AL West 2013-2014 fWAR Comparisons

With 2014 just around the corner, it’s time to take a look at how each team is shaping up at this point in the offseason. With several marquee free agents still available, expect these numbers to fluctuate over the next couple months, making this exercise exactly what it’s meant to be; a rough estimate at this point in time. Firstly, we’re going to look at how American League West teams, including your Seattle Mariners, project in 2014 and compare it to their 2013 seasons.

-All numbers are provided by FanGraphs

Looking at the Mariners, most of us will be happy to see that the team projects to be 15.5 fWAR better in 2014 than they were in 2013. A lot of that increase comes in the form of Robinson Cano and his 5.1 projected fWAR, but the additions of Logan Morrison and Corey Hart project to add 1.7 fWAR and 1.9 fWAR respectively to the M’s lineup as well. It’s interesting to note that both LoMo and Hart are projected to be almost completely average defenders in left field in 2014. That I’ll believe when i see it. Catcher Mike Zunino is also projected to be worth 1.9 fWAR in what stands to be his first full season in the majors. Shortstop Brad Miller is looking to take another step forward after a strong  2013 campaign, and is projected to be worth 3.3 fWAR in 2014; nearly double his 1.7 fWAR in 2013. The only real subtraction to the M’s lineup from 2013 appears to be Kendrys Morales who provided 1.7 fWAR in 2013 as the primary DH.

The M’s pitching staff projects to provide similar value in 2014 despite projected declines in value for both Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. Felix will still be Felix, but Iwakuma isn’t projected to repeat his sensational 2013 campaign. Relievers Danny Farquhar and Charlie Furbush are also projected to regress from their 2013 seasons by nearly 1.0 fWAR each. With the 2014 bullpen situation not entirely clear quite yet, the bullpen projections should be taken with a grain of salt. The real wild cards in the rotation come in the form of prospects Taijaun Walker and James Paxton as it’s unknown what their contributions are expected to be next year. In 140 innings, the pair are projected to be worth 1.5 fWAR and 1.3 fWAR respectively.

While most have reserved a rotation spot for one of Walker and Paxton, it would take the acquisition of at least one decent rotation arm for both to not be the best in-house options for the 2014 staff behind Hernandez and Iwakuma. The M’s may prefer to see both spend a little more time at Triple-A, the new plans of contention in 2014 could dramatically alter the timetable for the youngsters; as would a trade of Walker or Paxton for possibly an establish pitcher. Realistically, the M’s are likely to at least pick up some back end of the rotation fliers to compete for jobs in Spring Training. There’s no sense in banking on two pitchers who’ve thrown a combined 39 innings at the MLB level, especially when a pitcher like Matt Garza is available and will only cost money. If Seattle is truly serious about competing in 2014, they’ll need to add at least one more rotation piece, and probably two to provide a safeguard for the rookies.

Overall, the Mariners project to be a better team in 2014, but that much appeared to be obvious. The new-look lineup and the continued progress of other youngsters will provide a strong boost to the M’s offence in 2014. Ideally the M’s add another arm to the middle of the rotation and at least one veteran reliever, perhaps an Oliver Perez reunion would make sense, to consider their 2014 staff to be improved. There’s a lot of good pieces in place, but it doesn’t appear to be enough compared to the rest of the division as Seattle projects to be the fourth best team in the AL West.

The Texas Rangers project as the top team after opening their pocketbooks this winter to better a championship contender who fell short once again last season. Not only did the team spend big on acquiring Prince Fielder, they also made a splash in the free agent market when the brought Shin-Soo Choo onboard. Despite the additions, the Rangers are only projected to be 0.7 fWAR better in the batting department due to the losses of Ian Kinsler and Craig Gentry who were both dealt.

Joe Nathan‘s departure from the bullpen leaves the closer role vacant, but the Rangers have plenty of internal options. The bullpen will remain a strong point in 2014 as Neftali Feliz returns and Joakim Soria is still around. A healthy season from Matt Harrison would help to offset the projected decline of Derek Holland in the rotation that’s still headlined by Yu Darvish. Pitching doesn’t look to be an issue heading forward if Feliz and Harrison are about to contribute full seasons of work. The Rangers are the favourite it win the AL West, but they won’t be without competition.

The Oakland Athletics will be looking to defend their division crown after a fury of transactions this offseason, but like the Rangers, they project to be a few fWAR worse in 2014. Free agent acquisition Scott Kazmir and his projected 2.7 fWAR come in to replace the departed Bartolo Colon and the 3.9 fWAR he produced last season. Sonny Gray should stick in the rotation for the entire year after a great performance throughout the stretch drive last season. The A’s made a peculiar decision to acquire a star closer in Jim Johnson since the All-Star is likely due $10 million in ’14. The A’s bullpen is projected to regress despite Johnson’s presence though, but that could change depending on how the rotation ends up looking.

Slugger Josh Donaldson is projected to come in shy of his 7.7 fWAR 2013 season, but a 5.0 fWAR year is nothing to make light of. Coco Crisp and Jed Lowrie both project to produce approximately 1.0 fWAR less each than they did in 2013, but they still figure to set the table well for Donaldson and the rest of the A’s batting order. Even with a bit of regression from some prominent players, the Athletics should provide plenty of challenge for the Rangers.

The Halos rotation has proved to be troublesome beyond Jered Weaver and CJ Wilson the past couple seasons, and with Jason Vargas leaving for greener pastures, the Angels brought in Tyler Skaggs to help shore up the rotation. It’ll probably be a year with some growing pains for Skaggs as he’s just 22, but he’ll have plenty of room for error with the infamous Joe Blanton still in the picture. Times weren’t so good for the Los Angeles Angels last season, both on but off the field. Between injuries to recentfree agents signings Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, and turmoil in the front office with management, dysfunction was a term often associated with the Angels. Not to be overshadowed by the mess though, was phenom Mike Trout who posted a tremendous 10.3 fWAR season. Trout projects short of the 10.0 fWAR mark, but the sky appears to truly be the limit for 22-year old. The Angels have avoided the big ticket free agents so far this winter, and instead acquired David Freese to add some pop to the middle of the lineup.

Overall, the Angels project to be in the hunt for a playoff spot next summer, although their projected 4.3 fWAR increase hinges on Pujols and Hamilton staying healthy and producing closer to the levels they’re paid to play at. If not, it’s going to be another long year in Disneyland.

No it’s not a figment of the imagination; the Houston Astros are projected to be the most improved team in the AL heading into 2014. Coming off a third consecutive season with 100 or more losses, the Astros decided to boost their young nucleus with some veteran talent in the form of Dexter Fowler, Chad Qualls, and Scott Feldman to join budding stars Jason Castro and Jose Altuve. The additions seem slightly surprising as the Astros have worked with an incredibly small payroll the last several seasons, but with new television money coming in, the time may be right to supplant the young core with some more experienced pieces.

Houston has stayed the course with their rebuilding plan the last several seasons and have plenty more quality prospects coming up through their system. Even with a projected increase of 24.4 fWAR for the club, next year looks to be just another step in the rebuilding process as the club projects to land near the bottom of the American League once again. Feldman is the top Astros pitcher on paper, but there’ll be plenty of room for their youngsters to make some noise. Houston has all the time in the world for their youngsters to develop and form what’ll likely be a very good team several years from now.

Despite what the fWAR projections say, it’s easy to see how every team in the division could be improved in 2014. The feeling among many right now, and projections as well, is that the Rangers have an upper hand on the division, with the A’s a close second behind them. Depending on a number of factors, the Angels and M’s figure to hold the three and four spots in the division, and despite a very good offseason in Houston, they appear headed for cellar dweller status yet again.

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Tyler Carmont

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15 Comments

  1. The Angels are giving Mulder a shot and he hasn’t pitched since 08. It a minor league deal, which is about all Santana can expect.

  2. I’ve always been a big Johan fan myself, so I’d love to see the M’s give him a shot. I can’t help but think that they’d prefer to sign someone who they know exactly what they’re getting with than take a risk. I don’t see there being anything to lose with Santana signing and not pitching well/getting hurt again. The team has plenty of okay rotation options. Problem is that most of those options are as average a pitcher as it gets.

  3. Another good option: Johan Santana.

    He’ll likely sign a low cost, short term deal. He’s basically the anti-Maholm: high risk, high reward. But with Santana, the cost will be so low that it won’t really matter. The M’s could give him a deal with incentives, and see what happens. If his shoulder isn’t shredded, he’ll likely help the team. If not, no big loss. He could potentially be a similar story to Scott Kazmir or Bartolo Colon: the veternan pitcher who bounces back from injury.

    I’d love to see the M’s land Tanaka and Santana, then let Santana, Walker, Paxton, Jimenez, and Maurer battle for the last two spots in the rotation.

    If the M’s are going to compete in 2014, they are going to need a lot of luck. Santana is the type of guy who is capable of being the huge surprise bargain from this offseason.

  4. There are always this off-season’s version of Harang and Saunders. IMO we should be looking for a couple of #4 or #5 rotation arms. We have Felix and Kuma as 1 and 2, with Walker, Paxton, Ramirez and Maurer to duke it out for the mid-rotations spots.

    Jake Westbrook, SP The Cardinals have nearly two rotations worth of top-shelf starting pitching options — including Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly, Jamie Garcia, Trevor Rosenthal and Carlos Martinez — so that means that the 36-year-old sinkerballer, who was limited to just 19 starts in 2013 by elbow inflammation and a strained back, will be moving on. He remains an excellent producer of grounders, as his ground-ball rate of 56.3% last year ranked him seventh among the 145 pitchers who pitched more than 100 innings.

    Jason Hammel, SP After being traded from Colorado to Baltimore, Hammel, 31, broke out in the first half of 2012 — he went 8-5 with a 3.47 ERA — and then he broke down. His season ended in July, when he had knee surgery, and he spent a month and a half on the DL in 2013 with ulnar nerve inflammation, finishing 7-8 with an ERA of 4.97. Still, as a sinkerballer who can get swings and misses (he struck out 8.6 batters per nine in his abbreviated 2012), and one who will likely seek to re-establish his value on a one-year deal, he is drawing a good deal of interest.

  5. I wouldn’t say Roy Halladay went to garbage… the dude broke his back. Obviously it ended his career, but there were very few moments in his career aside from his final season in which he wasn’t a dominant pitcher.

  6. Jimenez wants 17-20 Mill a year even at the low end NO thank you. If going to invest that much might as well go all in on Tanaka.

    Maholm good be a solid cheaper add or do both if don’t land another bat.

  7. This is a really bad way to look at it.

    Historically, if you look back at the worst albatross contracts given out by teams over the past 25 years, they are very frequently to pitchers. And a lot of those contracts didn’t look stupid when they happened. Guys like Kevin Brown, Mike Hampton, Johan Santana, and Carlos Zambrano all had pretty good track records, but just fell apart due to injury. With pitchers, even the best pitcher can just go to shit. Roy Halladay went from being the best pitcher in baseball to garbage in less than two seasons.

    So…..just giving out huge contracts to pitchers isn’t insanely risky. Even the current contract to Felix was insanely risky, and really only makes sense if you believe that he’s a generational talent. I think that’s a good risk, and one the M’s had to take. But the pool of pitchers you give out contracts of that magnitude to should be really small.

    This issue will come into play with Tanaka. Under normal circumstances, a posted player is a good deal because so much of the cost was included in the posting fee, with a relatively low salary each year. Tanaka is going to break that tradition. If he’s near Yu Darvish level, he’ll probably be a decent value on a 6-year deal. But there has to be some limit. I thought Tanaka was a great option if he was going to cost a big posting fee plus ~10 mil per year. But as his cost gets above $15 mil, I’m not sure how good of a deal it becomes.

    There is a good chance that some team will offer Tanaka a stupid contract. Hopefully the M’s have a good idea of the threshold at which risk passes reward. At the numbers being thrown around now, Garza and Jimenez look like increasingly good options.

  8. I see where your coming from, but everything you say is pure speculation on your part or upon internet rumors. Just because they are supposedly asking for 4 or 5 years doesn’t mean a thing. Wasn’t Cano supposedly asking for $300 million? And to assume years/contract figure and say they ain’t worth it, is again speculation. The internet rumors also have Arroyo insisting on 3 years, and in my opinion, he ain’t worth it. I think if your want cost/value you scoop up Maholm, though I’m not big on that. Pitchers are always a risk and 6/7 years for Tanaka is a huge risk. Plus he is still an unknown, just younger and no draft pick, overworked. For the same price the M’s may be able to get Jimenez and Santana or Garza or Arroyo. I know that’s not too realistic either. If anything the M’s should be able to bid the Yankees up to the point where it hurts, and block the Yankees from other players in the future – if that’s possible. Do people really pay 4 figures/game? Cheers.

  9. I think the biggest plus to signing Tanaka is that it should hypothetically quiet any David Price talk and keep Walker in an M’s uniform the next six plus years. By my count the M’s need at least a mid-rotation or better starter, and an above average offensive outfielder (not named Nelson Cruz). Signing Tanaka or Garza or whomever would boost the rotation as needed, and allow the M’s to use their trade chips to bring in an outfielder. With Choo gone, there’s next to nothing in free agency that I’d consider to be an impact bat. The only way we’re getting one of those is by trade.

  10. The fWAR numbers come from the Depth Charts over at FanGraphs, and they appear to fall somewhere in between what Steamer and Oliver projections have to say.

  11. They got Cano by overpaying a guy that the Yankees only wanted on their terms. They not only want Tanaka they need him, a lot, if for nothing more than bragging rights. They have got a lot of four figures a game seats to sell. If they don’t win in 2014 a lot of those seats will be empty in 2015. I don’t see the production difference between Arroyo and the other three being worth the cost and they can probably get him for two years and an option. The other guys are looking for four or five years and they ain’t worth it. It’s not like they will put the M’s into contention in 2014, that would take Tanaka and another couple of pieces. If they do get Tanaka then they could go into win-now mode.

  12. Your OK with the M’s paying whatever it takes for Tanaka. Or going after Aaoyo because he is best cost/value if we cannot get Tanaka. Here is where I disagree with you, because it’s the Saunders/Millwood philosophy. I say go after the best available pitcher period. Besides chances are by the end of the contract, it won’t be overvalued. I believe the M’s have a decent shot at Tanaka, just depends how bad they want him (Cano).

  13. They look like Steamer projections, which put the M’s as presently constituted winning 83.1 games in 2014. As noted the whole AL West has become more competitive, I see the A’s and Rangers as co-equal favorites to win the division but if the LAA Big Money Brothers (until Trout gets paid) Hamilton and Pujols regain some of their prior form (which I expect) then if their rotation shows some life so will the team. The M’s will have to fight to gain ground but so will the whole division. I don’t believe they will be able to sign Tanaka (but I would be okay with them paying whatever it takes) but they will have to get one rotation piece at least. Arroyo seems like the best cost/value piece, followed by Garza, Jimenez and Santana in that order IMO. Anything else they can do to improve the defense or offense will be good obviously. Not having Harang, Saunders or Bonderman in the rotation or Morse or Raul in the OF is a bunch of addition by subtraction. Just having Walker, Paxton and Ramirez in the rotation and Hart and LoMo in the OF would have to be better, even if they don’t set the world on fire.

  14. Where do these figures come from? Steamer? Oliver?

    Those numbers are very encouraging. Hopefully reality is similar to the projections.

    Going forward, I think the M’s could very easily add another 2-3 WAR by adding a good starter. That – theoretically at least – gets them pretty close to the other three good teams in the AL West.

    It’ll be interesting to see if ZIPS agrees.

    I don’t think they are likely to be a legit playoff team, but this bodes well for them at least being competitive, with

  15. Interesting to see the M’s and Yankees both at 36.6. I guess a fWAR prediction doesn’t exist for Tanaka but I think the chart demonstrates that the M’s shouldn’t allow the AL West competition to get the pitcher.

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