Upgrades Part II: Smaller names can ably fill bigger holes
Again, how much a player cost (be it by trade or free agency), his long-term impact, or how the player(s) he's replacing are likely to perform in the coming season are not factors. This is simply a comparison of the 2009 production each player is replacing to the 2010 production he's likely to contribute. Also, note that the statistics used below (VORP, UZR, SNLVAR) are all adjusted for context, rendering park and league effects largely moot for our purposes here.
The Brewers' failure to return to the playoffs in 2009 was directly attributable to the collapse of their starting rotation. In 2008,
Enter free agent lefties Wolf and Davis, who replace free agent Looper and either Bush or Suppan, who will fight for the fifth spot in camp. The two displaced '09 starters were worth roughly a win each in '09. Davis, an innings eater who had some success with the Brewers from 2004 to 2006, is typically a four-win pitcher. Wolf, who has battled injuries in the past and is coming off a fluke season buoyed by an abnormally low opponents' average on balls in play (.256 against a league average of .298), was worth six wins to the Dodgers last year, but is more likely to also be a league-average pitcher if healthy, worth another four wins. That's a three-win upgrade at each of two rotation spots, though it still leaves the Milwaukee rotation well short of its 2008 performance.
One reason the Twins needed 163 games to overtake the Tigers in the AL Central last year was that they failed to field a viable middle infielder until trading for
The Twins haven't had a quality veteran at either position since trading
Last year, the Diamondbacks' first basemen (including
The Nationals were two runs allowed shy of matching the Orioles for the most runs allowed in baseball in 2009, so any respectable pitching acquisition would have to be an upgrade. Marquis, a groundball-inducing innings-eater who made his first All-Star team last year, qualifies as a respectable addition. He'll replace rookie
It's impossible to project with any degree of confidence what Oakland will get from Sheets, who hasn't thrown a major league pitch since September 2008 due to a torn flexor tendon in his pitching elbow. He looked good enough in workouts for the typically thrifty A's spend $10M on him for the 2010 season with additional incentives for every ten innings from 165 to 195. Sheets hasn't been healthy for a full season since 2004, but if he's able to repeat what he did for the Brewers in 2008, he'd be worth six wins above a replacement starter per SNLVAR. Last year,
The 2009 Red Sox's dirty little secret was that, save for the perpetually underrated
Cameron's center field defense has been worth almost exactly a win for the Brewers in each of the last two seasons, while Ellsbury played 346 1/3 innings (less than a quarter of the time he spent in center last year) in left field in 2008 and was nearly a win above average in that brief time. Don't expect that sort of brilliance from Ellsbury this year, but even if he is merely worth one win over a typical 1,200 innings, the Red Sox could experience a whopping five-win upgrade on defense alone. Some of that will be given back in the downgrade from Bay's bat, which was worth five wins in 2009 according to VORP, to Cameron's, which is typically worth roughly half of that, but that massive upgrade on defense keeps the Sox's new outfield arrangement well above replacement, and well above their 2009 performance.
Amid an otherwise well-stocked team, the 2009 Red Sox struggled to keep their heads above replacement level at shortstop. They only managed to finish the year three-quarters of a win above replacement at the position because of the deadline acquisition of