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Friday, October 17, 2008

Werner Bros. Offseason Guide and Notes: Part II

In Part II of Brett's Offseason Guide he introduces his personal method of evaluating offseason acquisitions and comparing the gain/loss from player to player. Maybe Bill Smith should pay attention to this...

I’ve been trying to develop a very simple acronym for player evaluation (as a free agent signing, and to a lesser extent a trade). I call it CRAP. Each of these variables can be weighted based on team needs (making it specific to what a team might need at particular positions, or might have as constraints on salary). For instance, the Twins have contract/salary limitations far greater than the Yankees (who are often just operating on the RAP acronym), and while the Twins need a 3B or SS, the Yankees have those already (see A-Rod and Jeter) and would prefer starting pitching.

C = Contract Expectations (this includes both years and salary/year, along with bonuses/options)
R = Risk (injury risk is most important, but attitude is key, esp. for Twins: see Dukes or Bradley)
A = Age (players peak in their late 20s & often regress afterward, in addition to increasing cost)
P = Production (or Performance if you factor in defense—I use OPS as a good indicator here)

So this gives us CRAP, and whether you want to just use pluses and minuses, or positive and negative numbers, or even weights and positive or negative numbers, you can come up with a fair indication of whether your favorite team should sign a particular player. For instance, I was looking at free agents with high HR production in 2008 (on MLBTR), and I rated some hitters using CRAP.

Tex’s CRAP = -9 +6 +0 +9 = +6
Manny’s CRAP = -6 –5 –4 +10 = -5
Bradley’s CRAP = +2 –9 –1 +10 = +2
Dunn’s CRAP = -5 +4 +0 +8 = +7

Because all of these players could potentially DH, and the Twins could upgrade at DH (by trading at least one of, and likely two of Delmon, Kubel, Cuddyer, Gomez, or Span), I think all of these players are legitimate Twins for 2009. They range in terms of contract (lengthy and expensive for Mark Teixeira to short and expensive for Bradley given his risk), in terms of risk (Bradley is very risky for both injuries and attitude, and Dunn/Tex is less risky), in terms of age (Manny is getting old, but most are around or just past their likely peak years), and in terms of production (but given that I was just looking at very productive players, they’re quite homogeneous).

So, let’s look again at the Twins trade targets, using CRAP as a starting point. I then offer some additional insight into what a particular player’s presence might mean to the Twins (trading current players to open up spots or acquire players currently under contract, moving players into other positions, etc.)

Orlando Cabrera (Free Agent SS) RHB 721 (713 / 744) 705 (688 / 754)

CRAP = -15
C = +2 (if the Twins could get him for $30 over 3 yrs, but drops fast beyond that)
R = -5 (mostly on attitude rather than on injury—don’t like his attitude at all)
A = -7 (34 years old, a bit much for a starting SS with little chance to play other positions)
P = -5 (not that great on offense, defense is generally pretty good)

Other Notes: It could be that I’m being more harsh on the OC because of his attitude and batting, but if the Twins want someone with Cabrera’s production, why not sign Punto (better OPS in ’08 and as good in ’06, though perhaps not as consistent overall) who is better in the club house and as good at defense. I think this would be a major mistake on the part of Bill Smith, and I wouldn’t think it would be tough for him to see that. It also was very surprising to me that JoeC seemed optimistic and HowardS called him the people’s choice (though Sinker later redeemed himself by looking into Cabrera’s personality). See Furcal note under Hudson.

Adrian Beltre (1 year left on contract 3B) RHB 786 (779 / 806) 784 (704 / 994)

CRAP = +16
C = +5 (one year contract, while expensive is short—caution: see trades below)
R = +2 (little injury risk in one year)
A = 0 (29 years old, but having him for only one year )
P = +9 (great numbers, especially against LHP, and Gold Glove caliber defense)

Other Notes: The nice things about Beltre are he’s a power-hitting RHB with great defense we would only need to have him for a year (at $12million), and it would be a contract year before Free Agency (meaning he should produce, and that we would get draft picks if we lost him, likely as a Type A Free Agent). The difficult thing is that the Mariners will surely require a back of the rotation starter (MLB ready) for him, if not more (for only one year of Beltre). I’m guessing they would trade Beltre for Perkins/Boof/Buscher, but I may be off. If so, I’d do it (unless I could get Chris Davis). I’d guess that Beltre could give Morneau a rest at 1B with better results than Lamb in 2008.

JJ Hardy (Arb Elig Brewers SS) RHB 775 (716 / 938) 821 (764 / 977)

CRAP = +17 (SS) or +13 (3B)
C = +2 (under team control, but in arbitration years, would likely want to give him 4yr contract)
R = +3 (missed most of 2006 with an ankle injury, but solid aside from that)
A = +4 (26 years old)
P = +8 as a SS, or +4 as a 3B

Other Notes: He’s a RHB that can hit HRs and drive in runs. Probably the most important thing about Hardy is that he would be a good SS for another year or two, though may not be quite as good defensively as Everett or Punto, but could easily move to 3B any time and still has enough offensive production that it wouldn’t matter. The same cannot be said for Cabrera. Additionally, though Hardy’s price is starting to increase, he remains a good option from now until the end of his arbitration years, whether we want to buy out any of his free agent years with a contract or not. The downside of Hardy (like Beltre and Davis) is that he will require trades.

Orlando Hudson (Free Agent 2B) SWIT 779 (805 / 703) 817 (862 / 720)

CRAP = +4 or +2 depending on contract expectations
C = 0 (if we could get him at $32 over 4 yrs) or -2 (if $40 / 4yrs or $30 / 3yrs)
R = -2 (plays ~140 games/yr except for 2008 when he had season-ending wrist surgery)
A = -2 (31 years old)
P = +8 (good production for a middle IF, and Gold Glove defense)

Other Notes: If we pick Hudson up, it would be for his defense up the middle, along with good offense for a 2B. However, this would mean moving Casilla to SS (possibly to compete with Punto or others), which may work (it is Casilla’s natural position, but not one he has played much lately). The nice thing about Hudson beyond his production and defense is that we do not have to give up any trades for him. I could probably add Rafael Furcal to the list of middle infielders (much better SS option than Orlando Cabrera), but he’ll be out of our price range I think.

Casey Blake (Free Agent 3B) RHB 781 (765 / 823) 808 (803 / 823)

CRAP = -1
C = -3 (will be paying him free agent money, but he won’t be expensive for a FA)
R = +5 (seems good for 150 games, has been a Twin before, knows the ALC)
A = -6 (35 years old)
P = +3 (decent production)

Other Notes: I confess to not knowing what to say about Casey Blake except that he’s a good option and likely the kind of signing the Twins would do in the past (maybe slightly better). He is my lowest pick ask a 3B option of those addressed here. However, in a year when 3B options are limited, Casey Blake will have a number of suitors, and he’s a good player. I’d put a maximum offer of 2 years and $18 million and be comfortable with getting him for 2 years and $12million.

Here’s where it gets interesting…
Chris Davis (young Rangers 3B) LHB 952 in Minors 880 (866 / 916)

CRAP = +27
C = +10 (cheapest option available, under team control for cheap for a while)
R = +1 (Young, but unknown… if only I were a scout)
A = +9 (23 years old)
P = +7 (still unknown, but if his minor league numbers are any indication, along with his short MLB season, he should be quite productive).

Other Notes: Davis would be the least proven player out of those highlighted here—the youngest, with only 2/3 of a season in the majors. He’s another LHB to go with Mauer and Morneau, but he’s similar in age to Gomez and Delmon, would be cheap and available for a number of years, and has the potential to hit like a superstar (OPS of .952 in minors compares to Mauer’s .830 and Morneau’s .902). Even if he can’t stay at 3B forever and might need to be moved in a year or two to 1B (pushing Morneau to DH), a corner OF (following Cuddyer), or DH (pushing Kubel out of the picture), the Twins have options. The biggest problem is that according to some Rangers fans’ view, Davis is untouchable, which means trading for him would cost the Twins dearly (maybe Blackburn/Perkins, Boof, Duensing, Pridie, Robertson, and Valencia, maybe even a better package, perhaps with both Blackburn and Perkins, and maybe Boof and Valencia). But the good news is that the Twins and Rangers are trading partners made in heaven (Rangers with great and plentiful batting and troublesome pitching, the Twins with great and plentiful pitching and batting in need of a boost).

Adam Dunn (Free Agent Corner OF/DH) LHB 899 (931 / 833) 899 (951 / 773)

CRAP = +13
C = -6 (maybe -7 given he’s a free agent)
R = +7 (quiet, maybe not a vocal leader, but plays 155+ games/year)
A = +2 (29 years old)
P = +10 (out of the options we have to improve the team’s offense, Dunn is by far the best)

Other Notes: Dunn is going to require a contract much bigger than the Twins have given before, at least on par with Morneau and perhaps even more given that he’s a free agent around (or just passing) his prime. Dunn consistently hits 40 HRs (and I do mean consistently) and has 100 Runs Batted In. While he would be another LHB to go with Mauer and Morneau, his splits are good enough that it wouldn’t matter (he’s as good of a hitter as Morneau). He would offer the kind of protection to Morneau that Twins fans could only dream of in 2008. Landing him would likely mean trading Kubel and perhaps Delmon (to open up an OF/DH spot or two), but this could be addressed in other ways. He would likely add $16-18million per year to our payroll for 4-5 years (similar to Morneau). If we could get him for $64 over 4 yrs, he would be a steal I think. I might try for $75 over 5 years. Basically, if the Twins could move him to the DH (and part time OF) spot while keeping the young cheap guys (and Cuddyer) in the outfield, we could have the best of both worlds in production and defense.

Putting these options together, we have to make sure we don’t end up:
Getting Orlando Cabrera (I don’t like him)
Getting both Dunn and Davis (both great hitters, but both LHB, crowding the corners)
Getting both Hudson and Hardy (we should be able to cover one middle IF internally)
Getting Davis and Blake (both 3B) or Davis and Beltre, etc.

CRAP Summary
First of all, what do you think of the CRAP rating system? Is it helpful to you in making decisions about trades and free agents? There are two alternative formulations I’m considering. One is that you use CRAP for free agents (who require contracts) and TRAP for trade targets (where you have to give up players from your system). The second is a way of combining the two to make CRAPT. It is the same as CRAP but adds in T for Trades (players you’d lose to get the target player). In a way, this does even out some of the desirability of trade targets over Free Agents, and it might end up working.

T = Trade Equations (never positive unless you can get rid of another bad contract)
Davis = -9
Hardy = -5
Beltre = -6
Dunn = 0
Hudson = 0
Blake = 0
Cabrera = 0

CRAP Ranking (as done by me, but you should use the system and rank them yourselves):
Chris Davis +27
JJ Hardy +17 (SS) or +13 (3B)
Adrian Beltre +16
Adam Dunn +13
Orlando Hudson +4
Casey Blake -1
Orlando Cabrera -15

CRAPT Ranking
Chris Davis +18
Adam Dunn +13
JJ Hardy +12 (SS) or +8 (3B)
Adrian Beltre +10
Orlando Hudson +4
Casey Blake -1
Orlando Cabrera -15

Just as importantly as thinking of these CRAPT ratings is to think how another team views our guys and their ratings. This is a reason why Cuddyer, who is a good hitter (in ’06 and ’07) with a reputation for good defense (mostly just his arm) is a difficult player for the Twins to trade after we gave him a bigger contract than he was worth (at least so far—if he returns to ’06 levels in ’09, he’ll improve the contract’s worth).

How do your rankings compare? Who else do you include? Where would someone like Manny fit in? I’m guessing he’ll get a big contract over 4-5 years, that he’s an attitude risk (perhaps injury also, though he’s stayed in good health), he’s old, but he can hit. He might work at DH, but I would rather put my money on Adam Dunn.

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