Post-Christmas Hot Stove

Diamondbacks keep making deals

I’m not major league GM or high-level front office executive even if I wish I was, or I think I could do a better job, but I don’t think Kevin Towers is doing a great job. I thought that they gave up too much for Mark Trumbo, and I think they did it again. Trading a prospect that is projected to be an above-average hitter and an average defender at third base to get a “proven closer” is not the brightest of moves. I will say Addison Reed got better last year, but not good enough to warrant this deal. He gives up roughly fly balls at a 45% clip, which is 10% higher than the league average. Chase Stadium is a hitter friendly stadium that allows more triples and doubles that the average stadium, 81% and 6% respectively. I think Reed is going to struggle in a park with a bigger outfield, and he might be running to back up third and home more than anyone in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ organization wants. I could be really wrong about this, but I think Matt Davidson was too much for Reed.

Shin-Soo Choo signs with the Rangers

Shin-Soo Choo and his family at the Texas Ranger's press conference. (Photo Cred: Tim Heitman - USA TODAY Sports)

Shin-Soo Choo and his family at the Texas Ranger’s press conference. (Photo Cred: Tim Heitman – USA TODAY Sports)

Rangers are all aboard the Choo Choo Train! (yes, I think I am hilarious). The Rangers gave the OBP machine 7 years and $130 million on this new deal. He is definitely a good replacement for Nelson Cruz in right field, and with the influx of cash coming in from the new TV deals, I suspect the Choo deal will not look so ridiculous in a couple of years. Disregarding his 2011 down year, he has been a dominant offensive outfielder who can get on base at nearly a .400 clip. That includes his horrendous statistics against left-handed pitchers. He owns a .310 wOBA against left-handed pitchers, but in the past two years, it has been worse. In 2013 with the Reds, his wOBA against lefties was a mere .292, and with the Indians in 2012, it was only .282. According to Fangraphs, the site that creates and manages these advanced statistics, .310 is below average wOBA, but .290 and lower is classified as “Awful.” That will be Choo’s downside now, and it will only get worse as he ages and loses speed and hitting skills. If I am the Rangers, I hope I can fix it with some hitting instruction, but I am expecting it to be below average or worse. The Rangers are probably going to need a right-handed bench bat that can handle left-handed pitching someone like Jonny Gomes of the Red Sox. However, I think Choo will be elite against right-handed pitchers so it won’t be a big issue until they face David Price, CJ Wilson or Jon Lester in a big postseason game… then it will be a BIG issue.

Masahiro Tanaka gets posted

The next big thing is coming over from Japan. From Hideo Nomo to Ichiro to Hideki Matsui to  Yu Darvish, there have been stars that started in Japan, but with every star comes a bust like Daisuke Matsuzaka, among many others. Masahiro Tanaka seems to be built like a major league pitcher. The 6′ 2″, 205 pound right-handed pitcher has the build, but does he have the stuff? Well, he definitely has it for the Japanese league. Over the past 3 years, he hasn’t had an ERA over 2 with the highest being 1.87 in 2012. However, his K/9 has dropped by a strikeout each of those years as well, ending with a 7.8 K/9 in 2013. If that was done in the major leagues, it would have been considered above average, but in Japan, it doesn’t impress me that much. I would be a little worried about this guy turning into the elite pitcher that some people expect him to be. Some people expect him to be a star with his devastating splitter and hard fastball, but I would think of him as a number 2 on a good staff. If the Angels signed him, he would definitely be a number 2 behind Jered Weaver. That is probably my best comparison. I think some teams think that he will grow into a true number 1, like Darvish, but I would be wary. However, we’ll see when a team signs him.

Now for the teams that are vying for his services. With the new posting system between the Nippon Baseball League and Major League Baseball, multiple teams can negotiate with Tanaka if they meeting the 20 million dollar posting fee. The team that signs him will not get the posting fee back, while all the other teams will. Because of this new system, there will be multiple teams going after him, and I will classify them as Wild Cards, Sleepers, Inside Trackers, and Desperate Big Money Spenders. After giving a case for each, I will offer up my guess as to where he will end up.

Wild Cards

  • Los Angeles Dodgers
  • Philadelphia Phillies

I list these two teams because they truly are wild cards (and masters of karate and friendship for everyone).


Ruben Amaro Jr. could surprise and go get Tanaka, so they can add some type of youth. The Dodgers don’t really need him, but they have so much money they might just throw it at him and try to get ’em.

Sleepers

  • Chicago Cubs
  • Houston Astros (I’m not crazy, they were in on Shin-Shoo Choo)

The Cubs and Astros are in a similar position except the Cubs have more money. They are both rebuilding clubs that have completely almost complete tear downs and are now on an upward swing. They could each go after Tanaka for his potential, not what he is now. Maybe they bring him in and let him struggle and develop into the star they need. Then when these teams are ready to compete, sometime between 2015 and 2017, he’ll be ready to lead their staff on run to the World Series. I would say the Cubs have a better shot than the Astros, but the Astros could be like the Athletics with Yoenis Cespedes and spend a little bit more than usual.

Inside Trackers

  • Seattle Mariners
  • Texas Rangers

These are the two teams that have brought in the Japanese players before and should be looking to bring in Tanaka now. The Mariners have gone on a spending spree and should keep going if they want to contend this year. They have brought in plenty of Japanese talent and probably have the best inside track to signing Tanaka. The Rangers were the most recent team to bring in a Japanese star, Yu Darvish. They could use another starting pitcher to go with their rebuilt lineup. I would not be surprised to see them get into the action and try to bring another Japanese star into their rotation. They probably have an edge with Darvish being there and able to help Tanaka’s transition from Japanese to American culture.

Desperate Big Money Spenders

  • Los Angeles Angels
  • New York Yankees

This is easy. Both of these teams need pitching and have the spending power to just shove money in Tanaka’s face. I would suspect these are the two teams that lead the charge for Tanaka based on needs and money. The Angels’ only issue is if they sign Tanaka, they are going to continue to hurt their chances of signing Mike Trout. With Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton on the books for a long time, they might not want to put up a $20 million per year deal on the books.

My Prediction

 

Before I saw this tweet, I was going to say if the contract is lower than $15 million per year, he would be an Angel. Now that it appears he wants AT LEAST $17 million per year, I think he is a Yankee. No doubt about it. If I had to make a top 3 it would be this…

  1. Yankees
  2. Angels
  3. Mariners

Greg Danchik

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