July 16, 2006
I'm not really sure why Jim Bowden has been bashed so much over the
last four or five years. He did a pretty remarkable job in
Cincinnati picking up inexpensive players each winter and turning
them into tradable commodities. He didn't have much luck
building a pitching staff there, but that might be as much attributed
to the team's scouts as his decision-making. I'm not saying it
is, just saying it's possible. He hasn't had a whole lot of luck
building a pitching staff in Washington either (although Esteban Loaiza
did work out pretty well for him), so maybe that part was his
Still, as best as I can tell, the reason he still gets very little
respect is that he signed Cristian Guzman for four years and $16
million. One signing. And even that one has the caveat that
the player was hiding a shoulder injury. Guzman is just entering
peak years so there's a chance it might still work out in the remaining
two years of his contract. Still,
it's a bit harsh to bust a GM for one
deal. I mean does anyone ride John Schuerholz because he thought
Danny Kolb would work out well as a closer for the Braves? How
Cashman for thinking Tony Womack was the answer at second base?
But apparently one questionable signing is all that it takes to cement
Jim Bowden's reputation... until now.
It appears that after his trade with the Reds that brought the
Nats Austin Kearns, Felipe Lopez and Ryan Wagner that his reputation
might be rehabilitated. I do agree that the Nats got a good deal,
let's not get carried away. The deal's benefits are "obvious"
those who believe the totality of baseball can be understood through
batting statistics. So allow me to try to add
the perspective of
someone who looks at all the numbers and who actually watches the games.
First of all, RFK is not death for hitters. It's a very tough
park for them when the weather is cooler as it was last year, but when
it's as hot and humid as it has been this year, the ball carries almost
as well as it does in Texas. To whit: looking at the current
factors, RFK is the 7th best park for run scoring in the majors behind
the BOB, Kaufmann, Great America, Wrigley, the Metrodome and Camden
Yards. This means it's more favorable for run production than
notorious hitter's parks like Coors, Arlington, Comiskey or
Philly. Both Lopez and Kearns are line drive hitters - about 23%
of Kearns' balls in play are liners and Lopez hits about 20%, although
he's been as high as 24% - which should play well to the park.
Both guys might take a small hit in the homer department due to the
stadium, but their average, doubles
and triples should all increase at RFK over Great America, offsetting
much if not all of any potential decrease in production.
Kearns' presence and the waiver pick-up of Luis Matos will allow Bowden
to deal Jose Guillen. I really don't expect Bowden to deal
Alfonso Soriano. He's an incredibly talented player who's got a
great attitude and wants to stay in DC. What's not to like?
Guillen, however, while talented, can be a bit of a headache.
He's been a solid citizen under Frank Robinson, but Frank probably
isn't long for the manager's seat and Guillen might not play nice under
another skipper. The best time to deal him is now if that's what
they're considering, before he becomes a
Ryan Wagner, the third player the Nats received, has the potential to
be a relief ace but has struggled with mechanics and the mental side of
the game. At this point he looks like a long shot to contribute
but there's always hope. Probably the biggest concern from the
Nats' side is Felipe Lopez' defense. He has the talent to be an
above average gloveman but has yet to maintain focus well enough day in
and day out to do so. So if the Nats can't count on consistent
glovework from him they may have to go back to Guzman next year, which
leaves Lopez without a position unless Vidro is moved. As it
stands now, Lopez has the third worst worst range factor of any regular
shortstop in the baseball and the worst zone rating. According to
Dewan's Fielding Bible, he ranked 18th among major league shortstops on
defense last year. He's got a lot of work to do.
The Reds did pick up two excellent arms in Gary Majewski, who could
be their closer in less than a month given Eddie Guardado's recent
track record and shoulder injury, and Bill Bray who has pitched well in
his first exposure to the majors. Brendan Harris has been a bit
of a stat-head fave because of his early
career success in the minors, but his defense is below average at every
position he plays and his bat speed is at best average. He does
have a pretty good eye at the plate so he should have a decent career
in the majors but only as a utility player.
For the Reds part, they also had Chris Denorfia ready to contribute in
the outfield and several players who can play short in the near term -
Ray Olmedo, Juan Castro and now Royce Clayton. Ryan Freel will
get some more playing
time as well so for a team that desperately needed bullpen help but had
lots of positional depth from which to trade, it makes some
Ask any player or manager and just about the most deflating thing
that can happen to a team is to lose a win in the final innings.
For anyone who has played baseball, those final few outs aren't just
like any other outs because there's no coming back if you bungle
them. Put another way, the Reds traded two position players who
combine to generate enough offense to give them three or four extra
wins per season over the guys who are replacing them. In return,
they are getting two relievers who will save them from the extra five
or six actual losses that the current Reds' relievers are giving
them. So in that light, it's not such a terrible deal for the
Reds. Still, if all of the talent develops perfectly on both
sides, the Nats will have gotten the better end of this deal. We
just have to wait and see which guys pan out.
In other news, the trade of Aubrey Huff has prompted the Devil Rays to
move BJ Upton from short to third in an effort to
get him back to the majors sooner. But his bat was never the
question. Neither was his glove. It was his throwing from
short that was the cause for concern. Most of his more than 150
errors over the past four years have been throwing errors. I'm
not sure how moving him farther away from first will help correct his
throwing mechanics. I'm also not sure why Tampa continues to play
Damon Hollins regularly with so many more promising options in
Triple-A. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
About the most logical trade rumor I've heard so far is Cleveland
moving Aaron Boone to the Dodgers for Odalis Perez. Boone would
give the Dodgers good defense while supplying a little more pop to a
ranks dead last in the NL in homers. Dodger Stadium is a little
more homer friendly than the Jake, which would be welcome news for
Boone. Cleveland has Andy Marte waiting in the wings ready to
take over at third - although his .805 OPS in Triple-A translates to
about .740 in the majors which isn't much better than Boone.
Throw in 10 GIDPs and about 20 errors and Marte fans will have to
understand that his first year will definitely be a learning
experience. For the Dodgers, Perez is clearly unhappy about his
role and could use a fresh start somewhere else. Jacob's Field is
pitcher friendly enough to negate some of the league translation and
the Indians could benefit from another solid starter. When he's
happy and healthy, Perez is a groundball pitcher with decent strikeout
potential. Sowers looks like he's still not ready for the show so
Perez would buy him some time, and perhaps allow the Indians to trade
Paul Byrd to a contender for prospects since it looks like the only
other decent starting pitcher that's going to be available (at a
reasonable price) at the deadline is Livan Hernandez.
I expect that Ryan Klesko will be traded, probably to the Tigers.
The rumors of Bobby Abreu moving involve too many big names
prospect-wise, which makes sense from the Philly angle but not so much
from the team's getting Abreu for two months. Unless a GM is
being forced to pare payroll, rarely do big name players move at the
deadline. Most of the players who are traded are the kind of
mid-level free agents who are roster fill-ins come winter. Well,
maybe not "fill-ins" per se, but not the big splash type free agents
that garner headlines with their salaries and Abreu is more in the
latter class than the former. Anyway, I'm guessing that Klesko
should be able to fetch Justin Verlander and Joel Zumaya in return...
kidding, just kidding. But that's the level of absurdity one gets
from most of the rumors that the sportswriters offer. At best
they would get someone like Cameron Maybin but even that's a
stretch. A couple of low minors arms is more like it. My
guess is that the only Phillie who changes teams is Tom Gordon.