Thursday, November 30, 2006

Angels in Our Outfield?

There has been much hand wringing and kvetching on Chicago sports radio about Ken Williams' rumored intent to trade Joe Crede and Freddy Garcia to the Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles, Orange County, and Placentia for Chone (sic) Figgins and Ervin Santana. The general consensus seems to be that the White Sox would be trading an all-world third baseman and a known, top-of-the-rotation starter for a utility guy and a pitching prospect. In other words, everyone is convinced the Sox would be getting taken to the cleaners.

I'm not a huge fan of Figgins, but the groyl is unwarranted. The White Sox win this deal on raw talent, and they'd be getting pieces that better fit the club's needs.

First off, Crede is a good, not great, all-around third baseman. Last year was Crede's best by a wide margin. He had 30 home runs and 96 RBIs. But he also had an on-base percentage of only .323. For his career, Crede's on-base percentage is under .310. He had a WARP of 6.5, nearly twice his previous career high. He contributed more than half that value with his glove. Crede significantly exceeded PECOTA's expectations for him last year, which could represent a break out, or, more likely for a guy who has already turned 28, could represent an outlying career season. PECOTA is projecting WARPs in the 2.0 - 2.5 range over the next few years. Let's split the difference and say Crede is about a WARP 4.5 player.

Meanwhile, Figgins, once overrated, is underrated if viewed solely as a utility guy. Figgins' on-base percentage actually dropped significantly last year, but was still higher than Crede's career high, at .336. For his career, Figgins has a .345 on-base percentage, a nice step up from Crede. Figgins had a WARP of 3.1, considerably lower than in 2005 (which may have been Figgins' career year). Most of Figgins value came with the bat. In fact, Figgins contributed 17 batted runs above replacement (BRAR), and Crede had 21 -- not much of a difference at the plate at all. Figgins underperformed his PECOTA projection slightly last year, but not enough to call his future projections into doubt. PECOTA is projecting WARPs in the 4.0 range over the next couple of years.

So, being optimistic about Crede -- in other words, assuming 2006 wasn't just a fluke -- he's a little better than Figgins, mostly because he plays quality defense at third, while Figgins is an average defender anywhere, but above-average nowhere. Figgins would presumably be replacing Scott Podsednik, who the Sox, in the absence of alternatives, are suddenly contemplating retaining. Pods had a WARP of 1.1 last year, demonstrating equal ineffectiveness with his bat and his glove. That was worse than his PECOTA projection, but even if we split the difference between Pods' craptacular 2006 and his slightly higher future projections, we're talking about a WARP 1.5 guy the next couple of seasons. And due to veteraniness alone, Pods won't be that cheap. On the other hand, Crede would be bottling up Josh Fields. Fields is a bit of an unknown. He is very young, and PECOTA wasn't high on him before last year. But Fields season in 2006 was way beyond expectations. He turned 23 this year, and thus is far more likely to be experiencing a breakout, as opposed to a career year, than the 28 year old Crede. Given how close Figgins is to Crede, Fields wouldn't have to do much to make the combo of Fields and Figgins more valuable than Crede and Podsednik. It's a gamble I'd be in favor of taking in and of itself.

But even beyond Crede for Figgins being worth it, getting Santana for Garcia sweetens the pot. Garcia turned 30 last year, and posted a WARP of 5.3, his second consecutive season of decline. It is also exactly what PECOTA expected him to do. The other thing PECOTA expects him to do, is continue declining, at an ever more rapid rate. PECOTA is projecting Garcia to be about a WARP 3.5 pitcher over the next two years and head downhill from there.

Santana, on the other hand, turned 23 last year. And, he posted a WARP of 4.7. That's right, the pitching prospect was almost as good as the established star in 2006. Garcia was 17-9 with 4.83 runs allowed per nine. Santana was 16-8 with 4.68 runs allowed per nine. Santana drastically outperformed PECOTA's projection for him. Again, we'll play our little game, splitting the difference between PECOTA's future projections, and Santana's unexpected performance. This makes Santana look like a WARP 4.0 guy for the next couple of years, already better than Garcia. Plus, the odds that a 23 year old is experiencing a break out, rather than a career year, are better than with someone Crede's age.

So, the White Sox would get younger and cheaper in the field, likely without sacrificing anything offensively, and bring in a much younger starting pitcher who is already at least as good as the guy they're giving up. Listen, I know Hawk's man-crush on Joe Crede is infectious. We all have a special place for him in our hearts due to his Brooks Robinson impersonation in the World Series. But far from a reason for concern, the Sox' proposed deal with the Angels is one Williams should do in a heartbeat.


Blogger Jeeves said...

I've heard rumblings about Stoneman's job security from all these SoCal kids out here at UCLA, so perhaps he would be desperate enough to make this deal which would instantly upgrade his team and potentially save his job.

9:18 PM  

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