Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Transaction Recap: Diamondbacks, Brewers, Astros, Angels, Orioles

Diamondbacks:

Traded C Johnny Estrada, SP Claudio Vargas, and RP Greg Aquino to Brewers for SP Doug Davis, SP Dana Eveland, and OF David Krynzel

Everything about this trade makes sense for Arizona. Estrada is viewed as the centerpiece to the deal, but he'll be a 31-year old catcher whose only skill is hitting for average. Aquino is a short reliever with a 4.93 career ERA. The most useful player the Brewers are acquiring is Vargas, who has been around a league-average pitcher with the Diamondbacks in 2005-06, while posting a K:BB ratio over 2.3/1. Vargas is also three years away from free agency.

Davis has been an above-average pitcher for three-and-a-half years in Milwaukee, and with his good strikeout numbers, we should expect more of the same in Arizona, though he will be a free agent after 2007. Krynzel is merely a throw-in; he'll be 25 next year and hasn't been able to hit in AAA, much less the majors.

The big fish for Arizona in this deal is Eveland, who has shown solid potential in both the high minors and the majors the past two years. Like any 22-year-old starter, Eveland has had problems avoiding walks, but any young starter who can strike out nearly a batter per inning in the majors is a solid prospect, and he will be Diamondbacks property until 2012.

Astros:

Signed OF Carlos Lee to a 6-year, $100 million contract, and SP Woody Williams to a 2-year, $12.5 million contract

The Lee signing is a bit much. He's one of the few impact bats on the market, but he's a major liability with the glove and hasn't drawn 60 walks in a year since 2002. He begins the contract as a 31-year-old worth 4-5 wins a year, but will end it at 36 and worth far less. For about the same money over six guaranteed years, I'll take Alfonso Soriano any day of the week.

Williams is a reasonable pickup at this price. He should be slightly below league-average for the next two years, and this contract avoids a long-term commitment or a huge financial outlay.

Angels:

Signed CF Gary Matthews, Jr. to a 5-year, $50 million deal

Unlike Juan Pierre's deal with the Dodgers, which was extravagant but understandable, this contract makes almost no sense. Pierre was three years younger and has been the better player in the past by almost any measure, so why is Matthews getting paid more? The easy answer is to blame ESPN's endless replays of his excellent catch, but there's more to it than that. It's easy to envision that a career year represents a new standard of performance; check the contracts given to Mark DeRosa or Adrian Beltre (although Beltre no longer looks overpaid after the way this offseason has shaken out).

Apparently, the motive behind the signing is to free Chone Figgins for a trade, but why kick out the better player in favor of a $50 million albatross? The Angels will be lucky if Matthews is still able to start in the last two years of the deal, although as they have shown with Darin Erstad, Garret Anderson, and Adam Kennedy, they are usually willing to bench a better, younger player in favor of a higher-paid one.

Orioles:

Signed RP Danys Baez to a 3-year, $19 million contract

Signed RP Scott Williamson to a 1-year, $900,00 contract

As overpaid as Baez will be, the problem here isn't really the money, but the approach the Orioles are taking. They're trying to fix their team with the last pieces of the puzzle rather than the first. While the O's now have one of the better bullpens in the league, what good will it do them? They can't hit, and their starting pitching is a mess. Meanwhile, the money that should be earmarked to eliminate these deficiencies is being spent to put together a $20 million bullpen. Ask the 2006 Cubs; this strategy does not work.

In addition to these two, and Jamie Walker, the Orioles reportedly have a three-year agreement with Chad Bradford. In 2007, the Baltimore front office will likely spend the season wondering why their expensive bullpen never has a lead to protect.

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