A's Down to One Ace: Mulder gone; Brynes next?

The A's have amazingly traded away Mark Mulder for three even lesser prospects than the Hudson trade. I like the Hudson trade in terms of potential gotten but Mulder's trade suggests that the A's might be worried that whatever caused him to falter in the second half of the 2004 season is not temporary. After all, Mulder is signed for 2005 and 2006 seasons, and has had a great career up to the aforementioned freefall. Their loss.

The Chron in its Hudson trade article noted that Brynes might be next on the chopping block because he is eligible for arbitration and a big increase in salary. Seriously now, why not trade Dustan Mohr plus a pitching prospect to the A's for Brynes? Mohr will get way less in arbitration, he plays Moneyball with OBP and power, he plays good defense at all three OF positions, and seems to be a good guy. We get Brynes, who plays with hustle too but has proven power, decent speed and steal-ability, OK OBP, plus loves the Giants so he probably would not haggle much on the contract as long as the Giants are in the ballpark. He won't be a defensive upgrade probably, but will add needed young to the lineup, add some speed and power, plus he kills at SBC!

Christiansen's here, best time of year?

Trying to stay in the season's spirits, but, no ho ho, it's not the best time of year, not for a Giants fan, not quite yet. While there have been some noteworthy additions to the team - Vizquel, Benitez, Matheny - and resignings - Grissom, Snow, Cruz, Tomko - and now Christiansen, there has not been the big addition that many Giants fans, dubbed the Lunatic Fringe by Sabean, have clamored for: the big bat to bat behind Barry.

While they at least tried hard to get one in Steve Finley, who would have been a nice addition, he was not really what most Giants fans wanted in their black and orange stockings, because he's 40 years old himself and due for a big fall just like Bonds. It would be like Russian Roulette which one would go bad first (my bets on Finley and he would have been signed for more years than Barry). So I'm glad that the Angel's outbid us for him plus his heart wouldn't have been in it anyway, he really wanted to live near home, which is just south of LA/Anaheim. Hopefully they will get their comeuppence for beating us in 2002 like that.

No, we want young blood here in SF and the outfield and a trade appear to be the way to go right now. There are not many great choices out there in the free agent market, mainly for health reasons. JD Drew and Magglio Ordonez have huge question marks on them, though apparently one season's worth of performance was all Adrian Beltre needed to get a $64M contract. And Benson got $21M for not even one good year's performance. JD Drew finally had one injury free year, co-inky-dink his free agent year. So you wonder if he'll be continually injured once you get him. And Magglio isn't allowing any physicals, NOT a good sign that he is recovered, else I would be line for signing him.

So we need to trade for this young gun. But who? I've suggested Andruw Jones or Eric Brynes but I'm game for any young player as long as we are not giving up Williams, Lowry, Cain, or Whitaker. Just package up a bunch of young'uns, enough to get a deal, or throw in some of our bench players, like Mohr or Feliz. That's what I want under my Christmas tree this year....


A's trade Hudson, more to come: Bryne come home?

Fortunately, the A's dealt him to the Braves (NOT the D-gers! :^) and, as much as people berate the trade, I think they came away from the deal good (though obviously not as good as the Braves). They got three players, one full of potential unmet until last year (Cruz; I was looking at him before the Braves got him), and two minor leaguers who did well in a call-up last season and killed in the minors. Juan Cruz fills their bullpen need and Charles Thomas is a potential starter in LF for them. Dan Meyer will compete to take over the now empty rotation spot, with whatever other wunderkinds Billy Beane has in his bag.

This creates a big of an excess in the outfield now, with Thomas pegged for LF, Kotsay in CF, Swisher in RF, and Brynes and Kielty as backups, who both could start for others. Beane also noted in the press conference that he will have more to come. How about the A's trade Byrne to SF?

I don't know what it would take to pry him out of the A's hands, but he would be a good addition to the Giants outfield. The only problem would be that he is not a great CF defensively. But he would be a big offensive improvement over Tucker (assuming Grissom moves to RF) and, just as importantly, a starter under 30. Plus he has some speed on the basepaths and is a good baserunner, with 17 steals and 1 CS last year. 20+ HR power. Kills lefties, OK righties. He would look good batting third.

What the A's need right now is starters, perhaps, or a better 1B. Would Pedro Feliz be a good match? He can play 3B well, 1B adequately, LF and RF OK. They are both arbitration eligible I believe so salaries would probably be similar since their production has been similar. I also read that the A's aren't happy with Hatteburg or Durazo. However, Peliz couldn't take a walk if it was sitting in his hands.

Starters are problematic too, as the Giants would want to keep the current 5 of Schmidt, Rueter, Tomko, Williams, and Lowry. I don't know their feelings about Hennessey but I have to assume that Foppert, Cain, and Valdez are off limits unless we are getting someone like Vlad's caliber of player. Would the A's want Tomko and prospects? Tauscher, Beggs, Misch, Treadway, might be options. I doubt Billy would want any of our position prospects.

Other good news on the D-gers front: Adrian Beltre signed with Seattle Mariners for $64M over 5 years. Oy! I figured they might not get him. Else they would not have signed Jeff Kent as a backup plan for not getting Beltre. However, the rumors are they might luck out in the Randy Johnson sweepstakes. The Yankees would get RJ, sends Javier Vasquez to LA, LA sends Brad Penny, Yhency Brazoban, and Shawn Green to Arizona. Risky but I like Vasquez back in the NL, he'll definitely be better than Brad Penny.


More on the Yorvit love-fest...

I found some stats on hitting from last season on the three catchers in question.

With runners on:
  • AJ averaged 30.5% RBI/AB, hitting .288/.332/.432/.764;
  • Matheny average 26.9% RBI/AB, hitting .246/.305/.322/.627;
  • Yorvit averaged 25.6% RBI/AB, hitting .205/.308/.397/.705.

With RISP:

  • AJ had 44.4% RBI/AB, hitting .307/.359/.484/.842;
  • Matheny had 37.4% RBI/AB, hitting .226/.308/.313/.621;
  • Yorvit had 38.0% RBI/AB, hitting .200/.317/.420/.737.

So offensively, Matheny and Yorvit drive in about the same, though obviously we don't know how many baserunners each had in total opportunities, but Yorvit obviously hit better overall because of his ability to get the walk and to hit for extra-bases. Pierzynski was obviously much better than either in driving in runs when men were on base, though part of that is a result of hitting somewhere close behind Bonds (5,6,7) and encountering, most probably, many more situations with multiple runners on base than Yorvit or Matheny would batting in the 8th spot.

Yorvit's better hitting shows in projecting overall play too. Matheny hit .247/.292/.348/.640 in 385 AB with 5 homers. Taking the total proportion of plate appearances against LHP and RHP for Giants catchers last year and proportionally applying that against Yorvit's career numbers, I got .256/.316/.402/.718 in 617 AB with 14 homers. Of course, he won't play all 162 games, but I wanted to get a look at how his career numbers would look if they were not weighted towards LHP. Even with this adjustment, he hit slightly better than what Matheny would.

So from a number of different angles, Yorvit appears to be a much better hitter. The question therefore becomes: is Matheny's defense that much better?

According to many Giants fans, Yorvit is not that far behind Matheny in defense if not possibly ahead. Some websites note that Matheny's catcher ERA is not much better than the players backing him up. A problem with that is the backup will now start for St. Louis, so perhaps he is not much better than his backup but is better than Yorvit. Most sabermetrians agree that comparing catcher's ERA between teams is very problematic because of the difference in personnel, for example, teams with great pitching obviously will have catchers with low catcher's ERA.

The problem I have is that most fans don't really know defense well enough to judge who is best and defensive stats are still searching in the dark for the right metric for comparison. People in and following baseball should be much more qualified. And perhaps it is just the press repeating something until it becomes a fact, but Matheny has been acknowledge to be a gold glove multiple times. I don't see articles talking about how great Yorvit's defense is and thus why isn't he playing. And it is not like there aren't other defensive catchers in the league. Charles Johnson is one acknowledged to be one of the greats of all time but you don't see him winning over Matheny.

So while Yorvit definitely rocks vs. LHP and probably should draw most of his starts against them, I think he and Matheny would be in a good platoon over the life of Matheny's contract. It is not like Matheny will be starting the vast majority of games, like Pierzynski would have, so Yorvit will get his chances.

And there's no guarantee that Yorvit would be that good as a starter, his biggest question coming up from the minors was his offense and it has been acknowledged in the press that he has done much better in the majors than his numbers in the minors would have suggested. And if either should go down for whatever reason, the other will be capable of carrying the load at about the same rate, which wouldn't be true if we just picked up some catcher off the scrap heap.

Now about the money, again, that goes to what the Giants think they are getting in defense and leadership of the pitching staff from Matheny versus Yorvit. Obviously, they think that it is worth a lot. I think I can see some of the logic of that, which I touched on in a prior post. Obviously, there is a youth movement going along in the Giants pitching staff, with Williams and Lowry already in the rotation, Hennessey, Aardsma, and Correia in the wings, and Cain and Valdez charging up fast. They will need to be guided and "controlled".

Would Yorvit be able to do that? I don't know either way, but I do know that he has been mainly catching veteran pitchers during his career with the Giants and hasn't been charged with doing something like that. As Sabean said about another prospect, I don't know if we want to find out that he can't in the line of fire and be forced to trade from weakness and lose prospects versus spending money, perhaps extra money, on a free agent.

Some fans abhor "In Sabean We Trust" but really, he hasn't really had many misses during his career about talent, especially trading it away. Now salary level is another question, he has been challenged there but from what I know, he doesn't do much with salary level computations, all that is handled by Ned Colletti. So for now I will trust in Sabean and see what happens (and keep my fingers crossed).


Waive A.J. buh-bye!

Well, it is official now, Pierzynski has been waived. Perhaps someone will risk arbitration with him and claim him but most probably he will go free agent. I just hope he doesn't end up with the D-gers.

The Matheny has hit the fan: all the Giants blogs are all agog over the Matheny signing and not in a good way. Most of them blast the Giants because Matheny, in their opinion is no better than Torrealba and Yorvit would only cost them $1M in 2005. I don't really know defense or how to calibrate how much that is worth, and frankly we are probably in the late 1800's in terms of understanding defense relative to offensive measures.

But I'll give it a shot. Using Baseball Prospectus' stats, Matheny was 13 runs better per 100 games than the average player, adjusted for league difficulty and normalization, last year. His average for his career is 7 runs and his average over: last 3 years, 9 runs better; 5 years, 11 runs better. Torrealba was 10 runs better last year, 17 runs career and 3 years. Yorvit had a blip in 2003, very high, removing that puts him at basically 8 runs career and 3 years. So they are very similar. Is that worth an extra $2.5M per year, especially considering Yorvit mashes LHP and Matheny hits poorly against both? No.

Viewed another way, The Hardball Times publishes Win Share stats, and A.J. and Matheny are ranked right next to each other, A.J. has 13 win shares, Matheny is next with 10 win shares. At only 30% more production, A.J. is not worth $5M per year if Matheny is getting $3.5M, more like $4.5M. By this measure, Matheny is a slight bargain, however, A.J. expects to get better over the next 3-4 seasons while Matheny is expected to hit the speed bump that happen, with him being in his late 30's and a full-time catcher.

Also, Torrealba had 4 win shares, so on a per game basis, he seems to be a better deal than Matheny in terms of that, especially at only $1M or less. Matheny had 1.7 WS for batting, 8.1 WS for fielding. Torrealba had 2.0 and 2.3, respectively, for 4 WS total. So in much fewer AB and his worse offensive production of his career, Torrealba had more hitting win shares than Matheny who started a whole season. Yorvit played about 40% of the games that Matheny did, according to Baseball Prospectus calculations of 9 inning games, so Torrealba's defense would have translated to 5.75 WS total vs. 8.1 WS for Matheny, 10.75 WS total vs. 9.8 WS for Matheny, Yorvit beating out Matheny based on WS because of his offensive oomph.

Apparently Sabean is paying through the nose for the leadership and handling of the pitching staff that Matheny possesses. But based on the various statistical measurements available today, it appears that Yorvit could have delivered approximately the same contribution offensively and defensively that Matheny could have.

One factor, however, which I don't have my hands on right now, is that Yorvit's numbers have been inflated by getting an overbalance of batting vs. LHP in part time basis - which he mashes - and if his rates were applied to the balance of PA that Pierzynski had, his offensive stats would not be as impressive. So just blindly extropolating his offensive stats would overemphasize his offensive contributions on a daily basis.

Taking all of these stats and opinions together, I think that this gives us the best of two worlds. As much as fans think Yorvit could be a starting catcher, his offensive stats are not that good when re-balanced for majority RHP AB. He can be the designated LHP catcher since Matheny is equally horrible - for the most part - and put up impressive stats that way, plus defensively there is no drop off between the two players. Yorvit will get more AB in future years as Matheny's skills erode, but Matheny's salary won't hurt future budgets much, its only about $3M per year except for the option year which obviously probably won't be exercised at $4M when he's 38-39 years old. And with minimized ABs, Yorvit's salary won't climb sky high either.

I still would have preferred keeping A.J. because of his batting. I think his defense was better in the AL because he had less to think about, changing leagues and pitching staff he probably was a bit overwhelmed at first, as evidenced by his poor hitting in April. But what's done is done, I don't think Matheny is a horrible signing, at least at the level everyone is making it out to be, but I still think the Giants could have spent their money better, though maybe they will surprise us with their OF acquisition. However, I fear that it will be like last year when the Pierzynski deal was the only interesting deal, setting us up for disappointment.


Last Day of the Winter Meetings

The Pierzynski era is over, long live Mike Matheny! The Giants signed and presented at a press conference yesterday their latest free agent signing, Mike Matheny. There was appropriate gushing on Sabean's part.

Oy, nothing against Mike, but he's not much of a hitter, low BA, OBP, SLG. He is, however, a catcher par excellance, setting records for error-less games streaks and such plus is another gold glove addition, along with Vizquel. He is the oft-mentioned good clubhouse presence, leader of the pitching staff, and Tomko loves him.

That's going to be a big drop from Pierzynski to Matheny offensively, but hopefully the runs we give up there, we gain back from his defense. Or at least that's how Sabean is viewing it. I will admit that I wondered how the Cardinals won so many games with that non-descript pitching staff, a question often asked of a Duncan-LaRussa led team, so hopefully some of that has rubbed off on Metheny and he can lead our young staff of pitchers to the promise land, especially since the Giants will now have Metheny catching them for much of their early part of their careers, Williams, Lowry, Hennessey, Correia, Cain, Valdez, Aardsma, Whitaker.

But I will sure miss Pierzynski's LHH bat! But he and his agent made their bed, particularly last year with forcing the Giants into arbitration, a process worse than death in Sabean's eyes, and then with their apparently high demand for a long-term contract. I was hoping that he would be reasonable this year but that hope was dashed. Now hopefully the CF the Giants acquire will be both an offensive as well as defensive improvement.

Most accounts of that call quoted Sabean that the Giants will waive Pierzynski and allow him to go free agent for the good work he did for us, but one account noted that the Giants will try to trade him before the deadline but most likely will waive him. There must be some team desperate enough to get a good LHH catcher who was an All-Star just two seasons ago and who among the leaders of NL catchers in RBI without having to bid over others to acquire him. Just give the Giants a middling reliever and a prospect.

If the Giants end up getting nothing for A.J., his trade will have to currently rank as the worse Sabean trade during his reign as Giants GM. I know there are still those who rankle over Ponson but he pitched well for us in the stretch run and the pitchers we gave up haven't done anything. The next worse would probably be the F-Rod trade for Ledee and then the Ortiz trade, though that could change based on Valdez' progress.


Day 3 of the winter meetings

The A'ss are rumored to give Hudson away to LA for two prospects, Edwin Jackson and Antonio Perez. True, two prospects who probably don't have much more to learn at AAA, but still unproven talent. For Hudson!

That's going to suck so hopefully its false, else LA's rotation will be strong with Hudson on board plus would probably have the inside edge to signing Hudson long-term (assuming Boras isn't his agent; the one time I WANT a player to have him as an agent). He would then be teamed up Ishii, Penny, and Weaver, that would be some rotation assuming Penny is healthy. Luckily most reports tonight seem to indicate that the A's are still shopping him around; good, at least suck up another good player from the Dodgers for Hudson, maybe Yhency Brazoban or Duaner Sanchez, at least SOMEBODY who has done SOMETHING good in the MLB.

I was looking through the CF list and noticed that the A's have two of them, Kotsay and Eric Byrnes and I thought, wouldn't it be great to get Byrnes? He was a huge Giants fan growing up so I have to assume he would be pleased to join the team. He is up for arbitration so he should get bigger money for the great two seasons he has had. I don't know how hard up the A's are for money but if they are looking at getting rid of Hudson, they must be doing pretty badly and might need to trade Byrnes, who should get something in the $1.5-2.5M range.

Perhaps the A's give him up for Dustan Mohr, a moneyball type player with high OBP last season? Plus some pitching prospects, of course. That would save them some money as Mohr should not get as much as Bryne in arbitration. I don't know what else the A's need though that we could give, so this is a pipe dream, but a nice dream. All we got is Feliz really that they might be interested in, I doubt they want Ransom or any other position prospect that we have. Say, if they are willing to take Jackson and Perez, maybe they can go for Hennessey or Correia?

Reports indicate the Giants are running into $ problems with Christiansen and Pierzynski. Apparently A.J.'s agent submitted a multi-year multi-$$$ proposal on Tuesday that promptly got the Giants thinking about signing Mike Methany. But he's looking for something similar to Damian Miller's contract, 3 years at $8.75M. At that price, please continue negotiating with A.J.! At least they realize that Torrealba is not the way to go, they were quoted as noting how poorly Yorvit did in winter league.

Also, rumors have the Giants talking with Mike Myers and Kent Mercker. If we can do something with Mercker, I hope the door doesn't hit Christiansen's butt too hard. Mercker has been pretty good. However, according to one report, Sabean said that signing one of those guys does not preclude signing Christiansen as "it would be pretty good having three lefties out of the pen" or something like that.

The CF talks still seem to center on Podsednik and Roberts, with Williams and the Lowry being mentioned as the desired player but the Giants were adamant in their quote that they NOT break up their rotation, a potentially great rotation, without a plan B. Say, I would give up Lowry and Hennessey for Hudson but then we wouldn't be able to give them any young 2B, just two old ones in Alfonzo and Durham. I wonder if the A's would take one of them if the Giants supplied them the extra money a la Kendall, to make the deal good for the A's budget?


Day 2 of the Winter Meetings

If that isn't a sign that the discussions with Pierzynski isn't going well: there are a couple of reports that they are looking into Mike Metheny. I guess that's a sign that the A.J. era is over but not necessarily Yorvit time either. Hopefully there is a team needing a catcher and 3B or OF who has a good young outfielder to trade to us.

Thus far, talks are the Giants are looking at Podsednik and Dave Roberts. BLEH! Nothing against them, but I don't see them as being significant improvements over what we have, they would be complements. I would rather give Mohr more playing time and see how he does before doing those trades, especially with the Brewers asking for Jerome Williams for the Pod-man.

Sabean says that there are 4 trade discussions that they have had, both young and old OF, but all ask for the same young pitcher (presumably Williams since he was the one named in the Brewers deal but a couple of reporters named Noah Lowry). He says that he won't trade this pitcher but will try to progress the talks further, he apparently believes that there is still some hope of getting one of these deals done.

I still think that unless we are getting a potential star type player, we should not be dealing, just let Mohr take over CF and see how it goes early on. If he falters, then the Giants could try to acquire someone mid-season, but there would still be Grissom and Tucker around to stem the drop.

Also, apparently Sabean and co. have discussed having Feliz play RF (ugh!). There must be some way of packaging him and A.J. to get a good OF somewhere.