Friday, January 29, 2010

Don't Toy With Me Alex

Some notes from all over:

Item - One of the things I had been quietly thinking to myself for weeks now is that Johnny Damon was quietly running out of open slots to sell his services to and the Jays still don't have a competent lead-off hitter. But I had assumed that between his agent (Boras), his price, the fact that he wants to be a Yankee so much he might cave and go back there for less, and our "building project" that it would be foolishness to hope he could land with the Jays.

But, according to Jordan Bastian (and others) tweeting from the State of the Franchise Dinner last night, the Jays have at least talked about it. the odds are still against it I suppose, but put me down in favor of it. In fact, I'd go so far as to say given that our system is a few years away from producing a viable candidate to lead off, if the organization is ready to commit to Snider in RF for at least 2-3 years, I'd not be opposed to a 2 or 3 year deal. But even if its only one year, the potential to trade him in July, or get two draft picks next winter, is a very nice incentive to give him a soft place to land now. That said, if the Ghost of Cito takes Snider out of the lineup for Damon, THAT is a horse of a exceedingly divergent hue.

Damon has a rep as a poor defender but as a flycatcher in LF he's just fine. Most of the advanced metrics have him above average in that regard. It's true he has a legendarily weak arm but are we REALLY giving up more net wins with the occasional weak throw from left than we'll give up with Jose Bautista leading off against RHP roughly 120 times in 2010? Hell no. And all yall who think if we sign him that Lind is a better option to play left? no. Just....no.

Of course, full disclosure - when Damon was available in the draft I wanted him on the Jays more than anyone else out there and I've always liked the guy since (rare for me to like anyone who plays for the Yankees much) so I do have a bit of an emotional attachment. Still, that aside, I think Damon is a nice fit here if he resigns himself to not getting a job on a contender.

Item - Another bit of news coming out of that Dinner was that Cito Gaston has a chubby for the idea of bringing back Carlos Delgado, but AA doesn't think he fits because he thinks (correctly) that Adam Lind needs to DH. Now, I feel REALLY bad for Carlos that there seems to be no obvious starting DH role for him in the AL, I think he still has a lot to offer. But he doesn't fit here. The biggest possible stretch is if we could pawn Overbay off on the Mets or somebody and let Lind play 1B this year and use Overbay's salary to pay both Damon and Delgado. But that's a heck of a lot of moving parts. which sucks, because Delgado closing out a great career here is a much better story that Randy Ruiz turning out to be gold after all this time, IMO.

Item - One other not worth mentioning from last night - Dustin McGowan is back on the mound. Well, technically he was back on the mound this morning throwing a bullpen session. Reports are he felt no pain and all went well and a couple of stray remarks indicate "he looks great." Obviously there is a LONG road ahead and hope to see him in the 2010 rotation is irrational but . . . I'm fantasizing on a big comeback just the same.

Item - AA suggested last night that he's been trying everything possible to bring in a top-shelf young SS and there's not one available.

Item - I won't bother to get into all the various quotes but listening to Cito talk last night about the upcoming year gives me more than a small portion of unease. He's all over the map and says a lot of stuff that...how can I put this nicely?. . . concerns me. If he's going to be an actual consultant and not a figure head, he might want to pay at least as much fucking attention to who's actually on the team as an unpaid blogger 500 miles away, donchathink?

Elsewhere . . .

Item - Keith Law has a top 10 prospect list out for the Jays (hat tip to the Drunks) as does FanGraphs Marc Hulet.

Law had four Jays in his Top 100 Prospects in baseball too, by the way. He had Brett Wallace at #20 (ahead of Michael Taylor if you still care about that) and says he's "ready right away." Also, he has Drabek at 40 (is worried about his delivery doesn't think he has an ace ceiling which puts him at odds with most other observers), Stewart at 55 ("has a chance to be a good #2 or a top shelf reliever"), and d'Arnoud at 99 (a "more complete player" than JPA). He also ranked the Jays' system #16 overall while noting in passing that the would have been at or near the bottom as of July 30.
Of further interest in his Top 10, Law has Henderson Alverez (who was my #1 guy before the Halladay deal) at #5, Moses Sierra at #9 and wunderkind SS Gustavo Pierre all the way up at #10.

Hulet (not one of the more famous names but few who are not employed by the Jays know the system better) also ranked Wallace #1, has Arencibia (at #4) ahead of d'Arnoud (#7) and has Sierra all the way up at #5, but what I found most striking was Brad Mills at #6 and Danny Farquhar at #10. Hulet, obviously since he's writing here for Fangraphs, loads you up on all the statistical goodness.

Item - It was noted last night the Jays are getting new turf. No way this can be anything but a cue to the Hallelujah Chorus.

Item - I mentioned this on Batters Box, rather than burn a whole post on the idea here, and so far it hasn't been shot down to my satisfaction: if we are picking over the guys who are shocked to find they are still free agents on February 1, I'd take a look at bringing in Felipe Lopez with plans to play him in RF (assuming we don't get Damon). the way I figure it, if Bautista can play RF, why can't Lopez? He's got an arm, he's not a slug, and he can actually hit RHP. it's true there career lines at the plate are not much different, but since he left Washington Lopez seems to have rediscovered his bat and if we MUST gamble in the lead-off spot, I'd much rather do so with a guy who's OPS was over .380 last year (and well over .350 in the 191 games since he left the Nats) than a guy who is a lock to look like John McDonald when a RHP is on the mound.

Item - Jason Stark suggests that the Jays have told clubs that both Frasor and Dwons are available, which makes sense given that this winter provided a cautionary tale about offering arbitration to Type A relievers. Reportedly the Cubs have inquired.

Item - via a re-tweeted tweet (damn I hate that word) I picked up a Jays blog I hadn't read before. It's called Tangled Up in Powder Blue and I don't want to be effusive in my praise, since it only has 14 new posts since the start of 2009, but hey - it is written by a female and it's good to see a member of the fairer sex blogging the Jays so I figure if I give her some notice maybe she'll weigh in more often. if she does, maybe I'll add her to the sidebar.

I'm sure I'm forgetting something I wanted to mention but this is getting too long anyway so enough with trying to remember it all.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

M.S.U. - #2 Edmunds!

Gonna try to be really brief here.

Here's what we know:

1. Jays are at least considering playing Jose Bautista in RF and leading him off in 2010;

2. Jose Bautista is extraordinarily suckish vs. RHP;

3. Cito seems to have no problem sending out suckinsh players in his lineup;

4. Cito loves veteran players;

5. Even as he was winding down, Jim Edmunds still raked vs. RHP.

6. Edmunds says he wants to play in 2010 and expects to sign within the next week or so. Now, to be clear, Edmunds doesn't fit the plan, he'd be only a stopgap. And he's been off a year so you would HAVE to think that he's only good for a minor league contract and a chance to make the team. In addition, while he tends to have a high OBP v. RH, he's not your traditional lead-off guy and you have to accept that and he has to accept that role. but IF AA doesn't have some ace-in-the-hole to solve that RF/lead-off problem, in my opinion the Jays could do a lot worse than tossing a million or so at Edmunds (on a make good basis) - one of the ways they could do worse is play Bautista every day.

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On another note, the Jays acquired one time hot prospect Merkin Valdez from the Giants today for cash. Valdez missed almost two years with TJ surgery and 2009 was his first year back. In the low minors Valdez missed a lot of bats and reached AAA by the age of 23. Hew wasn't quite as dominant that year but he still had a lot of promise to be doing well in the PCL at 23. Up to that point he had been a starter. Since coming back from injury he pitched in the Giant's pen but SF is not short of quality options for the rotation.

If Valdez can get his control back (for a hard thrower, that tends to be a problem the first year after surgery) the Jays might have picked up a relatively valuable chip here - albeit there are way more candidates than jobs for pitchers in Toronto as well.

IN fact, if you count every reasonably potential candidate to pitch in either Toronto or Las Vegas, it totals up to a startling THIRTY pitchers - and that's without counting Mcgowan and Litsch. Alex A was on the Fan today and he mentioned that he still had his ear to the ground to add more pitching if it was "the right guy at the right price" but some of these dudes are gonna have to walk in march.

Here's how it breaks down (locks or near locks bolded):

Possibilities for the major league rotation - Marcum, Romero, Morrow, Rzep, McGowan, Richmond, Tallet, Purcey, Cecil, Mills, Ray, Valdez, Jackson

Possibilities for the major league 'pen - Frasor, Downs, Carlson, Accardo, Tallet, Richmond, Janssen, Roenicke, Zinicola, Valdez, Hayhurst, Ray, Jackson

Possibilities for the AAA Rotation (doesn't included any bolded player above) - Mills, Ray, Purcey*, Stewart, Valdez, Jackson, Broadway, Drabek, Perez, Gonzalez

Possibilities for the AAA bullpen - Janssen, Roenicke, Zinicola**, Valdez*, Hayhurst*, Jackson, Broadway, Boone, D. Romero, Register, Henn, Stidfole

That's a lot of guys looking for innings already.

* - possibly or probably out of options

** - Zinicola can't be sent down unless we give the Nats some sort of compensation for the right to.

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Finally, looking back at the payroll projection - Brian Tallet blew my projected total a bit. I was within 1/4 million on every other guess. The total of all the arbitration eligible guys ended up being $8.43 million. A reader reminded me we owe $1.6 million to the Reds on Rolen (which may have already been paid but we'll note it) so right now the total projected salary for 2010 is right at $63 million on roster and just a bit over $80 million including off-roster payments.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Dollar Daze

I have been doing one of these payroll review things every year for a while now. I see so much misinformation tossed about most of the time about what is committed and what is available that I like to at least put one voice out there who's saying something reliable.

In the past, I've done this ahead of the arbitration deals in order to test myself on how well I do those projections. last year I was very very close (I think under $200K off on the total spent on all arbitration eligible players) but of course, doing so means there will have to be an update later.

Also, since AA will surely still be making deals right up to and even into Spring Training, this is surely only a "snapshot."

All that said, I won't be able to say much this year about how much might be left to spend because the Jays simply no longer make us fans privy to the information regarding how much they want to spend. They might be at their budget or they might have $10 million in the hole waiting for a bargain - we simply can't know.

We'll begin with this reality: there's $16 million already committed to players no longer with the team. We'll be paying BJ Ryan $10 million not to play baseball, and we sent $6 million to Philadelphia with Doc. Whether or not WE consider that "payroll," Major League Baseball does so that counts as far as the league is concerned. But it is possible that Rogers considers that "sunk cost" and thus, we have some flexibility there that the total doesn't reflect - again, we simply can't know.

Breaking down the projected roster, and using Cott's Contracts (see the sidebar) as the reference of choice, we see these players who are under contract:

Vernon Wells - $21 million ($12.5 in payroll, $8.5 as a payment on the signing bonus)
Lyle Overbay - $7 million
Edwin Encarnacion - $4.75 million
Scott Downs - $4 million
Aaron Hill - $4 mil
Alex Gonzalez - $2.75 mil
Jose Bautista - $2.4 mil
John Buck - $2 mil
John McDonald - $1.5 mil
Dustin McGowan - $500k


Total = $49.9 million

The following players are arbitration eligible. They are listed with last year's salary in parenthesis and my projection for 2010 (I'm assuming here they all settle, I will refrain from guessing who'd win if they went to an actual arbitration decision):

Jason Frasor ($1.45) $2.4 mil
Brian Tallet (1.o15) $1.6 mil
Jeremy Accardo ($900k) $1.2 mil
Shawn Camp ($750k) $900k
Shaun Marcum ($405,200) $750k
Casey Janssen ($413, 900) $650k

Total = $7.6 million

Now, if we assume all those players are on the 25 man roster then there are nine remaining spots.

Lind will definitely occupy one, and I'm going to assume Snider will have one and that Chavez will serve as the reserve catcher. That leaves two potential spots for hitters, and for now we'll give one of those to Ruiz and leave the other one hanging for a bit.

That leaves spots for three more starting pitchers, and the other spot goes to Jesse Carlson who will surely make the team. (yes I know I'm presuming too much on health particularly in the case of McGowan but bear with me)

SO-
Half a mil on Chavez (about what he made last year);
Lind, Snider, Ruiz, Carlson, Romero, Zep, and Morrow all making slightly more than the minimum - We'll round this up a bit to an ever $3 million;

That's a total of $3.5 million with one unfilled slot, which might be an eighth reliever, but logically should be another bench player (which we'll plug in Gathright as a placeholder even though I think there's an acquisition pending) but however you juggle it we're sitting at just about $4 million to fill out the roster.

In addition, Jesse Litsch will collect a major league salary while sitting on the DL and if you assume McGowan won't be able to make it onto the field you can add another minimum wage guy (Cecil for instance) in his place so we'll toss in one more million for a sub-total here of $5 million.

So, grand total for the 25 man roster: ~$62.5 million. You can quibble a bit with the arbitration guesses but I'll wager I'm within +/- $500k on the total.

As I said, I'm assuming that there's the potential for one additional hitter (at least) - especially if Cito is serious about Bautista in RF and leading off (since I can't believe we're going to not platoon him if that's going to be his job) but if that were the case, then Lind would be the DH and that puts Ruiz in question. Still, however it plays out I allowed for a yet unidentified player in that budget.

Also, there is still the possibility that Lyle Overbay or possible one of the relievers is dealt albeit I don't really see much of a market. If AA manages to shed Overbay's whole salary before the season starts it might well be his slickest move yet. there's just not a lot of openings for a 1B. So Lyle might be here until July at least.

Finally, we remember the $16 million I mentioned at the start and the total outlay is just a bit under $80 million, which is roughly $1 million less than Cott's total for 2009.

Unless we have an unusually fortunate opportunity, my guess is that this figure isn't going up much for 2010.

And it might go down some more yet.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

What's Aroldis Chapman worth to the Jays?

Or to any team, for that matter.

Perhaps more than you think.

first, let me be clear - I predicate my thoughts here on the concept that Chapman is in fact worthy of the praise he draws in some circles.

Chapman, a 22 year old, 6'4" left-hander, is the possessor of one of those arms Crash Davis referred to as "touched by the gods" capable of touching, by some reports, over 102 MPH on the radar gun. But his secondary pitches are said to be raw (he has at least a slider and a change-up since he's thrown those in workouts for major league scouts) and the expectation is that he'll need some time in the minors to refine his abilities. Still, many scouts consider him the best left-handed prospect in the world.

He's also said to be a bit of an egomaniac who might present maturity and behavioral issues. The team who signs him would have to be both confident they could refine his abilities (which should be the Jays' forte) and also confident they can develop him as a person into the sort of player, teammate and clubhouse presence that matches his abilities.

I have no way of knowing the answer to these questions so I say what I am about to say concerning contractual value based on the theoretical possibility that the Blue Jays can be confident on both counts. Let's further stipulate for the purpose of this discussion, that the Jays do indeed have this kind of money, per Beeston's constant claims. Otherwise this is a futile exercise.

Chapman has reportedly already declined a $15 million offer from the Red Sox. That's hardly surprising since the current holder of the Cuban defector record for a contract is Jose Contrares who signed a four year, $32 million contract with the Yankees way back in 2003. To assume that Chapaman would want to at least get into that neighborhood is pretty much a given.

So let us say, for the purpose of discussion, that it takes $30 million to sign Chapman for five years. It might take more because that's still a smaller Average Annual Value than Contrares got. But we have to have some sort of working figure.

First, you need some basis for comparison. Since Contrares is so far back, and since he changed teams a couple of times, I've chosen another, more current (and obvious) comparison - recently signed mega-prospect Stephen Strasburg.

Now, the comparison is imperfect because Strasburg wasn't an unrestricted free agent. on the other hand, most reports suggest he's better than Chapman so that will hopefully balance things out enough to make the comparison reasonable. There's really no one else that makes an ideal comparison because of other factors (for instance, Dice-K being a major-league-ready veteran makes him a poor comparison).

Strasburg's four year, $15.1 million deal pays him a $7.5 million signing bonus, and and salaries of $400K in 2009 (pro-rated), $2, $2.5, and $3 million in the following years. If Strasburg broke camp with the Nats, he'd be arbitration eligible at the end of the contract. He possibly won't do that but for the sake of this comparison I'll assume that happens. Note that this is an AAV of almost $3.8 million.

You have to start with that deal, because there's always a premium for free agency that doesn't apply to draft picks. Then you consider that you have to pay Chapman for what might well be two seasons in the minors. So assume you are looking at a five-year deal. Assuming an AAV of $4 million over 5 years, that's $20 million.

So, it seems to me that if you want to even talk about Chapman, $20 million over five years is where you START. It's the price of admission to the discussion. If you REALLY think he's a #1 pick talent, and that you can develop him as described above, then that is a no-brainer decision if you are among the teams who have the money.

Now, the question before the house is - how far north of $20 million can you or do you go?

Here's how I answer that question: The premium you pay over and above the figure he's worth absent free agency (as if he were the #1 pick like Strasburg) is the premium you pay for the rights to that mythological #1 pick - for the right to try to develop him. And if you succeed, then you get six years of major league service for your investment.

So then, you ask yourself, for instance, "Is it worth an extra $2 million a year on top of what he 'should' cost to add that kind of talent to my team?"

If so, that's $12 million more total you are willing to spend on Chapman. At the point where you say "is it worth it?" and the answer is "no" - that's where you get out of the bidding.

So what we have before us is a Jays team which is already committed to investing money now for a payoff 3-4 years hence (in a number of different player procurement and development investments) and also a team which has reduced it's major league payroll commitment several million dollars (and likely there's still another couple of deals to come which will save a good deal more) so they are in a unique position to redirect money if they think the cause is worthy.

In such a situation, the Jays are certainly going to "pay forward" a lot of money to make future teams better. The only question is how much and on what. If we assume Chapman is in fact a potential #1 ace starter and will have a good chance of reaching that potential, then that's an asset the Jays (or any team) will under normal circumstance find almost impossible to acquire by other means, short of landing a top five draft pick. So "on what?" will seldom have a better answer than "on a potential Ace pitcher."

"How much?" then, becomes the operative question.

I propose that if you consider that you are giving Chapman something similar to Strasburg's deal - 1.e. $20 million over five years - and then "paying forward" an amount in addition to that necessary to secure six years of major league service from a pitcher of that quality. then you evaluate what those six years are worth to you on average. That amount is what you pay now in order to have him on your team then. if that's $2 million a season then be willing to go to $32 in all to sign him, if it's $3 million then be willing to go to $38 million - you get the picture.

The Jays have the ability to give the guy something like $12 million as a signing bonus out of the money they have saved or will save this year. Then what you have left is a #1 pick contract with an AAV of $4 million a year, which is perfectly in line with other comparable highly regarded prospects. At the risk of re-repeating myself, you look at the $12 million as money you spend now, in a rebuilding year, in order to improve your chances during the 2012-2018 window.

I'd argue that is money well spent, and a wise way to take advantage of the peculiarities of the Jays current situation money wise.

IF you believe you can develop Chapman into That Guy.