Category Archives: Transaction Analysis

Red Sox trying to shake things up

The Red Sox acquired Adam LaRoche and Chris Duncan yesterday, in an attempt to bolster an offense that has been mediocre despite playing in a little league park.  Kevin Youkilis and Jason Bay both are having fine seasons, but otherwise the Red Sox lineup has a lot of question marks.  Will LaRoche or Duncan help?  Probably not significantly, as both figure to be more bench players – similar to the Yankees’ acquisition of Eric Hinske.  LaRoche is the better player of the two, but he’s a first baseman, which begs the question: is Mike Lowell healthy?  If Lowell is healthy, LaRoche becomes largely irrelevant, as he’s not that significant of an upgrade over Mark Kotsay, considering their relative amount of playing time.

Much like Cashman likes to “throw things against the wall and see what sticks,” Epstein probably figures that since these players cost only money and low level prospects, they are low risk and if one of them can get hot for a month, there is potential for upside.

I will definitely be following Mike Lowell’s playing time from here on in though.


Building a super-sub

Ramiro Pena has been optioned down to Triple-A to make room for Eric Hinske.  Pena doesn’t project to ever be a great hitter necessarily, but he’s still young enough that regular ABs in the minors should help him.  Interestingly, the Yankees plan on playing him in CF, despite his great fielding ability at SS, 3B, and 2B.

This kind of move would seem to be geared next season.  If Pena can continue to develop as a hitter, even nominally, and play every critical defensive position extremely well, he’ll be a very valuable player coming off the bench, especially when you also figure in that he’s a good base runner.  The Yankees in recent seasons have been desperate to construct rosters that are more flexible and this kind of move can help accomplish that.

Hinske a solid pickup for the Yanks

With Xavier Nady done for the year, the Yanks made a good move today, grabbing Eric Hinske from the Pirates.  Hinske is a high OBP guy with power who can play corner outfield and infield spots, though not particularly well.  I have to wonder if Shelley Duncan couldn’t have given the Yankees something similar, but either way, Hinske fits the bill.  With the Yanks finally returning from playing in NL parks, it will be great to have a quality power bat on the bench and will certainly give Girardi a good deal of flexibility late in games.

The move is low-cost, as the Yanks gave up no real valuable prospects, but certainly has the potential for a decent return.

Veras likely to be traded

Jose Veras was DFA’s today, as Bruney was activated from the DL.  Surprising?  Perhaps a little.  The choice was really between Tomko and Veras.  Tomko has been a little more reliable but Veras has better stuff and is 10 years younger.  Veras clearly has the most upside.

Due to that, I have a feeling the Yankees have already found a taker for Veras and will trade him in the coming days.  There was no chance they’d get anything for Tomko, so in that sense, DFAing Veras is logical, assuming the Yankees felt Veras would not be able to turn it around this season.

I think Veras 100% can help a handful of teams out there.  He has a 95mph fastball and a good breaking ball.  His problems were largely mental – he couldn’t help but walk the first guy he faced.  Get him out of NY and I bet he turns into a productive piece for someone.  Let’s not forget that LaTroy Hawkins has been lights out for Houston ever since leaving the Yanks.

Cashman made right call with Sheffield

Anyone who has read my blog at any length, knows I’m a Brian Cashman fan. The guy gets criticized for every bad move, even some he didn’t make.

Well, the Tigers released Gary Sheffield today, and people should really give Cash praise for not only stealing Bobby Abreu from the Phillies during the ’06 season (and Cory Lidle for literally nothing! Seriously, look back at that trade), but deciding to go with Abreu over Sheffield and netting a few prospects. Those prospects haven’t necessarily panned out yet, but considering the money Sheffield has made for such a small amount of production, clearly it was a good trade for the Yankees.

So what does this mean for Sheffield? If he’s willing to take the league minimum, he should catch on somewhere. If the Rays hadn’t signed Burrell, I’d think they’d be a likely landing spot. You have to think that an AL contender would be the best bet. Too bad the Angels already have a ton of overpaid outfielders; could be fun to see Vlad (who was passed over by the Yanks for Sheff), Abreu, and Sheff all on the same squad.

Mets still asleep at the wheel

So with Orlando Hudson signing an under-market 1 year contract with the Dodgers, the Mets have sat by as another player who could significantly upgrade their team is taken off the market. The combined deals for Hudson and Abreu will be a 1 year commitment of around $10 million or so depending on incentives. Had the Mets brought in those 2 players, they would, without a doubt, have the most dynamic team in the National League.

As for the Hudson signing, I’ll let Keith Law summarize:

The big question here is where the Mets were in all of this. They have an expensive sieve — no, black hole — at second base in Luis Castillo, and Hudson would be an easy upgrade of almost two wins. The Mets already surrendered their first draft pick to sign Francisco Rodriguez, so they would have lost only their second-round pick, 69th overall, if they’d signed Hudson. Topping the contract the Dodgers gave him should have been easy for a team moving into a new stadium. The Mets haven’t increased their payroll despite the imminent revenue increase from Citi Field (or Boondoggle Park), and in this instance they missed a chance to improve their odds of reaching the playoffs over a relatively meager amount of money. Their loss is the Dodgers’ gain.

This deal isn’t really a slam dunk for the Dodgers though. They lose the #17 pick to the division rival Diamondbacks (and since the top 15 are protected, that’s the 2nd highest pick a team can possibly lose). That pick is high enough where it will give Arizona a shot at a top grade prospect. Not to mention the Dodgers already have both Blake DeWitt and Casey Blake (whose signing, was, in retrospect, shortsighted).

Bottom line – Hudson would have been perfect for the Mets.

Value of the bullpen

I made a few comments after the Abreu signing that the Mets’ acquisitions of K-Rod and Putz were overrated ; partially because K-Rod himself is and secondly because the positions (setup and closer) also are.

In response, there was the following reader questions (I started to respond in the comment section, but then it got long, so I made it a post):

how is set-up role and closer role overrated??

-do we expect starting pitching to go 9 innings all the time??
-shortening the game for the starter is overrated also?

so the combination of wettland and mo was overrated? could we have won all those championships n the 90’s without a dominating bullpen?

To answer the last 4 questions – No, Yes, Yes, and Yes. And as for the first question, set-up men and closers are overrated because, over the course of the season, they just don’t impact nearly as many at-bats as starters do. Sure, Mo in 1996 pitched an absurd 107 innings, but in general, bullpen pitchers throw about 60 or 70 innings. A good starter will log 200+ innings. Obviously the impact of those innings, especially for a closer, can be a bit more “high leverage,” but at the end of the day, the starter will mean more in terms of wins and losses for a team.

No, starters don’t go 9 innings every game, but the more innings they pitch, the better the bullpen will be. So yes, shortening the game for the starter is overrated – the logic there is flawed, because it’s really the other way around. Last year, Tampa Bay’s normally atrocious bullpen became one of the league’s best. How is that possible? Did Grant Balfour, Dan Wheeler, and JP Howell really get THAT much better in a year? Of course not. What happened is the Rays had amazing health and productivity out of their starting 5. Those 5 pitched more innings than any other. Therefore, Tampa’s bullpen didn’t need to be used nearly as much. People like to talk about bullpen volatility; a good portion of why relievers’ numbers take such drastic swings is a result of how they are used, which is a product of starting pitching.

The Yankee teams of the 90s all had decent bullpens, but really it was the starting pitching and Rivera that made it that way. The Yankees always had a good starter on the mound, so the middle relief was never overexposed. Guys like Mendoza, Stanton, Nelson, etc were all decent pitchers. But when you have starters that consistently go deep in games and a closer who is so good he can be his own setup man… well your job is easy. The Yankees have had a lot of decent bullpens this decade that ended up looking pretty bad – also in part because of Torre’s handling of it. Guys like Proctor, Quantrill, Karsay, etc were all certainly talented enough to succeed, they just broke down due to overuse.

So when I critique the Mets, its not because I don’t think they should have a good closer – they definitely should. And I think they got Putz for relatively little. I just find it surprising that they would pursue bullpen help so aggressively and neglect the outfield and starting rotation. In a short postseason series, having those 2 solid relief pitchers might help you more than Abreu and a decent 4-5 starter. But in terms of helping you GET to the postseason? The OF and starter will help you more.

Omar Minaya says things like “I hear the people on the streets and they say the Mets need a better bullpen.” Well, yeah Omar, but some random guy in line with you at the deli probably shouldn’t be influencing your decisions.

Bottom line, I’m mostly stunned the Mets didn’t just pony up a little more money so they could get the bullpen guys AND other help, especially when the market has become so cheap.