Dec 302011
 

Oliver headed to Canada, need to fill the void...

Darren Oliver is headed to Toronto on a one-year contract with a club option for 2013.  The 41 year-old left-handed specialist spent the last two seasons with the Rangers, where he served as a productive late-innings reliever.  In 2011, Oliver was 5-5, with a 2.29 ERA, 44K’s and 11BB’s over 51 innings of work (4.0 K/BB, 7.8 K/9, 1.137 WHIP).

The thought was that Oliver would be back with the Rangers in 2012, with many sources citing that his residency in the DFW area would lead to only two options – Rangers or retirement.

It appears this isn’t the case, as Oliver prepares for his 11th stop in this career, heading to Toronto.  The Blue Jays will be his 9th different team in his career.

TEX – STL – TEX – BOS – COL – FLA – HOU – NYM – LAA – TEX – and now TOR

He’ll be missed as he played a vital role in the way Ron Washington and Mike Maddux game-planned late in close games.

Any potential trade opportunities or free-agents out there to fill the role left by Oliver’s departure?

The first option would be re-signing Mike Gonzalez (age 33).  It has been rumored that he wants to be back in Texas in 2012, and the Rangers have met with his agent, Scott Boras – remember, it was all about Gonzalez and Prince Fielder was never discussed…

While his overall line doesn’t look as good as Oliver’s, keep in mind he is 8 years younger and when you look at their splits side-by-side, you could argue that Gonzalez was a little better than Oliver solely against left-handed hitters.  So, if we can get Gonzalez signed, that should fill the void adequately.

If Gonzalez signs elsewhere, and the trade market becomes the best viable options, Matt Thornton of the Chicago White Sox seems like he could be a likely trade target for Daniels & Co.  Thornton (35 years-old) was rumored to be on the trading block during late-November, but there hasn’t been much out there about him lately.

What kind of package would Chicago demand for Thornton?  It’s hard to say, but he would clearly call for less than what Oakland just netted for Bailey.  And, while he’s under contract for the next two season, he’s not cheap at $5.5M per (there is also a team option for a 3rd year at $6m).  He also seemed to take a small step in the wrong direction in terms of his statistical performance in 2011 (ERA up to 3.3 from ~2.7 the previous 3 seasons; WHIP up to 1.36 from ~1.03 the previous 3 seasons).  Could 2011 be the anomaly?  If he’s a Ranger in 2012-13, hopefully so.

We’ll see what the Rangers front office has in mind, but regardless of age, Oliver played an important role and that role will need to be filled.

 

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Dec 272011
 

Classic umpire abuse…

Yorvit Torrealba suspended 66 games in Venezueala for the incident (video below).

Torrealba had this to say:

“I wanted to express my sincere apologies to all parties for my actions during the Venezuelan Winter League game on Friday. I have extended an apology to the Rangers organization as well. I am embarrassed for my conduct and personally relayed that feeling to the umpire after that night’s game … On the field, I strive to be an example for children, especially those in my native Venezuela, and I regret my actions. I understand the reactions to the incident and will make every effort to set a positive example in the future.”

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Dec 222011
 

Ian vs Robinson vs Dustin : Death Match *not reallyAsk most American League baseball fans who the best 2nd baseman in the AL is and you will most likely hear one of three answers – Ian Kinsler, Robinson Cano, or Dustin Pedroia. While there can be a case made for a Ben Zobrist for our purposes, he sucks.  Join me as we compare and contrast.  You might be surprised what you find out.

  • Hitting for average : Dustin Pedroia leads the pack with a .307 average but not by much. Cano has a .302 average with Ian hitting a very modest .255. In a very straight forward category, ADVANTAGE : DUSTIN PEDROIA
  • Hitting for power : In the sexiest of all the statistical categories Ian Kinsler leads the group with 32 home runs, 11 more than Dustin Pedroia and 4 more than Robinson Cano.  When you add Robinson Cano’s 1st place SLG% for 2nd basemen at .533 and Ian a distant .477 = slight ADVANTAGE : ROBINSON CANO
  • Getting on base : That scrappy Dustin Pedroia once again comes out on top in this category. He led the three with a .387 OBP with Ian at .355 and Robby (I can call him that, we are friends) at .349 ADVANTAGE : DUSTIN PEDROIA
  • Defense : Defense has historically been a tough thing to quantify. However with the emergence of advance statistics and sabermetrics those people much smarter than me have figured it out. There is a stat called Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) which measures several things including range, arm strength, double play frequency, and errors compared to other players at the same position. The higher this number is, the better the defensive player.  This category came down to Ian vs Dustin as Robinson Cano was a terrible fielder and didn’t get into the conversation. Pedroia was at 19.4 and Ian 16.2.  ADVANTAGE : DUSTIN PEDROIA

Ian vs Robinson vs Dustin : Death Match *not really

I started this experiment with a firm belief that Ian Kinsler was the best overall 2nd baseman in the AL and was surprised to see the stats say otherwise. Dustin Pedroia is a former MVP and its easy to forget about him because he doesn’t have the flashyness that your typical superstar has but he deserves his due.

With that being said, I believe that Ian is just entering his prime and has so much more in him. I expect to see the gap close next year and eventually Ian taking his place at the top of the list of best 2nd baseman in baseball.

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Dec 212011
 

Its all about Yu...The Rangers made the bold move.

They went out and got the rights to negotiate with the guy they wanted.  Was this the plan all along?  Was this part of the reason why we didn’t really compete for signing C.J. Wilson, or why we didn’t make a stronger push for Mark Buerhle?  Jon Daniels will never answer that question, nor should he, but it’s what I’m going to believe.

The Bid

$51.7 million.  The amount is fully refundable if a deal can’t be worked out in the next 30 days, which is standard for most Christmas shopping.  While I’m dropping $17.49 on a Harry Potter body pillow for Jasen, Nolan and team ownership dropped a little more on the exclusive rights to negotiate a contract with Yu.

The consensus was that Toronto had the highest bid, but that was based on posturing and not fact.  Daniels played this game perfectly, never tipping his hand one way or the other.  Remember, it’s a blind bid, so each organization had no idea what the competition was.  Sorry Canada.

Its all about Yu...While this was being dubbed as a “record posting”, and it was, it was only slightly above the $51.1 million posted by Boston in November 2006 for the rights to negotiate with Dice-K.  If you assume a 2.25% annual inflation rate (average of annual inflation rates since 2006) over that period, Dice-K’s inflation adjusted posting would be around $57.1 million.  Was the Dice-K posting absurd?  While his inaugural season with the BoSox was good (not great), the general consensus is that he has not lived up to the hype, nor the financial outlay Boston made in order to get him.  So, lesson learned and it helps in understanding why the winning bid for Darvish was not closer to the inflation adjusted Dice-K bid or higher.

There is a lot of debate over how this money counts toward the Rangers bottom-line, and in effect, their ability to pursue other free agents (Prince!).  From a fan’s standpoint, it’s all monopoly money anyways.  In the end, this is money that, assuming a contract is agreed upon and therefore the posting money is gone, is being spent this year,  that could have been used on other players.  That being said, you do not consider this towards next year’s payroll.  It is truly a one-time fee that, in my mind, you recoup through increased revenues from all the Rangers Darvish jerseys that are sold in Japan in the coming year.  It’s simply the price of doing business.

The Contract

It’s been rumored that Yu’s agents are looking for a contact in excess of what C.J. Wilson just received from the Angels ($77.5M/5 Years = avg. $15.5M/year).  That seems a little steep for a player that hasn’t pitched the in the majors yet.  In 2007, Dice-K got a $52M/6 year contact ($8.7M/year), with a $2m signing bonus and a no-trade clause.  Darvish has more hoopla surrounding him and seems to have more upside than what Dice-K had, so I think somewhere between what Dice-K got in 2007 and what C.J. got earlier this month is a nice range.

We’ve heard guesses of everywhere from $55M/5 to $90M/6.  Again, somewhere in the middle seems fair.

Baseball do says $77.5M/6 years.

The Player

Per Wiki, Yu is also known by the Persian name Farid, meaning “glorious”.  You don’t really need to know anything more than that, but just in case your interested…

Yu is a 6’5″, 220 lb 25 year old (will turn 26 in August) right-hander that features up to 7 pitches, with his primary pitches being his four-seam fastball and his slurve, which if you have viewed the “Career Highlights”  YouTube video below, is the pitch that buckles knees with a wicked break.

He’s the best in Japan, and it was time for his transition, which is seems to be excited about.  Stats from his time with the Ham Fighters below:

Its all about Yu...

Its all about Yu...

What’s interesting to note is the league ERA compared to what Darvish accomplished, especially over the last 5 seasons.  He was clearly performing at a much higher level than his counterparts.

Last thing that I think we’d be remiss to not bring up.  Yu is currently going through a divorce from his current wife, Saeko (pictured left).

Saeko is an actress and model.

They were married in 2007, in what Japanese tabloids reported as a good old-fashioned shot-gun wedding.

While we here at Baseball Do don’t believe this will impact his performance whatsoever, we needed a reason to include the picture.

The Future

This was a bold move.  Assuming an agreement is reached with Darvish, it’s a move, that at this point, will be the largest label on Jon Daniel’s tenure as Ranger’s GM whether you like it or not.  For it to be deemed a successful move, Darvish will have to exceed what Dice-K has done in his career (especially since he will probably be more heavily compensated), and will have to become a true ace for the Rangers.  If he does not, the further he is away from these marks will determine what impact it will have on the legacy of JD & company.

Only time will tell.

Just know this…Baseball Do is behind Yu.  <–sorry, but you knew I was going to go there at some point, right?

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Dec 212011
 

Baseball Do Podcast Episode 43rd Base is up for discussion in our weekly off-season position roundup…yo Adrian (greatest pic from last year)!

Jasen and I spend some time talking about the Yu Darvish bid and the potential impact Darvish has on the Ranger’s rotation and bullpen.

And finally, Jasen and I rehash our traumatizing experiences with having to put beloved pets to sleep…forever.

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Dec 192011
 

The Calm Before The Storm

 

It’s been very quiet in Rangers country this last week. The entire baseball world is waiting with bated breath to find out who’s won the right to negotiate with Japanese pitching sensation Yu Darvish. While initial reports are that the Blue Jays of Toronto have made a “massive” $40m plus bid, those “in the know” feel like this is down to either your Texas Rangers or Toronto.

In the meantime the biggest free agent left on the market both literally and figuratively is Prince Fielder. Several teams are said to still be in the mix for the enormous first baseman and well-known shrimp cocktail lover. While many feel like the Rangers would also be in the mix for Fielder, their official response when asked has been tepid to say the least.

The most likely scenario for the Rangers would have them trading for another starter before the season starts. Several names have been thrown out there including John Danks, Gio Gonzalez and possibly Matt Garza.  The Rangers are in a great position to trade for a big name starter thanks to a talent rich farm system built by John Daniels and the Rangers scouting department.

Its quiet…too quiet.  Once the Yu decision comes down, expect the floodgates to open.

 

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Dec 132011
 

Baseball Do Podcast Episode 3It’s time to discuss 2nd base in our off-season position roundup…two words…trade bait??

Albert, C.J., Angels…screw’em…but we still have to talk about it.

And what about Yu? One of us thinks the Rangers will win the bid.

Check it out and chime in with your thoughts!

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Dec 132011
 

Extend the Ankle of Steel...OK, I know that none of us want to start talking about the 2011 World Series yet, but during Episode 1 of Baseball Do, Jasen and I talked about the catcher position in our off-season position round-up, and obviously Mike Napoli was a very large part of that discussion.  I hate the to include the picture, but it still makes me cringe on the inside every time I see it and thought it’d be nice to share that feeling.

In Episode 2 of Baseball Do, I asked Jasen to put himself in Jon Daniels’ shoes and restricted him to extending the contract of only one of the two – Josh Hamilton or Mike Napoli.  Jasen took Hamilton, and it’s almost impossible to argue with that, even though I went the other way.  But it’s crazy to think that it’s even that close.  Had I, at the beginning of 2011, told any of you that the question would even be valid, you would have broken my ankle off and beaten me with it (look at it).

It’s time to get an extension in place for Nap.  His short time here has been filled with big contributions and his 2011 performance exceeded all expectations.  His final line from the 2011 season is very impressive, especially when you consider the limited AB:

  • Total 2011 – .320/.416/.631 with 30 HR, 75 RBI in only 369 AB

But, what will Nap’s role be in 2012?  Similar to what we saw in 2011?  I can’t think that will be the case simply because he is too good to limit to 369 AB.  Extend that line above out over 550 AB, and you’re looking at 45 HR and 112 RBI.  There would be numerous arguments against my simple math approach here, but I think 40 HR and 100 RBI would have been attainable.  So, is he the full time catcher?  Looking at offensive splits in 2011 based on what position he played (or didn’t play in case of DH) makes it look like he should be:

  • As C – .364/.449/.694 with 19 HR and 43 RBI over 209 AB
  • As 1B – .265/.345/.551 with 7 HR and 20 RBI over 98 AB
  • AS DH – .263/.411/.561 with 4 HR and 12 RBI over 57 AB

The splits are too lopsided to ignore.  Clearly, he performs better at the plate when he is playing behind it defensively.

So, we’ve established that Nap needs to be full-time catcher with a target of 500-550 AB (600+ plate appearances) which is a reasonable level for a starting catcher.

Now, how much to pay and how long of a contract?  He’s 30 years old now (won’t be 31 until October ’12).  He debuted when he was 24 years old and played a limited role over his first 3-4 years with the Angels.  It’s reasonable to think Nap could serve as the full-time catcher for the next 4-5 years, after which he could transition to 1B or DH.  If the Rangers have a more than serviceable back-up (like Torrealba), which would allow for more breaks from the catching duties, I think it’s posssible that you extend his time behind the plate to 6 years.  All that said, I think it’s a 4 or 5 year deal with the Rangers that makes the most sense.

Based on his full body of work, last year could be viewed as a bit of an anomaly, but I tend to think 2011 Napoli is more likely than ’06-’10 Napoli.  I say this, because it’s very natural for catchers to take a few years to develop to full potential offensively, because of the demands defensively.  The power was always been there – it’s the BA and OBP that are the new toys under the tree.  Given this, a club option in the final year or even two years of his contract would make sense, in the off chance that he is really just a .250-.270 hitter with a sub .375 OBP.

Here is my proposal - 6 years/ $81M, with club options in the 5th and 6th years of the contract, structured as follows:

  • Year 1 – $12.0M
  • Year 2 – $12.5M
  • Year 3 – $13.0M
  • Year 4 – $14.0M
  • Year 5 – Club option at $14.5M
  • Year 6 – Club option at $15M

Hopefully, we’ll see something get done prior to the start of the 2012 season.

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