Here’s a couple of notes I thought worth sharing:
The major league third baseman leaders, according to FanGraphs, are Alex Rodriguez (4.1 Wins Above Replacement or WAR), Kevin Youkilis (3.4 WAR), Adrian Beltre (3.5 WAR) and Pablo Sandoval (3.3 WAR). Here’s the thing, though. According to COTS, Rodriguez will make $31 million this year, Youkilis will make $12 million and Beltre $14 million, while Sandoval will take home “just” $500,000. Here’s the kicker: Pablo’s accumulated the comparable WAR in 24, 41 and 32 fewer games than ARod, Youk and Beltre.
Without the injury, Pablo would be in the running for National League Most Valuable Player and the Gold Glove at the hot corner, while a Silver Slugger seems almost assured at this point. His .315/.362/.519 line isn’t far off from the .330/.387/.556 line he put up in his dazzling 2009, especially when you consider the reduction in league-wide offense over the past two seasons. Stay hot, Panda.
As out of sorts Brandon Belt was in his short stint this April, after yesterday’s excellent game against the Dodgers his on-base percentage (OBP) is .338 and 21 points better than the league average. He had an excellent game yesterday in his triumphant return from Triple-A.
I learned from Ken Davidoff yesterday that the Giants had a scout (Tom Zimmer, Don’s son) at the Rays, Yankees game. I speculated that they might be keeping tabs on B.J. Upton, and Buster Olney mentioned recently that the Rays were “weighing interest” on the toolsy center feilder.
Anyway, this is just speculation and the Giants may not have serious interest. Still, I think it’s worth exploring and did just that on Twitter yesterday evening, taking a shot in the dark that Zack Wheeler might be what it takes to strike a deal – the fans seem split on whether or not that’s a good idea. Those opposed cite the 2009 Freddy Sanchez deal which brought Freddy to The Bay and sent Double-A right-handed pitching prospect (and former first-round pick) Tim Alderson to Pittsburg as a comparable. Here’s why this proposal is different.
According to Baseball-reference, Sanchez had an adjusted-OPS (OPS+) of 93 in the two-and-a-half years leading up to the trade, which is to say he was about seven percent worse than league average. (He wasn’t exactly the All-star and batting-title candidate people made him out to be any longer.) His WAR over the span was just 3.6. From 2009 until now, a similar span of time with a comparable number of plate appearances, Upton has accumulated a WAR of 8.2 with an OPS+ of 97. He’s also done so in the AL East, the toughest division in the superior American League.
How does FanGraphs see it? Pretty similarly. Upton has a 7.9 WAR in that span and a wRC+ (I’ve linked the breakdown, but it’s essentially FanGraphs’ OPS+ version) of 101. But Sanchez does close the gap some with 6 WAR and a wRC+ of 89 from 2007-’09.
But here’s where things differ drastically. When the Giants acquired Freddy Sanchez in 2009 he was 31 and exiting his prime, while B.J. Upton is just 26 years old and presumably entering his prime years.
With all of this in mind I think we have a decent framework for a deal. Would Wheeler be enough for Andrew Friedman to part with Upton? I don’t know, and he might ask for more given Upton’s upside. Upton would clearly take more to pry away than Sanchez took in 2009, and Wheeler seems like a better prospect than Tim Alderson was at the time. But is that even true?
Wheeler came into 2011 as the number 55 prospect according to Baseball America. Pre-2009, BA actually had Alderson at 45, 10 spots higher than Wheeler was this year. That’s just one publication’s take, but you can see they aren’t exactly that far from one another when you compare Alderson’s value then to Wheeler’s value now. Alderson flamed out, but he was a heck of a prospect. But Wheeler was rated slightly lower because of a disappointing debut in 2010 in which he dealt with a fingernail issue, so I have to imagine that he’s ratcheted up his value quite a bit since the start of the season.
But there are other obstacles, including whether or not the Giants feel like upgrading in center field is the best bang for their buck. They already have Andres Torres out there and he’s hardly been their weakest link. He’s not having the same type of season he had a year ago, but his defense in center remains very, very good and he’s still hitting some. On the other hand, Upton is a 30/30 (30 home runs, 30 stolen bases) threat that’s stolen 42 bases in each of the past two seasons and is roughly on pace to steal 40 again. As athletic as Torres is, he’s not that sort of an impact base runner. And again, he’s in his prime, which Torres is not.
What’s more, despite what Upton is able to do, I don’t know that I see the Giants looking past his low batting averages (.241, .237 and .237 over the past three seasons). It’s far from the first stat I’d use to throw out a trade candidate, but all the same I wonder (and think) sometimes that the Giants are using it and RBI heavily when weighing offensive players.
My final note and my main hesitancy in this deal has nothing to do with either Zack Wheeler or B.J. Upton, but rather what I see as an organizational need in the near future. Pitching. Stick with me. It’s obvious right now that the Giants have pitching and desperately need offensive players. But at the same time, the Giants’ rotation is getting exorbitantly expensive and really needs to be restocked with some inexpensive arms soon.
If you take the 2012 cost, for example, you’ll get to a cost of about $41.8 million for Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, Sanchez and Zito before you even factor in arbitration (or contract) raises for Sanchez and Timmy. Will Sanchez be moved by then to give them a little relief in salary, assuming Ryan Vogelsong continues to pitch well? Maybe. Probably, even. Still, that’s one expensive rotation. Luckily, Eric Surkamp seems like a mid-rotation starter that’s not far away and gives them a way to mitigate that risk.
All things considered, I make the deal, but that’s if it or something like it’s even on the table. Upton has a lot of upside and seems a better option for center in 2012. If a player like Gary Brown is ready to step in at center in 2013, Upton can easily be moved over to left field where his bat still plays and he’d be a plus defender. (This would also require an extension after a trade, because Upton is only under control through 2012. Still, he’s not a rental.) In addition, he drastically changes the dynamic of the lineup by adding both a ton of speed and a lot of pop. And a little brotherly rivalry between him and his brother Justin (of the D’Backs) couldn’t hurt his motivation.