest of the farm system and I would not be unhappy, but please not Heliot Ramos!  Now, I freely admit that is more of an emotional reaction than a rational one, but I am irrationally exuberant about Heliot Ramos' future.  Given his last name and where he comes from, though, it makes perfect sense why Ramos is the one player the Marlins would covet the most and not just from a future performance standpoint.

From a rational viewpoint, it will be at least 4 years before Heliot Ramos appears in a MLB uniform in a regular season game and the chances of him ever having as valuable MLB career as Stanton is likely to have over the next 10 years is very small to the point of approaching zero.  So, Heliot Ramos should not be the deal breaker in the Giants quest for Giancarlo Stanton.  If the Giants have a real chance to acquire a player of his caliber, the only question they need to answer before pulling the trigger on the trade is whether they can afford to pay him for the next 10 years. The answer to that question is probably yes.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Thoughts on What Went Wrong: It Wasn't Injuries!

Fangraphs posted stats yesterday of how many DL Trips and Days Lost for each team in 2017.  In discussions regarding what the Giants need to do this offseason, we've had a vocal contingent saying the biggest problem last year was injuries.  If the Giants just keep the gang together and they stay healthy, voila!  They're contenders again!  Bruce Bochy has made several comments this offseason blaming much of the Giants 2017 problems on a succession of injuries.  Now, maybe the Giants injuries just happened to the wrong people at the wrong times and therefore had more impact than other teams' injuries, but by sheer numbers, it wasn't the injuries!

The average number of days lost to injuries last year in MLB was 1061.  The median was 1035.  The Giants lost 1001 days to injuries, just a bit below both the average and median.

Conclusion:  The Giants poor record in 2017 was most likely not due to injuries.

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Were the Giants unlucky in 2017?  Well, yes they were.  If you remember, when we did our midseason series on What Went Wrong, we pointed out the unusually low hitting BABIP for the Giants coupled with an unusually high pitching BABIP.  Those numbers improved in the second half without an improvement in W-L, but overall, the Giants were at least moderately unlucky on BIPs.  The Giants final hitting BABIP was .294 against an MLB median of .303.  Their pitching BABIP was .308 against a MLB median of .298.  It wasn't all luck as their horrendous OF defense contributed to the high pitching BABIP and explains why they are so intent on acquiring a top defensive CF.  But their record should be significantly better with league average BABIP's on both sides of the ball.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Hot Stove Update: A's Trade Ryon Healy

While rumors swirled around the Giants at the GM meetings, the two biggest trade addicts in MLB, Jerry Dipoto and Billy Beane, pulled off another one with young slugger Ryon Healy going to the Mariners for Reliever Emilio Pagan and a 17 yo SS prospect, Alexander Campos.

Healy was kind of blocked in Oakland despite a strong start to his MLB career as the Matts, Chapman and Olson had moved ahead of him at 3B and 1B respectively and the A's want to move Khris Davis to DH taking that option away from Healy.  Healy is a much better fielder at 1B than 3B and the Mariners badly needed an offensive upgrade at the position which they get in Healy.

I had never heard of Pagan before, but he put up tremendous numbers as a reliever last year with a 3.22 ERA in 50.1 IP, but with a K/BB of 10.01/1.97.  Wow!  That is good enough that he will probably compete for the Closer role in Oakland.  He is big and strong at 6'3", 210 lbs so he could also become a multi-inning reliever.

Campos is a defensive whiz at SS with some upside in his bat, basically a lottery pick throw-in on the deal.

Win-Win.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Fantasy Focus: Impact Rookies- Victor Robles

Victor Robles is an elite OF prospect for the Washington Nationals.  He is the one they have refused to trade.  He's a 5-tool athlete with strong hit tool.  B-R, T-R.  6'1", 185 lbs.  He started last season in High A ball got a late season promotion to AA and a September callup to the majors.  Here are his numbers from 2017:

A+:  .289/.377/.495, 25 2B, 7 3B, 7 HR, 16 SB, 338 PA.
AA:  .324/.394/.489, 12 2B, 3B, 13 HR, 11 SB, 158 PA.
MLB:  .250/.308/.452, 2B, 2 3B, 27 PA.

Robles will most likely start 2017 in AAA, unless the Nationals trade Michael Taylor to, say, the Giants in which case Robles could play CF.  More likely the Nats will challenge him to force the issue by dominating AAA.  He's a definite future perennial 20/20 player with a chance to have a few 30/30 seasons.