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June 8, 2004

Prospectus Triple Play

Cleveland Indians, Montreal Expos, Seattle Mariners

by Baseball Prospectus

Cleveland Indians

  • Cross-PTP Pollination: This offseason the Indians attempted to trade shortstop Omar Vizquel to the Mariners for Carlos Guillen. The trade would have dumped a ton of salary for the Tribe (Guillen had agreed to take $2,500,000 from the Mariners for 2004, while Vizquel is making $6,250,000) and put Vizquel back in Seattle, where he played from 1989-1993. Unfortunately for the Indians, Mariner doctors gave Vizquel a terrible health report and the trade was called off. Instead, the Mariners paid $3,500,000 to bring in Rich Aurilia, and punted Guillen to the Tigers for Ramon Santiago.

    The Indians front office has in recent years shown that they're amazingly astute and able to get good players even when dumping their garbage. Mark Shapiro could have a yard sale with things he found in the sink trap, and Chuck LaMar would stop by to give him Aubrey Huff for a hair clog. Look at how well they almost made off:

    
    Who       Team     Salary    AVG    OBP    SLG   RARP
    Guillen   Tigers    $2.50   .325   .402   .560   25.1
    Vizquel   Indians   $6.25   .273   .360   .365   10.9
    Aurilia   Mariners  $3.50   .237   .304   .329    2.0
    
    
    Two-and-a-half games in the standings, and it's not as if Vizquel's playing the sparkling defense of his prime anymore. The Indians would have made a huge upgrade if only it weren't for those doctors. The team's willingness to stand up and take on interesting risks--in this case, the perception of Guillen as fragile--bodes well for the team's future. Even if the Guillen hadn't panned out this year, they'd still have saved almost $4 million.

  • Roster Moves: Joe Dawley is set to have an MRI done on his elbow on June 7th. Dawley said his elbow was only tender, but we'll see what shows up.

    In the meantime, the Indians signed Scott Elarton to a free agent deal (passing up James Baldwin, if you can believe that). Elarton joins Jeriome Robertson, Kyle Denney, and Chad Durbin as possibilities to replace Dawley if he has to miss a start (or the season to another ligament replacement surgery).

    Shapiro, who we just finished praising for almost pulling one over, and said he wasn't worried about Elarton's numbers with the Rockies (which are so ugly I'm not even going to include them here).

    Perhaps, though, he should be worried about Elarton's terrible numbers in general since 1999, as the poor guy has been beset with shoulder injuries, and hasn't been effective at all. Given the recovery rate of pitchers who have surgery for labrum problems, it seems unlikely that Elarton will ever recover the form he showed in the minors and with Houston in 1998-1999. We've got to wonder what Shapiro's thinking here--the upside (Elarton's shoulder magically regenerates to mid-90s form) just isn't there.

Montreal Expos

  • The Stick: The author's always been one of the greatest Nick Johnson stalwarts, though he admits that Johnson lives up to his moniker in both ability and fragility. Finally off the disabled list, Johnson has returned to Montreal's lineup with style, putting up classic Nick Johnson lines (2-3, HR, 2 BB):
    
    Day    PA     H      2b       HR       BB
    5/29    4     2       1        0        0
    5/30    5     0       0        0        3
    5/31    4     2       1        0        0
    6/01    4     2       1        0        1
    6/02    6     1       1        0        2
    6/04    4     3       1        0        0
    6/05    4     3       0        1        1
    6/06    4     1       1        0        0
    
    Season to date: .406/.513/.688.
    
    
    If someone wants to argue that Johnson can't be productive because he can't stay healthy, they may have a point, but anyone seriously arguing that Johnson isn't a superstar talent might as well be talking about sports astrology.

  • Should Have Gone with Expedia... The Expos have a schedule that looks like Bud Selig put "162 game season" into Priceline in order to shave dollars off the league's operations budget. It's a bizarre jumble of places, travel dates and times adding up to a nightmare for everyone who has to go on the trip.

    May 16th: finish an series against Arizona in Arizona with an afternoon game. Take a flight that, if MLB went for the low-cost option, easily ran 16-17 hours including two layovers (8-9 hours straight through, maybe).

    May 18-23rd: six straight games in San Juan, Puerto Rico, ending May 23rd at 1:35pm (local)

    Then fly back to Montreal (11-13 hours with layovers, five-to-six hours straight). Play six games in Montreal, then go on a 12-game road trip from Atlanta to Cincinnati to Kansas City to FREAKING SEATTLE (for a thrilling match between these bitter long-time enemies at the height of their rivalry). Then back from Seattle to Montreal (what, uh, 6-7 hours minimum, 10+ easily with a long layover in Chicago if you're on American) for a homestand against the Twins, White Sox, and Phillies. Then it's a seven-game road trip: Toronto to Philadelphia (which...you get the idea).

    After that night game in Philly it's back on the plane to go back to FREAKING PUERTO RICO to host the Blue Jays for the first of 10 straight games in San Juan, Puerto Rico, ending July 11th at 1:35 p.m. (local) when they're saved by the All-Star Break.

    From May 16th, their game in Arizona, to July 11th, when they leave San Juan to fly to Atlanta, the Expos get six days off while logging more travel miles than any other team in baseball. While there are many obvious examples of the team needing a stronger advocate in baseball's offices, this is just sad. This isn't going to help the team's attempts to climb out of bottom of first MLB, and then the NL East standings.

Seattle Mariners

  • Beautiful Disaster: While the Mariners are bad, they're also working on what could perhaps be historical awfulness by spending a ton of money to get there.
    
    Team       WPct  Payroll (Millions)
    Cleveland  .463   $34.6
    Pittsburgh .453   $40.2
    Detroit    .446   $49.8
    Toronto    .439   $50.0
    Tampa Bay  .389   $28.7
    Arizona    .386   $70.2
    Colorado   .382   $64.6
    Seattle    .382   $72.3 *
    Kan City   .370   $47.6
    Montreal   .327   $43.2
    
    * As reported by ESPN
    
    
    If the team trades off productive players now to cut payroll for this and coming years, the 2004 squad could be historically inept in terms of financial efficiency. Using Doug Pappas' Marginal Wins, this year's squad is currently spending $4.8 million for every win they'll get over a team of replacement-level players, and if they send veterans off while eating salary as is anticipated, they could make a run at being the least efficient team in the free agent era.

  • Ineptitude: Presented without comment, only tears...

    Mariner Hitters, AVG > Average AL Hitter:

    
    Player             AVG    AB
    Ichiro Suzuki     .340   247
    Dave Hansen       .333    45
    Jolbert Cabrera   .301   103
    Dan Wilson        .280   143
    AL average hitter .270    --
    
    Team rank: 20/30
    
    
    Mariner Hitters, OBP > Average AL Hitter
    
    Player             OBP    AB
    Hiram Bocachica   .571     4
    Dave Hansen       .412    45
    Ichiro Suzuki     .383   242
    John Olerud       .372   168
    AL average hitter .341    --
    
    Team rank: 24/30
    
    
    Mariner Hitters, SLG > Average AL Hitter
    
    Player              SLG   AB
    Raul Ibanez*       .505  194
    Dave Hansen        .452   45
    AL average hitter  .424   --
    
    * On 15-day DL for a hamstring injury
    
    Team rank: 29/30
    
    
  • Name the Connection: The Mariners have seen a huge jump in the number of extra base hits they're giving up every game. But Randy Winn was supposed to be fine out there, returning to his natural position and all. What happened?

    Mariners

    
    Year   OF (CF-RF-LF)  Prorated opposing 2B+3B as apx % of Abs
    2003   Cameron-Suzuki-Winn   234   2.3%
    2004   Winn-Suzuki-Ibanez    390*  6.8%*
    
    * Projected over a full season
    
    
    Mets
    
    Year   OF (CF-RF-LF)        Opposing 2B+3B as apx % of Abs
    2003   Duncan/Perez-Cedeno-Perez   348    6.1%
    2004   Cameron-Garcia-Floyd        267*   4.4%*
    
    * Projected over a full season
    
    
  • New Kids on the Block:
    
    GM               Team                WPct    2003 WPct  Division Rank
    Dan O'Brien      Cincinnati Reds     .607      .426     1st (of 6)
    Paul DePodesta   Los Angeles Dodgers .556      .525     1st (of 5)
    Bill Bavasi      Seattle Mariners    .382      .574     4th (of 4)
    
    

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