My dictionary defines ‘transient’ as someone who collects vintage trolley tickets, which is pretty much why I used my dictionary as kindling this morning. What follows are the best players at each position in both leagues who have changed teams since the 2006 season ended.
AL: J.R. House, Baltimore Orioles
There be but slim pickings in this discipline. House is something like fourth or fifth on the Orioles depth chart and he’s not on the 40-man roster, but he is invited to camp, at least. The O’s have extended spring training invitations to seven catchers this year and, among them, House has the second-best VORP projection behind starter Ramon Hernandez. He’s way ahead of veteran backup Paul Bako (-5.8) and current third-stringer and Rule 5 pick Adam Donachie (-11.1); he’s also ahead of Eli Whiteside. If you’re more comfortable with a name, there’s always Mike Piazza of the A’s, but he won’t be doing much catching this year.
NL: Bengie Molina, San Francisco Giants
Molina was last year’s American League Transient All-Star catcher when he went from the Angels to the Blue Jays. He continues to hit fairly well, but his defense remains on the downward slope. At 32, he’s pretty young for a Giant.
AL: Josh Phelps, New York Yankees
Yes, it’s the man who graced the cover of the 2003 edition of the annual. As you’re probably aware, first base is a National League-dominated position, so we’ve got to go pretty far down the line to find a viable candidate in the junior league who also fits the criterion of being with a new team. Phelps is up against it in that he’s going to be hard-pressed to unseat either Andy Phillips or glove-rep guy Doug Mientkiewicz, both of whom are blocking his way. Phelps’ VORP projection is higher than both of theirs, but that’s not really saying much. I think a lot of people believe Phillips is still a young player, but Phelps is actually a year younger.
NL: Adam LaRoche, Pittsburgh Pirates
LaRoche is in his prime and he’s coming off a very nice season, and he’s going to a park that is supposed to favor lefty yankers, so there’s no reason to expect this will not have a pleasant outcome.
AL: Josh Barfield, Cleveland Indians
There’s something a little off about a player working his way all the way to the majors, winning a job, holding down that job for his entire rookie season, and then getting traded immediately thereafter. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing for either party, but it just doesn’t seem like it should be the natural progression of things. The Padres now have Kevin Kouzmanoff at third and this next gentleman at second, so you can’t argue with the logic of it from their end.
NL: Marcus Giles, San Diego Padres
Barfield’s successor has alternated Hall of Fame-caliber seasons with pedestrian ones the past four years. The good news for the Pads is that if he maintains that pattern, this year will be one of the good ones. Oh, wait; according to the 1958 Sportswriters Law of Stating the Obvious But Not Necessarily Provable, I’m obligated to say something about how playing with his older brother will give him a boost. I think it goes a little something like this:
Bros’ pose no longer goes nose-to-nose
(San Diego – BP) After years of battling it out as enemies, the Giles boys have finally joined forces against a common foe: the rest of the Senior Circuit. Woe betide Padres opponents as brothers Brian (36) and Marcus (29) find themselves in the same big league lineup for the very first time. Look for Marcus to be inspired and show great improvement over 2006, his last season with the Atlanta Braves…
AL: Akinori Iwamura, Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Hey man, is he really a transient or a rookie? Is he even going to be a third baseman? These are both good questions, but more basically, they help illustrate that there really weren’t any other viable candidates for this slot.
NL: Kevin Kouzmanoff, San Diego Padres
One must suppose it’s a pretty good trade when key parties on either side both end up on the Transient All-Star team. His PECOTA projection is about the same as that of Alex Gordon‘s of the Royals, but he’s only going to get about five percent of the ink going into the season.
AL: Julio Lugo, Boston Red Sox
Lugo was a god in 2005; walking among the clouds, granting the wishes of little children, and changing the very nature of the universe by his presence in it. After a smudgy 2006, though, he’s projecting in the Jack Wilson/David Eckstein/Orlando Cabrera stratum for this season. The Red Sox would take the middle ground 2004 version of Lugo-the one with the 6.8 WARP3-and be glad of it.
NL: Brent Lillibridge, Atlanta Braves
Lillibridge is not yet on the 40-man roster, and doesn’t register on the Braves’ depth chart at mlb.com, but that’s not going to prevent me from listing him here. He’s got the eighth-highest VORP projection among National League shortstops, and if you threw him in with the second basemen, he’d do just about as well.
AL: Frank Catalanotto, Texas Rangers
In order to succeed, the Rangers will have to score runs by the container ship-load, which means Catalanotto is going to have prove PECOTA (7.8 VORP) wrong by a good margin if he’s going to contribute to that end.
NL: Alfonso Soriano, Chicago Cubs
Yes, I’m aware that he’s projecting as the Cubs center fielder at the moment, but I’m going to assume that logic will eventually take hold and he’ll end up in a corner and that Felix Pie will hold down the middle before too long. In any case, Soriano is the favorite to be the 2007 Transient MVP.
AL: Gary Matthews Jr., Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Think of all the money the two Los Angeles-area teams spent on centerfielders recently. Then contemplate what sane people could do with that kind of dough.
NL: Juan Pierre, Los Angeles Dodgers
For their shekels, the Dodgers got the player with the 25th-highest PECOTA projection among center fielders (11.9). Oh, my bad-that’s 25th among National League centerfielders. Overall, he’s 37th. Pretty.
AL: J.D. Drew, Boston Red Sox
It’s hard to believe that Drew is already 31 years old. It seems just like yesterday he was telling the Phillies where to get off. It’s an interesting notion to expect him to be healthier after he’s 30 than he was before. How many instances of that have occurred in major league history? Besides Paul Molitor?
NL: Moises Alou, New York Mets
If Alou is healthy, he’ll punch right past his VORP projection of 19.1. If not, the Mets haven’t invested all that much in him. After seeming to have lost his power stroke his first two years with the Cubs, he’s since had three straight years of slugging over .500. So, even if only plays the 100 games or so he did last year, it’s not a bad investment.
Frank Thomas, Toronto Blue Jays
Thomas will join the 500-homer club this year. At one time, he seemed like a lock for 3,000 hits, too, but with 2262 as he comes into his age-39 season, he’s not going to get there. More uniquely, though, he will push into the top 10 in walks all-time in 2007. He’ll pass Harmon Killebrew, Pete Rose, Stan Musial, Darrell Evans, and Eddie Yost this year, winding up ninth. The hurdles get a lot higher after that, but it’s still a pretty nifty feat.
Next time out, we’ll look at the 2007 Transient All-Star pitchers.