Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Your 2018 Giants: Going Long on Longoria

Adios Arroyo, we hardly knew ye!  As announced by the Giants and various beat writers, the Giants have traded for Evan Longoria.  For him, the Giants traded Christian Arroyo, Stephen Wood, Matt Krook, and, to allow the Giants to stay under the CBT penalty threshold, Denard Span, who by DRS methodology, was beyond horrible in CF last season.  The Giants also get an undisclosed amount of cash, which has no effect on CBT, but basically is the Rays buying the prospects.

Nicely, both Arroyo and Span are returning to their homes in Florida.  It is something the Giants try to do with trades.

Per press conference, as reported by beat writers (I'm referencing Andy Baggarly's twitter feed):

  • The Giants were CBT-neutral with the trade for 2018
  • The Giants are not done, that this sets up another trade that is just as significant (!?!)

ogc thoughts

The mass of commentary so far on Twitter is variants of these themes:
  • The Giants gave up too much for an aging, declining Longoria
  • The Giants still need too much to contend beyond adding Longoria
And as an impolite media tweeter noted (and he did at least note that it was an "extreme troll-face fact"), Span out-hit Longoria in 2017:
  • Span:  .272/.329/.427;  102 wRC+
  • Longoria:  .261/.313/.424;  96 wRC+
He's also a Dodger's fan, so there's that too, but at least he did reply that this tweet did not mean that he thought that Span was better than Longoria.   But he did note a true fact.

Longoria was Good But Lincecum Was Not a Consolation Prize To Me

First, I want to clear up something.  I had mentioned previously that I had dreamed on Longoria with our 10th overall pick, long ago, and I got the impression that some thought that I was unhappy about drafting Lincecum, or some nonsense like that.   That's the beauty of blogging, my reaction is captured in digital amber, you can look it up in the calendar index to the right, or search on my blog up top for Lincecum.

For those who don't care to reach back in time via the interwebz and read, here's what really happened.  While I had dreamed on Longoria long ago (ironically Crawford was also a #10 ranked prospect in the off-season before we drafted him, but his poor season sank him to us), that dream was already dead long before the draft because, like the prospect hound I was back then, I was following him and he was hitting a ton, having a great season that would be surpassed by Gary Brown later on, and I knew he wasn't available where we picked.  Meanwhile Jonathan Mayo mock drafted the first round and had Lincecum falling past us, as he had us selecting Daniel Bard, a hard throwing horse of a pitcher that he said was the type of pitcher that Tidrow and the Giants love (little did he know that Tidrow loved Lincecum so much that he asked Sabean to not personally scout Lincecum and tip the Giants interest in Lincecum).

So not only was I happy that the Giants selected, but I was able to follow that draft in real time hoping that the Giants would select Lincecum, who in some rankings was rated the best prospect available.   Lincecum was thus no consolation prize for me, as he was in some circles considered better than Longoria, and we needed pitching, and, in any case, we just needed talent.  And even back then, before the studies came out that pitching wins in the playoffs, I was a believer in the two-ace playoff advantage, seeing how the Dodgers won so many World Series with Koufax and Drysdale.  So while I had dreamed on Longoria, the reality was a lot better with Lincecum to pair up, hopefully, with Cain.  I was ecstatic.

POV on Trade Analysis

One of the problems I have with all the analysis (and long time readers know that I have railed against this type of thinking for over a decade now) is that nobody takes a look to see how the new player fits into the context of the Giants roster.  Most are generalists and they just look at it from their general perspective, not knowing the Giants situation all that well, let alone in detail.  That's why I feel that any good analysis should be done by people who specializes in the Giants.

Even then, most of the beat writers and other media talking heads are also taking the same position that this is a poor move of a team that is on the wrong side of 30 already, similar to the moves the Giants did during the end of the Bonds era.  And they could be right if Longoria is actually already in decline, and not that he had a bad season not befitting his true talent level.

Also that this is a result of poor drafting, which as I tried to show in my previous post, yes, it is poor drafting, but that removes the context that when a team is winning, it can't help but be poor at drafting.  It is like blaming a one-handed person for not having much potential for playing major league baseball, when the odds are just against that person because of the circumstances he was born with.   Winning teams have a hard time drafting to fill positions, it is just what comes with being playoff competitive.  Plus, the Giants have not emphasized position players, to boot.

What Longoria Brings to Giants

I think that there is too much emphasis on WAR right now.   It is not the be all and end all until the methodology accurately measures the value of fielding defense.  Even the best out there, UZR and DRS, disagree a lot, Span is a good example of that, DRS has him at a horrible -27 DRS but UZR only at -7.5 UZR.  Still, it is good for a point of reference, but just not definitive yet, to the point of using it to analyze contracts in my opinion.  I think a broader view is necessary, and one that is particularly lacking in what I've seen is how this move affects the Giants on the field.  Still, good to know what that says.

Overall, using WAR, the Giants had -3.5 bWAR from 3B in 2017, whereas Longoria produced +3.6 bWAR and +2.5 fWAR, and so by that measure, obtaining him adds 6-7 wins to the team, just from that move.   What this shows is that the Giants focus on CF and 3B was born of the poor offense and/or defense that were the worse on the team in 2017 in those two positions. 

And given that the overall 3B fielding was only slightly negative (meaning it was roughly average), that would imply that at least -3 bWAR was due to that .568 OPS, and it is there where Longoria provides a lot of value, perhaps Stanton like win value, because he's being compared to a big black hole in our team there.  WAR is one interesting piece of the puzzle, but given all the other benefits that accrue to the Giants from his addition, it is pretty clear you matter how you slice it that Longoria is clearly a huge improvement in 2018 for 3B over our 2017 version of 3B.

Benefits like improved defense.  Having won a Gold Glove last season, Longoria would improve the Giants infield defense, probably enough to be one of the best in the majors, with Belt, Panik, Crawford, and Posey, which boasts three former Gold Glovers themselves.  With the trade, the Giants have gotten rid of 3 of the 4 negative Rtot fielders (Pablo last one) and 3 of 4 negative Rdrs (Calixte last one).   Overall, the Giants got -9 Rtot and -2 Rdrs from 3B fielders last season, whereas Longoria had 5 Rtot and 11 Rdrs last season, or roughly an improvement of one win on defense if he can repeat, which is not assured since he was negative Rdrs the previous 3 seasons, but average per UZR (as I noted, the variance in methodology).

Offensively, one could compare with Span, but that's the wrong comparison, the correct one is how much did the Giants get out of 3B in 2017, and that is where he benefits the team offensively.  And the Giants did not get much out of 3B, as their 3B collectively hit only .216/.268/.300/.568.  Longoria hit .261/.313/424/.737, which was worth 2.5 oWAR in 2017.

Lineup Improvement

There are also positive effects on the lineup as well.  Given how Bochy likes to mix them up, I see Panik 2nd, Posey 3rd (where his lack of power in 2nd half won't hurt us as uch, as lack of good opportunities to drive in runs here lowers the impact of power here), Belt 4th, Longoria 5th, Pence 6th, Crawford 7th or 8th (depends on the LF and CF Giants end up with).  Last season, Giants got .265/.309/.437/.745 from 5th place, .225/.262/.363/.625 from the 6th place position.   Longoria hit .261/.313/.424/.737 and would fit in 5th and improve on 6th, depending on how Bochy uses him with Pence in the lineup.   In any case, Longoria, even slotted 5th, with a similar batting line as we got from 2017, improves the lineup because it pushes Pence to 6th, where even his overall .260/.315/.385/.701 is a huge improvement over the .225/.262/.363/.625 from the 6th place position.

In addition, as I noted in prior posts, Pence as actually OK in 2017 when healthy.  Even if you include the week or so he needed to get his bat back, from the point he returned to the lineup from the DL, he batted .266/.326/.403/.729.  I see a lot of talk about finding somebody in RF, but with his hitting, he don't really need to be replaced, though moving him to LF would probably help his defense.

CBT Effects 

From my numbers after the Hundley signing, the Giants have around $12.5-16.5M left to spend before going into the penalty area.  Longoria's last contract was signed for 6 years and $100M, so the average is $16.67M for CBT purposes.  Span signed for 3 years and $31M, so average is $10.33M for CBT purposes, for a net -$6.33M, leaving roughly $6-10M left for the Giants to spend on that CF that they have been talking about, or perhaps a power-hitting LF.  Jay Bruce is being mentioned, but MLBTR predicted 3 years at $39M for $13M CBT, so unless the Giants have $10M left AND Bruce's price can fall to $10M CBT (and at 31 YO next season, not likely he will take less unless he's still around in mid to late January), they can forget him.  But that's if my calculations are correct.

However, according to the press conference, the Giants are CBT neutral with this trade, which means I got something wrong.  In any case, this would mean that the Giants still has $12.5-16.5M to spend.

And that would be enough to sign Jay Bruce, who appears to be very interested in the Giants and who is the rumor du jour for the Giants right now as the other shoe to fall, per Sabean's comment, in terms of significant pickup.  He is not that great defensively (but was positive last year, though negative for his career), and has not started more than 150 games since 2013, so he's a bit injury prone too.  He is a RF by trade, so that appears to move Pence to LF.  If he is signed, that would not leave much for CF, making me wish that we could have picked up a great defensive CF in the Rule 5 Draft.

Jarrod Dyson would not fit the description of significant move, but signing him would leave enough money for the Giants to pick up a bullpen upgrade.  So perhaps the significant move involves a bullpen arm?  Not sure who would qualify as significant, but Sabean generally don't open up his mouth to commit anything unless he's pretty sure something is going to get done soon.

Another issue is that signing Bruce (or Dyson and reliever) would probably leave the Giants no margin during the season to add on players and salaries.  Unless they trade Pence mid-season to dump his salary, but then would leave the OF without his bat, which as I've noted, is good when he's healthy (admittedly, a big if given his poor health history in recent seasons, since the Cubs pitcher hit him and broke his arm).   I guess that is a bridge they will cross when they get to it.

Remaining Roster Questions

The Giants had listed three main goals for the off-season:  improve CF defense, improve 3B, and bullpen.   To their credit, they not only improved, but greatly improved 3B, both offensively (clearly) and defensively (arguably), and was able to pivot some salary to lessen the CBT effect, leaving space for another acquisition potentially.  This leaves CF and the bullpen, as some have noted.

But, realistically, there is not enough money to upgrade both as well as pick up a big bat, unless another salary dump is done (or if McCutchen is the next significant move, not Bruce, as that would fix CF much the way Longoria fixed 3B, McCutchen is poor defensively in CF, but better than Span and Gorkys was in 2017).  And thus I see the Giants saying eventually that adding Fernandez is upgrading the bullpen, via his 3-digit speed that is second only to Arodis Chapman.  Leaving CF as their final upgrade for the off-season.

I think that the Giants will have to do something in CF, because, as you may have guessed from the lineup I listed above, we don't have a leadoff hitter, after trading off Nunez and Span.  Which brings us back to Jarrod Dyson.

Although a clear platoon player, he would be great batting leadoff against RHP:  .271/.342/.388/.730 with 24 SB in 291 AB, and he plays great defense in CF, where per Baseball-Reference.com Rdrs data, where he was +10 Rdrs playing 96 games in CF (87 starts), whereas Span was -27 Rdrs playing 123 games in CF (116 starts).   Per MLBTR, he could be had for 2 years and $12M ($6M CBT), which would either take up the rest of the remaining payroll for CBT purposes, or leave the Giants with roughly $4M, which would be enough to use to obtain players mid-season in 2018.

But Dyson right now does not look likely given the announcement of another significant acquisition, which should suck up a lot of the remaining payroll space before the penalties kick in.   So will Pence be the leadoff hitter then?  He has been used there before.  I suppose Panik could fulfill that role, while not a speedster, he's a smart base runner with good instincts.

Prospect Costs

Wood and Krook are promising prospects, but no sure thing.  Both have superior arms and thus could add value at some point.  But one tweet mentioned that Krook is oft-injured, so that would be a huge knock on his future value, as we've seen with Osich.  Arroyo was clearly the prize of this transaction, where the Giants gave up value.

As much as I like Arroyo, he wasn't going to be ready this season, and given how poorly he hit last season, it could take more than a season for him to figure things out.  He was no sure thing to start at 3B for us in 2019.   I think he'll eventually be a MLB hitter who can provide defensive value at 2B and 3B, and might be able to hold his own at SS, given his bat potential.

But the Giants need help now and near-term, and his future, while probably good, is still cloudy enough that he was a fair trade for us, particularly once we find out how much money the Rays are sending along to the Giants.   Meanwhile, we take on Longoria's contract, which is probably OK for a couple of years, but then is down, much like with Pence, which would then be three years of down.

The only way the Giants come out of this contract looking good is multi-fold.  First, if he helps the Giants get back to competitive for the playoffs or better in 2018-2019, then they at least got that.  Second, if 2017 was the blip (ZiPS has him at 3.1 fWAR for 2018, vs. the 2.5 fWAR he had in 2017), then his base WAR makes his decline phase starts looks a lot better, and the team could break even (per Eno Sarris analysis on The Athletic), roughly, using WAR valuation methodology.  But as with most players, it would be a year to year thing to watch and wait to see what happens.  Sometimes when you roll the dice, you come up craps.  At least the Giants are trying.

Long Term Effects

However, long term, things look dicier.  As noted, long-term WAR analysis shows that his decline phase could make this a very bad contract.  In addition, as nicely as he has played 3B over his career, there is a reason why there are less 3B in the Hall of Fame, the wear and tear eventually gets to him.  They don't call it the Hot Corner for nothing.

As a lot of the commentary notes, the Giants have CBT commitments of $126M already for just 7 players in 2020 (Baggarly tweeted that), though Baggarly is the only one to note that the CBT sunsets after the 2021 season.  So the Giants can go large for the 2019 season, when superstars like Bryce Harper and Clayton Kershaw are free agents, among others.  It is reported to be the best free agent market ever, and hence why the Giants, Dodgers, and Yankees have prioritized getting under the CBT penalty for 2018, so as to be able to reset the penalties for after spending big for 2019.

30's Is Not Death Knell

I would remind people that being 30 YO does not push you to the trash heap.  In fact, research by BaseballHQ.com on the reliability of players by age, it is the early 30's where  players are the most reliable in terms of keeping their good performances going.  Of course, reliability is all relative, as younger players are prone to massive ups and down variability as they learn their craft, and as each adjustment is met by others' adjustments, in a never ending cycle; and older players, well, they get old, injured, and decline.  So if there is a time to bet it all, it is when your core players are approaching and in their early 30's. 

Pence is the oldest and could decline, at age 35 YO season.  Samardzija is 33 YO for 2018, but has a young arm, he looks ready to break out after ups and downs of 2016-17.  Longoria and Cueto are 32.  Longoria could already be in a decine, so 2018 will be pivotal, but the good news is that his peripherals look good still, around career norms, so I would expect a rebound (especially since his BABIP was below career norms) barring any injury.  Frankly, I don't see a lot of slow declines, they tend to keep going until an injury costs them their advantage, at which point the decline is quick. 

The rest are relatively in their primes.  Posey, Crawford, and Bruce (if signed) are all 31 YO next season.  Belt will be having his 30 YO season.  Bumgarner 28 YO.  And Panik 27 YO.  And bullpen aside from Melancon, would be around 30 YO, +/- 2 years. 

So, while it is true that you have to watch out once players are on the wrong side of 30, it does not mean the end of the world either, and the likelihood of continued good performances is just as likely in their early 30's more so than for young players in their 20's.  People think of great young players like Posey and Bumgarner when they imagine the Valhalla of a young team, but forget that the vast majority of them are more like a Homer Bailey who struggles to stay in the majors before becoming good.   And young does not mean good, we should have learned that by now with all the young prospects who have come through the revolving door during the Sabean era (not a knock on him, that's just the nature of baseball prospects). 

Safety Net for the Old

What's necessary for surviving this is kind of like what the Dodgers are doing with their starting rotation:  have a ton of potentially available players, mix and match as necessary, shuffle around as necessary.   The Giants need to have a bunch of players either on the bench or waiting in AAA who can be better than replacement level, and perhaps average, for the team to survive when the old do crash and burn.  Let's run through the positions.

In the starting rotation, we have Bumgarner, Cueto, and Samardzija.  It sounds like Stratton is written in already as the 4th starter.  That leaves Blach, Beede, Andrew Suarez battling for the #5 spot and long relief spot, though I expect the Giants to sign a Wellemeyer type to cheap contract and battle for the last rotation spot and/or long relief.  Starting rotation looks set but is vulnerable to Bumgarner, Cueto or Samardzija getting injured or performs poorly.  But most teams don't have a safety net for this, though Beede, if he can harness things, could be adequate to replace Samardzija.

In the bullpen, we are basically full-up, unless a trade takes someone out:  Melancon, Dyson, Smith, Strickland, Gearrin, and probably Fernandez, as I can't imagine the Giants won't bring him to the majors just to see what happens, and if they can fix him enough to be usable.  That leaves Crick, Law, Okert, Osich, Moronta, Wolff by mid-season, plus that new guy they picked up off waivers, Pierce Johnson.  And any of the starters could fit in there too.  We are good in the bullpen right now, and perhaps another guy is signed, though again, I note the bulllpen is full, and getting another reliever means that there is no space for Fernandez unless they can buy him from his former team.  And Dyson could take over for Melancon should the need arise, as it did last season.

At C, nobody can replace Posey, but Hundley did nicely starting while Posey started at 1B in place of Belt.  That's why he was a must have re-sign.  And we are looking to not totally suck with the replacement, not fully replace the player, and he produced at roughly a 1.0 WAR full-season pace, which is not great, but adequate as long as there is not a lot of other missing pieces, like it was in 2017.

At 1B, besides playing Posey there, presumably Shaw could be inserted there if necessary (though it has been made clear that he's a LF now) and we do have Sandoval as the new Ishikawa and Gillaspie replacement, a bat off the bench who can play corner positions.  And I think he can be adequate taking over 1B as well as 3B, if he has gotten himself into shape.  We'll see how happy he is playing on the bench, though.  1B seems to be covered well enough, much like C, but weak.

At 2B, Tomlinson would be adequate taking over for Panik (about 1.0 WAR), and Slater has played there professionally and thus could perhaps still field here, and his bat would be above average probably.  Ryder also played nicely (didn't hit nicely) at 3B and was a former SS, and so he might prove adequate at 2B.  We are probably weak here as well, as Arroyo was the backup for here and 3B.

At 3B, Tomlinson would be less adequate here than 2B, but Sandoval would probably be average-ish playing 3B if he is in shape.  We did not need a lot to have an upgrade at 3B, though, it was a black hole in 2017, so the view here should be focused on beating the 2017 3B production, not on replacing Longoria.

At SS, really no replacement for Crawford.  Ryder?

At corner OF, if it is Bruce and Pence, then we got Parker, who is out of options and thus a bench player 4th OF, as well as Slater (who's probably starting in LF in AAA) and Williamson (starting in RF in AAA), and they probably can take over adequately should the worse happens. 

In CF, Duggar is the heir apparent, with MLB ready defense but needs to work on his bat.  If necessary, he can be rushed to the majors and hold the fort defensively.   Just the upgrade on the defense would probably justify any hiccups he has offensively.   And this was the other black hole in the roster in 2017.  Again, looking at how bad CF was last season, and looking to beat that. 

Frankly, most teams have holes where their depth gets exposed.  The Giants have some good options for the OF in Slater and Duggar, and Parker is probably OK over short stints.  And can shuffle some pieces to cover 1B and 3B, I think.  And the bullpen should be in good shape as long as healthy and producing, I still believe in Crick, Law, and Okert.  We have no replacements for Bumgarner, Cueto, Posey, Belt, Panik, or Crawford, but most teams do not have a replacement for their top players, it is just a nature of the game. 

Final Thoughts

I was not happy about the Moore move, but combined with this trade (and perhaps another big acquisition), I get it now and fully approve.   That's why I don't like definitive statements on how good or bad things are until the big picture comes into better view, unlike all the teeth gnashing I've seen regarding the Giants this month.  And unlike most who think that the Giants are not competitive, I believe that they are competitive assuming Cueto and Samardzija are delivering ace-like performances in 2018.  That would cure a lot of other problems across the roster, as they come. 

I like Moore, and still think he has upside, but basically we gave him away for nothing much.  But the Rays basically gave us a useful (if expensive) Gold Glove 3B plus paid us money for us to throw in the good prospect in Arroyo, so one could see the entirety of these moves as a three team trade, where the Giants traded away Moore, Arroyo, Span, Woods, Krook for Longoria, Wolff and Cruz and CBT money, which cleared out $9M in CBT space to go with the space we had beforehand.   And we still might be adding a significant piece to this picture since the Longoria trade was CBT neutral (or the whole accounting department for the Giants could be fired) and enables the Giants to make one more big move, like the signing of Jay Bruce, or acquiring someone equally good.

That fills the blackhole that was 3B in 2017, shifting the production we could hope to get from Arroyo in 2019-2024 to 2018-2019 and maybe 2020.  Meanwhile, we were only expecting to get maybe average WAR production from Moore in 2018, and between Stratton and Blach, I think one of them can get close enough, 1-1.5 WAR.  Plus, if they falter, Beede should be ready by mid-season to deliver some good enough value.  So we risk a slight drop in our #4 starter in the rotation by trading Moore (but if someone develops, it could be covered) while making a big positive jump in production at 3B. 

The Giants are talking about adding another big bat, but between Posey, Belt, Longoria, Pence, and Crawford, that is a good number of big bats.  I would rather see a great defensively CF pulled in, though McCutchen would be nice in CF (I would guess that a reliever would be included in such a trade, to clear more salary, as we have no one else with a big enough contract to trade off, now that Arroyo is gone, Panik is staying for sure;  I would guess either Strickland or Gearrin, as we have Crick looking ready to step up and in).   Span was amazingly bad in CF per Rdrs, and the Giants could improve there just by finding an average CF whose main value is OK bat with great defense. 

Overall, the Giants have reloaded and is ready to compete in 2018-19, with the likely possibility that the team will be on a downturn by 2020, though I would hope that Ramos and whomever we draft in the 2018 draft #2 overall, would be ready by 2021 to contribute to Dynasty Part  II, winning it with Posey and Bumgarner on the back end of their Giants careers.   But that's asking a lot out of that #2 pick, over half of them fail to be good, though fortunately many of the remaining are at least usable.   But the Giants were pretty good, picking Lincecum, Bumgarner, Posey, and Wheeler with successive good Round 1 picks.  But one can see the drop off just a bit further down, with Beede, Bickford, and Stratton. 

And if the oldies can hold on, we could be competitive enough in 2020 as well, particularly if the oldies are Bumgarner, Cueto and Samardzija.  But we saw what happened to Lincecum and then Cain.  We'll just have to wait and see at that point.  In any case, that is what drives a lot of the moves in baseball, you don't really know what's happening in a couple years, you have to be able to seize the day when the opportunity is handed to you, and the Giants made the right move by understanding that 2017 was likely an aberration, and with health and key upgrades, the team will be back to playoff competitiveness in 2018-2019.

And 2018-2019 covers Bochy last two years on his contract, so I don't think it is a coincidence that the Giants are going (almost) all out (keeping Ramos and Beede) to compete in his last two years under contract.  With his heart issues, and poor family health history, he should be wanting to retire to spend time with his wife and family, and be able to enjoy the success he had with the Giants.  Plus, as I've been noting regarding his record in 1-run games, he's no longer providing value through that.  Plus, hopefully the Giants can get his career record back over .500 with two good final seasons, and give him a good send off.

That would segue into the Meulens' era, if he stays, or perhaps Wotus, who has faithfully served us for many decades, waiting for his managerial opportunity but never getting it with any other team, as they take over an aging team that's hopefully adding young studs to the roster in the early 2020's. 

17 comments:

  1. didn't nunez play a bunch of third base? And did he not hit around 300? so how did we collectively hit so low at third base? Was it Arroyo, Pablo, and a few others that knocked that down so significantly?

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    1. He spent about two-thirds of his season with us playing 3B, yes, but only accounted for roughly 30% of the PA (about 200). He spent another 100 PA at other positions (mostly LF and some SS).

      Yes, he hit very well there, .309/.340/.424/764, but unfortunately, the best hitter after him was Arroyo's .622 OPS, then Pablo's .558 OPS, then it got a lot worse from there, Tomlinson, Hwang, Gillaspie, Jones. It just all added up (or subtracted down, if you will).

      Add it all up, the Giants just stunk up 3B.

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  2. I think most writers and analysis that I have seen are significantly under rating Arroyos talent. I could be wrong, but they have no idea if he could be a significant contributor in 2018 or not. Not that easy for a 21 year old to hit over 400 in triple A for 2 months. He seemed like a very good fielder, and made contacts. Reports from Tampa writers that Arroyo does not have power, may be premature. Duffy hit barely a dinger in college and the minors, and then as he matured as a young player in the majors started going deep. Longoria strikes out a lot, something many giants fans do not like about Belt. Despite his great fielding, and power, despite playing in Tampa, where little leaguers can hit it out, his 313 OBP is worrisome for a 20 million dollar player. We need a solid power hitter, who can have a bad year and hit 300 and have at least 30 homers. I am hoping that Longoria bounces back and has a few good years to come.

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    1. It's not too easy to hit .400 in the majors for 2-3 months either, and yet two prospects I dreamed on long ago - Larry Herndon and Dan Gladden - never amounted to anything close to what their early hitting suggested to my younger self. So, hitting .400 for two months in the minors is even less of a portend of greatness or even goodness.

      About power, I would point out that Arroyo and Duffy are different people. Most probably different batting philosophies. I'm not batting expert, but if Arroyo bats in a certain way that limits flyballs (some are taught to go for hits, like Wade Boggs did or chose to go for hits, as Tony Gwynn did), that would have a great effect as well.

      And for every Duffy who suddenly start hitting, I bet that there are dozens who are what they are, powerless.

      But to your point, 22 was when Pablo consolidated his learning and started hitting homers. So we will see. And to your point, the projections from baseball-reference.com has him hitting .241/.305/.398/.703 with 8 HR in 241 AB, roughly 30 AB/HR rate which is a 20 HR per season rate. But Steamer only sees 6 HR in 278 AB, 46 AB/HR or roughly a 15 HR season, which is still pretty good.

      And his defense looks OK, per metrics.

      I guess it all comes down to trust and faith. Do you believe that the Giants management, led by Sabean, can discern whether a prospect is good enough for their Do Not Trade List? Their record has been pretty good until the Duvall trade. So perhaps you are right. And eventually people lose their edge, as I've been mentioning about Bochy.

      But Sabean has been pretty good in his trades over the years. Not all of them have been winners for our side, but he's rarely erred in trading away a player who became pretty good. Foulke was an early one, Liriano was one in the middle, lately not as good, Wheeler and Duvall.

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    2. About Longoria, I'm not sure where you are going with on strikeouts, but his roughly 20% strikeout rate is roughly league average. He strikes out a lot, compared to long ago, but these are new times where batters swing and miss a lot, no more than any other in the majors.

      Again, it depends on trust. Do you believe that his .313 was a sign that he's declining and will continue to go down? Or that it was an aberration of BABIP that knocked down his stats. His peripherals look about the same in 2017 as it was in 2014-2016, if anything, his strikeouts were a lot better, down to a career low of 16.1%, for a contact rate of 82% which is good for today.

      Deeper analysis of StatCast, however, shows that balls were not flying off his bat as fast as previous seasons, so perhaps his decline has begun.

      I do recall a tweet by a Tampa Bay teammate who said that he had a leg injury early on. And you can see that he didn't hit really well for that first month, after that he hit .274/.320/.437/757, slightly better numbers overall relative to his season's numbers.

      And it was a really up and down season for him, that poor first month, and he also had a bad last two months. For three months, May to July, he was EVAN LONGORIA, as he hit .303/.343/.505/.848.

      The key for the Giants, then, is knowing how to get him to that state, maybe he needs to take more days off, maybe the heat of Florida got to him in August and September. Though it didn't bother him before, his career numbers are pretty good in the back of the season. But he's getting older, maybe it finally got to him, but maybe he'll be refreshed playing in SF every day, where the weather is more temperate, if not cooler.

      If it helps, he's not making $20M per year, he's getting $13.5, $14.5, $15.0, $18.5, and then $19.5 before there is a team option at $13.5M or $5M buyout (so as long as he's semi-OK still, worth $8.5M to keep him another season). His $20M seasons are yet to come.

      But yeah, it's going to be scary in a few years with his contract, much like it was with Lincecum, Cain, Pence. One can hope that he's like Bonds and keep it going, but as I noted, 3B do not seem to last long, and thus less in the HOF. The good news is that he's played the most games in the past 5 seasons. The bad news is that was probably true of Pence, true of Durham, when we got them, but injuries just seemed to define their time with us. The good news with those two is that when they were healthy, they were still good hitters, but the problem was keeping them healthy and on the field.

      I understand your concerns and worries. I think that is obvious to everyone. But it is a matter of choice and decision-making. Beane made that choice, traded Ethier to the Dodgers for Bradley, and Ethier in his FIRST season THAT year, produced more than Bradley. See, that's a mistake that Sabean has not made so far, though I guess it is fair to say that about Duvall, now that I'm thinking about it, but at least it is 20 years later, not early in his term.

      Sabean has mostly known talent, while Beane mostly know how to shuffle the deck and see what happens. That's why Sabean has been the architect of two dynasties (he was in charge of scouting when the Yankees drafted Jeter, Petitte, Posada, signed Mariano Rivera).

      And his choices have not really worked out in signing players to long term contracts, but that's also how baseball is structured. You build with young, but then when you win, you can't find as many young, so you sign or trade for big contracts that help you infuse talent now, at a cost later in the contract.

      Delete
    3. The biggest complaint I can think of is their failure to take much advantage of the international free agent market, no big Asian star, few big Carribean signings.

      But I think the successes there are magnified by focusing on the successes. If you looked at the Top 10 signing bonuses given during the 2000's, Miguel Cabrera was the only one that was good, the rest were money down the drain, much like our investments in AnVil and RafRod, and others. We have Sandoval, Feliz, and Hector Sanchez as our successes, nobody big money.

      If anything, we need to find out how the Cardinals do it with their talent acquisition there, they have found a lot of players.

      Delete
  3. More details about the cash part of the deal: https://sports.yahoo.com/giants-acquire-evan-longoria-cash-rays-4-players-172910881--mlb.html

    Tampa Bay in effect is responsible for $14.5 million of the $88 million Longoria is owed, and the Rays took on $13 million in guaranteed money due Span.

    This reminded me that, if you considered Span to be sunk cost, an asset that we can't expect to get back value for, then the Giants are only paying $60.5M for Longoria, or roughly $12.1M per year.

    And as campanari mentioned on two other sites, that's roughly 1.5 WAR per year, if you value WAR at $8M per. And as there is inflation involved, roughly 5% per Eno Sarris of Fangraphs and The Athletic, the WAR$ is up to $10.2M by year 5, meaning he only needs to produce 1.2 WAR, roughly. He's already priced out to be a partially valuable player with his contract.

    So that's roughly 7 WAR needed in 5 years to justify the contract, and in worse case, he probably just meets that, but if he has any sort of rebound year, then the contract is probably a deal, as he would deliver 7 within 3 years.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Other interesting tidbit of info:

      He grew up in SoCal as Angel's fan.

      Excited to get off turf and play on grass. That could be a factor in his decline in hitting in the last two months of 2017.

      Bochy noted that Longoria would bat 3rd or 4th (another source noted only 3rd; it would be a mistake, sabermetrically, to bat him 3rd, as power is wasted there. Ideally, we place Posey 3rd now, since he seems to lose his power in the second half now, as it seems that catching is sapping his strength as the season drags on)

      Delete
    2. Huh, there's more details on the contracts, but I don't get the math, as it appears to suggest that the Giants actually gained CBT space, so I'm just presenting as FYI:

      As part of the assignment bonus, Tampa Bay owes Longoria $1.5 million on Dec. 15, 2025, and $2 million on Dec. 15 in each of the following four years. San Francisco will pay Longoria salaries of $12 million next year, $12.5 million in 2019, $13 million in 2020, $16.5 million in 2021 and $17.5 million in 2022. [Ed: total of $71.5M or $14.3M per season average]

      Span gets $9 million plus possible performance bonuses next year, and the Rays inherit a $12 million mutual option for 2019 with a $4 million buyout.

      Longoria counts as $11,165,300 annually for the Giants' luxury tax payroll and Span $13,333,333 for the Rays' tax payroll. In addition, the Giants receive a $600,000 yearly credit for the cash transaction in the swap.

      Delete
    3. Seems to suggest the Giants shaves off almost $2.8M from their payroll. I don't buy it, I think the writer is using the full contract period when most other sources are using the 6 year extension plus the option years picked up as part of the extension. But it would be great if true.

      However, Giants said that they trade was CBT neutral and shaving $2.8M is not a neutral move when they don't have a lot of space to spend on other players, so I will still consider this move as an equal trade for CBT purposes.

      Delete
  4. I liked DrB's summary in his blog post (his link is on the side):

    "In summary: 1. The Giants are a better team tonight than they were last night with the acquisition of Evan Longoria. 2. His contract is a longterm risk, but the Giants have never let a bad contract stand in the way of improving the team and it's not my money! 3. Longoria made Arroyo expendable. Span is addition by subtraction. The two pitchers are lottery tickets. I have no complaints about the players the Giants gave up in the deal. 4. Overall, I'm not doing cartwheels over the trade but I'm not bummed out about it either."

    Captures everything I feel about the deal, which I didn't fully convey in my post. Maybe one cartwheel for me, because the CBT neutral aspect (slightly negative as the money needed to be $16.3M, per Baggarly tweeted CBT info, to be equal) means that the Giants can still make another big acquisition.

    While I still think the team could have won without all the machinations of trading Moore and Arroyo to net Longoria plus whichever shoe Sabean was saying was close to falling, I will admit that action does rile up the fan blood some, and get fans more excited about the upcoming season. Gotten sell those tickets, and doing nothing would have angered a lot of the paying public.

    And looking at Longoria's stats, while there are the red flags that Baggarly wrote about on The Athletic (30% discount if you use his code, ending soon), there are the positives involved also, when considering the context of his injury and his normal explosive offensive ability in the middle of the season. If the Giants can solve why he lagged at the end, then they could have that All-Star Evan playing for the Giants.

    And as much as I still believe in Moore's stuff, I also knew that he has struggled to harness his stuff, and he might never figure it out and be a top of rotation starter. I think the Giants voted on who they believe has ace stuff, Samardzija or Moore with the trade.

    2018 is shaping up as very interesting, but in different ways than it was at the beginning of the off-season. If everyone just hits what they are capable, the Giants will have one of their best offenses, probably in the last decade.

    ReplyDelete
  5. BP wrote a free article on the Longoria trade, noting that this could work out for the Giants if they can get Longoria to stop swinging so much on pitches outside of the zone, which helped to push him down from his best days of All-Star hitter to his current status as a "good regular". Just take more walks and then muscle up on the pitches that are in the zone.

    https://www.baseballprospectus.com/news/article/36788/transaction-analysis-happily-evan/

    I would add that there was analysis before by Chris Jaffe that had found that hitters who joined Bochy-led teams experienced rejuvenation of their past hitting prowess while under his watch. And that was published before the Giants started winning in 2009, so it does not include what Posey, Belt, Crawford, and Duffy did, as well as Huff, Burrell, Blanco, and others.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I happen to be listening to Pavlovic's Giants Insider Podcast, it noted how Alonzo Powell and Bochy did not talk as much about getting more homers and more about not striking out as much, so that could play into improving Longoria's approach at the plate.

      Delete
    2. You appear to be suggesting that Sabean erred in trading away Wheeler. Apart from his having done so as a gamble, where getting Beltran looked as though it might mean another WS appearance for the Giants (derailed by injuries), Wheeler has had one pretty good year out of five for the Mets. Of the five years, he played in three, and was under 1 fWAR two of those three. I’d say he has so far been next to worthless.

      Delete
    3. Thanks for catching that. Never meant to say that, and if one looks back, I was very happy with the trade, just not happy with Beltran dogging it with us. I rooted for the Astros knowing that it would reward him, if it wasn't the Dodgers, I would have been against his team.

      I should have checked the numbers. I remembered him doing OK in the beginning, though he would continue, but forgot about his TJS, and he has not recovered well from that.

      So yes, he was very marginal, I included him because I thought he had done better (and looking at Fangraphs, I see he had a 2.6 WAR in 2014, so perhaps that was what tugged at my subconscious to include him. But Baseball-Reference.com only had his high point as 2013 with 1.2 bWAR.

      And I guess I didn't finish off my thought either, there. I was also trying to point out that the Sabean management team has been very good at keeping their best prospects and have not really let go of any really good players. Certainly nobody in the range of Cain, Lincecum, Posey, Bumgarner.

      Foulke was the closest, probably, with 20.7 bWAR/12.3 fWAR and one of his earliest trades, so perhaps he didn't quite have all the scouting personnel to support his moves back then.

      Liriano is at 17.2 bWAR/24.3 fWAR. As I noted, Wheeler was 2.3/3.8, so I should not have included him. Maybe instead Carlos Villanueva, who was 6.8/5.9, OK, maybe not. Duvall certainly, if he keeps it up, 5.1/5.1 in only two years with the Reds, though he had a down year in 2017, relative to 2016's great year. But if he can keep up 2.0 WAR for a few more years, he'll definitely hit double digit WAR, which while not good, is certainly not marginal, it would be useful.

      Only other guy I can remember right now is Howry, 10.7/8.2.

      Sabean and his "Do Not Trade" list has been great over the years, with the only good player (over 18 WAR) traded away being Foulke and Liriano, and that depended on which WAR system you used, depending on the system one uses, only one good player was ever traded, and they were the possibilities.

      Meanwhile, Sabean has picked up a lot of useful to good players in Rueter, Kent, Snow, Livan, Nen, Schmidt, Winn, Franchez, Pence, Scutaro, and I'm sure I missed someone good in there as well, but those were the main highlights.

      Thanks again.

      Delete
    4. I agree absolutely. Sabean’s trade record has been amazingly good; and I’m guessing that he traded Liriano because L’s spotty health meant that he was unreliable, a judgment that was borne out. The central figures in that trade were Nathan and Pierzynski, which boomeranged because AJP turned out to be so loathsome and Nathan, able to do far better than he had done for us, but which Nathan later said that he too would have made if he had been in Sabean’s place, based on what he and P had accomplished to that point.

      Delete
    5. I agree, that was totally the reason, as Liriano had injuries and missed time in the years before the Giants traded him. And he really costed the Twins the prime years of Mauer and Morneau, because when he had his down years, that just blew up their plans. You can't replace your ace pitcher and hope to have a good year (a reminder to those worried about recoverying from 2017, we lost our co-aces)

      Delete

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