12.01.2005

Giants sign Worrell for 2 year, $4M - no big whoop

It has been reported that the Giants signed Tim Worrell to a 2 year, $4M contract. That's $500K signing bonus, $1.5M in 2006, $2.0M in 2007.

I was initially aghast at the signing, given I knew that Worrell imploded early last season but when I went to check his numbers, it actually wasn't that bad. Checking other people's reactions, some people complained about his pitching when there are inherited runners - that's not quite true, while it was horrible last season, his BAA and WHIP with runners on and RISP has actually been much lower with runners on base the previous few years (I know, not inherited runners but as long as he's pitching well overall when runners are on, that's a relatively minor flaw).

Another segment of the crowd couldn't understand spending the money on another reliever when there are other pressing needs. The majority of this crowd advocates getting a bigger upgrade at pitching or 1B, but with just $10M or so to play with, even if he didn't get Worrell, that's $5M average between these two additions anyway, you aren't really going to get a premium player even if the Giants didn't spend the money for Worrell. In addition, this also reflects the viewpoint of this segment that the Giants shie away from the big salary guys - they need to face the reality that unless they pull out the Maddux money, $10M is not going to get you one premium guy at either position and then you still have no money for the other position.

This fits in with what's been said all off-season: they wanted a reliever so when they lost Eyre, they got Worrell, and his money is not that bad, his numbers were skewed by two horrible hitters home parks, The BOB/Chase and Citizens Bank; they want at least one starter and apparently they missed out on Loaiza (yeah!) and apparently is pursuing Morris right now (risk because of his very poor second half, but the reward is pretty high if he returns to his previous performances prior to 2004-5); and they wanted a lefty power-hitting 1B/OF to play part-time with Niekro and soaking up ABs from the aging outfield. Oh, fit in except for one thing, they said that they weren't going to lose draft picks this season but they lose their second round for Worrell, who is rated an A-free agent.

Lastly, there is a segment who are TOTALLY pissed that Sabean lost the draft pick and are losing faith in Sabean - I saw one person who thought perhaps Ned Colletti was to blame for previous mistakes but now this clearly means that Sabean is the one to blame and so we should replace Sabean.

My Take

Obviously, I don't really agree with the general sentiment regarding this deal. It is much ado about nothing, when you get down to the nitty gritty. Sure, I would prefer that Sabean marshall all our resources and get one big acquisition, a big bopper, a big-time pitcher. But we all can see that this is not the way the Giants want to play it, they want to get multiple contributing pieces, instead of one big kahuna and a bunch of minimum salary players.

And Worrell can be a very valuable contributor. He pitched outstandingly at the end of the 2005 season, getting over the personal problems that were besetting him earlier in the season. He has pitched well on the road, outside of his two hitter-home parks of the past two seasons. He walked a bit more than I would have liked to have seen with Arizona but overall for the season, he was OK in his strikeouts to walks ratio. His main problem was that he was basically pitching batting practice while he was with the Phillies.

Cheap Contract

And the contract is pretty cheap for what he has accomplished in his career. Carrasco, who had a stupendous year in 2005, is 36 years old, was either so lousy or so injured that he didn't play in the majors in 2002 and 2004, is looking to get a $6M contract for 2 years. Eyre had one nice season and one stupendous season where he wasn't the LOOGY he had been all his career and got 3 years, $11M contract. Bob Howry got 3 years, $12M for two great seasons, following 3 seasons where his ERA was in the mid-4's overall. B.J. Ryan had two great seasons, but only one as a dominant closer and got a 5 year, $47M contract. Worrell has pitched very well to great for five seasons, except for his glitch last season due to his personal problems, so he has a longer track record of doing well. Admittedly, his being 38 is not comforting, but he was stupendous with Arizona last season, he should at least pitch well in 2006.

Rounds out the Bullpen Well

And he rounds out the bullpen. Benitez is the closer and Hawkins and Worrell are the key setup men. Walker will pitch anywhere and everywhere. Same with Fassero. Munter, Taschner, and Accardo will battle for two spots.

And I admit I've been a little too rose-colored glasses about our rookie relievers. Really, the odds of all three doing well again is probably pretty low, whereas the odds that two will do well is better. Munter is still coming off his arm problems; hopefully he is well, but we haven't heard anything. Accardo had his problems even while he was up; he's a great story too but there's a strong possibility that he won't be able to deliver as hoped, he was a bit inconsistent, perhaps that might persist in 2006. This way, the odd man out will be waiting in AAA, ready to jump in if someone should falter. In addition, Brian Wilson will be waiting as well.

In addition, we got the insurance we should have had last year with Hermanson: if Benitez, for whatever reasons, are unable to fulfill the duties of his role, Worrell will be there to pick up the pieces and close again. In addition, for the moment, Tyler Walker will be there as well, he would be additional backup at the closer position (unless he is traded; he should be a valuable commodity, having closed successfully, not great, but he was adequate).

Draft Pick Not That Valuable

Lastly, about the draft pick. We lose our 2nd round pick. In 2004, it would have been the 51st pick overall and he was paid $675,000. In 2005, it would have been the 58th pick overall and he was paid $615,000. So we are probably losing a pick somewhere in the 51-60 range, which would cost us about $650,000.

First, that $650,000 offsets, basically, Worrell's bonus for 2005. I know fans hate the Giants for being penny-ante about this, but they are able to convert draft picks into useful players for today in this way, or at least make them cheaper in terms of overall cash outlay. They need to keep to the budget and the budget is tight.

Yes, it is tight because of the various mistakes that have been made in contracts. Alfonzo being the one most mentioned. But the fact of the matter is that no GM will be perfect. For every mistake like this one, hopefully there is a Marquis Grissom, who was worth more than we paid. Or when you are really lucky, a Barry Bonds or Jeff Kent or Jason Schmidt, all of whom made less than they were worth. Hopefully they tend to even out, Bonds great, Nen lost for the season, Kent great, Benard we should hope that he was lost for the season, if only.

Plus that's the reality of the situation right now. We only have around $10M to spend. We didn't NEED a reliever, but given the points I made above, it improved the bullpen greatly by providing redundancy and backup plans should things go awry, as they often do. We still need a backup catcher, a better than average starting pitcher, and a lefty power 1B/OF who will play less than full-time but still play significant amount of ABs. Losing a draft pick helps the team afford to get more quality in a player today, in exchange for losing the chance to get help 4-6 years out.

30 to 1 odds Against Drafting a Difference Maker

And the draft pick isn't even that likely to produce a major league player of consequence. From my draft data that I had collected for my study of the draft from 1986 to 2003, only 12% of the picks from 51 to 60 were ever useful (made arbitration by playing 3 years), good (made free agent plus good stat, either batting average or ERA), or star (great stat) and that's as of the results of the 2004 season. That is basically a 1 in 8 chance of finding a player who made arbitration. 8% were only useful players, the Marquis Grissom's and Michael Tucker's of the world, they didn't hit very well but have long careers.

It is even worse for players who would become significant contributors, a good or star player. Only 1 in 60 become a good player, 1 in 60 become a star player. So the second round pick has a 1 in 30 chance to become a difference maker, a good to great hitter, a Vernon Wells or Albert Pujols, not a complementary piece. The way some people were complaining about the loss of the pick, you would have thought that Sabean threw away A-Rod.

Maybe he did, but you are talking about a 1 in 30 chance of getting such a player, which is rather long odds to convert into such a player. This is once in 30 years type of odds. Instead, Sabean converted the pick into a very capable setup reliever, someone who has excelled at the job over the past five seasons, not someone who had just one or two good years or was dependent on the pitching coach to make him good.

Free Agent Signings Not Crippled

And this doesn't cripple the Giants chances of landing a significant free agent. Their chances were crippled even before this signing. It is wishful thinking on the parts of many, including myself, that the Giants will shock and awe the fans by picking up someone significant like a Burnett via free agency or Delgado (I've been salivating over a purported Schmidt for Abreu rumor) via a trade.

But the reality is that we don't have much available budget, we don't have much available talented prospects who are spare parts that can be traded. The most valuable ones we are relying on to contribute significantly to the major league team in 2006. And those are the ones the other teams will be most asking for.

We Still Have a Number of High Picks

Plus this is not like last year where we didn't get a pick until the 4th round. We still have our 10th pick overall. My study found that 22% of the 10th picks became good or star players, 33% became a useful player. So we have a greater than 50/50 chance of getting a valuable player with this pick, a 1 in 5 chance of getting a difference maker.

And our picks have gotten better and better since 1999, which is coincidentally two years after Dick Tidrow took over a head of player personnel, so I believe that the Giants have gotten much better at picking, especially compared to our record from 1990-1998. We also get a supplemental 1st round pick for Eyre plus, at the moment, a third round from the Cubs (could get lower if they sign another free agent better than Eyre in the rating system).

Sure, all things being equal, I would wish they would have waited to sign Worrell and kept the pick, hopefully. The D-backs would not have chanced arbitration as Worrell probably could have gotten a $2-3M salary through arbitration and, according to what I read, the D-backs only offered him $1M for one year. Given how penny pinching they have become, they would not risk having to pay double or triple what they wanted to pay for him.

However, given that Sabean wants a reliever, waiting would have enabled another team to suddenly decide that they got to have Worrell and drive up the price. Or worse yet, from Sabean perspective, convince Worrell to sign elsewhere. Then he would have to go after the Carrasco's of the free agent world and I would much rather have Worrell at $2M per year than Carrasco at $3M per year.

Conclusion

All in all, the fans have overreacted. It is not the end of the team, they are still pursuing starting pitchers, then they'll focus on a 1B/OF and a C, which I'm guessing now is probably going to be from the non-tendered group of players. We did not lose the future Albert Pujols or even the future Michael Tucker with the lost draft pick, we most probably would have gotten someone who would have filled a spot on one of our minor league teams for a few years then retire; he will in all likelihood (83% of the time), never do much in the majors besides a cup of coffee and 5% of the time only last less than the three seasons necessary to make arbitration. Is that someone we should cry over in losing the draft pick?

Sabean took a calculated risk which, net, costed us around $1.3M in 2006. They obviously are still planning on spending $7-8M per year on a starting pitcher (Morris is the next target), though his first year could be deferred such that only $4-6M will count against 2006. Then $1-2M for the 1B platoon buddy and $1M or less for the backup catcher. Yes, I would prefer the big splash, which puts at risk the bullpen because we'll be relying on three sophomore pitchers in relief but I understand Sabean's approach and at least it makes some sense, as I outlined above.

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