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AZ SnakePit Rondon Table: #SeeWhatIDidThere?

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A new arrival, a contract extension and the looming punishment for the Astros are among the topics this week.

Chicago Cubs v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

What do you think of the Hector Rondon signing?

Makakilo: I like signing Hector Rondon for four reasons:

  • He has valuable experience: He pitched in the World Series (3.1 innings total for the Cubs and Astros).
  • He could improve in two ways. First, Ben Clemens wrote that if he reduced the frequency of his sinker (which increased in 2019), his results would improve. Second, he should not pitch as a first-inning opener. This happened one time in 2019. He pitched 0.2 innings and allowed 6 runs. Excluding that game would lower his season ERA to 2.85, which is outstanding!
  • His 16.3% Line Drive rate (based on 2019) will likely be the best in the bullpen (caveat the bullpen pitchers are not yet decided).
  • He gives Lovullo more bullpen choices because he pitches well after zero days rest, one day rest, and two days rest (ERAs of 3.12, 2.30, and 2.57).

Michael: The Diamondbacks needed to go find another setup man for Archie Bradley and Rondon should be able to fill that role. Rondon is more of a power pitcher, although lacks the elite spin rate to attack up in the zone with the 4-seamer (12th percentile spin rate despite averaging over 95 MPH). However, his secondaries fared well when looking at xwOBA, so if he can command the ball down that sets up the slider and split-change to work its way below the knees for swings and misses. Rondon gives the team a 3rd late-inning option between Bradley, himself, and rookie Kevin Ginkel who looked good in his debut season.

My concerns are the lack of K’s in 2019, you’re hoping that’s a 1-year blip. He was previously in the upper 20s throughout his career and put up 18% in 2019.

Jim: It continues what we’ve seen Mike Hazen do every year since becoming GM: pick up a veteran reliever with closing experience, not currently occupying the role. I was kinda thinking this tactic might have been discarded, given the failures of Brad Boxberger and Greg Holland, the past two seasons. But here we are once again. That said, if the team has genuinely convinced Rondon to abandon his sinker - a good part of the declining K numbers last season - there’s reason to hope we’ll get something closer to Rondon v.2018 with his 2.79 FIP, rather than the 2019 edition, whose FIP was more than two runs higher.

Will he or Archie be our Opening Day closer? And should they be?

Makakilo: Keep in mind that every D-back player should arrive at spring training ready to compete for a role on the team. Archie will be, and should be, the opening day closer for 3 reasons:

  • Rondon looks like a good signing for other reasons.
  • Rondon has not recently been a closer. In 2019 he had 3 blown saves out of 3 save opportunities.
  • Compared to Rondon (2018), Archie Bradley (2019) had the better percent saves(86% vs 68%).

Michael: I don’t see too much of a difference between Bradley and Rondon, although I think the former has a better ceiling as a closer due to having more swing and miss stuff. Bradley is more prone to walks and HBP than Rondon due to poor FB command, but has more weapons to get outs than Rondon when throwing strikes. It’s in the team’s best interest to see if Bradley can handle the role on a more permanent basis despite the heart attacks he gave us last year. If you want to compare splits, both have similar results in late/close, but Archie has much better numbers in a tie game scenario and part of the closer job is saving a tie in the top of the 9th or 10th at home. Given that combined with more swing-and-miss ability from Bradley, I’d give him the job unless Rondon just obliterates Bradley in the competition.

Jim: Based on the previous patterns, I think it’ll be Rondon. Bradley will, once again, be the fireman, responsible for high-leverage situations prior to the ninth inning. That may actually be the most effective way to use them, if you tend to the view that Bradley is actually the better pitcher. It’s not going to make Bradley a happy camper, as he heads towards free agency at the end of 2021 - an established closer would command a much higher premium. I think we’re perhaps seeing the looming schism in Bradley and the team not yet agreeing on a 2020 contract amount. We’ll see how that pans out.

How do you rate the David Peralta extension?

Makakilo: Excellent! A+.

  • He is one of the “top-10” left fielders.
  • Clearly, it was a team-friendly signing because his 2020 salary will be $1.8 Million less than the estimated arbitration, and because it is likely he will “earn” the entire value of his 3 year contract in 2 years or less (I’m an optimist).
  • Extending Peralta bridges the gap until Kristian Robinson, Corbin Carroll and Alek Thomas all reach the Majors.

Michael: The move gives the team flexibility to handle the LF position before the Carroll/Thomas/Robinson wave comes up. The team was looking at Daulton Varsho or Pavin Smith as their everyday LF in 2021 before the extension. The market for a player of Peralta’s skill set was set by the team’s own signing of Kole Calhoun for 2/$16MM and the Marlins picking up Corey Dickerson for 2/$17MM. Peralta wasn’t going to get much more in the market (his ceiling was probably 2/$20MM), especially if he had a down year in 2020. Instead the extension passes the risk from the player to the team and potentially a surplus value contract for all 3 years. A healthy Peralta is worth 1-2 WAA player per 600 PA on the spreadsheet, but also a clubhouse leader and middle of the order bat to the team who can handle a corner OF position competently.

Jim: Should be good. It does give the outfield some stability, with a known factor in left, when the other two positions are uncertain until whenever (and whoever of) our prospects get there. He only need to average about one WAR per season for this to be a good return, and if he’s healthy, that seems all but guaranteed. He’s a fan favorite, and one of the longest-term Diamondbacks on the roster, so this provides a sense of continuity to the customers. As mentioned, it should give him a change to tie Miguel Montero for most seasons in a Diamondbacks’ uniform. Not a bad record to see for a failed pitcher!

Do you think the team is still looking for a CF, or is it now going to be Ketel Marte?

Makakilo: Although I don’t know whether it is true, it would not surprise me to learn the D-backs are open to signing free agent Kevin Pillar for less than $5 million per year. Two facts about Pillar:

  • In 2019, he won the Giants’ Willie Mac award for the “active player who best exemplifies the fighting spirit and competitive desire to win”.
  • In 2019, he became the first player since 1920 to lead a team in homers, RBIs, and stolen bases after playing for a different team to start the season.

Although I don’t know if it is true, it would not surprise me to learn that the D-backs have contacted 29 teams about their center fielders. If a trade possibility emerges, my guess is that the D-backs are proactively prepared to capture the opportunity.

An alternative to acquiring a CF, would be to start the season with a platoon of Varsho and Locastro in CF. If it works out well, great! If not, a trade could be done by the trade deadline.

Michael: Right now the team isn’t close enough to contending in the NL West to get Jackie Bradley Jr. from the Red Sox plus a Starling Marte move has very little future upside to the team. If the possibility of a longer term asset was available, then make that move. I know Laureano was floated around in the comments section, which isn’t necessarily a bad idea but would come at a steep cost of 2 of Robinson/Carroll/Thomas/Varsho + Walston + Tabor. So with the cost of picking up a CF too pricey for the front office, we’ll see the team deploy Ketel Marte in CF with Tim Locastro as the backup. The team could go out of the box with Daulton Varsho but I’m not sure the team wants to put him in that position when Marte can already do that. If the team is putting Varsho in CF, I’d rather he get the reps in Reno where there’s less pressure about learning on the fly.

Jim: I’m sure Hazen will be keeping an eye on the market, but he’s not going to sign a center fielder just for the sake of it. The team has plenty of options on the infield, and any center fielder will basically need to be better than those, since that’s who’ll be displaced if Marte moves back to center. Right now, Fangraphs projects Kevin Pillar for 1.2 WAR: that’s little if any better than the expected number for Ildemaro Vargas. Might as well use Tim Locastro, and maybe sign a cheaper right-hander as a platoon partner in the outfield for the lefties.

What punishment do you think the Astros will get for TrashcanGate? Is it enough?

Michael: If you’re looking for something similar to the Black Sox scandal, you’ll be disappointed. There will be sanctions by MLB, but nothing draconian. The Astros will probably get fined, lose draft picks, reduced international bonus pools, and suspensions that could include Luhnow, Hinch, and others, but nothing more. I don’t think there will be lifetime bans or people that will be fired by MLB.

Makakilo: Knowing Rob Manfred is a lawyer, I had fun learning law concepts for punishing corporations, such as “frankpledge,” “respondeant superior,” and “the Supreme Court has held the privilege against self-incrimination inapplicable to corporations.”

Common sense is that the punishment cost must exceed A) the benefits of non-prevention, plus B) the cost of prevention.

What is the minimum punishment cost? About $31.7 Million.

  • Possible benefit of non-prevention: Every team that makes the postseason gets a bonus that is split between the players. The World Series winning Boston Red Sox split $31.7 million (each share was worth $416,838).
  • Cost of prevention: My estimate of the cost to create a program to monitor and prevent cheating is $0. It could be done with existing personnel. Plus, it could be part of every non-player’s job to prevent cheating.

The minimum punishment would be 3 first round draft picks. A Fangraph article estimated the value of draft pick number 30 as $10.1 Million

Jim: Whatever it is, it will be perceived as not enough. I mean, they might have robbed the Yankees of a World Series title! Drawing and quartering is too good for them. They do have the benefit of being first, though this might mean Manfred will use them as an example. But I’m still not particularly convinced that their actions were particularly egregious. I mean, the moral difference between stealing signs by eyeball and by camera seems fairly tenuous. Yet the former is widely and broadly accepted. The amount of pearl-clutching which I’ve seen about the Astros is amusing.

You manage to hack every electronic device on earth and display a synchronized message. What does it say?

Makakilo: Please consider three imperatives:

  • Know who you are at the core. Be the best you. Live from your point-of-view while having compassion for points-of-view of other people.
  • Decide to quickly take that all-important first step. Actions always speak louder than words. Nevertheless, your words can be a powerful force and should be expressed wisely.
  • Ask the right questions and be alert for when the universe signals the right answers.

Michael: Enjoy every day like it’s your last and cherish the relationships you’ve built.

Jim: What else but, “Visit AZSnakePit.com for all your Arizona Diamondbacks discussion and community needs.” If that’s too long: “Jeffrey Epstein didn’t kill himself.”