In some ways, trading Ramon Ramirez for Coco Crisp is similar to trading Leo Nunez for Mike Jacobs. In both cases, it’s temptingly easy to take one look at the trade and say, “Wow! The Royals traded a middle reliever for a starting everyday player!” And in both cases, once you actually look at the details of the trade, the question of whether this actually makes the Royals better becomes a lot more complicated.
The difference is that Nunez for Jacobs didn’t help the Royals all that much, relative to a stand-pat move. Trading Ramirez for Crisp does.
Let’s start with what the Royals gave up. Ramirez was nearly as effective in his role as Joakim Soria was in his – Ramirez threw 71.2 innings, allowed just 57 hits, and struck out 70 against just 25 (unintentional) walks. Most impressively of all, he allowed just two home runs. Other than nitpicking his control, there’s really no way to fault those numbers. If he can sustain this kind of performance, then he’s got a closer’s job waiting in his future.
There’s reason to think he can’t. For one, he has a very significant platoon split – RHB hit just .153 against him this year, while LHB hit .300. For his career, RHB bat .198/.275/.311, and LHB are at .283/.355/.403. He’s been so successful in large part because he’s been used to face more RHB than LHB, both in 2008 and for his career as a whole, but this would make him somewhat vulnerable in the late innings (at least in a world where teams don’t carry eight relievers and three bench players.)
That doesn’t make Ramirez’s performance less valuable – after all, we do live in a world where teams carry eight relievers and three bench players. But it makes his performance more easily replaced than a right-handed pitcher who is equally effective against LHB and RHB. Right-handed specialists aren’t terribly hard to find. (This is as good a time as any to make mention of the name Chris Hayes, a sidearming non-drafted free agent out of Northwestern who had a 1.64 ERA in Double-A last year. Hopefully this won’t be the last time his name appears on this blog.)
The other reason for concern with Ramirez is that home run total. When you surrender just two homers in 72 innings, there’s some luck involved. When you surrender two homers in 72 innings and you’re not a groundball pitcher, there’s a lot of luck involved. Ramirez isn’t; his G/F ratio last year was 1.26, which is about league average, and for his career it’s just 1.06.
In Ramon’s defense, if this was a fluke, it’s a long-standing one. With the
I think the Red Sox have made a fine acquisition. Ramirez is an excellent middle reliever, and there’s no reason to think, absent injury, he’s going to suddenly lose his effectiveness. But injury is not an abstract concern; Ramirez just missed almost an entire season with one, and the churn rate of relief pitchers – even good relief pitchers – is enormous.
1) While both Jacobs and Crisp don’t walk very much, Crisp hits for a better average, and so has the higher OBP – .331 for his career to Jacobs’ .318.
2) Crisp plays a key defensive position; Jacobs does not.
3) Crisp, at his best, is one of the best defensive centerfielders in baseball. Jacobs, at his best, is a DH.
4) Crisp plays a position where the Royals didn’t have viable in-house options (assuming they couldn’t live with DeJesus out there anymore, which the Royals felt they couldn’t.) Jacobs plays a position where the Royals already had too many in-house options.
5) Crisp is a switch-hitter with a miniscule platoon split; he has the same career OBP against LHP and RHP, but hits LHP for a touch more power. Jacobs is a glorified platoon player.
I think that these five advantages make up for Jacobs' massive edge in power, and then some.
As I discussed in my last column when it appeared the Royals might trade for Felix Pie – obviously that seems less likely today – by getting a top-flight defender in center field, the Royals can move DeJesus to left and upgrade their outfield defense at two positions. Make no mistake: the defensive upgrade is the only reason to think this trade makes the Royals better, and it is reason enough to make the trade.
Defensive metrics show that Crisp was just average in 2008, but those same numbers suggest he was the best defensive centerfielder in the majors in 2007, numbers which are borne out by some observers (I believe Bill James was quoted in 2007 as saying that he had never seen someone play defense in center better than the way Crisp was playing it.)
My sometimes colleague at BP, Dayn Perry, wrote a book a while back (“Winners”) in which he broke down many of the championship teams of the last generation to see what they had in common. I think his most interesting point was that he found a preponderance of teams that went to the playoffs had essentially two centerfielders: one of their corner outfielders (generally the leftfielder) was a former centerfielder who still had good range at the position. The most vivid recent example would be the 2005 White Sox, who played Aaron Rowand in center, then went out and got Scott Podsednik to play left - which seemed like a waste of resources, to use a scrappy power-free scutterbug in left field, but it worked pretty well for them.
Correlation does not mean causation, but I think there’s a potential synergy in play here, between a DeJesus-Crisp outfield and a rotation that has four fly-ball pitchers in Greinke, Bannister, Meche, and Davies. Even Soria has a low G/F ratio, although in his case it may be because he gets a lot of popouts. If nothing else, this trade gives Bannister a stronger case to get another shot in the rotation, and it raises the odds of a full-fledged, Cy Young-worthy breakout from The Baseball Jonah.
What this does for the Royals on offense is less clear, because it’s less than clear which version of Coco Crisp we’re getting. Are we getting the barely replacement-level bat of 2006-07? The .300-hitter with double-digit homer power of 2004-05? Or the 2008 version, which was somewhere in between?
Three years ago, Crisp hit .300/.345/.465 with 16 homers and 42 doubles, and was just 25 years old. The Red Sox then traded one of the game’s best prospects (Andy Marte - honestly, he was!) to get Crisp. (It wasn’t all bad for
It’s a bit of a stretch to blame a broken bone in 2006 for his inability to hit in 2007, but if that’s the case, you’d expect his bat to come around eventually, and after the All-Star break this year (keep in mind, in just 47 games), Crisp hit .315/.392/.403. To me, more exciting than the jump in his batting average is the spike in his walk rate – he drew 20 walks in just 175 plate appearances (149 AB) after the Break. It might be a fluke, but he had never before walked in even 10% of his plate appearances in any pre- or post-break stretch in his career.
It’s not unheard of for veteran players to add walks to their repertoire as they get older. Let’s hope that working with Kevin Seitzer can help Crisp maintain his newly-discovered penchant for walks, because I suspect Crisp will be leading off in 2009, regardless of whether or not his skill set is truly right for the job. He fits the part – fast guy, steals some bases, hits the ball into the gap – well enough that I suspect Hillman will overlook his questionable plate discipline.
And honestly, having discussed this issue with Kevin Kietzman and Danny Clinkscale earlier today, I’m not entirely sure where Crisp fits best in the lineup. The reality is that the Royals don’t have any ideal leadoff candidates except for DeJesus, who may also be the Royals’ best candidate to bat third. When building lineups, you want to build from the center out, not from the top down – if DeJesus is your best #3 hitter, then you bat him third, even if he’s also your best leadoff hitter. If that’s the case, then your best leadoff candidates are either Crisp or Alberto Callaspo (assuming Callaspo even starts). Callaspo had a .361 OBP last year, but he had a .265 OBP in 2007; he’s far from a proven commodity. The Royals could do worse than to lead Crisp off and tell him to work the count.
I think that the sum of Crisp’s offensive contributions will approximate those of the man he is replacing, likely Mark Teahen. So it’s a wash on offense, and a pickup of maybe 20 runs on defense. If Crisp hits more like he did in the second half of the year, and Joey Gathright doesn’t bat 300 times again, there’s a potential for another 10 or 20 runs of offense to pick up. So overall Crisp might be worth about 3 additional wins. The loss of Ramirez might cost a win-and-a-half.
So yes, the trade makes the Royals better, but at considerable cost. Crisp will be paid $6.25 million in 2009 (counting his buyout), with an option for 2010 at $7.5 million. Ramirez isn’t arbitration-eligible for another year, and the Red Sox control his services for four years to come. In terms of return on the dollar, the Royals could have found a more efficient way to spend an additional $6 million a year.
Or is it? If you share the Royals’ belief that they needed a new centerfielder, then you have to acknowledge that Crisp is a better player than any centerfielder on the free agent market this winter, unless you think 38-year-old Jim Edmonds can play forever, or unless you want to gamble that Rocco Baldelli’s mitochondria will start functioning normally. The other centerfielders out there include guys like Podsednik and Willie Bloomquist. The only way for the Royals to upgrade in center field was by trade, and Grady Sizemore wasn’t available.
Plus, the Royals are now in a position where they can trade Teahen, but they don’t have to trade him, and they can trade him for the best collection of talent and not simply to fill a specific need. (Maybe the Royals don’t need Pie now, although I’d still like to have him. But if the Cubs are willing to move Fontenot instead, well, I suppose we can live with a second baseman that hit .305/.395/.514 last year.)
But the main reason I like this trade is because
The Braves won for years with guys like Greg McMichael and Kerry Ligtenberg as their closers, never mind their middle relievers. More than any other position on the field, relievers are made, not born. Allard Baird thought otherwise, and kept spending money on born relievers like Roberto Hernandez and Ricky Bottalico and Doug Henry, and with that approach the Royals had the worst bullpen in major league history from 1998 to 2006.
Just as impressively as the bullpen he’s put together on the cheap is the talent he’s obtained by trading away relievers. He dismantled the bullpen he inherited, turning Mike MacDougal into Daniel Cortes and the just-released Tyler Lumsden; Andy Sisco for Ross Gload; and Ambiorix Burgos for Brian Bannister. He traded Elmer Dessens for Odalis Perez, and in returned for taking on some salary he picked up Blake Johnson and Julio Pimental. He traded Jeremy Affeldt and Danny Bautista for Ryan Shealy and Scott Dohmann. And that’s just 2006.
He signed Octavio Dotel to a one-year deal, then cashed him for Kyle Davies just in time. He signed David Riske to a one-year deal with a player option; Riske walked away and the Royals got supplemental first-round pick Mike Montgomery for their troubles. This year he picked up Ramon Ramirez for Jorge de la Rosa; picked up Horacio Ramirez and then cashed him in for Paulo Orlando after six weeks; and now moved Ramirez and Nunez for two everyday players.
In the summer of 2006, the Royals had one of the game’s worst bullpens. Within two years, Moore fashioned a very good bullpen, and neither spent a ton of money nor traded away any talent to do so – de la Rosa is the only player the Royals gave up to assemble their 2008 pen. And at the same time, Moore used his existing relief talent to acquire his best pitching prospect (Cortes), two mid-range starting pitchers (Bannister and Davies), a pair of usable 1B/OF types (Gload and Shealy), a first-round draft pick (Montgomery), and some minor league depth (Lumsden, Johnson, Pimental, Orlando.)
That is, in a word, astonishing. Especially since not one trade involving a reliever has come back to haunt
So I don’t know about you, but if Moore wants to trade another reliever – a reliever he had just acquired for a failed starter eight months ago – for an everyday centerfielder, I have faith he’s going to be able to replenish the well.
I’ve known Christina Kahrl since we started Baseball Prospectus 13 Novembers ago. In that time the Royals have made a lot of trades, some good, some bad, some criminally awful. But I don’t think I’ve ever heard her say “I love this deal for the Royals” for any of them before.
On Monday, Nate Silver wrote this in our Hot Stove Preview for the Royals, under the question “What Should They Do?”:
“There are two somewhat radical moves that the Royals could consider:
- Recognize that most closers have short lifespans, that the bullpen is fairly deep behind him, and that his trade value will never be higher, and move Joakim Soria for a premium corner outfield talent.
- Decide that they're actually fairly close to contention, and increase payroll by $20 million, hopefully using more discernment in the free-agent market than the sort that brought them Jose Guillen.
Absent doing one of those two things, the Royals are going to be in a holding pattern of some kind or another, with an outside chance of contention if things break just perfectly, but more likely to finish once again with a win total somewhere in the seventies. Sometimes there are no magic bullets and a holding pattern is the best that a team can do, particularly if they have limited financial resources—
In fact, I’m pretty sure he is. Because while Crisp makes the Royals a better team, he also makes them more expensive, and he's only under contract through 2010. Setting aside my reservations about Jacobs, I don’t think anyone can argue that replacing Gathright and Gload with Crisp and Jacobs is going to help the team significantly. The problem is that they also raise the team’s payroll significantly, to the tune of over $8 million. The Royals are already bumping up on a $70 million payroll, which they’ve suggested is close to their limit.
I hope that David Glass is willing to show some flexibility in that regard, because the money spent on Jacobs and Crisp will be invested most wisely if it’s accompanied by an additional investment. The addition of Jacobs and Crisp is worth on the order of 5 wins over the course of a year, more if the Royals can turn Teahen into something with present value. Is that enough to make the Royals a contender? No. Even if Gordon or
But if the Royals add one more bat to the lineup, the calculus changes. The off-season is still young. The Royals have yet to be ruled out of the Rafael Furcal sweepstakes; Furcal, like Crisp, would allow the Royals to upgrade defensively at two positions at once, as
For now, though, the Royals have the luxury of having no more obvious holes to fill in their lineup, and they still have Teahen to dangle out there for whatever suits their fancy. Making this trade in November sets the Royals up to explore every possible trade and free agent option out there in December, without feeling pressured to make a move.
This is not a risk-free trade, but for the Royals, the upside trumps the downside. I think that the Red Sox are more likely to win this trade by a little. But I think that the Royals are more likely to win this trade by a lot.
Love it. I'm already getting a lot more excited about next summer...wonder what Moore can/will do with Gload, Gathright, and Teahen.
Also, I hate to nitpick a good write-up, but isn't it Pimentel rather than Pimental?
I don't believe they filled any holes. Many people compare Jacobs to Gload but I compare him to who would have started in 2009. That would be either Shealy, Butler, or Kila at some point.
In CF we lost a significant chunk in offense. We also lost what we could have had in left as DeJesus goes from an above average CF to a below average LF.
Essentially, we made two trades to fill two holes that did not exist and it only cost us $9mil next year and our two top setup men. A small price to pay for nothing I say. Especially with the economy that way it is and all.
Why would dejesus be a below average lf. He's a plus defender at left field and can ops 800. When you compare him to other left fielders in the league, his defense will make up for his lack of power on offense. Dave Cameron just wrote an article at fangraphs about this exact argument and uses Dejesus as his example you should check it out.
What do you think we get could in return if we were willing to trade Gordon and keep Teahan at 3B? Gordon clearly has more upside and I personally think he is set for a breakout season offensively, but I think Teahan is the better defensive 3B.
I think it's reasonable to think we could package some combination of two or three of Gordon, Butler, Davies, Gathright, Buck, Guillen, Meier, Callaspo, German, or Gload for a stellar SP, SS or 2B and a solid reliever. Thoughts?
I actually disagree with Nate's assessment that Soria's value will never be higher. Simply due to the fact that over a dozen good closers are available via free agency this offseason and only about 6 or 7 teams are actually seeking relievers. Jayson Stark just had an article about this. It seems to me that it is a bad time to trade a closer because clubs can get one without trading prospects, and maybe for a lower price because all of these closers are jockeying for position.
When calculating how many more wins we get with Jacobs/Crisp in the lineup I generally agree with your assessment, Rany.
But, I'm not yet convinced that adding another bat to the lineup is more important than adding another stud pitcher to the rotation. I think adding Ben Sheets will provide us with 10 more wins (or maybe more). Adding a guy like Sheets makes our 1-2-3 pitcher lineup interesting. Does he become #1? Meche 2? Greinke 3? No matter what order, that's an impressive 1-2-3 lineup. Then that also pushes our current 3rd or 4th starter down to 4th or 5th. I think that has a tremendous impact.
I like the moves Moore has made so far, even if Jacobs' OBP sux and his defense is below average. Maybe the Rs saw something in him we haven't. Maybe they think he's very coachable on defense. And either way, we finally have more than one guy who can hit for power. If Guillen can stay healthy, that is.
So now, I await any rumors that we throw the kitchen sink at Sheets or CC. But I don't think there is any chance CC even considers the Royals. But I think Sheets would. Drop Teahen's $3M/year and give Sheets $12M/year. Payroll ends up (I think) in the low $70M range, but I would think we'd be close to contending with that staff.
Unless there is a trade in the works to get some pitching out of the excess position players the Royals have, this is a bad trade and doesn't make any sense.
The problem is, we won't know until the deal is done because Moore does everything in secret, which I can't figure out why. Is is afraid of being criticised? Other GM's are open about the moves they make. It goes back to his Hillman hiring, and everything since then?
If he doesn't have anyhting to hide, then why is he hiding it?
And why did he make another stupid trade for a piece we don't need?
Aviles is not an upgrade at 2B, at least not defensively. He looks at home at SS, but looks lost at 2nd. He has trouble turning the double play from that side as well. I think he is above average at SS, and would get used to second, but I wouldn't move him there unless we got a superior defensive shortstop, and I'm not sure Furcal fits that description anymore.
I don't know how many other GM's (in any sport) send out daily updates about trade conversations and strategies regarding FA acquisitions, Ron.
Moore isn't an elected official. This is a professional baseball team we're talking about. And I've personally listened to and/or read at least 4 different interviews he gave immediately after the trade was finalized.
Why would Moore want everyone to know what he's doing trade wise or free agent wise before he does it?
I don't understand how that would benefit the club at all....
I agree with anonymous 11:26, it would be ridiculous for DM to be telling us fans what he's going to do. I'm quite sure no GM does that. That would be a great way to destroy any negotiating leverage he might have with his peers.
The one problem I have with your analysis is that pitching, even relief pitching, is much harder to obtain. Add into this the fact that RamRam would be inexpesssively under their control for several years(presumably why he was so attractive to the RSox) and the deal has to be considered in a different light.
The Royals now have players in Jacobs and Crisp who bring at least the experience of playing winning baseball to the team---and remember how much better the Royals played when they added Shealy and frankly the 6 HR he hit in September? They don't need to worry now about getting Shealy to repeat that as they now have Jacobs who probably can his 5HR. I think they Royals are a .500 team at worst now.
@Anonymous, 12:51 PM
What alternate MLB reality are you living in? Relief pitching is "harder to obtain" than a legitimate starting CF? Really? If anything, Moore has shown a remarkable ability to find good bullpen arms every year. And I would think most baseball analysts would agree that relief pitchers are the most fungible commodity in the game.
Rany, I was looking forward to your view on this trade. Thanks for the post and congratulations to your brother for his wedding!
I would imagine Dayton Moore doesn't want his dealings made public because he's afraid of the media's take on the offer skewing the trade partner's outlook on the deal. For example, if Teahen for Pie sounds good to the GM of the Cubs at first, but the media comes out and blasts Teahen or touts Pie, this could add complications to the deal.
No matter what these high-ranking front office guys say, they all know what the media and the fans think about them and their take on every personnel move. If the fan's perspective legitimately didn't matter to them, they wouldn't be in the position they're in to decide on personnel moves in the first place.
Also, can we please let the point about GMDM being able to rebuild bullpens die. I'm tired of reading about that one. Everybody and their sister's dog's goldfish's aquarium pebbles has made this point.
It's clear he's counting on Yabuta figuring out MLB hitters and Rosa coming up to help fill the void. But more importantly, this could hint at more multiple inning appearances for Soria. And that would be a better use of innings than you'd get with any setup guy.
I really think this team can compete now and will score some runs even if The Fat Kid and Gordon improve only minimally.
Not only are we adding Crisp and Jacobs to our lineup, we're subtracting Gathright and Gload.
Just let that simmer for a minute.
I think we're going to find out a lot about Trey Hillman next year. Dayton Moore may be able to put together a team capable of making the playoffs--and I'm thrilled to see a Royals GM actually trying to do that for the first time this millennium--but he isn't going to improve this team enough to dominate in 2009. With a marginally competitive roster, Hillman's moves will actually matter. Does he let Jacobs bat against RHP? Does he use Soria for more than just the 9th inning? Does he ask Butler to bunt? This kind of question was academic in the past, but now it may actually matter. Especially if the Royals add a free-agent of the Sheets/Furcal class, we may be about to find out what Hillman is made of.
I look forward to your commentary throughout the winter, Rany, and I'm really starting to look forward to the summer of 2009.
Gotta say I don't like this trade and feel about it pretty much the same way I did about the Jacobs trade, that he gave up a useful middle reliever to get someone who is only a marginal upgrade to what the Royals already had available.
Crisp hasn't been very good offensively for 3 years now and the defensive metrics show he's only been above average defensively in CF for 1 season ever.
Maier's EqR translations from last year in AAA is not much different from Crisp's actual EqR last year and this was his best offensive year since 05. I really don't see there being a 6 million dollar difference between the two of them.
Meanwhile, DM has traded 3 relievers who combined to pitch for about 150 innings of sub 3 ERA ball last year. Yes, DM can find relievers (mostly by just bringing in a ton of different ones and seeing which ones pan out), but its going to be tough for him to deplete the bullpen that much and be able to replenish it. He's banking alot on Yabuta getting alot better next year.
Hopefully DM hasn't depleted a strength of this team just to get slightly better at places where we were going to be better than last year anyways.
One thing does bother me about these moves, though: opportunity cost. Might we have been better off spending all this money in one big pop than taking on salary in trades a little at a time? A Shealy/Jacobs platoon at 1B could be productive, but I still think there's something to be said for throwing an Adam Dunn at the problem instead. And don't get me started on the continuing cost of the Guillen signing. We could have Bobby Abreu or at least Milton Bradley for that kind of money is GMDM had shown a little patience last year.
It's clear that on the whole Moore is doing a good job. However, the fact that his good moves have us on the verge of fielding a quality team makes swallowing the mistakes all the more bitter.
i agree with everyone's statistical analysis of dm's offseason moves. and i respect obp and babip, and all that.
but i think one thing that stat wonks also sometimes miss the big picture.
there's more than one way to build a winning ball team, and dmgm might just be doing it his way.
it's hard to deny that next year's roster, even the way it stands today, will be significantly better than last.
that means .500 ball folks. and better yet, that means that winning is expected. when was the last time that people SERIOUSLY expected the royals to win.
for once, it's not just the typical royals gm saying, "____ has a winning mindset," when the rest of the team sucks.
coco makes our team better, boys and girls.
I don't know if I fully agree with the assessment that Coco Crisp only adds three wins. If I was reading that correctly, that only takes his offense into account. It's been mentioned several times in this post how strong his defensive skills are, and how strong our entire outfield might be with DeJesus/Crisp/Guillen. The addition of Crisp to our outfield could make it one of the game's best. A powerful outfield like that can boost every pitcher's confidence and success. To me, it seems this is what the Cardinals consistently do and why they consistently compete with less than mediocre pitching. I see Crisp as having significantly more value. I agree, we may have overpaid for him, considering that team Ram-Rom isn't arbitration eligible for a few years, but I think Crisp plugs several of our holes very nicely. Especially with some of our flyball pitchers, a strong outfield could make a world of difference. Guys like Bannister, who have excellent control but depend on their outfield, should be especially thrilled about this trade. I don't know how to do the math on it, but I'd guess hes much more valuable than an extra win and a half over Ramirez.
i think we've killed the coco/ram-ram debate.
anyone see the latest teahen/cubs rumor? apparently we want sean marshall and mike fontenot. i'd gladly take both! that would be quite the haul for teahen.
I'm pretty sure it's Marshall OR Fontenot, not both. I can't imagine the Cubs would give up both for Teahen.
Giving up middle relief pitching for a starting CF is always good. RamRam had a great season last year, but who's to say he's going to repeat it? We just might have traded the guy for a proven CF right before he hit the wall.
It's not both....it's one or the other. If the Cubs give us both than they deserve to lose for another 250 years or whatever the streak is.
I'd take either one of those guys for Teahen. I'd rather throw in Pena or German and get both. I think German and Teahen for Marshall and Fontenot is fair. That way they pick up a ton of versatility. I don't think I'm too biased. Does anyone know if Fontenot can play some 3rd if Gordon were to get hurt?
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