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December 25, 2007

Thanks for reading


Arlington, Texas, 25 December 1997

Posted by Lucas at 01:02 AM

December 22, 2007

Hamilton For Volquez

Texas traded pitchers EDINSON VOLQUEZ and DANNY RAY HERRERA to Cincinnati for outfielder JOSH HAMILTON.

Jon Daniels loves the Christmas surprise. On December 20, 2005, Texas consummated the infamous Eaton/Otsuka-for-Young/Gonzalez deal. On December 23, 2006, the Rangers completed the notorious (but not infamous) McCarthy-for-Danks trade. Now this.

I uneasily endorse this trade. That is to say, my anxiety about Volquez becoming a quality rotation figure is slightly higher than about Hamilton washing out. It’s a risky play for both teams. Texas just traded its third young and promising starter in three years, but Hamilton could become the best centerfielder in franchise history.

More thoughts later…

Posted by Lucas at 01:13 AM

December 21, 2007

Revisiting the Gonzalez-Young-Sledge for Eaton-Otsuka-Killian Trade

I have a theory about Adam Eaton. Not a theory in the technical sense (a rigorously tested and accepted explanation of certain phenomena; e.g., evolution) but in the non-technical sense (a crazy-ass idea; e.g., what nitwit ID’ers think of evolution)

My theory: Adam Eaton is “The Wiz” from Seinfeld.

You may remember The Wiz mostly for prancing around the coffee shop and bellowing, “I’m the Wiz and noooobody beats me!!!” More to the point, this very ordinary-looking guy had the power to entrance anyone who looked into his eyes. Upon meeting him, Elaine ditched Puddy immediately via a phone call. (“You dumped me for some idiotic TV pitchman,” he later groused.)

I believe Adam Eaton has this power. Jon Daniels looked into his eyes and turned to goo, giving up Chris Young, Adrian Gonzalez, and Terrmel Sledge for Eaton, Akinori Otsuka and Billy “Irish Red” Killian. How else to explain such affection for a pitcher who in six years had failed to pitch 162 innings four times and failed to post a league-average ERA five times.

Philly GM Pat Gillick suffered the same fate, giving Eaton $24 million in November 2006 after another spotty and injury-plagued season. Before the next season began, the Phillies were already considering moving him to the bullpen because of a surfeit of rotation candidates. He survived that scare but proceeded to have his worst season (6.29 ERA with nightmarish peripherals), was omitted from the postseason roster, and once again might be banished to relief. Oh, but to look in his eyes…

Anyway, my initial take on the trade (edited, click for full version if you dare):

Ugh.

At best a lateral move in the short run, possibly a terrible move in the long run. Both Eaton and Otsuka are free agents after 2006 [note: Aki actually couldn’t become a free agent until after 2008. Wouldn’t have changed my opinion.], Eaton will earn in excess of $4 million, and he almost certainly won’t resign with Texas. Meanwhile, Young, Gonzalez and Sledge are company property and inexpensive for the next several years.

Two weeks ago with rumors bounding, Eaton expressed mixed feelings about pitching in Arlington: “It's not conducive to my style of pitching; I'm a fly-ball pitcher. If I was to stay there, it'd have to be for crazy money. Granted, that is an offense that's going to put up some runs. You could take a Coors Field approach to the game." Texas isn’t Coors Field, but the well-spoken Eaton nailed the disconnection between his pitching style and The Ballpark. Petco Park and its predecessor kill fly balls, whereas The Ballpark propels them into the ionosphere.

Moving from Petco to The Ballpark adds about 0.90 to [Eaton’s] ERA. During the last five years Eaton never finished with an above-average ERA+ in a park tailored to his skill set, so why would he do so in The Ballpark? After the Park fiasco, I’m assuming Ranger management isn’t so daft as to ignore park factors. So, what gives?

San Diego led off the NLDS against St. Louis with Jake Peavy, Pedro Astacio and Woody Williams. Eaton would have pitched Game Four had the Pads not been swept, but what does it say when rampant mediocrities like Astacio and Williams rank higher than him on the pecking order?

Chris Young is a year younger than Eaton and signed for $1.1 million over the next two years followed by three years of arbitration-eligibility. Young struggled as summer waxed but still finished his rookie season with a WARP of 4.8, better than Eaton’s career-high of 4.6…If Eaton has a 4.75 ERA and Young’s hovers in the low threes, Ranger fans will howl. And they should.

Adrian Gonzalez has yet to display his talents to full advantage in the Majors, but his Age-23 season in pitcher-friendly Oklahoma (.338/.399/.561) indicates he warrants a full-time job. Texas surprisingly gave him a part-time DH role to start the season but seemed to sour on him within just two weeks, and he spent most of the next four months in AAA.

Otsuka keeps the ball on the ground and won’t suffer as much damage moving to Arlington. He represents a substantial addition to the bullpen at a considerable discount ($1.75 million) from the crazy-money teams are throwing at middle relievers.

My unease regarding Eaton increased substantially when he commented on his former team:

Everybody looks at everything else besides the end result, and that’s one thing I’ve kind of been able to do in the past (focusing on wins), for an offense that really didn’t put a whole bunch of runs up for me in the past few years in San Diego… I have a real hard time figuring how or what I’m going to do with run support [in Texas]. I haven’t had that luxury in a long time… [Eight runs] is like a nice two-week span for me at times. There was a time that I would be told, how hard is it to throw a shutout and hit a home run. That was true, you actually had to do that to get a “W” the past few years.

Through a little research, I determined that: 1) San Diego did not have a bad offense, 2) Eaton received better run support than the rotation as a whole, and 3) his won-loss record during 2003-2005 was better than he deserved (31-31 despite three consecutive sub-par years).

Where Are They Now?

Eaton departed after one season, as expected, and Texas didn’t offer arbitration, as expected. Otsuka spent half of 2007 injured and has yet to recover fully. Uncomfortable with offering arbitration to a convalescing 35-year-old, Texas non-tendered him. Killian never surpassed low-A and was traded to the White Sox for “future considerations” (bootleg copy of Dance Dance Revolution). After two seasons, Texas’s production from the trade is complete, without even a compensatory draft pick to provide hope of future benefits.

Meanwhile, Young and Gonzalez are signed to four-year contracts through 2010 (plus team options for 2011) for a combined $24 million. Both have postseason experience. Young tossed 6.2 shutout innings in the ’06 NLDS, and Gonzalez batted .357 with three walks. Sledge migrated to Japan after two indifferent seasons as a backup and AAA insurance policy.

How Bad Is Bad?

Once again, I’ve compared the value of this trade using Win Shares and Wins Above Replacement Player.

WIN SHARES 2006 2007
TOTAL
Gonzalez 17 27 44
Young 12 13 25
Sledge 1 4 5
SDG TOTAL 74
Eaton 2 0 2
Otsuka 11 5 16
Killian 0 0 0
TEX TOTAL 18
DIFFERENCE 56

Texas Win Share Deficit: 56 (18 wins)

WARP 2006 2007
TOTAL
Gonzalez 8.6 9.3 17.9
Young 4.9 5.7 10.6
Sledge 0.4 1.6 2.0
SDG TOTAL 30.5
Eaton 1.8 0.0 1.8
Otsuka 5.9 1.7 7.6
Killian 0.0 0.0 0.0
TEX TOTAL 9.4
DIFFERENCE 21.1

Texas WARP Deficit: 21.1 (about 21 wins)

In just two seasons, the difference in production is worth about twenty wins, an astonishing number. To salt the wound, Texas paid $9.4 million to Eaton and Otsuka during 2006-2007 while Gonzalez, Young and Sledge earned under $2.5 million.

How does this trade compare to two other infamous deals I've written about, both by John Hart: the Giles-for-Rincon trade between Cleveland and Pittsburgh and the Hafner-for-Diaz swap between the Tribe and Texas? Pretty terribly, that's how:

Trade
Win Share Deficit After Two Years
WARP Deficit After Two Years
Young / Gonzalez / Sledge for Eaton / Otsuka / Killian
56
21.1
Giles for Rincon
54
18.1
Hafner / Myette for Diaz / Drese
4
-0.4

This trade surpasses the one-sidedness of John Hart’s infamous Giles-for-Rincon deal. The Hafner trade took a while longer to inflict its pain. Hafner spent part of 2003 in the minors and generated only a .327 OBP, and in 2004 Texas received an improbably fine season from Ryan Drese. Including the entire post-trade outcome, I calculate an advantage of 50 win shares and 11.1 WARP for Cleveland, still less disastrous than the Young/Gonzalez transaction.

In sum:

This trade is already worse than the Giles-for-Rincon and Hafner-for-Diaz trades. Right now. And forever.

In a few years, I hope the trades of Teixeira, Gagne and Lofton provide the opportunity to write a similar article in Texas's favor.

Posted by Lucas at 12:43 AM

December 16, 2007

Reviewing the Lee-Cordero Trade

On July 28, 2006, Texas traded set-up man Francisco Cordero, outfielders Kevin Mench and Laynce Nix, and minor-league pitcher Julian Cordero to Milwaukee for outfielders Carlos Lee and Nelson Cruz. Heading into that night’s home game against Kansas City, the Rangers were 51-51, two games behind Oakland and 1.5 back from Los Angeles. After the series with the Royals, Texas would depart for a potentially make-or-break road trip against Minnesota, LA, and Oakland.

The Rangers had decided they could live without Cordero, who lost his closer’s role after a disastrous April, and needed a more potent and consistent bat than Mench’s if they hoped to win the West. Cruz had excelled in AAA but at age 26 still hadn’t seen many MLB at-bats.

Meanwhile, the Brewers had lost 11 of 15 to fall hopelessly behind the suddenly hot Cardinals and six games out of the wild card. More hopeless was their perceived chance of re-signing free-agent-to-be Carlos Lee. Though the front-line acquisition of Cordero gave the appearance of “win now,” it was really a trade for 2008. Also, Cordero, Nix, and Mench were originally selected during GM Doug Melvin’s administration in Texas.

Press and blog reaction was mostly favorable. My initial thoughts:

In short, I like it. Yes, Lee will be a free agent and almost certainly will find himself in another uniform next season, but so will the players Texas relinquished. Now 28, Mench appears to have topped out as merely average outfielder. He does have two arbitration years remaining, but neither will be cheap since he makes $2.8 million already. Nix is three years younger but has stalled in AAA. Perhaps Texas wrecked his career in 2003 by calling him up from AA as a 22-year-old despite his unspectacular stats, but that’s a philosophical discussion for another time. Cordero had probably pitched himself out of next year’s team option [$5 million].

The wildcard is Cruz, who is three months older than Nix and a bit old for a prospect. Still, he’s batted .302/.380/.525 for AAA Toledo with good patience and a terrible strikeout rate.

(In hindsight, I’d retract that Cordero comment. I didn’t anticipate how much teams would be willing to spend on relievers.)

What Happened To Texas?

Lee and Cruz would play that very night; Lee went 2-4 as DH and Cruz pinch-hit for Rod Barajas. Despite their presence, Texas lost two of three to the dreadful Royals, who were 35-66 entering the series, and found themselves three games out of first entering the road trip.

Texas went 5-5 away from home against three winning clubs, acceptable on its face but insufficient for a team trying to win a division. Down 5.5 games after the trip, Texas won eight of its next ten, but Oakland did the same. Then, the infamous three consecutive losses to 49-75 Tampa Bay essentially closed the door. Another torpid September resulted in a 13-game deficit by season’s end.

Lee batted .322/.369/.525 with nine homers and 35 RBI as a Ranger. Management postured that they wanted him for the long haul, but it never rang true. Some desperate team (Houston, it turned out) would offer a ridiculous contract. Plus, his roly-poly effort on a Grady Sizemore blooper that became an inside-the-park home run cemented his status as a DH-in-waiting, and the 30-year-old didn’t look the type to age gracefully. Texas politely thanked him for his effort and took the compensation picks.

Cruz became a classic 4A hitter. Batters can make a living in the PCL with the solitary talent of killing mistake pitches. In the Majors, it’s not enough. He’s still with Texas, 27, out of options, and seemingly destined for waivers or the transactions wire.

What Happened To Milwaukee?

Cordero immediately stepped into Milwaukee’s closer role and saved 16 games in 28 appearances. He walked a few too many, but otherwise he pitched brilliantly. Cordero recovered quickly from his April meltdown and had provided superior relief with Texas ever since, so his excellence with the Brewers was no surprise. Milwaukee gladly picked up his $5 million option, and Cordero was among the best closers in 2007, though not without some drama. In June, he returned to Arlington for an interleague series. Entering the 9th with a 3-0 lead, and having allowed only one run all season, he allowed six consecutive two-out baserunners and lost the game. He blew another save the following night in a game Milwaukee eventually won.

Kevin Mench wiped out in his first session with the Brewers (.230/.248/.317) and came close to being non-tendered. Retained but mostly relegated to the short end of a platoon, he publicly complained about his lot in life while batting a tepid .267/.305/.441. Milwaukee set him free this winter.

Laynce Nix’s batting eye never improved. In AAA, he’s consistently batted .270 with pretty good power and a decent walk rate. In the Majors, his pitch selection drifts toward randomness, resulting in a .230 average and atrocious BB/SO ratio. Nix has 35 strikeouts and no unintentional walks in his last 104 MLB appearances. The Brewers outrighted him after the 2007 season.

The other Cordero, Julian, didn’t pitch in 2007. I don’t know what’s happened to him.

Milwaukee was the darling of the NL in June 2007, pacing the league with a 43-31 record and leading the Central by 8.5 games. Pythagoras had them at a more modest 40-34, however, and regression and injuries led to a 40-48 finish and second place. Division-mate Cincinnati offered Cordero $46 million for four years of service, an offer Milwaukee respectfully declined to exceed.

Who Won?

As with this article, I’ve compared the value of this trade using Win Shares and Wins Above Replacement Player.

WIN SHARES 2006 2007 TOTAL
F. Cordero 6 10 16
Mench 0 8 8
Nix 0 0 0
J. Cordero 0 0 0
-- '08 pick 1 0 0 0
-- '08 pick 2 0 0 0
MIL TOTAL 24
Lee 7 0 7
Cruz 3 4 7
-- Beavan 0 0 0
-- Borbon 0 0 0
TEX TOTAL 14

Texas Win Share Deficit: 10 (about three wins)

WARP 2006 2007 TOTAL
F. Cordero 3.8 6.0 9.8
Mench -0.2 1.7 1.5
Nix -0.1 -0.4 -0.5
J. Cordero 0.0 0.0 0.0
-- '08 pick 1 0.0 0.0 0.0
-- '08 pick 2 0.0 0.0 0.0
MIL TOTAL 10.8
Lee 2.2
0.0
2.2
Cruz 0.7 2.3 3.0
-- Beavan 0.0 0.0 0.0
-- Borbon 0.0 0.0 0.0
TEX TOTAL 5.2

Texas WARP Deficit: 5.6 (almost six wins)

Superficially, Milwaukee got the better of the deal. Texas won 2006 with Lee, though not by much, but by 2007 had only a failing Cruz on its roster. In terms of value per dollar, it’s nearly a tie. Milwaukee spent about $10.5 million on Cordero, Mench and Nix, getting 2.2 wins shares and 1.0 WARP per million in salary. To date, Texas has forked out $5.6 million on Lee, Cruz, and the two players drafted with its compensation picks, equivalent to 2.5 win shares and 0.9 WARP per million.

In truth, neither team has won, given that the point of the trade was to supply the missing piece for a trip to the postseason. We won’t know the ultimate winner for years. Remind me to revisit the trade in 2012, when we can assess whether Blake Beavan and Julio Borbon have paid off more than the compensation picks Milwaukee will receive in the 2008 draft.

Posted by Lucas at 01:21 PM

December 13, 2007

Broussard Acquired

Texas traded infielder TIM HULETT JR. to Seattle for 1B BEN BROUSSARD.

So why bother trading a quasi-prospect like Hulett if Texas isn’t competing in 2008? Well, that sort of thinking can become too reductive; Texas does have to field a team next year. Broussard has a Major League bat, albeit a limited one, and could provide twenty homers as the fat side of a 1B platoon with Chris Shelton for $4.5 million or so (the righty Shelton has a reverse split but still surpasses Broussard against lefties). Fond as I am of Hulett, he projects as a 5th infielder on his best day and 6th on the rest.

It’s a nice little trade, though one that drives home the organization’s honest but depressingly modest expectations for next season. It also firmly situates Jarrod Saltalamacchia behind the plate (in Oklahoma, if not Texas) and preemptively quashes Nate Gold’s Spring Training dreams of breaking camp with the big boys.

Posted by Lucas at 08:25 AM

Otsuka Non-Tendered

Texas declined to offer a contract to reliever AKINORI OTSUKA. Texas offered contracts to catcher GERALD LAIRD and outfielder MARLON BYRD.

Just when you thought the Young/Gonzalez trade couldn’t look any worse…

The months-long mystery of “How badly hurt is Otsuka?” deepened in the worst possible way (short of Tommy John surgery). Apparently he’s healthy but still not throwing off a mound, and Texas didn’t want to commit $5 million to a 35-year-old question mark. Texas probably wanted (and still wants) to sign him to an incentive-based deal unworkable under arbitration-based minimum salary rules.

I can’t review the available information and claim that Texas made a mistake. But that doesn’t make me any happier. Incidentally, I don’t think the non-tender had anything to do with Otsuka’s recommendation that Japanese import Kosuke Fukudome sign with San Diego.

2008 just got a little more depressing.

Posted by Lucas at 08:24 AM

Gorneault DFA'ed

Texas designated outfielder NICK GORNEAULT for assignment.

Pass.

Posted by Lucas at 08:13 AM

December 09, 2007

Bradley Signs

Texas signed outfielder MILTON BRADLEY to a one-year contract for $5 million plus incentives, pending a physical.

A worthwhile dice roll. Bradley has serious on-base skills (never below .350 during 2003-2007 and a 114 OBP+ during that span) and some pop (110 SLG+ during the same period). The 29-year-old has also qualified for the batting title only once, been traded three times in-season, and will be joining his sixth team in eight years. Indeed, Oakland designated him for assignment in June before shifting him to San Diego.

Bradley’s played a strong majority of his career in center but is probably suited to a corner at this point, particularly since he’ll be coming off ACL surgery.

Posted by Lucas at 11:22 AM

December 05, 2007

Freddy Guzman Traded

Texas traded outfielder FREDDY GUZMAN to Detroit for a player to be named later.

I can’t find a transaction post on my site from when Texas acquired him for OF/1B Vince Sinisi and pitcher John Hudgins in May 2006. Here’s what I wrote for ESPN:

Texas recently acquired outfielder Freddy Guzman from San Diego for a couple of minor leaguers. The Rangers will send him to AAA initially but may ask him to replace backup outfielder Adrian Brown before long. Guzman has decent on-base skills, zero power, and ferocious speed: 166 steals versus 30 caught in 249 minor-league games. Guzman might provide a little help in AL-only leagues if a Ranger starting outfielder suffers an injury. Keep his name if the back of your head. A true center fielder by trade, Guzman’s arrival would appear to dump water on the smoking embers of Laynce Nix’s fantasy value.

I remember favoring the trade. Guzman appeared to be a solid 4th OF candidate while Sinisi and Hudgins had stalled.

Guzman continued to post decent numbers in Oklahoma but never did anything to force a serious look on the MLB roster. He’s out of options and had little chance of making the ’08 squad even with lackluster competition in the outfield. Sinisi, meanwhile, has re-established his credentials as a 4th OF prospect, and Hudgins pitched in the Arizona Fall League (and was pummeled) after a lost year following Tommy John surgery.

With 39 players on its roster, Texas can participate in the Rule 5 draft.

Posted by Lucas at 05:55 PM

December 02, 2007

Adventures in Marketing


Barnes and Noble, Austin, 1 Dec 2007.

The 2008 Texas Rangers monthly calendar, featuring Mark Teixeira on the cover! January's photo: Kenny Lofton! December: Teixeira again! Plus Eric Gagne, Brad Wilkerson, and Swingin' Sammy Sosa. Five months of twelve populated by ex-Rangers.

Buy yours today.

Posted by Lucas at 12:29 AM

December 01, 2007

Weekend Photo


Route 66 west of Amboy, CA, 15 Nov 2007.

Posted by Lucas at 01:57 PM