Wednesday, November 7, 2012

2013 Free Agent Team

Last year I challenged myself to build a team of free agents with a budget of $100 million.  I hoped the team would be around .500 (based on WAR).  The results were not as good as I had hoped.   If at first you do not succeed, and all that.

I would have done this again even if I'd build a 100 win team.  It's challenging, fun, and forces me to look at a lot of players that I wouldn't ordinarily look at.

After wasting a lot of time doing copious amounts of research this is the team that I've decided on

Again, there weren't a lot of options on the market.  Russ Martin, AJ Pierzynski and Mike Napoli were the only guys I really considered.  As a Dodger fan, Rod Barajas wasn't that attractive and no one else looks like a full time starter.  Pierzynski is coming off of a huge season which I thought might over inflate his price - so I didn't pick him.  Napoli is only kind of a catcher.  I thought about taking him as a C/1B player, but that would necessitate spending more on a back up catcher.  So I chose Martin.  Though he's not near the player he was early in his career with the Dodgers he still gets on base and provides solid defense while playing full time.  He should sign a contract somewhere around 2 years and $15 million.

For my backup I'm taking Humberto Quintero on a minor league deal.  Why?  I think he'll sign a minor league deal and get into some games for some team.   Hard to ask for more than that from a backup catcher.

First base
Again, not much on the market.  Carloses Pena and Lee were cheap considerations, but are just as likely to be in the crapper as to be productive players.  Adam LaRoche is coming off of a good year, but his history is inconsistent and I'm afraid the Nationals are going to make him a ridiculous offer which would have forced me to explain why I 'low-balled' him.  Mike Napoli appears here again, but I went with Kevin Youkilis.  He's in the decline part of his career, but showed in the 2nd half of 2012 that he can still provide with the bat.  He can also play 3rd, which might come in handy later.  The White Sox declined a $13 million option on him, so I think that something in the area of 2 years and $19 million should get him.

Second base
One of the tougher decisions with a slew of uninteresting options to choose from (Mike Fontenot and Ryan Theriot, I'm looking at you).  More interesting was Kelly Johnson - I almost took him with a 2 year $12 million offer.  Maybe I should have.  I instead went with Macier Izturis.  Izturis has been a super back up for the Anaheim Angels for the last 8 years playing 2nd, 3rd, and SS while being something like a major league average bat (wRC+ of 94).  He might not really be a full time player but on a 2 year $8 million contract, I couldn't refuse.

Third base
Blech!  I almost with with the two guys above (Youkilis and Izturis) here.  Mark Reynolds also merited some consideration, but I couldn't get too excited about that.  Placido Polanco?  Mark Wiggenton?  Pass.  Instead I went with Eric Chavez.  He had an excellent part-time season with the Yankees last year, and it's likely he'll do the same in 2013 (play part time...I hope (for purposes of this exercise only (I'm no Yankee fan)) not necessarily play excellently).  For $5 million over 1 season he could be a bargain.

More infield disaster.  Marco Scutaro and Stephen Drew are the two best players.  I couldn't find a way to work either into my budget.  I almost put Macier Izturis here, but he's not really a SS and then who would play 2nd?  Jason Bartlett almost made the team, but I wasn't sure he'd get a gig in 2013.  So I went with another guy who might not play (Brilliant!) - Alex Gonzalez.  Gonzalez was the booby prize for Milwaukee last year after the missed out on Clint Barmes.  Gonzalez is ok at short.  Typically, good enough defense and just enough bat to make him useful.  1 year and $4 million.

I'm certainly not thrilled with my starters, so I had to be a bit more aggressive with the backups.
Jeff Keppinger.  Keppinger had an excellent season with the Rays in 2012 hitting .367/.439 which was 28% better than the average hitter.  The Rays were able to limit his at bats vs righties.  Something my hypothetical team will try to do by platooning him with Eric Chavez at 3rd.  He's not terrible vs righties so he can play some 2nd and 1st as well if needed.  Keppinger made $1.7 million last year.  I'm hoping doubling that to $3.5 million and 2 years will get him.
I also went with Kensuke Tanaka of the NBP.  Tanaka is a 32 year old 2Bman who has played for the Nipoon Ham Fighters (Nipoon Ham is the city, Fighters is the nickname).   He doesn't have much of a bat, but is said to be an excellent defender.  He projects to be a fringe MLB starter or a backup.  Exactly what I need.  I'll offer him $800 K to play in the (fake) MLB.

Left field
It's a good season to need outfielders.  Lots of excellent players in free agency.  Josh Hamilton, Justin Upton, Michael Bourn, Torii Hunter, Ichiro! even Ssory Doc.  I didn't sign any of those guys.  To play left I went with...Melky Cabrera.  Melky was having a superb season last year before getting nailed for violating the MLB's drug policy.  My team is going to have to take some risks, so getting Melky on a 1 year $6.5 million deal while he tries to rebuild his image and value could pay off handsomely.

Center field
A lot of debate here.  Spend big on Hamilton?  Upton or Bourn?  Thought long and hard about all of those guys.  I really wanted Bourn.  Again, I was afraid a team might blow up the market for him.  Same for Justin Upton.  That left me debating between Shane Victorino and Angel Pagan.  I went with Pagan for 3 years and $36 million.

Right field
Hunter Pence to complete the SF Giants OF.

No.   Not a lot of offense on this team so I went with a guy who hit .219 in 2008.  That was 5 years ago.  Now he's a guy who gets on base (.36% of the time in his career) and has some power (20+ home runs for 8 consecutive years).  That guy?  Nick Swisher.  One of the more underrated offensive players in the game.  He's also an excellent defender.  He's said to be asking for Jayson Werth money ($126 million).  He's not getting that.  I'm offering $102 million over 6 seasons.

Backup Outfielders
Last year I went with DeWayne Wise.  He's a solid defensive player and defense comes cheap.  I'm going to try him again.  For minimal cost he should provide some value.  For my other outfielder, I'm going with the opposite of Wise.  Eric Hinske.  He was terrible last year but Hinske has been a league average hitter for his career and a bit better than that vs right-handers.  For the league minimum I'm betting on a comeback from him.

Starting Pitchers
Starting pitching is where I really missed last year.  My 5 starters and $35 million accounted for 3 WAR.

Over half of that WAR was provided by Jeff Francis.  I'm going to go that route again.  Last year I bid $6 million for him and he signed a minor league contract.  This year I'm reducing my offer to 1 year and $2 million.

Last season I gambled on a couple of injured pitchers Erik Bedard and Rich Harden.  For $10 million they gave me just over 1 WAR.  I lost the gamble, but I'm going to that well again too.  This time I'm giving Roy Oswalt a 1 year $6 million contract.  He was terrible coming back from injury last season, but BABIP and HR/FB were what killed him and those are two of the least stable indicators.  I think there is some value to be had.  The velocity and movement on his pitches in similar to what he had in 2011.

Another high-reward pitcher is Francisco Liriano.  He's teased us with two incredible seasons in 2006 and 2010 surrounded by a bunch of below average seasons.  Maybe, just maybe, he's got another one of those seasons in him.  For 2 years and $14 million I'll find out.

With two gambles I need something a bit more stable.  Jeremy Guthrie has consistently been a 2 - 2.5 WAR pitcher over the past 6 seasons.  He was a wreck in Colorado, but that was totally to be expected.    He was much better after he moved to Kansas City.  I think he's a bit under the radar (though he apparently asked for 3 years $35 million) and I think I can get him for something like 2 years and $15 million.

One more spot in the rotation.  I'm inviting Jamie Moyer, Dana Eveland and Kevin Millwood to camp on minor league deals.  Millwood has the most chance of providing innings for a major league team next season.  Jamie Moyer was terrible for the Rockies last year, but that was (like with Guthrie) totally the wrong situation for him.  I think there's something left in the tank.  His underlying numbers weren't bad.  Dana Eveland might get a chance in a major league rotation, he might also find bullpen work.  I'd be happy with him as either.

Last year I went on the cheap and got what I paid for.  7 minor league contracts netted me .2 WAR.  Luis Ayala was very good providing me .8 WAR.  Nobody else was good.  I'm trying a similar strategy again though.

I am going to give Matt Lindstrom 1 year and $2.5 million.  He was recently let go by the DBacks despite the fact that he was coming off of a strong season .

I'm also going to give Jamey Wright $850 thousand dollars.  He had a very good season with LA last year.  He doesn't strike anyone out, but he gets a ton of ground balls.   That's useful.

Beyond that, I'm throwing spaghetti at the wall and taking what sticks.

I listed 6 right-handed relievers and 5 left-handed relievers in descending order of how I want them.  If they sign for the minimum (or close to it) I'll take them.   Two righties, two lefties and the next best guy.

I'd just like to point out the Joey Divine has excellent stuff and success in the majors, it's only injury that has held him back.

There you have it, my $100 million team of cast-offs.  Wish me luck