The Freddy Sanchez Extension – Eight Months Later

About eight months ago — April 1st — the Giants extended Freddy Sanchez through 2012 for $6MM. The timing of the move was a bit peculiar, but it ultimately seemed like a prudent deal. The 2B free agent market would be somewhat thin in the upcoming offseason, and the Giants were looking ahead to ensure that second base would not be a void for them entering 2012. Sanchez had proven to be a bit injury-prone (appearing in 111 games in each of 2009 and 2010), but when he was on the field, he was producing at a rate of roughly 2 WAR/600 PAs. 2012 would be his age 34-season, but it wasn’t much of a stretch at all to think he could be put up $6MM-worth of production.

2011 wasn’t exactly Freddy’s year, as he appeared in just 60 games before incurring a season-ending injury (that would eventually require surgery). Nevertheless, when he was playing, he was the player anybody would’ve reasonably expected him to be. He hit .289/.332/.397 (99 wRC+), almost perfectly in line with his career numbers, and he was okay with the glove as well (though his skills in the field do appear to be gradually fading).

In the context of this offseason, given how the market’s shaped up, how does the extension look? Not too good, really. His skills are eroding, quite obviously. He’s 34 years old, and the reasonable expectation is that he’ll see a decline in his numbers at the plate this season. In addition, his defense, as mentioned, is gradually getting worse. He’s probably good for only league-average defense at this point — or perhaps even worse. Taking into account his lack of durability, the deal doesn’t look so solid anymore.

Let’s examine how this extension compares to two of the middle-infield deals this offseason: Jamey Carroll (two years, $6.75MM) and Mark Ellis (two years, $8.75MM).

Carroll, entering his age-38 season, is obviously a bit older than Freddy, but he’s got an edge in terms of health. Despite his age, he’s not nearly as injury-prone as Freddy — in fact, only once in his career has he hit the 15-day DL, and he’s lost just three days to injuries over the past two seasons. In terms of defense, Carroll is quite possibly the better of the two; at the very least, he’s as good as Freddy with the glove. The Minnesota Twins, of course, think enough of Carroll’s range to make him their everyday shortstop in 2012. With the bat, Carroll has not been quite as good as Freddy over his career (90 wRC+ v. 96 wRC+), mainly due to an utter lack of power. Freddy himself doesn’t hit the ball with much authority, but he has four times as many career home runs as Carroll. Anyway, Carroll has — in recent seasons — caught up to Freddy in terms of hitting. He posted respective OBPs of .379 and .359 in 2010 and 2011, enabling him to be a slightly above-average force on offense.

Funny how this all works out: Bill James projects Sanchez and Carroll to have identical wOBAs in 2012: .307.

So Carroll’s better than Freddy Sanchez (though you could argue otherwise), and his contract is more friendly as well. He’s guaranteed $6.75MM (with a $2MM team option for 2014), and he’ll be in a Twins uniform for an extra year (at least). Think of it like this: the Twins are paying $750K more to get an extra year of Carroll. Their plans for Carroll (he’s their everyday shortstop, at age 38) are questionable, but the contract is quite good and in comparison, the Sanchez deal simply isn’t.

Mark Ellis’ deal isn’t quite as friendly as Carroll’s; in fact, Ellis is worse than Carroll, but he’ll make more money (guaranteed $8.75MM). Ellis is even less durable than Sanchez, having spent three separate stints on each of the 15-day DL and 60-day DL throughout his career, and the last time he accrued 500+ plate appearances in a season was 2008. He’s about a year older than Sanchez, but his defense is considerably better (I’d estimate a difference of five to ten runs). Additionally, he’s been the same quality hitter as Freddy over his career: .266/.331/.397 (95 wRC+). His offense has dropped off in recent years, and as such, Bill James projects him for a .299 wOBA. Pretty mediocre, but it’s not much worse than Sanchez’s projection — and the defense certainly makes up for it.

So the Dodgers are paying an extra $2.75MM guaranteed for an extra year of Ellis (who — when he’s healthy — is just as good as Sanchez). It’s a worse contract than the Sanchez extension, especially considering Ellis’ health (or lack thereof), but it’s really not all that much worse.

The middle infield market has been a little odd this offseason, with mediocre players getting decent cuts of money. Freddy most certainly would have gotten 2+ years on the open market, but instead the Giants pay him $6MM through 2012. It may not seem like much, but that’s a higher average annual value than Clint Barmes, Jamey Carroll, Mark Ellis, Aaron Hill, et al. The Freddy deal just doesn’t hold up well to these other signings. Not a terrible extension, but it seems evident that the Giants are paying him more than he’s worth — even in light of how well guys are getting paid this offseason. What looked like a solid deal eight months ago is now just “meh.”

Ronny Cedeno or Clint Barmes?

So the Pirates are nearing a two-year $11MM deal with Clint Barmes. That basically pays him to be a league-average shortstop over the next two years, which isn’t so bad. As @JunkStats points out, Barmes has averaged roughly 2 WAR/season since 2008, and it’s not like he’s that old. He’s 32. Had the Giants signed him for this amount, I think I would have been content. Especially considering that a) the John McDonalds and Willie Bloomquists of the world have gotten pretty friendly deals this offseason, and b) the Giants paid Miguel Tejada $6.5MM last offseason.

The Barmes deal has sparked an interesting debate: Ronny Cedeno v. Clint Barmes. Cedeno had a $3MM club option for 2012, but the Pirates chose not to pick it up — and to instead pay the $200K buyout. This is after Cedeno produced roughly 1.5 WAR this season (regardless of your metric of choice). That’s nearly league-average production, and worth about $6-7MM on the open market. In fact, there are those that believe that Cedeno (contract aside) is a better shortstop than Barmes.

Now I’m not one of those people. Cedeno’s a career .246/.286/.353 (63 wRC+) hitter, whereas Barmes is a career .252/.302/.401 (74 wRC+) hitter. Bill James projects the two for nearly a twenty-point difference in weighted on-base average. The defense is a little harder to measure, given how unreliable defensive metrics tend to be, but I’m inclined to believe that Barmes is also the better defender of the two. Go ahead and peruse their defensive ratings if you’d like (Barmes, Cedeno).

In any event, Cedeno’s not a worthless shortstop. He can’t hit, but for an above-average defensive shortstop, he’s not that bad. The Pirates very well may have set the market for Cedeno by declining his option, and if he’s getting a one-year $2MM deal this offseason…that’s pretty enticing. It kills me to say this — it honestly does. This is a guy that has batted ninth (behind the pitcher) many times in his career.

Yet at the same time, the Giants, as a team, didn’t hit much better than Cedeno in 2011. They’re out on Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins, and there are very few acceptable options left. They’re not going to spend big on shortstop, so their best route is to buy low. In this case, Cedeno appears to be a solid stopgap. He’s slightly better than Brandon Crawford, but more importantly, he’d allow Crawford to develop his hitting in Triple-A this season.

Yes, I’m seriously advocating for the Giants to sign Ronny Cedeno.

Clint Barmes remains on Giants’ radar

According to Ken Rosenthal, the Giants remain involved in Clint Barmes — who will likely sign a two-year deal. Barmes, 32, has been connected to the Giants a lot lately, and for good reason — he’s a solid defensive shortstop, he’s coming off a good season, he’s much cheaper than Jimmy Rollins and Jose Reyes (who have long been off the Giants’ radar), and he’s a right-handed hitter (so he would evidently complement Brandon Crawford well).

On the other hand, Barmes is getting a little old, and he’s never been much of a hitter (.252/.302/.401, 74 wRC+). In particular, his plate discipline is awful: 163 BB/485 K. As I’ve said before, I’d like Barmes, but at the right price. What that means, essentially, is that if he’s generating a lot of interest (and he sure seems to be), he’s not worth pursuing.

Just a few days ago, Josh looked at Ryan Theriot as a potential platoon shortstop for the Giants. The middle infield market is going insane, and if the Giants don’t want to end up overpaying for a shortstop (as they’ve done in recent years), they’re probably best off pursuing buy-low stopgaps.

Update: Barmes is expected to sign with the Pirates for two years at $11MM. Eh.

Looking at A Potential Platoon SS Option

The Giants have had an interesting offseason, starting with committing $9.25 Million to two relievers despite having pressing needs at SS, back up catcher, and a corner Outfield spot. This likely means that the Giants will have the cut costs at one of these positions and perhaps more. Given that the Giants seem somewhat comfortable with Brandon Crawford at SS, they could look go dumpster diving to look for a cheap insurance/complementary plan. One way they could do that is with Ryan Theriot.

Theriot isn’t great offensively or defensively. Offensively he comes from the Jeff Keppinger school of not striking out but also not walking or hitting for power. Defensively, both DRS and UZR have him at about five runs below average at SS. He is also a non-tender candidate and was replaced by Rafael Furcal after an August trade. Cardinals GM John Mozeliak recently said that he “…would have no problem with [Tyler Greene] and Descalso as our middle infield.” So given that Theriot was replaced on a championship team and could be non tendered why would the Giants want him? Well for one, he’s a veteran and there is a familiarity factor. Is that a good reason? not necessarily but I do think it plays a role, especially with the Giants management. Secondly, he looks like he could be a solid part of a platoon. In 835 PA’s against Left-handed pitching Theriot has hit .301/.373/.401, whereas he has hit just .276/.334/.337 against righthanders.  Given his defensive limitations a platoon with him and Brandon Crawford could be appealing, as Theriot could play the 1st 6 innings against a LHP and Crawford could come in as a defensive sub and either replace Theriot or Theriot could shift to 2nd base where he is better suited.

While Theriot is not a glamorous option, or even an appealing one, he is also not Yuniesky Betancourt, which should count for something. And given that other mid level SS targets, like Clint Barmes are getting a lot of attention and will likely get a 2 or 3 year deal, a Theriot/Crawford platoon could be a cheap, moderately effective way to go.

 

Jon Heyman: Giants eyeing shortstops, first basemen, outfielders

According to Jon Heyman, there’s no belief that San Francisco will pursue Jose Reyes or Jimmy Rollins. They are, however, focused on the market for shortstop, first base, and outfield:

No belief #sfgiants will make play for reyes or rollins. They are eyeing ss as well as 1b and OF. but pitching still the focus

We’ve heard this again and again: the Giants, due to budgetary constraints, are not in on Reyes or Rollins. They’ve really embraced the pitching-first philosophy (although it’s almost like a pitching-first and pitching-second and pitching-third philosophy).

Anyway, they seem focused on finding a backup option for Brandon Crawford, and Clint Barmes seems like the obvious target (at the right price, that’s not such a bad thing). The market for middle infielders is shaping up to be pretty ugly though; bad ones, the likes of Willie Bloomquist, are making more money than they should. Hopefully the Giants don’t fall down this trap.

It’s a little odd that they’re looking at first basemen — as they have both Brandon Belt and Aubrey Huff – but they could definitely stand to add an outfielder. I’m guessing they’ll re-sign Cody Ross, who would like to return in 2012. He’ll be cheap, and seems like a good fit (if he can still play a serviceable centerfield).

Willie Bloomquist has an offer from the Giants

Via Jon Heyman:

Willie Bloomquist has offers from #dbacks, #sfgiants. ties to AZ may give dbacks edge

Bloomquist, 33, is a career .264/.317/.337 hitter, and beyond the ability to play nearly ever position, he has little to offer. Even though he is pretty versatile — a classic utility player — he’s not much of a defensive asset anywhere. He’s racked up a grand total of 1.6 rWAR (and 1.3 fWAR) in his career.

It also appears that the Giants will in fact go with Brandon Crawford as the starting shortstop, and simply shop for a backup this offseason. That would make a lot of sense for the team, particularly if they can find a bat that complements Crawford. I think they should consider Clint Barmes: he can hit lefties (career .793 OPS v. LHPs), and he’s a solid defensive shortstop. If he can be had at a relatively cheap price, he’s definitely worth pursuing.That’d certainly be a better solution than overpaying Jimmy Rollins with a five-year deal.

Update: Bloomquist has signed with the DBacks. On a two-year deal! You can’t make this stuff up.