Thursday, April 10, 2014

How Agent Gustavo Vazquez screwed Salvador Perez and why Giants brass tabled Sandoval talks

Close your eyes and imagine this for a moment. It's 2008 and Katy Perry's magical song about kissing girls is brand new. An intriguing 21 year old 3B/C named Pablo Sandoval has come out of nowhere to hit .345 in only 41 games. No one quite knows how good he can be, or that one day he'll be an All-Star or a World Series MVP. No one knows about the Panda-monium.
Perez may be smiling now, but he won't be
later when he realizes how much money
he'll be missing out on in the future.

Now, I want you to substitute Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez for your vision of Sandoval. You can't picture Perez? Well, that's a shame, because he's one of the best young talents in the game that you probably haven't seen play-- unless you watched him catch Mariano Rivera in the All-Star Game last year at Citi Field in New York.

Then, Salvador Perez was a 22 year-old All-Star; a guy who was once signed by a rickety old Royals scouting program in Venezuela for a measly $65k. Probably similar to what Sandoval got from the Giants.

Like Panda, Perez was called up for the first time as a 21 year old, and promptly hit over .300, showing excellent defense and instincts. Recalled the following year in June of 2012, "Salvy" as he's known, hit over .300 again with 11 HR and a .993 fielding percentage in only 76 games.

Take this quote from Royals Scout Art Stewart:

“He’s one of the best young catchers I’ve seen. You gotta go back to Pudge (Ivan Rodriguez) and guys like that. He’s got the ability to be an All-Star for many years. As long as he stays healthy.”

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2013/05/11/4230813/perez-has-been-quite-a-catch-for.html#storylink=cpy

Most teams would stand pat, and enjoy the fact that they had this young talent under team control through pre-arbitration and arbitration years-- usually 6, sometimes 7 years. The Royals, sick of losing games and losing their players to richer teams, decided to be aggressive and lock him up.

Indeed it is unusual for a team to offer a multi-year deal to a player still so deep under team control. There are examples of this, but the likes of Ryan Braun and Evan Longoria are just not good comparisons. Those two were blue-chippers who've been told they're great from age 10 and have behaved accordingly. They commanded big deals in comparison (but not compared to their production on the open market), and preferred to stay in their small market havens a couple years into free agency while being able to sign an open-market deal before they turn 30.

Perez's deal is different. It's completely irresponsible.

While researching this, I came upon McCovey Chronicles' fearless leader Grant Brisbee's take on the contract via SB Nation's "Baseball Nation".

It fascinated him, he couldn't stop thinking about it. It was just plain interesting. A young, rather unproven guy still under control for years signing a seemingly creative contract that was almost a no-risk deal for KC. On the other hand, it was some guaranteed money for Perez if he couldn't hack it. A win-win it seemed.

Now it's just a win for the Royals; the type of thing Royals GM Dayton Moore thinks of when he has a bad day to cheer him up. Kansas City made out like bandits, they knew it, and Pablo Sandoval's agent Gustavo Vazquez is to blame.

Until very recently, as I detailed here, Vazquez was a member of Morgan Advisory Group (MAG), and held the title of Senior Baseball Director. He was charismatic, and was an excellent recruiter. MAG's stable of players was primarily Latin American, and mostly Venezuelan (including of course Sandoval and Perez). The players felt comfortable dealing with "one of their own", and became good friends with their representation.

Gustavo Vazquez
That's where Gustavo Vazquez's skills as an agent end.

For all his skills wooing potential clients, Vazquez lacked the shrewdness and knowledge necessary to structure contracts, and there is no better example than the Salvador Perez deal.

According to a source (and yes, a legitimate source that I'm not making up, because I take this seriously), Vazquez took liberties with the Perez-KC negotiations that culminated in Perez signing "one of the most irresponsible, team-friendly contracts in the last 20 years".

The reason it was so fascinating at the time is because it didn't make sense. What player would sign away most of his promising career for $23MM at most??

The answer? A player who became too buddy-buddy with his agent, who in turn did not follow directions from his agency.

Let me ask you this. Would Scott Boras tell Salvy Perez to sign that deal? Absolutely not. Scott Boras would laugh in the Dayton Moore's face and book a tee time on his iPhone immediately. That's how ludicrous this deal was.

According to the source, Vazquez was told not to include any free agency years or any club options in the Perez deal-- a standard thing. Of course Vazquez made sure the contract included all of that stuff and more. Name one young player that gave up free agency years in a contract extension that isn't making significant money. Think Posey, Longoria, Braun.

It simply doesn't happen-- and that's why this deal was so egregiously irresponsible.

From Cot's Contracts:

Salvador Perez c
5 years/$7M (2012-16), plus 2017-19 options
  • 5 years/$7M (2012-16), plus 2017-19 club options
    • signed extension with Kansas City 2/27/12
    • 12:$0.75M, 13:$1M, 14:$1.5M, 15:$1.75M, 16:$2M, 17:$3.75M club option,18:$5M club option, 19:$6M club option
    • award bonuses, including $50,000 for All-Star selection
    • 2017-19 salaries may increase by additional $5M overall based on performance and awards in 2012-16 (earns bonuses by reaching 4 points, with 1 point each for All-Star selection, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, top 15 in MVP vote)
  • 1 year (2011)
    • contract purchased by Kansas City 8/10/11
  • signed by Kansas City 2006 as an amateur free agent from Venezuela
Honestly, when I first saw this, knowing how valuable Perez is, I did a triple take. Huh? 5 years, $7MM? That's barely a raise over what he'd make already-- the minimum. Then, you look at all his arbitration years ('15-'17), completely swallowed up-- years where knowing what we know now, he'd certainly eclipse those totals. On top of it, the Royals either get an out in the form of THREE club options, or can retain Perez through his 29th birthday at the rate of a backup catcher. The incentive system is childlike, absurd, and who knows if any of that will vest. I mean... a point system? My 5th grade teacher had a point system for when we got out of line. 3 points and we got sent out of the classroom.

Again, why would Perez sign this deal?

You're talking about a poor kid from Venezuela who had his mom pitch him corn kernels while he hit them with a broomstick. He was a 22 year old from from South America in the middle of Kansas City, Missouri. Most Americans at that age are naive fools as well. I don't blame him necessarily. I also don't blame the Royals. There's a reason there are agents and lawyers and a Players Union-- to protect players from being taken advantage of.

It was pure negligence on Vazquez's part-- a guy who simply signed whatever KC put in front of him and effectively signed away his client's best years for peanuts. If Perez were to become just a third of the player Buster Posey is, he'd be making $48MM over that 8 year period-- very similar to the initial 6 year deal signed by Longoria.

This contract was also an embarrassment to Morgan Advisory Group, who trusted their supposed "Senior Baseball Director" to follow directions that came from the top-- presumably, but not confirmed, Ryan Morgan himself.

And if you look at the timeline of the Perez contract, more interesting facts come to light.

The deal was made official on 2/27//12. On the surface, you'd think this is irrelevant. However, a closer look at what this date corresponded with is telling.

MAG represents a good deal of NFL players and rookies trying to get drafted. It is now the biggest part of their business after Gustavo Vazquez and Michel Velasquez stole their entire MLB Portfolio in a rogue move that I talked about yesterday.

And where do agents and players go before the NFL Draft? The NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

The Combine was held in Indy from 2/22/12 until 2/28/12, and presumably, most of MAG was either there or focusing on that while Vazquez was mortgaging away his client's future in Kansas City or at Spring Training in Arizona.

What does this have to do with the Giants?

Vazquez and his henchman Velasquez are now "representing" the maddeningly lovable Pablo Sandoval, who is set to hit the open market after this season. Brian Sabean is "at the end of his rope" and contract talks have been tabled. As I said yesterday, you cannot blame Sabean or Bobby Evans for suspending talks. You're dealing with two geniuses that are getting sued by their former employer for $5MM after stealing equipment, money, and MAG's entire MLB client list in a stupid scheme. It's like talking to a brick wall.

You're talking about a couple of guys operating on, essentially, stolen capital that is almost certainly beginning to run out. These guys want need to make a huge splash with their biggest client with their new agency. If for example, Pablo were to make the wise decision and go back to Morgan or even choose Scott Boras, who he was seen speaking to in LA, Vazquez's house of cards would collapse immediately.

These guys would likely sell their own mothers to improve their situations, and that's how they view Sandoval-- as their meal ticket.

Unless their 5 years, $90MM is met, they basically have nothing to say. No matter that comparing an injury prone 3B who has only achieved an OPS over .800 twice in 5 full seasons to a 5 tool OF that never misses a game is absurd. They want Pence money, and they want it now.

The comparison baseline doesn't even make sense.

If they want to compare him to someone and reach for the stars, why don't you start with David Wright or Evan Longoria, and work your way down to the closest comparison, Ryan Zimmerman of the Nats.

Zimmerman is almost assuredly overpaid, and has now developed an arthritic throwing shoulder in the first year of a 6yr./$100MM deal. It's a cautionary tale indeed. Now they're hoping  to move Zimm over to 1st or teach him how to throw sidearm.

So yes, the deal these clowns seek is valid when compared to Zimmerman's deal in some ways, but that is assuming that Pablo is Zimmerman's equal. He simply hasn't been. Zimmerman is a career .286 hitter with 180 career HR. Pablo has a slightly higher career average, but just doesn't have the track record.

The Nats made a mistake with that contract, and now it's the baseline for Sandoval. Isn't it great how this works?

As I've said, it's not the money factor that bugs me about this situation, or even Sandoval's on-field play. It's about two unprofessional shadesters unwilling to negotiate with an organization that is unquestionably the most loyal in baseball.

The Giants have locked up (for better or worse) every single player that has either helped them win, or is loved by fans. Aubrey Huff, Scutaro, Bumgarner, Posey, Lincecum, Vogelsong, Cain, Pence, etc., etc. They even gave Barry Zito more dignity and chances at redemption than Pope Francis would have.

They want to keep Sandoval in San Francisco, but if you're dealing with a couple of dopes that won't negotiate or be reasonable, then you face the near certainty that the player you're trying to re-sign will end up hitting the open market and a bidding war will ensue.

To be honest, that's how I see this shaking out. It has never been Vazquez's goal to get a deal done with the Giants. His goal is to have his client fought over and overpaid, and that's what we're looking at.

Whether or not you think any of this is relevant, I don't know, but it is an interesting story that directly affects the Giants, and I cannot for the life of me understand why this facet of the Sandoval negotiations has not been blown up yet. If these guys feel the heat on them, they may be more likely to cut bait with their hardball stance and sign whatever the Giants put in front of them, just like they did to Salvador Perez.




Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Sandoval contract talks cut off partly due to shady agents

Like you guys, I'm a bit giddy over the Giants' hot start. They're crushing the ball everywhere, and it's nice to know that it's Brandon Belt's world and that we're just living in it.

Other than some early concerns about our rotation, I'm most concerned by the Pablo Sandoval contract situation, and hope that this doesn't turn into a sour-tasting circus.

Gustavo Vazquez while still with Morgan Advisory Group.
Their website is down for construction as they lick their 
wounds and pick up the pieces.
As you know, he is in a contract year. He certainly knows it because he lost a bunch of weight, and has (mis?) placed his trust in his team of agents-- who themselves are about as shady as the absurd 5 year, $90MM contract demands they're making.

Sandoval is demanding Hunter Pence's contract as a STARTING point. Having the gall and huevos to even start there is reason for alarm-- and we're not even talking about Panda's on-field play and weight issues. Secondly, Pablo has chosen a couple of real winners to represent him, and they're out for a payday just as much as The Panda is.

Sandoval is represented by Gustavo Vazquez and Michel Velasquez, who are not exactly the type of people you work with "in good faith". Most agents are by nature, serpentine sleaze merchants and fly-by-night shadesters, but most manage to keep their back alley dealings out of the papers.

These two are not such agents.

From ESPN's Jerry Crasnick:

Gustavo Vasquez and partner Michel Velasquez are defendants in a civil action suit filed in South Florida District Court by Morgan Advisory Group of California. The suit seeks more than $5 million in damages for breach of contract and fiduciary duty and fraud, among several other allegations. 
The suit alleges that Vasquez illegally conspired to use his new company against the Morgan group by "diverting away clients, misappropriating funds, and interfering with and harming the present and future business relationships between MAG and its former and current clients." 
The suit also seeks damages for baseball equipment, computers and other items that the defendants failed to return.
"This lawsuit is not about retribution or payback," said Darren Heitner, the lawyer for the plaintiff. "It's about seeking just relief for damages that were caused to Morgan Advisory Group. Ryan Morgan believed in these guys and pumped money into their fraudulent scheme, and the result is that he's been left without a baseball division."
 Vasquez left Morgan Advisory Group last year to form SPS Sports Group and took Sandoval, Kansas City catcher Salvador Perez, Pittsburgh pitcher Jeanmar Gomez, Atlanta reliever Luis Avilan and numerous other players with him to his new agency. 
So, essentially, these two guys decided to go out for themselves, and began an elaborate clandestine exit strategy that involved poaching every baseball client Morgan represented, equipment, contacts,  and property. Most of all, the suit alleges that these two dynamite individuals were fraudulently siphoning money to themselves in order to get their "business" up and running.

That's called embezzlement, larceny, and being total jerks.

This is what the Giants are dealing with: an immature, inconsistent player represented by scumbags. No wonder Brian Sabean said he's "at the end of his rope". Can anyone blame him? He has to talk to these guys. They're about as reasonable as a mentally ill junkie ranting and raving on a corner in the Tenderloin.

It's not even Panda's play, or talent, or anything else baseball related that's aggravating about the situation. It's more about his poor choices over the length of his still young career. Sticking with these sleazards to negotiate the first big contract of his career is going to end badly; whether it is because these guys trick him into signing away too much of his money, or him ending up on some lousy team and eating his way out of the league. They are blatantly using Sandoval to make their first big splash with their new agency, and he's their meal ticket to fancy cars and Cuban cigars.

Of course it could turn out okay, but the combination of Sandoval and these guys just seems less than ideal.

According to the Houston Chronicle, MLB puts no commission limits on player agents, and on average, MLB agents make between 4-10% of a player's contract:

An agent’s commission varies, based on the sport he represents. Generally, a sports agent earns between 4 and 10 percent of an athlete’s playing contract, though some leagues place limits on what percentage an agent can charge in commission. For example, the National Football League states that an agent can't receive more than 3 percent of player salaries. The National Basketball Association places the limit at 3 percent too. Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League don't have any limits on agent commissions, however.
Whaddayou wanna bet that the Vaz/Velas Dream Team take the full 10% commission (or more) on this $90MM Sandoval is supposedly worth. Yeah. Pretty solid bet. Then they're going to take that $9MM, buy giant houses in Miami Beach and swindle other impressionable Latin American talents into giving up too big a chunk of their salaries.

Michel "Michael" Velasquez (left).
Not to say any of this behavior is new. These guys are certainly far from the first to operate like this-- Albert Pujols's agent Dan Lozano comes to mind, the man dubbed "The King of Sleaze Mountain" in a revealing Deadspin article.

It makes me begin to think that Scott Boras isn't so bad after all. At least we know what we're dealing with when it comes to him.

I do really apologize for pissing all over our hot start parade, but there's a fire smoldering underneath the surface, and I'm just trying to put it out a little bit before it starts burning out of control. I also want you all to prepare yourselves for the possibility that this is the last year you see Panda in a Giants uniform. In the end, it's all about the money and good business. But in Sandoval's agents' case-- just about the money. Good business be damned.



Sunday, April 6, 2014

Giants could be seriously good, but also mortal

I waited a week to jump in here and write something intentionally, as to not overreact about such a small sample size. Seeing as though week one ended on a pretty lousy note in LA, I feel as though we've all been doused with a little bit of reality after a pretty sizzling start.

We're not going to win 110 games. Belt isn't going to break Bonds's HR record, and Pagan won't hit .450 the rest of the way. But what we do know, is that this 2014 incarnation of our beloved Giants could be-- and I emphasize could be, as good or better than the 2012 Champions.

For once, the lineup appears to be well... really good. There's a pretty nice mix of power and contact throughout the lineup, and honestly, I think the days of finishing in the bottom 5 in runs scored and HRs is over. Prior to the season, we all looked at the lineup on paper and thought, "Wow. If this goes right, and that guy stays healthy, and this guy continues getting better, we could score a lot of runs."

Well, things are beginning to fall into place, now aren't they? Every single one of our power hitters has hit a HR, and effing Brandon Belt has 4. FOUR HOME RUNS! Like... seriously?

Seriously. I saw them.

The Belt development is the single most important event to happen to this lineup since I don't know when... probably since we added Pence via trade.

Forget what he's on pace for, but instead just sit back and acknowledge that Belty has finally figured it out, and is a legitimate power hitting corner infielder. Many of us knew it was a matter of time, others thought he would never pan out and were on the Brett Pill Crazy Train to nowhere.

With what we've seen so far. Belt is not only a lock for 25 dingers and an .800+ OPS with good defense, but we're talking potential all-star selection.

I know it's only 7 games, but this metamorphosis began last year with the grip change, and you all saw how he improved. This didn't just come out of nowhere.

Someone who did kinda come out of nowhere was Brandon Hicks, or Brandon #3, or B3 for short. Is that going to catch on? No? Okay, I tried though.

A former 3rd round pick of Atlanta, Hicks was a long shot to make the team at all. Now he's making some serious noise at the plate. The guy is doubling, hitting home runs... all out of nowhere. Of course, he'll probably cool off, but just the fact that there's a guy on our team capable of replacing Scutaro that has pop? Just what the doctor ordered... as long as Bochy doesn't take too many ABs away from B3 in favor of Adrianza so that he cools off.

Another guy the doctor ordered is Mike Morse. Man, it sure is nice to have him on this team. I know he's a bit injury prone and he will strike out a good deal. But the guy can hit. He's contributed in a number of different ways at the dish, including a crazy bomb in LA that went like 450 feet. Also, he hasn't hurt us defensively yet, and the 7th inning Gregor Blanco substitution thing seems to work just fine.

All in all, I could not be happier with this lineup right now, save for Scutaro basically hanging in career limbo with this bad back of his. I asked Twitter and Facebook recently that if all they got out of Marco's $20MM contract was this picture and the 2012 World Series, was it worth it? There was a resounding yes, and a couple smart asses that said he was re-signed after that. Yeah geniuses. Thanks for that.

Now the pitching, I'm not so sold on. Of all the idiotic things John Kruk rambled on about on Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN, the one thing that I hate to agree with but do is, "I don't know if the Giants have the pitching to get done this year."

Sucks, but from what we've seen so far, it might be true. As I see it, there are two guys-- Madison Bumgarner and Tim Hudson-- that are going to be rock solid performers every 5th day. There's Matt Cain, who will be somewhere between decent and good, and then there's the Wild Cards, Lincecum and Vogelsong.

Granted, Vogelsong did very well in his first start, and I think that's a seriously encouraging sign. Let's keep our fingers crossed on him. However, we need to face the possibility that he may begin to suck and will be run out of town in a more delicate fashion than Todd Wellemeyer once was. We owe Vogey that much.

Lincecum is probably going to have another season of 4.50-4.75 ERA ball with maddening starts of equal parts brilliance and gopher balls. That's been the trend the last two seasons, and I just don't see it changing unfortunately. His propensity to give up the long ball and get bogged down in big innings will be his undoing half the time, and that's what we'll likely get. A beloved .500 pitcher-- like your smartphone a year and a half into your two year Verizon agreement. Completely maddening.

Cain to me is the most concerning. He's beginning 2014 much the way he began 2013-- by giving up HRs in bunches and bunches. Just like last year, it's concerning as hell, but there's evidence to suggest that he can avoid these things somehow. It's as if he's cruising along, and things are fine, then boom-- gone. Two batters later? Gone again. I just don't understand.

It should be of course noted that last season Cainer did improve toward the second half of the year, and cut down on the long ball. If not, I'm afraid, he'll be more in the Lincecum category than the Bumgarner one, and that's not going to win us that 3rd even year World Series in a row.

And John Kruk will be right.

We can't have that.

So everyone, take the first week for what it was-- a week, but just know that this team has the potential to be seriously good, and that it's probably going to come down to pitching-- just like every other year.

And I hate the Dodgers.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Welcome back Baseball, we've missed you

Well folks, another year of baseball is upon us, and I for one, couldn't be more excited. Time for more seeing eye ground balls, walk off celebrations, and plenty of torture. Ah, it sounds delightful.

As you know, I don't write this blog to make predictions or to over-analyze stats. I wait for something to fire me up, and then I tell you how I feel. Well right now, I'm just fired up to have baseball back.

It'll be an up and down season-- I can already tell. That's not me being negative, it's just sort of a reality. A lot of things have to go right for this season to be a success-- things that didn't really go right last year.

What happens if Lincecum carries a 5+ ERA all year, Scutaro only manages to play 75 games, and Vogelsong is DFA'd in May? What if Mike Morse is a creaky old hinge that forgot to WD-40 himself and misses various patches of time with strained calves and hamstrings and wrists?

I could see all these things happening like clockwork, and it concerns me.

But, you wanna know what doesn't concern me? Brandon Belt. Pablo Sandoval. Matt Cain. Madison Bumgarner. Brandon Crawford. Tim Hudson. Buster Posey.

Certainly to win another World Series (even year... :), everything must click at the right time-- but first you've got to get there. There are too many what ifs to guarantee playoffs right now, but I truly believe we have enough guys heading into their primes right now, and that this could be one of the most fun to watch Giants teams in years. If Morse and Scutaro contribute the way we know they can (and it's all about health), this team could really generate some runs and it will surprise people.

For now, let's let the season unfold, and just be grateful that baseball is back! I'll find something to rant about soon!

Dodgers Suck,

TDH

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Giants should think thrice about extending Sandoval

It's hard to hate Pablo Sandoval. As maddening he is to watch and as frustrating as he can be, he'll make plays or hit an impossible pitch and then flash a huge smile or blow a massive bubble.

Then all is forgotten...

...until the next time he drives you nuts.

We all know people like this. Lovable people that drive you effing crazy. You either learn to live with it, and accept their flaws, or you cut bait with them and move on with a more stress-free, yet less exciting life.

Panda's propensity for the big moment and the incredible hot streaks are as common as his ice cold valleys, and his weight fluctuations-- the main issue he faces as a big leaguer.

The weight struggles are not going to go away, and it will likely affect him for the rest of his life. Trust me, I know.

Just from personal experience, I can tell you that the love of all things food related-- from cooking, to eating way more than you should, and dreading stepping on a scale, are things that will never leave you. It's like an alcohol problem. You can quit the booze, hop on the wagon, and lead a fairly normal life, but the desire to drink-- or in this case-- to melt cheese onto carbs and delicious hunks of meat-- will never leave you.

Sure Panda and I have lost the weight before. It all comes down to motivation. His is related to money and baseball, and mine was more "lady" related (if you catch my drift).

But beware of the motivational changes that occur. As with me and my successful wooing of my lady and the subsequent happiness that comes with reaching a goal, there is inevitable backsliding. Because what happens? You feel good, you're having success, you look good, you're crushing baseballs. What would some In 'N Out hurt? Maybe some epic Animal Fries? You've earned it after all.

This is how it happens.

Next thing you know, you've signed that fat contract extension, you've made that girl your girlfriend, and if you don't pay close attention and stick with what got you there. All the sudden, you've gained that weight back.

You've seen it a hundred times.

This post isn't here to analyze Pablo's numbers, trends, or what he might make in his next contract. It's simply a cautionary tale about how people work, and their flaws. You can't un-love eating food, just like you can't turn a conservative into a liberal or a Giants fan into a Doyer.

It all comes down to motivation, and sometimes the love of whatever game you're playing isn't enough to keep someone off the liquor or away from the bread. In Pablo's case, he should want to stay in the good shape he's supposedly in, and he should absolutely request to have weight clauses included in his contract, not simply accept them as conditional additions from Giants brass or dodge the responsibility by signing with another team that didn't include said clauses.

He should want to remain good on the field and good in jeans. A huge guaranteed contract without stipulations is like turning Lindsay Lohan loose on the streets of Manhattan with a purse full of cash and team full of enablers.

He knows himself better than that, and so do I.


Monday, December 9, 2013

Gregor Blanco doesn't need replacing

Please believe me, I'm not trying to play Devil's Advocate, and I'm not trolling you. Let's just examine this for a minute.

Does Gregor Blanco really need to be replaced? Is he that bad? Does he hurt us as an everyday left fielder?

Everyone initially would say, "Of course he needs to be replaced. He plays great D, but LF is a power position, and he can't hit it out. Hell, he can barely hit doubles, and doesn't steal enough bases."

Okay. Fair enough. He does seem to lack the ideal makeup of a left fielder... especially when you think Bonds every time "Left Field" and "Giants" appear in the same thought. Blanco just doesn't quite do enough while we're watching games all year to make us think that he's good enough to man the position on his own.

But is perception truly reality?

With all the MLB Hot Stove action going on and names being thrown around as free agent targets or potential trade acquisitions, I've checked out a fair amount of stats on guys. For stats, usually I go to Fangraphs, and really pore over the averages and percentages.

You know me by now. I'm not a big WAR or FLIPx or ASS+ believer (or whatever they're all called). I don't think numbers derived from all kinds of sources and mixed into a blender for a final number metric rating is the only way to evaluate players. Call me old school, call me an idiot, I don't care.

However, I do respect WAR as a decent ranking of whether a player hurts or helps a team. Despite my old man, conservative way of thinking, when a metric like WAR has Mike Trout as the best OF and Andrew McCutchen as #2, it's something that can be depended on for something. You can't really argue with that. Is Mike Trout really worth 10 extra wins, versus an average player like Ryan Doumit? Yeah. I think so, don't you?

This actually marks a partial turnaround for me on this issue.

So, knowing that having Mike Trout roaming your outfield and in your lineup wins you 10 extra games and having Ryan Doumit or Nick Markakis in yours only preserves the status quo, where would you think Gregor Blanco was in 2013? Hunter Pence?

It may surprise you. A lot of the stats and rankings will surprise you. Simply because most of us don't see Blanco as a starting caliber LF, but instead an easy scapegoat for the lack of power the Giants consistently display.

WAR says Pence is worth nearly 5.5 wins, and Blanco worth almost 3.

No matter what our eyes tell us, Blanco is an above average player-- 28th best on this list of qualified OFs. Pence was 6th.

This is both the interesting and annoying part of using the WAR metric to make any arguments. Would you rather have Blanco or Allen Craig? Blanco or Beltran? Cespedes, Cuddyer, even Norichka Aoki?

Blanco placed above all those guys in the WAR rankings.

This is why I cannot and absolutely will not use it as an end-all be-all for player evaluation like famed MLB Network Troll Brian Kenny, and for those whose entire blogs are based off metrics like this. Team baseball has too many moving parts to be defined by one guy's history and patterns.

I'm okay with using it as part of an evaluation though, so let's dig a little deeper.

Blanco's ranks versus the other qualified 50 outfielders in 2013.



If nothing else, this just proves that Blanco is a study in gives and takes. He's patient and makes a ton of contact, but doesn't hit for any power (as we knew already), but, what is up with him having the highest Line Drive percentage among all outfielders? Now that is a wild stat..

The thing that shocks me is how few times he crossed the plate in 2013. A lot of this can be attributed to how poor Blanco performed as a leadoff hitter in 2013 (as well as lousy clutch hitting behind him). He simply isn't up to the task and his supporting cast didn't help matters.



Is it possible that Blanco could significantly improve with the presence of a healthy and productive Angel Pagan leading off? The evidence would suggest as such. In fact, Blanco is a .248 career hitter leading off. Sometimes you can't teach an old dog new tricks, and you can't make a guy a leadoff hitter just because he's fast, makes contact, and walks at a decent rate.

Although we figured out just now that Blanco should never lead off unless medically necessary, the biggest issue with Gregor is not simply that he has below average power, but that he doesn't hit lefties well. Couple this with a weak Giants bench devoid of pop, and you have a serious hole against left handed pitchers. Giants brass knows this, and is trying to add a right-handed LF to complement Blanco. I suggested Mike Morse via free agency. There are also ideas of trading for someone.

My argument in all of this though, is that a cheap right-handed platoon mate (better than Andres Torres obviously) is the answer for the cost-conscious Giants, rather than trading for a new player entirely.

The recent names floated are Logan Morrison from the Marlins and Brett Gardner from the Yankees. Possibly even Ichiro.

Ok, all nice names, but they're also all left handed, and the entire point of this article is to prove that Blanco is an above average player that simply needs A) To not lead off, and B) to have his at bats versus lefties reduced to the minimum by instituting the buddy system.

Furthermore, I'd rather have Giants brass spend another $3-6MM annually to find Blanco a decent platoon mate than trade anyone worthwhile from our farm system to replace a guy that may not need replacing to begin with.

FURTHERMORE SOME MORE, the lack of power throughout the Giants lineup has more to do with the sub-par 2013 performances of Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey, and the absence of Angel Pagan, than Blanco not playing well enough.

Yes, it is their fault more than it is his fault. Take it to the vault.

It rhymes so I said it.

Assuming Pagan is the everyday leadoff hitter (career .294 hitter in the #1 hole), Blanco gets pushed down to 6-8th (career .278 hitter in those spots), and they can find a righty LF that can be average versus LHPs, the problems are lessened.

This kind of patchwork problem solving can indeed be maddening for fans that want more, but ownership isn't willing to go nuts on free agents and this guy can't blame them. The approach isn't sexy and it doesn't satisfy our appetite for home runs, but it could work-- or at least prevent left field from hurting the 2014 Giants.



Friday, December 6, 2013

Mike Morse makes sense for Giants in LF

You've likely heard the name Mike Morse (or Michael as he's often referred to). Perhaps you're even familiar with the large, bearded outfielder. But, it's doubtful that you've thought of him as the solution to the Giants' hole in left field.
You see? He was once a monster. I like the sound of that.

"WE WANT POWER, WE WANT A REAL LEFT FIELDER! RABBLE RABBLE RABBLE!"

Yes, we all want left field manned by a player half as good as Barry Bonds was. We'd all take it as an upgrade, but the free agent climate is completely out of control.

When Lincecum gets $17.5MM a year, an oft-injured, steeply declining, 33 year old Curtis Granderson gets $60MM over 4 years, and Jay-Z was able to con and bully the Mariners into giving 31 year old Robinson Bleepin' Cano 10 years and $240MM, the free agent climate is out of control.

This now makes the Giants' once apparent overpay of Hunter Pence look like a bargain, with a comparatively horrendous Jacoby Ellsbury getting more years and more money a few days ago. Choo might get $130MM now for Christ's sake!

I wish I could use that Chris Berman clip of Vince Lombardi on the sideline yelling, "What the hell's goin' on out heeah!?"

Oh wait, I did.


What indeed...

With the Giants already in the top 10 in payroll, they have no intention of going after the likes of Shin Soo Choo, the top OF left on the market. Carlos Beltran will land in the AL, and Kansas City looks like the front runner, with a 3 year deal on the table. Nelson Cruz will also likely end up in the AL, and the Giants would be extremely unlikely to bring in a convicted PED user after the Melky Cabrera fiasco.

That leaves 75 year old bomber Raul Ibanez, whose defense is unacceptable, 33 year old former Giant Rajai Davis, who is a clone of incumbent Gregor Blanco with better speed, Jason Kubel, who was once an above average hitter, who is now a reclamation project, and Nate McLouth whose numbers are underwhelming, and wouldn't make sense as another lefty. Think there's anyone I left out, like Jason Bay? Check out the FA list here.

With all those underwhelming names, the two that make sense to me are Morse, who is a nice righty complement to Blanco with good power and 1B versatility, or Rajai Davis, whose batting average, on base %, and slugging % are all in the same ballpark as Blanco, with Gregor being the better defender and Davis's SB total of 45 being very impressive.

He makes a good gangsta face on picture day too.
But, the quickness and lack of offensive dropoff notwithstanding, this team is perennially lacking pop, and Morse would be a nice addition.

Morse is a hulking figure at about 6'5, 250, and has tremendous power. To me, his potential is still yet unrealized, and at 31, he's in for a do or die type season. His consistent injury history has limited him to basically one full season since entering the majors, and that 146 game campaign in 2011-- just 2 years ago-- yielded pretty darn good results.

In Washington that year, he slashed his way to .303/.360/.550 with 31 dongs, 95 RBI and 36 doubles. He split his time between 1B and LF that year, and has also played SS and RF coming up with Seattle.

He's an aggressive guy, with some holes in his swing, and he's susceptible to the strikeout, he's also a below average defender. But in this scenario, Blanco plays against righties, Morse against lefties, he's afforded a few less opportunities to cost us runs, and I really don't think he's egregiously bad. In the aforementioned 2011 season, he committed just 1 error in 55 OF games.

Despite Morse's perceived defensive shortcomings and his poor 2013 that was riddled by injuries, this is an excellent buy low opportunity for any team, because he's is capable of being an every day player, his .280/.284 career righty/lefty batting average splits prove that.

If recovered from offseason arthroscopic wrist surgery in October, the Giants would be foolish not to kick the tires on the powerful Morse, as he provides a righty backup for Brandon Belt, a LF complement to Blanco, and the potential to earn an every day spot as a big stick in the 6th or 7th spot in the lineup. Plus, he does actually have a career home run at AT&T. YOU SEE, HE'S CAPABLE!

Whatever the Giants decide to do, I'd be a bit irked if they weren't tied to Morse. He just seems like the right fit for the budget-conscious LF search.

If you can't see his 2011 highlight video below, click here.