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AZ SnakePit Round Table: MadBum edition

We had already one scheduled, but there might have been a question added this afternoon...

San Francisco Giants v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Welcome to the Diamondbacks, Madison Bumgarner

Turambar: Wow, didn’t see this coming. Hiking Sunday morning with Keegan and EdBiggHead we discussed the possibility of getting him, but didn’t truly think it would happen. We did universally agree that we’d love the Dbacks to get him, but not for $100mil or too many years. So here I sit writing about the acquisition and though I think 5yrs is a bit too long the overall price tag of $85mil doesn’t seem too bad. Now we just gotta figure out what other tricks Hazen has up his sleeves? Perhaps this signals the end of Ray? We’ll see.

Jim: You may not have seen it coming, but at least you didn’t write an article predicting Bumgarner wouldn’t come here! Definitely a shock, and while that deal is cheaper than expected, as well as deferring some salary, my concerns remain. Steamer projects him for a 3.94 ERA, and that’s in San Francisco. Probably be north of four in Arizona, which is not really a top of the rotation number to expect. We’ll see what transpires, but there’s definitely the potential for this to be an anchor over the second half, just when the prospects currently in the lower tier of our farm system should be opening a window

Keegan: During our hike this morning, I had assumed that the D’backs had made the best offer to MadBum to date because he hadn’t signed elsewhere. If that was the case, I actually joked that he was gonna sit and “red ass” it and not sign until a week into spring training because his market failed to develop to his liking. I’m perfectly fine with this. Starting pitching is not cheap and I’m much more comfortable with what Hazen signed MadBum for than what Philadelphia have to Wheeler. Hard to believe Madison is only 30. Guy seems like he’s been around forever.

Jack: When I wrote the payroll update article I mentioned that despite Hazens stated preference to spread the money around that he has to spend this offseason, I suspected one big move might be up his sleeve and this is certainly that. I will definitely do a deep dive on this when I get a chance ( just came back from a hike myself) . Initial hot take is the team is clearly still trying to compete in 2020 and also that they’ll need to hope for some immediate value on the front end of this deal. That’s all I got right now

Makakilo: Wow! I thought there was no chance the D-backs would want to sign Bumgarner because 1) signing him would mean losing a draft pick (their third highest pick), and 2) they just traded away Greinke who is a better pitcher albeit 6 years older.

Hazen’s track record for doing the unexpected remains intact. Although the reasoning behind signing Bumgarner was not immediately clear, my intuition is that it will make a positive impact on the D-backs.

Possible Bumgarner advantages:

  • Bumgarner has the right stuff: World Series MVP, NCLS MVP, and 2-time silver slugger. Eno Sarris of The Athletic wrote that there might not be a bigger competitor in pitching today.
  • The D-backs saw up-close how Greinke got craftier as he aged - maybe they can use that knowledge to make Bumgarner better.
  • This trade gives the D-backs flexibility to trade Robbie Ray for a CF. Zack Buchanan of The Athletic wrote that by acquiring Bumgarner, the D-backs are in “tighter control” of the trade market for starting pitching.
  • The D-backs have more flexibility with their young pitchers. For example, Duplantier could pitch in the bullpen instead of the rotation.

Steven: Wild is all I can say about this deal. Think it’s a bit too much in both length and value for my taste (Would’ve been comfortable around 4/64) but I think the D-backs and player agents are taking into account their pitchers hitting ability in contract negotiations. If we think of the deal like that, and Bumgarner bounces back to around 0.5 WAR on the offensive side, that values Madison as a $13 million pitcher and a $4 million hitter.

Otherwise the D-backs are better with Bumgarner today than they were yesterday and now have the ability to trade Robbie Ray if they are so inclined to do so. I’m tired of having to deal with payroll as a fan and seeing other teams cash in while we wallow as a “small market team”.

Wesley: That’s a real surprise! My initial reaction is a real “lol wat” considering Jim’s aforementioned article. I don’t really have any other thoughts that that. Hopefully he doesn’t turn into a pumpkin overnight.

The team got its backup catcher in Stephen Vogt. Thoughts?

Jack: I hope his bat maintains. I know he has a good clubhouse rep. The defense is at least somewhat questionable. But ultimately he was brought in to provide offense from the backup catcher position. Vogt had a 111 OPS+ and 107 wRC+ in 2019. Forecast systems are generally not kind to aging catchers, and Vogt is no exception. ZIPS projects him to a 93 OPS+ in 2020 and Steamer projects an 89 wRC+. Either number would not only be a downgrade from Vogt’s 2019 performance, but also from the offense the DBacks received from Alex Avila in 2019, (100 OPS+, 97 wRC+).

Makakilo: Three strengths:

  • He is an offense first catcher, who platoons well with Kelly because Vogt (who bats left handed) hits right-handed pitching best (OPS .835) while Kelly hits left-handed pitching best (OPS 1.128).
  • Even if his offense suffers a large regression (OPS projected to fall from .804 to .759 by “Marcel the Monkey” forecast calculation on Baseball Reference), he should be worth 1 WAR.
  • His positional flexibility (outfield and first base).

Two weaknesses:

  • At 35, Vogt is on the downward slope of the aging curve, and about 2 years older than Avila.
  • He threw out 17% of base stealers, which is low enough to concern me. However, bases are largely stolen on the pitcher, so this may not be as bad as it seems.

Dano: Sad that Avila is not returning, but pleased that he found what seems like a nice landing spot. As for Vogt, I don’t know a whole lot about him, but bat-first is good, if it actually turns out to be the case. As I recall, that was why we signed Avila going into 2018, and, well, not so much.

On paper, though, it seems like, historically, Vogt and Avila are similar animals, at least in terms of offense. Like Jack says, here’s hoping his bat maintains.

Per Makakilo, the positional flexibility is a happy thing--and something Avila lacked--but the minus defense is concerning. One of Avila’s biggest virtues, to my thinking, was his defense behind the plate (that, and his plate discipline in 2019). If Vogt can’t at least match Avila’s performance in those areas, or contribute sufficiently in other ways, I’m not going to be thrilled. We shall see, I suppose.

Steven: After seeing Avila get a bit more in FA from the Twins, I’m starting to come around to the Vogt acquisition. While yes he’s getting up in age, and coming off a pretty serious shoulder injury, he bounced back well to a 110 wRC+. If he gets anywhere near that and the D-backs coaching staff can unlock that framing ability they’ve been touted for, he’ll be an excellent backup for Kelly and could even fill in at 1st base for whoever the starter is over there (Although Walker had reverse splits last year, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Jim: As Dano mentioned, very similar to Avila, in particular offering a platoon partner at the plate for the front-line catcher. We’ll see if the coaching staff can perhaps bring up the defense a bit. I seem to recall that happening with Chris Iannetta, though of course we don’t have Jeff Mathis as a defensive guru any longer.

Wesley: He’s definitely better than Avila, and I like his positional flexibility… but to me there are some serious red flags. An old, offense first catcher with questionable defense. If his bat holds up, I’m good with Vogt, but boy, if he doesn’t, he is quite the negative in terms of value. Once the bat goes his value completely craters..

How do you see Junior Guerra fitting into the 2020 bullpen?

Jack: I think there is a pretty good chance he gets plenty of 6th and 7th inning opportunities, and if he is effective Torey will gradually increase his high leverage innings . He will also be called upon at times to give some length. But if he falters or is ineffective, I don’t believe his salary or intended role will keep Torey from downgrading his leverage if that’s appropriate.

Makakilo: His 18.1 LD% is great; in the bullpen only Duplantier (15.6%) and Crichton (16.3%) are better. Perhaps his low LD% will give D-back defenders a chance to excel.

Nevertheless, his overall effectiveness is hard to predict. His other stats such as 4.83 xFIP and 22.4 K% could rank about 7th or 8th in the D-back bullpen.

As for fitting in, will he settle into a specific role or will he perform in several roles as needed? It will be interesting to see.

Dano: Please, gods or powers that be, don’t let him wind up being our next bargain-basement closer. That’s all.

Okay, no, that’s not entirely all. I like that, judging by his career thus far, he seems to be capable of being a long man if need be. Hell, maybe even a spot starter in a pinch. My sense is that he’ll initially be slotted in, as Jack suggests, for lots of work in the middle innings, and his performance will dictate what happens next. If he does his job and does it well, he’ll find himself with more high-leverage opportunities. Given what a mess the back end of our bullpen wound up being last year, who knows what that’s going to look like by the 2020 All-Star Break? Hell, Junior might wind up being our closer after all.

Steven: I think he’ll be the long guy, with around 2+ innings in games where the starter only goes 5 or so. I could even see him eventually move to the rotation with injuries.

Jim: It’ll depend entirely on how he performs. I can see him in a T.J. McFarland role, eating up multiple innings. But he could also see some set-up action. It’s interesting to see Mike Hazen extending the notion of positional flexibility to the pitching staff as well, acquiring a reliever who can handle a number of roles, even potentially starting. I just hope Guerra’s ability to out-perform his peripherals continues…

Wesley: When he was signed, I assumed they would likely slot him in as the long man, or the 7th or 8th inning. It really depends on how he performs in Spring Training.

An outfielder is clearly the biggest remaining piece needed. What kind of player do we want?

Jack: A good one? Seriously, if Marte is going back to 2b, and they have two outfield holes to fill, they better get a really good defensive centerfielder. You just can’t afford to have a poor or average defender in CF playing games in Chase field and the other NL West parks. If they keep Marte as primary CF, then they have a little more flexibility perhaps to go bat first for a corner outfielder. Since they have some outfield talent potentially on the way from the minor league system starting in 2021 and beyond, some might be concerned with blocking those corners. However with current lack of outfield depth in the majors, and Peralta being a free agent after 2020, there probably isn’t much risk of actual blocking going on.

Makakilo: Hazen’s playbook is to be opportunistic and flexible. My intuition is that Marte will move back to second base, so the D-backs need to acquire a CF. Nevertheless, flexibility is possible. CF could be a platoon of two outfielders, or CF could be a platoon of Marte and an outfielder. CF could be an aging veteran. CF could be a bounce-back player. CF could be a young outfielder with many years of control. With so many possibilities, and with a flexible outlook, the D-backs can be opportunistic.

Dano: If wishing made it so, I would want a Jarrod Dyson who could hit and/or get on base consistently. Even at age 34/35, he could fly around the bases, and his fielding range was truly impressive. Of course, if Jarrod Dyson could hit and/or get on base consistently, he wouldn’t be Jarrod Dyson...he’d be sorta like AJ Pollock, if Pollock were faster and could stay healthy, which he isn’t and can’t, it appears. He’d also be a lot more expensive. So. What I’m saying, I suppose, is that I’d like someone fast, someone with serious defensive chops, and someone who can rate at least league average in terms of OPS. If Makakilo and Jack are right and Marte is moving back to second base, well, that means we need two new starters in the outfield--CF and RF, presumably. Speed and range are less important, I think, for RF, but some pop in the bat needs to be there, ideally.

Steven: I think we’ll be waiting till the start of Spring Training before we sign anyone. Call it a hunch, but Hazen loves searching that bargain bin for those FAs that fell through the cracks. I just hope it’s someone who gets on base and plays OF defense at a respectable level. No more Jason Kubel/Mark Trumbo experiences please :)

Jim: With the signing of Bumgarner eating up most of the available cash, Steven’s theory begins to seem possible. I can still see the team making an offer to Akiyama, but if that doesn’t pan out, then we’ll see what’s left. I can see Hazen looking for two spots to be picked up: one should be a good defender who can play center-field on a regular basis, and save wear and tear on Ketel Marte. The other will be more offensive minded and can occupy a corner slot.

Wesley: We have some really nice outfielding prospects in the minors that are only a year or two away from being Major League ready. As was already said, where Marte ends up is really going to determine things. What can be said other than what Jack said, which is that it would be nice if we signed some good ones? I’d opt for a more defensive oriented player over bat first Mark Trumbo type as Steven said.

What do you think about the ongoing and increasingly acrimonious conflict between major and minor league baseball?

Jack: I am not an expert on this issue, and don’t know if MLB’s claims towards MiLB are legit or not, but from what I’ve read and heard, I think MLB is vastly underestimating the damage this might do to their fanbase. It’s simply a bad look, and ultimately will result in fewer fans if their proposal goes through. I think this is a misguided effort on the part of MLB

Makakilo: MLB said that 25% of minor league facilities are not in compliance with standards. Perhaps it goes beyond the physical facilities. The MVP Machine (I’m on page 221 out of 360) talked about the transition from valuing players by Sabermetrics to valuing players on their development potential and growth mindset. Their development will include deliberate & innovative practice methods, combined with multidisciplinary data-driven development that is aligned with practices in the Majors. Player development is becoming increasingly resource intensive. Does baseball need to limit how many teams are in the minor leagues so they can avoid spreading their resources too thin?

Dano: I’m inclined to think, per the linked SI article, that Bernie Sanders has it pretty much right. It’s greed, pure and simple. The idea that baseball is in serious danger of “spreading their resources too thin” seems dubious at best. MLB is being shortsighted and stupid here, I think--while certainly MiLB seems like it could be streamlined, possibly with the elimination of some teams, it’s the only real extant talent pipeline for major league teams, and while it doesn’t seem to be particularly efficient or reliable, it’s what they’ve/we’ve got.

So upgrade the facilities, by all means, and dicker to your hearts’ content about which side pays for what, but for f*ck’s sake, at the very least pay the minor leaguers a living wage. And given the fact that, in many markets, MiLB clubs can’t afford to do so on their own, it’s up to the MLB clubs that affiliate with them to step up and do the right thing and foot the bill. Not that I expect them to do so, but it’s what they should do.

Sorry, I don’t have a lot of sympathy for those poor, oppressed, billionaire MLB owners. Just sayin’.

In any event, it seems like the 2020-2021 offseason is going to be fascinating...the agreement between MLB and MiLB expires, and meanwhile the MLB collective bargaining agreement with its players is also set to expire. I think it’s entirely possible we might not have baseball for at least a chunk of the 2021 season, which would be sad, but not the end of the world, especially if a more equitable way of balancing the interests of owners and players at all levels of pro ball wind up being achieved.

Steven: Boohoo, I hope the owners lose and MiLB players and teams get living wages.

Jim: The truth is, the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues need MLB much more than the other way around. I’m not sure how many of those teams would be financially viable on their own: the scant coverage of the Independent Leagues suggests probably not many. Very interesting to hear executives like Mike Hazen weigh in today and say that the current system needs to change. I certainly have more trust in his opinion with regard to what’s best for the D-backs. than the politicians who are leaping on the issue. If you aren’t willing to subsidize pro sports teams facilities (and I’m not), you can’t turn around and demand they fund uneconomic and ineffective minor-league facilities.

On the other hand: man, MLB seems to be burning all its bridges of late, aren’t they?

Wesley: Considering I’m friends with many minor league baseball players, have a brother in law who was a former Phillies prospect in the 90’s, I know just how bad minor leaguers have it. For instance, if they actually paid my brother in law fairly, he would have made it as a player. Unfortunately, he couldn’t afford to keep playing baseball because of the low wages, traveling, et cetera and all the negatives of the minor league baseball system.. He had my half-sister, and my two nieces to support. He could hit, had great defense and was a natural, but the system just forced him out.

How many potential hall of famers have been kept out of baseball due to the financial aspects of it? So the system to me is already screwed up, and it needs to be fixed. I’m on MILB’s side in general. However, I am with Jim in terms of the fact that I don’t think we need to fund uneconomic baseball facilities and teams. I do think that there should be some contraction of teams, but not forty two teams. That will do serious damage to the economy, will likely ruin many people’s lives. So to say the least, I’m quite ambivalent and have mixed feelings about the whole thing.

Chase Field became a golf course this week. What non-baseball activity would you most want to attend there?

Jack: I’ve always wanted to do the campout at Chase Field. Not sure if they still do that. But if I get the chance I’ll take my grandsons.

Makakilo: I very much enjoy my Zumba classes. Imagine hundreds of brightly dressed people practicing Zumba with upbeat music. In addition to being visually stunning, the kinetic energy and music would fill Chase field with high energy and good karma. Count me in!

Dano: Dude, they do/did campouts at Chase Field? I’d be all over that. Me, though, I’d just love to get locked in after the stadium closes and get to spend the night pilfering and drinking beers from the concessions lockers and running around the field and maybe exploring the catwalks and stuff.

Steven: I went to a Monster Truck rally there once, highly recommend.

Jim: I missed the Royal Rumble at Chase, but that would have been fun. I went to Wrestlemania at (the then) University of Phoenix Stadium, and that was a memorable experience, even from a long-way off. I’d like to see a full-on concert there: someone like Rammstein, who deliver a massively pyrotechnic experience, for example.

Wesley: There’s a few things I could think of that would be quite neat at Chase. My mother suggested that a craft fair (similar to the Mill Ave Street Fair, or the Fourth avenue street fair in Tucson) would be amazing. Having a nice air conditioned craft fair that still feels like it’s outdoors would be really cool. My parents had an art company that did both of those street fairs every year, and I grew up with that, and I have to say, she’s got a real valid point. Now, as to my own ideas, I’d LOVE to see some medical cannabis festivals (largely for my business, The Reefer Review.. Follow my niece and I on instagram @thereeferreviewshow and on twitter @thereeferreview). I’d love to see more raves, concerts, et cetera, but what I think would be really neat is a paintball war. Obviously, Chase wouldn’t want a bunch of paint all over. So, more realistically that would also be fun, is laser tag. Just imagine how cool that’d be.