Posts Tagged ‘Prince Fielder’

Prince Fielder signed with the Detroit Tigers for $214MM over nine years – was this a wise move? 

My first thought when I read the initial “rumours” about this signing that there is no way the Tigers would be dumb enough to pay a bad-bodied DH in the making 200+ million dollars.  Yet it is being confirmed that this is indeed the case. 

Let me get the obligatory “this player is great” out of the way early, because it is easy to appreciate what a great hitter Prince Fielder has been over his career.   

G AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ HR WAR
998 282 390 540 391 141 230 23.4

 Yeah, as I already stated you can see that any team would be dying to add a player with those types of numbers but ultimately I feel this is simply a waste of resources for the Tigers.

First, the Tigers didn’t need to make this move right now.  Fielder’s value and production will be at its highest over the next two to three seasons but the Tigers (with or without Victor Martinez) are favourites to win their division for at least the next three seasons in my opinion when looking at the landscape of the division.

This signing will absolutely affect nothing in the grand scheme of things other than the Tigers will clinch the division a week earlier.  The playoffs are a crap shoot and adding one player to your line-up is not going to give you a huge advantage over a short best of seven baseball playoff series.

 Fielder will be a huge help in the regular season playing 160+ games a season, without question but again the playoffs can have unlikely heroes all the time (Jim Leyritz for example) and the stars don’t always shine (Alex Rodriguez I’m looking at you).

By the time Fielder is starting his decline the divisional outlook should look quite a bit different with the Kansas City Royals presumably starting to make their presence known with a plethora of top quality minor league talents hitting the big leagues soon.  Minnesota has had too strong a track record of player development to continue their recent swoon and Cleveland and Chicago have only one way to go.

When the division is starting to toughen up the Tigers will have two fat DHs with monstrous, bloated contracts saddling their operations and payroll.  Good luck selling a team on a declining DH with no defense and a horrible physique if you are thinking they have an ‘out’.  A Vernon Wells salary dump happens only once in a baseball lifetime.

Second, and probably the most important point, there is almost no way Fielder will bring back the on field value (in terms of WAR) when he eventually (or possibly immediately) shifts to DH full-time.  The rough cost of a win on the free agent market is $5 million and with Fielder earning 24 million per season he will need to average 4.8 WAR per season.

Fielder, who turns 28 in May, has reached 4.8 WAR (or higher) in three of his past six full seasons, no easy task for a player of his age, position and limited defensive abilities.  But given his age it is safe to assume he has reached his peak and will not be improving over the duration of the contract and in fact is likely to plateau and/or decline in the next season or so given what we know about peak power and the age hitters start to see declining output.

For a quick comparison the currently reviled but once feared slugger DH/LF Adam Dunn had one of the most impressive runs a DH has had from 2004-2010.  His wOBA ranged from .403 to .365 in that span and his lowest HR total was a solid 38 – yet due to his awful defense, and left field status only managed a total of 18.9 WAR (or an average of 2.7 WAR).

There is no reason to think Fielder can’t produce upwards of 4.5-6.0 WAR for the next few seasons as his power is still extremely relevant but when he starts to decline there is little chance he can consistently produce that with his bat alone (if he moves to DH). 

We also have to account for the adjustment Fielder is going to be making with respect to his new team.  He is moving to a very friendly pitcher’s park that does not play nearly as offensive as the launching pad in Milwaukee.  He will also be moving to the tougher league and will be facing brand new pitchers (or guys he has faced less) on a nightly basis. 

Third, Prince Fielder is a large, large man.  There have been numerous studies done that have shown his body type will obviously not age as well as a slimmer player.  The absolute pounding his knees, ankles and joints take on a daily basis will eventually begin to catch up with Mr. Fielder and the natural decline phase every player goes through could be a more extreme one for him.

In closing, every team in the league would love to add a big time bat to the heart of their order and indeed Fielder might even push some of those teams right into contention (Washington, Toronto, Miami to name a few) if they were close to making a competitive push in their respective divisions. 

The Tigers are not one of those teams, there division is horrendous and that $214 million could have been spent on various pieces that will be needed to remain competitive over the next decade.  It was an unnecessary but impactful signing and maybe the real moral of the story is Mike Ilitch (Tigers/Red Wings owner) is among a handful of owners in sports that is never afraid to make a big splash – no matter the cost.

Dave Cameron at Fangraphs summed it up nicely when he wrote:

“And, if they win a World Series during that time, it will be easy to live with the cost to the future of the franchise while throwing a parade. However, that argument can be used to justify signing any player to any sized contract, and shouldn’t be how teams operate. At some point, the cost begins to exceed any potential benefit you could reasonably expect, no matter just how desperate you are to win or how much you think a single player will help you.

Fielder will absolutely help the Tigers. He might even be enough to help them get to the World Series and perhaps take home a trophy. But, in reality, if the team had $214 million to spend this winter, they should have been in on Jose Reyes and C.J. Wilson, who won’t make as much between them as what the team just guaranteed Fielder. As I wrote yesterday, the Tigers definitely needed to make an impact move, but because they got stuck in a position where there was only one impact bat left on the market, they found themselves having to vastly overpay in order to get that improvement.

For Detroit’s sake, I hope they win a title in the next three years, because the franchise’s ability to compete long term just took a serious hit. Borrowing from the future to win in the present isn’t always a bad idea, but at these prices, the Tigers should have explored options.

The cost was simply too high.”

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Food for thought? Will the Jays kick tires on acquiring Prince Fielder?

Check out the new Toronto Blue Jays blog AL Eastbound & Down!

I was reading a piece at Fangraphs regarding Prince Fielder and his imminent departure from the Milwaukee Brewers in the offseason given the impasse between management and Fielder’s agent, the vaunted Scott Boras.  Rumours peg the asking price for Fielder’s next contract between 120-150 million over 6-8 years and I am not going to argue that a defensively challenged overweight first basemen is worth that type of long term investment because very clearly he is not and even more clear is the Jays would never be able to sign a player to that type of contract.

My argument today is that Alex Anthopoulos and the Toronto Blue Jays should at the very least inquire into the asking price (from the Brewers) to bring in the powerful left handed hitting home run machine for the 2011 season.  I am not sure what the cost would be but one would have to assume it would likely be fairly high and it could ultimately cost the team their top pitching prospect Kyle Drabek.  Although everybody is extremely high on this kid I think this could be a move worth considering.

Consider me a contrarian in the valuation of Drabek but I am not a huge buyer of his stock and I think his value will never be higher coming off a successful (at first glance) minor league season.  The 23 year old posted a 2.94 ERA in 162 ‘AA’ innings in 2010 allowing 126 hits, walking 68 and striking out 132 while improving his ground ball tendencies slightly.  Like I said, at first glance it appears to be one heck of a season for a kid his age.

But glancing beyond the shiny ERA there are some red flags underneath the surface in terms of future success, at least for me.  Drabek posted a pedestrian 7.3 K/9 (for a top rated pitching prospect) while his BB/9 rose to nearly 4 walks per nine (3.78 BB/9) giving him a mediocre 1.9 K/BB.  Drabek was slightly aided by a low BABIP (.260) and his FIP was a more telling number of his actual season, coming in at a respectable but not spectacular 3.87. 

Now you would have to be a fool to think he is even close to a finished product and chances are he will improve, and could possibly improve a lot but at this point I don’t feel the peripherals match the expectations or scream ‘future star’.  Not that every pitcher requires a strikeout an inning to be successful (think Halladay, Roy) but the minor league strikeout numbers for a young pitcher are normally one of the indicators of future success in the big leagues and I think the jury is out on Drabek developing into a true number one or two starter.

Another reason I wouldn’t be too hesitant if Milwaukee were warm to this type of deal is the Jays would be dealing 100% from a point of strength as they are currently fairly loaded with a plethora of major league ready arms under the age of 28.  Their current rotation is among the best in the game with Shaun Marcum, Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Brett Cecil and whoever they decide to slot in at the number five spot.  There is a chance Drabek never develops into the type of big league starter who is capable of usurping one of the top 4-5 starters the Jays currently possess and the more he is exposed at the big league level without a lot of success the more his overall value takes a dive.

Another motivation for a move like this is Prince Fielder would instantly give the Jays there first legit power threat at 1B since Carlos Delgado left town, no offense to Lyle Overbay but he is barely a league average bat at this point in his career.  Fielder will be entering his 27 year old season (historically one of a hitter’s best overall years career wise) and even with a slightly off year (for his standards) Prince has still been a beast in 2010.  Currently slashing 267/403/486 with 32 HRs, 80 RBI and a cool 106 BBs, Fielder has still managed a .388 wOBA and .218 ISO.  For those curious Lyle Overbay in 2010 currently has a .335 wOBA.

Fielder’s career slash line is impressive to say the least at 281/385/538, to go with a career .258 ISO and .389 wOBA.  Fielder has patience (career 12.9 BB %), power and could help energize a city that is slowly starting to come around on the young and promising Blue Jays.  I liken this situation to what Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s did when they traded for outfielder Matt Holliday at the beginning of 2009. 

The A’s hoped Holliday would be the answer for a moribund offense and place them squarely in contention in the AL West, however when it didn’t quite work that way, they flipped him again to St. Louis to recoup some of their losses in prospects (unfortunately they dealt Carlos Gonzalez to acquire him) though they could have just let Holliday (like the Jays could with Fielder) play out the season and leave in the winter and receive two highly valuable compensation draft picks for the next Amateur draft.

The A’s got unlucky that they dealt a big package of Carlos Gonzalez, Huston Street and Greg Smith and Holliday’s value took a hit (only due to playing in one of the worse offensive environment’s in baseball) but I have no doubt that Fielder would flourish at the Roger’s Centre in an improving and powerful Jays line-up.   I am not sure what the price would be but if it is only the cost of a player who is not a guarantee (say a Kyle Drabek) and a couple additional fringe prospects I might be intrigued.

Worst case scenario Fielder doesn’t put the Jays over the top in the AL East in 2011 and Kyle Drabek develops into an ace starter, seems unlikely but nothing in baseball is guaranteed.  However, the Jays would at least be able to start over with the two strong draft picks or attempt to flip Fielder to a contending team looking for a 2 month rental and regaining some of the lost youth and prospects it took to acquire the Prince.

On the flip side the potential upside to having one of the top young 1B/DH in your line-up for 162 games and rolling into Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park with another powerful left handed slugger is truly appealing.  Renting Prince Fielder for 2011 could be a win-win for the Toronto Blue Jays and I wonder if it has sparked any curiosity or interest within the Blue Jays brain trust and the wonder kid Alex Anthopoulos?

Join the ongoing conversation about the Toronto Blue Jays, trade rumours and the world of baseball at TWITTER, follow me @tdotsports1

The Jays would still need to address a longer term solution at third base (preferably not E5) although it doesn’t appear they have any real in-house candidates (Jose Bautista should remain in the outfield) and as much as I would love to see Adrian Beltre bring his magic glove and trusty bat (and strange quirk of killing any man who dares touch the top of his head!) the competition for his services will likely be fierce and I see the Boston Red Sox doing everything in their power to retain him.

A lot of my time is dedicated to playing in a simulation baseball league to which I am a co-founder (established in 1999) and a proud (and active) member to this day.  The league is run on ‘Diamond Mind Baseball’, the preeminent baseball simulation software which uses the player’s current stats (from previous full MLB season) and using the advanced game engine produces results for games and a season. 

I know there are a lot of simulation players out there, and more specifically a lot of DMB users and I have decided to construct a ‘Top 50 Most Valuable Simulation Players’ list for your enjoyment.  This will be similar to the extremely popular ‘Fangraphs Top 50 Trade Assets’ but I will tailor the list to the needs to simulation baseball players and more specifically to the parameters and setup of my particular league as it a fairly standard type of league.

My league has 16 teams (divided into 2 Leagues and 4 divisions of 4 teams), 40 players per roster and is set to the current ‘NL’ era (or atmosphere for stats, so it uses the NL team batting average, E.R.A and runs/game etc).  If I have lost you, sorry, a simple explanation is that we are the owners/GMs of ‘fake’ teams that play an entire season and postseason using the  most advanced ‘simulation’ software on the market. 

If you have never played in one, I highly recommend it, it forces you to become totally enamoured with the game of baseball when you are in a league like this and in turn you learn a ton about the game and it’s players as with 640 total players combined on our rosters, you need to know more than just the top 25-30 players in the game, you even need to know relief pitchers, backup infielders and a healthy knowledge of prospects is a must.

Join the ongoing conversation about baseball, DMB, simulations and leagues on TWITTER, follow me @tdotsports1

There are a lot of different aspects that DMB uses to churn out the results, and this list will be comprised of players who I feel are most valuable to the DMB world and not necessarily just the major leagues.  This list will be similar to the Fangraphs lists however this is not based on salary at all as our league has no salary cap or any vesting interest in what a player makes per season.  Age is going to play a factor but this list will not contain many pure prospects (think Mike Stanton) as we have a steep amount of drops at season’s end so production in the next 2-3 seasons is vital and will be a major factor in the overall rankings.  Youth is preferred of course, but if a player is still in or entering his prime he will still be ranked accordingly (think Pujols, Halladay).

Here are some of the factors I have taken into account based on my knowledge and experience with DMB:

Position, position, position:  Just like in real life, there is a huge premium placed on the catcher, shortstop, centre field and second base positions – not only for defense sake but there just aren’t as many solid players to fill those spots league wide.  This isn’t to say I will take Craig Counsell over Mark Teixeira but one has to factor in positional value (and scarcity) as well as the offensive contributions.

Defense:  DMB assigns a ‘defensive range’ rating (from PR to EX) and defense plays a big overall role in team success and keeping your pitcher’s ERAs as low as possible.  Like in real life, solid defenders are preferable to the stone handed fielders so don’t expect to see Adam Dunn on this list!

Versatility:  if defense is important, than versatility is huge as the more positions a player is rated the more valuable he is for the season, as long as he isn’t rated poor at most of them.  Also, players cannot play out of position in most leagues and are heavily penalized if one’s that allows this. 

Park factors:  DMB places an emphasis on home ballpark for the players, so a pitcher who is solid at Coors Field is going to be more effective than if he pitched at PetCo – Ditto for hitters, but reversed, of course.

Handedness:  For pitchers it is more beneficial to be right-handed as a southpaw can face a super stacked line-up of all righty hitters who have incredible splits vs. Lefties.  For hitters, I give a slight advantage to lefties (or switch hitters) as the league is normally loaded with right handed starters (for the above reason) who historically are tougher versus righties.

Age:   younger is preferred, but as we discussed players entering or in their primes are welcome additions to many rosters as you just want immediate productivity.  With no salary cap or salary structure in most leagues, there is no worry about arbitration, free agency or ‘super two statuses’.  Again, this doesn’t mean I am going to take Tim Hudson over Felix Hernandez regardless of how good a season Huddy is currently having, age has to be factored in.

Other general nuances:   over the years I have noticed ground ball pitchers with solid HR rates (i.e., low) tend to ‘sim’ better than the norm, and low-ish average/high on-base hitters tend to fare better than a high average/medium OBP hitter.  Kevin Youkilis will likely sim better than say Delmon Young as the low BB hitter is at the mercy of his BABIP, just like real life.   Some teams/owners might value a certain player or position more than another, just another factor that a list cannot totally encapsulate, plus this is for fun and entertainment also!

An everyday player is preferred over a pitcher, and a starting pitcher is preferred to a reliever (duh) so only one relief pitcher made the cut, and his future potentially lies in the starting rotation.  Pitchers are extremely volatile and injury prone and only eleven total pitchers made the Top 50 and one has recently been scheduled for TJ surgery and has effectively wiped out his entire 2011 season, lending even more credence to the above stated rule of thumb regarding the value of everyday position players.

There are of course many other factors that may come into play in a given season and some leagues might have different settings, rules that could affect a player’s overall value (like a strict salary system) but without further ado, here is the 2011 Simulation Baseball’s 50 Most Valuable Assets, starting with the also-rans, players who were just left off the list. 

There were a ton of great players who didn’t make the final cut and I could name 100s of players I like, here is a highlight of a few of the more interesting names left off:

Honourable mention:

SP Stephen Strasburg – though the phrase “Tommy John” doesn’t cause a massive coronary as it used to, the fact remains Strasburg will be going under the knife and will miss all of 2011 and who knows if he will be the same pitcher he was prior to this injury.  His injury has to be one of the biggest disappointments of the season in 2010, and I actually had my rankings finalized prior to his injury and he was close to cracking the top ten – what a shame.  Here’s hoping for a speedy and solid recovery.

SP Clay Buchholz – I still do not fully trust that Clay has ‘arrived’ despite a gaudy ERA (2.21) as his K rate has dropped again (has dropped every season in the bigs) to a pedestrian 6.2 K/9, his BABIP is unsustainable (.260) and his xFIP sits at a rather ordinary 4.19.  Still, nice to see he has finally put it all together for the BoSox in 2010.

 SP CC Sabathia – close, but his falling K rate and being a southpaw was the deciding factor, plus better options to choose from.

SS Jose Reyes – Another guy who must prove he can stay healthy and regain that patience he was starting to show at the plate, his declining defense and BB rate are worrisome however he is still young-ish and the position of shortstop is in sad shape.

RF Jay Bruce – Too many solid OFers to choose from, Bruce must continue to improve, but the power potential seems to be scratching the surface, hard to ignore minor league numbers and overall talent level.

1B Prince Fielder– tons of talent, but he plays an even easier position to fill (1B).

C Victor Martinez – yeah, catcher is that weak – and he is barely a catcher anymore.

3B Alex Rodriguez – what would a list be without A’Rod, however, given the better options ahead of him at 3B, his declining power production, his age and wonky hip A’Rod finds himself on the outside looking in.