Author: Steve Simas

Qualifying Offers: Who Should Accept?

Nelson Cruz 300x200 Qualifying Offers: Who Should Accept?It’s year three of MLB’s qualifying offer experiment, and we’ve got our list of players that were extended $15.3 million contracts by their clubs. These are they:

Melky Cabrera, Toronto Blue Jays
Nelson Cruz, Baltimore Orioles
Michael Cuddyer, Colorado Rockies
Francisco Liriano, Pittsburgh Pirates
Russell Martin, Pittsburgh Pirates
Victor Martinez, Detroit Tigers
Hanley Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers
David Robertson, New York Yankees
Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco Giants
Ervin Santana, Atlanta Braves
Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers
James Shields, Kansas City Royals

During the last two offseasons, exactly zero of the 22 players that were extended qualifying offers accepted them. I think that changes this year, after we all saw what happened to Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales once they turned them down. Since the team that signs a player that received a qualifying offer has to give up either their first or second round draft pick, it really depresses the markets on these good, but not great players. Would you give up a first rounder to pay Michael Cuddyer to hit outside of Coors Field? Of course not. You’re a smart person who can properly value baseball assets.

There are your elite free agents that will obviously turn down their qualifying offers, some guys who should absolutely take the qualifying offer, and one who resides in contract purgatory, if your definition of purgatory is deciding whether or not you should make fifteen point three million dollars next year. Here’s how I’m breaking them down:

Won’t Accept
Russell Martin
Victor Martinez
Hanley Ramirez
Pablo Sandoval
Max Scherzer
James Shields

The bottom four guys are all going to get huge multi-year deals. Martin and Martinez are going to get large multi-year deals, but theirs won’t be as long as those other four. This is a simple decision for these rich men who will be much richer very soon.

Should Accept
Melky Cabrera
Michael Cuddyer
Nelson Cruz
Francisco Liriano
Ervin Santana

Melky has the PED stain on him and was awful in 2013. He was good in 2014 (2.6 fWAR), but I don’t see a team that would be willing to go long term for a player with his history and give up a pick for him. Without a QO attached he’d be in line for a three or four year deal, making nine to 12 million per. With it, he’s looking for a job in March. Take that guaranteed paper, Melky.

Cuddyer will be 36 next season. He was great last year, but that was because he killed the ball so hard in Colorado (1.255(!) OPS) that it didn’t matter what he did on the road (.734 OPS). He should stay in Colorado where he’s Paul Bunyan. With the qualifying offer wrapped around his neck, I don’t see him getting more than Cruz did from the Orioles last season, and I’d bet on him getting under that. Would a team even offer him $15.3 million over the next two years if it meant surrendering a pick? Doubtful, right? Cuddyer should take the deal, or he might end up going the Stephen Drew route and signing after the 2015 draft.

Cruz knows how this works, as the Rangers made him a qualifying offer last year, which led to him signing a one year, $8 million deal with Baltimore. He had a better year than anyone could’ve hoped for, as he hit 40 bombs and proved to be a steal for the O’s. But still, he’ll be 34 next year, and I can’t see a team that would be willing to go more than two years on him. If I’m Cruz, I tell the O’s I’d take two years at $25 million, or I’m accepting the qualifying offer. Cruz will probably be back in Charm City next year, it’s just a matter of sorting out how long he’ll be staying.

Liriano has been really good to great for Pittsburgh the past two years, but he was really bad the two years prior. Liriano is one of the younger players that received a qualifying offer, but that doesn’t mean he should tempt the free agency fates. Given his erratic history, I don’t believe many teams would go longer than three years on him if he didn’t have qualifying offer attached, and I think he’d be in the same situation that Ervin Santana was in last year. Liriano has made “only” $19 million and change in his career, so nearly doubling your total career earnings in one season seems like the right choice to me.

Santana did this last year, and got his one year deal from the Braves. He had a good enough season in Atlanta, but he’s another year older and was better in 2013 than he was in 2014. No one made him a long term offer last season, so there’s no reason for him to believe that will magically change now. I think he’ll either take qualifying offer, or sign a two to three year deal with Atlanta for about $12 million per season.

Choices, Choices
David Robertson

I think making a qualifying offer to a relief pitcher is bonkers. Relievers are super fungible, hard to predict, and get hurt all the time. There are maybe three or four relievers in the majors who are worth that kind of money, and I don’t think Robertson is one of them. The Yankees obviously would like to have him back and I they can probably hash out a three or four year deal, but the opportunity for Robertson to get a huge one year paycheck and hit free agency again next season must be tempting. I can see this one going either way, but, regardless of his choice, Robertson is most likely closing in the Bronx next season.

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Nook Nacks — Promoted Promotables

clue 1 300x225 Nook Nacks    Promoted PromotablesIt seems that this time of year, every year, September shows up. She brings with her shorter days, new back to school sneakers and expanded MLB rosters. It’s the time of year where your teams in the playoff hunt are calling up prospects that can help them win games now, while teams playing out the stretch are promoting guys for 2015 auditions. It’s important to note that not all of the players being promoted are top-flight prospects — some are never going to crack 25 man roster. But, prospects who can do one thing really, really well have much more value this time of year. For example, the Royals just called up Terrance Gore, an outfielder who “hit” .221/.289/.257 this season. Kris Bryant’s slugging percentage is more than 100 points higher than Gore’s OPS. Gore’s up because even with that .289 OBP he managed to steal 47 bases this season, which seems like it should be impossible. But, there are roster spots for pinch runners in September, and he could be difference between a win and a loss in the coming weeks.

Today we’ll look at some players that were called up recently. Some are trying to win a pennant, others are trying to win a full-time gig next year.

Pennies for Someday
Carson Smith, RHP — Seattle Mariners
Smith is everything you could want from an eighth rounder. He was drafted out of Texas State University in 2011, and has steadily moved up the organizational ladder, from high-A in 2012 to double-A in 2013 and triple-A this year. He’s never had an ERA over 3.00 or struck out less than a batter an inning, and his walk rates have steadily declined every year. Any pitcher that can post a sub-3.00 ERA in the PCL is doing something right. He doesn’t offer much fantasy value down the stretch this year (unless you’re desperate for holds (and no one is desperate for holds)) but I wouldn’t be shocked if he got a chance to close next season. Relievers are volatile creatures, and opportunities arise very quickly in the bullpen — keep an eye on him this September and next spring.

Luis Sardinas, IF — Texas Rangers
Oh look, another dynamic, highly-touted middle infield prospect for the Rangers! Between Rougned Odor, Jurickson Profar, Elvis Andrus and Sardinas, Texas has a ton of depth up the middle of their infield. Sardinas might be the best defender of the lot, though none of them are liabilities in the field. Offensively, Sardinas lacks power, but he’s managed to hit for average and steal a bag or three. The Rangers have promoted him very aggressively, as he’s only played 50 games at double-A and another 60 at triple-A. He’s never been completely overmatched, which is impressive considering he’s just 21, but I’d like to see them give him at least another full year in the minors before bringing him back up. With their middle infield glut, it really shouldn’t be much of a problem. Dynasty leaguers should keep monitoring Sardinas, but don’t expect him to be able make any significant fantasy contributions before 2017.

Robbie Ray, LHP — Detroit Tigers
Ray’s been up longer than these other guys, but he’s still a recent call up and he’s interesting so we’re writing about him. He’s mostly interesting because he was the centerpiece of the Doug Fister deal, and the consensus was (and is) that he’s better suited as a trade supporting character than a leading man. Ray, quite simply, was mediocre this year. His strikeouts went down, his hits allowed went up and his overall results just weren’t that good. However, this was his first crack at triple-A and was just 22 this season. He should get more time in the minors and patience from his club, but the Tigers are about winning right now. Ray has talent and has flashed it in the past, but he needs to work on getting more consistent than anything else. From a fantasy perspective, I wouldn’t expect anything from Ray next year, but it’s not impossible that he could make some adjustments and be up in the second half of 2015. For those in dynasty leagues, now may be the time to target Ray as his value is down.

Anthony Ranaudo, RHP — Boston Red Sox
Going into the 2010 draft, Ranaudo was supposed to be a top five pick, and he had the potential to go number one overall. Injuries and ineffectiveness knocked him into the supplemental first round, where the Red Sox signed him to an over-slot deal. His first couple of years were filled with injuries and mediocrity, but he’s been healthy and consistent the past two years. His 7.2 K/9 this year won’t wow you, but only allowing 112 hits in 138 innings pitched should. His walk rate isn’t gorgeous, but walk rates rarely are. Ranaudo’s made 29 triple-A starts in his career and has a sub-3.00 ERA at the level — he’s ready for an extended shot in the majors. The Sox have great big gobs of pitching prospects in the upper minors, but only Clay Buchholz has a firm grip on a rotation spot next season. Ranaudo will get every opportunity to win a spot next spring, but I don’t see him having huge fantasy value early on. The Red Sox should put a good offense behind him next year so he could scrape together some wins, but I don’t think he’ll help much in other categories. He could be useful in deep leagues, but I wouldn’t go much further than that.

download icon Nook Nacks    Promoted Promotables

Nook Nacks — Patience

Screen shot 2014 08 29 at 11.39.01 AM 300x190 Nook Nacks    PatienceLast week Peter Gammons wrote a piece about top prospects struggling in the majors. He makes salient, well-reasoned arguments because he’s Peter Gammons and that’s what he does. If you haven’t read that but you are reading this, well, you’re a sweetheart of a dummy. Go remedy that. When I finished reading it, there were two words that rushed
through my brain: “of course.” Of course prospects are going to struggle when they get promoted to the majors. Of course Jackie Bradley Jr. and Billy Hamilton and Kolten Wong are having shaky to disastrous rookie campaigns – baseball in the majors is really, really hard. All the other reasons Gammons cited make sense as well — better scouting reports, relievers throwing harder than ever, et cetera, et cetera.

At the same time, though, prospects have always struggled. For every Mike Trout and Manny Machado that arrives and thrives, there are dozens of Jesus Monteros, Justin Smoaks and Andy Martes that struggle or fail completely. I think the difference now is that the more casual fan is paying attention. Byron Buxton getting injured a couple weeks ago blew up on Twitter, and every Twins fan knew that their prospect on a white horse was done for the year. How many more people knew about him this year than would’ve five years ago? How much more digital ink is spilled on these kids now than then? I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, mind you, I think it’s fantastic. Minor league baseball and prospects bring more joy to my life then they probably should, and I love that a Mets fan can have a conversation with a Red Sox fan about Josh Bell the Pirate and it’s downright normal.

What I am saying is we need to let the prospects breathe. Expectations and scrutiny are both at all time highs for them, and both should be tempered. Not every player develops on the same path. A player can destroy triple-A and not be close to ready for the majors. A kid can make the jump from double-A to the bigs and become the talk of the baseball world, but we need to keep in mind that he’s the exception. I call prospects kids because they are kids. They’re growing physically and emotionally and being asked to do extraordinary things. Wise people, people like Gammons, preach patience. There’s a reason for that.

Pennies for Someday
Jorge Soler, OF – Chicago Cubs
Sure, I’ll preach patience in the intro, but down here I’m going to gush. The Cubs have somewhere between three and three dozen prospects that are the toolsiest of the toolsy, and Soler might end up being the best of them all. He controls the strike zone well, doesn’t strike out a ton, walks at a solid clip, and has power for days. And he hit an absolute bomb to center in his first big league at bat which makes me downright giddy. How can you not love that? Anyway, Soler got started on his September audition a few days early, and he’s making his opening remarks as to why he should be in the Cubs outfield next April. I think he might need a bit more time in the minors, but he could hit 15-20 homers given regular playing time next year, and the potential for much more is certainly there. If you’re in a deep, minor league keeper league, think about scooping Soler now and stashing him for next year.

Rusney Castillo, OF — Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox placed a healthy wager on the latest Cuban import, handing him a 7 year, $72.5 million contract. The reports I’ve read say he’s got plus speed, has developed some recent power, but the jury is out on his hit tool. The lone consensus is that he looks like Michelangelo himself sculpted him from a fine piece of Carrara marble. I won’t pretend that I know any more than that, but he seems like a good bet to have centerfield eligibility and 20-30 steals next year. He’s not Jose Abreu or Yasiel Puig, but he should be an above average regular for the next couple of years. The early word is he’s going to get some minor league burn this weekend, then possibly get into the majors sometime in September.

Jacob Turner, RHP — Chicago Cubs
Turner’s had a weird season. I think that’s fair. His results in Miami were terrible, but his peripherals pointed to a player having a miserably unlucky season. His 5.84 ERA was foul, but the 4.00 FIP he posted said he’s worth giving a bit more leash. The Marlins didn’t feel that way, as they DFA’d and subsequently traded him to Cubs for a couple of pitchers that probably won’t haunt Chicagoans. What can we expect from Turner going forward? Great question. He’ll get every chance to prove he’s a viable major league starter, but I don’t see much fantasy relevancy here unless you’re in the deepest of deep leagues. He doesn’t strike out many and he gives up too many hits, but he’s too young to give up on.

Jacob Nix, RHP — Houston Astros (Maybe?)
You’ve probably heard about the nonsense that befell Jacob Nix because the Astros and Brady Aiken couldn’t work out a contract. The Astros had a verbal agreement to give Nix $1.5 million to forego college, but that was contingent upon them signing Brady Aiken’s deal — they were going to save some bonus pool money on Aiken and spread it around to Nix. The Aiken situation blew up over whether or not Aiken’s elbow was likely to blow up, and Nix’s contract was the collateral damage. Now, MLB is allowing the Astros and Nix time to work some sort of agreement out, despite the signing deadline passing weeks ago. Why? Because the MLBPA filed a grievance on Nix’s behalf, and MLB is seemingly realizing that the process they established led to this kid getting hosed out of a life-altering amount of money. I have no idea how this will ultimately get settled, but I find this process completely fascinating and think it could have long-term effects on the draft. At the very least, this situation, where one player’s bonus is contingent upon someone else passing a physical, will be dealt with when it’s time for a new collective bargaining agreement, if not sooner.

download icon Nook Nacks    Patience

Nook Nacks — Moonshots & Breakouts

baez3 300x187 Nook Nacks    Moonshots & BreakoutsThis week has been miserable. A town in Missouri looks like a militarized zone after a young man was killed. The manic, brilliant genius of Robin Williams was taken away from us. Gaza and Israel just won’t leave each other alone. Even baseball wasn’t spared from this garbage fire of a week, as Twins demi-god prospect Byron Buxton collided with a teammate and had to be taken off the field in an ambulance. Enough. Enough with the tear gas and the rockets and the comedic hole that’s been left in the world. We can dwell on these issues and let them pull us down into worst recesses of our minds, or we can learn and grow from them and try to figure out ways to stop them from happening again.

So what do we do? We move forward and find joy and goodness where we can. Yesterday I watched the Little League World Series and saw a team from Chicago that’s a talent-laden ray of sunshine. They’ve got a kid named Pierce Jones that went 4-4 with three bombs and a triple. His grandfather was getting interviewed by a sideline reporter when he hit his third homer of the day, and the joy that man was feeling was a kinetic force that flowed around the field, out of my TV, and into my chest. This was a group of kids that were playing hard and playing for their city in front of their families and in front of the world, and it was beautiful. Revel in and seek out that feeling, and know that things can get better.

Today, I’m writing about guys I like. Guys having breakout seasons or bounce-back seasons or guys that simply hit moonshots. According to scientists, moonshots make people smile and gawk and look like idiots in the best possible way.

Pennies for Someday
Javier Baez, IF — Chicago Cubs
Baez has had 45 plate appearances in the majors, has struck out 17 times and hasn’t walked yet. Nobody cares. Because he does things like this. Watch that three or four times, then watch more videos of him hitting home runs. Baez is going to strike out a ton and his overall line isn’t going to be pretty this year or the next, but that power is going to carry him until he refines his overall approach. He’s never walked very much, but I think he can gradually improve his walk rate to where he’ll have an OBP in the .350-.360 range during his peak. He’ll have second base eligibility next year which will lead to him being overdrafted in most leagues, since he’s only going to help you in the power categories. But still, even if you overdraft him, you’ll love having him on your squad.

Michael Taylor, OF — Washington Nationals
Taylor wasn’t a forgotten prospect coming into the season, but he was on his way down that path. A sixth round draft choice in 2009, Taylor’s career had been stagnant at best entering 2014 — in his first four professional seasons he hadn’t gotten out of high-A ball. His 2013 season was fine, but ultimately underwhelming considering he was repeating the league. His tools had been highly touted, but he struck out all the time, didn’t walk enough and wasn’t hitting for average or much power. Then 2014 happened. Taylor hit .315/.401/.547 between double-A and triple-A and earned a promotion to the majors once Jayson Werth went down with an injury. I’ve watched him play in his first few games against the Mets, and he seems comfortable at the plate and in the field. The Nats have a $9 million option on Denard Span next year, and Taylor’s play over the coming weeks could influence whether they pick it up or not. If he’s starting in center for DC next season, Taylor should be able to provide double digit homers along with a tidy pile of steals.

Rio Ruiz, 3B — Houston Astros
Ruiz was a highly touted prospect going into the 2012 draft, but a blood clot ruined his senior season. Fully recovered in 2013, Ruiz had a solid season, but his 2014 has been a true breakout. Ruiz turned 20 this May, so starting him off in high-A ball was an aggressive assignment, but he’s positively thrived, as evidenced by his .302/.393/.453 line for the season. His most impressive numbers are his walks and strikeouts — 71 and 79, respectively. He has a disciplined approach at the plate, hits for average, and I’d bet a few of the 32 doubles he’s hit this year will turn into dingers next year. He’s ready for double-A, and could conceivably be in the mix for a big league roster spot in 2016. He’s going to hit for average and power and get on base at a good clip. Basically, he’s a great fantasy prospect.

Hunter Harvey, RHP — Baltimore Orioles
I don’t know if a pitcher has improved his stock more than Harvey this season. I don’t think so. And it makes sense, since in the 87.2 innings he’s thrown this year he’s struck out 106, allowed only 66 hits while walking 33. Those are all of the numbers that you really need to illustrate the success of his season. Harvey’s fastball is too good for the rest of the talent in the Sally League, and he’ll probably make his way up to double-A before the end of next year. Between Harvey, Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy, the Orioles have three young arms with top of the rotation potential.

Joey Gallo, 3B — Texas Rangers
Of course Gallo’s on this list. He’s hit 38 homers this season. Yes, his numbers have dipped since his promotion to double-A, but he was hitting .323/.463/.735 before his promotion. Asking him to maintain or improve upon those numbers isn’t fair. Players like Gallo are generally going to have difficult transitions when they move up a league, since their type of offensive approach leads to lots of strikeouts. Gallo’s not going to hit .300 in the majors, but he might have a few .270-.280 seasons, with legitimate 40 home run potential. You don’t need me to tell you that even if he’s hitting .240 that makes him a fantasy asset. He probably needs another year or two in the minors, but he should be a full-time presence in Texas sometime in 2016.

download icon Nook Nacks    Moonshots & Breakouts

Nook Nacks — Fantasy Fisking a Fishy Flip

Screen shot 2014 08 08 at 12.55.58 PM 300x188 Nook Nacks    Fantasy Fisking a Fishy FlipLast week’s trade deadline was a spectacle. I was driving through Connecticut on I-95 as the deadline neared, and I was livid that there wasn’t any traffic so I could check Twitter. I thought the general reliability of spending a half hour going bumper to bumper through New Haven was practically metronomic, but the traffic gods conspired against me last Thursday. So, I had to wait an hour or so until I hit gridlock on the FDR before I could properly check the www’s to see what had gone down. I knew Lester was in Oakland, Lackey was in St. Louis and Price was on his way to Rock City. Talk radio told me about the Stephen Drew and Martin Prado trades, but they didn’t mention that Jarred Cosart and some prospects had been dealt to Miami for some other prospects. This was interesting. Jake Marisnick and Colin Moran were coming back for him. Even more interesting. There was a ton of talent moved around in this deal, and almost all of it is unrealized. Trading for players you can dream on is my favorite part of fantasy baseball, and this trade stunk like a dynasty league deal. If the Marlins and Astros are going to make a deal like that, well dadgummit, we’re gonna write about it.

Pennies for Someday
Jarred Cosart — RHP, Miami Marlins
Cosart’s the trade deadline veteran here, as he was moved back in 2011 from the Phillies to the Astros in the Hunter Pence deal. Now he’s a bit older and has some major league burn on his resume, but he’s still far from being a finished product. Last season his BB/9 and K/9 were both awful. So awful, in fact, that they were nearly the exact same number: 5. Gross. He’s made minor improvements in both this year, but he’s still not putting up even league average numbers. The Marlins must be buying into his stuff and think they can sort out his command and control issues, but right now he’s not useful from a fantasy perspective. If you told me he’d be out of baseball in three years, I’d believe you. If you told me he was a solid number three starter in three years, I’d believe you. When guys are this volatile, I tend to stay away from them, regardless of stuff.

Enrique Hernandez — IF/OF, Miami Marlins
Who is Kike? Coming into this season, he wasn’t much. Basically, he was a guy who could play all over the diamond but didn’t hit for average, get on base or hit for power. Generally, if you’re professional batsman, you need to do at least some of those things or they won’t let you be a professional batsman much longer. So Kike went ahead and hit .336/.379/.503 between double-A and triple-A this season. That’s much, much better. Keep in mind that most of those numbers were put up in the PCL, but also keep in mind that he was 22 when he put them up. I don’t think Kike’s going to have much fantasy value, but he’s certainly worth monitoring as this could be a somewhat genuine breakout. The one thing Kike really has going for him is that he doesn’t strike out — just 28 in 77 minor league games this season. If he’s always putting the ball in play, he’ll have a chance to fluke into some solid fantasy seasons with tons of positional flexibility.

Austin Wates, OF — Miami Marlins
I like Wates quite a bit. He’s never hit for any power at all, and I have no reason to believe he’ll develop any power, but his skillset should play in the majors. He’s consistently hit right around .300, had an OBP around .380 and stolen a bunch of bags without being caught too often. Between 2013 and 2014 he’s had 512 plate appearances and struck out just 68 times while drawing 62 walks. Oh yeah, he’s also stolen 46 bags and been thrown out only six times. As he’s hit just 10 home runs in the past three seasons, pitchers aren’t going to be afraid to pitch to him and make him put the ball in play, so to show that kind plate discipline and draw that many walks is fairly impressive. I think Wates needs another year or so in the minors, but he could be a nice table-setter in Miami. Some will say his tools won’t translate to the majors, but I’d bet on him being a useful fantasy piece in three years.

Francis Martes, RHP — Houston Astros
Martes is an 18 year-old from the Dominican Republic that I’d never heard of before this trade. He’s posted a fine strikeout rate in the GCL this season. I’m not going to pretend to know more about him than I do, so let’s say he might be on a fantasy baseball team some day, and move on. Cool? Cool.

Colin Moran, 3B — Houston Astros
Moran was the sixth pick in last year’s draft, and he was pretty OK in the 42 games he played. He didn’t hit for much power, but his pedigree and numbers were solid enough to get him on the offseason top 100 prospects lists. Moran was touted as an advanced hitter coming out of college and the consensus was he’d probably need a little time to develop power, but the potential was there. My guess — the Marlins don’t think the power is going to show up and the Astros are betting that it will. Moran probably has another couple years in the minors but has the ceiling to be a top five fantasy third bagger — if the power comes.

Jake Marisnick, CF — Houston Astros
Marisnick and Moran aren’t very similar players, but their valuations are similar right now. The Marlins sent Marisnick to the PCL this year with the hopes that his offensive game would take off in that welcoming environment, but he hit just .277/.326/.434 in 89 games. Those numbers aren’t terrible, but they are underwhelming. Couple that with his wild fluctuations from year to year, and I can understand why the Marlins wanted to move him, as it’s got to be frustrating to see a prospect with that much talent be unable to put back to back strong offensive seasons. But, with his value down this year, the Astros were able to swoop in and grab someone that has the potential to be an everyday centerfielder that’s flashed all five tools. I think Marisnick is going to have a tough transition to the majors and may not have much fantasy relevancy for a couple years, but he has the potential to post double digit steals and homers in time.

download icon Nook Nacks    Fantasy Fisking a Fishy Flip
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