Stubbs acquisition could prove to be a good value
January 17, 2013
As news broke of the three-way deal that would land Shin-Soo Choo in Cincinnati, Didi Gregorious in Arizona, and Trevor Bauer in Cleveland, one thing stood out to me. Most fans agreed that the deal was great, even if they had to ‘take on’ Drew Stubbs to make it happen.
Many wanted no part of Stubbs, and it’s not too hard to blame them as the former Reds center fielder didn’t exactly light the world on fire with a .213/.277/.333 slash line last season. His penchant for striking out in 30% of at-bats and relative futility against right-handed pitching are huge causes for concern.
Still, I never looked at Stubbs as an albatross in the deal. In fact, I was happy to have him included.
The offseason additions of Mark Reynolds, Trevor Bauer, Nick Swisher, and Brett Myers have stolen all of the headlines, and rightfully so; however, Stubbs has a chance to be valuable in his own right, and at a cost a fraction of the others. The Indians essentially took on Stubbs for the cost of three million dollars, which is the projected amount of money they’ll be paying him this year once his arbitration status is settled. It reminded me of an NBA trade where a team adds a player into the deal just to make the money equal. Stubbs doesn’t deserve that distinction, he’s much better than that.
I don’t look at Stubbs and see the things he can’t do, which is basically limited to making consistent contact, especially against right-handed pitching. I look at all the things he can do; steal bases, mash left-handed pitching, and play great all-around outfield defense. Stubbs has stolen 100 bases over the last three years, is considered a Gold Glove caliber centerfielder, and has an .821 career OPS against left-handers.
Those are three traits that this team has sorely lacked in years past.
The Indians are not going to be relying on Stubbs to lead the team to the postseason. The general disdain over acquiring him was confusing considering the amount of at-bats over the last few years the Indians have given to inferior players. At worst, for three million dollars, the Indians have added a top notch platoon player who will serve Terry Francona well as a late-game pinch runner or defensive replacement. At best, you are getting a four-tool center fielder that is cost controlled for three more years and has age (28) working in his favor.
The latter may seem optimistic, but the only real tool Stubbs doesn’t possess is the ability to hit for average. His slugging numbers have dropped in recent seasons, and are certainly inflated by playing in Cincinnati, but he does have some pop in his bat. He’s a decent bounce back candidate who, considering other options should play every day. His .213 batting average in 2012 was primarily the result of a BABIP that was 30 points below his career average and should not be considered the norm for him moving forward. For what it's worth, Bill James projects Stubbs to have a .246/.311/.390 slash line in 2013, and his BABIP to rise back to 2010-2011 levels.
Those numbers nearly mirror his career averages.
If Stubbs hits around his career numbers without any drop-off in his defense, he’s going to be very useful to the Indians. He’d be an upgrade offensively from their group of left fielders we played in 2012 and would improve the defense in center field and left field, with Michael Brantley sliding over to his more natural position. Useful is just the base line for a description of Stubbs’ value. His projected offensive numbers combined with his base running prowess and solid defense should account for something around a 2.5 WAR. For comparison sake, due primarily because of his diminishing defense, Choo himself posted only a 2.6 WAR in 2012.
Stubbs and Choo are very different players and it’s hard to quantify those differences, but in receiving Stubbs in return the Indians were able to get a cost controlled guy who has the ability to replace a lot of Choo’s production. That’s before even getting to the fact that Trevor Bauer was included in the deal and the Indians signed Nick Swisher to replace Choo’s production anyway. We look at the trade with Cincinnati and applaud that it helped fill the biggest hole in the organization; talented young MLB ready pitching. If Stubbs' combination of talents out-performs Choo, they would have filled that hole without any hit to the Major League roster.
Stubbs certainly doesn’t have to outperform Choo. At his salary and at the cost it took to acquire him, Stubbs is a coup unless he completely flames out. He’s basically on a one-year deal as he can be non-tendered at the end of the season, so the team isn’t locked into him long-term. Without Stubbs in the Trevor Bauer deal the Indians would have been filling a hole while opening another. Stubbs fills that hole, allowing management to focus on improving other areas of the club. If he struggles he’ll certainly be moved into a platoon role and likely let go at the end of the season.
In the end, the Stubbs acquisition holds very little risk, but the upside is considerable.
In regard to his batted ball info...line drive rates can vary some from year to year, as this information is based on a subjective view of the batted ball. A line drive to one person could be considered a fly ball to another. Stubbs' LD rate has jumped around his entire career, so I don't think it makes much sense to use that as a predictor of his future BABIP.
Something that should be noted, however, is that while Stubbs posed the highest K% of his career in 2012, his whiff rate was actually the lowest it's been since 2009, not much higher than league average. So the notion that his contact ability is declining is probably premature. He could very well improve his K rate in 2013 even if he doesn't make any more contact.
like to see Fedroff get a shot. not enthused about Zeke. don't see LF as Brantley's natural position. he did a fine job in CF and see no problem with moving him between Cf and LF and platooning Drew. If he can mash lefties and Fedroff is able to mash righties it's a no brainier - said with all fingers crossed
Should his BABIP bounce back to his career or expected levels (as predicted using an xBABIP calculator) and he should see his avg back in the .240-.250 range, his OBP would be back in the mid .320's, meanwhile he'd be posting ~15-20 HR, and ~30-40 SB.
Stubbs, when he's playing well, is truly a Sizemore-lite. Excellent defense, speed, and solid power, poor contact and a penchant for striking out too much and not walking enough. A guy like that has immense value. I really believe that part of his problem was the hype he faced in Cincinnati that he couldn't live up to. He's a tremendously useful piece to have.
Great point. The line drive rate is concerning, though he only was at 15.5% in 2010. I would hope that even with a number as high as a 50% GB percentage a player with his speed would have a BABIP over .300. The .213 average should still be an anomaly.
I'd be willing to say he hits .240+ w/ 15+ hrs and 30+ steals as well.
Stubbs is easily one of the best CF in the game w/ an arm that could easily play in RF. overall, solid add coupled with Bauer, etc. for Choo. Hard not to like the return and potential from all of those pieces.
My belief is that Stubbs won't be hitting .220 moving forward. He was a victim of poor luck in 2012 with a BABIP over thirty points below his career average. I think we'll find he's close to the player from 2011, versus the 2010 or 2012 versions. Adding in his defense and base-running into the equation, that player has value and we got him for next to nothing.
I appreciate the feedback everyone! Thank you.
He failed to be the dynamic on-base guy with pop to anchor lead-off. And in every other position in the order where Baker tried him he was a dissappointment.
Yes the price for Power as far as strike outs sucks.
And yes, as has been often pointed out at IPI concerning Stubbs - even the vaunted defense was never consistantly as quality as expected.
Which is why the Indians have a shot to cash in on the rebound - if there is one.
But. Having once been considered one of the best of his class nationally, failure for a player like Stubbs has to be judged outside of just the moneyball quantum math.
Cincy is expected to win now. Stubbs was expected to be a main ingredient of a team that expects to contend for the brass ring. He failed. But can you really say his wipe out was anything like a Laporta? Really?
Laporta didn't face the crucible of expecting to contend and win - not on par with Stubbs in Cincy.
Moreso, STUBBS WAS VALUABLE even when dissappointing.
I mean the step back Cincy took in '11 had plenty of under achieving examples beyond Stubbs.
People said much the same thing several years ago about Alex Gordon in KC. Another Cincy example is Austin Kerns - who - after being written off as a wunderkind gone bust - went on to be just the kind of valuable player Michael is writing about.
What is really exciting about Stubbs is he could be much much better - and we could have him cheap for a couple of years.
For a small market team - esspecially one with very little in the minors at an important position - these are just the kind of moves you have to make.
Kuddo's Michael. Kuddo's to the F/O for landing this kind of possibility for the loss of SS. Choo.