June 2006

Jocketty Aiming High

According to a source close to the Cardinals, Walt Jocketty is shooting for the stars if he is to trade prospects for a starting pitcher.  Word is that the Cards will either acquire a front-line pitcher – Dontrelle Willis or John Smoltz – or none at all.  The team does not have interest in the second-tier names floating around.

Beyond Willis and Smoltz, could any other top-flight starters be had?  Purely my own speculation, but St. Louis could also consider attempting to deal for Jason Schmidt, Barry Zito, Gil Meche, or Brett Myers.  Problem is, the first three guys are on teams that are very much in contention.  The Phils are 6.5 games out of the wild card, but may try to rid themselves of Myers regardless.  Myers doesn’t fit with the Cards’ classy image, but then again neither did Sidney Ponson.   

Although Jocketty is not going to trade decent prospects for the Cory Lidles of the world, Jeff Weaver still could be worth a flier.  Viva El Birdos points out that Weaver would cost just $115,000 for the balance of the season now that he’s been designated for assignment. 

HalosHeaven: White Sox Interested In Figgins

Interesting post by our good friends at Halos Heaven.  I can vouch that the author of this site has several solid, independent sources close to the organization.

A lot of interest in utility superstar Chone Figgins, who is hitting just .253/.322/.347 this year.  Figgins draws a walk about 9% of the time, which is fine for a leadoff hitter if he can hit .290.  Halos Heaven notes that if Ozzie Guillen elects Orlando Cabrera (.305/.364/.436) to the All-Star game, the relationship between the two teams could improve enough to facilitate a trade.

The Angels view Figgins as more expendable than Adam Kennedy, who has become the clubhouse leader.  I’m told Kennedy desperately wants to stay in Southern California, and will offer the Padres or Dodgers a huge discount after this season.  It does seem that Kennedy could block Howie Kendrick for the rest of the season.

The latest on Jeff Weaver is that he’ll be gone before the All-Star break, possibly back to the Dodgers.  The Angels will eat his entire salary to get a decent bat in return.   

Jeff Weaver’s Value Plunges

My best Angels source indicates that scouts from as many as eight teams were in attendance Tuesday night to watch Jeff Weaver pitch.  Weaver didn’t rise to the occasion, taking his tenth loss after allowing six runs in just two innings to the Rockies.

Weaver’s been an absolute mess this year, thwarting Scott Boras’s attempt to replicate his success with Kevin Millwood.  Boras didn’t find the right multiyear deal for Millwood before the 2005 season, so he settled for one year with the Indians.  After Millwood had a career year, Boras got him a massive five-year contract.  Weaver makes $8.3MM this year in a deal that seemed wise at the time.

The 29 year-old righty has given up a ridiculous number of hits this year in conjunction with way too many home runs.  His strikeout and walk rates have remained fairly stable.  Can any of his problems be attributed to team defense and/or bad luck?  Weaver’s .332 BABIP exceeds his team’s .293 mark, so some of those extra hits could be random. 

Another stat to check out is home runs per flyball.  Ron Shandler’s work tells us that "pitchers do not have much control over the percentage of fly balls that turn into home runs."  This figure tends to be about 10%, whereas Weaver is at 16.8% in 2006.  That mark is the 9th worst in the game (browsing this list helps explain the unexpected misfortunes of several fine hurlers this season).  Pitchers do control the number of flyballs they allow overall, and Weaver’s 2006 level does not differ dramatically from career norms.

Maybe this is a stretch, but if we substitute Weaver’s hit and HR rates with league average levels but hold everything else constant, his expected ERA comes all the way down to 3.84 with a 1.28 WHIP.  That’s right about where we expected him to be this season, and it would’ve been a bargain.  I have to think several teams realize that Weaver has not pitched as badly as it seems.  Acquiring Weaver still makes sense for savvy teams like the Red Sox or Cardinals.

Tigers Give Larry Walker A Call

I don’t know about you, but I almost missed this interesting nugget buried amidst Lynn Henning’s Q&A about Bobby Abreu to the Tigers rumors.  According to Henning:

"Just because it made perfect sense for both parties, a call was placed last week with Larry Walker, the ex-Cardinals, Rockies and Expos star who would be precisely what the Tigers need down the stretch. He, of course, retired after last season, but he is only 39 and various aches and pains that helped bring about his retirement have all but vanished.

The question was whether a left-handed hitter of his prowess, with the ability to play outfield, first base, etc., might be interested in joining his old manager, Leyland, for a half-season playoff run?

Walker appreciated the inquiry but said he was happy in West Palm Beach, Fla. He also said he was not interested in a Roger Clemens-like "un-retirement," which is a response to be respected."

Unfortunately Walker didn’t leave much to the imagination about a possible comeback.  Walker is one of the few who managed to retire on top his game: .289/.384/.502 for the Cardinals in 315 ABs last year.  One of the best glazes of glory in recent memory: Will Clark, after his 2000 trade to the Cardinals.  Clark proceeded to hit .345/.426/.655 in 171 ABs and then retired.

I’d really love to see Walker step in, maybe do some DHing for Detroit.  His back and knee have got to be feeling better after the time off and he could be quite a weapon. Walker played for 18 seasons but never had the luxury of DHing regularly.

Sowers, Gorzelanny Projections

Looking for projections for a couple of rookie southpaws?  Look no further.

Tom Gorzelanny projection

Jeremy Sowers projection

Regular updates and much more are available for just $9.99 in my 2006 RotoAuthority Fantasy Baseball Guide.

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D-Rays Complete Deal With Dodgers

After successfully completing the Danys Baez trade in January, the Dodgers and Devil Rays have matched up again on a multi-player swap.  This time L.A. sent Jae Seo, Dioner Navarro, and a PTBNL to the D-Rays for Toby Hall and Mark Hendrickson.

With a .258 batting average on balls in play, Hendrickson has been the 11th luckiest starter in baseball this year.  Given the D-Rays’ team BABIP of .316, we can be fairly confident that the 32 year-old southpaw will not maintain his hit rate of 8.13 per nine.  His peripherals are otherwise unimpressive – 3.4 BB/9, 5.1 K/9, 1.0 HR/9.  Prior to this season, Hendrickson had allowed almost 11 hits per nine innings in the Majors.  His control is better than this, but he’s in for a steep decline overall. 

Despite an ERA near 6, I’m not sure Jae Seo is much worse than Hendrickson.  Though no one seems to trust Seo to succeed, he has managed a 3.85 career ERA in almost 400 innings leading up to this season.  Hendrickson doesn’t seem like a significant upgrade, especially half a season worth of him.

The exchange of Toby Hall for Dioner Navarro is another clear win for Tampa Bay.  Navarro is still just 22 and hasn’t had a full trial in the Majors.  Any backstop that young who can draw a walk 10% of the time has value.

I think this is a disappointing move for the Dodgers.  While it’s true they may not miss Navarro or Seo, Hendrickson is not the #3 starter the team needs to run away with the NL West.

Lining Up For Shealy

It might be helpful to summarize all the Ryan Shealy suitors from the last few months, just so we can keep them straight.  These are all from various newspapers. 

The most recent one is that the Red Sox offered 23 year-old southpaw starter Abe Alvarez.  Alvarez posted a 4.85 ERA but a solid 1.20 WHIP in Triple A last year. This season, he’s at 4.46 with a 1.36 WHIP.  He’s had little opportunity to prove himself in Boston.  Random bio: Alvarez likes to wear his hat crooked, is legally blind in one eye, and is known for pinpoint control.  Actually, those first two facts aren’t so random – Alvarez wears his hat that way to balance the lighting for that eye.  Sounds like a good kid who has overcome quite a bit of adversity, but the Rockies are looking for more.

Then there’s the Orioles.  Baltimore has little in the way of first basemen waiting in the wings, but they balked at the Rockies’ request for Hayden Penn.  It’s said the team would prefer to deal Javy Lopez, but they’ve been trying to do that for ages.  The Rockies could use a decent catcher for their unlikely pennant run, and Lopez is hitting .282/.329/.437 this season at 35.  That’s not particularly young for a backstop, and Lopez has only caught 12 games this season out of 56 played.  He’d make an interesting addition to a lot of teams, but at $8.5MM this will probably just be a salary dump. The O’s will have to surrender a young player to get Shealy.  Adam Loewen seems like too high a price, but I am not an expert in the Orioles’ farm system. 

It’s been noted that the Blue Jays are interested, so a third AL East team is in the mix.  The Jays already have Shea Hillenbrand and Eric Hinske clogging up the DH spot, so something would have to give before they acquired Shealy.  Toronto doesn’t have much in the way of Triple A starters who could be swapped with the Rox.

The Cubs poked around in May with their first base vacancy (albeit two weeks later than they should have).  Recent word is that Cubs offered reliever David Aardsma.  Besides having the first name in the baseball encyclopedia, Aardsma has 20 solid Triple A innings to his credit.  He hasn’t shown much in the Majors this season.  The persistent walk problem remains.  Assuming Shealy was healthy enough to play left field, the Cubs should step up their offer to at least Rich Hill.

One of the papers mentioned that the Indians inquired within the last year, but there’s no longer a fit.  Ryan Garko is not setting the world afire at Buffalo, nor is Ryan Mulhern at Double A.  Michael Aubrey has been on the DL with a knee injury since late May.  So I’m thinking the Indians would still like to acquire Shealy, but maybe the Rockies were asking for too much.

Shealy is doing well in Colorado Springs (though of course in a hitters’ environment).  He’s at .284/.357/.593 after 43 games.

Gammons: Braves May Explore Andruw Jones Deal

Interesting note from Peter Gammons’s blog a couple of days ago:

"The Braves were heavily involved in the Joey Gathright deal and still could get him from Kansas City. Yes, they need a leadoff hitter, but there is the possibility that they will explore dealing Andruw Jones at the end of the season."

A lot of folks have emailed me asking whether I thought Gathright could end up with the Braves, and my knee-jerk reaction was to dismiss the idea because of Jones.  But Gammons makes a good point.  Andruw Jones makes $13.5MM next year in the last of his deal.  He’s reaching the point where his next contract will not offer a positive return on investment for the Braves.

According to Baseball Prospectus, Jones will be worth about $9-10 mil from 2008-09 before the real dropoff begins.  Obviously John Schuerholz understands this, and it seems highly unlikely that the Braves will enter the bidding for Andruw’s next deal when you have to offer 5/65 just to get in the door.

The Braves always seem to be one step ahead.  They don’t have much in the way of top-shelf outfield talent now that Jeff Francoeur has been called up.  It’s time to snatch up a couple more Major League ready outfielders, and the Braves have what everyone wants: starting pitching.  The Yankees and Red Sox should come calling for John Smoltz and Tim Hudson.  And don’t you just have this feeling that Kenny Williams will make some phone calls, just because he understands that you can never have too much starting pitching?  He hasn’t been shy about trading his best prospects and Josh Fields is taking care of business at Triple A.

The Brewers and Nationals were scouting Philip Hughes recently, but that seems to be related to the Yanks’ outfield vacancies.  It just doesn’t seem that New York can acquire any big names while keeping Hughes.   

2007 Free Agent Market: Third Basemen

Updated 1-2-06

Here we have info on the free agent third basemen market.

2006 League Averages for Third Basemen
AL:  .269/.338/.442 (.780 OPS)
NL:  .282/.354/.472 (.826 OPS)

Sorry folks – there are no free agent starting third basemen on the market anymore.

The Yankees and Jacque Jones

Critics of Jacque Jones have backed off this season, given that he’s currently hitting .296 with 13 home runs for the Cubs.  He’s been one of very few decent hitters on the team this year.  Nonetheless, this trade rumor from the New York Daily News is a breath of fresh air amidst a dismal Cubs season.

If the best Jim Hendry could do for Jones was a bag of baseballs, he should make that deal.  Even if it’d be kind of dumb from New York’s point of view.  Jones is owed $9MM for 2007-08, his age 32 and 33 seasons.  Baseball Prospectus figures him to be worth just a touch over $4MM over that span.  Now is the time for Hendry to sell high.  Jones has a mediocre but excellent for him OBP of .329 right now.  It’s entirely propped up by his .296 average, which is highly unlikely to last when he’s putting the bat on the ball less than 80% of the time.  One would also expect his .522 slugging percentage to plummet, as he hasn’t been over .500 since 2002.

The Cubs’ outfield replacement options at Triple A are grim: Michael Restovich, Buck Coats, Felix Pie, Luis Montanez, and Brandon Sing.  None are good options this year, but it’s a lost season.  Just shed the Jones contract and take another crack at fielding a decent outfield next year.  Hendry failed this past offseason in that task, and can consider options like Kenny Lofton, Cliff Floyd, Luis Gonzalez, Carlos Lee, and Alfonso Soriano in the upcoming free agent market.  Adding a second Lee to the middle of the lineup should definitely be a major consideration.