Monday, December 04, 2006

Transaction Recap: Cardinals, Rangers, Giants

Cardinals:

Signed Chris Carpenter to a 3-year, $49 million extension through 2011, with a $12 million option for 2012

This is an interesting move. Given the current market plus two years' inflation, $61 million for Carpenter's age 34-37 seasons is probably a good investment--assuming nothing goes wrong before then. Given the number of things that can go wrong with a pitcher, I'm not sure we can say there's better than a 60-75% chance Carpenter makes it through the 2008 season with no major injury concerns and only normal degradation in performance.

It's hard to project a free agent market a month in advance, let alone two years, but I'd expect that a healthy Carpenter could get a deal in the range of 4 years/$72M after 2008. The Cardinals are saving $11 million and shaving one guaranteed year off that deal, but I'm not certain that this justifies the risk. Making a long-term commitment to a pitcher is always dicey, and when you already have him signed for a below-market price for two years, a new contract is often dangerous.

Certainly, though, the Cardinals will need Carpenter at full strength if they want to compete in the coming years. The team is already looking weaker than the Cubs and perhaps the Brewers in 2007, and their shallow farm system won't provide much short-term help.

Rangers:

Reportedly agree to a 3-year, $34 million contract with Vicente Padilla

It looks pretty ugly, but three years is a fairly short contract for a mid-rotation pitcher these days, and $11.3 million per isn't a terribly expensive price. Still, I'd rather have Ted Lilly, who is reportedly looking for Jarrod Washburn money (4/$38M).

The AL West looks fairly wide open for 2007, and the Rangers were a better team than their record last year, although they won't have the fluke seasons of Gary Matthews or Mark DeRosa this time around. Texas is right to realize that they should strike while the iron is hot, although they will likely fall short if this is the biggest move of their offseason.

Giants:

Signed INF Rich Aurilia to a 2-year, $8 million contract

Signed 3B Pedro Feliz to a 1-year, $5.1 million contract

Signed OF Dave Roberts to a 3-year, $18 million contract

Signed 2B Ray Durham to a 2-year, $14.5 million contract

Same old, same old. Ostensibly, the Giants had to get much younger this offseason, after parting with Steve Finley (42 next year), Moises Alou (40), probably Barry Bonds (42), and with Mike Matheny (36) unlikely to be a regular.

It looks like Brian Sabean doesn't know the meaning of the word ostensibly, because he penciled in Dave Roberts, a guy whose value lies almost entirely in his speed, for his age 35-37 seasons, and brought in 35-year-old former Giant outcast Rich Aurilia, who's currently slated to start at first base even though he has the bat of a middle infielder. Add it up, and the Giants, who are very unlikely to contend next year, will still be trotting out the league's oldest everyday lineup.

Bringing back Pedro Feliz, he of the .288 career OBP and 32 years old in 2007, makes similarly little sense. In addition to having one of the oldest everyday lineups, the Giants will probably have one of the worst in the NL.

Consider that the Giants, who finished 24th in MLB in runs last year, have already lost their second-most-productive hitter in Moises Alou, will likely lose the highest OBP in baseball from their lineup, and their third-best hitter, Ray Durham, will almost certainly regress from a spike in 2006. Four major league teams posted a team OPS over .800 in 2006; the Giants have one hitter who is likely to crack that mark, and he's a 35-year-old second baseman.

Aside from the pointlessness of these deals, none is a particularly bad signing. I'd rather have two years of Ray Durham than three of Mark DeRosa, although I'd take Adam Kennedy's contract over either. Feliz isn't worth $5.1 million, but at least he will only be there for one year. Roberts was a reasonable pickup for less money and years than Juan Pierre or Gary Matthews, and Aurilia provides insurance against injuries to a very injury-prone middle infield. The question remains, however: if you know you won't compete, why bother fielding an old, mediocre team rather than rebuilding?

The good news for Giants fans is that one-fifth of their 2007 games are slated to be started by Matt Cain, who looks like he's broken the curse that affected Giants pitching prospects early in the decade.

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