Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Spraying Bullets

A few quick, somewhat random thoughts on the offseason thus far:

  • The Reds should be in on Zack Greinke in a big way. The Reds have tremendous starting pitching depth, but lack a true #1 starter. And, as anyone who watched last year's playoffs knows, pitching talks loudest in October. Prospects are currency in Major League Baseball and the Reds have more than enough set aside for a rainy day. In fact, one could argue that they are failing to properly monetize their prospects by holding on to them too long. Juan Francisco and Todd Frazier are prime examples, as their respective trade values are in danger of falling completely off the table. By themselves, they won't land Greinke, but they could be nice complimentary players in a package deal.The Reds certainly have the pieces to get a deal done and landing a legitimate #1 starter is worth the price, especially one like Greinke who has the stuff and polish to rival any pitcher in baseball. Additionally, Greinke would like be right at home in Cincy, where his social anxiety issues would likely be less problematic than in a large market city. It's fine for the Reds to be less than proactive in free agency, but there's no reason for the Reds not to go after trade targets. The Reds had a nice season in 2010, but if you aren't improving, then you are standing still. And, if you are standing still, then the competition is gaining on you. If the Reds want to repeat, they may want to do more than bank on improvement from the young guys already on the roster.
  • I seem to be one of the few who doesn't have a problem with the Nationals contract for Jayson Werth. Of course, I've been a huge Werth fan since his days as a Dodger. I thought the Reds should have snapped him up after the Dodgers non-tendered him way back when. But, I digress, as everyone on Earth now knows, the Nats gave the soon to be 32-year old Werth a 7-year deal worth $126M. Obviously, that's a big investment, but Werth generates tremendous value with a rare combination of tools and skills. That combination should enable him to age well and continue to generate value even if his offense slips a bit. Under the "Dollars" metric created by Fangraphs, Werth's production over the last three seasons has been worth $22.9M, $22.0M, and $20.0M. That metric takes a player's actual production at the end of the season and then determines what it would cost a team to buy that exact production. It doesn't equate to market value because "Dollars" deals with exact production without factoring in risk of any kind (performance, injury, etc). "Dollars" deals with certainty in production, whereas market salary deals with uncertainty. "Dollars" looks backwards, while salary looks forward. In short, market rate salaries are lower than "Dollars" because teams factor in uncertainty, injury, and production risk. So, Werth's Dollar figure doesn't mean that his actual salary is supportable, but I really don't think it's that far off. The final year or two will probably be rough due to his age decline, but the Nats saw the guy they wanted and went hard after him. Salaries are going to escalate because of increasing revenue and inflation. It's the nature of the beast and has been for decades. And, among those wringing their hands and complaining are (I'm sure) the big market teams (Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, etc) and teams who have set the market in previous years (Royals with Meche, Giants with Zito, Astros with Carlos Lee, etc etc). It seems like it's only an "outrageous" deal when it's not a big money team. When the Yanks/Red Sox sign someone for big money, everyone complains about revenue disparity. When a smaller revenue team or a team that rarely makes a big splash throws around big bucks, everyone complains about the contract.
  • Reds fans everywhere are already getting worried about keeping Joey Votto around long-term. Votto has given some mixed signals about his willingness to sign a multi-year deal, so maybe there is cause for concern. He recently was quoted as saying he wouldn't accept a hometown discount out of respect for the players who came before him and those to come after him. I'm not sure how genuine that rationale actually is, but regardless I wouldn't expect him to give us a discount. I would, however, expect him to at least consider giving up a couple of free agent years in exchange for a guaranteed multi-year contract that would set him up for life. For me, the time to get an extension done with Votto is now....right now. People complained about the Werth contract because it set the market. It was the first big contract and may have provided a benchmark for other free agents. Personally, I'm concerned about what happens to the Reds chances to sign Votto to an extension after the Cardinals hand out an extension to Albert Pujols. Obviously, Votto isn't in the same position as Pujols due to service time differences, but how willing will Votto be to surrender a couple of free agency seasons after the Cardinals sign Pujols (the player Votto just beat out for the MVP award) to an extension worth $25-30M on an annual basis? I could easily be wrong, but waiting could cost the Reds in a big, big way. The Reds need to work out 5-6 year contract extensions with Jay Bruce and Joey Votto this offseason. I expect Bruce to explode next year and become much more expensive. And, I expect Votto to become much harder to retain after the Pujols deal establishes a new benchmark for MVP first basemen.
  • And, as I have alluded to before, I'm not a fan of the Arroyo extension. I don't like taking on unnecessary risk in an area of strength and I don't like Arroyo's chances of maintaining his level of success as he ages. Hopefully Arroyo continues to prove me wrong, but I continue to wonder if that's money that could be more effectively spent in other areas.
  • It's hard for me not to think that the Reds missed out on a nice opportunity to improve their outfield by not landing Cameron Maybin. The Maybin acquisition would have been a payroll neutral move, which would fit nicely into the Reds' financial limitations this offseason. As a result, Maybin may have been the best opportunity of the offseason. As of now, Maybin's career is nothing more than a cautionary tale about the perils of rushing prospects up to the majors. However, he still has a tremendous set of tools and the opportunity to refine those skills necessary to utilize them. He still has substantial potential and the time to unlock. Unfortunately, Maybin is out of options, so he can't develop in the minors any longer, but plugging him into leftfield in the righthanded hitters haven of Great American Ballpark could have been a big boost. Additionally, an outfield of Maybin/Stubbs/Bruce would be the best young outfield in baseball and a very strong defensive trio. Maybe Maybin continues to flame out, but I remain a big fan and think he could be a sneaky good value this year. Unfortunately, that value won't be created for the Reds.
  • All in all, it seems like the Reds are a tweak or two away from being a serious World Series contender and a perennial playoff team. It could be a real nice 5-year stretch for the Reds if they manage to consolidate the value of their organizational assets into the present 25-man roster. Of course, they won't get there simply by standing pat.


  1. I completly agree lark, and its really frustrating me.

    I was hoping walt was just playing his "we are fine with standing pat" trick he usually does then surprises us, but thats looking very unlikely right now.

    I would go hard after greinke and/or Upton. They both would improve this team substantially, and not just for a year. They would be long term players that would be worth several top prospects.

    However, in the first year that my team is in position to actually do something worth talking about; they are more focused on overpaying for arroyo and cairo and probably rhodes. Its really testing my patience, something i have given to this team when they probably didnt deserve it.

  2. Agree on Greinke. They can take him on and make it work if they so chose to but they simply aren't inclined apparently. Love to have him but whatever just do something to improve this team. Sitting on their hands isn't good enough.

    On Werth: Post and Pre PED era the normal decline of a position player starts at around 34 years of age and is toast by the time he is 36-37. Thats 2-3 years (at least) the Nats will be paying Jayson Werth nearly 20 million dollars for nothing. Poor investment and it raises the price on others his age. 5 year I could have understood since they do have to up their bid to get guys. This doesn't even take into consideration Werth's penchant for injury earlier in his career. My guess is they get a good year or 2 out of him and for what, just to raise prices across the board for everyone. Same reasoning I too would have let Bronson walk, unnecessary risk.

    On Votto: I don't even know what to say here. My disgust runs deep with the need for these athletes to have loyalty only to each others pocket books. How about some loyalty to the fans who pay to watch them, the game that gives them a stage to make millions of dollars and fame. Whatever, I'm to mad to add anything else on this subject currently. In fact hearing Votto as of late just makes me want to take a break for awhile from anything baseball related.

  3. Smitty,

    Well said on giving the team your patience when they didn't deserve it. I agree, it's frustrating. I find it very difficult to believe that Jocketty is actually content with Gomes as the primary leftfielder. Maybe that means Heisey or Frazier will get a long look. Or, maybe Jocketty's disinterest in statistics is coming back to bite the organization. Not sure, but I think Greinke is worth getting.

    Hopefully, Jock has something up hi sleeve other than resigning O-Cab in the coming months. We shall see.


  4. Will,

    Agree on Greinke. He's one of my very favorite pitchers and could be a beast in front of a good defensive team.

    As to Werth, I agree on the reemergence of actual aging, but I think he has such a diversified skill set that he'll age better than most. He contributes on offense, on the bases, and on defense. If I'm going to roll the dice on an aging free agent, then Werth would be near the top of my list. As for injuries, I tend to think he's past that. He had his wrist blown up by a big time fastball and took him a couple of seasons to recover. Over the past 3 years, he's played at least 156 per season.

    As to Votto, he has made some strange comments as of late. I'm not sure if we can glean anything from them or if he's simply a slightly different kind of cat. He seems somewhat disinclined to cut a multi-year deal, but I'm hoping it's just posturing. I'm not sure where he'd rather play, unless it's Toronto. Still, how eager would you be to leave a city where you just won an MVP? Maybe he's just uncertain, but something seems a bit off with Joey. I'd be content to lock him up for 6 years, which would keep him in Cincy until he's 33. After that, I'd probably be fine if he leaves town. It'll be interesting to see how it all plays out.