This is what I get for not buying a calendar. I totally missed out on the fact that November 18th is “Trade With Your Sabermetrically Inclined General Manager Buddy” day. Theo Epstein apparently bought the same calendar I did. But, have no fear, Billy Beane, J.P. Ricciardi, and Kevin Towers all remembered, and they swapped major league players, contracts, cash, players to be named, and Terrance Long.
Deal #1: Oakland shipped All-Star Catcher (TM) Ramon Hernandez and Terrance Long to San Diego for Mark Kotsay.
This trade isn’t official yet, which means we could see something thrown in on either side before it gets confirmed. Usually, I’d say the sign of a fair trade is when you can see a valid reason for both teams making the move. I’m not sure what it says when I don’t really understand this trade for either team.
Oakland unloads their Jeff Cirillo, but has to give up their starting catcher coming off a career year in order to get anyone to take him. They also receive Mark Kotsay, whose contract runs an extra year and is worth more money than the two players they gave up will make combined. Now, Kotsay is the most talented player of the trio and could be the answer to their center field problem, but he’s been a disappointment thus far in his career, and has missed a lot of time with injury. A back problem turned him into a pretty lousy player last year, so the A’s are praying for a comeback or they’ve just inherited an even worse contract than Long’s.
I like this deal even less for San Diego. Ramon Hernandez isn’t the answer to any question except “which player had an age-27 inspired career year in 2003 and will revert to his previous mediocre form next year?” The Padres got nothing from their catchers this year, but I wouldn’t bank on that changing in 2004. Ramon Hernandez just isn’t that good. Terrance Long isn’t a major league player, but he’s going to be collecting millions of dollars from the Padres for the next two years. The Padres already awful outfield defense just got worse, and if they’re serious about a Klesko/Giles/Nady outfield next year, I’m putting the over/under on team ERA around 14.00. They didn’t save any money, acquire any players who will really help them win, or improve the team’s biggest weakness (defense). In fact, they took their best defensive player and shipped him off. This trade could be salvaged if they throw some money at a major league CF (like Mike Cameron), move Giles back to a corner, and tell Terrance Long to send them a forwarding address for his paycheck, but I’m not holding my breath.
Winner: San Diego fans who like extra base hits and don’t mind which team is hitting them.
Deal #2: Oakland sends Ted Lilly to Toronto for Bobby Kielty and cash or a player to be named later.
Beane acquires another outfielder, attempting to improve on the suckfest that was the A’s offense in 2003. Kielty has become a stathead favorite through his rise up the Minnesota Twins system after signing as an undrafted free agent. He draws walks, has flashed power, can be spotted in any of the three outfield positions, and works hard. Scouts don’t like his tools, so that endears him even more to the statistical community. When he was traded for Jayson Stark’s MVP candidate Shannon Stewart in July, people proclaimed Ricciardi a genuis for getting a cheap young outfielder for two months of an expensive, not-so-young outfielder. Kielty will likely be handed an everyday job for the first time in his career, and A’s fans will likely expect him to have a breakout year. But I’m not expecting stardom from Kielty. He’s gotten regular playing time in each of the last 12 months of the baseball season, and posted the following lines:
He was awesome for the first 4 months of 2002, than turned to crap for a month, before being okay in September. He started 2003 with a bang, than became a pretty useless player for the rest of the year. In the past 8 months of baseball, Bobby Kielty has been a good hitter in exactly one of them.
He also hit a dreadful .216/.328/.328 vs right-handers in 2003, though that could be a sample size anomoly, as he did fine against them in 2002. But, for 2003, he was basically a platoon outfielder who could mash lefties. Adam Piatt with better defense, in other words. Kielty hasn’t exactly been a model of consistency and there are questions surrounding his ability to play effectively every day. To me, it looks like the A’s may have just acquired another Eric Byrnes.
Toronto, on the other hand, traded an outfielder they did not need for a pitcher who could win 20 games next year. Now, as Esteban Loaiza shows us, every pitcher could win 20 games next year, and the odds of Ted Lilly doing it aren’t very high. But Lilly has nasty stuff and looked like he was finally coming into his own to finish 2003. He made 10 starts in August and September, compiling the following line: 54 innings, 52 hits, 3 HR, 16 BB, 52 K, 3.00 ERA. His strikeout-to-walk ratio for the season was nearly 3 to 1. He did benefit from his home park, which won’t be so kind to him in Toronto, but Ted Lilly’s a solid pitcher with the potential to be downright awesome. The Jays make out like bandits, flipping a spare part for a guy who should throw 180 quality innings next year and has all-star potential at age 27.
This trade defines what I believe the sabermetric community is doing incorrectly; putting market value prices on players who should be considered freely available talent. The lesson that should be learned from Bobby Kielty’s success isn’t that Bobby Kielty is a player you need on your roster, but rather that there are a lot of marginally useful major league outfielders who can be had for little to no cost. The minor leagues are littered with platoon outfielders who can mash lefthanders for the league minimum. The A’s waived one (Adam Piatt) earlier this year. The Rule 5 draft is a perfect opportunity to find such a player (hello Jay Gibbons). There’s no reason to give up players of value in exchange for this type of player. The A’s built their roster through realizing that they could rotate through Olmaedo Saenz/Matt Stairs/John Jaha/Ron Gant/Billy McMillon type players. Rather than finding another spare part on the scrap heap, they’ve given up one of the better young left handed pitchers in the American League so that they can find out if Bobby Kielty’s problems with right-handers are legitimate.
You improve your roster by obtaining bargains. As an undrafted free agent, Bobby Kielty was a bargain to the Twins. For 2 months of Shannon Stewart, he was a bargain for the Blue Jays. For Ted Lilly, he’s an example of a team overpaying for something they could have had a lot cheaper had they done some bargain shopping.
Winner: Blue Jays in a landslide
Maybe Billy Beane ran out of Pixie Dust. Overall, it was a good day to be a Mariner fan, as the most threatening competitor for the division in 2004 made themselves worse.
Jonah Keri has a cool Kim Ng interview on Baseball Prospectus today. Apptly she didn’t interview for the M’s job (which doesn’t necc. rule out the reported phone conversation, if it wasn’t an “interview” interview)