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Tender Frustration and Finding Upside

Posted by Eric Seidman, Wed, December 04, 2013 08:56 AM | Comments: 33
Acquisitions, Analysis, Arbitration, Commentary, Statistical Analysis

The deadline for tendering contracts has passed and the Phillies have elected to bring back John Mayberry, Kevin Frandsen and Kyle Kendrick. Both Mayberry and Frandsen were solid bets to get non-tendered. Their salaries were likely to outweigh their contributions and there were better uses for Frandsen’s $900K and Mayberry’s $1-$1.5 million.

The Phillies should have non-tendered Mayberry.

That adds up to $2-$2.5 million for two 30+ year old reserves who hit something like .230/.285/.370 last season. Amaro defended his decision by citing their versatility and said there was never any thought to non-tendering either player. There should have been plenty of thought to that effect as Frandsen defined the replacement level while Mayberry fell below.

Mayberry was serviceable when he made the league minimum and showed flashes of being able to hold down a semi-regular role. Those days are gone. He has no upside. He is not going to break out a la Jayson Werth.

Frandsen had a terrific 2012 season driven by a .366 BABIP and he was worth bringing back last year to see if he really had improved. He ended up posting very similar walk, strikeout and isolated power rates but his BABIP fell closer to his career average. His offensive production predictably plummeted. He has no upside. His 2012 campaign was a fluke.

While both players may be versatile, there was absolutely no reason for the Phillies to bring them back. For a team with so much money concentrated in select spots, finding value players with upside is integral to short- and long-term success.

For this Phillies team, two of the spots to use on value players with upside are the ones that Mayberry and Frandsen will once again occupy.

Some have questioned the Marlon Byrd and Carlos Ruiz deals but this is the headscratching decision of the Phillies’ offseason so far.

By bringing back Mayberry and Frandsen the Phillies are exhibiting zero creativity and further illustrating their faulty means of evaluating talent. Whether to retain Kendrick is more complicated but committing to Mayberry and Frandsen is problematic.

The decision to tender a contract is made irrespective of other teams. The Phillies couldn’t have known for certain that so many intriguing players would get cut loose around the league. However, they didn’t need to know about anyone else to properly value their own players. Mayberry had a very solid 2011 campaign but his progress has since stalled. From 2012-13:

2012: .245/.301/.395, .303 wOBA, 7.1% K, 23.2% BB
2013: .227/.286/.391, .298 wOBA, 7.0% K, 23.4% BB

It’s the same season. He was a replacement level player over 800 PA. Amaro highlighted that Mayberry hit 14 home runs, which he did in 2012, but so what? Hitting 14 home runs at the major league level isn’t all that impressive on its own. Last year, the following players were in that vicinity: Trevor Plouffe (0.4 WAR), Ryan Doumit (0.1 WAR), Josh Willingham (0.0 WAR), Lyle Overbay (0.0 WAR), and Dayan Viciedo (-0.1 WAR).

Yes, Mayberry can play centerfield in a pinch, but he’s not particularly good there. Just because he’s lean and athletic doesn’t mean he has a ton of range or takes effective routes. In 1,072 innings in centerfield, Mayberry has a career UZR/150 of -19. That would be one of the worst marks for a centerfielder over a full season. He really can’t play centerfield.

His skill-set now consists of playing decent defense in a corner while hitting well against lefties. Those types of players are frequently available. Heck, the Phillies had one last year in Casper Wells. Since 2011, Wells has a .332 OBP and .461 SLG vs lefties; Mayberry is at .324 and .515, respectively. In that same span, Wells has a +5 UZR, while Mayberry’s is at -14. All told, in 500 fewer plate appearances, Wells has 1.6 WAR to Mayberry’s 2.0.

In Jim Salisbury’s piece linked above, Amaro mentions how bench players are getting costly, citing Willie Bloomquist‘s two-year deal with the Mariners and Nick Punto‘s $3 million contract with the Athletics as reasons for bringing these two back. This completely misses the point and, again, speaks to their struggles with player valuation.

Bloomquist’s deal is a ridiculous one handed out by another poor front office. Punto, however, is a valuable player who is well worth $3 million.

Since 2008, his WAR totals are 2.6, 1.6, 1.3, 1.7, 0.5 and 1.9. He has been a league average player since he settled into a part-time role and has been an elite defender for most of his career. He is also a very good baserunner. We’re well into the age where fielding and baserunning must be taken into account.

And his actual bat isn’t that much worse than Mayberry or Frandsen. Since 2011, Punto has a .304 wOBA; Mayberry is at .318; Frandsen is at .319.

You pay Nick Punto $3 million for his versatility because he is a terrific defender everywhere he plays. You pay him that money not only because he will outproduce it, but because bench players frequently become starters when actual starters inevitably get hurt. Teams can succeed when Punto has to fill in for a starter. The Phillies will be in trouble if Frandsen or Mayberry has to log significant playing time.

This isn’t to say that the Phillies should have signed Punto, but rather that there are numerous players out there that have Frandsen’s floor but a much higher ceiling. These players either cost less or are worth the additional commitment. Heck, Cesar Hernandez is already in the Phillies system. Same goes for Galvis.

We’ll explore Kendrick’s case later this week but the decision to tender contracts to Mayberry and Frandsen is frustrating in principle because of what it represents. It’s not crippling financially but this goes beyond the dollars and cents.

Teams have gotten very creative recently. The Tigers found a way to unload Prince Fielder. The Rays are going with the catching combination of Jose Molina and Ryan Hanigan, stressing defense and pitch-framing, and paying relatively little. The Nationals acquired a top-tier starter in Doug Fister when few teams even knew he was potentially available. The A’s signed Scott Kazmir to a team-friendly deal and subsequently acquired a better version of Ben Revere to shore up their outfield.

While many teams are getting better at thinking outside the box and seeking value, the Phillies front office decided to bring back Mayberry and Frandsen, and wondered aloud why anyone thought either would get non-tendered.

Avatar of Eric Seidman

About Eric Seidman

Eric Seidman has written 64 articles on Phillies Nation.

Eric offers his unique analytical perspective to Phillies Nation and is a regular contributor on FanGraphs.com.

 
 
  • Posts: 0 Keith

    I can at least understand Frandsen as he is decent defensively and a good pinch hitter. Mayberry makes no sense. What does he have on Amaro? If he were non-tendered, I doubt any other team would have bothered.

     
  • Posts: 0 Brass Villanueva

    Great points Eric. Of course, the difference between the Tigers, A’s, Nats, and Rays and the Phils is obviously the competency of their GMs compared to RAJ. The only good thing about this winter is that it is inches us closer to the end of Amaro’s reign of ineptitude.

     
    • Posts: 0 c. schreiber

      I thought we were at the end of his reigh after last season but I guess not. Oh, well that just means we’ll see Minimart again. That piece of S—.

       
      • Posts: 804 schmenkman

        Avatar of schmenkman

        Someone has an unhealthy obsession with Minimart. And I don’t mean Amaro.

         
      • Posts: 0 c. schreiber

        Yeah, Schmenk I do have an obsession with Amaro’s “girl”. Can’t stand seeing him pinch hitting late in a game when he should not even be in MLB let alone on my team but that clown Amaro keeps bringing him back. Anybody in their right mind and a true P’s fan should be obsessing on this “sweet” couple.

         
      • Posts: 804 schmenkman

        Avatar of schmenkman

        Minimart was only around so that Galvis could continue playing every day instead of collecting splinters. You should be thanking him — buy him candy and flowers! ;-)

         
      • Posts: 0 c. schreiber

        What are you talking about?? Having an utility infielder, who can’t hit his weight, around so Galvis could play doesn’t mean it has to be Mini!!! Anybody but mini could do the job better and you can’t deny that. There’s utility players better than Mini all over the minors. Please!!

         
      • Posts: 0 wbramh

        Schmenk – Candy adds weight and would just slow down MiniMart on the next rare occasion he finds himself hit by a pitch and on the base paths.standing on first.
        But flowers would be thoughtful.

        (Week old daisies would be appropriate since they’d smell just like Mini on the field)

         
  • Posts: 0 ABBR - Anybody But Ben Revere

    The problem is the aggregate of these moves. Seven players in Byrd (5), Ruiz (1.7), Kendrick (-.5), Bastardo (1), Revere(.8), Mayberry (-1.1), and Frandsen (.5) for roughly $60mil and a collective WAR of 7.4 last year and the odds of Byrd duplicating his success are at best, quite long. And considering that Byrd is the only one who wasnt on the team last year that’s $60 mil to possibly win 78 games. Unless of course the rest of the big contracts produce more as they get older. Having Ruin Tomorrow as a GM is the equivalent of having an ostrich on neighborhood watch.

     
    • Posts: 0 hk

      ABBR,

      I am not here to defend RAJ, but I think you are off base a bit.

      1. You used WAA (Wins Above Average), not WAR, for the pitchers. According to baseball-reference.com, Kendrick was worth 1.0 WAR and Bastardo was worth 1.4 WAR, not -0.5 and 1.0, respectively, as your wrote. Therefore, the 7 players totaled 9.3 WAR last year.

      2. They aren’t spending all $60M next year. They are getting two years of Byrd and three years of Chooch for that money. You have to use the AAV of the multi-year deals and use reasonable assumptions for what Kendrick, Revere and Mayberry will get in arbitration to get an annual cost. They will spend ~$29M next year for the players who combined for 9.3 WAR last year.

       
  • Avatar of The Original Chuck P

    This article says is all… Thank you so much for weighing in, Eric. I love reading your stuff.

    I think that Ruben is suffering from the same character flaw that tends to get a degenerate gambler in trouble… he’s overvalued his ability and has lost the ability to see things for what they really are. Ya gotta know when to fold em. Unfortunately, he’s still sitting at the same poker table hours later with only a few chips left and now, he has gone all in with “this” team… the only problem is that “this” team isn’t good enough and we all know it. We’re only two years removed from winning +100 games but two years is an eternity in baseball and that 2011 team had a few key pieces that this team doesn’t have (namely a stud Roy Halladay, Shane Victorino, whose 130 OPS+ led the full season regulars, Hunter Pence, and a filthy bullpen) and they avoided injury (which is harder to do with an old team). But make no mistake, that 2011 team won with pitching… 16 WAR from batting and 37 WAR from pitchers… and I have said this before, if we want to win, we need to go all in with pitching. I’m not sure what that means but we need a stud at the top of our rotation and even then, I’m not sure if we have enough because the rest of the league is soooo much better than it was in 2011. So the answer… well, it’s not Marlon Byrd and tendering scrubs, I’ll tell you that. I think it’s a solid rotation (another ace), an effective bullpen (which is really a crap-shoot with the Phillies) and some sneaky contributors (guys like Polanco and his +1.9 WAR and the aforementioned Punto). I just don’t think you’re getting anything out of Mayberry. And Marlon Byrd…. well, I’m just not seeing that one, either. If you’re not going to get an impact bat (which Marlon Byrd is not), why not see what Ruf can do?

     
    • Posts: 0 c. schreiber

      Chuck P, Your right on point with Byrd and Ruf. Additionally, why tender Mayberry with Ruf in house? Amaro is like tits on a bull. Useless.

       
      • Posts: 0 wbramh

        I have long suspected management has always had little faith in Ruf’s future with the team. For what it’s worth he was a 2-year gold glove 1st basemen at Creighton which doesn’t mean a lot but then Howard is not exactly a vacuum cleaner down there. For the past two seasons he’s been asked to a play positions he’s neither suited for nor practiced at yet he has shown some improvement. With the (possible) exception of Dom Brown he’s the only 25 -plus home run threat on the team (my apologies to Ryan Howard) and the only power right-handed in the lineup. Ruf should be platooning with Howard at first but someone upstairs may want to justify the unjustifiable – a bad multi-year contract and not make the smart baseball decision.

        But there are two sides to dumping Mayberry. He’s not terrible at the plate against lefties – better than the MiniMarts, McDonalds and Welles they kept sticking up there. And while not a good fielder he’s the only guy they have to play CF in a pinch unless management is willing to stay with Hernandez (who is also a terrible outfielder – although given time may improve).

        Ellsbury would have been ideal…an actual outfielder… but that won’t happen now. Somehow, the Yankees can spend $153 mil on an excellent CF, $85 mil on a very good catcher, still have the cash to negotiate with their $200 + mil second baseman, look for a top closer and remain in the $175 mil hunt for Tanaka. ..while the Phillies have one of the highest payrolls in the league and the entire team is worth less wins than replacement players.

        How is that?

        Had the Phillies signed a bona fide CF they could have moved Revere to the bench for depth or put him in left when Byrd become Byrd again. A lousy fielding CF only exacerbates the problem of lousy wing men. Perhaps the heavyset and aging Byrd will prove to be more nimble on his feet than Delmon waa, after all, the Babe was pretty good out there. But I fear we’ll be witness to Delmon II rather than George H. II.

        Cie la vie.

         
  • Posts: 4542 Lefty

    Avatar of Lefty

    And the definition of insanity is….

     
    • Posts: 804 schmenkman

      Avatar of schmenkman

      Is it more insane than change for change’s sake? Granted that’s at least more interesting, and this is the entertainment industry after all.

      A commentator elsewhere had what I thought was an apt description for these moves:

      Boring and correct.

       
      • Posts: 0 c. schreiber

        I sounds like someone (Schmenk) wants another year of boring and correct and maybe 75 wins. Really, really. I and any real P’s fan want more. Amaro MUST GO.

         
      • Posts: 804 schmenkman

        Avatar of schmenkman

        No of course I don’t want the same. But these moves are perfectly fine as far as they go. The problem is not with these moves. It’s with the lack of the big moves to add difference-makers (so far).

         
      • Posts: 0 George

        I agree that these moves were “boring and correct.” Change isn’t just to make things interesting, and face it, bench players aren’t going to make a lot of difference. If one player projects to hit 20 homeruns in 600 at bats, and another prjects to hit 10 home runs in 600 at bats, their totals over the 200 at bats of the usual reserve will differ by a gigantic 2 home runs.

        The people on this site don’t seem to realize that not everything will be “worst case scenario,” and that Frandsen and Mayberry are in all likelihood not going to be forced into the everyday lineup for more than a week or two, if that. And they also don’t seem to realize that by non-tendering a player, you get nothing in return, just like Schierholtz last post season. Frandsen or Mayberry might not bring much, but at least they’re not a total loss, and I fully expect that either Mayberry or Ruf will be traded and that if Asche plays to expectations and Galvis learns how to hit, Frandsen may not finish the season as a Phil, either.

         
      • Posts: 146 Eric Seidman

        Avatar of Eric Seidman

        This is not calling for change for change’s sake. The Phillies spent almost 1000 days on the DL last year. Howard may never be fully healthy again. Utley can’t be counted on for more than 120 games. Anything more is a plus. Chooch may only play 115 games a year at this stage of his career. Ben Revere and Dom Brown missed time as well. Mayberry has logged over 800 PA over the last two years. If ever a team needed to invest some money in its bench and shake things up in case of injury, it’s this Phillies team.

        There was no need to commit to either guy right away. You can non-tender a player and then bring him back. And if either latched on elsewhere, so be it, as there is no shortage of replacement level players freely available.

         
      • Posts: 0 wbramh

        Eric,

        It is a very fair point about injuries.

        I recently did a comparison between the average number of games starters played on the 1950 pennant winners, the 1980 championship team and the 2013 team and while I forget the actual numbers the difference was progressively enormous. Interestingly, the only guy who played in every game in 1980 was Rose – the oldest starter on the team. It’s also interesting to point out that the Phillies are currently the 4th oldest team in MLB but the Red Sox are the 3rd oldest. The youngest three teams are among the worst in all of baseball – Seattle, Miami and Houston. So much for age.

        No matter their age, it’s hard to win without starters and even harder to win when a team has a weak or virtually nonexistent bench.

        Perhaps they should hire the Eagles’ conditioning coach. Maybe he can fix Doc while he’s at it.

         
      • Posts: 0 Josh Stein

        I agree that the moves while boring are good moves and I hear what everyone is saying but the way Amaro has done business I don’t see him making a big move to make the team any better than third place

         
      • Posts: 0 George

        Eric, you may not be advocating change for change’s sake, but it does appear (to me at least) that there are a lot of others who seem to think tyhat anything is an improvement, which I totally disagree with.

        While I can agree that the Phils could use a strong bench with their questionable regulars, I still see no real reason to non-tender a player and have him snatched by another team. There may be a ton of replacement level players around, but that doesn’t always mean the slightly better ones will sign with your team. If Frandsen or Mayberry show they’re truly bad, they can always be dumped later. If there are replacements now, surely there will be replacements in the spring.

        No matter how productive the bench might be, it won’t mean much should the regulars be terrible, whether it’s DL stints or just lousy play. That’s what needs to be addressed, not these depth signings that are made by every other team and not just the Phils. The team can survive with a Mayberry, or even worse, but they can’t survive without decent seasons from an Utley, a Rollins, a Howard, or a Brown. And if those players have declined all that badly, THOSE are the issues that Amaro needs to be more creative about, and what fans should be grumbling about.

         
      • Posts: 4542 Lefty

        Avatar of Lefty

        I’m in full agreement with Eric this time. If I am reading the opposing comments correctly, (frequently I don’t) some of you feel that the need for high-end bench players is not an important issue with our veteran, aging core. And I don’t understand that at all.

        Regardless of Boston’s average age, they had organizational depth with guys like Iglesias, Bradley, Nava, and eventually Bogaerts as young talent on their bench, along with vets like Gomes.

        So let me ask a few questions-
        Is it better to sign (commit resources to) guys like Mayberry and Frandsen, or in past years-the likes of Wigginton and Nix- while letting a guy like Yunieski Betancourt walk away in the last week of S.T. because you’ve already paid for your bench, and his release doesn’t cost you anything?

        Wouldn’t you rather have Freddy Galvis on your bench, a similar player to Jose Iglesias, who was considered valuable enough to be included in a three-way trade that netted the Red Sox Jake Peavy? Over a guy like JMJ who you might get a bag of balls for- if you’re lucky?

        And the definition of “sanity” is…. NOT to change things for change’s sake,
        It’s to change things because they didn’t work the old way, and likely won’t work again.

         
      • Posts: 0 schmenkman

        Lefty, I agree with you and Eric that injury risk is a concern.

        What I don’t see is options with significantly more upside. I think Mayberry has trade value as someone who can play multiple positions and hit lefties, and I expect that either he or Ruf will be traded by opening day.

        On the questions, letting Betancourt walk was a very good decision, since he was (again) one of the worst players in baseball. But maybe he’s an unfortunate example.

        Galvis isn’t competing with Mayberry, and in any case I actually expect Galvis to be on the bench in 2014.

        So I see these as moves that maintain assets and keep options open, with lots of off-season to go (we’re not even to the winter meetngs yet), and many decisions still to be made.

         
      • Posts: 4542 Lefty

        Avatar of Lefty

        Betancourt and Mayberry are virtually the same hitter. In terms of overall value there are some differences-
        Mayberry played LF, CF and first base while Betancourt played 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, and LF- almost every place but the battery. Both have negative but similar DWar numbers.

        In terms of hitting, there are two years where Mayberry spiked, but the last two years, they are too close to call. And we could have taken advantage of Betancourt’s hot April to help the team get off to a better start – a better single month than Mayberry had all year.

        And it’s not an unfortunate example friend, it’s a purposeful one. If they hadn’t signed Nix to that ridiculous deal, they could have kept Betancourt. So for the future, that’s my argument for not committing resources this early to Mayberry and Frandsen.

        And my charge for Freddy was poorly worded, and meant to be in place of Frandsen. If they keep both, then that’s fine.

        http://www.fangraphs.com/comparison.aspx?playerid=3390&position=OF&page=8&players=8585

         
      • Posts: 4542 Lefty

        Avatar of Lefty

        Schmenkman- uggh
        I meant to start that comment with the fact that I completely agree there are not many better options, but what’s the hurry when you can get cheaper more versatile similar players if you’re patient. It makes more sense that way.

         
      • Posts: 0 hk

        Lefty,

        The issue with Mayberry isn’t as much that they’ve tendered him a contract as it is that they’ve misused him. If they hadn’t signed Nix to that ridiculous contract, they could have kept Schierholtz – a much better option than keeping Betancourt – and platooned him in RF with Mayberry for what could have been an effective, cheap way to address the position. Instead, they let Schierholtz walk, kept Nix because of the guaranteed 2nd year, signed Delmon and misused Mayberry to the extent that 276 of his 384 PA’s came vs. RHP’s against whom he is significantly worse than he is against LHP’s.

        Approximately 30% of a team’s games (~50 per season) will be vs. LHP’s. Assuming that Ruf is not on the roster, Mayberry should start every one of those games either in place of Howard, Revere or Brown. He should never start vs. a RHP. He should also serve as the team’s primary PH vs. LHP’s when he doesn’t start. If Mayberry gets 200-250 PA’s and 75% or more of them are against LHP’s, he should more than earn his salary. If he’s used in 2014 like he was in 2013, something will most likely have gone terribly wrong again with the team and Mayberry will be lucky to produce at replacement level.

         
      • Posts: 0 schmenkman

        A couple of things about Betancourt, and the reason I said he’s an unfortunate example.

        Even excluding Mayberry’s good 2011, over the past two years Betancourt has been a worse hitter:

        Mayberry .237/.294/.393 (.300 wOBA, 86 wRC+)
        Betancourt .218/.245/.371 (.265 wOBA, 62 wRC+)

        Betancourt is a rich man’s Michael Martinez: jack of all trades, master of none, playing several infield positions in varying degrees from awful to below average, but has played only a total of 4 innings in the outfield, so he was not a viable alternative to either Nix or Mayberry. And I would also take Frandsen over Betancourt in a heartbeat.

        But Yuni is just a fun sideshow here. The key for Mayberry in 2014, as hk alluded to, is that Revere doesn’t miss half a season again, and that JMJ’s exposure to righties is therefore limited. All assuming he’s not traded.

         
      • Posts: 4542 Lefty

        Avatar of Lefty

        hk, Very good point about mis-usage. I think you are right.

         
      • Posts: 0 George

        Lefty:

        If the regulars are injured too much (something which didn’t happen with your example team, the Red Sox) the bench is NOT going to win a playoff spot unless at least one or most likely two of those players miraculously blossoms into a Babe Ruth or something similar. Certainly, a bench is important–most good teams have decent reserves–but if the regulars are so fragile they can’t stay on the field, then the team needs different starters, not a different bench. And you can’t improve the regulars by spending big bucks on expensive bench players. You have to save as much as possible for free agents or for trades where you have to eat most of an unwise contract.

         
  • Posts: 0 Nina Hartly

    mayberry = DINGLEBERRY

     
  • Posts: 0 Double Trouble Del

    Just saw that the Phillies signed Jeff Manship. To be honest I can’t see anything logical about this move even if it is the minor leagues. http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2013/12/phillies-sign-jeff-manship.html.

     
  • Posts: 0 NBourbaki

    The one comfort I took from this past season was never having to see Mayberry drag his sorry .234-hittin butt to the plate again. O well. Your a real test RAJ, a real test.,

     
 
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