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— A Timely Look at Transactions as They Happen

Friday, November 17, 2006

Blue Jays - Signed the Big Hurt

Toronto Blue Jays - Signed DH Frank Thomas to a 2-year contract.

This contract is worth $18 million with a $10 million option for 2009.  I haven’t seen if there’s any buyout (if so, it hasn’t been mentioned).

I have mixed feelings about this signing.  It is very expensive for a guy who looked done physically before this season, but the free agent market is not the place to get great players at good prices; that’s what farm systems are for.  While I like Thomas and would like to see him have a couple more big years and put the padlock on his HOF entry (he should’ve been in already, but hey, writers are dumb), I think if the Blue Jays were going to overpay, it’d be better to overpay for a shortstop or Ted Lilly/another #3 starter.  There’s a good chance the Blue Jays will get a great deal and there’s a good chance that this contract will be a debacle.

2007 ZiPS Projection - Frank Thomas
———————————————————————————————————
          AB   R   H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB   BA   OBP   SLG
———————————————————————————————————
Projection   314 51   80   9 0 25 74 53 65   0 .255 .370 .522
2008       279 43   68   7 0 21 67 45 63   0 .244 .363 .495
2009       258 37   60   6 0 17 62 40 62   0 .233 .353 .453
———————————————————————————————————
Opt. (15%)  393 74 110 14 0 35 113 78 73   0 .280 .408 .583
Pes. (15%)  214 31   49   4 0 15 41 33 48   0 .229 .340 .456
———————————————————————————————————

 

Dan Szymborski Posted: November 17, 2006 at 06:53 PM | 34 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. DCW3 Posted: November 17, 2006 at 10:19 PM (#2240693)
Probably not a good sign when the optimistic projection still calls for fewer than 500 PAs.
   2. DCW3 Posted: November 17, 2006 at 10:20 PM (#2240694)
(And, I know, "ZiPS is not a playing time projector.")
   3. Dewey, Crackpot and Soupuss Posted: November 17, 2006 at 10:26 PM (#2240699)
Even that pessimistic projection has him as pretty productive when playing, though.

He's probably overpaid by a bit, but to that, I say kudos to him.
   4. Johnny Tuttle Posted: November 17, 2006 at 10:58 PM (#2240736)
It's very hard for this Jays fan to have an opinion of this deal:

1. It's early in the off-season, but already all indications are that deals this year will be big, long, and lucrative. Without seeing the end result, it's hard to know whether or not JP miscalculated on this (reportedly the Rangers were offering something similar, too).

2. It's hard to know whether or not Thomas's injuries are a thing of the past. It's possible he's fully healthy again. Or maybe not. I would hope that Jays doctors gave him the old 1-2 first.

3. Without a big bopper at DH, you aren't winning the AL easily, especially when Giambi is the Yankees DH and Ortiz the Sox (the teams most directly in the way of the Jays playoff berth).

4. My memories of this cat are of a sure fire HoF talent. I'm sure I still overrate his current abilities (a la my still thinking Maddux is a desirable SP).

5. It's hard to know the Jays' final budget on players for 2006. If it's closer to $100 million than not, then this does leave room for a better than average middle infielder, Zaun, a decent backup C (JP's true niche), and pitching help. If it's not, hello Aaron Hill, Chacin, .....
   5. Johnny Tuttle Posted: November 17, 2006 at 10:58 PM (#2240739)
Sorry, by that last line, which isn't the clearest, the Jays will be gambling that they make leaps.
   6. Dixiechick Posted: November 18, 2006 at 05:54 PM (#2241128)
Thomas may end up being paid $18.5 million for 2006 - $.5 million by Oakland, and $18 million by Toronto.

This is a terrible risk to take for a team that needed to spend the money on a shortstop. Ricciardi traded away the two he inherited (Lopez and Izturis) for a couple of flop righthanders (Jason Arnold and Luke Prokopec) then burned his first-round draft pick in the flush 2002 draft on a flop shortstop who can't field or hit (Russ Adams)and then used his 2003 first round pick to draft another shortstop who can't field the position at the major league level (Aaron Hill).

Given that JP's only means of talent aquisition so far has been either to inherit it from the previous regime or overpay in the free agent and trade markets, I would think that the only way he can replace the shortstops he's traded away is to overpay either Lugo or Gonzales. Overpaying Frank Thomas instead looks like a huge risk if JP's seriously thinking of running Aaron Hill out there again to prove he can't field at shortstop.
   7. TVerik, the gum-snappin' hairdresser Posted: November 18, 2006 at 05:59 PM (#2241130)
eve, what would you say if you were told that Riccardi signed Thomas to be the SS?

*sticks out tongue*
   8. Andrew Edwards Posted: November 18, 2006 at 10:56 PM (#2241239)
No, no. Thomas is going to be the #3 starter. Zaun will play SS, and Burnett will DH.
   9. Rough Carrigan Posted: November 18, 2006 at 10:56 PM (#2241240)
How good will it be for Frank's feet to be pickin' 'em up and puttin' 'em down on that nice hard Skydome surface. (I know the name's changed. I don't care)
   10. If theres a bunt w'all remember twas back in ol 92 Posted: November 18, 2006 at 11:13 PM (#2241249)
The surface has changed too
   11. Paul D(uda) Posted: November 19, 2006 at 12:37 AM (#2241277)
then used his 2003 first round pick to draft another shortstop who can't field the position at the major league level (Aaron Hill).


JP has already announced that Hill will be the SS next year, and that he's looking for a second baseman. Hill looked fine at SS in 2005 (granted it was only 16 games). I think he'll be fine there. Maybe not as good as he'd be at 2b, but he'll be fine. Surely as good as Gonzalez, and maybe as good as Lugo.
   12. Gaelan Posted: November 19, 2006 at 02:42 AM (#2241321)
Anyone who thinks that spending 14 million over three years on Gonzalez is better than signing Frank Thomas is out of their mind. Playing Hill at SS is the kind of flexible thinking that the Blue Jays do all the time. There are more 2B available than SS so this only makes sense. Sure it's risky but the Blue Jays are never going to beat the Yankees and the Red Sox by playing it safe.

While the drafts having been great, JP has been very good on the trade and free agent market. The criticism are misplaced by those with an irrational hate.
   13. Shock Posted: November 19, 2006 at 03:11 AM (#2241326)
Dan,

The way I understand it, Glaus had one of those special NTC's that named Toronto, and he agreed to waive it only if JP promised him he'd play 3B. He was not interested in DHing, from what I remember.
   14. Dr. Vaux Posted: November 19, 2006 at 03:13 AM (#2241328)
They could also still have David Bush and a cheap-but-productive 1b instead of Lyle Overbay. That was a head-scratcher to me.
   15. baudib Posted: November 19, 2006 at 03:19 AM (#2241330)
J.P. sucks. He just blew their best chance to make the postseason.
   16. Gaelan Posted: November 19, 2006 at 03:39 AM (#2241336)
They could also still have David Bush and a cheap-but-productive 1b instead of Lyle Overbay. That was a head-scratcher to me.


David Bush is a good pitcher but his homerun raters, already high in Milwaukee, would be astronomical in the Skydome

J.P. sucks. He just blew their best chance to make the postseason.


A few years ago I used to read your posts at the diamond legends boards. You'd write well reasonaed, well thought out posts and I'd always make sure I read them. Now you just write stupid thing after stupid thing, in thread after thread, without even bothering to justify your view. What happened?
   17. BTF's left-wing cheering section (formerly_dp) Posted: November 19, 2006 at 05:41 AM (#2241377)
JP has been very good on the trade and free agent market.

Really? He's dealt away a lot of talent w/out getting a lot in return. The Frasor trade has turned out well, and the Lilly trade did as well, but that only made up for the fact that he got a crappy player for Stewart. He dealt 2 all-star SS- neither of whom had to be dealt, both of whom were very young, cheap and under their control for the next several years.

His FA signings have basically been disasters, with the exception of Cat and Ryan. Koskie and Batista are probably the biggest examples of this. Burnett it's too soon to call, but he was predictably injured for a portion of the season. The explosion in salaries this year could make the Burnett move look like a steal in the long run, but Burnett has that out clause.

A lot of talent has stagnated and failed to develop under his watch- I'm thinking of the pitching here- League was screwed with for a year.

I don't hate JP at all, but I have grown tired of the arrogance he continues to display despite his failures. Beane I can understand it with because he actually wins, and I actually think JP is cockier than Beane.
   18. John Lowenstein Apathy Club Posted: November 19, 2006 at 06:29 AM (#2241398)
What I always get a kick out of is that everyone hates Ricciardi for a different reason, pretty much all of which mutually contradict each other. Some critics point to his poor drafts, while other blame him for trading away good young players he drafted for established players. Others decry him for spending lavishly on big-money free agents, while other assail him for being too cheap. Dan found a new one... that he's somehow got an itchy trigger finger with talent - which directly contradicts a frequent complain in Toronto that he's too loyal.

It's also fun watching people tie themselves in knots trying to convince themselves that a team can make themselves worse by signing Frank Thomas. Look, I agree that in an ordinary situation, a good-hitting team with no catcher, no set shortstop and a shallow rotation that spends $18 million on an injury-prone DH is not allocating resources well. This is not an ordinary situation... the weakest positions in this free-agent market are catcher, shortstop and starting pitching. So I think it's defensible (given that there are a lot of dollars out there to be spent, setting the market early is not a bad thing).

Let me put it this way... if you line up all the free agent hitters in terms of RC27 last year, Frank Thomas finishes first - and he played in the tougher league. I do think that the Jays just signed the best hitter on the market. I know he has durability issues, but that's irrelevant to a team in the Jays' position, who can't play it safe because they are seriously outgunned by two divisional rivals. (My main criticism of JP is also one that's contradicted by many others... I think he usually plays his cards much too conservatively. That's why I like this signing - it shows a willingness to gamble).

It can't possibly be a terrible move, at any time, for a team to add the best hitter available.

Finally...

They could also still have David Bush and a cheap-but-productive 1b instead of Lyle Overbay.

I must have a case of the stupids tonight, because I can't imagine who this first baseman could possibly be. At any rate, I assure you I don't know a single Toronto fan - and I know hundreds - who has any complaints about Overbay (and I loved Dave Bush).
   19. John Lowenstein Apathy Club Posted: November 19, 2006 at 06:40 AM (#2241405)
His FA signings have basically been disasters, with the exception of Cat and Ryan.

Towers, Myers, Bordick, Zaun, Downs, and Molina worked out OK.

Batista's deal was actually pretty damned fantastic. If anyone forgets, the Jays got him as a FA for a 3-year, $13.1 million deal and he turned in one year with 198 innings and a 101 ERA+, then an OK year as a closer (31 saves, 109 ERA+, shakier than his numbers but not really bad enough to lose his job), then was traded with Hudson for Troy Glaus and gave Arizona a good year last year as a starter (206 innings and 104 ERA+). That's good value, even if it didn't quite deliver what some of us hoped.

Look, I don't need to defend him (and I hate defending him, because he pisses me off a lot) but the lengths people go to to stretch and distort his indifferent record into something terrible - it's absurd.
   20. John Lowenstein Apathy Club Posted: November 19, 2006 at 06:47 AM (#2241410)
Back to Hurt, if it's true that one of Sarge Lite or Juan Pierre is getting 3/30 from the Jints... that tells me a lot about this market. Also, I wanted to figure out if Thomas or JD Drew was more injury prone and I picked a five-year backstory at random (maybe I shouldn't have, because Thomas missed a whole season in '01 just before that period). Big Hurt has 2284 PA and 546 games over that time, Drew has 598 games played and 2374 PA, so Drew is in fact more durable.
   21. Walt Davis Posted: November 19, 2006 at 08:01 PM (#2241582)
It can't possibly be a terrible move, at any time, for a team to add the best hitter available.

"Terrible" maybe not. But "bad idea", it certainly can be.

Frank Thomas _has been_ the best hitter in the past. But he will be 39. Look at that ZIPS projection for 2008 (when he's 40) -- not very promising even if he is "healthy".

The upside is probably a about 1.5 seasons of what the A's got -- and $18 M for that is not a bad deal. The downside is nothing for $18 M. There's a good chance they'll get about 1 season of a league-average DH for $18 M. The middle ground is probably something like 100 games of 2006 Thomas and 100 games of league-average DH and that's not worth $18 M.

Here's an interesting comp for you. From age 30 on, Moises Alou has played 1230 games, over 5000 PA and had an OPS+ of 132. Frank Thomas has played 1020 games, about 4300 PA and had an OPS+ of 137. Alou is one year older. Sounds like the Mets are about to get Alou for about 1/$9 plus an option (possibly vesting). If I were looking for a DH, I'd prefer that contract to the Thomas one. (And if you're wondering, Thomas has not had a major advantage in OBP -- 393 vs 377 -- and their EQAs look to be pretty similar over that time too though I assume Thomas has some advantage there as well)

In case it's not obvious, a 1/$9 gamble on Thomas seems fine to me; 2/$18 is asking for trouble. And for clarification, I like the idea of signing Alou as a DH, not so keen on signing him as an OF.
   22. The Mighty Quinn Posted: November 19, 2006 at 09:07 PM (#2241609)
The obvious weakness with Walt's argument is that an established player like Alou is quite willing to take a one year reduced salary with a team like the Mets for a shot at a ring.

Toronto not exactly in the same boat, has to go long, 2 years( with a third year option)to compete, and yes, given their division, they have to push the envelope.

Too many people on this board tend to compare apples with oranges.
   23. The Mighty Quinn Posted: November 19, 2006 at 09:36 PM (#2241625)
It also needs to be pointed out that Alou is a Type A free agent, requiring the signing club to give up a potential draft choice. Thomas is a Type B, no compensation from the signing team required.

Like I said, apples and oranges.....
   24. Jason Robar Posted: November 19, 2006 at 11:58 PM (#2241765)
He dealt 2 all-star SS- neither of whom had to be dealt, both of whom were very young, cheap and under their control for the next several years.


I can understand the shots at Ricciardi for dealing Lopez, but Cesar Izturis? Really? Other than 2004, Izturis is basically a slightly better version of John Macdonald. And 2004 was such a great year offensively for him that he put up a 88 OPS+.

The Izturis deal was a good one at the time - they had Lopez who was the shortstop of the future, and they could use some major league ready arms. That it ended with no return because Prokopec blew out his arm doesn't change the evaluation that much.
   25. Johnny Tuttle Posted: November 20, 2006 at 12:14 AM (#2241778)
JP drafted neither shortstop.
   26. Johnny Tuttle Posted: November 20, 2006 at 12:17 AM (#2241781)
And like I said earlier in the thread, if this move prevents JP from filling in 2B (Kennedy?), C (Zaun, Zaun, Zaun, pretty please), and SP (Lilly), sure, it's bad.

But if this is in budget, I like it. This isn't spreading that $ over two players: SS and Shea, anyone? As the team fills in, he's able to pay or overpay for what he truly needs. That just means fewer and fewer gaping holes.

JP has truly done well signing catchers and relievers. He's done ok with SP if Burnett's a success.
   27. BTF's left-wing cheering section (formerly_dp) Posted: November 20, 2006 at 02:03 AM (#2241863)
JP drafted neither shortstop.

He drafted Adams and Hill because he dealt both Izturis and Lopez. SS has been a problem since he took over. Prokopec was a suspect prospect from day one. Izturis was very young when JP dealt him, as was Lopez. Both players had been promoted too aggressively by Ash (Izturis to pressure Gonzalez and Lopez to fill the 3B hole) and were young enough that significant improvement could've been expected. And they were cheap. You might not think Izturis is anything great, but he looks like a better player than Russ Adams, plus he'd at least hit for average at AAA at a very young age (showed some speed as well).
   28. John Lowenstein Apathy Club Posted: November 20, 2006 at 05:48 AM (#2241994)
He drafted Adams and Hill because he dealt both Izturis and Lopez. SS has been a problem since he took over

SS would have been a damn sight worse a problem if he'd kept Izturis and Lopez, since Izturis can't hit and Lopez is a pretty awful shortstop.

They might actually have kept Lopez anyway and lived with his defensive shortcomings, but Lopez had some pretty extreme personality/character issues and it was clear that he wasn't going to work out in Toronto. But I agree generally that his not solving the shortstop situation has been the most annoying of Ricciardi's shortcomings so far.

if this move prevents JP from filling in 2B (Kennedy?), C (Zaun, Zaun, Zaun, pretty please), and SP (Lilly), sure, it's bad.

It would be bad if that were the case, yes. Indications are that it won't, and that a second baseman, catcher and #3 starter are still on the shopping list. We'll know better whether this was a good idea once March rolls around.
   29. BTF's left-wing cheering section (formerly_dp) Posted: November 20, 2006 at 06:10 AM (#2242005)
They might actually have kept Lopez anyway and lived with his defensive shortcomings, but Lopez had some pretty extreme personality/character issues and it was clear that he wasn't going to work out in Toronto.

Lopez fell in with Mondesi and picked up some bad habits. But bad habits are correctable- lack of talent isn't. JP could've stuck with Lopez for the next 5 years, warts and all, and he would've been a cheap but flawed player. It would've kept him from spending two first round draft picks on the position...

Teams with enough offense can live with an Ordonez-style SS too, especially ones as reliant on the ground ball as the Jays look to be. The drafting of Hill and Adams, and JP's first few drafts where they took college-aged, low-upside players who were nearly ready meant that the team had to go out and get some power hitters. That may have been a short time strategy that they're over now- Snider looks great, and we'll see where things go this summer, esp now that they're getting picks for Cat and Spier.
   30. NBarnes Posted: November 23, 2006 at 11:58 PM (#2244830)
I didn't like this signing a week ago. I felt that Toronto was taking 80% of the risks Oakland took with 20% of the protections. After the Soriano, Matthews, and Pierre contracts, that sensation has lessened, though it still seems risky.
   31. John Lowenstein Apathy Club Posted: November 25, 2006 at 04:34 AM (#2245339)
Again, for the Jays, risk is good. The Jays (and most AL teams) need more risk, not less.
   32. Johnny Tuttle Posted: November 25, 2006 at 01:56 PM (#2245461)
Given that somewhere around 8-10$ million a year is this year's norms, I've quickly adopted number of years of commitment as a way to judge deals. This does make Thomas's signing look hella better.

So far I'm thinking Alou is the best deal of the off-season, with Frankie Cat and Wood being right behind.
   33. Andrew Edwards Posted: November 27, 2006 at 03:39 PM (#2246425)
Johnson
Overbay
Wells
Glaus
Thomas
Rios
Hill
Catcher TBD
2B TBD

Teams have won World Series rings with lesser lineups.

Halladay
Burnett
#3 starter TBD
Innings eater TBD
Schmuck TBD

The season is going to depend on that #3.

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