Thursday, February 15, 2018

Trevor Plouffe and the New Reality

#OldFriend Trevor Plouffe this week signed a minor league deal with major league invite with the Texas Rangers. This figures to be some tough sledding for him, since the Rangers have Adrian Beltre at third and powerful Joey Gallo splitting time at third and first. If they're healthy, that doesn't leave a lot of at-bats at Plouffe's positions.

One of the oft-heard complaints in this winter of free agent discontent is that the chill has been felt on all levels. Players who expected superstar offers haven't drawn what they wanted; players who expected major league deals are getting minor league offers; players seeking minor league deals are getting frozen completely.

Or so the agents say, and maybe they're right.

My inclination is to view this as the market correction I've been expecting for years. At the top of the market, it's never made any sense to me that 32-year-old free agents got six- and seven-year contracts. J.D. Martinez is just in the unfortunate position of being the first one to find that pretty much every front office now recognizes the fallacy.

Well down the pyramid in Plouffe's specific case: The man is in his 30s, he was miscast as a foundation piece as a regular with Minnesota, and he hit .198/.272/.318 last season with two teams. There are no arrows pointing up with him.

Plouffe's career is being squeezed by multiple forces.

As a regular, he's being squeezed by his declining production and the embrace of analytics. Five years ago there were still a few GMs -- including the one in Minnesota -- who at least said a player's peak is in his early 30s. That's not the case now. Today's front offices are stuffed with people who've read the studies -- or conducted their own -- and know 31 is about four years past peak.

His OPS is under .600? We can get that from so-and-so out of Double A, and pay less in the process.

As a bit player, Plouffe is being squeezed by roster trends. The "deep depth" managers of the 1960s and '70s could probably not only carve out 250 at-bats for him but focus them on the pitchers he can do damage against. That's simply not happening in today's game, with half the roster spots going to pitchers.

1 comment:

  1. Good article. The one thing in your article I am uncomfortable with is your statement about peaks. For position players, as opposed to pitchers, tabbing 27 as a peak can get you in a lot of trouble. Many position players extend their peak years beyond 27 and their effective years well beyond 31. Even a fair number of pitchers have done this, even some not named Colon.

    You need to be healthy, both in terms of avoiding degenerative conditions, but also just being on the field and effective. Also many players with extraordinary skills manage to retain very good skills well into 30's. Torii Hunter is an example of this. I thought at the time that Ryan was right not to offer Hunter a huge contract when he was in his 30's. Injuries and age had robbed him of some of his skills. It turned out he was still a very productive player for the Angels, even though he wasn't as good or on the field as much as during his peak years.

    I wouldn't give Plouffe a major league contract now either. A problem for bit players is they pretty much have to be able play a number of positions and contribute something both offensively and defensively. I doubt if Plouffe is likely to be able to do that.

    Martinez, I think has value, but it is almost all offense and although his offensive skills appear to be still at their peak, I wouldn't bet that they will stay that high past a couple more years. He also would probably be best served by embracing the DH role. He may preserve his offensive skills longer that way.