Noowwww, the Johnson trade

DMZ · January 3, 2005 at 8:16 pm · Filed Under General baseball 

But first — what exactly would it take for Bud Selig to veto a trade for the best interests of baseball? I’m not going to make a case that this should be the one, but if he (as he said he did) agonized over the Alex Rodriguez trade, then how in the world does he approve this one? I’m going to go have to look into the details of the luxury tax calculations (post to follow) but for now….

Randy Johnson for Javier Vazquez, Brad Halsey, Dioner Navarro, and $9m. Vazquez is owed $34.5m over the next three years of his contract. ($10.5, $11.5, $12.5).

So to the trade itself: I don’t know how long Randy can keep up being an elite pitcher, but until he explodes on the mound, projections are useless.

As for the Yankee prospects, I’ll wait to see what Dave says (Dave says they suck; see the comments), but I can’t believe there’s much of interest in that system and I won’t believe they’re any good until I see it. The Yankees are the greatest of all teams at the hype-and-trade, when they manage to get expectations about one of their guys blown way out proportion to their actual ability, spend the prospect in a trade, and they end up forgotten. This should give New York a true ace, moves Mussina to the two slot, and then.. Jaret Wright and Carl Pavano? I wouldn’t have signed those two, but that’s looking pretty good.

However… why’d they decline their option on Lieber at $8m? That’s a pretty good deal compared to what they spent on these other guys. And in free agency he got three years, $21m. A million dollars to the Yankees? Obviosuly it doesn’t matter to them. I don’t understand it.

Navarro supposedly gets a layover in Arizona before being moved to LA, who got rid of Shawn Green’s $16m remaining year by paying for half of it. And look, I’m not a big fan of Green, and he’s certainly not an elite player, but — is Shawn Green for a year at $8m with the chance to negotiate an extension worth any two prospects? And for LA, it seems weird to spend $8m to save $8m, but they also get two guys back they can use. I’m not wild about this not knowing the value of the guys they’re getting, but it’s… I was just about to type “not the worst deal DePodesta’s made this off-season” but I realized how bad that sounds.


24 Responses to “Noowwww, the Johnson trade”

  1. Dave on January 3rd, 2005 9:32 pm

    Dioner Navarro is the epitome of why statistical prospect analysis in a vacuum is a debacle waiting to happen. After a flukey 2003 season, people were proclaiming him an all star in the making, but having watched him play on mulitple occasions, I felt it was pretty obvious that his performance wasn’t sustainable. He lacks power or the physique to be able to grow into a better hitter than he already is. Good pitchers can overpower him and he doesn’t have a great approach at the plate. He’s average at best as a defender, and if everything goes well, I think he could make a nifty backup in the big leagues.

    Halsey is the type of pitcher every organization has several of. He’s a command guy with average stuff who needs to throw a lot of strikes and hope that hitters miss his mistakes. He’s not a bad guy to have around, because sometimes those guys turn into useful major leaguers, but he’s a marginal prospect. Think John Halama.

    I’m not sure how you trade Randy Johnson to the Yankees and not get Eric Duncan in return. Pretty remarkable.

  2. Jeff Howard on January 3rd, 2005 9:52 pm

    Is anyone else dying to see Johnson and Schilling facing off at Fenway and/or Yankee stadium? Talk about big games! I get goose bumps just imagining the box score lines for these two: 8IP, 13 K’s, 3 hits 0 runs etc, etc. Baseball at it’s hypest…

  3. Nikku on January 3rd, 2005 9:55 pm

    I don’t think Selig could veto anything after the Schilling trade. At least this trade is better for Arizona than that one.

  4. Shoeless Jose on January 3rd, 2005 10:45 pm

    #2 — Red Sox at Yankee Stadium, opening day, April 3 And the hypefest for that matchup has already begun. Right behind it in hype are the interleague games against the Mets and Pedro. Note that the Yanks visit the M’s twice this year (May 16-18, August 29-Sept 1) so there are seven opportunities for RJ to pitch once again in Seattle. And presumably be knows exactly how to pitch to Beltre and Sexson….

  5. Chris Begley on January 3rd, 2005 11:02 pm

    So now all the Yankees need is to pick up Griffey, and then they will have the Holy Triumvarate of ex-Mariner/future HOFers!

    As an aside, I was reading something about the A-Rod move to NY today, and I got to thinking… A-Rod leaves the Mariners and goes to Texas after 2000, and the M’s pick up 25 games (91 wins to 116) and the Rangers add 2 (71 wins to 73). After 2003, A-Rod moves to the Yankees and the Rangers improver 18 games in the standings (71 wins to 89) and the Yankees stay the same (101 wins). I just thought it funny – there is really no provable link. Just all good fun with Pay-Rod (and who among us would turn down $252M?)

  6. LB on January 3rd, 2005 11:07 pm

    #4: It’s not happening on Opening Day. Schilling will likely not be ready to pitch by then.

  7. Jim Thomsen on January 3rd, 2005 11:25 pm

    A little historical perspective on how cash-corrupted the game has gotten:

    Many of us oldsters remember when former A’s owner Charlie Finley tried to level the financial playing field in 1976 for himself by selling three of his best players — Rollie Fingers and Joe Rudi to Boston, and Vida Blue to the Yankees, for about $4 million total.

    Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, who, it is safe to say, hated Finley and regarded him as an embarrassment to the game (feelings which were reciprocated ad nasuem in the media by the entertainingly obnoxious Finley), rescinded the deals as being “in the best interest of baseball.”

    An excerpt from a story detailing the event:

    At that time, the outright sale of baseball flesh was against the unwritten rule of the club owners.

    They had a no-sale policy going back to the 1940’s when owners and general managers insisted on making player-for-player trades rather than outright money transactions.

    But Finley said, ”I refuse to let these athletes drive me into bankruptcy with astronomical and unjustified demands.”

    However, Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn agreed with the owners and within a couple of days stepped in and called off the Finley deals, saying, ”It’s bad for baseball.”

    Naturally, most owners agreed with his decision.

    Walter O’Malley, Los Angeles Dodgers owner, summed it up: ”Kuhn’s decision is probably right. The rich teams would have all the top players and the poor teams would have none.”

    Kuhn’s ruling stood much to the dismay of Sox General Manager Dick O’Connell who made the deals with Yawkey’s blessing.

    It is interesting to note that this kind of tactic was nothing new for Yawkey.

    The millionaire owner tried to buy a championship more than once beginning in the 1920’s and 1930’s and it never worked.

    He opened the bankroll and purchased the likes of Joe Cronin, Lefty Grove, Jimmie Foxx, Max Bishop, Rube Walberg and Bing Miller, all top-flight players of the era, with Cronin, Foxx and Grove eventual Hall Of Famers.

    But it wasn’t until 1946 that he was able to win an American League pennant. Yawkey never learned.

    When asked about it years later, O’Connell sighed and said, ”If Bowie only kept his mouth shut. We could have won a championship.”

  8. Jordan on January 3rd, 2005 11:28 pm

    Chris – You mean, of course, Randy, Griffey and Tino, right??? 😉

  9. Jim Thomsen on January 4th, 2005 12:28 am

    More relevant historical perspective on cash sales of baseball players:

    “Kuhn ruled that the trading of Rudi, Fingers and Blue would be contrary to the best interests of baseball. Kuhn felt the trades would debilitate the Athletics and lessen the competitive balance in the American League.

    Finley wasted no time in reacting. Ten days after completing the trades, he sued Bowie Kuhn in Federal District Court. Finley lost in court. The judge found that the major league owners had given the commissioner broad authority to prevent “any act, transaction or practice that was not in the best interests of baseball.” Finley later appealed the decision, but it was to no avail.

    Though Rudi, Fingers and Blue all remained with Oakland for the duration of the 1976 season, the turmoil caused by the aborted trades effectively ended the tenure of Rudi and Fingers with the Athletics. Rudi became a free agent at the end of the 1976 season and signed to play for the California Angels. Fingers also became a free agent and signed with the San Diego Padres.

    Under the newly established rules of free agency, neither the California Angels nor the San Diego Padres were required to pay any compensation to Finley for signing his former stars.”

  10. John on January 4th, 2005 1:49 am

    (Somewhat OT), Speaking of hype: Tonight I heard Dave Niehaus doing one of his “swung on and belted”s. This time it was Beltre, and then Sexson.
    What really bothered me was the thought that it’s all over; that our outfield is all set, so we don’t bother going after Kearns; that we are going to try to win with this pitching staff,
    It’s dismaying.

  11. DG on January 4th, 2005 3:34 am

    I’ll second Dave’s motion on Navarro and Halsey. Halsey is a throw-in style pitching prospect, not even worthy of the word “prospect”.

    Navarro has talent, but with catchers it’s an impossible read on how much they might take on with “late blooming”.

    The Mauer’s of the world are the exception to the rule, and Navarro IS the rule.

    Just because he is a top 5 catching prospect in the game, doesn’t mean he is any good. It just means there aren’t many top catching spects in the minors.

    Navarro isn’t going to all of a sudden turn into Jorge Posada. His plate skills won’t allow for him to hit .300 at the next level and he hasn’t the physical ability to develop plus power.

    Navarro is Einar Diaz and Yorvi Torrealba. Nothing special, at all.

    Halsey, like DC said in post 1, is one of those “dime-a-dozen” pitchers. Very average stuff, decent command. The thing i despise about him as a pitcher is that he doesn’t show any of the intangibles that ya want these types to have.

    Moyer is smart, gritty, has a better than average change, a passable curve and very good command.

    Halama, the same, but he makes more mistakes as he misses spots.

    Halsey falls somewhere in between.

    The difference maker between someone like Halsey and Travis Blackley?
    Blackley is a tough son of a bitch. Very competitive, sometimes to his own detriment. (See game versus A’s)

    Halsey grades out average at best in most areas and below average in others.

    Arizona got a replacement level catcher, a journeyman left-hander and 9 million snaps for one of the best three pitchers in the game over the past 20 years.

    The Diamondback’s got jerked in this deal, even after getting Green for Navarro.

  12. tede on January 4th, 2005 4:21 am

    Jim Thomsen #7 & #9,

    I do not think your source’s write-up is quite on the mark. Tom Yawkey wasn’t able to buy any pennants in the ‘20s since he didn’t buy the Red Sox until ‘33.

    Also, if the source is correct about the rule on direct sales, it would appear that the rule was flaunted by sending some sub-replacement level players along with the cash. These were usually in deals where aged sluggers were being dealt at the end of their careers.

    Example, Ralph Kiner getting traded in consecutive years in the early ‘50s for players and $150k and $60k.

    It would be interesting to know what year the rule came into effect. One deal in particular does not pass the smell test. In 1948, Vern Stephens and Jack Kramer (the Browns two best players at the time) were sent to the Red Sox for 6 scrubs and $310k. For comparison, Bill Veeck bought the Browns then $300k in debt for $500k in ‘51 which at the time included the ballpark and some lease income from the Cardinals.

    The money getting tossed around in the RJ deal isn’t that large compared to current payrolls or franchise values. Also, the personality conflict between Finley and Kuhn can’t be ignored in his failure to approve the ‘76 deals. (One conflict quickly comes to mind, the Mike Andrews suspension/reinstatement during the ‘73 World Series after he went Joey Cora in Game 2). Would Finley have pocketed the money or spent it on his other free agents as he later claimed? I know he wanted to keep Campy (which would have been a bad deal).

  13. DG on January 4th, 2005 4:54 am

    On another note, I’m getting confirmation that the M’s have signed infielder Pokey Reese, pending a Tuesday physical.

    One year at somewhere between 1.7 and 1.9 million.

    To clear a spot on the 40-man, Jolbert Cabrera was sold to Japan where he will receive a multi-year deal.

  14. Eric on January 4th, 2005 5:35 am

    Dave, what’s your take on Chris Snyder? He’s rumoured to take Navarro’s place should the Johnson deal fall through. Would he be a better option than Navarro?

  15. Richard on January 4th, 2005 6:46 am

    I have been reading in various places that the Dodgers have a higher opinion of Navarro than quite a few teams, including the Yankees and Diamondbacks. Is it DePodesta that really wants Navarro, or are the Dodgers scouts who have seen Navarro whispering in DePodesta’s ear? The Dodgers’ minor league people definitely seem to like to see players on the young side hold their own or excel against older competition. Navarro has not reached age 21 yet, but has already performed better than a player his age could be expected to perform at Double A and Triple A. Maybe Dave is right and it has all been a “statistical fluke,” but the Dodgers don’t seem to be doing too badly the last few years when it comes to evaluating prospect talent, so I don’t find it too hard to trust them in a matter like this.

  16. tvwxman on January 4th, 2005 11:28 am

    I hate to sound like a one-trick pony, but the Yankees can keep signing all of these 30-40 something players to whatever contracts they want, but since they have nothing of value in their high minor leagues, they won’t be able to tweak and fix their roster in July to compensate for injuries/ineffectiveness that always crops up in a season. Therefore, while they may hammer on non-playoff teams and #3-5 starters, win 100 games and win the AL East, they won’t be able to keep it up once they get into a short series against playoff teams (who were able to make July trades) and their best arms.

  17. Jim Thomsen on January 4th, 2005 11:59 am

    #16 — History gives us the answer. The Yankees did the same thing back in the 1970s for their multiple World Series runs, loading up on high-priced vets like Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter, etc. … and bankrupted their farm system by giving away their best prospects (i.e., Jim Beattie to the Mariners in 1979).

    The price? An absolutely craptastic decade in the 1980s (yes, despite the home-growth of Don Mattingly).

    The Yankees appear to be on the downward cusp of their pile-up-method cycle now … and maybe be headed for another decade in the second division.

    Frankly, a lot depends on when George Steinbrenner dies … and who takes over from him, and what mindset that person brings to the team.

  18. John in L.A. on January 4th, 2005 12:13 pm

    #16… I hope you’re right. But I would point out that they just got Randy Johnson without trading anything of real “value from the high minor leagues”.

  19. zzyzx on January 4th, 2005 3:17 pm

    #18 – they DID give up Vazquez who has had some really good seasons.

  20. Paul on January 4th, 2005 3:58 pm

    The Dodgers got by far the best end of this deal. Green is a horrible defender, and if Werth is healthy he should be able to outperform Green. So, they cleared 8 million dollars of dead weight, and picked up two reasonable prospects. I don’t understand,Dave why Navarro is so much worse than Duncan. Navarro doesn’t look like he’ll hit for power, but he had a decent average and good K/BBs at AA and AAA as a twenty year old. He’s a catcher, making his ability to hit much more valuable than for Duncan, who by most accounts should end up at 1B. If he does, I’ll take Navarro over him.

  21. tvwxman on January 4th, 2005 6:17 pm

    18 — That was also a unique situation where RJ said “Trade me to the Yankees or else.” The D-backs were put in a situation they couldn’t really control, much like the M’s and Griffey.

    Let’s fast-forward to July. Let’s say the Yankees don’t have the starting pitching they thought they had when ST broke. Mussina has continued his downward slide, Wright and Pavano are looking like one-year wonders, and Brown is back on the DL.

    Anaheim, Texas and St. Louis are also looking for another starter. Ben Sheets becomes available. If you’re the GM of the Brewers, are you going to take the Yankees money and a couple of players out of high-A ball for your best pither? Or are you going to take a couple of AAA players ready for the majors from Anaheim, Texas or St. Louis? July is a time of year when money doesn’t talk nearly as loudly as talent.

  22. tede on January 4th, 2005 9:29 pm

    Jim Thompsen #17,

    You’re right that Steinbrenner’s pending mortality is a big factor that’s often being ignored. Unlike Carl Lindner and Polstad who are older and wealthier than him but aren’t spending, George’s quest for another ring before eternity is going to leave quite a mess for his heirs (Hank?) to clean up. Ownership agenda is important.

    btw, Jim Beattie wasn’t a top prospect. Try Willie McGee from that period instead. Beattie was just a guy won a surprise ALCS spot start like Bob Wolcott. (Wolcott was even drafter higher.) Jim had 1 CG in 35 starts in NY. It took him and 2 other major leaguers to land Rupert Jones at the time.

  23. Rob McMillin on January 5th, 2005 9:40 pm

    Take a look at Wait Til Next Year, which has a pretty good reason to think Navarro might be better than expected: for one thing, the Yanks’ “win at all levels” attitude ate up a bunch of his at bats.

  24. Dave on January 5th, 2005 10:08 pm

    Bryan’s a nice guy, and I like him, but on Navarro… he’s reaching. Dioner Navarro didn’t stop hitting because he wasn’t in the lineup. He wasn’t in the lineup because he wasn’t hitting.

    If Navarro turns into Damian Miller, the Dodgers should do backflips.