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Posts Tagged ‘Adrian Gonzalez’

There can be no doubt that the American League East is easily the best division in baseball. In fact, this year could wind up being historic in terms of division play, as my projections show 4 of the 5 teams capable of winning 90+ games this season – a feat that’s never been accomplished before. Is the talent level in the East really that much better than the rest of the AL? In a word, YES.

Both the Boston Red Sox and Yankees look to be the class of baseball this year. I project both teams to win 105 games this year and finish tied for the division crown. How evenly matched are the two juggernauts? The projections also have them splitting the season series, 9-9. Many prognosticators are giving the edge to the Red Sox this year, based on their starting rotation of Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Clay Buchholz. While the Yankees rotation is known to be unsettled, relying on a return to form by AJ Burnett, Phil Hughes avoiding regression from his 18-8 2010 season, and a collection of rookies and reclamation projects to fill the 4 & 5 spots, the Sox rotation also has question marks. Can Lackey reclaim his form? Can Beckett come back from an injury plagued season? Will Buchholz ever deliver on his promise? Can Matsuzaka come back from injuries and inconsistency? In short, both teams could have excellent rotations – or horrible ones, once you get past the aces. But offensively, both squads are loaded 1 – 9. The Yankees projected line-up of Derek Jeter, Nick SwisherMark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, Jorge Posada, Curtis Granderson, Russell Martin and Brett Gardner may actually be better than the team that led the league in runs scored last season. Boston counters with Carl Crawford, Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz, JD Drew, Marco Scutaro, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jacoby Ellsbury. Both line-ups are capable of scoring 1,000 runs. The real differentiators between the teams are in the bullpens and on the bench. The Yanks have a slight edge in the bullpen, with the 1 – 1a tandem of Mariano Rivera and Rafael Soriano. The Sox have a slight edge on the bench.

As for the rest of the division, Tampa Bay suffered some tremendous free-agent losses. Despite that, they come into the season with their only real question being the strength of the bullpen, where the oft-traveled Kyle Farnsworth heads a makeshift relief corps. The additions of Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon, along with new shortstop Reid Brignac and rookie Desmond Jennings, should actually make the offense better. And Tampa’s rotation remains one of the game’s best, led by David Price. But while good enough to win pretty much any other division in the game, this year’s Rays aren’t in the same class as either New York or Boston.

The same goes for the Orioles, although Baltimore may have the most improved team in the league. The infield was completely remade, as Mark Reynolds, Derek Lee and JJ Hardy join Brian Roberts. The O’s also brought in veteran slugger Vladimir Guerrero and closer Kevin Gregg. Add in what looks to be the league’s best young rotation and proven winner (and old friend) Buck Showalter as manager, and Baltimore is poised to shock people the same way Toronto did last year.

As for the Blue Jays, this team lost too much – and replaced those parts with questionable signings – from last year’s overachieving squad to compete this year. They’ve brought in pitching guru John Farrell to lead the team, but this team will suffer from losing Cito Gastons “let-’em-fly” attitude on offense. Include a rookie catcher, changes at 1st, 3rd and all three OF spots and it will prove to be too much turnover to overcome. One bright spot for the Jays this year could be rookie starter Kyle Drabek, one of the game’s more hyped young pitchers.

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The Yankees have been busy since Cliff Lee stunned the baseball world and retreated to the quiet confines of Citizen’s Bank Park, home of those welcoming Philadelphia types. (Unless you happen to be Santa Clause, that is). After devoting the entire offseason plan to signing Lee, you couldn’t really blame Brian Cashman and company if they didn’t have a plan B. But, much to my amazement and joy, they did! And they didn’t waste any time whatsoever in implementing it!

It seems plan B consists of signing every retread and injury-prone player still available. First, they landed their big-name pitcher in Mark Prior. Who cares if Prior hasn’t thrown a ML pitch in 4 years and has a history of shoulder ailments dating back 7 seasons? He was once one of the best right-handed starters in the majors. Then, virtually in tandem with signing Prior, the Yankees swooped in and grabbed C Russell Martin. Who cares if Jesus Montero is waiting in the wings to prove why he’s one of the 5 best prospects in MLB? The Yankees just signed a catcher who lost 1/2 of 2010 to hip surgery; a guy who once was an All-Star for the Dodgers but had played so well over the past three seasons that they flat out released him. To address a leaky bullpen, today the Yanks signed Pedro Feliciano, formerly of the Mets. Ok, so, he’s thrown in a ML leading 408 games over the past 5 years, but he’s only 34. Oh…right.

In defense of the signings, each does bring something positive – Martin does have a history of throwing out runners (2nd best percentage in baseball since he broke in). Prior is one of those low-risk, high-reward types; if he can throw effectively and recapture some of his early magic, he beats anything the Yankees currently have lined up for the end of the rotation. And Feliciano is a lefty-specialist who was put into bad situations over the past two years by Jerry Manuel. Nobody has been better at keeping LH hitters off base over the past three seasons.

But each also brings questions, and not just about durability. Can Martin still move behind the plate to be an effective defensive catcher? And potentially relegating Montero to the bench certainly won’t endear him to many who bleed Pinstripes – after all, we’ve been salivating at the thought of watching him launch moonshots for 3 years now. Will Feliciano be nearly as effective in the AL East, particularly against the likes of Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz, Nick Markakis and Carl Crawford?

In the meantime, the biggest questions surrounding the 2011 Yankees have yet to be addressed: starting pitching, a quality set-up reliever, outfield and infield depth.

Plenty of rumours continue to swirl around the team, especially when it comes to starters. Zach GreinkeFausto CarmonaCarlos Zambrano and Felix Hernandez have all been mentioned as potential trade targets. Greinke and Carmona are probably far-fetched possibilities; both have team friendly contracts with teams that are looking to bring in an entire farm system in return. While Jack Zduriencek is known for trading, you can reasonably expect that he’ll want a kings ransom in return for King Felix (after all, he did just win a Cy Young for a last place team). Zambrano may be easier to get, but his temper amy be more destructive than his ability to win 20 games. And of course, we all wait on Andy Pettitte’s decision on whether or not to come back for a 17th season.

Infield rumors were centered on Bill Hall and Jeff Keppinger. There are reports that Hall just signed with Houston, which would seemingly make Keppinger an easier get. But really, is Keppinger that much of an upgrade over Ramiro Pena? Certainly not defensively – and his bat doesn’t make up the difference. As far as RH relievers and OF go, there hasn’t been any action to speak of. On the relief front, time is getting short. With Bobby Jenks, Matt  Guerrier, Jesse Crain, J.J. Putz, Matt Albers, Kerry Wood and Joaquin Benoit already signing elsewhere, there aren’t many proven relievers left on the market. Thus far, nobody has even whispered what the Yankees plan to give their OF some depth. MLBTR has a listing of the available free agents here: there are some intriguing names on the list (including old friends Eric Hinske, Austin Kearns and Johnny Damon).

It’s only December, so Cashman gets an incomplete on this years offseason. But March is coming quickly and the most glaring problems – the ones that sent the Yankees home to watch this year’s World Series – remain, while players who could fill those voids are signing elsewhere. Heck, it was even reported that the Yankees no longer have the game’s highest payroll, a testament not only to Boston’s spending but to Cashman’s not spending.

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Part 1 of 2


The principle topic of discussion in Yankeeland for the past week has been, how much should Derek Jeter make on his next contract? The debate has raged on since Sunday, when details began leaking of the Yankees $45 million, 3 year offer and Casey Close’s “bafflement.” Yesterday, I saw a bunch of tweets about Jeter asking for 6 years and $150 million. I don’t know where those rumors started, but I also saw a bunch from Close stating those figures were “rubbish.” I’m also hearing that the $15 million average salary offered to Jeter represents a number perhaps twice his true market value, which sounds like so much rubbish to me. But before I start tossing around opinions, I thought I would do a little research into the matter.

The central questions to all of this tug-and-pull remains what, exactly, is Jeter’s worth to the open market and what is his worth to the Yankees? I think pretty much everyone with a little common sense understands that Jeter is for more valuable to the Yankees than to any other team and for the Yankees to pay him based strictly on what he is worth to, say, the Giants is ridiculous. And Jeter would be just as ridiculous to expect the same type of money from the Giants as he would from the Yankees. Harvey Araton of the NY Times has a good article today in which none other than Brian Cashman compares Jeter to Lou Gehrig. Like Gehrig, Jeter is a for more valuable commodity to the Yankees than to any other team.

So what is Jeter’s worth?

To start, I looked at what a typical major league team pays for players of Jeter’s caliber. By using WAR, we can determine how much a player is paid based on how many wins he is better than a typical replacement:

2011

2011

Rk Player

WAR

Salary

$/WAR

1 Albert Pujols

42.6

$ 16,000,000.00 $ 1,877,934.27
2 Joe Mauer

33.8

$ 23,000,000.00 $ 3,402,366.86
3 Chase Utley

30.8

$ 15,000,000.00 $ 2,435,064.94
4 Hanley Ramirez

29.1

$ 11,000,000.00 $ 1,890,034.36
5 Alex Rodriguez

26.3

$ 31,000,000.00 $ 5,893,536.12
6 Mark Teixeira

26.2

$ 22,500,000.00 $ 4,293,893.13
7 Miguel Cabrera

24.9

$ 20,000,000.00 $ 4,016,064.26
8 David Wright

24.8

$ 14,000,000.00 $ 2,822,580.65
9 Chipper Jones

24.1

$ 13,000,000.00 $ 2,697,095.44
10 Kevin Youkilis

23.2

$ 12,000,000.00 $ 2,586,206.90
11 Adrian Gonzalez

22.9

$ 5,500,000.00 $ 1,200,873.36
12 Robinson Cano

22.1

$ 10,000,000.00 $ 2,262,443.44
13 Derek Jeter

21.4

$ –
14 Justin Morneau

19.8

$ 14,000,000.00 $ 3,535,353.54
15 Jose Reyes

19.4

$ 11,000,000.00 $ 2,835,051.55
ML Average –> $ 2,945,945.95

First up, Derek Jeter is the 13th most productive player in all of MLB since 2006. I think that lost in all of the acrimony and discussion of how bad Jeter was last year is that simple fact – only 12 players in MLB have been more productive than Derek Jeter. That’s pretty amazing, if you consider that more than 600 individuals have donned a major league uniform over that time. (I went back 5 seasons, so as to get a representative sample). You’ll also notice that even with some horrendously underpaid performers (Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez) in the top 15, the average compensation per win in 2011 is nearly $3 million. Using that figure as a yardstick, fair compensation for Jeter – based solely on performance – would be his WAR dollar value of $12,608,648.65. If you were to pay him based on WAR dollar value of players at similar ages/careers, then the number drops slightly to $12,096,338.26 – or, to put it another way, teams realize players of Jeter’s age probably won’t continue to produce like they did when they were 30 and the average “age discount” is roughly $510,000. Also, you can see that there are four Yankees in the top fifteen: besides Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano. Their average compensation per win in 2011 is $4,149,976.76 – if Jeter were paid on the Yankee scale, then his value would be $17,761,818.37.

All of a sudden, that $15 million figure offered by Cashman doesn’t represent a number that far from Jeter’s value based on performance. Best case for Cashman, they’re offering Jeter a $3 million bonus. Worst case, the offer represents shortchanging Jeter by about $2.5 million. Based strictly on performance, the two sides probably could come to a pretty quick accommodation. But the principle sticking point in this negotiation is that Jeter is worth far more to the Yankees than to any of the other 31 teams in baseball. Jeter knows it. Cashman knows it. The obvious problem is coming to an agreement on just how much value Jeter represents to the Yankees vs. other teams. Or, to put it in Cashman’s own words, how much this century’s Gehrig is worth to the Yankees.

There really isn’t any way to statistically analyze that number. Since the Yankees are not a public corporation, we don’t have access to their financials, nor do we have access for their revenue projections for the next 5 years. But we can make an educated guess.

And I’ll discuss that tomorrow.

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