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February 14, 2006

Prospectus Matchups

The Transient All-Star Team

by Jim Baker

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It's time for the second annual compilation of the Transient All-Star Team, brought to you by Hobo Brand Socks, "The sock you can wear 90 hours straight before washing in a creek." Any player who finds himself on a new team to begin the '06 season, whether via trade or free agency, is eligible for inclusion in this select group. The selections are based on 2005 performance and the chances that the player will be the best with a new team at their position in 2006. Subjectivity, as always, lurks everywhere.

Catcher

American League

Ben Molina, Toronto Blue Jays. His offense keeps improving, but he will soon be entering the age range in which his body will betray him.

National League

Mike Piazza, San Diego Padres. It's another pitchers' park for Piazza. That makes it a clean sweep for his career to date, even including the six hours he spent in Florida back in 1998. According to BP's translated stats, he's lost about 50 home runs over the course of his career.

First Base

American League

Lyle Overbay, Toronto Blue Jays. One of a number of Jays on this squad, Overbay is entering just his third full season, although he recently turned 29. Ontarians used to the Delgadoan style of clubbing from the first-base position will be disappointed.

National League

Carlos Delgado, New York Mets. For the second season in a row, Delgado finds himself as the first baseman on the Transient All-Star team. He raised his career EqA (.319) for the fifth time in six years in 2005. He doesn't have to do that in 2006 to be a success for New York. Anything over .300 will be a godsend after what they've had at first since John Olerud left town.

Second Base

American League

Mark Grudzielanek, Kansas City Royals. An interesting career arc--he's been better in his mid-30s than he was during what, for most players, is their prime years. If the Royals are lucky--and they usually aren't--that will continue to hold up.

National League

Alfonso Soriano, Washington Nationals. For probably the first time in the history of the world, somebody lost a contest and got $10 million. Makes you want to run right out and get yourself into an arbitration situation, doesn't it? The Nats want Soriano to move to the outfield, but he's not having it. If he can hold out for his entire career as a second baseman and keep putting up counting and rate stats the way he has, Hall of Fame voters with poor memories might someday forget all about his shoddy defense and vote him in. On the other hand, the late start to his career has probably dealt even that contrived possibility a death blow.

Third Base

American League

Troy Glaus, Toronto Blue Jays. Another returning Transient All-Star. Glaus justified his selection last year with Arizona, posting the highest VORP on the team. How many players in history posted a WARP3 of 11.6 or thereabouts at the age of 23 and then never came close again? Glaus has to be on a very short list with that distinction.

National League

Bill Mueller, Los Angeles Dodgers. Can Mueller's batting average--always a big feature of his game--hold up in Dodger Stadium? Tommy Davis won batting titles there the first two seasons of its existence, but nobody has done so since then. Mueller's predecessor once removed, Adrian Beltre, hit .334 as a Dodger two years ago.

Shortstop

American League

Alex Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox. Sometimes, all the good ones just stay put. With his occasional flashes of power, he could become a very, very, very poor man's Rico Petrocelli.

National League

Rafael Furcal, Los Angeles Dodgers. I'm still puzzling over the teams that wanted to sign him and move him to second base. Why take his panzerfaust arm out of the equation altogether?

Left Field

American League

Coco Crisp, Boston Red Sox. Crisp qualifies in left but will play center field for Boston. This is good because he doesn't quite hit like a cornerman--at least, not yet. The Red Sox will have him for his prime, which better be a good one if Andy Marte lives up to his hype.

National League

Eric Byrnes, Arizona Diamondbacks. There's one in every crowd. Last year, it was hard to find an American League left fielder for the Transient All-Stars. This year, it's the National League left field that is bereft of good candidates. Byrnes was doing OK until he left Oakland. For the Snakes' sake, let's hope he takes to Arizona better than he did Colorado and Baltimore. If he does, he's sure to be a fan favorite in the manner in which Dan Gladden once was in Minnesota.

Center Field

American League

Johnny Damon, New York Yankees

Almost cut my hair
Happened just the other day
It's gettin' kind of long
I could've said it was in my way

But I didn't and I wonder why
I feel like letting my freak flag fly
And I feel like I owe it, yeah ... to someone, yeah

--David Crosby

To paraphrase Henry David Thoreau, beware of new jobs that require haircuts--unless they pay eight figures a year. Then you got to do what you got to do.

National League

Aaron Rowand, Philadelphia Phillies. Getting traded is disconcerting enough, but getting traded off of the World Champions has really got to throw you. Hit ground balls almost twice as often as flies in 2005. Playing in Name of Some Bank or Other Ballpark this year is going to make him want to turn that around.

Right Field

American League

Matt Lawton, Seattle Mariners. Lawton's season looked something like Byrnes': a decent showing followed by two disastrous stops in other cities. Getting caught with his hand in the veterinarian's medicine cabinet has cost him a drop in salary from over $7 million a year to $400,000--although he probably would not have gotten that kind of money again whether or not he was spreading boldenone on his crackers.

National League

Juan Encarnacion, St. Louis Cardinals. As we have seen with Grudzielanek above, there do exist players who come into their own after the prime years of 27 and 28. Is Encarnacion--whose .280 EqA in 2005 at the age of 29 was the best of his career so far--one of those people? I don't know if I would have bet $15 million on it like the Cardinals did. I can't imagine he'll spend all three years of that contract in St. Louis. Mike Cameron would have been another good choice here.

Designated Hitter

American League

Carl Everett, Seattle Mariners. What goes on with this career? In 2005, not an especially productive season (1.5 WARP1 as a DH), Everett totaled some of the best counting stats of his career. Still, though, he always seems to be in demand. This is not how the Mariners are going to win the division.

Next time: the Transient All-Star pitching staffs.

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