In terms of news, this past week might have been the slowest for D-backs fans in the month of December. With three significant trades and a host of other rumors, however, that’s not necessarily saying it was slow.
Arizona is one of the most public suitors of the free agent market’s top starting pitchers, but that aspect of the offseason has been slow to develop while everyone waited to see if Masahiro Tanaka would be posted. I think the Cubs and Yankees are front runners for Tanaka, so although there is a chance that the D-backs will land him, the main impact of the Tanaka posting is the news that Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana may sign new deals by the end of January. Tanaka’s deadline to sign is on the afternoon of January 24, although there’s nothing preventing him from signing well in advance of that deadline.
We’ve addressed the free agent targets before, but our most recent discussion of trade targets came before the trade of Matt Davidson for Addison Reed. With only Chris Owings or Didi Gregorius left as obvious trade chips, it’s much less likely that a deal can be made. But strap yourselves in for a wild month of Tanaka rumors. It’s entirely possible that his offers will astonish us, possibly exceeding $150M. A couple of commenters on last Thursday’s post pointed out that Alex Rodriguez also hit free agency at the age of 25, but even he was more than six months older than Tanaka.
We also have some great Inside the ‘Zona news this week. RG has joined us as a writer; he is a current law student and native Arizonan with an interest in the Diamondbacks and sabermetrics, and I think we should all look forward to his contributions to the site. His first post analyzed Brandon McCarthy’s 2013 season against previous tours of duty to see if the pitcher was the victim of some bad luck.
On a related note, Jeff Wiser and I will start contributing to the sabermetrics site Beyond the Box Score, which we have both admired for some time. Our commitments there will not interfere with our work here, however, and with RG in the fold, we expect to post more frequently, not less. Make sure to read Jeff’s first post there, which just went live — his analysis of how saves are distorting the arbitration process has direct relevance to Arizona’s decision of whether to use Reed or Putz in that spot at the outset of 2014.
On another related note: baseball is wonderful, is it not? On to the links:
- Before Tanaka was posted, Nick Piecoro published a case for why the D-backs should pursue him. Lots of great points in there, and it’s easy to forget that Randy Johnson’s $52.4M deal is still the largest ever doled out by Arizona. Even if Tanaka goes elsewhere, the D-backs will almost certainly surpass that this offseason in a free agent deal for a new pitcher. Yesterday, Piecoro followed up with news that the Arizona front office has plans to fly to Japan to woo Tanaka.
- I normally put paywall-protected content toward the bottom in these roundups, but last week, Doug Thorburn of Baseball Prospectus had a very thorough analysis of Tanaka’s mechanics. It’s absolutely worth a visit, particularly with the very helpful GIFs, but suffice it to say that Tanaka’s mechanics do not inspire a high level of confidence.
- At FanGraphs, former Mariners AGM Tony Blengino addressed all aspects of Tanaka and how major league teams may view him. Pretty good summary of the situation, if you’re only inclined to read one article on Tanaka.
- Jim McLennan at Snake Pit projected some numbers for Tanaka, using the stats of other Japanese players who switched leagues. As always, a great and thorough treatment you shouldn’t miss. McLennan’s post has some great links of its own.
- Also at Snake Pit, Marc Fournier supplied some reasons for why Tanaka should choose to live and work in Arizona. I wish we could make sure Fournier’s piece was communicated to Tanaka himself… At AZ Central, Bob Young proposed some concessions that Arizona could make to entice Tanaka.
- At Venom Strikes, Thomas Lynch argues that the D-backs can contend without Tanaka. Completely agree. We can’t project full health and no regression in 2014, but I agree with Lynch’s take — there were more issues in 2013 (Montero’s abysmal start, Prado’s adjustment period, Hill’s injury, Corbin running out of gas, Delgado’s unsustainably high HR/FB, to name a few) than the team is likely to deal with in 2014.
- Steve Gilbert of mlb.com advanced 10 questions for the 2014 D-backs, and Jim McLennan followed up with 10 of his own. All good questions. Before the Trumbo trade, Cody Ross’s health would have been all the way at the top of the list for me. Now, I think it’s still an important question, but if he’s not going to get to play much anyway, I’m not sure if the impact is that great. As I looked at with Eric Chavez’s likely playing time in 2014, we’re already looking at 5 guys for 4 spots — without Ross. Anyway, all good questions from Gilbert and McLennan.
- Tyler Roberts at Venom Strikes argued that the D-backs should add Mark Mulder, after Christian Moffett thought the team should pass. As a harmless flyer, why not? But if Mulder continues to insist on a major league deal, I don’t see how Arizona would start him ahead of anyone currently on the depth chart.
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FanGraphs Stats Glossary
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BP Base Running Stats
Previously on The Pool Shot, the guys explained some of their favorite advanced stats. Hitting, including wRC+, HHAV and batted ball; pitching (38:00), including FIP, xFIP and SIERA; and baserunning and defense, including UBR, UZR and DRS (58:00).