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  • Acquiring Talent The Twins Way: Position Players (Part 1 of 3)

    Last Friday Terry Ryan spoke to Paul Allen about Free Agency:

    If we're going to do anything here and succeed in the near and long long-term Paul, it's probably no going to be via free agency. It's going to be drafting and international acquisitions and trades and so forth. Very rarely do you end up succeeding because of free agency.
    Free Agency is only one of the 6 most common methods of acquiring talent. The others are the Amateur Draft, Amateur Free Agency, Rule 5 Draft, Trades, and Waivers. Using Baseball-references Player registry data, I will examine the Twins' successes at acquiring positional talent via these 6 methods during the period 1996-2013 - the Terry Ryan era. (data here)

    POSITION PLAYERS



    1. The Amateur Draft

    Since 1996, the Twins have 194 player-seasons from players acquired via the Draft, most of any AL team. They have paid these players a combined $389,248,998, 2nd only to the Yankees. These players have put up an average of 1.26 WAR, good for 6th in the AL.





    2. Amateur Free Agency

    This includes signing international prospects. Sixteen player-seasons have been worth an average of just .26 WAR. Bobby Kielty, Luis Rodriguez, and Luis Rivas own most of those seasons. Josmil Pinto and Oswaldo Arcia own one apiece.





    3. Rule 5 Draft

    Brian Buscher and Jason Pridie are the two Rule 5 position players to stick on the 40 man roster during Ryan's and Smith's tenures. Combined, they provided 0.3 WAR over 5 player-seasons at a cost of just under 2 million. The most active Rule 5 team during this time was the Baltimore Orioles, who kept Jay Gibbons on as DH/outfielder for the 2001-2007 seasons.





    4. Trades
    The Twins have given 70 player-seasons to players acquired by trade since 1996. Jason Bartlett, Lew Ford, and Christian Guzman accumulated 9.1, 8.4, and 7.4 WARs over 15 player seasons. On the other end, Ron Coomer, David Ortiz, and Alexi Casilla accumulated between 2 and 4 WARs over 6+ seasons each. Overall, the average player-season was worth .54 WAR, last among AL teams (excluding Houston and Milwaukee.)






    5. Waivers
    The Twins have played 7 Waiver claims in positions 2-9 since 1996. They are (WAR in Parenthesis): Augie Ojeda (1.2), Casey Blake (-0.2), Clete Thomas (0.2), Corky Miller (-0.2), Darin Mastroianni (0.3), Erik Komatsu (-0.2), and Pedro Florimon (3.8). The average waiver claim-season has been worth 0.42 WAR, boosted largely by Florimon's 2013 season which has so far been worth 2.2 WAR.





    6. Free Agency
    Since 1996, the Twins have 84 Free Agent position player-seasons. WAR likes Paul Molitor (5.2), Josh Willingham (3.9) and Jamey Carroll the most (3.5). On the other end are Rondell White (-1.5), Butch Huskey (-1.0), and Kevin Maas (-0.8). Overall, the Twins average a 0.38 WAR season from Free Agent position players. This is the worst average in the AL (excluding Houston and Milwaukee). Interestingly, they also pay their Free Agents the least of any AL team.



    So, in order of average WAR, the Twins' most successful means of positional talent acquisition under Terry Ryan (and 4 seasons of Bill Smith):

    1. Amateur Draft (1.26 WAR)
    2. Trades (0.54)
    3. Waivers (0.42)
    4. Free Agency (0.37)
    5. Amateur Free Agency (0.26)
    6. Rule 5 Draft (0.06)



    *Note about the Salary figures - rather than look up days spent on the active roster for all the minimum wagers, I assumed they were paid a full season's worth. Therefore salary figures are a little inflated, specially for waivers, rule 5, and amateur draft guys.
    This article was originally published in blog: Acquiring talent the Twins Way: position players (part 1 of 3) started by Willihammer
    Comments 28 Comments
    1. Twins Daily Admin's Avatar
      Twins Daily Admin -
      This is a neat anlaysis, albeit overwhelming.

      I'm having trouble verifying your data when looking at the detail. I'm having trouble finding individual players to see their value. For instance, I presume that a great deal of the amateur draft value is driven by Mauer. (Which would, I expect, be the case for several teams - that their overall value is driven considerably higher by the standouts.) Can you tell me how I can find specifics like that in your data? The "Find" function doesn't seem to do it. Is there additional detail that we can't see?
    1. Yossarian's Avatar
      Yossarian -
      And, of course, it begs the question of whether the Twins' data can be broken down further between TR's administration and The Bill Smith Era....
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Great analysis, though I wonder were Nathan, Liriano and Bonser included in the trade section? I only ask because I assumed Nathan's WAR would increase that figure quite a bit. Also, would Santana be include in the trade section? Or would he go in the Rule V?

      Great breakdown though and it does clearly show the Twins are amonst the worst teams in acquiring talent in free agency. They should not have more success in waivers than free agecny, that is simply rediculous.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      If anyone wants to sift through the tables you can download the data here: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B5pI...it?usp=sharing

      There are a few extraneous tabs that I forgot to cleanup before uploading.

      If you go to the tab "combined salarywar pivot" you can filter by year, acquisition method, etc. Then double click any of the cells in the results to pull a new sheet showing the detail of that column-row, if that makes sense.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      The Bill Smith question is a good one. I decided not to really dive into whatever differences might have occured in the Smith era mainly because it would be difficult to extrapolate how much of the results would be Smith's doing and how much would be holdover effects from Terry Ryan's doing 1995-2007.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Quote Originally Posted by nicksaviking View Post
      Great analysis, though I wonder were Nathan, Liriano and Bonser included in the trade section? I only ask because I assumed Nathan's WAR would increase that figure quite a bit. Also, would Santana be include in the trade section? Or would he go in the Rule V?
      Yep, Nathan, Liriano, Gomez, Bonser etc are all included in the trade total. So is Johan. I was unable to find a good explanation for the arrangement of that deal. What I understand is, the Twins had first pick in the Rule 5, but rather than drafting Santana stright up, they took someone the Marlins wanted and then immediately traded him to the Marlins who had the 2nd pick and took Johan ???
    1. The Wise One's Avatar
      The Wise One -
      For the Brewers you have listed 26 player seasons. This includes by your post the cup of coffee players What happened to the totals for the following players with the total number of seasons they played with the Brewers?
      Bill Hall 8
      Corey Hart 9
      JJ Hardy 5
      Prince Fielder 7
      Richie Weeks, 10
      Tony Gwynn jr 3
      Ryan Braun 7
      Jonathan Lucroy 4

      Not to be nitpicky, but that is a gross error
    1. The Wise One's Avatar
      The Wise One -
      Camp had a rocket fastball. Minnesota convinced Miami that other teams would trade for him. They got some cash out of the deal for their efforts. Camp was returned to the Indians and never did make the majors.
    1. JS's Avatar
      JS -
      Very interesting #analysis. I was a bit confused by Johan counting as trade too, but I don't remember all the details around that. I'd tend to think he'd be considered Rule V, since they essentially traded draft picks.
    1. Kavan's Avatar
      Kavan -
      This is really cool analysis. Perhaps we should think of ranking the means of acquisitions differently. Specifically, I think it would be more informative to rank how the twins did in avg. WAR vs the Grand Total. I.e. we actually performed quite poorly in trades relative to other teams (.54 vs 1.05) while we were actually pretty effective in working the waivers (.42 vs .27).

      The rankings would then change to:
      Waivers (.15 WAR better than avg)
      Draft (Exactly avg)
      Rule 5 (0.2 WAR below avg)
      Free Agency (0.38 below avg)
      Trades (0.52 below avg)
      Amature FA (0.85 below avg)

      This sort of begs the question "where the heck did all of our 2000s talent come from?"....

      For trades, it would also be cool to see the WAR differential... i.e. we trade Delmon for Garza, maybe Delmon was worth 1 WAR/yr we had him, but we gave up 3 WAR/year in Garza. The way the data are presented, a team looks really good if they trade a superstar for another superstar but don't look as good if they swap junk for good players. I would argue the latter is a more savvy move.

      Really interesting nonetheless.
    1. mlhouse's Avatar
      mlhouse -
      This means that the Twins, over this 17 year period, averaged just 18.98 wins more than what a team full of replacement level (and minimum contracts) players would have done.

      Using the MLB minimum salary from 1996-2013, to fill the team with replacement players would have cost $133.075 million while the Twins spend $562.731 million on salaries. The net difference of $429.656 million represents $1.33 million spent per win above replacement.

      Based on this, the Twins should have just stayed in the Metrodome and not wasted the taxpayers money.
    1. Kavan's Avatar
      Kavan -
      I think $1.3 million is actually really cheap for a win above replacement. Its hard to tell how 1.3 compares to today with inflation, but these days teams pay about $5 million per win.
    1. Kavan's Avatar
      Kavan -
      Ah sorry, its actually very easy to compare how much we paid for a win vs the average since we have the Grand Total averages in the tables. The Twins only overpaid relative to the mean in 3 of the 6 categories.

      Also we won a bunch of division titles over these years, which is more fun than watching a team of replacement level players for 15+ years.
    1. mlhouse's Avatar
      mlhouse -
      Quote Originally Posted by Kavan View Post
      I think $1.3 million is actually really cheap for a win above replacement. Its hard to tell how 1.3 compares to today with inflation, but these days teams pay about $5 million per win.

      Obviously, the costs of a win over replacement is not on a linear scale and 18 wins above replacement is not much of a success. Remember, REPLACEMENT is not "average", and in fact is far, far below average. The Twins have spent $400 million or so to field a team far below average, much of that subsidized by their move to a new stadium that was financed by the tax payers. The truth of the matter is clear: the fans have not received much back from the Twins ownership who have only fielded a team that is good enough to line their pockets with taxpayer dollars.
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      Quote Originally Posted by Willihammer View Post
      Yep, Nathan, Liriano, Gomez, Bonser etc are all included in the trade total. So is Johan.
      The numbers in the article are just position players, correct? So Nathan, Liriano, and Santana shouldn't be in there?

      Also, when you do pitchers, I would put Santana in the Rule 5 category. The Twins were going to pick him first, but the Marlins called and wanted to make sure they could get their guy, so they gave the Twins a little cash to essentially swap picks.

      You wouldn't credit the Timberwolves with Ray Allen or O.J. Mayo, right?
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      Quote Originally Posted by The Wise One View Post
      For the Brewers you have listed 26 player seasons. This includes by your post the cup of coffee players What happened to the totals for the following players with the total number of seasons they played with the Brewers?
      Bill Hall 8
      Corey Hart 9
      JJ Hardy 5
      Prince Fielder 7
      Richie Weeks, 10
      Tony Gwynn jr 3
      Ryan Braun 7
      Jonathan Lucroy 4

      Not to be nitpicky, but that is a gross error
      He's doing AL only, so his data pull only got the Brewers for a couple seasons in the 1990s before they switched to the NL. Likewise, it only included the Astros for 2013.

      I would have included the NL too. The Twins compete with all of MLB in player acquisition, even if they only compete with AL teams in the standings.
    1. Kavan's Avatar
      Kavan -
      Quote Originally Posted by mlhouse View Post
      Obviously, the costs of a win over replacement is not on a linear scale and 18 wins above replacement is not much of a success. Remember, REPLACEMENT is not "average", and in fact is far, far below average. The Twins have spent $400 million or so to field a team far below average, much of that subsidized by their move to a new stadium that was financed by the tax payers. The truth of the matter is clear: the fans have not received much back from the Twins ownership who have only fielded a team that is good enough to line their pockets with taxpayer dollars.
      Right, a replacement level team wins ~48 games a year, add to that 18 from positional players and you're at 66 wins with the twins teams and replacement level pitching. Add to that another 18 which is what we got out of our pitchers over the same period (according to fangraphs) and you're at 84 wins... which is above the average, for less than average payout. I don't see how that translates to "fans have not received much back from the ownership"

      Also, they were good enough to make the playoff multiple times through the 2000s.
    1. mlhouse's Avatar
      mlhouse -
      Quote Originally Posted by Kavan View Post
      Ah sorry, its actually very easy to compare how much we paid for a win vs the average since we have the Grand Total averages in the tables. The Twins only overpaid relative to the mean in 3 of the 6 categories.

      Also we won a bunch of division titles over these years, which is more fun than watching a team of replacement level players for 15+ years.

      1. Not really. "Overpaying" relative to the mean does not mean much. In almost every type of economic events there is a diminishing marginal return. Because the Twins have been so cheap in most of these "categories" we would expect that their sparse utllization of free agent dollars to do much better. If we were "mean" spenders in these categories liek "trades" and "free agency", your statement would have been more impressive.

      2. I don't disgree with you about the division titles, but most of that was an illusion. First, several of those titles were based on the geography of the league, not having a top record. Here is the data:

      2002 Place in AL: 4th Games behind Wild Card: 5
      2003 5th 5
      2004 4th 6
      2006 2nd -1
      2009 5th 8
      2010 3rd 1

      Only in 2006 and 2010 did we have a team that had a top 3 record in the AL, and only once did we finish with a record better than the AL wild card team.

      Second, our playoff record exposes the fact. In the total of 6 playoff series, this team has won a total of 6 games and just one series back in 2002. They were swept the last the consecutive series, and outside of a 3-2 series win in 2002, they won only one game in the other three.

      The point is, the ownership of this team has let the fans down by not doing what it takes to create a winning team.
    1. Kavan's Avatar
      Kavan -
      But we were pretty close to mean spenders overall, 3 of 6 categories we overpaid, 3 of six we underpaid. We were only "cheap" in half of them.... which doesn't really translate to cheap overall.

      Also in every year you posted, we had a top 5 record, out of 14-ish teams... I think thats pretty good. Anything can happen in the playoffs with so few games, including repeatedly getting swept by the Yankees. I think your evaluation of Twins on-field performance is a bit short-sighted.
    1. The Wise One's Avatar
      The Wise One -
      Quote Originally Posted by spycake View Post
      He's doing AL only, so his data pull only got the Brewers for a couple seasons in the 1990s before they switched to the NL. Likewise, it only included the Astros for 2013.

      I would have included the NL too. The Twins compete with all of MLB in player acquisition, even if they only compete with AL teams in the standings.
      Yeah, I just figured out my error on the Brewers. Still can't see where he got 116 years of drafted players playing for Boston. For the data to have more significance the NL teams should be included. Their strategies, or lack thereof, have a huge impact on drafting and other amateur talent, how you can sign FA, and of course trades. There would be something to also consider, trades made to get you over the hump and win a championship. You generally lose on those trades. Colby Rasmus and extras for a half season of Edwin Jackson. Cards won the hardware, Rasmus has provided his team with more WAR.
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