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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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Jair Jurrjens: Braves Ace of the Future or Trade Candidate?

Wednesday July 20, 2011

 

Rob Bland (Intern- MLB Reports):  Now that the trade deadline is fast approaching, teams in contention are scrambling to find the pieces they desperately need to reach the playoffs.  Teams that are out of contention are scouring other teams’ minor league affiliates in search of suitable trade partners.  One man who is terribly busy fielding on calls on one of his biggest talents is the GM of the Atlanta Braves, Frank Wren.  Opposing GMs have coveted his ace pitcher, Jair Jurrjens over the past few years.   But now that Jurrjens has developed into a solid dependable pitcher who has exceeded his potential, Wren’s phone will be ringing right up until the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline.

 

Why Atlanta should hold on to their ace

Jair Jurrjens is young and controllable with an inexpensive contract.  He is an inning eater, and a dependable arm that will give 6+ innings per game.  Jurrjens is in his fourth full season, with the key variable that many people forget is that he is only 25 years old.  At the halfway mark of this season, Jurrjens has a 12-3 record with a sparkling 2.26 ERA.  Jair also induces a ton of ground balls, with a GB% of 48.2.  When a guy can throw strikes consistently, it makes it much easier to be successful.  Three walks per nine innings is a pretty good career mark, and he has seemingly improved almost every year, as Jurrjens currently sits at a 2.10 BB/9 for 2011.  A young, controllable ace that is continually improving might be something that the Braves want to hold onto.  Further, the Braves should even consider giving a long-term extension to Jurrjens given what he means to the ballclub.

 

Why Atlanta should trade Jurrjens

Why would a contending team trade their ace, you might ask?  Well, a guy like Jurrjens might be overachieving for a few reasons.  First of all, the velocity on his fastball has dipped every season since his rookie campaign.  His average fastball was once 93 mph, whereas it sits at 89 now.  Now this could mean a couple of things, such as he has learned how to pitch and doesn’t need the velocity.  However, his extra reliance on his change-up and slider; each of them up in usage about 3% over previous years, tells me that he knows his fastball isn’t quite as effective.  Jurrjens doesn’t strike many guys out, and there is almost no way that he can maintain a 4.1% homerun per fly ball rate.  His xFIP is exactly a run and a half higher than his ERA at 3.76, so a measure of his performance has been attributed to luck.  Numbers can be sometimes be deceiving and in Jurrjens case, he might not be as good as his statistics appear to show.  Sometimes its good to maximize a return when the market is at its peak and Jurjjens may very well be sitting at the top of his ceiling of potential.  Otherwise, if Jurrjens does regress, he value will never be higher than it is at the moment. 

 

Which teams could trade for Jurrjens

If the Detroit Tigers are willing to give up a ton of prospects for Ubaldo Jimenez, I believe they would do the same for Jurrjens.  Same goes with the Red Sox and Yankees. Detroit has at least kicked the tires on many starting pitchers, including Derek Lowe, Aaron Harang, and Jeremy Guthrie.  I see Jurrjens as an upgrade over those pitchers, so it would take a decent package to steal him away.  The Rockies covet four top prospects for Jimenez, so I don’t see why the Braves wouldn’t try to get at least three top prospects for Jurrjens.  He may not have the electric stuff that Ubaldo has, but he certainly has a track record of success.

Another fit to trade for Jurrjens that may fly under the radar could be the Indians.  Mitch Talbot and Fausto Carmona have underperformed, and they desperately need an upgrade if they are to contend.  This could cause a bidding war for Jurrjens.  I can see righty Alex White, lefty Drew Pomeranz and outfielder Nick Weglarz being involved in such a deal.  Prospects Jacob Turner (RHP), Andy Oliver (LHP) and Nick Castellanos (3B) may be included in a potential deal with Detroit.

In the NL, if the St. Louis Cardinals decide to make a push in the wide open Central Division, they may be looking at starting pitching help.  Kyle McLellan and Jake Westbrook have both struggled, so it could be a possibility they get in the mix.  Third baseman Zack Cox and starting pitcher Shelby Miller are possible candidates to be moved in such a scenario.

 

Verdict

Atlanta doesn’t appear to be actively shopping Jurrjens, but it would be in their best interest to at least gauge the interest of other teams.  The Braves could get a return for Jurrjens that would be impossible to refuse. With some of the prospects named, the Braves could still contend, and restock their system for years to come.  Until then, we expect Jurrjens to remain a Brave unless Frank Wren gets blown away a trade proposal.  With the active trade winds blowing this year and numerous contending teams desperate for starting pitching help, anything is possible. 

 

 

Editor’s Note:  Today’s feature was prepared by our Intern, Rob Bland.  Rob was selected from the many candidates who applied to write for MLB reports.  Please feel free to leave comments and to welcome Rob aboard.  You can also follow Rob on Twitter.***

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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