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Saturday was a light day at the Anaheim Marriott, with a much higher ratio of rumors to action than we saw on Friday. There were no free-agent signings and just two trades, a light day by any standard.

  • The Braves have put a lot of eggs into the John Smoltz-as-starter basket, a decision that, as I understand it, wasn’t entirely their choice. Smoltz wants to start, and expressed that preference in strong enough terms to force the Braves’ hand.

    I think Smoltz is an extremely poor bet to last the year in the rotation. He’s made five starts in this century, hasn’t completed a full season as a starting pitcher since 1997, and isn’t that far removed from looking like his arm was going to fall off on any given pitch (the 2003 Division Series).

    Trading a live arm–Jose Capellan–for Danny Kolb is the wrong way to go about replacing Smoltz. Kolb’s high save total this year doesn’t mean he has magic closer skills; he just was the best option on a bad team, and put together a peak season that, even in it, featured a below-average strikeout rate and generally so-so peripherals. His freakishly high groundball-to-flyball ratio in the first half came back to earth in the second, as did his freakishly low extra-base hit rate. He’s just a guy, one lacking the skill set of the pitcher they traded away for him or even one that helps him standout among pitchers the Braves already have, such as Juan Cruz and Chris Reitsma.

    Kolb is just a guy. The lesson of his last 16 months isn’t that he’s special, but that good relievers often come from the waiver wire, or the independent leagues, or the failure of an infield prospect to hit. The Brewers did well to deal Kolb at the peak of his value, allowing him to become Paul Quantrill on someone else’s dime.

    The Braves will be sending a PTBNL to the Brewers as well. Now, I heard conflicting reports, but if it’s the name most often mentioned, left-handed Dan Meyer, Brewers’ GM Doug Melvin will have gone a long way to beefing up a woefully thin pitching staff.

  • If two small-market teams make a trade and no one talks about it, does it actually happen?

    The Pirates and Indians swapped contracts with some players attached, the Tribe getting Arthur Rhodes in exchange for Matt Lawton. It’s actually a pretty good baseball trade for both teams. The Indians’ bullpen improved dramatically in the second half of last year, but still lacked a top-tier left-hander. Rhodes is unlikely to get back to his 2000-01 peak, but should still be one of the game’s most reliable southpaws.

    Lawton gives the Pirates a much-needed dose of OBP and left-handedness. His acquisition would appear to lock Craig Wilson in as the everyday first baseman, although it’s possible that the Pirates could use Lawton or Jason Bay in center field, leave Wilson in right and acquire a first baseman. With a staff that, save the two power lefties, doesn’t strike out a ton of guys, they’ll be much better off with a real center fielder than whatever extra runs they might pick up by adding a hitter at first base.

Let me add my heartfelt congratulations to the pile accumulating next to Peter Gammons, who was named the winner of the J.G. Taylor Spink award for outstanding baseball writing. I’ve enjoyed his work for nearly 20 years now. To this day, my attention paid to “Baseball Tonight” hinges largely on whether he’s on the show. That I’ve been fortunate to meet him and talk some baseball with him is among the highlights of my career, and I don’t care how fanboy that sounds.

Peter loves baseball, a passion that he’s able to convey in everything he writes. For that alone, he deserves his spot among the game’s greatest scribes.

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