Category Archives: Off The Bench

The Clay Buchholz Head-Scratcher: Didn’t the Phillies Have Better Options?

The Philadelphia Phillies just traded for the right to pay Clay Buchholz $13.5 Million in 2017. The deal is a bit of a head stratcher as it was unclear why the Boston Red Sox decided to pick up that salary in the first place when they had the option not to. You see, Buchholz is no longer the pitcher he once was. He’s battled injuries pretty much his entire career, and hasn’t been the most effective guy out there even when healthy. I’m frankly very surprised that two organizations went through the processes associated with guaranteeing Buchholz $13.5 Million for what is sure to be a sub-200 IP 2017.

Anyway, the Phillies have Buchholz now and the Red Sox, for their troubles, picked up Josh Tobias, a 24-year old second baseman with two first names who just crushed high-A minor league ball.

In the process of breaking this down, I couldn’t help but feel like the Phillies must have had other options. What was their motivation to make this move? Sure I recently advocated that they be aggressive in adding pieces to their roster because they aren’t too far from contention, but this is not what I had in mind.

To continue reading about the Philadelphia Phillies puzzling trade for Clay Buchholz, please click on over to offthebenchbaseball.com.

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Brian Dozier for Jose de Leon Makes Sense for both the Dodgers and Twins

A new rumor on the Twitter has the Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Dodgers as possible trade partners in a deal that would send Brian Dozier to LA in exchange for Jose De Leon. The swap would see LA deal its #4 prospect, a huge upside starting pitcher with limited MLB time but dominating AAA numbers, and Minnesota part ways with a slugging second basemen who has been the defacto face of the franchise for nigh on three years.

I love it. This is a trade that makes sense for both teams.

First, let’s look at it from the Twins side since that’s a little simpler. Minnesota is not a very good team. They lost 103 games in 2016 and finished in last place in AL Central. However, as I wrote back in October, Minnesota has a really good young core of position players led by Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, and Max Kepler that should provide good reason for hope in the Twin Cities.

However, the they lack pitching, particularly starting pitching. From my previous Twins post:

Jose Berrios is supposed to be a starter of the future, and still may very well be, but an ERA above 8.00 in 13 starts certainly doesn’t instill confidence… Phil Hughes is bad; that’s not changing…”

To continue reading about the potential Dodgers and Twins trade, check out offthebenchbaseball.com!

The True Value of Dexter Fowler to the St. Louis Cardinals

On Friday afternoon, the St. Louis Cardinals finalized a 5-year, $82.5 million with former Cubs center-fielder Dexter Fowler. As has been explained in the media, the Fowler addition was meant to add more athleticism both on defense and atop the Cardinals’ lineup. At face value, this seems to make sense; Fowler’s skills are indicative of a lead-off hitting center fielder. In theory, inserting Fowler in center in place of incumbent Randal Grichuk should improve the outfield defense. In researching this theory; however, I have found that the ‘Fowler Effect’, while certainly providing plus-value, is not as straightforward as it may seem.

I will start with what we know. Offensively, Fowler is a bona-fide leadoff hitter as far as present day terms are concerned. While fans can get bogged down in batting averages (Fowler put up just a .276 mark in 2016), he did finish the year with a .393 OBP and was a table-setter for the first Chicago Cubs World Series victory in over 100 years. In fact, since he became a full-time MLBer in 2009, Fowler has ranked very highly when it comes to getting on base. Take a look at the following chart and see just how well he stacks up.

To continue reading about how Dexter Fowler improves the Cardinals, check out offthebenchbaseball.com.

How Will The Toronto Blue Jays React To The Dexter Fowler Signing?

At this point, it’s safe to say that the Blue Jays’ offseason has been a failure thus far. GM Ross Atkins can speak as glowingly as he’d like about the additions of Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce, but their acquisition is heavily offset by the potential losses of Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, Michael Saunders, and Brett Cecil.

Still, there was always the possibility that the Jays would sign Dexter Fowler. The NL All-Star and World Series champion would look great hitting in front of Josh Donaldson and playing right field in the Rogers Centre. But his deal with the Cardinals is now official, a 5-year/$82.5 million agreement. Fowler successfully gambled on himself last season, turning down Baltimore’s 3-year/$33 million offer to take a 1-year/$13 million in Chicago.

With their primary target gone, where do the Jays go from here?

It’s obvious that the Jays wanted an athletic outfielder, and preferably one that could hit leadoff, to add to their lineup. Fowler, with a .393 on-base-percentage in 2016 would have been the perfect fit, if only the Jays were willing to spend the money.

To continue reading about the Blue Jays outfield plans, please click on over to offthebenchbaseball.com

Ian Desmond Signing Could Start Colorado Rockies Domino Effect

Ian Desmond is headed to the Colorado Rockies for 5 years and $70 million and according to various reports, he’s expected to start at first base. This in itself is puzzling; first base will be Desmond’s third position in three years following stints at shortstop and center field for the Nationals and Rangers respectively. Following an offensive collapse in 2015 that saw the then 29-year old slash .233/.290/.384, Desmond bounced back last season to hit .285/.335/.446. He went from a below average wRC+ of 83 to an above average figure of 106. He then used his 2016 numbers to gamble on himself, rejecting the Rangers’ qualifying offer and forcing the Rockies to cough up the 11th overall pick in the 2017 draft to sign him.

Committing $70 million and a draft pick to a player that will be learning a new position for the second time in two years is odd, but not unprecedented (see Hanley Ramirez and the Boston Red Sox). About a month ago, FanGraphs posted an article arguing that the Rockies could be on the verge of contention.

To read about the ramifications of the Ian Desmond Signing on the Rockies plans, please click on over to offthebenchbaseball.com

Behind the Scenes at the Winter Meetings…. AKA Baseball Heaven

First things first, the MLB Winter Meetings are nirvana for baseball nerds like myself…..

Oh, hey legendary sportswriter Peter Gammons, how are you? What’s that Boston Red Sox GM Dave Dombrowski? Sorry I couldn’t hear you because I was too busy saying hi to your manager John Farrell. Hey LA Times Dodgers’ beat writer Andy McCullough, have you seen NBC Sports’ Craig Calcaterra? I need to follow up on our conversation earlier and I got sidetracked by the New York Posts’ Joel Sherman. Oh, by the way, cool new glasses Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle.

You couldn’t turn around without being starstruck by people who would only be stars to readers of this blog. It was fantastic.

wintermeetings11

It wasn’t just shaking hands and pleasantries, though. I was able to have some really good conversations. For instance, while waiting for the guys on the MLB TV set to announce baseball’s two newest hall of famers, John Schuerholz and Bud Selig (whom I have some thoughts on), I had a really interesting semi-debate with MLB.com’s Mark Bowman about the independence and objectivity of an MLB-owned news organization and the conflicts faced by writers of even nominally independent outlets like ESPN.

To continue reading about Max Frankel’s trip to the Winter Meetings, please click on over to our mostly baseball blog, Off The Bench.

Atlanta Braves Deal for Jaime Garcia Puzzling

The Atlanta Braves completed a swap for St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Jaime Garcia last night, sending a package of 3 fringe Major League prospects to Missouri. The deal is an interesting one, but not the type of franchise-altering swap of which Braves fans have become accustomed. If you’re a casual fan, you probably aren’t entirely sure who this Garcia guy is and that is the most puzzling part of the deal for me. The Braves just clogged up their rotation with another #4 starter.

Off the Bench once ribbed the Red Sox for fielding a rotation full of #2 starters. There is likely not verb strong enough to adequately condemn a rotation full of #4 starters, but here we are. Atlanta just added their third veteran starter of the offseason, planning to pay these old guys $36 million in 2017. For a rebuilding team still treading water and waiting on the full calvary of prospect talent to arrive, this is the type of deal that can disrupt the years-long plan.

But let’s get into this deal for a moment before I talk Braves fans back off the cliff.

Just one year ago, Garcia posted a 2.43 ERA across 130 innings but he’s always been injury prone, a result of a delivery that stresses his arm more than one might like.

To continue reading about the Atlanta Braves Puzzling Deal for Jaime Garcia, please click on over to Off The Bench.

Why The Philadelphia Phillies Should Be Aggressive This Offseason (Their Infield Is Good)

The Philadelphia Phillies are coming off of a year in which they went 71-91. They performed better than most pundits thought they would, but they are still a few pieces away from truly competing. Those pieces are likely in the outfield where the team managed a 0.6 WAR all told. They could use help at all three outfield positions, even as Odubel Herrera does his best 3-hitter impression. I expect the Phillies to make a push for a big time bat (Andrew McCutchen, anyone?) and a complimentary bat to add to a young roster that could suddenly look pretty good. Why am I so optimistic about the Phillies 2017 chances? Well, it starts with a surprisingly strong infield that is ready to be among the game’s best in short order.

Consider:

Second Base

Cesar Hernandez posted a 4.4 fWAR in 2016 that was buoyed by an all-around game that was nearly unmatched in baseball last year. The advanced stats simply loved this guy. According to fangraphs, he earned the Phillies a run on the basepaths, 7.1 at the plate, and 16.1 in the field. Those totals seem pretty good, but are definitely abstract. For context,the only players to match those numbers last year were Corey Seager, my boy Adam Eaton, Francisco Lindor, and Brandon Crawford.

To continue reading about why @OTBB_Sean thinks the Phillies should be aggressive this offseason, please click on over to offthebenchbaseball.com.

Curious Case of Jake Arrieta’s 2016 Pitching Mechanics

Jake Arrieta of the Chicago Cubs went through some rough patches in 2016. A loss of command to batters in the middle of pitching sequences led to a noticeable uptick in walks.  This issue compounded itself and lead to a potential shift in confidence that correlated with overcompensation. Let’s dive into the numbers over his career to see if 2016 was a return to prior form, leaving 2014 and 2015 as the best we will ever see of Jake Arrieta.

This is a guest post from friend of the blog Ricky Mears, who writes over at Innings Pitched. Their website will be launching in January 2017.  Follow @InningsPitched on Twitter to stay up to date before the launch and sign up for the Newsletter. Tickets to a MLB or MiILB will be given away to a follower once they reach the 200 threshold.

By The Numbers

Jake Arrieta was lauded as having pinpoint control in 2014 and 2015.  His 2.08 walks per nine innings placed him as number 24 out of 84 qualifying starting pitchers over the two year stretch.  In 2014, Arrieta had 8.2% walk rate against lefties and a 5.4% walk rate against righties.  Similarly, in 2015 he had a 6.6% walk rate against lefties versus a 4.6% versus righties.

To continue reading the original post on Jake Arrieta’s 2016 pitching mechanics, please visit Off The Bench Baseball

The Oakland Athletics Should Trade Sonny Gray

Conventional wisdom is wrong.

Gray came into last season with 491 career major league innings, a 2.88 career ERA, a 1.13 WHIP and a strikeout to walk ration of nearly 4 to 1. He’d thrown more than 200 innings in each of the preceding 2 seasons and despite being only 5’10”, the then-26 year old was making a name for himself as one of the best young starters in baseball.

Then 2016 happened. Now, there are a lot of people out there saying 2016 has been a pretty bad year. But no matter your political leanings, taste in music, or whatever else, your year probably wasn’t as bad as Sonny Gray’s.

To Continue reading about why the Oakland A’s should Trade Sonny Gray, Please visit offthebenchbaseball.com

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