First off, like Mark Twain's banned "weather", there will be no mice in this post. They were just a ploy for all of you headline seekers looking for a juicy mouse story-well, not that the mouse is juicy...you get the point. Just as long as we are clear that there will not be any mice or llamas in this piece. Right. Roll it.
Two men signed contracts today in the neighborhood of roughly one-third the value of Steve Austin. If my calculator is right, that's $2 M-6 divided by 3 is 2, new math, I guess. Those men are pitcher Tony Armas Jr. of the Expos and second baseman Adam Kennedy of the Angels. Both were eligible for arbitration for the first time.
Kennedy inked a one-year deal for $2.27 M. That's a good deal for the Angels. Considering how close Kennedy played to Ray Durham's level last year and that Durham got a deal for 4 years at $27.1M (or about $7M per). You don't believe me that they had similar seasons. Well, check this out my man:
Player SB% BA OBP SLG OPS Adj Lg OPS Adj OPS
Kennedy 81% .312 .345 .449 .795 .747 113
Durham 78% .289 .374 .450 .825 .767 116
Durham did have about 100 more ABs in 2002 and double the homers. And Kennedy had better learn to take a walk once in a while (only 19 in 2002). But Kennedy probably is a little better defensively (Durham did DH for the A's for a good part of 2002 and James gives him a D defensive rating in his Win Shares book.).
Kennedy may fall back to his .300 on-base percentage ways, but he was only 26 last year, so the chances are good that his improvement is real. Durham is only 30 himself so he should be able to stave off old age for a couple of years yet. I'd say the Angels did better than the Giants in this regard (of course, if salaries shoot through the roof next year and the Angels either lose Kennedy or are forced to overpay to retain him, I reserve the right to change that judgment).
Tony Armas Jr., who I still think should have been an outfielder like his dear ole dad, signed a one-year, $2.1 M deal with the Expos. Armas seemed to be developing well until last year:
Season W L ERA WHIP K/9IP K:BB HR/9IP Adj ERA
1999 0 1 1.50 1.67 3.00 1.00 0.00 310
2000 7 9 4.36 1.31 5.59 1.18 0.11 106
2001 9 14 4.03 1.38 8.05 1.93 0.09 115
2002 12 12 4.44 1.38 7.17 1.68 0.13 94
Total 28 36 4.21 1.37 7.17 1.67 0.11 106
His strikeouts went down and his ERA and home run rate went up. And though his opponents' batting average stayed about the same (.243), the old OPS (on-base plus slugging) went up 30 points (all from his opponents' slugging percentage increase). But he won 12 games and that means an improvement to most people.
Armas is young (25 at the start of the season) so this down season probably won't be a blip on his radar screen in a few years. However, it is never good when a young pitcher starts to drop his strikeout numbers and up his homers allowed numbers. Armas did miss about a month in 2002 with a back strain, so that could have affected his numbers. (He was 0-3 with a 7.04 ERA in 5 July starts right before going on the DL and 0-2 with a 13.50 ERA in his two August games.) Of course, it's never good when a young pitcher misses time due to back strain either.
All in all, it's a good signing. There are few things for the Expos to watch with him, and the fact that this is just a one-year contract makes it all the more interesting.