CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

No Previous Article
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: ... (11/25)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: ... (01/12)
No Next Article

December 5, 2003

Transaction Analysis

The Vazquez-Johnson deal

by Christina Kahrl

the archives are now free.

All Baseball Prospectus Premium and Fantasy articles more than a year old are now free as a thank you to the entire Internet for making our work possible.

Not a subscriber? Get exclusive content like this delivered hot to your inbox every weekday. Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get instant access to the best baseball content on the web.

Subscribe for $4.95 per month
Recurring subscription - cancel anytime.


a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Purchase a $39.95 gift subscription
a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

We've inserted some content from the 2004 PECOTA Cards in this special edition of Transaction Analysis. All of the 2004 cards will be available to Premium subscribers by the end of January, 2004.

MONTREAL EXPOS/NEW YORK YANKEES

Exchanged RHP Javier Vazquez for 1B-L Nick Johnson, RF-R Juan Rivera, and LHP Randy Choate. [12/4]

By now, we're used to the proposition that the Expos are a syndicate-operated franchise, where Omar Minaya and Tony Tavares are in the impossible situation of trying to run a team to suit the diktats of 29 angry men (or groups of angry men, with a few women for melting pot zest). As a result, their compelled, alien management decision tree leaves them forced to make deals that don't exactly conform to anyone's blinkered perceptions of what a near-contender ought to do. However, the transparency of the industry's chicanery generates deals that, while they aren't particularly happy in terms of reassuring whatever few fans buy Expos season tickets these days, also don't sink to the level of Arnold Johnson's operation of the Kansas City A's. The Expos may not have freedom of action, but they do have enough sense to get value. And to the continuing fury of at least some of the 29 co-conspirators perpetrating this charade, that means the Expos do better than some do even without the benefit of freedom.

So the Yankees, trapped in their pro wrestling götterdammerung plot line with the Red Sox, apparently have to go tit-for-tat in the wake of the Schilling deal. That's not to diminish what they've achieved. Schilling might be more famous, and he might own Vazquez on a wargaming table. He's also older, more fragile, and less likely to give his team 35 starts. In contrast, Vazquez is in his prime. At 27, he has endured and survived a heavy workload, and he's far removed from an age when heavy workloads are sources of really desperate concern (take a look at Mark Prior's workload if you want to be alarmed). It's especially intriguing to see that Nate Silver's latest PECOTA projections for him rank Vazquez as just about the most promising pitcher for value in the season to come.


Player Profile
2004 Weighted Mean Projections - Javier Vazquez

G GS IP H BB SO HR
31 31 224.3 204 45 194 23

ERA EqERA EqH9 EqBB9 EqSO9 EqHR9
3.22 3.32 8.0 1.7 7.5 0.9

PERA H/BIP VORP Stuff Wins
3.25 28.4% 61.7 27 6.2

There are plenty of 'hold your horses' responses you might have to that, but let's kick it around. Although he's coming over to the DH league, at least he won't have to deal with the insanity of pitching in Hiram Bithorn's Bananazoic Planet Coors. He'll have the disadvantage of pitching in front of one of baseball's worst defenses; the Yankees were ranked with the Blue Jays, Orioles, and Rangers for teams with no park-influenced excuses for the bottom-of-the-barrel Defensive Efficiency Rating. But he's a power pitcher who doesn't allow a lot of balls in play in the first place, and Mike Mussina came in and learned to adapt, overcome, and shrug off the mayhem in leather while looking forward to the half of the innings that he gets to sit and watch.

The other thing to keep in mind is that the Yankees needed this. With the Rocket shuffling off to his sojourn in the Presidential vacation state prior to his invitation to immortality, there aren't a lot of sure things left in the pinstriped rotation. Andy Pettitte and Jumbo Wells put in their time and have the right to leave the reservation (or accept arbitration, if offered), and Jose Contreras, Jon Lieber, and Jeff Weaver are unknown commodities. Arguably, acquiring Weaver was supposed to give them the young, front-half of a rotation starter they knew they'd need by now, but that hasn't worked out. So they didn't just need Vazquez, they desperately needed him. Now, they have only really acquired one year of him--and then the exclusive negotiating window, an arbitration decision, and all the other bells and whistles, ranging from a Moose-sized contract to a parting package of Rice-A-Roni, and all points in between. But they needed this, with or without the Schilling trade and its notional value as a source of inspiration.

From the Expos' side of the equation, this really isn't an awful deal or a mere salary dump. Starting in order of least importance, they can plug Randy Choate into the bullpen as a situational lefty, buy out Joey Eischen for $50,000 instead of picking up his $1.3 million option, and save themselves close to a million bucks. And beyond the savings, there's the question of performance. Joe Torre never took the time to really put Choate to good use, but he can be a solid situational lefty--something that can't be said of Eischen, who's got a nasty habit of plating other people's baserunners. He'll look good as a Cardinal, and he's old enough.

Then there's the question of Rivera. Yes, acquiring him might seem like a demoralizing bit of getting used to the idea of Vlad Guerrero in somebody else's uniform, but Rivera has his merits. As a hitter, while he hasn't done much in his brief big league trials, he's hit .325 at Triple-A over three seasons, slugging .512, and he's only 25. Afield, he's got good range and a strong arm, so he's a defensive asset as corner outfielders go. Will he be an offensive star? No, but he makes a nice plug-in for a sixth slot in the order, and he'll put runs on the board. Look beyond the playing time PECOTA projects for him, and you'll see a corner outfielder who can slug close to .500. That isn't something to write off as a mere throw-in.


Player Profile
2004 Weighted Mean Projections - Juan Rivera

AB H 2B 3B HR BB SO
310 91 19 1 13 24 43

SB CS AVG OBP SLG MLVr EqBA
3 1 .294 .346 .491 .112 .276

EqOBP EqSLG EqMLVR VORP Wins EQA
.329 .453 .004 9.4 0.9 .269

Finally, there's Nick Johnson. We've touted Johnson for a very long time now, and we've seen that potential barely shine through a litany of worrying hand and wrist injuries. Nevertheless, he's only 25, and his precocious progress through the Yankees chain deserves to be remembered for the promise it hinted at. It's one of the reasons why the new PECOTA projections see him as the sort of player with tremendous breakout potential. Anybody who can reasonably project to hitting as well as Todd Helton without Coors Field getting an assist looks pretty valuable. There's irony that among his closest comps, you'll find a young Jason Giambi, but the blend of possibility and risk is perhaps best highlighted by the two most-comparable hitters: Darrell Evans (who went on to enjoy a career that deserves a lot more Hall of Fame consideration than he got) and Mike Epstein (whose fame endures for all sorts of reasons, some but unfortunately not all of them good).


Player Profile
2004 Weighted Mean Projections - Nick Johnson

AB H 2B 3B HR BB SO
393 118 25 1 25 73 79

SB CS AVG OBP SLG MLVr EqBA
5 2 .300 .421 .557 .316 .282

EqOBP EqSLG EqMLVR VORP Wins EQA
.399 .514 .203 37.0 3.5 .314

There's a tangential point, or many, but the one I wonder about it is that, as much as I like Rivera and Johnson, neither really projects to have long, brilliant careers, starring deep into their 30s. So the Expos should get them at their best and cheapest, then get some tasty draft value (assuming that system doesn't change) or trade value, while letting the two of them become Diamondbacks or whatever it is a past-peak hitter is supposed to do in his golden years a few seasons from now. While Johnson's truly inexpensive years are gone, he's still not going to cost the Expos much over the life of his pre-free agency career. Add him to a lineup that already gets the benefits of Brad Wilkerson power-and-patience blend, not to mention an overdue Tatis ejection, and you've got some worthwhile offensive building blocks, with or without Vlad.

Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Christina's other articles. You can contact Christina by clicking here

Related Content:  The Who

0 comments have been left for this article.

No Previous Article
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: ... (11/25)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: ... (01/12)
No Next Article

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Premium Article Rumor Roundup: Kenta Maeda Will Not Be Appea...
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: Live That Fantasy
Premium Article Pitching Backward: Brandon McCarthy and the ...
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: Bringing the Band Back...
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: Padres Wish Upton a St...
Premium Article Raising Aces: Best and Worst Mechanics: NL W...
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: Catchin' Relief

MORE FROM DECEMBER 5, 2003
Premium Article Under The Knife: Trading Risks

MORE BY CHRISTINA KAHRL
2004-02-17 - Premium Article Transaction Analysis: February 13-16, 2004
2004-02-13 - Transaction Analysis: February 7-12, 2004
2004-02-11 - Premium Article Transaction Analysis: January 12-February 6,...
2003-12-05 - Premium Article Transaction Analysis: The Vazquez-Johnson de...
2003-11-25 - Premium Article Transaction Analysis: October 13-November 19
2003-10-15 - Premium Article Transaction Analysis: September 26-October 1...
2003-10-07 - Premium Article Playoff Prospectus: Chicago Cubs vs. Florida...
More...

MORE TRANSACTION ANALYSIS
2004-01-16 - Premium Article Transaction Analysis: The Wests
2004-01-13 - Premium Article Transaction Analysis: The Centrals
2004-01-12 - Premium Article Transaction Analysis: The Easts
2003-12-05 - Premium Article Transaction Analysis: The Vazquez-Johnson de...
2003-11-25 - Premium Article Transaction Analysis: October 13-November 19
2003-10-15 - Premium Article Transaction Analysis: September 26-October 1...
2003-09-25 - Premium Article Transaction Analysis: August 25-September 21
More...