Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Trade Analysis

Now that the trade deadline has come and gone, let's take a close look at all the deals that were done (and a few that weren't) and see who the big winners and losers were.

July 26
Cleveland Indians trade Ben Broussard and cash to the Seattle Mariners for OF Shin-Soo Choo and a PTBNL.
The Indians do a good job of saving a little money ($2.4 million minus whatever cash they sent), trading away a 29-year-old player having a career year (321/361/519 against a 268/333/470 career average). In exchange, they get a 24-year-old outfield prospect who is major-league ready (282/382/431 in AAA this year). He doesn't project to be a star, but he's quite a useful player to fill a hole, especially since they aren't pressed for first-basemen.
From Seattle's point of view, this is a troubling trade. They're getting someone who is, this year excepted, one of the worst-hitting first basemen in baseball. Seattle doesn't need a first baseman, and although they do need a DH, there are a lot more attractive DHs in baseball than Broussard. Seattle was basically looking for any sort of left-handed offense, regardless of whether it would actually be the right thing for the organization. Broussard is a better DH than Carl Everett, but a) that's not saying much and b) the Mariners aren't nearly close enough to first place to start sacrificing the long-term. This isn't to say that Choo is a terrible loss, but all in all this is a poor trade for Seattle, and the sign of a desperate GM not thinking clearly.
July 28
Atlanta Braves trade Wilson Betemit to the L.A. Dodgers in exchange for RHP Danys Baez, INF Willy Aybar, and cash.
This is another basically useless attempt by Atlanta to improve their bullpen, despite the fact that they're almost completely out of the race. Except this time, it cost them a valuable player. Instead of building for the future, the Braves are trading away a valuable player in Betemit and getting much less in return.
The Braves made the trade under the impression that Baez is a "difference-maker" who will shore up their bullpen. First of all, Baez isn't nearly as good as people think he is. He used to be a closer, yes, but so did Heathcliff Slocumb. General Managers even today show an unhealthy infatuation for former closers and anyone who's compiled saves, regardless of how good they actually are.
Danys Baez is a 28-year-old righthander whose claim to fame is that he used to be the closer for the Devil Rays. He's actually been a pretty good pitcher for most of his career (3.75 career ERA), but his BB:K ratio has never been the sign of a quality reliever, as Baez is prone to walks. Not only that, but the Braves decided to trade for Baez in the midst of his worst season, where he compiled a 4.35 ERA in 49.2 innings despite pitching in Los Angeles. He's struck out 29 batters in those innings, which isn't awful, but not the sign of a "difference-maker." Baez isn't bad; but he's not great either. If the Braves had gotten him for nothing, that would be fine.
But of course they didn't get him for nothing. Baez makes $4 million this year, and the Braves will be paying nearly half of it, minus whatever cash the Dodgers sent along in the deal. He's a free agent at the end of the season, so he'll contribute nothing to the Braves beyond this year.
More costly by far, however, is the loss of Wilson Betemit. The simple truth is that the Braves need Wilson Betemit a lot more than they need 20 decent innings of Danys Baez. With Chipper Jones on the DL (he was injured the day the trade happened), Betemit is an invaluable replacement at third base, as the Braves lose a lot of offense with Chipper on the shelf. Betemit was hitting 281/344/497 at the time of the trade, good numbers for a part-timer who has a good glove and the versatility to play all over the infield. Betemit is in his second year of major league service, making a bare $345,000 this year. The Braves would have controlled Betemit for four more years after the deal, making him a better long-term investment by far than Baez.
The Braves did get Willy Aybar in the deal and expect him to take over at third base in Chipper's absence. While Aybar is young, cheap, and a solid hitter, he's not as good as Betemit. Nor is he as proven. Aybar did hit 325/356/414 with L.A. before the trade, but his minor league numbers suggest that he's not quite that good yet.
So the Braves hurt themselves in the short run; they gave up a critical (and cheap) backup third baseman in exchange for a 20-inning rental of a decent, overpaid reliever having a bad year. They also hurt themselves in the long run; Baez is gone after this year, and while Aybar may come close to replacing Betemit, it wasn't at all worth giving him up.
Conclusion: John Schuerholz again shows his tendency to overvalue veteran relievers and his desperation to reach the playoffs, even when every indication shows that it just ain't gonna happen this year.
Milwaukee Brewers trade Carlos Lee and OF Nelson Cruz to Texas Rangers in exchange for OF Kevin Mench, RHP Francisco Cordero, OF Laynce Nix, and minor league LHP Julian Cordero.
The Rangers won the Carlos Lee sweepstakes and didn't have to give up a whole lot in return. Several GMs said after the trade went down (relatively early) that they could have offered more than the Rangers did. Since there are so many players involved, let's assess both sides of the trade "equation" to see if they're roughly equal.
Carlos Lee is a legitimate "monster," in the sense that he's one of baseball's best sluggers. He's averaged about 25 HR per season every year in the majors, and yet he already has 28 so far this year. It's fair to say that' he'll top his career high of 32, set last year; it's also fair to say that this is a big career year for Carlos, as far as his power is concerned.
Carlos Lee is a good power hitter and a pretty good overall hitter. His career numbers are 285/339/494, although he's hitting 286/347/549. The Rangers may think this is a natural power surge that will carry over until next year; but Carlos is 30 years old, and this is a career year. Lee is essentially a great guy to have in left field (in every aspect except defense), even considering his low OBP. He is not, however, an MVP. He will probably get paid like one when he signs his free agent contract (he's eligible for free agency after this season) by some fool GM who can't see past all those homers and RBI. But that's beside the point. Carlos Lee is getting $8.5 million this year, and he's a big boost to the Ranger offense. That's not even considering the fact that his numbers will improve hitting in that ballpark. He's a great guy to have, and a good steal.
The Rangers also acquired Nelson Cruz. Cruz is described as a great power threat with a long swing, and thus a propensity for strikeouts. It's unclear whether this weakness will hamper his production in the majors; it should be said, however, that in 2005, his last minor league season, he hit 306/388/577 in 248 ABs in AA before getting called up to AAA and hitting 269/382/490 in 208 ABs. Now, he is 25, which is a bit old for his level, but that's still impressive. This isn't to say, of course, that he will hit that well in the majors; the hole in his swing could keep him from being a true contributor. However, he's a great guy to have as a throw-in, and will fit in quite nicely with the Rangers, either as an everyday outfielder or a fourth outfielder/DH type. He's also making about $325,000, which is one hell of a deal.
So what did the Brewers get in return?
They got Kevin Mench, who is a corner outfielder who probably won't hit like one away from Texas. With Texas this year, Mench hit 275/339/491 at home and 295/338/423 away. So in Texas, Mench is a good defender who makes up for a low OBP with power. Away from Texas, that power goes away, and so does most of his value. It's hard to tell for sure how much of Mench's offense will disappear in Milwaukee, but it will probably be enough to make him a poor long-term choice for either left field or right field.
Francisco Cordero was, at one time, one of the best young closers in baseball. He took over the job in 2002, and from that season through 2004, he posted a 2.39 ERA while saving 74 of 91 games. In 199.2 IP, he struck out 210 batters and allowed an amazing 7 home runs! He looked like the next elite closer.
In 2005, he blew 8 saves and allowed a few more homers, bringing his ERA up to 3.39. In 2006, the bottom fell out: 6/15 in saves and a 4.81 ERA, despite allowing just 5 HR in 48.2 IP with a still-stellar BB:K ratio. It's hard to know for sure what went wrong with Cordero; or, if his peripheral stats are to believed, if anything actually did go wrong. This is, in my opinion, a great acquisition for Milwaukee: they got a guy who used to be an elite closer (and probably could be again) while his stock was at its lowest. Texas may come to regret giving up on him, although they have gotten good work from new closer Akinori Otsuka.
Laynce Nix is a throw-in; he used to be a prospect, but after injury after injury, he's a 25-year-old ex-prospect with a 247/285/426 major league hitting line in 231 career games. He's slick defensively, but it doesn't look like he'll be anything more than a fourth outfielder-type now. Julian Cordero is a fill-out prospect; a 21-year-old pitcher in A-ball.
So what's our conclusion? While I don't think Brewers GM Doug Melvin did a bad job (I tend to value Cordero more than others), I agree that he probably could have gotten more for his troubles than a potential closer and some C-level outfielders. Melvin declared that he wanted to make a deal for "major league-ready talent," and he certainly did, which is why he may have spurned offers from other teams.
But as Keith Law has pointed out, why is Melvin so interested in major league-ready talent? The Brewers aren't the Giants; they're not a ticking time bomb that has to win now. They're built to win in the future, and acquiring more prospects would have further cemented that, especially good pitching prospects. And he didn't really acquire that much talent, though it may be "major league-ready."
Conclusion? Melvin, normally a fine GM, made a tactical mistake in taking mid-level major league talent when he could have virtually named his price in prospects. Not a bad trade, but not a good one, either. For the Rangers, it's a great trade over the short-term. However, if they choose to sign Lee to a contract extension for big-time money, they will be disappointed; he's 30 years old and not as good as he's looked this year.
Two other odd trades by Doug Melvin deserve mention:
Brewers acquire Phillies 3B David Bell in exchange for minor league RHP Wilfrido Laureano.
Brewers acquire Royals INF Tony Graffanino in exchange for LHP Jorge de la Rosa.
Neither of these moves will do anything for Milwaukee in the long-term; both players are free agents at season's end. By trading away Carlos Lee, Melvin has essentially given up any hopes for a miracle comeback to the Wild Card race (and rightfully so). So why did he acquire two short-term rentals (who aren't exactly cheap) who don't fill any useful need? I understand that the Brewers have suffered several injuries lately; 2B Rickie Weeks, SS J.J. Hardy, and 3B Corey Koskie are all on the DL. But do you have to trade for overpriced veterans to fill these temporary holes? You've already got Bill Hall to cover shortstop and Jeff Cirillo to cover third. Couldn't you just bring up somebody from the minors to play second for the time being?
And while I might -- might understand bringing in a temporary bat like Graffanino (267/341/400 this year), what in the world would anyone want with David Bell? Bell is perhaps the worst everyday third baseman in baseball and has been for a few years. He's making $4.5 million this year despite hitting a bare 275/342/294. Graffanino makes half as much!
So neither of these deals make any sense over the long run, and should be considered a huge overreaction to the short-term problem of injured players.
Giants acquire RHP Mike Stanton from Nationals in exchange for RHP Shairon Martis.
This is Trader Jim Bowden selling anything that isn't nailed down. Stanton's making $1 million this year despite a 4.34 ERA and a 21:31 BB:K ratio (45.2 IP) in a pitcher's park. He's a small upgrade for the Giants, true, but not by much. It's one of those out-of-the-way trades that doesn't cost a lot yet contributes almost nothing to the team.
July 30
Indians acquire 2B Ronnie Belliard from the Cardinals in exchange for INF Hector Luna.
The short story on this deal is that Belliard really isn't a whole lot better than Luna -- but he's older and more expensive. The upside is that he has a much better reputation than Luna and is a "veteran." Is being a veteran worth the percentage of Belliard's $4 million salary you have to pay him to hit 291/337/420 with lackluster defense? Luna, by contrast, was hitting 291/353/419 at the time of the trade while making about $340,000. The Cardinals would have controlled him for another 4 seasons at discount prices, whereas Belliard leaves at the end of this year as a free agent, making the Cardinals have to fill their 2B hole again. Luna isn't that good a hitter in real life, but he was at least cheap -- and there. Now the Cards will have to overpay again this off-season to find another "veteran," because God knows, Tony LaRussa will have a stroke if he isn't surrounded by enough "veterans."
Yankees acquire Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle from Phillies in exchange for 4 minor leaguers: SS C.J. Henry, LHP Matt Smith, C Jesus Sanchez, and RHP Carlos Monasterios.
This is your good old-fashioned salary dump. The Phillies are able to fill out their minor league roster, but they didn't get any of the Yankees' top prospects in the deal.
The plus side? The Yankees are paying all the money due to Abreu and Lidle. For Abreu, that's whatever remains of his $13 million salary this season, and all of his $15 million 2007 salary. If they choose not to pick up his $16 million option for 2008, they will pay him another $2 million. Lidle is a free agent after this year, so the Yanks are on the hook for just less than half of his $3.3 million salary for this year.
And do you know what the sad part is (unless you're a Yankee fan)? The Yanks can afford it. Abreu is still one of the best all-around players in baseball, and the Yanks can afford to pick up his huge tab in exchange for top-notch production. Lidle isn't a very good pitcher, but he doesn't have to be; all he has to do is take over the innings pitched by Sidney Ponson (10.00 ERA), Shawn Chacon (7.00), Aaron Small (8.46), and Kris Wilson (8.64). And if all he does is maintain his present ERA of 4.74, that will be a signifcant upgrade, especially given Lidle's durability. If the Yankees can go into the stretch run with a rotation of Mussina, Wang, Randy Johnson, Jaret Wright, and Lidle, they will at least be competitive. And if they can get back Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield from injury, the Yanks will -- considering the acquisition of Abreu -- have the best lineup in baseball. Consider:
CF - Johnny Damon
SS - Derek Jeter
RF - Bobby Abreu
3B - Alex Rodriguez
DH - Jason Giambi
1B - Gary Sheffield
LF - Hideki Matsui
C - Jorge Posada
2B - Robinson Cano
Since the Abreu trade, the Yankees are the favorites to win the AL East and have gone a long way toward ensuring themselves another postseason berth. The Yankees really weren't that bad to begin with; they were able to stay in the Wild Card race despite their pitching highs and lows and the loss of Sheffield and Matsui. The trade for Abreu just further cements their excellence.
Conclusion? Damn Yankees win again. It's not a great move for the Phillies -- but let's see what they do with all that money they're saving before we call it a failure.
July 31
Cardinals acquire RHP Jorge Sosa from Braves in exchange for Rich Scalamandre.
The Cardinals, like the Yankees, are sifting through the detritus of baseball looking for a useful starting pitcher. Sosa is, indeed, the detritus, and the Braves are better off rid of him. Although it shouldn't have taken them 13 starts, 87.1 IP and a 5.46 ERA to figure it out.
Cubs trade INF Todd Walker to Padres in exchange for minor league RHP Jose Ceda.
The Padres were desperate to fill their hole at third base, but it was a problem of their own making when they traded for Vinny Castilla and then were surprised when he hit 232/260/319 before being released. Walker is certainly an upgrade (277/352/390 with the Cubs), although at about $1 million, not quite what they were looking for. Rumors had the Padres interested in Houston's Morgan Ensberg, Texas' Hank Blalock and even Seattle's Adrian Beltre (and the Contract from Hell). Walker's the best they could do, I guess. For the Cubs, you might as well jettison everything of value, especially old players nearing free agency. Speaking of which . . .
Cubs trade P Greg Maddux to Los Angeles for INF Cesar Izturis.
It's understandable that the Cubs would want to trade Maddux, seeing as he's expensive, non-productive, and about to reach free agency. It's a bit sad that Maddux didn't end his career with the team that drafted him; that would have been a nice bit of symmetry, and it would have meant a star pitcher spending his whole career with just two teams. But although it doesn't fit the storybooks, it is, as I said, understandable.
What's debatable is that the Cubs would settle for so little in return. In an espn.com chat recently, someone remarked that the Cubs must be trying to corner the market on middle infielders who can't hit. I tend to agree. Everyone speaks of Izturis as a Gold Glove-winner, and he certainly is that, but that's only worth so much if you can't hit worth a damn. And Izturis cannot.
This might not be such a problem under other circumstances; if you had a team stacked with offense, you could afford to sacrifice the #8 or #9 spot in your lineup to a punchless glove man at a key defensive position. The Cubs, of course, are in no such position. The Cubs need offense, and Cesar Izturis won't help them find it. Cubs announcer Bob Brenly actually had the temerity to say, during tonight's broadcast, that in shortstops "offense is the last thing to come." Does Bob Brenly -- who actually won a World Series as a manager -- actually believe that the 26-year-old Izturis, having hit 260/295/339 for his career, is going to defy baseball history and accepted statistical knowledge and develop into Cal Ripken? I do not envy Len Kasper his job.
Again, it's not that Izturis is a bad player -- he's a player ill-suited to his environment. It also adds yet another footnote to my "Fire Jim Hendry" article.
For the Dodgers, the trade is also pretty questionable. It's a comparable situation to the one the Yankees face, in that the Dodgers just want someone durable who can post an ERA better than 5.00. But whereas Lidle's 2006 salary was $3.3 million, Maddux's is $9 million. Granted, the Dodgers can afford to overpay players, but even they have some limits. So far this year, Maddux has posted a 4.69 ERA and allowed 14 homers, which is not so good even for Wrigley Field. It's true that Dodger Stadium is a more pitcher-friendly park not so prone to home runs, but it won't turn the 2006 Greg Maddux back into the 1994 Greg Maddux (1.56 ERA), or even the 2004 Greg Maddux (4.02 ERA).
Maddux will improve the Dodger pitching staff -- but whose place will he take in the rotation? Here is LA's starting rotation:
Brad Penny: 3.53 ERA, 21 starts, 33:92 BB:K ratio
Derek Lowe: 4.29 ERA, 23 starts, 42:82 BB:K ratio
Chad Billingsley: 3.93 ERA, 9 starts, 38:28 BB:K ratio
Aaron Sele: 3.95 ERA, 14 starts, 24:44 BB:K ratio
Brett Tomko: 4.94 ERA, 15 starts, 21:48 BB:K ratio
ERA-wise, everybody but Tomko looks fine, although there are some trouble spots. Aaron Sele is not this good and his ERA should not be trusted any more than is absolutely necessary. Chad Billingsley is a fine prospect, but 38 walks in 50.1 IP is still a red flag.
So the Dodgers don't have a bad rotation. The only person here who Maddux would be a clear upgrade over (if Sele can be trusted) is Tomko. The Dodgers could shift him to the bullpen, though that would be a little embrassing; GM Ned Colletti signed the below-average hurler to a 2-year $8.7 million contract before the season, so it would be troubling to give up on him so soon. And if Tomko does stay in the rotation, does that make Maddux a $4 million insurance policy?
Conclusion? I can't deny that the Dodgers need some help, nor can I deny that Maddux is probably an improvement. But I just don't know that he's worth the money. As far as the Cubs go, they get screwed again, big surprise. It's Jim Hendry's fault although, as Rob Neyer points out, Dusty will be thrilled to have another good-glove player who can't hit.
Reds acquire LHP Rheal Cormier from the Phillies in exchange for RHP Justin Germano; Reds acquire RHP Kyle Lohse from the Twins in exchange for RHP Zach Ward.
As if the ill-fated Kearns deal weren't evidence enough, the Reds are absolutely desperate for pitching. The good news is that they didn't give up anything big in these two trades; the bad news is, they didn't get anything all that great, either.
Cormier isn't a bad relief pitcher, but a) he's not that great (coming off a 2005 where he posted a 5.89 ERA), b) he's old (39), and c) he won't be worth much regardless. The Reds will use Cormier as their left-handed relief specialist, meaning he'll probably pitch at most 20 innings or so. 20 innings of middle relief is, in the scheme of things, a drop in the bucket.
At least in Cormier, the Reds got someone who is remotely reliable (despite his age and his awful '05, Cormier had managed a 1.59 ERA in Philadelphia this year). In Kyle Lohse, the Reds got a failed starting pitcher with a salary that scared off all the smart teams. The Reds on purpose traded for a pitcher with a 7.07 ERA in 63.2 IP with the Twins; a player who won $4 million this year in arbitration and is eligible again next year. For $2 million (or whatever percentage of his salary the Reds are responsible for), the Reds are getting an awful pitcher. There are plenty of awful pitchers out there, most of whom are much cheaper. And if the Reds wanted a decent pitcher making that kind of money, they could have gone after the better and more reliable Cory Lidle, or several other pitchers like him on the trading market. Instead, they made a downright stupid move -- getting an expensive player who also happens to be really bad.
Conclusion? Out of desperation, Reds GM Wayne Krivsky has made some stupid moves. Rheal Cormier isn't a bad pitcher, no. But it should be said that his salary this year is $2.5 million with a $2.25 million extension for next year, plus a 2008 option. Kyle Lohse is a bad pitcher making even more money than that. Wayne Krivsky has done what bad GMs do: when their team is desperate, they make desperate trades that end up hurting their team over the long run and the short run.
Rockies acquire LHP Jeremy Affeldt and RHP Denny Bautista from Royals in exchange for INF Ryan Shealy and RHP Scott Dohmann.
Royals GM Dayton Moore continues to trade off worthless players with some good returns. Affeldt and Bautista have pretty much proven their lack of ability to get major league hitters out on a regular basis. So why do the Rockies desire them? Beats me, but the Royals got a pretty good prospect out of it in Shealy.
Tigers acquire 1B Sean Casey from Pirates in exchange for RHP Brian Rogers.
The Pirates were stupid to trade for Sean Casey; at least they had the good sense to trade him (and his $7 million salary) away. Casey is amazingly overrated in that he hits for a high average (but little else) and plays good defense (at the least important defensive position). Casey is one of the worst-hitting first basemen in the game, all-told, because of his lack of power. The Tigers wanted another left-handed bat, and I guess they got one, but Casey isn't worth the money. They would be better off just sticking with Dmitri Young and saving for the offseason.
My guess? The Tigers felt the pressure to make some move at the trading deadline, and instead of standing up to it, they caved in. Casey won't be a bad asset for them, but that money could have been better spent elsewhere.
Rangers acquire Matt Stairs from Royals in exchange for RHP Jose Diaz.
This is just a case of the Rangers seeking to acquire another outfield/DH bat -- a left-handed one, at that. Stairs is still a good hitter (261/352/429) and a decent bargain; of his $1.4 million salary, the Rangers will pick up a little over half a million.
Dodgers acquire SS Julio Lugo from Devil Rays in exchange for INF Joel Guzman and OF Sergio Pedroza.
There was, of course, no chance the Devil Rays were going to re-sign Lugo. So they sent him off to L.A. for some good prospects.
Lugo is a good player and will help the Dodgers, but I'm not sure they actually need him. With the acquisition of Wilson Betemit, the team is set at third base. The plan is for Lugo to cover for the injured Jeff Kent at second for now; when Kent returns, his position will be "reevaluated." That's all well and good -- but there's no need for two shortstops when there's only one spot in the lineup for them. Lugo is usually a good defender (though he's having a bad year this year), steals bases well, and is a good hitter for the position. He's a good guy to have yes, but it's not worth having five good infielders when there are just 4 infield positions.
This move, along with the Maddux move above, is made even more questionable considering the Dodgers' fading chances in the postseason race. The trouble with the races this year is that everybody has a 5% chance of making the postseason, and so they're all acting like they're still in the race. Almost no one has been realistic enough to admit to the fact that they're not contenders and just sit back, save money and prospects, and trade away your veterans to save more money and prospects. It may be the prospects, in retrospect, that make this deal a waste; especially if the Dodgers miss the playoffs and Lugo leaves as a free agent (which is the most likely scenario).
Mets acquire RHP Roberto Hernandez and LHP Oliver Perez from Pirates for OF Xavier Nady.
The key, of course, if you're trading off your veterans, is to get prospects in return. If, instead, you take older, more expensive players (Nady is 27 and is eligible for arbitration next year), make sure they're good players who can help you in the future, when you'll be ready to contend again. Because the Pirates won't be contenders for more than three years at least. At which point Nady will be gone as a free ageny. Oh, and by the way? Nady is a career 263/322/433 hitter, which is plum awful for a corner outfielder. If you think I'm making a case to fire Pirates GM Dave Littlefield, I am, but no blog in the world has enough memory to store all the evidence for that case.
The Mets, in return, got a valuable relief arm in Hernandez. They also get Oliver Perez. Perez was, in 2004, one of the best starters in the league and looked like a future pitching ace. Then, for some reason, he wasn't. He's currently in the minor leagues trying to get his head on straight. It's not a bad idea for the Mets to take him on the off-chance that they can get his obvious ability back on track again. Hell, all they had to give up was Nady (who will be readily replaced by prospect Lastings Milledge).
In the same vein . . .
Yankees acquire OF Craig Wilson from Pirates for RHP Shawn Chacon.
This one is just sad. Wilson is quite a good young hitter who is not only fairly cheap but defensively versatile, he can play the infield and outfield corners and even catch in a pinch. Chacon is just a bad pitcher. Now that the Royals have a new GM, Dave Littlefield might just be the worst in baseball. I'm sure he's a pleasant enough person, but all the evidence is on his side in that regard.
Rangers acquire RHP Kip Wells from the Pirates for P Jesse Chavez.
Wells isn't a good pitcher (6.69 ERA this year), nor has he ever been (4.45 career), and the even better news is that he's been getting worse, with his ERA increasing each of the past 3 years. The Rangers (like many teams) are desperate for pitching help, but surely they could have done better than Wells, another pitcher making about $4 million despite being worse than replacement level.
Well, that's the final tally of all the major deals that took place over the past week. Now let's look at all the big names that, as it turns out, did not get traded.
Alfonso Soriano, Washington Nationals
If you'll pardon the cliche, GM "Trader" Jim Bowden cut off his nose to spite his face. Everyone knew that Bowden would have to trade Soriano, who is eligible for free agency after this year, or else he would get nothing in return. They knew that Bowden would have to trade him for whatever B-level prospects he could get, or else he would lose him year's end for nothing but compensatory draft picks. Everyone knew this, so when Bowden started asking for major A-level prospects, no one bit. They knew he'd lower his asking price eventually; he'd have to.
Well, Bowden sure proved them wrong. Keeping his poker face intact, Bowden refused to lower his asking price, insisting that some team would offer him A-level prospects for Soriano, such a hot commodity. In fact, Bowden even started negotiating a contract extension to keep Soriano in Washington, just to show everybody that he didn't have to trade him.
Bowden refused to lower his price all the way through the deadline. No team blinked; no one agreed to Bowden's outlandish demands for a return for Soriano. So Soriano stayed in Washington. And it was a major Bowden Blunder.
Why? Because everybody else was right; Bowden really did have to trade Soriano. Bowden, in his spitefulness and desire to come off as a genius, refused to cave in to reality. While he should have met some team in the middle and gotten the Soriano deal done anyway, he refused. Now, he's screwed. Everybody else was right and, just to prove them wrong and demand his pound of flesh, Bowden refused to admit it. So now he's stuck with Soriano in what has been a pretty big public relations blunder.
Now everybody knows that Bowden is stuck with him. He's embarassed. My prediction is that Bowden will now do whatever it takes to sign Soriano to an extension, doing it simply as the only way to cover his blunder. If he lets Soriano leave, all the critics will be proven right; but if he re-signs him, at least he'll have something to show for it: a superstar free agent.
But, once again, everybody else was right: he can't re-sign Soriano. Or at least, he shouldn't. Bowden can't afford to pay Soriano's asking price, especially since Soriano is an overvauled player in the midst of a bizarrely successful year. Soriano knows he's in the driver's seat and can name his price. The Nationals can't afford to pay one player what Soriano will cost, nor can they commit themselves to such a long-term contract. They have a barren farm system and little help at the major league level. By the time they're able to contend, Soriano will be long gone. He won't be the difference in contending and not contending, so there's no need to pay him through the nose.
Will Bowden do it? I have every confidence that Bowden will make the brazen, bone-headed move. It comes with the territory when you're dealing with Trader Jim.
Miguel Tejada, Baltimore Orioles
Expensive though he is, Miguel Tejada is still very good and still a big part of the Orioles. That said, I'm not too surprised he wasn't traded. The Orioles can afford to wait until the off-season (or whenever) and get the offer they want for Tejada. In that sense, they're in the opposite position from Bowden; they don't have to trade Tejada, and everybody knows it.
That said, they shouldn't wait for a money tree to grow in their backyard; they should get a good deal while they still can. It was rumored that the Angels offered them pitcher Ervin Santana, but the Orioles passed. If they did, it was insanity, but I've heard recently that Santana was never actually offered.
Another thing to blame could be the traditionally slow-moving Oriole management. If making the right trade to Tejada means striking while the iron is hot, the Orioles may not be able to do it. Their organization moves with all the speed and grace of a wooly mammoth.
Roger Clemens, Houston Astros
The big story after the trading deadline was about a trade that almost went through: a trade that would have sent Roger Clemens to the Red Sox. Now, nobody knows just how close it was to being completed, but some sources have said that the only thing stopping it was Houston owner Drayton McLane's veto.
So, hypothetically speaking, would trading Roger Clemens be the right thing for the Astros to do? I would say yes, but only in exchange for something really good. The rumor is that the Astros asked for two of Boston's top pitching prospects, and the Red Sox passed. I don't blame the Astros for asking, and I also don't blame them for setting the bar that high in the hopes that the Red Sox would get desperate and make the deal. But, unlike others, Boston GM Theo Epstein doesn't tend to make desperate deals that hurt his ballclub. It's a credit to him that he valued his top-notch prospects more than a 2-month reunion with Clemens, no matter how much of a media orgy would ensue.
The Clemens trade falls back to the media and fans fantasizing about "what might have been." But in a purely business sense, I can't blame the Astros for not trading away a marquee player (who just signed 2 months ago after a well-publicized bidding war) and a living legend unless they got great returns. I also can't blame the Red Sox for mortgaging away their future for said living legend, good though he may still be, for just a 2-month rental. It may have been the "right" thing to do for Clemens, or the fans, or for history, but it wasn't the right thing to do for the baseball team. So, good move, gentlemen.
That's all. Until later . . .
Salary figures are courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts. Thanks, as always, to Rob Neyer, Keith Law, Jayson Stark, Baseball Prospectus' DT cards, mlb.com, and The Baseball Cube.

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