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No, Top FA Starters Are Not Risky


bean5302

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With the 2021 season just about wrapped up for the Minnesota Twins, here’s yet another article to talk about starting pitching and why dumpster diving or even mid-tier free agent starters are actually much riskier than the top free agent starters with those big contracts.

Conventional Twins wisdom is that big name, free agent starters are simply too expensive and too risky. Jim Pohlad is very skittish when it comes to long contracts and big dollars. The idea of “crippling” a roster also sends some Twins fans into a panic. It makes sense, after all, the Twins free agent pitchers almost never actually pan out for more than a year.

For this year, the Twins’ front office decided not to pursue an arm to replace Odorizzi, leaving a major hole in the middle of the rotation. Instead, Happ and Shoemaker were signed to contracts all too typical of the Twins’ front office. The cost? $10MM utterly wasted. That said, the Twins are absolutely spending ace starter money in free agency and acquisitions every single year and have been spending $30-43MM annually for those arms for 7 consecutive seasons coming into 2021. I even adjusted the salaries for players which were traded away… Read it and weep.

  • Median WAR = middle bWAR season performance with 2020 being multiplied by 2.7 due to the shortened season.
  • Total WAR = Total bWAR over the life of the entire contract, even if the player was traded away.
  • $/WAR = Entire Contract Dollars, Adjusted for 2020 / Total bWAR, Not Adjusted for 2020.
  • The salary figures shown are not adjusted for 2020 so they can be viewed in proper context.

 

  Med. Tot $                
Player WAR WAR /WAR 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21
Correia -1.1 -1.1 -5 6              
Pelfrey 0.4 0.8 13.8 6 6            
Hughes -0.1 5.5 11.9 8 9 9 13 8 7    
Nolasco 0.5 2 24 12 12 8 4        
Milone 0.8 0.9 8.1   3 5          
Santana 0.5 9.8 5.6   14 14 14 14 1    
Santiago 0.2 0.3 32.7     2 8        
Odorizzi 1.2 4.4 6.1         6 10 18  
Pineda 0.8 3.3 8         2 8 10 10
Lynn 0.4 0.4 25         10      
Perez 0.1 0.1 40           4    
Maeda 2.7 1.8 2.7             3 3
Bailey 0.5 0.2 22             7  
Hill 2.1 0.8 2.4             3  
Shoemaker -1.9 -1.9 -1.1               2
Happ -1.8 -1.8 -4.4               8
                       
  Season Total 31 43 37 38.7 39.8 29.5 40.8

23

 

In fact, almost none of the Twins signings and acquisitions were worth it, including the starters who were actually “worth the money” because they still weren’t worth starting. For example, Tommy Milone only cost $8.1MM / WAR. That’s an A grade signing. He was worth every bit of the money he was paid, on am average season. But he still wasn’t good enough to actually want him in the rotation. What about Ervin Santana? We all know what a huge asset he was over his first couple seasons and the Twins got one WAR for only $5.6MM which is an A+ kind of deal. The big issue is he was terrible over his last two years, dragging his median performance way down.

  • Ace = 4.0 WAR+
  • #2 = 3.0-4.0 WAR
  • #3 = 2.5-3.0 WAR
  • #4 = 2.0-2.5 WAR
  • #5 = 1.5-2.0 WAR

I’ve also adjusted the median values for 2020’s short season. That’s the problem with dumpster dives and even mid-tier free agents. All it takes is a slight decline and poof, all the money is utterly wasted because you’re paying guaranteed money to a starter who isn’t worth playing.

Well, everybody knows big free agent contracts never work out though, right? Wrong. Big name, free agent starters are almost always worth it. This is for two reasons. First, they often perform at ace levels even if they decline a bit, but if they take a major hit or injury, they almost always bounce back as a solid starter in the rotation. The money is virtually never totally wasted like it often is on mediocre or low cost starters. Of the 8 front line free agent starters signed since 2014, every single one of them has been worth a rotation spot in an average year. Most are even good deals. Don’t believe me again?

  Med. Tot $                                
Player WAR WAR /WAR Future? 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 Grade
Lester 2.1 13.2 9.6 - 30 20 20 23 25 28                 B
Greinke 4.2 17.9 10.3 - 34 34 34 35 35 35                 C
Scherzer 5.5 41.4 4.1 - 17 22 22 22 37 36 35 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 A+
Price 1.8 11.1 13.9 F   30 30 30 31 32 32 32             F
Darvish 5.6 7.6 9.9 A       25 20 22 22 19 18           B
Corbin 4.1 5.4 8.6 F         15 19 24 23 24 35         A
Cole 5.6 7.6 6.4 A           36 36 36 36 36 36 36 36 36 A
Wheeler 6.8 7.6 3.45 A           22 23 26 25 24         A+
Strasburg 0 0 Inf F           24 24 24 24 24 24 24 27 27 F-

*The summary is updated to reflect the addition of Strasburg to the chart. I decided against adding Bauer. Bauer doesn't have a long term contract, and part of the reason FA ace caliber pitchers are a low risk is a single lost season is easy to overcome. Among the 9 listed starters, only 3 have lost an entire season (Price x1.5, Darvish, Strasburg x2). Of the 38 seasons on the contracts from the 9 starters, 4.5 seasons have been lost. A risk of a starter losing a season is approximately 10% per contract season.

Right now, Corbin and Strasburg both look like a bad deals, but it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if they rebounded. If you look at those contracts, something really stands out to me. Only Strasburg has played poorly enough so the team who signed them wouldn’t have wanted in the rotation and 6 of the 8 are bonefide ace level pitchers on their average season. Even David Price with all his injuries and down performance is worth trotting out there. Also, 7 of 8 of those front line starters have been absolutely C or better signings. Here’s how I’d arbitrarily grade signings based on the dollars spent per WAR.

  • $16MM+ = F-
  • $14-16MM = F
  • $12-14MM = D
  • $10-12MM = C
  • $9-10MM = B
  • $6-9MM = A
  • 0-6MM = A+

To sum it up, the scary big contracts for front line starters almost always work out over the life of the contract, and even when they don’t work out exactly as intended, the pitchers are almost always worth running out there every 5 days as part of the rotation. However, the low end and middle of the rotation arms are almost never worth it based on nearly a decade of track record by the Twins and over a dozen such starting pitchers. Considering the Twins absolutely do not need any #4-5 starters, the front office also needs to stop wasting money with their annual dumpster dive, refocus and acquire top pitching talent. After all, it’d barely cost more on an annual basis to replace the typical free agent signings they’ve been wasting money on to sign two top of the rotation arms as they’re available.

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You make a great point.  The Twins have always spent for "QUANTITY" not "QUALITY."  It's like Slick Rick of the Vikings always trading back to accumulate more and more 6th and 7th rounders instead of just drafting Tyler Johnson (#3 WR spot SOLVED) when he was sitting there.

I   GUARANTEE  the Twins, if they spend the money on bringing Max Scherzer here,  he will be worth every penny !!  Now I get that Max would be crazy not to just stick with the Dodgers who will pay him more and give him a better chance for a World Series ring, but that's not my point.  The point is, when you spend on QUALITY you lessen the risk.  The wins and innings that kind of SP/RP give you add up to tremendous value for what you spent.  Honestly, I don't know why this FO doesn't understand that.  I thought they were brought here to replace the antiquated thinking of the Terry Ryan regime.  Maybe this is a Pohlad "thing."  It's hard to understand how the Twins have never figured this out.

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Bean, thanks for the data that supports those of us who feel FA is only a fool's game for teams like the Twins emphasizing bargains rather than quality.  The big question is whether this losing operating philosophy stems from Pohlad's tight-fistedness or incompetence of the FO.  

My guess is this past futility reflects more on ownership.  Pohlad's banking background seems to inhibit him from foregoing short term profits instead of investing in long term success.  Of course, I cannot possibly know what JP is thinking, but the results speak for themselves.  He hires guys like Ryan and Falvey who share his bargain basement outlook on spending.  Ryan(at least in his first go-round) proved adept at some shrewd trades and had some drafting success.  Likewise, Falvey has acquired some good pitching vis the trade route(drafting success TBD).  

 

Basically, the problem is Pohlad's leadership in not enunciating an operating philosophy that would allow for the team to be legitimate contenders for a World Championship.  No, Ryan and Falvey don't get free passes here, either.  Their unwillingness to make some significant mid-season trades that might have elevated an already competitive club into a legitimate WS contender has been a glaring weakness for 20 years.  Me thinks we have a two-headed monster : a passive owner who looks at the P&L statement as the end-all to his stewardship and risk-averse GM's who are selected because of basic agreement with this "don't-rock-the-boat" approach.  The results speak for themselves, not just this year, but for the last 18 years of zero playoff success.

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2 hours ago, mike8791 said:

...The big question is whether this losing operating philosophy stems from Pohlad's tight-fistedness or incompetence of the FO...

It's the front office's job to sell the best solution to the owner(s), even if the solution is a long term, big dollar contract. I feel like what I laid out above in a few hours of diving through the internet is exactly the kind of argument a GM could take to an owner like Jim Pohlad to justify spending bigger on top pitching, but it would take confidence because if it doesn't work, you'll probably be fired.

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I love this study @bean5302. I would like to know what your qualifications are for the Top 8 Frontline starters. Was it total dollars? Dollars per year? Was this cherry picked at all? I hope you see this and can respond.

There is a point where the investment does become a bad investment and the Twins, due to total financial resources actually available before taking a loss on team ownership, will always get outbid by deeper pockets.

For example, every one of those SPs, sans Greinke, was signed by a team up against the soft cap. This means if the Twins need to throw an extra $4mil a year at Darvish to sign him, that becomes a bad contract, looking more like a Mike Pelfrey level signing than what the Cubs got. 

Can the Twins be a better team using that kind of approach? I don't think they can. Kind of depressing. 

I'd like to see a recreation of the same study, but with solid second tier starters. I'm thinking somewhere between $60mil and $100mil, such as a Hyun Jin Ryu signing. What is the value of those contracts and can the Twins compete there? 

Again, great insight and breakdown. Looking forward to more!

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1 hour ago, Minny505 said:

I love this study @bean5302. I would like to know what your qualifications are for the Top 8 Frontline starters. Was it total dollars? Dollars per year? Was this cherry picked at all? I hope you see this and can respond.

There is a point where the investment does become a bad investment and the Twins, due to total financial resources actually available before taking a loss on team ownership, will always get outbid by deeper pockets.

For example, every one of those SPs, sans Greinke, was signed by a team up against the soft cap. This means if the Twins need to throw an extra $4mil a year at Darvish to sign him, that becomes a bad contract, looking more like a Mike Pelfrey level signing than what the Cubs got. 

Can the Twins be a better team using that kind of approach? I don't think they can. Kind of depressing. 

I'd like to see a recreation of the same study, but with solid second tier starters. I'm thinking somewhere between $60mil and $100mil, such as a Hyun Jin Ryu signing. What is the value of those contracts and can the Twins compete there? 

Again, great insight and breakdown. Looking forward to more!

I was looking at starters who were likely to command $100MM+. So this year, Scherzer and Greinke probably wouldn't make the list. 2015 Greinke was seen as an overpay and the Diamondbacks signing him kind of stunned everybody, but I don't recall anybody forecasting doom and gloom. Adding $4MM/year to Darvish would be way more than needed for anybody to sign him, but even if that were to happen, Darvish would still be the pitcher he is right now (ace level) and the cost per win would go from $9.9 per WAR (B-Grade) to $12.0MM per WAR (C-Grade). Keep in mind, that also includes Darvish's wasted 2018 due to misdiagnosed injury. Ultimately, Darvish is probably the most stellar example of how ace pitchers are still a good value because this already paints him in a bad light. If you evaulate Darvish based on median WAR, he cost $3.4MM / WAR which is ludicrously great. Adding $4MM per year to his salary and dividing by his median WAR is still only $4.1MM / WAR. He'd still be ludicrously great.

I'm not sure why the Twins would have to be at the luxury tax threshold? They already spent $40MM in 2018 on free agent/acquisition arms. Darvish cost $25MM. Even if the Twins decided to overpay $4MM per year for no good reason, in 2018 Darvish still would have cost $11MM less than what the Twins were already spending. Also consider the Twins were expecting to spend $41MM on FA/acquisition arms in 2020. Darvish and Wheeler combined only cost $44MM. Now, which would you rather have in 2020? I'd take column 1 all day, every day... even if I don't like losing Maeda. They cost essentially the same money.

  1. Darvish vs. Odorizzi
  2. Wheeler vs. Maeda
  3. Berrios vs. Berrios
  4. Jax vs. Pineda
  5. Dobnak vs. Dobnak
  6. Ober vs. Hill/Bailey
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really cool exercise, nice work putting this together! Definitely a great argument you have.

But I think the issue more has to do with identifying pitching, not necessarily spending. Teams hit on lower tier free agent pitching every year, unfortunately the Twins haven't. While none of these guys are true aces, they've all pitched extremely well and could've absolutely been had this past offseason if the Twins decided to chose them.

Anthony Desclafani - 1/6 mil  - 11-6 / 3.24 / 141 IP/ 132 SO

Robbie Ray - 1/8 mil - 11-5 / 2.60  / 166 IP / 212 SO

Carlos Rodon - 1/3 mil - 11-5 / 2.41 / 119 IP / 168 SO

Taijuan Walker - 2/20 mil - 7-9 / 4.15 / 138 IP / 129 SO

Obviously it doesn't always work out. Paxton, Kluber, Quintana, Richards, etc. all signed similar 8-12mil 1 year deals and haven't produced. I think that's just the game though with free agent starting pitching. I think a big part of teams choosing to go this route has to do with looking ahead to future free agent classes and when to allocate money to the starting rotation.

A lot of it is luck and that goes for the mid tier category as well. It's not easy to find solid starting pitching and if you can hit on a deal like the ones listed above, why risk it. Identifying talent is the issue .. or luck. cant decide yet.

 

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5 hours ago, bean5302 said:

It's the front office's job to sell the best solution to the owner(s), even if the solution is a long term, big dollar contract. I feel like what I laid out above in a few hours of diving through the internet is exactly the kind of argument a GM could take to an owner like Jim Pohlad to justify spending bigger on top pitching, but it would take confidence because if it doesn't work, you'll probably be fired.

I agree with everything you laid out in the above article, and what you just posted here.  And I could have saved you the hours on the internet, too.  Almost anyone in my generation of baseball junkies could have told you exactly this without a single stat or WAR, just our eyes and paying attention to the box scores every day.  

Don't take that as some kind of insult, I say it somewhat tongue in cheek knowing that folks today rely on the analytics.  I only point out that sometimes it is overrated (highly overrated?) compared to just old time seeing for yourself.  But you are spot on, however you came to the conclusions you did.  :)  

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Excellent work and a fine piece of writing to support an offseason where the Twins absolutely need to make the best bids for a couple of starting pitchers. On other posts there are questions about how anyone can project for pitchers like Alcantara, Ray, Rodon, and others but the more important point is made in this post - the best players are worth their money. I was a fan of trading Dozier two years before he left because the Twins really needed help and there were few options other than trades. Right now, the Twins have multiple players at the same positions and money to spend on free agents; there are really good options this offseason and the sooner the Twins act the better.

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5 hours ago, bean5302 said:

 Ultimately, Darvish is probably the most stellar example of how ace pitchers are still a good value because this already paints him in a bad light. If you evaulate Darvish based on median WAR, he cost $3.4MM / WAR which is ludicrously great. Adding $4MM per year to his salary and dividing by his median WAR is still only $4.1MM / WAR. He'd still be ludicrously great.

Darvish cost $25MM. Even if the Twins decided to overpay $4MM per year for no good reason,

The Twins would have to pay more than 25m/yr to lock up Darvish. He doesn't have a price tag, it's a bidding system. By default the price would have been at minimum 26 per. Then the Cubs counter. Twins have to pay more to stay in the game and a bidding war ensues. In 2018, contract offers being equal, Darvish signs with the Cubs 100% of the time.

The Twins have to out-do any bidding on any pitcher right now because half the teams in the league are better poised to win in the short term than the Twins. 

Yet, as you point out, even paying 4, 5, or 6mil more per year still makes it worth it vs bargain bin shopping. 

BTW, I want to compliment you again @bean5302. This is the kind of numbers breakdown that drives me to read sites like Twins Daily. I am really looking forward to reading more of your work in the future. Hopefully I can add an email notification for just posts by you...and if not, hopefully a moderator is reading this and can work with the development team to implement a "follow of your favorite writers" notification feature.

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2 hours ago, Tim said:

Anthony Desclafani - 1/6 mil  - 11-6 / 3.24 / 141 IP/ 132 SO

Robbie Ray - 1/8 mil - 11-5 / 2.60  / 166 IP / 212 SO

Carlos Rodon - 1/3 mil - 11-5 / 2.41 / 119 IP / 168 SO

Taijuan Walker - 2/20 mil - 7-9 / 4.15 / 138 IP / 129 SO

Desclifani is the product of Giants devil magic. He was the kind of signing we would have all been frustrated with and may not be doing what he's doing with any other team.

Ray needed a pillow contract after the disaster of 2020 and he was still on the underside of 30. This is exactly the kind of signing the Twins should be making on one year deals. High ceiling potential here.

Rodon is an anomaly. This kind of career turnaround in one offseason is a once-a-decade event in MLB. 

Walker was a fawned over as a FA this past offseason by the Twins Daily faithful and was expected to easily get more than $30mil by national writers. That he was signed so late in the offseason for only $20mil was considered a steal by the Mets before the ink even dried. I remember the national podcast voices exclaiming a collective "WTF!?" over this signing. There has to be more to the story that we don't know because this signing for this amount doesn't make sense. It would be like the Twins getting Jon Gray this upcoming offseason for 2/20. 

You also mentioned Kluber and Paxton. Even with the injuries, either one would have been better spent money than Happ+Shoe. Signing a make-good, high injury risk pitcher with a high ceiling is exactly the kind of signing the Twins should be looking to make, especially this upcoming offseason. 

The problem with Happ, Shoemaker, and their ilk is the upside that can be gained from their signing. Twins need to target pitchers with high upside in FA, not their mean production. At best, the Happ signing is a 4.20 ERA pitcher. At best Kluber is a 3.10 ERA pitcher. The cost is nearly the same for either. Sure, the floor for Kluber is lower, but that just means a AAA guy ready to prove themselves takes his place. That beats 20 starts of 6.60 ERA pitching from Happ, as nearly every pitcher to pitch in Happ's spot since he was traded has performed better.

This was also the beauty of the Pineda signing. His ceiling is a 3.50 ERA pitcher. Sure, he's missed a lot of time, but he's generally been outstanding when on the bump. We need more of that high risk/high reward in our FA pitching contracts.

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Thanks for this. I really love this kind of practical analysis. Many in TD land doubted Shoemaker from the start, but thought Happ would be good. I too had strong misgivings about Shoemaker, especially with the idea he would be plugged in as a starter. I also had doubts about Happ, not because he hadn't performed reasonably well in the past, but because of this age and that the Yankees weren't interested in signing him. The Yankees seems to have a sixth-sense when it comes to aging pitchers and getting rid of them--we shouldn't be so eager to throw our money at their aging castoffs or anyone's aging castoffs. (Actually, it seems that 9 times out of 10 when we do a deal with the Yankees of any kind we get royally screwed...maybe we should just stop doing deals with them?)

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4 hours ago, Mark G said:

I agree with everything you laid out in the above article, and what you just posted here.  And I could have saved you the hours on the internet, too.  Almost anyone in my generation of baseball junkies could have told you exactly this without a single stat or WAR, just our eyes and paying attention to the box scores every day.  

Don't take that as some kind of insult, I say it somewhat tongue in cheek knowing that folks today rely on the analytics.  I only point out that sometimes it is overrated (highly overrated?) compared to just old time seeing for yourself.  But you are spot on, however you came to the conclusions you did.  :)  

I was pretty sure of the outcome before I wrote the article because I'd done some research before Darvish slipped through our hands years ago, but I was surprised just how bad some of the "good" signings we made really were. Also, the article is more for TD folks than me: I was writing while procrastinating on a engine project in the garage, haha. The big issue is being pretty sure you're right without having the research to back it up for other folks to review.

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14 hours ago, Minny505 said:

Desclifani is the product of Giants devil magic. He was the kind of signing we would have all been frustrated with and may not be doing what he's doing with any other team.

Ray needed a pillow contract after the disaster of 2020 and he was still on the underside of 30. This is exactly the kind of signing the Twins should be making on one year deals. High ceiling potential here.

Rodon is an anomaly. This kind of career turnaround in one offseason is a once-a-decade event in MLB. 

Walker was a fawned over as a FA this past offseason by the Twins Daily faithful and was expected to easily get more than $30mil by national writers. That he was signed so late in the offseason for only $20mil was considered a steal by the Mets before the ink even dried. I remember the national podcast voices exclaiming a collective "WTF!?" over this signing. There has to be more to the story that we don't know because this signing for this amount doesn't make sense. It would be like the Twins getting Jon Gray this upcoming offseason for 2/20. 

You also mentioned Kluber and Paxton. Even with the injuries, either one would have been better spent money than Happ+Shoe. Signing a make-good, high injury risk pitcher with a high ceiling is exactly the kind of signing the Twins should be looking to make, especially this upcoming offseason. 

The problem with Happ, Shoemaker, and their ilk is the upside that can be gained from their signing. Twins need to target pitchers with high upside in FA, not their mean production. At best, the Happ signing is a 4.20 ERA pitcher. At best Kluber is a 3.10 ERA pitcher. The cost is nearly the same for either. Sure, the floor for Kluber is lower, but that just means a AAA guy ready to prove themselves takes his place. That beats 20 starts of 6.60 ERA pitching from Happ, as nearly every pitcher to pitch in Happ's spot since he was traded has performed better.

This was also the beauty of the Pineda signing. His ceiling is a 3.50 ERA pitcher. Sure, he's missed a lot of time, but he's generally been outstanding when on the bump. We need more of that high risk/high reward in our FA pitching contracts.

Honestly at the time, Happ was a lot safer of a signing than taking a flier on Kluber. Happ had pitched to an ERA below 4, 5/6 previous years. No one expected him to be as bad as he was. Kluber was coming off surgery and hadn't pitched professionally in 2 years. Interesting thoughts on the Walker signing .. Maybe there is a conspiracy ..

This comes back to depth. The front office knew that they couldn't get by with AAA guys making spot starts so went after quantity. I believe this is the case for the previous years as well. 

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46 minutes ago, Tim said:

Honestly at the time, Happ was a lot safer of a signing than taking a flier on Kluber. Happ had pitched to an ERA below 4, 5/6 previous years. No one expected him to be as bad as he was. Kluber was coming off surgery and hadn't pitched professionally in 2 years. Interesting thoughts on the Walker signing .. Maybe there is a conspiracy ..

This comes back to depth. The front office knew that they couldn't get by with AAA guys making spot starts so went after quantity. I believe this is the case for the previous years as well. 

At 38 though, Happ was ready to fall off the proverbial cliff. Again, it seemed like he would have a higher floor than he did, but he didn't have a higher ceiling. 

I'd rather have Kluber. I'd rather sign the 2022 version of Kluber than the 2021 version of Happ. The difference is that, when they are on the mound, they have roughly the same floor, while Kluber has a MUCH higher ceiling. The upside of Kluber is so tasty though that I prefer the risk of the extra $3-$4 mil and bypass a Shoemaker-like signing again...especially if it is pushing Ober or Dobnak to the pen. 

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I like the analysis and it makes sense but not every team is going to be able to sign the three to four elite pitchers that come out every year so 27 teams are going to miss out that is the math of supply and demand.  If it is worth it for the Twins why wouldn't it be worth it for the Yankee's, Dodgers etc? Teams that can up the anti until they can't.

Maybe it is the owner but Falvey came from Cleveland and they never bought an ace in fact they seem to get rid of their guys once they get too expensive.  I think it will be the same mentality for the Twins.  They are going to do it from within and hope those one year deals work out more often than not.  If they get to a Cleveland like pitching pipeline then they won't spend big on pitching at all.  It will all come from the farm.

I'm not saying your analysis is wrong but it seems like most teams in the Twins payroll range don't buy into your premise.  They seem to feel or have analysis that arms are too volatile to bank on and that on average younger arms are better than older ones.  Thus the home grown and one year prove it deals for Oakland, Tampa, KC, Cleveland, Miami, Pittsburg, Milwaukee etc..  None of those teams do what you are suggesting in fact they all avoid it. Most all of those teams are banking on building a staff of young arms and supplementing with a reasonably priced veteran on a shorter term deal.

I like the go big or go home approach but for small market it has to hurt and mean losing other valuable players at some point.  There is more to your analysis than meets the eye IMO.  Else everyone would\could do it.

 

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The problem I have with your list list is that you're cherry picking players that are fitting your narrative.

For example...

2021 FA Class of High End Starters

Trevor Bauer - WAR - 1.7 @ 3 years for $34 million = $20 million/WAR

Charlie Morton - WAR - 3.6 @ 1 year for $15 million = $4.15 million/WAR

Kevin Gausman - WAR - 4.2 @ 1 year for $18.9 million = $4.5 million/WAR

Marcus Stroman - WAR - 3.1 @ 1 year for $18.9 million = $6.1 million/ WAR

That's it for higher end SP's for 2021

The middle guys

Corey Kluber - WAR - 1 @ 1 year for $11 million = $11 million / WAR

Mike Minor - WAR - 2 @ 2 years for $18 million = $2.25 million / WAR

James Paxton - WAR - 0 @ 1 year for $8.5 million = INF / WAR

Robbie Ray - WAR - 3.7 @ 1 year for $8 million = $2.16 million / WAR

Drew Smyly - WAR - .2 @ 1 year for $11 million = $55 million / WAR

The Twins Picks

J.A. Happ - WAR 0 @ $8 million

Matt Shoemaker - .7 WAR @ $2 million

The Twins have had 15 different starting pitchers in 2021. Less than 60% of SP's in the rotation will end the year with 30 starts.

This means the Twins need at least 10 - 15 starting pitcher.

I don't see any logic why the Twins FO will sign a SP that will cost 15-25% of the payroll and only has a 50-60% chance to make it through the entire season.

We could have signed 2 mid tier pitchers and gambled on their success, or do what the Twins did and signed 1 mid tier pitcher and 1 low end pitcher and roll the dice.

Unfortunately the dice roll didn't end up.

The Twins Plan That Didn't Work 

  • Sign elite defenders so mediocre pitchers have a better chance to thrive at Target Field
  • Josh Donaldson
  • Andrelton Simmons
  • Buxton in CF
  • Polonco is a + defender at 2B
  • Keplar is a + defender in the OF

Realistically the Twins made some good decisions, they just lost the dice roll. 

Sure beats being stuck with a lost season from;

Noah Syndergaard, Justin Verlander, Chris Sale, Luis Severino and many others....

25% of your payroll just thrown in the trash.... that would hurt... I like the Twins strategy better.

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Appreciate the analysis.

Only problem:  it's built on an assumption which "might not be so," namely, the "top level" free agent starters would sign with the Twins if actively pursued, offered competitive money, etc.

Based on the last few free agent cycles, I believe the Twins are at a massive disadvantage in pursuing the "top level" FA Starter compared to the largest market teams (like the Yankees & Dodgers), that the Twins won't even be considered by the "top level' FA Starters unless the Twins offer significantly better contract terms compared to those teams.

Further, there's a good chance the Twins wouldn't be considered even if they did so.

For whatever reason - beyond pure contract dollars - those guys appear to want to be in the "big markets":  whether it's "better chance of winning there" (the top-level guys are typically at a stage in their career where winning a World Series is higher on their list of priorities), or "More off-field earning potential," or what, I think those guys generally aren't interested in coming to Minnesota & the Twins would have to offer significantly better contract terms to "get them interested."

Which is a hard thing for a smaller market team to do. 

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Great reading, some very good analysis. Would it make sense for the Twins to build a bullpen with depth like Tampa Bay and let the young SP (Ryan, Ober, Gant and others take their turn) and see what happens. 

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Great job…lots of work and interesting numbers.

Still, there’s great risk in mid-market teams extending huge long-term deals. Doesn’t mean it should never be done, but there’s huge risk. It’s called opportunity cost. What if you’re wrong?…and even if you’re right, you create other issues which can materialize sometimes sooner rather than later.

We can pretend the Twins (and most other teams) can or ‘should’ look at it as in this analysis. But in fact only 2 or 3 teams can operate in this kind of a vacuum where the top guys can be targeted on a consistent basis.

 

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The Twins are not a small market team. There is money if management chooses to go that route. The payroll will not be above $160 million, so we are not competing with the New York teams or Los Angeles. It is extremely unlikely to sign Max Scherzer, agreed. There are options that will be available, however. Miami and Milwaukee both have some needs that match what the Twins can offer. Perhaps there can be some trades. Otherwise, or additionally, free agents are available who will sign if the Twins offer the correct number. 

If anything, the past month has shown that the Twins can win and good pitching is a must. It is much easier to win when three runs is enough. This year the Twins have given up more than five runs per game, the second worst in baseball. The analysis works and I hope the Twins can agree.

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I love this. However, the conclusion to draw, IMO, is not "the FO should decide to sign guys like this", because the market reality is they can't make that decision. They have to hope the Yankees, Dodgers, et al, allow such a signing.

The real conclusion to draw is the MLB has to make it possible for the Twins and similar teams to pursue such FAs. Whether through CBA, revenue sharing, national media contracts, or something. It is simply getting ridiculous.

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Chweey picking statistics. Price has a couple years ofmediocrity left as does Darvish. You miss the busts like Sanchez   The history of free agents is you get a few good years and more bad years. Greenie and Scherzer are the exceptions

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1 hour ago, old nurse said:

Chweey picking statistics. Price has a couple years ofmediocrity left as does Darvish. You miss the busts like Sanchez   The history of free agents is you get a few good years and more bad years. Greenie and Scherzer are the exceptions

Agree with some of this.

 

By & large, baseball pays guys for their track records, not their potential - not like the NFL, where guys with potential get big money early.

 

Of course, the NFL is also dealing with younger guys who potentially have their "prime athletic years" ahead of them.  In most cases, the "big money" pitchers have already put up at least a couple of their "prime athletic year" performances in the previous team's uniform . . . "How many of those years do you have left?" is the question. 

 

We couldn't come to terms with Johan when he was clearly one of the best pitchers . . . how'd that contract work out for the Mets?  I suspect they were hoping for "more than they wound up getting."  

 

That's the risk of giving an established starting pitcher a "big" contract . . . . you're paying for performance you didn't receive, in the hope you'll get enough similar performance in the future to make it worthwhile.

 

A team has to have the ability to "cover for a mistake."

 

The Twins' income structure is nothing like the Yankees; it's much more of a challenge for the Twins to absorb a mistake.

 

What baseball "needs" is to pool ALL revenue . . . National TV, National Radio, AND Local TV & Radio.   The big markets won't agree, of course - "We get paid for our product, people are more interested, willing to pay more, etc.'

 

The counter to that is "Without the 'other' teams - like the Twins - you have nothing to broadcast.  Whether you like it or not, the only reason you have broadcast rights to sell is because we exist ... so we're as much a part of you getting that money as you are."

 

Like I said, the Big Markets will never agree.

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2 hours ago, old nurse said:

Chweey picking statistics. Price has a couple years ofmediocrity left as does Darvish. You miss the busts like Sanchez   The history of free agents is you get a few good years and more bad years. Greenie and Scherzer are the exceptions

How is it "cherry-picking" to use WAR, which is generally regarded as the best catch-all single stat to measure a player's value?

Sure, most players decline in time but it's not a guarantee to happen with high-end pitching, just look at the likes of Verlander or Greinke. They may have declined from "elite" but they're still quite good.

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