Saturday, December 09, 2006

Transaction Recap: Tigers, Yankees, Cubs

Tigers:

Signed 3B Brandon Inge to a 4-year, $24 million extension (rating: 9/10)

Inge was eligible for free agency after 2007, so they're buying out his last arbitration year and signing him for three more. This is a great deal for Detroit. In a market where Aramis Ramirez gets $75 million for five years, the Tigers have now locked up nearly as good a player for 60% less per season and a shorter commitment.

If you kept reading after that last sentence, either you have a grasp of the value of defense in baseball, or you want to know how you can write me an angry e-mail. If it's the latter, feel free, as any kind of feedback beats the tumbleweed I've been getting.

According to WARP, Inge has actually been better than Ramirez in 2005-06. I'm not sure I buy that, and either way Aramis should be the better player going forward, as he is a year younger and his skill set (high contact rate and isolated power) is likely to hold up better than Inge's (league-average bat and tremendous defense). Still, getting a player of slightly less value for a fraction of the price is a coup. Along with the signings of Adam Kennedy and Greg Maddux, this is one of the three best contracts of the offseason.

Yankees:

Signed SP Andy Pettitte to a 2-year, $32 million contract (4)

The press is reporting it as a 1-year deal, but 2008 is a player option, so this is actually worse than a 2-year deal, in that Pettitte will likely only exercise his option if he's unable to get a better deal next offseason, and may decide to retire even if he has a very good year.

If this convinces Roger Clemens to return to the Yankees, this will rate substantially better. It's not like there is an empty SP spot for the Yankees, who are already paying Carl Pavano $10 million to sit on the DL, but that hasn't stopped them before, and they can always lowball Kei Igawa to the point where he refuses to sign.

Pettitte is a rare bird in that his DIPS numbers have improved substantially as his career has gone on, but his ERA, relative to the league, hasn't gotten any better. Ostensibly, a pitcher with his strong skills could expect a rebound, but the Yankees have about the last infield I would want backing up a groundball pitcher.

For those in fantasy leagues, some quick math:

Groundball pitcher + Move to AL + Jeter/A-Rod/Giambi - Everett/Ensberg = ERA increase

The same logic, minus the move, is why I will not be drafting Chien-Ming Wang next year.

Cubs:

Signed SP Jason Marquis to a 3-year, $20 ($28?) million contract (2)

Just a horrible signing, whether it's for 20 million or 28 million Junior Bacon Cheeseburgers. I'm sure Jim Hendry thinks he is buying low as Marquis is coming off a 6.02 ERA after two solid years, but the way to buy low is with a one-year deal to re-establish the starter's value for the next year's market (see: Kevin Millwood, 2005).

If Marquis can average a 4.50 ERA for three years, all will be well, but how likely is that, really? Sure, his groundball tendencies will play well at Wrigley in front of a good defensive infield, but there's a certain level of peripherals at which no number of groundballs can save you. If Marquis hasn't sunk below that line yet, he's heading there fast with cement blocks tied around his body.

There are those who will write off Marquis' 2006 performance as a fluke, but his entry in this year's Baseball Prospectus didn't open with "Warning: Highly Flammable" because he likes to wear a lot of aftershave. Any decent analyst could see 2006 coming. If Marquis improves, it will more likely be to a 5.00 ERA than a sub-4.00.

If you're a Cubs fan, I leave you with the following silver lining from a 2+2 poster:

"On the bright side, we now have three starters that can out hit our starting shortstop..."

No comments: