Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Deadline

Well, the MLB non-waiver trade deadline was as exciting as a Mad About You marathon. Let's unpack a lot of the stuff that didn't happen:

1. The Pirates did nothing, and I think that's ok. Obviously, you'd like to improve your team where you can. For the Bucs, that meant right field and possibly pitching. However, this was an extreme sellers' market. The combination of mediocre players, fewer sellers, and teams putting higher value on prospects mostly explains the inaction. Also, GMs of contending teams are starting to realize the limited impact of adding someone with two months left in the season. It's just not worth giving up a lot of prospects to get a guy for two months. Let's take a quick look at last year's top additions:

Hunter Pence      0.5 WAR
Ryan Dempster   1.1 WAR
Shane Victorino  1.0 WAR
Zack Greinke      1.2 WAR
Ichiro Suzuki      0.7 WAR

Zack Greinke was the best, helping the Angels win 1.2 games over a replacement player. Fact is, it's rare for a position player to come in and make a huge impact down the stretch. And GMs are finally realizing that, and not parting with top minor league talent to win one more game during the regular season. The players on the market this year were not even as good as last year's crop. Alex Rios? Nate Schierholtz? Marlon Byrd? These guys do not deserve our attention! Sure, any one of these guys would have made the Pirates a little better. But at what cost? Rios is signed through 2014 for a ton of money. Schierholtz is signed for at least another year, and he's a 29 year old OF who hadn't really shown any signs of being decent until this year. The Pirates rightfully did not part with any legit prospect for those guys. It seems that the only way to really move the needle is to acquire a superstar or a legit starting pitcher. I'm not talking about Bud Norris. I'm talking about Greinke or Dan Haren (more on this later); a guy who is definitely in your top 4. So yes, it's a bit of a downer that the Pirates didn't make themselves better. But given the players available, the cost, and the impact those players would have made, it's not a big deal. It's really nothing to get worked up about.

2. Many are blaming the slow deadline on the addition of the second wildcard. The thought is that more teams are in the hunt now, and they can't commit to being sellers just yet.  There's a bit of truth to that, but there's a lot of bullshit too. Are you telling me that the Phillies were unsure of their position? Take one look at PECOTA or coolstandings and it's pretty clear who should be buying and who should be selling. Both projections give the Phillies less than a 1% chance of making the playoffs. Yet Ruben Amaro Jr. held onto pending free agents Carlos Ruiz, Michael Young, and Chase Utley. All of these guys are in their mid-30s. This was a perfect chance for them to dump some old guys, free up a little money, and restock with some young prospects. The Phillies might be worried about perception; they don't want to make it seem like they're giving up. Well, that's really stupid. I hope they have fun finishing a disappointing year with some old dudes who probably won't be around next year. The Seattle Mariners are in the same boat, and they held on to Kendrys Morales, Michael Morse, and Raul Ibanez, all pending free agents. If the Mariners don't know they're sellers, their entire front office should be fired. Other teams that are holding on to ridiculous pipe dreams: Giants, Royals, and Blue Jays. We don't need to move the trade deadline back. We need  people to be smarter, and we need owners to let their GMs make baseball decisions.

3. I was really hoping the Pirates could have traded for Dan Haren. No one talked about him as being available in a trade. Maybe he never was available. But he would have been the perfect buy low opportunity. He's having a pretty terrible season in Washington, with a 5.49 ERA. But when we dig a little deeper, we realize that this guy could be pretty useful. First of all, he's got a track record of being a pretty good pitcher. What's made him a good pitcher? Well, it's mostly that he gets a decent number of strikeouts and very rarely walks anyone. He's still doing that. His peripherals still look great. The reason he's failing for the Nats is that he's been giving up a ton of homers. He's a fly ball pitcher, so he's going to give up some dingers. But he's getting unlucky with his HR/FB ratio. A pitcher's HR/FB usually settles in the 10-11% range. Haren's career HR/FB is 10.8%. This year it's 14.8%. I think his poor season can be explained mostly by bad luck and pitching in a ballpark that isn't suited for his pitching style. He has given up a bunch of homers that would not have been homers in other ballparks. With PNC Park's huge left/left center field, and with Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte running down fly balls, there's a decent chance the home run numbers come back down. The Nats should have been very willing to trade him. He's only signed through this year, and he hasn't been very good. I'm not sure if this is a case of the Bucs not realizing Haren could help or if it's the Nats misreading their position in the standings. It would have been a nice opportunity, but hey, maybe the Bucs can buy low on him in the offseason.

4. It seems like the Bucs are doing just fine without Brandon Inge's veteran leadership.

5. Here's wishing FORT a speedy recovery from knee surgery! I hope he can at least use the down time to check some things off the bucket list.


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