Sports Blog Nation has posed an interesting question to their various baseball blogs. Assume your GM was just handed an extra $50 million in “found” money and could only use that money towards five free agents. Ian had a pretty nice selection of players and it’s hard to argue with him, but let’s put our own Dock spin on this. Here’s how I would have gone:
Shin-Soo Choo on a five year, $75M deal with an Average Annual Value (AAV) of $15M.
Mike Napoli on a three year, $39M deal with an AAV of $13M
Carlos Beltran on a two year, $20M deal with an AAV of $10M
Dioner Navarro on a two year, $6M deal with an AAV of $3M
A.J. Burnett on a one year, $9M deal with an AAV of $9M
The plan, which will be detailed below, is to use Choo all over the outfield and even at 1B a little bit, Napoli mostly 1B with some DH, Beltran strictly at DH, Navarro strictly at C, and Burnett as our closer. Burnett is a two-pitch pitcher these days and even in a borderline career year in 2013 he still struggled the third time through the order, even more than most, due to his smaller repertoire of pitches. His fastball-curveball combination would be deadly to lefties and righties alike at the back of the pen.
Using Sky Kalkman’s framework I was able to mock up overall team WAR based on this newly constructed team. Before getting to position-by-position WAR projections I wanted to show how I’ve come about assigning playing time. Mostly, it has to do with taking advantage of platoons, but you also have to factor rest and older guys needing more days off:
I have used the matchup tool to show expected wOBA vs league average lefty and righty pitchers. Playing Time (PT) shows how often you would like to see that batter face that type of pitcher in an ideal world. Sky recommends 695 plate appearances for each position so that is what we’re building up to and you can see on the right how that breaks out for each player. We can now plug this stuff in:
The Rays accrued around 30 WAR in 2013 from the positional side so this is a small step back mostly due to defensive acumen as we’ve brought in some guys that are mostly bat-first players. We’re looking at a team wOBA of .338 after posting a .324 last year so we’re taking a big jump in offense. The biggest difference between the two years is that we would expect our pitching to be noticeably better. The Rays accrued 16 WAR from their pitchers in 2013, but Steamer and Sky’s WAR translations expect a big jump there:
Overall, you’re talking about 54 WAR which translates to around a 97 win team. Take a couple away due to the competitiveness of the AL East and you’re still looking at a 95 win team.
While this is a pipe dream, the Rays aren’t finding $50 million and if they did it wouldn’t all be allocated to payroll, and even if they did everyone else is facing the same influx of money meaning the player contracts go through the roof, it’s still fun to look at this “what-if”. What would you do?