Thinking Defense and Trade

Check the Yankees UZR/150(Thanks to Fangraphs). That calculates the number of runs above average a player should save over 150 games.

Mark Teixeira
Robinson Cano 1.3
Derek Jeter 6.4 (Fangraphs goes back to 2002, and this is the first year Derek has a positive defensive value).
Alex Rodriguez -18.8 (A-Rod's coming back from injury, but wow is that bad! He was at -3.2 last year, 2.3 the year before, and -12.4 in 06. Hopefully he can be a positive defender rather than costing us 18.8 runs this year.
Johnny Damon -2.9 (as a leftfielder he saved had a 37.4 rating in 07 in 32 games, and last year he had a rating of 11.6 in 87 games. Hopefully he can turn back to that form).
Melky Cabrera 13.3 (That's in center. He's at 9.8 in right, 10.9 in left, and 11.9 as an outfielder in general).
Brett Gardner 21.8
Nick Swisher -2.2 (That's in right. He's -36.3 as a firstbaseman, Yikes!, and -9.1 in left.)

Basically our defense has some strong points (Gardner, Melky, and Derek Jeter (yes Derek Jeter!) Then we don't have great defense coming from a lot of other areas, although I expect Tex's UZR to improve, as well as Damon's and A-Rod's. Defense can save, or cost you, a lot of runs over the course of a season (ask Luis Castillo). However, its usually not as obvious as that play. When the Red Sox made their big mid-season trade in '04 that sent away Nomar Garciaparra and brought back Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz it was completely for defensive reasons. I think the Yanks might need to consider such a deal this year. Although I'm talking about trading Robby Cano.

Cano is a great, extremely talented player, but sometimes you have to make a sacrifice. You might not know it, but Cano's WPA is the second worst among qualified second baseman, ahead of only Felipe Lopez. WPA calculates the probability of a win added from the beginning of an at bat to the end of an at bat. This year Cano's WPA is -0.76. I found two candidates I'd like to see replace Robby.

Placido Polanco and Brian Roberts

Let's look at some stats.

While Cano only saves 1.3 runs above average over 150 games, Polanco saves 18.6 and Roberts saves 6.2.

During a Cano at-bat, the Yankees' win expectancy drops by 0.76. During Polanco's at bats win expectancy rises only 0.05 and during Roberts' at bats it lowers 0.10, leaving a better shot at winning than when Cano bats.

62.5% of the time the first pitch of a Cano at bat is a strike. The first pitch is a strike in only 57.8% of Polanco's at bats and 54.9% of Roberts' at bats.

Cano swings at pitches outside of the zone 30.5% of the time, while Polanco only swings at outside pitches 26.9% of the time, and Roberts swings 20.3% of the time.

Polanco and Roberts are better in the field, help their teams win more, and are more disciplined at the plate than Cano is. The thing is...Cano is only 26, while Polanco is 33 and Roberts is 31. Cano is also under contract through '11, with club options for '12 and '13. Polanco is a free agent after the season, while Roberts recently signed a 4 year $40mm extension, starting next year. Roberts makes $10mm in each year of the extension and Polanco is set to make $4.6mm this year. Robby Cano is making $6mm this year, but makes $9mm next year, and $10mm in 2011. His club options are for $14mm and $15mm in '12 and '13 respectively, with a $2mm buyout each year. Of the three only Roberts has no-trade protection, but I'm sure he'd waive that right to play for a contender. (These contract facts via Cot's).

Polanco's okay, but he'd just be a rental, unless the Yanks signed him to an extension. Roberts is a good pick as well, but we'd have him for his age 32, 33, 34, and 35 seasons. The years where he is very likely to start declining. Meanwhile, Cano should just be hitting his peak years. The question is which is more valuable Cano's peak, Roberts' decline, or a Polanco rental, possibly with a contract at the end.

I say we go for Roberts. Sure, Polanco is a better defender (by 12.4 runs over 150 games), but Roberts is a more patient hitter, a bigger threat on the basepaths, secured for 4 more years, and has a much better line (Roberts .296/.361/.460, Polanco .262, .312, .362, Cano .291/.325/.469). His contract matches pretty evenly with Cano's, making just $1mm more next year and having equal salaries in 2011. Cano's club options are $4mm and $5mm more in the two subsequent years however. So, how can we get B-Rob?

Well my proposed swap is this...Robinson Cano, Ramiro Pena, and George Kontos for Danys Baez, Brian Roberts, and Robert Andino.

Now before you start the "We should send Berroa not Pena!" chants, think. Would the O's want Berroa? No. No one wants Berroa. Here's why both sides make this deal...

The Yankees: Defense is upgraded at second. They get more speed and plate discipline from their secondbaseman. They drastically upgrade the defense of their backup infielder. (Pena's UZR/150 is 5.1 at third and -21.4 at short while Andino's was 49.1 at second last year, in 89 innings, compared to 5 innings of 0.00 this year, and he's at 43.5 in 159 innings at short.). They add an efficient, AL-East tested, arm to the bullpen. They win in all three exchanges.

The Orioles: They shed Danys Baez's $5.5mm salary. The young Cano will be improving as the club improves, rather than declining like Roberts will inevitably do. Kontos has a 3.00 ERA through 8 starts at triple A, holding hitters to a .215 average. With a rotation that includes Jeremy Guthrie's inflated ERA of 5.52, an average righty at best in Koji Uehara, a Brad Bergesen who is letting hitters bat .281 against him, and Rich Hill and Jason Berken who really haven't done much of anything right, Kontos would be a welcome presence trying out for a big league spot. The O's have pitchers that aren't effective in the bigs right now, but could be a presence in the next year or two, and Kontos would fit in with that group. By bringing in youth the O's set themselves up for success in future years, as they have no shot at contending this year with the Yanks, BoSox, Jays, and Tampa boasting stronger teams.

This trade would improve the Yanks as a team, and while yes, we would be trading some youthful players for older players, we need to win this year after the spending spree last winter. This trade isn't going to kill the Yankees' future, and it will help a lot this year. By replacing the free swinging Cano with Roberts the Yanks will wear down opposing starters more easily and we should reap the benefits. We can't keep seeing the bullpen be as ineffective as it has been, and a Danys Baez type, someone who is effective and knows the division, would be a nice bride to Mariano. George Kontos isn't essential to the Yankees' future rotation, while he could be an important player in Baltimore. Now will this trade happen? Probably not. Why? Because a blockbuster like this won't be accepted by division rivals. Would it be a smart move for both teams? Yes. The O's should shed Baez's salary to sign free agents at the international free agent signing period, and they need to get younger (the Roberts extension doesn't fit into their plans). What do you guys think? Is it the right move for the Yanks and the O's? Let's hear it in the comments.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Trade Robbie Cano? Pena? Are you crazy?