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Firing away in the hours before the first-ever Rule .5 Draft.

    Jason Schmidt really does look like he’ll be a Dodger, following some talk
    late yesterday that his three-year, $47-million deal with the team was not
    going to be closed. I love this contract; it’s the second time in two
    offseasons that the Dodgers have stretched the average annual value of a
    contract on a deal that’s a bit shorter than what a typical player will land.
    Rafael Furcal, one year ago, signed a three-year, $39-million deal, a contract
    I also loved.

    Say it with me now: it’s not the money, it’s the length. We just aren’t good
    enough at player projection–and players aren’t good enough at sustaining their
    value–to make contracts of longer than three years a good choice. This deal
    commits the Dodgers to Schmidt for about as far out as you can reasonably
    project his performance, and limits their exposure down the road.

    Nate Silver, in Unfiltered, had Schmidt’s 2007 PECOTA-projected ERA as 4.13, a
    sign that PECOTA’s been hanging out with the wrong crowd again, doing lines
    off hookers’ backs after Nate goes to bed at night. Schmidt is a power pitcher
    with pretty good durability and solid peripheral numbers, and he’s going to
    another home park that treats power pitchers well. Schmidt’s most recent
    win-loss records may have contributed to the idea that he’s something less,
    but those numbers are tainted by the support he’s received. There’s not much
    reason to think Barry Zito will outpitch him over the next three seasons, and
    for 2007, I think there’s a better chance that he challenges for the ERA title
    than a mark above 4.00. This is an excellent signing by the Dodgers, who are
    rapidly becoming the Sybil of the transaction wire.

    The Dodgers also added Luis Gonzalez and Mike Lieberthal, upgrading their
    bench in two spots with guys who could still start for some teams. The
    addition of Gonzalez, who can only play left field because of his arm, makes
    me think the Dodgers may sell high on Andre Ethier, using him to help fill out
    the bullpen or even add a starting pitcher.

  • Forty-seven million for Jason Schmidt, or $40 million for Ted Lilly? It’s
    in comparison to contracts like the other big one handed out yesterday that
    you start to see the value in the newest Dodger. Lilly has never thrown 200
    innings in a season, and has one ERA below 4.00–that in a shortened
    campaign–in his life. He’s not improving significantly as he crosses 30 years
    old, and it’s not like he has hidden value when you go into his peripherals. The
    going rate for a mid-rotation free-agent starter without much upside is eight
    figures a year, and the Cubs paid it. I just don’t see where this pushes a
    team that much closer to a title.

    Prediction: the Cubs will lead the league in walks allowed, going away.

  • The storm of activity that passed through didn’t miss Pennsylvania,
    although just one of the state’s two teams actually closed the deal. Late in
    the evening, the Phillies and White Sox swapped some pitchers, the White Sox
    sending Freddy Garcia out in exchange for Gavin Floyd and prospect Gio
    Gonzalez. (The latter, listed as a player to be named, was an open secret even
    before Kenny Williams let slip the name during the press conference announcing
    the deal.)

    The deal was a surprise not because the Sox moved Garcia, but for how little
    they received in return. Garcia is a horse, someone who’s made 31 starts and
    thrown 200 innings in every year since 2001. His peripherals have been moving
    southward a bit, especially his home-run rate, although I suspect there’s a
    park effect in play there. He’s certainly not an ace, but he’s right in line
    with the Lilly class of guys who have been getting rich the past few weeks.
    He’ll make $9 million in 2007 and be a free agent after, so he’s incredibly
    affordable. He even closed the year well. The Sox like Gonzalez–who they
    traded to the Phillies in the Jim Thome deal–and he’s considered a good
    prospect, but this is a weak return for a starting pitcher in the current
    market. I like that Brandon McCarthy will likely get a job out of this, and
    there’s something to the idea that Williams could use the savings on outfield
    or bullpen help. I just don’t think it was a good use of the resource.

    Even though the Phillies make out on paper, the deal does create a logjam for
    them, with six starters and no good candidates to be bumped. (Me, I’d lose the
    paperwork on the Adam Eaton contract, which is sponsored by Bad Idea Jeans and
    now just seems superfluous.) Jon Lieber trade rumors have been running
    rampant, although the deal that seemed closest, with the Brewers, is now
    supposed to be dead. The Phillies have essentially traded places with the
    White Sox, now having an extra starting pitcher to move. With holes in right
    field and, in my opinion, at third base, the Phillies need to leverage their
    edge better than the team they just traded with did.

  • The Pirates were on the brink of acquiring Adam LaRoche all day long, but
    the trade seems to have fallen through. It was something of a surprise that
    they could get LaRoche without trading one of their young starting pitchers;
    the most common version of the rumor had them swapping Mike Gonzalez for the
    first baseman. I think LaRoche just had his career year, but even if that’s
    the case, he’s an inexpensive left-handed bat who can impersonate Tino
    Martinez for a few years. That’s not a bad haul for a reliever if you can do
    it, especially for a team sorely lacking in left-handed power.
  • The Braves did complete a different deal for a reliever, sending Horacio
    Ramirez to Seattle for Rafael Soriano and, presumably, a car with no plates to
    drive off in. Soriano can be dominant at times, and he returned from surgery
    to throw 60 innings with a 2.25 ERA last season. He’s immediately the best
    relief pitcher on the roster, the closer-in-waiting behind Bob Wickman and a
    guy fantasy players will be drooling over come March.

    The deal doesn’t make much sense for the Mariners, who acquire a left-hander
    with lousy peripherals and some problems staying healthy. They already have
    Jarrod Washburn, who’s basically a better version of Ramirez. The new lefty
    has very little upside and might, if everything works, be back-of-the-rotation
    filler. Soriano was better last year and has more to offer going forward. The
    Ms will miss him.

  • Today’s Rule 5 draft will not be terribly active. The new CBA extended the
    amount of time during which teams can protect players from the draft, leaving
    a fairly narrow window between eligibility for it and eligibility for
    minor-league free agency. The pool of players has been shrunk considerably.

    Moreover, with this being the first draft after the change, what you have is a
    group of players who were mostly eligible last season and who didn’t find
    their way onto a 40-man roster this year and are now one year older.

    Don’t look for any Dan Uggla picks in this year’s draft, and it may be that
    the Rule 5’s days of being an interesting part of the offseason are over.

Unfiltered posts as warranted, meetings wrap-up Friday. Thanks for taking the
ride with us this week, as it’s been a blast for me.