Padres, Rays Strike Again With Pagán/Margot Trade

Over the weekend, the presumptive second-best team in the AL East sent a key contributor from a recent playoff run to sunny California. In exchange, they received a package including a major league outfielder and a minor league catcher. That’s right — Emilio Pagán is headed to San Diego. As Josh Tolentino first reported, the Rays traded Pagán to the Padres in exchange for Manuel Margot and catching prospect Logan Driscoll.

At first glance, this trade seems pretty straightforward. Pagán was the most valuable pitcher in one of the best bullpens in baseball last year. His fastball/slider combination overwhelmed batters to the tune of a 36% strikeout rate and only a 4.9% walk rate. With Nick Anderson, Diego Castillo, José Alvarado, and a host of others ready to pick up the slack, however, he was surplus, and as noted last week, the Rays lacked a right-handed platoon partner to play center alongside Kevin Kiermaier.

Enter Margot, or exit Margot from San Diego’s perspective. Over three seasons as the team’s regular center fielder, he provided spectacular defense and forgettable offense. Per Statcast’s OAA, he’s been the eighth-best defensive outfielder in baseball since the beginning of 2017. His batting line of .248/.301/.394, on the other hand, works out to an 85 wRC+, a cool 207th among qualifying players. The whole package came out to 4.1 WAR over those years, and while that’s a valuable contribution, it’s a fourth outfielder’s line overall, even with the shiny defense. Read the rest of this entry »

Ben Clemens FanGraphs Chat – 2/10/2020

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San Francisco Signs Pence, Hamilton

I firmly believe that every baseball fan over 15 years of age — old enough to remember 2012 with some clarity — has a story about the day they fell in love with Hunter Pence, who signed a major-league deal with the Giants last week. Mine was the day, sometime in the late fall of 2012, that I watched his San Francisco teammates demonstrate, through the very best impressions they could muster, that they loved him too. From that day forward, I was a fan of every bug-eyed, gangly, corkscrewed swing. I watched with delight as Pence helped bring a third title to San Francisco in 2014 (his second), then in dismay as he faded to a 60 wRC+, -0.8 WAR nadir in 2018 that spelled the end of his first Giants run. In reporting on his 2019 deal with the Rangers, I wrote that:

I’m never optimistic about players’ ability to re-tool their games after 35 — this is increasingly a young man’s sport, and there’s precious little margin to get it right — but in Pence’s case I hope I am wrong, and that Pence makes the roster and contributes for Texas this year. Hunter Pence is not like many we’ve seen before in this game, and we need more like him.

I was wrong. Pence rode a revamped swing (discussed here by Devan Fink) to a .297/.358/.552 line across 316 plate appearances for the Rangers in 2019. Pence’s 128 wRC+ was the fourth-highest of his 13-year career and his best since 2013’s 135 mark. Pence’s improvement was driven not by an increase in contact rate (his 70.3% mark was unchanged from 2018) but by a marked elevation of his launch angle (to 10.1 degrees, after sitting at 5.7 last year), which led to a substantial increase in his fly ball rate (35.6%; second-highest in his career, again after 2013) and an even more dramatic increase in his HR/FB rate (to 23.1%, more than triple last year’s mark and by three points the best of his career). Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s Get the Rockies to 94 Wins

Last week, Rockies owner Dick Monfort made headlines by predicting a rock-solid 94 wins for his franchise this season. It seemed wildly optimistic; the team won 71 games in 2019 and didn’t make any major changes this offseason. We project them to be one of the worst four teams in the National League, not one of the best four.

But Monfort used interpolation, as he was quick to point out. And we can’t simply ignore something with math behind it. So I’m taking out a special, purpose-built Rockies model to investigate the team: M.O.n.F.O.R.T., or the Model for Official non-Fake Obvious Rockies Truths.

First things first, let’s establish a baseline. On our Depth Charts page, you can see FanGraphs’ projected winning percentage for each 2020 club against neutral opponents. This only uses Steamer projections at the moment, but it will soon fold in ZiPS. The Rockies are projected for a .462 winning percentage.

That sounds bad, but it doesn’t consider their opponents. The Rockies play the AL Central in interleague play, which helps. And they play the Marlins seven times, but the Cardinals and Cubs only six. Do these small schedule quirks help them? Nope! In aggregate, we expect Rockies opponents to have a .501 winning percentage. What you see is what you get, in essence; we have the Rockies down for around 74.5 wins. With that baseline in mind, let’s start using M.O.n.F.O.R.T.’s findings to boost the Rockies.

Daniel Murphy Rekindles the Flame
Something you should know about my model is that every player’s closest comparable is Babe Ruth. But I asked it for a second comparable for Daniel Murphy, and it spit out “Daniel Murphy, but when he was good.” So there you have it — Murphy is going to defy age and start hitting again. As recently as 2017, he was putting up a .322/.384/.543 line. Imagine adjusting that up for altitude, and you can see some upside.

What’s changed since then? Mostly the power. Murphy compiled a piddling .174 ISO in 2019, looking more like the slap-hitting Murphy of old than the peak, world-striding version. At 34, there could still be magic left in that bat. Let’s give him his 2017 self back; a 126 ISO+, a 135 wRC+, and 24.5 runs above average over 593 plate appearances. Read the rest of this entry »

Jay Jaffe FanGraphs Chat – 2/10/20

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Good afternoon and welcome to today’s chat. As I spent the weekend in Cooperstown at the Friends of Doubleday Hot Stove Weekend event, i’m scrambling to catch up. The chat will begin in a few minutes; thank you for your patience…

Avatar Jay Jaffe: OK, I’m back.

Sirras: Are you surprised that LAD somehow managed to pay both MIN and BOS more to complete this deal?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: they paid more but they got more, I think. Giving up Downs and Wong was trading from considerable organizational depth — they already have lots of 2B options including Lux, a top-10 prospect ready to take over, and they still have both Will Smith and Keibert Ruiz as catchers, with Wong looking more like an Austin Barnes type. Graterol works as a win-now addition in the bullpen, something that IMO they still needed to add. And if they intend to trade Joc and Stripling, they can further reconfigure.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Leaving the Angels non-deal aside, I’d say that the Dodgers paid more but in doing so also improved their 2020 roster by a larger increment than they had previously done

Nick: Any thoughts on Hinch’s interview regarding sign stealing?  His decision not to expressly deny the use of buzzers was interesting, to say the least.

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2020 ZiPS Projections: Washington Nationals

After having typically appeared in the hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have now been released at FanGraphs for eight years. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Washington Nationals.


At this point, Juan Soto getting an MVP-region projection should probably have been expected. Soto didn’t quite meet his 2019 projection — yes, the OPS was close, but offense went up league-wide — but he was still a superstar, and with the departures of Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon in consecutive winters, he’s now undoubtedly the centerpiece of the offense. Mike Trout’s finally gotten old enough that Soto, along with Ronald Acuña Jr., has passed him in rest-of-career projections. Soto’s so terrific that he even managed to play in the majors five days before his debut. Okay, okay, it was a suspended game, but I like to imagine he caused a Star Trek-esque time paradox. Read the rest of this entry »

What Do the Red Sox Actually Save by Trading Betts, Price?

Now that the Red Sox have actually traded Mookie Betts (and his salary) and David Price (and half of his salary), Boston has followed through on its intentions to significantly reduce payroll. Much has been made of the Red Sox’s desire to stay under the competitive balance tax threshold. In September, team owner John Henry said this:

“This year we need to be under the CBT [competitive balance tax] and that was something we’ve known for more than a year now,” he said. “If you don’t reset, there are penalties, so we’ve known for some time now we needed to reset as other clubs have done.”

Then, in January, Henry said this:

I think every team probably wants to reset at least once every three years.

Henry’s full remarks from January also include an assertion that competitiveness is more important than getting under the tax threshold, although the team’s eventual trade of Mookie Betts strongly undercuts that argument. According to our calculations on the RosterResource Red Sox payroll page, Boston’s payroll for the competitive balance tax is roughly $199 million, nearly $10 million under the first $208 million competitive balance tax threshold. If the Red Sox stay at that level this season, they will spend $56 million less on payroll and competitive balance taxes in 2020 compared to their 2019 outlay. Read the rest of this entry »

Updating the 2020, 2021, and 2022 Draft Rankings

Welcome to Prospect Week 2020, FanGraphs’ annual pre-season spotlight on our sport’s future, and my annual opportunity to experience a dissociative fugue state.

The uninitiated will first want to read this primer on how I assign an overall grade to each prospect, and if you want to familiarize yourself with my process more thoroughly, you should pre-order Future Value, the book I co-wrote with baby-faced turncoat Kiley McDaniel, now of ESPN. In the span of a long weekend Kiley got engaged, joined ESPN, saw our book go to the printer, and did a SportsCenter hit wearing someone else’s tie. Congratulations to my friend, who worked until the clock struck midnight on his FanGraphs tenure, and to me, as I now get to do what I want without having to convince Kiley that it’s a good idea.

While the NCAA baseball season starts this weekend, 2020 draft looks have already been going on for nearly a month. The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend always features several important high school showcases, and junior college baseball begins shortly after that. Meanwhile, Division-I schools have been scrimmaging in front of scouts in preparation for Friday’s openers. Dope siphoned from these events is included in my 2020, 2021 and 2022 draft rankings, all of which have been updated for today and will be updated continuously between now and the draft. And in a brand new feature courtesy of Sean Dolinar, you can now see all three draft classes mushed together here. Read the rest of this entry »

Effectively Wild Episode 1498: Season Preview Series: Cubs and Diamondbacks

Ben Lindbergh and Meg Rowley banter about the remade Mookie Betts trade, the latest revelations about the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal (including “Codebreaker” and “the dark arts”), and the Mets’ failed sale to hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen. Then they preview the 2020 Cubs (46:13) with The Athletic’s Sahadev Sharma, and the 2020 Diamondbacks (1:20:08) with The Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro.

Audio intro: No-Fi Soul Rebellion, "Dark Arts"
Audio interstitial 1: Of Montreal, "Doing Nothing"
Audio interstitial 2: Ultrababyfat, "Diamondback"
Audio outro: Tunng, "Code Breaker"

Link to Astros WSJ report
Link to Travis on the Cubs’ pitching development problems
Link to Sahadev on the Cubs’ player development overhaul
Link to order The MVP Machine

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The Big Mookie Betts Deal Is Finally Happening, but the Dodgers-Angels Trade Isn’t

On Tuesday, word got out that Mookie Betts would be traded to the Dodgers. Over the course of the week, the trade moved from a seeming certainty to something less so, as the Red Sox reportedly raised concerns about the health of prospect Brusdar Graterol. With spring training just days away, the players were stuck in limbo as the teams tried to renegotiate. Now it appears those negotiations have borne fruit, with a new deal finalized per reports from Jeff Passan, Ken Rosenthal, and Chad Jennings. And in a bit of good news after the indecision of the last four days, Alex Speier is reporting that the player medical evaluations are done, with only league approval of the money heading to Los Angeles holding up the official finalization of the trade.

The original deal was a three-team swap involving the Dodgers, Twins, and Red Sox, with a follow-up trade between the Angels and Dodgers. But Sunday’s moves involve two discrete trades between the Dodgers and Red Sox, and the Dodgers and Twins. And that Dodgers-Angels deal? It is not happening, per Ken Rosenthal.

Let’s look at the finalized version of each trade.

Trade 1: Dodgers/Red Sox

Dodgers Receive:

  • OF Mookie Betts
  • LHP David Price
  • $48 million to pay David Price’s $96 million salary over the next three years.

Red Sox Receive:

What’s new: The Red Sox were previously set to receive Minnesota pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol. With the Twins now out of the deal, the Dodgers will send along Jeter Downs and Connor Wong to complete the trade. We also now know the cash considerations for David Price. Read the rest of this entry »