In his age 21 season Francisco Lindor has done nothing but demonstrate just how good of a baseball player he not only is, but can be. A 114 wRC+ over 283 plate appearances is good at any position, but fantastic at shortstop. It ranks fifth at the position across all players with at least 250 plate appearances. His BABIP is a little on the high side compared to his minor league numbers, but not absurdly so. Even if you knock off a little of the power, Lindor is still having a hell of a season for a 21 year old shortstop. That’s probably the most impressive thing about him, his ability to play shortstop. It’s always been clear that Lindor can play the position. I saw him in Akron last year, and even to my non-scout eyes it seemed clear that Lindor could handle the position, and handle it well. His brief time in the majors has backed that up, and not only the eye test but also advanced defensive metrics support the notion that he’ll be an above average defensive shortstop. Lindor was a top prospect when he debuted, and he’s done nothing since that debut but back up the scouting reports and impress. A fun thing to do is search “Lindor Vizquel” on twitter to see Indians fans comparing Lindor to former shortstop Omar Vizquel. It’s fun because that’s a bad comp for Lindor, who has more offensive value now than Vizquel had at any point in his career. Anyway, the Indians should be excited about locking down a hard position to fill with a player who’ll be cost controlled for the foreseeable future. If they have any money available this offseason, extending Lindor might be a risk worth taking.
When purchasing your next shirsey, as so many baseball fans do, you might find yourself saying “What name should I get on the back of this?” or “What team should I represent?” The way in which shirseys can be customized allows for a myriad of possibilities when it comes to the name on the back of the shirt, but you don’t want to screw up a 34.99+shipping purchase. Well I’m taking a stab at coming up with a completely subjective list that can help you up your shirsey game the next time you look to purchase one. These rules are arbitrary and unfair and could contradict either other at a few points, but I don’t really care, because shirsey purchasing is an inexact science.
Rule #1: Long-term contracts are a point in favor
You don’t want to buy anything from a team and have the player on the back of the shirt be traded the next day. If you’re buying a jersey from a team this is especially the case, because MLB jersey’s are really expensive. But even if you’re buying a shirsey for relatively cheap, you want some ability to be able to go to a game and have the player whose name you’re wearing be on the roster. There are no guarantees in baseball about who will or won’t be traded, but you have to examine where the organization is, where the player is, and hope that you can get three or four years out of a shirsey before it turns into a “hey remember when this guy played for us?” shirsey. The best example in recent memory of a player people probably bought shirseys for is a Boston Red Sox Yoenis Cespedes shirsey.
Rule #2: Don’t join in the mass of people buying shirseys for one player
This rule is more of a recommendation. If you love Mike Trout (who doesn’t love Mike Trout), buy a Mike Trout shirsey. There are a ton of them around already, but who cares, he’s awesome and he’s going to be an Angel for a long time. But it’s always way more interesting to see a shirsey for a player like Marcus Semien than Josh Reddick. Is the person with that shirsey really buying into Semien enough that they’re willing to spend the money on a shirsey? Clearly, because they bought one, but that’s way more interesting, at least to me. Plus when it doesn’t work out, like if you know someone who owns a Felix Pie Orioles shirsey, you can make fun of them.*
*I saw a guy wearing a Pie shirsey at Camden Yards the other day, and it was awesome.
Rule #3: Historical shirseys are completely acceptable, and in some cases a better investment
The ability to customize shirseys on MLB.com means you’re often not limited in who you can put on the back of the shirt, and since any time you purchase a shirt with someone else’s name on the back it’s possible you’ll be perceived as tacitly agreeing with that players views, it’s best if you don’t buy a shirsey of a player who has done anything you don’t agree with. It’s probably for the best, for instance, if you avoid buying a Curt Schilling shirsey. But you know who won’t be doing or saying anything that makes me unable to wear my shirsey with his name on the back? Honus Wagner. Shirseys with deceased or retired players can be used to honor particularly important players in franchise history, or just a favorite player whose retired. I never saw Honus Wagner play, but from everything I’ve read he was awesome, so I got a shirsey with his name on the back. I never saw Roy Campanella either, but the Brooklyn Dodgers are really interesting and I like his story, so I bought it. Every franchise has retired or dead players whose shirsey would be cool to own. In many cases they’re cooler than any active player, in part because we’ve already seen that whole career play out. There are of course, historical players who should not be on a shirsey. Ty Cobb, for instance. Not a good shirsey candidate. Great baseball player. Not a good human being. Also the subject of a bad Tommy Lee Jones movie.
As an aside, it’s completely fine to get manager shirseys (although ill-advised, probably). I really want an Earl Weaver shirsey. Because Earl Weaver is the greatest.
Rule #4: Minor League shirseys are risky investments, but can pay off big
When the Indians moved Francisco Lindor to AAA last year, I got a Lindor shirsey. There’s a lot of risk when it comes to buying a shirsey for a player who hasn’t even made his Major League debut yet. Injuries and poor performance are obvious possibilities, but since basically all top prospects make the majors (especially once they’ve reached AAA and are still top prospects), the biggest risk with Minor Leaguers is a number change. The number of times you see people in Pedro Alvarez #17 shirseys or jerseys around PNC Park should be warning enough. You’ve got to do your research on a player in the minors and even then there are no guarantees. The benefit of purchasing a shirsey while a player is still in the minors is the ability to get a lot of confused looks from fans who aren’t sure who that player even is, or some wondering if he’s debuted and they missed it. Mostly, it let’s you claim (very hipster-ly) that you were “On the bandwagon” before anyone else.
Rule #5: Nickname/Twitter handle shirseys are a terrible idea
Don’t do it. Don’t get an @Cutch22 shirsey. You might love the tweets. You might love the player. There’s no reason to combine the two. He could change his twitter handle tomorrow. Along the same lines “El Toro” is a bad shirsey. The best thing about that shirsey is that on most of them, not only is the nickname stupid, but the number is wrong too. Lots of people jumped on the Alvarez bandwagon after his rookie year and made a shirsey purchase. Anyway, this is probably the most subjective rule here. If you really want one of these, go ahead. It’s your shirsey.
Rule #6: Shirsey rights travel with the franchise, not the city
This is, again, unfair. If you really want a Walter Johnson Washington Nationals shirsey you can get it. It just makes more sense to me that Johnson would count as a Twin, given that he played his whole career for that franchise. This rule should probably only apply if you can’t find a shirsey for the original team.
Rule #7: Backstory is good
The better the backstory, the better the shirsey. This rule exists because I really want a Rickey Henderson shirsey. Rickey Henderson is awesome and has an awesome story. I’ve tried to get his shirsey for a while now, but MLB.com won’t let me. This should be rectified. Rickey’s the best.
With A.J. Burnett potentially missing a substantial amount of time and the Pirates having serious internal depth issues at starting pitcher, Neal Huntington probably spent a lot of time at the trade deadline looking to creatively add starting pitching to the Pirates. It’s no secret that the Pirates minor league depth has taken hit after hit this season. Brandon Cumpton, Jameson Taillon, Nick Kingham, and even more players have suffered various season ending injuries, and Clayton Richard opted out of his deal for a Major League opportunity with the Cubs. Huntington also has a starting rotation currently where he doesn’t really have the ability to option anyone to AAA if he was to add a front line starter. Jeff Locke, probably the worst starter in the rotation, has pitched well enough to justify his role, especially as he makes the league minimum and is controlled for three more years. Thus the only way a starter would break into the rotation was if a pitcher was injured. Obviously that happened, and I suppose it’s lucky it was just before the trade deadline. That gave Huntington and company a day to find a replacement, even after they had already creatively acquired Joe Blanton to the bullpen (to give them an emergency starting pitcher if they needed one). It seems the best Huntington was willing to do was add J.A. Happ to the rotation, a curious decision, but one that can be justified.
Blanton best profiles as a a long reliever who can start in an emergency, almost exactly like the pitcher he replaced on the roster, Vance Worley. The logic behind DFA-ing Worley is probably that the Pirates hope he clears waivers and accepts an outright assignment to Indianapolis rather than forfeiting the remainder of his 2.4 million dollar salary. That’s possible. Worley hasn’t pitched poorly this year though, so it’s not out of the question that the Pirates lose him either on waivers or to a trade with a team looking to give him another shot as a back of the rotation starting pitcher.Either way, an answer on Worley’s status should come sooner rather than later. Blanton should provide similar value to Worley, so the move seems lateral. Blanton has been striking out more batters since he moved to the bullpen though, and that could be the reason the Pirates were interested. He also has a much better xFIP than Worley, so maybe his performance will be a tick above over the rest of the season.
J.A. Happ has not pitched well this season, but there are some reasons that explain why the Pirates were interested in the 32 year old veteran. His 4.64 ERA is masking his 4.07 FIP and 4.03 xFIP. Sure, he’s underperformed his peripherals in the past, several times in fact, but he’s also outperformed them enough that his career ERA, FIP, xFIP are basically in line. That at least hints that there’s a chance that over the course of the season his numbers will swing a little in the Pirates favor. Contrast that with Dan Haren, who the Cubs acquired at the deadline to fill out their rotation. Haren has his best ERA since 2011 despite striking out less batters than his career norm (16.8% of batters this year against 20.1% for his career). That’s why he has such a disparity between his ERA (3.42), FIP (4.58), and xFIP (4.56). To continue the comparison between the two players, looking at what projection systems expect of them going forward, it’s possible to make the case for why the Pirates acquired Happ instead.
Happ (ZIPS): 49 innings, 4.32 ERA/4.11 FIP, 0.5 WAR
Happ (Steamer): 50 innings, 3.78 ERA/3.77 FIP, 0.7 WAR
Haren (ZIPS): 57 innings, 4.48 ERA/4.11 FIP, 0.5 WAR
Haren (Steamer): 57 innings, 4.18 ERA/4.36 FIP, 0.4 WAR
I’m not pretending to know their logic, of course. They could have pushed really hard for Haren, although that wouldn’t fit their template for a typical starting pitcher. He doesn’t get enough ground balls. Essentially, the hope would be that Steamer is the most accurate projection of what Happ will be over the rest of this season. Splitting hairs between fifth starters might seem silly, especially when the difference in projected WAR is at most 0.3, but it’s important to remember that the difference is 0.3. This isn’t a massive issue. It just seems like, when you break down the advanced numbers (albeit at a very basic, not thorough level), the Happ trade doesn’t seem as bad as some have made it out to be. Especially when you consider that even if Happ struggles, he’s probably only going to make be in the rotation until A.J. Burnett returns (roughly four weeks, but perhaps longer), and then Happ can transition to the bullpen for September, starting if necessary but mostly providing the Pirates with a left handed long reliever for emergencies and mop up duty.
The Pirates pulled the blockbuster of the trade deadline last night when they traded for Joe Blanton, and they didn’t have to give up much. So all the fans clamoring for the Pirates to make a big move can rest easy, their appetite for trades satiated by Neal Huntington and Co. As far as these fans are concerned, this is the move that will catapult the Pirates from the cellar dwellers that they are into the first division of talent in the National League Central. This is a guy with veteran presence and a track record of success. Sure that track record sort of ended in 2007, but the Pirates are just the team to fix Blanton and turn him back into his old self.
I can’t keep this up anymore. Joe Blanton is a 34 year old former starter who gives the Pirates some emergency starting pitching depth and will get innings as a middle reliever. He’ll probably replace Doelis Guerra and provide similar value. The upshot here is the emergency starting pitching depth. It’s no secret the Pirates were thin at starting pitcher, and this acquisition does just enough to alleviate some of the concern. If Blanton ends up permanently in the rotation, that’s a bad sign, but if he starts a game or two due to injuries there are worse things that could happen (I guess). It’s better than some of the alternatives, although I’m not convinced it’s better than letting Radhames Liz take this spot. But this way Liz can continue to be depth, and no team has ever had too much depth. This post I’ve specifically avoided posting Blanton’s numbers so far because they aren’t good. This year they’re fine, but he’s also only thrown 41 innings. The ground ball rate and FIP are good enough, and those are probably a big part of what attracted the Pirates to him. That and the cost, which is basically nothing I assume. Just cash. So to recap: Limited downside, added depth, not exciting, middle relief.
Not every front office in baseball acts in the best long term interests of its own organization. These front office workers have to keep their jobs, and sometimes that means sacrificing long term success for short term ability to keep your job. There’s no tangible evidence the Seattle Mariners front office is in that situation. It was only two off-seasons ago that Jack Zduriencik was considered a good candidate to lose his job. The Robinson Cano signing and a strong showing last season helped the front office gain credibility and a stay of execution. This season has been the opposite. Some bad luck, bad performances, and bad front office-ing having the Mariners pretty clearly out of the playoff picture. It hasn’t all been bad for Seattle, but it’s been mostly bad. Yet, there were recent reports that they were looking to acquire a catcher. If they were in contention that would make sense. Mike Zunino and his 45 wRC+ (projected to be in the mid 70s over the rest of the season) could be pretty easily improved on. But what’s the point of trading assets to improve on Zunino if the team isn’t in contention? That indicates that the front office is unlikely to sell, and might actually look to acquire talent. I can’t speculate as to what amount of pressure to contend this front office is under. I know that if I was in their shoes I would be looking to sell a few players and retool for next season.
Seth Smith: He’s sustained his breakout 2014 season and won’t be a free agent until after next season at the earliest. Smith is a platoon bat entering his mid-30s with a commitment of at least $7 million after this season, so his contract would not be a massive barrier to getting a deal done. The biggest problem would be the front offices willingness to part with him. They could easily hold onto him and use him in a similar way next year.
Austin Jackson: I think it’s fair to call Jackson’s last year and a half disappointing. His sub .300 OBP isn’t helping him provide value. He can still handle center, and he’s a free agent after the season making the rest of his $7.7 million contract. Any team acquiring him will be aware of his offensive limitations, but he’s the type of player Seattle shouldn’t be afraid to move. He’s not really helping them contend this season and he won’t be back next year.
Logan Morrison: A low BABIP is hurting Morrison right now, but he’s still not a very valuable baseball player. He’s a league average bat that can’t really play defense at any position (a recurring theme on the Mariners). Don’t let the home run totals distract you from his inability to get on base. A team trading for Morrison is taking him probably as a bat off the bench.
Mark Trumbo: The newly acquired Mark Trumbo has played about as poorly as a baseball player can play since he was acquired. -1.1 WAR in 30 games is almost impressive. A .255 OBP with no position will do that though. The Mariners are probably better off holding onto Trumbo at this point because it’s not like his value can get any lower. Trumbo still has another year of arbitration after this season. While he’s likely going to cost more than his $6.9 million salary this year, if Trumbo hasn’t rebounded by the end of the season and doesn’t look like he will, non-tendering him is a simple and cheap way to cut ties with a player who hasn’t performed well. If there is a market in the offseason for a player like Trumbo, dealing him then would be another option.
Hisashi Iwakuma: The way Iwakuma’s surrendering home runs it’s almost like the hitters know what’s coming. Iwakuma was on the DL earlier this year with a strained lat muscle, so luckily for him it wasn’t his arm. It’s probably that Iwakuma’s struggles this year can be chalked up to small sample size, and that he’ll right the ship before the end of the season, but any team that was looking to acquire him as the three win player he’s been the past two seasons has got to worried. He’s seen a slow but steady decline in his velocity since he came to the states, but nothing so dramatic that it explains why hitters are using the aluminum power bat off him all of a sudden. Any way, he’s a free agent after this season and a good candidate to improve in the remainder of the season. Could be a good buy low candidate for a team or he could end up in the bullpen and left off a playoff roster, similar to Justin Masterson after the Cardinals acquired him last season.
J.A. Happ: A free agent after this season, Happ is pretty much a back of the rotation starter who pitches like it. An ERA around 4 and peripherals that match that. He doesn’t eat a ton of innings, never pitching more than 166 in a season. That he only has the remainder of his $6.7 million contract left makes him fairly cheap. Happ is another player the Mariners should deal, but probably won’t. There’s no reason to keep a player like Happ around. They won’t (shouldn’t) re-sign him and they aren’t crazy enough to offer him a qualifying offer, so letting Happ go for nothing after the season doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Unless the Mariners truly think they’re still in the wild card race. As it is they’re 7 games back, with 9 teams between them and the second spot. It just isn’t happening this year.
Baseball’s unluckiest team, if the A’s decide to sell is there any player who would be off the table? Billy Beane is known for his willingness to make deals, even some that defy conventional wisdom. Josh Donaldson for Brett Lawrie, Franklin Barreto, Kendall Graveman, and Sean Nolin last offseason is an example of a recent deal like that. But all the same the A’s do have a number of more likely trade candidates.
Brett Lawrie: The A’s acquired Lawrie last offseason, and he hasn’t been fantastic. He’s a 2 win player over a full season, meaning he has about a win left in value this season for any team acquiring him. Any team acquiring him wouldn’t just get him for this season though. They’d get him for 2016 and 2017 too, so he’s not a rental. Lawrie’s had some health issues, but while he’s on the field he’s a slightly above average bat that’s only 25 years old who has some positional versatility (2nd and 3rd base).
Josh Reddick: Reddick is an above average corner outfielder. Reddick will be a free agent after next season. He’s 28 right now, he’ll be 29 next year. He’s a solidly above average hitter with seemingly good defense. He’s making $4.1 million this year, and this offseason is his last year of arbitration so he won’t be getting excessively expensive. He’s a pretty attractive trade candidate.
Sam Fuld: Despite his 3 WAR performance last season, Fuld is probably best suited to being a 4th outfielder. He has a career wRC+ of 82. He’s 33 now so it’s probably fair to expect his defense to decline a little as well. That defense has been his calling card, essentially keeping him in the majors. He’s cheap and he can fill in adequately in center if need be. He probably wouldn’t cost much in a trade either.
Ike Davis: The strong half of a platoon at first base, Davis doesn’t really hit enough to justify his place in the majors. He’s a non-tender candidate after the season (in what would be his last year of arbitration), but if Oakland can flip him at the deadline for anything, I would call that trade a success.
Scott Kazmir: Strained triceps ended his last start, and he’s Scott Kazmir so there are going to be injury concerns. If he’s healthy he’s good though. And he’s a free agent after this year so there’s no long term commitment, and he’s only going to cost like $5.5 million over the rest of the season. He’s a solid starting pitcher, so trade for him. And then don’t be surprised when he gets hurt. But seriously, he’s pretty good.
Jesse Chavez: Chavez was a reliever who was fairly mediocre. Then he became a starter who was better than mediocre. He’s a free agent after next season, so he isn’t a rental. He made 2.2 million this year, so he won’t be incredibly expensive after this season. He’s another cheap middle of the rotation starter who could be available.
Tyler Clippard: Yet another reliever who’s presumably available. His ERA is pretty good, his xFIP is really bad and he costs about half his $8.3 million salary this year. That’s about it.
What are the Diamondbacks going to do? I have no idea. They traded Touki Toussaint for salary relief, so they don’t seem to be going to hoarding prospects route of rebuilding. They even seem to think they’re competitive this season. In a division with San Francisco and more importantly the Dodgers, they aren’t. And their chances at a wild card spot seem about as likely as their chances of winning the division. With that said, they’re not terrible. They’re just not good. They should look to move certain pieces. Not Paul Goldschmidt (who, incidentally, is the reason they’re not terrible). There’s no way to get fair value for Goldschmidt, so the only thing to do is hold onto him and let him keep producing. Of course, these Diamondbacks are a bit unpredictable.
Aaron Hill: There’s no way a team would trade for Hill straight up. Hill isn’t good. His contract is bad. He’s been below replacement level this season. His .283 OBP isn’t going to play, especially for the rest of his $12 million dollars this year and next year. The only reason he’s on this list is because it’s possible the Diamondbacks want even more salary relief and would be willing to deal prospects to get it. Because that’s the only way they’re getting rid of hill without paying him.
Brad Ziegler: He doesn’t miss a whole lot of bats, but he doesn’t walk many hitters either, and he keeps the ball in the park and on the ground enough to have value on an MLB roster. He’s perhaps out of his element as the closer in Arizona, but whatever. A team could use him as a double play specialist He’s got what’s left of his $5 million contract this year and a $5.5 million club option next year with a $1 million buyout.
Addison Reed: By ERA, Reed has been bad. By FIP, he’s been better. Still not great. His biggest asset might be two more years of arbitration after this season, but this would be dealing Reed at the lowest point of his value. And the Diamondbacks front office would never do that.
Cliff Pennington: He’s a bad utility infielder. He’s making $3.25 million this year and is a free agent after the season. Buy at your own risk.
Oliver Perez: Another bullpen arm for hire, Perez (at this point) is a lefty specialist making $2.5 million in his last year before free agency
Welington Castillo: He could be traded 4 times in a season. That’d be interesting. He’s an acceptable catcher. Not an ideal starter, but a little too good to be a backup. A solid second division starter who isn’t a free agent until after the 2017 season.