Hellickson Rumors: An Addendum

The last piece was getting pretty long so I ended up glossing over a couple of key points that I’d like to flesh out more fully here. The first issue I would like to address is my hand-waving of not being able to get Evan Gattis with our package of Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Joyce. My basis for this thought process is that Gattis has four years of control including one year of league minimum salary and the fact that he’s already an established player capable of providing a ton of production. Additionally, he should be able to fake it at catcher from time to time which is going to amp up his WAR value, though the rest of the time he would be a bad LF or passable 1B. Let’s start with what Steamer thinks before breaking it down into components:

Steamer is projecting Gattis to put up 2.9 WAR next year and if we knock off half a win a year for age progression and uncertainty he would still be a formidable player with his tenure representing a huge win for value per dollar. If Gattis is putting up close to 9 wins over the next four seasons then there’s no way the Braves would think that these two are enough for the player, BUT how much stock can we put in this projection? Luckily Steamer breaks it all down for us.

They project him to put up a .322 wOBA in 585 PA which works out to around +4 runs of offense. They also think that he will cost just shy of a run (-0.7) running the bases and we can use the PA to get his replacement runs (20/600*PA) which comes out to around 19.5. Now we get to the sticky wicket of defense. They think he’ll put up +6.7 runs of defense which takes into account both where you play and how good you defend there compared to your peers. Catchers are going to receive +15 runs for the position which scales up or down depending on competence. You’ll also see that they give Gattis a fielding value of -4 runs so simple subtraction tells us they give him +10.7 runs for his position. Clearly they have him spending time at multiple positions so let’s float some ideas.

When he broke into the league two years ago he showed above average ability to throw out runners and was around average in the blocking and framing portions of the job. This past year, in more than double the work, he proceeded to fall apart so maybe his poor season was due to overuse behind the plate. We have no idea of knowing whether it’s that or the prior season was a fluke or he was battling an injury. We don’t know, but let’s say that we think dialing back his innings there and using him in other places will help him be a better defensive catcher at the cost of our positional runs. What would some scenarios look like:

The power of the catcher positional adjustment is so strong that Gattis could be even a bad defender there and it would still be the best option for him. Basically whatever you can do to keep him out of LF, and even 1B to a lesser extent, is a good thing. So let’s re-run the numbers using his best case where we see him catching a ton, poorly, but overall contributing the most.

Offense: +4.1 runs

Fielding: -9.0 runs

Position: +8.5 runs

BSR: -0.7 runs

Replacement: +19.5 runs

Total RAR: 22.4

Total WAR: 2.2

And let’s plug back into our contract table:

Even if we knock 2/3 of a win off of his Steamer projection you can see that Gattis would still be a really strong get for the Rays. If the Braves are really sour on his defense, or having too many righties, or his inability to play well defensively anywhere it would probably still take another decent player to make up that $13M shortfall in value that the Rays would be sending to acquire the guy. From the Rays perspective, it’s nice to know that if they did ante up what was necessary to acquire the guy that he would still be around a 2 WAR player even if he spent most of his time at DH and him playing LF would be a non-factor with all of their options. I’ll leave optimization to the bigger nerds than even I, but giving Loney some days off against lefties and sliding this guy to 1B with some DH duties and starting him enough at C to avoid having to carry a third guy would probably be pretty good for all parties interested. Before moving on to the second thing I want to talk about here’s his splits with those that would be his competition:

Gattis would instantly become our best option against lefties of this group and he would still be playable against all, but the very best righties. It’s not hard to see that he could find a role on this team.

R/A to one of the nicer people I’ve read on the web, Nathaniel Stoltz

The other player I casually mentioned towards the end of the previous article was Jose Peraza. I pointed out that Keith Law had him ranked 39th in his mid-season rankings as part of a Pirate sandwich between Jameson Taillon and Austin Meadows. KLaw is known for being more aggressive with younger guys preferring to be wrong more often to be right when one of these players turns into an absolute stud. This should be the thought process for Rays fans if you think the organization is able to continuously identify 1-2 WAR players on the cheap so that you don’t need to grow your own, but I have no issue with people that prefer higher floor. I mention all of this because nobody else that I’m finding had Peraza in their mid-season top-50.

I gave you a couple of scouting reports in the last read and I’d really like to see what Kiley McDaniel thinks, probably my favorite prospect hound, but we must wait, somewhat patiently. To rehash, you’re looking at a guy that would be a plus defender at SS with good hands and feet, but the arm holds him back from being incredible. Merely good must suffice. At the dish he’s an aggressive hitter swinging often, walking rarely, and showing little pop. Word on the street is that he’s a prototypical leadoff guy that isn’t afraid to bunt for a base hit even though he’s right-handed. He sounds like a player that knows what he is and is not afraid to leverage his 70 speed going base to base or in the field. He is likely to stay at SS in an organization that doesn’t feature one of the best defenders of the last 30 years at the position, alas, the Braves will have to move him to 2B.

The alternative theory is that they should trade from their strength, especially if it allows them to fill their weakness today while they have a very strong team that will have some hard choices following this season. Having good players under contract for a long time is a good thing, but saying goodbye to two great players in Justin Upton and Jason Heyward would be a tough pill for any franchise to swallow. With a new GM in place and a manager who should be feeling the heat there’s some pressure for this team to go for broke this year to avoid the regrets of what if… Only the Braves can know what they will do, but what if they got the 2B of their dreams this year to solidify a very strong infield backed by an even better outfield?

If we throw Zobrist into this deal the Braves are now adding something like 7-8 wins this year at the cost of Evan Gattis and a good prospect. Zobrist and Gattis are probably a wash from a surplus angle, but it’s difficult to quantify just how important adding a perennial 5-win player would be to a team in the Braves place on the win curve. When you add in how his flexibility would allow the players players around him to play even better you’re talking about a major coup for the Braves.

Don’t get too hung up on that surplus value for Peraza. This is somewhat of a rosy scenario where the Rays avoid service time in 2016 and call him up forever in 2017 with Peraza going on to become a better than league average player over the rest of his tenure. I’d say his actual surplus is somewhere between a third ($20M) and a half ($30M) once you account for risk with all of that coming down the road when wins may or may not be of as much importance to the Rays. It’s a gamble that the player will become an everyday guy and it’s a further gamble that it will even matter by the time he hypothetically gets there.

If I’m the Rays I’m ecstatic to get a deal like this because in the end you’re getting the better side, but there is a ton of risk involved. You get a little better today by adding Gattis to DH/1B and occasionally catch, you get full value for the trade chips you have that need to be cashed in, you clear close to $17M in payroll for this year, and whatever Hellickson gets paid in 2016, and you add another dynamic positional prospect that looks like he will be able to play up the middle while adding a speed dynamic that is mostly lacking at all levels of the organization. The Rays would go from being a pretty solid contender to more of a fringe one in the short term, but the newfound payroll flexibility may change that. Once you drop the emotional, embrace the rational and come to terms with the idea that we have GOT to recoup value for Ben Zobrist, Jeremy Hellickson, and Matt Joyce in order to continue to stoke the furnace. The sooner you do the sooner you realize that this is a tremendous return.

It’s a lot to give up for the Braves, but it takes them from a solid contender to one of the favorites in the National League giving them all the ammunition they need to wage war against one of the other prohibitive favorites who happen to reside in their division in the Washington Nationals. Additionally, with the Mets and Marlins showing some success last year with plenty of good players on the way it may not be long before the tourniquet kills the leg and the Braves find themselves with some good players, some good prospects, and no chance of winning a world series any time soon. What are you playing for if not a ring?

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About Jason Hanselman

Rays fan.
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