For today’s post I’ve taken free agents at the positions in which the Giants need help — 1B/SS/OF — and ranked them by a simple 5/4/3 weighted Wins Above Replacement. Or, in other words, we’ll give look at the mean WARs for certain players, but we’ll give more weight to their more recent performances than past performances. I’m going on 3 years of data — 2008-10 — and all the WAR figures are pulled from FanGraphs.
Our first group is free agent first basemen.
Name P.1 P.2 2008 2009 2010 Weighted Lance Berkman 1B DH 7.5 3.4 2.1 3.1 Derrek Lee 1B DH 3.2 5.2 2.0 2.7 Victor Martinez C 1B 0.9 4.1 4.0 2.6 Aubrey Huff 1B DH 4.0 -1.4 5.7 2.3 Paul Konerko 1B DH 1.1 2.5 4.2 2.3 Jim Thome DH 1B 2.3 1.6 3.6 2.1 Carlos Pena 1B DH 4.0 2.8 1.0 1.9 Adam Dunn 1B DH 1.1 1.2 3.9 1.8 Adam LaRoche 1B DH 1.7 2.6 2.1 1.7 Russell Branyan 1B DH 1.2 2.9 2.0 1.7 Lyle Overbay 1B DH 2.0 2.4 1.5 1.5 Nick Johsnon 1B DH 0.9 2.5 0.1 0.9 Garrett Atkins 1B DH 0.3 -0.4 -1.1 -0.4
This year’s FA crop is regarded as a relatively weak class. However, first base looks to be the clearest path to picking up league average production. Lance Berkman, Derek Lee, Victor Martinez, Aubrey Huff, Paul Konerko, and Jim Thome all have weighted WARs of 2 wins or better. Knocking on the door of 2 wins is Carlos Pena, Adam Dunn, and Adam LaRoche. Of course some of these players are slanted more towards a DH role — Thome specifically — but I’ve included them in the list. So, what does it all mean? While the Giants would love to have Aubrey Huff come back, I don’t think he’s in the same position of negotiation that someone like Juan Uribe is in. Huff had a terrific year with the Giants (5.7 wins, the best of any FA 1B in 2010) but his weighted WAR comes out at 2.3 wins, mostly because of his crash and burn in 2009. There is some risk with going too far in years with Huff. There’s a very good chance that Derrek Lee or Lance Berkman could provide the same value as Huff but at a fraction of the cost.
I think Lance Berkman is an interesting candidate. His weighted WAR of 3.1 is tops among all first basemen and he seems likely to be undervalued. Berkman posted a .345 wOBA in 2010, a year in which his power slipped (.166 ISO, .250 career) but he was the same patient hitter (16% walk-rate, 15% career) that he’s always been. Next year will be his age 35 season, he’s not a dinosaur, but he’s not exceptionally young, either. Derrek Lee could also be another target if Huff’s demands are too high. His weighted WAR of 2.7 wins is #2 on the list. He hit well while playing in Atlanta (.849 OPS) and like Berkman, he seems like a player that could be undervalued.
V-Mart is going to be too expensive for the Giants. Konerko’s 4.2 win season should price him out of the Giants’ plans. Adam Dunn is an interesting player, but it’s going to come down to how you view his defense at 1B. He’s still probably better suited for a DH role. I like Carlos Pena, he’s coming off a down year but there is probably some dead-cat bounce in his 2011 projection.
Next, it’s the shortstops.
Name P.1 P.2 2008 2009 2010 Weighted Derek Jeter SS 3.7 7.1 2.5 3.5 Juan Uribe SS 3B 0.2 2.8 3.2 1.9 Miguel Tejada 3B SS 3.3 2.8 1.3 1.8 Orlando Cabrera SS 2B 3.5 0.8 1.3 1.3 David Eckstein 2B SS 0.1 0.9 2.0 0.9 Cristian Guzman SS 2B 3.2 0.7 -0.1 0.8 Edgar Renteria SS 2B 1.4 0.3 1.3 0.8 Cesar Izturis SS 1.5 1.0 -0.3 0.5
The shortstop class is extremely thin for team’s looking for help on the market. Jeter ranks as the #1 guy, but in reality his price is absurdly high and not an option for non-Yankee teams. As I touched on in a previous post, it’s easy to see why Uribe won’t settle for another 1 year deal this offseason. He’s the best SS on the market that’s attainable — ie: not Jeter. Things get ugly fast after Uribe. Tejada is probably stretched as a full-time SS. Orlando Cabrera is good for a 1 win season, but the Giants should be able to do better. Like Tejada, Eckstein isn’t really a SS any more. Same for Cristian Guzman. Renteria is an injury risk and Cesar Iztures is brilliant with the glove — 7.1 runs above average by UZR/150 — but he’s a legitimate candidate to post a -3o run batting season. Yuck.
Depending on how much Juan Uribe is receptive to coming back to the Giants, the best way to deal with SS might be a trade.
Finally, the outfielders.
Name P.1 P.2 2008 2009 2010 Weighted Carl Crawford OF OF 2.5 5.7 6.9 4.3 Jayson Werth OF OF 5.1 4.9 5.0 4.0 Manny Ramirez DH OF 6.2 2.5 1.6 2.4 Johnny Damon OF DH 3.8 3.3 1.9 2.3 Vlad Guerrero DH OF 2.6 0.8 2.6 1.6 Hideki Matsui DH OF 0.9 2.5 1.9 1.5 Pat Burrell OF OF 3.0 -0.4 2.5 1.3 Jim Edmonds OF OF 0.8 0.0 2.8 1.1 Andruw Jones OF DH -0.9 0.9 1.8 0.7 Rick Ankiel OF OF 1.8 0.0 0.7 0.6 Brad Hawpe OF DH -0.5 1.4 0.5 0.4 Jose Guillen DH OF -0.2 -1.8 0.9 -0.2
Among all free agents, Crawford and Werth are two of the best. Both have weighted WARs of 4+ wins. Either would be a great addition to the Giants. Personally, I like Jayson Werth a good bit. His defense is very good and as a right-handed batter, his power should hold up at AT&T. After the Crawford/Werth tier, you run into guys like Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon, and Vlad Guerrero. At this stage, all three seem more like DH options than OF options. The middle tier of Matsui, Burrell, and Edmonds has some positives, but a lot of negatives (age, defense). The rest should be looking for cheap 1 year deals or minor league contracts. Jose Guillen is truly terrible.
To wrap things up…
Prefer – Huff
Wouldn’t mind – Berkman, Lee
Avoid – Dunn, V-Mart
Prefer – Uribe
Wouldn’t mind – A trade
Avoid – Everyone else
Prefer – Werth
Wouldn’t mind – Burrell, Edmonds (maybe)
Avoid – Ankiel, Hawpe, Guillen