MLB Pro Roundtable: Picking the Best Player Auction Pieces

We’re less than 24 hours away from one of the most unique and entertaining aspects of the MLB Pro offseason, the annual Player Auction. Developed years ago by our former commissioner and Marlins owner Andrew Sowders as he was trying to peddle subpar players in the chat room for straight cash deals, it has since evolved into a tradition which reached 41 posted players for this year’s event.

Pitchers and catchers report in just over a month. Teams are checking the waiver wire and the bottom of the free agent pool for their final pieces in advance of April 3rd. The Player Auction provides another avenue to find that 24th or 25th man – along with the excitement of a live, public dollars-for-players trade negotiation.

Sometimes you’ll find gold. Lefty reliever Boone Logan was added to the auction block after the 2013 season. His prescence sparked a fierce bidding war following an all-star season. Bruce Curson of the Mets won his services for $2,850,000. Logan went on to save 13 games and post a 1.90 ERA in 66+ IP the following year. He’s since become a mainstay in the Mets’ postseason runs, signing two contract extensions totaling 5 years and $11.6 million.

Sometimes you’ll find garbage. An NL Central GM who shall remain nameless (unless you’re ambitious enough to look up the trade logs) tipsily put in a $300,000 bid for Quad-A starter Andy Sonnanstine, not realizing he was still owed some $4 million dollars in the future and not on a minor league contract. Sonnanstine didn’t make it out of Spring Training and was released in March, never again returning to the major leagues.

There’s a lot of great coverage going on during this year’s Winter Meetings, and we’d like to add to the pile. Three GMs have been assembled for a roundtable to try and identify the best pieces in this year’s Player Auction. Each writer will make three selections in a straight draft order. Jack Beckmann will have the first pick, followed by John Comey with Justin Jabs pulling up the rear. Enjoy.

ROUND 1, PICK 1: Lonnie Chisenhall, D-backs 3B

2016 All Star and Silver Slugger, Chisenhall is a durable and reliable producer at 3B (.280/.324/.462 for five seasons in majors). Starting Bid: $50,000 

Beckmann: I took Lonnie Chisenhall purely because of his performance over the last couple years. He can easily start at 3B for most teams, and he has a low starting bid which should result in most teams at least throwing in a flier for him. Plus, he’s out of contract after this year, so he won’t put a dent in your financial ledger. A clear cut for #1, in my mind.

Jabs: Nice inaugural pick. Wow, there might actually be some players in this pool.

Beckmann: Yeah, I find it surprising that Arizona just listed Chisenhall and [Chris] Heisey at $50,000 each. Both are all-stars.

ROUND 1, PICK 2: Dellin Betances, Reds RP

Betances was very effective in 2016 posting a 2.63 era and made 3 spot starts. 8.5 k’s per 9 innings. He should fit in nicely as a long reliever/spot starter with some good upside. Starting Bid: $1,000,000 

Comey: I’ll take Betances with the second pick. He has closer ability, is controlled reasonably for three more years, and has severe value at the back end of a bullpen.

I do believe that Betances is the kind of pitcher who can fit into any pen, and therefore, should be of high value to teams who believe they can make The Leap into contention next season. He is also of value to teams who have a young bullpen, and need someone who take the reigns until those younger pitchers are ready. He turns into a valuable trade chip at that point.

ROUND 1, PICK 3: Eury De La Rosa, Reds RP

De La Rosa had a very good 2016 season and should provide solid innings for someone’s bullpen. He should be a very productive guy for someone, we just don’t have any room for him. Starting Bid: $500,000 

Jabs: The Reds’ current 40 man roster is very pitcher heavy – they’ve got 25 arms to just 15 bats, and De La Rosa is out of options, so roster flexibility is probably a big reason why a decent arm like his is on the auction block.

He excels against lefty batters, holding them to just a .158 average (.465 OPS) in 114 at-bats last year. But there’s potential for more than just a LOOGY. He has some experience at back end of the bullpen, finishing 2nd among Reds relievers with 8 saves. There are certainly much better pitchers out there, but he can handle the ninth in a pinch.

De La Rosa is one of the youngest players on the auction block at just 26 years old, making him a nice piece to acquire for just money.

ROUND 2, PICK 1: Yoenis Cespedes, Tigers CF

Cespedes is a decent right-handed hitter. He’s also adequate at the center field position. He’s 31 years old but has an expiring contract. Starting Bid: $150,000 

Beckmann: I took Yoenis Cespedes with my second pick because he is capable of starting in the outfield Day 1. Teams who may bid on Yoenis will need to make sure they have the budget for him, as he comes in at a high price, but he is able to produce quality numbers. He is under contract for 1 year, making him more intriguing for rebuilding teams who could use a stopgap starter without giving up any of their young assets.

ROUND 2, PICK 2: A.J. Cole, Orioles RP

65-55-40 with 3 good pitches who can also start. Career Highs at MLB: 3.32 ERA, .229 BABIP. Starting Bid: $150,000 

Comey: I’d take a flyer on AJ Cole with my second pick. He has three plus pitches. His control is not good, but he works hard and is just 25. For a team who needs someone to eat innings, you could do far worse than to see what Cole can do. This is more for rebuilding teams, of course.

ROUND 2, PICK 3: Avery Barnes, Tigers LF

Barnes is a solid hitter vs. RHP. He had a line of .278/.369/.447 with 11 HRs & 45 RBIs versus righties. Very selective at the plate. Posted 1.8 WAR. Starting Bid: $400,000 

Jabs: Barnes had a monster season just two years ago: 4.7 WAR in 2014 with the Reds, including a near 40% on-base rate. The past two seasons have been just average at two wins apiece. Barnes is still a great player to have, in my opinion, if you’re looking to fill out a bench. His defense is below average but passable and if you can play him mostly against righties you’re going to see some nice production. He’s the kind of on-base guy I enjoy and he’ll bring power numbers in the teens.

ROUND 3, PICK 1: D.J. Mitchell, Red Sox SP

Solid RHP who has 2 more years of club control, just needs out of Boston. Starting Bid: $1,000,000 

Beckmann: Mitchell, is, like the description entails, a pitcher who needs a change of scenery. A man who has four good pitches and a high stuff, per my ratings at least, it seems like Mitchell has a very good shot at being a solid rotation piece or a bullpen arm for just about any team in 2017. It’s worth a shot on him.

Comey: I was going to take Barnes and Mitchell with my picks. And De La Rosa. At least I’m seeing the same thing you guys are.

ROUND 3, PICK 2: Jose De La Torre, Red Sox RP

Good RHP with groundball tendencies who is still under club control for 3 more years. Starting Bid: $50,000 

Comey: I would take De La Torre with my third pick. He isn’t great, but he is good enough to fill solid innings for any ballclub. He is also a solid groundball pitcher, which should play well in places like the Bronx, and really well somewhere like Dodger Stadium. He’s also ridiculously cheap. Worth the flyer.

Jabs: I agree. Interesting we have two Reds pitchers and two Red Sox pitchers on our “teams.” D.J. Mitchell is priced accordingly, but De La Torre is a steal at his starting bid.

ROUND 3, PICK 3: Matt Clark, Marlins LF

Starting Bid: $100,000 

Jabs: This pick is a bit out of left field (heh, heh) because the contract Clark possesses will likely make things quiet in the auction room tomorrow night. In fact, Clark is the only player on our list for whom the posting GM decided not to write a pitch for. Ryan Naylor is throwing this line out there and seeing what he catches.

If you’ve got the money, Clark is intriguing. The power doesn’t lie – he’s averaging nearly 30 dingers a year since 2014, and his slugging percentage has been north of .500 this year and last. However, he’s a liability on defense and is starting to see his average drop, a trend which will likely continue with age. It’s the last overall pick so I’m having fun with it… but I’m excited to see what Clark brings in two days.

 

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Thanks for joining us. Who do you think has the best team – the players that will bring in the most money? Let us know on Slack or in the comments, and we’ll see you at the Player Auction.

Final Rosters:

  • Jack Beckmann, First Pick
    • 3B Lonnie Chisenhall – sold for $1.15M
    • CF Yoenis Cespedes – went UNSOLD
    • SP DJ Mitchell – sold for $1M
  • John Comey, Second Pick
    • RP Dellin Betances – sold for $4.5M
    • RP AJ Cole – sold for $150k
    • RP Jose De La Torre – sold for $500k
  • Justin Jabs, Third Pick
    • RP Eury De La Rosa – went UNSOLD
    • LF Avery Barnes – sold for $999,999
    • LF Matt Clark – sold for $1,860,277

Final Standings:

  1. John Comey – $5,150,000
  2. Justin Jabs – $2,860,276
  3. Jack Beckmann – $2,150,000