Well, technically, it is tomorrow. Thanks to the dreaded “nap turned long sleep” after work, I’m now wide awake at 1 am. So, what better way than to kill time than by talking about the trade deadline activity. We’ll go in order of importance, starting off with the story that just won’t go away.
4 way trade: Cubs get Nomar, Red Sox get Cabrera and Mientkiwicz, Expos and Twins get prospects.
Honestly, I don’t love this deal for anyone. I think there’s a chance that all four teams regret it at some point. Montreal did the best, picking up a couple of prospects in Brendan Harris and Francis Beltran that have a chance to be nice role players, and losing nothing in Cabrera, who is having a horrible year. Minnesota gets a guy with a good arm who can’t stay healthy and clears Minky’s salary off the books for next year, but also removes a player from their 25-man roster despite the fact they’re going to win the division. Making yourself worse at the deadline isn’t usually the goal for contending teams. They could have kept Mientkiwicz and still let Morneau play. Minky’s useful as a bat off the bench and a defensive replacement.
The Cubs definitely improve at shortstop offensively, going from blackhole Alex Gonzalez to Garciparra, but they gave up a good amount to do so. If Nomar’s heel remains a problem or his defense is as bad as the Red Sox claim it was, the upgrade might not be enough to push them over the top, and losing Jones, Harris, and Beltran could come back to haunt them. Matt Murton, the prospect they got from Boston, could be a decent player, though, and helps offset some of that.
The Red Sox just got worse no matter how you slice it. Orlando Cabrera used to be a terrific defensive SS with power; now he’s an offensive hole with back problems who doesn’t cover as much range as his reputation says he does. His .246/.298/.336 line would fit in well with this year’s Mariners. The Red Sox may have believed their defense was too awful to get them into the World Series, but there are better ways to improve your defense than acquiring one of the worst players in the game.
Dodgers get Penny, Choi, and the prospect that got them Finley. Marlins get LoDuca, Encarnacion, and Mota.
This move has inspired more garbage to be written than any in recent history, continuing to show that almost every major analyst in the world has taken a side in the old-school/new-school debate, and rather than seeing a trade as a swap of players, they now view them as an opportunity to inpugn the other side. The gang of idiots at ESPN-led by John Kruk, Joe Morgan, and Buster Olney-began to break the thesaurus looking for ways to write about LoDuca’s heart, character, leadership, grittiness, and the team chemistry that Paul DePodesta blew up by consulting his laptop too many times. The response from the statistical community hasn’t been much better; today, Rob Neyer wrote “in a few years… Paul DePodesta will be working on his 3rd or 4th NL West title” and praised the trade as not being able to do any better.
LA gets a starter in Brad Penny who is pitching well but with mediocre peripherals and is a decent injury risk. Despite that, he’s now their best starter and the best player in the deal. Choi gives them power and patience, but can’t hit lefties, and creates a strange platoon where Shawn Green is going to be moving around the field like a ping-pong ball. Bill Murphy got them Steve Finley, who is still a good hitter and a clear upgrade from Encarnacion. However, losing Guillermo Mota is a pretty big deal. I realize he’s peaked, his peripherals are declining, and he’s got as much value as he ever will, but he’s been lights out this year, and you just don’t replace a 2.14 ERA easily. For the most part, relievers are fungible, but there is about a 5 % group that is clearly superior to the rest and extremely valuable. Right now, Mota is part of that group. He might not be next year, but you can’t ignore his loss. The Dodgers turned a strength into a question mark in order to fill some other holes. I don’t think they dramatically improved this year, as some make it seem. They did improve their future without degrading the team too much today, so it’s a good deal for LA. But it’s not a homerun.
The Marlins get, well, worse. Mota will help them, no question, but they are taking a big hit on offense, especially if Encarnacion plays regularly. LoDuca is notorious for second half meltdowns, and great teammate or not, the only way this deal works out is if he keeps hitting the snot out of the ball. History is against him. The Marlins, like the Cubs before them, continued to focus on the things Choi cannot do rather than on the things he does well. He’s a left-handed Bucky Jacobsen with more usable power and just entering his prime. If the Marlins would have stopped complaining about his strikeouts, they could have had themselves a cheap clean-up hitter to pair with Miguel Cabrera for the next three years.
Loser: Those of us who had to read the drivel about the Dodgers tearing the team apart.
Dodgers get Steve Finley. Arizona gets Bill Murphy, Koyie Hill, and Reggie Abercrombie.
Finley, at 39 years old, is still a good player, but not one Arizona needed. Murphy’s an overrated prospect who gets more mention because of his mentions in Moneyball than he should. He’s got mediocre stuff and average command and profiles as a 4th starter. Hill’s a backup catcher on a real team, though he can start for Arizona right now. Abercrombie is the biggest joke of a “top prospect” we’ve seen in ten years. Pretty much all rational observers, even his biggest fans, have given up on him. He’ll be available in the Rule 5 draft this fall if anyone wants him.
The Dodgers get a solid upgrade to their offense with Finley and don’t give up much. If they offer him arbitration, it’s likely the picks they receive as compensation will be better prospects than the ones they lost for obtaining him. Clearly a good move for LA.
Loser: Bill Plaschke, LA columnist. No relevance to this deal. He just is one.
Mets get Kris Benson and Jeff Keppinger. Pirates get Ty Wigginton, Jose Bautista, Matt Peterson. Royals get Justin Huber.
The Mets gave up a position player who has been worth 21 runs above replacement this year and got back a starter who has been worth 15 runs above replacement. For the right to get worse, they gave up two good prospects. Yea, they needed to make room for David Wright and Wigginton’s having a fluke year, but this isn’t the kind of guy you want to get rid of when you’re team can’t hit. They paid a really high price for a mediocre starter.
The Pirates didn’t make out that well either, honestly. Wigginton’s having a career year and his presence will force them to give up on Bobby Hill or Freddy Sanchez, both of whom are better talents. Bautista is a longshot prospect who they could have retained last year with a little more foresight. Peterson is a decent arm with questionable mechanics who probably ends up as a reliever. Not a great bounty.
The Royals got Justin Huber for nothing, having claimed Bautista on waivers a month ago. Huber can’t catch in the big leagues, and we might as well list him as a 1B now, but he can hit a bit. He’s similar to Matt LeCroy in Minnesota and has an outside chance of becoming the next Mike Sweeney. For free, it’s a great return.
Winner: Royals, as Allard Baird makes another good move.
Loser: Mets fans
Mets get Victor Zambrano and Bartolume Fortunato. Devil Rays get Scott Kazmir and Joselo Diaz.
Worst. Trade. Ever. Okay, maybe not, but I could make a case that Scott Kazmir is just as likely to pitch well over the next two months for the Mets as Zambrano is. The knocks on his size, change-up, and mechanics are spin from the Mets; he’s got the stuff to be a frontline major league starter and he’s carving up Double-A at age 20. Zambrano’s control is horrible and he’s due for a big payday in arbitration this fall. Meanwhile, Kazmir will make the league minimum to outpitch him for the next 3 years. By the time Zambrano is out of baseball in 2006, Kazmir has a chance to be an all-star.
Oh, and did we mention that the Mets are still 4 games under .500 and have almost no shot at the playoffs? I mean, seriously, there’s no justification for this deal. Just an abysmal trade.
Winner: Tampa Bay
Loser: The other Mets fans who hadn’t killed themselves after the first bad trade.
Yankees get Loaiza. White Sox get Contreras.
Quick test; you can have a mediocre innings sponge who was good 12 months ago and is a free agent at years end or you can have a batting practice pitcher who has never been good and is making $15 million the next two years. Which one do you choose?
If you chose A, you’re smarter than Kenny Williams. Well done. It must suck to be a White Sox fan right now.
Winner: New York
Loser: Contreras. Best case scenario, he’s known as being a wuss who can’t handle pressure.
All in all, I don’t think any of these trades are going to have a significant impact on the pennant races this year. The teams who showed restraint and held onto their young talent did well. The teams that decided to enter the market, for the most part, got hosed. Now if we could just get the Garciaparra story to go away, that’d be great, thanks.
I’m turning the short bullet point into something of a habit. Apparently, I’ve been channeling Larry King. I’ll try to actually write a post about one subject sooner or later. Until then:
- Email topic of the day revolved around MLB’s draft rules, with lots of people writing in to say that Arizona can’t have the #1 pick next year because they alternate years and it’s the AL’s turn. They changed that rule, and starting next year, worst record determines draft slot regardless of league.
- Lots of other people writing in to chide me for not getting to my trade deadline recap just yet. Mea Culpa. Maybe tomorrow.
- Rafael Soriano skipped his appearance yesterday due to a sore elbow. Not good. Definitely a setback, and at this point, wisdom might just be to shut him down. It is very rare that a player will have continuing pain like this and not have a serious injury. The odds of Soriano having major surgery at some point are pretty high. At this point, it could be dubbed somewhat likely.
- The M’s requested waivers on the entire team on Monday. This is actually pretty standard, as team’s hope that the sheer quantity of work required to claim everyone results in someone slipping through the cracks. We should know tomorrow who cleared waivers and who didn’t. I’ll fill you in with what I hear.
- Here’s a name to keep an eye on in free agency, as the Mariners are internally showing quite a bit of interest: Jacque Jones. The club sees him as a quality defensive CF who is only playing RF to accomodate Torii Hunter. He’s a left-handed pull hitter with power, and like Ibanez, has a swing that should work in Safeco Field. I don’t have an opinion on this yet. Jones is an overrated hitter who doesn’t walk, but his outfield defense has been tremendous in right and he was a quality defensive CF in 99/00. The M’s badly need a flycatcher in center, and Jones is a better hitter than most of the defensive whiz types. If you could get him for something like 2 years at $3 million per (the standard Jose Guillen contract), I might be interested.
- I hearby nominate Mike Myers role to be renamed. He’s no longer a LOOGY (Lefty One Out GuY). He’s now a NORM (No Out Run Machine), continuing the tradition of the acronym’s namesake. Now we just need to come up with a snazzy abbreviation for Shigetoshi Hasegawa that fits into AYALA and we can relive the horrors of the mid-90’s all over again.
I wouldn’t ever bring a pitcher back in after a signficant rain delay. Say, 30m or more.
A pitcher preps for a game for a long time, throwing mostly low-intensity warm-up tosses, and then goes into the game. After they come out, you’re working on trying to keep their arm warm, the pitcher hydrated, and you can only do one of those things if they’re in the clubhouse watching “You’ve Gotta See This” reruns. They’re likely to tighten up or strain something, and what’s the alternative — have them toss a little in whatever batting cages the stadium has, possibly for hours, before they come back in?
Just pull them. If you’ve got a Villone in the bullpen, a good swingman suited to spot starts and extended relief, bring that guy in. Or even skip to the next starter if the game’s close. This also allows you to (without being a jerk about it) possibly swap L/R pitchers and gain an advantage over the lineup they’re throwing at you.
Then depending on how far they got into the game, push them up in the rotation for the next turn.
To expand on Jason’s point:
Meanwhile, the pitching…
April: 5.25 ERA, 27 HR, 83 BB, 137 K
May: 4.15 ERA, 32 HR, 91 BB, 189 K
June: 3.67 ERA, 25 HR, 92 BB, 181 K
July: 6.33 ERA, 55 HR, 108 BB, 169 K (no, really, 55 HR in 27 games)
August: 6.38 ERA, 4 HR, 10 BB, 16K
That got ugly in a hurry. There’s a lesson here: power scores runs. Shocking, isn’t it? The team’s scoring more in large part because they’re finally hitting for some power, and they’re getting beat up because they’re tater-riffic, not because other teams are stealing bases and laying down the sac bunt against them.
M’s offense, pre- and post-All Star break.
Pre: .256/.324/.380, HR every 46 at-bats, 4.03 runs/game
Post: .293/.356/.439, HR every 32 at-bats, 4.95 runs/game
2000 season: .269/.361/.442, HR every 28 at-bats, 5.6 runs/game
2001 season: .288/.360/.445, HR every 34 at-bats, 5.7 runs/game
2002 season: .275/.350/.419, HR every 37 at-bats, 5.0 runs/game
2003 season: .271/.344/.410, HR every 40 at-bats, 4.9 runs/game
So. It’s pretty clear the offense has been getting worse each season (except from 2000 to 2001, where it was pretty much the same), a trend that continued in a big way this season before all the changes were made. Now they’re basically scoring one extra run per game since the break, with quite a bit more power to boot. Part of this is Ichiro and Winn getting hot, yes, but part of it’s also Justin Leone and Bucky Jacobsen.