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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Vince Gennaro: Justin Upton or Jason Kubel?

The Justin/Jason jeremiad…

It’s interesting to see that by my estimates, Justin Upton has a slightly greater differential than Kubel between his salary and his market value, when you look at it on an annual basis. Justin’s annual value of $15 million and relative to his $12.8 million in salary, leaves a $2.2. million spread, while Kubel’s value of $9 million compared to his salary of $7.5 million has a $1.5 million spread. The differences in their performance starts with their defensive abilities, as Upton is clearly the better defender. Offensively, one of the biggest differences between the two players is their strikeout rate. Kubel went down on strikes over 26% of his at bats in 2012, while Upton’s rate was 19%. This 7% differential means that over 600 at-bats, Upton will put the ball in play about 40 additional times, while Kubel goes down on strikes. Upton may also have greater upside due to his age, as he is just entering his prime.

In the end, the player demanded by a Diamondbacks’ trade partner may be determined by the amount of salary space the team has remaining in their budget. Kubel becomes the “value play”, while Upton is the higher risk (based on higher salary and longer term commitment) with a potentially higher reward. If often makes sense to look at the obligated costs of any signing. A team that acquires Kubel could spend as little as $8.5 million for a one-year commitment (which includes a 2013 salary of $7.5 million and a $1 million buyout for 2014), while Upton will cost a full $38.5 million over the next three years. If managing risk is the acquiring team’s goal, then Kubel may be their preferred choice.

Repoz Posted: December 29, 2012 at 05:48 AM | 14 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: business

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Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. Walt Davis Posted: December 29, 2012 at 07:27 AM (#4334109)
Not quite beer or tacos but for the right no-hit SS, you can have both!
   2. Spivey Posted: December 29, 2012 at 12:53 PM (#4334158)
I'd deal Andrus for Upton.
   3. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: December 29, 2012 at 12:55 PM (#4334159)
I thought the D-Backs got their no-hit SS from Cincy already. This should be a pitching for hitting deal. I'd send Teheran for either of those.
   4. Avoid running at all times.-S. Paige Posted: December 29, 2012 at 01:25 PM (#4334168)
The Yanks should totally be going after Upton.
   5. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 29, 2012 at 01:31 PM (#4334173)
The Yanks should totally be going after Upton.

Doesn't work with the 2014 "cap".

If their entire OF wasn't LH, Kubel would look nice on a 1-year w/option deal for RF/DH.

Theoretically they could add Kubel and a RH OF, but the roster gets crowded if/when ARod comes back.

   6. tshipman Posted: December 29, 2012 at 02:51 PM (#4334198)
No one has mentioned this, but how in the hell is Kubel worth 9 million per year?

Fangraphs has his WAR the last three years as 1.9, 1.0, and 0.3.
BBref has his WAR as 0.8, 0.5, and -0.5.

By both sites, he's a below average player over the last three years. He's 30 years old and projects to get worse. He's getting paid 7.5 million per year, which (if we use 5.5/WAR), means he has to put up around 3 WAR over the next two years to be worth it. He has zero surplus value, even if you use the Fangraphs numbers.

In addition, I would be very wary of any claim that below average players should be calculated at the same 5.5 mil/WAR number that we use for above average players. Someone who contributes 1 win above replacement is generally a guy in danger of losing his job, not having any kind of job stability.

Finally, teams seem to be evaluating Upton as a 5 win player. If you do that, he has massive surplus value.

I think this is a really bad article.
   7. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: December 29, 2012 at 03:59 PM (#4334226)
In addition, I would be very wary of any claim that below average players should be calculated at the same 5.5 mil/WAR number that we use for above average players. Someone who contributes 1 win above replacement is generally a guy in danger of losing his job, not having any kind of job stability.

Then why not use WAA?
   8. Darren Posted: December 29, 2012 at 04:11 PM (#4334230)
No one has mentioned this, but how in the hell is Kubel worth 9 million per year?


That was my thought as well, but in TFA, he explains that he's looking at what players tend to get, rather than what they are worth (sort of like discussing who will make the HOF vs who should). It's a short but interesting read.
   9. tshipman Posted: December 29, 2012 at 04:22 PM (#4334234)
That was my thought as well, but in TFA, he explains that he's looking at what players tend to get, rather than what they are worth (sort of like discussing who will make the HOF vs who should). It's a short but interesting read.


Yeah, but it's silly. He thinks that Upton would tend to get 15 million, but on the open market, it's quite doubtful that his salary goes below 20 (as can be seen by what the proposed trades look like). Similarly, is there any evidence that Kubel would be given a 9 million deal today? Everyone said that the 7.5 million base salary was an overpay for the D-Backs.
   10. booond Posted: December 29, 2012 at 05:03 PM (#4334244)
Kubel is a platoon DH masquerading as a fulltime player; Upton one of the most talented players in the game. AZ should move Kubel to whomever will give them a reasonable player and they should attempt to make up with Upton.
   11. valuearbitrageur Posted: December 29, 2012 at 08:09 PM (#4334331)
The genius of Kevin Towers was signing a $7.5M/year 1 WAR "left fielder"/DH to make the $500k/year 2 WAR LF the 4th outfielder so he could play him less.
   12. The Wilpons Must Go (Tom D) Posted: December 29, 2012 at 11:04 PM (#4334435)
This article is a lot of intellectual mumbo jumbo. It comes down to a 30 year old player who's value is way up over a year ago vs. a 25 year old star player coming off a bad year. Unless you're at a point where you just can't pay the extra $5MM, there is no comparison.
   13. Walt Davis Posted: December 30, 2012 at 03:27 AM (#4334521)
I thought the D-Backs got their no-hit SS from Cincy already.

Yes, but that was after getting a no-hit SS from the A's. I'm operating under the theory that Towers wants 7 no-hit SS, 8 if he can convert one to C, because the NL West is always won with pitching and defense.

Then why not use WAA?

I'm not sure what you were getting at here. But WAA is problematic over short periods of time because it doesn't account for playing time. A guy who's been average in 100 PA and a guy who's been average in 600 PA both have 0 WAA for the season.

So WAA is really only useful when comparing guys with roughly equal playing time. So it can be quite handy in evaluating bench players. For example, everybody likes to pick on little Nicky Punto. Punto has 3.7 WAR over the last 3 years ... but, controlling for playing time, that's 1.8 WAA. What more could you possibly want out of a bench player than for him to perform as well or better than an average player. You'd reach the same conclusion by just noting those 3.7 WAR come in just 645 PA but using WAA takes one less step.

For his career Punto has 1.4 WAA. That doesn't mean he's as good as David Eckstein (career 2.6 WAA in 5700 PA) nor necessarily that Punto deserves a starting job but it certainly means he's been a top bench player. His value of course is almost entirely defense, he's not a good choice to pinch-hit which limits his bench value a bit.

But, now me suspicious. It's hard to define bench players in PI but I did a search on "expansion era, min 2000 PA, PA<300*WAR (so above-average), at least 20% of games at each of 2B, SS, 3B. That turned up only 7 names, all starting 1985 or later. I thought it might be the "estimated/regressed Rfield" vs. the recent Rfield thing meant old school players couldn't make it ... but only a couple of these guys are relying solely on defense to make the list and the others are at least decent hitters for their position (i.e. hit about like a starting SS). And getting rid of the WAR/PA criterion only increses the list to 17 and nobody started before 1977. I suppose smaller pitching staffs may have meant fewer guys who backed up all three IF positions.

Velarde, Counsell, Carroll, Punto, M Izturiz, Grebek and Reboulet. Counsell, Punto and Reboulet are the pure defense guys ... and even they hit at least as well as Brendan Ryan, Adam Everett, Rey Ordonez, etc. Still I suspect something odd is going on in terms of timeline.

Yes, it's a Nick Punto hijack -- who saw that coming?

   14. Walt Davis Posted: December 30, 2012 at 03:36 AM (#4334525)
Ahh, drop it to 10% at each of three spots and you get 62 names with some back to 61 (expansion era). You rope in some starting players (Harrah, Franco, Phillips, Menke, Michael Young, etc). But you get Gallego, Graffanino, Naehring, Hairston, Uribe, Bill Hall, DeRosa -- good bench players all. The 2000 PA floor limits it to long-career bench players (or quick starting wipeouts).

Jerry Hairston Jr: -1.2 WAA over 7+ full seasons of PA (15 years), 100+ starts at 2B/SS/3B/LF/CF. He's had one full-time season and another three with 400+ PA. That's pretty much your perfect bench player.

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