To quote Moneyball: Why do you like this guy?
Because he gets on base.
Keep that in mind as you peruse this.
Okay, so first off, I was asked to give an actual substantive argument for why I think Stephen Piscotty is an extremely logical solution to our COF woes. My broader offseason plan sits below, and so if you just want to skip to that, go ahead. For those of you who really need to be convinced on Piscotty as a trade target, stick around.
So, let’s go through what we all already know about Piscotty. He’s from Pleasanton, and went to school at Stanford. He was drafted in 2012 by the Cardinals, just two picks after Daniel Robertson was selected by the A’s. He's a corner outfielder, and he bats right handed. (!!!) He spent two and a half years navigating the minors, making his MLB debut in 2015. A few things characterized Piscotty’s ascent through the minors. Most notable, in my opinion, was his consistent ability to post better than league average K rates alongside a healthy walk rate. Seriously, go look at his minor league stats, he wasn’t quite Schrockian, but he was Schrock-ish. More walks, more K’s, but not ludicrously more K’s. And a lot more walks.
Upon his ascendance to the majors midway through that 2015 season, Piscotty’s skillset shifted rather drastically from the low k% high bb% that characterized his minor league career, to that more resembling your garden variety corner slugger. The K’s were up, the BB’s were a touch down, but the power had emerged. His first full season, 2016, saw him post a 2.8 fWAR in 153 games. As an outfielder just entering his prime, Piscotty seemed poised for another solid year. The Cardinals agreed, locking him up through the 2022 season for a pittance of $33.5mm.
As you may know, Piscotty’s 2017 did not go exactly as anticipated. He only got into 107 games this year, due to both injury and lack of performance. He injured his hamstring early on, and soon after he found out that his mother had been diagnosed with ALS. He took some personal time off, wasn’t getting it going again, and injured his groin. The Cardinals optioned him to AAA for three weeks, and brought him back to some meager playing time. When he was actually healthy and going, i.e. the month of June, he was pretty darn good (121 wRC+). But between the nagging injuries and the personal news, his year was mostly lost.
So, this may seem like a buy low based off random luck due to injury. But! I posit that there is some sign of a re-emergence of his previous skillset that I am very interested in buying in on. For starters, in those 107 games (400+ AB’s), his MLB BB% was 13% and his K rate spiked all of 1.5%. That says to me that his eye was not only still there, but had more or less adjusted to pro ball. I’m uncertain if the K rate drops below 20%, but there is upside for that. But if you’re walking 13% of the time in pro ball, you’re a dude.
At no point in Piscotty’s career had he posted a BABIP below .300. Until this year, where he ended up at .286. His GB% was up nearly 6%, and he had begun pulling the ball a touch more. When Piscotty is on, he excels at lining balls to all fields. His debut season in 2015 is the perfect example of this, as his pull%, center% and oppo% were each close to being an even third of the time. MLB pitchers adjusted to him, and so his pull% has increased substantially, which isn’t necessarily surprising. Even with that shift, Piscotty put up a productive 2016 season.
So, I think in order to not only get Piscotty to bounce back, but improve over his 2016 season, you need just a few things. 1) you need the guy to be healthy. With a full offseason of rest, he should be back and ready to roll. 2) Help him with his approach and get him spraying the ball to all fields again. Or, conversely, 3) Get him to start lofting the ball more. When he torches a ball, it goes wayyyy out. His stance is understated, and he has a very small leg kick. If Darren Bush can work him a bit, and get him under the ball more often, then we don’t need to worry as much about the pull%.
The ingredients are there for a very good corner outfielder. I believe he could slot in quite nicely in RF, and provide between 3-4 wins a year. For a guy on a set contract like his, that means one less roster spot you need to stress over. Further, since the contract is so friendly to the team, when a guy like Deichmann or Beck or Lazarito is ready down the line, you have an exceedingly valuable trade chip.
The downside is that he continues to suck and is just a sunk salary cost. For 7.5mm a year, I’m willing to take that gamble. (And heck, he’s only going to be paid $1mm in 2018!)
And now! On to the show!
- Khris Davis - $11.1 million projection - Tendered
- Marcus Semien - $3.2 million projection - Tendered.
- Kendall Graveman - $2.6 million projection - Traded.
- Blake Treinen - $2.3 million projection - Tendered.
- Chris Hatcher - $2.2 million projection - Non-tendered.
- Liam Hendriks -$1.9 million projection - Traded.
- Josh Phegley - $1.1 million projection - Tendered.
- Jake Smolinski - $700 thousand projection - Tendered, optioned to AAA.
Mike Minor, LHP: 4 years $30mm.
This is what Minor signed for in the SIM, with Milwaukee. I think it’s reasonable. We actually never even called on Minor because we thought it’d get crazy, but I think I would have done this.
Juan Nicasio, RHP: 3 years $15mm.
I think this is more or less reasonable. He should figure to fit in the pen, but with such a huge number of available relief arms, his market shouldn’t get too heavy.
Tyler Chatwood, SP: 2 years, $18mm.
I too have been skeptical of Chatwood. I had extra money and I was exceedingly uneasy with my current pitching depth. I believe, however, Chatwood could very well be the Billy Beane special this offseason. Insane GB rates, he should have an excellent defensive infield behind him, and getting him out of Coors should only help his secondary offerings improve. He’s only 28! As a guy to sneak into your #4/5 slot, I can’t be unhappy with this outcome.
Three Ways To Skin A Cat
To OAK: Stephen Piscotty, Carson Kelly
TO STL: Giancarlo Stanton
TO MIA: Franklin Barreto, Grant Holmes, Dakota Hudson
So this is more or less what I wanted to accomplish in the SIM, but St. Louis was AFK when we were trying to pull this off, and a Stanton trade was too far down the finish line to catch up. Everyone accomplishes something that they wanted to in this deal. St. Louis lands the big splash that they wanted and uses a blocked Carson Kelly and squeezed out Stephen Piscotty to accomplish it. They’re also giving up another SP prospect in Dakota Hudson, but I think that might just be the cost of doing business. Miami slashes payroll and also gets premier talent in return.
The A’s end up with their catcher of the future in Carson Kelly, and their long-term RF in Stephen Piscotty. Yes, we gave up a fair amount of talent. I think it works because we trade from a huge positional logjam to fill a suddenly massive hole. Losing Holmes is painful, but fair, based on the return. This adds a different skillset to the lineup, by focusing on guys who can get on base and not strike out an obscene percentage of the time. By adding more contact/on base oriented players around our sluggers, I expect to greatly improve the offensive output. It’s no guarantee to be a move that adds value to the 2018 A’s, but 2019-2022 is looking pretty good. With Carson "Next Brian McCann" Kelly manning C, our pitching will have serious stability for the coming future.
Wait, We’re Not On His No Trade?
To OAK: Jeff Samardzija, $12mm ($6mm each in ‘19/’20).
To SFG: Kendall Graveman, Santiago Casilla, (Munoz?).
This is another SIM trade that occurred that seems actually somewhat reasonable. I know we never trade with the Giants, and giving up Graveman is somewhat a bummer, but we force the Giants to take back Casilla to balance the books this year. On top of Graveman, we’ll offer some prospect to the Giants. In the SIM they asked for Wendle, which, sure okay. But it could really be most C/C+ guys here.
Giants do this to shed a touch of salary and get a little younger. We do this because it’s Shark and he loves us too! Also he’s been pretty good, and he eats innings and hoo boy do we need innings. In this one trade we gained 100 innings over what Graveman put in for us. And I’m not counting Casilla’s innings, because I’d rather have had literally anyone else throw those innings. Now, some may say that Graveman is a bit much to give up, but I actually strongly disagree. The stuff is insane, but he just seems like another guy who isn’t likely going to find the level of success necessary to be more than a #4. No slight against Graveman, but between the injury risks and the low K rate, I’d like to cash in on him now.
To OAK: Chih-Wei Hu
To TBR: Ryon Healy
This is a deal I would have loved to make in the SIM, but the Rays GM didn’t even know who Healy was… I think this is fair, the one thing Tampa has a lot of is pitching, and so extracting Hu seems achievable. The Rays could use Healy, both as just your general backup for Longoria, but also as a guy who can mash at 1B/DH. If the Rays aren’t so keen to move a pitcher, I’d try and pry away minor league outfielder Justin Williams.
Hu, though, would be a great fit in the pen. He’s a guy who consistently beats his FIP, and does so on the back of consistently good IFFB rates. In relief he’s mid to upper 90’s. I think if you give him a shot to settle in he could be really good out there. As is, he’s a SP prospect that can stick there, so for now I might just put him in the AAA rotation as depth for a bit.
Now, between our quick run on arms in FA and this trade, we’ve amassed a bit of a surplus that we can use to poke around and bring some good value back.
To NYM: Frankie Montas, Liam Hendriks, Jaycob Brugman
To OAK: Brandon Nimmo
I think this is fair, as the real Mets probably think Lagares is their starting CF. Nimmo is kinda wasted as the Mets fourth OF, and the Mets just need help generally in that bullpen. So, we swap backup CF’s and throw the Mets two good relievers.
Whoah, slow down, this is too much you say. Eh, probably, but remember I just brought in three new pen guys, Montas is out of options, and Hendriks is a good but expendable reliever. Brugman is just there in case the Mets want more depth for the OF. But, our big price is certainly worth Nimmo. Nimmo torches righties, and I like him as a complementary piece on this roster. I think he can be Matt Joyce who also can play a passable CF for league minimum. That’s a pretty nice piece to have on a roster, and also offers more flexibility than Joyce himself adds.
To OAK: Hunter Harvey, John Means
To BAL: Matt Joyce, Jesse Hahn
Using Joyce in this fashion is smart, as I like what he did for the 2017 A’s, but I think his best use for 2018 is bringing back useful talent. He has some surplus value. Jesse Hahn is out of options and a team like the Orioles could really use extra pitching talent around that roster. So, we cut some salary here and clear 40 man space. Orioles gain a replacement for Seth Smith who won’t actually be bad, and add an arm to the rotation that could be sneaky good for them.
In return, we get Hunter Harvey, who has legitimately amazing stuff but just hasn’t been able to stay healthy. I think he can stay healthy in the pen. Plus, get him away from the Orioles. And, John Means, who has significantly less amazing stuff but is a lefty who could end up being an okay middle reliever. Not asking for the moon here, but if we can turn Joyce and Hahn into two potentially solid to good relievers, I think we did well.
So, as constructed, your 2018 Oakland Athletics:
SP: Samardzija, Manaea, Mengden, Cotton, Chatwood (Blackburn, Gossett, Triggs, + AAA depth).
RP: Treinen, Minor, Nicasio, Coulombe, Alcantara, Dull, Triggs.
Tell me what y'all think in the comments. Also, lol, TL;DR I added cost controlled assets.