Category Archives: Transaction Analysis

Diamond Exchange: The Mariners Keep Busy

Trade Background: The Mariners did not sit still for long deciding they did not want to go with a multiple-rookie outfield acquiring veteran speedster, Jarrod Dyson from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for Nate Karns who due to injuries and 2016 effectiveness issues had become a surplus arm without a clear path to a rotation spot.

Roster impacts: Dyson’s arrival, as mentioned, places him as the opening left fielder and possible leadoff hitter with Leonys Martin returning in centerfield, and newly acquired Mitch Haniger in right field. The winner in this scenario will certainly be the pitchers with the upgraded all-around outfield defense. Ben Gamel goes from possible starter to bench player and quite possibly to Triple-A where he will get every day at-bats. Danny Valencia will be a super sub, seeing time at 1B, 3B, and in the OF when the team faces a left-hander.

Nate Karns is still on the outside looking in at a roster spot, let alone a rotation spot. His best path to the rotation is through Matt Strahm who was used entirely out of the bullpen, but effectively for the Royals last year. He’ll return to his starting roots and is penciled in as the fifth starter despite his lack of Triple-A experience.

Player Analysis: Dyson, 32, may be coming of a career year in which he made contact about 88% of the time while posting a respectable .278/.340 line with 30 steals. The lefty is currently in line for the most at-bats of his career as a regular in the Mariners outfield. So, on the one, hand 40-plus steals is a possibility. On the other hand, we are talking about someone who has yet to top 337 plate appearances in a single season who could quickly find himself overexposed. His 2016 contact rate is out of context with the rest of his career, so a regression for him is quite possible. I’d put my sights on a 35-pus stolen base season, but possibly at the expense of a sub .250 batting average, 1 to 2 HRs, 50 to 60 runs and fewer than 35 RBIs. That could still make him go for around $18 to $20 on draft day in AL only leagues, albeit with risk.

Nate Karns, 29, after making some solid process in the strike-throwing department gave away all his gains when he posted a 4+ BB/9 last season. Things got worse in the second half as he missed significant time due to a back injury and he lost all feel for hitting his spots (6.4) K/9 in the second half. On the plus side, Karns doesn’t appear to have lost any velocity and may simply have been pitching injured or seeing his health decline over a longer time span his DL stay especially considering his solid start to the season in April and May. Keep an eye on his velocity and command this spring.

Final Thoughts: Dyson’s speed will continue to gain him value and a double digit bid in AL only leagues, but he is already past his prime years and comes from a platoon-background with a .231/.308/.285 line against lefties. Karns has upside and still managed to strike out around a batter per inning despite his injury, but currently lacks a role making him a $1 days or reserve round pick.

Diamond Exchange: The Gallardo/Smith Trade

It’s a new year, time to get my baseball hat back on! The news front has been quite quiet lately, but today’s deal of Yovanni Gallardo and cash by the Orioles to the Mariners for Seth Smith provides something to analyze.

Trade Background: Yovanni Gallardo had become expendable for the Orioles because of bringing Wade Miley on board. Meanwhile, their right-handed heavy hitting lineup needed another left-handed bat. For the Mariners, the trade of Taijuan Walker created an innings pitched void. They also will be giving left-hander Ben Gamel a shot at the everyday right-field job which made Smith theoretically expendable. (Update this all changed with the acquisition of Jarrod Dyson later in the day shifting Gamel to a backup role, Haniger to right field and keeping Leonys Martin in center.) I’ll have more on that deal later.

Roster Impacts: As mentioned, losing Gallardo does not impact the Orioles rotation given the presence of Miley. Smith’s role will be pretty much unchanged from his career-long role of platoon outfielder. As the left-handed half, he’ll likely consume his usual 425 to 450 plate appearances. Right-handed platoon mate possibility include Joey Rickard and Christian Walker with minor leaguers Dariel Alvarez, Adam Brett Walker, and Mike Yastrzemski dark horse candidates for that honor.

In Seattle, Gallardo appears to be the #4 starter on opening day. As mentioned, Ben Gamel will get first crack at the right field job. Danny Valencia is also a potential platoon partner or could in theory win the right field job outright from Gamel with prospect Mitch Haniger (acquired from Arizona in the Walker deal) likely to open the season in left. (Update: again, Haniger is now expected to start in right with Gamel in a back-up role and Dyson/Martin manning left and center field respectively). Valencia may end up in a supersub role.

Player Analysis: Seth Smith, 34, has been rather consistent over the course of his career though his strikeout rates have gone up over the last few years and a batting average in the .240s to .250s are now the norm. Smith’s HR/FB rates were well above normal in 2016 at over 18% compared to his normal 11 to 12% mark. However, the move from a below average HR hitters park to an above average one in Camden yards may mitigate some of the regression especially when you consider Camden Yards consistently rates as one of the better places for left-handers to hit the longball. In other words, instead of dropping back to the 10 to 12 HR range, Smith might remain in the 14 to 16 HR range. It may also help a tad in the batting average department too.  A .254 15 HR line seems quite reasonable.

Gallardo’s 2016 campaign was bar-none the worst of his career with the metrics backing up the fact that he deserved an ERA over 5.00 with an xFIP of 5.22 and the highest walk rate and home run allowed rates of his career. It should be noted that his velocity has dropped over recent seasons, losing a mph off all his pitches with his fastball dropping below 90 mph. His 2016 season also was notable in terms of his splits with right-handers, who he handled effectively in the past holding them to a sub .400 SLG over his career, slugged .469.

To be fair, Gallardo battled a shoulder injury for much of his season and may never have been fully healthy. He’ll only be 31 on opening day, so a return to full health (if that was the sole reason for the off-year) is not out of the question. Pitching in Seattle will help, and if healthy, a return to career norms should help in the walk, groundball, splits, and home runs allowed department. The combination, however, still suggests barring a massive improvement in velocity and strikeout rates, an inning eating pitcher with ERA into the 4’s and at most a $1 end game type pick.

Final Thoughts: The Mariners acquired, health permitting, an inning eater, but given that they are tentatively slated to use rookies in their outfield in lieu of Smith, they may lose lineup stability/predictability. As far as from a fantasy perspective, this is not a deal that will substantially change either player’s draft day value.

Blake Snell Gets the Call

The Tampa Rays will call up their top pitching prospect, Blake Snell, to make what appears to be a one-time spot start against the Yankees tomorrow. While Snell’s short-term value is suspect particularly since he has yet to work beyond five innings in Triple-A season, he’s certainly a grab and stash type if available in redraft leagues given that he could get a more extended look later this season. It would be highly unlikely to find him available in keeper or dynasty league formats on the free agent market.

Background and Analysis: Snell was a supplemental first-round draft pick back in 2011 by the Rays. The left-hander was considered a fairly middling prospect for the earlier portion of his professional career, battling command issues and owning a fairly unrefined, though projectable, arsenal of pitches. 2015 was a complete break-through. Snell increased the velocity on his fastball, regularly touching the mid-nineties, and elevated his changeup to become possibly his best pitch. That pitch, in combination with what was already a plus slider, gives him multiple swing and miss pitches. All of this occurred as he simultaneously improved his command, dropping his walk rates to the sub 4.0 range at both the Double-A and Triple-A levels.

The end result was a pitcher with a four-pitch repertoire including three-plus offerings including multiple weapons against right-handers, improved command, and the plus sinker to keep the ball on the ground and in the park. As a result, Snell leaped on the prospect radar becoming one of the better pitching prospects in the game today.

Fast forward to 2016, Snell has been fairly dominant in three Triple-A starts with a 13.2 K/9 over 14.1 innings. It should be noted, however, that in two of his three starts he walked 3 batters in under 5 innings of work in each outing and has a teeny sample size walk rate over the 4.0 mark.

Overall there is a tremendous amount to like about Snell, but his control after only a single season of showing some improvement still remains at least a yellow flag to be cautious for those considering activating him or using him in DFS immediately.

Colabello Suspension

In light of the 80-game PED suspension for Chris Colabello, one can expect Jesus Montero to have his contract purchased from Triple-A to become Justin Smoak‘s platoon partner at first base.  As I discussed earlier this season, Montero is a player who could do some damage given the opportunity. This could be that opportunity for the former Yankee to finally establish himself as a big-leaguer.

Travis Shaw, Red Sox Starting Third Basemen

It was announced today that Travis Shaw will enter the season as the Boston Red Sox’s starting third basemen sending Pablo Sandoval to back-up 3B/1B/pinch-hitting role. So what, you may ask, are the odds of this move actually sticking? Is Shaw a legitimate starter and can he prevail against major league pitching? What is the opportunity cost of not playing Sandoval?

Well, first and foremost, the number one reason Shaw was selected over Sandoval was for his defensive skills. Shaw came up as a first basemen and was considered plus for the position. Shaw played third base in college and has a good glove and throwing arm, but a somewhat limited range which was of course the reason he moved to first base as a professional. Be that as it may, he still has the greater range compared to Sandoval who has ranked as one of the worst defensive third basemen in baseball.

Offensively, Sandoval at only 29 years of age already appears to be post peak. The switch-hitter remains an aggressive, contact-oriented hitter who has struck out around 13% of the time over his career, but who has also swung well above the league average on balls outside the strike zone throughout his career. Of concern, last year was Sandoval’s increasing tendency towards becoming a ground ball hitter which may place a cap on his power production and ability to hit for average. The groundball rate of nearly 50% represents a substantial jump from the previous season and so could be an outlier, but it remains to be seen whether or not it is the beginning of an unwelcome trend. In other words, despite his substantial contract, having the Red Sox play a sub-par defensive 3B with limited power and on-base skills that may be more of a detriment to the team than a positive seems reason enough to at least give another player a chance.

Enter Travis Shaw. As I have mentioned, while he is an adequate defender at third, he still represents a substantial upgrade at the position. On the hitting side of things, Shaw has demonstrated greater power with 18 home runs combined between Triple-A and the Majors. The lefty is a fly-ball hitter who has consistently demonstrated average power, hitting 19 homers in 2012 followed by two straight seasons of twenty-one home run campaigns in 2013 and 2014. Shaw’s power production has been considered average and not the outstanding variety typically coveted for starting first basemen in the majors, but if he can handle third base over the course of the season, his power would profile far better there.

Earlier in his career, Shaw demonstrated above-average control of the strike zone but since reaching AAA has become less passive with walk rates dropping from around 14% to the 8% mark and just 7.3% of his time in the majors last year. Not surprisingly his strikeout rates have gone up correspondingly though they translated well to the majors and have not spiked upwards further though it remains to be seen what they do over a larger sample.

The overall combination of power and plate discipline skill suggests Shaw could be an average regular, capable of hitting in the .250s to .270s with upper-teens to low-twenties homerun power. In other words, if he can achieve that level while playing superior defense to Sandoval he should, in theory, be able to hold off the competition. Any ability on Shaw’s part to reassert some control of the strike zone would only help to further entrench him and reduce the chances of him being a streak hitter. At the moment, Shaw’s skill set does suggest he could endure some peaks and valleys which could potentially reopen the door for the well-paid Sandoval. Fortunately, in most leagues, up until this announcement Shaw was available at a discount or in reserve rounds, making the risk of investment low while providing plenty a good amount of room for possible profit. Considering I selected him as  my first pick in the reserve round of AL Tout Wars as a result of purchasing A.J. Reed at auction, I certainly hope so!