Monday, August 30, 2010

What do you think about Bill Smith now? Free Agent signings

The Twins traded Brian Fuentes for a player to be named later on Friday. Instead of posting on that, I was inspired to do a short career assessment of how Bill Smith is doing as a GM. I had too much information to make one Smith post and that short assessment has become quite long. The first post was on Smith's trade history. Today, I will focus on Smith's free agent signings. I will use WAR (wins above replacement) and salary estimators to analyze some of the decisions made by Smith on free agents.

As fans of the team know. The Twins don't sign big name free agents. The Twins usually sign one year stop-gap guys. Terry Ryan couldn't get enough of the Rondell White's and Ramon Ortiz's of the world. Given the same ownership and similar financial constraints that Ryan had, Bill Smith had to sign similar players.

In 2008 Smith signed Livan Hernandez, Mike Lamb, and Craig Monroe to fill out the roster.

Livan Hernandez went 11-11 with a 4.93 ERA and a 5.77/5.53 FIP/xFIP in Arizona in 2007. He struck out less than 4 batters an game and at 32 (allegedly) Hernandez looked washed-up. This didn't stop the Twins from giving him $5 million for 2008 and anointing Hernandez as Johan Santana's replacement and opening day starter. With Francisco Liriano coming back from Tommy John surgery, the Twins felt it necessary to have another arm and a veteran one at that. Livan went 10-8 with the Twins with a 5.48 ERA and a 4.68/4.79 FIP/xFIP in 23 starts before being let go in August. Livan was actually useful for the team for a awhile, eventually becoming too hittable. The team dropped him in favor of calling up Liriano. Liriano had been dominating at AAA and was ready to take over. Hernandez had a WAR of 1.4 which was worth $6.4 million. Hernandez was useful, and Smith's only fault with him might be, keeping Hernandez 3 or 4 starts too long over Liriano. Liriano went 6-4 with a 3.91 ERA 3.87/4.31 FIP/xFIP in 14 starts including 3 terrible starts in April. Liriano had a 1.5 WAR in 14 starts and giving him 3 or 4 extra starts that Livan made might have made the difference for a team that went to game 163.

Mike Lamb was signed to a 2 year 6.6 million dollar deal. He went .279/.366/.453 for Houston in 2007 and was seen to be a decent defender at third base. This looked like an decent signing (I know I liked it) as the Twins didn't have much at 3B in the system. Boy, was everyone wrong on this one. I am not sure if it was his poor play, lack of supposed desire, or just the fact that Lamb was done as a player, but he didn't seem to mesh with Gardy or the team at all. Lamb could only muster a .233/.276/.322 line while adding poor defense before the Twins released him. The Brewers picked him up and saved the Twins a few dollars, but he didn't make the majors in 2009, so the Twins were on the hook for almost all of the 6.6 million. For that money they got a -1.1 WAR which was worth a negative 4.8 million. In hindsight, playing Brian Buscher all season at 3b and his .4 WAR would have made the team better and saved money. Cutting bait with Lamb, so he couldn't kill the team more was the only smart move with Lamb.

Outfielder Craig Monroe was signed for 3.82 million plus after hitting .219/.268/.370 for two teams in 2007. I didn't hate this move, because Monroe had shown power in 2006 and I wasn't aware of his defense. Monroe was only 31 and I had high hopes that he'd bounce back. Wrong again! Monroe was as bad in 08 as he was in 07. He had a WAR of negative .5 and was worth -$2.3 million. Not only did he hit just .202/.274/.405 in 179 at-bats, He was worse against lefties than righties, and he took at-bats away from Jason Kubel.

In 2009 the Twins continued picking up guys off of the scrap heap:

Joe Crede was a very good, but often injured player for the Chicago White Sox. The third baseman signed for just $2.5 million plus incentives that could reach $7 million. Crede hit .225/.289/.414 in 367 plate appearances and provided stellar defense for the Twins. His back injuries returned allowing Crede to only play in 90 games, but largely to his great defense, he was worth a WAR of 1.8. It's too bad he couldn't play the full season. He ended up making about $5 million and was worth$ 8.3 million.

Luis Ayala was brought in due to his closing experience and supposedly good sinker sinker to help shore up the bull-pen. He got a contract worth 1.3 million. He went 1-2 with a 4.18 ERA and a 4.43/4.63 FIP/xFIP. His sinker never sank and he got pissy when he was no longer used in high leverage situations and was cut. His .1 WAR was worth $.5 million.

R.A. Dickey was given $525,000 to be an occasional starter and knuckle ball long man. His WAR was negative .1 worth -.4 million, suggesting he was worth just less than a replacement player. It was a decent idea to try a knuckle ball pitcher, but maybe he was better cast as a starter. He has been a godsend as a starter to the Mets this year.

Ron Mahay was picked up from the Royals in August, after being designated for assignment. He was re-signed by the Twins this March. He has a 0 WAR in his time with the team. He has been useful as a lefty specialist, but his impact is limited. He has been worth $.3 million to the team. Getting paid near the minimum by the team since the trade, he's cost the team around $600,000.

2010 has been a little different for Smith and the Twins. With the opening of Target Field, the Twins have been able to spend more money. The free-agents they signed this season were not more expensive but of a caliber, due to depressed finances in MLB, that are not really affecting the Twins.

Orlando Hudson was not signed until late in the free-agency period, which is the same predicament he found him self in before signing with the Dodgers in 2009. Although he was signed late, he has been everything the Twins could have asked for. Providing offense at second base for the first time since, FOREVER, and also a decent #2 hitter for the first time in FOREVER. He is hitting .284/.359/.404 while also playing great defense. His offense has slid some over the years, but for the Twins, he is a huge upgrade to the #2 hitters/second baseman they have had. He has had a little trouble with injuries, but has had a great year. He's been worth a 3.4 WAR and $13.6 million. I'd love to see Hudson back in 2011 if it works out. There are potential replacements, such as Alexi Casilla and Trevor Plouffe, and Hudson can be a little flaky at times but the Twins don't figure to be able to replace Hudson's production.

Designated Hitter Jim Thome was signed by the Twins for the bargain basement price of $1.5 million plus incentives pushing his total pay to around $1.7 million. The White Sox chose not to bring him back due to declining production. They thought he was just about done. I have spoken of my desire to have the Twins re-sign Thome. He has a 2.4 WAR and has been worth $9.7 million dollars. He has thrived as a part-time player.

Clay Condrey was signed for $900,000. He has been on the disabled list all year. He's been worth nothing.

Smith's free agent signings haven't been expected to have a major impact on the team, and they haven't. In 3 years, the signings have been worth 7.7 wins above replacement. They have cost the team around $29.6 million and have been worth $31.3 million. Similar to his trades, Smith's free agent performance has improved over time. While free agents are not the way the team normally builds, Smith has helped the team and gotten value in the signings he's made.

Next, I will look at the extensions Smith has doled out to the core players.

No comments:

Post a Comment