DAN HAREN SCARES ‘EM

Tim McCullough, Managing Editor November 26, 2012

Heeeeere’s Jonny!!

The Oakland A’s backed away from re-signing Jonny Gomes after they acquired Chris Young from the Arizona Diamondbacks, paving the way for the Red Sox to sign him to a two-year, $10M contract. When you consider Gomes’ extreme career L/R splits (.284/.223), this is a curious signing for Boston. His difficulties against right-handed batters are well documented across his entire career, so there is almost no question the Sox will use Gomes’ in a platoon, perhaps with Ryan Kalish. However, Gomes has another serious fault; the man is clearly defensively challenged – we’re talking Manny Ramirez-like challenged.  According to “The Fielding Bible,” Gomes has a -23 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) rating over the past three seasons. Put differently, over the course of 1,918 innings played in the outfield from 2010-2012, Gomes has cost his team 23 runs. Only ten other outfielders have worse DRS ratings than Gomes during that period, and most of them are full-time players and far better overall hitters. The only thing uglier than Gomes’ defensive stats is his taste in clothing.

But let’s ignore Gomes’ defensive issues for the moment and assume the Red Sox start him primarily against left-handed pitchers and perhaps use him off the bench when a right-handed starter is pulled from a game in favor of a lefty reliever. In all likelihood, that should result in about 300 plate appearances for Gomes, in which he’ll probably produce a batting average in the .265 range along with 15-20 HRs, and about 50 RBI and 50 runs scored. That’s not going to be enough to make him valuable in 10-12 team mixed leagues or shallow mono leagues. However, in deeper mixed leagues and 12+ team AL-only play, Gomes should be worthy of a roster spot, given his career .211 ISO and HR hitting ability. If he ends up being the primary left fielder, garnering regular starts against right-handed pitching, he could easily crack the 20 HR plateau. You will have to be able to tolerate his low batting average in that instance, but as a later round pick he’ll be of decent value if he gets 500 or more plate appearances. Keep in mind that the latter scenario isn’t likely, and that the Red Sox are far from done making over their team this winter. Ultimately, we won’t be able to peg Gomes’ Fantasy value until the Red Sox have filled their wish list this winter. There is still a long way to go.

Teams Reluctant to Sign Haren

A significant loss of velocity could mean arm trouble for Dan Haren. Keith Allison

The free agent pitching market is still taking shape, but one thing we know already is that Dan Haren is having a tough time convincing teams he is healthy. Oddly enough, Haren’s injury history was very clean up until June of 2011, when he missed five games (one start) with lower back spasms. Then in 2012, he missed a total of 19 games over two occasions with lower back stiffness. Also of some concern among his 2012 stats was a sharp increase in HR/9 to 1.43, well above his career mark of 1.05 HR/9. The long ball certainly made an impact on his ERA, which swelled to 4.33, more than a run higher than his 3.17 ERA in 2011 with the Angels. He also showed a loss of about 1.5 mph on his fastball and more than 2 mph on his curveball. There is no way to know for certain without access to Haren’s medical records, but loss of velocity, especially on his curveball, could be indicative of an arm problem unrelated to his back issues. Since teams are reluctant to make any medical information available to the public, it is entirely possible that Haren’s trip to the DL in 2012 had nothing to do with his back, and was indeed to rest a sore elbow. That would certainly explain why the Angels were unable to move Haren at the trade deadline, despite their willingness to eat a significant portion of his contract. It would also explain why the team allowed him to leave in free agency rather than pick up his rather reasonable $12M option for 2013. Two teams that are reportedly interested in Haren are the Red Sox and San Diego, and is Fantasy value will be wildly different depending on which team gets him. In the AL East, Haren’s loss of velocity and HR/9 problems from last season would make him far less valuable. In the capacious confines of Petco Park, Haren would be far more valuable, even with his diminished velocity. It will be interesting to see if either team eventually signs him. He may have to wait until the rest of the pitching market shakes out to get his next contract.

Odds and Ends

There are rumors around that the Houston Astros are shopping their best hitter of 2012, Jed Lowrie. However, it also seems clear that the team would need to be overwhelmed with a package of prospects to part with their shortstop. Lowrie had an excellent season at the plate, combining solid power with a fairly patient approach at the plate. However, as expected, injuries were a problem, as he managed just 97 games and 387 PA. Teams are not going to be willing to part with durable young prospects for a player with durability issues throughout his professional career. You should expect Lowrie to stay with Houston, where he will again be an undervalued player at the scarce shortstop position… Speaking of shortstops, the Tigers have reportedly grown impatient with Jhonny Peralta and are thought to be looking at Stephen Drew as a replacement. Drew has drawn interest from several teams after he proved he can still hit during his brief turn with the A’s after the Diamondbacks decided he wasn’t worth it anymore. Coincidentally, the Diamondbacks are interested in acquiring Peralta from Detroit and may pull the trigger on a deal if the Tigers make him available. Peralta would benefit from Arizona’s hitter-friendly park, so keep an eye out for this one to happen. Peralta had a pretty solid 2011, so he’s far from done as a Fantasy commodity… Contrary to popular belief, the Red Sox signing of Jonny Gomes does NOT mean they are out of the market for Cody Ross. Remember, Gomes can’t play right field at all, so they still need Ross, or someone else, to play in the tricky right field at Fenway Park. The only question is whether or not the Red Sox will give Ross the four-year deal he is reportedly looking for… Raul Ibanez wants to return to the Yankees and Brian Cashman seems to be indicating that the team wants him back. However, the Yankees have other priorities at the moment, so Ibanez may have to wait awhile to get his new deal. But let’s face it; Ibanez doesn’t really have any other options anyway. The friendly confines of Yankee Stadium and that short porch in right field are the only reason Ibanez hit as well as he did last season. He won’t find that confluence of factors anywhere else in the AL and he can no longer play the outfield, so the NL is not practical… Another injury-prone player is getting plenty of interest this winter. Lance Berkman is on the radar of the Red Sox, Phillies, Rays, and strangely enough – the Astros. The Sox and Phillies want Berkman to play first base, while the Rays and Astros would be happy to have him as a DH, so his value will vary according to where he signs and where he’s used by his new team. Berkman’s injury issues makes him tough to believe in for Fantasy use, but he still has enough upside to be a difference-maker, especially in mono-league play.

Tim McCullough is the Assistant Editor for RotoExperts.com. Questions, comments and requests are welcome. Contact Tim at tim.m@rotoexperts.com

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