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I realize this is going to seem like piling on,
but I want to talk a little bit about Wednesday’s three-way deal.
The latest Allard Baird silliness has
garnered most of the attention
, but it’s really an interesting trade on all
sides.

The A’s added a right-handed hitter to play right field and bat fifth.
Jermaine Dye isn’t having a good season–.270/.330/.414 after last
night’s A’s debut–but his 1999 and 2000 placed him among the AL’s premier
right fielders. If he splits the difference between his first half and his
previous two years, he’ll help the A’s. The defensive upgrade over Ron
Gant
and Jeremy Giambi is significant as well,
and as we’ve seen
in Minnesota
, a good outfield defense can make a big difference in a team’s
run prevention.

Finally, this trade indicates that Jason Giambi is staying in Oakland
through the end of the season, which shows the A’s fan base that the team is
serious about winning, and willing to assume some financial risk to reach
their goal.

The Rockies get two young, cheap players with upside, while clearing space
for their best position-player prospect. It’s hard to overstate what Dan
O’Dowd has done: in Ben Petrick, Juan Uribe, Jose
Ortiz
, and Juan Pierre, he has an up-the-middle core that is
going to be ridiculously cheap for the next three years, and relatively
cheap beyond that. All four players should be average at worst, with all
four having chances to be excellent.

(You know, if there’s a big winner in this deal, it’s Ortiz, who hits the
Coors lottery at a young age. While he’s been a disappointment this
season–407 OPS with the A’s, a .273/.345/.449 line for Sacramento–his core
skills are still there, and he’s coming into his peak. This trade should
eventually make Ortiz a very wealthy man.)

Most importantly, the Rockies have locked in the low-cost core that will
help them afford the mega-contracts given to Todd Helton, Larry
Walker
, Mike Hampton, and Denny Neagle. O’Dowd may have
grasped one of the key features of the baseball economy: you build a roster
with $15-million players and $1-million players, while not spending money on
the guys in the middle.

But the Royals…here’s is Perez’s major-league career, broken down by
location:


                     AB     H   2B  3B  HR   BB   AVG   OBP   SLG
Coors Field        1435   445   70  32  31   58  .310  .337  .468
Everywhere else    1298   315   56  17  12   75  .243  .284  .340

(OBPs approximate; no HBP or SF included)


The Royals just acquired the second guy, a good-field, no-hit shortstop with
an inflated sense of his worth and an arbitration case looming. Last spring,
Perez turned down a four-year deal with the Rockies that would have been
worth about $17 million, holding out for a $28-million package. That’s $7
million a year for that second guy, which is a ton of money for someone who
might post a .290/.330/.390 line at his peak, and is going to have to
bat first or second to justify his salary.

The Royals didn’t want to pay a lot of money to Rey Sanchez, who they
will now try to deal, but they’ve just acquired a younger, more expensive
version of Sanchez:


                     AB     H   2B  3B  HR   BB   AVG   OBP   SLG
2001                381   117   13   5   0   11  .307  .327  .367
Career             3658  1011  153  23  12  178  .276  .314  .341


Each player is the premier defensive shortstop in his league (or was, until
yesterday). Given the age difference (Perez is 26, Sanchez is 33), Perez is
the better player to have going forward, but at what cost? The Royals would
have had Jermaine Dye for 2002 at about $9 million, given his off year in
2001, with no guarantee of having him beyond that. Perez is locked into the
Royals through 2003, although remember that the Royals have traded Dye and
Johnny Damon well before they reached free agency, and might well do
the same with Perez.

The Royals would have been better off trading Dye to the A’s for the package
the Rockies received. Jose Ortiz and Mario Encarnacion are six years
from free agency and three away from arbitration, and would immediately help
the Royals at two positions, second base and right field, where they have
holes. Getting Perez for Dye makes their lineup worse and doesn’t save them
much money, while guaranteeing continued good defense at shortstop in 2002.

The problem is that the Royals think they made a good deal. GM Allard Baird
said, "…we are excited about acquiring a young, accomplished player
like Neifi Perez. The opportunities to get such a talented player at this
position are few and far between."

But Perez isn’t very accomplished. He’s a good glove man who can’t hit, a
fact masked by his good fortune in reaching the major leagues with the
Rockies. Any examination of his performance record would have made that
obvious.

The closest parallel to the Royals’ side of this deal is
the Brewers’
signing of Jeffrey Hammonds over the winter
. That was a stupid
signing, a waste of $21 million that never would have been spent had anyone
in the Brewers’ organization bothered to take the effect of altitude on
offensive statistics seriously.

This trade is much the same, and another reminder that the knowledge gap is
just as significant, and just as important, as the revenue gap.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by
clicking here.

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