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Trading Faces
2003-08-01 11:49
by Mike Carminati

I wanted to comment on the trading as it was in progress yesterday. But thanks to another well-timed Blogger bug, publishing was out most of the day. First, I have to commend Lee Sinins, who destroyed the traditional media in reporting each of the trades as they were happening, especially during the flurry preceding the 4 PM Eastern deadline. Great job, Lee.

Next, I am surprised by the reactions to the trades. Jayson Stark lists the Giants among the big winners for picking up a pitcher who had a 4.74 ERA in almost 900 major-league innings this year. He is 14-6 with a 3.77 ERA and a free agent at the end of the year who has already turned down a $15M, 3-year deal from the O's. Moss is having a year comparable to Ponson career average (4.70 ERA), is basically the same age as Ponson, but makes over $3 M less than Ponson now and is not a free agent at the end of the year. Kurt Ainsworth should be a better pitcher than Ponson by next year and Ryan Hannaman is supposed to be a good prospect. Three young pitchers for a player they couldn't retain. The O's weren't going anywhere even if Ponson finished the year with 25 wins.

I would call this one a big plus for the O's. There is no possible downside for them. The Giants get to rent Ponson for 10 starts with an option to buy for a steep price. Ponson in 2003 is an upgrade over Moss in 2003.

The Giants are supposed to be loaded with pitching prospects, but this one reminds me of 1997 White Sox-Giants trade, in which the Sox only who only trailed the Indians by 3.5 games shipped off two-fifths of their rotation (Danny Darwin and Wilson Alvarez) and their closer (Roberto Hernandez) for a boatload of prospects including Keith Foulke, Bob Howry, and Mikearuso. The Sox were panned by the media and the fans for throwing in the towel too early and for not receiving fair value for the talent they gave up. However, Alvarez pitched poorly for the Giants and signed as a free agent in the offseason with the expansion D-Rays. Hernandez also signed with Tampa Bay. And the 41-year-old Darwin only lasted one and one-half poor seasons. Meanwhile, Foulke became one of the best relievers in the AL and for a time Howry was one of the better setup men in the league.

The only differences between the trades are that the O's are not in contention and they didn't give up as much. The Giants traded Russ Ortiz to get Moss (and a Rookie League pitcher). They traded Moss et al for two months of Ponson. Wouldn't they have been better off just holding on to Ortiz in the first place? Oops, I forgot that they were the big winners.

Looking at Tim Kurkjian's trade scorecard, I'm either off my nut, or he is. Or you are! (Clarence: "'Tisn't me.")

I wouldn't term the Boone trade, "Another terrific deal for the Yankees," as Kurkjian does. I think the Yankees took stock and felt that Mondesi and Ventura, who had both cooled considerably since the beginning of the year, were insufficient for the pennant race and the postseason.

Ventura was always seen as stopgap until Drew Henson was ready to assume the reins at third, but Henson is not improving and Ventura was showing his age.

Mondesi never ingratiated himself to the Yanks. Torre is not the most forgiving of managers and never felt that Modesi's positives (great arm, good speed/power combo) outweighed his negatives (poor on-base percentage, poor range in right, poor disposition, big salary). When Mondesi was the best number-nine hitter in baseball back in April, the Yankees overlooked the con in his game. But since then, he has been a liability to the lineup (.680 OPS). The same goes for Ventura. Check out the breakdowns:

Mar -Apr101.347.426.6831.
Mar -May147.286.379.490.868.172.130.047

Ventura has one home run in his last 146 at-bats-and yet he's an upgrade for the Dodgers!

The Boss was not happy with the offense, and Mondesi and Ventura were the obvious choices to go. However, the have no real replacement in right (Dellucci?) and Boone is not much of an upgrade at third. As my friend Chris DeRosa points out, his home-road performance is very telling (at home: .297 BA/.366 OBP/.530 Slug; away: .249/.311/.408). Boone has been greatly benefited by a hitter's park, and like former Colorado players, his offense after leaving that park could suffer as he is Cirillo-ing around at Yankee Stadium.

I think that the move is a positive one since a) Ventura seemed on his last legs (though he seemed done in his last year in Chicago and his last two with the Mets), b) Mondesi has been on the trade market since basically when he arrived in the Bronx, and C) it gives Torre one less thing to worry about. This is good since Torre is not the multi-tasking type. He likes having guys that he can rely on and going to them until the well runs dry (witness the overworked bullpen and overworked catcher Jorge Posada in 2002). That does mean that he's averse to throwing an odd-and I do mean odd-appearance by a Luis Sojo or Enrique Wilson, but rather that if Torre lacks confidence in a player, he is as invisible as Claude Rains. If Torre lost confidence in Mondesi and Ventura, it's a good thing that they are gone.

So the move may have been necessary but it's far from "terrific".

As far as the Pirates trade, Sanchez seemed to be highly touted in Boston until recently. He gets mixed reviews, so we'll just have to see. That said, the Pirates did the worst of any team in achieving its goals by the trade deadline. They botched the Sauerbeck deal by picking up an injured Lyon. Then like a rookie fantasy player, they undid the deal and swapped Jeff Suppan for Sanchez. Basically, they gave the Red Sox Sauerbeck for free. Fool me once, yuddah yuddah. If they liked the 23-year-old Lyon and are rebuilding for the future, why not keep him. Or at least demand another arm to compensate for the injury. They combined the two trades and were taken by Theo Epstein, like a car salesman soaking a new car purchaser on the trade-in.

Boston ended up with three better relievers than the Yankees and a starting pitcher, but their staff still has holes, i.e., they are short a couple of decent starters. Epstein should be commended for fleecing the inappropriately named Pirates and picking up Scott Williamson, but I still don't think it's enough.

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