Saturday, March 16, 2013

Finding Pedro Florimon's Value

Yesterday, I unveiled what will almost certainly go down in history as my most popular original idea:  a weekly (fake) mailbag.  In that mailbag I asked myself... I mean, I was asked about the Twins player I am higher on than most.  I chose Pedro Florimon because I think his defense can provide enough value to overcome his complete lack of contribution on offense.  I am not sure I explained my point very well and I wasn't feeling good about my selection.

Then, I listened to The Baseball Show with Rany and Joe, a weekly podcast from two baseball writing powerhouses, Joe Sheehan and Rany Jazayerli.  They were talking about the Trevor Bauer trade and how much they hated it.  Basically, the Diamondbacks traded Bauer for Didi Gregorius, an all-glove, no-bat, low-upside player.  Sheehan remarked that they basically traded an elite pitching prospect for Neifi Perez.  This lead me to Perez's FanGraphs page.  Turns out, he posted a 58 wRC+ for his career.  Pedro Florimon posted a 59 wRC+ last season. 

Perez was mostly a glove, and didn't offer much in the hitting and baserunning departments.  This sounds a lot like Pedro Florimon to me.  Sheehan and Jazayerli weren't really questioning Perez or Gregorius as players, but the move to give up a consensus top prospect in order to acquire a player of that caliber.  Gregorius might have more upside than they are giving him, but the point makes sense.  It is also worth noting that Arizona received Lars Anderson and Tony Sipp in that deal, but I'm not sure that really means a whole lot.

The Diamondbacks have their Neifi Perez, but at the cost of a top pitching prospect.  The Twins have their Perez, but got him for basically nothing, claiming him off waivers from Baltimore.  In addition, the Twins have a second Perez, in Eduardo Escobar, and they acquired him in a trade for a player that they had pretty much grown apart from in Francisco Liriano.

So, what's the point? 

I've been investigating middle infielders a lot lately, and I have come to the realization that a good defensive shortstop is a relatively valuable commodity.  Basically, a shortstop with any good quality is pretty rare.  A good offensive shortstop is very rare.  I made that point in a post last weekend (near the bottom in the Addendum).  In addition, good, valuable shortstops are extremely rare, as I posited here.  

Florimon is valuable because he was acquired so cheaply and he makes almost no money.  In addition, he isn't the type of player who will ever earn a lot of money through the arbitration process, as he isn't likely to put up statistics that bring back big paychecks. 

Fine, but how hard is it to get a Florimon or Perez or Gregorius.  The Twins got Florimon cheaply, while Arizona gave up a fair amount.  The only way to really find out is to find more players who fit this profile.  I checked each MLB team's depth chart and found players who roughly fit this profile.  I only used players who project to get significant time at shortstop this coming season.  I found 14 players. 

These players range in their offensive abilities.  Some are as poor as Perez, but others have performed at a higher level.  Each has been considered below average in their offensive contributions though, using wRC+, or has a poor offensive reputation, based on minor league performance.  Now that I have a sample, I investigated how each of these players was acquired by their current team.  Here is the chart:

Salary (in $)
How Acquired?
3.25 Mil
Traded for Maikel Cleto
1.75 Mil
Acquired in Jose Reyes/Josh Johnson/Mark Buehrle Blockbuster
New York M
491 K
Amateur Free Agent
480 K
2nd Round - 2007 Draft
5.5 Mil
Free Agency - 2 yrs/10.5 Mil
St. Louis
League Min
1st Round - 2007 Draft
1.75 Mil
Acquired in Chris Young/Heath Bell Trade
Didi Gregorius
League Min
Acquired in Trevor Bauer Trade
2.06 Mil
Amateur Free Agent
San Diego
1.275 Mil
Rule 5 Draft
San Francisco
481 K
4th Round - 2008 Draft
480 K
Amateur Free Agent
Pedro Florimon
League Min
Eduardo Escobar
480 K
Francisco Liriano Trade

Upon first glance, it is easy to see that the Neifi Perez type is more of a National League phenomenon.  Most American League teams can boast players with average offense, but not all of those shortstops provide good defense.  If a better offensive option isn't present, a good defensive shortstop seems to be a worthy trade-off.  It shouldn't really matter where a player provides their value. 

Looking at the cost of each player, we can see that the Twins might pay the least this year and will have given up the least to acquire their Neifi Perez.  This chart includes some early draft picks and some players who were centerpieces in trades for quality MLB players.  Others are rule 5 picks, amateur free agents and waiver claims.  The range of cost for these players is greater than I would have expected. 

While we can debate the true merits of a player like Florimon, if a team chooses to go that route, they could do a lot worse than a waiver claim making the league minimum.  One other thing that I like about a defensive shortstop is that they can have a lucky offensive season, and provide bonus value.  A random, lucky, good defensive season is pretty unlikely.

Many will argue that glove-first shortstops grow on trees.  While this may be true, they aren't showing up in droves on MLB teams, at least not as cheaply as Florimon has.  While the Twins did not raise payroll this season, if they choose to in the future, they can save a lot of money for pitching and other positions if they have a player like Florimon at short.    

All of this hinges on Florimon's defense.  If he is as good defensively as we saw last year, the Twins may have found a valuable commodity, at a bargain basement price.  The fatal flaw would be that Florimon's biggest asset is also very hard to properly quantify.  Personally, I trust defensive metrics, but many do not.  If his defense is not being properly evaluated, his value cannot be accurately calculated.  Offense is easy to see on the field and in a spreadsheet, but defense is much tougher.  

It's more than just defense though, it's more defense by cost.  If Florimon was making $3 million next season, I wouldn't be writing this.  Fortunately for the Twins, he will be one of their cheapest players.  He may not be a sexy player, but I do know that short of better options, a Florimon type makes sense and clearly other teams agree with the Twins.    


  1. I am also a fan of range in shortstops and hot on Pedro. If rangy SSs grow on trees, they don't grow on Minnesota trees. I even think he could improve at the plate. He just looks like he lacks patience to me. He seems to be able to drive the ball some when het squares it up.

    I will say he clanks some balls right to him. But Es are just numbers for the haters to grab onto.

  2. Yeah, you just never know. If he could improve his plate discipline, he might be able to post a .320ish OBP and while that isn't great, it isn't embarrassing either.