Friday, March 30, 2012

Justin Morneau, Seven Dollars, Sold

In industry leagues, Chris Liss has received a lot of attention for seemingly buying Justin Morneau in every league that he's in. Hell, Liss is so hyped on Morneau that it wouldn't surprise me to find out that he's randomly popping his head into bars, conference rooms and basements all over the country to make sure that he can snatch Morneau up in leagues he's not even in.

Andy Behrens at Yahoo! did an excellent write-up of Liss' Morneau strategy that is well worth reading. But instead of specifically looking at Liss' strategy (which Behrens explained quite well), I thought I'd look at all of the things you might factor into a price for Morneau.

How much in the way of stats does it take to earn $7? In an A.L.-only league, not much. Below are three of the 10 players who earned $7 in A.L.-only 5x5 last year:

Jack Hannahan 320 AB, 8 HR, 38 R, 40 RBI, 2 SB, .250 BA
Andy Dirks 219 AB, 7 HR, 34 R, 28 RBI, 5 SB, .251 BA
Jorge Posada 344 AB, 14 HR, 34 R, 44 RBI, 0 SB, .235 BA

It doesn't take much to earn $7 in an A.L.-only environment. Morneau could play 81 games this year and earn $7 quite easily. The downside, though, is that when Morneau was on the field last year, he wasn't very good.

Justin Morneau 2011: 264 AB, 4 HR, 19 R, 30 RBI, 0 SB, .227 BA $2

If this is Morneau's new level of performance, then even a full season of at bats won't push him past $5 in earnings (though I doubt the Twins would let him play 150 games if this was the new normal).

Position vs. Market First base is a fairly stacked position this year in A.L.-only. I have Morneau 15th overall among American League first basemen and 25th among corner infielders. Putting aside the issue of whether or not Morneau is worth $7 or not, I might not have called him out early simply so I might have the flexibility of getting an option I like more at a cheaper price.

On the other hand, Tout Wars being an expert league and all, $7 looks like a good price for Morneau compared to what the other corner infielders in the league went for. I don't see a single corner infielder under $30 who went for my price, and many went $1 or more over my price. Even if $7 is a par bid for Morneau, that looks great compared to some of the other prices.

Ceiling In 2010, Morneau had a great year...albeit it in a limited number of at bats:

Morneau 2010: 296 AB, 53 R, 18 HR, 56 0 SB, .345 BA $19

It's not out of the question to say if Morneau were completely healthy he could be a $30 hitter. While I think that's highly unlikely, you do have to build some of the higher expectations into your bid.

My verdict
We all fall prey to groupthink, and I have to admit that with Morneau I was no different. I looked at his results from last year and anticipated that he'd be a $7 player. I saw Liss' bid, assumed he was bidding par, and shrugged, wondering why he would waste an early bid on a par proposition. However, the more I look at all of the factors above, the more I think that it might be possible that Liss has at the very least stumbled onto a modest bargain. While I don't think that Morneau is going to be a top tier first baseman, I do think that Liss' play was a good one, and that a more realistic bid limit for Morneau at this moment is probably $12-14, depending on how much risk you want or need to factor into your auction. If you're reading this Chris, I applaud you for getting ahead of the market on Morneau and jumping in at a below par price. Morneau's hot spring has definitely changed his market, and at $7, Liss didn't have much to lose on this type of gamble.

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