Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Coupling Some of the Remaining Free Agents

Adam Dunn has found a new home on the South Side of Chicago where he will earn an average of $14m per season for the next four years. Dunn, possessor of mammo power, has hit 38 or more home runs every season for the last seven years. However, he has a sharp career platoon split. His numbers against lefthanded pitching are not terrible, but the bulk of the value he provides comes from the damage he does against righties:

vs RHP: .258 Avg; .393 OBP; .548 Slg; .941 OPS
vs LHP: .235 Avg; .352 OBP; .465 Slg; .817 OPS

Bill James predicts Dunn's 2011 line to look like this: 39 HR; .247 Avg; .373 OBP; .511 Slg; .884 OPS

My theory*: I think these players below, if coupled properly, could provide slightly less production for (potentially much) less cost than Adam Dunn.

*Note to self: Still need to get around to researching my theory that Carl Crawford - being the league's best LF - would make a great CF.

None of these six players is a Type A free agent, meaning they would not cost the signing team anything in the way of draft picks.

Tier I: Vlad Guerrero / Jim Thome

Estimated cost: $13.5m - $6.5m for Thome; $7m for Vlad
Projected line: 28 HR; .310 Avg; .410 OBP; .550 Slg; .960 OPS
Best Fit: LA Angels - The Angels have not been able to lure any big name free agents to the land of Disney, and no one seems to quite know why. There are no long-term fixes (read: young) free agents on the market this offseason, but the team is still in desperate need of power. These two would provide just that in the middle of the lineup.

Thome mashed against righties last year to the triple slash tune of 302 / 495 / 698. Just ridiculous. His success, at 40 years old, can at least partially be attributed to the fact he was able to rest against lefties on many days. In the scenario I am suggesting, Thome would have the same luxury because Vlad dominates southpaws.

Against lefties, Vlad hit 338 / 395 / 536 in 2010. those numbers are actually down from his career numbers of 325 / 406 / 588. To be expected as he ages.

Although not exactly models of health, both of these players are likely seeking one-year deals meaning the risk would be low, and Vlad is already familiar with the team having played there from 2005-09.

The upgrade at DH over Juan Rivera could be worth as many as four wins.

This lineup wouldn't look terrible either:

Erick Aybar, SS
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Bobby Abreu, LF
Torii Hunter, RF
Kendry Morales, 1B
Vlad / Thome DH
Alberto Callaspo, 3B
Peter Bourjos, CF
Jeff Mathis, C

Aside from Mathis, all others have the potential to do some damage with either the bat or on the basepaths.

Tier II: Manny Ramirez / Johnny Damon

Estimated cost: $8m plus incentives - $4m plus incentives for Manny; $4m for Damon
Projected line: 18 HR; .300 Avg; .380 OBP; .450 Slg; .830 OPS
Best Fit: Tampa Bay - This pairing offers a combination of skill sets with Manny supplying the power and Damon offering the on-base/speed attributes (although he only stole 11 bags last year).

By dealing Matt Garza, the Rays saved about $5m in 2011 salary. This would lead me to believe they have a bit of money to spend. Both struggled a bit in 2010, but is it worth the $8m gamble to see if one or both can regain their form? I think so, but then again it's not my money.
[Update: The Rays wasted $3.25m on Kyle Farnsworth putting this scenario in doubt.]

The lineups might look like this:

vs RHP

Damon, DH
Dan Johnson, 1B
Ben Zobrist, RF
Evan Longoria, 3B
Reid Brignac, SS
BJ Upton, CF
John Jaso, C
Sean Rodriguez, 2B
Desmond Jennings, LF

vs LHP

Desmond Jennings, LF
BJ Upton, CF
Ben Zobrist, RF
Evan Longoria, 3B
Manny, DH
Sean Rodriguez, 2B
Kelly Shoppach, C
Reid Brignac, SS
Dan Johnson, 1B

One potential pitfall: both players are represented by Scott Boras. The Rays have not been known to deal with him in the past although this likely has more to do with the fact that the players he represents fall out of the Rays' price range.

Tier III: Ruscus Thanyan (Russell Branyan / Marcus Thames)

Estimated cost: $2.5m - $1.5m for Branyan; $1m for Thames
Projected line: 24 HR; .260 Avg; .352 OBP; .500 Slg; .852 OPS
Best Fit: San Diego - For all the reasons described here.

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