In June, I wrote a piece about DiamondView, the Tribe’s statistical analysis program, on the ESPN SweetSpot Blog. With the recent additions of Brandon Moss and Gavin Floyd, I decided to look at what I know about DiamondView and how Shapiro and Antonetti operate in order to explain the front office’s rationale behind these transactions.
One of the biggest findings I learned was the Tribe front office’s strong belief in players beginning to decline once they turn 29. Moss is 31 and will play almost all of next season at that age. However, he is built to decline at a slower rate than his colleagues. Power is a trait that tends to decline at a slower rate, shown last season by Nelson Cruz, Victor Martinez, Jose Bautista, and David Ortiz. Each of these four sluggers tallied 32 or more bombs and is at least 34 years old. That bodes well for Moss, who has hit at least 20 homers each of the last three seasons, even though he played half his games in a park that favors pitching. Progressive Field was the 11th-most home run friendly ballpark last season, with a skew toward left-handed power, so Moss should be able to go yard on plenty of occasions in 2015.
Moss’ positional versatility is also praised by DiamondView and Shapanetti. Last season, he saw time in the field at three different positions, first base, left field, and right field. Though he was not a Gold Glove-caliber fielder anywhere, he’s been about average at all three positions throughout his career, according to defensive runs saved and fielding runs, two popular fielding metrics. Considering how poorly the Indians fielded at just about every position last season, even average fielding is a marked improvement over what fans dealt with all summer.
As a small-market franchise, the Indians have had a rule that no single player’s salary should exceed 12.5 percent of the total team payroll. Though some of their recent free agency decisions have put this rule into question, Brandon Moss‘ projected salary for next season does not break this rule. According to MLB Trade Rumors, Moss’ arbitration figure will come in at about $7 million for 2015. Based on last season’s Tribe payroll, Moss’ figure would only take up about 8.7 percent of that pie, a percentage that could decrease if the payroll increases, something that has been hinted at thus far.
The major concern for Moss is, of course, injuries. He had hip surgery in October, but it was not microfracture surgery. This means that his injury was not as severe and the rehab time will not be as lengthy. According to a series of tweets from Oakland beat writers, by the time the trade was finalized, Moss was supposedly off of crutches and halfway through the 12-week process of returning to running. The prognosis was that Moss would be ready in time for spring training, but the Tribe brass may approach his rehabilitation differently. As much as I hate to use the old cliche, I believe that we will have to wait for Sprint Training to get a definitive answer on Moss’ injury.
Floyd’s case shares plenty of similarities to Moss. He is also on the wrong side of 29, turning 32 next month and playing all of next season at that age. He also comes to Cleveland on the cheap, with just $4 million guaranteed to him next year in base salary. Even if Floyd meets all of his incentives and increases his salary to $10 million, that will not be an extreme fraction of next year’s likely increasing payroll. Moreover, an increased salary from Floyd would be due to great performance, in turn making him worth that incentive-filled figure.
One concern with aging pitchers is decreasing velocity. This is a major issue with power pitchers like Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia, two guys who have become increasingly ineffective due to their decreasing velocities. Gavin Floyd is not a power pitcher, averaging 91.6 miles per hour on his fastball throughout his career, per Pitch F/X data. His velocity on the pitch was 91.8 MPH last season, proof of an overall velocity plateau that should not lead to a decline in performance next season. That said, I would not get my hopes up for a repeat of last season’s numbers in a small sample size.
The biggest red flag for Floyd is his injury history. He has missed most of the last two seasons with injuries to his throwing elbow, the scariest place for a pitching injury to happen. The first was Tommy John surgery after just five starts in 2013. Then, after signing with the Braves last off-season, Floyd rehabbed early in the season before making nine successful starts for the big league club. Then he fractured his olecranon – the bony tip of the elbow – while throwing a curveball and he got surgery soon after. I’m not on the pre-med track, so I assume that this is a freak injury he has recovered from fully. Considering Tribe GM Chris Antonetti has already promised him a rotation spot, I assume the Indians feel the same way. Knowing how rarely the Tribe front office divulges little more that common knowledge, this belief in Floyd is promising.
Overall, these two acquisitions fit right in with how Shapiro and Antonetti have operated over the years. Both players are talented values for a small-market franchise, though each brings his own injury history. Should both guys be past their injuries, they will prove great values for a contending Indians team. That said, if either player’s injury history comes back to haunt him, fans could be in for another disappointing campaign.