Monday, February 11, 2008
Today the Giants signed veteran relief pitcher Scott Williamson to a minor league contract with an invite to spring training. This is a little move that is probably going to be overlooked for the time being, but I love it. Williamson at this point in his career is what I call a C.H.U.B., or CHeaply Utilized Bullpenite, and they just make me all warm and fuzzy inside...uh, in a completely non-weird way.
You see, I'm from the school that believes middle relievers are the easiest talents to find and replace in major league baseball. They're pitchers who usually had something to offer, something that made scouts drool, but who flamed out as starters for one reason or another. There are tons of these guys around. Since these relievers are so plentiful, and thus easy to replace, it just makes no sense for any team to shell out big bucks to retain them, yet you see it every year. Just this offseason, the White Sox gave Scott Linebrink a four year, $19 million deal, which has to rank as one of the worst signings of the winter.
Since the Giants are in a position where they should be rebuilding, it also makes even less sense for them to start throwing a bunch of money at middle relievers when there are so many other problems on the roster. The Giants, though, should be trying to improve the bullpen cheaply, whether internally or externally, and that's where Williamson comes in. He's had success in the majors before, he stills throws hard, and he costs the team essentially nothing. So if he's healthy and effective...huzzah! It's a step towards a solid bullpen (or at least a tradeable commodity), which is a step toward contention, at zero cost.
It's not like the Giants are bringing in Paul Abbott, either. Williamson was once a dominant reliever, and still has bite on his fastball. In a nutshell, here's Williamson's career. He won the Rookie of the Year award in 1999 with a brilliant showing out of the bullpen (195 ERA+), helping a flukey Reds team just miss the NL Wild Card. Unfortunately, this was during the era in which the Reds were having their relievers throw grotesque amounts of innings, and Williamson tossed 203 in his first two seasons, which included an abortive attempt at starting.
Not shockingly, Williamson blew out his arm, missed most of 2001, and then settled back in where he left off in the Reds' bullpen. After being traded to the Red Sox, he found himself inexplicably nailed to the bench during Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS as Grady Little committed brainfart after brainfart. He pitched 29 unhittable innings in 2004, but then hurt himself again, and has been an injury-plagued mess ever since.
Last season he pitched only 14 innings, and walked eight in those innings, which is bad, but he also struck out 16, which is very good. So there's obviously still something there, and at the price of a minor league contract, it's a worth the team's time to test him out and see if they have themselves a good, old-fashioned solid setup man, one we've been clamoring for since the Tim Worrell days of yore (er, the 2001-03 version).
Williamson's injury history should beat back too much optimism, but with the arm involved, and at the price, I think this is a great move. Credit Brian Sabean for sating my C.H.U.B. fetish.
Friday, February 01, 2008
The Hyper-Twin Heist
Now, realize that it takes about three years or so before a trade can be properly evaluated. Many things can happen to sway a deal in one team's favor, be it injury, unexpected development, personal problems, whatever. With that being said, though...
This trade is an abomination.
This is the best pitcher in baseball being swapped for a pair of B-grade prospects and two projected borderline fourth starters. This is awful. This is Pedro Martinez for Carl Pavano. This is Tom Seaver for Pat Zachry and Doug Flynn. This is Curt Schilling for a quartet of Diamondback scrubeenies. This is Babe Ruth for No No, Nanette. When does trading a superstar for prospects ever turn out well? Like, never.
Santana has been the best pitcher in the AL since 2004, is only going to be 29, has no injury history whatsoever, and there's no reason to think he won't be the league's dominant pitcher over the next six or seven years, which is the length of the contract it would have taken to re-sign him. Instead of hemming and hawing over whether they should trade him or keep him for 2008 and settle for two draft picks, they should have pulled out all the stops trying to lock him up to an extension. When a once-in-a-blue moon talent like Santana is in your grasp, you just have to do everything you can to hang on, because it's going to be almost impossible to get equal value for him.
You can say that the Twins have a cheapskate owner, which is certainly true, except that he just loosened the pursestrings enough to give Michael Cuddyer and Justin Morneau contract extensions. If you're going to overpay your okay right fielder and your first baseman, why not go all in and overpay for Santana? As the old saw goes, if you're going to overpay anybody, make sure it's a superstar.
You can say that Santana is a pitcher, and that pitchers never warrant long-term contracts because of the injury risk inherent. I wholeheartedly agree...most of the time. Santana isn't just any pitcher, though. He's not Barry Zito, he's not A.J. Burnett, and he's not Gil Meche, good-but-not-great pitchers with past performances that hardly warranted the gargantuan money they were rewarded with. Santana is the best and, again, he has passed through the most dangerous period of a pitcher's life (up to age 25) without any arm troubles, so he's about as low-risk as you can get.
You can also say that the Twins play in a stacked division and have no chance of competing with the Tigers or Indians in the near future, so why sew up a pitcher to an albatross contract when you aren't going to win, like a certain NL West team (cough)? Well, the thing is, the Twins have two star hitters, a decent farm system loaded with pitching talent, and a newly acquired outfielder with star potential in Delmon Young. It seems that they have a way better chance of catching Detroit and Cleveland in the coming years if they re-sign Santana and then build around this core.
Even if the Twins had received a couple of A-grade prospects, I'm still not sure I'd like it, because there's still a question of whether those prospects are going to pan out at all, much less give you the value that Santana did. The fact that the Twins got one star talent (and even that's in serious question) in this deal is what makes it a joke.
Nobody seems to be too excited about Gomez and his lack of plate discipline, and he has the most potential of the group. Guerra put up good numbers as an 18-year-old in short season ball, but he didn't strike a lot of guys out and observers came away thinking he looked like a finesse pitcher. That ain't good. Humber and Mulvey project as bottom of the rotation guys, and again you'd think the Twins could have gotten more.
The Twins are saying that they were forced into this situation, but I don't buy it. Santana was willing to stay in Minnesota and, with all of MLB rolling in dough, the Twins had the financial wherewithal to keep him, whether they want to admit it or not. No, credit the Mets for making out like bandits and most likely stealing the NL East for the next few years. It's my bold prediction that this goes down as one of the worst trades of all time.
--TGIF Vid. Flowers...mating?