December 15, 2002

Free at last

Finally, some action at the Winter Meetings!

A TON of stuff happened yesterday, so let's jump right in...

The two players most in need of a full-time job got traded to teams that will give them that opportunity.

Boston acquired Jeremy Giambi from the Phillies for Josh Hancock.

When Jim Thome signed with Philadelphia, I talked about how, rather than give Thome so much for money for so many years, the Phillies may have been better off just playing Jeremy Giambi at first base and keeping the $85 million they gave Thome.

Once Thome signed that wasn't an option and, with Pat Burell in left field and Bobby Abreu in right field, there really wasn't a place for Jeremy Giambi to play everyday with the Philadelphia.

So, the Phillies dealt him to Theo Epstein and the Red Sox, where he will almost certainly be the full-time designated hitter (or maybe 1B, but I doubt it).

This is a great trade for Boston.

They give up Josh Hancock, who is a pretty nice pitching prospect, but nothing special.

And they get back Giambi who solves half of their 1B/DH problem and provides another very good offensive player for the lineup that already includes Nomar, Manny Ramirez, Trot Nixon, Johnny Damon and the recently acquired Todd Walker (although I hear he might be on the move again).

Here are Jeremy Giambi's numbers over the last 3 seasons:

Player      AB      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR     2B      BB

Giambi 944 .267 .385 .461 42 53 174

And his OPS has gone up in each of the last 3 years, from .761 to .841 to .919.

Plus, he hits lefties and righties equally:

vs Lefties (00-02) = .267/.385/.447

vs Righties (00-02) = .267/.385/.465

I think Giambi is a good bet to hit about .275/.410/.500 if he is given a full-time gig, which the Red Sox will give him.

Like I said, great trade for the BoSox, they not only pick up a very good offensive player for a very reasonable cost, but they give a full-time job to a guy that desperately deserves one.

The A's, Reds, Blue Jays and Diamonbacks completed a monster of a 4-team trade.

The specifics are still a little blurry, but here is what was reporting last time I checked:

To Oakland:

Erubiel Durazo

To Arizona:

Elmer Dessens

To Toronto:

Jason Arnold

John-Ford Griffin

To Cincinnati:

Felipe Lopez

Jeremy Giambi was in desperate need of a full-time job, but there is no player in baseball that deserves a chance at 600 plate appearances a season more than Erubiel Durazo.

For years, statheads like myself have been shouting "FREE ERUBIEL" as Durazo struggled to find playing time behind guys like Mark Grace and Travis Lee in Arizona.

But now, Durazo has been set free by the "Official GM of the Statheads," Oakland GM Billy Beane.

This is a great deal for Oakland and also a very good deal for the Blue Jays.

Actually, the only team that does not do well in this deal is Arizona.

Lets talk about Durazo a little bit...

Here are his career stats:

Player      AB      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR     2B     RBI      BB

Durazo 748 .278 .390 .528 47 38 149 137

Those are not the numbers of a guy that should have been kept from starting because of an almost-40 year old Mark Grace.

Durazo is a great hitter, capable of putting up a .400+ OBP and a .550+ SLG for the A's next season.

Given 500+ ABs, he'll hit 30+ homers and walk 100 times.

Durazo's one major weakness (besides defense) is hitting left handed pitching.

In his career, he has hit .206/.320/.357 against lefties.

.206/.320/.357 is pretty bad, but keep in mind it came in a grand total of 126 at bats, spread over 4 seasons.

Stats often look extremely bad or extremely good when you are counting only 25 at bats a year.

I think Oakland will give Durazo a chance to play everyday, against righties and lefties, and see whether or not he can hit them at a decent rate given consistent playing time.

If not, it isn't that difficult to find a backup 1B/DH type that can mash left handed pitching.

Someone like Ron Gant or Olmedo Saenz, who has been on the A's for the last few years, is always available.

So, Oakland gets a .400 OBP/.550 SLG starting 1B/DH.

What did they give up?

They sent minor league prospects Jason Arnold and John-Ford Griffin to Toronto.

I am working on my "Top 50 Prospects" article for right now and I have Jason Arnold on the list, somewhere in the bottom half.

Arnold is a 23 year old right handed starting pitcher with great stuff and excellent minor league numbers.

Griffin is a left fielder that has a chance to be a good leadoff hitter in the Majors.

He hits for a good average and walks quite a bit, but he doesn't have any power and his lack of arm relegates him to left field.

J.P. Ricciardi and the boys in the Toronto front office are putting together a great group of young, talented players that will be playoff contenders, maybe as soon as this upcoming season.

The one area of weakness in the Toronto organization is Major League ready starting pitching.

They have some good prospects in the low minors, but, other than Roy Halladay, they don't have many guys capable of being solid members of the rotation in 2003, 2004 and 2005.

Arnold is young, talented and should be ready for the Big Show as soon as mid-2003.

Okay, so the Blue Jays got a stud pitching prospect and a good corner outfield prospect.

What did they give up?

Toronto sent Felipe Lopez to Cincinnati.

Lopez is a 22 year old shortstop that already has almost 500 career Major League at bats.

In the minors, he hit for a good average, showed nice power and played a solid shortstop.

He hasn't hit much in the Majors so far - only .240/.293/.399 - but he has shown good power with 13 homers, 20 doubles and 7 triples.

At some point, probably sooner rather than later, the Reds are going to have to bring an end to the Barry Larkin era or at least the Barry Larkin at SS era and, when they do, Lopez should be able to step in and be a good shortstop for them (and a cheap one too).

From the Toronto point of view, they also have another shortstop, Chris Woodward, who they are very high on, and rightfully so.

I wrote an article on Woodward a couple months ago that you can read by clicking here.

They indentified which of their two shortstops they wanted to keep (Woodward) and received excellent value in trade for the other one (Lopez).

I also they think they made the correct decision because I believe Woodward has a chance to be one of the best shortstops in the league, particularly with the bat, over the next several seasons (if healthy).

Okay, so the Reds got a good, young shortstop.

What did they give up?

The Reds sent Elmer Dessens to Arizona.

And this is where the trade gets ugly.

The D-Backs gave up Erubiel Durazo, whom I already discussed.

And, in return, they received Dessens.

Elmer Dessens is already 30 years old and he has a grand total of 1 season in the Major Leagues with an ERA under 4.00.

Now, he had a very nice season in 2002, but he is extremely unlikely to repeat that success in 2003.

He doesn't strike out anyone and he gives up a lot of homers.

His Defense Independent (DIPS) ERA was significantly higher than his actual ERA of 3.02, which means he got a lot of help from his fielders in 2002 and also got quite lucky.

My guess is that Dessens will be good for about 180 innings with an ERA right around 4.20-4.50 in 2003, which is nice, but not worth anything close to Erubiel Durazo.

Let's recap:

Oakland trades Jason Arnold and John-Ford Griffin for Erubiel Durazo.

Toronto trades Felipe Lopez for Jason Arnold and John-Ford Griffin.

Cincinnati trades Elmer Dessens for Felipe Lopez.

Arizona trades Erubiel Durazo for Elmer Dessens.

If I were handing out "grades" I would give Oakland an A, Toronto a B-plus, Cincy a B-minus and Arizona a D-minus.

As if all that weren't enough, a bunch of other stuff happened yesterday too...

The Giants signed Edgardo Alfonzo to a 4 year deal worth $26 million.

And, they are apparently still working on a deal with Jeff Kent.

I think the Giants' plan is to play Barry Bonds and 7 second basemen in 2003.

This signing (along with the Ray Durham signing earlier) is a good one for the Giants.

Alfonzo is a good defensive player at either 2B or 3B and he gets on base a lot and has some good pop too.

If they re-sign Kent, their lineup will be phenomenal.

I am not sure where everyone would play defensively though.

Personally, I would put Durham at 2B, Alfonzo at 3B and Kent at 1B.

Of course, that leaves them extremely short in the outfield.

So, like I said, who knows.

Wherever they play, that group will score some runs.

The Devil Rays traded for Rey Ordonez.

I don't care what anyone says or what reasons are given, there is absolutely no reasonable explanation for a team trading for Rey Ordonez.

They'll say they wanted a "veteran" presence, but what good does that do you when the presence has a career slugging % of .304?

They'll say they wanted Ordonez's defense for their young pitching staff, but what good does that do you when his defense isn't even that good anymore and has always been overrated?

The Mets are paying for the majority of the contract, so at least the D-Rays aren't out that much money.

But still, this is an awful deal for them and shows a extraordinary amount of stupidity within their front office, not to mention a complete lack of awareness in regard to what makes a player valuable, what skills are completely overrated and how to go about building a winning baseball team.

Making matters even worse, the Mets apparently will receive two "Players to be Named Later," otherwise known as the famous "PTBNLs."

I wouldn't trade a bucket of soggy baseballs for Ordonez, let alone two living, breathing human beings who presumably play baseball for a living.

Man do I love days like yesterday!

GMs walking around a Nashville hotel, talking about Erubiel Durazo and Rey Ordonez and PTBNLs!

It just doesn't get much better than that.

Someday I hope to be there myself, wheeling and dealing.

But, until then, it sure is fun to sit back and watch it all unfold (and comment on it, of course!).

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

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