Yesterday, the Josh Donaldson trade shook the world. The Oakland Athletics moved the face of their team to the Blue Jays for Brett Lawrie and three prospects in Kendall Graveman, Sean Nolin, and Franklin Barreto.
Immediately, many believed that the price on Donaldson was too low. They thought that Billy Beane was ruining his team. Donaldson, the face of the Athletics, was dealt for "spare parts." That just isn't the case. The Athletics didn't give up too much or receive too little. The Blue Jays gave up too much for Donaldson.
Brett Lawrie himself might be able to equal Donaldson. At age 24, he's four years younger than the 28-year-old Donaldson, and has just as high a potential. Before the deal, Steamer (which is one of the best projection organizations out there) projected Lawrie, in a hitters park in Toronto, to produce a 4.0 fWAR in a healthy 580 plate appearances, while Donaldson, in a pitchers park in Oakland, to produce a 5.6 fWAR in 636 plate appearances.
Lawrie, when healthy, has the potential to be exactly what Donaldson was. Or at least close to it. However, health is a major issue for him. He has posted a "healthy" 500 plate appearances over a season just once in his career, when he appeared to the plate 536 times in 2012.
I am a big advocate of the "could be" type of players. Brett Lawrie, Kendall Graveman, Sean Nolin, and Franklin Barreto are all examples of could be players. Billy Beane dealt his one "sure thing" player in Donaldson and was able to get a return of four could be players. In a depleted farm system, Beane was able to get a young MLB veteran (Lawrie), two major league ready arms (Graveman, Nolin), and a low-level shortstop that has already shown promise (Barreto).
Graveman and Nolin aren't flashy pitching prospects in that they don't throw hard and get a lot of strikeouts. Graveman was picked in the eighth round just last year out of Mississippi State and got his first big league action this year. He features a sinker, slider, and a change. The sinker, his best offering, reached 93 mph last year. Brooks Baseball, perhaps the best pitch-tracking website around, noted that his sinker generates more swings and misses than the average right-hander's does, meaning that the strikeouts could come.
Nolin has four offerings, all used during the 2014 season. His four-seam fastball sits at about 92 mph, which is about average velocity, but he generates good "rising" action on it, which is something Beane would definitely note. His other pitches weren't used enough in the big league setting last year to really get a good report on them.
The thing about both these pitchers is that they don't walk a ton of hitters, but they don't strikeout a ton either. They both could be viable rotation pieces for Oakland next year, and if that isn't the case, Graveman and Nollin could be really good out of the bullpen as well. They are major league ready and do a good job of getting the outs needed. Beane found two diamonds in the rough, per se. Advantage, Oakland.
Finally, the Athletics received Short-Season Single-A shortstop Franklin Barreto. The 18-year-old Barreto posted a 141 wRC+ in 328 plate appearances this past season. He hit .311/.384/.481 with six homers and 61 runs batted in. Barreto is already ranked as the Athletics third best prospect by MLB.com. He could be the real x-factor in this deal and has the highest potential.
I'm not saying the Blue Jays won't benefit from Josh Donaldson. He's going to help them win, and if they win, it won't matter what they give up. However, what they gave up was too much for him. When you take a look at it, the "could be" players, especially considering their proximity to the major leagues, absolutely outrank the "sure thing" player in Donaldson. When we revisit this deal down the road, the Oakland Athletics will have definitely this trade.
Free agent third baseman Pablo Sandoval appears to be closing in on signing with his next team. He reportedly will be making a decision next week. It's been an interesting ride thus far for Sandoval as three teams have emerged as the favorites in the bidding.
The Giants, Red Sox, and Padres are the three main teams interested in Sandoval's services. They each have made their bids. The Red Sox reportedly had the highest bid coming into today, offering Sandoval a five-year, $95 million contract. The Padres made their offer to the third baseman today and reportedly made the "high bid" for Sandoval. The Giants' contract offer details haven't been reported, but they are still making a push for Sandoval as well, leading to what looks to be an interesting coming week.
Contract negotiations for Sandoval are likely to reach over $100 million, especially if the Padres topped the Red Sox five-year, $95 million deal today. Sandoval was only a 3.0 fWAR player in 2014, and at age 28 with his weight, he may start declining within the next couple of years or so. Sandoval hit 16 homers in 2014, which was his most since 2011.
I don't know if Sandoval is worth $19-$20 million per season. At the end of last offseason, Dave Cameron of FanGraphs wrote an interesting article on how much money was invested per win. He found that the average player was given about $7 million per win, while the median player was given $5.9 million per win. Based on the Red Sox' offer to Sandoval, he'd be paid about $6.3 million per win, which could be considered a steal based on the average. But Sandoval won't be improving over the next five seasons.
I'm not sure if a $100 million commitment to a 28-year-old, 245 pound third baseman is the right thing to do for any of these three teams. I think that when we look back at this deal, we will see that the negatives outweigh the positives. Don't get me wrong; Sandoval is a good player. But does a "good" player deserve $20 million a year, a deal usually reserved for an absolute stud?
In 2014, twenty-two players were paid $20 million or more. Cole Hamels, Zack Greinke, and Felix Hernandez were absolute studs. They all made over $20 million. Vernon Wells, Ryan Howard, and Prince Fielder also made over $20 million. Wells wasn't on a team, Fielder was injured for most of the year, and Howard was, well, Howard. When we look back at the Sandoval deal five years down the road, will we see a Jayson Werth deal or an Albert Pujols deal? I don't think either is a guarantee.
When Werth signed his seven-year, $126 million deal with the Nationals, he was older than Sandoval (31), but had posted a 4.9 fWAR the season before. His contract with Washington guaranteed him an average of $18 million a year, and since signing, Werth has posted fWARs of 2.3, 0.6, 4.6, and 4.8, respectively. He is still guaranteed to be in a Nationals uniform for three more years, but he has been very good.
Sandoval is in a different situation than Werth. He's three years older, but didn't produce as well in his contract year. Sandoval might be projected to regress faster than Werth, who still has shown the ability to get on base, hit, and hit for power.
I am mixed on the rumored deal for Sandoval. I really think it comes down to how much a team is willing to spend over how many years. I think a five-year deal is right on the money for him, but a contract could be over $100 million, which would make him amongst the richest in the major leagues. I don't know if he is worth it. We will find out soon enough. Or in five years. Whichever comes first.
If you haven't heard, the Miami Marlins and outfielder Giancarlo Stanton have agreed to a thirteen-year, $325 million contract. If you have heard, well, good for you. Either way, $325 million is a lot of dough. In fact, it's more money than any other contract in major league history.
We all know the power Giancarlo Stanton possesses. We saw it during the regular season, at the Home Run Derby, and the fact that he hit some of the longest homers in numerous ballparks in his best season of his career this past year. It didn't end great, though, as Stanton was drilled in the face by Brewers pitcher Mike Fiers and was unable to return the rest of the year.
Stanton's new contract is larger than Alex Rodriguez's extravagant deal. It's larger than the money the Tigers guaranteed to Miguel Cabrera after they signed him to an extension. It's larger than any other contract in major league history. Stanton is one of the best young hitters in the game, but is he really deserving of the largest contract in major league history?
Yes. If you break down the contract to an annual average salary (AAV) dollar amount, Stanton will make $25 million per year, which is the right amount of money for a player of his caliber for sure. The reason as to why the deal looks so big is because Stanton's overall contract is $325 million. But that $325 million is over thirteen seasons. Thirteen. Alex Rodriguez's ten-year, $275 million contract actually had a larger AAV ($27.5 million) than Stanton's upcoming one.
The highest paid players in 2014 were as follows: Zack Greinke, Cliff Lee, Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder, Robinson Cano, Albert Pujols, and CC Sabathia. They all made between $23 and $26 million. Stanton is easily as good as Cano, Pujols, or Fielder. He will likely be better than them when he hits his prime. For example, Cano was a 5.2 fWAR player; Stanton was a 6.1 fWAR player.
Stanton is only going to improve, too. He's been in the majors only since 2010, and he just recently celebrated his 25th birthday. Ten days ago, to be exact. There's no question that he's only going to get better. Considering the fact that his deal is very backloaded, along with the fact that he has an opportunity to opt-out, the deal makes even more sense for both sides.
Overall, if Stanton gets to where we think he'll be over the next few years, he definitely deserves $325 million. It is still possible that the Marlins "jumped the gun" in signing Stanton, however, he has shown consistent power over his professional career and appears to be just getting started. I like the backloaded part of the deal as well. So, yes, I believe Giancarlo Stanton was worth his mega deal.
James Shields is the third of the "big three" starting pitchers (Max Scherzer, Jon Lester) to be a free agent this offseason. Shields, off of a World Series appearances with the Royals, might just be the most affordable of the big three due to his age. That doesn't mean that he won't be inexpensive by any means.
The 32-year-old Shields was drafted in the 16th round of the 2002 MLB Draft by the then-Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He worked his way through the minors nicely, breaking out especially in 2005. Shields came up to the Rays in 2006 and worked his first 152 games (151 starts) over the next five years. He was an average pitcher -- above average at best -- working his way to a 4.25 ERA in 977 2/3 innings pitched.
His 2011 season changed his entire career. Shields went 16-12 with a 2.82 ERA and a 134 ERA+, also averaging 3.46 strikeouts per walk in 249 1/3 innings. He led the American League with an astounding 11 complete games and 4 shutouts. He was shipped to Kansas City in 2012 in the deal that moved Wil Myers to Tampa. Since, he's been with the Royals.
This past season, Shields went 14-8 with a 3.21 ERA and a 124 ERA+, averaging 4.09 strikeouts per walk over his 227 innings pitched. He was a 3.7 fWAR player this past year. The Royals decided to offer Shields a one-year, $15.3 million qualifying offer, but he has yet to make a decision.
Shields just isn't as good as Lester or Scherzer. Those are the facts. He's also older, which means that his contract won't be as extravagant, nor for as many years. Currently interested, as previously reported, in Shields are the Yankees, Red Sox, and Cubs (obvious ones), but also the Blue Jays, Orioles, and Marlins. It's hard to gauge the interest of the latter three teams right now, but I have to assume they're in due to a smaller contract size.
Shields is a really good pitcher, but this postseason he didn't help his stock in pitching well down the stretch. Lester posted an ERA around 2.6 in close to his last 30 postseason innings and Scherzer has an ERA around 3.6 over his last 30 postseason innings. Shields has a 7.20 ERA over his last 30 postseason innings. This has to be taken into consideration for teams wanting to sign him, for sure.
This contract is a tough one to peg for me, but I really believe that the Cubs are going all in this offseason. Whether this means they are going to sign Lester, Shields, or both, I do not know, and I probably won't be able to tell you until both of them sign. My personal opinion is that they will sign Lester, but I'm not sure about Shields. But it's really hard to peg a contract for him in general. So, I have James Shields signing with the Chicago Cubs on a five-year, $80 million contract.
Oakland Athletics starter Jon Lester is a free agent this offseason. He was not eligible for a qualifying offer, due to the fact that he pitched for both the Athletics and Red Sox this season. Players who spent time with more than one team are not eligible for a qualifying offer.
The 30-year-old Lester has never hit the open market over his career, as the Red Sox bought out some of his free agent years with a six-year, $42.75 million extension that covered from 2009 to 2014. He has pitched with them since the beginning of his career and now will take the next step.
Lester, a Tacoma, Washington, native was drafted by the Red Sox in the 2nd round of the 2002 MLB Draft. He worked quickly through the minor leagues, even netting him as the 22nd best prospect prior to the 2006 season as ranked by Baseball America. Lester came up to the bigs that year and has never looked back, appearing in the major leagues every year since.
The three-time All-Star Lester has a ton of big game experience. Lester was a part of two World Series runs, in 2007 and 2013, and played an instrumental part in the Red Sox last title, posting a 1.56 ERA in 34 2/3 innings pitched during the postseason (not quite Bumgarner numbers, but Bumgarner isn't human). Over his career, Lester has logged 1596 innings and posted a 3.58 ERA.
Lester spent his first time outside Boston this past season, being traded to the Athletics midseason for Yoenis Cespedes and others. He made 32 starts with the two clubs, going 16-11 with a 2.46 ERA and a 2.80 FIP. He was a 6.1 fWAR player, the second-highest mark of his career.
Lester still has a lot left in the tank. He's been one of baseball's best starters since breaking on to the scene in 2008. He logged over 200 innings his first three seasons beginning in 2008, then worked 191 2/3 in 2011, and has worked over 200 every year since. But he is still only 30. Lester is the true workhorse in this free agent class, which will net him a big contract over many seasons.
I'm not sure the Athletics can afford to bring Lester back, but I know the Red Sox would love a reunion. After being dealt, Lester felt "no hard feelings" towards Boston, and would be interested in coming back in the offseason. I'm not buying it now though. The Red Sox have $90.3 million committed to eight players already in 2015 and have $22.5 million committed to two in 2016. I'm not sure they can take on another $20 million per year by bringing back Lester.
I do think the Cubs are going to busy this offseason. Chicago is this close to contention next year and has a lot of payroll flexibility to get them there. They have $24 million guaranteed to four players next season. That's it. With that in my mind, and the fact that they are reportedly going all out for pitching this offseason, I have them signing Lester to a five-year, $120 million contract.