Most fans of baseball probably enjoy the sport for the game itself. Myself, I’m a little bit of an oddball, I follow baseball because I find the business of baseball to be fascinating.
There is no other major sport where the individual contributions of each player is as important as baseball’s. In football, soccer and basketball, a team of players attack at the same time. In baseball, players attack individually. That means that unlike other sports where a Tom Brady or Lebron James can account for the majority of how you run your offense, a Mike Trout or Kris Bryant can only do it 11% of the time.
Now what does this have to do with buying low? Well, in other sports, if you acquire a player and integrate him with your team in a minor role, the ceiling of impact that you see from him would be limited. However, in baseball, you can acquire a player who had a bad year and see him turn around to be an all star the very next season as long as he is one of the top 20 players on the team (not a bench player). This is why I believe that in the business of baseball, buying low and selling high is one of the most important principals in maximizing value.
As your MMO resident buy low advocate, I’d like to review with you some of the players that were low stock candidates over the past 3 seasons and see how they fared since then as well as present to you some candidates for this offseason.
Scott Van Slyke 1B/OF LAD – A big slugger who I thought had a very good shot at becoming a RHH version of Lucas Duda. He was by far the strongest buy low candidate I endorsed but it looks like he is at best a bench player moving forward.
Dee Gordon SS/2B LAD – Broke out in 2014 and became a two time all star but was also busted for using performance enhancing drugs.
John Lannan SP WAS – New York native who was the #1 pitcher on a very bad Nationals rotation. I thought he was given unfair treatment in DC and that he would rebound to be a #3/#4 starter. He ended up out of baseball in two seasons.
Luis Sardinas SS TEX – Another shortstop who fared well in his first go around in the big leagues at a young age. Unfortunately, he also appears to be a quad A player now.
Jose Ramirez SS/2B CLE – A well regarded shortstop prospect with leadoff potential. He had a poor sophomore season and was overtaken by super prospect Francisco Lindor. Ramirez was very much available as I documented last season and to this day I wonder if the Indians would have entertained an offer of Jon Niese for Jose Ramirez. He not only looks like a solid leadoff/#2 hitter now, he is also capable of playing 2B, 3B and LF.
Jose Reyes SS COL – Before the suspension was announced, Reyes appeared to be a good trade candidate. Glad we waited and got him for nothing.
Leonys Martin CF TEX – Came off a poor season from injuries, I eyed him as the perfect platoon partner for Juan Lagares. Both are exceptional defenders with strong splits. He had a solid first year with the Mariners.
Of the eight players who were noted as buy low candidates, three turned out to be busts, three turned out ok and two exceeded expectations. The beauty of buying low is that in best case scenarios, a player you acquire becomes a star and in worst case scenarios, the player you acquire was traded for a piece that you won’t lose sleep over or signed for a small amount.
Methodology And 2016 Candidates
Moving on to this offseason, I started my search by looking for hitters who had particularly low BABIPs and pitchers who had much higher ERAs than FIPs (stats most commonly associated with luck) and evaluated them based on quality of contact, injuries, career numbers, competition, etc. Below are the names I’ve gathered and placed into two categories.
Highly Unlikely But Fun To Think About
Yasiel Puig OF LAD – Coming off a second consecutive injury plagued season, Puig will only be 26 years old to start the season. His hard contact rate went down significantly from 36% in 2013-2014 to 31% in 2015-2016 which is concerning but it could be due to his injuries. Given his previous success and the fact that he is entering into a hitter’s prime, I’d bet on him to rebound.
As noted by MLBTR, Puig is likely headed to Milwaukee in exchange for Ryan Braun this offseason. If the Mets are to get in on the action, they will likely have to send a package to the Brewers and the range in opinion on what he is worth varies from two throw in prospects to two top prospects. Personally, I’d go as far as shipping Cecchini and Nimmo to the Brewers with LA sending another prospect to MIL as well.
Joe Panik 2B SFG – St. John’s alumni and New York native, Panik makes excellent contact and is one of the most difficult players in baseball to strike out. He also plays superb defense and is entering his prime at 26 years old. His .245 BABIP is a strong indicator he was quite unlucky this season and I’d expect him to be an average to above average second baseman until he becomes a free agent at the end of 2020.
Neil Walker is still our most logical option at 2B but if for some reason there is concern about his health and we choose not to retain him, I’d gauge San Francisco’s interest in a package headlined by Jeurys Familia. After all, the Giants sorely need some help in the bullpen.
Andrew McCutchen CF PIT- It’s a foregone conclusion that the Mets should retain Yoenis Cespedes. With that said, you can only negotiate when you have a contingency plan or at least the appearance of one.
McCutchen was a bit unlucky last year compared to his career numbers but he is also slowing down and no longer able to beat out as many infield hits as he did earlier in his career. I think the McCutchen for the next two seasons will bounce back from his 2016 numbers but no longer produce as he did from 2011-2015. For the next two seasons that he is under contract, a .275/.350/.450 line with 25 HRs a year and below average CF defense would be reasonable projections.
Pittsburg’s front office is not looking to do a complete rebuild but they are interested in how they can plug their team by selling on McCutchen. The Pirates can use help in the bullpen and may need some depth at SS as well as in CF until their top prospect Austin Meadows is ready for the big leagues. Would Familia, Nimmo and Cecchini be too much or too little?
If the Pirates value Lucas Duda (~$7.5M) more than John Jaso ($4M), we can use that as a trade chip as well. Jaso (.275/.367/.408 vs RHP) and Flores (.268/.321/.509 vs LHP) can then platoon at 1B for us next season.
Kike Hernandez 2B/CF LAD – Kike was a victim of bad luck this year and I’m particularly interested in his positional flexibility and ability to hit lefties (.270/.362/.468). Think of him as a Justin Ruggiano who can play 2B. In the event that Juan Lagares gets injured, you would have an adequate backup center fielder on your roster.
A.J. Pierzynski C ATL (free agent) – Pierzynski isn’t technically a buy low option since his value is unlikely to get higher but I do see him available on a bargain deal. The guy is old for a catcher and there were rumors he was retiring though that has since been dismissed. If he continues to play, I’d think there is a good chance the New York native would welcome a return home.
Even at his age, he is still rated above average defensively, he boasts a career .764 OPS against right handed pitching and he provides veteran leadership. Perhaps he can serve as a mentor to TDA as well. Last season, he also had poor luck but if he was to start 80 games strictly against RHP, don’t be surprised to see him hit .275/.325/.425.
Michael Feliz RP HOU – The 23-year old flamethrower had his first extended taste in the big leagues as a reliever this season. I would compare him to Hansel Robles with slightly higher potential. Feliz’s peripherals indicates that he was rather unlucky, posting a 4.43 ERA vs a 3.24 FIP. Houston is unlikely to undervalue him but considering he is not a top prospect, he could be moved for a below market value in the right deal.
Liam Hendriks RP OAK – Hendriks is a starter turned reliever who saw a significant jump in velocity when he moved to the pen full time two seasons ago. As with Feliz, his FIP is nearly a full run below his ERA, a strong indicator of poor fielding luck this season. Would the least predictable GM in baseball be interested in moving him?
Curtis Granderson – In the midst of my research, I noticed that Granderson sported a .250 BABIP this season, well below his career average. This means either one of two things. Curtis was either very unlucky or shifts are working very well against him.
Do you spot any other buy low candidates available for the Mets to target? Who do you expect to rebound or take a big step forward in 2017?