More Hot Stove

I could understand at least in principle why Jim Bowden signed Castilla and Guzman.  With the short porch in left that RFK had for their spring training exhibitions, Castilla might not miss the thin air of Coors too much.  Of course, if they end up with the original configuration of RFK, which was a pitcher's park, then that signing won't be very good because they will have just paid $3 million a year for a third baseman with 20 homer power and an on base under .300.  On the plus side, he still has very good defensive skills.  Guzman should turn out better because he's an above average gloveman with some offensive potential due to the fact that he's only 26.  In the interest of fairness, it should be noted that he has been significantly less effective on grass than he has on turf.  But it should also be noted that his numbers early in his major league career were quite good for someone so young and that talent is still there.  The Twins hitting coaches have been notorious the last 5 or 6 years for emphasizing contact over content, so maybe now that he's free of those restrictions, Guzman can blossom as a hitter.  If he does, $4 million per year might turn out to be a good deal.

But the deal I'm struggling with is trading Juan Rivera and Maicer Izturis for Jose Guillen.  Looking at what they did last year, at least by rate, there's not a whole lot of difference between Rivera and Guillen.  Guillen is probably a little better across the board (although Rivera does draw more walks), but is the difference worth the $3 million extra the Nationals will have to pay out for Guillen's services?  Plus there's the whole "clubhouse cancer" thing with Guillen.  This will be his 8th organization since 1999 and it's not because he isn't talented.  Regardless, the guy the Nats should have been peddling is Terrmel Sledge, who's a marginal everyday outfielder.  At least Rivera had a chance to be an everyday player, perhaps even a good chance since there's hardly any difference in his splits over 650-ish major league at bats.  I've never been a big fan of Rivera's, but last year he proved that he at least deserved a chance to play everyday.  This is a trade the Nationals will regret.

Rivera could end up as the starter in left or center, or compete with Jeff DaVanon for at bats as a 4th outfielder if they sign a first baseman and move Erstad back to the outfield where he'd be more useful.  The sleeper in the deal might be Maicer Izturis, who is pretty much the same player as David Eckstein, only with a much better arm.  Eckstein showed a little more competent use of his speed at Izturis' age with Izturis a little better with the bat.  But the walk and strikeout rates were pretty similar yet Izturis was one level higher.  The key is Izturis' age.  He's listed as being 24 years old, but his birthday is only 7 months different from his brother, Cesar's.   Anyone who knows anything about human physiology understands that's a pretty unusual occurrence.  Maybe they have different mothers and they're only step-brothers, but any time the topic has been brought up, he's been called his "brother".  Who knows.  Maybe he's older than listed, maybe he's younger, maybe something highly unusual occurred 24 years ago.  Regardless, he's worth keeping an eye on this coming spring.

I find it highly amusing that Randy Johnson has stipulated that if he's traded this winter, that it only be to a "contender".  I'm not sure exactly what a contender looks like in November, are you?  Last year, if anyone had suggested at this time that St. Louis would run away with the NL Central or that Texas and San Diego would be in the running for their divisions until the final week, people would probably have thought they were crazy.  I do know this - just about any team with a half decent offense and bullpen that gets Randy Johnson should be considered a contender.  How good would Cleveland look with Randy Johnson at the top of their rotation?  Or Detroit?  Or Cincinnati?  Or Baltimore?  Or Tampa Bay?  Or even Washington?  Wouldn't they have to be considered contenders if they acquired Randy Johnson?  Maybe not the O's or D-Rays, but that's only because of the division they play in.  Obviously, Johnson is using media-speak to mean either the Yankees or one of the LA teams.  But any pitcher capable of what he did last year will give most teams a shot at making the post-season.

David Dellucci is being sought after by a surprising number of teams - so far Colorado, Texas, Tampa Bay and Arizona have all made proposals to him - and it will be interesting how many are offering him a starting job.  Over the past two seasons he's hit 20 homers in around 550 at bats, but his average against lefties is miserable: .107 in 2004 with a .319 OPS and .118 over the last 3 years with an OPS of .378. 

It's also interesting to note that Charles Johnson's name is being floated around in a lot of trade rumors, but in almost all of them, the acquiring team views him as a back-up.  It wasn't that long ago, 2000 in fact, he hit .304 with 31 homers and 91 RBI while playing incredible defense for the Orioles and White Sox.  Since then, he's fallen off the map and not even two years in Colorado helped.  What happened?  And can it be cured? 

The Blue Jays have expressed a great deal of interest in signing Matt Clement.  Imagine in a three game series facing a healthy Roy Halladay, then Ted Lilly, then Roy Halladay again.  That's what Matt Clement will bring to the Jays - the same kind of strikeout and groundball attack.  That would leave the Jays one quality lefty short of having the best rotation in the division, second in the AL only to that of the A's.  Of course, if the Yankees manage to land both Randy Johnson and Eric Milton then the equation changes... The Blue Jays will still need to find some cheap offense.  Hinske will be better, but his bat will likely never be good enough to make up for what he loses on defense.  Russ Adams will be a huge upgrade from what they've had the last two years and Orlando Hudson continues to improve.  Finally healthy again, Vernon Wells was impressive in September and on his recent tour of Japan.  A healthy Frank Catalanotto will help, but they still need to find an inexpensive approximation to replace Delgado's lefty power bat.  With Tino Martinez likely headed back to the Bronx, Travis Lee or Brad Fullmer are about the most appealing options left.  Fullmer's best year came as a Blue Jay, but Lee might be the better choice because his superb defense will give the team more flexibility at DH.  He posted a terrific second half in 2003 - .287 with 12 homers and 40 RBI in 251 ABs (.371 on base, .502 slugging) - and was on many sleeper lists going into 2004 before his shoulder injury sidelined him for the season.