09 December 2005

Busy Day Week at the MLB Winter Meetings…

What the Heck Are They Thinking in San Diego???

The San Diego Padres have reportedly traded starting 2B Mark Loretta to the Boston Red Sox for backup catcher Doug Mirabelli, who had been the backup catcher for Boston and personal caddy for knuckleballer Tim Wakefield for four years. He’s got a little more pop than most backup catchers, but that’s like saying that Kate Moss is a little thinner than most supermodels. Relatively speaking, they’re all pretty close together on that bell curve. Mirabelli is not going to be able to replace Ramon Hernandez, who signed with the Orioles for four years and $27.25 million.

The real curiosity here is on the Padres' side. Loretta had hit .334 with 76 RBI in 2004 before a thumb injury slowed his production in 2005. It’s probably not reasonable to expect him to hit like Tony Gwynn again in 2006, but his batting average and OBP were right in the 50th percentile of Baseball Prospectus' projections for him in 2005. His power dropped way off, which makes sense in light of his thumb injury, but if he’s healthy (and if the Sox traded for him, I imagine he must be) then he should have been a pretty solid player at the Keystone next year. Why they'd want to trade a guy like that, when Josh Barfield hasn't even played a game in the majors, Eric Young has probably played one of his last, and Bobby Hill is never going to be an everyday second-sacker, is beyond me.

The Pads also re-signed Trevor Hoffmann to a 2-year, $13.5 million deal, which isn't bad for the Padres in light of what B.J Ryan, Mariano Rivera and some other closers are making these days, but he's already 38 and I wonder how much gas he really has left in the tank. Too many teams over-value the role of a closer, wasting 10% of their payroll or more on a position that could be ably filled by a lot of guys making not much more than the major league minimum.

They also traded 3B Sean Burroughs to Tampa Bay for RHP Dewon Brazleton, who's got a great arm, a career ERA of 5.98, and not much else. Of course, Burroughs doesn't seem like he's got much of a future in the major leagues either, so this was a, "Hey, why not?" type of trade for both clubs.

What the Heck Are They Thinking in Texas/Washington???

The Nationals traded 1B/OF Brad Wilkerson, OF Termel Sledge and minor league pitcher Armando Galarraga to Texas for 2B Alfonso Soriano, the second time Soriano's been traded in three years. Nats' GM Jim Bowden purportedly has a fetish for "toolsy" players, and Soriano is nothing if not toolsy, but it seems to me that if you're going to acquire such guys, the time to do it is when they're 22 or younger and fresh out of the Dominican Republic, not when they've been playing organized baseball for a decade and still can't hit a curveball. Even with the horrendous strikeout and walk rates, Soriano's speed and power easily rank him in the top third of major league secondbasemen. Unfortunately, Washington has already got a secondbaseman, Jose Vidro, who's signed for 3 more years and is owed $23 million.
Evidently one of them is going to have to be traded, as neither seems willing to change positions.

For that matter, what are the Rangers thinking? They don't have a major-league ready 2B right now, but they were up to their armpits in corner IF/OF guys even before the trades for Wilkerson and Sledge, so there must be another trade in the works that we just don't yet see. Stay tuned...

I Know What the Heck They're Thinking in Pittsburgh...

The Pirates have made a flurry of moves in the last few days as well, trading LHP Dave Williams for erstwhile Reds' 1B Sean Casey, trading utility IF Rob Mackowiak to the Chicago White Sox for LHP Damaso Marte, and trading LHP Mark Redman to the Royals for pitcher Jonah Bayliss and minor league pitcher Chad Blackwell.

Williams has never been healthy enough to pitch 160 innings in any season of his career, and given the presence of Zach Duke, Pat Maholm and Oliver Perez (a health concern as well) on the roster, Williams was expendable. They didn't really need a firstbaseman making $8 million who doesn't hit for power, but he can't possibly be worse than the dreck they've run out at the position for the last few years, so you can at least understand the desperation aspect of the move.

Redman, too, was expendable, as he's really only reliable for 180-200 innings of league-average work, most of the time, the quintissential LAIM (League Average Innings Mincher). His one "good" season, 2003, was largely due to the friendliness of Pro Player Stadium to pitchers (2.88 ERA at home, 4.27 on the road). The Pirates, not expected to be contenders in 2006 (or 2007, or 2008...) shoudl be letting the younger, cheaper guys pitch in that rotation so they can see what kind of talent they've got, rather than reaffirming the "adequacy" of guys like Redman for 4 or 5 million dollars a season. This move makes a little more sense, especially because Bayliss has some potential and could help them in the bullpen in a year or two.

Mackowiak had come up through the Pittsburgh system in his five-year stint with the Pirates had played every position except pitcher, catcher and shortstop. His career .742 OPS at age 29 suggests that he'll never be a starter at any position, but that he can be a useful utility man, especially against right-handed pitching (only .681 career OPS against southpaws). With only one year left before free agency, the Pirates wisely got rid of him for a more useful (if no less expensive) player.

Damaso Marte has bounced back and forth between the roles of setup man, closer, and clubhouse scapegoat when the White Sox went into their September swoon this year, but is a very good reliever. He has a career ERA of 3.20 and 323 strikeouts in 304 innings pitched. Like most southpaws, he's more effective against lefties (.200 career batting average against), but is no slouch against righties either (.240) so there's no need to use him as a LOOGY. The Pirates just lost their closer, Joe Table, to the Rockies, other than whom nobody on the team had more than three saves last year, so they may be intending to give that job to Marte. UNder contract for next year at $2.25 million with $3 million club options ofr 2007 and 2008, this deal could turn out to be a steal.

Kudos to the Pirates for getting someone in the front office who seems to know what he's doing. The Cam Bonifay Era in the Iron City lasted way too long.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

No comments: