A Vintage Approach to the Off-Season

Free agency is what makes every baseball off-season interesting. Envisioning your team signing the best player, then that player leading your team to the World Series behind an MVP award-winning season makes any baseball fan salivate. Phillies fans nearly lived it when GM Ruben Amaro signed Cliff Lee as a free agent after the 2010 season, meaning the Phillies would open the 2011 season with a starting rotation that included Lee, Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be; we all know how that season ended.

In the time since, we’ve endured rumors that involved the Phillies signing Josh Hamilton, Zack Greinke, B.J. Upton, Michael Bourn, and Michael Cuddyer. This off-season is no different, as the Phillies are linked to many of the upper-tier players, mostly outfielders, such as Jacoby Ellsbury, Nelson Cruz, and Curtis Granderson.

With a TV deal on the horizon, it seems that now is an appropriate time to bring out the checkbook and add some new talent via free agency, even if that means crossing the luxury tax threshold ($189 million) – though the team has not given any indication it plans to actually do so. As they stand right now, they owe $119.5 million to seven players. They also have decisions to make on eight arbitration-eligible players, as well as the Major League minimum salaries for a handful of players. If the team is constrained either by the luxury tax threshold or its $160 million Opening Day payroll from 2013, then they only have the room for one or two big-ticket free agent signings.

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2013 Phillies Report Card: Michael Martinez

Bill James once wrote that batting average represents about half of a player’s value (he might have said “offensive value,” but this post isn’t worth my going to look it up). That’s not true for every player–Sean Casey‘s batting average was a much higher percentage of his value than half, while the opposite is true for J.J. Hardy–but it’s an interesting way to look at how offense is created, and that framework informs a conception of why certain players are valuable.

In that same vein, I remember a while back, someone wrote to the Fringe Average podcast with the following question: imagine a player whose defensive value is nil or close to it, who never walks and only hits singles. How high would this player’s batting average have to be in order for him to break a lineup? How high would it have to be for him to be a Hall of Famer?

Jason and Mike mulled this over and decided the closest we’ve come to seeing this player was Tony Gwynn, a bad defensive corner outfielder who didn’t walk a lot and didn’t hit for much power. But even Gwynn’s career line was .338/.388/.459–even the supposed archetype had 135 career home runs, 543 career doubles and 315 career stolen bases. Someone who had literally no patience, power or defensive value would have to hit something like .375 to be a valuable everyday player, and over .400 to make the Hall of Fame, again, depending on how many of the outs he made were strikeouts and so on.

This brings us to Michael Martinez.

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