Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Crystal Ball

In an online chat, in response to a question of starters that may be available around the trading deadline, ESPN's Buster Olney listed Tony Armas, Jr. among the potentials. I wholeheartedly agree that's a strong possibility. A few things have to happen, though:
  1. The team can't be in contention. I don't think this is a stretch!
  2. Armas has to stay healthy and pitch well enough to be valuable to a team that in contention.
  3. I think it'll also need to look unlikely that Armas will resign. If they think he's going to be asking for too much money, or if he expresses overtones of wanting to go elsewhere, I think they'll be far more inclined to trade him.

Basically, if they seem likely to lose Armas, the organization would be foolish if they didn't try to get as much for him as possible, particularly considering the state of the farm system. Getting ownership in a timely manner can make a huge difference here... if Armas likes DC, but is going to command a large paycheck next year, it may take some deep pockets to be able to feel confident enough that we can resign him to ride it out. In short, I say, prepare yourself for this one. It's not inevitable, but it does seem likely.

Next in my crystal ball, Esteban Loaiza. Sometime over the past day or two, I read some analyst (I think it was Gammons, but I'm having a hard time digging up the link), who thought that Loaiza had started off last year looking like his 2003 self. The implication is that there's something to Loaiza's "tired arm" theory, for why he sucked in the back half of the year. One would also have to believe that Loaiza really did become a good pitcher when he obtained a cutter. I'm looking at his per-month ERA splits (no need to look at anything fancier here):

April: 3.71 (34 IP)
May: 3.68 (36.2 IP)
June: 5.35 (38.2 IP)
July: 6.89 (31.1 IP)
August: 8.46 (27.2 IP)
September: 7.62 (13 IP)

You know, there's something to that theory. I don't think a 3.7 quite puts him in line with his 2003 numbers, but it isn't so far off, either. Then, he gets steadily and quickly worse, until he's mostly throwing meatballs (remember that one game for the Yankees where he did their part in setting a team record for runs allowed in a game?).

What does this mean for 2005? I think we might just see something similar. Esteban may start off reasonably well, and then start disappointing in June, and totally suck by July. He might even decline a bit faster this year. I think that, if the theory is correct, it's likely that Loaiza is on the fast track to Tommy John surgery. This all feels to me like the strain of being an innings eater is catching up to Loaiza, after quite a long run.

If that's the case, I can see someone giving the guy a chance when he's done. He could be the next Lieber.


At 8:41 AM, Blogger Chris Needham said...

Interesting parallel with Lieber, at least from the surgery angle. Skill-wise, Lieber's been a slightly more consistent pitcher. He never had that WOW! season like Loaiza did, but he's never really had a crapola season either (Other than in his second year)

RE: Loaiza and the Yankees... I was in Yellowstone during the 22-0 game, wearing my Yankee hat around. There can't be more than 2 or 3 TVs in the entire park and I had probably 10-15 people stop me and tell me about that game, or to rub it in. Baseball has a strange grip, sometimes!

At 10:23 AM, Blogger Sam said...

Loaiza to the pen? (Assuming we can quickly grow two new starting pitchers out behind the armory somewhere?)

At 10:37 AM, Blogger Chris Needham said...

We've got the starters already: Jon Rauch, John Patterson. Hell, they could bring up Mike Hinckley to get knocked around just as effectively too.

At 10:51 AM, Blogger John said...

I think Loaiza should go to the pen, yes. Now, there's absolutely no way that's going to happen, since he came here to be a starter, and the team wants him to be a starter. Yet, it seems that this is the likely way to get the most out of him. I agree with Chris that a) It was tough to be a Yankees fan that day (and the week after it), and b) We have the people to replace Loaiza in the rotation in spades if he and/or Armas, Jr. leave the rotation at any point. I even argued months ago that Loaiza was a horrible addition compared to Rauch, Patterson and Hinkley :-)

At 11:23 AM, Blogger Chris Needham said...

The best thing that Loaiza can do for the Nats is to pitch well. If he recreates his WOW! year, then the Nats are probably on the cusp of playoff contention.

If it's just a decent year, then they can trade him for a mid-level prospect with no problem.

Even if he craps the bed, the team's only out $2.9 million and that means they probably won't do something stupid like re-sign him.

At 11:59 AM, Blogger Basil said...

I've floated the idea that somewhere down the road (NOT 2005) and somewhere else (NOT WASHINGTON), Loaiza will be tried as a short reliever. Not saying I think it's inevitable, just that he's fairly likely to inspire a conversion attempt (Big Bad Baseball Annual used to call it "wafering," in fact) in someone.

At 9:35 AM, Blogger tmk67 said...

I'd rather see the Nats move Zach Day to the bullpen than Loaiza.

I think the Loaiza signing was probably the best move Bowden made this offseason (I realize that is not saying much!) The signing did not cost much and is not a long-term deal that will weight the club down for years to come. The signing gives us the ability to trade the soon-to-be-expensive Armas midseason without having to rely on big inning counts from Hinkley or Patterson this season. Hinkley and Patterson are the two starters this team needs to build around for the next five years.

Ideally, I would not want to see Hinkley on the 25-man roster at all this season, as that would start his service time/arbitration clock ticking.

If the Loaiza signing allows the Nats to trade Armas and possibly even Livan mid-season for a few "very close" prospects, we'll be cheering loudly. Anyone want Ryan Madson of Phils? Or Anthony Reyes of the Cards? Or Edwin Jackson of the Dodgers? Or Justin Germano of the Padres?...all of those guys are gettable if their teams are in the race but need a starter NOW. Heck, if Loaiza pitches well in April-May, maybe we even trade him!


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