Be a GM: Miami Marlins – Part 3.5

Chad Qualls
Image From Miami Herald

Before the Trade Deadline

     In my previous post Be a GM: Miami Marlins – Part 3 – Trade Deadline, I examined trade opportunities for Marlins Outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, as well as reliever Chad Qualls.  The Marlins received interest from Stanton, and their crop of relievers, but were ultimately quiet at the deadline, as were many other clubs.

     In my previous post I said “For me, the Pirates would have to part with Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon at least”.  The general reaction was that this would be an awful deal for Pittsburgh, but I defended it by saying that it’s the type of deal it would take to deal Stanton while he still has 3 years under team control.  According to a report surfacing this morning on FishStripes, referencing an article on Marlin Maniac yesterday, the two young power arms were part of the deal.  However, this contradicts what Miami-Herald writer Clark Spencer reported at the July 31st trade deadline, so it’s still in the air.  The reported deal is as follows:

Pirates Get:
OF Giancarlo Stanton – 23 y.o. – MLB – .245/ .364/ .466, 13 HR, 34 RBI – 68 G (15.2 BB%, 25.6 K%)
RP Steve Cishek 27 y.o. – MLB – 23/25 SV/O, 3.08 ERA, 23.9 K%, 8.3 BB% – 49.2 IP
OF Justin Ruggiano – 31 y.o. – MLB – .200/ .278/ .365, 12 HR, 32 RBI – 86 G  (8.5 BB%, 24.3 K%)

Marlins Get:
SP Gerrit Cole – 22 y.o. – MLB – 5-5, 10 GS, 3.69 ERA, 17.6 K%, 5.7 BB% – 61.0 IP
OF Starling Marte – 24 y.o. – MLB – .279/ .335/ .442, 32 SB, 10 HR, 30 RBI – 108 G (4.0 BB%, 23.4 K%)
SP Jameson Taillon – 21 y.o. – AA/AAA – 4-8, 20 GS, 3.75 ERA, 22.2 K%, 7.8 BB% – 115.1 IP
1B Stetson Allie – 22 y.o. – A/A+ – .291/ .389/ .514, 19 HR, 75 RBI – 107 G (13.2 BB%, 29.2 K%)

Breakdown

Gerrit Cole

Gerrit Cole
Image from LA Times

     The Marlins would give up their star outfielder, and closer, who are both first-time arbitration eligible this off-season with multiple remaining years under team control, along with a reserve outfielder who isn’t arbitration eligible for another year.  In return, the Pirates offer their #1,2, and 4 prospects from 2012 according to Baseball America, with two of them in the Major Leagues this season, along with a minor league converted 1B, who was their #9 prospect as a pitcher in 2012.

     I was initially blown away by this offer when I saw the names that the Pirates were going to part with.  But then as I looked into them, I realized that I was victim to “being used to” Giancarlo Stanton.  His name isn’t as eye-popping as Cole, Taillon, and Marte because I see and hear about Stanton on a day-by-day basis.  This is something I’ll keep an eye out to not let affect me anymore.

     Cole, along with the Marlins’ Jose Fernandez, Mets’ Matt Harvey, Cardinals’ Shelby Miller, etc. is widely considered as one of the top rising pitchers in the game.  Once Taillon, who just made his first start since being called up to AAA, gets the call to the MLB, he will join this company.  Starling Marte is a highly regarded outfielder as well with plus speed and defense.  Stetson Allie was a two-way player in High School, and was drafted by the Pirates as a pitcher.  However, after struggling through parts of two years, he converted to 1B and is making his way up the system.  Cole and Marte are both not arbitration-eligible until after the 2015 season, with Cole making his debut this year (likely “Super Two”), and Marte at the end of last year.  Taillon and Allie both have yet to start their Major League Service clock.

Jameson Taillon

Jameson Taillon
Image from Bleacher Report

     Gerrit Cole has been effective through 10 starts in the majors, but his decline in K% is a concern.  He’s averaged 25% Strikeouts through 2012 in the minors.  This fell to 17.5% in AAA this year, and consistently leveled at 17.6% through his 10 major league starts.  There’s no way to know if this is a decline, or a fluctuation, but it’s not something that makes you feel ready to go all in for him.  Jameson Taillon has a career 21.9 K% in his minor league career.  Cole looks to have a slightly better outlook than Taillon, but both profile as top of the rotation starters.

     Marte hit for a high average in lower level minor league ball with average power.  He’s a speedy outfielder with a strong arm, although he has a consistently low walk rate, and a higher than ideal strikeout rate.  Stetson Allie was a highly touted two way athlete who converted to being a position player in 2012 due to major control issues on the mound.  Allie tore it up in A this year (.324/ .414/ .607) during 66 game, but has struggled to produce in 41 games of A+ ball (.238/ .348/ .364).

Marlins Outlook

Andrew HeaneyImage from MiLB.com

Andrew Heaney
Image from MiLB.com

     The Marlins would receive what would largely be referred to as a huge package in return for Stanton, Cishek, and Ruggiano.  However, the problem I had in dealing with the Pirates, is that they aren’t loaded with prospects in areas that the Marlins need.  The Marlins minor league system is loaded with Starting Pitching.  While Cole would fit into the current rotation right behind Jose Fernandez, him and Taillon add to the loackjam that already exists in the Marlins starting rotation 1-2 years down the road.  The Marlins would have in alphabetical order: Hederson Alvarez, Adam Conley, Gerrit Cole, Nate Eovaldi, Brian Flynn, Jose Fernandez, Andrew HeaneyJustin Nicolino, Jameson Taillon, and Jacob Turner.  Possibly also lower level prospects Anthony DeSclafani, Angel Sanchez, acquired in the Nolasco trade, and Jose Urena who are a little farther away.  But from the list ranging from Alvarez to Turner, how do you pick five guys from that?  Even so, is losing Stanton, Cishek, and Ruggiano worth the improvement from the #6-7 guys on the list to Cole and Taillon?  Also, with Alvarez, Eovaldi, Fernandez, and Turner already in the rotation, which one of them do you bump?  You already have four current guys on the list in the Marlins system battling for that last spot.  There’s an old adage that you can never have enough good pitching, but for what the Marlins are giving up on offense, the large majority of the return being pitching doesn’t make sense.

     Starling Marte is the next top prospect in this trade.  As an outfielder, he steps into a position where the Marlins are also loaded with talent.  Marcell Ozuna is a nice power bat who was recently sent down before undergoing season ending surgery, and the Marlins just called up their #1 and #2 prospects, outfielders Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick.  The Marlins have other lower level outfield prospects in their system, but this presents the same question as the pitching rotation.  Which of the three do you kick out for Marte?

Steve Cishek
Image from Miami Herald

     Stetson Allie is the lowest level prospect of the bunch, and he could very well become a great 1B, but it’s hard to put your future at the position in a guy who is a converted pitcher.  Also, the Marlins currently have Logan Morrison at 1B who has had a nice season since coming back from injury (.279/ .365/ .457).

     This also leaves an opening at the back of the Marlins bullpen.  Steve Cishek has been phenomenal as the Marlins closer this season, converting his last 18 saves in a row, dating back to June 8th.  In my opinion there’s a fine line between undervaluing and overvaluing closers.  Yes, they only pitch one inning, but consistency in the 9th inning is hard to come by.  The Marlins knew all about closer problems in 2012.  Speaking of Giancarlo Stanton.  For the time being, the front runners for the closer job would probably be Steve Ames, who the Marlins acquired in the Ricky Nolasco trade and has minor league closing experience, or AJ Ramos, who has a high K%, but also a high BB%.  Earlier in the season, he was almost guaranteed to give up a Home Run every appearance, but that trend has subsided.  Colby Suggs, who the Marlins drafted with their second competitive balance draft pick in this year’s draft, projects to be a major league closer as well.  Suggs is currently at A+ Jupiter.

Giancarlo Stanton
Image from ESPN

Decision

     The Pirates offered a huge return to the Marlins for Giancarlo Stanton.  Ignoring everything else, it’s a deal that I would most likely pull the trigger on.  However, this is not the right move for the Marlins.  The Marlins would add the level of prospects necessary to trade Stanton at this time, but not at the right positions.  Trading Giancarlo Stanton should leave you with no major holes left to fill, but by losing Steve Cishek and adding on in already rich places, the Marlins would actually be creating a hole in their bullpen while not patching up any other areas.  It’s hard to say no to Cole and Taillon, but this isn’t the right move for the franchise.

I agree with Marlins management in Declining this reported trade offer

     The Marlins want to negotiate a long-term deal with Stanton, and he would maintain the same trade value, if not more in the off-season.  The offers will keep rolling in for Stanton, and the Marlins will hold off until they receive one that provides them a comparable return to this trade, but in areas where they need improvement.  I would keep Stanton through the Off-Season unless contract negotiations get hostile and he has to be moved, but I’d like to think that won’t happen.  This trade featured huge names, but Marlins management ultimately made the right decision in holding on to Giancarlo.

EDIT: Turns out, as I feared, that this was a false rumor.  Well, it was fun while it lasted.

Advertisements

What Kind of A-Rod Will We See?

Alex Rodriguez

News Today

     The Yankees welcomed Third Baseman Alex Rodriguez in Chicago today to make his season debut against the White Sox.  A-Rod is expected to be in the lineup, returning to his original position for the club.  The other major event on Monday is Commissioner Bud Selig announcing the suspensions of 12 players for 50 games, and Rodriguez’s 211 game suspension, which takes effect  on Thursday, August 8th.  This has been appealed by A-Rod already as reported by the MLB Twitter account.   A-Rod will be on the active roster through the appeal process, and  should be able to play a few weeks before his status is ultimately decided on, so what can we expect to see from him on the field?

Click for Full-Size Image

Looking at his Performance

     Rodriguez played in 15 minor league rehab games to ease his return to the big leagues from off-season hip surgery. In those games, he hit .214 with a double, and 3 HR, while driving in 10 runs.  In this extremely small sample size of varying levels, it’s difficult to make any reasonable assessment.  However, we can look at a few peripheral statistics to try and gauge they type of A-Rod we’re going to see.  In his 51 minor league Plate Appearances, A-Rod struck out 13 times and walked 6.  This leads to a 25.5% K-Rate and an 11.8% BB-Rate.  The small sample size accounts for a large amount of error, but these numbers don’t appear to be too drastically apart from his usual self.  A-Rod’s career K-Rate is 18.2%, and it is 19% over the last 5 seasons.  As he’s aged, Rodriguez’s strikeout numbers have marginally increased, and seems to be following that trend.  He walked 10.9% of the time over his career, and 11.3% over the last 5 seasons.  A-Rod has become a more disciplined hitter with time, as pitchers have also been more cautious and pitch around him at the plate.

     Due to A-Rod’s K% and BB% in the minors seeming to be fairly stable compared to his past performance, I believe that we’ll see A-Rod maintain his current career trajectory.  His durability is not what it has been in the past, but he should return to the player he would’ve been in 2013, injury or not.  I don’t see a sudden huge drop-off, or surprising upturn in performance happening.

Click for Full-Size Image

Career Trajectory

3

Click for Full-Size Image

Click for Full-Size Image

     The following three plots show A-Rod’s Career trajectory in OPS (On-Base Percentage Plus Slugging Percentage), wOBA (Weighted On-Base Percentage), wRC+ (Weighted Runs Created, Adjusted to the League where 100 is average), and WAR/162 (Wins Above Replacement Prorated for 162 Games).  In all of the categories, higher numbers indicate a better performance.  I used 4th power exponential trend lines to approximate in all of these cases except for WAR, where I used a 6th power polynomial to account for the increased variance.

     The reason for choosing a 4th degree polynomial is that I believe it truly reflects the path of A-Rod’s career.  He burst on to the scene during his first full year in 1996 with the Mariners, as he was named an All-Star, won the Silver Slugger Award, and finished 2nd in MVP voting.  His line that year was .358 / .414 / .631 and an OPS of 1.045.  Rodriguez experienced a “Sophomore Slump” if you can call it that where he hit a measly .300 / .350 / .496 and an OPS of .846, garnering his second All-Star Game appearance.  it would take A-Rod two more years to return to his 1996 performance, causing this first curve.  This curve started slowly climbing upward in 2001, his first year with the Rangers where Rodriguez admitted steroid use due to the pressure he felt to perform.  He reached his peak in 2007, an MVP season where he hit .314 /.422 /.645 with an OPS of 1.067 and 54 Home Runs, the most of his career.

     This is where his current downward trend begins, as A-Rod began creeping into his mid-late 30s which bring us to where we are today.  I’ve indicated A-Rod’s drop-off since 2007 by the vertical black lines.  Notably, A-Rod’s agent Scott Boras announced during the Game 4 of the 2007 World Series, as the Red Sox were about to clinch a championship, that Rodriguez would be opting out of his contract.  The Yankees initially didn’t want to negotiate with A-Rod, but later signed him to a new deal, worth $275MM over 10 years.  Seeing A-Rod’s current decline, this was not a good move for the Yankees.  However, this was perfect for A-Rod, as he secured the deal coming off of an MVP caliber season when his value was the highest.  It’s just Boras working his magic again.

     Alex Rodriguez is on a downward decline, but as stated earlier, we should see a version of A-Rod resembling what he would be if he never missed time for injury.  This is a much needed boost for the Yankees, as their 3B for the year have accumulated a -0.9 WAR, which is 26th in the league.  With A-Rod, who I projected to have a 2.1 WAR, the Yankees greatly improve at his position.  Assuming A-Rod plays 15 games before we know the results of his appeal, he’ll accumulate a 0.19 WAR, while the Yankees other 3B options would produce a -.08 WAR based on their performance this season.  This is a 0.27 WAR swing for the Yankees.  If you prorate this over a 162 game season, this would be a 2.92 WAR improvement which is on the Solid Starter/Good Player borderline.  For however long the Yankees have Alex Rodriguez in the lineup, he will be a huge improvement for them.  It’s just a question of how well A-Rod can focus on playing during one of the most controversial and stressful times in his long career.

For further reading, this is an excellent article by Julie K. Brown of the Miami Herald:
Before he was A-Rod.
Something that struck me personally was when I saw one of my former summer ball coaches, a High School teammate of A-Rod, in one of the pictures included with the article.