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.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Armchair GM: Should the Giants Trade Madison Bumgarner?

The GM meetings got underway yesterday.  In interviews since the postseason press conference, both Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans seem to be sounding more urgent and more willing to do something that would massively shake up the roster.  On the Giants own website, Evans was quoted as saying that while they are not shopping Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner or Brandon Crawford, they are willing to consider strong offers.  It is not a stretch to think that Brian Sabean may see parallels between the 1996 Giants and the 2017 Giants and be itching to pull off another Matt Williams type trade.

There are several reasons why, out of those three players, Madison Bumgarner may be the most likely to be traded.  The biggest reason why is also the reason why on the surface he seems to be the player the Giants would least want to trade.  He's a #1 SP that comes with a #4 SP price for the next 2 years, which is a lifetime in MLB.  In short, he is the one player the Giants could reasonably expect to get a massive return of elite young players for.  By contrast, while Posey and Crawford have trade value, the return would be limited by the large contracts they already have.

So we have one big reason why Bumgarner might be trade bait.  Are there others?  The Giants just exercised a very team-friendly option for 2018 and have another one for 2019.  Beyond that, they have to either extend his contract, which will undoubtedly be large and long, or they risk losing him to free agency after 2019.  Do the Giants want to extend Madison Bumgarner with the kind of contract it would take to get him to sign the papers?  He's still relatively young for a veteran pitcher, but he has a whole lot of miles on the arm.  The Giants track record with those kinds of contracts is downright terrible.  Barry Zito and Matt Cain are exhibits A and B.  They dodged a bullet with Tim Lincecum.  Johnny Cueto's contract is already looking iffy at best.  Let's take a look at Bumgarner's average FB velocities over the last few years(from Fangraphs):  2013- 92.5, 2014- 92.8, 2015- 93.0, 2016- 91.7, 2017- 91.3.  See a trend there?  Madison Bumgarner may be already 2 years past the peak of his career, at least in terms of his physical abilities.

Then there is the dirt bike incident.  Players that do things on or off the field that the Giants do not like don't tend to stick around long.  Remember Jeff Kent and the truck washing caper?  Melky Cabrera?  AJ Pierzynski?  There was some happy talk after Bummy's incident because they did not want to PO the big guy, but I wouldn't be shocked if there is some residual resentment from the front office.

So, in summary, here are the reasons why the Giants might be willing to pull the trigger on a Bumgarner trade:

1.  He'd bring the biggest return
2.  They might not want to give another mega contract to a pitcher with a ton of mileage on his arm.
3.  The Dirt Bike Incident.

The reasons why they might not want to trade him are fairly obvious, I think.

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With that in mind, I set out to find a deal that might work for the Giants.  The deal has to be to a contending team that thinks Bumgarner can substantially increase their chances of winning the Commissioner's Trophy in the next 2 years.  It also has to be a team that is loaded with MLB ready prospects or young players with MLB experience they have backup plans for.  A second criteria is the Giants have to get young MLB ready pitching as part of the return package.  Teams I looked were the Yankees, Red Sox, Astros, Brewers, Cubs and Cardinals.   The Red Sox, Astros and Brewers have strong farm systems, but are light on MLB ready pitching.  The Yankees and Cardinals seem to be the best fit.  Bumgarner would be a tremendous addition to both teams and both teams have room to give a solid return.

Specific criteria for the return would be 1.  At least 4 good young players.  2. Need to fill specific holes at OF in 3B.  3.  Bring back at least 1 solid MLB ready pitcher.  Here are the two potential trades I came up with:

1.  Giants send Madison Bumgarner to the Yankees for IF Gleyber Torres, OF Clint Frazier, RHP Chad Green, RHP Chance Adams.

Torres can step right in at 3B as soon as he is fully recovered from TJ surgery on his left(non-throwing) arm.  Frazier is an MLB ready CF with both speed and power.  Green is a beast of a reliever who can go multiple innings per appearance and might even be able to start.  Chance Adams is a decent SP prospect.  Torres also opens up the possibility of a Brandon Crawford trade if the Giants were to get a good offer for him.

2.  Giants send Madison Bumgarner to the Cardinals for RHP Luke Weaver, RHP Sandy Alcantara, IF Aledmys Diaz and OF Harrison Bader.  Weaver can step into the rotation, Diaz can plug in at 3B, Bader can play CF immediately and Alcantara is a high ceiling arm.  Giants could also ask for Alex Reyes instead of Weaver, but I was not sure if they would want to take the chance on him before seeing how he performs after TJ surgery.  They could also ask for Jack Flaherty instead of Alcantara.

Personally, I like the Yankees deal better.  Is it enough for Madison Bumgarner?

Monday, November 13, 2017

Hot Stove Update: Could These Trades Happen?

Joel Sherman who is a knowledgeable baseball writer who is no stranger to breaking big stories, wrote a speculative piece for the New York Post of trades he thinks the Mets, Yankees and Marlins could make this week at the GM meetings.  And why do I or you care about trades the Mets, Yankees or Marlins could make?  Well, because 2 of them involve the Giants.  Here goes with my comments:

Trade 1:  Giants trade Joe Panik to the Yankees for 2B/SS Starlin Castro, RHP Luis Cessa and 1B Tyler Austin.  This may actually be a good trade for both sides.  Panik is a native New Yorker and a Yankee fan.  His left-handed swing is tailor made for Yankee Stadium.  Heck, he might hit 30 HR's there!  He's a better fielder than Castro.  The Giants would get an immediate replacement for Panik who is almost as good.  They also get a hard throwing RHP with significant upside who can both start and relieve.  Austin is a power hitter throw in.   I'm in!  I'll add that part of the Yankees motivation is they have way too many MLB caliber players to fit on their 40 man roster so have to trade them before the Winter Meetings or risk getting nothing in return for them.

Trade 2:  A 3-way trade that sends Johnny Cueto to the Cubs, Stanton to the Giants and Christian Arroyo, Seth Corry, Ian Happ and Ben Zobrist to the Marlins.  Zobrist is salary relief to lessen the net cost of Cueto.  I know everybody wants to find a place for Stanton and the Giants seem like a perfect fit, but if the Cubs really want Johnny Cueto bad enough to give up Ian Happ and with Zobrist as the salary dump, why not cut out the middleman, avoid the huge risk of Stanton's contract and simply trade Cueto to the Cubs for Happ and Zobrist?  Happ is a plus defensive CF with tremendous hitting potential.  Zobrist can be the everyday 3B until Christian Arroyo is ready, then go back to being a utility guy.

These 2 trades(my version) would fill the Giants needs in CF, 3B, and partially address pitching.  They could then use the money saved to sign Tyler Chatwood, who I think would be terrific pitching half his game in AT&T Park.

Could these trades happen? Would you want them to?

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Scouting the 2018 Draft: Greyson Jenista

Greyson Jenista, 1B/OF, College(Wichita State).  B-L, T-R.  6'4", 210 lbs.

2016:  .326/.431/.471, 8 2B, 3B, 5 HR, 2 SB, 31 BB, 27 K, 172 AB.
2017:  .320/.413/.509, 14 2B, 3B, 9 HR, 6 SB, 32 BB, 46 K, 228 AB.
2017 CCL:  .310, 4 2B, 3 HR, 9 SB, 142 AB.

Jenista is a big, but athletic 1B/OF from Wichita St who hasn't completed tapped into his power yet.  He was named MVP of the Cape Cod League.   He has worked on his speed and felt confident enough in it to ask to play CF in the CCL. They let him play RF and he reportedly did better than OK defensively out there.  On video, he reminds me a bit of Anthony Rizzo.  If he can really play corner OF at the MLB level, then his value goes way up.  I don't like his swing as much as Seth Beer's, but I don't hate it either.

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Dr B's 2018 Draft Board:

1.  Seth Beer, 1B/OF, College(Clemson).
2.  Jarred Kelenic, OF, HS.
3.  Nander De Sedas, SS, HS.
4.  Kumar Rocker, RHP, HS.
5.  Ethan Hankins, RHP, HS.
6.  Brady Singer, RHP, College(Florida).
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7.  Matthew Liberatore, LHP, HS.
8.  Greyson Jenista, OF/1B, College(Wichita St).
9.  Casey Mize, RHP, College(Auburn).
10.  Nick Madrigal, 2B, College(Oregon St).
11.  Shane McClanahan, LHP, College(Univ. of South Florida).
12.  Brice Turang, SS, HS.