Wednesday, November 18, 2015

What will David Ortiz's Last Season Look Like?

The big news in New England today is that David Ortiz will be retiring after the 2016 season.

Ortiz will retire as the most beloved Sox slugger since Yaz hung up his cleats after the 1983 season. But if the first thought in Boston's fan is to be sad about his retirement, the second one is most likely "What kind of season will Papi have in 2016?"

Ortiz turns 40 today (Happy Birthday, Papi!). Not too many players have a career that goes into their 40s and stay productive when they get there. His last three seasons have been remarkably consistent, all with 30+ home runs, 100+ RBI and 500+ AB. He has stayed healthy and has contributed. But 40...things change when you hit 40.

Baseball Reference has this projection for Ortiz in 2016:

567 Plate Appearances | 130 H | 30 2B | 30 HR | 91 RBI | .863 OPS

That would represent his lowest OPS since 2009 and the first time he went under 600 plate appearances in a 100+ game season since 2008. That said, it would still be a pretty remarkable season for a hitter in his 40s. In fact, you could argue that it would be the best season ever for a 40+ hitter with 500 or more homers not named Ted Williams. Which either speaks to Ortiz's longevity or Baseball Reference being too optimistic.

If those stats held, here would be Ortiz's final career numbers:

10032 Plate Appearances | 2433 H | 614 2B | 533 HR | 1732 RBI

And for his career, here is where he would place all-time:

Plate Appearances: 82nd

Hits: 117th

Doubles: 11th

Home Runs: 19th

RBI: 21st (tied with Honus Wagner)

It is also worth noting that Ortiz would be one of only three players in MLB history to retire with 500+ HR, 600+ 2B and 1600+ RBI. The other two players are Barry Bonds and Hank Aaron. Which I think will make for some very interesting and volatile HOF arguments once Ortiz retires.

My gut says that BR is being slightly optimistic. The past couple of seasons Ortiz has started cold and needed a scorching second half of a season to get his numbers up. Can he do that again at age 40? I think it will be a little harder to do. But I do think he will still reach 600+ doubles. So get those HOF arguments ready.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Kimbrel Deal Shows Dombrowski Means Business

It was just yesterday morning when I posted a piece talking about whom the Sox were most likely to move in any deal. Two of the three names in the minor league system were Manuel Margot and Javier Guerra.

Less than twelve hours after that, the Sox included Margot and Guerra in a four-player swap for Padres closer Craig Kimbrel. Also included in the deal were lefty Logan Allen and infielder Carlos Asuaje.

There is no sugar-coating that the Sox paid a heavy price for Kimbrel. Margot, Guerra and Allen were all top-20 prospects in the Boston system, Margot and Guerra top-10. But Dombrowski made clear that there were no sacred cows in the minor-league system. He drafted none of these kids, which makes him quite capable of moving them on for what he sees as a good deal.

And you can't argue against Kimbrel being a great pickup. Only 27 years of age, he already has 225 saves. A four-time All-Star and former Rookie of the Year, he led the NL in saves four out of his five seasons and is a two-time Sporting News Pitcher of the Year. His fastball velocity has remained constant or improved his entire career. He is also under Boston's control for the next three years. Most importantly, he instantly improves a bullpen in Boston that was a disaster last year.

But I'd be lying if I said that moving some of these guys doesn't hurt. Margot especially; I watched him in Portland and you can tell he is going to be a good big leaguer. But the old saw that "You have to give talent to get talent" exists for a reason; because it's true.

Now, was it too high of a price? That depends on who you ask. Some people think it barely hurts at all. Others feel the pain is a little more palpable. Which I think reflects how Boston fans have viewed their minor-league system over recent years.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Who Will the Red Sox Trade This Off-Season?

So the 2015 season is over and all eyes in Boston turn to one man: Dave Dombrowski. The man who is known for wheeling and dealing will undoubtedly continue that tradition as the top man in Fenway Park. Heaven knows enough stories have been written about it over the past few weeks.

But whom exactly could Dombrowski be open to trading? Which young talent will be going out the door to fill a need? Or could it be a more established player? Let's look broadly at the major league level and then at the minors. We won't look at every single player; just the bigger names that could or couldn't be moving this off-season.

Major League Roster

Going Nowhere

Xander Bogaerts

Mookie Betts

David Ortiz

Dustin Pedroia

Rusney Castillo

Hanley Ramirez

Eduardo Rodriguez

Rick Porcello

Bogaerts and Betts are going nowhere. That is as close to a sure thing as you will find in your life.* David Ortiz is the heart and soul of this team and it would be career suicide for Dombrowski to cut him loose as one of his first acts, even if an argument could be made for it. Pedroia could be interesting trade bait but he is too popular and is a 10/5 guy this year. Castillo has shown flashes of the talent that brought him here which makes you want to see if he can build on that in 2016. Also, his $11M a year deal makes him a little hard to move. Hanley Ramirez is on this list because his contract is too big, almost as big as the disappointment we all felt watching him play last year. To move Ramirez would require Boston eating almost all of his contract AND finding a team stupid enough to take him in. Getting both of those things done is very unlikely.

E-Rod is going nowhere; he is the best arm Boston has in the majors right now. Porcello is going nowhere because he has the same combination of cost and poor performance that makes Ramirez unmovable. Although Porcello's performance at the end of the year was encouraging.

Unlikely to Move

Wade Miley

Pablo Sandoval

Jackie Bradley, Jr.

Blake Swihart

Brock Holt

Wade Miley was exactly the pitcher Boston thought they would be getting; an innings-eater who keeps you in games. You need guys like Miley in the back of your rotation and with an affordable two years left on his deal, Boston will want to hold on to him unless their off-season dealings leave them with no room for Miley.

Sandoval performed poorly and has a big contract. But he didn't play as poorly as Ramirez and is paid less. He is also younger and there is a legitimate chance that Sandoval will play better in 2016. He is also a very likable player and that gives Sandoval some value. It is unlikely that Boston will be able to move him but a team looking for a third base presence that is marketable (like San Diego) may be at least willing to talk.

I want to go on record as saying that I really hope that Boston keeps Bradley. He showed what he is capable of in the last two months of the season. His batting improved and he is already one of the best outfielders defensively in the game today. But those same two things, along with his age, make him an asset. In the end I think they don't trade him because Boston's outfield is so dynamic with him in it. But you cannot ignore what he gives Boston in trade value.

Swihart is in the same boat as Bradley. He came on strong, showed his talent and value and is young. The difference here is that Christian Vazquez, who would have been the 2015 starter before Tommy John surgery, will likely start in Pawtucket to make sure his arm is 100%. That should ensure Swihart begins the season in Boston. But if/when Vazquez returns to Fenway, some decisions will have to be made.

Brock Holt is a super-sub and a newly-minted All-Star. That gives him value, both as a player and an asset. He is so good at what he does I can't see Boston moving him on but he could be a piece of a lucrative deal.

Don't Get Comfortable

Travis Shaw

Deven Marerro

Clay Buchholz

Joe Kelly

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Yankees: Heroes and Zeros

I did this earlier for the Red Sox. In that case, it was about finding the bright spots in a season that resulted in yet-another last place finish. In this case, with the Yankees, it's more about digging for the disappointments.

Make no mistake; this Yankee team over-performed relative to just about everybody's expectations. There were plenty of die-hard Yankee fans who looked at this team and thought third place would be doing well. But on the back of their most devastating late-game pitching duo since the late 90s and some productive years from aging veterans, the Yankees made it into the wild-card playoff game. And that is after leading the AL East for the majority of the season. All stats are courtesy of Fangraphs.


Didi Gregorius

Projected: 495 Plate Appearances | 132 H | 9 HR | 48 RBI | 35 BB | 95 K | .251 BA | .307 OBP | .369 SLG | .676 OPS | 1.8 WAR

Actual: 578 Plate Appearances | 139 H | 9 HR | 56 RBI | 33 BB | 85 K | .265 BA | .318 OBP | .370 SLG | .688 OPS | 3.1 WAR

Mark Teixeira

Projected: 377 Plate Appearances | 77 H | 17 HR | 65 RBI | 41 BB | 73 K | .236 BA | .326 OBP | .433 SLG | .759 OPS | 1.5 WAR

Actual: 462 Plate Appearances | 100 H | 31 HR | 79 RBI | 59 BB | 85 K | .255 BA | .357 OBP | .548 SLG | .906 OPS | 2.9 WAR

Alex Rodriguez

Projected: 407 Plate Appearances | 82 H | 15 HR | 57 RBI | 40 BB | 99 K | .229 BA | .312 OBP | .399 SLG | .711 OPS | 1.3 WAR

Actual: 620 Plate Appearances | 131 H | 33 HR | 86 RBI | 84 BB | 145 K | .250 BA | .356 OBP | .486 SLG | .842 OPS | 2.7 WAR

Dellin Betances

Projected: 4-1 | 2.39 ERA | 66 Game Appearances | 82.7 IP | 116 K | 33 W | 1.10 WHIP | 1.5 WAR

Actual: 6-4 | 1.50 ERA | 74 Game Appearances | 84.0 IP | 131 K | 40 W | 1.01 WHIP | 2.4 WAR

Andrew Miller

Projected: 5-2 | 2.59 ERA | 58 Game Appearances | 48.7 IP | 76 K | 21 W | 1.11 WHIP | 0.7 WAR

Actual: 3-2 | 1.90 ERA | 60 Game Appearances | 61.2 IP | 100 K | 20 W | 0.86 WHIP | 36 SV | 2.0 WAR

Nathan Eovaldi

Projected: 8-9 | 4.51 ERA | 28 Games Started | 159.7 IP | 121 K | 48 W | 1.37 WHIP | 1.6 WAR

Actual: 14-3 | 4.20 ERA | 27 Game Started | 154.1 IP | 121 K | 49 W | 1.45 WHIP | 3.2 WAR

As big a surprise as A-Rod was this year, I was blown away by what Didi Gregorius did for the Yankees. Viewed as placefiller for the retired Jeter, nobody was expecting much from Didi. The idea was his glove would be a little better but his bat would be worse. It would, in essence, be a wash.

So here's a stat to tell you what actually happened: Didi's 3.1 WAR is the highest for a Yankee starting shortstop since 2009. He performed so far above and beyond expectations that he is, to me, the MVP of the team. He is only 25 years old and all he cost the Yankees in trade is Shane Greene. Without a doubt, this is one of Brian Cashman's best deals in his career.

At the other end of the "unexpected production" scale are Teixeira and A-Rod. Both aging veterans, both with declining numbers, one injury-prone and the other coming off a year-long suspension...the expectation was that they would be average at best, being paid way too much for their production.

And while they may still be overpaid, they also both pretty much doubled their expected WAR. Even playing only 111 games, Teixeira gave the Yankees a year's worth of production. And Rodriguez may have unintentionally shown all of baseball that giving an aging superstar a year off to rest could be beneficial. All his PED baggage aside, he was solid this year and is one of the big reasons the Yankees even had a chance to make it into the ALDS.

But the main reason the Yankees made it that far was their 1-2 pitching punch at the end of the game. Betances and Miller reminded me a lot of the '96 Yankees with Mariano Rivera setting up John Wetteland. If the Yankees carried a lead into the eighth inning, or were even tied or just a run behind, they knew they had a good chance of winning with Betances and Miller pitching. That kind of support on the mound makes a good team better. And while they faded late in the season, there is no reason to doubt if they can do it again next year.