Sabtu, 31 Desember 2011

Reduilding: You're Doing it Wrong or Trade Review: Quentin to San Diego

In the early hours of New Year's Eve, the White Sox made a pseudo-rebuilding trade, shifting Carlos "Second-Best Hitter On the Team" Quentin to the San Diego Padres in return for a pair of non-prospects in Simon Castro and Pedro Hernandez. This marks a classic 'What the #&$! am I doing?' trade from a pair of 'What the #&!$ are they doing?' GMs, Chicago's Kenny Williams and Josh Byrnes of the Padres.

What do the Padres get?

Carlos Quentin, in all his decent-hitting, poor-fielding glory. Quentin is a pretty good hitter, posting a 124 OPS+ in 118 games in 2011, but that's really where the flattery ends. He is a poor corner outfielder, meaning he's an ideal DH candidate. He has struggled to stay healthy, playing an average of 116 games since 2009, topping out at 131 in 2010.

The big detriment of Quentin in San Diego is that his skills align very poorly for PETCO Park. He was a bad outfielder in the cozy confines of US Cellular Field and getting DH breaks, but in PETCO he will be exposed even more and should make a run at the title of least valuable fielder in baseball in 2012. Some of this may be offset by Cameron Maybin, San Diego's fantastic center fielder, and that may have been on the Padres' mind when they pulled the trigger for this move, but Andruw Jones couldn't make Quentin look like a good outfielder. Additionally, Maybin won't be able to cheat into right field, as he will have to protect terrifically bad Yonder Alonso in left (barring a trade of Anthony Rizzo, facilitating a return to first for Alonso).

Additionally, Quentin's offense does not apply itself well to the type of park that PETCO is. Quentin is not a line-drive hitter, which is the type of hitter that most takes advantage of a spacious ballpark, with a career LD-rate of just 17% (2% below league-average). He is a fly ball hitter, the kind that are typically ruined in the PETCOs of the league. According to his HitTracker charts he would lose four of his 2011 home runs by playing in PETCO. Moreover, PETCO is particularly rough on right-handed hitters. It is an awful hitters' park overall, as its 81 tOPS+ will attest, but it is even worse on righties, who OPS+d just 77 there compared to the rest of the league, meaning that PETCO took a staggering 23% of their value -- the worst in the NL. Compare this with US Cellular, where righties were actually at 102, and you can see that Quentin's value is in for a hit.

So that's what San Diego is getting: a bad fielder who will probably hit at an above-average pace, but is likely to struggle to stay on the field as well. There is also some talk that Quentin may bring the Padres a draft pick next offseason, but that remains to be seen.

What do the White Sox get?

Primarily, a salary dump. MLB Trade Rumors has Quentin projected to earn $7.5 MM in 2012, his third season of arbitration, and, as Kenny Williams tries to shed salary and rebuild (I think?), dropping $7.5 MM is always a plus.

Chicago also pulled in a pair of minor league arms that may or may not contribute at the major league level. Simon Castro was a top-100 prospect in each of the last two years, but will be 24 in 2012 and has struggled mightily at the Triple-A level, with a 9.50 ERA and and a 1.13 K/BB in 8 starts. Williams claims that Chicago knows how to turn him around, and if this is true, Castro's deep arsenal of quality pitches could make him a plus reliever or solid back-of-the-rotation starter, but the odds of this are slim.

Pedro Hernandez is kind of a nobody. He throws a ton of strikes and features a plus change, and someday may get MLB hitters out, but he is youngish, and probably not ready for that next step yet. John Sickels rated him as a level-C prospect.

The Winner

I can't pick one. I would almost say Chicago: one year of Quentin does virtually nothing for them, as they should not compete in 2012, they save $7.5 MM, and get a couple of guys that, if the breaks go right, could be MLB contributors. That having been said, I think this was timed poorly. Quentin would almost certainly have fetched a better return in mid-season, especially if he'd performed well in the first half. I think Kenny Williams rushed this, or was forced to take the first decent deal by an ownership that is eager to renege on their monstrous, underachieving 2011 payroll.

The Loser

I think both clubs will come to regret this trade in some way, but the big loser here is Quentin. If he had stayed in Chicago, put up a decent year, took a crack at 30 home runs, he was one of the bigger hitters in next year's free agent class, drawing competition from guys like BJ Upton and Marlon Byrd. In San Diego, his offensive numbers will take a big hit, and I predict him to be exposed as a terrible fielder, all things that will scare away potential suitors. Josh Willingham got $21 MM from the Twins recently, and Quentin could have been looking at a $10 MM AAV deal with a strong 2012, but the odds of that happening are small indeed.

The Bottom Line

As is becoming custom, Kenny Williams is having trouble figuring out which direction his team is going. Similarly typical, Josh Byrnes is content building a 'good enough' team. When counting things like salary relief, Chicago probably walked away in better shape from this deal, but Williams probably timed it poorly, and got a worse return than he should have.

Breakout, Bust, or Rebound?- Part Eight: Joe Mauer

Few players in the history of the game have taken over a town the way that Joe Mauer has.  When we think of players that have done this, we consider guys like Derek Jeter in New York and Albert Pujols in St. Louis.  The excitement for Mauer started when he was drafted first overall in 2001 as the hometown guy over then-stud prospect Mark Prior out of USC.  The excitement really built up in Mauer's early career, where he won a batting title at 23 and another one at 25.  Then, everything came together for Joe in a rather incredible 2009 MVP season, where he lead the league in BA, OBP, SLG, OPS, and OPS+ as a catcher.  During that season, Mauer put up some insane numbers:

.365 BA/ .444 OBP/ .587 SLG (170 OPS+)/ 7.5 WAR (7.2 oWAR/ 0.3 dWAR)
Yes, everything clicked in that 2009 season from Mauer.  After missing the first month of the season, he put on a show, putting up numbers that were incredible.  However, one thing happened in 2009 that began the start of a noticeable trend for Mauer: He started playing many more games at DH, which hurt his overall value.  This is only one of the things that started a downward trend for Mauer.  To put the trend into perspective, here are some rates for Mauer, which start with end results and then shift towards other rates:
2009: .365 BA/ .444 OBP/ .587 SLG (170 OPS+)/ 7.5 WAR (7.2 oWAR/ 0.3 dWAR)- 80% G at C
2010: .327 BA/ .402 OBP/ .469 SLG (140 OPS+)/ 5.9 WAR (5.5 oWAR/ 0.4 dWAR)- 83% G at C
2011: .287 BA/ .360 OBP/ .368 SLG (103 OPS+)/ 1.7 WAR (1.4 oWAR/ 0.3 dWAR)- 60% G at C
And here are the other rates:
2009: 12.5% BB/ 10.4% K/ .222 ISO/ .373 BABIP
2010: 11.1% BB/   9.1% K/ .141 ISO/ .348 BABIP
2011:   9.6% BB /11.4% K/ .081 ISO/ .319 BABIP
Look familiar?  It should, because it's a similar trend line to what happened to Hanley Ramirez down in Florida.  However, the two trend lines (as similar as they may seem), are very different.  Let's look at a few of the ways they are different:
1) Target Field.

The Twins' new ballpark posted a 95 rating for hitters (5% below average) in 2011, which greatly favors pitchers.  In its final year, the Metrodome posted a rating of 103, which is 3% above average and solidly favors hitters.  This rather drastic change in run environment is going to cause a downward trend in anyone's overall numbers.  Because of the move, the drop in production wasn't as severe as most people would think, as 2010 was a 5.5 oWAR season for Mauer, which was good for 4th best in his career.  Hanley did not have to deal with a change in park at all.
2) Injuries
Unlike Hanley Ramirez, Joe Mauer's injuries are the type that really don't look to impact him in the future.  The shoulder injury that has plagued Ramirez over the past two years could potentially affect his play for the rest of his career.  Joe Mauer hasn't seen injury issues like that, as he was diagnosed with things like pneumonia and bilateral leg weakness, which are short-term illnesses that sap an individual's strength.  Attempting to come back from those illnesses in the middle of the season does not allow a player to gain his full strength, as he loses stamina from playing games and isn't allowed to work out as hard as he needs to in order to return to top form.
3) Stabilizing skills
When you look at Joe Mauer's recent rates, it's tough to say that he's really in true regression.  Yes, the numbers would point to that if you took them completely out of context, but let's consider a few things that impact this trend:
For starters, 2009 was an absolutely unreal year for Joe Mauer, much like it was for Hanley Ramirez.  However, Mauer's year puts the term "career year" on a whole new level.  here are some of Mauer's rates from 2009 compared to his career averages:
12.5 BB% vs. 11.9 BB%
.222 ISO vs. .148 ISO
.373 BABIP vs. .342 BABIP
20.4% HR/FB vs. 10.2% HR/FB
So rather than say he's truly regressing from 2009, let's label 2009 as a fluke career year and get back to some more realistic expectations from Joe Mauer.  2009 was amazing, but expecting him to ever do that kind of thing again (or repeat it even if he's 100% healthy) is ridiculous and puts too much pressure on him.  So, the next step in this is to look at 2010, since it was a season where drop off should have occurred.  In the end, the drop off did indeed happen, but not to the level that most people would think.  Let's look at his 2010 against his career averages:
11.1% BB vs. 11.9% BB
9.1% K vs. 9.9% K
.141 ISO vs. .148 ISO
.348 BABIP vs. .342 BABIP
6.7% HR/FB vs. 10.2% HR/FB
That's much more like the Joe Mauer that we know and love.  2010 was right on par with where Joe Mauer should be expected to play, especially since those rates happened in a much less favorable offensive environment.  Mauer didn't deal with a ton of injuries, played more games at catcher, and did absolutely just fine in his playing time.  So 2010 really isn't a season of regression at all.  It's actually just another good prime year from Joe Mauer.
The last thing we do when looking at this trend line is toss out 2011.  Mauer suffered from two fluke illnesses, which he is now fully healed from, and he was forced to play more games at first base, catcher, and even in the outfield because of team issues and injuries.  Unless the Twins overreact, Mauer should get back to playing 80% of his games at catcher, where his value is great.
So this is a case not of a player regressing, but of a player having the same skill set and having end results that simply wound up looking like a regression.  Because of all of this, I label Joe Mauer as a big time rebound candidate for 2012.
Real Life Value to the Twins
It seems to me that many individuals have ignored the potential reasons for the results that Mauer has gotten and are mislabeling him as a big-contract bust.  Nobody is going to deny that Mauer is making a lot of money.  In fact, the 161 million dollars he's owed over the next 7 years is more than most teams could possibly afford.  However, I am not going to label this as a bad contract.  Let's look back once more to what Mauer did in his last full season:
2010: .327 BA/ .402 OBP/ .469 SLG (140 OPS+)/ 5.9 WAR (5.5 oWAR/ 0.4 dWAR)- 83% G at C
A six WAR player on the open market would demand well over 25 million dollars, and Mauer is making less than that.  When you consider the complete scarcity at the catcher position, keeping the league's elite catcher means a lot to the formation of a roster.  The Twins have themselves a fantastic player, and Twins fans need not be worried about what he's going to do in the future.  Many people have suggested that Mauer play fewer games at catcher, but the 80% clip gives him an off day from the position every 5th game and will keep his legs fresh.  The question then becomes the issue of getting the most value from Mauer's offensive production (by playing him at catcher) versus keeping him fresh enough to play at an elite level.  Let's compare some average numbers at catcher and at DH, which are the two positions that Mauer is likely to play in the future:
C:    .245 BA/ .314 OBP/ .390 SLG (  91 wRC+)
DH: .268 BA/ .342 OBP/ .431 SLG (110 wRC+)
Clearly the Twins need to play him at catcher as much as possible, and if you look at Mauer's career, he's played only 13.9% of his games at DH.  This means that when he's not suffering from pneumonia and bilateral leg weakness, he is more than capable of playing 80% of his games at catcher and producing at an elite level.  Heck, even if Mauer played 3/4 games at catcher, he's getting a rest every 4th game and is still playing 75% of the time at catcher, which saves his legs and will easily allow him to play over a full season.  With that being said, here's what I think Mauer will do for the Twins in 2012:
140 G/ 590 PA/ .325 BA/ .370 OBP/ .450 SLG (128 OPS+)/ 6.1 WAR (5.6 oWAR/ 0.5 dWAR)- 78% G at C
This is a guy that can, when healthy, perform as one of the best players in baseball and one of the best players in the history of the game.  I think he'll be just fine in 2012, with a big bounce back year.
Fantasy Value

This is a department where I think that Mauer is going to be severely overlooked.  His injuries last year are ones that should not impact him.  The Twins chose to rest Mauer late in the season, so he'll be working on an extended off season where he's had plenty of time to get his strength back.  Mauer will probably be a guy that gets slotted for the 3rd round, and some guys might choose to take Brian McCann and other catchers in front of him.  I'm here to tell you that that would be gold for you in your fantasy league.  Let's look at what Mauer did in a 5x5 in 2010:
.327 BA/ 88 Runs/ 9 HR/ 75 RBI/ 1 SB
Let's add some context by comparing that to what the average team got from their catchers in 2011:
.245 BA/ 66 Runs/ 18 HR/ 74 RBI/ 2 SB
If you are okay with sacrificing 9 HR for 82 points in batting average and 22 runs, then you will be perfectly okay taking Joe Mauer in the first round.  Remember, even though I compared it to the average production by team from the position, catcher is an extremely scarce position where a lot of teams wind up playing multiple guys.  Having one player get a ton of playing time and production out of the position is very rare, which swings in Mauer's favor.  With that being said, here's what I expect from Mauer in 2012:
.325 BA/ 89 Runs/ 10 HR/ 83 RBI/ 2 SB
Those are the numbers of a late first round pick, especially when you consider the individual is playing at catcher.  However, depending on the league you participate in, you won't have to take him in the spot where his value would normally demand you take him.  Based on the league and site you pick on, you might be able to get Mauer in the 3rd round or later, which is an absolute steal.  One of the awesome things about Mauer in 2012 will be that he gets the much-sought-after dual listing for positions.  He played 52 games at catcher and 18 games at first base, so he will be eligible at catcher and first base in 2012, which increases the offensive flexibility your team can have.  Because of this, Mauer is a guy that is borderline essential for a team to have.  If you take more of guaranteed success in the first round and a solid guy in the 2nd round, Mauer is the perfect player to take in the third round of a fantasy draft, because he's likely to produce first round value.
Joe Mauer is officially a rebound candidate for 2012.

Jumat, 30 Desember 2011

Breakout, Bust, or Rebound? Part Seven: Hanley Ramirez

The next two features in this series will focus on a couple of former superstars who have recently fallen from grace for different reasons.  The first of this pair is Miami Marlins' "new" third baseman Hanley Ramirez.  The reason for the quotes around the word new is that the signing of Jose Reyes has forced the move of Ramirez to third base.  While yes, this is a move away from a premium position, it is a move to a position that really isn't that far off in value.  Third basemen were not good at all in 2011, as evidenced by their slash line of:
.254 BA/ .314 OBP/ .391 SLG
Of course, that slash line means nothing without context, so let's compare it to where Hanley used to play (shortstop):
.258 BA/ .314 OBP/ .370 SLG
As you can probably see, the two positions were actually very similar in 2011.  This, to me, is the first part of the reason that Hanley's move to 3rd base makes a lot of sense.  The other reason this move makes a lot of sense is defense.  While athletic and quick, Hanley was remarkably bad in his time in the field as a shortstop for the first six years of his career.  He combined to lose 2.8 wins per year in dWAR and posted a total UZR of -44.1 during his time in the majors.  These rather atrocious numbers are backed by his scouting report, which points out a lack of reaction time and terrible footwork, despite having good athleticism and a strong arm.  Moving to third keeps up the importance of the arm strength, but minimizes the potential damage done by a lack of reaction time, which should allow Hanley to be a better player.

Due to the change in position and recuperation from injury, I am labeling Hanley Ramirez as a candidate to BUST in 2012 (PLOT TWIST).
Hanley Ramirez is a player that is really at a crossroads in his career.  There are many reasons for this which include his recent regression, his injuries, his positional change, and his age. To get a better feel at where Hanley is and where he needs to be, we will take a look at all four and go from there:
1) Recent Regression
It's not often that you see a player light up the MLB stage prior to his prime years and then fall off, but this has definitely happened with Ramirez.  A look back at his peripheral rates, raw skills, and end results suggests that he's trending in the wrong direction.  First, let's look at his end results, which are the numbers that end up having a tangible impact on the results the team sees:
2009 (25 YO): .342 BA/ .410 OBP/ .543 SLG/ 148 OPS+ (27 SB/ 8 CS)/ 6.9 oWAR
2010 (26 YO): .300 BA/ .378 OBP/ .475 SLG/ 126 OPS+ (32 SB/ 10 CS)/ 4.5 oWAR
2011 (27 YO): .243 BA/ .333 OBP/ .379 SLG/ 95 OPS+ (20 SB/ 10 CS)/ 1.3 oWAR
The trends here seem rather obvious.  He's doing everything worse every year.  Worse batting average, worse OBP, significant drops in slugging, and even worse success on the base paths.  Nothing is trending in the correct way, here.  However, why is that?  What is causing Hanley's rather rapid regression?  Well, let's consider a few things.  After looking at some rates:
2009 (25 YO): 9.4% BB/ 15.5% K/ .201 ISO/ .379 BABIP
2010 (26 YO): 10.3% BB/ 15.0% K/ .175 ISO/ .327 BABIP
2011 (27 YO): 11.4% BB/ 17.1% K/ .136 ISO/ .275 BABIP
From this, we get some good news and a couple of things that we need to look into a little bit deeper.  The two good things are probably the two things that bring the most promise to a Hanley Ramirez rebound effort in 2012.  Firstly, Hanley's walk rate has steadily increased each year (above his 9.8% average walk rate).  Secondly, there aren't any glaring signs in his strikeout rate.  Yes, he saw an increase in 2011, but it was not anything astronomical and could very well have simply been the cause of random variance.  In fact, when other things are considered, Hanley's strikeout rate is really just an act of variance, as his frequency of swinging and missing at pitches has been on a steady decline (8.9 to 7.5 to 7.2).  That is another positive sign towards Hanley's skills not being diminished.  However, to gain any credibility, one must take the good with the bad, and the other two trends suggest that something may be fishy with Hanley's other skills.    Hanley's power numbers have plummeted, and it can be explained when we look at some of his other trends:
2009: 0.93 GB/FB/ 19.8% LD/ 12.1% HR/FB
2010: 1.56 GB/FB/ 16.3% LD/ 14.2% HR/FB
2011: 1.53 GB/FB/ 15.9% LD/ 11.1% HR/FB
There are a number of ways to interpret the above trends.  One thing is obvious, however, and that is that Hanley's power numbers are on the decline because his frequency of ground balls has skyrocketed relative to the number of fly balls that he gets.  The HR/FB rate hasn't danced around much (especially relative to Hanley's 13.2% career average in that department), but it doesn't matter how good of a HR/FB ratio you have if you aren't hitting that many fly balls (seeing as you rarely get guys who are attributed with any kind of BIP other than a FB when they hit homers).  However, the BABIP answer really isn't there.  Yes, the decrease in LD% is a factor towards a downward trend, but an increase in ground ball rate relative to fly balls should help a fast guy like Hanley get on base more when the ball is put into play.  So what we've seen so far is that there are a couple of alarming factors in Hanley's game, but nothing scary enough to say that he's done.
One thing is very important to remember when we consider this regression that Hanley has experienced: 2009 was a career year with a lot of alarming rates.  Just to portray it, here are a bunch of numbers that Hanley experienced in 2009 relative to his averages:
.379 BABIP vs. .339 BABIP
0.93 GB/FB vs. 1.19 GB/FB
19.8% LD vs. 18.3% LD
2009 is simply not a good year to look back to, and it shouldn't be what anyone expects Hanley to do as an offensive player.  His end results were close to what he did in 2008, but that just isn't what Hanley is any more.  His power numbers saw their first real dip in 2009, when his ISO dropped 38 points.  That number has been in a downward spiral since 2008.  This is really an incredible feat, because as he's gotten closer to his prime, he's become a lot less of an offensive threat.  Right now, there is evidence to suggest that Hanley Ramirez' career will stabilize, but not anything that suggests he's going to bounce back and be Hanley again.
2) Injuries
Ramirez doesn't have a significant injury history, but he does have an injury that could hurt him even more as his career goes on.  In 2010, Hanley Ramirez injured his left shoulder.  In 2011, he made a diving effort against the Mets in early August that led to an aggravation of that injury.  Now, the reason this injury is significant is because it his Hanley's front shoulder for batting.  As Hanley brings the bat through the zone, having a strong front shoulder is essential to generating bat speed, keeping balance, and generating power.    If this injury continues to bother Ramirez, he will continue to hit more balls on the ground, and he'll likely never see his power come back.  What this means is that he'll have to rely on his increased walk rate and his decreased swing and miss rate in order to be an effective offensive player.
3) Positional Change
As seen above, the difference between shortstops and third basemen in baseball in 2011 was very little.  A move from shortstop to third base in terms of offensive value is rather small, which will save Ramirez from losing a lot of value as he makes the transition to third.  As mentioned before, the transition to third should, at worst, be a net wash.  Even if Hanley's offensive value is slightly hurt by a move away from shortstop, his defensive skill set is much better suited for third base.  He has a strong arm and he'll have good range for a third baseman.  If he can work on his footwork and increase the accuracy in his throws, the move to third should be a success from a defensive standpoint.
4) His Age
Hanley Ramirez will be 28 years old by opening day in 2012.  As referenced in multiple posts now by our bloggers, this is really where results have plateaued and a player is experiencing the best he'll ever be.  However, Hanley's career path hasn't followed this at all.  His overall skill set peaked between the ages of 24 and 25, and his recent shoulder injury has prevented him from continuing that peak.  It may very well be that Hanley peaked early and is now someone we can expect to be on a consistent decline.
Real Life Value to the Marlins

With everything considered above, I should probably put the word bust into context.  By "bust" in this article, I am saying that I don't expect Hanley to rebound back to what he was in 2010.  I think he has seen the best of his days as a baseball player, so I put him under the word "bust" rather than try to find a different category to file him under.  Now, since Hanley has not had consistent injury issues, I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt in terms of playing time.  Since he's coming off of surgery, I'm going to say that it's safe he'll be able to play 130 games and get 540 plate appearances.  With the recent injury history, I'm going to take Hanley's end results with a grain of salt, especially with all of the rates I have already pointed out.  With all of this said, here's what I expect Hanley to do in 2012:
540 PA/ .280 BA/ .360 OBP/ .440 SLG (110 OPS+)/ (25 SB/ 5 CS)/ 3.0 WAR (3.2 oWAR/ -0.2 dWAR)
Now you can probably see why I had to clarify what I meant by bust.  3.0 WAR is great for a player in MLB.  However, compared to the 3 years where he averaged north of 7 wins and his other two seasons north of 4.5, it is a steep fall off.  Ramirez will bust in the sense that he'll fail to return to superstar form and will be more of an above-average player than a star player.
Fantasy Value

This is where Hanley Ramirez is  most likely to bust, and it's because of where he gets rated, not because of his overall ability.  It used to be that Hanley Ramirez was a consistent member of the discussion for first overall pick in fantasy leagues, but that is no longer the case.  Even going into 2011, people expected Hanley to bounce back from a disappointing 2010 campaign.  However, with the shoulder injury, he did not accomplish that at all.  His declining peripheral rates also made his 2010 disappointing, but since it was his last full season, I'll use it to show what he did from a fantasy perspective:
.300 BA/ 92 Runs/ 21 HR/ 76 RBI/ 32 SB
Those are really good numbers, but they happened prior to Hanley's shoulder surgery.  As noted before, the power numbers are not going to get much better, and there's nothing to say that they won't continue to get worse as Ramirez' ISO continues to free fall.  The move to third really puts Ramirez in an interesting group of guys at the position.  Third base might have some of the most interesting fantasy players with guys like Ryan Zimmerman, Evan Longoria, Alex Rodriguez, David Wright, Pablo Sandoval, and Aramis Ramirez really being relative unknowns as far as value is concerned.  This makes third base arguably the most interesting position going into the 2012 fantasy season.  This could mean that getting the most bang for your buck at third base could be a key factor in the success of a 2012 fantasy team.  Knowing that, these are numbers I find realistic for Hanley for 2012:
.280 BA/ 87 Runs/ 20 HR/ 85 RBI/ 25 SB
These are really good numbers, and I nearly fully guarantee that Hanley is underrated by fantasy projections for 2012.  However, things need to be put into context.  As previously mentioned, third base is really a wild card position, so the pick is going to be as much about where you take the player as it is about how much he produces.  There are a few third basemen who should produce in very, very similar territory for 2012.  With Hanley, the biggest thing is going to be to participate in a few mock drafts to see where he's going.  If he's falling a round or more behind a guy like Ryan Zimmerman, make sure to snatch him up.  However, if he's going in the high 2nd round or late first round, avoid him, because there are likely to be values that are much better (and a lot safer) later in the draft.
When all is said and done, Hanley Ramirez won't be a bust in the typical sense of the word, but as noted before, he's not returning to his former superstar self.  He's not worth a top pick in a fantasy draft, and he's moving to a position that should be a lot better in 2012 than it was in 2011, with a lot of the elite players rebounding from off years.  However, Hanley is definitely an interesting case, because if he can get close to what he was in 2010, he's a valuable player to have if you take him in the right spot.

Milestone Odds Projections

This is just kind of a neat idea that I thought I would give a shot. I would here like to explore the possibility of various players reaching various milestones. I think the idea is pretty straightforward, I’ll use a few simple tools (Bill James’ Favorite Toy, Mitchel Lichtman’s aging curve, and a standard oddsmaking device) to determine the odds of a given player reaching a given milestone.

There will be a few specific rules: one, all players will play through their age 39 seasons. I know that many will retire before then and a few will play past that, but in our scenario, the player is existing solely to get to the milestone, so he would, theoretically, get through that season. This model also includes only past injuries. There is no accurate way to project injury, but I will take into account past injury, with the exception of major fluke injuries: for instance, Dustin Pedroia’s season-ending injury in 2010. Also, I will only be looking at major career milestones and records. I’m not interested in Juan Pierre coming up on 1860 runs scored. Also, I will only be looking at guys with track records with which I can project. So, as much as I’d like to, I can’t forecast the likelihood of your standout rookie hitting 500 home runs.

With all of that in mind, let’s get started.

Vladimir Guerrero and 500 HRs. Over a 16-season career, Vladdy has fashioned a name for himself as not only a future Hall of Famer but one of the best bad-ball hitters of all-time. He currently sits at 449 homers, going into his age-37 season. Under our set of rules, this gives him three more seasons to collect 51 home runs. Interestingly enough, I'm projecting him to hit exactly 51 home runs over that time. This gives him a perfect 50% chance of him getting there by the end of his age-39 season.

Dustin Pedroia and 3000 hits. Pedroia has turned into the best second-baseman in baseball, a top-shelf hitter and the best defender at the position. He's sitting pretty on 862 career hits at 27 years of age, leaving him 2138 hits shy with, in our scenario, and 12 seasons in which to get them. I have him hitting 195 hits per season, for a total of 2340 over that span. This gives Pedroia a 60% chance of getting 3000 hits.

Evan Longoria and 500 HRs. Longoria is one of the elite talents in all of baseball, a powerful, slick-fielding third baseman. Still just 25, he already has 113 home runs. To get to 500, he needs 387, and in our scenario, he has 14 years to get there. I have him hitting 474 before the end of his age-39 season, which gives him a very good 73% chance of getting there.

Jose Bautista and 500 HRs. Bautista is perhaps the games greatest reigning slugger, but his short career as a dominant hitter raises some questions. Assuming he is what he has been for the last two years and ages normally, what are his odds of getting to 500 homers? He currently has 156, but only has 9 years to collect the remaining 344. I have him projected to hit 346 over that time, giving him a 51% chance of getting to that milestone.

CC Sabathia and 300 wins. I don't like doing wins, but for a guy as consistent as CC and locked into a long-term contract with his current team, I will for this case. CC has 176 wins presently, having just finished his age-30 season. He now has nine seasons to collect 124 wins, a very attainable goal considering he should be around 20 wins for the near future. I actually have him winning 163 games over that span, giving him a great 82% chance.

Justin Verlander and 3000 strikeouts. Verlander, your 2011 Cy Young Award winner and MVP, has blown through AL hitter for the last five years, gathering 1215 Ks through his age-28 season. This gives him 11 seasons to get another 1785 -- very doable. I have him getting 2470 by the end of his age-39 season, giving him a great chance: 88%

Miguel Cabrera and the RBI record (2297). Cabrera, one of the most feared hitters (and maybe the best hitter) on the planet, has a streak of 8 consecutive 100+ RBI seasons. This has left him with 984, with 11 seasons to go in our scenario. This means he needs 1313 more RBI to catch Hank at 2297, and I have him projected to hit 1138 more, putting him at a 37% chance.

Mark Buehrle and 4000 IP. 4000 innings pitched would put Buehrle in exclusive company, as only 40 men have passed that threshold, and only about half of them in the last 90 years. Buehrle, 33, already has 2477. This leaves 1533 innings and seven years to get there. I only have Buehrle pitching 1306 innings by that time, giving him a 35% chance of getting to 4000.

Shin-Soo Choo and 55 WAR. That level of value is roughly Hall of Fame caliber, so what are Choo's odds of becoming the first Korean in Cooperstown? Well, Choo is going to be 29 and has 18.2 wins. With 11 years left and in need of 36.8 WAR, Choo has very, very good odds. An 88% chance, in fact.

Fransisco Liriano and 3000 Ks. Liriano is interesting, a guy who was once fast-tracked to stardom, but more recently has settled into life as a pretty good pitcher, though even that hit a snag when he had an awful 2011 season. Liriano will be 28 in 2012, and still needs 2321 strikeouts. I have him projected to ring up just 1728 more in the next 12 years, giving him just a 25% chance to get there.

Albert Pujols and the home run record. Pujols needs 317 homers to get to 762, but will have through his age-41 season to get there, assuming he plays out his monster deal with Anaheim. That tenth year really comes into play, as with the ten-year deal I have him projected to hit 349 home runs -- a 60% chance.

Felix Hernandez and 4000 strikeouts. Felix, 26 in 2012, already has 1264 Ks in his career, meaning he would need 2736 to get to 4000. By the end of his age-39 season, I have him projected to collect a whopping 3132, giving him a very good 65% chance.

Adrian Beltre and 3000 hits. Beltre is sitting on 2033 hits currently, and will be 33 in 2012, giving him seven seasons to collect 967 hits -- a very doable task. And, since I'm projecting him to gather 1062, it's very doable indeed. This gives him a 60% chance of getting his 3000th hit.

Jumat, 23 Desember 2011

Extension Watch, Part Two: Cole Hamels

It is rare that a starting pitcher as good as Cole Hamels is every at a spot in his career where he'll hit the open market, but that's where Cole is at right now.  After the 2012 season, Hamels will be eligible to file for free agency and will undoubtedly get the biggest pay day of his life.  That is, of course, unless the Phillies find a way to sign him to an extension.  As was the case with Joey Votto, we'll look at a core of four things necessary to analyze the possibility of an extension for Hamels:

1) His future value
2) The structure of a possible extension
3) The ability of the Phillies to extend him
4) Other feasible options for him to look at if he doesn't sign an extension

Section One: Future Value

As was the case with Joey Votto, we're looking at a very special talent in Cole Hamels.  Consistency may be overrated, but there is something to be said about a guy who has made 31 or more starts the past four seasons with an average of 6 2/3 innings per start.  This consistency makes it very easy to look at his past success and allows us to project his future success without playing much of a guessing game. To get a good idea of what Hamels has done in the past, let's look at the two-year window we looked at with Votto:

2010: 9.10 K/9/ 2.63 BB/9/ 1.12 HR/9/ 45.4% GB/ 3.28 xFIP/ 3.26 SIERA
2011: 8.08 K/9/ 1.83 BB/9/ 0.79 HR/9/ 52.3% GB/ 3.02 xFIP/ 3.03 SIERA

First, I must clear some things up here: Hamels' K/9 rate is an average of 8.45 for his career, his walk rate is closer to 2 than 2.6, his HR/9 is 1.09, and his GB% has been consistently increasing over the past four seasons.  So, as you have probably noticed, we are looking at a pitcher who has done everything well over the past couple of years.  He strikes batters out at a good rate, has fantastic control, and he gets a ton of ground balls.  A pitcher that pounds the lower part of the strike zone and gets swings and misses is just about the best pitcher you can ask for when predicting future success.  As far as age goes, Hamels is already at an age where his skill set isn't likely to get any better.  He'll be 28 years old next year, and it will be his 6th full season in the majors, so what you see is likely what you're going to get.

Knowing that is a great thing, because Hamels put it all together last year and had his best season.  If he plateaus like he should, then he should be a pitcher worth about 5 wins every year for the next few years.  His control, pitch quality, and stamina point to him not breaking down any time soon, so it makes sense to project him to be a high quality pitcher for a few years to come.

Section Two: Structure of a Potential Extension

Let's be realistic: pitchers carry a lot more concern than hitters do.  Even someone with great mechanics and tons of stamina like Hamels can have his arm slot off enough on a pitch to snap a ligament in his elbow or blow up a tendon in his shoulder.  That being said, signing Hamels to an extension is all about going 6 years or less.  I would have an extremely hard time giving any pitcher a contract of 7 years or more, just because the risk/reward ratio grows too much.  With Hamels, there is a lot less risk than with other pitchers, so 6 years is a good length.  This gets a team solid control of Hamels from the ages of 28 to 33, which is good enough to wrap up the last years of Hamels' prime, and keeps him just long enough to avoid the time where he'll completely break down.  So, with the ideal length of the contract being known, we can look at what Hamels should produce over that time span:

2012: 5.0 WAR
2013: 5.0 WAR
2014: 4.8 WAR
2015: 4.4 WAR
2016: 4.0 WAR
2017: 3.5 WAR

Assuming that Hamels' great skill set and stamina uphold, these numbers are very realistic to expect from him.  The first couple years of this model ask for Hamels to repeat his previous season, but the latter years ask him to decline at a faster rate than he probably will.  Given this, I think this model is a good one to look at for overall value, which means that Hamels should produce about 26.7 wins of value over the next six seasons, which means he's in for a pretty big pay day.  To remain consistent, I'm going to use the D/WAR figures from the Votto write-up to portray what extended players should go for on average over the next six years:

2012: 4.0 d/WAR
2013: 4.3 d/WAR
2013: 4.6 d/WAR
2014: 4.9 d/WAR
2016: 5.2 d/WAR
2017: 5.2 d/WAR
This model calls for an average d/WAR ratio of 4.7 for extended players over the next six seasons.  This means that Hamels, to have a completely fair market value deal, will receive 125.5 million dollars for the duration of his contract.  This means that his anticipated AAV is going to be 21 million dollars per year over the next six years.  So after breaking it all down, we are looking at a completely fair market value deal for Hamels being:
6 years/ 125.5 million dollars (20.9 million AAV)
Section Three: Ability for the Phillies to Re-Sign Him

This one seems like a bit of a tough call, but at the same time, it doesn't.  GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. has definitely not been afraid to hand out big deals in the past, and I doubt he has to worry about it much with Hamels.  An extension for Hamels really revolves around a few key things for the Phillies:
1. Do they want to re-sign Roy Halladay after the 2013 season?
2. Ryan Howard's extension doesn't kick in until 2014 (the same time they want to re-sign Halladay)
3. Do they want to bring back a 35 year old Chase Utley after the 2013 season?
4. Jonathan Papelbon will make the majority of his money from 2013 and beyond (13 million a season)
5. How aggressive do the Phillies want to be after 2013, which is the obvious year (for now) that they will be looking at rebuilding?  If they rebuild after 2013, are they going to be able to move Hamels at during the turnover, or would they be better off trading him now?
To me, the best thing would be to try to get a bit younger in this scenario, given that the 2013 off season is looking like an off season from hell for Philly, but they are pretty clearly built to win right now.  They have one of the oldest core groups of players in all of baseball, they have a lot of big money guys already on, and losing a pitcher like Hamels would really hurt them a lot, because replacing him is going to be very hard.  
Section Four: Feasibility of Other Options
1. A Trade- No, it's not ideal.  It's probably not very realistic either, given the current state of the Phillies' roster.  However, if the Phillies want to be much of anything after 2013 (without becoming the Yankees and spending a ton to do patchwork), they really should try to trade Hamels.  However, that is a lot harder than it looks at the moment.  Who in the world would they trade him to?  There is no doubt in my mind that they team they trade him to needs to be able to extend him in the very near future for the deal to make sense.  Right now, there are only a couple teams that could afford the kind of extension Hamels will be looking for:
New York Yankees- Yeah, the Yankees may have been quiet this off season, but I think there's a big reason for that: they want to attack the free agent market for pitching after the 2012 season.  Money isn't a question with New York, so the only thing that matters is the prospects they're willing to give up.  In a trade for Hamels, the Yankees would have to likely give up Betances, Banuelos, and Montero, but it's probably worth it to the Yankees' ownership.
Toronto Blue Jays- It's scary to think, but with Anthopoulos at the helm, the building of a super team could very well emerge.  Just as in the Joey Votto case, I expect the Blue Jays to be all over Hamels in trade rumors and in free agency.  The Jays look like they have the pieces to get a deal done (and let's not kid ourselves, even if they didn't, Anthopoulos vs. Amaro is won by Toronto 90% of the time, so something could get done).  They also look like they have the money.
Chicago Cubs- Right now, not a feasible trade partner at all.  The Cubs don't have anywhere near the prospects to trade for Hamels, and even if they did they would be killing their rebuilding campaign to do so.
Atlanta Braves- the Braves definitely have the pieces to get a trade done, and I don't see a lot of reason for them to not have the money, but there's one problem: no way would the Phillies trade Hamels to their biggest competitors within the division.  
Seattle Mariners- This is actually a trade partner that works very well.  They've got the young arms to move in a deal, and they sound like they've got the money to afford the kind of deal that Hamels is looking for.  If Hamels ever does hit the trade market for some unknown reason (say the Phils are unexpectedly bad at the deadline), the Seattle and Toronto should be the two teams to look out for in a trade.
2. Toronto Blue Jays (Free Agency)- As I said before, they'll be major players for Hamels if he ever hits the free agent market.
3. Seattle Mariners (Free Agency)- Same as above.
4. Miami Marlins- The Marlins missed out on acquiring a bigtime TOR starter this off season, and they've backloaded their contracts enough to make it so getting Hamels is an option.  With Josh Johnson's health concerns being as drastic as they are, Hamels makes a ton of sense for Miami to bring in.
5. New York Yankees- Now, these options aren't in order of being most feasible.  In my mind, if Hamels hits the open market, this is where he's going.  That 6/125 figure I mentioned earlier?  Yeah, on the open market with a team like the Yankees involved, Hamels is looking at 7/ 180 for sure.
6. Boston Red Sox- Hamels is the kind of player that is ideal for a typical Yankees vs. Red Sox bidding war, and Hamels might just choose Boston over New York.
Other teams in the hunt: Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers, Baltimore Orioles
In the end, I don't think we'll have to even worry about section four of this write up.  I think the Phillies will definitely have the cash to extend Hamels, and I don't see any reason for Amaro to hesitate on pulling the trigger.  Talk of a trade is nice and all, but the timing would be awful for the Phillies, because with Hamels on the team in the next two years, the Phils will be the favorites in the NL (no matter how quickly things fall downhill after that).  This is a team that has a very, very short window of time that they are looking at to be able to win another WS, and moving Hamels off the roster simply wouldn't make sense (unless they got Betances, Banuelos, and Montero from the Yankees, which could make sense).  In the end, I will guess that Hamels does indeed sign an extension with Philadelphia, and I would wager that the Phillies try to keep it shorter in length than what is ideal, because let's face it: they are going to need to rebuild after 2013.  With that, I think Cole Hamels signs an extension with the Philadelphia Phillies for:
5 years/ 105 million dollars- full no-trade clause

Kamis, 22 Desember 2011

Trade Review: Gio Gonzalez to Washington

Thursday, the Nationals acquired one of the best remaining available starting pitchers of the offseason, trading for Oakland's Gio Gonzalez. In return, the Nationals sent a bursting package of prospects to the A's, right-handers AJ Cole and Brad Peacock, lefty Tom Milone and personal favorite top catching prospect Derek Norris. Without further gilding the lily, let's get into the meat and potatoes, shall we?

What do the Nationals Get?

The Nationals gave up a package of prospects for a reason, and that reason is that Gonzalez effectively plugs a hole in their roster. The rotation presumably consisted of exciting youngsters Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann, and venerable innings-eaters John Lannan and Chien-Ming Wang. Gonzalez adds a fifth quality arm to the equation, ensuring that the Nationals will have a chance to win every game they play in 2012.

Gonzalez is a highly talented pitcher. He has good stuff, featuring a plus mid-90s fastball with some lateral movement as well as a wipeout curveball that was one of the best breaking pitches in the American League. He can be wild at times, but has found pretty good success for his age (he will be 26 in 2012), posting a 129 ERA+ the last two seasons, as well as a 3.64 FIP, 3.73 xFIP, and a 3.78 SIERA in 2011. He isn't a stud, but he is an effective, young, cost-controlled (he isn't free agent-eligible until after the 2015 season) pitcher that should post reliable innings totals (402 IP in the last two seasons) for years to come.

What do the Athletics Get?

The Athletics get a surprising haul of prospects, and, for the sake of sanity, I'll simply list them here, case-by-case.

AJ Cole is an exciting young pitcher. Just 19 at Single-A Hagerstown in 2011, he posted a 10.9 K/9 and a 4.50 K/BB in 89 innings. He is very young, but is quite advanced, and his stuff makes him look like a future very good pitcher in the major leagues. He features easy, repeatable low-mid-90s heat, a power curve that draws comparisons to Matt Garza, and a simplistic delivery that has scouts raving about his health outlook as well as his control.

Brad Peacock will be 24 in 2012, and is probably as MLB-ready as he is going to get. He has been clocked as high as 97 with the fastball, which has been described as flat, and compliments it with a decent curveball. He has solid control, with an ever-declining walk rate, and a 3.1 BB/9 in the minors, and showed an ability to attack major league hitters during a September callup in 2011. He profiles as a back-end starter or reliever, which is probably his most appropriate destination, as he does not feature an impressive third pitch.

Tom Milone is that guy who gets outs despite a fastball in the 80s and a curveball that will not buckle many knees. He has off-the-charts control, posting a 9.69 K/BB in 148 Triple-A innings in 2011. He will be 25 in 2012, and is definitely MLB-ready. All that remains to be seen is how well his stuff will play at the Major-league level.

Derek Norris is a monster. If you clicked the link above, you'll know what he can do, and that is basically, so far in his minor league career, get on base at a .400 clip, hit 20+ home runs, and throw out 40% of attempted base stealers. He will be 23 in 2012, probably at Triple-A, and should be regarded as a top catching prospect.

Altogether, the Athletics get two pitchers who could contribute at the major-league level, and a very good pitching and catching prospect, a pair of very valuable assets.

The Winner:

Oakland, without a doubt. The package of prospects is impressive, and Peacock and Milone by themselves should replace the majority of the value that Gonzalez took with him to Washington, to say nothing of Norris and Cole, who could be major league stars one day. I think Oakland pulled a fast one on Washington here, gathering one of the biggest packages of prospects we've seen in a while, and not even for an elite talent.

The Loser:

Washington lost this one. Gonzalez is a quality arm, and has posted a pair of good seasons, but everything about him comes with a heavy dose of salt: Yes, he strikes guys out, but he's also led the AL in walks against over the last two years. Yes, he is cost-controlled for four more seasons, but that is not synonymous with 'cheap'. He's due for a raise to what MLB Trade Rumors is speculating to be $4.2 MM in 2012, and that will only go up in future years. The Nationals had some very good arms in their rotation, and really only needed some innings, innings that they had in guys like Peacock, Milone, Ross Detwiler, or readily and cheaply available in names like Livan Hernandez or Joe Saunders. It looks like they succeeded in making a splash -- but I believe they paid too much for it.

Robert Gilliam: is a guy. He was included in the deal, sent with Gonzalez to Washington. Here are some things about him.

The Bottom Line:

The Nationals appear to have traded for a top-end starter, and got a guy more resembling a middle-of-the-rotation guy. I'm afraid they may look up this time next year and realize that they paid as much for the Oakland Coliseum effect as anything.


Postscript: Beyond the Box Score takes a look at the trade and finds a similar conclusion to mine; that the collection of prospects should provide more value than Gonzalez in coming years.

Rabu, 21 Desember 2011

Extension Watch, Part One: Joey Votto

This is a new series I am introducing to the blog, because extensions are often some of the better contracts that teams can sign.  Without the impact of the open market, the leverage a player holds over an organization is reduced, which often leads to some more neutral (or even team-favorable) deals being signed.  The kinds of players that get extensions are usually between the ages of 25-27, so that an agreement can be reached prior to when the player hits his prime and the open market.  On occasion, there will be players who are younger or older that will be given extensions based on the team that is handing the extension out.  Some recent examples of extensions include: Matt Moore with the Rays (2011) at a very young age, Alex Rodriguez with the Yankees (2007) at the age of 32, and Matt Kemp with the Dodgers (2011) at 27.  So, for this series, I won't just include players that are up for extensions in the typical window.  I'll look at players who I would consider giving an extension regardless of the age of the player.  With that being said, let's look at extension candidate number one: Joseph Daniel Votto.

In an old log cabin in the Canadian wilderness in 1983, Joey Votto was born...errrrr, okay, he's from Toronto. Anyway, Votto is from Canada, he's 28, and he's one of the best players in baseball (fair to say he's the best LH hitter in baseball?  Yeah, probably).  Since we are considering extensions, we want to know a couple things:
1) How much will the player produce in the future?
2) How much money should the player be extended for, and for how long should the player be extended?
3) How much room does the team in question have to sign the player?
4) What appealing options will the player have if he hits the open market instead of signing an extension?  Where can he go?
An analysis of these facts should give us a good idea of the player's future worth and where he will likely end up signing.  With all of that, let's go back and look at each of the questions (because I can, I'm breaking them into sections):
Section One: Future Value
There are a few things we can look at to get a solid idea of how well an individual will perform in the future: his very recent levels of success, his current skill set, and his age in relation to a typical age curve.  Well, when it comes to recent success, not a whole lot of guys have been better than Votto.  To try to account for any potential outliers, but to (at the same time) put more emphasis on recent success, I am going to be using two year splits for every extension candidate.  Without further ado, here's what Votto's done for the Reds in the past two seasons:
1367 PA/ .316 BA/ .420 OBP/ .564 SLG (163 OPS+)/ 12.4 WAR (0.0 dWAR)
One of the biggest things to look at here is that Votto isn't missing much playing time at all.  684 PA per season with an average of 156 games per year.  Staying healthy does one thing: it allows the player to gather more value and not miss opportunities to produce.  He's getting a lot of hits, but he's also getting a lot of walks, and he's certainly producing tons of power (.248 ISO in that time span along with a 17.4 AB/HR rate, which is really good).  He's shown recently that he can produce, so what about his skillset going forward?  Well, to look at this, I'll consider a timeline of a few select rates and how they should impact his progression:
2009: 12.9% BB/ 19.5% K/ .245 ISO/ .372 BABIP/ 17.5% HR/FB/ 10.8% SwStr%
2010: 14.0% BB/ 19.3% K/ .276 ISO/ .361 BABIP/ 25.0% HR/FB/ 10.4% SwStr%
2011: 15.3% BB/ 17.9% K/ .222 ISO/ .349 BABIP/ 18.2% HR/FB/ 8.7% SwStr%
There are a lot of positive signs here, and really not that much that is negative.  Right away, it is apparent that Votto's got some pretty elite plate discipline.  He walks a ton (nearly 14% of the time on average), and he doesn't swing and miss a lot.  When you do this, it means you are likely swinging at balls in the zone a lot and are making contact with them.  This is reflected in his constantly high BABIP and his strong batting average.  Taking walks is great, but using that plate discipline to increase contact ability is what takes great players and makes them elite.  The other strong thing is just that: Votto's strength.  If you've watched him play, his home run finish is incredible, and he's got as much power as any hitter in the game.  Constantly high ISO and strong HR/FB ratios back this up.  Knowing Votto's offensive skill set, he can handle being negative in value on defense.  He's not a great defender, but he's also not awful.  He was completely at replacement level over the last two years.  This helps his future value a lot, especially since he's only going to be 28 years old on Opening Day in 2012.  This means he's got at least three more great seasons in him, with a slow decline following that (if he avoids major injuries).  That leads us to section two: his future worth.
Section Two: Structure of a Possible Extension
The dollars/WAR ratio is generally only applicable to free agent extensions.  Knowing that, I looked at the history of extensions this summer and found a reasonable figure for a team of around 3.5 million dollars per win in a neutral team extension.  A player can, for example, produce 4 wins in an extension and a neutral contract would suggest that he be worth roughly 14 million dollars.  However, since so many extensions lately have been signed by younger guys, I think a figure closer to 4.0 is much more reasonable as a base right now for someone of Votto's age and position in relation to when he'll be a free agent (the 2014 off season).
Given the previously mentioned past success and current skill set, it makes a lot of sense to sign Joey Votto to a longer contract with a high AAV.  The value that Votto produces is more likely to be worth that kind of deal than another extension candidate.  Going by WAR, these are the numbers that Votto has been putting up in each of the past few years:
24 yo: 3.0 WAR
25 yo: 4.2 WAR
26 yo: 5.9 WAR
27 yo: 6.5 WAR
Accounting for seemingly random shifts in defensive value and that last year was a surprisingly down year from an end-result standpoint from Votto, it is still safe to say that Votto has been experiencing some pretty steady progression and is following a bell curve rather nicely.  I think that, since Votto has so much plate discipline and so much power, a nice plateau of three years at around 6.8 WAR is completely justifiable, and a steady defensive decline with slight decreases in offense will follow suit.  Here's what I think Votto produces from a WAR standpoint over the next ten years:
2012: 6.8 WAR
2013: 7.0 WAR
2013: 6.7 WAR
2014: 6.2 WAR
2016: 5.7 WAR
2017: 5.1 WAR
2018: 4.4 WAR
2019: 3.6 WAR
2020: 3.1 WAR
2021: 2.0 WAR
That's a grand total of 50.6 wins of value over the next ten years.  However, given the trends in the values portrayed on the timeline, a good cutoff comes after the 2019 season, with the ideal cutoff being the 2018 season.  This means that, if you count the remaining two years on Votto's contract, an ideal extension signs Votto for 7 years (with plans being made to replace him occurring behind the scenes while he's still producing 5+ wins in value).  Since Albert Pujols got 10 years and Prince Fielder is seeking 8+ , this number is reasonable, considering those numbers are free market figures and Votto is signing an extension.

So let's go with a 7 year deal, which has Votto as producing 40.9 wins in value.  For extensions, I do not anticipate d/WAR figures inflating as quickly as on the open market, so let's assume the following progression for those numbers over the 7 years of the extension:

2012: 4.0 d/WAR
2013: 4.3 d/WAR
2013: 4.6 d/WAR
2014: 4.9 d/WAR
2016: 5.2 d/WAR
2017: 5.2 d/WAR
2018: 5.2 d/WAR
Averaging these figures gives us a 4.77 d/WAR value on average over the course of the contract.  As has been said in previous entries on the blog, it is very tough to forecast the future actions of the economy and the baseball marketplace, so I plateaued the figure at 5.2 for 2016-2018.  With all of this being said, if Votto produces the value projected over the d/WAR climate projected, he will produce roughly 195 million dollars worth of value over the next 7 years.  If those numbers sound relatively familiar, it's about what Scott Boras is apparently looking for on the open market for Prince Fielder (since Fielder is an inferior playerthis makes sense due to the fact that Votto won't be on the open market).
So here we are, left with a contract that looks something like this:
7 years/ $195 million, and I'm going to be safe an assume a full NTC is a part of that extension
Section Three: Ability for the Reds to Extend Him
Let's face reality here: there are not very many teams that can afford an average annual salary of 28 million dollars.  In 2011, the Cincinnati Reds carried a payroll of 76 million dollars.  Votto made up only 7.4 million of that.  That means a payroll bump of 21 million dollars in 2012 would be due, raising the payroll to 97 million.  Votto's contract would make up 28.8% of the payroll in 2012!  This happens without extensions being given to other players that will need them in the near future such as Mat Latos, Brandon Phillips, Sean Marshall, Johnny Cueto, and even guys further down the road like Drew Stubbs, Devin Mesoraco, and Jay Bruce.  Simply said, if Votto signs a deal that is anywhere close to fair value for an extension, teh Reds will be crippling themselves financially.  They'll be "stuck" with a guy producing tons of value, but they won't have money to add necessary free agent pieces when it matters down the road.  With that being said, it's time to move on to section four and see what other options Votto might find more attractive and fair to his future value.
Section Four: Feasibility of Other Options
In the ideal world, Prince Fielder has already signed a deal and the marketplace for Votto after the 2013 season is a lot easier to forecast.  However, assuming no other big 1B are signed by the following teams, here's a list of teams that could be in play for Votto on the FA market when he hits it:

1) Toronto Blue Jays- What better place for Votto to go than back home?  Unless the Jays stupidly extend Adam Lind and want him to play 1B, the spot is going to be wide open for business in the off season following 2013.  The Jays have bigtime ownership, and they haven't yet spent a lot of money, but have said that they will do so when the time is right.  I don't believe the time will be more right than when Votto is ready to hit the free agent market.  It is, for all intents and purposes, the perfect match.  Votto can more to DH in the later years of his contract, so the Jays may be more willing in the future to go well beyond that 7 year ideal contract.
2) Texas Rangers- The Rangers are a very hard team to predict here, since they have so many guys that could potentially be on the move.  Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, and Ian Kinsler have completely unknown future statuses with the team, so I'm going to assume that the Rangers will have the financial flexibility to bring on Votto to play 1B.  The Rangers are showing no sign of slowing down, and they don't have to compete with the Yankees, Red Sox, or Rays, so they may be the team that is in the best position to win by opening day of 2014.
3) Chicago Cubs- If the Cubs do not sign Prince Fielder, that likely means that they went with cheap options at first base to serve as stopgaps during the rebuilding process.  Opening day 2014 gives the Cubs' management two full seasons and off seasons of time to rebuild the team and get in a position to win.  Votto may be a guy that the Cubs look at to put them over the top.
4) Seattle Mariners- Much like the Cubs, the Mariners are in a rebuilding time.  Unlike the Cubs, they have a bunch of studly young pitchers that should be absolutely fantastic by 2014.  The Mariners will have the pitching staff to win a championship if everything works out, and they'll need the offense behind it to make it work.  With bad contracts coming off the books, the Mariners should have the financial ability to sign Votto, even if they don't have the same flexibility now.
5) Los Angeles Dodgers- the Dodgers are a weird team to forecast, because they are undergoing an ownership change.  Assuming everything goes well and the team gets a large TV deal like they should be able to get, they should be in a position to spend in a couple of years.  They'll likely be loaded with extensions for Kemp, Kershaw, and Billingsly at the time, but adding another star should be in the realm of possibility.
Teams with an outside shot: St. Louis Cardinals, Miami Marlins, Chicago White Sox, Minnesota Twins, Baltimore Orioles
So, knowing all this, it is completely unrealistic to assume that Joey Votto is an extension candidate unless he is traded within the next 15 months.  Since the Reds appear to be trying to "win now", it is more likely that they don't trade him much before July 31st, 2013.  This means that Votto will likely be a trade deadline move (and a major one at that), or that he'll hit the open market in the same way that Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols did this year.