Theo Epstein is a very good general manager. His knowledge of baseball goes far beyond my own.
That being said, what was he thinking signing Mark Kotsay? The idea that Kotsay improves this team is completely ridiculous. Jeff Bailey, the often forgotten about farm hand, is a better player and would have only cost the team the league minimum. Mark Kotsay costs $1.5 million and will produce less.
For proof of this, here are some projections of Kotsay and Bailey’s wOBA for next season:
Player Mark Kotsay Jeff Bailey
CHONE .316 .341
Bill James .317 .362
Marcel .303 .340
On average, Bailey is worth 3.3 runs above average and Kotsay is worth -7.8 runs above average. That means Bailey is worth approximately a full win above Kotsay.
For bench players that are both projected to have sub 450 at bats, that is a substantial amount. So what was Theo thinking?
The most important aspect of baseball after offense is a player’s defense. For defense to be the answer, one would expect that Kotsay saves approximately 11 runs more than Bailey.
Since both players will primarily be used as first baseman, it would be best to compare both players career UZR/150 at first. These stats for both players suffer from a small sample size but they still can be used. Here are both players’ stats:
Jeff Bailey -1.6
Mark Kotsay -11.3
If those numbers are even close to being accurate, which I believe they are, Bailey is worth nearly a win in the field. Even if you expect Bailey’s numbers to drop slightly and Kotsay’s number to increase slightly, there is no feasible argument for Kotsay being a significant upgrade in the field over Bailey.
At this point, to justify the Kotsay signing, we need to find a way besides offense and defense that Kotsay is worth 2 wins more than Bailey. Maybe Theo believes that Kotsay will improve? Well, Bailey is 3 years younger than Kotsay so it would be a tad ridiculous to expect that from Kotsay but not Bailey.
Maybe Theo believes Kotsay is a clutch player? Based on FanGraphs “clutch” stat, Kotsay for his career is not a clutch player. Maybe Theo thinks Kotsay is a leader? This may be true but does a team with players like Josh Beckett, Tim Wakefield, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, and Mike Lowell really need a player on their bench that is a “high character” player?
And even if the team does need another leader, does that make up for the extra million dollars and the 2 wins?
I hope I successfully made my point in this article. Jeff Bailey is a much better player than Mark Kotsay. Bailey suffers from being in an organization that needs star power on their roster. Too often players get passed over because they don’t have a name.
Last year, Mike Timlin was on this roster while pitcher like Devern Hansack, Hunter Jones, and David Pauley are left to die in Pawtucket.
Those three were all better pitchers than Mike Timlin but since they are just average pitchers that the average fan has never heard of they would never be given the chance to play in Boston. Most fans see a name and equate it to their memories or what they saw on SportsCenter.
When evaluating talent, this is the worst practice possible. Mark Kotsay is a name and not much more.