Bird Seed: McCann, Peralta, Samardzija, Nolasco, Anthopoulos


Bird Seed is your regular recap of recent baseball happenings, information, rumours, and how it all affects the Blue Jays.

The catching market got even thinner yesterday when the Yankees gave Brian McCann a five year, 85 million dollar contract to shave his facial hair and catch baseballs for them. The contract apparently includes a vesting option on the sixth year at $15 million. McCann has been worth 3.9, 1.7, and 2.7 fWAR in his last 3 seasons, and Steamer likes him to throw down a 3.6 mark in 2014. McCann rejected a qualifying offer from Atlanta, so they receive a compensation pick for McCann and the Yankees forfeit their first rounder.

This looks like one of those typical big free agent contracts where the guy should be worth the money for the first couple of years, and then not worth it for the last couple. However, if a win is already worth close to 10 million dollars rather than 5, as lots of people suggest, then this would be a pretty solid signing for the Yanks with some real value on top of what they’re paying. They’re also bringing a power lefty into Yankee Stadium, which is all types of fun. McCann is a big upgrade for New York at a price that isn’t entirely unpalatable.

With Ruiz and McCann off the board, catching targets for Toronto are disappearing fast. Jose Molina, who represented a pretty decent short term target for a sabermetrically inclined team (read: not Toronto), predictably re-signed with Tampa Bay. The best guys left in free agency are names like Saltalamacchia, Pierzynski, Buck, and maybe Navarro. Not a whole lot of awesome out there, so the best course of action for Toronto might be to follow through on the buy low pursuit of saber-friend Ryan Hanigan.

seedThe St. Louis Cardinals agreed to terms with Jhonny Peralta on a four year, 53 million dollar contract. He’s been worth 4.9, 2.5, and 3.6 wins in each of the last three seasons, but Steamer no likey Jhonny, as it projects him to put up just 1.8 wins next year in his age 32 season.

I liked Peralta as a potential 2B value buy for the Blue Jays, but I figured that the suspension discount would be a lot more sizable, as it was with Melky Cabrera. He’s a pretty big upgrade over Pete Kozma for the Cardinals, and I see this as a really good team basically making a short term financial investment in winning. In other words, if the Cards think that Peralta is a really good bet to give them an extra couple of wins for the next few seasons, then they aren’t too concerned about whether or not he’s actually “worth” his contract in a nutshell (although he totally could be – $53M isn’t crazy).

Brad Zeigler didn’t like the signing though. Those DBacks sure are gritty.

How about Rafael Furcal as a cheap, upside stop-gap at 2nd?

seedIf the rumours are to be believed, the Blue Jays are making waves around several potentially solid starting pitching upgrades. A source apparently told Chicago based ESPN guy Bruce Levine that Toronto was “putting together a package of young players” in a bid for Jeff Somethingorother. The esteemed Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe also heard that “The Twins and Blue Jays have been circling Ricky Nolasco”.

There’s no point in freaking out about the Blue Jays purging the farm even further in order to land Jeff when we A) have no idea if this is true, and B) have no idea what exactly a “package of young players” would constitute. If it’s Anthony Gose (Cubs lack OF) and some organizational minutiae, then sure, go get Jeff. If it’s Sanchez or Stroman and then some, well, I get why that would be harder to stomach for some fans. Let’s see if he’d be worth it:

Jeff Szdifjnmd would project to put up something like 5.5 WAR in the next two years. At $9M per, that’s $49.5M in value. These will be his arb 2 and arb 3 years. If he makes $17M total in those two arbitration years, then asset Jeff would have a surplus value of $32.5M. If we consider Sanchez and Stroman to be top 25 and top 50 prospects respectively, then their mean 6 year WAR projections would be about 8.3 for Sanchez and 6.6 for Stroman. That would be $74.7M and $59.4M in value for Aaron and Marcus, not worrying about inflation. Let’s subtract some arbitrary 3 year arbitration totals of $24M and $19M from both of them, along with $1.5M for their 3 year league minimum salaries. We get Sanchez being worth about $49.2M and Stroman being worth $38.9M. So yes, Aaron Sanchez alone would be an overpay for Jeff Something, and Stroman would be an arguable slight overpay (if you agree with my methods and rankings here, of course).

But Jeff is good. His stuff is dirty, he misses lots of bats, and he seems fairly durable. To me, he seems fairly similar to a pre-breakout Max Scherzer, for whatever that’s worth.

Ricky Nolasco is also apparently pretty solid, being worth something like 3 fWAR year in and year out, but I’m really not a fan of the type of contract that he’s probably looking for. Nolasco is asking for 5 years/$80M, and probably hoping to get an Edwin Jackson type of deal (4/$52M). Nolasco is a guy that has consistently given up more runs than his FIP would predict while pitching in some pretty great pitching parks. There is a large gap between his career fWAR and his career RA9-WAR (20.0 to just 10.3). With over 1300 career innings pitched, I’m inclined to believe that Nolasco is a bit overrated by FIP. The Blue Jays probably like him for his durability, because they probably like things like that.

As an aside, the free agent contracts so far haven’t really seemed that inflated, for the most part. It might behoove the Blue Jays to move quicker in this market if they plan on spending some bank. Or not, who knows.

seedAlex Anthopoulos did some media hits and said some stuff. Specifically, he said that the team really has not considered the idea of trading Jose Bautista or Eddie the Eagle, although he did say that the team has inquired on some free agents at positions that are not currently of need to them, because they have had some trade interest in roster players and they might be able to fill positions of need through trade and then “backfill” the positions that they trade through free agency. He also stated, predictably, that the team his more or less kicked the tires on any possible starting pitcher.

Here is a soundbite:

  • Roy Oswalt wants to pitch next year and he’s open to being a setup man. I love Oswalt as a cheap buy-low signing with upside. His peripherals have been pretty solid in his two recent abbreviated campaigns, despite the high ERAs. Every relevant DIPS statistic thought he pitched like a sub 4 ERA pitcher in his ~30 2013 innings, and so did Chris’ new TIPS stat, which is actually a better ERA predictor than DIPS when the sample size is less than 70 innings.
  • The Dodgers just signed Dan Haren for 1/$10M. He should be worth that, and he’s a good fit for their ballpark (well, any pitcher is, but the more recent version of Dan Haren seems more flybally). Lots of the potential value free agents seem to be popping off the board early: Hudson, Haren, Ruiz, Johnson, Vargas, Peralta. Although a few of them aren’t really signing at “value”.
  • And lastly, the Angels gave Joe Smith the standard setup reliever overpay contract – 3/$15M


Jays Looking at Saltalamacchia?
Dodgers, Jays Discussed Matt Kemp Trade

Author: Nikolai Ballevski

Nikolai Ballevski moved to Toronto at a very young age to live with his aunt, after his parents were suddenly imprisoned for unknown reasons immediately following the attempted and failed 1991 coup d'etat of Gorbachev by the KGB. Nikolai fell in love with baseball during the players strike of 1994, and became a fan of the Blue Jays when they signed Otis Nixon prior to the 1996 season. Follow Nik on twitter @NikBallevski

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  1. Who’s more American: Brad Ziegler or Roy Oswalt?

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    • Ziegler throws underhand, which is kind of a left wing pitching style. Oswalt will sit out partial seasons seeking more money. I’m inclined to say that Oswalt is more American.

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  2. Any extra value for Samardija because he’s almost guaranteed to yield a draft pick, and hes more of a certain thing?

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    • Good point about the value of a potential draft pick. A rough estimation for the value of a compensation pick at 30th overall, within a constant $9M/WAR paradigm, would be about $7.3M. Jeff wouldn’t be a sure thing to return a pick though, so we’d need to knock that down by some factor representing his % chance to reject a qualifying offer and sign elsewhere. Josh Johnson was seen as a near sure thing to at least return a draft pick to Toronto this offseason. If Smardz has a 50% chance to return a draft pick, then he’s now “worth” $36.15M. I do think it would be fair to include this value for Smardz because of his present talent level and his proximity to free agency.

      He doesn’t get more value for being more of a sure thing, because that certainty is already taken care of in the WAR projections that we’re using for him and the projections that the prospect research used for their calcs.

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