December 5, 2002
The trade winds, they are a blowin...
Lots of stuff to talk about today, so let's get right to it...
But, I am legally obligated to comment on some aspect of the deal, so let's try to break it all down from the A's perspective.
First let's look at what they gave up...
Billy Koch ranked 2nd in the AL in saves this year, with 44.
He pitched in 84 games and totaled 94 innings with a 3.27 ERA.
Koch struck out 93, walked 46 and gave up 7 homers.
According to BaseballProspectus.com's reliever stats, Koch was somewhere between the 12th-15th best reliever in the AL this year and that seems about right.
He saved a lot of games, but he also blew a lot of saves.
He won a lot of games (11) but a lot of those came only after he blew the lead originally.
Basically, Koch is a very good closer.
He has great stuff - a fastball that can get up around 100 and a nice hard slider.
So, the A's traded away a 27 year old pitcher one of the top dozen or so relievers in the AL.
They also gave up Neal Cotts, who is a minor league pitcher that played at Single-A Modesto this year.
Cotts is a 22 year old lefty that strikes out a ton of batters, despite not having overpowering stuff.
He was a 2nd round pick in the 2001 draft.
As you all know, I love pitchers that rack up big strike out numbers and I truly believe that is the #1 indicator for future, long-lasting success in a pitcher.
Cotts struck out 178 batters in 138 innings this year, which works out to about 11 per 9 innings - a fantastic total.
I think he is a very good prospect with a bright future.
That said, he is still a pitching prospect, which is something a lot of people don't believe even exists.
Plus, he just finished pitching an entire season in Single-A at the age of 22, so he isn't extraordinarily young and he still has a long way to go until he might be ready to pitch in the Majors.
I haven't heard who the 2nd minor league player going to the White Sox is going to be.
I think the teams are waiting until after the Rule 5 draft to announce the player.
Lets just pretend it ends up a prospect of a lesser quality than Cotts.
Overall, the A's dealt away a top 15 reliever (Koch), a good Single-A pitching prospect (Cotts) and another decent prospect (the PTBNL).
What did the A's get?
Keith Foulke lost his job as the Chicago closer this year.
Other than that, he had his typical awesome season.
Foulke had a few bad appearances early in the year and blew a couple of saves and Jerry Manuel chose to take his away his job as closer.
That decisions strikes me as quite obviously very stupid, but that isn't as important to me as the fact that Foulke had a great year despite losing his job.
Foulke pitched in 65 games totaling 78 innings and a 2.90 ERA.
Those totals, particularly the ERA, go right in line with his career in Chicago.
1999 = 2.22
2000 = 2.97
2001 = 2.33
2002 = 2.90
According to those same BaseballProspectus reliever stats that we used for Koch earlier, Keith Foulke was the 5th best relief pitcher in the American League this year.
Now, the difference between the 5th best reliever and the 13th best reliever isn't really all that huge - probably about 5 runs during an entire season.
But, Foulke has been a consistently great reliever for the past 4 seasons with Chicago.
Here are his "Runs Above Average" stats during that time span:
1999 = +29
2000 = +18
2001 = +21
2002 = +15
We might as well look at Koch during the same span:
1999 = +10
2000 = +16
2001 = +0
2002 = +12
It seems quite clear to me that Keith Foulke is the better pitcher.
Koch's best season of the four (2000, +16) was only slightly better than Foulke's worst season of the four (2002, +15)
Totaled up, Foulke was +83 runs from 1999-2002 and Koch was +38.
There are two other big factors though.
1) Their Ages.
2) Their Salaries.
Keith Foulke turned 30 years old a couple months ago and Billy Koch turns 28 in about 2 weeks.
So, there is a 2 year difference.
Foulke is due to be paid $6 million dollars next season and is then a free agent.
Koch is arbitration eligible for the next 3 seasons and will likely command a salary between $6-$10 million in each of those seasons.
I suspect Billy Beane looked into the future and couldn't see himself paying Billy Koch $25-$30 million over the next 3 seasons.
So, he got Keith Foulke, who is the better pitcher.
And, while Foulke will make quite a bit in 2003, he is a free agent after that, at which point Beane can try to re-sign him or (more likely) let him sign with another team and collect the draft picks and use the money on something else in 2004 and beyond.
I almost forgot about the other players the A's got.
Mark Johnson is a left handed hitting catcher that is willing to take a walk and not much else.
He hit only .209/.297/.293 this year and has a career line of only .222/.317/.327 in 879 at bats.
Johnson is cheap and he is a pretty good defensive catcher.
And, while he has absolutely zero ability to hit left handed pitching, he does hit righties reasonably well.
Basically, he looks to me like a decent backup catcher.
The other guy the A's got is minor league closer Joe Valentine.
Minor league closers have a long history of not amounting to anything in the Major Leagues, so I am not extremely optimistic about Valentine's chances, but there are some signs that he could be pretty good.
At Double-A Birmingham this year, Valentine pitched 59 innings and had a 1.97 ERA.
He struck out 63 and walked 30.
Nice K rate, good ERA.
He looks like he could be, at worst, a semi-useful member of the bullpen.
Lets line up the trade like this:
Koch <---> Foulke
Cotts <---> Valentine
PTBNL <---> Johnson
That looks like a pretty good deal for the A's.
They upgrade from one of the top 15 relievers in the league to one of the top 5.
They swap a good Single-A prospect for a good Double-A prospect.
And they give up a PTBNL for a decent backup catcher.
Additionally, they gain some payroll flexibility in the coming years and possibly some draft picks if Foulke leaves after 2003.
I really don't see how this is the highway robbery that many people in the "stathead community" are making it out to be, but I definitely think the A's did well for themselves.
As for the Sox end, it is too early to tell because Koch may never even pitch an inning for them.
If this is the end of the Koch-related trading, then I think the Sox would have been better off not doing this deal.
They traded away a great reliever for a very good, slightly younger reliever that will likely cost a lot more money over the next 3 years.
I suspect they did so in no small part because of the "44" that goes under the "Sv" column on Billy Koch's baseball card this year and it is a shame that a stat as meaningless as a save can not only affect the way a game is played and managed but also how a GM builds his team.
Some other moves...
The Cubbies signed Mike Remlinger to a 3 year deal worth about $10.6 million bucks.
Before I say anything about it, I must tell everyone that I really don't think signing a 36 year old relief pitcher to a 3 year contract is ever a good decision.
That said, Mike Remlinger is pretty good as far as 36 year old relievers go.
Remlinger pitched in 73 games with the Braves this year, totaling 68 innings and a 1.99 ERA.
He struck out 69, walked 28 and allowed 48 hits.
Those are excellent numbers and BaseballProspectus.com shows him as the 8th best reliever in the NL last year.
Remlinger has been consistently good since coming to Atlanta in 1999:
1999 = 84 IP / 2.37 ERA
2000 = 73 IP / 3.47 ERA
2001 = 75 IP / 2.76 ERA
2002 = 68 IP / 1.99 ERA
Oh, the magic that is Leo Mazzone.
Anyway, Remlinger is a very good relief pitcher - good K rate, decent walk rate, tough on righties and lefties, keeps the ball in the ballpark, etc.
I expect him to be one of the top 10 relievers in the NL again in 2003 and possibly 2004 and then probably drop off a bit in 2005.
For a definite contending team in need of a good setup man, I suppose he might be worth $3.5 million a year.
But are the Cubs a contending team?
When I talk about my dreams of becoming a General Manager someday, this isn't the type of trade I am dreaming about making.
The Cubs free themselves of their committment to pay Todd Hundley $15.5 million over the next two years and, in exchange, receive two brand new committments to crappy, old players - $8 million to Eric Karros for 2003 and $5.5 million to Mark Grudzielanek for 2003.
There is a fourth player in the deal, Chad Hermansen, but he is pretty close to worthless (which means a lot when you are worthless in this group).
There are an incredible amount of rumors swirling around the Cubs turning around and dealing Karros and/or Grudzielanek, but until something actually happens, I'll pretend like they are gonna be Cubs for 2003.
All three of these guys are old, crappy and overpaid.
However, my mother always said, "If you don't have something nice to say about someone, don't say anything at all."
(Actually, I am pretty sure my mother has never said that in her entire life, but it seems like something a mother should say)
Plus, one of the qualities of a good GM is the ability to focus on what a player does well and not what he does poorly.
Let's try to find something each of these guys does well...
With Karros, it is easy - he hits left handed pitching.
This year he hit .317/.397/.485 against lefties in 101 ABs and over the last 3 years he has hit .287/.369/.487 against them in 335 ABs.
He is absolutely putrid against righties, but we are only saying nice things, remember?
Okay, so Karros can hit lefties and would make a decent (and extraordinarily expensive) platoon partner for left handed hitter like Hee Seop Choi.
Todd Hundley actually wasn't such a horrible hitter this year.
Does that count as saying something nice?
He only hit .211, but he walked quite a bit and he slugged .421, which is pretty decent for a catcher.
The problem is that he isn't much of a catcher defensively...oops, I forgot about the only saying nice things part.
Hundley has a little pop (16 HRs in 266 ABs) and he switch hits.
Over the last 3 years he has hit .231/.319/.465 in 811 ABs.
I guess Hundley would make a decent (and, once again, extraordinarily expensive) backup catcher/pinch hitter.
Two down, one to go...
If it weren't for his salary, Mark Grudzielanek would be a decent player to have, even as a starting second baseman.
Major League second basemen had a .259 EqA this year.
Here are Grudzielanek's EqAs for the past few seasons:
1998 = .251
1999 = .281
2000 = .255
2001 = .253
2002 = .243
On defense, he is basically an "average" second baseman.
So, Grudzielanek is average on defense and slightly below average on offense.
He is also very durable and one heck of a dancer (okay, I made that last part up)
Like I said, if he were making $550,000 instead of $5,500,000, he would be a decent guy to have on a ballclub.
Hey, I think I did pretty well.
I found nice things to say about all 3 of these bums!
On the right team and for about 300K a year, I wouldn't mind having any of the three on my roster - they have their uses (which is more than I can say for some people)
Remember my "blog crush" from yesterday, Lauren from MadPony.com?
I actually spoke to her.
Well, actually that's not true - I spoke to her older sister Kristin who is extremely nice and also very attractive.
Anyway, I was informed that Lauren is actually pretty young.
Like really young.
So, apparently that idea is out the window.
Although I guess when I am 30 and she is 26, it won't be such a big deal (I am 19 right now - quick, everyone do the math)...
Anyway, I didn't speak to Lauren, but she did respond to me on her blog.
Here is what she wrote:
i wish baseball boy would have emailed me instead. i would have shared my baseball pants picture -- i hereby dedicate this picture to him.
look! we can be friends now. you wear baseball pants. i wear baseball pants. :: beams proudly at newly discovered fact. ::
you have pictures of people *wearing* baseball pants on your site, and so do i.
i think my love with baseball stops with the tight pants because i'm not much for the actual SPORT of baseball and other sports in general.
i was a football manager this year. it was dastardly work. handing out water. :: disgusted sigh. ::
how did anyone ever expect me to actually keep track of the game?
i'd go home after a long night of football, and mom would actually want details -- like the score, who won, blah blah blah.
who has time to keep up with things like that when you're handing out water directly behind 50+ guys in tight, sexy pants?
i'm also a mat maid. what i REALLY don't get about wrestling is why they get 7 points when they make it in the end zone.
oh well. i guess it really doesn't matter, just so long as the boys are in something skin tight.
madpony lauren loves boys sports with spandex supports.
:: wiggles eyebrows. ::
Needless to say that is the last mention of boys in spandex pants that you will ever see on this website, I promise you that!