With the Giants taking home the World Series* yesterday, it's officially time for the Hot Stove League to get underway. Which I, for one, find quite exciting, even if the Braves aren't going to be big players this season. And since we're in the five-day window that teams have as an exclusive negotiating period with their free agents, I thought it might be instructive to take a look at the players whose contracts with the Braves are up, and asserting my overarching authority on personnel decisions by deciding which should be retained or released. Or, y'know, offered arbitration. But there's no word for that that starts with an 'r' so it gets its own sentence. Cool? Cool.
*I need a ruling on this: should I have rooted for the Giants to win so that the Braves can say they lost to the champs? Or should I have been bitter and rooted against them all the way? Cause besides the Phillies series, I had precious little goodwill toward that team.
Glaus earned $2.75MM this season and was a 0.5 WAR player. He's a zero in the field, with the exception of the sparkling double play he turned in the NLDS, and hit just .240/.344/.400 that is, somehow, inflated; recall his outstanding performance in May as an explanation of what I mean. While his wOBA and wRC+ suggest a league-average hitter, I see a guy whose only viable skill at the plate is patience - and that's true of multiple hitters in the lnieup. Personally, I wouldn't bring him back, but considering that the other options at first base aren't all that enticing, Glaus may look good if he'd take a pay cut.
Hinske earned $1.5MM this season and was worth 1.0 WAR. He hit better than Glaus (.256/.338/.456, .341 wOBA, 115 wRC+) and isn't a complete butcher in left field. Plus, he's a year younger than Glaus. I compare the two because they're both very similar players at this point in their career; neither are guys you want to rely on for defense, and you're not really gonna be excited about having either guy on your team. That said, I'd take Hinske over Glaus for sure; he outplayed his contract, and could probably be worth a $2-2.5MM deal. Which is good, because he could use the money to pay for more sweet tattoos.
Yeah, I never really miss a chance to post that.
Lee was one of those change-of-scenery guys, where the team hoped that some time in the Atlanta sun would do him the kind of good that Chicago's Friendly Confines apparently wasn't providing. Let's look at his wRC+ by month, shall we?
87, 98, 87, 100, 137, 154
Well, I guess that worked! Now, I'm guessing that that performance was less 'change of scenery' and more 'regression to the mean from a talented hitter,' and that Lee would probably be an above-average hitter next season. Unfortunately, he's a Type A free agent coming off a $65MM contract. Which means he won't be cheap. You know who is cheap? Freddie Freeman. Also, beads. I say he's gone.
Omar Infante ($2.5MM option, $250K buyout)
Kind of a no-brainer. Infante wasn't as good as his outstanding first half suggests, and I imagine that our perception of his overall performance is more than slightly impacted by his 'chase' for the batting title. But he was worth 2.7 WAR, and he's an up-the-middle player. I expect him to be worth about half that next season, and $2.5MM is a reasonable rate to pay for that kind of performance. He'll be back.
Alex Gonzalez ($2.5MM option)
Gonzalez is also a no-brainer at the price. He was pretty bad with the bat; that first-half power surge was, as we probably all know, a mirage, and he ended with a meager .250/.294/.447 line that clocks in as just below league average. He does provide a fair amount of defensive value, however, as his 5 fielding runs above average and 3.4 WAR suggest. If he were up for arbitration, I'd non-tender him with the quickness (23 HR and 88 RBI from a plus shortstop? An agent's dream in arbitration), but he's cost-controlled and one of the best free agent shortstops available. He'll be back.
Rick Ankiel ($6MM mutual option, $500K buyout)
Ankiel hit .232/.321/.389 while striking out in a full third of his PAs. He's useless against lefties, hasn't flashed any of his power in two seasons, and is barely an asset in the outfield. There's no chance he's worth $6MM, so I really hope the Braves toss that half a mil his way and get him out of town.
Kyle Farnsworth ($5.25MM option, $500K buyout)
I can't believe I'm about to write this, but...Farnsworth was actually pretty good last year. His strikeout rate declined by about a half-K per 9, but he also got his walks under 3.00 per 9 for the first time since ever. His 3.34 ERA is supported by a 3.06 FIP and 3.63 xFIP, too, so this wasn't really a fluke season. However, even with the improved numbers, he still only came out to 1 WAR, and I have a hard time believing that he can keep his home run rate (at 0.56 per 9, it was less than half his career average) so depressed. Ultimately, $5.25MM is just too much for a reliever unless it's an elite guy - and Farnsworth certainly isn't that. However, I do think that the Braves will bring him back, because...well, I think most MLB teams still overrate veterans in the bullpen. I'd rather bank on finding a youngster who can provide similar performance for less than it would cost the Braves to buy out the Professor.
In the next couple days, I'll take a look at what kind of outside free agents the team might do well to bring in.