by Keith Glab, BaseballEvolution.com
December 12, 2009
You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold'em, know when to walk
away, and when not to bite on an aging player coming off a career year.
Here are five winners and five losers from the winter meetings in Indianapolis.
Kevin Millwood and $3 million for Chris Ray and a Rule 5 draft pick.
I'm not the biggest Millwood fan around, but are you kidding me? This guy
has averaged 190 innings per season over the past 11 years and a career ERA just
a hair over 4.00. People talk about the leadership he'll bring to a young
rotation, which could indeed prove significant. But he may also put
together one of the best performances by an Orioles pitcher in the past decade.
I realize that's not saying a whole lot, but it's certainly worth $9 million and
Although I like the move from Baltimore's perspective, I do not hate it from
the Rangers'. They sold Millwood after he greatly overachieved and
immediately replaced him with the high-risk, high-reward Rich Harden.
Chris Ray has exhibited the unsettling trend of getting worse every year he has
been in the majors, but Ben Snyder was probably the best player taken in the
Rule 5 draft. The Texas bullpen unquestionably improved, the rotation may have
improved pending Harden's health, and their financial ledger remains unchanged.
Not too shabby.
Chicago White Sox
If this were 2002, the White Sox would be clear favorites for the World
Series, what with Andruw Jones, Omar Vizquel, and Mark Kotsay all on the squad.
Eight years later, that trio is more likely to provide comic relief than actual
production. J.J. Putz, however, could provide very real relief for an
already impressive pitching staff.
Just two years ago, Putz had the best season of any major league reliever.
For the Sox to get him for $3 million - half of his 2009 salary - is a coup,
particularly given the contracts some other lesser relievers received (more on
that in the Losers section). Between Bobby Jenks, Matt Thornton, and J.J.
Putz, the Sox have three legitimate closers on the roster, plus Scott Linebrink
is a damn impressive fourth option in a bullpen. This could well be the
best pen in the majors right now.
Amid all of the hoopla over the Tigers trading a 30-homer, 20-stolen base
player and one who had a 3.62 ERA in 214 innings last year, few people bothered
to mention that neither Curtis Granderson nor Edwin Jackson are actually very
good players. Granderson had an OPS+ of 100 last year, always strikes out
way too often, and is useless against left-handed pitching, as evidenced by his
career .614 OPS against southpaws. If not for his excellent defense and
the fact that the Yankees gave up very little to get him, New York would appear
on the Losers list. Edwin Jackson is not only a huge injury risk next
season based on his mid-90s fastball, 6.14 September ERA, and abusive workload,
but he only had a fielding independent ERA of 4.34 in his supposed breakout 2009
Austin Jackson is your typical overrated Yankees prospect, but he can likely
approach a 100 OPS+, play solid defense, and even hit a left-handed pitcher once
in a while. Phil Coke is a serviceable southpaw, Daniel Schlereth is an
unproven southpaw with huge upside, and Max Scherzer is one of the best young
pitchers in the game. Considering that the Tigers saved around $10
million, improved their roster for 2010, and swapped players approaching free
agency for ones they can control for many years, this one mega-trade easily
makes Detroit the biggest winners of the winter meetings.
Okay, okay, he signed with the Red Sox just prior to the winter meetings, but
he merits a mention. Here's a 34-year old utility infielder who has never
made more than $1.55 million in a single season. He enjoys a breakout
offensive season and somehow becomes a Type-A free agent, meaning that whoever
signs him must part with a first- or second-round pick in next year's draft.
Scutaro still got a two-year, $12.5 million contract from the Boston Red Sox
that even includes a dual option for 2012.
I don't consider this a terrible move for the Red Sox. A) Although
Scutaro's offense last year was clearly a fluke, he could still put up good
numbers aided by Fenway Park. B) Scutaro is an excellent defender, which
combined with even mediocre offense could still give the BoSox their best
shortstop performance since the days of Nomar Garciaparra. C) Scutaro could be a
complete bust and barely dent Boston's resources. But for this former
undrafted free agent, this is a terrific story, and it's hard not to cheer for
When the founders of Baseball Evolution took in a Washington Nationals game
last summer, we were rather amused to find that Josh Willingham, Nyjer Morgan,
and Tyler Clippard were their most heavily marketed players at the time.
Obviously, Adam Dunn's regular 400+ foot bombs need no marketing, Ryan Zimmerman
may be a star in the making, and Stephen Strasburg will soon be the biggest
thing in DC not named Obama, but there's no question that this new franchise can
use a name player for a draw.
Enter Ivan Rodriguez. I-Rod's days of not embarrassing himself at the
plate are long since gone, and it's rarely a good idea to sign a 38-year old
catcher to a two-year deal. Nevertheless, he gives the Nationals
leadership, marketability, and still one of the best defensive backstops in the
game for just $3 million per season. Pudge has
a long history of spinning poor
teams into good ones, and I wouldn't bet against that happening in Washington.
We covered a lot of this in the Tigers section, but the D-backs swapped out a
phenom in Max Scherzer along with the second-best pitching prospect in their
organization in Daniel Schlereth for two arms with huge question marks dangling
on them. Some say that Scherzer couldn't go deep into ballgames and was an
injury waiting to happen, but his BAA was .228 in the 5th inning, .234 in the
6th, and .200 in the 7th last year. Oh, and his FIP was 3.90, nearly half
a run better than Jackson's. And he's younger and under team control for
Granted, Ian Kennedy's 19-6 record, 1.95 ERA, and 10 K/9 in his minor league
career are mighty impressive, but he still hasn't proven that he is more than a
Quadruple-A pitcher. And since he is coming off an injury himself, the
reason behind dealing Scherzer becomes even more muddled.
The Cubs are graded as losers because their position weakens every day they
do not trade Milton Bradley. There is no team out there that cannot live
without Milton Bradley, whereas the Cubs simply cannot live with him. The
fact that no deal got done in Indy exposes Jim Hendry's lie that a half dozen
teams are even interested in Bradley. Also, without knowing exactly what
bad contract the Cubs will have to assume in return for Bradley, they cannot
really act on other trade or free agent avenues.
I hate to say this because it is such an annoyingly popular sentiment, but
the Cubs should really consider bringing Mark DeRosa back into the fold.
His two best positions - second base and right field - are the Cubs' two weakest
positions at the moment. The acquisition of DeRosa would not preclude the
Cubs from taking on another bad position player contract, because DeRosa can
always shift to accommodate someone. If they don't make a move now, they
may well be stuck with the dregs of the free agent market once they finally deal
or release Milton Bradley.
What more can we say about Ed Wade? He just threw $15 million at a
merely serviceable reliever (Brandon Lyon, 3-years) and $4.5 million at a
soon-to-be 35-year old third baseman with a career OBP of .293 (Pedro Feliz).
They also traded three prospects for Matt Lindstrom, who throws very hard, but
isn't very good. It seems to me that if you are a team coming off a 74-win
season, you might want to trade for prospects, particularly when the free
agents you bring in aren't any better than the ones you are losing (Jose
Valverde, Miguel Tejada, LaTroy Hawkins, etc.).
There's no reason to believe that the Astros can't be the worst team in the
National League next year. If that happens, it may finally be enough to
get Ed Wade fired, which would be the first step of a long process in rebuilding
this once-proud franchise.
I've averaged eight wins, 22 starts, 130 innings, and a 4.16 ERA over the
past six seasons, and I turned 33 in August. Who am I? Randy Wolf,
the deserving recipient of a three-year, $29.75 million contract, of course!
The one positive about Wolf is that his career year may not have been a product
of Dodger Stadium, as he went 7-4 with a 2.78 ERA on the road.
I'm a career backup catcher who turns 39 in April and has a career .251
batting average. Who am I? Greg Zaun, the man making more than $2
million next season as the Brewers' starting catcher! The one positive
about Zaun is that he has hit better later in his career than he did when he was
young, but he is a defensive liability that somehow hasn't played for a playoff
team since 1997. Expect that streak to continue in 2010.
St. Louis Cardinals
Yes, a whopping fourth team in the NL Central that grades out a loser.
The Cardinals are losing a mob of free agents this winter, so clearly they
needed to make several additions to offset their losses. Committing $7.5
million (up to $9M with performance bonuses) to one erratic pitcher should not
have been in the cards. Sure, Dave Duncan can likely get the most out of
Brad Penny, but what a waste of Dave Duncan! Why not use him to resurrect
a more affordable veteran pitcher or two?
This is a team that currently has no fifth starter, no left fielder, no third
baseman, and an outfielder playing second base. If this team wants to
repeat as NL Central champs, they're going to need to spend some dough, because
there is absolutely no help in their farm system. Putting most of their
eggs in a broken basket doesn't seem like such a hot idea.
Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Keith resides in Chicago, Illinois and can be reached at email@example.com.