Posted December 07, 2012

Winners (Haren) and losers (Hamilton) from Winter Meetings

Dan Haren, Josh Hamilton, Kevin Youkilis, Michael Bourn, New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants, Shane Victorino, Washington Nationals
It doesn't look like Josh Hamilton will get the contract he had in mind. (Michael Prengler/CSM/Landov)

It doesn’t look like Josh Hamilton will get the contract he had in mind. (Michael Prengler/CSM/Landov)

With no blockbuster trades or nine-figure free agent signings, the Winter Meetings in Nashville were more notable for what didn’t get done than what did. Justin Upton is still a Diamondback, James Shield a Ray and Wil Myers a Royal, while Zack Greinke and Josh Hamilton remain unsigned. With more than two months until pitchers and catchers begin reporting, the winter’s work is hardly done, and teams have plenty of time to step to the plate to collect that big hit, so to speak.

Still, it’s tough to resist sorting through what just happened this week to identify winners and losers. With the caveat that most teams still merit incomplete grades, here’s an admittedly subjective take on what we’ve taken home from Music City.

WINNERS

Washington Nationals and Dan Haren

The Denard Span trade — a solid near-term win that helped the Nationals avoid a pricey free agent entanglement — happened prior to the meetings, so that doesn’t count here. No, the Nationals’ position among the winners owes to the signing of Haren to a one-year, $13 million deal. The 32-year-old righty battled back woes during a 2012 season in which he put up a 4.33 ERA while yielding a career-worst 1.4 homers per nine and failed to reach the 200-inning plateau for the first time since 2004, but even so, he’s been one of the game’s top pitchers over the past eight seasons.

During that span, his 28.8 WAR (Baseball-Reference.com version) ranks 10th, while his 1,875 innings are second only to CC Sabathia and his 118 ERA+ is tied for 17th among pitchers with at least 1,000 innings. With Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez ahead of him, Haren doesn’t need to be the ace of Washington’s rotation, he simply needs to fill the slot vacated by Edwin Jackson, who delivered a 4.03 ERA in 189 2/3 innings. On the principle that there are no bad one-year deals, Haren is an acceptable risk, and given that he gets to join a contender while earning a salary that’s slightly above his 2012 one ($12.75 million), he’s a winner here too.

San Francisco Giants

Given the context of B.J. Upton’s five-year, $75.25 million deal with the Braves and Shane Victorino’s three-year, $39 million deal with the Red Sox, the Giants’ four-year, $40 million deal with Angel Pagan is a significant bargain, one that looks even better with sunk cost Aaron Rowand coming off of San Francisco’s books. Pagan’s 13.9 WAR nearly doubles that of Upton (7.2) over the past four seasons and is tied with Victorino for fifth among centerfielders during that span. Pagan is also eight months younger than the Flyin’ Hawaiian, with a more encouraging recent trajectory and a smaller platoon split.

The re-signing of Marco Scutaro to a three-year, $20 million deal is riskier given his age (37 on October 30), but it’s hardly the golden parachute that Aubrey Huff received from the Giants (two years, $22 million) and Juan Uribe got from the Dodgers (three years, $21 million) after they helped San Francisco to the title in 2010. So long as Scutaro can continue to be a two-win player — he’s averaged 2.3 WAR over the past three years — the Giants will come out ahead, and they can shunt him into a utility role by the end of the deal if need be.

Shane Victorino

For Victorino to wind up making $13 million a year coming off full-season lows in all three slash categories (.255/.321/.383) split between the Phillies and Dodgers is a huge win for him. While the 32-year-old switch-hitter’s overall three-year trend doesn’t look too bad — 10.8 WAR from 2007-2009, 10.4 from 2010-2012 — his massive platoon split is cause for concern. During the latter stretch, he has hit just .244/.311/.387 in 1,366 plate appearances against righties, compared to .317/.392/.551 in 512 PA against lefties. He’s a platoon player in the guise of a regular, so the danger is that he’s going to be overpaid from his services.

Kevin Youkilis

Whether he accepts the Yankees’ reported one-year, $12 million offer or a two-year, $18 million deal from the Indians, Youkilis is going to come out ahead. The 33-year-old is coming off a down year in which he hit just .235/.336 /.409 split between the Red Sox and White Sox, and he’s become increasingly brittle, averaging just 120 games a year over the past four seasons while visiting the disabled list each season. New York’s offer barely constitutes a pay cut from his $12.25 million salary in 2012, that for a player who likely wouldn’t be a full-timer once Alex Rodriguez returns from injury after recovering from hip surgery.

LOSERS

New York Yankees

General manager Brian Cashman spent the first leg of the offseason retaining Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera via one-year contracts, but while he was doing so, he lost Russell Martin to the Pirates via a very reasonable two-year deal. That doesn’t count against him here. What does is the fallout from the news that Rodriguez could be out until June after undergoing left hip surgery. Even if one grants Cashman a pass for his confusing explanation regarding the timeline of the injury during the postseason, the Yankees’ failure to retain Eric Chavez (one year, $3 million to the Diamondbacks) or land Jeff Keppinger (three years, $12 million to the White Sox) looks ridiculous in light of their offer to Youkilis.

Worse, the Wall Street Journal‘s Dan Barbarisi reported that Cashman “came to the winter meetings in Nashville with his hands so fully tied that he lacked the authority to make offers to free agents,” which makes it sound as though those above him — managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner and club president Randy Levine — are significantly cutting into his authority. The team’s frantic attempt to get its 2014 payroll under the $189 million threshold, thereby not only resetting their marginal luxury tax rate but also gaining a substantial rebate with regards to revenue sharing, is what’s driving this newfound caution. Still, if the Yankees go into the 2013 season with a cobbled-together platoon solution in rightfield to replace Nick Swisher, a similarly half-baked solution at catcher to replace Martin and an overpay when it comes to Youkilis, they’ll certainly be the worse for it, at least with regards to the near term.

Closers

Rafael Soriano opted out of the $14 million he would have received from the Yankees via his three-year deal, but even coming off a 42-save season in place of the injured Mariano Rivera, he’ll be hard pressed to match that or anything approaching the average annual value of his now-shredded three-year, $35 million deal. The contracts Brandon League (three years, $22.5 million plus a vesting option from the Dodgers) and Jonathan Broxton (three years, $21 million from the Reds) landed may seem exorbitant given their recent track records, but the bubble has burst when it comes to eight-figure salaries for closers.

Consider Ryan Madson, who was thought to have a four-year, $44 million deal with the Phillies last winter, one that vanished when the team decided to go with Jonathan Papelbon at four years and $50 million. Madson settled for a one-year, $8.5 million deal with the Reds, then wound up undergoing Tommy John surgery in April before he could even pitch an inning for Cincinnati. He recently signed a $3.5 million deal with the Angels that’s laden with incentives topping out at an overall $7 million take if he finishes at least 50 games and avoids the DL for an arm injury. Meanwhile, Brian Wilson was nontendered by the Giants coming off a year in which he made $8.5 million while undergoing Tommy John surgery, and Rivera took a sizable pay cut from $15 million a year to $10 million coming off ACL surgery and his 43rd birthday. While one can attribute all of those dealings to injuries, the ostensibly healthy Jose Valverde was let go by the Tigers following a two-year, $14 million deal and hasn’t found work either.

Michael Bourn

With the Twins’ trade of Ben Revere to the Phillies, Bourn may have lost his best chance to outdo Upton’s deal with the Braves, because the Phillies, Nationals and Giants have already take care of their centerfield needs as well. Bourn could still wind up as a fallback solution for either the Mariners or the Rangers depending upon which of the two teams doesn’t sign Hamilton, but the former isn’t exactly close to contender status, and the latter still has Craig Gentry and Leonys Martin as options in the middle pasture. In addition, Texas will presumably win out for the services of Greinke in the event it loses Hamilton, so the likelihood that it would pony up as the Braves ddi for Upton seems slim at best.

Josh Hamilton

Forget about that seven-year, $175 million deal the 31-year-old slugger was said to be seeking; it’s simply not happening, at least on this planet. The Rangers appear to be willing to go to four years after saying otherwise earlier this offseason, and while the Mariners appear to be the most interested alternative suitor thus far, rumor has it the parameters of their discussions are for three years in the $20-25 million a year range. The Yankees may be sniffing around, but as noted above, they’re apparently financially hamstrung, and the Red Sox sound as though their interest is for a short-term deal at best. Nobody should weep for Hamilton, who will be paid handsomely no matter which uniform he winds up in, but he’s not going to reap the windfall he and his agent envisioned.

17 comments
Andrew31
Andrew31

Also john4, my suggestion to look up or go up I95 was what people call a "metaphor". Can u spell that? Met a Phor. Believe it or not, the ph make an "f" sound. It's incredible. I was suggesting that u look at what the Boston Red Sox (Boston is located north of NY via I95) to c what the Red Sox are doing. They also are trying to get load down. Ur comment about the Yanks being saddled by ARod, Tex and Jeter (u forgot CC) is absolutely correct and OBVIOUS. Good to c u read the papers and can regurgitate what u read in the NY Post! I don't think I ever said they didn't regret those contracts. In fact, those contracts are a major part of why they need to pull in to get to $189mm! Good luck to u!

Andrew31
Andrew31

Wow. i learned (in my 13 years) that when someone gets personal w their comments, its ny because they are light minded and out of logical arguments to make. Sry if u can't understand Internet shorthand. Are u 91? If u put on ur bifocals and read my comment, u will see that the objective is to not exceed the $189 mm cap by 2014 to reset the penalty the Yanks have been compelled to pay each year. It also allows the minor league talent they have (mostly in a and aa) to come to MLB over next few years and build around them. In that context, ALL ONE YEAR CONTRACTS ARE GREAT because they don't lock in for more than 1 year. Can u understand that? I don't want u to hu uself trying to understand that. It's a pretty obvious fact and, frankly, IT'S BEEN THE STATED POSITION OF CASHMAN who probably knows more about Yanks' objective than u, although I bet u disagree with that as well. Good luck to u pal!

mbkrug
mbkrug

How can you say the Giants are a winner for giving Pagan $40 million.  Last year the Mets would not have given him $12 million for four years.  That is overpaying a player who had a good few months.  When he regresses that contract will become an albatross.

AtanatarVryce
AtanatarVryce

The Yankees argument is not about how much they are spending and trying to create a story about their spending habits it is about how they are going about their goal.  Would you rather have Martin (who solidified the position last year quite well, and played to a decent level) at 2 years 10 million (as no catchers in the pipeline) or would you rather have Youklis at 1 year 13 million?  The contract offer to Youklis is ridiculous to put it mildly considering how injury-prone he has been recently and the huge decline of his numbers, while Martin was a known commodity and would have cost less per year and over the life of he contract in a position of need.  And they still need to figure out RF, as pointed out.

 

I am glad the Yankees are not going crazy in FA.  I really prefer it overall.  IT is better for baseball as a whole, and they actually seem to have a plan, and for once seem to be sticking to it rather than spending crazy money to stopgap holes with really bad contracts.  But they did not go about it well during the meetings....prior to them they handled their business well, but during the meetings there were some seriously odd choices, and for the most par ti would agree that they were bad ones. 

nocknock57
nocknock57

Spend away, boys. The Swinging A's will make the playoffs this year with a payroll just above a buck thirty five and a couple of bottle caps. Billy boy has found another group of boys who play with heart, for the love of the game.  Maybe they have found a way to channel the spirit of Doc Graham...

Andrew31
Andrew31

Keep building from within Cash. Ignore the garbage spewed by the tabloids. They r acting in their own interest of self preservation. They need to be relevant!

Andrew31
Andrew31

The press is soooo predictable. Everyone seems to think the Yanks "struck out" by not making a splash. Fact is, they are trying to reset (which is a great idea as far as building another dynasty). Press hates this and tries to create this pressure on Yanks to sign big free agents b/c those signings create stories that go on forev and enable them to "sell" more of their news garbage. ARod has been a Home Run for NY journalists. What would they be talking about in NY if not about his success and failures (mostly failures)? Yanks' behaving like a logical MLB team is bad for the news business. That is why we are seeing all these negative spins. The journalists are Leung in desperation and trying to build support from its readers to pressure Yankees to spend spend spend. It's so pathetic!

John4
John4

 @Andrew31 Most of that would be true except for the $12 million offer to Youkilis.  Why go after an aging guy whose best baseball is behind him (in a Boston Red Sox uniform, no less) for so much money?  The fact is that the Yankees would have been much better off with Martin, and not making an offer to Youkilis.  The Yankees also are paying $10 Million to Rivera (which is probably going to be too much) (I know he was great, he was a great Yankee and paid greatly for it, when he was performing), Andrew31, kindly explain why losing Martin was a good move and explain why offering bug bucks to Youkilis is a good move.  Explain how the catcher position will perform, and explain their lack of a capable right fielder.  The Yankees are paying a lot to several older stars (some say "aging, over the hill stars") and do not have the deep team they need.  Do you really think Arod, Jeter, AND Tex will perform at a high level in 2013?  If so, why?  Note that between the three, the Yankees have almost $60 Million committed for 2013.  Do you really think the Yankees will get value for that cost?  Note that their salary cost for 2013 will be $189 Million and almost one third is tied up in older players who will never again perform that their best because they are too old.  The Yankees were losers at the winter meetings because they are trying to cut salary cost, and cannot.  Also, they cannot go after medium to higher cost free agents because they cannot afford them when the constraints of the existing Yankees salaries for 2013 are taken into consideration.  It is what it is.  

Andrew31
Andrew31

U should learn to read Internet shorthand. Are u 91? U state the obvious in ur email. Everyone knows Yanks are saddled by 4 bad k's. Means u can read the Post. U can't understand the logic of the benefits of a 1 year contract for a team trying to rebuild and get below the cap by 2014. Good thing u don't run a business or MLB franchise!

azathoth
azathoth

 @Andrew31 And you should learn proper English spelling and grammar.  Saying "it's the internet" is a crutch for the feeble minded.  It takes approximately .03 more seconds to type "you" rather than "u."  And I'm going to guess you will never be in charge of a business; you have to act like an adult to do that.

Andrew31
Andrew31

@John4 I completely disagree w u. There are multiple important components to a contract. First is amount. Second is term. ALL ONE YEAR CONTRACTS ARE GOOD CONTRACTS IN MLB!! That is a fact. U r correct about Martin except that they can get his good defense and mediocre offense from within, certainly much more so than they can find sub for mediocre (and economic bust) ARod. Yanks are total winners b/c they are setting themselves up to build a new young nucleas over next 2-3 years and spend in 2015 when great FA class is presented. BTW - if u don't see this, look up route 95 in Boston. They have a duplicate plan. It's VERY smart!

John4
John4

 @Andrew31  Andrew - also, please use words.  Do not use w, u, r, it makes you look like a 13 year old.  And note that the use of definitive statements is foolhardy.  To say that "All one year contracts are good contracts in MLB" is idiotic.  Hundreds of one year contracts either vastly overpaid for a player or allowed the player to leave after only one year.  How in the world can that be good "ALL" the time?  In fact, your claim is a statistical impossibility.   Are you 13?  

John4
John4

 @Andrew31  Andrew - I think you said that you disagree and that the Yankees will be able to spend in 2015.  So, 2013 AND 2014 will be busts?  Does that make them a winner?  If so, how?  Note that the Yankees have almost one third of their committed salaries (of the $189 Million total) to Arod, Tex, and Jeter.  Jeter might be OK for 2013, but he will be expensive for his salary value.  Arod will be incredibly expensive and not worth anywhere near his 2013 salary.  Tex will be expensive, and not worth his 2013 salary.  How can you disagree with that?  Losing Martin will hurt the Yankees.  How can you disagree with that?  Many of the Yankees long term contracts expire beyond 2015, so how will they be setting themselves up to spend in 2015?  Your comment does not make sense.  (Arod, Tex and Sabathia expire after 2015.  Also, before 2015, the Yankees will have to sign Cano to a long term contract or lose him).  In the spring of 2015, the Yankees will still have millions (and certainly one third of their total contract cost for only 3-4 players.  Arod, Sabathia, Tex and Cano - if they resign him).  How in the world will the Yankees be "set up"  to spend in 2015?  Face it, their contracts to Arod and Tex (and to a lesser extent, Jeter) are hampering the teams' efforts to sign free agents.  Disagree all you want, the facts are what they are.  Also, I'm no Red Sox fan, (in fact I hate pretty much all things from Boston - Pats, Red Sox, Celtics, and their hockey team which is currently missing their season) so I don't understand you note that I should look up the I-95 to Boston.  I have never been to Boston, and will NEVER go there.     

John4
John4

 @Andrew31 that's offering BIG BUCKS.

 

Sorry, typo above.  

AndreAnderson
AndreAnderson like.author.displayName 1 Like

So because the Yankees actually stuck (so far) with what they said their goal was all along ($189M payroll),  and not spend recklessly so that the "experts" could rip them for overspending, they're losers. No, so-called Sports Journalist are the losers here.

Andrew31
Andrew31

@AndreAnderson agreed. This is all about 2015 AND, the luxury tax. If they shed payroll by the swing year, they cut payroll tax dramatically, even when they exceed cap hereafter. It's a reset from what I have read. Yanks are doing very smart things. Only flaw in their plan is that their prospects keep getting hurt!