December 20, 2002

Oh my

The Braves traded Kevin Millwood to the Phillies for Johnny Estrada.

This is an absolutely idiotic trade for the Braves.
It's the kind of trade that would get rejected by the league in any self respecting fantasy baseball league in the world.

I generally give the benefit of the doubt to General Managers that have won like 11 division titles in the last 12 seasons, but this trade is really quite stupid.

First of all, I am not even judging it on a player-for-player basis.
It is very obvious that this deal is strictly a cost-cutting move by Atlanta.
Kevin Millwood is 100 times the player Johnny Estrada is and ever will be, but that isn't the part that has me stupified.

If Atlanta knew that they were tight as far as the payroll was concerned, why would they trade a starting pitcher making the minimum (Damian Moss) for a starting pitcher making like $5 million a season (Russ Ortiz)?
And why would they sign another starting pitcher (Paul Byrd) to a $5 million a year deal?
So, they acquire Ortiz and Byrd, thus upping their payroll by millions, and then they immediately have to dump Kevin Millwood for very little because they don't have enough money to pay everyone after Greg Maddux decided to accept arbitration.

Shouldn't they have planned for a situation in which Maddux accepted the arbitration?
Basically, what Atlanta has done by trading Moss and then trading Millwood is exchange Damian Moss and Kevin Millwood for Russ Ortiz and Paul Byrd.
And that is an awful exchange of talent, whether you have won 50 division titles in a row or you are the Devil Rays.

It seems as though they didn't plan for the very likely situation of Maddux accepting arbitration.
Atlanta went out and traded a cheap starting pitcher for an expensive one and signed another expensive one.
Then, when Maddux accepted the arbitration, they had to dump a lot of salary becuase they had just added a bunch with Ortiz and Byrd, so they traded away one of their best players for a backup catcher.

But you wanna know what might be the worst part of this whole thing?
And not just a team in their own division, a team that has made some pretty big improvements this off-season and is very likely the biggest challenger to the Braves in 2003.

The Phillies' lineup appears to be set to score a ton of runs next season and the only thing they really needed was some starting pitching.
Lucky for them the team they are trying to beat in the NL East was willing to give them an 18-game winner - simultaneously strengthening the Phillies and weakening the Braves.

On most teams, including the Phillies, Kevin Millwood is a #1 or #2 starter:

Year      IP      ERA    K/9     W/9     HR/9     DIPS
1998 174 4.08 8.4 2.9 0.93 3.96
1999 228 2.68 8.1 2.3 0.95 3.63
2000 213 4.66 7.1 2.6 1.10 4.27
2001 121 4.31 6.3 3.0 1.49 4.93
2002 217 3.24 7.4 2.7 0.66 3.62

Millwood was injured in 2001, but other than that, he has been a workhorse, pitching 210+ innings in 3 of the last 4 years.
His DIPS (Defense Independent Pitching Stats) ERA shows him to be a 3.60-4.25 pitcher, depending on how well he does keeping the ball in the ballpark.
215 innings and a 3.75 ERA is pretty good and with Thome, Burrell and Abreu hitting for him, Millwood should win a lot of games in 2003.

Sometimes (okay, a lot of the time) I dream about what trade negotiations would be like if I were a GM in the Major Leagues.
I've got to tell you, I don't know that I could have gone through with this deal.

Let's say I am running the Phillies and we are making a lot of big moves during the off-season in the hopes of catching the Atlanta Braves and winning the NL East. One day, the guy running the Braves calls me up and offers me one of the top 10 pitchers in the league for a backup catcher?
I would think I was on Candid Camera or something.

Maybe that isn't how it went.
Maybe Schuerholtz called Ed Wade and said, "What would you give for Kevin Millwood?"
If that is the case, I have to give Wade a lot of credit for offering Johnny Estrada and not someone good.
I mean, if a GM calls me up and offers one of the better pitchers in the league, I am not sure that the first thing I would offer would be a crappy backup catcher.

However it went down, this is a very bad trade for the Braves and it exposes a supreme lack of planning, which is perhaps the most inexcusable aspect of this for the Atlanta front office.

As Denny Green said shortly before getting canned by the Vikings, "Plan your work and work your plan."

The Atlanta Braves' run of dominance has to come to an end at some point and the way things are going right now, it looks like that point might just be 2003.

In fact, I am going to go ahead and make my first prediction for the 2003 baseball season: The Philadelphia Phillies will win the National League East.

In other news...

I talked earlier about the Mets possibly signing Japanese third baseman Norihiro Nakamura.

Nakamura decided to stay in Japan and signed a 5 year/$30 million dollar contract with the Kintetsu Buffaloes.
The Mets were only offering like $7 million for 2 years, so I can't say I really blame the guy, although I am sure he was intersted in playing in America.

While Nakamura won't be playing for them in 2003, Cliff Floyd will be.
Floyd signed a 4 year contract with the Mets, worth $26 million.

Cliff Floyd is a very good hitter and his addition will make a big difference with the Mets woeful offense.

Personally, I think the Mets are too old to do anything significant in 2003 and signing Glavine and Floyd and Stanton and other over-30 guys is just prolonging the mediocrity, but I guess you do have to give GM Steve Phillips some credit.
He has decided to try to squeeze every last bit out of his aging, declining stars, so he probably figured he might as well sign a few more.

If nothing else, the NL East should be pretty interesting in 2003.

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