Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Capps About to Sign, Vazquez Traded for Cabrera

All reports are that Matt Capps, who was surprisingly non-tendered by the Pirates, is about to sign with either Washington or the Chicago Cubs.  If you happen to be a fantasy leaguer with the rights to Capps, you should be hoping he ends up with the Nationals as his chances of getting saves there are so much better. Brian Bruney, who has 13 career big league saves, would be his primary competition whereas in Chicago, he'd have to not only impress early but also count on an injury to Carlos Marmol to even have a remote chance at even a handful of saves in 2010.

If he does end up in Washington, Capps is actually a tricky one when deciding on keepers.  I expect that in most fantasy leagues, his 2007 and 2008 seasons were so promising that he's likely at a salary too high to retain for 2010, this when one considers that his 5.80 ERA last year (which actually should have been even higher given the way he pitched at times) will scare off at a lot of the competition.  My suspicion is that no matter where he ends up, he can be reacquired at a discount over his keeper price but that depends on the nature of your league and particularly how highly closers are valued and how many will be in the pool.  If he ends up with the Cubs, the decision will be an easy one to drop him back into the draft pool.  He is a better pitcher than he looked last year and is good enough to be a bad team's closer but he will have to show it in spring training no matter where he lands.

Just a few hours ago, we heard the news that Javier Vazquez is headed back to the Yankees in a deal that sends Melky Cabrera to the Braves.  This surprised me quite a bit as I had just upgraded Cabrera a little bit in this past weekend's second projection set of the pre-2010 season.  The upgrade was because it appeared that talks with Johnny Damon were going nowhere and the outfield was shaping up with Cabrera in left and Curtis Granderson in center field.  Of course, the deal of Cabrera doesn't guarantee or even necessarily imply that Damon will be back but it does mean the Yankees likely have their eye on someone despite their open insistence that they will not exceed their budget.  If Brett Gardner somehow ended up with full-time at bats here, he would be an instant threat for 45+ steals but I'm just not convinced it's going to happen.  Still, even a part-time version of Gardner, such as we saw last year, can still be a source of some relatively cheap speed.

In terms of how the forecasts for these two in the big trade of the day get impacted, I'm likely going to bump up Vazquez's projected ERA by about 0.10-0.20 and drop his strikeouts slightly.  The good news for his forecast, even with these changes to the primary pitching numbers, is that he moves to a team that has a much better chance to get him wins and so I expect his win forecast will rise from 14.8 in the past edition to around 16 or so, which will put him behind only CC Sabathia and Roy Halladay in our forecasts if all else holds up in our third set.  Vazquez may not be as good as he appeared to be last year but he's also not as bad as he looked in 2008 either and he goes deep into games.  As long as he's been around, it's easy to forget he's still only thirty-three years old.

As for Cabrera, he should fit in nicely with Atlanta and should maintain a projection as a full-time player.  His projected average and power will drop slightly with the move but on that note, I want to take this opportunity to clarify something about the new Yankee Stadium.

Understandably because of how much of a hitter's park it was to start the 2009 season, a lot of people have the impression that it's a hitter's paradise.  That just isn't the case.  It may have looked that way early but when the final tally was in for 2009 park effects, the new Yankee Stadium did boost home runs quite a bit (a +26% effect, tops in the majors last year) but when you look beyond home runs, it actually was a negative park for run scoring (a -4% effect), hits (a -1% effect), doubles (-19%) and batting average (-1%).  This is important to understand because it means that the boost power hitters see there is offset in terms of the effect on overall run scoring by the overall more common events in baseball such as doubles and of course, singles.

I mention this because I suspect there are fantasy leaguers out there who may be trying to exploit the perception of the park as being the new version of what Colorado was pre-humidor and it just isn't true.  While home runs are an important part of the game and certainly one of the more interesting fantasy categories, the new Yankee Stadium, at least based on the limited data collected so far, is actually a fairly neutral park for every one of the main hitting categories other than home runs.  Keep that in mind when evaluating player moves in or out of New York.

Oh, and if you haven't spotted it, check out today's article at the MLB.com site about Jose Valverde.  In short, the writer argues that Valverde may have incorrectly estimated his position in the free agent marketplace and I don't think it's possible to come away from this article with at least some doubt about whether he'll actually end up as someone's closer to start the season.  There are very few teams left searching for a closer who can afford to give Valverde more than he would have been likely to get in arbitration and I wonder for his sake if he'd be smarter to go to a bigger budget team which already has a closer and get more money to be a setup man.  In that case, his fantasy value would drop significantly.