Wednesday, November 30, 2005

KONERKO RE-SIGNS WITH CHISOX!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
PER ESPN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Bill Stoneman: just say no to Sweeney. If you're willing to move Erstad to center for Konerko, you should be for Kotchman.

- Via Primer, Ken Rosenthal alleges that signing Konerko could mean Kennedy and Kotchman are on the trading block.

- Matt Welch looks at Win Shares to give us further reason to not dispatch Kotchman so readily.

- Unrelated to the Angels squandering their future, Halofan's Top 100 Angel Countdown continues today with JT Snow, allowing me an opportunity to go negative.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Rob links to Joe McDonnell reporting that were the Angels to fail in their misguided attempt to sign Paul Konerko, they already have "a deal ... in place" to trade Casey Kotchman for Mike Sweeney. Sweeney would slide into the DH slot, allowing Erstad to continue his reign as a weak-hitting first baseman.

Just straight-up, who is more valuable, Sweeney or Konerko? Let's look at them over the last four years.
           Sweeney                Konerko
2002 545 142 .312 +30.5 630 123 .286 +18.8
2003 463 115 .286 +10.8 495 85 .237 -10.5
2004 452 123 .277 +11.5 643 123 .289 +19.3
2005 514 127 .292 +17.6 664 136 .298 +30.0
1974 127 .292 +70.4 2432 118 .279 +57.6
OPS+ as reported by BB-ref; EqA from Baseball Prospectus;
BRAA my own Batting Runs Above Average using linear weights
Looks like a landslide for Sweeney, despite the fact that he's been a less durable player. Let's say it's unfair to count Konerko's bad year against him while including Sweeney's big 2002. Take out those two seasons, and Sweeney's OPS+ over the period is 122, Konerko's 127.

Sweeney, per Cot's Baseball Contracts, is due to make $12.5M per year each of the next two seasons. That's a lot of money for a DH that hasn't played in over 150 games in a season since 2000; in fact, over the last four seasons, Sweeney has played in only five more games than Bengie Molina, a catcher who lost considerable time to injury in 2003. And Sweeney's injuries often result from chronic back problems.

So while I believe Sweeney is a better hitter than Konerko, the combination of his durability and salary make him equally undesirable, as far as I'm concerned. He may be a better fit in that he would only be under contract through 2007 against Konerko possibly being under contract through 2010 (Odyssey Two), but I think the injury concerns serve to balance that out somewhat.

Of course, that's not even considering the fact that we would have to give up Kotchman to acquire Sweeney. Here is how our futures could look under a few different scenarios:
             Sign Konerko     Trade for Sweeney      In My World             
Pos 2006 2007 2006 2007 2006 2007
C Mathis Mathis Mathis Mathis Mathis Mathis
1B Konerko Konerko Erstad Morales Kotchman Kotchman
2B Kennedy Kendrick Kennedy Kendrick Kennedy Kendrick
3B McPhrsn McPhrsn McPhrsn McPhrsn McPhrsn McPhrsn
SS Cabrera Cabrera Cabrera Cabrera Cabrera Wood/Aybar?
LF Garret Garret Garret Garret Rivera Morales?
CF Erstad Figgins? Figgins Figgins? Figgins Figgins?
RF Vlad Vlad Vlad Vlad Vlad Vlad
DH Kotchman Kotchman Sweeney Sweeney Garret Garret
I put Figgins in center In My World in expectation of Erstad getting injured.

The Sweeney scenario is very much a Win Now scenario, even moreso than acquiring Konerko would be.

But here's a serious question: who do you think will be more productive over the next two seasons, Casey Kotchman or Mike Sweeney?

If you ask me, it's a toss-up. Maybe Sweeney gets a slight edge, rate-wise, in 2006, but 2007 is all Kotch's, and signs are he'll be more durable than his older counterpart in both seasons.

Another question: who will be a better bargain over the next two seasons, Kotchman or Sweeney?

I think it's Kotchman, and I don't think it's close.

But what value is a bargain? So he's cost-effective, so what?

I think it's a huge value.

I mean, Kotchman will be around $12M less in salary than Sweeney. Instead of spending that $12M to possibly upgrade first base or DH, couldn't we better spend it, after next season, on a center fielder? Or, perhaps, a starting pitcher if Weaver or Shell doesn't develop and/or one of our current guys gets injured? Or even on the player development system that has created a core of players (in Kotch, McPherson, Kendrick, Wood, Aybar, Callaspo, Mathis, et al.) poised to keep us competitive into the next decade?

I don't want to turn this blog into Keep Our Young Players Central, but Good Lord, why are we so desperate to upgrade at the one position where we have a viable and cheap option in-house? What the hell is going on here? I'd rather trade for Manny than sign Konerko or trade Kotchman for Sweeney. Well, maybe, depending on who we'd give up ... anyway, I'm just mystified. I sure hope Bill Stoneman knows something the rest of us don't.

The LA Times reports today that the Angels have upped their offer to Paul Konerko to a five-year deal close to $60M, which would average out to roughly $12M per year. It had been previously reported that the ChiSox had offered Konerko four years at an average of $13M per, so who knows.

The fact that the Angels are still in this is kind of frightening. Odd deduction from the LA Times report: "A successful pursuit of Konerko would probably push first baseman Darin Erstad back to center field and block the path of promising first baseman Casey Kotchman."

While pushing Erstad back to center would be wonderful beyond compare, how exactly would Kotchman be blocked?

Let's say we end up with Konerko, and he insists on playing first base. What's wrong with this lineup:

Kennedy, 2B
Kotchman, DH
Vlad, RF
Garret, LF
Konerko, 1B
McPherson, 3B
Cabrera, SS
Erstad, CF
Mathis, C

Of course, that would never happen. We'd likely end up with:

Erstad, CF
Cabrera, SS
Vlad, RF
Garret, LF
Konerko, 1B
Kotchman/Rivera, DH
McPherson, 3B
Mathis, C
Kennedy, 2B

At least until Erstad gets hurt and replaced by Figgins.

Anyway, there would be no need for Kotchman to be blocked by acquiring Konerko, at least for 2006. The blockage problem starts in 2007, when Kendry Morales will likely be ready to play, and when Garret Anderson may need even more time at DH. And guess what? Unless we move Erick Aybar there or Legs Figgins makes it permanent, we won't have a center fielder at all. (That's me assuming we don't sign Erstad to some ridiculous contract. If we sign Konerko, maybe that's a bad assumption to make.)

The problem with Konerko is not 2006; he likely would improve us next season, even if overpaid. The problem is a long-term problem, one where we would have too much money invested in too many guys at too few positions, all of which are blocking guys cheaper, younger, and probably better.

We need to stop the madness.


An interesting tidbit from that same LA Times article:
Though the Angels don't plan to match the three-year, roughly $18-million offer the New York Mets gave to Bengie Molina, there is still a chance they could retain the free-agent catcher.

According to a source, the Angels will offer Molina salary arbitration in December.

If free-agent catcher Ramon Hernandez, who also received a three-year offer from the Mets, commits to New York first and Molina doesn't receive any other lucrative offers, Molina could accept arbitration and attempt to spin a lucrative one-year contract with the Angels into a two-year deal.
Were Bengie to accept arbitration, that would likely be the best outcome possible for 2006. The Angels would only be obligated to sign him for one year, giving Mathis another year to master AAA before being thrown to the AL wolves, and it's doubtful that Bengie's one-year salary would be too out of line for his services.

But, given Mathis' imminent emergence and Bengie's advancing age "spinning" that into a two-year deal would likely be a mistake -- though not one of Konerkian proportions.

Monday, November 28, 2005

A few things have happened in the last week that have indirect effects on the Angels:

- The White Sox traded Aaron Rowand for Jim Thome.

Though I think the first reaction a lot of people had is that this move gets the ChiSox out of the Paul Konerko derby, the player it really seems to free up is Frank Thomas.

If the Sox re-sign Konerko, and per Kenny Williams we should know one way or another within a week, that leaves The Big Hurt without a position, and for the first time in his illustrious career he would have to seek employment outside of Chicago.

Thomas is a pretty intriguing player, actually. The only question with him, though a big one, is his health. He had only around 100 at-bats last year, but was the same old Frank, posting a 131 OPS+. The shape of it was a bit odd, with an AVG/OBP/SLG of 219/315/590, but you have to imagine that would have normalized with more playing time. In 2004, in over twice as many plate appearances, Frank hit 271/434/562.

The big problem, of course, is that he has had only 435 plate appearances over the past two seasons. Practically, this means that he could likely be signed to a short and cheap contract, although one loaded with incentives should he actually be able to play.

If this comes to pass, should the Angels look to sign Frank Thomas to such a contract? They could do a lot worse, if they are really looking for a right-handed power hitter for a DH or 1B slot. In fact, I think signing Thomas to be a DH would make a hell of a lot more sense than signing Konerko:

1. Thomas would be much, much cheaper. Were he not to work out, almost nothing would have been expended.

2. Thomas, if healthy, would be much, much better. Sure, he'll turn 38 in May, but his OPS+ over the last four years is 136; Konerko's is 119.

3. Thomas, who would be signed to a short-term deal, would not be blocking any players in the future, i.e. Casey Kotchman and Kendry Morales. He could DH for a year and be gone. Konerko will likely command a four- or even five-year deal, which would knot up the easy end of the defensive spectrum, causing a logjam with Kotchman, Kendry, and an increasingly gimpy Garret Anderson.

If you add it all up, I'm not convinced that he might not be a better acquisition than Manny, once you account for the cost in money and players it would take to acquire Man Ram.

I guess one problem with this scenario is that it leaves no place for Tim Salmon, in the unlikely event that he can be healthy and productive. We'd all like to see Tim have a heroic return, but I think we all recognize that the chances of that happening are rather slim. And, quite frankly, the chances of both Tim and The Hurt being healthy simultaneously are pretty low, as well.

I just think it's something worth considering.

- The Mets acquired Carlos Delgado for Mike Jacobs and Yusmeiro Petit.

There has been some chatter that the Angels were involved in Delgado negotiations. Given what the Marlins acquired in this deal, it appears that the Angels would likely have been asked to offer up something like Casey Kotchman and Ervin Santana to get Delgado. As fine a hitter as he is, that cost is too steep.

- That's about it.

Yeah, the BoSox acquisition of Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell doesn't directly affect us, though it does make one postseason contender stronger. But there's little reason to believe the Angels were ever in the Josh Beckett market.

However, it does indicate that the Marlins are shedding salary, and some of their other marquee players are believed to be available. This includes the likes of Juan Pierre, who, at first glance, may appear to fit into the Angel offense, and fills a defensive need, as well. But I think that's a longshot, and I hope we don't pursue him, as his defense is not sufficient to make up for his mediocre-at-best offensive skills.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Well, with Thanksgiving coming up, I will likely remain silent over this week, as I'll be traveling and will have only sporadic internet access. If the Angels do something big, I'll try to make the time to stop by, but otherwise, have a great holiday weekend, and I'll catch y'all in seven days.

Friday, November 18, 2005

There has been, essentially, no news regarding the Angels this week, aside from the fact that Dino Ebel will become the team's new third-base coach, moving Ron Roenicke to the bench coach spot. What strikes me just a bit odd about that is that Ebel, during the postseason, was praised for having a lot of skill in stealing signs. Obviously he'll still be in the dugout when the Angels are on defense, but hopefully he can still apply this skill when other teams are pondering a pitch-out.

As for Halosphere goings-on, I've added a couple new Angel blogs to the roll to your right, including Jim Scully's Take Two at Haloville.

The other big thing in the Halosphere, in case you haven't already seen it, is Halofan's countdown of the top 100 Angels of ever. Halofan solicited the input of other Halosphere luminaries, and he will be generously publishing our comments on players as he goes along (I comment on Shigetoshi Hasegawa here). This is a project sure to grow even more fascinating as it goes along and we near the top of the list, so stay tuned.

Monday, November 14, 2005

- As linked to at Rotoworld, the Boston Globe reports that Manny Ramirez's agent says Manny would be willing to DH is acquired by the Angels.

- Paul Konerko, however, prefers to play first base, though he would "consider" being a DH "in some cases."

- It is not entirely clear how we would deal with having Manny/Konerko, Garret, Kotchman, and Morales around in 2007, however, and no one seems to be speaking to that point.

- As I speculated the other day, the Angels have indeed expressed interest in Scott Eyre. Eyre is reportedly in receipt of a two-year offer (and an optional third year) from the Giants that would pay him a total of around $8M. I don't think he's worth paying more than $4M per year, so if that offer is really on the table, I don't think the Angels would be well-suited to try to top it.

- Bill Stoneman has essentially declared that Bengie Molina is no longer an Angel (same link as the Konoerko article), saying, "We have Jeff Mathis, who is ready, and Jose Molina. Realistically, where would we be better off placing our resources if we're trying to better the club? [emphasis mine]" Though this is, of course, no surprise, it's interesting to hear Stoneman come out and say that Mathis is ready.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Per MLB.com.

I wish him the best of luck; he's long been a contributor to the Angel organization, and will likely be missed, but he deserves a shot at managing, and the Angel job is filled. He should benefit from a group of talented youngsters just entering the majors and/or the prime years, and a new ownership group committed to success.

Will this affect the Angels? It's hard to say, but the organizaton seems cohesive enough that someone should be in line to perform the tasks he did in Los Angeles fo Anaheim.

Anyway, congratulations, Joe!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Rotoworld links to this Mercury News story that has the following intriguing passage:
The off-season intensifies further today as open bidding begins for free agents -- including left-hander Scott Eyre, who excelled for the Giants last season and has drawn interest from all 30 teams, according to his agent, Tommy Tanzer. "I've never seen anything like it in the whole time I've been doing this," said Tanzer, who has represented players for 23 years.
Now, Tommy Tanzer might just be talking a big game, but let's assume that he's not lying, and that all 30 teams have expressed interest.

Upon serious investigation, I have determined that the Angels are indeed one of all 30 teams in the major leagues. Would it make sense for the Angels to express interest in Eyre? It might, indeed -- the Halo bullpen was not deep last year, has lacked a reliable lefty for several years, and Kelvim Escobar will be returning to the rotation.

Is Scott Eyre any good? Well ... he's gotten to be okay. Here are the totals for his last three seasons, all with San Francisco:
 G   IP   H   HR   SO   BB   ERA   ERA+
243 178 151 15 149 79 3.29 134
That ERA, for a reliever in that park, isn't world-beating, but isn't awful. He doesn't allow a bunch of homers or hits, which is obviously good for a guy that usually comes in with men on base. More walks than you would like to see, but an okay number of strikeouts.

But look of the ratio of games to innings pitched; he's averaged .73 innings per appearance over that time, which indicates he pretty much only comes into face left-handers. However, even "left-handed one-out guys" will usually face a high percentage of right-handed batters, due to pinch hitting and the like. Here are his 2005 splits:
            AB    H    HR   SO   BB   AVG   OBP   SLG
vs. LHP 99 18 0 30 11 182 277 242
vs. RHP 141 30 3 35 15 213 292 319
Here, we see that one reason Eyre excelled in 2005 was that he was nearly as good against right-handed batters as left-handed batters. Is that usually true?

Here's 2003-2005:
            AB    H    HR   SO   BB   AVG   OBP   SLG
vs. LHP 295 59 5 73 26 200 265 302
vs. RHP 365 70 10 76 53 252 347 375
As we see, Eyre is very good against lefties, and okay against right-handers. But, 2005 notwithstanding, he's not really a guy who can face either RHB or LHB in a close game. So his effect on improving bullpen depth might not be too substantial.

Does that mean the Angels shouldn't look into him? Not necessarily; there is some value to having that lefty one-out guy, and he would be a better choice Jason Christiansen would have been. Whether or not he should be picked up depends in large part on how much money he would command, as beyond, say, maybe $3M per year, it would probably make more sense to just throw Jake Woods or Joe Saunders into that role. We need to be cautious of this southpaw from the north.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

A new Angel blog has entered the world, authored by "Chone Smith," who, if I'm not mistaken, is a regular poster over at BTF. Chone seems to be mixing in some APBA commentary with his Halo analysis (he has 2005 projections for Kotch and Konerko), which is fine with me, as I kind of grew up on the old APBA computer game ...

... anyway, welcome to the Halosphere, "Chone"!

Via BTF, it has been reported that the White Sox have offered Paul Konerko a four-year, $52M deal. For those without calculators installed in their heads, that comes out to $13M per year.

According to the article, Paulie's first choice is a five-year deal, and he will likely test the market regardless of the ChiSox offer, but I think this story represents good news for the Angels. The White Sox have clearly made re-signing Konerko a priority, and $13M is a huge offer for a man of his talents.

There's just no way the Angels are going to be stupid enough to outbid them on this.


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

When I think about it, the only time I remember The Fat Man showing any emotion, the Angels were either celebrating a divisional win or he was in extreme pain trying to pitch in ALDS Game 5. Usually, he's stoic; he almost looks bored when he saunters from the mound to the dugout between innings, feigning the same level of disinterest regardless of whether he allowed seven runs that inning or struck out the side.

So I am happy to link to a series of photos at the ESPN site, all featuring Colon celebrating with friends in the Dominican Republic. He can demonstrate joy! Who knew?

Though I must say that, in some of the photos, his friends look a lot happier than he does.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Well, Bartolo won the Cy Young Award.

In the end, I don't think he deserved it. Going by the park-adjusted figures at BB-ref, he was 17.6 runs better than average last year. How do I get that? Well, he had a 3.48 ERA, and the park-adjusted league average was 4.19, so he was .71 earned runs better than average over nine innings. That's .079 per inning, and he pitched 222 2/3 innings, so that comes out to 17.6.

Johan Santana, by this measure, was +39.4. Kevin Millwood was +26.5, and Mark Buehrle was +35.0 (though my short-hand method does not account for unearned runs, of which pitchers are oftentimes at least partly responsible, and Buehrle gave up quite a bit of those). Hell, John Lackey was +17.4.

Still, Bartolo was very good this year, and it's a nice feather in Bill Stoneman's cap to have signed guys that won the MVP and Cy Young Award in back-to-back years. So I'll turn off my brain and just be happy for the man.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

In the good news division, as has been widely reported, the Angels have signed Bud Black through 2007.

Since taking over in 2000, the Angel pitching staff has ranked 10th, 3rd, 2nd, 10th, 5th, and 4th in the league by ERA+ (as recorded at BB-ref). Maybe it's not the Braves, but that's a pretty good stretch, and you'd have to think that Buddy is a big part of it.

The bad news comes from this OC Register confirmation that the Angels are pursuing Paul Konerko. According to the article, "Konerko is likely seeking a four- or five-year deal in the $50 million-$60 million range." That's a steep price for a guy with a career OPS+ of 114 who turns 30 this March. But that's what happens when a guy has his best season in his walk year.

I just don't know what the hell the Angels think they're going to do with him if they get him. If you DH him, you're probably blocking Kotchman, and Morales one year from now when Erstad's gone and you can put Kotch at first. If you put him at DH or first with Kotch at the other, and put Erstad in center, that might not be bad -- but what are you going to do the next three seasons, when Morales will likely be ready and Garret will need more time to DH? It just strikes me as incredible silliness to clog up the easy end of the defensive spectrum with a 30-year-old who, though pretty good, certainly isn't great.

One would imagine that Bill Stoneman and company have thought through these scenarios, but, if they had, why the hell are they contacting Paulie's agent?

And another thing: do you think Paul Konerko is going to be worth roughly $12M per year over the next four or five years? People that look at this tend to say that one win over replacement is worth maybe $2M-3M, so Konerko would have to be worth 4-6 wins above replacement per year over the course of the contract to be worth it. Call it 5 wins.

Check out his Davenport card at Baseball Prospectus. Can you guess how many times in his career Konerko has produced 5 or more wins above replacement? That's right, once: in 2005.

Now, maybe Davenport's wrong, but I doubt he's off by much, and I think it's something of a stretch to say Konerko'll be worth $12M per year from age 30 through 34.

Every now and then I worry that this team has no direction home, and this is one such occasion.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

As you know, nothing has happened with the Angels in the last week or so. Well, at least, not directly. For, as you also know, the other Los Angeles team shot themselves in the foot this weekend.

It’s not that Paul DePodesta was necessarily going to lead the Chavez Ravine team back to glory. But he deserved more than two years on the job, especially when you consider that his team won a division title in his first season. And his second was torn by injury – to me, the Chavez Ravine 2005 team is quite reminiscent of the 2003 Angel squad.

DePo was obviously imperfect, and didn’t adequately fill the catcher, third base, or backup outfielder positions. But few teams are perfect, and an owner with a clue would allow his executives some leeway as they going about building a team (and an organization – the Dodger farm system was not in the best of straits before DePo’s arrival).

It’s that last point – about the lack of leeway – that I think really spells doom for the Ravine faithful. The McCourts allowed DePo to fire Jim Tracy, then turned around and immediately fired DePo; this demonstrates a lack of long-term vision. And firing DePo after a mere two seasons also betrays a disturbing impatience – is it any surprise that the McCourts have now gone through four different PR directors, as well?

After two years, the McCourts have shown that they have no stomach for long-term solutions, and are quick to abandon their employees at the first sign of trouble.

What does this mean for the Angels? One might guess that the time is ripe for the Angels to seize further LA market share. I think there is truth to that, but one should also recognize that baseball market share in this town is not a zero-sum game. Both teams can be successful, enjoy huge attendance, sell plentiful merchandise, and benefit from large media deals. The success of one team, on the field or financially, does not rely on the failure of the other, and I would say that having both teams thrive is beneficial to all parties, as it would contribute to Los Angeles becoming more of a baseball town.

The National League edition of LA baseball continued to draw well in 2005, despite its struggles. Will it continue to do so? There is often a hangover in the effect of team performance on attendance – the Angels had more fans show up in 2003 than in 2002 – so one might wonder if there will be some decline for them in 2006. Of course, that may be abated by the team improving, and if they get any health at all, they are certain to improve and very likely compete in a comparatively mediocre division.

But, right now, the Angels are the best game in town. They have an owner with deep pockets and long-range vision, one who wants to win now while also preserving the future, and one with an imaginative view of how the team can better exploit its revenue streams. They have a general manager and a field manager on the same page, and a cohesive organizational philosophy. I might not always agree with that philosophy (like, draw a walk, someone), but an imperfect plan well-executed is a huge advantage over having no plan at all. They have the greatest player Southern California has seen since Tony Gwynn retired, and have been to the postseason three times in the last four years. And need I mention the loaded farm system?

This is a good time to be an Angel fan, and a perfect time for those disenchanted with the McCourts to get clued in to the exciting brand of winning baseball being played just down the 5.

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