Saturday, February 27, 2010

Pirates' Salary Chart - The Pedro Years (Part 2 - Arb Years)

When we left off the last post, we were at the end of 2013 and the payroll was $54M. This post will look at 2014-2016, the arbitration years of Pedro Alvarez and other key players (Cutch-22, Tabata, Lincoln, Ohlendorf, and others).

Position Player Est. Salary
C Sanchez $440,000
1B Jones $7,000,000
2B D'Arnaud $1,500,000
SS FA $8,000,000
3B Alvarez $4,500,000
LF Marte $440,000
CF McCutchen $6,500,000
RF Tabata $2,000,000

Bench FA C $750,000
Bench Friday $1,000,000
Bench FA OF $2,000,000
Bench FA INF $1,500,000
Bench FA OF/Rookie $500,000

SP FA $10,000,000
SP Ohlendorf $8,000,000
SP Morton $6,000,000
SP Lincoln $4,000,000
SP Locke $440,000

RP Meek $3,500,000
RP Uviedo $1,000,000
RP Moreno $440,000
RP Aguero $1,000,000
RP FA/Rook $500,000
RP Owens $440,000
RP FA/Rook $500,000
Total $71,950,000

Wow...that escalated quickly. The jump from $54M to $72M shows that eventually, in order to keep the gang together, Nutting will have to spend more money. Will the masses understand that the team will be low-cost up until 2014, though?

Position Player Est. Salary
C Sanchez $2,000,000
1B Jones $10,000,000
2B D'Arnaud $3,000,000
SS FA $8,000,000
3B Alvarez $7,500,000
LF Marte $2,000,000
CF McCutchen $10,500,000
RF Tabata $3,500,000

Bench FA C $750,000
Bench Friday $2,000,000
Bench FA OF $2,000,000
Bench FA INF $1,000,000
Bench FA OF/Rookie $500,000

SP FA $10,000,000
SP FA $8,000,000
SP Lincoln $7,000,000
SP Locke $1,500,000
SP FA/Rook $500,000

RP Uviedo $2,000,000
RP Owens $1,000,000
RP Moreno $1,000,000
RP Aguero $2,000,000
RP FA/Rook $500,000
RP FA/Rook $750,000
RP FA/Rook $500,000
Total $87,500,000

If spending $72M didn't curl Nutting's hair, spending $87.5M surely will. Don't look now, but this is a legitimate MLB payroll. Under my assumption that no one would stay past their current obligation, this is Garrett Jones and Cutch-22's last year. You can see that those two, plus Alvarez, are $28M themselves...underscoring the cost of keeping key people. I kind of used a Ryan Howard/Prince Fielder hybrid for an arbitration guess on Pedro, by the way.

Position Player Est. Salary
C Sanchez $3,500,000
1B Alvarez $12,500,000
2B D'Arnaud $5,000,000
SS FA $5,000,000
3B FA $7,000,000
LF Marte $3,500,000
CF FA/Rook $1,000,000
RF Tabata $7,000,000

Bench FA C $750,000
Bench FA INF $1,000,000
Bench FA OF $2,000,000
Bench FA INF $1,000,000
Bench FA OF/Rookie $500,000

SP FA $10,000,000
SP FA $8,000,000
SP FA $7,000,000
SP Locke $3,000,000
SP FA/Rook $500,000

RP Uviedo $3,500,000
RP Owens $2,000,000
RP Moreno $2,000,000
RP FA/Rook $750,000
RP FA/Rook $500,000
RP FA/Rook $750,000
RP FA/Rook $500,000
Total $88,250,000

The payroll stayed relatively flat in Pedro's last year, as he moves over to 1B to take Jones' place. Cutch-22 has, sadly, departed and his $10.5M comes off the books to be re-distributed.

So there's a rough look at what it may take to keep the core of this "dynasty" together. Ultimately, the number is what people want the Pirates to be spending in 2010 and it took until 2014/2015 to get there.

But that's what having a good, productive farm can do for you. If you have a guy who can replicate a season of a veteran, but you can pay him the minimum, you trade the veteran. I always use the lava analogy...when magma comes up to the surface and becomes lava, it pushes aside the old dried up material to force its way through.

I would like to think that somewhere within the bowels of PNC Park, Dan Fox and his team have done something just like this already.

Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments....

Friday, February 26, 2010

Pirates' Salary Chart - The Pedro Years (Part 1)

One of the refrains you hear from the general public is that the Pirates don't spend enough on payroll. And to a large extent, they are correct. Obviously, there is a basic correlation between money and winning if you look at the records of recent playoff teams. However, every once in a while a Tampa Rays 2008 sneaks into the equation.

The Pirates' short and medium-term future is going to be defined by the success of one player -- Pedro Alvarez. The Pirates, rightly so, are going to game his service time by bringing him up in early June 2010. That way, this year is a "bonus" year and we will control his rights thru the end of the 2016 season.

The Pirates must do everything they can to try and win during this period, because with Scott Boras as a client, Alvarez will most likely be gone after that 2016 season.

With all of these pre-arb players, though, where will the Pirates spend money? This first post will look at Pedro's pre-arb years (the 2010 "freebie" season, and 2011-2013). Cot's Baseball Contracts was used as a starting point by looking at the salaries. Arb years are guesstimates based on recent similar players.

I assumed that most players would serve out their contracts, unless there was a key player ready to take their place. I did not assume anyone would resign after their current contract expired.

The payroll is virtually set for 2010, but it should still be shown as a starting point:
Position Player Est. Salary
C Doumit $3,650,000
1B Clement $420,000
2B Iwamura $4,850,000
SS Cedeno $1,125,000
3B Laroche/Alvarez $2,500,000
LF Milledge $470,000
CF McCutchen $420,000
RF Jones $420,000

Bench Jaramillo $420,000
Bench Crosby $1,000,000
Bench Church $1,500,000
Bench Vazquez $2,125,000
Bench Young $420,000

SP Maholm $5,000,000
SP Duke $4,300,000
SP Ohlendorf $440,000
SP Morton $420,000
SP McCutchen $400,000

RP Dotel $3,250,000
RP Hanrahan $440,000
RP Meek $420,000
RP Donnelly $1,350,000
RP Carrasco $950,000
RP Lopez $775,000
RP Hart $420,000
Total $37,485,000

Here's 2011's potential salary committment:
Position Player Est. Salary
C Doumit $5,200,000
1B Jones $440,000
2B D'Arnaud $400,000
SS Cedeno $2,500,000
3B Alvarez $2,050,000
LF Milledge $1,500,000
CF McCutchen $440,000
RF Tabata $400,000

Bench Jaramillo $440,000
Bench Friday $400,000
Bench FA OF $1,500,000
Bench Clement $440,000
Bench Laroche $1,500,000

SP Maholm $6,250,000
SP Duke $6,500,000
SP Ohlendorf $2,000,000
SP Morton $440,000
SP Lincoln $420,000

RP Dotel $4,500,000
RP Hanrahan $1,200,000
RP Meek $440,000
RP Aguero $400,000
RP Uviedo $400,000
RP LHP $500,000
RP Hart $440,000
Total $40,700,000

Alvarez's salary from 2009-2012 is $2+M due to his bonus being spread out over those 4 years, plus he gets slightly higher than the min salary. As you can see, a lot of the slots can be filled with decent in-house options.

The key, though, is getting incrementally better. So if you have the chance to upgrade a position with a good free agent, but it cost (gasp!) money, the Nuttings need to do it. The salary number of $40.7M isn't that much higher than 2010...due to the low costs of key players.

Position Player Est. Salary
C Sanchez $400,000
1B Jones $2,000,000
2B D'Arnaud $420,000
SS FA $4,000,000
3B Alvarez $2,200,000
LF Milledge $3,200,000
CF McCutchen $500,000
RF Tabata $420,000

Bench Jaramillo $1,000,000
Bench Friday $420,000
Bench Marte $400,000
Bench FA $2,000,000
Bench Laroche $3,000,000

SP FA $8,000,000
SP Ohlendorf $4,000,000
SP Morton $2,000,000
SP Lincoln $440,000
SP Locke $400,000

RP Hanrahan $2,500,000
RP Meek $1,000,000
RP Moreno $400,000
RP Aguero $420,000
RP Uviedo $420,000
RP Owens $400,000
RP Hart $800,000
Total $40,740,000

The payroll is virtually unchanged from 2011, due to Doumit coming off the books and Sanchez making the minimum. I did allocate for the Pirates to go get a SP for $8M and find a FA SS, as well, though.

During this exercise, I was very reticent to assume too many promotions from our minors. I made the cut off players that would start 2010 in A+ or higher. I would love to project ZVR or Cunningham or Cain, but they are still hazy question marks right now.

And in the final year of this post, 2013:
Position Player Est. Salary
C Sanchez $420,000
1B Jones $4,500,000
2B D'Arnaud $440,000
SS FA $6,000,000
3B Alvarez $700,000
LF Marte $420,000
CF McCutchen $3,500,000
RF Tabata $440,000

Bench Jaramillo $2,000,000
Bench Friday $440,000
Bench FA OF $1,500,000
Bench FA INF $1,500,000
Bench FA OF $2,000,000

SP FA $8,000,000
SP Ohlendorf $6,000,000
SP Morton $4,000,000
SP Lincoln $2,000,000
SP Locke $420,000

RP Hanrahan $4,500,000
RP Meek $2,000,000
RP Moreno $420,000
RP Aguero $440,000
RP Uviedo $440,000
RP Owens $420,000
RP Hart $1,500,000
Total $54,000,000

OK, the payroll jumped up from just under $41M to $54M, due to our players starting to get more expensive like Cutch-22 hitting arb for the first time, and the natural progressions of some of the pitchers. Interestingly, Alvarez's salary "drops" to $700K, due to his bonus going away from the committment.

$54M may field a competitive team, but it will still not be enough to keep the general public from questioning the committment of the Nuttings. That will depend on how they fill these FA gaps that I have shown.

The next set of posts will show Pedro's arb years, which also coincide with McCutchen/Tabata/Lincoln's arb years, as well.

Where would you spend the money to upgrade?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Cadillac Ranch - Stunningly Average

I went, DB~-less, to Cadillac Ranch with my parents and my nephew. It was his 16th birthday and we wanted to take him out for a dinner of his choice. After some hemming and hawing, he settled on this place.


I had read some online reviews that were less than flattering, so my expectations were set low to start. My dad and I had burgers and they were just OK.

My biggest pet peeve at restaurants? When the server doesn't write your order down when they take it. That's an invitation to getting your order screwed up. Instead of my kettle chips, I got fries. It then took an additional 15 minutes to get my chips...which by that time, I had finished my burger.

And after waiting all that time for the chips, they were bland and tasted like cardboard.

The place is so noisy you can't hear anyone at your table. The servers seem to be overworked with too many tables, as it took way too long to get drinks refilled.

Not even the lure of the mechanical bull will get me back here anytime soon.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Short post - Happy Mardi Gras!

This is rapidly turning into I Heart New Orleans blog, so after this I'm going to scale back on the New Orleans posts for a while (teaser: Phoenix is next!).

DB~ and I had a makeshift in-house Mardi Gras tonight. Originally we were going to go to Hofbrauhaus (of all places) as they were having a Mardi Gras celebration, complete with a Cajun-themed menu....but we got bummed out by the continuous amounts of snowfall. We stayed in and made Hurricanes for ourselves (I'm actually typing this with a slight buzz thanks to 2 of these potent drinks).

The pic is a list of the ingredients of a Hurricane, minus the pineapple juice. Here's the list for 1 single serving Hurricane:
1 oz white rum
1 oz dark rum
1 oz Bacardi 151
3 oz orange juice
3 oz pineapple juice
1/2 oz Grenadine
crushed ice

Wish I (we) were on Bourbon Street!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cutch-22's potential long-term contract


No, Andrew McCutchen did not sign a long-term contract or has even been offered one by the Pirates. But fast-forward to the All-Star Break this year....the Pirates have called up Pedro Alvarez, Brad Lincoln, and possibly Jose Tabata. Combined with Cutch-22 and some complementary pieces like Garrett Jones and Lastings Milledge, you can squint and see a respectable team forming on the horizon.

By the All-Star break 2010, Cutch-22 will have just over a full year in the majors. If he has avoided the sophomore slump, I would like to see the Pirates present him with a long-term contract to keep in the black and gold, patrolling CF of PNC Park, for a long time.

The contract that I would use as a template is Grady Sizemore's current deal, signed after he had 1 year and 1 month in the majors as well. It was signed in March of 2006 (he was called up late in 2004). The amounts for Sizemore were/are:
2006 (his 2nd pre-arb year) $500,000
2007 (his 3rd pre-arb year) $750,000
2008 (his 1st arb year) $3,000,000
2009 (his 2nd arb year) $4,600,000
2010 (his 3rd arb year) $5,600,000
2011 (his 1st FA year) $7,500,000
2012 (his 2nd FA year) $8,500,000 club option

Taking out his cup of coffee in 2004, Sizemore has been worth 27.2 Wins Above Replacement over his first 5 years, which even accounts for his injury-plagued 2009 campaign. He is averaging 5.4 WAR/year, which is worth $24.3M/year on the free agent market. Let's all agree that he has been a steal for the Indians.

Here's the strange part...take a look at Sizemore's 2005, his first full season
.289/.348/.484 (832 OPS) with 22 HR, 37 2B, 11 3B and 22 Steals

Here's Andrew's 2009, exactly 2/3 of a season...
.286/.365/.471 (836 OPS) with 12 HR, 26 2B, 9 3B and 22 Steals
It's not hard to increase those numbers by 50% and see that their two seasons were nearly identical.

Now, Sizemore has a touch more HR power than Cutch-22 may ever have, but they are in the same discussion in terms of type of player and ceiling.

Why is this contract good for Andrew McCutchen?
1. It provides long-term guaranteed financial security. That money is his no matter if he suffers a career-ending injury the day after signing it, has a horrible slump and never reaches the heights of his rookie season or his potential, or any other unforeseen circumstance.

2. It gives him a shade more money in his first 3 years of the contract that he would make going year to year. Yes, it's minor change, but I imagine in a clubhouse the pecking order is how much money you make.

3. It shows him that the Pirates want him to be a cornerstone. No, don't compare this to McLouth. I think we can all agree that a 23 year old Andrew has a little more long-term promise than 27 year old Nate.

Why is this contract good for the Pirates?
1. It gives them cost certainty on one of their potential superstars. Assume that Cutch-22 is a consistent 4 WAR player. His FA worth would be $18M/year (think Torii Hunter). Using the 20%/40%/60% of arbitration, you could be looking at $3.6M, $7.2M, and $10.8M in arb potentially going year to year. This potential contract saved them huge money in the last 2 arb years and buys out 2 FA years.
As a reference, BJ Upton is asking for $3.3M in arb with the Rays. Hunter Pence signed for $3.5M with the Astros after asking for $4.1M.

2. It shows the public that they are serious about locking up the core. The Pirates before moving into PNC signed Kendall and Giles to multi-year deals and got a huge bump in public support. The Pirates, with a much more jaded public, got a mini-bump of support when they recently signed Maholm, Doumit, and McLouth to multi-year deals. But this would trump them all. The Pirates will sink or swim with Cutch-22 and Alvarez.

3. It sends a message to the league. The Pirates are serious about winning and not just growing players for the bigger teams to poach. It could have a small effect on future free agent dealings.

In the past, I have advocated for a max length of 5 years for a position player contract. I'm going to break my own rule for this one. Cutch-22 is a special player and is the first player in my post-college life (read: adult life) that I want to see start and finish his career as a Pittsburgh Pirate.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

2010 NL Central - by WAR

By now, after 3 posts that professed my love of the stat WAR (Wins Above Replacement), it's probably evident that I am a supporter of it as a predictive tool.

Check the sidebar labels under "WAR" to see the 3 part series in which I explained WAR, examined how it did as a predictive tool in 2009, and how it may forecast the Pirates in 2010.

I decided to expand on that thought and use WAR to forecast all the teams in the NL Central. Now keep in mind, these are my estimates (not Fangraphs) based on past WAR totals for each individual player projected to start for the teams. After I did a detailed one for the Pirates, with each projected 25 man roster spot, a couple of things were evident:
1. Your bench does not contribute much WAR, due to lack of playing time. For the Pirates, the bench was 0.0. For the rest of the teams, I assumed a WAR of 1 for the bench, except the Astros got a 0.0
2. The bullpen does not contribute much either. Again, due to playing time (and the chaining effect detailed by Dave Cameron at Fangraphs), the bullpens ranged from 3-4 for the NL Central.

I did go player by player in a nerdy Excel spreadsheet for the rest of the starters, both batters and pitchers. Here are the overall results:
1. STL (48 baseline wins + 28.5 bat + 18 pitch) = 94.5
2. CHC (48 + 21.5 bat + 17 pitch) = 86.5
3. CIN (48 + 23 bat + 13.5 pitch) = 84.5
4. MIL (48 + 22.5 bat + 13.5 pitch) = 84
5. PIT (48 + 17.5 bat + 12 pitch) = 77.5
6. HOU (48 + 17 bat + 12 pitch) = 77

Some of the totals seem a little high to me, but remember that a +/- of 4 wins is very acceptable and easy to do over the course of a year. Also, part 2 of the WAR series showed that WAR was a great predictor of the "order" of the standings within a division, even if the totals were a little off.

When you do an exercise like this and expand your scope, you come to realize just how much more talent the Pirates need. That's no surprise in and of itself, but once you see in black and white how they compare, it's startling. Here is a position by position ranking of where the Pirates stand within the division.
C - 3rd of 6 (Doumit with 2, leader Molina STL 3.5)
1B - 6th of 6 (Clement with 0.5, leader Pujols STL 8)
2B - 2nd(t) of 6 (Iwamura with 2, leader Phillips CIN 3.5)
SS - 5th of 6 (Cedeno with 1, leader Ryan STL/Theriot CHC 3)
3B - 1st(t) of 6 (Laroche/Alvarez with 3.5, tied with Rolen CIN 3.5)
LF - 4th(t) of 6 (Milledge with 2, leader Holliday STL 5.5, but 4th/5th/6th all 2.0)
CF - 1st of 6 (McCutchen with 4, next closest Bourn HOU/Rasmus STL/Byrd CHC 3.0)
RF - 2nd(t) of 6 (Jones with 2.5, leader Pence HOU 3.5)

Without going into each SP, let me just put this into context a little bit. The Pirates top pitcher, Maholm with 3 WAR, would be tied for 8th. Carpenter and Wainwright for STL are both 5 WAR pitchers.

Although it doesn't seem like much, 1 and 2 WAR here and there add up over the course of a roster. As you can see above, the Pirates are woefully behind at 1B. The next closest to them is Berkman HOU and Lee CHC at 4 WAR. The Pirates need to inject talent wherever they can get it, but right now 1B, SS, and SP are the obvious areas.

That's why if Laroche improves his hitting and maintains his good fielding, he can be a 3-4 WAR player at 3B, allowing us to move Alvarez and his 4-5 WAR potential to 1B. If you add a competent SS at 2-3 WAR and a SP at 4-5 WAR, you have just added 7 wins to the roster. That's how the Pirates will break this losing skien that they have been on the past eternity.

If you have any questions about WAR's for specific players, let me know in the comments.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Shrimp Etouffee

In keeping with my goal of sharing a recipe that reminds me of a city that I post about, I present Shrimp Etouffee - a Cajun delight.

Etouffee means "smothered" in French, as this dish is served over steamed white rice. This dish has a nice smooth consistency that allows it to soak into the rice.

I recommend serving it with some crusty bread and a light salad. It is a filling dish in and of itself.

I have modified this recipe slightly from one that is in the cookbook Cajun Revelation.

1-1/2 cups butter, divided in 3 portions
1/3 cup flour
1 small white onion, finely diced
1/3 cup finely diced bell pepper
3/4 cup finely diced celery
1/4 cup chopped green onion bottoms
2 tablespoons paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 teaspoon garlic
3 tablespoons chicken bouillon (try to use powder, not cubes)
1 quart water
1 lb shrimp (use Wild Gulf Shrimp - support the N.O. economy!)
1/2 cup chopped green onion tops

Combine 1/2 cup butter (this is 1 stick) and 1/3 cup flour in a small saucepan. You are making a roux, the base of the whole dish, so stir carefully while cooking for 3 minutes over medium-high heat. It should be a blond roux. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a 4 quart saucepan or pasta pot, add 1/2 cup butter, onion, bell pepper, celery, and green onion bottoms. Cook over medium heat while stirring for 8 minutes. Add paprika, black pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic, and bouillon. Cook 2 minutes while stirring. Add 1 quart water and bring to a boil for 5 minutes.

Add reserved roux and stir well with a whisk. Reduce heat to medium and boil for 3 minutes. Add shrimp, green onion tops, and stir in last 1/2 cup of butter. Turn heat to low until ready to serve. Pour over portion of white rice.

This makes 12 servings, so adjust the recipe sizing as needed.

This recipe holds a special place in my heart for multiple reasons. One, is that it reminds me of New Orleans, probably one the top 3 places in the country for food as a city. Two, this is a recipe that is a "restaurant quality" dish of mine, so I like making it. And three, it is the recipe that I used to surprise DB~ when we were first dating. I had the whole downstairs set up as a Mardi Gras for her, complete with streamers, coins, beads, and masks, the whole nine yards. Maybe without this dish we wouldn't be together!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

New Orleans - things we build don't last forever

As I mentioned in my first New Orleans post (New Orleans - that voodoo you do), this city would be one that I would periodically re-visit, due to the many facets of it that I would like to share.

The last time I was in New Orleans was May 2008. It was my 3rd time in the city, but first post-Katrina cleanup. Even though the event happened 2-1/2 years prior, I was sure that there would still be some reminders about it.

On this trip I was meeting my cousin, who was in town for a work conference, and then that weekend some friends of his were coming down for a bachelor party. Since I got there on a Thursday, that meant I had a lot of free time to explore on my own (this was pre-DB~!!).

I wanted to go off the beaten path and get "gritty" on this trip...feel like a resident of the city. So I crossed the river on the Canal Street Ferry (for free!) to Algiers, one of the working class neighborhoods of New Orleans. I was surprised by a few things in Algiers -- one was that some of the homes were gorgeous (pictured above) as they were painted bright colors and had a lot of "shiny extras" on them. This was also where one of the main hubs of Mardi Gras originates from, but I did not have time to take the tour of the warehouse. The second thing I learned was that Algiers got real shady, real quick once you got off the waterfront streets. There were a large amount of homes that still had the kiss of Katrina on them -- roofs collapsed, boards on windows, burned/charred remains. But this was what I wanted to see. The third thing I learned was that there are not a lot of places to eat on Algiers! I ate at a seafood/deli that had bars on the windows. Granted, the food was really good and honest, but that was a change-up.

The next morning was Friday and my cousin needed the morning for his conference, so I took the St. Charles Streetcar through the Garden District (plantation home above). I had no destination in mind, which is how good trips happen, so I rode the Streetcar to its terminus and got off. I walked around this end of the Garden District, which was nearly 100% back to itself, and found a great local diner. Unfortunately, I can't remember the name of it, but it was a 50's style diner and the menu had a red rose on it. The waitstaff were extremely friendly and I ended up sitting at the counter with two girls from Buffalo who sort of wandered into this place too.

The title of this post "The Things We Build Don't Last Forever" is the title of an Ellen Goodman column. In it, she laments how in New England the stone walls that were erected hundreds of years ago eventually fall into disrepair. She compared that to a sad event that was happening in her then-current life. That column resonated with me because of a very sad event that happened in my life. I thought that, like New Orleans did with its levees, I had built something that would protect me and allow me to flourish for the rest of my life. For me, that was not true.

Recently, I've learned that sometimes you do get a second chance to rebuild and if you do it right, it can be better than before.

New Orleans -- you need to learn this lesson too.