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The All-Bargain 2012 MLB Free Agency Team

 

Monday November 21, 2011

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  Every baseball offseason, we all seem to fall into a familiar trap.  The focus always seem to be on the “prize” free agents, while bargains always seem to be had (especially when the big spenders have reached their budgets).  So while Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Jose Reyes, C.J. Wilson and company are the majority of the headlines- are they truly the difference makers? Getting quality players that are more economical may in fact have a stronger impact on a team that is looking to compete.  It allows for a team to fill needs while devoting financial resources to other resources, including scouting, signing draft picks and locking up younger players before they hit free agency.  Remember: a team has many expense areas but only a certain amount of money to go around. Devoting $100 million+ to 1 player tends to significantly limit a team, regardless of the strength of such a player.  “Spreading the wealth” so to speak, will limit the risk of putting all the eggs in one basket.  It is a similar to diversification of stocks.  A well-rounded portfolio will tend to outperform most others.  But if those assets can be acquired at a reduced cost, the return will look even better.

Now, imagine that we were going to build a starting lineup based purely on free agents.  What available free agents would give a team the best bang for the buck? If we were to look at the 2012 MLB free agency list, our All-Bargain team would probably look a little something like this:

C:  Ryan Doumit (starter) and Jose Molina (backup): At approximately $5 million combined, Doumit and Molina should offer fairly solid production at a reasonable rate.  Doumit also offers versatility by playing first and some outfield.  If (and when) Doumit gets injured, Molina can handle the starting chores for a stretch with a minor leaguer backing up.  In my estimation Doumit has the potential to breakout in a Mike Napoli manner.  He has the skills and power.  The guy just has to stay healthy.  As far as overall offense and defense from the catching position, there are fewer solid backups that Jose- part of the great “Catching Molinas.”

1B:  Carlos Pena:  This one area that I am prepared to splurge.  For all the talk of the low average, Pena should offer good power, a solid OBP and gold glove defense.  At approximately $10 million per season, he will still be a bargain to the other heavyweights at the position.  This is one area that you need top-notch offense and Pena should deliver again in 2012.

2B:  Kelly Johnson:  See Carlos Pena but at a more reasonable ticket price.  Johnson has a strong knack for getting on base and has excellent power for the position.  He is a gamer that will always have a spot on my team.

SS:  Ramon Santiago:  You can’t fully appreciate what Santiago offers unless you watch him on a daily basis.  Few infielders have a glove as strong as his.  While not the most gifted offensive player, he can chip in the occasional big hit while holding his own as a #8 or #9 hitter.  Another versatile player to have on the roster.  Options are always good.

3B:  Kevin Kouzmanoff:  The “Crushin’ Russian” is on the squad.  Yes, I am still holding out hope that he will come together.  I would take a chance on a breakout.  At the very least you will get good “D” and some offense at a bargain basement price.  If he doesn’t come together, I would grab Casey Blake or Wilson Betemit to sit on the bench if they come dirt cheap.

CF:  Grady Sizemore:  I like the style of Ruben Amaro Jr. and Pat Gillick.  I would have been at Sizemore’s house on the first day of free agency as well.  Given his high upside and apparent health, I would sign him as quickly as possible.  If you get even 75% of the old Sizemore, you still have a likely All-Star.

LF:  Raul Ibanez:  I’ve heard about his defense.  But I am still signing him.  Rauuuuul will come at a fraction of his last big contract.  The man owns his own rejuvenation chamber and still has the body of a 35-year old.  Strong leader, 20+ home runs and all at a maximum of cost $5 million per season.  Mark him sold.

RF:  J.D. Drew:  Hungry for one more big contract?  With Scott Boras as his agent, this on-base machine should be hungry to prove that he is healthy and productive.  He may cost $3 million per season.  Well worth the risk.  Just to cover ourselves, Johnny Damon is also coming on board as a 4th outfielder.  Between Sizmore, Ibanez, Drew and Damon, we should be able to run out an outfield most days.  If David DeJesus or Rick Ankiel are prepared to hang around as 5th outfielders/designated hitters, we may find some spare cash for them as well.

DH:  If we are talking non-National League team, then we HAVE to grab Josh Willingham as our designated hitter.  Or even a right fielder if we must.  The Hammer still carries a heavy bat and should anchor the offense.  He still has a couple of more productive years in him.  He should come at a relative bargain price considering 25+ home run bats are not easy to come by.

SP:  Chris Capuano, Bruce Chen, Aaron Harang, Paul Maholm, Brad Penny, Dontrelle Willis:  From these six selected starters, we should have ourselves a fairly decent rotation.  Pitching is one of the most difficult areas on any roster to fill, especially starters.  You have to catch lightning in a bottle and hope many factors, especially health, work out.  Maholm and Harang should be our “aces” with approximately 12 wins a-piece.  Capuano will be the third starter, who should be even better with another healthy year under his belt.  Between Chen, D-Train and Penny, we will count on veteran inning-eaters who are able to squeeze out wins.  Not the team’s greatest source of strength, but all six of these pitchers combined will cost less per season that C.C. Sabathia on his own.

RP:  Matt Capps, Jonathan Broxton, Jeremy Accardo, Shawn Camp, Fernando Rodney, Damaso Marte, J.C. Romero:  Going with the Tony La Russa formula, we are putting together a veteran pen with several closing options.  If at full strength, Broxton should be the ninth inning guy.  Otherwise, the role will fall to Capps or Rodney.  Accardo and Camp should be decent middle relievers with Marte and Romero balancing out the pen.  Used to their capabilities, our pen should help us contend.

Conclusion:  Building a team on a budget is not the easiest process.  This team will cost us likely north of $80 million dollars, but should stay under the magical $100 million mark.  Considering it is a team built from scratch and based on availability, “Team MLB Reports” should be a veteran squad that stays in the pennant race.  Even with the relative slim pickings in some areas, this year’s free agency squad offers value at most positions.  While no teams will be built based solely on free agency this year, there are enough complimentary parts that any Major League team can find good value.  It is just a question of shopping smart and buying at the right time.

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

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Dillon Gee, Mets: The Toast of New York

 Tuesday June 28, 2011

 

 

MLB reports:   Our last feature was on Danny Espinosa, the Nationals rookie second baseman who is taking Washington by storm.  For all the talk of Espinosa’s strong play, many readers wrote in to suggest that Dillon Gee should be at the top of the National League Rookie of the Year talk.  For many MLB fans, the first question will be:  Who the heck is Dillon Gee?

Dillon Kyle Gee was born and raised in Texas.  The 25-year old right-handed pitcher went to high school and university in Texas.  The New York Mets drafted the 6’1″ pitcher in the 21st round of the 2007 draft.  That is where the story should begin and end.  Most players chosen beyond the 2nd round have a very small chance of ever making it to AAA, let alone the majors.  This is the not the case though for Dillon Gee, who as a 21st round selection has beaten the odds to make it to the show.

Before joining the Mets full-time this year, here is a snapshot look at Dillon Gee’s career numbers in the minors:

Year Tm Lev W L ERA IP H BB SO WHIP
2007 Brooklyn A- 3 1 2.47 62.0 57 9 56 1.065
2008 2 Teams A+-AA 10 6 2.92 154.1 135 24 114 1.030
2008 St. Lucie A+ 8 6 3.25 127.1 117 19 94 1.068
2008 Binghamton AA 2 0 1.33 27.0 18 5 20 0.852
2009 Buffalo AAA 1 3 4.10 48.1 47 16 42 1.303
2010 Buffalo AAA 13 8 4.96 161.1 174 41 165 1.333
2011 Buffalo AAA 1 1 4.63 11.2 7 5 8 1.029
5 Seasons   28 19 3.78 437.2 420 95 385 1.177
AAA (3 seasons) AAA 15 12 4.76 221.1 228 62 215 1.310
AA (1 season) AA 2 0 1.33 27.0 18 5 20 0.852
A- (1 season) A- 3 1 2.47 62.0 57 9 56 1.065
A+ (1 season) A+ 8 6 3.25 127.1 117 19 94 1.068

 

Dillon Gee was good, but not great in his minor league career based on the above numbers.  While he was stellar in the lower minors, Gee was not exactly “lights out” in AAA.  In 221.1 innings pitched in Buffalo over parts of three seasons, Dillon Gee had a 4.76 ERA and 1.310 WHIP.  By failing to dominate in AAA, one would have realistically expected Gee to require more seasoning before coming to New York or end up running the risk of getting lit up in the majors.

 

As you can see from Gee’s Mets numbers, quite the opposite has occurred:

Year Tm W L ERA G GS IP H HR BB SO WHIP
2010 NYM 2 2 2.18 5 5 33.0 25 2 15 17 1.212
2011 NYM 8 1 3.32 15 12 76.0 60 5 30 51 1.184
2 Seasons 10 3 2.97 20 17 109.0 85 7 45 68 1.193
162 Game Avg. 18 6 2.97 37 31 200 156 13 83 125 1.193

 

Dillon Gee’s numbers speak for themselves.  8-1 record, 3.32 ERA and 1.184 WHIP.  While he walks a shade too many batters (30/51 BB/K), he gives up far fewer hits than innings pitched.  Based on his minor league numbers, I do not expect him to keep up his current pace.  The 2nd and 3rd times through the league, I expect NL batters will have a better book on Gee.  As the amount of innings pitched increases as well in the hot summer months, Gee will likely wear down.  In 2009, Gee missed most of the season due to a shoulder injury.  The Mets will likely wear kid gloves with him to some extent and not over extend his arm or risk causing further injury.

The New York Mets currently sit at 39-39, a .500 record with almost half a season completed.  Not much was expected of a team with a great deal of scandal and turmoil surrounding it.  One of the few bright spots though, in addition to the strong play and resurgent seasons by Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran, has been the emergence of Dillon Gee.  The patchwork pitching of the staff is nothing to write home about.  Jonathon Niese, Mike Pelfrey, Chris Capuano and R.A. Dickey have combined with Gee to keep the Mets afloat and the team competitive in ball games.  Chris Young fell early in the season and Johan Santana remains out following shoulder surgery.  If not for the play of Dillon Gee, the Mets could have found themselves in the basement of the NL East.  Instead, the team is in striking distance of the Braves for 2nd place in the division.

We should know by August if we have a possible Rookie of the Year in New York or another hot-shot prospect that had a couple of good months in Dillon Gee.  With so much misery surrounding the Mets, it is a pleasure to see a bright hope emerge within its pitching staff.  Dillon Gee this year evolved from an unknown minor leaguer that was considered a middle-of-the-road prospect to top starter status.  Mets fans are hoping they have caught lightning in a bottle in Gee for the long-term success of its team.  In the meantime, Gee will continue to pitch every fifth day in New York and give his team the best chance to succeed.  That is really all the Mets can ask for at the end of the day.

 

 

 

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