Saturday, December 13, 2003
Dan, Dan, Dan - Do You Know What a Walk Is?
The Dodgers have acquired outfielder Juan Encarnacion from the Florida Marlins, for a player to be named later.
Juan Encarnacion, whose career high in walks is 37 (against 601 at-bats in 2004).
Juan Encarnacion, whose EQA of .267 in 2003 is barely above the league average.
Juan Encarnacion, who is basically a slightly younger - and arguably weaker - version of Jolbert Cabrera.
Cabrera in 2003: Age 30, 347 AB, 32 doubles, 6 home runs, 27 walks + HBP, 62 strikeouts, .332 OBP, .438 slugging, .271 EQA.
Encarnacion in 2003: Age 27, 601 AB, 37 doubles, 19 home runs, 41 walks + HBP, 82 strikeouts, .313 OBP, .446 slugging, .267 EQA
Dan Evans, I've been in your corner. But this had better be an intermediate step, a secondary acquisition. I can wait for the big one - don't get me wrong. I'm just saying, it had better be coming.
Encarnacion's .313 on-base percentage hits my gullet like a cold hot dog - I can barely stomach it. I know the Dodgers have money to spend, but Encarnacion, who is due for a raise after making about $3.5 million in 2003, had better not get in the way of a real difference-maker.
Sweet Sixteen and Never Been KissedA life filled with trials began in November 1988.
The first few months were blissful, unfolding softly in the shadow of a big brother who was the Big Man on Campus. Big Bro was a jock, a baseball stud. From 1974 through 1988, Big Bro made the playoffs seven times, winning two World Series.
However, despite being born with almost every advantage Big Bro had, nothing went quite right for Little Sister.
The first year was a stumble, a lot of acting out. The second year, in 1990, looked more promising, but something remained amiss.
The more her earnest parents, the O'Malleys, tried to make things right, the more things just seemed to go wrong for Little Sister. They set high goals; that wasn't the problem. The problem was the recalculation that followed each failure, the desperation to solve Little Sister's problem through acts that bordered on shock therapy.
The older brother, increasingly distant, offered no comfort. The parents themselves grew older. They had had other kids, even before Big Brother. None was a challenge like this one. After 1994, a year of great promise that collapsed in a schoolyard brawl, Mom and Dad had just about had enough. They agonized for a little longer, but in 1998, they put Little Sis, now 9 1/2, up for adoption.
And then the foster parents ... sigh. You know about them. The Foxes. Something cruel out of Grimm's Fairy Tales. Crass. Callous. Dim. Wanting a kid just for show - just for the money. Sounds crazy, but oh, did they know how to exploit her! Like Mama Rose exploiting Gypsy. At the height of Jerry Springer's popularity, here was a family worthy of his dysfunctional program. Year after traumatic year passed, each reneging on the promise of this problem child, cast loose from her historic, proud family.
Little Sis is now 15, going on 16. People her age - people in high school - can't even imagine what Big Bro was like. Make no mistake, Sis has had to endure.
And now comes a third set of parents, her third caregivers since she was born in the reflection of Big Bro's glory.
These new parents, they have to be better, right? They have to be the ones that put Little Sis on the straight and narrow.
Well, a funny thing happened over the past two or three years. The Foxes learned a little about parenting. They humbled themselves. They hired some help, hired some discipline. They even learned a little about nurturing, and most important, they learned to stay out of the hell out of the way when they didn't belong. Call me crazy, but as a very interested observer, I grit my teeth with the notion that it's almost a shame to see them go, now.
Honestly, name the bad things the Foxes have done since Sis became a teenager. Other than lack of profligacy - other than not spoiling the child - times have been better lately. No, Sis is not all the way back yet, but think how far she had to go.
There may be no forgiving the Foxes for the damage they did to the child born 15 years ago. And certainly, no one's trying to stop them from letting her go now, even though they're doing so just as they seem to have gotten a hang of this parenting thing.
But there's a little quirk. An discomfiting little quirk about the whole process, this transfer that will probably take place a month from now.
Little Sis, an ugly duckling if baseball has seen one over the past decade and a half, may have a swan in her after all. But nobody knows what the McCourts will be like. And baseball, baseball doesn't seem concerned. Baseball checks whether New Dad has got the money. Baseball checks the crime books to make sure nothing's amiss there. But when it comes to character, baseball character, heck, there's no evaluation at all.
The McCourts could be good stewards. They could be great.
But we're just guessing. Wishing.
We're left simply hoping that the third time around, Little Sis finally gets some luck. We can hope. All we can do is hope. I want her to be happy next year, Sweet Sixteen.
Get Your HeadlinesI've added a link on the right-hand bar for easy access to Dodger headlines near and far, via Google. Hope you enjoy it.
Friday, December 12, 2003
Okay, You Can Be the Race CarThis morning, it still feels like the Dodgers' little silver top hat landed on Free Parking.
Man, they've got some money to spend if the Kevin Brown trade goes through. Even this financial disciplinarian is ready to go buy some hotels.
Let's just make sure they're not on Baltic Avenue.
With all this spending money available, I hope my old readers will forgive me if I repeat, for the benefit of the new readers that have come via the Times, the reigning guideline for the Dodgers this offseason: acquiring a good-hitting outfielder is more important than acquiring a good-hitting infielder.
You can read a more detailed explanation about it here, but the gist of it is this: Dodger left fielders were last in the league in offensive production in 2003. Cesar Izturis left the Dodgers last in the league at shortstop as well - a problem certainly worth solving - but his defensive value renders that problem less urgent. Bid on Nomar Garciaparra if you want, but you had better make sure you also get Vladimir Guerrero or the next-best thing.
To force-feed another board game analogy, it doesn't do much good to fortify Kamchatka when ... well, I don't have Risk in front of me, but think of your flank being exposed. And that flank is in left field. And those high rollers in the bleachers - they can be Alaska - are attacking your flank. Phew. Anyway, it's not good.
The nice thing about the Brown trade is that the Dodgers can buy houses and hotels at multiple locations. But on the off chance that they aren't the most adept organization at multitasking, they had better know what their priorities are.
McCourt Turns in Blue Book, Baseball Ready to Grade
As of 3:40 p.m., the Times website does not have the Associated Press report that Kevin Brown has permitted the Dodgers to trade him, and only needs to set his private flight plans with the Yankees for his approval to be completely sealed. However, Ross Newhan and Jason Reid do have news of another formality that, is it fair to say, some will find surprising.
Prospective Dodger owner Frank McCourt has finished his take-home exam, turning in the paperwork detailing the finances of his bid to the commissioner's office.
According to the report, two unnamed baseball officials - and I don't have any idea why baseball can't go on the record on this matter, because there's no benefit to the home office from the cloak and dagger - indicate that approval of McCourt's purchase could come one month from tomorrow, January 13.
The countdown for the mysterious McCourt can begin in earnest.
Update: Four hours later, the Times website has the Brown news, and AP has the McCourt news with baseball chief operating officer Bob DePuy on the record - but duly credits the Times website with the scoop.
Thursday, December 11, 2003
While We're Bracing ...Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports Weekly told me in an e-mail that he thinks the Dodgers' acquisition of Nomar Garciaparra for Odalis Perez is "done" if the Red Sox complete their proposed Manny Ramirez for Alex Rodriguez trade.
Nightengale had reported in this week's issue that "the Red Sox hope to finalize the trades by the end of the winter meetings" Monday.
As far as the Dodgers were concerned, Nightengale added that "the tip-off that the trade could be consummated is that the White Sox were informed by the Dodgers that Perez is off the market." The White Sox had been preparing to send Paul Konerko to the Dodgers for Perez, the merits of such a deal notwithstanding.
In fact, there is the possibility that Garciaparra-to-the-Dodgers could happen no matter what. There's this from Rumor Central at ESPN.com:
ESPN's Peter Gammons reports the hard feelings between Garciaparra and the Red Sox over the team's attempts to trade for Alex Rodriguez could lead the team to deal its star shortstop even if it doesn't acquire A-Rod. Rather than enter the season with Garciaparra due to become a free agent and unhappy with management, Boston could deal him to the Dodgers, then make a run at Miguel Tejada in free agency.
From my perspective, there does seem to be enough bad blood brewing between the Red Sox and Garciaparra to make the Red Sox' "hope" more like an urgency. To paraphrase from the daily airings of The Shawshank Redemption, "Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope gets you killed."
(Editor's note ... Bob Timmermann writes:
Urgency may be another story.
Haven't you listened to Vin long enough to know that "Hope is a thing with feathers." Hope doesn't get you killed.
And what other team has a play-by-play guy who quotes Emily Dickinson?
Bob is right on. Anyway ...)
On the other hand, would a Kevin Brown trade kill this deal? Or would that create a new sense of urgency for young Edwin Jackson and recovering Darren Dreifort, as well as rebounding Wilson Alvarez, aging Hideo Nomo and confounding Kazuhisa Ishii? Oh yeah - and Weaver.
For my take on the value of the Dodgers acquiring Garciaparra, click here.
By the way, Nightengale said that he is still confident that Gary Sheffield and the Yankees will officially come to terms.
Brace Yourselves?With Andy Pettitte signing with the Astros, the Associated Press is reporting that the Yankees are "closing in on a trade with Los Angeles that would send Kevin Brown to the Yankees for Jeff Weaver in a swap of starters, a baseball official said on the condition of anonymity."
UpdateNewsday says it's done - Kevin Brown for Jeff Weaver, two minor leaguers, and $3 million.
The Associated Press says that the deal is tentative:
Brown, who has the right to block a trade, must approve any deal and has not yet been approached, agent Scott Boras said. Players must pass physicals, and the Yankees want to review Brown's contract before signing off on the trade, the officials said.
Here's what I wrote when the Brown-Weaver trade was first proposed. Will update when time permits, as more details and confirmation come.
This morning, before the Kevin Brown news broke, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register quoted Dodger general manager Dan Evans as saying that the team's budget for 2004 salaries will again be "right around where we were last year."
This contradicts those who have suspected that Evans was under orders to reduce the budget amid the pending sale of the team. The 2004 budget projects to be about $120 million.
With that in mind, in case there is any doubt about the spending room trading Brown would create, take a look at this:
Dodger 2004 Salary Commitments
*$6.25 million minus Yankee contribution of $1.5 million
|Shawn Green||$16.0 million|
|Darren Dreifort||$11.0 million|
|Hideo Nomo||$8.0 million|
|Todd Hundley||$6.5 million|
|Jeff Weaver||*$4.75 million|
|Paul Lo Duca||$3.9 million|
|Paul Shuey||$3.8 million|
|Kazuhisa Ishii||$2.6 million|
|Brian Jordan||**$2.5 million|
|Tom Martin||$1.65 million|
|Robin Ventura||$1.2 million|
**Buyout of 2004 option
Additional Dodger 2004 Salary Estimates
That gives the Dodgers 18 players at a cost of $79.3 million, leaving the team about $40 million to spend. (There would actually be a fraction more, but because the Dodgers will use more than 25 players in 2004, we'll leave that fraction for the in-season replacements.
|Eric Gagne||$6.0 million|
|Adrian Beltre||$4.5 million|
|Odalis Perez||$4.0 million|
|Guillermo Mota||$1.0 million|
|Jolbert Cabrera||$0.5 million|
|Dave Roberts||$0.5 million|
|Cesar Izturis||$0.5 million|
|Dave Ross||$0.4 million|
What slots are vacant on the 25-man roster?
I think one can presume that the Dodgers can fill the two pitching slots and the two reserve slots with a total expenditure of $5 million.
- Two pitchers, one of them presumably Wilson Alvarez, the other a minimum-salaried minor leaguer
- A starting second baseman or shortstop (that's assuming the Dodgers do not offer arbitration to Alex Cora, who earned more than $1 million last season)
- A starting outfielder
- A starting first baseman
- Two reserves
That leaves $35 million for the two starting infielders and the starting outfielder - an average of $11.7 million per slot. If they want to replace Dave Roberts too, they can still spend an average of $8.75 million per slot.
And that doesn't even factor in what the Dodgers can still do in trade.
That, my friends, is a lot to work with.
You can pursue everyone, from Nomar Garciaparra, to Miguel Tejada, to ... Vladimir Guerrero.
Wednesday, December 10, 2003
Meanwhile, in Atlanta ...Russ Ortiz
Trey Hodges or Jason Marquis or Paul Byrd
Can you believe this is the starting rotation of the Atlanta Braves?
And they don't have Sheffield either.
Angels Busy, Dodgers DizzyIn my morning mailbox:
Subj: The end of the Dodgers as we know them
I am absorbing Arte Moreno's acquisition of two power arms in the offseason thus far. He has negotiated from a position of strength in that he does not need to lose a first round draft pick to acquire A-grade free agents (though he will lose a sandwich and second-round pick). In (Kelvim) Escobar's case, it was a brilliant move; his numbers off Astroturf are phenominal, and he should pitch very well at the Ed. In the case of (Bartolo) Colon, I fear they picked up a name without thinking, as Colon's K/9 dropped dramatically in the last two years. You would think that Sele would have taught them that guys with declining K/9 numbers are not a good investment, especially for contracts longer than three years. But, at least the Halos have been active.
The Dodgers have not.
Sure, there was the huge Duaner Sanchez deal, the resigning of Robin "Where's My Walker?" Ventura, and Masao Kida to a minor league contract, but nothing of import so far. I get the strong impression that this is because the team has substantial pay cuts coming and is loathe to mention them in public. Frank McCourt cannot say it -- he is forbidden to. The Dodgers dare not say it -- it undermines their negotiating position for players like Kevin Brown and Odalis Perez. Perhaps deals fell through because of poor fits or extravagant costs. Certainly, you could argue that we made the Snakes give up far more for Richie Sexson than they should have. And while that's all good, a cloud hangs over Chavez Ravine.
The owners' meetings will certainly be interesting
Of course, you forget Tom Martin ...
Certainly, we're all getting a little stir-crazy. Not just this letter-writer - Steve Dilbeck expresses the same sentiment in this morning's Daily News. It's been a month since the Phillies-Astros trade of Billy Wagner essentially kicked off the Hot Stove League, and the Dodger stewpot has been at simmer for that entire time. Some might call it a crockpot.
But there are three kinds of activity, in this order: good, none and bad. As this letter points out, the Colon signing is a risky one for the Angels. They have committed $51 million over four years to a pitcher, nearly $13 million per year. I applaud Arte Moreno's willingness to invest in his team, but I don't know if that's the best allocation of funds. If injuries or ineffectiveness ruin a year of that deal, the average salary for the remaining three rises to $17 million.
The Dodgers have been this kind of "active" in the past and it has burned them. Admittedly, they went above and beyond with Kevin Brown and Darren Dreifort, but just as one adjusts for park factors in evaluating statistics, I think you have to adjust for market factors in evaluating salaries. For all the value Colon is sure to bring to the Angels, his contract is some serious money - maybe a little too serious.
And then, of course, there is the chaos that is the New York Yankees. Read today's Bronx Banter. Yeah, they play in October, but would you really want to be part of this? I'm sorry, I lament the lost hitting, but I still don't miss Gary Sheffield.
There will come a time to judge the 2004 Dodgers, but this isn't it. The Hot Stove League hasn't even reached its All-Star Break - pennants are not won by December 10. As hamstrung they are by the Frank McCourt tremors, the Dodgers have too many resources not to be competitive next year. The most significant player they have lost from their 85-win team is Paul Quantrill. I'm still looking for a National League West team that intimidates me into submission, but I can't find one. Better to continue using this time encouraging rational moves by the Dodgers than encouraging activity for the sake of activity.
Daryle Ward, You Have Earned Every Dollar...... of your non-guaranteed, minor-league contract with Pittsburgh.
DadsRead this entry by Tyler Bleszinski at AthleticsNation.com:
If someone asked me to point to a vivid memory of my Dad at Fenway, I would probably come up blank because the time that meant the most to me never had anything to do with a particular game or a specific action. It may have just been the cramped seats of the majestic stadium, but I never felt closer to him than at Fenway Park.
Fenway may have ghosts and a curse, but the truth is, it will always be a temple to me.
Happy Birthday, Walter. And best wishes, Tyler.
Tuesday, December 09, 2003
No Frustrated Jocks HereIt's almost less about the quality of the people he interviews than it is about the quality of his questions (and the answers they elicit). I'm talking about Alex Belth, whose latest thoughtful interview, with Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated, can be found here.
A worthwhile excerpt, which conforms with my experience in the sportswriting world:
BB: You mentioned earlier that in a perfect world, yeah you would have loved to have been a ballplayer. Do you find that a lot of sports journalists are frustrated jocks?
Verducci: I don't think so. A lot of times I take exception to the cliché of the frustrated jock. If you can't do, therefore you write. I'm not saying it doesn't exist, but from what I've seen that is a very tiny fraction of the writing population. I think people get into writing because they like to write. In some cases the writers like sports more than the people playing the games. I know people—and I'm sure you know this with fans—who are more passionate about their sports than the athletes themselves. I can't say I know many writers who are frustrated [jocks] and are trying to live out their fantasies by just being around that culture and writing about it.
Monday, December 08, 2003
Some of you who are relatively new to Dodger Thoughts (actually, I'm sort of amazed that my audience has continued to grow during the offseason) may wonder why Priorities and Frivolities is included among the many baseball links. This Spring, its author, Robert Garcia Tagorda, burst upon the Dodger blogging scene like Edwin Jackson - only older - dazzling us with his insightful repe-twa.
Since then, Tagorda's Priorities have shifted to the political, but he still remains one of the best blog reads on the Web. As I've written before:
On some issues, he and I fall on different sides of the political spectrum; on others, we are close. In either case, I never fail to learn something from his material. ... Political references has been deliberately kept from Dodger Thoughts. But if you have any interest in what's going on outside of the basepaths, read Robert.Why bring this up today? Because Tagorda has joined the hundreds of happy peppy people who have left Blogger for greener, Moveable Type pastures. He has a new URL, www.tagorda.com, and I hope you enjoy, or continue to enjoy, using it.
And, Robert promises me that he's not done writing about baseball yet.
Ventura - The Backup - SignsI need to start out by correcting an error I made last month. The deadline for offering salary arbitration to those eligible for free agency was Sunday. However, the deadline for offering arbitration for those not eligible for free agency - notably, Adrian Beltre and Dave Roberts - is not for another two weeks.
So Beltre is still the Dodger third baseman - and Sunday's signing of Robin Ventura does little to affect the Dodgers' evaluation of Beltre as their hot corner man for 2004. Ventura instead takes over the Ron Coomer role of backup at first base and third base. More accurately, Ventura takes over the role filled by Dave Hansen for most of the past decade, but left unfilled last year.
The signing of Ventura surprised me - as I saw the news, I let out a manly gasp that sent my wife running out of our bathroom thinking I had hit my head against the wall accidentally, rather than metaphorically. The dollar value attached - $1.2 million plus incentives for a year - took me aback. For example, here are Hansen's age, OPS+ (courtesy of Baseball Reference.com, major league average is 100), and salary for the past two seasons, plus what he's looking at in 2004:
2002: 33 years old, OPS+ 107, salary $675,000
2003: 34 years old, OPS+ 90, $550,000
2004: 35 years old, $550,000
Now, here are Ventura's:
2002: 34 years old, OPS+ 121, $8,500,000
2003: 35 years old, OPS+ 99, $5,000,000
2004: 36 years old, $1,200,000
Ventura compiled his numbers over more plate appearances, and has the advantage of being a better fielder, but you might surmise that the Dodgers are spending a few hundred thousand dollars to pay for Ventura's reputation, to pay for hits in his past.
That being said, Ventura did hit a home run every 22 at-bats with the Dodgers, walks more often than the average Dodger, and used judiciously, can be a positive player. He'll make less money for his full season with the Dodgers than he made during his partial season in 2003. So if they overpaid, it's not by that much.
Along with signing Ventura, the Dodgers offered Paul Quantrill and Wilson Alvarez salary arbitration. For Quantrill, it was a formality that, after much confusion on this writer's end, apparently will provide the Dodgers compensation in the 2004 draft. Alvarez is still not a Dodger - he can decline arbitration if he wants to - but the Dodgers' show of interest in Alvarez among a field of free agents who were mostly spun away by their teams speaks to a likely signing.
Jeromy Burnitz, Brian Jordan, Rickey Henderson, Andy Ashby, Fred McGriff and Coomer are gone. Is that it for Rickey in the majors?
You'll notice that I haven't talked at any length about Nomar Garciaparra yet. I'm working up to it.
The WanderersThe Transaction Guy organizes the list of free agents not offered salary arbitration, by position. As you will see, pickings at most spots in this group, particularly the corner infield, are slimmer than Whitman.
One year after a near-lifetime with the Dodgers, Eric Karros has joined the ranks of the itinerant - the Reggie Sanders and Kenny Loftons, who rack up new teams like Paula Marshall racks up new shows. I feel bad ... mostly for Paula. She deserves another Cupid.
National League West Rosters - Updated December 8, 5 p.m.
Added: Carlos Baerga (Arizona), Steve Reed, Greg Norton, Mark Sweeney (Colorado), Robin Ventura (Los Angeles), Rod Beck (San Diego), J.T. Snow, Michael Tucker (San Francisco).
|Position||Arizona||Colorado||Los Angeles||San Diego||San Francisco|
Three Big Names to ConsiderNomar Garciaparra, Boston, SS
Salary: Earns $11.5 million in 2004. Eligible for free agency thereafter.
Mainstream stats in 2003: .301 BA, 28 HR, 39 BB, 61 K
OPS in 2003: .870 in 156 games (.946 vs. LHP, .843 vs. RHP)
EQA in 2003 (park-adjusted): .296 (Not in American League top 20, but 4th among Major League shortstops)
Win Shares in 2003 (park-adjusted): 25 (12th in AL, 3rd among AL shortstops)
Trend: He hasn't been the same since 2001 injuries. EQAs of .312, .333, .339 from 1998-2000.
Worth acquiring in exchange for Odalis Perez or Guillermo Mota? Yes.
Worth acquiring in exchange for Odalis Perez and Guillermo Mota? Yes, but if you sign this next guy, you don't have to trade either of them ...
Miguel Tejada, Oakland (free agent), SS
Salary: Free agent
Mainstream stats: .278 BA, 27 HR, 53 BB, 65 K
OPS in 2003: .808 in 162 games (.828 vs. LHP, .799 vs. RHP)
EQA in 2003 (park-adjusted): .280 (Not in American League top 20, but 6th among Major League shortstops)
Win Shares in 2003 (park-adjusted): 25 (10th in AL, 2nd among AL shortstops)
Trend: Fell off 2002 career highs in OPS and EQA. Has played 162 games three consecutive seasons.
Worth acquiring in exchange for Odalis Perez or Guillermo Mota? Not applicable.
Worth acquiring in exchange for Odalis Perez and Guillermo Mota? Not applicable. Which is the point. Signing Tejada allows you to keep those pitchers for next season's staff or as bargaining chips for an outfielder. All the commotion about Garciaparra's availability has caught people off guard, me included, with the result being that the smarter acquisition is being overlooked.
That's not to say that Tejada is the be-all and end-all - you still have to negotiate smart with him, and be prepared to walk away. However, no report indicates that Tejada is asking for an eight-figure annual salary. Unless the Dodgers can get Garciaparra to agree to a contract extension for less than his current salary, I don't see why they should pursue him - except as a bargaining tool with Tejada.
For the umpteenth time, however, I remind you that the Dodgers should not get a big-name shortstop if it prevents them from getting a great-hitting outfielder. Better to have Cesar Izturis at short than Chin-Feng Chen or Jolbert Cabrera in left.
Rafael Palmeiro, Texas (free agent), 1B
Salary: Free agent
Mainstream stats: .260 BA, 38 HR, 84 BB, 77 K
OPS in 2003: .867 in 154 games (.962 vs. LHP, .826 vs. RHP)
EQA in 2003 (park-adjusted): .291 (5th among designated hitters)
Win Shares in 2003 (park-adjusted): 26 (34th in AL, 3rd among designated hitters)
Trend: EQA fell below .300 in 2003 for first time since 1997, second time since 1992. Played 55 games at first base in 2003.
Worth acquiring in exchange for Odalis Perez or Guillermo Mota? Not applicable.
Worth acquiring in exchange for Odalis Perez and Guillermo Mota? Not applicable.
I have no idea what salary Palmeiro will command. He would represent an improvement over Fred McGriff, offensively and defensively, so there is the potential for value, even if his acquisition would almost strike me as too reminiscent of McGriff. But with his reptuation, plus his Texas-inflated stats, the risk for overpayment is considerable.
Jim Edmonds, Carlos Lee, Paul Konerko