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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)

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

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E-MAILBAG: Ask the Reports, Wednesday May 11th

Thank you for reading the E-mailbag.  Please send all your questions to mlbreports@gmail.com and please include your first name and City/Country.

We will be compiling a list of your questions from our e-mailbag and posting the responses on Wednesdays.

 

Wednesday May 11, 2011

Q:   Where do you see the Boston Red Sox finishing this season in the standings? From Jake, Boston

MLB reports:  My crystal ball in March said that the Rays would win the AL East, with the Red Sox finishing second in the division and taking the AL Wild Card.  I have no reason to deviate from my prediction thus far.  Despite the strength of the Yankees, the Red Sox have so much talent that several hot streaks are in store.  When playoff tickets go on sale, go ahead and order for the opening round at least.

Q:  Fantasy question:  Should I dump Jorge Posada for Ryan Doumit, Chris Iannetta, Wilson Ramos, Ryan Hanigan, or Hank Conger?  I probably should have done something Monday, as Posada’s .151 AVG is killing my team.  From Bonzi, Parts Unknown

MLB reports: I take it that your league counts average, based on your e-mail.  Turning 40 this summer, Posada has definitely seen better days.  He does have 6 home runs and 14 RBIs, but his numbers overall are fantasy suicide.  I can’t believe Iannetta and Doumit are still available in your league.  If so, grab them in that order.  Iannetta is 28, plays in Colorado, has 5 home runs, 13 RBIs, .398 OBP, .494 SLG.  His .250 AVG is nothing to write home about, but as the #1 catcher for the Rockies, Iannetta has the biggest upside.  Doumit will be traded to a contender at some point likely but while he has shown a steady bat this season, he is always an injury risk.  If Iannetta is not available though, I like Doumit over Posada.  Ramos has been a nice player for the Nationals but is still young and likely won’t play at this level all season.  I would trust Posada over him.  Hanigan and Conger are nice replacement bats for injury but as part-time players offer little upside at this point.  If either was starting, they would still rank below Posada this season for me.

Q:Why do teams not pitch Jose Bautista away, away, away ALL the time? Why even try to challenge him inside?  From Garrett, Michigan

MLB reports: It is not that simple Garrett, as Bautista has become such a dangerous hitter that there are not many pitches that he does not get to.  Judging by his 100 walks last year, which will be higher this year, Bautista has a great eye at the plate.  Based on the damage that he can do, I frankly don’t understand why teams just don’t walk him 4-5 times every game.  Being the strongest offensive option currently in the Jays lineup by a country-mile, Bautista is a long-ball threat every at-bat and taking the bat out of his hands likely will be best at minimizing the damage.  With not many healthy hitters in the Jays lineup that are threats to drive him in, I agree that opposing pitchers should not give Bautista much to hit…and in my opinion, not even give him the option at all.

Q:   Fantasy Trade Evaluation: Aramis Ramirez & Alfonso Soriano for Jason Bay & Brandon McCarthy. Who’s winning?  Who’s losing? I have Ryan Zimmerman on DL.  I am giving up Bay and McCarthy. From Mike, Brooklyn

MLB reports: This one is a toughy.  I wanted to say Bay and McCarthy to keep, but I can’t do it.  My factors are as follows.  McCarthy is 27 and has great upside.  But he is injury prone and cannot be counted on to stay healthy.  He can literally drop at a moment’s notice.  Plus he is 1-3, despite a 3.26 ERA and 1.25 WHIP.  With little wins potential and health concerns, this trade really boils down to Bay for Ramirez and Soriano for me. 

Bay has been a disaster since coming to the Mets.  Poor production and concussions issues have done him in.  With 6 home runs last year and 1 home run this year with a .213 AVG, 7/19 BB/K ratio, Bay is regretting his decision to leave Boston for New York.  Bay is already 32 and his window of opportunity is closing.  Ramirez and Soriano are no spring chickens either.  Ramirez though has a .286 AVG with 14 RBIs, despite only 1 home run and .718 OPS.  Soriano has a league leading 11 home runs, 21 RBIs and 18 Runs, with a whopping .550 SLG despite an unsightly .242 AVG and .270 OBP.  If you can stomach some of the warts shown by the 35-year-old Soriano and 32-year-old Ramirez, they will still provide much of the stats and comfort that Bay and McCarthy won’t.  In some ways this is a headache for headache trade, but by making the deal, you are getting the likely higher returns.  Go for it.

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At the Crossroads: Ryan Doumit, Pittsburgh Pirates

MLB reports:  On paper, taking a look at Ryan Doumit (“Dough-Mitt”), there are two sides of the coin.  Heads, you find a switch-hitter turning 30 this year.  A 2008 career season consisting of 15 home runs, 71 runs, 69 rbis, .357 obp and .501 slg.  A catcher by trade, Doumit who stands 6’1”, also plays the outfield and first base.  Despite an injury plagued 2010 season, he still managed 13 home runs in 124 games played last year.  Tails, you find a baseball player that may be labelled as a catcher but often branded as a defensive liability without a home.  Injury prone, 2010 represented the most games Doumit has ever played in a major league season.  Bouncing between the minors and stints on the DL, Doumit next closest seasons were 116 games in 2008 and then 83 in 2007.  The power, while seen in small spurts through his sweet swing, has never materialized into the 20+ home runs projected for him.  Now cast as an outfielder/ back-up first baseman, the future is unclear for Ryan Doumit.  After signing a significant contract with the Pirates, the team has now spent two unsuccessful seasons trying to unload him.  There is even talk of a possible release on the horizon for Doumit.  But is the negativity surrounding this once bright star justified?  Let me put it simply: no.  I am not ready to write off Ryan Doumit and quite frankly, neither should anyone else.

For those of you that read me regularly, you will know that I tend to be biased towards high walks and obp type hitters.  Analyzing Doumit’s number of walks since 2007:22, 23, 20 and 41, it would seem surprising on the surface that I would invoke any type of support of him as a hitter.  Doumit does not have a great reputation as a catcher, lacking the natural instincts for blocking balls in the dirt, throwing out runners etc.  Believe, I have it heard it all and read it all when it comes to Doumit the player.  My discussion on Doumit falls into the “moneyball” vs. scouts debate.  The numbers vs. tools argument.  Having watched Doumit countless times on television and numerous times in person, I will state that the tools override the numbers in this case.  Doumit is a big strapping switch-hitter with the power for 30+ home runs in my estimation.  In the right line-up and ballpark, we could see a whole new player.  Further watching Ryan behind the plate, it always appeared to me that pitchers were very comfortable with him behind the plate and that he had a strong presence of controlling his team and game like a general.  The multi-positional abilities I believe have hurt Ryan in the long run and created a utility player tag on him that is unjustified.  Thus goes the game of baseball and very often the careers of many players.  But hope is not lost yet. 

This spring has already been a rough one for Doumit.  Low batting totals in only 10 games played thus far, Doumit has been sidelined for much of the spring with a strained oblique.  If I was viewing Doumit as a team, I would see a buy low and high reward candidate.  All of the lost games over the years means that Doumit has a lot of miles left, whether in the outfield or behind the plate.  I cannot see the Pirates at this point releasing Doumit for nothing.  Proven health and production this year would lead to an inevitable trade, likely by the all-star break.  Top teams are always in the need of reinforcements and as players continue to drop like flies this spring (Brandon Morrow just announced to start the year on the DL as I write this article), the demand will be there for Doumit.  Why the faith in a player that has not proven much to-date?  Again, simple answer:  tools.  The ability is there and when healthy, we have seen the production.  But we cannot fault Doumit because of injuries alone as he does play on a team that often resembles a AA team on many of its off-nights.  I have never personally seen Ryan Doumit every take a game off, night off or going through the motions during an at-bat.  Playing on a sub .500 team for as long as he has though, one imagine that it would start to take a toll on the confidence of any player, Doumit included.  The Pirates are rebuilding on an upswing, with talented players such as Alvarez, Sanchez and Meek ready to lead the team in the coming years.  I do not see the rebirth of the team occurring on Doumit’s clock, but that does not mean that opportunities should not exist for Doumit.  A fresh start and a defined role and purpose would make all the difference in the world.  Hopefully this will happen soon.

2011 represents a crossroads year for Ryan Doumit.  A talented player once expected to be the centerpiece of his franchise, Doumit is a man without a position and seemingly chance this year.  Given the opportunity to perform, I believe that Doumit will put up the numbers.  McCutchen is healthy and playing strong and as long as he is in the line-up, Doumit will hopefully see some good pitches to hit.  Rounding back into form, Doumit I expect will be on a new team and line-up by May or June at the latest this year.  Motivated by the move, I expect Doumit to flex the baseball tools we know that he has and start to live up to the expectations that are starting to fade for him.  Never count out a talent like Doumit.  The Pirates gave up on Jose Bautista back in 2008 and at age 30 he did pretty well for himself.  Good luck to Ryan Doumit on this upcoming year, I am looking forward to his march back to baseball stardom in 2011.

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

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