By R.J. Anderson //
The San Francisco Giants secured the services one of their unlikely 2010 heroes today, re-signing Aubrey Huff for two years and $22 million (with a club option for a third year). I took a look at what Huff’s real world value to the Giants meant at FanGraphs, so in the interest of new material, let’s focus on solely his fantasy value.
Over the last three seasons, Huff has teetered between good and bad offensive player to the extremes of which are nothing shy of a rarity. With the Orioles in 2008, he hit .304 with 32 home runs and 108 runs batted in. That kind of production made his 2009 season even more of an unexpected disaster, as he managed a .241/.310/.384 line with just 15 home runs while splitting time with the Orioles and Tigers. Nobody knew what to expect from Huff entering 2010, and as a result, the Giants were able to secure him at a relatively low cost. He made them quite the return on investment, hitting .290/.385/.506 with 26 home runs in a pitcher’s paradise.
Taking an average of those three seasons nets you a .280 batting average with 24 home runs and 93 runs batted in. Take into consideration Huff’s age (he turns 34 turns before Christmas) along with the ballpark, and Huff is unlikely to replicate those numbers. That means a safer expectation for next season is a slight decline in each category; i.e. a .270 average instead of .280, 20 home runs instead of 24, and 80-to-85 runs batted in instead of 90-plus. That means he still holds fantasy value, especially if eligible at multiple positions.
The one consequence this re-signing holds for the Giants is that top prospect Brandon Belt is blocked for the foreseeable future. Eno Sarris will have more on what that means for Belt’s value later this week.
By Tommy Rancel //
In advance of last weekend’s deadline for exclusive negotiating rights with their own free agents, the Los Angeles Dodgers re-signed Ted Lilly to a three-year deal worth $33 million in mid-October.
It’s remarkable that Lilly’s $11 million annual salary under his new contract actually tops the $10 million he averaged under his last deal. Lilly hasn’t gotten worse, but he hasn’t exactly gotten better. Keep in mind, he will be 35 years old on Opening Day. If Lilly’s mostly average, 35-year-old left arm fetches $11 million a year, pitchers like Carl Pavano, Jon Garland, and Hiroki Kuroda should be in good shape on the open market once Cliff Lee signs.
Although he spent just two months in Los Angeles, Lilly impressed the Dodgers enough to lock him up before he hit free agency. In his 12 starts with L.A., he went 7-4 with a 3.52 ERA. This came after a 3-8 record for the Cubs with a 3.69 ERA in 18 games.
Defensive independent metrics like FIP and xFIP – stats that measures strikeouts, walks, and home runs allowed and strip out factors beyond a pitcher’s control – show that Lilly’s true talent level in Chicago was closer to his poor record than his better-than-average ERA. Meanwhile – according to the same metrics – Lilly was a much better pitcher in Los Angeles despite the minimal difference in ERA.
The biggest difference between Lilly’s two stops was strikeouts. In 117 innings on the North Side, he struck out 89 batters. After his move out West, he struck out 77 batters in just 76.2 innings – or 9.04 batters per nine innings (K/9). In addition to the increase in Ks, he also dropped his BB/9 from a very good 2.23 to a fantastic 1.76. Home runs followed him to L.A., but the long ball has always been a problem for Lilly (career 1.35 HR/9).
Looking at pitch selection, Lilly used more fastballs and curveballs with the Dodgers while throwing fewer sliders and change-ups. (It should be noted that he also gained velocity across the board after leaving the Cubs, but velocity readings can vary among different parks.)
On the other hand, swinging strikes and first-pitch strikes are not park-influenced. After the trade, Lilly upped his first-pitch strike percentage from 61.0% to 67.9%. He also increased his whiffs from 7.6% to 10.9%. The latter is the highest total for him since 2003.
In some cases, a player’s value or perception may differ from real-life to fantasy. That said, Lilly’s place as a mid-rotation starter is universal. He has been durable (averaged 183 innings over last eight seasons) and he piles up wins. In fact, since 2003 only four left-handed starters have won at least 10 games a year. The list: Johan Santana, CC Sabathia, Mark Buehrle, and Lilly.
There is no rush to lock him up like the Dodgers did, but Lilly should provide value as an SP3 or an SP4 in all leagues next season.
For more on Ted Lilly and mid-rotation candidates check out Bloomberg Sports’ Front Office.
By Tommy Rancel //
Despite the news that the New York Yankees do not plan to pursue Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth this offseason, the pair of outfielders are the most sought-out position players on the open market. But who deserves top billing?
According to Scott Boras, the agent of Werth, the Phillies’ outfielder is the cream of the crop. It is normally good practice to treat agent speak as such, but Boras isn’t too far off.
Over the past three seasons, Werth has averaged a slash line of .279/.376/.513 with 29 home runs and 84 RBI. Only five players other than Werth can say they’ve averaged at least those numbers over the same time frame (min. 1800 plate appearances). Those players are: Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, Mark Teixeira, and Joey Votto.
This season he joined Pujols, Matt Holliday, and Jose Bautista as the only major leaguers with an OPS greater than .920 with a minimum of 650 plate appearances. That’s nice company to keep heading into a rather weak free agent class for position players.
On the other hand, the case can be made that Carl Crawford is not only the better overall player right now, but will be the better value in three to four years.
First, Crawford is younger and more athletic. Although Werth is a decent defender, Crawford is among the best in the league. Despite being the better overall offensive player right now, Werth’s skillset is not as broad as Crawford’s and could decline quicker.
Crawford’s offensive game plays in all types of parks and he has spent his career in the American League. Werth, on the other hand, has enjoyed his success playing in the National League at one of the more hitter-friendly parks. In fact, the gap in his home/road splits has grown even further apart over the past two seasons.
Consider this, the closest statistical player to Crawford at age 28 according to baseball-reference.com is Roberto Clemente. Also consider that Crawford has more career hits, doubles, triples, home runs, RBI, and nearly 10 times as many steals than the legendary Clemente did at the same age, despite just a 22-game difference in career games. While Crawford doesn’t have the arm of Clemente, he is regarded as one of the best defenders in the game. Imagine if Clemente hit the open market going into to what some consider his prime; that could be what we have here.
Everyone knows that Crawford’s main asset is speed. That said, in recent seasons he has taken a few more walks. He also showed more power this season with a career-high 62 extra-base hits. Although Tropicana Field has taken a toll on his legs, he has avoided major injury to those valuable wheels.
Looking at short-term value, Werth is likely the better offensive player for 2011 – even though Crawford is the superior fantasy commodity given his prodigious speed. Werth’s power potential is much greater, and it’s not just tied to balls leaving the yard. He led the league with 46 doubles in 2010 and could rack up even more in a place like Fenway Park. However, if you’re looking for a keeper between the two, Crawford is the one. He will continue to offer tremendous value in steals, as well as providing an above-average number of extra-base hits for the next few years. In conjunction with steals and extra bases, He should score a lot of runs in a good lineup as well.
For more on Carl Crawford, Jayson Werth, and other MLB Free Agents check out Bloomberg Sports’ Front Office.
By R.J. Anderson //
Derek Jeter is a free agent by name only. The Yankees’ only conundrum in re-signing their captain will be similar to the ones the Bombers faced with Andy Pettitte last offseason: how long and for how much?
Those questions are not easy to answer in this case, because Jeter’s marketing power and brand are unrivaled. The Yankees’ own brand would not suffer from losing Jeter – they were popular before him too, you know – but they have no reason to pass on him (despite diminishing skills) because a sunk cost is no big deal to New York.
Jeter’s 2010 season represents a massive disappointment. Fresh off a season in which hit .334/.406/.465 with 18 home runs, Jeter failed to come near those numbers. His batting average slipped under .300 (to .270) for the first time since 2004. His on-base percentage fell below .350 (.340) for the first time in his career – the same can be said of his slugging percentage ending at less than .400. Jeter still managed 10 home runs and 18 stolen bases, but his mediocre stats and slap-hitting ways might represent the future more than Yankees fans would like to believe.
In June, Jeter will turn 37. No shortstop (defined by having played at least 50% of their games at the position along with 300 plate appearances) aged at least 37 has ever hit more than nine home runs in a season. Since 1970, only 20 shortstops met that qualification after turning 37, with the highest batting average being .295, the highest on-base percentage being .367, and the highest slugging percentage being .419. Over the last three seasons, Jeter’s line: .301/.369/.414. Meanwhile, only two of those players finished with an OPS above the league’s average.
In other words, Jeter’s not likely to get much better than he’s played lately as he ages. The crowd perception is that Jeter will get a deal worth three years at roughly $15 million per year. Even though three years does not seem like a long time, one has to wonder if Jeter’s increasing immobility at shortstop along with the presence of prospect Eduardo Nunez will result in the Yankees moving Jeter to the outfield or full-time DH before the contract expires. Moving him becomes a definite if the Yankees foolishly give in to Jeter’s supposed desire for six years. Consider the idea admirable – in the sense that Jeter loves to play and really wants to test the limits of his icon boundaries – but also insane.
As for your fantasy docket, one would expect him to be undervalued entering next season, and there’s something possibility for a bit of positive regression after such a huge year-over-year drop. Still, in most leagues Jeter’s name value will inflate his bidding price beyond a reasonable range.
Tread softly and do not be afraid to let him go. Unlike the Yankees, you have a choice.