Friday, 7 November 2008

Grading the 07 offseason

With no real Jays news to talk about, I thought it'd be interesting to see how JP's moves in the past offseason turned out. We usually address the moves at the time they occur, but we never really look back and see how good or bad they truly were. So with that in mind, I'm going to go through every major transaction that occurred between November of 07 and April of 2008.

11/18/07 Acquired INF Marco Scutaro from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for RHP Graham Godfrey and RHP Kristian Bell

At the time, Scutaro was thought to be the backup to John McDonald at short, as well as a valuable utility player. He was solid defensively at third and second, but his play at SS combined with his solid bat (697 OPS) gave him a starting role towards the end of the season. He's likely the SS heading into next year, and as long as he remains a 700 OPS bat with solid defense he'll be a huge asset to the Jays.

Godfrey showed little to no improvement during the year in A+, where he had a 5.10 ERA. Bell wasn't much better in limited time.

Picking up Scutaro was a great move by JP, and as of now neither player traded amounted to anything.

12/14/07 Signed SS David Eckstein to a one-year contract

I'll be honest, I expected Eckstein to play a bigger role for the team. The fact that he could play the position meant he was an upgrade on whatever we had.

Except, he never really played like we expected him too. The defense was pretty poor, and he was not a good leadoff hitter. He eventually would ruin Aaron Hill's season, and would be traded as journeymen like John McDonald and Marco Scutaro took the starting job from him.

Eckstein was traded for Chad Beck, a starting pitcher from Arizona. He's a bit old for his level (23 at A+), but he had solid results. He had 89 strikeouts to go along with 25 walks in 95 innings for a 3.98 ERA. He was much better as a RP - a 1.65 ERA compared to a 4.46 ERA as a starter. But the sample size is quite small as a reliever, so I wouldn't get too excited.

The signing looked solid on paper, but Eckstein clearly had a decline in grittiness while having his dirtbag status exposed in the Jr. circuit. Few players can make the switch from the NL to the AL without having their dirtbag status exposed, we should have seen it coming.

12/12/07 Did not tender a 2008 contract to RHP Josh Towers, making him a free agent.

This may rival the Scutaro trade as the best move to date. It seems like only yesterday that Towers was pitching for the Jays, throwing his 55 MPH fastball and just trying his hardest to get out of the first inning without giving up 8 runs.

12/6/07 Released RHP Ryan Houston and selected RHP Randy Wells from the Chicago Cubs in the Rule 5 Draft.

Houston was picked up by... Houston. I can't make this shit up - the Astros signed Houston after the Jays released him, but he was awful in AAA with a 7.59 ERA in 45 innings. Meanwhile, Randy Wells pitched in 1 inning for the Jays, before being returned to the Cubs. This is a really bad move, cause the Jays had to offer him back to the Cubs and they took him back. So for one inning, the Jays are out about $ 25, 000. A really pointless move in hindsight. Sometimes JP's fetish with the waiver wire pays off, but this wasn't one of those cases.

1/24/08 Signed C Rod Barajas to a one-year contract with a club option for 2009; Designated INF Ray Olmedo for assignment.

I'm in the minority here, but I think the Barajas signing was a bad move. Yes, he was dirt cheap and he posted a 704 OPS. But he had a 294 OBP. Think about that, he's making outs more than 70% of the time, and the team rewards him by accepting his team option for 09. Unless Barajas is the Yadier Molina of defenders, there's no way Barajas should have a starting job with a 294 OBP.

For most people, the signing worked out because he was a solid defensive catcher, and he did come very cheap. He stepped it up in Zaun's absence, but outside of that one month Barajas was awful. I don't think Barajas is a good starting option heading into 2009, specifically because of the lack of OBP. Hopefully one of the kids can step up, but if not I'd like to see Josh Bard get a shot on a minor league deal.

As for the DFA of Olmedo, this is another poor move from a roster management point of view. Olmedo is cheap, and has little service time. He's a perfect utility player because he can play different spots around the IF with solid defense. I'd rather pay Olmedo the league minimum to do the same thing McDonald does for 1.9ish million a season.

1/15/08 Re-signed LHP Jesse Carlson, RHP Jeremy Cummings, RHP Jamie Vermilyea and OF Wayne Lydon to Minor League contracts with invitations to Spring Training; Signed RHP Kane Davis and OF Matt Watson to Minor League contracts with invitations to Spring Training; Invited C J.P. Arencibia, C Brian Jeroloman, 1B Chip Cannon, OF Ryan Patterson and OF Travis Snider to Spring Training.

Most of those signings are pretty irrelevant, except one - re-signing Jesse Carlson. Nobody cared about it at the time, but Carlson was brought to the majors and dominated right from the start. In 60 innings, he struck out 55, walked 21, had a 1.03 WHIP, a 190 ERA+ and a 2.25 ERA. The Jays will have another 5 cheap years of Carlson, which is very important to keep in mind. Brian Fuentes will probably get 3-4 years at 8 or more million to do the same job that Carlson does. JP's been excellent at finding cheap and dominant relievers, and Carlson is no exception.

1/14/08 Acquired 3B Scott Rolen from the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for 3B Troy Glaus.

At the time, nobody knew what to expect from either player. Glaus was coming off an injured season in Toronto, and couldn't handle the field turf. Meanwhile, Rolen had another down year thanks to injuries, and was fighting on and off with Tony La Russa. Both players needed a change of scenery, and they got it. Glaus worked out great for the Cardinals, who provided them with his tremendous power, and some surprisingly good defense. Rolen provided a high level of defense from the Jays, but his bat just disappeared.

The Jays ended up with the worst case scenario for this trade - Glaus succeeding in St. Louis, and Rolen struggling to produce in Toronto. Maybe his hot September is a sign of things to come, but nobody can really say with any certainty if he'll be a consistent 850 OPS bat going forward. I wouldn't bet on it though.

1/7/08 Signed RHP Shawn Camp to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training.

A very under the radar signing, Camp was a solid addition to the bullpen. In 39 1/3 innings, he had a 4.12 ERA. I wouldn't mind if the Jays keep him in the pen next year, but considering the depth he probably won't be needed. Hopefully the Jays can trade him for something rather than lose him on waivers or just DFAing him.

1/2/08 Signed OF Reed Johnson to a one-year contract; Signed RHP Lance Carter, LHP John Parrish and LHP Ryan Ketchner to Minor League contracts with invitations to Spring Training.

Signing Johnson here was a huge mistake. Yes, the Jays should have kept Johnson over Stewart. But if the plan was to get rid of him for a cheaper option, they should have just non-tendered him right here instead of losing him in March and paying him to go away.

Carter and Ketchner were pretty irrelevant this year, and Parrish was a huge addition to the Syracuse staff. Unfortunately, he was pretty shitty when he came up here. Don't let the ERA fool you, as he had a 4.74 FIP, meaning he got really lucky. Not a bad signing though, since we needed him to spot start due to all the injuries we had. You always need players like Parrish.

2/24/08 Signed OF Shannon Stewart to Minor League contract with invitation to Spring Training.

A terrible signing at the time, and a worse one in hindsight. Stewart couldn't hit water if he fell into the ocean, and he was released after he injured himself later in the year. Stew's pretty much done playing at the major league level.

3/11/08 Signed RHP Armando Benitez to a Minor League contract with an invite to Spring Training;

Maybe if this was 1999 the Benitez signing would have been alright. But Benitez hasn't been good since 2004, and the signing just turned out horrible. All I can remember is Benitez giving away game after game before being released, after 6 or so innings.

Well, that's pretty much it for the 2007 offseason, so some quick thoughts:

JP missed on just about everything last year. Eckstein, Rolen, Reed Johnson, and Shannon Stewart were all terrible moves in hindsight. The Scutaro trade worked out better than we could have hoped, and getting Carlson looks like a good move now. I'm sure someone will tell me the Barajas signing was great, but I've never been a fan of sub 300 OBP players. It's why I hated when anybody brought up Mike Jacobs as a potential trade option, and it's why I still don't like that Barajas is the starting C.

Quick Thoughts on Overbay

Yesterday the Tao argued that the Jays should trading Overbay in the rumored deal to Seattle, and that we'd be a better team for it. I disagree, mainly because he's been very good against RHP (865 OPS in 2008), and losing him would really hurt the team against RHP. The biggest problem is that he just cannot face LHP, as he had a 540 OPS against them.

If Bautista, who had an 885 OPS against LHP last year, was platooned with Overbay, we'd have the makings of an above average first basemen. Considering the average 1B had an 838 OPS, I think the Jays would be in pretty good shape if they combine Lyle's 865 OPS (and good defense) against RHP with Bautista's 885 OPS vs LHP. They'd probably be around an 870 OPS, which is fine with me.

The other issue with trading Overbay is that his value is at it's lowest - so you'd get nothing in return for him. If the Jays platoon him, and let him build back some value during the season they can still move him in July. Injuries do happen, and Overbay could be a valuable piece to move IF he's platooned and is having a solid season.

One more thing - we can't assume Snider is ready to play fulltime. I'd love to leave Snider as the 1B of the future, but there's no guarantee he outproduces Overbay in 2009. Keeping Overbay gives the Jays a legitimate excuse to keep Snider in AAA where he can work on his plate discipline, and his defense.

Overbay had a brutal season - I'm not going to argue with that. But he does have value as a platoon guy vs RHP. I think you have to give him a couple of months in 2009 to see if he can at least build up a little trade value. I just don't like selling low on players like this, when there's not much incentive to do so.



CdnDuck said...

Wow, I'm usually on board with most of what is writen here but not today. Personally, I think Scutaro was the worst move of the last off season in hindsight because we have a manager who fell in love with a guy who isn't a good hitter and isn't the best defensive SS on the team. Hitting Scutaro second and getting 500+ AB's of sub .700 OPS is inexcusable which is why I want nothing more than to see the Jays sign Furcal in the off season so we can finally get some production out of the spot.

While I wasn't a big fan of the Eckstein signing last season, the idea of having him lead off and get on base at a decent clip then be replaced by McDonald later in the game for his glove made some solid sense. However, I think this happened twice all lasat season and Eckstein never really got on track in Toronto.

As for Barajas, he was great when you consider he made next to nothing last year. I'm fine with him platooning with Thigpen to start the year and then give way when Arencibia proves to be ready.

The Southpaw said...

Scutaro shouldn't have been hitting at the top of the order, but that doesn't mean it was a bad trade. Scutaro was the best defensive SS we had (better than McDonald this year by ZR), and had he qualified he would have been the best defensive SS in the majors according to ZR. I'll take a 700 OPS SS who plays quality defense any day of the week.

I said last year Eckstein should have started the game at SS, with McDonald ending it. So I'm not disagreeing with you. But the thing is, he wasn't much better with the bat than Scutaro, and McDonald wasn't as good with the glove as Scutaro. So it was a good idea in theory, but at least in 2008, Scutaro playing full time was better than a McDonald/Eckstein platoon.

I said that Barajas was great because he cost next to nothing. The problem is that he has a 294 OBP. He has a 34.4 CS% which is pretty good. But he's not an everyday player because of the 294 OBP. Like I said, unless you're the best defensive catcher in the game, you can't get away with starting while posting a 294 OBP.

Whenever Barajas has had more than 300 AB's the highest OBP he had was 306, with the lowest being 276. That's a huge liability in the lineup.

I did say I was in the minority on that one though.


Jer said...

This post has made me delete this blog from my bookmarks. I've gotten a little sick of this infatuation with stats. I'm sure one or two people still read this blog but I will not be one of them

The Southpaw said...

Meh, do you want an apology or something? Thanks for coming out, though.


eyebleaf said...

Barajas' OBP is pretty fuckin brutal...He's got to be more patient. But he ain't going to change his ways.

I love Scoot.

And Jer, why such a douchebag?

Lloyd the Barber said...

Calling Rolen a horrible move in hindsight seems a bit harsh to me, a decided Rolen apologist. He really had one terrible month. Glaus had one great one.

I really believe it's closer to a wash than a horrible, regrettable move.

Anonymous said...

re: Randy David Wells.

$25,000 for an inning is money wasted? Au contraire! The Jays paid the Beej $10 million for 58 IP. That's a little over $172,000 per inning.

Torgen said...

Benitez was fine as a righty specialist until he blew that game against the O's. (After which he was released.) The other runs he allowed were a homer to Kubel (a lefty) and a 2 run double to Rollins (a switch hitter), none of those runs caused a lead change, and we won both games. So you can hardly say he gave away game after game.