Buster Olney wrote an interesting article earlier today, talking about Stephen Drew, Kendrys Morales, and mentioning Vin Mazzaro clearing waivers. Mazzaro could have been had for just the cost of his $950,000 salary on waivers, but ended up clearing waivers and getting outrighted to Triple-A. Olney had the following quote from one GM to explain the situation.
“Once you go to spring training, you’ve spent almost all the money you’re going to spend,” said one GM. “There aren’t many teams with a lot of extra money lying around.”
I’m not one who believes that MLB teams have infinite money to spend. However, I can’t believe teams have zero dollars to spend, especially teams that are in desperate need of bullpen help. That makes me wonder whether MLB teams are getting smarter about spending the money they do have available.
Mazzaro had a 2.81 ERA last year in 73.2 innings. ERA isn’t a good stat to judge a reliever’s true skill level. But that doesn’t mean teams haven’t used that stat to judge relievers in the past. The better stat to use is xFIP, which showed Mazzaro with a 4.00 last year. That’s not bad, but it amounted to an 0.4 WAR on the season. Out of 135 qualified relievers in the majors last year, Mazzaro’s 4.00 FIP tied for 109th. The fact that Mazzaro has never been better than a 4.55 xFIP in his career might raise some doubt that he can repeat his 2013 success.
If I’m running a team, and I need pitching, I’m not saying I wouldn’t pick up Mazzaro for free on waivers. I think he’s definitely worth his salary. But the upside is limited here. The best case scenario is that you’re getting a guy who pitches like a strong middle reliever. His ERA was better than that last year, but his advanced numbers don’t suggest he will repeat that going forward. It’s not like you’re adding someone like Mark Melancon, who has the potential to be a late inning reliever or a closer.
So are teams getting smarter about spending their limited resources? Or is this just a case specific to Mazzaro?
Olney also talked about the situations surrounding Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew. Morales is a guy who has a good bat, but no defensive value. Drew is a guy who has a pretty poor injury history. It looks like a huge mistake that they both turned down their qualifying offers. Now they’re in a situation where teams don’t want to pay them AND part with a draft pick.
It’s not that I think these teams are wrong. It’s just that I’m not used to teams passing on spending money on guys like Morales and Drew, and doing so in large part due to the value of draft picks. I’m also not used to teams passing on a guy like Vin Mazzaro, who has good traditional numbers, but advanced metrics which don’t make him seem like a massive value. This may just be a small sample size of three cases. Or it could be evidence that MLB teams as a whole are starting to get smarter about some of their financial decisions.
Links and Notes
**Over the weekend I’ve been working on adding new writers to the site. I’m still in that process, but we’ll have some new writers starting this week, mostly at the minor league level. Adding new writers is made possible by purchases onthe products page of the site. That’s where you can buy our 2014 Prospect Guide, with information on every player in the minor league system. We also now have a Pirates Prospects logo t-shirt available. It’s my goal to keep all of the website content free, while also adding as much content as possible. The more funds received through these products, the more coverage we can add going forward.
**What Do You Want to See on Pirates Prospects? I’ve received a lot of responses on this. To address two of the common suggestions/comments:
1. The podcast will eventually be back once I finish getting other things set up for the season on the site.
2. A lot of people have asked about a Q&A or a chat. I thought a weekly Q&A would be a good addition. Feel free to e-mail any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.