Orioles Think Tank

Orioles Coverage for the Information Age

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Posted by Mike on December 29, 2005

11/28/05

With all the significant trades going on before the upcoming Winter Meetings, this promises to be an interesting off-season. Here’s my take on a few of the trades that impact the Orioles in some way.

The team listed by the player’s name indicates where they finished the year, not necessarily where they played the majority of their games.

Red Sox
Acquire:RHP Josh Beckett, Florida, 25 3B Mike Lowell, Florida, 31 RHP Guillermo Mota, Florida, 32


Marlins
Acquire:SS Hanley Ramirez, Boston, 21 RHP Anibal Sanchez, Portland (AA), 21 RHP Jesus Delgado, Greenville (Lo A), 21 RHP Harvey Garcia, Greenville (Lo A), 21

Following the 2004 season, the Red Sox lost Pedro Martinez to free agency and Curt Schilling to karma. In Josh Beckett, they again have one of the top ten pitchers in baseball. The only question has been his durability. He has never made more than 29 starts in a season or pitched 180 innings, making eleven trips to the Disabled List in his brief career.

It is worth noting that Beckett’s strikeout rate has slipped somewhat in the past two seasons. He has gone from strikeing out 9.6 batters every nine innings in 2003 to 8.4 in 2005. However, during that same time frame, he has made corresponding improvements in his walk rate. Overall, 8.4 K’s/9 seem like plenty to me, and the slight dropoff from 2003 can likely be attributed to Beckett refining his control and putting more balls in play.

Guillermo Mota emerged as one of the better relievers in the National League in 2003 with the Dodgers. His control regressed somewhat in 2005, but I like his chances to rebound.

Of course, the catch to this trade is that the Red Sox had to take on Mike Lowell‘s 2 year/$18 million contract after he provided no offense for the Marlins at all. He did, however, win a Gold Glove (as if that means anything).

The Marlins finally get to fill their perennial hole at SS with Hanley Ramirez. Ramirez is a favorite of scouts; who love his speed, strong arm, range, raw power, and ability to travel through time. After his 2004 season (.310/.360/.512 in 129 AA at bats), it looked like Ramirez was putting it all together. However, he regressed in 2005 to the tune of .271/.335/.385 (in 465 AA at bats).

Anibal Sanchez posted a 158-40 K:BB ratio in 136 innings between High A and AA. He has a lively 93-95 fastball, a usable curve, and a changeup that serves as his out-pitch.

Jesus Delgado came back after two years off to pitch in relief in Low A. His fastball can touch 98 mph. Harvey Garcia is a similar hard-throwing reliever out of Low-A ball. He was actually originally signed, and subsequently released, by the Marlins. Neither Delgado nor Garcia have much in the way of secondary pitches.

Analysis: This one looks like a pretty big score for the Red Sox. They will likely assume some of Lowell’s contract and peddle him elsewhere (Minnesota?). Assuming Beckett stays somewhat healthy, they sure didn’t give up much to get a pitcher who could be one of the game’s best for the next decade. As a throw-in, I love the addition of Mota to the Sox’s depleted relief corps. The Marlins look to get back an everyday SS who is looking less and less like the future superstar everyone was predicting, a solid pitching prospect, and two live arms that may or may not make an appearance in the show one day.

Mets
Acquire:1B Carlos Delgado, Florida, 33

Marlins
Acquire:RHP Yusmeiro Petit, Norfolk (AAA), 21 1B/C Mike Jacobs, New York (NL), 25 3B Grant Psomas, St. Lucie (Hi A), 23

How does this impact the Orioles? Well, we didn’t get Delgado. Apparently, we refused to include Hayden Penn in any deal. If I may digress a moment, exactly why is this kid untouchable? Yes, he’s a fine prospect and he may one day front a big-league rotation. But what are the odds of that? 1 in 10? 1 in 20? More likely, he’s another servicable mid-rotation guy that will never have higher trade value than right now (when he’s cheap and looks like he could become a front-of-the-rotation starter). Delgado, on the other hand, is a proven commodity if there ever was one.

Carlos Delgado had another fine year. He hit .301/.399/.582 on his way to belting another 33 home runs. Despite the back-loaded nature of his contract, I have few doubts he will be worth the money for the next three years.

Yusmeiro Petit has been one of the most dominant pitchers in the minor leagues over the past two years. Over his minor league career, he has averaged 11 K’s/9 innings to go along with a sparkling 2.71 ERA. In 2005, he had a 144-24 K:BB ratio over 133 innings mostly in AA. While his statistics can’t be ignored, some scouts are not sold on this right-hander’s inability to hit 90 mph consistently. He does, however, also throw a curve, changeup, and slider. His most frequent comparison is to Livan Hernandez.

Mike Jacobs had a breakout season of sorts. After being drafted in the 38th round, it took a .321/.376/.589 season in AA to get him a cup of coffee. He took advantage, hitting .310/.375/.710 in his first 100 Major League at bats. His career could go in any number of directions, but the Mets clearly did not believe in him. Then again, they clearly didn’t believe in Scott Kazmir either. Grant Psomas was a throw-in with some interesting similarities to Jacobs. Both were unheralded as amateurs (Psomas was a 15th round pick) that have exceeded expectations. While he was old for the league, Psomas did hit .301/.399/.517 in his first full season in low A. His defense is regarded as nothing more than average.
Analysis: The Mets appear to be an organization mesmerized by tools and unimpressed by production. For the Marlin’s yield, it is interesting to see how divergent these prospects are from Hanley Ramirez in this respect. Jacobs, Petit, and Psomas will try to see if they can find a cozier home in Florida, where their respective skills may be valued higher.
I feel like the Marlins got better value in this trade than in the their dealings with the Sox. Of course, I value a cheap young ace more highly than a slugger on the wrong side of thirty. Delgado is more proven, though, so it’s all about an organization’s priorities.

Blue Jays ink B.J. Ryan to 5 years/$47 million

This deal looks crazier than Nick Nolte on roofies. Why the shit would you pay a guy $9.4 million to pitch 70 innings a year for you? Old school baseball executives will tell you the importance of a proven closer, blah blah blah. But old school baseball executives are also the last to believe a guy can be successful long-term in a closer’s role. It’s a little funny that this money would then go to a guy who has only been a closer for one season. I am having trouble wrapping my mind around what J.P. Ricciardi was thinking. Weighing leverage into the analysis helps some. The average closer (30 saves or more) came into situations with a 1.6 leverage rating in 2005 (Ryan’s was closer to 1.4, but that is mostly subject to the way he was utilized in Baltimore). This basically means that Ryan can be expected to pitch in situations 1.6 more important than the average pitcher. Even factoring for this, the Jay’s are still paying almost eight figures for the equivalent of 110+ innings. Silly, just silly.

Let’s hope Chris Ray continues his remarkable development. I have a feeling this signing just made all those “stop-gap” solutions the Orioles were persuing a lot more expensive.

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