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The Cano and Fielder conundrums

In our inaugural Beyond the Box Score Expansion Draft, I left some superstars unprotected. Here's why I did it, although you may disagree.

Close, but not quite...
Close, but not quite...
Otto Greule Jr

In case you missed it, we released our internal Expansion Draft methodology and results yesterday. It sparked some interest, and Bryan and Stu did a great job of breaking it down in detail on the latest The Shift podcast. I'm not going to get into the nitty-gritty of the draft itself, but I wanted to take an opportunity to address a couple of things -- specifically, what happened with Robinson Cano, Prince Fielder and, to a lesser extent, Shin-Soo Choo and some Rangers prospects.

You see, I had the privilege of managing the Mariners and Rangers before the draft took place. I had to protect 15 players on each team prior to the first round of expansion selections (remember, players acquired in the last three years were automatically protected, aside from those from Cuba, Japan and Korea). Notably, I left Robinson Cano off the Mariners' protected list and Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo off the Rangers' protected list. That generated some controversy in the comments of the Expansion Draft article, and I'd like to walk you through my logic, if you're so inclined to proceed.

Let's start with Cano, whom many took issue with being left off the protected list. There were some absolute no-brainers for the Mariners, such as Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker, Kyle Seager, Brad Miller, James Paxton, and others. Then things got a little murky. I chose to protect younger, high-upside assets in Tyler Marlette, Jabrari Blash, Gabriel Guerrero, and Carson Smith. That left very few spots, and Cano was definitely an option. But, given his contract, age, and how he'd performed by mid-July, I just wasn't sure he was worth protecting. At the time, he'd hit just a handful of home runs and his performance had been inflated by a .365 BABIP, leaving me unconvinced of his long-term prospects, not to mention that any contract that big for a 31-year old scares the hell out of me.

Knowing who would be selecting players, I thought there was a reasonable chance that Cano would go undrafted for all of the reasons outlined above. The Beyond the Box Score crowd tends to be more value-conscious than your average baseball fan, making Cano less than a slam-dunk to be selected in the draft. Portland discussed drafting him, and Charlotte ruled him out from the get-go. The Mariners weren't considered as serious of a playoff contender at the time, and the notion of fan favorites or ticket sales didn't apply to the logic behind the exercise. More importantly, the Mariners' best young depth is in the middle infield in Nick FranklinChris Taylor, Miller, and others. Cano might be hard to replace in the short-term in this scenario, but ultimately the M's should have the depth to fill the void; plus, it won't cost them $24 million a year (20-%-ish of their payroll) to do it.

Portland selected Cano in the first round, which makes some sense (as Bryan outlined in the podcast). The expansion team would have an easier time absorbing the salary, as most of the players who would end up on the roster were going to be the unprotected, cheap, journeyman types; for the Mariners, though, this was a chance to get out from under a contract that I didn't like in the first place. Simply put, I wouldn't have signed Cano over the winter and since I was selecting based on my preferences, I was open to losing him. This is what I would do, not Jack Z and company.

For the Rangers, the decisions on Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo were similar in a lot of respects to my process around Cano. These were made slightly easier, considering the injuries these two high-priced players are experiencing. I don't love the way Fielder and Choo are expected to age, and they are owed a ton of cash. Once again, it was a roll of the dice as to whether or not someone would desire to take on that money. I was guessing not, and it surprised me that Charlotte considered it, but alas, they didn't pull the trigger. If I'm the Rangers, which I was in this scenario, I was hoping that someone would remove these potential albatrosses and relieve my buyer's remorse. Sadly, no one improved Texas' financial situation and the Rangers were left with a fat (literally) chunk of money to continue eating.

There were a couple of comments regarding my protection of Rangers pitching prospects Kelvin Vasquez and Wilmer Font. If you take a look at who was protected prior, you start to see that the talent on the list started to thin immensely. So many of the Rangers' top prospects were auto-protected, and so many of their major league players just weren't worth protecting in the first place that I began scraping the depths of the minors to fulfill my protections. I consulted scouting reports from a number of places, including Baseball Prospectus and Minor League Ball, to find candidates for my late protections. Both guys have strikeout potential if they can either stay healthy and/or refine their command. Font is a reliever right now, and Vasquez likely ends up there. Font wasn't injured at the time my selection was locked in, but was hurt very shortly thereafter. At that point, there was no going back. At the time, I was just looking for potentially valuable assets, or lottery tickets, if you will.

This exercise was tougher than you might think, and it was supposed to be. I don't regret my protections, but can obviously see the other side of the coin. Cano came down to personal preference, while Fielder and Choo were a little more obvious, but not by much. Vasquez and Font were upside selection when there wasn't much to choose from that met the criteria. Overall, this was a blast to do, and I welcome any and all thoughts -- either in support or to the contrary.


Jeff Wiser is a featured writer at Beyond the Box Score and co-author of Inside the 'Zona, an analytical look at the Arizona Diamondbacks. You can find his work on craft beer at BeerGraphs and follow him on Twitter @OutfieldGrass24.