Daily Archives: November 11, 2011
Saturday November 12, 2011
MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen: The Philadelphia Phillies seemingly fooled everyone this week. Earlier in the week, reports indicated that the team had locked up its incumbent closer, Ryan Madson for a 4-year, $44 million contract which could climb all the way up to a $57 million deal with an additional option year. Reactions were for the most part negative, as the baseball world could not believe that the team would pay (overpay) for a reliever coming off his first season as a full-time closer by handing out one of the largest contracts ever to a non-starting pitcher. At that money, people began to wonder why the Phillies did not seek out the best closer on the market and one of the best overall in the game, Jonathan Papelbon. The Red Sox closer, after endless 1-year pacts with Boston was in his first free agency period in 2011. But then something interesting happened. The Madson deal, which required the approval of the team’s higher brass all of a sudden was delayed and then fell apart. A couple of days later, Papelbon became a Philly! At 4-years and $50 million, Jonathan Papelbon finally received the long-term deal he has craved all of these years and Philadelphia signed a lock-down closer. But what happened? How did the Phillies switch to Papelbon mid-stream after coming so far along in negotiations with Madson?
The marketing term for what the Phillies did is called a “bait and switch”, meant when a retailer will advertise a discounted product and will then offer you a higher priced replacement when you arrive at the location to find that the advertised good has mysteriously sold out. Often, that discounted good was never actually available, but was a merely a ploy to get the consumer to first get to the store and secondly, buy a more expensive product. In the case of the Philadelphia Phillies, I do not believe that the team ever planned on signing Ryan Madson to the reported high-end contract. While being groomed to be a future for many seasons, the team was never completely sold on his true sustainability at the position. While Madson received the occasional closing opportunities in his 8-year career leading up to 2011, he actually converted only 20 saves going into this season. But something funny happened this season. Madson became solid. So solid, that he saved 32 games with a 2.37 ERA and 1.154 WHIP. With Scott Boras as his agent, the Phillies knew that Madson would not come cheap. But the Phillies faithful for the most part loved Madson and would mourn his departure. The Phillies needed to secure themselves at the closer position while softening the blow of not signing Ryan Madson. The team’s actions this week were a stroke of genius and the team played its cards perfectly.
The plan for 2011 was to have Brad Lidge close for 1 more season, with Ryan Madson as the set-up man and fill-in closer. In the offseason, the Phillies were going to target Jonathan Papelbon and sign him to a large pact. But Lidge was injured and ineffective in 2011, forcing the Phillies to use Madson as their primary closer for most of the season. The reliever that they were hoping to sign for a reasonable 3-years, $21-$24 million deals was about to cost them almost double to retain. But how could the team sign another reliever and let their incumbent closer go? Simple. Propose a deal with Ryan Madson and float the scenario out to the public to record and evaluate the reaction of the public. The possibility existed that the fans, writers and analysts would applaud the deal, in which case the Phillies could consider actually proceeding with it. But in all likelihood, the team knew that the outcry would be against the deal. By then pulling the Madson deal and reaching out to sign Papelbon, the approval rating would be through the roof. It is almost the same as proposing a 20% tax hike and then only increasing taxes by 5%. Throw out a worst-case scenario and set expectations low- then substitute a better plan and watch people jumping for joy.
The Phillies in my estimation used Ryan Madson as a pawn. While Scott Boras has been the master for years at playing teams against one another to benefit the pocketbook of his clients, the Phillies in this case used Boras and Madson to get what they wanted. If the Phillies had gone out right away at the start of free agency to sign Jonathan Papelbon, fans and critics would have blasted the team for overpaying and proposing that the team should have kept Ryan Madson at a hometown discount. The Phillies were able to eliminate such sentiments by showing that Madson would have cost them top dollar to stay put. At an additional $1.5 million per season for the same 4-year contract, the Phillies replaced a closer with 1 full year of closing experience with a closer (Papelbon) who is the same age (31), has 6 full years of full-time closing experience in one of baseball’s biggest and highest pressure markets (Boston) of 30+ saves per season, to go along with an almost perfect postseason resume. The Phillies traded in a solid Buick for a Mercedes, with still plenty of mileage to be driven.
For those of you that may doubt the “conspiracy theory”, just take a close look at the Phillies rotation. Since Spring Training, I have been calling for the Phillies to sign Papelbon. The team has shown to seek out the best pitchers on the market and bring them on board. Roy Halladay. Cliff Lee. Now Jonathan Papelbon. When the Phillies go shopping for pitching, they do not shop in the bargain bin. Aside from obtaining Mariano Rivera, the team signed the best available closer for their staff. So while Ryan Madson would have been a nice luxury to keep on the staff for insurance and to set-up, the team knew it would be seeking Jonathan Papelbon all the way. The plan would have worked to have both Papelbon and Madson on the team, had Madson not closed out so many games this past season. As a middle reliever setting-up, his contract would have been affordable. But an outstanding closing record in 2011 along with Scott Boras as his agent, meant that Madson was priced out of the Phillies budget. With Papelbon set to come on board, there would be no room for Madson.
The Phillies faithful have to be pleased today. While they will miss Ryan Madson, most will know that there was no guarantees he could duplicate his numbers over the life of a 4-5 year contract. At the numbers that were tabled for him to stay in Philadelphia, the team by all accounts did the right thing to sign the superior Papelbon. While he will cost the team its 2012 first-round pick, a pick should be recovered, along with a supplemental pick, when Madson is signed by another team. The cost/benefit of this move was essentially a no-brainer. The Phillies went with more of a sure-thing by signing Papelbon. While there are no guarantees in baseball, especially with pitchers (arm problems) and especially closers (who can lose their jobs at a moment’s notice), Jonathan Papelbon is as money in the bank as they come.
A couple of last points that helped trigger the change of closers. By continually signing 1-year deals in Boston, many expected Papelbon to bolt once he was eligible for free agency. The team could not lock the player down to a long-term deal and with the max-exodus of players during this past offseason, it seemed that Papelbon was another candidate to seek a change of scenery. But some people may not remember that not too long ago that Ryan Madson’s wife, Sarah, making negative comments on Phillies fans. At the time, it seemed like a ticket out-of-town for Madson, but his success this season seemingly made the comments disappear. Except that the Phillies brass did not forget and the publicity that surrounded the event at the time was one that likely set a chain reaction for the plan for Madson to leave at the end of the season. Baseball is a game of short-term memories, but not for all.
When I floated the idea of a Jonathan Papelbon signing all season long, Phillies fans did not have one positive comment back to me. Their fans, as well as most in baseball, had very negative things to say about Papelbon. Outside of Boston it seems, many were unable to or refused to recognize his talent. But while Papelbon was beloved in Boston until now, those sentiments will transfer over to Philadelphia by next season. The stare, as it is known, will become one of the most famed times in Philadelphia Phillies history as the team and its fans get revved up watching Jonathan Papelbon close out games for the next 4-seasons. There is a changing of the guard in Philadelphia. The Phillies have Halladay, Lee and Hamels to start things off and now can rely on Papelbon to close them out. The stare now makes its residence in the city of brotherly love. Another World Series may not be far behind.
Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports: You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)
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Friday November 11, 2011
Rob Bland (Baseball Writer – MLB reports): Every one of the MLB’s franchises will be looking for bullpen help, and most will be looking to add a major contributor to the back-end. The closer position is one that is seen as the most underrated as well as the most overrated job in all of baseball. On one hand, some people may over-value a closer’s “makeup” and poise, where others say “it’s the same as pitching at any point in the game.” While I like to sit somewhere between these two concepts, most fans like knowing that their team employs a “proven veteran closer.” All you have to do is look at the St. Louis Cardinals of 2011 to notice that is not necessarily the case. Their closer was Jason Motte, although Tony La Russa refused to officially anoint him so. Motte had 12 career saves going into the postseason, 9 of which were in 2011. However, the fireballer was dominant in the postseason, and helped to bring in another World Series title to St. Louis.
In 2007, the Boston Red Sox employed a closer by the name of Jonathan Papelbon, a 2nd year closer, and they went on to win the World Series. There are several other times where a homegrown closer has led his team to a championship, Brian Wilson of the 2010 San Francisco Giants being another recent one.
There are many closers without a set home for 2012, with Papelbon headlining that list. It has been said that Papelbon is looking for a 4 year contract, and could even get a 5th guaranteed year on the open market. Much of the early talk about closers this off-season has surrounded Ryan Madson, formerly of the Philadelphia Phillies. It was rumored that he had agreed with the Phillies to a 4 year, $44M contract with a 5th year as a vesting option. It was said that the Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. was awaiting approval from team president David Montgomery. It has recently come to light that Amaro Jr. has vehemently denied these rumors.
Frank Francisco, Francisco Rodriguez, Heath Bell, Jonathan Broxton, Joe Nathan and Francisco Cordero are all closers who may be looking for new homes in 2012. Also available are Matt Capps, Jon Rauch, David Aardsma, and Takashi Saito.
The Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, San Diego Padres, LA Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds, Toronto Blue Jays, Minnesota Twins, Florida Marlins and Houston Astros are some of the teams who figure to be in the market for a closer, if not to upgrade.
Because of the Madson fiasco that has been taking place, I doubt he re-signs with the Phillies. The Phillies seem to have moved on to their next target, Papelbon. All Papelbon has done in his 6+ seasons with the Red Sox is accumulate 219 saves with a 4.43 K/BB ratio. His career ERA sits at 2.33 while his FIP isn’t far off at 2.60, showing just how good he actually is. I think a 4 year deal worth $51M and a vesting option of $15M would likely get the job done.
Madson’s early “almost signing” may have set the bar for Papelbon, and Madson will be looking for something in the same range. He may have to settle for a bit less as the Phillies look to get the signing done quickly. Madson took over for Brad Lidge, who battled injuries in 2011 as the Phillies closer. A 3.88 K/BB ratio and a ground ball rate close to 50% ensured a very successful season where his FIP was 2.25. 4 years and $40M should get it done, and I see him going to the LA Dodgers.
Francisco Rodriguez (K-Rod) was traded at the deadline from the Mets to the Milwaukee Brewers, but didn’t get an opportunity to close out games. His displeasure with the situation was coming out, even though incumbent closer John Axford was performing extremely well, and the club was on its way to a playoff berth. The Miami Marlins (still doesn’t feel right to say) are looking to be huge spenders this off-season, and I see no difference with K-Rod. Rodriguez has 291 saves in his career, including a single season record 62 in 2008 with the LA Angels of Anaheim. I see the 30-year-old signing a 3 year deal worth $30M to usurp the incumbent Marlins closer, Juan Oviedo (previously known as Leo Nunez).
Heath Bell is a closer who has had tremendous numbers over the last three seasons, albeit in ultra spacious Petco Park as his home field. His K rate dipped this year, and may have been a bit lucky with a .261 BABIP. San Diego Padres GM Josh Byrnes has already said he would likely offer arbitration to Bell, a Type A free agent. Bell has also said in the past that he would accept arbitration, as he likes San Diego. This presents a slight problem for the cash-strapped Padres, who prefer to keep their payroll lower. Bell will be due a raise from the $7.5M he made in 2011, so a $9-10M 1 year deal will likely be in place here with the Padres.
Joe Nathan is a special case, because he had an option of $12.5M declined by the Minnesota Twins, who would still like to bring him back. Nathan did not pitch in 2010 after undergoing Tommy John Surgery, and threw 44 2/3 mediocre innings in 2011. However, over his last 27 innings, he gave up only 20 hits, 5 walks and 10 runs, really finishing strong and proving he is healthy again. The downfall is that by spring training, he will be 38 years old and clearly looking at the end of his career. The Toronto Blue Jays are looking for a closer to anchor a bullpen that will see a lot of turnover, and Nathan could be had for $4M and a club option for 2013.
Jonathan Broxton is another closer looking to establish his value. The hulking 6’4” 300 lb closer had a disappoint 2011 season, and just had surgery to remove loose bodies from his elbow in September. His K rate has steadily declined from the career high of 13.50/9 IP in 2009. His ground ball rate, BB/9, ERA and FIP have all suffered at the same time. Broxton will likely get a one year, incentive-laden deal to prove he is healthy. He will likely have to settle for a setup man role, and I think he could work with the Mets in spacious Citi Field.
Francisco Cordero has had a 13 year career that started in Detroit, then took him to Texas, Milwaukee then finally Cincinnati. The Reds recently declined his $12M option, but GM Walt Jocketty has said he hopes to bring the closer back. However, I don’t see him donning the Reds jersey any longer, as the soon to be 37-year-old will look to move on and close out his career. While his fastball still averages 93 mph, it is 3 mph slower than Cordero’s prime. Because of this, his K rate has dipped to 5.43/9IP from 12.22/9IP in 2007. While his stats have declined, he has averaged 39 saves the last 5 seasons. He will probably settle for a one year deal worth $6M, where the Minnesota Twins will sign him.
It’s a carousel in the closing world, as more teams are beginning to put less stock in having an established closer at the back of a bullpen. Homegrown closers are becoming a more popular choice, but some teams look for that slight edge, and if it means overpaying for a pitcher who will throw roughly 5% of the team’s innings, they will do so.
***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Rob Bland. We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers. You can also follow Rob on Twitter.***
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Friday November 11, 2011
Daniel Aubain (Guest Writer): Question: What does a fantasy baseball blogger without a blog do during the offseason? Answer: Guest write an article for one of his favorite baseball sites!
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Daniel Aubain and I used to run a fantasy baseball blog called Colorado Springs Fantasy Baseball Addict or COSFBA, for short. I recently decided to shut the site down and pursue other writing opportunities but the itch to write has been too strong to ignore. While I am currently working behind the scenes on a new venture, I wanted to take this opportunity today to highlight for you some topics of interest I’ve been or will be following this baseball offseason.
Below is an A-to-Z guide of some of the key topics I am paying attention to this baseball offseason. Enjoy!
- A is for Awards: So Brett Gardner doesn’t win a Gold Glove (even though he was the best defensive player in all of baseball). Miguel Cabrera doesn’t get a Silver Slugger. And now the Baseball Writers’ Association of America is on Twitter. I’m very excited to see what November 14th through November 22nd has in store for the blogosphere.
- B is for Baseball: The most minor free agent news or offseason trade (see: Melky Cabrera for Jonathan Sanchez and Ryan Verdugo) trumps ANYTHING going on in the NFL, NHL (that’s still a thing) and the NBA (how much longer until this is no longer a thing?).
- C is for Closers: Fantasy baseball GMs know to “never pay for saves”. How come real GMs don’t know this? Ryan Madson possibly getting a 4 year/$44M contract offer from the Phillies? Good luck with that.
- D is for @DJAubain: That’s right. Shameless self promotion. Be sure to follow me at my new Twitter account name. The link is RIGHT THERE!
- E is for Exhibition Baseball: I hope all of you with the MLB Network were able to catch some of the Taiwan All-Star Series. It was a nice fix for those of us going through withdrawals after an amazing World Series.
- F is for FanGraphs: Any aspiring Sabermetrician or fan of advanced baseball statistics has to be familiar with FanGraphs by now, right? Well, why not support their work and show the world you’re a big baseball nerd by purchasing one of these fabulous t-shirts. I’ve got mine.
- G is for Gold Glove: I still can’t believe Brett Gardner didn’t win a Gold Glove. The mainstream media may love awards such as this (it even had its own television show this year) but those of us with any true understanding on how to measure “worthiness” with more than just web gems and name recognition are left scratching our heads more often than not.
- H is for Hot Stove: Free agent signings. Winter meetings. Blockbuster trades. What’s not to love about the MLB offseason?
- I is for Intentional Talk: I’m sorry, MLB Network. For all you do right in my eyes, this is your ultimate worst. I find this show unwatchable. It’s so bad it belongs on ESPN.
- J is for Jose Reyes: Reyes to the Marlins? Not hating it.
- K is for Keepers: Fantasy baseball GMs all over the country are anxiously discussing whether or not player X or player Y is worthy of being a keeper. I think it is absolutely crazy that some leagues have already required you locking in keepers. Wait until February or March to lock up keepers. It will make your league better. Trust me.
- L is for Lefty Specialists: Arthur Rhodes and Darren Oliver are both 41 years old, coming off of World Series appearances and free agents. Which GMs are going to overpay for 50-60 appearances and 40-50 innings pitched? I’m hoping the Yankees get one of these guys to replace Boone Logan.
- M is for Mystery Team: Nothing says offseason free agent signings like a good mystery team in the mix. Who will it be this offseason?
- N is for Nick Punto: Nick has a World Series ring. Ted Williams and Ernie Banks have zero. Just in case you were wondering.
- O is for Ozzie Guillen: Ozzie is now with the soon-to-be Miami Marlins and every Latin ballplayer is now rumored to be heading his way via free agency or trades. If only I understood a word he was saying in English. Don’t believe me? Check out his Twitter feed during the World Series.
- P is for Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder: How high are these contract numbers going to go and which teams are in the mix? The Yankees can’t sign everyone (in theory). It will be interesting to see where these top sluggers land.
- Q is for Carlos Quentin: With the Chicago White Sox discussing getting younger and cheaper in 2012, could Quentin be the type of player shipped out of town for a handful of prospects? We shall see. I hear the Marlins have money. Hmmmmm.
- R is for Realignment: Moving the Houston Astros to the AL West makes absolutely no sense. Thanks, Bud Selig, for the usual knee-jerk reaction to a problem. I’m a huge fan of a radical realignment based on true geographical rivalries. Forget the AL/NL thing. Screw the traditionalists. Make the DH optional. Create regional television networks. Let’s move this game into the 21st century already!
- S is for Sabermetrics: It’s not going away. It’s not made up of basement-dwelling bloggers. And it is definitely NOT ruining the game of baseball and how it is played on the field. It is a tool used to evaluate and measure the performance of players. Embrace it.
- T is for Twitter: If you’re not using Twitter, I suggest you check it out. It’s not Facebook.
- U is for UZR: Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) is one of the most widely accepted defensive metrics available and yet Brett Gardner, the best defensive player at any position, doesn’t win a Gold Glove. Bitter much? Yes.
- V is for Vernon Wells: Just a reminder, Wells still has three years left on his contract at $21M per year. That is all.
- W is for Wilson Ramos: Kidnapped? Unreal. This is just a horrible situation. I hope this gets resolved quickly and without tragedy. We wonder why agents and players lie to escape other countries to come to America to play baseball.
- X is for X-Factor: No, not that horrible television show on FOX. I’m talking about the intangible “x-factor” agents will be talking about their clients bringing to a team’s clubhouse. Jim Thome has it. Francisco Rodriguez doesn’t have it.
- Y is for Yuniesky Betancourt: According to the Bill James’ 2012 Handbook (and this tweet), Yuniesky has been baseball’s worst defensive shortstop over the last three seasons; costing his teams 46 runs. Keep that tidbit in mind as this Type B free agent lingers on the market.
- Z is for the AriZona Fall League: If top prospects are your thing, then you need to be paying attention to what’s taking place in ‘Zona (see what I did there?). Check it out online and be sure to follow it Twitter, too.