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Transaction Oracle
— A Timely Look at Transactions as They Happen

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Royals - Signed Mays and Sanders

Kansas City Royals - Signed P Joe Mays to a 1-year, $1 million contract; signed OF Reggie Sanders to a 2-year, $10 million contract.

Allard, I think you misunderstood what econoguys have been saying about the value of marginal wins in baseball.  When they say that the marginal revenue of wins 85-95 is very, very high, they’re talking about a single season, not two.  The Royals are spending a lot of money to try to hit 65 wins.  You can’t fix the Royals by randomly signing lesser free agents any more than you can fix your car’s engine by only driving downhill.

Reggie Sanders is a contributor to a winning team, but his role is with one of those 85 win teams that needs to plug a hole, not a team looking to turn around their fortunes.  The last thing the Royals need are injury-prone 38-year-olds, no matter how good.

Joe Mays can also contribute to a winning team, but I’m thinking more of a team in the New York-Penn League.  He wasn’t really all that good even when he was good - both Setherton and Victor Santos are almost certainly better pitchers than Mays and the Royals were content to give them minor league deals and lose them in rule 5, not million dollar salaries.

2006 ZiPS Projection - Joe Mays
————————————————————————-
W   L   G GS   IP   H   ER HR BB SO   ERA
————————————————————————-
5 10 29 23 136 169   83 19 39 47 5.49
————————————————————————-

 

2006 ZiPS Projection - Reggie Sanders
————————————————————————————-
AB   R   H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB   BA   OBP   SLG
————————————————————————————-
368 55   91 19 2 18 62 30 85   0 .247 .306 .457
————————————————————————————-

Dan Szymborski Posted: December 24, 2005 at 05:40 PM | 22 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. DCW3 Posted: December 24, 2005 at 08:23 PM (#1793073)
That projection for Sanders seems awfully low--especially since there's no way he's not going to have a single stolen base. (Excluding his cup of coffee in 1991, he's had at least 13 every year of his career.)
   2. 6 - 4 - 3 Posted: December 24, 2005 at 09:11 PM (#1793130)
Yeah, that SB projection of zero looks like an error, but the rate stats look around what you would expect for a good-but-not-great corner outfielder heading into his age 38 season. Maybe 20 points higher across the board on BA/OBP/SLG--but that's about it. The basic premise of the Oracle entry holds true, I think: the addition of Sanders does not appreciably improve Royals' offense.

$1M is more than I would guarantee Mays, but it's defensible: it's only one year at about three-times the league minimum. If Mays somehow puts together a strong first-half, he's an excellent commodity to have to trade. I wouldn't expect much out of him, but he's a much better value than Sanders at $10M/2yrs.
   3. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: December 24, 2005 at 09:26 PM (#1793147)
I'm okay with the Mays signing. Its a low risk, relatively high reward deal that I wish the Royals would make more often. At best, you've got a 200 IP 12-14 win guy, at worst you've got the second coming of Jose Lima, except you're only out $1 million this time.

The Sanders deal is okay, but I'm not thrilled about it. I'd rather have Rondell White at 1 year $3.5 million or even the Encarnacion deal.
   4. Walt Davis Posted: December 24, 2005 at 10:41 PM (#1793289)
Apparently ZIPS believes that stuff about Sanders even/odd years. :-)

Seriously Sanders is probably one of the harder guys to project this year. But I'm glad to see him making some real money for a change because I've always liked him and he's always been such a good bargain. If I were a Royals fan, I'd much rather this was a one-year deal.

But I won't lecture Baird on how to improve this team because it sure looks like a lost cause. Normally, I'd say play the kids but, with maybe a couple exceptions, the kids don't appear to be ready and the farm system doesn't look that strong anyway. Playing the kids could be the 2003 Tigers. But the Royals don't have the payroll (or won't pay the payroll) to add enough decent vets to be the Pirates. This seems a seriously screwed up franchise that won't be good for a long time and only if they start drafting and developing well. Until then, things will be ugly unless there's a major infusion of cash.
   5. robinred Posted: December 24, 2005 at 11:07 PM (#1793333)
FWIW, Bill James, in HBT, said that the Royals needed to sign some average vets to stabilize the team--a "scafffolding" he called it.

Davis' reference to the 43-119 Tigers is appropos.
   6. Walt Davis Posted: December 25, 2005 at 12:06 AM (#1793377)
FWIW, Bill James, in HBT, said that the Royals needed to sign some average vets to stabilize the team--a "scafffolding" he called it.

of course James recommended they sign Jose Lima. :-)

"Scaffolding" is perfectly fine as long as (1) you sign some decent players; (2) you're not blocking any kids; and (3) you have some legit prospects on the way.

The Royals have done only so-so on the first part. Sanders and Grudz are decent, maybe even above-average, players. Minky and Bako are among the worst at their positions. Mays and Elarton are not good pitchers and neither is a good bet to give you a lot of innings, though I suppose they both project to at least be a little better than Lima.

Meanwhile, putting my faith in Dan, adding these players seems to have cost the Royals nearly as much talent as they've gained (see his comment above about players lost plus Matt Diaz and others commented on in his "magic beans" post).

On (2), they seem to have done OK. Grudz vs. Gotay is one question mark here and it's just a 1-year contract and if Gotay tears it up, Grudz shouldn't be hard to trade and get something decent in return. The bigger one is probably Minky vs. Huber -- even though Minky might be the more valuable player in the short-term due to defense, the gap between he and Huber doesn't seem big enough to justify this decision. Still, it's a one-year contract and Minky has had a couple decent seasons in his life. I don't think they will be able to trade Minky anywhere (unless he hits), but that's why god created the waiver wire.

(3) is the real problem. The Royals appear to need scaffolding for a long time but will, apparently, be scraping the bottom of the FA barrel every year. This does appear to be a 65-win plan. That's better than the 2003 Tigers, but at least those Tigers had the "excuse" that all their payroll was tied up in Easley, Palmer et al, bad decisions made years before. The Royals have Sweeney, who is still a productive player and who probably could have been moved at last season's deadline if they'd wanted. The rest of their payroll is guys who are bad, albeit short-term, decisions now.

But, to be clear, I'm not pretending I could do any better given this starting point. No matter who the GM might be, it's hard to see how they could keep the Royals from stinking for at least the next 3 years. Baird deserves to lose his job not because of what he's done this offseason but because he's put the franchise in this impossible position. At least Chuck LaMar had some good drafts.
   7. Dan Szymborski Posted: December 25, 2005 at 03:37 AM (#1793458)
The Devil Rays could use scaffolding - enough veteran pitchers to make use of the offensive talent in the system while they try to develop their own pitching talent.

The Royals don't need scaffolding. They're a building with a bad foundation in quicksand. Repairing the rest of the building doesn't do a damn thing.

Reggie Sanders, when he's playing well, is a valuable contributor. But he's also a 38-year-old outfielder. Sanders does nothing for the team's future. He's not a name - nobody ever gets fans or credibility from signing Reggie Sanders. He's not going to push the Royals to a single meaningful win while he's with the team.

Even if we accept for the sake of argument that Reggie Sanders has a better mean projection for 2006 than Matt Diaz, if Matt Diaz succeeds and develops into a fine player, they still get 5 years of his services, all below market value. Reggie Sanders is going to be playing golf in 5 years.

Every signing that the Royals should make should be a signing that, if successful, helps the Royals win games that matter.
   8. peter21 Posted: December 25, 2005 at 04:56 AM (#1793494)
Maybe Allard is actually very smart, and is going to trade every single guy he signed for 1-2 decent prospects in July. That'd certainly be the first step towards fixing this franchise (and, frankly, I'm surprised more down-trodden teams without futures don't try this---I mean you, Pittsburgh!)
   9. spycake Posted: December 25, 2005 at 08:22 AM (#1793559)
Every signing that the Royals should make should be a signing that, if successful, helps the Royals win games that matter.

Games that matter? They may never make another signing again... I'd say even a Tony Pena-style quick start or run-at-.500 could be games that matter for the Royals franchise. That said, I do agree that Mientkiewicz and Bako were strange moves, and would it kill them to sign a decent free agent who's under 35 years old?
   10. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: December 25, 2005 at 04:34 PM (#1793600)
"He wasn't really all that good even when he was good..."

I'm going to have to disagree with you here, Dan. 233 innings with a 143 ERA+ is plenty good in my book.

He's not likely to see it again, of course, but even so he was better than you're giving him credit for being.
   11. Dan Szymborski Posted: December 25, 2005 at 04:40 PM (#1793604)

I'm going to have to disagree with you here, Dan. 233 innings with a 143 ERA+ is plenty good in my book.


If Mays is a unique player that can hold batters to a BABIP *50 points* below league average as he did that year, then sure.
   12. Walt Davis Posted: December 25, 2005 at 10:59 PM (#1793826)
If you've read this far and are like me, I bet you wish you'd saved time by skipping my #6 and going with Dan in #7.

Maybe Allard is actually very smart, and is going to trade every single guy he signed for 1-2 decent prospects in July.

A perfectly fine, but risky strategy. And it shows how poorly Baird seems to have done. Who's going to give you anything for Minky? Yes, some team might want a defensive replacement at 1B for the stretch drive, but they're not gonna give you anything for him. Some teams might feel they need a 5th starter, but if Elarton and Mays are sitting there with 5.40 ERAs and have either been on the DL half the season or are struggling to top 5 IP per start, whatch gonna get. Even one of the potentially decent players like Sanders is signed for 2007 already and if the other team is gonna take that salary on, they're not gonna want to give you much in return. Grudz is the only guy here who looks to me to have decent trade value come July.

Now I suppose that by random chance, at least 1 of Minky/Elarton/Mays/Sanders is likely to play well enough to bring something in return.

Anyway, I really don't think this is a "strategy" followed by any teams nor do I think it would be a good strategy. Teams don't sign players for the purpose of trading them later that season, they sign players because they think they improve the team. Paying a few million to a marginal/average player in hopes that halfway through the season you'll be able to trade him to one of the teams who doesn't want him now and get something useful in return? Obviously it happens, but it's not tenable as the central goal of a strategy. Trading them and getting something in return is a fallback, "if things don't work out" position.

And in this particular case, are you gonna get a better player than Matt Diaz back? And has Baird ever been able to successfully execute this strategy? Even trading prime, Royals-developed/matured players like Dye, Damon, and Beltran hasn't returned substantial talent to the Royals ... maybe some due to bad luck, some due to sheer stupidity. I guess he's done better lately getting Denny Bautista and Justin Huber. But other than those possibilities, Roberto Hernandez might be the best player that Baird has ever traded for.
   13. Walt Davis Posted: December 25, 2005 at 11:02 PM (#1793829)
A perfectly fine, but risky strategy.
Anyway, I really don't think this is a "strategy" followed by any teams nor do I think it would be a good strategy.

Well, you know what I meant. :-)
   14. robinred Posted: December 26, 2005 at 12:44 AM (#1793899)
James was talking mostly about pitchers, more than about position players. I think, like Davis says, going through a by-the-numbers question approach is the way to look at a bad team signing a vet, rather than just assuming that you should not sign any vets if your team sucks. "Games that matter" can mean more than just "games that are played in the context of trying to get a playoff berth." In developing young guys, there are issues of confidence and stability to be considered--particularly in regards to developing pitchers. So, if Grudzielanek was signed to stabilize the defense, and Mays and Elarton were signed to provide innings while young Ps break in in long relief and/or AAA, I think these are reasonable decisions. Baird may believe Bako will help the pitchers as well and he may have evidence, anecdotal or otherwise, to support that belief. However, choosing to pay Sanders and Mientkiewicz millions as opposed to playing Diaz and Huber is the type of thing I would avoid.

I would also suggest that there is some value in avoiding going 47-115 and instead going 67-95 if you don't sacrifice young talent to do it. The difference between being "bad" and "a national story of incompetence" is worth looking at, I think, and if the young guys are going to go 47-115 maybe they shouldn't be there yet anyway.

I guess what I'm saying is that it seems like a lot of analysts hammer on any crappy team bringing in a medicore veteran. Given that GOOD veterans are almost cetainly not going to sign FA contracts with bad teams, and that the veteran may be part of some type of plan, such signings should not always be sneered at immediately.
   15. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: December 26, 2005 at 02:55 PM (#1794396)
"If Mays is a unique player that can hold batters to a BABIP *50 points* below league average as he did that year, then sure."

Well, yeah, it clearly wasn't a sustainable performance. That doesn't take away any of the actual value from the year that he turned in, though, does it?
   16. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: December 26, 2005 at 05:56 PM (#1794485)
So if you are the Cardinals, whom would you arther have Encarnacion at 3/15 or Sanders at 2/10? I think it is close, were the Cardinals even in talks with Sanders?
   17. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: December 27, 2005 at 03:47 AM (#1795202)
Sanders, hands-down.
   18. Walt Davis Posted: December 27, 2005 at 05:47 AM (#1795294)
So if you are the Cardinals, whom would you arther have Encarnacion at 3/15 or Sanders at 2/10?

Before looking at it this week, I would have said Sanders off the top of my head. Now, probably Encarnacion because (1) he's been durable while Sanders hasn't and (2) Sanders is 38 and could fall off a cliff anytime. I really didn't realize that Sanders was that hold now. I would also think at this point that Encarnacion is better defensively, but maybe not. That extra year and $5 M would be nice to avoid, but it's not likely to seriously restrict the Cards and, given inflation, in 2 years, So Taguchi might be pulling down $5 M.

And if I were the Royals, I think Encarnacion easily. You're almost certain to at least get some value out of the investment, he's got at least some chance of pulling a Luis Gonzalez, and I would think given his age/durability, he's more tradeable than Sanders.
   19. Ozzie's gay friend Posted: December 27, 2005 at 07:04 AM (#1795360)
The problem is that the royals have badly stunted the growth of many prospects by bringing them up too soon.

Look at their 2005 roster, in most organizations these guys would still be in AA.

Not only does bringing these players up early hurt their development, it hurts their value as prospects.
if guys like Gotay, Murphey, Nunez, Bautista, Burgioux etc would have stayed in the minors for all of '05, they would all probably be considered better prospects and definatly given Allard more to work with in this offseason's lucartive trade market.

So, despite the fact that none of these players will be on a sucessfull future royals team, they can still be called investments in the future.

And before anyone clamors that AAA FA's could fill in just as adequetly, spare me. That was
Baird's strategy going into last year, and it failed. They had money to spend and I'm glad they didn;t just sit there and pocket it. Besides, having actual major league talent as opposed to taking flyers on AAAA guys is worth a few wins easy.
   20. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: December 27, 2005 at 03:46 PM (#1795555)
Is there evidence that bringing up guys too early hurts their development or is that just CW?
   21. Mike Emeigh Posted: December 27, 2005 at 05:43 PM (#1795665)
Part of the problem with the Royals is that they invest money in finesse pitchers like Mays and then put a young defense behind them that has a lot to learn about positioning, making it very hard for those pitchers to succeed. This was (IMO) most of Greinke's problem last year. If the defense doesn't improve, it's going to be another really long year.

-- MWE
   22. Mike Emeigh Posted: December 27, 2005 at 05:45 PM (#1795666)
And I suppose that was the reason for bringing Mientkiewicz and Grudzielanek in, too :)

-- MWE

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