Saturday, November 24, 2007

Transaction Recap: Reds, White Sox

Reds: Signed RP Francisco Cordero to a 4-year, $46 million contract (Rating: 6/10)

White Sox: Signed RP Scott Linebrink to a 4-year, $19 million contract (2)

Why am I giving a much higher grade to the Reds, who spent twice as much to sign a good reliever as the Sox spent to sign a "good" reliever?

1. Francisco Cordero is much better than Scott Linebrink

Even though Jon Daniels may not think so, Cordero's peripherals are still above those of the average closer, and he was the biggest impact pitcher left on the market with Mariano Rivera returning to the Yankees. Reds fans, would you really be much happier throwing that same contract at Kyle Lohse or Carlos Silva?

Meanwhile, Linebrink's numbers are all trending in the wrong direction, and the Sox will be lucky if he performs at the league average during the life of his contract. Throwing $19 million at him is just gratuitous, especially if you ask Dan Szymborski.

2. The Reds are addressing a spot of greater need

Cincinnati's 2007 bullpen was just terrible. Dave Weathers was serviceable as a closer, but his strikeout rate keeps eroding, indicating the end is near for him. No one finished 2007 with a K/BB ratio significantly better than 2:1, and several bullpen regulars had an ERA over 5.00.

Meanwhile, the White Sox are nowhere near as bad off. Bobby Jenks is one of baseball's best closers. David Aardsma and Matt Thornton had poor ERAs in 2007 but promising peripheral stats (better than Linebrink's). Mike MacDougal had a down year but is coming off a highly effective run in 2005-06. The Pale Hose had areas of much greater need than this.

3. The Reds are in a much better spot to contend in 2008-10 than the White Sox

Yes, I really just went there. The 2008 South Siders look every bit as bad as this year's 73-89 edition; I'd be mildly shocked if they top 80 wins without a major move. Rather than rebuild the roster, they've simply brought everyone back with an extra year of age-related decline, and despite what Kenny Williams thinks, that doesn't make them a year better. Furthermore, unlike Cincinnati, they face stiff competition from the rest of the division, especially Cleveland.

Meanwhile, the Reds are poised to make a run at the division crown for the next several seasons. Here's the 2008 Reds lineup, along with each player's projected OPS (per Bill James):

CF Josh Hamilton .979
2B Brandon Phillips .757
RF Ken Griffey .840
LF Adam Dunn .923
1B Joey Votto .914
3B Edwin Encarnacion .856
SS Alex Gonzalez .724
C Dave Ross .773

B Jay Bruce .965

I'll take the Under on Hamilton and Bruce, but that's still a group that's going to kick ass and take names next year. On the mound, they have a solid 1-2-3 in Aaron Harang, Bronson Arroyo, and Matt Belisle. If Homer Bailey develops as expected, that's a good enough rotation to win, especially in the NL Central.

Are the Reds now the favorites in the division? I won't go quite that far, but they're definitely running close with Milwaukee and Chicago, and I wouldn't be too surprised to see them play in October.

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