Jorge Julio Rumors

Marlins Interested In Jorge Julio

In a move that has serious implications for fantasy geeks everywhere, the Marlins sent a scout yesterday to watch Diamondbacks reliever Jorge Julio pitch.  As you know, the Fish have an unsettled closer situation with Kevin Gregg, Matt Lindstrom, Henry Owens, and Taylor Tankersley candidates to earn the gig when the season begins.

Among pitchers with 60 IP last year, Julio’s 12.0 K/9 ranked fifth, right between Takashi Saito and Francisco Rodriguez.  If Marlins pitching coach Rick Kranitz could help Julio get his BB/9 down around 3, he could be quite an asset.  Pitching in Dolphin Stadium as opposed to Chase Field would cut down on his troublesome HR rate.

The main sticking point would be figuring out how to divy up Julio’s $3.6MM salary.  Julio would be the third highest-paid Marlin behind Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis

UPDATE: The Giants are now in on Julio, who is essentially a younger version of Armando Benitez.  The Giants would take on more of Julio’s salary than the Marlins, but parting with Yusmeiro Petit might seal the deal for Florida.  And to think, Petit was traded for Carlos Delgado a year ago.

Marlins Trade Rumors

The Fish might do some minor dealing in the coming days.  Let’s see what they have cooking.

For one, Mike Berardino of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel thinks they should bring Armando Benitez back, now that he’s healthy.  He says it would probably only cost the Marlins a million bucks in addition to the player(s) they trade.  Benitez says he hasn’t been in shape like he is now since he played for the Orioles.

The Marlins may have their eye on a couple of Red Sox: center fielder David Murphy and pitcher Kyle Snyder.  The Nationals also have interest in Snyder.  Snyder, 29, hails from Florida for what that’s worth.  He can probably post an ERA below 5 in the NL, so he belongs on someone’s roster.  Murphy still has a chance to become a credible CF, especially if his new build adds a little power.  Houston also likes Murphy.

Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post has another tidbit: though the Marlins scouted Jorge Julio, they’re not close to proposing a deal.

Finally, the Marlins have no interest in Javy Lopez but are drawing interest for outfielder Cody Ross.


El Duque Swapped For Julio

In a surprising move, the Diamondbacks sent starter Orlando Hernandez to the Mets for reliever Jorge Julio.  El Duque, age 36-40ish, has a 6.11 ERA and 1.58 WHIP through his first nine starts this year.  27 year-old righty Julio had a 5.06 ERA and 1.45 WHIP for the Mets.

Hernandez will be paid $4.5MM this season and doesn’t figure to pick up his incentives for Comeback Player of the Year or an All-Star Game.  Julio makes about $2.5MM and has yet to reach free agency.  Hernandez was projected to add about 1.8 wins in 122 innings while Julio’s projection called for 1.5 wins in 58 innings (3.73 ERA, 1.29 WHIP).

Perhaps D’Backs pitching coach Bryan Price thinks he can limit Julio’s largest flaw, his tendency to allow home runs.  He’d better figure something out because Chase Field boosts homers for lefties by 18% (Shea suppressed them by 6%).  The only silver lining in Julio’s 2006 performance is that he’s managed to whiff 33 hitters in just over 21 innings.  The 13.92 K/9 is the best in the game among pitchers with 20 innings.

El Duque had three quality starts in nine tries for Arizona.  Last year for the White Sox, 45% of his starts were quality efforts.  While he’s an improvement over Jose Lima and Jeremi Gonzalez, the difference may be marginal.  PECOTA projected Gonzalez at a 5.71 ERA, Lima at 5.21, and Hernandez at 5.17.  Who knows, though, maybe El Duque will rise to the occasion on the big stage and give the Mets 100 innings of league average ball.  And of course he could be an asset should the Mets make the playoffs.

I can see the reasoning here for both sides.  The Mets fill their starter vacancy at a low cost and value Hernandez higher than most teams.  El Duque loves New York and Minaya loves El Duque.  Minaya scouted Hernandez and considers him a warrior.  On the other hand, the D’Backs get a reliever who still at least has potential to be dominant.  Julio is under contract for a couple more years and adds depth to an already decent Arizona pen.  Perhaps Josh Byrnes thought Hernandez’s value would only continue to decrease as the season wore on.

It will be interesting to see if the Mets continue their pursuit of Orlando’s half-brother, Livan Hernandez.

Benson Dealt To Orioles; Zito Implications?

Many of you have already noticed by now that Newsday is reporting that the Mets traded Kris Benson to the Orioles for Jorge Julio and John Maine.  A tip of the cap to Orioles Hangout; I’m pretty sure they confirmation first.

The question on most people’s minds is this: is the Benson swap the initial movement indicating a trade of Barry Zito to the Mets?  If you recall, my Mets source indicated yesterday that Benson would be traded to Baltimore to acquire a prospect to Billy Beane’s liking.  I’ve got word out to a couple of sources to see if anything has changed.  In the meantime, let’s see what we can deduce.

First off, would the A’s have use for John Maine?  The 24 year-old righty starter was ranked 6th in the Orioles’ organization by Baseball America entering the 2005 season.  According to BA back then, Maine needed to refine his command and had a ceiling as a #3 starter.  They also mentioned that he was "probably a #4 or 5 guy on a first-division club."  Maine pitched kind of like a #4 starter in 128 innings at Triple A Ottawa in ’05.  He posted a 4.56 ERA with improved control while maintaining a solid K rate.

I haven’t projected Maine myself yet, but ZiPS thought he’d throw 153 innings of 4.41 ball in his first extended trial with the Orioles.  I think that’s great value for the price.  For basis of comparison, Maine’s 2005 doesn’t look terribly different from Danny Haren‘s 2004.  Haren was certainly better, but it’s a fair comparison.  Interestingly, Baseball Prospectus lists these comparables for Maine: Joel Pineiro (2002), A.J. Burnett (2001), Juan Marichal (1961), Bob Gibson (1960), and strangely, Jorge Julio (2003).  I know the A’s already have a stable of starters, but Maine probably needs a little more time and a team can never have too much starting pitching depth.

I would speculate that the Mets would hang onto Jorge Julio to serve as Aaron Heilman‘s replacement.  While most analysis today indicates that the Benson trade simply means Heilman starts for the Mets, I am skeptical.  According to MetsBlog earlier this month:

"The problem is that the only person who seems to see Heilman as a starter is Heilman.  Nearly all scouts and experts that I talked with all explained the same thing: Heilman’s repertoire is too hittable during his second time through a lineup."

Should Minaya package up Victor Diaz with someone to acquire a top flight prospect suitable to the A’s, I could really see this Zito deal coming to fruition.   

Kris Benson For Jorge Julio Possible

At least three sources are reporting that the Mets have officially dealt Kris Benson for Jorge Julio.  On the other hand, MetsBlog says the above sources jumped the gun.  In case the deal or something like it occurs, here’s a rundown of the pitchers. 

A recap of my synopsis of Benson from a week ago:

He was much worse away from Shea Stadium.
He hasn’t pitched 200 innings in a season since 2000.
His 2005 strikeout rate was a career low.

Nonetheless, Benson makes a passable #3 starter.  As a flyball pitcher moving from one of the toughest parks in which to homer to a neutral one, Benson figures to see his ERA hit 4.50 or higher in 2006.  The Mets are free of $15MM due to Benson for 2006-07. 

They will have to cover roughly $3MM coming to Jorge Julio.  The right-hander hasn’t been particularly good since 2002, the year he somehow managed to keep the ball in the park.  Since then, his home run rate has been poor and he’s allowed tons of baserunners.

Fallout from the deal:

Some speculate Julio makes Aaron Heilman expendable, but it doesn’t seem likely the Mets would think that way.

The Orioles might pull back in their pursuit of Paul Byrd, or perhaps he’s reached a deal elsewhere.  A Benson addition might indicate an Erik Bedard deal on the horizon, although co-VP Mike Flanagan has said he’s not shopping Bedard.

While it’s being called a salary dump, the Mets only clear $5MM in the deal for ’06.  It’s not as if that $5MM was holding Minaya back from a big deal he wanted to make.  The key to the deal is more that it opens up a rotation spot for a Javier Vazquez-type trade.  While the Mets are quickly being heralded as National League favorites, their starting rotation is not particularly fearsome at present.

Thanks to Steve and Brian