Some things to talk about while the Diamondbacks show they have little understanding of hitter value...
1) Mariners mess
I hope you all saw this article from the Seattle TImes about the allegations of dysfunction in the Mariners front office. From Geoff Baker's excellent expose:
Blengino said he prepared the package because he was versed in the hot trend of using advanced stats for team decisions.
"Jack portrayed himself as a scouting/stats hybrid because that's what he needed to get the job," Blengino said. "But Jack never has understood one iota about statistical analysis. To this day, he evaluates hitters by homers, RBI and batting average and pitchers by wins and ERA. Statistical analysis was foreign to him. But he knew he needed it to get in the door."
Out of all the interesting things that came from these allegations, this one stood out most. Why? Because we had the same questions about Jeff Luhnow when he took the job. He had a sabermetrics-friendly reputation from his time in St. Louis, but reputation can be enhanced by something like a job application put together by a subordinate.
What the Astros did under Luhnow quickly put to bed any speculation. More than just Luhnow's comments on how to build a team, he went out and hired an analytics team to confirm his reputation. What's more, the way Luhnow runs his front office is night-and-day from how the M's front office is portrayed.
Houston's team works together with one organizational message, from Luhnow to Bo Porter to all the rest. They have one direction and stick to the process. That's what was most comforting about the Mariners' story. The Astros are the polar opposite of that and it feels awesome.
2) FanGraphs on the Astros
Hey! A national article that says something good about the Astros other than the front office is really, really smart! Cool. FanGraphs looks at the Dexter Fowler and Scott Feldman moves to see how they affect the Astros moving forward. TL;DR:
Granted, that story is propped up on a couple "ifs" and a handful of wishes. While it isn't outlandish to suggest that the Astros could win 70 games with a little luck, it's definitely taking the over on the Vegas line. Fowler and Feldman have their share of warts and either or both acquisitions could backfire on the Astros and leave the franchise over $37 million poorer.
The article suggests that even if Feldman's stats regress in 2014, he'll still be a 2-3 win upgrade over Jordan Lyles (assuming Lyles doesn't take a GIANT step forward in 2014 and, you know, actually miss bats with his fastball).
The point about the wins is a good one. I've been preaching for a while that Houston's one-run game record cannot be as bad as it was in 2013 again. Just normal regression there means Houston should be 10 games better in 2014. Add in another capable bullpen arm as a late-inning guy and that becomes more secure.
So, add in 10 games there plus three wins for Feldman and four wins for Fowler and Houston gets much, much closer to 70 wins. It's not guaranteed and there are a lot of "ifs" involved, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Houston make a 20-game jump next year.
3) Phillies doing Phillies things
Rob Neyer with a great breakdown of the crazy Phillies, who were looking for starting pitching but now may be interested in dealing Cole Hamels or Cliff Lee.
Which is all so very weird and interesting and what-the-helltastic, except you can't help thinking that once Amaro takes a hot shower and has a couple of espressos, there won't really be so many talks about Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. Because it's hard to imagine the Phillies just tanking a whole season or two. Not with their TV deal and their ballpark and their fan base. And while they're hardly favorites to win anything next season, they would become decided non-favorites without their two high-quality starting pitchers. Which Lee and Hamels most certainly are, despite their 22-22 combined record last season. Cliff Lee is still fantastic, and Cole Hamels did exactly what Cole Hamels always does.
I'd bet a lot of money that the Phils don't move either guy this winter (unless the Dodgers offer Joc Pederson for Lee), but the fact that their names are on the market sets the old gears working. What if Houston ate the entire Hamels contract? How much of a prospect return would it take to make a deal work? Could something be built around Jarred Cosart and Jonathan Villar? More importantly, would a deal be worth it?
Like I said, there's probably nothing to this, but the Winter Meetings are all about throwing out trade scenarios, right?