Prince Fielder's Age-Arc

As Bill James put it, age-arc projection for batters is basically a simple thing.  Past age 30, they are skiing down a slope towards replacement level, and how long it takes them is merely a function of how high up the slope they are when they start.

  • Fielder's age-arc projection is more complicated than for most hitters, in my view:
  • He'll only be 28 (!) at the start of his contract -- won't turn 28 until next May.
  • His top eight B-Ref comps averaged 10 years of cleanup hitting from here.
  • Out-of-shape hitters DO seem to age quicker:  Luzinski, Dunn, Hrbek, Cecil Fielder, Mo Vaughn, Boog Powell.

Adam Dunn, if this be his crash year (?!) hit it at age 31, but I doubt that it is.  Anyway, he'd be quite an outlier in this group; the comps include Eddie Murray who had 15 ! years left at age 27, Strawberry, Will Clark, Juan Gonzalez, etc.

There isn't much doubt that Prince will hold court until he's 33, anyway, but his agent will battle you to pay the very years you're scared to pay.  That's what Fielder's contract will be all about:  who will risk the most years at the end.

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=== Whatever Position You've Got, It's Been Played Before, Dept. ===

I've got a bad vibe about Fielder's age-arc:  "physically sloppy" left hand cleanup hitters seem fragile to me:

Adam Dunn is 31 and struggling.  That's probably irrelevant...

Greg Luzinski was a 150 OPS+ guy, but his last good year was age 32.

Kent Hrbek was a chubby LHB, a 130 OPS+ guy with a coupla 140 years, last year age 33.

Cecil Fielder, a RHB, had two great years at ages 26 and 27 and you don't wanna see this.  At age 28 he became Raul Ibanez and ages 32-33 he was hanging on.

Boog Powell had a 160-OPS peak, kept hitting 140-150, and SUDDENLY after age 33, he was just dunn.

Mo Vaughn was literally an MVP, hitting .320 with 40+ homers, but his Raul Ibanez years started at age 31 and after age 34 he was out of baseball.

David Ortiz is a nice counterexample.  He also looked to have fallen off the cliff at ages 32-33, but somehow he's rallied at ages 34-35.  ::whew::

Babe Ruth is a counterexample .... hehehehehehehehhhhh

***

You could do a formal study to isolate guys like this - lefty superstars who were wayyyyy out of shape - but I'll bet you 4 to 1 that they lose three-to-five years at the end of their careers.

Wasn't it one of our NPB friends who pointed out the importance of body fat % in decline years?  Check me, but I think that in Japan they consider body fat % v-e-r-y important for aging players.  Not because of vanity, but because of its observed effect on reflexes.

***

There's a chance, say 10 or 20% (see below), that Prince will do what his daddy did, and lose the luster NEXT year.  On the other 80%, I'm very uncomfortable paying him past age 32 or 33.

But it is part of the price of the contract to pay MLB superstars for two years after you think they'll be good.  If you're paying Fielder as a first baseman, $20M+ times 7-8 years ... that is, through age 34 or 35 ... is going to be the convention.  You don't get to sign FA "heavyweights" by paying them what you're comfortable paying them.

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=== There's A Reason He'll Get the Long Green ===

Prince's strongest suit is equal to = the most important thing in baseball.  In 2012, the kid has more walks than he does strikeouts.  How do you do that, swinging as hard as he does?  His pappy's EYE was more like 0.50 or 0.60.

The EYE isn't decisive.  Mo Vaughn had an EYE near 1.00.  On the other hand, Mo was always a bit of a Fenway creation...

Shandler, after Prince's "down" year in 2010, confidently predicted an immediate recovery.  "Pro:  PX still strong, CT% and EYE stable... Verdict:  nothing wrong here that a HR/F rebound won't fix."  He priced Fielder sky-high at $26, predicting 40 homers or close to it.

***

For me, Fielder's EYE trumps his WT, easily.  Fielder's sloppy fitness becomes very worrisome at age 33-34, but until then he's a LEFT hand, 1.00-eye superstar who is, right now --- > the one peg who fits into the Mariners' cleanup hole at Safeco. 

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BABVA,

Dr D

 

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Comments

In approximately this order:

Carp

Lueke

Seager (when he comes back after 7/31)

Gutierrez/Halman

Right now there are huge holes at LF, 3b and CF.  If they can be filled inexpensively with consistent-OBP guys -- and if League can be off-loaded before arb payday [either before 7/31 or over the winter] -- then, the spreadsheet looks a lot more Fielder-friendly.

If you're trying to fill 4-5 spots and sign Prince, I don't see it happening.

Y'all got me amped up on Carp again, the last three times that happened he underwhelmed.  Maybe it'll stick this time.

Seager will be back because no way all three of Figgy, AK and Jack W will still be on the roster after 7/31.  Maybe all three will be gone.  Kyle is 5-for-13, 1 HR in his return to AAA.

 

1

Being one of the most obnoxious "be patient" voices out here ... my opinion on Fielder is ... it's all about the years.  The money will be the money.  But, the years is where the risk resides.

5 years?  (28-32) ... absolutely.  While general rule for me is to avoid buying a guy with no glove (kills your flexibility) ... in this case, there's no "big bat - bad glove" guy anywhere on the farm that kindles enthusiasm ... and Smoak, thus far, is still a little iffy. 

6 years? (28-33) ... borderline.  HIGHLY likely to be overpaying for the final year (maybe final two) ... but, if you haven't reached the promise land in 4 years ... swapping him and his 2 remaining years out is probably doable and potentially lucrative spec-wise.

7 years? (28-34) ... pass.  Now, you're trading 4 good years for 3 bad years ... and the odds of getting saddled with a Sexsonesque payroll anchor for multiple years (IMO) outweighs the benefits you're likely to reap in the short term.

For me ... as armchair GM ... I am wanting to build a franchise whose INTENT is to compete for titles EVERY year.  Inking deals where I'm "planning" to be saddled with declining production at sky high prices is "planning" to win 4, lose 3.  While one cannot "expect" to win 15 titles in a row ... one can "plan" to win 15 in a row and attempt to win 15 in a row.  To do that, you cannot "plan" on sinking 20% of your payroll into deadweight 4 years from now, (unless you have $200 million to spend).

 

2

Taro's picture

Taro

I've always wondered why teams don't sell high on their big FA signings. You could trade Fielder after year 3 or 4. If hes posting a 180 OPS+ in Safeco at the time you should be able to find someone who will take on the money+years and give up some talent as well.

3

John Lackey was an immediate sunk cost and didn't even blow his arm out, but there are always the Priors of the world who are the best pitchers around...until they can't throw again, or the Barry Zitos who keep throwing after that injury but are never again plus pitchers.

If you don't want to chance a win in 4-5 years, then deal with the potential 2-3 year issue that follows, then yeah, don't look at Fielder or any other 5+ year free agent ever.

Except Chone is a 4 year player who is gonna be a sunk cost all 4 years apparently, so being stingy lost us 9 million a season every season and hurt the club more on the field than playing a rookie in the meantime.

Fielder is a greater risk in his age 32+ seasons than some others, to be sure. But he's certainly not a greater risk than any pitcher out there, and we've already ponied up for some expensive years for Felix.  The King could decline tomorrow, just because some whim of health or fate demanded it. Any time you pay a pitcher money it's a matter of praying for health and effectiveness.  Building around expensive home-grown pitching is not the smart-money play, it's the white-knuckle one.  Great if it works out, a tragedy if it doesn't.

Fielder, OTOH, is as good a lock for 130-160 OPS+ production in each of the next 4 years as you are apt to find anywhere - his health and production are far more stable than anyone on the pitching staff.

And it very well could last longer than that.

There's risk in a long-term deal for him, to be sure.  I don't expect the Ms to bite.  Risk on one player is not their style.  They'd rather set franchise records for losing streaks or league records for first team to lose 100 games with a 100 million dollar payroll.

Spreading that risk around is working out well for us.

*shrugs*  I think Fielder is a 7/140 proposition, minimum.  A-Gone took 7/154 and he's 2 years older than Prince.  If you can get him down to 6 years, you absolutely take it IMO.  If it needs to be 7 then I'd front-load the contract so that the later years in his decline he's only killing us a little instead of a lot.

And then I sign on the dotted line.  Winning brings more payroll to the team, management has already made that clear.  Payroll is based on attendance and gate profitability.

So win more and get a bigger payroll that can better absorb the last year or two of Prince's contract...after we win a couple of pennants with him in the meantime.

That's the kind of math I can appreciate.

~G

4

The Red Sox have made two major commitments this year -- to Gonzalez and Carl Crawford (seven years, $142 million). Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said it does not signal a fundamental shift in how the club conducts its business.

"The reason you have discipline, the reason you have payroll flexibility, the reason you develop young players who are on affordable deals or on team-friendly long-term deals, the reason you do all those things is so when the right player comes along at the right time, you can make a commitment," he said.

"In our minds, Adrian was the right player at the right time."

Epstein says these deals are the exception, not the norm.

"We went seven years, eight years without doing a nine-figure contract," he said. "Not that we didn't try at times [Mark Teixeira, for example] but we always have our limits and we're always willing to walk away. Hopefully, that discipline puts us in a position to bet on the right player or right players."

Discipline is great.  Making sure you don't get flattened by bad deals is admirable.  But if you want to win, just waiting for the stars to align with all your players still being affordable or on short-term deals is a long-shot.  Might be waiting a while.

Occasionally you have to make your own luck, or as Otis from the Starlite Starbrite trailer park would say:

Otis: Things change. Always do. You'll get your chance! Important thing is, when it comes, you gotta grab it with both hands and hold on tight!

It's identifying which players to take a chance on that's the tough part.  For me, Fielder is one.

~G

5

The Epstein quote is very illuminating, and it helps put this whole discussion in the proper light IMO.

If your goal is winning the world series (And yes we all know the M's have historically NOT made that the goal, that is the core problem), then really all your player moves and drafts and everything are all about getting the 25 best players on to your big league roster possible.  How that happens and in what order isn't ultimately what matters.

Z had identified AGon as a player to go hard after, evidenced by the one trade attempt we know about.  But he wasn't able to go after him hard as a free agent, due to the existing broken & bloated payroll.  Also, the Smoak trade meant that you acquired what you hope would be AGon on the cheap.

Fielder is an opportunity to get one of the 5 or 10 best bats in the game, and Z could likely make it happen if he wants it bad enough.  He is the ideal type of hitter you'd want in Safeco - the only better thing would be if he played left field.  'Course, maybe you wait 'til Smoak becomes a 140 OPS+ hitter next year, then spin Smoak for some goodies.

Anyway, I've cooled on Fielder a bit lately.  Looking at stats, he's a tick below AGon, and Guerrero in his prime.  Those 2 guys were a bit more consistent year to year in production, and didn't have the body type issues of Fielder.  Actually Fielder's age-arc and production is eerily similar to Guerrero's in some respects.  Both hit the bigs at the same time, both struggled a bit before becoming 150 OPS+ monsters at age 23.  Both had kinda down years at age 24 and 26.

Still, I think signing him moves the club forward, makes the M's relevant again on a national level.  Tells the other guys in the division you've got evil intentions.  That, I like.

 

 

6

Whether or not Fielder is a guy to bet the farm on is Jack's call. The problem is that even if he IS such a guy, if Jack went to Lincoln/Armstrong about pursuing him, they would back out as soon as market value came into play. It would be "too risky" for their bean-counter comfort.

http://www.theargonath.cc/characters/gollum/sounds/rotk7.wav

They're ownership. They have the right to make that call. They also have the right to be a lousy team year after year while asking the fans to keep coming through the turnstiles.

8

But it's fascinating to hear Theo Epstein say it.

You have a $260 budget, without question, the reason you score bargains is so you can shoehorn in one extra $25 player.

It's not about playing .500 and giving the pot a 20% refund.  There's no reason to scrounge OTHER than to spend it on players you couldn't otherwise afford...

****

The point about Figgins' sunk cost is convincing too.  Civics might give you zero.  Albert Pujols is either going to give you a lot, or a very lot.

That's one of the top few reasons to go Stars & Scrubs.  The superstars give you guaranteed production that you don't get from the next level down.

9

NOT going all-in with Prince Fielder does not automatically knee-cap the 2012 season.  There are great trades we could make and other ways we could use our FA money that might bring as good or better a return in total.

It's not the only way - but IMO it is ONE way.  If we don't go that route, and I believe we won't, then I'm interested to see what alternate plan we have to get what we need.

You don't HAVE to sign A-Rod...but then you'd probably better find a roiding second baseman who is going to have one of the 5-best seasons ever at his position and a hall of fame leadoff man and MVP to help you make up some of the difference.

~G

10

Tons of respect for Sandy, but your comment is a tad too much "green-eye-shade" accounting.  You can't plan for winning the pennant with 80 OPS+ every year either (not saying that's what Sandy is proposing).

You need the Ackley/Pineda/Smoak base of underpaid stars AND the Carp/Seager and/or Catricala/Franklin and/or Pimentel/Triunfel bust-out-scrub grab-bag so you can afford to overpay (in years or $) for a superstar or two to put you over the top.

You can't plan for never overpaying in years, unless you plan on having a remarkable streak of young players who all pan out and never get injured plus remarkable luck with journeyman guys all having great years together (2010 SF Giants; and they actually had a HUGE dead-weight contract [Zito] on their books when they did it).  That's not a sustainable plan either.

The key is planning on not having a multiple dead-weight contracts all at the same time, I think.

Just my view.

11

Every player CAN get hurt.  Doesn't matter the size of the contract or talent of the player.  Injuries, (by and large), cannot be predicted.  In some cases, however, if you have a player with history of injury ... then you might add some weight to that variable in choosing what a reasonable signing scenario is.  Doesn't mean you NEVER go and get a Bedard ... but when you do, you MUST understand that your odds of getting 200 innings is below the norm.

My point about age and length of contract is that out of 100 batters, 98 of them *WILL DECLINE* after age 30.  The inability to peg "exactly" how much a specific hitter will decline doesn't change that reality. 

Paying Ichiro $17 million for his 90 OPS+ this year was "predictable" at the time they extended him for 5 years. 

And while I get that most don't agree with me, from my GM armchair ... there is a GARGANTUAN difference between extending a home grown icon player who has for many years given value above his contract and knowing you're investing in decline versus going out and doing the same thing for a mercenary. 

The organizational impact when someone like Bagwell is getting paid $16 million to suck for Houston vs. paying Sexson $16 million to suck for Seattle is gigantic.  People will come out to see a fading hero (Junior?), and clap politely, hoping he succeeds.  Fans will not come out at all ... or if they do, they will simply shower someone like Sexson with unceasing boos.  Given identical "direct" hits to production, extending the home town hero will have vastly better secondary results.

"Ideally" (and I concede that not every decision will be ideal), you'd rather use your long-term risk deals on fixtures rather than imports. 

But, what I've been preaching for the last couple of years is that you BETTER have all your "free" players *already* lined up when you opt to make that long-term gamble, because you've destroyed your ability to recover from a mistake via that route until that contract is gone.

If the club goes and signs Fielder for 8/160 (or something like that) ... then, the club has no choice but to produce their entire OF from within ... or settle for million dollar reclamation gambles from the garbage bin. 

If you're planning to win for 10 years ... then you BETTER be planning on at least general guidelines for how you are going to swap out talent to stay young.  If you don't ... even if you succeed in developing a 116-win team ... if you let them all reach age 34 together, you're going to have a disaster.

Tampa is the org that really impresses me at this point ... doing a masterful job of combing the bargain bin for 1-year FAs ... then getting draft choices for them when they let them go.  They "overstock" their minors, because they know from day one, they have two financial behemoths in the division, and they simply cannot compete dollar for dollar.  So, Boston picks up guys like Crawford and AGON.  But even in Boston, those guys are added to home grown talent like Pedroia and Ellsbury.  Tampa "must" get more value out of their "free" players, so they make moves to ensure they have MORE "free" players than the big guys.

Z started rebuilding with Guti and Carp.  He added Smoak and Ackley.  He's building the needed foundation.  While I still have doubts as to whether the base is strong enough, I certainly get the argument that it might be time to plug in the 'needed' FA help.  My view is the club is close.  But, the risk of a Fielder solution is that (IMO), you're giving yourself a likely maximum 4-year window to do your winning ... and then you're in a 3-year lose while rebuilding cycle.

 

12

When do you know whether you should be moving mountains to take advantage of a 4 year window?  10 or 15 year windows are hard to come by.  You need multiple hall of famers and other good talents raised through the farm system and some fabulous trades for others.  You saw that happen with the Braves successfully (though they came awfully close to an 0-fer on titles with those teams).

We saw that fail with the Mariners, as they played a game of press your luck.

1992-1995: Junior, Edgar, Tino, Buhner, the young version of Randy Johnson, Rookie sensation Dave Fleming, the bad version of Jeff Nelson.  Would you like to commit to this window or press your luck?

*Pressing Luck, trading Tino, ditching Fleming*

1995-1997: Congratulations!  You have received one of the 5 best players of his generation!  You now have: Prime Junior, Prime Edgar, Briefly Faltering Randy, A-Rod, Buhner, Segui, Charlton, and future 250-game winner Moyer.  Would you like to commit to this window or press your luck.

*Pressing Luck, trading future World Series winning and multi-Cy-Young winner Randy Johnson*

1997-2000ish:  Congratulations!  Your window is not yet closed and you received back a 2-time All-Star pitcher!  Griffey, A-Rod, Edgar, Segui, Buhner, Moyer, Garcia, Meche.  Would you like to commit to this window or press your luck?

*Pressing Luck, trading future HOFers Griffey and A-Rod in back-to-back years*

 2000ish to 2003:  Congratulations!  You spent free agent money on borderline HOFers, got lucky in the Griffey trade, and brought one of the greatest leadoff hitters in history over from foreign soil! Fading Edgar, Fading Olerud, Ichiro, Boone, Cammy, Sasaki, Rhodes, Nelson, Moyer, Pineiro, Fading Garcia.  Would you like to commit to this window or press your Luck?

*Pressing luck*

 Oh no!  The Whammie!  Wah Wah Wahhhhhhh.  Thanks for playing, enjoy your decade of misery to follow…

What happens in the 1995-1997 era if we get the right bullpen help?  What happens in 1997 forward if we extend Randy instead of trading him?  What happens…

 We never QUITE got it right, and managed to waste major chunks of the careers of 5 HOFers (Randy, Griffey, Edgar, A-Rod, Ichiro) and several more Hall of Very Good players (Moyer, Olerud, Buhner, Tino, Cammy, etc).

 Waiting for the better situation isn’t always possible.  You lose those Hall of Famers you manage to bring up (Felix, for instance) because you can no longer afford them, or they get injured, or whatever.  You are missing key pieces that would enable you to take advantage of the strengths you do have (the Bullpen in the 90s when the offense was so strong).

 I don’t want to put all our eggs in one basket, but the idea of pushing it out 2-3 years until you're REALLY sure about the kids means you’re punting this window with Felix.  He’s very unlikely to be here past 2014.  We have a specific window WITH HIM that if we want to take advantage of it needs to be harnessed now.

 If not, we can press our luck with Pineda, Hultzen, Paxton, Walker etc. and hoping that we can get some more hitting or draft another HOF-potential bat next year (or did this year) while we roll some assets to acquire more young talent.  That’s an option.

But there are always Whammies out there, and when Felix is carting around a World Series trophy for the Red Sox or the Yankees or someone else you want to be able to congratulate him on his success while you admire your own hardware, not enjoy historic losing streaks and seasons while you toil waiting for the next HOF player you can waste in the pursuit of the perfect opportunity and a longer competitive window.

 ~G

13

I have already conceded that the current club is "close" to being good enough to seriously consider Fielder.  So, why am I not all the way into the "buy" column on Fielder?

It starts with 556 - 675.  That's the 2012 run differential, (a 67 pythag which corresponds identically to the 67 win season).

On July 5th, the club was 43-43 and there was still enthusiasm for the season.  Then came the 17 game losing streak. 

Ackley was there for the entire plunge.  Seager took over at third on July 7th and Figgins basically wasn't a part of the collapse.  Carp was there for the last week.  Fister was still in the rotation. 

Yes, things improved in August, (before tanking again in September).  But, the club was outscored by 18 runs in August and 34 in September. 

If the assessment of the current roster is (for example), 75 wins ... then Fielder gets you to 80.  To me, the idea of committing to $150-200 million in salary for a guy to come in and help you win 80 doesn't make any sense at all.

You MUST start with a fair assessment of where you stand - and with this club that is not easy. 

CA) Olivo - liability - the emptiest 20-HR bat in all of baseball - and a prayer that Moore is a new guy after missing a year injured.  At 33, as a catcher, could hit the wall or the DL at any moment, and the odds increase on just that with every tick.  Chance of improving - almost nil.  Change of declining - better than average.

1b) Smoak - leader of the all hype team.  His 489 PAs failed to generate the WAR that Kyle Seager did in 201.   IF Smoak hits .800 in 2012, then Fielder could be a difference maker.  If he hits .690 (again), Fielder is a large check spent to mediocrity.  Projection is up, but for all the hype, after 223 games, he still can't hit .250.  Forget comps to Teixeira.  At this point, becoming Troy Glaus would be a welcome improvement.

2B) Ackley - uber-talent.  Complete fade in September.  Is he REALLY an .800 hitter?

3B) Seager/Liddi/Figgy - Seager was a huge surprise to make the club this quick and perform so well.  But, also faded a bit down the stretch.  What's the confidence level that he improves?

SS) Ryan - The stop-gap for Franklin posted an 83 OPS+ and showed a solid glove.  He's 29 and not getting any better. 

LF) Carp - team leader in returning OPS at .791 (excluding Liddi's 44 PAs).  The brightest spot from 2012 offense.  But, for all the good, still saddled with a 19:81 BB/K split. 

CF) Guti (.534) - Trayvon (.586) - Saunders (.424).  Those are the three returning primary CF candidates. 

RF) Ichiro - (.645) and a year older.  It's nice to hope that Ichiro will bounce back - and he may.  But, who is placing a $20 million bet that he will?

DH) Wells? - (.742) - nice, exciting, productive pick-up.  But, the 3 games (out of 31) that they played him in CF probably suggests how the club feels about his as a full-time CF selection.  His 9:42 BB/K is a little scary.

Out of the ENTIRE lineup, which guys are 'easy' to project?  Olivo and Ryan - (both project to around 80 OPS+.  The rest of the club is a crapshoot. 

But, after Bedard and Fister and Pauley were traded away, what happened to the pitching?  Well, the bullpen actually was BETTER.  The ERA was nearly identical (3.58 in first half and 3.63 in second), but the 6.9 K/9 was a full 1.2 better in the 2nd half.  The pen struggled some in July, but got progressively better in August and Sept.

But, the rotation tanked.  Try 10-11 with a 5.10 ERA in August (offense carried the club) and 7-17 5.05 in September.  The club doesn't have Bedard and Fister on the roster.  They have Beaven and Furbush.  Pineda took his lumps in the 2nd half.  Furbush waffled between pretending to be Pineda and pretending to be Garrett Olson. 

There are certainly a number of "potential" starters lined up for 2012 auditions.  But, like the offense, a number of huge question marks.

It's not that the club is "bad".  It's that the "uncertainty" about the production from so many guys makes the Fielder gambit smell (to me) a lot like the Sexson/Beltre gambit.  The chance of working is dubious - but it'll make the fans happy (for a bit) and help paint the picture of a club trying to win (and obviously, the perception is far more important than the results).

Me?  I'd rather give the kids one more year, see who works out, let Jack continue to do his magic and go after Kemp or Votto or Andrew McCutchen for a 2013 run.  (Noting that if things go well in first half of 2012, that move 'could' be trade-deadline rather than off-season).

Me?  I want to know BEFORE I commit $20 million that I need a 1B more than I need a CF.

 

14

Taro's picture

Taro

I'm with Sandy at this point. Moves like the Fister trade/etc make this team more built for beyond '12. We need to find out what we have.

To be dead honest, I'm not sold on the rebuild yet. Our best prospects are fragile SP, and the quality hitting is no where to be seen. We have quantity, but quantity in prospects does not make a great MLB team. The prospects that stay need to develop into quality MLBers and the excess needs to be traded for upgrades.

15

G_Moneyball's picture

G_Moneyball

We have the choice to spend the 20 million on one-year contracts I guess. But whatever we are given for a budget will be spent. We know more about fielder than we will about any future free agent. He's younger that any future FA is likely to be. He's as good as any future FA is likely to be. So you can pay him now or roll your money to a future year when hopefully our situation is more to our liking. It's a choice.

16

2010 Run differential : -123

2011 Run differential:  +69

The M's run differential is not irrelevant, but IMHO it's close.  The points about uncertainty with this particular lineup are valid, but the notion that adding a Fielder buys you 5 wins is silly.  Roster construction is way, way less predictable than that.  I'd say there's even a, say, 20% chance the M's land Fielder - and their run differntial gets worse.  We know this... the M's lost Johnson, then Griffey, then Arod...  and got better.

No move should be made in a vacuum.  But regardless of the run differential, and regardless of the ages of the existing roster, and regardless of the projections for the current players, a bonfide HR threat, OBP machine, cleanup hitter, top-10 hitter in baseball, will help your club.  A lot.

 

17

In 2010, Dan Haren was the highest paid dBack with an 8.5 million salary.  In 2011, Jason Marquis at 7.5 million.  Based on what I can see, Arizona's payroll went from $60 million to $67 from '10 to '11.  Their offense went from 94 to 99 OPS+ and the only lineup change was LaRoche was dropped for Juan Miranda.  The most significant FA pickup was JJ Putz for $4 million.  Arizona is an argument to *NOT* spend on Fielder.

But, you contend that getting a top 10 hitter in baseball will help your club *a lot*, despite the fact that you yourself throw a laundry list out that goes completely contrary to that conclusion.

Let's take the counter argument to losing AROD and Griffey.

Texas 2000: 848-974 run differential and 71 wins, and they pick up AROD, who not only was a top bat, but also a top glove at the most important defensive position.  In 2001, 890-968 and 73 wins. 

In 1999, Cinci with Cameron won 96 games with a run differential of 865-711.  In 2000 with Griffey they won 85 with a 825-765 run differential. 

Am I the only one who finds it disturbing that it is soooo easy to find examples of "superstar" hitters moving to clubs and showing zero (or close to zero) evidence of actually making things better?  Honestly, I've watched baseball for 40+ years ... and off the top of my head, I cannot recall *ANY* case where a poor team (sub .500), acquired a "big bat", and turned the franchise around.  None.  I've gotta believe it's happened somewhere along the line and I just can't call it up.  But, I know some worst-to-first teams, (the Braves snagged Pendleton to begin their run).  But, none of the ones I know of were turned based on acquiring a known big BAT.  (I have previously noted that I think things work differently with pitcher acquisitions).

Okay, I did a little research and found one.  Bonds.  San Fran went 72-90 with a 574-647 run differential the year before they got Bonds.  They won 103 in his first year, (but actually finished 2nd to the Braves and didn't make the playoffs).  The club wouldn't make the playoffs until Bonds' 5th year with them and wouldn't make the Series, (which they lost), until his 10th.

Fielder is no Bonds.  Before steroids, Bonds was an 8-10 WAR guy.  After steroids, Bonds was a 10-12 WAR guy.  What Seattle fans don't get about Griffey/Cameron is that while Griffey WAS a 9-WAR guy in his prime, his decline began BEFORE he went to Cinci.

  • 1996 - 9.7
  • 1997 - 9.4
  • 1998 - 6.1
  • 1999 - 4.8

That's his last four years in Seattle.  He gave Cinci a 5.8 his first season, but only managed a 2.0 WAR one more time in his entire career. 

Cameron's last year in Cinci and 4 in Seattle?

  • 1999 - 5.4
  • 2000 - 3.9
  • 2001 - 6.4
  • 2002 - 3.4
  • 2003 - 5.3

========

Final point about where the Seattle offense stands today.  If one sorts all AL batters by WAR, who was the top Win provider for Seattle in 2011?  Brendan Ryan at 2.8 just nudges out Ackley (because he played more games).  But the reason is "feels" like someone like Fielder is worth more than he really is - is that we hold onto the version of players at their peak.  If I say AROD, most people would assume that, while he's not as good as he used to be, he's still a star player.  Brendan Ryan was ranked 43rd in WAR ... AROD 45th for 2011.  But, because of his position and better defense and because he stayed healthy, Brendan Ryan was more valuable.

People don't think of Teixeira as worth less than Melky Cabrera.  But in 2011, he was.  Heck, Kotchman was worth more than Teixeira. 

The most valuable every day player for Seattle in 2011 was Brendan Ryan.  Does that sound like an offense where Fielder can put them over the top?  Or does that sound more like the 2004 offense ... where bringing in Sexson and Beltre netted one extra run scored the next year?

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Although you say Arizona is an argument to not spend money on Fielder, and that seems the wrong conclusion to draw - indeed, there's not much conclusion to draw at all from one team's one-year dramatic improvement.

If there is one though, it's that roster construction is more complicated and dynamic than we realize.  In the D-Backs case, last year they probably under-achieved, and this year over-achieved, and their 'true' run differential is in between somewhere.

I'm as big a fan of not spending big money on free agents as anyone.  Let alone ones coming off walk years on their contracts, for all love...  They disappoint far more often than they surprise.  The problem though lies much with expectations.  Fans and bloggers expect someone paid $20mm to perform 10 times as well as someone paid $2mm.  And that ain't how it works in the real life, in any endeavor.

If the M's don't sign Fielder, I won't be heartbroken, at all.  If they do sign him, I won't think he's a savior, or even that he turns the team in to a contender...  just that he makes the team better.  Fielder > Kennedy.  I'm in to making steps to make the team better, whether it's signing an impact bat or swapping out Jack Wilson for Brendan Ryan.

Any given year a Kotchman can out-perform a Teixiera.  That's not really relevant.  What's relevant is who is the better player; which one gives you more help towards winning games year-in and year-out.  And, to a lesser degree, which one fits with the personality and performance needs of the team; and which one fits with the payroll and long-term financial structure.  All those things can be difficult to assess.

The M's are a team that can afford a big-time free agent or two.  If they choose their FA's carefully, they should absolutely spend that money.  Fielder's age, left-handedness, and power make him about as good a fit as anyone.

 

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phxterryDutton's article on Ackley was, for me, very revealing. I certainly didn't come away with the impression that Ackley is burning to improve. Instead, he comes across as content to under-achieve.51 min 33 sec ago
phxterrySure sick of watching Hart's feeble at bats in key points of the game. Can't win with a DH that hits like a pitcher.58 min 19 sec ago
mojicianIt seems the curse of John Buck may be lifting. 3 hits and a run in 3 innings. As the magnitude of curses equal the gravity of the offense times the importance of the curser, this curse can't be much larger than a two game slump. Can it? Thanks TR for spotting this.2 hours 8 min ago
mojicianThe gist of the article: Ackley thinks things are alright, McClendon says Ackley is streaky and he needs to ride the hot streaks and sit more during slumps.2 hours 18 min ago
mojicianAfter a night featuring a gidp* and a strikeout, Dutton gets Ackley and McClendon's thoughts on the sitch and gets the game log roller coaster breakdown of Ack's season. http://www.thenewstribune.com/2014/07/10/3283429/mariners-notebook-ackley-cites.html?sp=/99/512/ ----------*I don't like those.2 hours 22 min ago
mojicianTanakamatic-san has a torn ucl and may need TJ. It was cool to see the Yanks rally around a true hoss on Tanaka day. Sad to see the Yanks lose their best player*--------------------------------*Now that the Yanks are no longer an empire, they don't seem very evil anymore. They seem like a collection of good old ballplayers with twinkly eyes but creaky bones. Sorry if this offends anyone. Don't mean to spam the site with pro Yankee slop.2 hours 31 min ago
Gordon GrossDaddyO... that is fabulous. I look forward to receiving our clean half-sammich in the next 48 hours.6 hours 33 min ago
DaddyOGordon, I can hear it now: John Mozeliak: I'll give you a ham sandwich for Buck, but not a fresh one, and not a whole one. Two-day old, half-a-ham for Buck. Jack Z: (frustrated) Look, I understand your point of view John, but can you at least make sure it has some mustard, pickle, some cheese, and make sure there's no wilted lettuce...oh, and no bites. A CLEAN half-sandwich.7 hours 53 min ago
DaddyOAckley is athletically capable of being a VERY good hitter. But he seems incapable of two things essential for MLB success: The ability to adjust to how pitchers attack him, and even if he were to overcome that, the discipline to implement a consistent, solid approach at the plate. He seems to just rely on instincts developed in the past that served him well then, but no longer apply in an MLB environment. IMO he very well could start to dig himself out from his current deep hole. But there's no telling when or where, so best to move him. If he flourishes elsewhere, the M's would just have to live with the fact that they were unable to help him do so here.7 hours 58 min ago
SABR MattHad a similar thought, G. Maybe a lefty reliever they aren't using? While we're at it, they have a problem at 2B...8 hours 3 min ago
Gordon GrossMolina from the Cards out 2-3 months. They might be in the market for a backup catcher. We can probably get a slightly-used ham sandwich for Buck now.8 hours 6 min ago
GLSI think I've posted this before: I don't understand Ackley's slappy hitting mechanics. When I watch him in the batter's box, it looks like he's standing a mile away from the plate. And then, when he swings, he kind of lunges at the ball. Ichiro was a similar hitter, but he had a bit more of a knack for finding a hole, and a little bit more footspeed, so it worked for him. But it doesn't work for Ackley and it probably never will. So why doesn't he change it? Why doesn't he adjust?8 hours 11 min ago
SABR MattAgreed GLS that Ackley is a good replacement level superutility player for someone. And maybe someone will stop him from lunging at the ball at the plate and he'll go back to being a half-decent hitter. But it ain't happening in Seattle. I hope he figures something out for someone else and does well...but we have got to move on.8 hours 17 min ago
GLSYou know, I like Ackley overall. He seems like a good guy. He knows how to play the game and given his positional flexibility, he has some value on a major league roster. I want him to do well. To a certain extent, I'm still somewhat of a fan. But the reality is that as a hitter, what he's doing isn't working that well, especially at Safeco Field.8 hours 24 min ago
SABR MattLloyd knows Ackley is terrible, BTW...you can tell by how much he's been out of the line-up lately. He has to play some because they only have 3 benchies...but he's not getting full use even when the benchies are the backup catcher, Bloomquist, and Chavez...yowza. Ackley is easily the worst starting outfielder in the AL right now that gets to play nearly every day (up until recently as Lloyd has reigned him in).8 hours 28 min ago
rick82Heh, did a time test on the Shoutbox digest. Picked a day with 75 posts. It took 6 secs to load, which is just fine. But when it finished, the first post was about Ackley's anemic line and I thought "oh, problem...this is today's thread." But no, it worked right. It's Ackley who remains broken. We just keep repeating ourselves :-) - it's really time, long past time, for this organization to pull the damn plug. When your manager is replacing a lefty regular in your lineup with Endy Chavez in hopes you'll get a little more offense, it's a cry for help.8 hours 57 min ago
IcebreakerXAlso, keep Almonte way the heck away from this team. The M's uptick basically coincides with his demotion and his lazy meh play. JJ is basically a weaker but kinda smarter Juan Pierre, which is a bit better than a reckless and dumberester Juan Pierre.10 hours 2 min ago
drmI truly believe the M's will trade for somebody, hopefully, a decent hitter. I would also be happier with another pitcher but I think that's what Paxton is going to be. I don't think it's as bad as your making it Matt. I think we are in a bad stretch and hopefully, we will come out of it soon. What's the thought on Willingham? He doesn't look to good to me but that could be our pitchers.10 hours 19 min ago
IcebreakerXMatt: Realized that the Shoutbox-by-Day is more reliable. I think the all shouts view is a code optimization issue... Feels like it's trying to drudge up every shout and then times out because there's a trillion shouts in history: the DB is screaming "wait... wait... wait... I'M TELLING YOU TO WAIT!!!" when the web server walks away...10 hours 19 min ago
IcebreakerXM's have a history of large 1Bs, so there's some reference available. With that in mind, I don't think Hart failing at 32 is/would be much of a surprise. Richie Sexson was basically somewhere between worthless plank and a kumquat by 32. Add to that the fact Sexson's post-major-injury renaissance was his age 30 season. Also, Branyan doesn't work as a comparison for me because I don't think he had many injury issues until AFTER his M's boom and the fact that he's lefty gave him platoon advantage for the majority of his ABs.10 hours 22 min ago