Today’s construct is this: an All-Star team comprised of the best players at each position in each league who find themselves with new teams in 2005. Whether by way of trade, free agency or press gang, it matters not–to qualify for this list one must simply be slated to be wearing a new uniform for the upcoming season. The selections were made based on 2004 performance and how much PECOTA likes them for 2005. Prejudice, malice, avarice and all other ice were left out of the consideration process except for when they were needed to break ties.
A.J. Pierzynski, Chicago White Sox
In an offseason in which there were very few catching coups to be had, Kenny Williams of the White Sox grabbed about the only one. Even that comes with a big asterisk: Pierzynski’s very availability is cause for concern, due to his steep fall-off in production at age 28, and questions about his attitude. He was, by far, the youngest catching free agent on the market after being non-tendered by the Giants.
Damian Miller, Milwaukee Brewers
Most of the catchers who had good 2004 seasons stayed put. Miller, who had the seventh-best VORP among American League backstoppers, was the exception. Miller might not have another double-figure VORP year in him but he’s bound to be an improvement over Chad Moeller, who had the worst VORP of any major-league catcher last year.
Richie Sexson, Seattle Mariners
If you’re over the age of 10, you’ve figured out by now that the universe is not an orderly place. If it were, Carlos Delgado would have been signed long before Sexson, not weeks and weeks later.
Carlos Delgado, Florida Marlins
Say whatever you will about the signing of Delgado by the Marlins but at least say this: it shows they’re still in the game. After their self-immolation after their first World Championship, it’s nice to see. Then again, the same could also be said about the Tigers with regard to the Magglio Ordonez signing, so perhaps that isn’t a glowing recommendation.
Alex Cora, Cleveland Indians
Yes, Tony Womack–another N.L. refugee–had a better season than Cora did last year, but when a man posts his best EQA ever at the age of 34, eyebrows must be raised Eugene Levy-style. Cora had fewer strikeouts than walks last year, which impressed transient All-Star team voters. Well, voter.
Jeff Kent, Los Angeles Dodgers
If only Kent had gotten rolling a couple of years earlier, he would be a slam-dunk Hall of Famer. As it is, he should still have a very decent shot. The election of Ryne Sandberg has got to help. Consider that Kent’s career adjusted EQA is .292 to Sandberg’s .283. Hall of Fame voters won’t consider things like that, though, but they will look at things like home runs (Kent: 302-282), RBI (Kent: 1207-1061) and batting average (Kent: .289-.285). A couple more decent seasons and he should be an excellent bet. If he plays halfway decently until he’s 40, he’ll be a lock.
Adrian Beltre, Seattle Mariners
With Beltre, we’re all Missourians–we need to be shown something before believing that 2004 wasn’t just a spike on the EKG of his career. Corey Koskie, now with the Blue Jays, stands in as the runner-up in case Beltre cannot fulfill the duties that come with the office.
Troy Glaus, Arizona Diamondbacks
As it stands now, Glaus might be the only thing standing between sub-mediocrity and oblivion for the Diamondbacks. If he gets injured again…well, you might not want to let small children see the results.
Edgar Renteria, Boston Red Sox
Renteria was the choice over Orlando Cabrera of the Angels, the man he is replacing. Between Cabrera and Nomar Garciaparra, the Sox had a shortstop VORP of more than 30 runs. That was certainly passable, but Renteria should better it considerably.
Omar Vizquel, San Francisco Giants
Among the top five candidates, Jose Valentin would also be a good choice, but it’s close. Vizquel is coming off the best season of the group (which also includes Royce Clayton of Arizona, David Eckstein of St. Louis and Cristian Guzman of Washington) by a wide margin, so he got the nod despite being the oldest player on the board. Guzman is headed into his prime, but, as with his former Minnesota teammate Pierzynski, one must be wary of a player who is allowed to leave at such a young age (26).
Dave Berg, Boston Red Sox
Left field had the slimmest pickings of any position, with just three players, one of whom (Marty Cordova) is 35 years old and has played just nine big-league games since 2002. In the end, it came down to two players with negative VORPs in 2004, Berg and Denny Hocking, now of Kansas City. Berg got the nod if only for the esoteric reason that Hocking had a slugging average of .219 at Coors Field last year. Granted, it was in 46 at-bats, but still, you just can’t reward that kind of behavior. Meanwhile, what do the OBP-obsessed Red Sox want with Berg, a player who walked just four times in 158 plate appearances last year? Much ado about nothing, really. We’re arguing over three men who might have less than 50 combined games left in their big league careers.
Carlos Lee, Milwaukee Brewers
For whatever it is worth, every major player named “Carlos” was in transit this offseason except for Carlos Guillen. This includes Carlos Baerga, who has yet to sign as of this writing. This Carlos transience is probably not statistically significant.
Steve Finley, Anaheim Angels
The other key man in the trade that brought Lee to Milwaukee–Scott Podsednik–is just off Finley’s stern in this one. Finley had a somewhat better season last year and projects to do so again, but not by enough that anyone should be too surprised if Podsednik slipped passed him. As with many of the selections here, this should not be construed as an endorsement of the free-agent deal the player received. Extreme long shot: Jay Payton of Boston.
Carlos Beltran, New York Mets
No surprise here. Beltran laps a field that includes only Jeromy Burnitz (now of the Cubs) and Ricky Ledee (Dodgers) as serious contenders. It wouldn’t matter who his competition was, though, he’d still probably hold them off. Of all the players in transit headed into 2005, Beltran is probably the one with the least amount of question marks–provided one leaves length and amount of contract out of the discussion.
Magglio Ordonez, Detroit Tigers
Boy, if this was four or five years ago, you’d have a real action crop right here:
Player EqA 2000 2001 Magglio Ordonez: .304 .310 Richard Hidalgo: .315 .271 Jermaine Dye: .309 .280 Juan Gonzalez: .282 .321 Sammy Sosa: .330 .367
Those are the history-adjusted EQAs of those five right fielders who now find themselves with, respectively, Detroit, Texas, Chicago, Cleveland and Baltimore. It doesn’t look as promising anymore. According to PECOTA, Ordonez has the best shot to put up the best season. Again, his presence on this all-star team is not an endorsement of the deal the player in question was handed by his new team. Sosa could just as easily fill the bill here.
J.D. Drew, Los Angeles Dodgers
Drew really doesn’t have any competition here. His 2004 VORP was much more than all the other contenders combined. Should the injury demons stab him once more with their pitchforks, Dustan Mohr in Colorado might get this slot by default.
Next time: the Transient All-Star pitching staffs.