Thursday, January 06, 2005

Mr. T's state of the union

Tony Tavares, interim president of the Nationals, gave an interview to It's an interesting read. He details what needs to be done at RFK, and says that the main point of the charity exhibition game before their first real game is to make sure that, if something is really wrong with the stadium they can identify it (and hopefully fix it) before opening day.

He also indicates that he expects Bowden to make a "creative move" for pitching, which should surprise nobody. I would expect that he's trying to trade Nick Johnson (and maybe then some) to a team who has a decent but not stellar starter but is looking to dump salary. Without asking the other team to kick in any money, he could probably go for someone in the 8-10M range, depending on how much he trades away. I don't know of any good candidates for a scenario like this, though. The only one that comes to mind is Kevin Brown, whom the Yankees would very much like to dump. I could see them trading Johnson and a pitcher (I'd say Ohka due to the potential for losing arbitration) and a prospect if the Yankees kick in $5-6M a year of the $15M per year he's owed. Trading away Johnson and Ohka should keep the team from going over budget. Brown seemed to be losing velocity last year. I doubt he'll be as dominant as he had once been, but in a pitcher's park in the NL, I'd bet that he can still post about a 3.30 ERA, which means he'd probably be better than Odalis Perez. I wouldn't want to

Remember, this is pure, utter speculation. Do you guys know of anyone else out there who would make a good target?


At 11:25 AM, Blogger Chris Needham said...

I can't think of anyone offhand, but I can't see NJ going back to the Yankees, especially because they just signed Stinko Martinez (Sorry, can't resist!)

Oakland could certainly use an upgrade at first, but their starting pitching cabinet has already been raided a bunch.

I'd love to see them make a play for Javier Vazquez, but I don't think that that's too realistic, and he's probably a little above our payroll.

I don't really know whey they're so concerned about the pitching anyway. I think they'd be better off waiting a while and see what happens. If things break well, they may not need an upgrade.

At 11:39 AM, Blogger John said...

If Giambi can't make it happen, I think they'd rather have Johnson everyday and Tino as a backup. They had 3 1B on the roster last year...

I don't see the D'backs covering enough of Javier's salary. I also am concerned about his second half last year... did something so fundamental go wrong that he's a big risk? His basic mechanics seemed to be all messed up across the board.

You know that I don't think an upgrade is absolutely imperative, but I think it would be useful at the same time, as long as there is really an upgrade!

At 11:48 AM, Blogger El Gran Color Naranja said...

Pitching options are severly limited. The market has brought previously overpriced pitcher contracts back to the pack. Guys like Kelvim Escobar and Miguel Batista seem like fine deals after the hot stove. Other overpriced pitchers are on contenders. You can't trade a Ponson or Colon without looking like you're giving up on the season.

After a quick glance, three names jumped out at me as pre-season trade bait. Denny Neagle (ugh), Darren Dreifort (ugh), and Chan Ho Park (what he said).

Now if Vidro is included in the trade, things get a lot more interesting. It increases the money we can take on and a "contender" might make this trade because it's a "bold move" not a salary dump. Roy Halladay perhaps?
Freddy Garcia? (ugh)

I'm afraid the bold move will be trading for Griffey or Sosa (and including Church or Sledge in the deal instead of Chavez). Just a feeling.

At 11:53 AM, Blogger Chris Needham said...

They had three firstbasemen on the roster because one had 'roid induced cancer (presumably), one couldn't hit for power (Olerud), and one just couldn't hit (Clark).

And, I'd be shocked if Tino didn't get around 400 ABs next year. He's not going to be just a part-time player--not with Torre's veteran fetish.

Yeah, the D-backs probably wouldn't cover enough of the salary. I really don't think it was injury-related. I think it was a combo of confidence and out-of-whack mechanics. I'm not an expert on pitcher's mechanics, but something looked off by the end of the year. And Mel Stottlemeyer has never shown any ability to make a pitcher improve. I'm sure Javier will rebound nicely this season.

The key part of what you've said is that last part, 'if there's an upgrade.' Brown WOULD be, but I'm not sure our interests synch up. Perhaps we could work a multi-team trade? NY seems to get involved in those a lot?

NJ to Oak. Oakland pitching prospects to NY. KB to the Nats? It's hard finding a team that would need NJ. Baltimore works, but only on a theoritical sense.

At 12:03 PM, Blogger John said...

I still think there's a chance that Giambi isn't worth inserting back into the lineup, or can't do anything other than DH. Imagine, if we don't sign Beltran, Williams will stay in CF (I spit on that move), Giambi DHs and Tino and Nick either platoon, or Nick warms the bench. But you're probably right. Damn Torre and his love of veterans that he "trusts"!

If "getting creative" means selling off Vidro, then the Yankees would definitely take him and bench Womack.

At 12:19 PM, Blogger Chris Needham said...

Yeah, dumping Vidro would be a solid move, especially given his huge contract. I think he's signed through 2007? He's declining offensively, though still above average at the position. He was a very poor defensive peformer, before rapidly improving for a year or two. Last year's knee surgery hurt him even more, and I'm sure age and injury won't increase his ability. He'll definitely be a liability in the field. (He'd fit right in with the Yankees then!)

Yeah, I think they'd love to Giambi. The team or the fans stupidly never appreciated what they had--even if it was drug-induced. But, given his horrible season last year, he has ZERO expectations. He's not going to be a disappointment.

And yeah, Bernie's your starting Centerfielder. Between him and Sheffield, there are going to be lots of triples. (That's almost as bad as the Orioles OF of a few years ago with a bad-hipped Albert Belle in RF and an over-seasoned Brady Anderson in center)

At 6:58 PM, Blogger Kirk said...

How about an NJ for AJ deal? The Marlins have been shopping AJ Burnett around, probably due to his impending free agency. They have Jeff Conine at first now, that's not much of a solution. I know that Jason Stokes is on the way for them but he may be a few years away. NJ would make a nice two year fill-in before he got too pricy for them. I am not sure about AJ status, he's been in the bigs for six years so I think he at least arbitration eligible this year and FA eligible next season. NJ's got four years service.

At 10:40 AM, Blogger tmk67 said...

Vazquez: the Yankees are paying $9 million of his $11.5 million salary this year, so he is an incremental cost of $2.5 million to the D-backs. I believe that $9 million is transferrable, because the Green-Vazquez had the Dodgers sending $8 million to the D-backs which I don't believe they would do if they had to pick up all of Vazquez's salary for 2005. That Yankee payment makes Vazquez the most-affordable starter on the market right now, and it appears all the D-backs want is a slugger and a prospect.

Brown: I would not trade NJ for Brown straight-up at that point. His strikout rate took a dive last year, which I think is a warning sign. Johnson should be regarded as a core offensive asset of the team that only should be traded for a core asset.

AJ Burnett: this is a great idea, as the Choi/Derek Lee trade did not work out well for Florida. Burnett seems to be fully-recovered from his surgery and he could be a core, No. 1 or 2 starter the next four years. A dream trade would be NJ and Endy Chavez for NJ and Juan Pierre, which won't happen as stated...But how about tossing in Ohka as well, who is headed for arbitration regardless?

Kip Wells: the Pirates seem to be intent on starting Daryle Ward at first base and, like Bowden, Dave Littlefield always seems up for a trade, so I cannot imagine that the two have not talked about NJ if Bowden is shopping him. Of the Pirates that seem gettable (e.g., not Oliver Perez and Jason Bay), I like Kip Wells. Wells's 4.55 ERA and an injured elbow might cause Littlefield to consider trading him. Wells is arbitration-eligible and remains unsigned.

At 11:54 AM, Blogger John said...

My understanding is that the Yankees shipped $9M for Vazquez' salary, not that they're actually paying it. The Diamondbacks are going to want to get a good deal for Vazquez, not just give him away for peanuts. Plus, IIRC, that $9M covers three years of salary. Even if the Diamondbacks throw it in and you apply the $9M to the first year, he gets far more expensive very quickly. I wouldn't mind seeing Vazquez don the W, but I think we'd have to move a big contract (i.e., Vidro) in order to get him. I'm not sure our coaching staff will be any better at repairing his fundamental problems from the 2nd half of last year than the Yankees staff, either.

Brown definitely had issues last year, and it wasn't so much his balky back. The fundamental issue is that he's getting older, and his velocity is just down, but I don't think that he's declining as far or as fast as people may think. Yes, his K/9 rate was about 2 lower than it was the year before. But, you have to make an adjustment for switching leagues, probably of a full K/9 (if someone like Kevin Brown sees 3 pitcher ABs in a game, I'd expect, on average, one or more to be a strikeout). Also remember that the year Kevin Brown had a sub-2.0 ERA, he had a K/9 rate only .5 higher than he did in 2004, plus he was pitching for an NL team. Even if he declines a bit more, switching back to the NL, Brown wouldn't likely exceed the 4.09 ERA he posted for the Yankees. The question is whether he would make enough starts, or be out with injury. He is probably not worth the risk, from that perspective.

I wonder if the Marlins would be willing to trade Burnett within the same division. I'd be happy to see it happen, though. Kip Wells is also an intriguing possibility.

At 12:23 PM, Blogger John said...

This just showed up on MLB's web site (in a story about the Astros raising their offer to Beltran, oddly enough):

Marlins: A.J. Burnett thought he might be traded before he became eligible for free agency after the 2005 season. But according to the Palm Beach Post, the Marlins have made overtures to the right-hander about a long-term contract through his agent, Darek Braunecker. Braunecker plans to follow up by the end of the week.

At 12:46 PM, Blogger tmk67 said...

Thanks for the correction on the Vazquez salary...last time I will rely on the Post for that type of fact. Vazquez balloons to $12.5 million. That's Angelos funny money, not really a good fit for the Nats.

dERA takes into account league differences in quality of batters faced; Brown posted a respectable 3.93 dERA last year, but that is still a significant regression from 2003 in LA (3.00). That said, you and I are in agreement that Brown's injury risk may make this transaction self-defeating -- the odds of him giving us over 150 innings of Odalis-Perez quality may be 50-50 at best. Not worth trading a core player (NJ) for.

At 1:04 PM, Blogger John said...

Well, hopefully we're a big enough market that Vazquez' salary wouldn't be an issue in 2006, but that's not the kind of decision that MLB wants to make... they want to leave it for the new owner(s).

Brown clearly regressed last year, and his dERA shows it well. I think there's some reason to believe that he won't be worse next year, but I doubt he'll be as good as he was at LA in 2003, either. If it weren't for the huge injury risk, it would probably make sense. As is, it would only replace question marks with question marks.

That doesn't mean that Bowden wouldn't make the trade. I was more trying to identify what things Bowden might do, and I think Kevin Brown for Vidro (or N.J.) and Ohka is well within the realm of possibility. As a matter of fact, it's a move that would have made more sense a month ago, when it could have also freed up enough cash to compete with L.A. on Perez.

At 1:04 PM, Blogger tmk67 said...

Another interesting idea might be Ted Lilly with Toronto. NJ would be a credible replacement for Delgado, and Lilly is inexpensive (signed for $2.5M this year), has relatively low mileage and is consistently improving.

At 1:19 PM, Blogger tmk67 said...

Agreed on "what Bowden might do", it is likely to be anything. Bbut as long as MLB owns the team, I don't think trading Vidro is an option that Bowden has...Remember, they signed an extension for him last year essentially to preserve the value of franchise, when it only seemed like a matter of time for him to be traded to the Miguel-Cairo powered Yankees. The MLB-powers have declared Vidro a core "Expo" and I doubt Bowden has the authority to divest that asset.

So, much as I like NJ, I fear he is part of this "creative move"...let's hope it is a good one.

At 1:27 PM, Blogger Kirk said...

"Marlins: A.J. Burnett thought he might be traded before he became eligible for free agency after the 2005 season. But according to the Palm Beach Post, the Marlins have made overtures to the right-hander about a long-term contract through his agent, Darek Braunecker. Braunecker plans to follow up by the end of the week."

And if Braunecker says "We want Carl Pavano money?" If they didn't give it Pavano, what's to say they'll give it to Burnett? Then, the Marlins must decide if they want to a) deal Burnett before ST b)deal him at the deadline or c) let him walk and take the draft picks. Got to at least keep nosing around it.

Here's a link to a discussion of various pitchers who may be targets at the site:

At 1:33 PM, Blogger John said...

I don't think Vidro is completely untouchable, particularly if his knee provides any amount of forward-going concern, which I would think it must. Though, the team would have to get back something with the same kind of long-term value to the franchise, and Kevin Brown is not it (isn't this a contract year for him?). I think even Bowden probably has the sense not to make that trade, but he doesn't seem to be a big fan of Nick Johnson (i.e., I think he undervalues him, and thinks N.J. is overvalued).

At 1:42 PM, Blogger John said...

We're not likely to trade for A.J. mid-season unless there's new ownership in place that can arrange an extension on the spot. The fact that he's in his contract year I think makes them less likely to try for him now, since there's no long-term value in having him. You're right that it's worth monitoring, but I think there are many reasons why it probably won't happen, including Florida's long-term interest and the fact that we're in the same division, which seems to be a big deterrent for otherwise reasonable trades.

At 2:31 PM, Blogger Chris Needham said...

2 things, John.

One, I'm pretty sure that KB is in his walk year. We can't underestimate the crappiness of the Yankees defense in the equation either. Jeter was playing over his head early in the year, but was back to his normal crappy ways by the end. Cairo's decent, at best. And Olerud, despite his past glories, is best known for his hands, not his range.

Two, I don't think Vidro has nearly as much long-term value as we're thinking--when you factor in the contract. He's going to get very expensive, given his above-average offense, but way below average fielding. He's going to have to be moved off of second by the end of the contract. He won't be a value then.

I know the Yankees had interest in him a few years ago. That might be a bit too much to ask now, though.

At 2:39 PM, Blogger John said...

Well, the Yankees clearly don't care too much about defense, particularly if they don't sign Beltran! I think defensively Vidro seems likely to be a step down from Womak, but I think they'd choose the better offense any day of the week, if given the choice.

I don't think Kevin Brown is a good target, though (for the reasons we have already discussed), and I hope Bowden agrees.

At 2:54 PM, Blogger Chris Needham said...

Yeah, I'd still like to go with what we've got. I think our pitching has the chance to be well above average. And if we get a breakout or two offensively, we can definitely be competitive for the Wild Card.

As a Yankee fan, I'd hope they keep Brown too. Despite the much-deserved abuse he took last year, he can still be a useful pitcher--especially since he's penciled in as the 5th (!?) starter.


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