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Riding with the Wind, ’14: Gunning for League Average

This likely isn’t the first time you’ve read about Ryan Goins.  It isn’t the first time that I’ve written about him, either.  Given his relative lack of familiarity before his call-up last season, a lot of virtual ink is being spilled about him now.  He was unnoticed in the minors because of his offense, which is, of course, why we’re all interested in him now.

Can a team that dreams about contending carry such a black hole on offense?  Of course it can.  Can their dreams be realized?  Of course they can.  But will they?  That remains to be seen.  Ryan Goins is terrible offensively, there’s no two ways about it.  He has no power, he doesn’t walk, he strikes out too often, and, while that means there’s lots of room for improvement, there’s little chance that’ll happen, right?  Maybe, maybe not.

I’m on record as saying that over the course of his career his “output surged beyond the previous lower level almost across the board”.  He does a workman-like job, gets promoted, struggles briefly, and then improves upon his previous level.  I believe this betrays his mindset: it seems as if he’s out to prove people wrong.  I don’t know what kind of things are said to him, but he ain’t a big guy (5′ 10″, 185lbs.) for a pro ball player and, since bigger/stronger/faster prospects are generally favoured, we can make an educated guess.

He also isn’t a little guy who hits for unexpected power (Joe Morgan; Jimmy Wynn, who had one of the best nicknames ever–the ‘Toy Cannon’; etc.), or steals a lot of bases, or bunts well, or anything.  But there’s something tangible–his defense–and something intangible–his desire to prove himself, maybe?–that makes me think he can play at the ML.  But I could be DEAD WRONG.

We need some context, don’t we?  The following table shows how well the average ML 2B fared offensively in 2013.  We also included the averages from the two leagues.

MLB 7.3 16.6 .257 .316 .376 .305 91
AL 7.6 16.2 .260 .320 .377 .308 91
NL 7.0 16.9 .254 .313 .375 .303 90

*Table info courtesy of

The average 2B in MLB was a below-average offensive contributor which, given the nature and importance of the position, is acceptable to most teams.  After all, not everyone has or can afford a Robinson Cano on the right side of the infield.

Fair enough but where does that leave us?  Well, since there isn’t a lot of data from Ryan Goins’ major league career, we can look for comparisons and contrasts in the careers of others to give us a little bit of perspective.

Ryan Goins isn’t the only middle infielder in baseball history to struggle offensively.  As a matter of fact, it’s almost cliché that middle infielders don’t contribute much with the bat.  Players such as Cano, Roberto Alomar, Jeff Kent, and Joe Morgan are the exception rather than the rule.  Defense is crucial at shortstop and second base.

Knowing this, we took a look at some of the more well-known middle infielders who struggled to produce positively with the bat.  The following table shows how some of these defensively adept/offensively inept middle infielders fared in their first ML season.  Ryan Goins’ 2013 effort in AAA Buffalo is included for perspective.

Goins, AAA 2013 6.9 20.3 .257 .311 .369 .311 90
Mazeroski, PIT 1956 6.5 8.7 .243 .293 .318 .278 67
Belanger, BAL 1968 7.5 21.5 .208 .272 .248 .243 61
Bowa, PHI 1970 3.6 8.3 .250 .277 .303 .262 56
Smith, SDP 1978 7.0 6.4 .258 .311 .312 .288 84
Vizquel, SEA 1989 6.5 9.3 .220 .273 .261 .249 51

*Table info courtesy of

Here are some remarks from this info and from the broader statistical picture not included in the table:

  • There’s only one 2B in the bunch—Mazeroski—but Goins fits well into both categories, being a converted shortstop;
  • There’s obviously a big leap from AAA to MLB, one that so many players never make, but this offers some context for Goins’ offensive output;
  • Not surprisingly, Ozzie Smith is the class of the field but even his numbers aren’t very impressive, though he played in Jack Murphy Stadium as a rookie;
  • Larry Bowa and Omar Vizquel contributed very little offensively to their teams (PHI and SEA, respectively);
  • Mark Belanger is the only one who debuted with a good team;
  • The group combined to give only 10 seasons of 100 wRC+ (or greater): Ozzie Smith was responsible for seven of those seasons, and Omar Vizuel was responsible for two of them;
  • Ozzie Smith’s first season of 100 wRC+ came in his 8th season in MLB;
  • Ryan Goins’ AAA season is strikingly similar to the 2013 ML average for 2B;
  • Ryan Goins’ AAA season also fits in very well with the debuts of these other middle infielders who were strong defensively/weak offensively.

Can we expect Ryan Goins to reproduce his AAA season from 2013?  I don’t think so.  He’s working diligently with Kevin Seitzer, but it will probably be a longer process than most people are patient enough to bear.  What we’re likely to see is something along the lines of what Larry Bowa and Omar Vizquel gave to their teams.

There is one major difference that needs to be taken into account, though.  The difference is that the Blue Jays’ offense is much more capable of carrying Ryan Goins in 2014 than PHI was of carrying Bowa in 1970 or SEA was of carrying Vizquel in 1989.  The Phillies won 94 games in 1964 and bottomed out at 59 wins in 1972 (Steve Carlton’s 12.5 bWAR season).  Bowa’s rookie season occurred in the midst of that downward trend.  Vizquel’s 1989 Mariners had never enjoyed a winning season since joining MLB with TOR in 1977.

The real problem is whether the Blue Jays’ sketchy starting rotation can afford a black hole in the offense.  His defense will be a boon to the rotation.  However, it’s possible that Toronto gives up runs by the basketful in 2014, though this is arguably the best rotation supported by the greatest depth since Roy Halladay was the ace.

There are so many significant questions about the rotation—injuries, experience, consistency—that it would be foolhardy to expect them to resemble a championship staff.  This consideration, in concert with a run-rich home park (The Rog) in a division skewed heavily toward offensive production, may sound the death knell for the confidence they’ve placed in Ryan Goins.  After all, Stephen Drew is still out there.

I think his skills play at the ML level but, again, I could be dead wrong about this.  The more pertinent question, I think, is ‘if the Jays stumble out of the gate, will Ryan Goins be an early casualty?’ He’s 26 and may never mature offensively, but he may line up very well with the likes of Mazeroski (20), Belanger (24), Bowa (24), and Vizquel (22) over his career.  We dare not hope for him to be as good defensively as he was in his very brief debut, do we?  That’s Ozzie Smith territory and it’s sacred.  And we dare not hope that he’ll continue to improve offensively as the Wizard did, right?  Right…

Wes Kepstro


Breaking Down AL East Free Agent Spending

Here is how the AL East teams spent on free agent acquisitions this past off-season in chart form.

Team Total $ Players Years AAV
New York Yankees $471MM 9 29 $16.25
Baltimore Orioles $70MM 7 13 $5.36
Boston Red Sox $53MM 5 7 $7.54
Tampa Bay Rays $39MM 4 8 $4.88
Toronto Blue Jays $8MM 1 2 $4.00

Equally as disheartening is the point I mentioned in the 2014 State of the Union was the presence of teams who in past years hadn’t been active in free agency.  The Seattle Mariners spent $268MM, Minnesota Twins $87MM, Kansas City Royals $67MM and Milwaukee Brewers $53MM.  Only the Pittsburgh Pirates spent less than the Toronto Blue Jays coming in at only $7-million dollars.

Latest on the Ervin Santana Saga

MLBTR (and other media outlets) had prematurely reported that the Toronto Blue Jays signed the top remaining free agent starting pitcher Ervin Santana to a one-year $14MM contract.  It appears that no deal is currently close with the Blue Jays, or any team for that matter.

Here are the latest headlines:

2:21pm: O’Brien hears from a person connected to the Royals that the Braves may now be making a run at Santana (Twitter link). In addition to Medlen’s injury, Brandon Beachy left today’s Spring Training start with biceps tightness.

10:17am: The Braves haven’t completely ruled out Santana in the event of a serious Medlen injury, writes’s Mark Bowman, but the financial and draft pick costs are definite factors. Atlanta would very much like to strengthen its crop of top prospects, and sacrificing the No. 26 selection in the draft would go against that thinking.

9:19am: Over the weekend it was reported that Ervin Santana has completely changed course and is now seeking a one-year deal with an eye toward a lucrative multi-year deal next offseason. With one-year offers of $13MM plus incentives and $14MM without incentives from the Orioles and Blue Jays, respectively, there appear to be a pair of clear favorites for Santana.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports provides some updates on the Santana sweepstakes this morning, noting that the Blue Jays’ players are lobbying for Santana to come to Toroto. Santana has many friends on the club, including countrymen Jose BautistaEdwin Encarnacion and Jose Reyes. One source told Rosenthal that several Jays players got together and texted Santana a picture of themselves holding a poster that read, “Come to Toronto.”

The conspiracy theorist in me feels that perhaps Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos has never had any intention of signing Ervin Santana.  Anthopoulos is a chronic and notorious window shopper and perhaps he was hopeful that breaking this story would take some of the heat off him from a disgruntled fan base still sore with the team after last years debacle.  However this is pure speculation and probably not even good speculation.

If I was Ervin Santana and the goal was to put up another half way decent season to secure a long-term contract I would be hesitant to choose the Toronto Blue Jays.  Pitching a majority of my games in the AL East and possibly half of my starts at the Rogers Centre wouldn’t be the best business decision.

If the Atlanta Braves are interested and are offering a contract on par with Toronto I don’t see how they aren’t a heavy favorite to land him.

Riding with the Wind, ’14: It might not be that difficult to repeat…

But that’s NOT what we want; too many sub-.500 records are hard on the constitution.  Jeff Sullivan at Fangraphs has just posted a piece offering WAR-based strength-of-schedule predictions for 2014.  The Orioles have the toughest schedule, while Washington plays the weakest opponents.  The Blue Jays have the third-toughest schedule.

The bad thing is that this confirms that the Jays have their work cut out for them.  The AL East is as strong as usual.  The decline of the Yankees is offset by the ascendancy of the defending World Champion Red Sox (ugh), the usually-strong Rays, and the strong off season moves by the Orioles.  If the Orioles sign Ervin Santana, the Jays are almost assuredly a lock for 4th or 5th place in the division.

The good thing about this is, well, um…ah…what I mean to say is…crap.  There isn’t much good about this.  It’s not very encouraging at all.

Anyways, keep this in mind as you watch the standings during the season.  A strong schedule will suppress win totals somewhat artificially, while an easy schedule will tend to inflate win totals, again somewhat artificially.  The impression I have from watching/following sports over the decades is that teams with artificially-inflated win totals don’t do well in the postseason.  At least they frickin’ make it to the postseason though…

Wes Kepstro




Blue Jays (Trying to) Sign Ervin Santana – One Year, $14MM

4:08pm: FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi tweets that a source tells him that Santana could wait “days” before signing. 4:00 has come and gone, and there’s no news about his decision.

12:08pm: Rojas writes (Spanish-language) that Santana is deciding between the Jays, who have offered $14MM, and the Orioles, who have offered $13MM plus incentives.

11:43am: Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes tweets that Santana will sign with the Jays for $14MM by 4:00pm if he does not receive a better offer by then.

*UPDATE* The Blue Jays have agreed to terms with Ervin Santana on a one-year, $14MM deal, Dionisio Soldevila of ESPN Deportes tweets.

10:53am: The Blue Jays are “optimistic” about landing Santana, although they have not yet reached an agreement with him, FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi tweets.

It took this relatively big news to awaken a lazy blogger from his slumber?

When a guy like Ervin Santana can basically become our top pitcher it is slightly disconcerting but the reality is he likely would be our top pitcher in terms of WAR for 2014.

The rumor mill is in high gear this Saturday morning with multiple reliable sources reporting that the top remaining free agent starting pitcher is now seeking only a one year pact and the Toronto Blue Jays are one of the finalists for his services.

He is said to be looking for around $14MM on a one year deal as the off-season has been a bust for Santana’s representatives hoping to lock-in a multi-year contract.

Here is how Ervin Santana would stack up against the rest of the Blue Jays rotation hopefuls based on 2014 ZIPS projections:

E.Santana 185.0 184 27 55 147 4.26 1.29 1.7
R.A. Dickey 195.0 186 27 56 162 4.00 1.24 2.6
M.Buehrle 168.0 181 23 39 110 4.32 1.30 1.7
B.Morrow 125.0 113 15 39 137 3.87 1.29 2.2
J.A. Happ 125.0 124 17 56 112 4.68 1.44 1.4
T.Redmond 119.0 132 25 41 91 5.49 1.45 0.0

Well that is depressing.  Those are some hideous projections and while they are only best statistical estimates of past performance it is not an encouraging sign for the 2014 season.  Would Ervin Santana help?  Clearly.  Will Ervin Santana make the Blue Jays a contender?  Not even close.

I’m ambiguous on adding Ervin Santana.  As a fan I’d rather see a decent pitcher than a terrible one but if we aren’t going to contend and are instead looking ahead to 2015 (and beyond) why not give some of our younger arms a chance to show their skills in the bigs all season?

Might as well let Kyle Drabek, Drew Hutchison, Marcus Stroman and Sean Nolin strut their stuff and work on building some confidence and at the very least give them more big league experience.

On the the other hand we could sign Ervin Santana for a three month showcase and deal him to a contender at the deadline.  If we could add a prospect who would project to be more valuable than the #50 overall selection we would forfeit (to sign Santana) that could end up as a net gain.

If he pitches well again the Blue Jays will surely offer him compensation and possibly gain a better draft pick in the process.  The more I write and the more I think about it the downside here is fairly minimal.  Make it happen AA!

What do you think?

New York Yankees Sign Jacoby Ellsbury

Well I think Ellsbury can expect some massive booing upon his return to Fenway Park for the foreseeable future as he has agreed to join the New York Yankees – a bitter rival.  While it would have been nice if Ellsbury signed in the National League from a Blue Jays perspective this is essentially neutral.  He strengthens a rival and weakens one at the same time.  If it limits the Yankees ability to sign Robinson Cano perhaps it is even detrimental long term for the Yanks.

UPDATE: 8:41pm: Ellsbury’s deal is worth $153MM over seven years, according to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News (on Twitter).  That tops Carl Crawford‘s deal by $12MM.

As per MLBTR:

The Yankees have agreed to sign Jacoby Ellsbury, according to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News (via Twitter).  Jon Heyman of first reported that the two sides were closing in on a seven-year pact.  It is believed the deal will top Carl Crawford‘s $142MM, seven-year deal with one estimate pegging the deal at about $150MM, according to Heyman.

Ellsbury offers more pop than the typical center fielder, with a career slugging percentage of .439 and isolated power of .141.  While his power is more of the doubles and triples variety, which is aided by his speed, he did hit 32 home runs in his stellar 2011 campaign.  In that year, Ellsbury led all of baseball with 9.1 wins above replacement, finished second in the AL MVP voting, won a Silver Slugger and a Gold Glove, and made the All-Star team.

The 30-year-old has also consistently posted above average UZR and DRS numbers in center field.  While he has come back to earth somewhat since ’11, he checked in with 5.8 wins above replacement in 2013, which is second only to Robinson Cano among free agents.

Yankees people envision Ellsbury in center with Brett Gardner moving to left.

MLB Rumour Round Up – November 24, 2013

A few tidbits including an absolutely massive AL East signing by a Blue Jays rival.


-The Yankees and Brian McCann have agreed to terms on a five-year, $85MM deal with a sixth-year vesting option, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets. The sixth year option could boost the value of the deal to $100MM, Rosenthal says, adding in a second tweet that the deal is simply pending a physical. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that the contract includes a full no-trade clause. McCann is represented by B.B. Abbott.

As Rosenthal notes in his article on the deal, the average yearly salary McCann will receive, $17MM, is the highest ever given to a catcher in free agency. While Joe Mauer‘s average yearly rate of $24MM remains the record for catchers overall, the Twins have said that Mauer will transition to first base on a full-time basis beginning next season, meaning McCann is set to become the game’s highest-paid backstop.

QUICK TAKE: While I was pretty much resigned to the fact the top free agent catcher wasn’t coming to Toronto my initial reaction is disappointment.  McCann would have been a massive upgrade for the Blue Jays and the fact he joins an AL East rival is doubly hard to take.

-As the Red Sox survey their options for alternatives to free agent Jacoby Ellsbury, an interesting name has popped up on their radar.  The Red Sox are one of several teams who have made inquiries on Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp, a major league source tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.

 Jhonny Peralta‘s asking price has been said to be significant, but to this point, reports have only indicated that he’s seeking “much more than $45MM.” Joel Sherman of the New York Post sheds some light on his demands, reporting that he’s seeking something in the four-year $56MM to five-year, $75MM range.

-The Angels and Cardinals have officially announced a trade that will send center fielder Peter Bourjos and outfield prospect Randal Grichuk to the Cardinals in exchange for third baseman David Freese and right-hander Fernando Salas.

-The Blue Jays discussed a trade for Matt Kemp with the Dodgers at the GM meetings,reports Shi Davidi of Those discussions appear to have gone nowhere, but Davidi says they are indicative of a trend throughout MLB — teams are entertaining ideas of big trades (like the recent Prince Fielder / Ian Kinsler blockbuster) rather than diving into a free agent market that’s become increasingly expensive. Here are more notes from around the East divisions.

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