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Thoughts on the Winter Meetings, Non-Tenders

December 12, 2009

Bullet points roasting over an open fire. Scott Boras nipping at your toes…

  • Scott Boras sounds like he’s been reading the P-D forums a bit too long. He’s trying to kick a hornet’s nest of angry fans who think Bill DeWitt is Scrooge McDuck, swimming in piles of gold but someone not interested in really spending it. That segment of fans isn’t as big as he believes. Most fans know the Cardinals have done just fine under DeWitt’s ownership.
  • That said, the Cardinals do have gaps to fill. Holliday is a 5-6 WAR player, at least for maybe another year or two, but he contributed 3 wins with St. Louis.  A 5-win hole probably remains, but what made the Cardinals a playoff team was not only Holliday.  Carpenter and Wainwright have phenomenal seasons. There was also some unexpectedly good performances from Pineiro and Ryan. At the same time, they got just about jack from 2B/3B. It’s normal to expect some leveling out to happen. Carp and Wainwright will likely regress. Ryan won’t hit as well.  Schumaker should improve a bit. And hopefully things will improve at third, right? As it stands, this team looks like an 85 win team. Ish.
  • Brad Penny fills the Pineiro-void nicely. At least according to CHONE, Penny projects to be 21 runs above replacement. Pineiro projects to be 24. Not a big diff, and at no long-term commitment.  ZiPS is a lot less optimistic. At $7.5M, the Cardinals are paying about $3.5M per win here. If he hits his inning incentive, well, he’ll still be a relative bargain. Dave Duncan and Brad Penny seem like a marriage made in baseball heaven.
  • Phil Rogers says the Cardinals strongly considered Rich Harden before signing Penny. They went with Penny because of concerns over his medical records. I would’ve preferred Harden, but if they didn’t like his med records, then they did the right thing.
  • Getting back to Holliday, offering less than $18M per isn’t going to cut it, but it’s a fair offer. That’s an implied $4.5M per win, as Holliday projects as a 4 win player this year by CHONE. He’s sure to regress over the years, while the cost of a win is sure to go up. But isn’t a win to the Cardinals worth a little more than the going rate? Going back to my guesstimate of 85ish wins, 4 wins from Holliday is a big difference. If the Cardinals were already in the 90-win range, then Holliday is just expensive cake. If we were the Astros or Pirates than Holliday would just be around to make fans feel better and put a few more butts in seats, but it wouldn’t be worth the money in the long run. But the Cubs can’t possibly suck as bad as they did last year, so Holliday should probably be worth a little bit more to the Cardinals, who need to maintain their distance from Chicago.
  • So how do the Cardinals fill that void? I’ve heard Felipe Lopez and Mark DeRosa as possible parts of a Plan B. While saying FeLo and DeRo all season long, as they sound like Hobbit names, it’s not going to make for an exciting lineup. We would be looking again at an Albert and the 7 Hobbits rerun. That would be OK if they do pick up another pitcher, I guess, assuming that pitcher is good. DeRo and FeLo both project as 2 win players. The idea of DeRosa in LF isn’t exciting, but for what it’s worth, his UZR/150 on the OF corners is +16. Yeah, seriously. That’s not small samples, that’s over 1600 innings. I’m not saying he’d be that good, but it’s something to think about.
  • Here’s some low-hanging fruit alternatives: Ryan Church and Kelly Johnson have been non-tendered by the Braves. Johnson might be a cheap alternative to DeRosa. Let’s run them both through the WAR gambit. CHONE and Bill James project Johnson to rebound from his awful 2009 season that was dragged down by a .249 BABIP Both call for about a .345 wOBA. Over 600 plate appearances, that would make Johnson worth about 8 runs above average. His left field defense, like DeRosa, has been superb, while his infield defense has been shaky. We’ll just project him for LF now, so -7.5 runs. Then add in 20 runs above replacement and we’ll just estimate he’ll be worth +5 in left. We get 2.6 WAR, pretty darn sweet. And he’s only 28. And he’s a left-handed hitter, something the Cardinals covet.  My gut is he’d handle 3B about as well as he’s handled 2B; I’m presuming -5. You still get a 2.6 WAR player. If I were Mo, I’d get on the horn with Johnson’s agent, stat.
  • Church doesn’t project as well, but he is also a rebound candidate who has hit some tough luck with injuries. Both James and CHONE have him pegged for a .335 wOBA.  Steve’s fielding projection has Church at  +5.  Getting right to it, over 600 PA, Church should be good for 2 WAR. It’s hard to foresee Church staying on the field enough to rack up 600 plate appearances, but his injuries (concussions, back) have been more of the freak variety. He was 9 and 10 runs above average offensively with Washington not many seasons ago. The Cardinals could get Johnson or Church and then maybe, just maybe take what they were going to offer to Holliday and offer it to John Lackey. Is that too nuts?
  • As for the other non-tenders of note, Gomes can’t field a lick. He’s Chris Duncan bad, if not, possibly worse. My suspicion is Garret Atkins is a product of Coors. I took his projections and translated them to Busch and got a sub-.400 slugging. He is also not much of a fielder. I think I’d rather have Freese get a shot.
  • Whew. We’re all caught up. That was JoePoz wordy, something new for me.

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