Francisco and the Five Pricy Shortstops

jon abbey

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I wanted to get this going since some (all?) of these guys have said extension talks only go until Opening Day and that is shortly.

This will be a thread to keep an eye on the incredible batch of shortstops barreling towards free agency at the end of 2021, mammoth decisions affecting so many franchises. For the purposes of this thread, let's pretend that the CBA's expiration/attempted renegotiation will not be an issue, since we really don't know (we do strongly suspect).

OK, so my guess at approximate order of value, age on Opening Day 2022. These guys are really close, and the order will likely change a bunch over this season, but as of now:

Francisco Lindor (28)
Corey Seager (28 that April)
Trevor Story (29)
Carlos Correa (27)
Javy Báez (29)

Lindor has turned down 10/325 (with no deferrals, making it more than Mookie's deal) and Correa has of course turned down HOU's insulting 6/120, they are talking again. I have not heard about extension offers for the other three.

Also because of the teams we care about, Xander and Gleyber also need to be factored in, Xander is signed through 2025 but can opt out after 2022, Gleyber is under team control through 2024.
 

jon abbey

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ehaz

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Turning down a better deal than Mookie is pretty ballsy from a career .285/.346/.488 hitter. Obviously, he's 27 and plays an elite caliber SS, but for how long into that contract will he remain an elite defender to justify his value? If I were the Mets, I wouldn't be too afraid of getting outbid in FA.
 

jon abbey

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It's a fascinating standoff because Steve Cohen wants more than anything to give the Mets fans their shiny new toy and bask in their collective adulation (until the bubble inevitably pops) and Lindor is really pushing his odds. If he ends up with even more than $325M with nothing deferred, hats off.
 

Tuff Ghost

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Not to mention that the AL Central may have been pumping up those HR totals a bit:
These type of stats rarely mean too much. It's like saying a Rockies player is not going to hit when they move to another team because their numbers were pumped up by playing in Coors, which is not true. Career numbers are much more indicative of talent level than breaking seasons down into smaller pieces and assuming the small pieces (with higher random variance) are going to be more predictive.

2018, J.D. Martinez
vs AL East: .335 / .406 / .691 (1.097 OPS)
vs AL Central: .330 / .412 / .523 (.934 OPS)

Just because J.D. Martinez's OPS was +.163 vs the AL East over the AL Central in 2018, I would not have feared him having a decrease in production by moving to the Central the next year.

It's also not surprising to see a player have lower numbers against a good pitching staff, such as the Rays.

2019, Devers:
Season: .311 / .361 / .555 (.916 OPS)
vs Rays: .234 / .268 / .325 (.593 OPS)

Devers OPS was -.323 versus the Rays in his big season.

Lindor's career numbers should speak just fine as to who he is without worrying that he did not hit the Rays well or that he did better against the pitching staffs he saw most regularly.

In 2019, the Minnesota Twins pitching staff had the 4th best FIP in MLB. Lindor hit .258 / .338 / .545 (.883 OPS) against that 2019 Twins team, which was above his season OPS (.854) and career OPS (.833).

2020 Team FIP Rankings of teams in AL Central & NL East (w/o CLE or NYM included):
3. Minnesota Twins
10. Chicago White Sox
13. Atlanta Braves
14. Philadelphia Phillies
18. Kansas City Royals
26. Miami Marlins
27. Washington Nationals
29. Detroit Tigers
 

jon abbey

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These type of stats rarely mean too much. It's like saying a Rockies player is not going to hit when they move to another team because their numbers were pumped up by playing in Coors, which is not true.
Not saying you're wrong but that is a terrible example as it has been repeatedly proven in recent years that playing for COL hurts your road numbers as much as it helps your home numbers.

We will get to see a good example of whether this kind of thing matters with Trevor Bauer this season, who was bad in a normal season in 2019 (admittedly he was traded mid-year) and then dominant in the shortened 2020 where he only faced NL and AL Central teams.
 

Tuff Ghost

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Not saying you're wrong but that is a terrible example as it has been repeatedly proven in recent years that playing for COL hurts your road numbers as much as it helps your home numbers.
Yes, which means a player that moves to a new team outside of Colorado does not have a big drop in their numbers. I am not sure why you are disagreeing with what I wrote there.
 

jon abbey

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Yes, which means a player that moves to a new team outside of Colorado does not have a big drop in their numbers. I am not sure why you are disagreeing with what I wrote there.
Because that is a fundamentally flawed premise for specific reasons, the degree of difficulty in being a Rockie hitter overall is much harder than casually perceived. Playing against the shitty AL Central is an advantage, it's just unclear as to how much it matters.
 

Tuff Ghost

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Because that is a fundamentally flawed premise for specific reasons, the degree of difficulty in being a Rockie hitter overall is much harder than casually perceived. Playing against the shitty AL Central is an advantage, it's just unclear as to how much it matters.
It is not a flawed premise to say a player leaving Colorado is not going to have a big drop in the numbers. It was an example of this type of analysis. People used to devalue Rockies players for this reason and it was wrong to do so.

Please show how the AL Central is demonstrably worse than the NL East (excluding CLE and NYM). I just showed their 2020 FIPs were better. I showed he hit the Twins better in 2019 than his season totals and the Twins were better than any NL East staff in 2019. It's not like a night and day switch going to the Mets. You cannot just say the Central is "shitty" and assume he is going to do worse as a result.

2019 FIP rankings were not as different as you'd think and the Twins were top of the list:
4. Minnesota Twins
7. Washington Nationals
14. Atlanta Braves
22. Detroit Tigers
23. Philadelphia Phillies
24. Chicago White Sox
25. Miami Marlins
26. Kansas City Royals
 

DeadlySplitter

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Baez's OBP has always been bad and the SLG finally cratered last year (COVID, but still). He's not getting anything at the moment.
 

jon abbey

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Please show how the AL Central is demonstrably worse than the NL East (excluding CLE and NYM). I just showed their 2020 FIPs were better.
The 2020 numbers don't matter (from this perspective) because teams only played against two of the six divisions, so it's really hard to get a bead on how good players actually were or weren't. It doesn't prove much but all six Central teams were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, winning only 2 games between them (2-12).

We're not strongly disagreeing, you're saying it doesn't matter and I'm saying I am pretty sure it does (and I would keep it in mind if I was Steve Cohen) but I don't think it can be very well quantified. DJ LeMahieu is a way better fit offensively in NY than anywhere else, as 27 of his 36 HRs in 2019/2020 came at home, many just over the short right field fence. Can we quantify just how much that affects him? Not really, he's not playing an entire season somewhere else to compare. Does it matter? IMO most certainly yes.
 

Tuff Ghost

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The 2020 numbers don't matter (from this perspective) because teams only played against two of the six divisions, so it's really hard to get a bead on how good players actually were or weren't. It doesn't prove much but all six Central teams were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, winning only 2 games between them (2-12).

We're not strongly disagreeing, you're saying it doesn't matter and I'm saying I am pretty sure it does (and I would keep it in mind if I was Steve Cohen) but I don't think it can be very well quantified. DJ LeMahieu is a way better fit offensively in NY than anywhere else, as 27 of his 36 HRs in 2019/2020 came at home, many just over the short right field fence. Can we quantify just how much that affects him? Not really, he's not playing an entire season somewhere else to compare. Does it matter? IMO most certainly yes.
LeMahieu's HR rate is easily explained by park dimensions and can be seen quickly and easily using spray-charts overlaid on various stadiums. What specifically in Lindor's numbers suggest a similar issue going from the AL Central to NL East?

From 2019-20, Lindor's overall numbers were: .342 wOBA, 111 wRC+, .824 OPS
From 2019-20, Lindor's numbers vs MIN were: .360 wOBA, 124 wRC+, .862 OPS

The Twins pitching was better than any of his NL East opponents over those two years. If there is a myth that he will suffer against better staffs, well, he's already hit better against the best staff in his division. Maybe the familiarity with pitchers in his division helps him and his NL East opponent numbers will increase similarly over time. This is why the whole body of work will better represent his expected outcome than splicing up his data opponent by opponent.

Yes, there are reasons why a player may have different outcomes at a new team, but the "beats-up on a weak division" narrative needs some form of evidence to give it more weight than his overall career numbers. I don't think 57 PAs against Tampa are a better indicator of future success than any other random 57 PAs taken with whatever context you want.

More random context to go with the date ranges chosen in that tweet:
2018-19:
J.D. Martinez vs AL East: .419 wOBA, 163 wRC+, 1.016 OPS
J.D. Martinez vs AL Central: .373 wOBA, 132 wRC+, .896 OPS

If Lindor was moving from the AL East to the NL East, would we be having the same conversation? I'm guessing probably not.
 

jon abbey

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We're going in circles on what was a mild side point to begin with, I don't think we're going to agree, but...

The Twins pitching was better than any of his NL East opponents over those two years.
I disagree that this is possible to ascertain, for the same reason. I think the numbers for the pitching in the AL Central look better than they would be in another division because the hitters are worse. I don't feel like digging into numbers into an attempt to show this because 1) I don't think there's enough data to do it and 2) it wasn't really my thesis to begin with, just one that I copied from Twitter.

FWIW, I would suspect any long-time AL Central player (in recent years obv) moving to any other division in a similar way, hitters and pitchers. For example, I think Kluber was a good signing for NY given their other options, but this aspect makes me a little nervous (as does his control in spring training, but now we're really far off topic).
 

Tuff Ghost

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We're going in circles on what was a mild side point to begin with, I don't think we're going to agree, but...



I disagree that this is possible to ascertain, for the same reason. I think the numbers for the pitching in the AL Central look better than they would be in another division because the hitters are worse. I don't feel like digging into numbers into an attempt to show this because 1) I don't think there's enough data to do it and 2) it wasn't really my thesis to begin with, just one that I copied from Twitter.

FWIW, I would suspect any long-time AL Central player (in recent years obv) moving to any other division in a similar way, hitters and pitchers. For example, I think Kluber was a good signing for NY given their other options, but this aspect makes me a little nervous (as does his control in spring training, but now we're really far off topic).
I'll offer one more thought and then let it go. wRC+ is a number that is park and league adjusted to factor in some of these concerns. In his career, Lindor is a 118 wRC+ batter (.351 wOBA). Taking the last full-MLB season (2019), if you look for players in the NL East with a wRC+ around 118, you'll see:

117 wRC+ Trea Turner (.356 wOBA, .850 OPS)
116 wRC+ Ozzie Albies (.354 wOBA, .852 OPS)

His bat is going to look just as good in the NL East as the AL Central (and obviously his defense translates to anywhere). The bigger question is not who he has been playing, but instead his overall career trend-line. It's hard to use 2020 shortened season data in this type of context, so I am not as worried as I would be if 2020 was a full-season, but something for teams to consider before inking a 300+ million contract: Season wOBA, 2018 to 2020 chronologically: .369 -> .349 -> .324
 

Ford Frick's Asterisk

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I can think of several reasons why Lindor might not have a great 2021 season: (1) He's jumping to a league with a lot of unfamiliar pitchers, (2) he'll be playing 81 games at Citi Field, and (3) he showed last year that he can be easily distracted by off-field factors, and those factors – the uncertainty of where he'll be long-term and COVID – still exist this year. I don't believe for a second that leaving the AL Central will be a factor. If his stardom is a mirage of playing in the AL Central (have any previous players shown evidence of that being a thing?), he should have had the best season of his career in 2020 with 67% of his games being intradivision, instead he had his worst.
 

jon abbey

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Yeah, apologies for bringing it up initially, I think I was just in shock that he turned down 10/325. I am also a bit biased, I love Lindor (and have talked about NY trying to trade for him for years here) but he has gone 3-26 in his two playoff series vs. NY (which are two of his last three series overall) and has not been a difficult out. Should that matter? No, but every wart is magnified at the $325M level, I guess that was my original (attempted) point.

No updates on the Lindor/Mets situation today so far, it seems like they're deadlocked and he will go to free agency, but still some time left.
 

azsoxpatsfan

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Baez's OBP has always been bad and the SLG finally cratered last year (COVID, but still). He's not getting anything at the moment.
Baez has had horrific k% and bb% his entire career. Until 2020, he also had fantastic BABIP luck, which boosted his average enough to give him an at least decent OBP. Then 2020 happens and his BABIP craters, which is odd because his batted ball profiles were basically the same as always wrt fb%, ld%, gb%, hr/fb, and soft, medium, and hard hit%. If I were a gm, I’d be extremely worried about signing a player who has been fine but overrated his whole career, and seemingly in huge part due to great batted ball luck. I’m pretty sure I posted something in a thread back in 2018 or 19 about how I was waiting for Báez to tank because it was bound to happen
 

EvilEmpire

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Lindor turning down 10/325 seems shockingly unwise to me, but I do like it when players bet on themselves. I hope he gets paid something close to whatever it is that he wants.
 

azsoxpatsfan

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Interestingly (maybe), Báez saw pitchers throw him fewer fastballs, curveballs, and change ups than ever before, and more cutters and sliders than ever before. He also pulled the ball more than ever and hit it up the middle less than ever (oppo stayed about the same). Maybe something about pulling more pitches rather than going up the middle, and maybe this was due to the pitch mix he was seeing, could’ve caused his BABIP to tank even tho he hit the ball just as hard as always and with a pretty comparable launch angle?
 

Tuff Ghost

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Interestingly (maybe), Báez saw pitchers throw him fewer fastballs, curveballs, and change ups than ever before, and more cutters and sliders than ever before. He also pulled the ball more than ever and hit it up the middle less than ever (oppo stayed about the same). Maybe something about pulling more pitches rather than going up the middle, and maybe this was due to the pitch mix he was seeing, could’ve caused his BABIP to tank even tho he hit the ball just as hard as always and with a pretty comparable launch angle?
I don't think that he really hit the ball as hard consistently as 2018-2019, nor did he barrel up on it in the same manner last year. His BABIP before was a result of barreling the ball basically twice league average (88th percentile) and hitting the ball hard (83rd percentile in 2019). When he hits the ball like that, the success rate of batted balls offsets the strikeout rate (wRC+ of 131 and 114 in 2018-2019, versus 57 wRC+ in 2020).

2018 -> 2019 -> 2020
Average Exit Velocity:
90.6 mph - > 91.1 mph -> 89.4 mph (-1.7 mph)

Barrel %:
12.6% -> 12.7% -> 8.1% (-4.6%)

Hard-Hit % (95 mph+):
43.4% -> 43.6% -> 40.3% (-3.3%)

Sweet-Spot % (8-32 degree launch angle):
33.1% -> 36.3% -> 24.8% (-11.5%)

He went from 88th percentile barrel % and 83rd percentile exit velocity in 2019 to 61st and 51st percentiles, respectively, in 2020. Not to mention his strikeout rate also increased by 4.1% (27.8% -> 31.9%) and walk rate decreased by 2% (5% -> 3%), so he was worse in every aspect. To be determined is how much of it was a small sample size fluke that would have evened out if he got to play 100 more games. I think his career trend is not looking great, though.

This is a scary graph:
39882
 

NJ_Sox_Fan

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Lindor turning down 10/325 seems shockingly unwise to me, but I do like it when players bet on themselves. I hope he gets paid something close to whatever it is that he wants.
Well, he got himself an extra 16 million - but no opt outs
 

azsoxpatsfan

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I don't think that he really hit the ball as hard consistently as 2018-2019, nor did he barrel up on it in the same manner last year. His BABIP before was a result of barreling the ball basically twice league average (88th percentile) and hitting the ball hard (83rd percentile in 2019). When he hits the ball like that, the success rate of batted balls offsets the strikeout rate (wRC+ of 131 and 114 in 2018-2019, versus 57 wRC+ in 2020).

2018 -> 2019 -> 2020
Average Exit Velocity:
90.6 mph - > 91.1 mph -> 89.4 mph (-1.7 mph)

Barrel %:
12.6% -> 12.7% -> 8.1% (-4.6%)

Hard-Hit % (95 mph+):
43.4% -> 43.6% -> 40.3% (-3.3%)

Sweet-Spot % (8-32 degree launch angle):
33.1% -> 36.3% -> 24.8% (-11.5%)

He went from 88th percentile barrel % and 83rd percentile exit velocity in 2019 to 61st and 51st percentiles, respectively, in 2020. Not to mention his strikeout rate also increased by 4.1% (27.8% -> 31.9%) and walk rate decreased by 2% (5% -> 3%), so he was worse in every aspect. To be determined is how much of it was a small sample size fluke that would have evened out if he got to play 100 more games. I think his career trend is not looking great, though.

This is a scary graph:
View attachment 39882
That’s fascinating. I just looked quickly at hard hit % and compared it to his career without looking at barrels and exit velo. Thanks for the info, makes it even clearer hes not on the same tier as these other guys
 

Ford Frick's Asterisk

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Baez is going to have to work on that 27:1 K/BB ratio. He's struck out in 45% of his plate appearances so far. He may have a lot of raw talent, but I wouldn't want to be the team paying him when he's in his thirties.
 

Kliq

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Baez is going to have to work on that 27:1 K/BB ratio. He's struck out in 45% of his plate appearances so far. He may have a lot of raw talent, but I wouldn't want to be the team paying him when he's in his thirties.
He's toolsy but has had two very good seasons and hasn't been good for a little while. You could dismiss last season as a SSS fluke, but if he is struggling around the Mendoza line all season I wouldn't want to touch him with a big contract. Tuff Ghost's posts above illustrate his issues.
 

Kliq

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All the talk about the great hitting shortstops and so many of them hitting free agency, but who bettah than X right now?
 

BaseballJones

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All the talk about the great hitting shortstops and so many of them hitting free agency, but who bettah than X right now?
Bogey's current MLB rankings among qualified SS...

AVG: #1 (.352)
OBP: #1 (.400)
SLG: #1 (.592)
OPS: #1 (.992)
R: #3 (21)
H: #1 (44)
2b: #2 (9)
HR: #4 (7)
RBI: #5 (19)
TB: #1 (74)

So the answer to your question is almost certainly: nobody.
 

jon abbey

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Which is absolutely awful for you guys if it means that he will opt out after 2022, which is looking very likely currently.
 

DeadlySplitter

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I get the feeling X loves Boston and will not opt out no matter what. That's at odds with him including an opt-out in the first place, but...
 

koufax32

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I get the feeling X loves Boston and will not opt out no matter what. That's at odds with him including an opt-out in the first place, but...
Those two things are not mutually exclusive. Even if he Variteks, it’s still in his financial best interest to opt out.
 

OurF'ingCity

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Which is absolutely awful for you guys if it means that he will opt out after 2022, which is looking very likely currently.
Way too early to say. After 2018, probably most thought JDM would opt out after 2019, but he didn't.

And at any rate, if the choices are "X is one of the best SSs in all of baseball over the next two years and opts out" vs. "X is okay over the next two seasons, but not amazing and so chooses not to opt-out" - I'd take the former every time.