I thought that it'd be useful to contrast my last post with a post about how it's easy to spend a lot of money and make big changes only to find out that it makes no improvement to the team. Again, like last time, this is not a projection of what will happen, merely a look at the performance of the last couple of years.
Corner Infield - Are you really improving the offense?
The following analysis is purely looking at the offensive side of the equation. We all criticize our poor offense and one of the main aims this off-season should be trying to upgrade it. In order to do that though we will have to focus resources on that ares. The following is not meant to suggest that the additions are worthless or that we shouldn't make them, just that the may not actually improve the offense at all.
Ryan Garko. You can argue as to whether he's classed as an incumbent or not but he's the baseline with which I'm going to make comparisons. Over the last two seasons he's been worth 3.7 runs above average (all runs are taken per 500 AB). Over his career he has a wOBA of .347
- Hank Blalock. I've not heard his name so much on here but it is one name that's come up in the past with regards to the Giants. Over the last 2 seasons he's been worth -1.3 runs above average. For his career he has a wOBA of .340. Difference = - 5 runs (- 0.07 career wOBA)
- Adrian Beltre. His name often comes up and he's been a player I've been very interested in us acquiring previously. Obviously his value comes from his superb defense. Signing him would move Sandoval to 1B which would cause a drop in value. Over the last 2 seasons he's been worth -0.6 runs above average. For his career he has a wOBA of .335. Difference = - 4.3 runs (-0.012 career wOBA)
- Chone Figgins. He's one of the bigger names on the free agency market this year and I've seen a few people who want us to bring him in. He's difficult to peg offensively as he's been very streaky over his career and again would involve moving Sandoval to 1B. Over the last two years he's been worth 6.8 runs above average. For his career he has a wOBA of .339. Difference = 3.1 runs (-0.08 career wOBA)
Now obviously the second two have defensive advantages and are better overall players but there's a very good chance that adding any of the above players wouldn't actually improve our offense at all. That's not to say that we should ignore them, but be aware that the money we'd be spending would be on run prevention and not towards improving our offense.
Outfield - Are you actually improving the team?
The following looks at the opposite side of the spectrum, the possibility of signing offensive players who give back the runs on defense. Again it's not to suggest that you don't want to spend resources on offensive players, but you have to be careful of wasting money on players who aren't going to improve the team with regards to winning games.
Fred Lewis. The incumbent example I'm going to use is everyones favourite. Over the last two seasons he's been worth 2.0 WAR (all WAR are taken per 500 AB due to variable opportunities).
- Vladimir Guerrero. An old favourite. Had a down year offensively this season, but poor defense has hampered him in recent years. Over the last two seasons he's been worth 1.73 WAR (per 500 AB). Difference = - 0.27 WAR
- Bobby Abreu. Recently turned down an extension with the Angels and a possible free agent. An welcome upgrade offensively but poor defense takes away a good portion of his value. Been worth 1.62 WAR over the last two seasons. Difference = - 0.38 WAR
- Jermaine Dye. Mentioned often on here (as a player to avoid) as a free agent. Disappointing offense in two of the last three years and terrible defense make him not very valuable. Over the last two seasons he's been worth 0.73 WAR. Difference = - 1.27 WAR
Obviously improving the offense is important but defense needs considering otherwise the money you're spending may not actually be improving the team at all.
I guess the first important thing to note is not to spend decent money for marginal (or non-existent) upgrades. It's easy to get seduced by a potential offensive upgrade but that upgrade might not be as big as you'd hope (see Dye/Guerrero downturns) and may come with an even bigger cost on defense. The second conclusion to make is to make sure you know what you're paying for. There's nothing wrong with spending money on a Beltre or Figgins in order to help improve the teams run prevention. But also don't be surprised if you end up without upgrading the offense. That's the balancing act that is the tricky part of any of our off-season moves.