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Noted the retirement of INF-R Nomar Garciaparra. [3/11]

We’ve covered the “No More Nomah” angle with a virtual series of sendoffs, whether Jay Jaffe talking about it both as an analyst and as a fan, or Steven Goldman‘s recalling Mind Game and my subsequent comments about Nomar in Unfiltered. There’s not a lot to add to Jay’s summary that he was an exceptional talent, if one shy of Hall of Fame-level greatness, but there’s another thing coming to anyone who thinks that players today aren’t every bit as unique and interesting as those from the so-called “golden age,” when Bob Costas and the like were in short pants (or when many of us might have been, as Laurie Anderson said upon a time, just so many hershey bars in our daddies’ back pockets). Whatever else went into it, Nomar was wonderful to watch, and at the very core of enjoying baseball, isn’t that what matters most?

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Released LHP Jay Marshall. [3/10]

It was apparently news to the Mets that Marshall had shoulder trouble after he’d suffered shoulder tendinitis last season, but the A’s had placed him on waivers rather than release him, and snapped him up, only to find that he was hurt. After complaining to the Commissioner, the matter’s resolved with Marshall’s return and release, with the waiver-claim cash flipped back to the Mets for the apparent transgression.

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Optioned LHP Ryan Feierabend to Tacoma (Triple-A). [3/10]

Feierabend’s the one member of the 40-man roster who got shipped out, along with a number of non-roster invites: fading prospect Joshua Fields, journeyman Steven Shell, lefties Nick Hill, Mauricio Robles, and Chris Seddon, and catchers Luis Oliveros and Steven Baron. Basically, not a surprising crew of demotions, especially with Feierabend working his way back from TJS. Depending on how quickly he comes back and shows that he’s sharp since surgery, he could enter into the crowded field for the fifth starter’s slot during Erik Bedard‘s early-season absence from the rotation.

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Agreed in principle to a four-year, $3.75 million deal with 1B/OF-L Leslie Anderson; signed SS-S Chris De La Cruz to a minor-league contract. [3/11]

The Rays get credited with being one of the best player development outfits in the game, while simultaneously being recognized as one of the sharpest sabermetrically informed organizations in the industry. In short, nobody does better at acknowledging that there are lots of ways to skin a cat when it comes to acquiring and assessing talent-and you should do all of them.

Their latest gambit has been to sign up Cuba’s Leslie Anderson, who defected last fall after starring in his home country for the Camaguey Ceramists and playing for both the national team and in the WBC. Although he’s hit for some power in his home country and played center field as well as first base, Kevin Goldstein‘s scouting report is short and to the point in summing Anderson up: “He’s stocky, muscular, but more of a pure hitter than a pure slugger; average power at best, but he knows how to get a bat on a ball, and unlike most Cubans has a definitely sense of the strike zone. Good athlete, profiles best in a corner.”

Which is interesting and important info, but what does it mean in terms of projecting and evaluating Anderson? He’s about to turn 28, so it isn’t like he’s expected to be knocking around in the minors, adapting to stateside play. This kind of move is more like the White Sox’ decision to sign Alexei Ramirez, and less like the Angels signing Cuban youngsters Kendry Morales or the White Sox getting Dayan Viciedo.

Happily, we can do something like what the Rays have done, assessing Anderson on both a scouting level and evaluating his performance. Baseball Prospectus’ head statistician, Clay Davenport, has been translating Cuban performances for years, with projections that ended up having some pretty positive things about the Angels’ decision to sign Cubans Kendry Morales in 2005 and Alexei Ramirez in 2008. We have Anderson’s performance in Cuba to use as a he schedule for the Cuban league (named the Cuban National Series) starts in November and runs for 90 games to February, so because of the timing of Anderson’s defection, his regular-season data ends with the 2008-09 season. Let’s look at both his actual record and Clay’s translations of his performance:

	Leslie Anderson
Born: March 30, 1982  Age: 28 Bats: L Throws: L Height: 6-1 Weight: 185

Actual Performance
Year Team      League  AB  H   2B  3B  HR  BB  SO   R RBI  SB CS  Out  AVG  OBP  SLG   TAv
2005 Camaguey   CBA   323 101  17   2   3  34  28  29  52   3  6  232 .313 .391 .406  .275
2006 Camaguey   CBA   336 122  22   2  15  37  36  67  62   4  4  221 .363 .435 .574  .315
2007 Camaguey   CBA   346 104  13   2   7  48  35  50  47   4  3  250 .301 .391 .410  .282
2008 Camaguey   CBA   330 111  14   2  19  66  33  69  63   0  3  226 .336 .451 .564  .316
Per 650 PA            571 187  28   3  19  79  56  92  96   5  7  929 .328 .417 .488  .297

Translated Performance
Year Team      League  AB   H  2B  3B  HR  BB  SO   R RBI  SB CS  Out  AVG  OBP  SLG   TAv
2005 Camaguey   CBA   340  84  18   1   2  24  54  22  41   3  3  263 .247 .299 .324  .221
2006 Camaguey   CBA   355  94  21   1  11  24  79  46  43   3  2  266 .265 .314 .423  .254
2007 Camaguey   CBA   367  87  15   1   7  31  78  40  39   2  1  285 .237 .297 .341  .226
2008 Camaguey   CBA   359  89  15   1  13  41  72  46  43   0  1  275 .248 .325 .404  .254
Per 650 PA            599 149  29   2  14  51 119  65  70   3  3 1089 .249 .309 .373  .239

As Clay notes, “That’s quite the smackdown, and he’s not young enough to expect he’ll improve on those.” Naturally, that also takes any projection of his performance down several pegs. Dropping Anderson’s track record into PECOTA spits out an unexciting base projection for his big-league performance in 2010: .231/.302/.357, with a .223 True Average. That doesn’t seem like Kendry Morales, it’s more like Andy Morales, the Cuban third-base prospect who signed with the Yankees to some acclaim and great disappointment a decade ago. Like the wrong Morales, Anderson’s already a mature ballplayer, so it isn’t like there’s a ton of growth potential.

However, the funny thing about Cuban baseball is that it’s a league where the talent distribution isn’t exactly even, a 90-game schedule makes for smaller samples. What if we give Anderson the benefit of the doubt, and, say, run with PECOTA‘s 90th-percentile projection for Anderson? Ratcheted up to that sort of best-case scenario, his projection comes all the way up to .263/.338/.463, with a True Average of .267-not great for a first baseman or corner outfielder or a DH, but in this best of all projected outcomes, it’s certainly playable, especially if the alternatives are the uncertainties involving the health of Pat Burrell or Hank Blalock.

That said, that’s the sunniest scenario, and the relatively meager amount of money the Rays laid out suggests that they’re being realistic in terms of what their expectations for Anderson are. Cuban talent has been wildly inconsistent in terms of how well some players have done coming over, where others have flopped badly or had to adapt and adjust. As an exploratory investment goes, Anderson’s interesting, but he’s also not someone expected to go nuts at the plate now that he’s stateside.

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Optioned RHP Robert Ray and LHP Luis Perez to Las Vegas (Triple-A). [3/11]

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Optioned RHP Ryan Tucker to New Orleans (Triple-A). [3/11]

This isn’t usually the sort of move worth singling out to discuss, but as Joe Frisaro covered over on, Tucker’s dealing with a rare circulatory problem, Raynaud’s Disease, this on top of trying to come back from a 2009 season in which he was hampered with knee and oblique issues. Considering he’s one of the team’s top prospects and has always been seen as a live-armed flamethrower with upside, even the advantage of getting to pitch in a warm-weather venue like Miami doesn’t change the fact that this is a matter of no small concern. Here’s hoping he manages to carve out a career for himself just the same; even if the symptoms are considered a “nuisance” for most sufferers of Reynaud’s, gripping the ball effectively is as fundamental as it gets for a pitcher.

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Noted the retirement of OF-L Brian Giles. [3/11]

As should be obvious with Nomar’s sendoff, some players will be missed. And, even accepting the presumption of innocence before guilt as an absolute necessity in our society governed by laws, there’s apparently a very good reason that some will not be. I’ve written a lot about Giles over the years-upon his being dealt to Pittsburgh for Ricky Rincon, he’s the guy I consider half of my most famous mistake in my long history of writing occasionally smart, occasionally silly, and sometimes immensely stupid things-but some things take out of you the desire to say more.

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Optioned RHP Cody Scarpetta to Brevard County (High-A). [3/11]

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Returned LHP Jay Marshall to the Athletics. [3/9]

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Released LHPs Shawn Estes and Eddie Guardado. [3/10]

Not everybody gets the full-on viking funeral, with boating and arrows and ritual sacrifices and barbecue, but thena gain, not everyone is so readily identified with a single team that makes it easy to chuck it and say enough’s enough. Both aren’t what they were, of course, but getting cut this early in spring certainly gives both opportunities to catch on somewhere else, that despite checkered recent histories that suggest the end is near. Meanwhile, that the Nats would cut both Estes and Guardado (and reassign non-roster lefty Victor Garate) almost certainly means good things for NRI Ron Villone as far as his making the team as the pen’s second lefty should Jim Riggleman choose to keep one.

A version of a portioin of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider Insider.

Thanks to Kevin Goldstein and Clay Davenport for their input and insight.

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Ceramists? I wish we had baseball team names that cool!
Did I miss the discussion on Helton's contract?
The mixture of baseball transactions and Laurie Anderson references is why a select subset of American males adore you.
and American females ...
Almost exactly 11 years ago, you wrote..."Outfielder Chad Hermansen is going to be a better player than any of their current threesome of Brant Brown, Brian Giles, or Jose Guillen"

I love your writing, so I'm not intending snark here...your comments here gave me an itch to see what you thought of Giles back then....clearly not much (although you were clearly drinking the Chad Hermansen Kool-Aid).
No worries, chunkstyle, to some extent this might come off as just so many sour grapes. He hit for much better power in the major leagues from his age-28 through age-34 seasons than I think anyone would have speculated beforehand on the basis of what he'd hit up to that point; certainly, I did not, so I'm very clearly the dummy on this particular subject. We can blame age, Petco, or the coincidence of larger external factors coming into play, but his power started steeply dropping off in 2006.

Much better? In Cleveland, he hit 17 HR in 420ish PA in 1997 and 16 HR in a similar number of plate appearances in 1998. He was a part time player as he fought for plate appearances on a team with the likes of Manny Ramirez, David Justice, Jim Thome, Richie Sexon and even good part-timers like Mark Whiten. Giles OBP went from .368 to .396 from '97 to '98 while his SLG remained the same. Sure, the spike in SLG was a bit dramatic once he left the Indians, but the spike also coincides with him becoming a full-time player and with a hitter's "peak years" of 26-28.

Maybe he took a little extra of one thing or another, but there was a ton of talent there being underutilized by the Indians. As I recall, he was one of the hottest fantasy grabs once the trade was announced because people thought he would explode as a 20HR/20SB threat with full-time play.
He didn't peak between 26-28, though. His ISO surge--a roughly 100-point bump beyond his previous standards below .200--comes during a four-season spread from 28-31. He didn't become a 20-homer player, he became somebody hitting 35-39 homers per year. He didn't simply blossom as a full-time player, he was Audrey II.
If I say 26-28 and you say 28-31, we're both still saying 28. That aside, based on his performance just as an Indian, he would've easily cleared the 20HR plateau and probably been a 25-30 HR guy. His BB/PA ratio was also improving, suggesting some possible maturation. Perhaps a move to the weaker league played a part. And sure, maybe PEDs played a factor and maybe he's a rotten human being, but was his spike all that unusual?

Let's look at another player who got a late start to their careers. His first full season comprised only 144 games, in 1990 at the age of 27. His slash stats were .302/.397/.432. He had another full season the next year, appearing in 150 games, with similar slash stats of .307/.405/.452 and 14 home runs. In 1992 at the age of 29, his SLG spiked up to .544, albiet in only 135 games and hit 18 home runs, a career high. His career iso at this point is around the .150 range.

He spent 1993 and 1994 hurt, appearing in only 131 games over those seasons.

Then, at age 32, or "beyond his peak", his slash stats spike to .356/.479/.628, and he hit a career high 29 home runs. From his "peak seasons" of 27-28 when his SLG was in the .450 range, he continued to have a SLG over .550 and hit over 20 home runs (with a peak of 37 HR, which was unexpected) every year from age 32-38 (1995-2001). His ISO during these years is around the .250 range, a .100 point bump.

So, by now you probably guessed this was Edgar Martinez. By all accounts, a nice guy and not linked to steroids (regardless of what teammates Franklin and Segui might've been doing). He's looked at as a Hall of Famer if not for his late start. His spike appears the natural progression of an elite hitter.

So why is he elite and Giles not? Why is Edgar's peak legit and Giles somehow suspicious? Is it because his brother Marcus got caught, so guilt by association? Did Giles get off the juice, or was it simply Petco Park surpressing his performance?

Look, I'm not a big Giles fan, though he helped my fantasy team quite a few years. All I'm trying to say is that based on his Cleveland record, he was a good player who had indications he would get better with regular playing time. I believe he was underutilized by the Indians and, post-trade, is the classic example of a fantasy sleeper. But I question the notion that his peak performance came completely out of the blue or was solely related to PEDs, especially since there's no real consensus even here at BP on how or if PEDs help a ballplayer. We have no consensus on how maturity, regular playing time, changing leagues or teams or parks really affect a player. We have a few statistical models that kind of give us guesses, the kind of which think that Fukudome's numbers would translate well to the Cubs (wrong) while Fontenot would be overexposed as a starter (right). But just because you don't like the guy doesn't mean his numbers are more open to question. Heck, I never liked Frank Thomas as a person but I can respect his skills (and his stance on PEDs).

I'd love to see an article that compared Giles to similar peak performance "explosions" due to some factor that can actually be measured, such as change in playing time, team, or league (as opposed to steroids).
As an additional thought:

A Bonifay deal that worked out spectacularly, as Ricardo Rincon, whom the Pirates traded for Giles, spent much of the year hurt for Cleveland. Giles blossomed with the full-time opportunity, drawing walks as if he didn't play for Pittsburgh, while providing the Bucs with their first legitimate power threat since Barry Bonds left. He has at least four more years at this level, and could go slightly higher.

- Baseball Prospectus 2000

Why did they think Giles had four more years of production at this level if they were already past their prime?

No one's making an argument about "elite or not" save you, with yourself—Giles' production was clearly elite. Similarly, you're free to "question the notion that his peak performance came completely out of the blue or was solely related to PEDs," since you invented it; I said neither thing.

What I said was, "He hit for much better power in the major leagues from his age-28 through age-34 seasons than I think anyone would have speculated beforehand on the basis of what he'd hit up to that point." It's true: that is indeed what I think. As seems clear from what you've said yourself as far as expectations, so he did. And his career-best 2002 season transcended the standard set in 1999 by yet another 20 points of TAv, after his having already making a 40-point jump, a year that transcended even the expectation evinced in BP2000.

I didn't make a claim for causation of that peak, nor did I provide one for why he declined after his age-34 season. The fact that it came in 2006 is interesting, and coincident, and I said as much. His road performance (his at-bats away from Petco) dropped steeply in '06, but it's worth noting that they bounced back in '07; both were also his worst years since Indiandom. Then he had that last 2008 season where he climbed back to the standard he'd set (outside of his 2002 peak), with a .319 TAv.

In retrospect, his big ISO spike in his last season in the minors (.280) perhaps proved diagnostic; he'd turned 25 that season, after all. However, it was also his third full season at the level, and he hadn't topped .200 in either of the previous pair of spins, either with Charlotte in '94 or Buffalo with '95. That was always the root of my lower expectations with him, until he busted out in Pittsburgh.

For an amusing side note, although his walk ratio with the Indians had improved (his last two full seasons in the minors, he was around 10 percent), his UBB rate went down once he went to the Pirates and became a top slugger, dropping from 15.4 to 14.2, then to 14.9, then 11.4, then leaping back up in his peak year, his age-31 season (17.9), which isn't very close to 26 or 27, or 28. Does this mean he was becoming immature once he'd moved to the senior circuit? Of course not; I'd settle for observing that these numbers say that he was good at walking, which he always had been, and as it turned out, he always would be. Which makes for an obvious contrast with Sammy Sosa, someone whose ISO marks took a 100-point jump of their own, but in his case was attended by a dramatic increase in his walk rate; that very obviously did not happen with Giles.
Giles was aways known as a jerk here in Pittsburgh.

Just ask Jack Wilson how Brian Giles and Jason Kendall treated him and his wife. Back in '01 during Wilson's first Spring Traning with the Pirates his wife, Julie, took a job as a waitress at a local Florida restaraunt and Giles and Kendall found out where and got their kicks from bossing her around and treating her poorly. They apparently had even more "fun" by talking about it all quite loudly in the clubhouse where Wilson could clearly overhear.

Giles and Kendall, classy guys.
Yeah, another thing is reading that story I can't help but think about Marcus. If you had been through what Marcus went through and then found this out about your brother... Makes the McGuire brothers' feud sound kinda trite.
This makes me sad.

When my son (who was born in Pittsburgh) was six or seven, we took him up to see his beloved Pirates in Montreal. We got there in time to see the end of BP. My son was wearing his Pirates hat and Pirate shirt, carrying his Pirate Parrot mascot in one hand and wearing his Pirate's glove on the other. As one of thirty or so people in the stands (it was a Pirates-Expos game after all), I tried to get his hero Giles to come over. Ron Villone noticed my son and the two of them signed my son's glove. It was one of the few highlights of his 15+ years as a Pirates fan.

I had always kept a soft spot in my heart for both of them from that day. After this column, I can still at least root for Villone to get one more season.