23 December 2002

One Degree of Kevin Millwood...

There's an old joke about how two children are arguing over how to share the use of a sled on a snowy winter afternoon. Eventually, the smarter kid convinces the dumb kid that they can take turns: "You'll get to hold the sled for TWICE AS LONG as I will. I'll take it down the hill, and you carry it up!"

On Friday, Atlanta Braves GM John Schuerholz got to be the Dumb Kid. Well, sorta. It's still a little hazy, trying to figure out what exactly happened in the Kevin Millwood-for-Johnny Estrada trade, or more precisely, why it happened. Rob Neyer has some thoughts about it, essentially speculating that Schuerholz was forced to trade him, and that he may even have traded Millwood to the Phils out of spite (towards AOL/Time-Warner). I have a hard time believing that nobody else was interested, though, as Schuerholz attests. I mean, the Yankees are considering giving up their two best prospects AND Orlando Hernandez AND millions of dollars to the Expos for Bartolo Colon and all Schuerholz could get for his ace was a third-string catcher? Let's compare:

Millwood 34 1 1 217 0.66 65 2.7 178 7.4 18 8 95.6 0.230 3.24
Colon 33 8 3 233.1 0.77 70 2.7 149 5.8 20 8 107.2 0.252 2.93

Not so different, eh? In fact, if anything, Millwood's a little better. His ERA was a quarter of a run higher last year, but that's not too much, and his career ERA ia a little lower than Colon's (3.73 to 3.85). But he allowed fewer hits and homers/inning, struck out more batters, and walked just as few. In addition, Millwood is younger by a year and a half, and hasn't been worked as hard, probably due to his shoulder injury in 1999. In fact, that's the only possible downside to the transaction for the Phils, and it's really not much of a downside. Will Carroll of Under the Knife tells his subscribers that Millwood is fine, that despite his shoulder's history, it hasn't shown any signs of problems in a while. Will says,

Millwood's shoulder problems are a bit of a yellow flag, but far from red. After his injury, Millwood worked hard to make some slight mechanical adjustments, committed to a conditioning program, and never showed signs of further difficulty. Remember that chronic problems show their face early. [...] The big question for Glavine and Millwood (and to a smaller degree, Damian Moss) is how much influence Leo Mazzone really had on their pitching.

Gosh, I hope I'm allowed to reproduce that. But if Millwood's even only healthy for this year, an there's no reason to think that he won't be, the Phillies will get a pitcher who can win 15-20 games for them, and the Braves get...well, not much. Sure, the Braves' front office is saying all the right things: "good receiver...handles pitchers well...has a good bat...nice goatee..." But they've already got Javy Lopez and Henry Blanco under contract for next year. Estrada might get to play in October, since Bobby Cox has an as-yet-unexplained penchant for carrying three catchers on his postseason rosters...if they make it to October. But frankly I think that Erik Estrada has as good a chance of helping the Braves win games next year as Johnny Estrada does.

On the other hand, this is good news for Yankee fans: GM Brian Cashman apparently has only to call back Expos GM Omar Minaya
offerring Larry Wilcox and a case of Big League Chew.

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