MLB Offseason: Rockies Get Murphy
Greg Jewett takes a look at the latest news in the MLB offseason by highlighting the Colorado Rockies recent signing of veteran infielder Daniel Murphy, amongst other moves around the league.
Near the end of last season’s trade deadline, Colorado made a push to acquire Daniel Murphy . It appears their pursuit of him did not end this offseason with Murphy agreeing in principle to a two-year contract and heading to Coors Field. After a lull for free agents, Andrew Miller signed with St. Louis, Anibal Sánchez will join a suddenly deep Nationals rotation, the Angels added two starters to their staff and Oakland signed Joakim Soria . Now to explore the fantasy ramifications of these deals.
Daniel Murphy to Colorado
Recovering from microfracture surgery of the knee, Daniel Murphy flashed his old ways in the second half with a .315/.346/.498 slash in 241 at-bats, 34 runs, 11 home runs and 30 RBI. Over the last three years, Murphy’s been a fantasy staple hitting a robust .325/.374/.539 with 222 runs, 60 home runs, 239 RBI and 10 stolen bases in 380 games.
Within this three year time span, Murphy’s recorded a 34.3 hard hit percentage, 40.1 fly ball rate, pulled the ball 38.8 percent of the time and a 12 percent home run per fly ball percentage. Part of his appeal to fantasy resides in his plate discipline metrics. Murphy’s minuscule swinging strike percentage of 5.6 accompanies a Z-Contact (contact in the strike zone) of 94.3 percent and he makes contact 88 percent of the time.
Although home runs do not define Murphy’s fantasy appeal, it’s worth noting what his line drives and fly balls would look like the last three seasons using his spray chart courtesy of Statcast:
At a time when fantasy owners search for players with a stable batting average at or above three hundred, Murphy heading to BABIP haven Coors Field only enhances his appeal. Prior to his signing with Colorado, Steamer projected Murphy for a .306//360/.506 slash with 22 home runs, 86 RBI, 81 runs scored, and three steals over 547 at-bats. Taking the over on runs and home runs with a chance he hits .320 or above with health.
Although the average seems aggressive, using Murphy’s expected hits divided by his total at-bats the last three years, his expected average would be .321 with 60.5 expected home runs. Since his power aligns with his total over the last three seasons, a huge spike seems unlikely, but upside lies in his average along with a bump in counting statistics playing with the Rockies. Plus, he will add first base eligibility early in the season only enhancing his value.
Anibal Sánchez to the Nationals
While the starting pitcher free agent market continues to shrink, Washington strikes again signing Anibal Sánchez to a two-year contract. Sanchez went 7 - 6 last season in 136.2 innings with 135 strikeouts, a 2.83 ERA, 3.62 FIP and 1.08 WHIP. Not only did Sanchez improve his ratio statistics, but he only yielded a 27.7 hard hit percentage, down almost 10 percent compared to his previous season and lowest since 2015.
Sanchez also improved his strikeouts minus walks percentage to 16.8 percent, his best number since 2013. Two questions arise. First, how did he improve? Second, can he repeat it?
For starters, Sanchez utilized his changeup more often according to Brooks Baseball. This pitch generated a 37.15 whiff per swing rate but more importantly, allowed a .144 batting average against and paltry .066 isolated power. He also almost tripled the usage of his cutter to 23.4 percent with a .195 batting average against and .134 isolated power.
If Sanchez continues to refine his arsenal and stays healthy, he could be a sneaky fantasy pitcher for the upcoming season. His FIP (3.62) and kwFIP (3.81) forecast regression, but bake this into his expectations. Steamer does not adjust for a change in repertoire, so the forecasted nine wins for Sanchez with a 4.28 ERA and 1.31 WHIP seems to high. At his present average draft position, paying for a 3.65-to-3.85 ERA with about a strikeout per inning upside and double digit wins seems within reach for Sanchez. Plan accordingly.
Andrew Miller to St. Louis
It feels like the Cardinals try to shore up the bullpen with a left-handed reliever each year, and finally, they will get one. Andrew Miller ’s final contract could be for two years with a vesting option for a third, but coming off of a disappointing 2018, he’s a worthy risk for St. Louis.
Over the last three seasons, Miller’s won 16 games with 16 saves in 171 innings striking out 263 against 46 strikeouts with a 2.05 ERA, 2.18 FIP and 0.88 WHIP. During this time, he’s also notched a 15.6 swinging strike percentage and owns the second best strikeouts minus walks percentage (32 percent) of all qualified relievers.
Although his role with the team could evolve, this may pave the way for Miller to combine forces at the back end of the Cardinals bullpen with Jordan Hicks . Even if Miller does not close, his effects on ratio statistics and strikeout upside make him a worthy target in fantasy.
Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill to the Angels
Perhaps the Angels recognize their window with Mike Trout continues to shorten, so they’re trying to fill the rotation with stopgap depth rather than overpaying for long-term commitments. It’s sort of savvy. Los Angeles added both Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill this week to fill two spots on the staff.
This could be a case where real life matches fantasy with Matt Harvey . On a one-year contract with the Angels, Harvey could be a worthy gamble if he ditches the change-up and refines his arsenal. With the Reds, Harvey cut his ERA to 4.5 and FIP to 4.33 with a 1.23 WHIP over 128 innings. A fresh start near his roots could fuel a bounce back season for Harvey.
As for Cahill, he’s a curious case. In 2018, Cahill went 7 - 4 with 100 strikeouts in 100 innings, a 3.76 ERA, 3.54 FIP and 1.19 WHIP. However, his home and road splits cause some concern:
Cahill at home: 63.2 innings, 1.84 ERA, .238 weighted on-base average, 19.5 K-BB%, 0.91 WHIP, 3.05 FIP
Cahill on the road: 46.1 innings, 6.41 ERA, .349 weighted on-base average, 5.7 K-BB%, 1.58 WHIP, 4.22 FIP
Hope lies within his road FIP and his secondary pitches. Cahill’s changeup generated a 38.5 whiff per swing last year with a .170 batting average against. Plus, his curve yielded a .147 average against with a 35.2 whiff per swing rate. It remains to be seen if Cahill can log 150 innings, hone his arsenal using his secondary pitches more and cash in for fantasy, it’s your move Angels.
Joakim Soria to Oakland
With Blake Treinen firmly entrenched as the closer, this will be a lateral move for Joakim Soria in terms of fantasy. Use his last three years of 18 saves with a 3.59 ERA, 3.03 FIP and 1.28 WHIP as a guide to assess him in deep leagues. If an injury occurred, he could get a chance to close games, but for now, Soria’s off the radar in standard leagues.
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