December 11, 2015

The #Cardinals, Jason Heyward and options

Eight years, and $200 million. Since Jayson Stark, in talking about Cardinals' free agent outfielder Jason Heyward, tweeted this on Thursday:
That's what the Cardinals are looking at. Whether the Nats also offered that amount, I don't know; it seems clear that was the Cards' offer.

Update, 1:30 p.m. Dec. 11. That's NOT what they were looking at, or else the Cards were the $200M mystery team on a 10-year, no opt-out contract. The Cubs just signed Heyward, but for no more than $185M over 8 years.

And, parsing various news, it seems like the Nats (and thus, not the Cards) were that $200M team.

In other words, despite his tough talk, Cards GM John Mozeliak took a powder at crunch time. I'm not totally angry with him, but I am at least somewhat.

And, now that the trade is official, I've summarized my thoughts on how I think the Cards should move on, AND whether this might be a less than perfect move by the Cubs, in this new post.

Meanwhile, back to the original thread.

Chris Davis: Cardinal?
That $200M is also what Scott Boras (you say Boras, I say BorASS, let's call the whole thing off) is reportedly seeking for Orioles 1B free agent Chris Davis.

Davis would be ... interesting.

The Cardinals haven't had his type of power bat since 2011, when Phat Albert went to Anaheim and whatever the hell other cities in Southern California Arte Moreno wants named after the Angels. (Sorry, Cards fans, but while Matt Holliday has had decent pop in his bat, he's not in the same slugger class.)

But, aren't there options? Alex Gordon? Yoenis Cespedes?

Well, they'd both be cheaper, but, neither plays right. So, is Stephen Piscotty ready to be a right fielder with the Cardinals playing Randal Grichuk in center if Heyward is gone? That said, Cespedes has played some center in his past, which would theoretically let Grichuk go to right, but it's been occasional, and he's been below average. (Per Sportrac, the market for actual right-fielder free agents ain't that good.)

And, no, Ben Hochman of the Post-Dispatch, moving Gordon to first ain't a good option either. Mo will probably claim it is, though.

So, if it's Piscotty in right, I'm sure that's not Mike Matheny's preferred managerial option. Piscotty did play primarily right in Memphis and was OK to OK-minus defensively. And, he's not got the arm that would give him plus value to offset OK-at-best range.

So, add this up and remember that Heyward or a reasonable option is the Cards' top need by far.

That said, Davis would give them that masher that the Cards have had at first base, with Pujols, and Big Mac before him, then Pedro Guerrero (a semi-masher), then Jack Clark back in the middle of Whiteyball. I mean, the 1982 Birds with the Merry Mex at first are the only Cardinals World Series team in the last 50 years to truly skimp on power at first. On the other hand, Davis is a Boras client, and the Cards have generally avoided dealing with him and vice versa.

Is Matt Adams the answer at first? Matt Adams platooning with Brandon Moss and a cameo from Brayan Pena?

Probably not. What Cards fans saw in 2014 is likely near Adams' ceiling, and that involved some judicious platooning. Moss might be worth more as part of a trade to an AL team for whatever. And, if Heyward walks, the Cards need a real answer from somewhere.

That said, the Heyward issue seems down to three teams. Signing Ben Zobrist apparently didn't eliminate the Cubs, and now the Nationals are involved. That said, that guarantees Bryce Harper asking for $35-40M a year, from Washington, or whomever if it won't, when he's a free agent. He IS a Boras client.

Meanwhile, just how much is Heyward's defense worth, when he doesn't have a corner OF's bat, and when the Braves didn't  play him much at center, for various reasons?

Some might cite Roberto Clemente. Cite away. He had a great arm, but B-Ref gives him "just" 12 career dWAR. Plus, while WAR itself still draws critics, dWAR, and defensive sabermetrics in general, draw even more.

Hence, this piece by Sports Illustrated, attempting to suss out various GMs on just what Heyward is worth. You'll see that they're all over the place.

Anyway, Mo should be prepared to spend money. As I've noted before, Holliday has just one year left, unless the team picks up his option in 2017, which it might make sense not to do. And, it's got a new TV contract in 2018. (But, per the update in red, he's apparently quite prepared to not spend money.)

There is one complicating factor. Reportedly, Mo won't get the chance to make an ultra-final counteroffer if the Cubs, the Nats or a mystery team tops him; Heyward will simply take the best offer he has. And, we have just seen that happen.

Two final thoughts.

One is that Davis is about three and a half years older than Heyward. Another is that, for their careers, Heyward's left-right batting splits are 15 OPS+ points worse than Davis'.

And, Ccll it a silver lining, sour grapes, or whatever. Heyward's value lies primarily in his D, but he's going from baseball's fifth-largest park, by fair territory (and infields are all the same, of course), to second-smallest. Cubs, even at this price, may well have overpaid.

As for the idea of him playing center, since last year's Cubs incumbent, Dexter Fowler, is a free agent himself, with below-average skills there?

The Cardinals and Braves combined played Heyward just 32 games in CF. Per Baseball-Reference, going by range factor per nine innings, he was pretty well below average. Call it small sample size or whatever, but the Braves had five years to try to convert him to a center fielder, and didn't.

And, they didn't have defensive geniuses in center in Atlanta. For 2010-11, it was Nate McLouth, not anybody's idea of a great defensive player; for 2012, Michael Bourn, who had one of his good years in CF defensively. For 2013-14, it was Melvin Upton, OK-plus the first year and OK-minus the second, but so much teh suck with the bat that the Barves should have benched him, moved Heyward to CF and started somebody else, like Toe Jam, in right.

December 09, 2015

#Oilprices: Searching for new lows?

Regular readers may take note of the quarterly poll on oil prices I've been running here the past couple of years. Having been at two places in the heart of the Permian Basin, one near the heart of the Barnett Shale (yes, primarily gas these days, but also oil), and one at the edge of the Barnett Shale, I know a little bit about oil.

That said, while oil prices have three weeks to rebound, my current poll doesn't have a vote for as low as they are now. Oil fell below $37 a barrel on Tuesday, for West Texas Intermediate, before ending at $37.51.

And, it could get worse, if you're not a driver, in the short term. How worse? Something like $32 a barrel ... or lower. Commodities futures speculators are about to have to eat their hats, it seems, as places for storing surplus oil are running out.

So, what's the longer-term outlook? (By that, I mean the next 2-3 years, not long-term.)

Tom Kloza of OPIS, one of the more rational people in oil commodities analysis, thinks a fair amount of rebound could start happening in the second half of next year, and we possibly get above $60 a barrel by early 2017, as his video at the second link shows.

Personally, color me skeptical. For one thing, other analysts and Wall Street banks disagree with him. And, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is among those saying that, so far at least, U.S. oil production's retrenchment has been slow and limited.

Beyond that, Kloza does mention in passing the possibility that something like Brazil devaluing its rial, its currency, as something that would drive oil prices into the $20s, but doesn't dive into that in great detail.

That said, speaking of devaluations? It seems to have helped Russia weather the storm somewhat. Meanwhile, the Saudis are also working on getting more into refining and its added value. More on both countries' situations here.

#ParisClimateTalks may have a deal — that means little

The New York Times, at this AP piece, reports that such an accord has been crafted.

However, there are several questions.

One, per that link, is what are the temperature targets? Per the Guardian, more countries are pushing for 1.5C, not 2C, on maximum allowable warming. I think 1.5C would be better than 2C, but about impossible to reach, to be honest.

Two is the "how" this will, theoretically be reached, whatever the target. Sounds like that's part of the blanks to be filled.

Three is the enforcibility of that "how." Per Time, it looks like, other than the issue of carbon emissions transparency, Dear Leader's team wants as much of the accord to be voluntary as possible.

Ridiculous.

The man knows the current U.S. Congress won't approve any parts of this deal that need Congressional approval even if they are voluntary in nature. So, why not go for some binding standards?

Answer?

Because Obama, rhetoric aside, is a neoliberal who doesn't want to offend the current business class that much.

Fourth, while Europe rounds up developing nations, it's clearly not that much more serious about the issue. The EU's cap-and-trade program has Mack Truck sized loopholes, and yet, neither the EU collectively, nor individual member nations, have proposed a tax-and-tariff system.

Fifth, developing countries want assistance from the rich world not only for mitigation of future climate change effects, but losses and damages that aren't or can't be mitigated. So far, that doesn't seem to be part of any accord.

Let's remember that previous climate "summits," like the old Cold War US-USSR summits, have shown themselves to be fertile ground for "spinning." That includes developing as well as developed nations. (I'm looking at you, India.)

And, per the official website, we may not know what's in the details until late tonight or tomorrow morning.

#Cardinals trade Jay for Gyorko: I agree

Jedd Gyorko: Put on
that Cardinal red
A mid-level trade popped up Tuesday morning at MLB's winter meetings, before the really big stuff hit the fan, and I think it's a decent one for the 2016 version of the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Cardinals yesterday traded outfielder Jon Jay to the Padres for second baseman/utility infielder Jedd Gyorko plus cash. That makes him cost $26M over four years.

Compare that to what the Cubs just shelled out for free agent second baseman/utility infielder Ben Zobrist, nearly a decade older, and, primarily playing a high-aging position in baseball, surely on the decline

Meanwhile, Gyorko can play (albeit defensively challenged) short as well as second and third, which definitely gives the Cards some infield aid for next season.

Sounds like Jhonny Peralta, whom the Cards thought wore down during the stretch last year, will get a few more days off in 2016. Gyorko could give Kolten Wong the quasi-platoon at second that Mark Ellis never delivered in 2014. And Matt Carpenter gets some rest options, too.

All for less than half of Zobrist's $56M over those four years, and without his no-trade clause, either. So, a B-roll Zobrist for $30M less. (Which, in turn, is another $20M less than Fangraphs proprietor Dave Cameron nuttily thought Zobrist was worth.)

Plus, the Cardinals have adopted defensive shifting more than the Padres. They may not make a silk purse out of Gyorko's glove, but they may soften the iron.

Heck, with Peralta's contract having been frontloaded, it might even leave the Cards open to rolling the dice on trading him.

That said, this is no excuse for not resigning Jason Heyward, no matter what some dumber Cardinals bloggers, or a Post-Dispatch columnist, may claim. And, stop parroting GM John Mozeliak, y'all. He's good, but not a genius.

The team has shiny new TV contract money, and, if it buys out his option, only one more year to pay Matt Holliday, too. (And, yes, that idea, the buy-out, should at least get consideration, unless Holliday agrees to turn that $17M in 2017 into no more than $25M for 2017-18, and maybe learns how to hold a 1B glove on occasion, while he's at it — if he can.)

As I noted last week, a middle infield upgrade like this was No. 4 on the offseason agenda as I see it. Heyward, or some close equivalent on the everyday player side, was and is No. 1; another starting pitcher No. 2, and seriously addressing the long-term need at 1B is No. 3.

If Heyward is not resigned, and no other major outfield addition is made, then Stephen Piscotty can't be a part of the 1B solution, and Tonmy Pham can't be a major part. The likes of Redbird Rants, under dumb bloggers, don't seem to get this. If Heyward's gone without a major replacement, with Jay being gone now, Piscotty is one of your three OF starters and Pham right now  is your first OF bat and glove off the bench.

December 08, 2015

New book on #fracking falls short of title's promise

A Field Philosopher's Guide to Fracking: How One Texas Town Stood Up to Big Oil and GasA Field Philosopher's Guide to Fracking: How One Texas Town Stood Up to Big Oil and Gas by Adam Briggle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Full of potential in the title, falls short of reality

As someone who took philosophy classes as part of an undergraduate major and minor, and in graduate school, and who's familiar with the idea of "field philosophy," I was very much looking forward to this book when I saw it.

That's doubly true as someone who is an environmentalist, who has serious concerns about fracking, and who used to live in various locations in and around the DFW Metroplex, and has reported as a journalist on gas well permitting at edges of the Barnett Shale.

Unfortunately, in various ways, the reality of the book fell short of the title on both the issue of field philosophy in general, and on the issue of fracking.

On the philosophy side, he could have brought more to bear on ethics, such as issues of civil disobedience as discussed, and even espoused by, philosophers in the past. He probably also could have had more of a philosophical look at things like cost-benefit analysis, as well as related issues such as whether or not some things can even be priced, and from there gone into issues of political and economic philosophy.

There are useful tools to apply to field philosophy in general in this book. However, Briggle wasn't writing about field philosophy in general, he was writing about field philosophy as applied to a very specific issue.

On the activism side, his lateness to accept that a fracking ban, not just greater control, as being what Denton needed, is a bit disconcerting. I don't know if he was trying to "fit in" with Denton, even though he'd clearly already lived there, and contra one reviewer on Amazon, is a Denton resident and a part of Denton just as much as other Denton residents, or he generally has that non-confrontational of a personality, or what.

But, at the point the Denton City Council rejected even moderately tighter controls on fracking by a 6-1 vote, it should have been clear what was needed next.

Shortcomings on just one of the two sides of the coin wouldn't have been too serious, and I would have given the book a fourth star. But, the shortcomings on both sides cost a second star.


View all my reviews

To expand on my Goodreads review, and focus on Briggle's take on field philosophy issues in general, Briggle starts by narrowing down his field philosophy issues of political philosophy. (Some of this may be incorporated into a longer piece at a philosophy and culture webzine.)

December 07, 2015

TX Progressives talk refugees, Zuckerberg, gun control, more

The Texas Progressive Alliance thinks we need fewer thoughts and prayers and more actions to curb gun violence — from President Obama if the GOP won't act — as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff has been following the legal standoff between Greg Abbott and refugee relief organizations with increasing disbelief.

Libby Shaw contributing to TX GOP: So it now it wants to secede?î

Socratic Gadfly heard about Mark Zuckerberg's alleged shiny new charity, looked at it, and saw it was full of problems. Then, when some "pseudoskeptics" either claimed he was wrong, or else did special pleading for Zuckerberg, he took a closer look and found it was even worse.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme thinks Ted Cruz is a mansplaining *&% for saying condoms are all a women needs in the way of reproductive health care.

"Thoughts and prayers" as gun safety policy from too many Republicans who are responsible for crafting laws which protect Americans.... isn't.  PDiddie at Brains and Eggs would like to see something more effective to stop the carnage in this country.

Neil at All People Have Value took a good picture of Downtown Houston at night. Our everyday lives have a lot of value. We should assert this value each day. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

Texas Leftist took note of the threats by Lone Star Republicans to state relief agencies and Christian charities choosing to assist and relocate Syrian refugees here, a threat which turned out to be a bluff.

Earthquakes in Irving have spawned a new community impact activist group in that city, writes TXsharon at Bluedaze.


====================

And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

David Ortez gives three reasons why decriminalizing first-time marijuana possession cases will be good for Harris County.

Lone Star Ma highlights the Sustainable Development Goal of ending hunger.

Robert Rivard examines the science and denial of climate change.

TFN Insider asks why Greg Abbott is bullying faith-based organizations when he claims to support religious freedom.

Lize Burr delves into the Great Disappearing Condom Machine Mystery.

Grits for Breakfast discusses the role of plea bargains in unjust convictions.


The Politics of Courage lists all of the Green, Socialist Workers Party, and Working Families Party candidates who won, or did well in, their elections last week.  Yes, in America.  The list doesn't include Harris County Green Joseph McElligott, who took over 11,000 votes and 6.31% in his Houston AL 5 bid.

Dallas Morning Views opined about Lite Guvnah Dan Patrick's pushback on "thoughts and prayers".

The Texas Observer pointed out another court defeat to Ken Paxton: more than $600,000 in legal fees to the attorneys of plaintiffs in the recent challenge to same sex marriage, which is now the law of the land.