Evaluating the 2017 Off Season: The NL West

It is fair to say that this off season has been less eventful than previous ones. That does not mean that there have not been impact moves made by teams. Some of these moves have been made by powerhouses making themselves even more dangerous, while others have been made by middling teams trying to put themselves over the top. In this post, I will be evaluating the notable moves made by each team in the National League West over the past few months.

I will also be introducing Potential REV to evaluate the players that do not have a lot of playing time in the major leagues. The best way to think of Potential REV is the player’s ceiling or ‘best case scenario’ future performance. As my baserunning, clutch, and fielding metrics are not as accurate for minor league players, you should take Potential REV with a grain of salt. Potential REV can also be used to see how players may regress in the future as well.

San Francisco Giants

Notable Moves:

Re-signed C Nick Hundley (.412 REV) to a one year, $2.5 million deal.

Traded LHP Matt Moore (.603 REV) to the Texas Rangers in exchange for minor league RHP Sam Wolff (.253 Potential REV) and minor league RHP Israel Cruz (.408 Potential REV).

Traded 3B/SS Christian Arroyo (.302 REV), CF Denard Span (.661 REV), minor league LHP Matt Krook, and minor league RHP Stephen Woods to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for 3B Evan Longoria (.693 REV).

Traded RHP Kyle Crick (.337 REV) and minor league OF Bryan Reynolds to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for OF Andrew McCutchen (.704 REV).

Signed free agent OF Austin Jackson (.497 REV) to a two year, $6 million deal.

Analysis:

The Giants have been one of the more splashy teams this off season. They have taken a different approach than most teams, acquiring players over 30 years old, making them the oldest team on average in Major League Baseball.

While Nick Hundley may not seem like an impact move, keep in mind that the average catcher on a 40 man roster has a REV of just .366. This signing, along with Buster Posey, gives the Giants the best catching tandem in baseball, with a .525 average REV.

For trades in this post, I am going to try not to talk about the players that the teams gave up too much. I want to focus on who they acquired, so the prospects the Giants traded away will be analyzed in the Rays and Pirates sections. The Giants had a major need at third base, with Ryder Jones (.354 REV), Christian Arroyo (.302 REV), and Pablo Sandoval (.315 REV) as their best options. You definitely do not want to be starting below .400 players at 3B. The front office was aware of this need and got probably the best 3B available in Evan Longoria. The best player in Tampa Bay Rays franchise history is still one the best players at a very top heavy position. Entering his age 32 season, Longoria still has a great bat, ranking in the 78th and 86th percentiles in Contact rating and Power rating respectively. Longoria’s best attributes are his 91st percentile Fielding rating and his 97th percentile Durability. With just two years of control remaining, the Giants have likely captured the last couple productive years of Longoria’s career.

Less than a month after trading for one long time face of a franchise, the Giants traded for another in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ centerfielder Andrew McCutchen. The Giants will be moving McCutchen to right field to get his 6th percentile Fielding rating out of center. In RF, McCutchen ranks as the 11th best at the position, with elite 81st percentile contact and 85th percentile power. McCutchen has long been praised for his approach at the plate, and it shows with his 94th percentile Plate Discipline rating. Like Longoria, one of McCutchen’s best attributes is his ability to stay on the field. His Durability ranks in the 96th percentile. Once the best player in the National League, McCutchen is still a great player and should have a productive year in San Francisco.

Despite adding McCutchen, the Giants still needed another outfielder. They made a move for the flashy Austin Jackson. I do not think this solves the Giants’ center field problem though. His .497 REV is just 40th among center fielders currently on a 40 man roster, and is just .004 better than his teammate, Gorkys Hernandez. Jackson can hit, but not for a ton of power, with his Power rating grading out just above average. Something really holding Jackson back is that he only has 336 weighted plate appearances per year, which puts him in the 15th percentile. This is because of a meniscus tear in 2016 and a bench role last year in Cleveland. If he could get back to his 527 PA from 2015, he would rank around the bottom end of the top 30 CF. The Giants do not want to spend too much more money to avoid going over the luxury tax threshold, but it would be wise for them to get a more sure bet for center field like Jarrod Dyson and use Austin Jackson as a solid backup outfielder.

San Diego Padres

Notable Moves:

Signed free agent RHP Colten Brewer (.374 REV, .481 Potential REV) to a one year contract.

Traded OF Jabari Blash (.516 REV) to the New York Yankees in exchange for 3B Chase Headley (.634 REV) and RHP Bryan Mitchell (.425 REV, .431 Potential REV).

Traded 3B Ryan Schimpf (.658 REV) to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for minor league SS Deion Tansel (.342 Potential REV).

Traded minor league RHP Enyel De Los Santos (.544 Potential REV) to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for SS Freddy Galvis (.628 REV).

Signed free agent RHP Craig Stammen (.394 REV) to a two year, $4.5 million deal.

Signed free agent RHP Kazuhisa Makita (.338 REV, .400 Potential REV) to a two year contract.

Traded 3B/2B Yangervis Solarte (.566 REV) to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for minor league OF Edward Olivares (.375 Potential REV) and minor league RHP Jared Carkuff (.578 Potential REV).

Analysis:

The Padres have been pretty active this off season, but I am not sure how that activity applies to their plan.

The signing of minor leaguer Colten Brewer to a major league contract is an under the radar signing that the Padres could benefit from in the future. His best fit is in the bullpen and he has shown the potential to be an above average relief pitcher in the majors. Petco Park always helps.

The Chase Headley trade was simply a trade to get the Yankees under the luxury tax threshold, but he should provide the Padres with some solid production this season. He has slightly above average Contact and Power ratings, with great plate discipline. He is a good player, but for a rebuilding team, I would have to think that Bryan Mitchell was the guy that the Padres front office was excited about. If he is used as a multi-inning reliever, Mitchell will be an about average relief pitcher, with not very much room to get better. He does not strike out very many hitters and he walks too many. His best attribute is his ability to limit the home run. He should be even better at this, moving over from Yankee Stadium. This does not seem like a very smart trade for a rebuilding team to make. They gave up a good outfielder with five years of control for one year of a good third baseman and four years of either an average at best relief pitcher or a below average starter.

The Ryan Schimpf trade is one that I really do not understand. The Padres traded five years of a player who’s Power and Plate Discipline ratings are in the 95th and 96th percentiles respectively for Deion Tansel, who was a 32nd round pick in 2016. REV views the 24 year old Tansel as potentially having good contact ability, with relatively no power and no plate discipline. I do not know much about his defensive abilities, but it seems like a pretty safe bet to say that he will not make it as a major leaguer. I know that Schimpf is 30 years old, so he will likely regress in the not so distant future, and maybe he already has, but just take a look at how Schimpf compares to the Texas Rangers’ Joey Gallo. Across the board, their ratings are virtually identical. In just 158 fewer plate appearances in his MLB career, Schimpf has a 115 OPS+, compared to Gallo’s 110. Gallo definitely has more potential to get even better because he is younger and was a top prospect for a while, but imagine if the Rangers traded Gallo for who is likely a career minor leaguer. I think this will be a trade that the Padres will come to regret, especially after Chase Headley is gone next year and when they see what Schimpf can do with regular playing time in Tampa Bay. Schimpf vs. Gallo

The Freddy Galvis trade is another weird one. Galvis, like Headley, is due to be a free agent at the end of the season. Perhaps they expect Galvis to serve as a bridge to one of their top prospects, Luis Urias or Fernando Tatis Jr., but I do not think they should sacrifice a possible future starter in De Los Santos for a guy they are not going to win with anyways. The trade does make sense because of their lack of depth at the SS position in the upper minors, but they could have given Allen Cordoba another chance as a bridge.

I like the idea of the Yangervis Solarte trade. It will give Carlos Asuaje a chance to show what he can do with a full time major league job and they got a guy in Jared Carkuff, who despite being a 2016 35th round pick, has flown through the minors and has shown the potential to be an above average relief pitcher at the major league level.

Based on their moves so far this off season, I am a little confused about how the Padres front office sees the team in 2018. By the looks of it, the Padres are far from contention this year. Instead of trading non-controllable major leaguers for strong minor league talent, they seem to be trading controllable major league talent for non-controllable major leaguers or poor minor league talent, except in the case of the Yangervis Solarte trade. This current front office has made questionable moves in the recent past that have come back to bite them, so hopefully these have a minimal negative effect on their future. They have a really good farm system, so maybe these questionable moves will not matter too much.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Notable Moves:

Traded 1B Adrian Gonzalez (.506 REV), LHP Scott Kazmir (.640 REV), RHP Brandon McCarthy (.647 REV), and SS Charlie Culberson (.213 REV) to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for LF Matt Kemp (.522 REV).

Signed free agent RHP Tom Koehler (.495 REV) to a one year, $2 million dollar deal.

Acquired LHP Scott Alexander (.458 REV) and traded LHP Luis Avilan (.443 REV) in a three team trade with the Chicago White Sox and the Kansas City Royals.

Analysis:

After having the best regular season record and retaining most of the same roster, the Dodgers did not have to do much this off season to compete for the World Series again. They have made a few interesting moves that could benefit the team, though.

The Adrian Gonzalez trade is one of the weirder ones I have seen in a while. It seems like a trade that would have been made in 2011 because of the players involved. While the players the Dodgers traded should be valuable for their new teams, the Dodgers did not really need them because of how much depth they have at the major league level. It was just a way for them to dump the salaries of unneeded players, in an effort to get under the luxury tax threshold. The Dodgers have so much depth that they have five outfielders better than Matt Kemp, so they are doing everything they can to unload him too.

While on the surface Tom Koehler seems like an above average relief pitcher, a lot of his value comes from his ability to go multiple innings. If he is used as a single inning reliever, his value drops significantly. He has been good in his career as a reliever and the Dodgers have had success with pitchers like him in the bullpen, i.e. Brandon Morrow. He still has the ability to be a sort of swing man, rotating from the bullpen and starting rotation.

As an above average relief pitcher, Scott Alexander’s best attribute is his 91st percentile Home Run rating. He should be able to continue performing to that level in the spacious Dodger Stadium. On the down side, Alexander’s other rate stats are not as good, with a Strikeout rating in the 36th percentile and a Walk rating in the 45th percentile. It seems like a solid trade, with some potential, as Alexander rates better than fellow left hander Luis Avilan.

The Dodgers have not made a big splash yet this off season, but they do not really need to, as they have five starting pitchers in the top 100 pitchers and a lot of position player depth.

Colorado Rockies

Notable Moves:

Signed free agent C Chris Iannetta (.425 REV) to a two year, $8.5 million deal.

Re-signed free agent LHP Jake McGee (.432 REV) to a three year, $27 million deal.

Signed free agent RHP Bryan Shaw (.534 REV) to a three year, $27 million deal.

Signed free agent RHP Wade Davis (.561 REV) to a three year, $52 million deal.

Analysis:

The Rockies have made one of the biggest splashes in the free agent market this year, building the highest paid bullpen in baseball.

I feel the same way about the Chris Iannetta signing as I did about the Nick Hundley signing by the Giants. He is an under the radar catcher who gives a good amount of value at the position. To maximize performance, it seems like more teams are moving toward using catching tandems instead of just one for most of the season. I think that is what the Rockies are doing here with the signing of Iannetta. He and Tony Wolters will combine for one of the best catching tandems in baseball.

This will be Jake McGee’s third year in Colorado. He has tasted what it is like to pitch most of his games in Coors Field, as his home run rate has increased in his previous two years. Aside from his home run rate, McGee is able to strike guys out and he limits his walks, with 71st and 74th percentile rankings for the corresponding ratings. Despite being pretty high profile as far as relievers go, McGee only rates as an average RP.

Throughout his career, the submariner Bryan Shaw has done a good job limiting home runs for the most part. Being a ground ball pitcher is pretty crucial to being successful and Shaw’s ground ball rate of over 50% definitely puts him in that category. With rate numbers all in at least the 70th percentile, Shaw should be a great pickup for the Rockies for the next few years.

After giving up three home runs combined between 2015 and 2016, Wade Davis gave up six in his first and only season with the Chicago Cubs last year. His ground ball rate has never really reflected that of a ground ball pitcher and this past season his fly ball rate got up to fly ball pitcher territory. This could be a bad sign for the Rockies, but he still ranks in the 98th and 99th percentile in Strikeout rating and Home Run rating respectively. He will scare you from time to time with the walks, as his Walk rating only ranks in the 48th percentile. His three year, $52 million deal makes him the highest paid relief pitcher of all time in terms of average annual value. He may be worth that because he has shown himself to be among the best at getting high leverage outs. Getting up there in age, Davis could be due for some regression in the near future, as his Potential REV is just .506.

Playing their home games at a mile high, the Rockies know how difficult it is to limit runs and they know that starters do not last as long. Because of this, the Rockies made it a priority to solidify their bullpen with some of the most well regarded arms on the market. I like the idea and am curious to see if those pitchers can continue their success in a Rockies uniform.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Notable Moves:

Traded minor league RHP Curtis Taylor (.430 Potential REV) to the Tampa Bay Rays for RHP Brad Boxberger (.294 REV).

Re-signed free agent LHP T.J. McFarland (.308 REV) to a one year, $800,000 deal

Signed free agent RHP Yoshihisa Hirano (.278 REV) to a two year, $6 million deal.

Drafted RHP Albert Suarez (.433 REV) in the Rule 5 Draft.

Analysis:

The Diamondbacks have not been very active this off season, other than some small moves that they hope pan out.

In Brad Boxberger, the Diamondbacks are getting a well below average relief pitcher who struggles with his control (7th percentile Walk rating) and with the home run ball (14th percentile home run rating). He will get a fair amount of strikeouts, but I think the D-Backs should have held on to their 2016 fourth round pick.

T.J. McFarland is able to go multiple innings on occasion and he has above average Walk and Home Run ratings, but his 1st percentile strikeout rating indicates that the ball gets put in play too much for him to be successful, especially in Chase Field.

It is always difficult to predict how overseas success will translate to the major leagues, but REV does not think the signing of 34 year old Yoshihisa Hirano will pay off for Arizona.

It is not very often that players with as much major league playing time as Albert Suarez are selected in the Rule 5 Draft. I think he should be able to stay on the D-Backs’ roster for the entire season and be solid out of the bullpen and making a spot start every once in a while.

The Diamondbacks definitely have not done enough to replace guys like J.D. Martinez, Gregor Blanco, and Chris Iannetta who all became free agents in November. The market has been slow moving, so there is still time to tighten up their bullpen and bench.

Conclusion

The NL West has had a mix of impact moves that could put the team over the top and value moves that might work out. I think the clear winner of the off season so far in the NL West is the San Francisco Giants. They simply have done the most to improve their team. Adding two players around .700 in REV is pretty tough to beat. Despite being confused about the Padres direction, I think the Diamondbacks have had the worst off season so far. They have a good enough team to get away without doing much, but they have not done anything to make their team better. Next up is the National League Central!

 

Don’t forget to follow me on twitter @REVmetric

You can now take a look at the REV and Potential REV spreadsheets! Just go over to the REV Files page

 

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