July 30, 2003

Another worn out welcome

With the trade deadline looming later today, there has been a flurry of deals in the last 72 hours. From Cincinnati dealing Jose Guillen to Oakland (I think Reds did well and I wouldn't be surprised if Guillen was on the move again) and Scott Williamson to Boston (which I discussed yesterday) to Rey Sanchez heading to Seattle (Pat Gillick finally makes a trade and it's for Rey Sanchez?) and whatever other deals are made between the time I wrote this and the time you are reading it.

For whatever reason though, Tuesday's Yankees/Diamondbacks deal is particularly interesting to me, so I thought I'd discuss it a little...

To Arizona:

Raul Mondesi


To New York:

David Dellucci

Bret Prinz

Jon-Mark Sprowl

Raul Mondesi is a mediocre player with a crappy attitude and, just like the Dodgers and Blue Jays before them, the Yankees finally got fed up with him and cut bait.

My favorite quote from the trade is courtesy of Yankees GM Brian Cashman:

"After [Mondesi] was pinch hit for by Joe Torre, he decided he was going to shut it down, shower up and leave. That's what made Joe Torre and I decide on another venue for Raul."

For whatever reason, I just found that quote really funny. You can almost sense the frustration in Cashman's words and I would love to have heard the meeting he and Joe Torre had right before the trade was made. I imagine a few F-bombs were dropped and I would guess Mondesi was referred to as some things other than "Raul."

Of course, I agree completely with Cashman and Torre on this issue. If this were another team or Raul Mondesi were a better player, it might be worth putting up with his nonsense from time to time. But this is the New York Yankees, in first-place with the biggest payroll in baseball, and this is Raul Mondesi, a 32 year old right fielder who is hitting .258/.330/.471.

While I'm not surprised the Yankees got tired of Mondesi, I am surprised they were able to get as much value for him as they did. David Dellucci is one of my favorite role players in baseball. He's a good defender capable of playing all 3 outfield spots and he is always able to provide half of a very solid platoon.

Here are Dellucci's numbers against right-handed pitching in recent years:

Year      AVG      OBP      SLG

2001 .283 .363 .513
2002 .262 .346 .436
2003 .270 .354 .433

Those aren't great numbers, but they are decent. He gets on base against righties, hits for a little power and plays solid defense. That's a nice guy to have around, whether as a platoon starter or just as a pinch-hitter and backup outfielder.

If you stick Dellucci out in right field every time a right-handed pitcher starts, I would be willing to bet he'd hit as well and possibly better than Mondesi would in those games. Then all you need to do is find a lefty-masher to be his platoon partner. Plus, Dellucci is 3 years younger than Mondesi and about $12 million cheaper, although that is partially off-set by the money the Yankees sent along to Arizona.

Considering the Yankees were probably interested in just ridding themselves of Mondesi, that they were able to get a solid, young, cheap outfielder to help replace him in right field is great - that they were also able to get two other players of at least some value is amazing.

Bret Prinz went 4-1 with a 2.63 ERA in 41 innings for the Diamondbacks back in their championship 2001 season. He's battled some injuries since then and hasn't pitched well in his stints with Arizona, but he had a 2.97 ERA and a 34/9 strikeout/walk ratio in Triple-A last year and has a history of some pretty good pitching throughout his minor league career. He's not going to be anything special, but he's only 26 years old and can certainly be a decent relief pitcher, which even a team like the Yankees can always use.

John-Mark Sprowl isn't a particularly good prospect and he's pretty old to still be in Single-A, but he's a catcher with some good on-base skills (.402 OBP this year, .404 OBP last year), so he could end up being of some value at some point.

In my opinion and judging from some of the comments coming from various Yankees and from Mondesi's play of late, simply ridding yourself of Mondesi is addition by subtraction. Getting a nice platoon outfielder, a decent relief pitcher and a minor league catcher is an amazing bounty for making Mondesi someone else's problem.

Another interesting quote is this one from Arizona GM Joe Garagiola Jr.:

"We're very pleased that we were able to make this deal. Raul Mondesi is a terrific offensive player, and we needed a terrific offensive player because we are struggling to score runs."

Don't you just love it when someone's definition of a word doesn't exactly match up with your definition of the same word? In this case, the word in question is "terrific."

Year      AVG      OBP      SLG      EqA

2001 .252 .342 .453 .278
2002 .232 .308 .432 .262
2003 .258 .330 .471 .284

I suppose there is a situation where those numbers would be considered "terrific." Like perhaps if they came from a Gold Glove shortstop or if they were put up in 1968. In this case though, those numbers belong to Raul Mondesi, a right fielder who has just been described as a "terrific offensive player."

Mondesi is 32 years old and is basically an all-or-nothing slugger at this point. His batting average hasn't been above .280 since 1997 and it's been in the .240-.260 range for the last 3 years now. He'll hit you a few homers and have stretches where he actually shows a little plate discipline, but he is anything but a terrific offensive player. Even his defense in right field is "okay" but very overrated, thanks to a strong throwing arm.

Mondesi's Equivalent Averages (EqA) over the last 3 years are: .278, .262 and .284. The average EqA for a major league right fielder this season is .281, and it was .283 last season. That means Mondesi's hitting over the last 3 seasons makes him a slightly below-average offensive right fielder, and that's giving him the benefit of the doubt.

Those numbers are nothing special, and certainly doesn't qualify as a terrific offensive player and it's definitely not worth dealing with someone like Mondesi for.

There is one final quote on this trade that I enjoyed, once again from Joe Garagiola Jr.:

"To get Raul Mondesi back to the National League competing against the Giants and Dodgers and teams he competed against when he was with the Dodgers, I have a hunch that will get him fired up"

Joe Jr. may be right and, if he is, that's one hell of a "hunch." But is playing a few games against the Giants and the Dodgers while on an Arizona team that is struggling to stay above .500 and in the Wild Card chase really going to motivate him more than playing for the New York Yankees, who are fighting for the AL East title and the best record in the American League?

Not to mention, the Diamondbacks have a grand-total of 14 games remaining against either the Giants or the Dodgers and, in all honesty, they are 12.5 games behind the Giants in the NL West, so they aren't really "competing against the Giants" for much of anything at this point.

Finally, one more thing on this trade and then I promise I'll give it a rest...

Around this time last season, when the Blue Jays unloaded Mondesi's massive contract on the Yankees, baseball experts all over the country were congratulating the Yankees on a brilliant acquisition and mocking the Blue Jays for having lost a player simply because of money issues. In fact, in doing a little research for this entry, I stumbled across something from SportingNews.com, dated July 2, 2002. It is the description of an interview with Sporting News "Baseball Expert" Ken Rosenthal, from one of their "Sporting News Radio" shows:

"Mondesi trade proof MLB needs cap:

TSN's Ken Rosenthal tells Doug Russell and Chris Russell that Raul Mondesi's trade to the Yankees is simply a salary dump for the Jays and evidence that baseball needs a cap."

That statement was fairly dumb at the time and it looks even dumber right now. So, if the Blue Jays getting sick of Mondesi and dumping his salary on the Yankees was "evidence that baseball needs a cap," then is the Yankees getting sick of Mondesi and dumping his salary on the Diamondbacks proof of the same thing? And, if so, which team would benefit from the salary cap? The team that originally dumped him, the team that originally picked him up and then dumped him, or the team that just recently picked him up and is delusional about his offensive talents?

Link of the Day:

Replacement Level Yankees Weblog - "Hey, it's free!"

Today's picks:

Milwaukee (Kinney) -105 over New York (Heilman)

St. Louis (Williams) -130 over Montreal (Day)

Colorado (Tsao) +105 over Cincinnati (Acevedo)

Houston (Miller) -110 over Atlanta (Reynolds)

Cleveland (Westbrook) +220 over Oakland (Harden)

Baltimore (Johnson) +110 over Minnesota (Rogers)

Texas (Lewis) +340 over Boston (Martinez)

Chicago (Loaiza) -125 over Kansas City (Snyder)

Total to date: + 925

W/L record: 188-189 (2-2 yesterday for +5 - yes, +5.)

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

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