Mets Waste Top Bargaining Chip Milledge

November 30, 2007

 

 22-year-old Lastings Milledge is headed to D.C., where he will look to take over the rap game, and maybe play some baseball if he has any spare time.

After technicalities saved Mets GM Omar Minaya from signing Yorvit Torrealba to a terrible three year deal, he has been deadset on finding another equally horrific catcher to take over for the newly departed Paul Lo Duca

First he acquired the overrated Johnny Estrada in a move that didn’t particularly hurt the team–other than due to the fact that Minaya intends to have the guy on the roster–seeing as it only cost the Mets mediocrity in return in the form of Guillermo Mota.  This move was fine, it’s the next one that should blow you away.

The Mets have just finished a trade that will send top OF prospect Lastings Milledge to the Nationals for catcher Brian Schneider and OF Ryan Church

This is a shocking deal for several reasons: 

  • Church and Milledge were roughly equals last season, but Church is 29 years-of-age, while Milledge is only 22.
  • Milledge has the potential to go to multiple all-star games.
  • Money is not saved by the Mets, in fact, Schneider’s presence should only add to their payroll.
  • Milledge will likely be better than Church this season, and every year thereafter.
  • Schneider is terrible.  He brings nothing to the table offensively, and his arm has slipped over the past few years: his throwing percentage dropped from an excellent 50% in 2004 for Montreal all the way down to 30% and 31% the past two seasons for Washington.
  • Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the Mets need pitching.  Milledge was one of their top bargaining chips in any attempt at acquiring Johan Santana, Dan Haren, Joe Blanton, Erik Bedard, or any other quality starter available this off-season.

 

Unfortunately for Jose Reyes, this trade may prevent any future collaboration on new rap/reggaeton hits with fellow baseballer/MC Lastings Milledge.

Overall, that makes this trade a coup for the Nationals, who foisted the Mets, sending one average corner OF and a below average catcher to a division rival for a nice RF to go with Willy Mo Pena in LF and Ryan Zimmerman at 3B…the fact that they don’t really have anything else is beside the point, but at least in this instance, well done, Washington.

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Fresh Wood for the Fire: The Bat Tosser Heads to ‘Sota

November 29, 2007

 

Delmon Young’s bat, pictured above, flies through the hitting zone, and occassionally at umpires.

The Twins and Rays just completed a very intriguing trade.  The main pieces of the deal, Delmon Young and Matt Garza, both have the potential to be all-stars.  This in of itself does not make the trade particularly interesting, but the fact that neither one has even begun his arbitration years does.  Trades such as this one, featuring young studs, rarely take place.  To evidence this, I ask you, can you think of a single noteworthy instance of a prospect for a prospect?

(Yes, Delmon Young finished 2nd in the rookie of the year voting last season so it may seem like he’s “established” and no longer a prospect, but that assumes the ROY voters did anything more than recognize a big name who had a decent season.  Delmon is nowhere near fully developed as a player, and has the talent to become a stud, something he certainly was not as a rookie, with only a .316 on-base-percentage, a .408 slugging percentage, and a horrific K/BB ratio.)

Also involved in the trade were four secondary characters: Eduardo Morlan, Jason Pridie, Jason Bartlett, and Brendan Harris.

Morlan and Bartlett head to the (no longer Devil) Rays and Harris and Pridie jet off from Florida to the winter wonderland that is Minnesota.  Morlan is a potential bullpen guy, Pridie a potential corner OF, but not projected to be a great player, Harris is a mediocre defensive SS/IF with a mediocre bat, and Bartlett is an adequate offensive player at short, given his defense is such a substantial upgrade for the Rays.  

So, in terms of absolute talent, the Rays won this trade.  However, in terms of pure potential, the Twins carry the day, with Young a potential perennial all-star if he can figure things out.  Garza should step in and be one of the Rays’ top three starters right away, with a chance to be a quality #2/3 starter on a play-off contender. 

What does this mean for both teams?

For Tampa Bay, it helps ease their logjam at the OF/DH position, while picking up a quality young starter, an upgrade at shortstop, and a potential reliever.  Throw this talent in with an absolutely stacked farm system, an improving and already quality line-up, and a couple nice arms already on their Major League roster (Scott Kazmir and James Shields in the rotation; newly signed Troy Percival, Al Reyes, Dan Wheeler, et al waiting around in the ‘pen), and we can be expecting a 4th place finish in the AL East!  To be fair, a team could win 85 games and possibly finish in 4th in that murderous division, so that should not discourage the Rays faithful (there are absolutely at least 17 members of that exclusive club).  I fully expect the Rays to begin to compete for the Wild Card by 2010, although they could get everything right, win 95 games, and still finish third behind the Red Sox and Yankees.  It’s a shame they can’t realign themselves into the NL Central, because they might challenge for that “title” as soon as next year if they only had to beat the worst division in AAAA.

For Minnesota, they have one of their corner OF spots taken care of for a decade.  They still must deal with Johan Santana, so their team is nowhere near completed.  But, if they get back the type of talent that has been rumored for Santana, they could be a contender as soon as 2009, with 2010 a more realistic timetable.  If the Twins were to receive Coco Crisp, Jed Lowrie, Justin Masterson, and Jon Lester from the Red Sox, as has been reported as a possiblity, they would successfully have found cheaper replacements for both Santana and Torii Hunter, while simultaneously picking up a new shortsop in Lowrie and a power arm for their ‘pen in Masterson.  Fixing their roster like that would be extremely impressive in such a short period of time.


The KG Trade Revisited; Plus Some Celtics Notes

November 29, 2007

 

Is there any debate?

A friend of mine asked me today if it was just him, or was Al Jefferson better than KG?

Yes, he was serious.

Yes, it was just him. 

KG’s PER (Player Efficiency Rating–it measure a player’s offensive efficiency, but doesn’t measure defense) is substantially higher than Al Jefferson’s at 25.99 to 23.08.  I know that might not seem like a lot but it’s a decent sized difference–think the difference between Tony Allen two years ago and Tony Allen pre-devastating post whistle knee destruction dunk.  Additionally, KG is a farrrrr superior defensive player, something that cannot easily be quantified with individual stats, so just look at the team defensive numbers this year compared with last year for a simple comparison.

Essentially, if you go back in time and undo the KG trade, you get a team that wins about 45-49 games this year, instead of a team with a chance to win 55 or so.  THAT’S the easiest way to measure the difference in Big Al and KG’s total game.

As far as the rest of the trade goes, Ryan Gomes really needs to be coming off the bench on a good team, and hopefully will be soon since he’s a free agent this summer.  Gerald Green and Sebastian Telfair have continued to tease their teams but have very little clue as to what they’re doing out on the court.  Theo Ratliff’s contract is still a nice chip and coming off the cap next year.  The draft picks remain unchanged; one will be a lottery pick (Minny’s 2009 pick they got back) and one will be in the 20s (the Boston pick).

 

Popovich wins for a reason: he’s good at his job.

Some notes for Doc:

If you continue to play Ray Ray more than 40 minutes per game, and Pierce and KG about 38, this team will flame out in the play-offs.  Look at what Gregg Popovich does year after year in San Antonio, limiting his stars’ minutes, and do your best to follow his lead, understanding that overall the Spurs have more good players and thus can more easily do this.  So, for the year, think about 35 minutes per game for all 3, and they will have a better shot at doing damage in the post-season.

Also, Big Baby and Scott Pollard need to play more, about 15-20 minutes per game overall, in order to give KG some rest and get some better rebounding.


Red Sox Prospectus: A Bright Future

November 27, 2007

Jacoby Ellsbury’s arrival, along with that of several other Sox farmhands, brought the team more than free tacos.

 

As arrogant as it may sound, the 2007 Boston Red Sox were a success not primarily for their ability to win the World Series. Their true success lay in the franchise’s ability to simultaneously utilize young talent to both win games at the big league level and also acquire the veterans it sought to give the club legitimate championship aspirations.

Dustin Pedroia, Manny Delcarmen, Kason Gabbard, David Murphy, Engel Beltre, Brandon Moss, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, and Clay Buchholz, among others, were used in key roles or in trades during 2007. What the arrival of this young talent meant for the 2007 Boston Red Sox was the same thing it means for the 2008 version and beyond of the team: less reliance on outside sources for the talent needed to win year to year.

The new dogma brought to the Red Sox by Theo Epstein and the three-headed ownership monster of Larry Lucchino, Tom Werner, and majority owner John Henry of building a player-development machine has wrought success quickly in the group’s four year tenure, and should continue to do so for many years. The cost certainty that exists due to the presence of so many quality young players cannot be overstated. While the Red Sox operate at a significant economic advantage compared with the rest of baseball, they still must compete with their neighbors to the south, the New York Yankees. Thus, having the ability to outbid the Yankees, a task not easily done, is extremely important for the continued success of the team.

It is the low-level salaries of Sox farmhands that has enabled them to re-sign both Mike Lowell and Curt Schilling this off-season, despite concerns about slips in their performances in the coming years (or in Schilling’s case, year).  The Red Sox can afford Mike Lowell returning to his pre-2007 level of performance because they have lower-salaried players ready to shoulder a bigger offensive load, and specifically AAA SS/IF Jed Lowrie ready to make an impact on the Major League level as soon as 2008. 

Meanwhile, in the rotation, the Red Sox boast as many as 7 viable starting rotation candidates in Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Curt Schilling, Tim Wakefield, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, and Julian Tavarez, enabling the team to limit Lester’s and Buchholz’s innings, which should help them avoid injury or cases of late-season fatigue.  The Red Sox also figure to bring back a strong core of relievers in 2008 and beyond, with Jonathan Papelbon, Delcarmen, Hideki Okajima, Javier Lopez, and Mike Timlin already in the ’pen, awaiting the potential arrivals of Craig Hansen, Justin Masterson, and Michael Bowden.

While some have jumped to the conclusion that the Red Sox have become baseball’s next dynasty, having won two World Series in four years, this claim is a bit rash. The Red Sox still have much work to do before they can be compared with the Yankees and Braves of the past 15+ years, but if 2007 is any indicator of the future, the Red Sox are baseball’s best bet at taking up that mantle.


Pitching Prospect is an Ugly Word

November 25, 2007

Could he be wearing Yankee pinstripes soon? 

To quickly paraphrase ESPN’s Buster Olney, a potential trade of Philip Hughes, Austin Jackson, and Melky Cabrera for Johan Santana is too much to give up for the Yanks, considering they would have to extend Santana for around $150 million.

Olney continues, writing that,

“Even beyond the question of swapping promising young players like Hughes and Cabrera and Jackson, how much money does it save them to have cheap players on their roster. How much will it cost them to replace a Cabrera or Jackson? Without Cabrera or Jackson, the Yankees might have to sign a veteran center fielder in their place in a year or two.

And it’s possible that within three or four years, as Santana gets older and Hughes progresses, that Hughes might become something close to what Santana will be then. And you could say the same for [Red Sox pitcher] Clay Buchholz.”

Buster does a nice job of explaining his viewpoint, but he forgets one key fact: these are the Yankees.  While money is a huge factor for other teams, the Yankees essentially can’t spend enough.  To this point we’ve been shown no reason to believe they have any sort of payroll limit that would prohibit them from continuing to acquire All-Star talent whenever it becomes available.  Thus, the salient point that Buster makes about the cost of later replacing young talent given up in trades is mitigated. 

Additionally, the term “pitching prospect” itself is like a euphemism that your grandparents use when talking about race.  They want to project an image of tolerance and understanding, but really they remain stuck in an age when bigotry was the norm and no one judged them for it.  Well, calling a young arm a “pitching prospect” is akin to such talk because really it should be called a “guy likely to blow out his arm and never contribute on the Major League level.”  Think Francisco Liriano.  Consequently, we should think about the two main chips in this trade scenario: cheap, POTENTIALLY good Philip Hughes and THE BEST PITCHER ALIVE, Johan Santana.

 

A guy likely to blow out his arm and never contribute on the Major League level.

As can be seen in any economy, stability is the key to continued success.  This applies in the case of the Yankees because spending wads of cash is not an issue for them, instability is.  They should spend the most money in baseball, they just need to spend that money on the right guys.  Enter Johan Santana.

Going over his stats is redundant, but he has been the best pitcher in the game since Pedro Martinez‘s demise, and will likely continue to be top-5 for the next 4 years.  He’s worth the money he’ll get, and especially for a team that has the money to spend it.  On the other hand, the Minnesota Twins cannot afford to spend like the Yankees, and therefore must speculate more, which means trading the best pitcher on the planet for “a guy likely to blow out his arm and never contribute on the Major League level” and two other potentially good players.

As far as Austin Jackson goes, he is rated as a quality prospect by most, but is a few years away from contributing.  Cabrera is here already, but is definitely overrated in New York.  He is a quality player, but this past season had a .327 OBP and a .391 SLG.  Those are not very good numbers, but given his age and his previous work, one can expect he’ll continue to get better and be a valuable player for a team such as the Twins looking for a cheap replacement in CF.

So, when you truly break it down, this trade comes down to one thing: is the dollar cost of the transaction worth negating the obvious gain in talent and performance certainty?  Seeing as the franchise is worth more than a billion dollars, I vote no for the Yankees, and say if this rumor is true, they should pounce at the opportunity to get their answer to Josh Beckett, Fausto Carmona, C.C. Sabathia, and John Lackey.

Oh, and not to forget, their 2008 rotation would include Santana, Chien Ming Wang, Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, Mike Mussina, and potentially Andy Pettitte.  Not too shabby, and the two young guns in the rotation would be under less pressure to throw more innings than their development schedule would dictate.


Moneyball: The Bible of Baseball?

November 24, 2007

 

Similar to the Bible, this book has been wrongly interpreted since its arrival, and its true meaning has been skewed and forgotten.

Several years ago Michael Lewis wrote his most famous baseball-economics book about the small market Oakland Athletics and their front office.  Billy Beane, then considered the best GM in the game (and still considered one of, if not, the best), was scouring the planet for talent, and Lewis published Beane’s philosophy of finding whatever skill the market undervalued and acquiring players with that skill and other flaws for cheap, enabling a small market team such as the A’s to compete with the game’s financial powerhouses. 

It’s a simple plan: be smarter, more creative, and work harder than your competition, and you can make up for a mind-boggling difference in resources.  Sounds pretty intelligent, no?

Why am I writing a mini-review about a book that came out years ago?  Well, back then younger players and on-base-percentage were undervalued.  Consequently, Beane drafted college players over high schoolers since they were more likely to quickly make an impact.  In doing so he acquired several prominent Major Leaguers you know by name and traded and signed others in order create a durable, solid pitching staff and a patient offensive line-up, even if it meant batting Scott Hatteberg lead-off, he the owner of one career stolen base at the time of his arrival in the Bay Area. 

Later, Beane moved onto defensive metrics, which showed Johnny Damon’s tremendous value in centerfield, despite a poor offensive season and an arm that your little sister would scoff at.  Others in the game grew up on Beane’s philosophies, and soon a new wave of GMs applied the grind-it-out-at-bat mentality that we now see from the best teams, along with statistics-based evaluation to their practices.  Beane’s job became that much harder. 

Still, year after year, Beane has managed to put together a quality team, one that can contend annually given decent health.  Since 1999, the A’s have finished well over .500 every season but 2007, in which their string of injuries could only be explained by some silly curse that the media should think up if they haven’t already. 

Given that his competition has become much more difficult, how Beane has kept winning?  He’s followed the laws of the market: buy low and sell high. 

Francisco Cordero is no Mariano Rivera, and the Reds are no Yankees, so throwing money around like a drunken sailor is probably not in their best interest.

How does this bring me to any relevance in today’s hot stove market?  Look at what Billy Beane is doing this off-season.  Has he signed any mediocre relievers to four year deals?  Given any fourth starters $50 million?  No.  So far, he has essentially done nothing.  And that’s what you should hope your home team’s front office will do as well. 

There is no sense in making a big splash on a questionable contract unless you’re that close to a title, and in that case you probably can make a similar move at the trade deadline.  This makes signing a better than average (in the inferior NL) closer such as Francisco Cordero insane for his new team, the Reds.  All the money that is (over)spent on Major League talent when a team is not contending is money that cannot be spent on scouting and developing potential low-priced, homegrown franchise pillars.  Which is a shame.

Do Fat Joe and Lil Wayne work in your team’s front office?

So, while teams lavishly throw money around like wannabe drug dealers in rap videos this off-season, if your GM chooses some fiscal sanity, deciding to sell his best assets at a time when they are overvalued in order to maintain long-term competitiveness, laud the guy (they’re all men right now, but look out for Kim Ng).  Someday you’ll be thankful your team didn’t pay Torii Hunter $18 million in year four of his deal or Francisco Cordero $11.5 million THIS YEAR and the three years after it. 

Buy low and sell high.


Should the Bruins Trade Tim Thomas?

November 23, 2007

He’s carried the team, but does a trade make more sense than keeping him around? 

It might be time for the Bruins to trade Tim Thomas.  The guy is playing out of his mind, and based on his past, one might interpret that as a semi-fluke.  This isn’t to say Thomas is a bad goalie or going to seriously regress next season, but when a guy has a .941 save percentage it’s generally going to come down by at least 20 points no matter how great he plays.  Thus, the next few weeks would be the best time to put his name out on the market, and hope a team such as the Lightning (perhaps for someone like Michel Ouellet??, a 25 year old winger), whose goalies aren’t exactly shutting other teams down, would make a nice deal.  With Manny Fernandez and Tuukka Rask as the logical fill-ins for Thomas, the goaltender plan I previously wrote about could be accelerated, with Thomas bringing in a valuable offensive player in order to give the team better balance and a better future with Rask in net and another quality scorer, instead of Thomas leaving after the season or re-upping him, only to have the guy block our best prospect, in Rask.

A team that has been scoring but not stopping the puck is Toronto, but after their previous deal for Andrew Raycroft gave us the goaltending advantage already, I’m not sure how willing they would be to entertain another trade with the Bruins.  The Penguins might also be looking for some goaltending help, as well as possibly the Blackhawks and the Thrashers or Flames.  These are not by any means rumors I’ve heard, but simply conjecture based on looking at which teams have been scoring but giving up too many goals.  No matter what, the Bruins should be looking to improve their depth at the forward position, with left wing and center the prime positions of need.  Another interesting possiblity for a trade would be with the hope of clearing cap space for a future run at a key free agent or two.

A nice addition to espn.com would be an NHL trade machine like that of the NBA trade machine, because that would make coming up with possible trades much easier, given the difficulty in knowing whether deals would actually work under the cap.