Hector Noesi May Be Better Than We Realize

Dave · January 14, 2012 at 10:02 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Because The Big Trade sends two players in each direction, it’s only natural to pair those players off and view the deal as essentially Pineda-for-Montero and Campos-for-Noesi. And that’s generally how this deal has been analyzed, including by me. The talk surrounding this trade has been almost entirely about Montero’s future value and where he’ll fit into the roster long term, while Noesi has been relegated to the backburner. The only attention he’s really gotten has been tied to lamenting the loss of Campos, a personal favorite of a lot of people who follow the M’s minor leagues closely.

So, over the last 24 hours or so, I’ve done a lot of digging on Noesi, trying to ascertain exactly what the M’s got along with Montero by surrendering Michael Pineda. I knew he was a mid-tier Yankees prospect that was generally talked about as a potential #5 starter in New York, but beyond that, I didn’t really know that much. So, I started asking around, talking to people in the game who knew Noesi pretty well. And, the more I talked to these folks, the more I realized that Noesi should be viewed as a lot more than just a throw-in arm. In fact, there are legitimate reasons to be pretty excited about his inclusion in the deal.

With any pitcher, the foundation of his value is in what he throws, so let’s start with Noesi’s stuff. In last year’s Baseball America write-up (where he rated as the Yankees seventh best prospect), John Manuel wrote that Noesi:

“…pounds the zone with an 89-93 mph fastball, reaching as high as 96. His maintains his velocity deep into games, and his fastball has some run and tail. Noesi’s No. 2 pitch is a changeup with similar action, though he doesn’t quite command it like his fastball. His curveball and slider remain below-average offerings, but he flashes the ability to spin the ball.”

Thanks to the wonders of Pitch F/x data, and the Yankees decision to carry him as their long reliever for most of the 2011 season, we can actually confirm the validity of what Manuel wrote. Here’s a plot of all of Noesi’s pitches last year, broken out by velocity and horizontal movement, which makes identifying the different pitch clusters quite easy.

Just like John wrote, Noesi mixed in four different pitches – the algorithm separated out his fastballs into two-seam and four-seam varieties, but he doesn’t throw a true sinker, so don’t pay too much attention to the blue/green differences there – and generally threw them for strikes. As for velocity, the data backs up Manuel’s assessment there as well:

He generally sat in the 89-96 range with his fastball last year, but his average fastball velocity was 93.3, a few ticks higher than reported in his BA writeup. This could easily be attributed to pitching out of the bullpen, where velocity spikes are common and expected, but the Yankees didn’t use Noesi as a typical relief pitcher. He was their long guy, relied on to eat up innings when a starter didn’t get very deep into the ballgame, and was regularly asked to stay on the mound for multiple innings at a time.

In fact, Noesi averaged 8.2 batters faced and 32 pitches per appearance, and threw 40 or more pitches in 10 of his 30 outings. While that isn’t nearly the same workload as a starting pitcher, and we should expect his average fastball to dip as a starting pitcher, the difference shouldn’t be as stark as it would be in converting a reliever who is used in a more traditional one-inning role. And even those pitchers generally only see a drop in velocity of about 1 MPH or so when converting back to a starter.

His longest appearance of the year – a six inning, 71 pitch outing against Boston in June – backs up that assumption.

He began the game at 93-95 and sat there for the first 20 pitches or so, then dropped back into the 90-93 range for the rest of the night. Overall, his fastball averaged 92.6 MPH that evening, so his velocity is not just a product of being used out of the bullpen. He has a good arm and can get it up to the plate with some oomph.

Despite above average velocity and good fastball command, the knocks against him as a prospect have been related to the quality of his two breaking pitches – neither his slider or his curveball are seen as a true out-pitch. So, the overall package of plus command of one good pitch and then a collection of okay secondary offerings leads to projections as a back-end starter, a guy who can throw strikes but lacks the repertoire to dominate hitters.

I’m not going to argue with that assessment, as it seems to be the general consensus among those who have watched him pitch a good deal. However, in talking to folks who have seen Noesi a lot, several made the point that this skillset is often undervalued in prospecting circles – where upside is king and lower ceiling guys often fly under the radar – and that Noesi could step into a Major League rotation tomorrow and be a quality starter.

In fact, when asking for pitchers that Noesi reminded them of, a few names popped up that show just how large the divide can occasionally be between hype and results for this pitcher type. One front office executive said that he saw Noesi as a similar pitcher to Daniel Hudson, while a scout threw out the name Cory Luebke.

Neither of these guys were ever projected as front-line starters due to their reliance on good command of a solid fastball with secondary stuff that needed work (sound familiar?), but both got themselves to the Majors by racking up solid K/BB ratios that were built more on avoiding walks than missing a ton of bats. However, since arriving in the Majors, Luebke and Hudson have been two of the better young pitchers in baseball, translating their minor league success into quality Major League performances.

Another person in the game that I talked to pointed out that the Twins have been building quality pitching staffs for years through a never-ending assembly line of Hector Noesi style pitchers. He pointed to Scott Baker (another guy who never appeared in Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects) as an example of just how effective this skillset can be. And he’s absolutely right – a look at the results of team pitching staffs over the last 10 years show that the Twins have walked the fewest batters (by a mile) of any team in baseball, and their staffs have generally been populated by the likes of Baker, Brad Radke, Kevin Slowey, Carl Pavano, and Kyle Lohse. Noesi throws harder than those guys, but the general approach to pitching is pretty similar. Pound the zone, change speeds, mix pitches, and succeed by never walking anyone.

It’s not as sexy of a skillset as Pineda’s “haha you can’t hit this” approach, but the sport is filled with guys who are succeeding as Major League starters without sitting in the mid-90s. The lack of a true dominating out-pitch means that Noesi isn’t going to turn into Clayton Kershaw, but these types of pitchers are often more valuable than they’re given credit for.

For instance, Baker/Hudson/Luebke have pitched 1,350 innings in the big leagues and have combined to be worth +26.5 WAR, or +3.5 WAR per 180 innings pitched. For comparison, Michael Pineda was worth +3.4 WAR in 171 innings last year. Yeah.

We shouldn’t just take these three examples and extrapolate Noesi as a +3.5 win pitcher for 2012, but when people talk about this skillset having limited upside, realize that what they’re saying is that these pitchers max out as All-Stars instead of Cy Young winners. There is a cap on how good Noesi can be, but that cap isn’t set at league average starter as many would have you believe.

Go look through last year’s pitching leaderboards. There’s 35 pitchers on that front page, each of whom posted a WAR of +3.6 or higher in 2011. Yeah, there’s a bunch of guys who throw hard and have nasty breaking balls, but there’s also Dan Haren (never a BA Top 100 guy, and classified as a “middle of the rotation starter” when BA rated him the Carindals #1 prospect in 2003), Doug Fister, Ian Kennedy, James Shields, Daniel Hudson, and Brandon McCarthy. All of these guys put themselves on the map by pounding strikes without dominating stuff and all were painted with the same “limited upside” brush. They’re all evidence that this skillset can turn out to be more than just another generic #5 starter.

And, while these examples are obviously the best case scenario for Noesi, we can’t overlook the fact that he pitched pretty well for the Yankees last year. Again, yes, caveats about pitching low leverage innings out of the bullpen, but he posted a 4.02 xFIP while pitching in the AL East as a rookie. Or, how about this fun fact – opposing batters made contact with 79.9% of pitches that Noesi threw. Here’s the complete list of AL starting pitchers (minimum 50 IP) who had contact rates between 79.5% and 80.5%:

Jered Weaver: 79.5%
Charlie Furbush: 79.6%
Kyle Drabek: 79.6%
Scott Baker: 79.7%
Philip Humber: 79.8%
C.J. Wilson: 79.8%
Felix Hernandez: 80.1%
Jon Lester: 80.1%
Edwin Jackson: 80.4%
Trevor Cahill: 80.5%

By the way, Haren just missed the cut at 79.3%, and if we expanded it out a little more, we’d run into Clay Buchholz (80.7%), Ervin Santana (80.9%), and David Price (81.0%). Besides Furbush (HR problems) and Drabek (BB problems), that’s a pretty sweet group to be keeping company with. Obviously, there’s a lot more to judging a pitcher than just contact rate, but it’s his questionable ability to miss bats in the big leagues that’s always been the thing that has been held against him. Given how he performed in the Majors as a rookie, there are reasons to think that his stuff might be better than he’s been given credit for.

The strong minor league track record suggests that Noesi can get batters out with what he has. His Major League performance as a rookie backs up that assertion as well. There are a number of really good Major League pitchers who throw similar stuff and faced the same questions when they were prospects. Add it all up, and it seems like sticking a “back-end starter” label on Noesi doesn’t really do his potential value justice.

Right now, I’d slot him in as the team’s #4 starter, easily ahead of Beaven and Furbush, and honestly not that far behind Jason Vargas or Hisashi Iwakuma in the pecking order. While I still think there are good values to be found among starting pitchers on the free agent market, Noesi is a guy that I’d like to see break camp as a member of the rotation. His skillset should play well in Safeco, especially if the M’s put a good defensive club on the field, and there’s a chance that he himself could replace a good chunk of what the team gave up in Pineda.

Montero’s production will still likely determine whether this trade is viewed as a success or a failure, but Noesi shouldn’t just be viewed as a throw-in that cost us Jose Campos. He could be a solid Major League starter who is ready to step into the rotation immediately, and that’s a valuable piece, even if his skillset is generally underrated.

Comments

65 Responses to “Hector Noesi May Be Better Than We Realize”

  1. IwearMsHats on January 14th, 2012 10:17 pm

    Do your discoveries about Noesi change your view on the trade? On a 1-10 scale if you were at a 4 or 5 before, are you at 5 or 6 now?

  2. dnc on January 14th, 2012 10:20 pm

    Awesome stuff Dave. Thank you for this analysis.

  3. lalo on January 14th, 2012 10:23 pm

    I´d rather have Noesi than Ivan Nova, looks like Noesi has a better changeup ,better K% rates, better command and better control, he should be the #4 behind Felix, Iwakuma and Vargas… maybe even #3.

    Great stuff Dave, as always…

  4. Dave on January 14th, 2012 10:26 pm

    I think I’d still have rather gotten the package that SD got for Latos from the Reds, but if Noesi is roughly a +2 win pitcher (basically, Kyle Lohse), then this is a move that the Mariners will be happy they made.

    Put it this way – I’d rather have several arms like Noesi than one arm like Pineda. When it comes to rotation building, you’re better off with quantity than quality. So, while the M’s lose some rotation upside here, the fact that they maintained depth helps cushion the loss, and if Montero turns into the beast of a hitter that a lot of people think he will, then the club will clearly be better off having made this deal.

  5. Dave on January 14th, 2012 10:29 pm

    As for Nova versus Noesi, keep in mind that Noesi was consistently rated the better prospect when they were coming up together, and there are still people in the Yankees organization who prefer Noesi, even after Nova’s strong rookie season.

  6. Hunter S. Thompson on January 14th, 2012 10:31 pm

    Dave, my question is are you valueing quantiy over quality. The Padres and A’s definetly got more quantity than the M’s did, but did they get more quality. Your reassesment of Noesi fits what BP and other sites are saying of him, one site saying, (can not remember which)that they though Noesi had a better long term out look than Pineda. The bigger question remains, is Montero, Cabera, Lee , or someone in between?

  7. lalo on January 14th, 2012 10:33 pm

    Just read an interview with Noesi,(in spanish), and said he pitched the day of his wedding because he loves to play, his coach didn´t force him or anything,he wanted to play even in his wedding day, at least the guy has a great attitude and desire to play, I like him.

  8. coasty141 on January 14th, 2012 10:52 pm

    1.) the guy at river ave blues already warned their community that Noesi might out era Pineda due to defense and Safeco.

    2.) How many innings can Noesi pitch this year after his light workload last year?

  9. Pete on January 14th, 2012 11:05 pm

    This isn’t right, but in a way, maybe Noesi turns out to be the fast-forwarded version of Campos. Kind of comforting if you think of it like that. And since I like the idea of cushioning the loss of two of my favorite pitchers, that’s what I’m going to do. So shh.

  10. Valenica on January 14th, 2012 11:07 pm

    I love PitchFX. It makes analyzing pitchers a lot more fun than just looking at K%, BB%, and SIERA/FIP/xFIP.

    Charlie Furbush being on that list though makes you wonder though. Maybe there’s something to him everyone’s missing. I know he has no plus pitches, but he’s avoiding contact somehow, at an elite level. His minor league numbers show good K%s too.

    But yeah – right now he looks like a quality SP4-5 type with some decent upside into the SP3 or even SP2 range. I’m sad we lost Campos, but I like Nosei. I hope he does well.

  11. Steve Nelson on January 14th, 2012 11:09 pm

    The Doug Fister similarity is interesting and intriguing. Fister is a good example of a guy who demonstrates how that particular set of skills is often overlooked and undervalued.

    If Noesi lloks like Fister 2.0, I think many Ms fans will be thrilled.

  12. gwangung on January 14th, 2012 11:11 pm

    Aw, man…this is excellent stuff.

    Very Moneyballish—picking up on the undervalued asset.

  13. sexymarinersfan on January 14th, 2012 11:16 pm

    I know our ultimate goal is to help the ball club get better, which I believe it is, I wonder what position the M’s feel is the biggest concern now that we have the catching department filled for the foreseeable future.

    I don’t expect Seager to be the long term answer at 3B, or be able to old it down until Liddi or Martinez are possibly ready. I also believe that Casper is Ichiro’s replacement come next season, which would leave another hole in the OF.

    I hope we get another stick on this team. I know that’s it’s not realistic door us to compete this year but Jack is doing an amazing job of not only building a solid young pitching core, but an offensive lineup as well.

    Where does Catricala project at? How far is his bat from the show?

  14. eponymous coward on January 14th, 2012 11:53 pm

    I admit, a rotation of Felix/Oswalt (for argument’s sake, or Jackson)/Vargas and whichever two of Beavan/Iwakuma/Noesi/Furbush take the last two spots would be VERY solid. You’d have a credible #6 and #7 in the bullpen or in Tacoma. And that’s BEFORE you get to Paxton or whoever. Alternately, you STILL have some pitching to package in trade.

    I know our ultimate goal is to help the ball club get better, which I believe it is, I wonder what position the M’s feel is the biggest concern now that we have the catching department filled for the foreseeable future.

    The talent base is still kind of narrow in the OF. If you could flip, say, Wells or Robinson + Furbush or Beavan for a better OFer (possibly using the rest of the cash you didn’t spend on Oswalt or Jackson to help take salary), you’d be in better shape. I’m really skeptical that Gutierrez is going to bounce back to being much more than the RH version of Endy Chavez- a good glove and a 350 PA contributor in the OF, primarily used for defensive value and as a fourth OF, but shouldn’t be playing every day.

    I don’t expect Seager to be the long term answer at 3B

    He’s done nothing but succeed at every level he’s played at (including MLB). What else do you want out of the guy? We have to get away from the idea that “3B has to be good for 20-30 dingers or else it’s a failure”. Kyle Seager right now is a Kevin Kouzmanoff-type adequate 3B.

    That being said, if you could flip him + a pitcher for an upgrade at the position, sure. But of the Carp/Smoak/Seager/Robinson/Wells group of players, Seager may actually be the best player. You can actually make a case for it.

  15. Valenica on January 15th, 2012 12:01 am

    Catricala projects at either 3B or LF. I think the consensus is hope for 3B, but you’re probably getting LF.

    If he hits well at AAA, we might see him near the AS Break if Seager or Carp/Wells aren’t doing well. Otherwise, probably next year is his ETA.

    As for our biggest weakness – you hit the nail on the head. 3B and OF, easily. I’m high on Seager and Wells, but I recognize they could bust very easily. C too if Montero can’t stick. SS as well, if Franklin can’t stick/hit.

    Here’s a list of prospects for those positions:

    C: Jesus Montero, Jack Marder, John Hicks, Marcus Littlewood
    SS: Nick Franklin, Brad Miller, Martin Peguero, Carlos Triunfel
    3B: Alex Liddi, Francisco Martinez, Vincent Catricala, maybe even Brad Miller
    OF: Vincent Catricala, Trayvon Robinson, Carlos Peguero, Phillips Castillo, Guillermo Pimentel, Chih-Hsien Chiang, Jabari Blash, Johermyn Chavez

    You can see it’s a lot of interesting guys, but no one who’s solid enough to pencil into the future yet, outside of maybe Catricala if his defense can stick somewhere, and Franklin/Montero obviously.

    If our only holes are 3B and 1-2 OF spots, we should be able to fill it easily in FA. Ichiro, Figgins, Gutierrez, League, and Vargas all come off in 1-2 years so we should have the money. The problem is there will most likely be more holes.

  16. shortbus on January 15th, 2012 12:03 am

    Looking at who has a spot locked up based on seniority / contract / awesomeness the rotation looks something like this:

    Felix
    Vargas
    Iwakuma
    Noesi / Beavan / Paxton / Hultzen / Furbush for #4 and #5

    Holy crap. Right now 60% of the M’s rotation could easily be filled by players who’ve started less than half of a season in the majors. We might need another pitcher.

  17. bfgboy on January 15th, 2012 12:12 am

    Although I have not articulated it nearly as well or as concise as Dave has, I have been singing the praises of Noesi all day today, to anybody that will listen. His skill-set seems to translate exceptionally well to our friendly confines, and with a good deal of club control left on him, should turn out to be an exceptionally good value. If all goes according to plan, we should be quite pleased with the prospect of half a decade of Hultzen, Paxton, Walker, and Noesi (and that other guy).

  18. mpk on January 15th, 2012 12:48 am

    Excellent analysis as always, Dave. So if the M’s rotation is Felix 5-6+ win, Vargas 2.5, Iwakuma 2+, Noesi 2+, and Beaven, I think I’d be OK with that.

    Now, if we go out and sign a veteran middle of the rotation type FA like Roy Oswalt or Edwin Jackson, I would be pretty happy with the rotation.

  19. diderot on January 15th, 2012 12:57 am

    To take Dave’s point a little further, I wonder if the key ingredient Jack uses to mix together his pitching staff is k/bb.

    Frame of reference (showing just the most notable names for 2011):
    k/bb 5.5 and above: Halladay, Lee, Haren
    4.0-5.5: Kershaw, Greinke, Hamels, Verlander
    3.5-4.0: Fister, CC, Kennedy, Weaver, Gallardo, Luebke, Baker, Beachy
    3.3-3.5: Felix, Price, Carpenter, Shields, Kuroda, Hudson

    MLB average: 2.2

    Last year, Vargas was right at MLB average. Pineda was 3.15.
    Beavan and Furbush may have deserved their extended looks because of their k/bb: 2.80 and 2.56 respectively.

    Where it gets interesting is with the guys they’ve brought in.

    Iwakuma’s career mark in Japan was 3.87.

    Why take a flyer on Heilman, with his horrible ERA last year? Maybe because the k/bb was 3.00.

    And did they really choose Noesi over Nova, a 16-game winner? Why not. Nova was at only 1.72, and Noesi wasn’t great, either, at 2.05. But this was working out of the bullpen, splitting time between the minors and the Yankees. His last full year as a starter, 2010, at three minor league levels, he was at 5.64.

    It may be that Dave has identified what the M’s think is the undervalued measurement of pitchers.

  20. Gibbo on January 15th, 2012 1:02 am

    OF may be the key spot to add someone. I still don’t see anyone in the high minors close to forcing their way on the roster.

  21. Gibbo on January 15th, 2012 1:02 am

    Also, I really like Noesi, our AAA rotation this year could be very very good.

  22. egreenlaw9 on January 15th, 2012 1:36 am

    Friendly confines usually means hitter’s ballpark, but okay.

    Holy crap there were a lot of comments after that… ergh….. nevermind?

  23. egreenlaw9 on January 15th, 2012 1:48 am

    I like Jack Z’a add-ons in these trades… they make the obvious analogies more interesting.

    P.S. I hope I’m ruining this blog for you Peter – it was mine first, just like Nichole

  24. rth1986 on January 15th, 2012 3:01 am

    I’m quite interested in Noesi and was wondering why he hasn’t gotten more attention. He could have a surprisingly productive 2012 if he’s given the opportunity. He throws strikes and generates a decent amount of groundballs. For better or worse, he and Blake Beavan are probably at about the same level, although Noesi has a better fastball.

    Those cheap, strike-throwing inning eaters will be nice to have (Hisashi Iwakuma and Erasmo Ramirez included) while we wait for Paxton and Hultzen.

  25. charliebrown on January 15th, 2012 8:38 am

    SO, if we’re all penciling in Noesi to the starting rotation, are we forgoing getting a pitcher on the free agent market?

    And, if so, what do the M’s do with all of the money they have to spend? Wow, what a nice problem to have.

  26. currcoug on January 15th, 2012 8:47 am

    Not to rain on anyone’s parade, but let’s keep in mind that Noesi has a significant injury history, and was suspended for 50 games because he tested positive for PED’s.

    I have to assume that Lincoln and Armstrong were aware of this fact, and approved the trade anyway.

  27. Sports on a Schtick on January 15th, 2012 8:49 am

    I love this article. Not only because it lifts my hopes on Noesi and the trade in general but this is the kind of thoughtful analysis and opinion I crave.

  28. asdruballs on January 15th, 2012 8:49 am

    Dave,

    I was wondering if you happened across the reports of Noesi’s velocity jumping in the dominican league?

    Link: http://www.yankeeanalysts.com/2011/12/watch-out-for-hector-noesi-36780

    If any thing it supports your point about his 93mph velocity not just being a product of being in the bullpen.

  29. CCW on January 15th, 2012 9:26 am

    Thank you, Dave. I’m sure I’m not the only one for whom that really helps.

  30. stevemotivateir on January 15th, 2012 9:35 am

    So this deal was clearly Pineda for Noesi and Montero for Campos. Glad that’s out of the way.

    One of the remaining questions now, is what to do with Figgins. Let him try to show a rebound in spring, then flip him? Saunders is kind of in the same boat. There must be several more moves in the making. (yes, I was kidding about the Pineda trade)

  31. PackBob on January 15th, 2012 10:51 am

    This now makes more sense as a package. With what had been written before, Noesi seemed like a throw-in to lessen the impact of one-for-one, but now seems like a legitimate part of the package. If the Mariners get two starting players out of the deal, it’s a lot better.

    With Dave’s description, Noesi may even slot behind Felix.

  32. 2014 Mariners on January 15th, 2012 11:05 am

    Is there any more information on Noesi’s PED infraction?

  33. lamlor on January 15th, 2012 11:45 am

    Another good preview of Noesi by a Yankee site prior to the 2011 season. It pretty much says everything mentioned in Dave’s article and he even calls that Noesi could be a good trade chip, but he likes him a lot.

    http://riveraveblues.com/2011/01/prospect-profile-hector-noesi-40596/

  34. MrZDevotee on January 15th, 2012 12:12 pm

    There are some folks pretty high on Noesi in and around the Yankee organization. I didn’t expect to find that when I went searching. A couple even feel the same way we do about losing Campos- daring to say they think Noesi has perhaps more upside than Pineda???

    That seems like a stretch (or maybe it’s folks who don’t know Pineda very well), but from reading their thoughts they make him sound an awful lot like another Danny Hultzen… Deceptive, mostly non-remarkable stuff, but with enough accuracy to miss bats.

    Adding Safeco Field to that equation has been known to work wonders (see: Vargas, Washburn). Welcome aboard, Mr. Noesi.

  35. gwangung on January 15th, 2012 1:20 pm

    Damn. After a pretty dull couple months of off season, this has turned intriguing—and makes me really anticipate spring training.

  36. Eclipsial on January 15th, 2012 2:01 pm

    [I'm a troll. As such, I'm now banned. Nice knowing you all.]

  37. Gibbo on January 15th, 2012 2:57 pm

    Do you think that if Noesi has more upside than originally thought that we would still add another starter?

    Is a starting rotation of Felix, Iwakuma, Vargas, Noesi and Bevan enough? I am guessing we would still be a little light and look to add Oswalt or Jackson to slot into the number 2 spot and the number 5 goes to Noesi and Bevan goes to AAA.

    I would be happier with Oswalt on a shorter contract to act as a bridge.

  38. gwangung on January 15th, 2012 3:08 pm

    Is a starting rotation of Felix, Iwakuma, Vargas, Noesi and Bevan enough?

    Enough? Enough for what?

    Compete for the division? No. Be competitive? Maybe.

    Getting better pitching is always helpful, but I’m not sure it’s absolutely mandatory.

  39. MrZDevotee on January 15th, 2012 3:33 pm

    Personally, I find…

    Felix
    Vargas
    Iwakuma
    Noesi
    Hultzen

    …to be an intriguing rotation. Either Furbush or Beavan as middle relief, and the other starting and staying ready in Tacoma. Hultzen doesn’t necessarily break camp with the big club, but the depth of the rotation would allow for that now if he’s pitching well.

    Naturally, adding a #2 or #3 guy would be preferred, but the existing options are now more intriguing, in any case.

  40. Typical Idiot Fan on January 15th, 2012 3:52 pm

    Is a starting rotation of Felix, Iwakuma, Vargas, Noesi and Bevan enough?

    For the purposes of 2012′s team? Probably. With the Mariners acquiring Montero they’re still following a plan that seems geared towards competing after 2012. Montero isn’t expected to come in and reach his max potential offensively immediately, so he’s going to be given time to flourish. A lot of what happens in 2013 and beyond will depend on who develops and / or improves in 2012. Smoak has to stay healthy and produce or we’ll probably be looking to replace him. Ackley has to stay healthy and improve on his already good rookie campaign. Carp has to prove he isn’t a fluke. Montero has to prove he can catch or not. The bullpen will be given a shakedown. Etc.

    Meanwhile they’ll watch the development of Hultzen, Paxton, and Walker to see who can help in 2012. They’ll watch Franklin, Catricala, and others to see if they’re ready for a trial.

    2012 is going to be a big audition for the Broadway production of 2013. Should be fascinating. I’m still not convinced that Montero means no Fielder, but at this point Fielder is not important to the 2012 plan. If he comes, and comes on a reasonable contract, fine. If not, the Mariners will wash their hands and do something else.

  41. eponymous coward on January 15th, 2012 4:40 pm

    It’s never enough unless you’re 162-0 and hoisting a trophy and champagne after the last game of the championship season.

    If you can get a value #2/#3 for good cost, what are you saving the salary for? Sign the guy and take your chances.

  42. Mariners35 on January 15th, 2012 4:55 pm

    So – apologies if I’m abusing Dave’s concepts from the other day…

    Take the current roster projection from his “What Now pt2″ post, swap out Pineda’s 3.0 WAR, presumably swap out Trayvon’s 0 WAR, and put into those roster spots Montero (2.5?) and Noesi (2?). That’s a 76.5-ish win club.

    Then follow Dave’s advice from yesterday and get an Oswalt or Jackson for the rotation to let Beaven get some more bake time in AAA, and that probably adds another 2.5 WAR or so too, conservatively.

    Then fudge #s a bit for playing time (e.g. less Olivo, more Jaso/Montero; Carp/Wells/Guti round robin in the outfield) and some possible positive surprises (Iwakuma takes off, Noesi just clicks out of the gate, Good Vargas, etc.).

    On paper, the M’s could be a .500 team at least. A strong record against the Angels and Rangers, and a couple breakout seasons from the rookies… who knows…

  43. Valenica on January 15th, 2012 4:58 pm

    It’s an unneeded risk. You don’t tie up salary in a #2-3 when you’re 4-5 guys away. He could blow out his arm and then you can’t spend that money when you really need it.

    What’s the upside? You have a quality #2-3 instead of a decent #4-5 pitching in non-contention years. Edwin Jackson isn’t going to turn you into a contender. What’s the downside? You potentially tied up $60M into a guy who might not pitch well.

    Look at Lackey, Burnett, Figgins, Zambrano…if we were close to contention I could understand, but when we’re as far as we are now, a guy like Jackson makes no sense. If he blows up, we have another albatross, if he’s good, we still miss the playoffs by 10+ games. What’s the point? Sign a pitcher when you need him for contention, not when you’re far away. Otherwise develop, develop, develop. Guys like Jackson hit FA every year. Let’s get him when we’re 2-3 wins away from 90, not projecting ourselves at 80 wins if we’re optimistic and lucky.

  44. just a fan on January 15th, 2012 5:02 pm

    Totally agree with the analysis of this trade by Eclipsial. Well said.

    Anyway, I viewed the “limited upside” of Noesi as a balance with the “far far away” of Campos. The M’s improved themselves in 2012 and 2013 with the trade (and beyond if it stops us from overpaying Prince Fielder).

    Now, if Dave’s analysis of Noesi is accurate, and his suggestion for Oswalt comes true, we’d be better off this season than if Zduriencik had succumbed to the Prince Fielder crowd — for 4% of the price.

    We could have a fun transitional year (DINGERS! included)

  45. just a fan on January 15th, 2012 5:06 pm

    “If he blows up, we have another albatross, if he’s good, we still miss the playoffs by 10+ games. What’s the point?”

    And what if the team blows up in a good way, and the M’s get the 2nd wildcard by one game? You never know.

    I would prefer Oswalt, but don’t dismiss Jackson just because the club probably won’t contend.

  46. Mariners35 on January 15th, 2012 5:15 pm

    It’s an unneeded risk. You don’t tie up salary in a #2-3 when you’re 4-5 guys away. He could blow out his arm and then you can’t spend that money when you really need it.

    Meh. You can make a similar argument in reverse about all the upcoming pitching. Paxton/Walker/Hultzen could join Felix and be the dominant rotation of the AL around 2014 and beyond… or any or all of them could blow out their arm, and/or be this decade’s “Piniero and Anderson will help Felix for years, really…” and you’re back to trading or throwing money at free agents anyway.

    TINSTAAPP. Plug someone like Jackson – or if you’re risk-averse, Oswalt – into the rotation, and give the maximum flexibility to do the right thing with the kids as their talent shows itself.

    And really, the decent price on Jackson isn’t that spooky. When Ichi and Figgy’s salaries are off the books soon, $12m/year for Jackson won’t seem like such an albatross.

    It’s not about making this a contender this year, it’s about raising the floor. Less of the blue light specials and more of the stopgaps who are actually quality players too. Investing in a decent mid-rotation pitcher is not a bad use of the budget, even with all the pitching coming up.

  47. mebpenguin on January 15th, 2012 8:10 pm

    On paper, the M’s could be a .500 team at least. A strong record against the Angels and Rangers, and a couple breakout seasons from the rookies… who knows…

    I’m pretty sure this is the plan this year. Put together a team that grades out around .500 and if some of the young kids step it up you could contend for a playoff spot, especially if they expand to five this season. Either way, you’re set up to make another step forward the following year.

  48. mebpenguin on January 15th, 2012 8:12 pm

    It’s an unneeded risk. You don’t tie up salary in a #2-3 when you’re 4-5 guys away. He could blow out his arm and then you can’t spend that money when you really need it.

    This team isn’t 4 or 5 guys away, they’re 2 or 3 guys away and one of those could absolutely be a solid 2/3 guy like Edwin Jackson.

  49. Dave on January 15th, 2012 8:19 pm

    There are fewer dumber arguments in sports than “wins are worthless to projected non-contenders”. Anyone who makes it is essentially identifying themselves as someone who can be ignored.

  50. Jordan on January 15th, 2012 8:46 pm

    And really, the decent price on Jackson isn’t that spooky. When Ichi and Figgy’s salaries are off the books soon, $12m/year for Jackson won’t seem like such an albatross.

    It’s not about making this a contender this year, it’s about raising the floor. Less of the blue light specials and more of the stopgaps who are actually quality players too. Investing in a decent mid-rotation pitcher is not a bad use of the budget, even with all the pitching coming up.
    ——
    Exactly! And…

    Any reasonably priced surplus pitcher becomes a potentially tradeable asset to a contender; especially with the Safeco effect and inflated stats/ERAs etc. (See Fister, Doug; Bedard, Eric; Washburn, Jarrod; Lee, Cliff frickin)

    The Mariners are several bats and breakout seasons away from real contention. If they can sign FA pitchers, but can’t get bats to sign at least they can flip their surplus for need.

  51. MoreMariners on January 15th, 2012 9:34 pm

    I think Noesi will surprise a lot of Mariners fans.

  52. eponymous coward on January 15th, 2012 9:42 pm

    It’s an unneeded risk. You don’t tie up salary in a #2-3 when you’re 4-5 guys away. He could blow out his arm and then you can’t spend that money when you really need it.

    Haven’t you been spending a lot of time here arguing we need to sign Fielder? So are you flipping on that? Or somehow is Fielder exempt from the potential risks of free agent signings?

    Anyways, if it’s Oswalt or (insert one year deal here) on a one year deal, what else are you going to spend the money on? The team’s not going to carry over 2012 salary to 2013, that’s not how it’s ever worked. And, um, hello, if the team’s 17 games out in late July and Oswalt is pitching well, you have a trade chit.

    And if Dave’s right and Jackson (alternately, insert reasonable multi-year deal year) is an undervalued asset who’s got a good chance to be a decent player for a few years (and in Edwin Jackson’s case, we’re talking about a 3-4 WAR pitcher the last 3 years- basically, he’s Pineda), this is just a no-brainer, especially given that there is not much salary on the books after 2012 (and almost nothing after 2013, once Guti and Figgins fall off)- we could easily absorb a guy like Jackson at 4/50. If you can pick up a good player at a reasonable price that has an excellent chance of improving the win-loss record and talent base, pick up the player. Dave’s pont is absolutely right- wins are wins, you try to get as many of them as you can, and you move the floor for your team up as high as you can without doing violence to your team’s ability to spend in the future. There is no “wait for next year”. This is what KC and Baltimore do- spend a decade being terrible waiting for the right year.

    Also, a true-talent 75 win team needs a lot of luck to be a 90 win team. Adding 5 or more wins to that of talent considerably reduces the amount of luck needed. 10 win swings from true talent aren’t all that unusual (granted, this means downside risk too), but you can’t take advantage of luck if you don’t put yourself in position to do it.

  53. eponymous coward on January 15th, 2012 10:02 pm

    The other thing is this: if the moves become something like this:

    - get Oswalt or Jackson or (insert name here)
    - spend rest of 2012 salary budget on shoring up OF/corner positions with additional bat (Dave’s mentioned Mark Reynolds, I’m not a fan because bad defense + zillion Ks is the opposite of what this team needs- I’d rather have someone who could cover CF)

    This team is almost certainly a .500 team with upside- if Ichiro is back to his 4-5 WAR self one more time, Gutierrez is capable of bouncing back close to where he was in 2009, one or more of the kids breaks out to join Ackley as a 3-4 WAR player- well, there’s your scenario.

  54. Valenica on January 15th, 2012 10:42 pm

    Can someone tell me which Jackson we’ll be getting? White Sox Jackson, who is worth $12M/yr, or Tigers/D-Backs/Cards Jackson, who isn’t worth $12M/yr? He’s undervalued for a reason. It’s hard to evaluate what you’re getting. And you know for a 3.5 WAR pitcher, you’re not getting THAT much surplus. You gain maybe $4M a year, which is nice, but for the risk, not exactly a home run.

    I just think we’re so far away we should focus less on acquiring an arm like Jackson and focus more on playing the MLB-ready arms we have, like Nosei, Beavan, Furbush, Hultzen, Paxton, and Erasmo.

    I mean think about it – you’re banking on Ichiro bouncing back fully, Gutierrez bouncing back fully, Ackley breaking out, Jackson giving you 3 WAR, and you still win 85 games. What do you gain by signing Jackson now over one of the dozen pitchers next year who are just as good? The slight chance Ackley, Montero, Smoak, Seager, Carp, Wells, Gutierrez, and Ichiro all breakout this year and he helps you contend?

    What do you lose? Maybe you don’t find out what Beavan or Furbush or Erasmo or Nosei give you. If they give you nothing – sign a guy next year. If they give you something – you just have a free arm with Jackson level production, to trade or keep. So you also lose payroll flexibility – instead of having $30-40M to use on holes next off-season, you have $18-28M to use on holes because you assume SP will be a hole. If we can fill that hole internally for cheap, we’re better off because we can focus on getting better quality in OF or 3B.

    It’s not giving up on the season – it’s seeing what you have before you start making moves that closes the doors. Might as well leave them open when we basically need a miracle and a BOS/TB/LAA collapse to make the playoffs.

  55. Typical Idiot Fan on January 16th, 2012 12:07 am

    Can someone tell me which Jackson we’ll be getting? White Sox Jackson, who is worth $12M/yr, or Tigers/D-Backs/Cards Jackson, who isn’t worth $12M/yr?

    Last I checked, they were the same dude.

  56. eponymous coward on January 16th, 2012 1:16 am

    Nosei, Beavan, Furbush, Hultzen, Paxton, and Erasmo

    Hultzen and Paxton do not belong in a MLB rotation for an entire season yet, given that they haven’t shown they can handle 150 innings at the minors yet (Pineda was well ahead of them as a prospect, and you saw what problems his inning limit caused us last year- we spent September starting one of the worst pitchers to have a cup of coffee in MLB history because he had to be shut down early). So they’re not making the team out of Peoria, and I wouldn’t bet on them being able to pitch in September (again, inning limit), so… I wouldn’t bet on them pitching in M’s uniforms in 2012 even if they do well and race through the minors. 2013, maybe.

    Maybe you don’t find out what Beavan or Furbush or Erasmo or Nosei give you.

    Let’s say we sign Jackson (who you seem to be having the freakout about). So the rotation becomes Felix, Jackson, Vargas, and two of Iwakuma/Noesi/Beavan/Furbush.

    What on earth is wrong with having four guys competing for two rotation spots, losers go to the bullpen or Tacoma? Since when is it not possible to evaluate players based on minor league performance or use young pitchers out of the bullpen? What’s wrong with having depth? (Hint: what are the odds that we use five starters all year long?)

    Also, again, Jackson’s had 3 years at 3.5ish WAR, at ALL his stops the last 3 years. I wouldn’t bet on Beavan or Furbush hitting that, certainly not in 2012. So, yes, you are basically advocating “make the team worse in 2012 so we can evaluate kids (who probably won’t be as good)”.

    Finally, here’s a fun fact:

    Jackson: 11 WAR, 2009-2011
    Fielder: 15.3 WAR, 2009-2011

    (Jackson’s eight months older.)

    Everything you said about Jackson blocking pitching goes double for Fielder blocking Smoak (especially now that Montero’s in town), and we’re looking at a difference of about 1.5 WAR/yr in talent.

    So I assume that if Jackson at 4 years/50 million’s a bad idea, so’s Fielder at, say, 5 years/75 million, right? (I suspect GMZ would have signed Fielder already if he could get him at 5/75. That’s actually an OK deal for a quality, top tier FA 1B in his prime.)

    If we can fill that hole internally for cheap, we’re better off because we can focus on getting better quality in OF or 3B.

    Why not do both? The team can probably take another 15-20 million or so in salary, and Jackson doesn’t have to soak all that up (alternately, Oswalt, or whoever). Talent is talent, and you should add talent wherever you can if the deal pencils out as improving your team. This team is nowhere close to having too much pitching. If we were discussing a rotation of Felix, Halladay, Sabathia and Lee, sure, we should be building from within for a 5th starter, and putting money elsewhere. But we’re not.

  57. just a fan on January 16th, 2012 3:58 am

    If the rotation was Felix-Jackson-Vargas-Iwakuma-Noesi and Hultzen or Paxton was ready and you wanted them to start…

    Either Vargas is pitching well and has trade value, or Vargas is not pitching well and loses his rotation spot.

    If they’re both ready, they can Rochambeau for a bullpen spot.

    Problem solved.

  58. Valenica on January 16th, 2012 4:52 am

    I don’t think Paxton and Hultzen pitch 2012 either, but for them it’s about 2013. With Jackson, it’d be Felix-Jackson-Hultzen-Paxton-Nosei or some such. 2014 is Walker’s turn: Felix-Jackson-Hultzen-Paxton-Walker.

    So what do you suggest we do with Nosei, Furbush, Beavan, and Erasmo then? We’re only getting a year out of them any of them with Jackson, two max. Trade them for 4th OFers? Put them in the bullpen? I guess if one of them breaks out we can deal them for something useful.

    I know what Jackson’s WAR was. Why not go deeper? His xFIP was inconsistent throughout the entire 3 years. His SIERA the last 3 years is 4.30, 3.85, 4.01. His tERA was 4.40, 4.29, 4.61. His xFIP and FIP both outperformed his SIERA/tERA, so his WAR might be inflated. He’s not exactly guaranteed to be 3 WAR in the future either, here. Sure enough, bWAR gives his last 3 years 1.8, 2.3, 0.8 WAR. Still want to pay $12M a year to Charlie Furbush without HR problems?

    Fielder at 5/75 represents $50M in surplus. Jackson at 5/60, represents $15M in surplus. Big difference. I don’t even know why you bring up Fielder – I don’t think we should go after him anymore. Unless we can afford both Fielder + Jackson – that would make things interesting.

    I don’t have problems adding talent for a good price, as long as it doesn’t interfere with long-term flexibility. I want Oswalt, though I doubt he comes here. But what’s the upside to Jackson? What do we gain from signing Jackson now, as opposed to a SP3 next year or the year after? That’s what I’m asking. I don’t see any upside, other then it helps the team now, and saves us like what, $6-10M in surplus for 2 years? Except we have 3-4 MLB-ready, hungry starters who could give $6-10M in surplus just as easily. So in the end, all you gain is $12M in wins, which is nice, but it’s tied up in that SP spot for the next 4 years. We’re a team of 23 year olds – it’s not exactly the best time to tie up money.

  59. The Ancient Mariner on January 16th, 2012 6:25 am

    In the first place, Val, please learn to spell Noesi. Just remember, it’s pronounced “no acey.”

    Second, who besides you has suggested 5/$60 for Jackson?

    Third, we would be at the far end of good luck if all three of Hultzen/Paxton/Walker turned into good starters. Either you haven’t followed the M’s very long, or you haven’t learned from the past.

  60. terry on January 16th, 2012 6:29 am

    Its starting to look like the Ms will be fun to watch this season.

  61. eponymous coward on January 16th, 2012 9:57 am

    I don’t see any upside, other then it helps the team now

    What other thing does it need to be, if it doesn’t really cripple the team’s ability to spend in 2013/2014/etc., which it doesn’t?

    More wins is good in and of itself. More talent is good in and of itself.

    We’re a team of 23 year olds – it’s not exactly the best time to tie up money.

    Don’t look at this as “tie up money”. Look at it as “add talent”.

    It’s always a good time to add talent at below market value. Period.

    Essentially, there’s two things that happen to the remainder of the M’s salary budget for 2012- it gets spent, or it gets retained as earnings (or reduced losses, I guess) and doesn’t impact 2013′s budget, because that’s how the M’s roll.

    One thing that DOES impact 2013′s budget is how many fans the M’s draw, which is primarily impacted by winning games, which is dependent on team quality. Also, a 75 win true talent team has considerably farther to go (in terms of rookies that need to blow up big, roster moves that need to be made) to get over the 85-90 win “you’ve got a shot” hump than an 81 win true talent team.

    There’s just no real reason to think that winning now and winning later are at odds, even if we’re behind the Rangers and Angels in the talent race. The only way to catch up is to start catching up, and being offered talent at below-market prices? Sign me up.

  62. goat on January 16th, 2012 10:42 am

    Sounds like a Fister replacement. Not bad at all.

    I think there are enough questions in the projected rotation from anyone not named Felix that it still makes sense to try for Oswalt or Jackson. (Having anyone other than Vargas as the #2 right now is wishful thinking.)

  63. gwangung on January 16th, 2012 10:53 am

    I think there are enough questions in the projected rotation from anyone not named Felix that it still makes sense to try for Oswalt or Jackson.

    Yeah. I like Jackson at a decent salary, because he’d be a useful player in the future, if everything DOES work out.

  64. Johnny Slick on January 16th, 2012 12:19 pm

    Weird that this turned into a whither Edwin Jackson thread, but I think that’s a totally different situation than a Fielder signing. For Fielder he has to take one of basically two slots on the team: starting 1b or starting dh. A pitcher can basically fit into one of five slots on the other hand. On top of that, pitchers get hurt, so realistically you need more than five guys to fill a rotation for a year.

  65. MoreMariners on January 16th, 2012 3:26 pm

    At minimum, Noesi should be at least a +1 win pitcher, and Montero shouldn’t have trouble reaching +3 wins. Therefore, it works out for now. Also, as for the Jackson debate, I much prefer Oswalt. Get him on a one year deal for $8-10, flip him in July if we’re out of contention. We replaced Pineda with a pitcher of similar value (Oswalt) for $8MM, and we gained Noesi and Montero as bonuses — not to mention the players that we would receive for Oswalt.

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