Orioles Think Tank

Orioles Coverage for the Information Age

Arroyo for Pena

Posted by Mike on March 29, 2006

In his first big move since becoming GM (if you don’t count resigning Adam Dunn), Wayne Krivsky decided to trade one of his most valuable resources for a 4th starter (well, on any other team).  After a breakout season in 2004, Arroyo saw his ERA jump over half a run and his strikeout rate decline from 7.2/9 ip to 4.4 K/9 in 2005.  Pena, on the other hand, continued to struggle with his control of the strike zone.  But when he got ahold of the ball, well… his .238 isoP says it all. 

Let’s take a look at a few of their top comparables according to PECOTA.

Arroyo- Esteban Loaiza, John Thomson, Jeff Weaver, Kevin Millwood, Todd Ritchie

There’s certainly some promise in that group- just look at the salaries that Weaver and Millwood pulled this off-season.  In addition, Arroyo has escaped the the injury nexus that so often claims young pitchers, is able to handle a significant workload, and is signed to an affordable 3-year deal that was brokered with a hometown discount in mind.

Pena- Jesse Barfield, Willie Stargell, Pete Incaviglia, Dale Murphy, Jose Canseco, Albert Belle

Wow.  PECOTA sure seems to like Wily Mo Pena.  Nate Silver, PECOTA’s puppet-master, has explained in the past that prodigious power helps a young player develop plate discipline as more and more pitchers start to pitch around him.  And better plate coverage is about all Pena is missing to become an all-star caliber player.  Of course, it is always dangerous to assume a player will develop a skill that is just not there yet,  but if Pena never develops any further, he’s still Joe Carter

Ultimately, it’s hard to see how the Red Sox didn’t come away the winner in this trade.  Below is a graph of Pena and Arroyo’s 2005 WARP‘s, plus PECOTA projected WARP’s through 2010.

PECOTA has Arroyo being more valuable this year, followed by a season where the two are roughly equal.  After that, Pena’s advantage only continues to grow.  Imagine if Pena ever tops 513 PA’s (which is where PECOTA has him topping off at).

It’s worth mentioning that both players are only under their respective team’s control for the next three years.  Should Pena reach his potential, however, I have trouble believing the Sox wouldn’t figure out a way to lock him up. 

As much as it is clear that Boston will eventually be a better team because of this trade, I do not think it necessarily makes them better for 2006.  Sure, Pena makes a nasty lefty-masher to caddy for Trot Nixon.  And sure, the Sox have some starting pitching depth so the loss of Arroyo is not going to kill them.  Neither of these points, however, is as big of a deal in 2006 as many are portraying it to be.

Specifically, Pena will either be severely limited in his usefulness as a platoon partner for Trot Nixon or be taking away AB’s from Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz when they need a rest.  In neither of those scenarios do the Sox come away much stronger.

Last year, Pena hit .291/.345/.536 against lefties.  Unfortunately, that’s not as impressive as it seems.  In fact, last year Chris Gomez hit .317/.400/.394 against lefties.  Package that with the fact that he can play middle infield and you have a $850K player.  What’s my point?  Well, hitting left-handers is a skill that a lot of guys floating around have.  The other merits of this trade aside, the manner in which Pena will likely be used during the 2006 season renders him less of a factor than he might be on another team.  In fact, I find it hard to believe that there aren’t a few veteran guys in AAA right now that are just as capable of thriving in a similar role.

The final point I’ll make about this trade- as it pertains to 2006- is that it is simply not true that Arroyo’s loss will not be felt.  As it stands right now, according to MLB.com, the Red Sox rotation sits like this:

  1. Curt Schilling

  2. Josh Beckett

  3. David Wells

  4. Matt Clement

  5. Tim Wakefield

Between Wells’ trade demands/age and Schilling and Beckett’s constantly wavering health, I’m not going out on much of a limb to see this as essentially swapping Arroyo out of the rotation for Jonathon Papelbon.  The problem here is that people seem to have unrealistic expectations for Papelbon.  Sure, he had 34 good innings in relief last year, but pitchers almost always pitch significantly better in relief than as a starter.  To better gauge his effectiveness as a full-time starter, we’d have to look all the way back to the beginning of 2005 when he was in AA.  There, even as a 24 year old, he failed to strike out a batter an inning.  As a comparison, as a 23 year old in AA, John Maine struck out 34 batters in 28 innings.  I’m not arguing that Jon Papelbon isn’t a major league caliber starter, just that his 34 MLB innings last year have tricked a lot of people into thinking that he is an elite prospect.

PECOTA has Papelbon pegged for a 4.94 ERA this year, which is understandable when you look at his #2 comparable- Gil Meche.  There are a few more encouraging names on that list (Kelvim Escobar, Rich Gossage) but it is unreasonable to expect him to seamlessly switch to the rotation and pitch at a level that will make the Sox forget about Arroyo.

  • On another note, Rich Lederer dropped me an email detailing some of his thoughts on the latest round of O’s transactions.

Concerning the possibility that Markakis, Matos, and Patterson might all make the opening day roster:

I’m perplexed by the [apparent] decision to keep Markakis.  It’s not like he is tearing it up this spring.  Why not let him get some more time in at AA or AAA, then bring him up later in the season?  What’s the rush here? 

Oh, and if you are going to keep him on the roster, then by all means let him start.  No way he should head north and not be in the lineup everyday.

 

I can certainly agree with these sentiments.  If anything struck me about what Rich had to say, it’s that the buzz around the Orioles right now is that Markakis is tearing it up this spring.  I’m certainly not going to take anything away from Markakis’ .900 OPS through 56 AB’s, but maybe it only looks so good because we are comparing him to his decidedly mdiocre competition.  Plus, the fact that he only has one HR thus far certainly seems to indicate that his power could stand more time to develop in Bowie or Ottawa.  And it’s not like the WBC hasn’t rendered the level of play even lower than normal this spring.  Finally, let’s not forget that there are similarly young prospects that are having even more impressive springs (Elijah Dukes- .700 SLG, Kendry Morales- .649 SLG).  So, at this point, let’s try to keep the hype machine from getting out of control and prioritize Markakis’ future over some fleeting hopes of competing this season.

Rich also had this to say about placing Geronimo Gil on waivers:

Big mistake if you ask me.  Don’t like the idea of two catchers only, especially if one of them is also going to play 1B and DH.  Just doesn’t make sense.  I mean, this really reduces the team’s flexibility during games quite a bit. 

So there you have it- the first argument I’ve seen anywhere on Gil’s behalf.  The Orioles do still have Eli Whiteside on the 40-man roster and I find it unlikely that he could be worse than Gil, should they be inclined to use him.  In the end, though, it will be up to the Orioles to somehow make enough use out of the additional roster space to justify any compromises in game strategy that Gil’s departure may cause.

What say you, Orioles Nation?

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10 Responses to “Arroyo for Pena”

  1. bradley said

    i like the idea of keeping markakis. obviously, the value of the farm sustem has been questionable going back a few years, but i really don’t like the idea of signing relatively expensive, mediocre vets for work that could be done cheap products of the system that could be useful. i think millar is due for a modest rebound and conine is a solid guy, but doesn’t it probably bother roberts, gibbons, tejada and mora that those two were brought in to be leaders? and i concur on whiteside.

    what’s the consensus here about mora? i think 3 years at 10 mill per is insanity.

  2. Dave said

    I agree about Mora. Mike had a good graph a couple posts back that showed that Mora would probably be a good bet for two years but anything more would be too risky.

    I am very glad to have the chief gone. Even though he is apparently pretty good defensively according to ‘Rate’, he sure looked bad bad behind the plate.

    Also I agree that Pena was a very good return on a pitcher like Arroyo but I didnt realize his plate discipline was that bad. For that matter, I didnt realize that Joe Carter’s plate discipline was that bad until I clicked on the link in this post!

  3. bradley said

    one other question: any trade tidbits floating around? i think the hyperventilating about the bullpen is silly, when it seems pretty clear that there seems to be enough decent arms to go around, but it won’t matter much if the o’s don’t score. my understanding is that craig wilson or ryan shealy could be had…i would imagine that durazo is done, but would the fo sign him to rehab at ottawa? i mean…could he be worse than freire?

  4. Mike said

    Bradley-

    You make a good point, but the fact is that the O's already signed the likes of Millar ($2.8?), Matos ($1.1), Conine ($1.5), and Patterson ($2.5), so carrying Markakis is not going to make them any cheaper. Actually, I would argue that keeping Markakis would adversely affect the finances of Orioles teams to come. As opposed to if he were allowed a half-season in the minors, he would be eligible for arbitration and free agency a year earlier if he started on opening day.

    Your point is definitely valid on a more general basis but, in this case, I don't think it is applicable. It's wonderful to have guys that can step up and fill out your bullpen or be your 4th OF for the league minimum- but if Markakis fulfills his considerable promise, monitoring his service time effectively could be very important to the future of this franchise. 

    Dave-

    Agreed about Joe Carter. I remember the first time I realized how overrated he was. I had to re-evaluate exactly how those Blue Jays teams always beat up on us.

  5. Mike said

    Bradley-

    I’ve heard that both Esteban Yan and kevin Gregg could be had for david Newhan, but Angelos is weary of their salaries.

    The O’s seem to have/had little interest in Carlos Pena, Hee Seop Choi, Durazo, etc. given their glut of 1B/DH types. It baffles me that they wouldn’t consider Choi, specifically, to be an upgrade or at least worth a flier.

    As for Shealy or Wilson, I’m with you. Either would be upgrades.

  6. bradley said

    i don’t totally fault the fo for taking flyers on patterson and millar. if they turn things around modestly, they’re both decent deals.

    re: markakis and service time

    is one year going to make that much of a difference? seriously?

  7. Mike said

    If Markakis becomes an all-star caliber player, it could mean a difference of millions on the payroll and him leaving Baltimore a season early.

  8. bradley said

    but if markakis is the wunderkind they claim he is and they want to hold on to him, they can always tender him an early-ish deal like the tribe just did w/ sizemore, no?

  9. Greg said

    I think it’s a little silly to worry about whether Markakis will be a free agent in 20012 or 2013, or whatever the details would be. So many things can happen between now and then. I do believe in thinking long-term, it’s something this organization has lacked far too often. But so many things could happen between now and then.

    Here’s another way of thinking about it, based on your notion that the O’s can’t contend this year (which I mostly agree with, though I’m anxious to see how our pitching staff fares). It is not unreasonable to think that the O’s can contend in 2007 or 2008. And if we are in contention during those years, wouldn’t we rather have a Nick Markakis who’s had a year or two od major league experience under his belt, rather than a rookie trying to get acclimated to the league?

    I’m conflicted about this, I don’t know exactly how I feel. But I’m not fond of the argument that we need to think about him becoming a free agent one year earlier. If he turns into an All Star, we’ll need to make sure we sign him long-term. I agree with the poster who cites the Indians. (Ditto for the A’s.) And I’m also not crazy about this notion that guys who get called up too early and struggle could somehow have their confidence ruined. As Jeff Fiorentino said, if that’s going to happen to you, you probably don’t have what it takes to make it in the big leagues in the first place.

    Anyway, I’m enjoying the blog, keep up the good work.

  10. Mike said

    Good points guys, let me address them in no particular order:

    – We could lock up Markakis early, which is often a good idea with premium talent, but we would just be locking him up for an additional year if he spent half this season in the minors.

    – It does seem silly on one level to worry about whther a 22 year old kid will be a FA in 6 or 7 years and there is a real possibility that it won't be that big of an issue (ie if Markakis doesn't pan out). But, if he is a stud, you're going to want him on the team one extra year. Also, Brian Roberts, for instance, got a $3 million dollar raise in his first year of arbitration. Wouldn't that much money be important to our 2009 ballclub if it has aspirations of contending?

    – Major league experience is important, of course. I don't think Markakis would necessarily struggle in the majors but I don't think he is, say, Ryan Howard circa May 2005 (when he had nothing left to prove in the minors). Under the plan I'm advocating, he is still going to get half a season of ML time this year.

    Good questions guys, and this is definitely an issue where rational people can disagree. What it comes down to for me is that I don't believe the marginal gains Markakis might give the O's in the first half of 2006 outweigh the potential losses (financial and otherwise) to Orioles teams in the future that might have a chance to contend.

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