A Whole Lotta Nothin’

added 8/1/2005 by Scott Barzilla

Last week I told you I would come back after the trading deadline and look at what the Astros did and what other teams did. Unfortunately, that doesn’t leave a lot of stuff for me to cover because this was the worst deadline (as far as deals done) in history probably. So, let’s take a look at the “winners” and “losers” before we move onto the Astros.

Winners

The first winner among all of our teams would be the Atlanta Braves. They acquired Kyle Farnsworth from the Tigers in exchange for two young arms. The Braves have struggled in the bullpen since Smoltz moved to the rotation. Smoltz has twelve wins so he isn’t about to move back. Chris Reitsma has been a decent closer, but Danny Kolb has been a total bust. Farnsworth can pitch in the 8th inning so that they don’t have to rely on Kolb at all.

The Chicago Cubs added Matt Lawton in exchange for Jody Gerut. Lawton was the biggest name to be traded on deadline day. The Gerut deal was puzzling for the Cubs earlier this year, but now they have a legitimate hitter to put in either left or centerfield. Lawton is not a superstar, but with the club getting Nomar back they don’t need one. They just need a steady hitter.

The Texas Rangers won big by ridding themselves of another troublesome contract in Chan Ho Park. Phil Nevin will probably be a serviceable DH/1B type for the Rangers, but he won’t lead them to the pennant. That wasn’t the idea though. The Rangers were able to take Alfonso Soriano off the table and they might be able to re-sign him this off-season.

The Boston Red Sox get points for not dealing Manny Ramirez. Yes, they would love to dump that salary but they can’t do anything but hurt their 2005 chances worse. I expect the Mets to be willing partners this off-season and then the Sox will have many more options on who they can take back because they could use the money to sign other free agents.

However, the biggest winners are the clubs that are in first place in their division and the wild card. You see the biggest names of those that got dealt. I’ve seen days in June where there was more activity. So, the clubs that are on top don’t have to worry about those under them being stronger today than they were yesterday.

Losers

The Padres tried to trade Nevin to the Orioles for the third time in the last few years. They were shocked when he rebuffed again. Yet, getting back Sidney Ponson isn’t exactly a coup. So, the Padres trade for an even more marginal pitcher that makes even more money. Congratulations Kevin Towers, you get the 2005 Cam Bonifay Award for abject stupidity. Yes, Park might put up reasonable numbers in Petco, but for 15 million you should be getting 1999-2004 Randy Johnson not a marginal pitcher.

The New York Yankees have gone from the class organization in MLB to desperate socialites looking for the latest cosmetic surgery. Desperation and deep pockets makes for great hilarity. It seems after Randy Johnson and Mike Mussina pitch, the Yankees look to the waiver wire and trade market to find their next starting pitcher. Shawn Chacon is a joke, but the “trade” for Al Leiter is the best yet. If the player has a name and they were good once they can be a Yankee next week.

The Devil Rays are a bigger joke than anyone right now. They had an opportunity to get maybe a half dozen prospects for Danys Baez and Aubrey Huff. They were greedy and they get nothing. Those two won’t save the Drays anymore than Babe Ruth or Lefty Grove would. Lou Pinella is paying for his pride. He thought he could meld the Rays into winners. You can’t go to McDonald’s and expect to get filet mignon. You can be the greatest chef (manager) in the world, but if you have lousy ingredients you usually have a lousy meal.

The Deal that Wasn’t

Just because the Astros didn’t get anything done doesn’t mean they weren’t doing anything. Sunday morning, the Houston Chronicle reported that the Astros had a deal done for Jamie Moyer, but Moyer exercised his 10/5 rights and turned down the trade. Supposedly, Moyer didn’t want to move his family and since he is in the last year of his contract he might have had to move them twice. He isn’t the first to choose continuity over winning. It’s hard for us to understand because most of us would kill for an opportunity to play big league baseball in a pennant race. However, it is unclear as to what Moyer really would have brought to the table.


      W-L     INN   ERA    SO/BB   HR   WHIP
      9-3   126.2  4.33    69/41   11   1.48

I know what you’re thinking because I would be thinking it too. He would have looked really nice as the fourth starter in front of Brandon Backe. In the playoffs, Moyer could have served as a situational lefty or a veteran fourth starter allowing Backe to serve as a reliever. The thought here is that he would have had a little more success without having to face a DH. Ah, this is where we get into the home/road splits.


      W-L     INN   ERA    SO/BB   HR   WHIP
Home  6-0    75.0  2.64    42/19    3   1.23
Away  3-3    51.2  6.79    27/22    8   1.84

So, who gets the starting assignment in the playoffs: Backe or Moyer? Moyer has 201 career wins and that should count for something, but in 2005 they are essentially the same pitcher. The problem is that the Astros can’t go to Safeco Field to play their home games when Moyer pitches. The park factors for Safeco Field list as follows: 83, 86, 85, 94, and 91. In other words, Safeco Field has played as either the best or second best pitcher’s park in the American League. Moyer is becoming more and more hittable with each passing year. Stick him in the Juice Box with a bunch of right-handed power hitters and well, you get the idea.

What Now?

As I write this I have to decide whether I’m going to stick to my guns (we had too much ground to make up) or whether I want to sample some crow. Since the Astros are in the wild card lead I find it hard to deny they are in very good shape and yet I have a hard time seeing them play at this level for another sixty games. However, we still have another month of trading left.

Certainly, you can’t add superstars after the non-waiver deadline, but if Purpura still wants to add a bench player, relief pitcher, or bottom of the rotation starter it can be done. Six teams are within 5.5 games of the Astros right now. It is perfectly understandable that they wouldn’t want to give up. However, if any of them go on a sustained losing streak they could change their tunes in a couple of weeks. The same ratio exists in the American League. Within two weeks there should be about half a dozen new sellers.

As for my view of the rest of the season, a lot of it still depends on rookies like Willy Taveras, Wandy Rodriguez, and Ezekiel Astacio. The three have kept their performance up in recent weeks and it has helped the club immensely. As the August heat bears down on these young players will they continue to come up big or will they wilt under the pressure? It will be fun to watch, and either way these players are getting valuable experience.

Scott Barzilla is the author of “Checks and Imbalances” and “The State of Baseball Management.”