Sunday, December 23, 2007

Batista, Frascatore for Plesac trade

June 12, 1999: Tony Batista is traded by the Arizona Diamondbacks with John Frascatore to the Toronto Blue Jays for Dan Plesac.

I don’t know why this is one of my favorite Jays trades, others come to mind (the Carter and Alomar trade) that were more important in the history of this team. But at the time, I was growing into a more passionate and more intelligent baseball fan (notice I did not say I WAS or am an intelligent fan, just that I was becoming and still am, more intelligent). This transaction came at a time where I lived and died by the team’s win/loss record (I had no girlfriend at the time) and in retrospective, I wish I had access to more information at the time as I knew nothing of Batista or Frascatore. Batista arrived and made an immediate impact, batting 2nd in the lineup in his first game and hitting a home run with that unorthodox swing along with batting in 4 during a 13-4 win by the Jays. Just for good measure, Frascatore came in for a perfect 8th inning of mopup duty. That same day, the Jays announced that their usual starting shortstop, Alex Gonzalez would be out for the season. Frascatore ended the season with an ERA+ of 144 in 37 innings and a VORP of 9.9 while Batista hit 26 home runs, with an OPS+ of 122 and a Value Over Replacement Player of 36.1 in is 98 games with the Jays.

This trade was a clear win for the Jays in it’s first season as it provided them with the shortstop they needed to compete in the AL East as well as what became a reliable reliever by giving up a left-handed specialist reliever. Plesac pitched superbly in his role for the Diamondbacks; 21.7 innings, an ERA+ of 139, VORP of 5.4 and holding left-handed batters to an OPS of .505. However, with the Jays, he was an unneeded asset as they already had Graeme Lloyd, who established a similar ERA+ of 136.

The Jays of course failed to make the playoffs (something that broke my heart then, now it’s a yearly occasion…did I mention that I didn’t have a girlfriend at the time?) In 2000 both Batista and Frascatore regressed while Plesac improved statistically. Batista shifted over to third base and hit 41 home runs, but only got on base 30.7% of the time, establishing an OPS+ of 102 while Frascatore threw 73 innings while only establishing an ERA+ of 93 and a value slightly over that of a replacement player. Plesac somehow became more dominant against RHB than LHB and in 40 innings pitched, his ERA+ was of 152 and his VORP of 6. Following this season, Plesac re-signed with Toronto. However, 2001 was not the season for Batista (271 at bats, 13 home runs, OPS+ of 67 before finally being waived) or Frascatore (16.3 innings, 209 ERA+, waived in May and never heard from again). In retrospect, 2001 should be known as the year the ace made his return as Roy Halladay returned to the Majors.

This trade makes for a great story…so much promise in the beginning, and then in an instant it was gone. The 27 year old Batista found some of his form once arriving in Baltimore and was even named to the 2002 All-Star team. Plesac threw well in his second stint with Toronto before being traded to Philadelphia for Cliff Politte, who like Batista and Frascatore before him showed lots of promise in his first half-season with the Jays only to falter in his second. I don’t know what the morale of the story is, perhaps it is that as a sports fan we should never become too excited about a transaction because anything can and will happen, for better or for worse.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Stark weighs in, Eckstein signing

Short update before the holidays, if I have any spare time, I'm going to work on correcting the articles and maybe some new articles...whatever the mood strikes me to do.

  •'s Jayson Stark weighs in on the American League, asking J.P. Ricciardi and two other general managers (including one of my personal favs, Mark Shapiro) about what they do to attempt to vault the powers in the AL. Ricciardi says pitching depth could be the answer...

  • I've ignored to mention the fact that David Eckstein has been signed. The scrappy SS should bring a good leadoff bat to the lineup and spare Jays fans from seeing McDonald penciled in every day. Johnny Mac is probably already penciled in for any Halladay start to field those ground balls although Eckstein is not bad defensively as proven by this article. He had an OPS+ of 93 last season, a VORP of 20.7 and stole ten bases while only being caught once. He also brings two World Series rings to the locker room which is never bad thing. Plus an inexpensive one year deal reduces the risk, he'll be playing to get a bigger contract in the next free agent year.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Ricciardi Project Follow-Up

The Ricciardi Project was meant to be an objective statistical overview of the trades made by Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi in his first five seasons in that position.
Of the 27 trades analyzed in the document, 11 players from 7 of the trades them spent time in the Majors with the Jays or the team they were traded to by Ricciardi in 2007.

Chad Gaudin : Gaudin became a dependable, if not ordinary, starter for Beane and co. in the last season, logging almost 200 innings and going 11-13 with an ERA+ of 95 and a Value Over Replacement Player of 24.3 along with 10 win shares. Gaudin was traded for Dustin Majewski who was a fringe prospect for the Jays and was lost in the AAA portion of the 2007 Rule Five draft to Texas. Gaudin may turn out be a good number 3 starter in the Majors but he would not have had room on the 2007 Jays roster (although he would have been a better option than Towers before the emergence of McGowan and Marcum). Speaking of Towers…here’s an interesting read that over-values him, Towers is not at the same level as Silva…

The Bush/Overbay trade: Obviously when Ricciardi acquired Overbay he wasn’t thinking “I need a first baseman who will hit 10 home runs and get on base only 31.5% of the time”. Big things were expected of Overbay during the 2007 season and as he fought through injuries he could not live up to these expectations, only contributing 6 Win Shares to the team. The regression of Overbay along with Vernon Wells kept the Jays from contending and both will be looked upon to rebound this year. Luckily for J.P.’s public image both Gabe Gross and David Bush regressed during the 2007 season; Gross was able to again throw over 175 innings but was lucky to go 12-10 with an ERA of 5.12 and ERA+ of 88. Gross was again used off the bench by the Brewer but could not manage to get on base as often as in 2006, falling from an OBP of .382 to .329. When looking at VORP, the advantage goes to the Brewers for the second consecutive year as Overbay was -3.6, Gross was 2.9 and Bush was 13 Over Replacement Player and the two contributed 10 total Win Shares. 2008 will be an important season for Overbay to turn it around…

O-Dog and Glaus: The other blockbuster completed by the Jays management staff during December 2005 was to acquire power hitting third baseman Troy Glaus with Sergio Santos from the D-Back for Orlando Hudson and Miguel Batista. This trade has not quite brought upon the results Ricciardi was hoping for…
Hudson outperformed Glaus for the second year in a row while playing, arguably, better defense at a more difficult defensive position. He beat out Glaus in VORP 32.8 to 20.5, Win Shares, 20 to 14 and even RBIs 63 to 62 while earning $7 million less. The O-Dog is a free agent at the end of the year and should be expected to have a good contract year while Glaus was just named in the Mitchell Report…It’s not looking good for Troy to outplay Hudson this season.

Hillenbrand and Chulk for Accardo: Ricciardi hasn’t made many deadline deals since his arrival at the Jays (Stewart, Adams…?) but this one is a trade that needed to be made near the deadline because of clubhouse issues. The trade ended up working out really well for the Jays. When examining the trade with VORP, Hillenbrand actually contributed negatively to the Giants with a -6.3 VORP, however Chulk outpitched Accardo that season according to the stat: 2.1 to 0.6. Hillenbrand left San Francisco as a free agent and in 2007, Accardo became the de facto closer for a team missing B.J. Ryan, notching 30 saves and a VORP of 26.2 and contributing 12 win shares while Chulk was productive for the Giants with a VORP of 12.8 and 5 win shares.

Brian Wolfe: The pitcher received for Corey Koskie, who did not play in 2007, played a part in the Blue Jays bullpen during that season, appearing in HERE games and establishing a VORP of 13.5 while earning minimum salary and contributing 5 win shares. A good acquisition by Jays management for what was in essence a salary dump.

Eric Hinske: Apparently, the Player to be named later had a higher value as Hinske managed to negate the first year gains of 1.4 VORP with a 2007 VORP of -1.5 in limited at bats.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Trades! The week's big trades (Haren, Valverde, Tejada)...

I don't think it's a surprise to anyone that this is one my favorite times of the year because of all the moves being made by different teams. An early Christmas for some teams this week as trades are being made and star players are being gift wrapped for their new General Managers. Let's run it down:

Billy Beane's hard on for prospects continued as he took the decision to trade arguably his top starter Dan Haren along with Connor Robertson for a package of prospects to the Diamondbacks. The fact of the matter is, Beane is an intelligent GM and he knew it would be quite a struggle for his team to make the playoffs this season and he has also previously learnt the value of trading top-flight starters with the Mulder/Hudson trades. He went after left handed pitchers in this deal, acquiring Brett Anderson, Dana Eveland and Greg Smith along with infielder Chris Carter and outfielders Aaron Cunningham and Carlos Gonzalez. The "prospect acquisition" trade is always a difficult one to breakdown when it happens, and would be better judged five years from now. But, none of the prospects acquired are true impact players except for Cunningham.

With the acquisition of Haren, The D-Backs now have an incredible 1-2 punch of Brandon Webb and Dan Haren. This team made the playoffs last season and were able to acquire an all-star starter, signed cheaply without giving up one Major League piece! They were smart to utilize a deep farm system to acquire something they needed, a 27 year old, 15 game winner with the potential to win 20 on this team. ZiPS actually sees Haren regressing a little in IPs and ERA+ and therefore affecting his record (14-11).

The D-Backs were not done however, as they acquired major league depth from the Astros (reliever Chad Qualls, pitcher Juan Gutierrez and utility player Chris Burke) for their closer, and the Major League saves leader for the 2007 season, Jose Valverde.

This trade was "very much connected" to the first one to re-acquire some depth after trading away a lot of young players in the first deal. First off, they lose their closer but acquire one late inning reliever, Qualls (9 win shares, ERA+ of 144), who may take his role and is a candidate along with Brandon Lyon (11 win shares, ERA+ of 176) and Tony Pena (10 win shares, ERA+ of 144). it not strange that Pena and Tony Pena both come from the Dominican Republic, both made their debuts in 2006 and both had great breakout 2007 seasons? Aside from Pena Sr., they are the only "Tony Pena"s listed on BR...when is the last time two players with identical names have had this type of break through in the same year? Why isn't more time devoted to this?

Burke will come off the bench and can play the outfield or the middle infield while the 23 year-old Gutierrez is a young arm who may start or be a reliever for a deep D-Backs pitching staff. The trade is risky, trading a proven closer on a team contending for the playoffs isn't always the easiest proposition but should pay good dividends and was needed in the grand scheme of things, if the D-Backs need a top end reliever at mid-season, they still have pieces to get it done.

The Ed Wade era is in full effect in Houston, he was busy this week picking up closer Jose Valverde and shortstop Miguel Tejada. The team needed fixing after a 73-89 season and Wade has undertaken some changes. Valverde should immediately step into the closer role liberated by the trade of Brad Lidge and should be an upgrade over a closer who the fanbase lost a bit of confidence in the past seasons and only ended up with 19 saves last year. Valverde had an ERA+ of 177 in 64.3 innings last year with 47 saves and he provided 12 win shares as compared to Lidge's 9.

Tejada is declining, however his bat will be a major upgrade over the Everett (56 OPS+ in 220 ABs) and Loretta (89 OPS+ in 460 total ABs) tandem that played SS last season...that's right Mark Loretta played shortstop last year for a major league team...something he hadn't done on a full time basis since 2000. Tejada had only 18 home runs last season bud was an above average batter (109 OPS+), whether he can regain his swing from a few years ago is a big questions, certainly since his name came out in the Mitchell Report. I'm not saying anything, I'm just saying...his name is on the list...and Baltimore traded him the day before it came out...and he regressed last year with stricter drug polices...

The prospects given up by Houston are pretty good too: The number two and three prospects in their system according to Baseball America (starters Troy Patton and Matt Albers) along with 4th oufielder Luke Scott (who has some pop), reliever Dennis Sarfate (who some project as a future closer, this article talks about his 101 mph fastball) & third baseman and masher Mike Costanzo. The Astros definitely have a more dynamic offense with his addition however they gave up a lot of depth in two trades while not solving their issues with starting pitching. Along with the questions stemming from the Mitchell Report, there are questions whether Tejada can still play SS and if not, how well he would make the transition to third base.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A trade revisited...

A year ago today, the Rockies traded starting pitcher Jason Jennings along with Miguel Ascensio for outfielder Willy Taveras and two prospect pitchers Jason Hirsh and Taylor Buchholz. At the time, your truly called Jason Jennings "quite possibly one of the best starters on the trade market", let's see what transpired in the first year after the trade.

The Rockies ended up going on an unbelievable run at the end of the 2007 season to make the playoffs while the Astros were awful and missed the playoffs. Jennings was as worthless as K-Fed was to Britney; taking $5.5 million in salary and only won 2 of his 18 starts. He averaged less than 6 innings per start and had an ERA of 6.45. His VORP for the season was -8.2 while contributing -1 Win Share to the Astors (Seriously, is it 1 loss share when a player is in the minuses?) As useless as Jennings became because of his arm problems, to the point where the Astros declined to offer him arbitration this off-season, Ascensio failed to appear in one game for Houston. The one saving grace for the Astros is that Hunter Pence played beautifully in centre field with an OPS+ of 130 and finished 3rd in Rookie of the Year voting while playing in the spot liberated by the trade of Tavares.

Willy Taveras showed up in Colorado and immediately became their leadoff hitter, although injuries and lack of performance led him to the bench during their September run. He provided the team with great defense and a high average bat at the top of the lineup at a inexpensive price but could only muster an OPS+ of 89, although he had identical stolen base stats (33 of 42 for 5 stolen base runs) as his previous season while accumulating 12 win shares. Tavares isn’t exactly the most patient hitter (he drew 21 walks in 372 at bats) but neither was their leadoff hitter at the start of the 2006 season, Cory Sullivan (32 walks in 386 at bats).

The two pitchers acquired both played for the Rockies; Hirsh went 5-7 with an ERA+ of 100 in 112.3 innings while Buchholz went 6-5 in a combination of starts and relief appearances (Relief? Hmmm… “maybe best suited for a relief role”) with an ERA+ of 113 in 93.66 innings. However, neither appeared in the playoffs, Hirsh actually didn’t pitch past August. They combined for 9 Win Shares during the season.

All in all, this trade was quite a coup by Dan O’Dowd, acquiring three good pieces for a young team for a pitcher who ended up almost worthless because of arm problems. The Astors are currently looking for a 5th starter and traded two youngsters who could battle for the job. Anytime you can trade a player who doesn’t finish his first season with his new team for three 25 year olds, one at a premium defensive position and two good arms is a good trade. When your team goes to the World Series after finishing ten games under .500 the year before, every move looks great.