the dump's sportslog - baseball analysis


Escobar to Anaheim

You could do worse with $18.75 million than to secure the services of Kelvim Escobar for three years, but there's reason to question the move. There's been an awful lot of talk about how the market is taking a downturn (or about to do so) in terms of player salaries, but how much could a pitcher with Escobar's credentials have expected to get in the most free spending, player-friendly of times? I suppose the days of Darren Dreifort getting $11 million a year are in the past, but this still seems like a lot of money. Escobar's signing seems largely based on potential (you wouldn't pay this much for, say, his numbers from last season over the next three years)...which is a little strange for a guy who's going to be 28 at the beginning of the 2004 season.

While he's certainly got a chance to be an effective #3 or #4 starter in a rotation headed by Jarrod Washburn, Ramon Ortiz and John Lackey (I'm assuming he'll slot in somewhere there), what has he done so far in his career? It's worth noting that he's been jerked around a ton over the course of his time in Toronto, perhaps more than anyone else in recent days, but looking at his career overall, he's been a pretty mediocre pitcher with flashes of brilliance thrown in. The Angels can't have any firm idea of what they're getting here other than a guy who has looked great at times in the past. Seems like a sketchy proposition to me, and not a guy I'd want to guarantee significant money.

On the plus side, the contract will cover Escobar's age 28-30 seasons, so it's not like the Angels are locking up Tom Glavine at big money here. Also, the Angels have stated that they're willing to spend some money this offseason, so perhaps this isn't the only significant move we'll see from them. Additionally, I think we can be pretty sure that Escobar's going to be planted in the rotation and left alone (the Angels have a nice bullpen already and aren't paying him to relieve), so we'll finally get a chance to see what he's able to do with it. He's certainly capable of pitching well enough to warrant this kind of cash, but the Angels spending this kind of money to bring in a player with Escobar's track record doesn't strike me as a terribly sound decision.


Bam-Tino goes home

Devil Rays get: Tino Martinez.
Cardinals get: Evan Rust, a player to be named and a bunch of cash.

As a Yankee fan, there will always be a place in my heart for Tino Martinez. Though he replaced one of the most beloved Yankees of all-time (and my personal favorite by a wide margin in Don Mattingly), he won the fan base over with his professionalism and more importantly, his solid play and role on four championship teams. While certainly not a Hall-of-Famer or all-time Yankee legend, Martinez has had a really nice, productive career which he's managed to parlay into his current absurd contract.

While Martinez isn't a guy you want playing first base every day on a team that could reasonably contend like the Cardinals (particularly given the money he's making), I still don't see how this makes a ton of sense for St. Louis. While it'd be nice to get the $8.5 million he's due over the remainder of the contract off the books, the Cardinals are picking up $7 million of it as part of the deal and are getting basically nothing back. Never heard of Evan Rust? That's because just about nobody had before this trade was announced. He's a non-descript 25-year old minor league reliever with virtually no prospects of ever being a factor at the major league level. His numbers this past season at AA Orlando and AAA Durham were fine, and it seems conceivable that the Cardinals could give him a shot at some point...but he's unlikely to have a major impact. This appears to be a pure contract dump (we'll have to see who the PTBNL is, I suppose), which would be fine...if, of course, the contract was actually being dumped. It's really not - the Cardinals are just going to be paying Tino to play for the Devil Rays. From Tampa's perspective, you'd like to think they could do a bit better than importing a moderately productive soon-to-be 36-year old, but for $1.5 million, I guess it's a risk you can afford to take.

The Devil Rays went with Travis Lee at first most of last year, and while Tino isn't likely to stick for any length of time, Lee probably wasn't a long term solution either (because he's just not that good), and he's gone now.



Completely ripping off Charlie Kuffner

Charlie Kuffner, the proprietor of a political blog Off the Kuff also does great work with baseball, especially in Texas. Here's his latest entry:

Why the Astros lose

The Astros, for reasons that make sense only to themselves, have resigned 34-year-old Brad Ausmus to two a two-year contract, reported by Giff Nielson (who was so ecstatic I thought he was going to wet himself) as being $2 million per year.

Never mind that he had the worst OPS among National Leaguers who qualified for the batting title, never mind that by my count at least five pitchers hit better than he did (Hampton , Oliver, Suppan, Williams, and Ortiz), never mind that there are at least a dozen catchers in organized baseball who are younger, better hitters, and signable for the minimum salary, never mind that every penny wasted on flotsam like Ausmus is money that can't be thrown at a free agent who could actually help the Astros be a better team. Never mind all that. Ausmus is a 'proven veteran' who is well liked in the clubhouse and who is thought to be a boon to the young pitching staff, even though there's never been a scintilla of evidence that a catcher can have a measurable effect on pitching performance.

What a joke. I thought Gerry Hunsicker knew better. I'll bet anyone a dollar that our sheeplike sportswriters will commend him for this, too, and then when Pettite signs with someone else they'll bemoan how a 'small market' club like Houston can't compete. Sheesh.



Biiiiiiiiiiig Rumors?

Apparently Peter Gammons gave a speech at Harvard Law School a few days ago, and here were the highlights:

- Francona is the new manager unless they can get permission to interview Bob Melvin.

- He thinks Nomar desperately wants to stay in Boston, but that Nomie "can't understand why he's considered 'only' a $12 million player anymore."

- A-Rod is driving the A-Rod to Boston bandwagon, hard. Moorad is driving from the Manny side. Theo is obviously onboard. Showalter/Hart is the holdup - more Showalter - and their resolve is weakening. He said A-Rod was mindful that current Boston stars were "socially disfunctional", and saw it as an area he could excell at. He did call A-Rod "a little caught up in himself". He said he told Sho and Hart that they'd be out of a job next year if they didn't make the trade (I almost cheered at that point)

- On a similar note, he reported that Jeter asked him a couple of times how Manny and Pedro got away with not talking (jealous Jetes?), but turned it into another opportunity to praise the Cap'n for his leadership skills. He did admit Jeter had a bad contract.

- Flying back from AZ with the Boston front office, he said that they had a discussion about which team would have the most trouble coping with steriod testing, and that the unanimous response was "San Diego". Got a laugh there.

- He does love the Sox, but he's constantly dissing them without, I think, realizing it. He told the "Ted Williams used corked bats" story again as a lead-off (after a World Series to Cubs to Sosa to Belle seque), and he mentioned that he was telling friends that he couldn't remember a time with as many quality CF as there are now... he ripped off about 7 or 8 before it became obvious that he wasn't going to say Damon.

- He slammed Selig a bunch of times, especially for allowing the fact that Montreal couldn't its expand roster in Sep. this year, which he pointed out was a serious competitive balance issue (playing playoff-bound teams at a disadvantage). He also made fun of Bud for calling him and whining every time Gammo made a pointed comment on BBTN or SC.

Quick hits...
- Cashman is certainly in his last year.
- Beane will be in LA in a few weeks or less
- Pettite wants to leave NY, but Houston won't pony up
- The Padres don't understand the Latin market; the Angels do. In fact, he called the Angels organization a "sleeping giant"
- Quashed the 'A-Rod for Kerry Wood' rumor
- Tigers ownership is ready to give up
- DC will get a team, and for some reason, MLB really wants to put a team in... San Antonio.
- Vlad would rather stay in Montreal if possible; if not, Gammons thinks he should end up in San Fran. He "hates the spotlight". Vlad is not on anybody's radar because he is in limbo until Montreal gets a budget, which won't happen for a few weeks.
- He's not sold on Baltimore's new regime.
- Royals and Twins ownership "hate baseball"
- Maglio Ordonez is a special person (the phrase 'duende' was thrown around)
- Colon to NYY looking like a done deal
- Drew Henson will be bought out this winter

I'll just note these without comment now. I think some of them are completely ridiculous, but Matt and I will dissect 'em later.


First "Major" Signing?

Rarely do we actually "break" news here at TDS (though I think I was pretty early on Ramirez being on waivers...) but there's a rumor circulating that Raul Ibanez is headed back to Seattle - for about $13 million over three years.

Of course, we're not actually breaking it, as I'm not a real reporter, and I'm clearly taking the story from Yahoo! - but you know what I mean.

This is a great move for Seattle. He's the kind of player I want on my team. He's going to take some heat going from a hitters park to a pitchers park, but his power and on base numbers probably won't take that big of a hit. He'll also have better hitters around him, so he might score more and drive more guys in. Comically, his best numbers outside of Kansas City are at Safeco, where he hit three homers in eleven at bats. Thats not anywhere close to a sample size, but its always good to impress potential suitors.

Hopefully, Ibanez will provide some more lefty pop in the lineup and I wouldn't put a .300/25/100 season past him. For a little over $4m a year, thats a steal.


Awards Recap

Both the AL and NL MVPs were announced this week and there were no surprises.

In fact, the judges probably did the best job they've done in any season.

Here's a snip of a conversation Matt and I had last night:

MEBarnard (7:19:11 PM): yeah, really can't argue about the award winners this year...the writers did a nice job.
the Daniel Stein (7:19:36 PM): of course you can, i argue about everything, but those are all good choices
MEBarnard (7:20:10 PM): you can argue about anything. but they did a much better job than usual.
the Daniel Stein (7:21:11 PM): yeah, nothing majorly terrible
MEBarnard (7:21:53 PM): I mean, the NL ROY is the worst. and even that's defensible.

We went on to discuss a few more things that we might put up later, but lets look at ESPN's "expert" poll. None of them got it all, but they were all relatively close. Buster Olney, for all I've ripped on him is the closest, missing only by choosing Matsui, but when you cover the Yankees everyday, its an honest mistake.

Elsewhere in the Blogosphere, Aaron Gleeman writes, Basically, I think the voters only completely screwed up one of the six awards this year (Brandon Webb!). Of course, whether or not you think "only" completely screwing up one out of six awards is a good thing is debatable, I guess.

But back to MVPs, there really was no question that Bonds and A-Rod were the best players in each league this season. A-Rod had a worse year than he had in seasons pasta, and took some heat because his team was terrible, but he really put on a show day in and day out.

As far as Bonds goes, if there is a league above the majors, call him up to it already. While we might talk later about him being the best of all time - which I feel a little silly commenting on, since I'm only 21 and never saw [Insert Name of Old Timey Favorite] play. Despite my move toward accepting hard stats as the only way of evaluating a player's talents on the field, I feel like the things you cannot measure are the things that cement them in your minds as "favorites."

My father always used to tell me about Willie Mays rounding first very wide on balls hit deep to right field. If the fielder wanted to be ballsy and try getting him to first, he'd rush to second and beat it out. It was a good way of keeping fielders on their toes. I think that was his second most told story, behind the Giants' loss in the 1962 World Series.

Anyway, I'm way off topic, but we'll be back later with some Oakland outfield analysis and other rumors.