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Can We Just Sign Impact Players? Part II: Offense

Posted by RealTwinsFan357 , 27 August 2014 · 356 views

Let's face it, every Twins fan is getting tired of watching the poor play of the past couple years. We know the future looks bright as we await the arrival of some of baseballs top prospects, but that does not help the situation on the field right now. The fact of it is, the Twins are lousy again this year and, like usual, it looks like the starting rotation is to blame.

Everybody has their own theory on how the Twins can end the losing. A common theme I keep hearing is some version of "I think it's time the Twins spend some money and sign some impact players!" I love the spirit of that argument, but if it were so easy, why wouldn't the Twins have done it by now? On Monday, I took a look at the top "impact" starting pitchers in baseball and how their current teams acquired them. If you missed it, here's the link: http://twinsdaily.co...rting-pitching/

Today, I'm going to take a look at the top position players in baseball and see how they came to play for their current teams. I tried to look at the players a contending team could build their lineup around. The players I am looking at are those that have at least 400 plate appearances (350 for catchers) and lead the league in wOBA (top 5 for C, IF, CF; top 10 for corner OF; top 3 for DH). I sorted the players the same way as I did pitchers on Monday and included each players wOBA and wRC+ for reference. All data comes from Fangraphs.

Group 1: Free Agent Acquisitions
C Russell Martin(.371/140), 2B Robinson Cano(.372/141), 3B Adrian Beltre(.383/140), 3B Aramis Ramirez(.356/125), SS Jhonny Peralta(.350/125), OF Jayson Werth(.364/132), OF Melky Cabrera(.364/130), OF Michael Morse(.358/135), DH Victor Martinez(.398/155), DH David Ortiz (.373/136), DH Nelson Cruz (.359/128)

This accounts for 11 of the 43 players I examined, or just over 1/4. This is significantly higher than the 15% observed amongst pitchers. I believe this reflects the fact that most teams value starting pitching more than any other aspect of the game, so position players are simply less likely to be signed to multi-year extensions before hitting the free agent market. It is interesting that all three of the top DHs were acquired as free agents.

Group 2: Non-Drafted Free Agents
1B Jose Abreu(.410/162), 2B Jose Altuve(.355/128), SS Starlin Castro(.335/111), SS Alexi Ramirez(.327/105), OF Yasiel Puig(.387/152)

This group only accounts for 5/43 (11%) "impact" hitters, significantly less than I expected. Abreu and Puig were extremely high risk signings, and the fact that they have both have had so much success will probably increase the price of signing Cuban defectors. I worry that this will lead to inflated contracts that teams will ultimately get stuck with when one of these players turns out to be a bust.

Group 3: Drafted by Current Organization
C Jonathan Lucroy(.373/136), C Evan Gattis(.367/135), C Buster Posey(.349/129), 1B Paul Goldschmidt(.402/155), 1B Freddie Freeman(.381/146), 2B Neil Walker(.356/129), 2B Brian Dozier(.339/115), 3B Kyle Seager(.356/130), 3B Lonnie Chisenhall(.356/130), CF Andrew McCutchen(.406/164), CF Mike Trout(.401/164), CF Matt Kemp(.352/128), OF Giancarlo Stanton(.409/163), OF Kole Calhoun(.360/136)

Again, more players were acquired through the draft than any other medium, with about a third of "impact" players being acquired in this way. This is the same percentage as observed when looking at starting pitchers. It makes sense that teams want to wrap their best players up long-term rather than allowing them to become free agents.

Group 4: Acquired via Trade
C Derek Norris(.360/130), 1B Edwin Encarnacion(.393/150), 1B Anthony Rizzo(.386/146), 2B Ben Zobrist(.346/126), 3B Josh Harrison(.361/133), SS Jose Reyes(.331/107), CF Carlos Gomez(.368/133), CF Adam Jones(.343/116), OF Jose Bautista(.388/147), OF Justin Upton(.387/149), OF Seth Smith(.383/150), OF Michael Brantley(.379/147)

Again, this category combines players traded as prospects and as major league players, and it accounts for 12/43, or 28% of "impact" hitters. This is just slightly smaller than the number for starting pitchers and remains significantly higher than the percentage of players acquired through the free agent market.

Group 5: Acquired via Posting Process
None of the players I examined were acquired this way.

The results here are nearly identical as those for pitchers. Drafting and developing talent is, again, the best way to obtain impact players, with the trade market being the second best route. I was curious so I looked at our two sensational rookies (Santana and Vargas). If they had enough at bats, Santana would rank 3rd amongst centerfielders and Vargas would rank 2nd amongst DHs, which I think is pretty cool. I guess offensively the key is patience for the Twins. I think they have shown a ton of improvement this year and hopefully will over the next couple of years as well.

My overall conclusion is that it is not possible to rely exclusively on free agency to build a team; drafting and trading are both more important. Let me know what you think and thank you for reading!




Very enlightening post, thank you for this examination
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