July 27, 2005
Will Carroll's new column, Will's Mill, is a lot of fun, especially for those of us weaned on the Sunday notes columns of Hall of Fame sportswriter Peter Gammons. Not everything that crosses a cell tower this week--not even most of it--actually happens, but I think it's fun to look at some of the rumored deals and see what they would mean if they did come to pass. Consider this Transaction Analysis: The What-If Edition.
The most significant actual news to happen this week is the Padres' Phil Nevin exercising his no-trade clause to scuttle a trade that would have sent him to the Orioles in exchange for Sidney Ponson. The Orioles were one of eight teams that Nevin had the right to refuse to go to, per his contract.
I wasn't sure I understood the deal in the first place. Certainly negative Ponson had some value for the Os, but it was hard to see where Nevin was going to get his playing time on a team already pretty jammed up on the right side of the defensive spectrum. The Padres have been trying to trade Nevin for years, and have lowered their asking price from Ken Griffey Jr. all the way down to Ponson; I think Steven Goldman is the next name in that sequence.
As is usually the case when a player exercises his no-trade clause or his ten-and-five rights, Nevin has opened himself up to some criticism. I think it's silly; the no-trade clause is part of his contract, and he's well within his rights to employ it. Unlike many of these cases--I'm thinking specifically of Fred McGriff a few years ago--the player is actually choosing to stay with a team that has a better chance of reaching the postseason. Quite frankly, there's not a reason in hell for Nevin to relocate cross-country for three months so he can have a reduced chance of reaching the playoffs.
Of the things that haven't happened, Will reports that the Mets have been active, with rumored acquistions of Alfonso Soriano and Sean Casey. The former deal has them giving up their top two prospects (Lastings Milledge and Yusmeiro Petit), plus more for Soriano. That would be far too much for a player who, as a high-strikeout hitter, would likely see his production plummet in Shea Stadium. Soriano would be an upgrade on the Mets' frustrating second-base situation, just not nearly enough of one to justify that kind of investment.
The Casey thing makes sense only relative to the Soriano deal. Casey is a suboptimal first baseman signed for another season at big money. He might be better than just playing Victor Diaz at first base, but it's not certain. Casey is 17th among MLB first basemen in Value Over Replacement Player (VORP), a ranking that gives him full credit for durability. On a per at-bat basis, he slips to 27th in MLB. Any number of less-expensive trade options such as Matt Stairs or Daryle Ward would make more sense than overspending for a nice guy who isn't slugging .400.
A.J. Burnett may or may not be on the market, and he may or may not be dealt. Will mentions a deal falling apart that had him going to the White Sox for Brandon McCarthy and Damaso Marte. I'm on record as saying that the Marlins should be playing for this year, anyway, so I don't mind them holding onto Burnett, but how much difference could there be, over a dozen starts, between McCarthy and Burnett. Wouldn't Marte make up a chunk of any difference? That's a pretty good trade for the Fish, and their insistence on Jose Contreras in the deal--the point that scuttled it--seems like overkill.
Outside of the Mill, I got an e-mail asking why the Red Sox would, as rumored, be looking to deal Bronson Arroyo for Burnett. I don't see that one, either. Burnett is a bit better than Arroyo, an edge that has equated to less than a win over the first 100 or so games of the season. The gap between the two is tiny, and the Sox can control Arroyo's rights for the next three seasons. That's not worth dealing for a small upgrade over 12 starts.
In general, A.J. Burnett has come to be quite overrated on the trade market this summer. He's a good starter, a #2 in many rotations, but he's not a difference-maker or a star, and he's being priced as such. He's the pitcher on the market most likely to be part of a trade that we're still talking about 20 years from now.
The Sox rumor that Will reports doesn't make much sense, either: Bill Mueller and Kevin Millar to the Twins for J.C. Romero and Joe Mays. Will mentions that Mueller's ability to play second base is the key factor for them, but it's been established that Mueller cannot, perhaps will not, play second base regularly. His knees won't hold up. The Twins could play Mueller at third and Michael Cuddyer at second base, but then again, they could have been playing Cuddyer at second base all along and they haven't done so.
The Sox could use a left-handed reliever such as Romero, but this deal seems more like wishcasting than something that could happen. Their acquiring Mays, who would be their sixth starter at best, makes no sense at all.
This is fun…read Will's Mill for more rumors throughout the deadline, and check both this space and Chris Kahrl's Transaction Analysis for commentary on the things that do happen.