Quick Picks for Free Agency

added 11/5/2006 by Scott Barzilla

Free agency is right around the corner (Nov. 12th), so we are going to speed up the timeline. This time we were slated to look at shortstops and we will spend the bulk of our time doing that, but we will also take a look at Luke Scott and Wily Taveras to see if they fit in. Just like last time we are looking at wins above replacement player.

I came into this study expecting Adam Everett to look bad in WARP3, but actually was pleasantly surprised. Unfortunately, I would have to actually pay money to break down the offense and fielding portions of the metric, but through careful analysis figured that Everett ranked third according to BP's defensive rankings. The top two came from the American League, so Everett indeed got the shaft. Needless to say, Ausmus was not the best fielding catcher in the NL, so it all evens out I guess.

                 Games       WARP3       W/140      Rank
Adam Everett      149         5.5         5.2        15

In other words, Adam Everett is a middle of the road shortstop overall. If you are going to pick one player on your team to sacrifice offense for defense he should be it. He actually brings defensive value to the table. However, if people are still convinced we need more offense, they should start and end with a list of folks at least one win better than Everett.

Derek Jeter            11.0
Miguel Tejada           9.2
Jhonny Peralta          7.8
Carlos Guillen          7.5
Hanley Ramirez          7.7
Rafael Furcal           8.7
Bill Hall               6.6
Jose Reyes              6.6
Jimmy Rollins           8.2
Michael Young           9.2

If you are going to make a deal I would suggest gaining more than just one win which would eliminate Bill Hall and Jose Reyes. That leaves eight guys and none of them are free agents. Miguel Tejada is the only one that has ever been dangled and we've gone down that road before. Obviously, it looks like Adam Everett should be the shortstop in 2007 at least.

Shifting Gears

The Astros know they have to fill one outfield slot, so it is easy to assume that they will do so in free agency, but the other two are young players that may or may not be apart of the future of the club. Let's start with Wily Taveras. The Chronicle reported this last week that the Astros have contacted Gary Mathews Jr.'s agent. Mathews had a breakout year in Texas, but Taveras was runner up for rookie of the year and had the longest hitting streak in club history last season. Do they need a change?

                     Games     WARP3     W/140
Gary Mathews Jr.      147       7.1       6.7
Wily Taveras          142       5.7       5.6

Ah, but isn't Gary Mathews Jr. 32 years old and coming off of a career season. Yes he is, but Taveras also has Scott Boras as an agent and actually has some teams (Marlins mainly) looking to make a deal. So, why not look at 2005 in terms of wins per 140 games to see if this would make sense.

Gary Mathews Jr.      131       4.1       4.4
Wily Taveras          153       5.3       4.8

Now we have to look at some projective scouting. Most of Wily T's gains this past year came with the glove. Many of you will recall that he struggled to get a good jump on some balls in 2005, but had a brilliant defensive season last year. Offensively he was essentially the same player. So, do people see him improving with the bat as he gets older or will he continue to be a punching judy?

Part of the problem of evaluating Mathews is converting his numbers from Ameriquest Field to neutral ground. Seven wins would seem to be low for someone that produced a .313/19/102/79 season, but Ameriquest Field shoots out numbers normally. What would Mathews have produced in MMP last season? The more you analyze this situation the more you realize Mathews isn't such an appealing option. However, if he will come at a reasonable cost, (between 5 and 8 million per season) and if the Astros can get something like Dontrelle Willis in a package including Taveras then it becomes a definite option.

Meanwhile, the great lust for Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Lee begins in earnest. The Astros have contacted both agents and most biased observers (including our own Richard Justice) assume that Lee is already an Astro. Yet, someone from the New York Post threw Gary Sheffield into the equation. Could the Astros add one of the first two in left and Sheffield in right? Let's see if that makes sense.

                    Games     WARP3     W/140
Luke Scott            65       4.1       8.8
Gary Sheffield        39       1.2       4.3
Carlos Lee           161       6.0       5.2
Alfonso Soriano      159      10.2       9.0

Obviously, Sheffield shouldn't be that bad again, but he is also pushing 40. He says he will cause trouble if he doesn't get a longterm extension. Am I missing something here? The biggest surprise here is Carlos Lee. Lee's numbers look pedestrian even though he had a "career year" because he is a virtual zero defensively. Soriano made some strides in left field and actually brings something to the table. Certainly, Lee would be an improvement over what we got from our third outfielders last season, but paying him ten million plus to be a slight improvement suddenly doesn't sound that good. If you really want improvement you might have to bite the bullet and pay Beltran money to Soriano.

In short, the Astros are in the unenviable position of having holes to fill, money to burn, and few really appealing options in the store. Tim Purpura just got extended, but he has some difficult decisions to make. Will Taveras and Scott continue to improve or will they turn into pumpkins. How much can we get for them now? The Astros are sure to be an active team this winter and Purpura's tenure will be judged on these tough decisions.