Not Buying Baez
There's about a dozen different trade scenarios floating around where reliever Danys Baez ends up with the Mets. In every one, the price is steep - it typically involves surrendering Aaron Heilman. I was curious as to whether Baez is worth all this hype. Let's take a look.
Danys Baez is still young; he'll be entering his age 28 season in 2006. The Cuban righthander throws a high 90s heater. The D-Rays signed him as a free agent from the Indians through some sort of loophole, and he'll make $4MM in 2006. For his career, Baez has a 3.69 ERA and 1.32 WHIP over 431 innings.
I'm guessing that some GMs or fans think Baez turned a corner in 2005 due to his 2.86 ERA. I don't think he did. He was about the same or worse in hits, home runs, walks, and strikeouts as he was in 2004, when he posted a 3.57 ERA. Plug Baez's 2005 numbers into Bill James's component ERA formula, and he probably should've had a 3.74 ERA this year, a touch better than the immortal John Wasdin.
Taking a look at Baseball Prospectus's VORP (Value Over Replacement Player), Baez was on par with Washington reliever Luis Ayala, and a bit worse than Pete Walker. Those two guys don't throw hard, however, so they're not high on anyone's offseason shopping list.
The Save Factor
Even now, in 2006, relievers' saves totals are being overvalued. Baez has saved 102 games in his career, and I think it's inflating his value tremendously. It's tough for GMs to ignore that gaudy saves total from '05, 41 of them to be exact. Does saving 40 games make you an elite reliever?
Of course not. Bob Wickman, Jose Mesa, Danny Graves, Mike Williams, Jose Jimenez, and Antonio Alfonseca are all just marginal relievers who happen to have been granted the opportunity to finish games. Hell, Rocky Biddle saved 34 games in 2003. To repeat the mantra of Moneyball: plug any halfway decent reliever into the 9th inning, he'll rack up saves and his value will be inflated. Billy Beane has this down to a science, breeding closers and shipping them off for better players almost annually.
Back to Baez
Baez is tough to hit. He does a reasonable job keeping home runs off the board. He walks a lot of guys. His strikeout rate is declining and may slip below league average in 2006. He'll be making around $6MM in 2007 and beyond. He's just not worth an Aaron Heilman, a Jae Seo, or any solid young pitcher.