Friday, October 26, 2012

Qualifying Offers & Draft Picks

I have a feeling Bud Selig is just as confused as this guy.

Pretty soon we're all going to start hearing a lot about "qualifying offers", and how they will affect a team's draft picks. Chad Jennings did a good job of telling people about that stuff, but since you'd probably just like me to tell you instead, here you go...

First of all, there are no such things as Type A or Type B free agents anymore. There are players that have been given a qualifying offer, and there are players that haven't. It doesn't matter how good or how bad a player is, any possible free agent can be given a qualifying offer. I'm sure the people at Elias are upset, as free agent season used to give them all sorts of press since they were the ones that determined the Type A or B free agents.

In order to be eligible for a "qualifying offer" a player must have spent the entire previous season with the same team. If a player was traded mid-season, or picked up off of waivers mid-season, then they will just be another free agent. That means guys like Ichiro Suzuki, who the Yankees acquired via trade during the season, are ineligible.

So what is a "qualifying offer"? Well, a "qualifying offer" is basically a contract offer from a player's former team, that's good for one year. The amount of the "qualifying offer" is determined by the average salary of the top 125 paid players in the previous season, so it's likely to change from year to year. This year that number is $13.3 million.

If a team makes a qualifying offer to a player, that player has until 5 days after the World Series to either accept it or reject it. If the player accepts the qualifying offer, then he has basically signed a contract for 1 year and at least $13.3 million (teams are allowed to offer more than $13.3 million). If the player rejects the offer, then he will be a free agent.

By rejecting a qualifying offer, that player allows his former team to gain a draft pick, assuming the player signs a deal with another team. So if the Yankees make a qualifying offer to Nick Swisher, Nick rejects the offer, and he goes on to sign a contract with another team, then the Yankees will receive an extra draft pick, which will occur between the 1st and 2nd rounds.

If a team signs a free agent that rejected a qualifying offer from another team, that team loses it's 1st round draft pick. Except if that 1st round pick were to occur within the first 10 picks, which are protected, and in that case signing the player will cost the signing team it's 2nd round pick. By the way, those lost picks don't go anywhere, they are just that... lost. The following picks will simply move up a spot.

Other than Nick Swisher, the only other player the Yankees are likely to give a qualifying offer to is Rafael Soriano (assuming he opts out of his current contract with the Yanks). Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera are eligible, but unlikely to sign with another team, so there's really no point in making them that offer. Raul Ibanez, Freddy Garcia, Russell Martin, and a few "lesser" players aren't worth $13.3 million, so they'll likely not receive qualifying offers. And while Hiroki Kuroda was key in 2012 for the Bombers, I don't see him getting an offer of $13.3 million, seeing as how he signed for $10 million this past season.

My guess is that the Yankees will give Swisher a qualifying offer, and he'll reject it in order to sign a multi-year deal with another team. I also think Soriano will opt-out in order to look for a multi-year deal, and he too will reject a qualifying offer made by the Yankees. Thus giving the team two more draft picks. Putting smiles on the faces of prospect huggers like my cohort Mr. Burch.

Mariano Rivera May Be Leaning Towards Retirement

Mariano Rivera was adamant about returning for the 2013 just weeks after tearing his ACL in Kansas City way back in May of this year but now he might not be so sure. Brian Cashman spoke to Mariano personally and was told that he was not sure whether he would be coming back or not which is at the other end of the spectrum from his previous statements. Mariano Rivera is 43 years old and has always said that he wanted to go out on top and at the top of his game and there are no guarantees that we would see the 2011 version of Mariano in 2013 but at the same time a lesser Mariano Rivera is probably still better then 27 or 28 other closers in the majors. I personally hope he comes back so he can get the Canyon of Heroes type reception everywhere he went like Chipper Jones did this season, and I am pretty greedy which never hurts either.

Fielding Bible Award Winners Announced, Teix Wins

The 2012 Fielding Bible Awards were announced last night and one Yankee won his first and that was Mark Teixeira. The Fielding Bible Award is considered to be a higher honor among everyone in and around baseball and much more prestigious then the Rawlings Gold Glove Award. Congratulations goes out to Mark Teixeira for his superb defense at 1B all season long. Here is the complete list of winners for your information.

C - Yadier Molina (STL)
1B - Mark Teixeira (NYY)
2B - Darwin Barney (CHC)
SS- Brendan RYan (SEA)
3B - Adrian Beltre (TEX)
LF - Alex Gordon (KC)
CF - Mike Trout (LAA)
RF - Jayson Heyward (ATL)
P - Mark Buerhle (MIA)

Offseason Decisions: Nick Swisher

"Yep, struck out again, oh well."

Not too long ago I lobbied for Nick Swisher to return next season. I actually love the guy, and his approach to the game, as he seems to truly love baseball and the Yankees. But his worth to the team pretty much ends there. In New York, it's about the postseason, and he hasn't gotten it done... not even close. Nick's only hit above .211 in one postseason series (2010 ALDS vs. MIN). In fact, that's the only series in which his OPS was above .400. The vast majority of his value is wrapped up in home runs. The only other part of Swisher's hitting that holds any value is his ability to get on base 37% of the time, but I have a problem believing that will happen again.

I'll explain... The last two seasons, in which Swish has been able to get on base over 37% of the time, came in 2009 and 2011. In those seasons he had very high walk percentages of 16% and 15%, while Nick's career walk average is 12.3% (the MLB average last season was 8.4%). His strikeout rates were 20.8% and 19.7%, which is fairly close to his career mark of 21.3%. Swisher's line drive rate wasn't much different from his career average of 20%, as he hit 18% and 20%. He certainly wasn't hitting the ball better, as his batting averages in 2009 and 2011 were .249 and .260.

Which was still a hell of a lot better than what this guy just did.

You might think that Nick Swisher was simply less patient in 2010 and 2012, thus leading to lower on-base percentages, but looking at his 2009 season you can't really draw that conclusions. You see, in 2009 Nick's OBP was .374, which is his highest since 2007, and 2nd highest of his 9 year career. But he only saw 4.06 pitchers per plate appearance, which is the 2nd lowest of Swish's career. All of this leads me to believe that a high walk rate is the one thing that leads to Swisher's big on-base percentage. And at 32 years old, I'm just not sure a guy will do anything better than his career average up to that point.

Of course, Swisher has been able to hit pretty well this season (.272 batting average), as well as back in 2010 (.288). But all you have to do is look at his batting average on balls in play in both of those seasons to see that he got a bit lucky. His career average BABIP is .292, which is right in line with the league average of around .300. But in 2010 and 2012 Nick's BABIP was .335 and .324. So I really believe he's much more likely to hit .260 or lower.

Mind you, getting an outfielder that can regularly hit 26 home runs in a season (Swisher's average HR output per season with the Yankees) is not simple. In 2012 only 21 outfielders in all of baseball reached that plateau, which isn't a ton when you take into account that 90 different outfielders are listed on Opening Day lineups. Now, three of them are free agents. However, one of those three is Ryan Ludwick, and I'm not taking his 2012 campaign seriously after three straight years of replacement player level production, on top of turning 35 years old next July.

Yeah, I'll take Cameron Frye over Ryan Ludwick.

So what about those other two outfielders that hit 26 or more home runs last season, as well as a couple other intriguing free agent outfielders.  First of all... "intriguing" is a bit of a strong word when talking about this free agent crop. Except for one...

Josh Hamilton 

I'd love to have this guy in pinstripes. He's a left-handed batter with power, that also has a career batting average of .304, while getting on base over 36% of the time. Josh has averaged 33 home runs per season over the last 3 years, and that includes missing 35 games in 2011 with a broken arm, and 24 games in 2010 with broken ribs. And keep in mind that those injuries were not something to be worried about in the future, unlike if he missed all that time due to a bad back. Other than his offense being vast superior to Swisher's, Hamilton's defense looks to be a bit better as well. Nick's career UZR/150 in RF is 4.5, while Josh's is 6.0 (Hamilton played mainly in CF this past season, and was mainly in LF the previous two years). The problem with Josh is that he's going to command too much. Not that it really matters to fans, who just want the best on the field, but the Yankees seem to be getting tight with the dollar. And keeping the austerity budget in mind, I think the chances of seeing Josh Hamilton playing for the good guys next season are pretty slim.

Like how I didn't even bring up his past substance abuse? Well, except for right here.

Melky Cabrera

I really don't believe he'll come close to the numbers he put up in 2012, before he was suspended for testing positive for a banned substance. Melky's batting average was 41 points higher, his OBP was 51 points higher, and his SLG was 46 points higher than in 2011. Not that we need another MVP candidate in right field. I mean, if Melky were to put up numbers like he did in 2011 with the Royals (.305/.339/.470), then we'd certainly take it. But can those numbers be believed? Although Cabrera was 26 that season, so he could have very well "come into his own", seeing that he jumped 50 batting average points, 22 OBP points, and 116 SLG points from the 2010 doesn't instill the most confidence. And that doesn't even get into his deal with the failed drug test, which is something that doesn't go over well in New York. Just see what Alex Rodriguez still puts up with, and he confessed to taking PEDs nearly 4 years ago. So I can't bring myself to say "yes" to Melky.

BJ Upton 

The only reason I even bring up his name is because of... well... his name. At one point Upton was thought to be a future star. In 2004 Baseball American ranked BJ has the #2 prospect in all of baseball. Those thoughts didn't die down when he followed up that high ranking with a batting line of .303/.392/.490 in AAA in 2005. When Tampa Bay brought Upton up during the 2006 season the kid didn't blow anybody away, but in his first full MLB season in 2007 he impressed people with a line of .300/.386/.508, which included 24 home runs. Although the batting average and slugging percentage went down in 2008, BJ was able to maintain a high on-base percentage, so all didn't seem lost. Unfortunately he didn't retire young, because after that it was all downhill. Mind you, BJ's home run totals have been fairly good (69 over the last 3 seasons), but other than that he's lived deep in the shadow of his brother.

Shane Victorino

Well, what version of Victorino would the Yankees be getting? Would it be the 2010 version, in which he stole 34 bases while hitting .259/.327/.429? The 2011 version, where Shane's batting line was .279/.355/.491 with only 19 stolen bases? Or the 2012 version, in which he stole 39 bases while hitting .255/.321/.383? How about we break it down stat by stat? To start off with, I don't see Shane hitting any more than 15 home runs in a season from here on out. Sure, he hit 35 between 2010 and 2011, but at 32 years old I'd expect that number to go down long before going up. Now look at his batting averages and on-base percentages in 2010 and 2012. If there's a chance the Yankees were going to get a guy that hit .257/.324, then they might as well save their money and start Chris Dickerson in right field next year (Chris has hit .266 and had an OBP of .352 in 599 MLB plate appearances). And I want to bring up the age 32 thing again, because I don't feel comfortable needing the guy to steal 35+ bases in order to get some value. I mean, the legs have to start going sometime soon... right?

The other guys on the free agent list are even less interesting, so it seems to come down to bringing back Nick Swisher, or making a trade. I really don't like depending on a trade to occur in order to fill a spot, especially when we have nothing even close to exciting within the system that's a good back-up plan.

Sorry to the Chris Dickerson lovers out there.

Hopefully Ninja Cashman can swing a deal for something better, but Yankee fans may have to deal with the fact that Nick Swisher is the best of a "not-so-great" situation.