Mastersball

Risky Business
Wednesday, 28 November 2012 00:00

Since the Marlins/Blue Jays blockbuster things have quieted down a bit. Teams are setting their 40-man rosters in advance of the Rule-5 draft. The non-tender deadline is approaching and next week, the Winter Meetings will be held and should be a source of some action.

Franchise Player

In the meantime, the Tampa Bay Rays quietly extended their corner stone player, Evan Longoria, to a ten-year contract extension.  The righty’s current contract did not run out until after 2013 and contained three option years. So, in order to even agree to this deal, the Rays picked up the 2014 through 2016 option years and the new contract does not actually begin until 2017 and continues through to 2022 with an option for 2023! Currently Longoria’s salary is actually quite manageable at $6 million for 2013 and does not eclipse the $10 million mark until 2015, so no fears of an albatross deal killing the payroll, for now anyway.

Longoria only just turned 27-years old this past October and this deal takes him through until just about 38 years of age (or slightly younger than Derek Jeter is now). Despite an injury that robbed him of some playing time in 2012, Longoria remains a dangerous hitter that combines solid plate discipline and power together to provide a legitimate .280+, 30+ HR threat. A steady fly-ball trend combined with growing HR/FB rates as Longoria enters his prime years is quite encouraging too.

The long-term concern will be Longoria’s ability to make consistent and hard contact. So far the righty has been a sub-20% strikeout rate player over the course of his career, but not by much. It is within the realm of possibility that as Longoria ages and as his bat speed fades, that the Rays could end up with a handsomely paid right-handed platoon player. While it is a factor worth monitoring, it is most likely an issue that would not even turn up in Longoria’s post-prime  years. For now, all systems go.

Second Chances

The Jays swooped in and handed a two-year, $16 M dollar deal to Melky Cabrera who will be eligible to play on opening day next season after serving a 50-game drug suspension. Obviously the deal is high-risk, but not when you consider that prior to the suspension Melky was perhaps looking at at least a 4-year deal, possibility in excess of $50 million dollars. So at $8 M per season, the move could be a bargain for the Jays provided the PEDs were not responsible for all that production.

With or without the PEDs, Cabrera’s 2012 campaign looks fluky particularly with respect to where he hit the ball. A 52.2% ground-ball rate and 26.1% fly-ball rate were both career highs and lows for the former Yankee. Meanwhile, his 10.7 HR/FB rate was also a career high.

So, regardless of PEDs, to me Cabrera was playing over his head and is due for a power regression. Good speed, line-drive hitting, and contact skills could allow Melky to still be a .300 hitter, but a 15+ HR campaign does not seem all that likely considering the context of the rest of his career.

Marlins Add a Veteran

The Marlins may have purged quite a bit of talent last week, but they realized they still needed to fill a team in 2013. Enter Juan Pierre who as of this moment who is slated to return to an everyday role after a one-year layoff (if you can call 439 plate appearances a layoff) as a bench player for the Phillies.

The book on Pierre really has not changed all since the former Rockie entered the league in 2000. The lefty still makes contact close to 95% of the time and maintains an excellent batting eye, walking almost as much as, if not more often then striking out. Pierre has always had a very good grasp of what his talents allow. Put the ball on the ground 50% or hit line drives. Putting the ball in the air only creates Willy “Mays” Hays outs.

A regression is likely considering Pierre’s spike to a nearly quarter of the time line-drive rate compared to a slightly lower career mark, but if given the opportunity another .290+ 35+ steal season is reasonable for the 35-year old.

Possible Closer
In what was hailed as one of the better moves last off-season, the Red’s signed closer Ryan Madson to a one-year deal only to end up in injury that necessitated Tommy John surgery before he threw a single regular season pitch. By the time the 2013 season begins, almost a year will have passed since the righty underwent the procedure and it is possible that the former Phillie could begin 2013 on the disabled listed, giving Ernesto Frieri at few more save opportunities

Madson’s new deal with the Angels is pending a physical evaluation and is likely a very heavily-incentive laden deal. Should the Angels fade from contention again, it could make Madson a very desirable mid-season trade target too. Prior to the injury, the 32-year old was considered a better option by some than even Jonathan Papelbon. When healthy, Madson combines excellent control, a mid-nineties fastball and a plus changeup that allow him to strike out more than a batter per ining.

Next week – Winter Meetings Coverage!

 

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