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While Chris Kahrl pecks away at his latest Transaction Analysis (look for
it this weekend), here’s a look at how the Baseball Prospectus staff
broke down last week’s gathering in Dallas.

Pennsylvania Blues

Keith Law: Can I revise my Pirates essay to make it a comparison of
Cam Bonifay to the average Palm Beach County voter?

Rany Jazayerli: As bad as things get in Kansas City–even when we
lose out on the only free agent we actually wanted, Tom Gordon–I
have to remind myself that it could be worse. I could be a Pirates fan.

$3 million per year for a 38-year-old left-hander [Terry
Mulholland
]who just posted a 5.11 ERA with Leo Mazzone as his pitching
coach.

That was the genius move of the day. $4.875 million a year for Derek
Bell
was the not-so-genius move.

Let’s do some math here:

    $3.000 million: Terry Mulholland
    $4.875 million: Derek Bell
    $3.750 million: Pat Meares
    $6.500 million: Kevin Young
    ---------------
   $18.125 million

That’s enough to pay for Mike Mussina or Mike Hampton and
have enough left over to sign Frank Castillo or Jeff Nelson.

Joe Sheehan: I’d propose a "worst-signing" contest, but
we’d have to split into Pennsylvania and non-Pennsylvania divisions.

Dave Pease: Ed Wade actually rationalized not offering arbitration
to Kent Bottenfield by saying "we didn’t want to commit that
much to a pitcher". Meanwhile, he signs Jose Fricking Mesa for the
majority of that, then blows the rest and more on Rheal Cormier. I
don’t get it.

Derek Bell?!? (giggle, snicker)

JS: What next? Lee Guetterman for two years and $8MM?

Jeff Bower: The Mariners lose their third Hall of Famer in 30 months
and I find myself feeling bad for Jeff Hildebrand.

Kevin Appier…and Other Old Pitchers

Gary Huckabay: Kevin Appier, $8-10 million per year.
Yikes…if he hadn’t been worked like a dog, he’d be worth it.

I guess Gil Heredia is a bargain.

JS: The Rick Reed contract sure looks better, anyway. And
Darren Dreifort is going to be a steal at five years and $55MM.

Appier got the money and the headlines, but Steve Trachsel at half
the time and a third the salary is a much better idea, no?

Chris Kahrl: Trachsel is a great signing, and one the Rangers should
have been ready to match. The fact that the Rangers lost out on Frank
Castillo too should make the Alex Rodriguez signing about as neat as
the Reds having Ken Griffey Jr. and not contending. Is that supposed
to make Seattlites happy?

DP: Trachsel will like the infield in New York…an awesome pickup.
I can’t peg the Appier signing, except as a "well, we had this
eight-figure salary all freed up for Hampton, so let’s blow it on the
next-best guy".

Except I’d certainly take Dreifort over Appier at this point.

Jeff Hildebrand: I’m finding the flurry of long-term contracts for
pitchers rather interesting. There are an awful lot of these that could
easily blow up by halfway through the contract.

RJ: Fiscal insanity:

Kevin Appier, 4.52 ERA last year: four years, $42 million
Darren Dreifort, 4.16 ERA last year: five years, $55 million
Andy Ashby, 4.92 ERA last year: three years, $22.5 million
Steve Trachsel: 4.80 ERA last year: two years, $7 million

And my favorite:

Frank Castillo: 3.59 ERA last year: two years, $4.5 million

Yeah, I realize I’m only looking at one season…and ignoring age…and
Castillo’s injury history…blah, blah, blah…. Kevin Appier is getting
paid more than four times as much as Castillo, and I’m not sure I would
take even odds that he’ll have the better year in 2001.

As mad as I’ve become at the MLBPA for getting their stars all the coin
they can get while ignoring the fate of the rank and file, I can’t be more
upset than I am with owners who strike out at getting Mike Mussina and Mike
Hampton, and come to the conclusion that Appier or Dreifort or Reed are
worth just $4 million a year less.

The MLBPA and the agents’ brilliant plan–and I’m sure it’s a plan–is to
have all the lesser free agents wait until the stars sign first. Somebody
is going to give Mike Hampton the money he wants. When he gets it, not only
does he define the market, but all the teams that lose out on him have
money to burn and fewer guys to spend it on. The wise man puts that money
in the bank and pulls it out the next time a marquee free agent shows up,
but then we already knew that wise men were in short supply in front offices.

Astros/Tigers Trade

JB: Did Randy Smith take a smart pill today or what?

CK: "Stupendously idiotic" comes to mind. I want to blame
Tal Smith; maybe Herk Robinson pulled this off via fax.

GH: This stretches credibility. The Astros have some bright people,
and Randy Smith loses at Microsoft Hearts.

Mat Olkin: The Astros’ new philosophy: "If you can’t get along
with Matt Mieske, you can’t play for us."

Mitch Meluskey would have to have issued death threats to most of
the Astros’ front office for this to have made any sense at all.

Derek Zumsteg: So that’s Roger Cedeno, Chris Holt and
Mitch Meluskey for Brad Ausmus, Doug Brocail and
Nelson Cruz.

I remember back when I thought the Astros were smart. I wouldn’t have
traded Meluskey for all three of those guys.

KL: The only explanation I can think of–and I don’t buy it
myself–is that the Astros think Meluskey’s shoulder is permanently fouled
up and he’s going to turn into Todd Greene.

RJ: You know how Bill Veeck once let the Browns’ fans manage the
club for a day? Well in Detroit, they let the fans run the club one day
every year. Not trusting them, of course, they tried to minimize the damage
by putting that day in the offseason.

At least that’s the best explanation I can come up with for today’s move,
since from a medical standpoint it’s far less likely that Randy Smith has
regenerated brain cells.

This is an absurd trade. Meluskey is 27, four years away from free agency
and hit .300/.401/.487 last year. Ausmus is 32, his contract runs out in a
year or two and he hit .266/.357/.365 last year. He’s also much more
expensive. There’s no defensive difference or park effect that can make up
for those points.

The Astros have to claim that they won this part of the deal, because
there’s no way they can justify trading Cedeno (26 years old, .383 OBP in
an off year) and Chris Holt for two middle relievers, one of whom is 34 and
had a 4.09 ERA in 2000.

The Tigers add two OBP machines at key up-the-middle positions without
giving up anything of lasting value. In a market as hyped up over middle
relievers as this one is, the single best thing a team can do is cash in on
that market by selling high on their own middle relievers.

I just never would have guessed the Tigers would be that team.

Michael Wolverton: To add insult to injury, Holt was the one Astro
starter who seemed to benefit from the move to Enron Field. He was the best
Astro starter at home last year, with a 6.7-5.7 (.537) SNWL record. Unlike
Jose Lima, Shane Reynolds, et al, he had never gotten a big
boost from pitching in the Astrodome.

Into Thin Air

JS: If The Great Changeup Experiment works, the Rockies will win the
NL West; if it doesn’t, there’s really no one to challenge the Dodgers.

DP: The latter. I’ll believe Denny Neagle can pitch at Coors
Field when I see it. If the Rox do something dumb, like unload Pedro
Astacio
for garbage, I don’t really catch the upside–Astacio isn’t as
good as Mike Hampton, but he isn’t all that far from him, either.

KL: I think the Dodgers did more by standing pat than most teams did
by diving in, and their only external addition (Ashby) is probably another
time bomb. I’m not a huge Dreifort fan, but better him at $11MM/year than
Appier at similar money.

DZ: You really think that the Dodgers are going to close the gap on
the Giants without Davey Johnson? I don’t see that happening. Sure, we can
wait another year as Livan Hernandez‘s arm hangs on for dear life,
they’re old and Russ Davis is a fire hydrant at third base. I still
can’t see them as being the Dodgers’ inferior at this point, being a much
superior offensive team (especially with the Dodgers giving up on Todd
Hundley
, who at least was a bat) and only slightly worse in terms of
pitching staffs.

RJ: Why are we writing off the Giants again? They’ve won the
division two of the last three years, they have both the NL MVP and its
best player, and even I’m willing to concede there’s something funny going
on in Hernandez’s arm.

CK: I guess I’m in the Rockies’ camp, in that I don’t see a team
with zeroes in center field and at shortstop and not much more at catcher
as being all that strong. Three outs in the lineup, plus an iffy rotation?

I agree that it is between the Rockies and the Dodgers.

RJ: I love the Rockies’ gamble. It’s a big one and could blow up in
their faces, but there isn’t a pitcher in baseball more suited for Coors
than Hampton, and now the Rockies can start using their #1 draft picks to
grab hitters in the hope of finding Todd Heltons at other positions.
Unlike three years ago, they understand their park better than their
players do. Jeffrey Hammonds, take a hike. They can get the same
numbers from Ron Gant, even if he isn’t all that good.

JH: I’m not sure about that. I don’t see too many signs that the
Rockies’ offense will be anything special. If the experiment doesn’t work,
it’s going to be spectacularly ugly given the lengths of the contracts.

Some Shortstop Signs

KL: OK, Clay, I’m curious: What do you project for Alex Rodriguez in
The Ballpark?

Clay Davenport: Projected in Texas with current high offense and a
1.06 park factor:

        AB    H   DB  TP  HR   BB   SO    R  RBI   SB   CS OUT   BA   OBP  SLG   EqA   EqR
2001   575  196   30   3  50   82  111  107  126   21   8  386 .341  .423 .664  .340   130
2002   547  177   28   2  44   80  108  100  114   19   7  376 .324  .410 .623  .327   115
2003   552  186   32   3  45   93  106  107  119   19   7  372 .337  .433 .650  .341   126

DZ: Alex is gone, we’re going to be freezing our ass off in the rain
under overcast skies until March, and our consolation prize is likely to be
Mike Bordick.

I think they’re going to trade for a veteran bat at third base, sign
Bordick to an expensive short deal, and go from there. If Carlos
Guillen
is on the field Opening Day I’ll be shocked.

JB: Not me. I heard that the team’s Promotions Department is looking
for a new Mariner Moose, and I bet Guillen can fit into the outfit with
some minor alterations.

DZ: That’s the other thing…why do teams constantly fire their
mascots? The Mariner Moose, for instance, not only has nothing to do with
Seattle as a mascot, but gets fired every year and replaced with a
less-talented guy, to the point where all he does now is stand on the
dugout and clap.

It’s a lot like managing the Reds.

JS: The Rangers haven’t helped themselves as much as people
think…I love Rodriguez, but this team’s #2 starter is a ticking time bomb
and behind that is even worse. Plus, the team age shot through the roof
this month.

DP: Bah. If Galarraga and Caminiti put up their numbers this team is
going to bust lots of games wide open.

KL: I actually think the Andres Galarraga signing was OK.
Sure, they overpaid, but money obviously is no object to Tom Hicks (what a
different tune from last winter) and it is only a one-year deal. Carlos
Pena
should be ready to permanently inherit the position by late
summer. They still have Mike Lamb in the fold for when Ken
Caminiti
‘s inevitable breakdown.

The pitching, though…. Pinning your playoff hopes on Darren
Oliver
, Justin Thompson and Ryan Glynn?

MW: The Ranger rotation isn’t in great shape, but I don’t expect them to
be quite a disastrous as they were in 2000, even in the unlikely event that
they stand pat. Kenny Rogers is solid. Sure, Rick Helling‘s arm
might fall off, but that’s been predicted for the past several years and it
hasn’t happened yet.

I like Doug Davis. He was the Rangers’ best starter in the final two
months of 2000 (yes, damning with faint praise). Thompson is a wild card,
of course, and I admit I’m not up-to-date on the progress of his recovery.
He was such a great pitcher before the injury I think there’s reason for
optimism. Glynn doesn’t excite me, but not many #5 starters do. Hopefully,
Oliver will make his contribution to the team as a three-million-dollar
peanut vendor.

If you look at the Rodriguez signing by itself, you could conclude that the
Rangers finally understand what free agency should be all about: pay a
premium for the elite players, e.g., Barry Bonds and Greg
Maddux
, instead of bargain-hunting for the Darren Olivers of the world.
But then you have to face that they also signed Galarraga, Caminiti, and
Mark Petkovsek. The one thing you can say about those three is that
they aren’t blocking important young players. (I’m skeptical about Lamb,
and Galarraga’s one-year contract shouldn’t interfere much with Pena’s
career path.)

The only Ranger move this offseason I’d call unambiguously bad is the
Randy Velarde trade. It leaves Frank Catalanotto without a
place to play and it also could squeeze out Scott Sheldon.

Bubba Trammell for Donne Wall

JS: Maybe now he’ll get a chance…Bubba Trammell to the
Padres for exactly what the Mets needed, a decent middle reliever (Donne
Wall
).

Trammell has to be the left fielder, right? Right?

DZ: Nope. Tony Gwynn plays right field–where he’ll make
Jay Buhner look like a paragon of defensive prowess–while Mike
Darr
moves to left field. Trammell prays for injury.

JH:I would guess that with Gwynn out there Trammell isn’t going to
have to pray too hard.

DP: The Pads could trade Eric Owens or get tired of Ruben
Rivera
very soon after the season starts if not before, and Darr can
handle center field.

Of course, Trammell will play at least 81 games subbing for Gwynn and
probably pinch-hit for Darr (or even Klesko) with some frequency against
left-handers.

CK: Why does a team already paying through the nose for Turk
Wendell
, Dennis Cook, John Franco and Armando
Benitez
, not to mention having Rick White around…why does that
team need another reliever?

RJ: What’s wrong with Donne Wall? There are only five relievers in
baseball who have relieved 40 times or more the last three years with ERAs
under 3.50 each year: Wall, Trevor Hoffman, Mariano Rivera,
John Rocker and Danny Graves. Which one doesn’t fit?

Wall is one of the best middle relievers in baseball, so unless his arm is
ailing, he’s a nice pickup no matter who the Mets have in their bullpen.

I do hope that Bubba Trammell gets a shot, though.

KL: Wasn’t Wall hurt for much of last season? I’m not so sure this
was a smart move for the Mets; he seems like a big breakdown risk.

OK, I remembered where I found the info on Wall. Here’s the report that
gets me, from RotoNews on September 20:

"Wall may face surgery on a frayed labrum in his shoulder, the San
Diego Union-Tribune
reports."

I hunted high and low on Lexis-Nexis, and couldn’t find anything after that
that indicated that he had had the surgery. (The article to which the
report links says it’s the underside of his rotator cuff, not his labrum.)
If he didn’t, he’s a time bomb. If he did, rehab is not short, unless they
found nothing wrong in there (doubtful). I’m wagering that he didn’t have
it, since it’s not showing up in the media anywhere.