In a move that suggests that Billy Beane has had his eye on him for some time, Oakland claimed Lenny DiNardo off of waivers from the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday, and immediately added him to the 25-man roster.
DiNardo, a 27-year old southpaw, had a decent seasons in 2004 and 2005 in limited action with the Red Sox, but after a neck injury in 2006, posted an ERA — 7.85 — in Jose Lima territory. He’s a soft-tossing cutter purveyor, with an occasional slider and rare changeup. He has a career minor league ERA of 3.35, with a SO/9 of 8.84 and a SO:BB ratio of 2.74.
To make room on the roster, the A’s outrighted Charles Thomas to AAA Sacramento and designated Hiram Bocachica for assignment. It’s always seemed to me that Bocachica might be able to contribute as a utility/bench player in the right situation. It’s been apparent for the past two years that Oakland isn’t that situation, however.
If Bocachica doesn’t just head back to Sacramento, as one might assume, it’s likely that an NL team would pick him up. His positional flexibility, speed and decent bat would fit right in for a team like the Giants, who have an ancient outfield and geriatric infield.
As for DiNardo, he’s the latest in Billy Beane’s stockpile of left-handers and 5th starters. DiNardo could make the team as an insurance policy against Alan Embree disappointing as a LOOGY. DiNardo could also conceivably challenge for the 5th starter role, but he’s nowhere near the head of that line. Joe Kennedy is the front-runner at this point, and spring training is only likely to solidify that notion.
The Oakland Athletics have reached an agreement with free agent outfielder Shannon Stewart for a one-year deal that could be worth as much as $2.5 million with incentives, pending a physical, ESPN The Magazine’s Buster Olney has learned.
Stewart, 32, is a .299 career hitter with 102 home runs in 11 seasons with Toronto and Minnesota. His best year came in 2000, when he hit 21 homers and drove in 69 runs for the Blue Jays.
Stewart has had plantar fasciitis problems in both feet over the past three years, limiting him to 92 games in 2004 and only 44 last season with the Minnesota Twins. The plantar fascia is a long tissue that connects the heel bone to the base of the toes.
Apparently Billy Beane is really, really worried about outfield depth. Right now he’s got Mark Kotsay, Milton Bradley, Nick Swisher, Bobby Kielty, Ryan Goleski and Ricky Ledee. If this report is correct, and I’ll assume it is since it came from Buster Olney, now Shannon Stewart joins the fold.
If Stewart can return to full health, I envision him as a sort of Jay Payton with more OBP and slightly less power, although Payton definitely has the edge on defense and health. Perhaps getting Stewart off of fake grass for the first time in his career (Toronto, Minnesota) will keep him healthy.
The A’s have signed Ricky Ledee to a minor league contract, with an invite to Spring Training. They’re looking at him for the 5th outfielder spot, along with Ryan Goleski, Hiram Bocachica and Charles Thomas.
I’d have to believe that the spot is Goleski’s to lose, because as a Rule 5 draft pick, he has to remain on the 25-man roster to stay with the A’s. He may have been injured when he came over, but he’s going to be healthy by the time Spring Training starts, so he can’t spend the season on the DL rehabbing in the minors.
Ricky Ledee‘s “best” season might have been in 2003 with the Phillies. He hit .247/.334/.475 with 13 home runs and a 34:59 BB:SO ratio. That’s not a particularly good season, though. Here’s his projection for 2007, as a 34 year old:
Not very good. The *2B and *HR numbers have been adjusted to 350 at bats, which is what I’d guess a 5th OF might get this year in Oakland.
Compare that to Goleski’s numbers:
Who would you rather have? Goleski offers more power, but he strikes out far too often and his OBP is well below average.
Both Ledee and Goleski have offensive drawbacks. The deciding factor, in my opinion, is that while Ledee is a declining 34 year old, Goleski is a 25 year old with no major league experience yet. Goleski has a PECOTA UPSIDE of 5.2, while Ledee’s UPSIDE is just 0.6.
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If you haven’t been following winter league baseball in Venezuela and Mexico — and who hasn’t, really — you may have missed the numbers that Marco Scutaro and Erubiel Durazo are putting up.
Scutaro not only led the entire nation of Venezuela (and its visiting major league ballplayers) in average and on-base percentage in the regular season, but he’s gone 20-for-60 in the oddly long 16 game playoffs. Oh, what I would have given for a playoff that long during the 2001-2004 MLB postseasons. Five games just wasn’t enough… But I digress.
Durazo, fondly known as ol’ alligator arms, has been trashing the Mexican league hurlers. After smashing 18 homers in 63 regular season games with a .344 average, Durazo has stayed hot in the playoffs. In 52 playoff at-bats for the Naranjeros de Hermosillo, Billy Beane’s Holy Grail has hit .308 with two homers. I may be drinking the green-and-gold Kool-Aid (or would that be horchata?), but I’m more and more convinced that Durazo can return to his excellent 2004 form. He’s going to present a big challenge to Dan Johnson in Spring Training.
Competition is always good, though, and if it serves to improve the A’s unsteady offense, I’m all for it.
The A’s and Justin Duchscherer came to an agreement on terms today, avoiding arbitration.
Duke, who made $344,500 in 2006, asked for $1.45 million and was offered $925,000. They didn’t immediately release the numbers, but I’d have to guess that the one year deal is worth somewhere around $1.3 million. Kirk Saarloos asked for nearly the same amount, was offered $925,000, and got a $1.2 million deal. No offense to Saarloos, but Duchscherer is certainly worth more.
[UPDATE: The actual figure is $1,187,500, which is lower than I expected]
The A’s have never liked to go to arbitration with players, with the last case that actually went before an arbiter being the Juan Cruz disaster. Cruz, who had a reputation of having a “major league arm, minor league head”, lost his arbitration case. There was speculation that the process left him with less confidence in himself, which contributed to his decline. Of course, it’s also possible that he just couldn’t find the strikezone with a GPS and a sherpa holding his hand.
Signing Duke, the A’s lone All-Star representative in 2005, was one of the more important goals of the offseason for the A’s. He’s been very reliable and produced great results since moving from the rotation to the bullpen. A large part of his success has come after he developed and refined his cutter. He went from a soft-tossing starter with three pitches to a soft-tossing reliever who makes batters look awful with a huge curveball and diving cutter.
I’ll always remember his performance I witnessed in spring training last year, when Duchscherer fanned seven batters in a row, most on his curve. Speaking of which, this may be heresy for an A’s fan, but I’d wager that Duchscherer has every bit as good a curveball as Barry Zito. Not only that, Duchscherer seems to know how to control his, walking only 28 batters in the last two years, over 141 1/3 innings pitched.
This leaves Bobby Kielty as the lone Athletic waiting to either go to arbitration or sign a one year deal. I’d guess that the A’s sign him to a deal worth around $2.2 million, a raise from the $1.85 he made last year. Kielty will likely see most of his time in a platoon, though, possibly with Rule V draft pick Ryan Goleski.
Oakland has locked up four more players that were arbitration eligible. Joe Kennedy, Milton Bradley, Kiko Calero and Marco Scutaro are now all signed up for the 2007 season. Here’s a rundown:
Joe Kennedy – $2.8 million
Kennedy comes into 2007 as a top candidate for the #5 spot in the rotation. He’s been effective but not outstanding for the A’s in a relief role since he came over from the Rockies in the Eric Byrnes trade. I’d consider $2.8 million in this market to be very reasonable, even for an arby-eligible player. However, if he doesn’t crack the top five for the rotation, look for Beane to try and trade away one of his surplus #5-type pitchers, such as Kennedy or Brad Halsey.
Milton Bradley – $4.0 million (+ $400,000 in performance bonuses)
Bradley seems to have finally found a home in Oakland. He seems content, and after coming back from an early season injury, hit very well, posting a .284/.370/.457/.827 line until the end of the year. I’d like to see Bradley inked to a 3-4 year deal before the year is out. His largely exaggerated anger baggage will keep his contract value down, but he is a good hitter and a very good defensive outfielder. The best news might be that we get another season of the fantastic Bradley-Swisher celebration dance, which has to be seen; it’s impossible to describe.
Kiko Calero – $1.6 million
Calero was the only Opening Day Oakland reliever to not get injured and not temporarily move to the rotation in 2006. He’s been great since coming over from St. Louis in the Mulder trade. In the two years he’s pitched for Oakland, he’s put up a 3.33 ERA, 119:42 K:BB ratio, and struck out 9.4 per nine inning pitched. While those aren’t top-tier reliever numbers, they’re still very good. His nasty backdoor slider will continue to break over the corner for one more year in Oakland.
Marco Scutaro – $1.55 million
The contribution Marco has made to Oakland can’t really be summarized by statistics alone. And this is coming from a guy who just spent the last two days up to his ears in numbers. Little Papi, as some have taken to calling Scutaro, seems to have that nebulous characteristic that some define as “being clutch”. As much as my sabermetric mind hesitates to buy into it, my traditionalist heart believes it. I’ve seen him come to the plate in late game situtations many, many times and get a bloop single or a double off the wall. More important, perhaps, than his actual performance is that he is so expected to come through that the rest of the team is able to relax and get their jobs done.
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the other contributions Marco has made to the team. When Mark Ellis went down in 2004, Scutaro played a very good second base all year. The next year, when Bobby “Broken Bones” Crosby went down for an extended amount of time, Scutaro played an above average shortstop. This year, in a reduced role, Scutaro came out of the gate struggling, but chose just the right time to get hot. As Nick Swisher cooled off from his torrid start, Scutaro, hitting just .218 at the time, turned it on. From August 2 to the end of the season, he hit .308/.412/.459/.871 to help the A’s make the push into the playoffs.
I’m glad Scutaro is back. It just wouldn’t be the same without him. I can take the big stars leaving. I liked Zito a lot, but to be honest, I think at this point I’d miss Scutaro more. Perhaps that’s just the bitterness of Zito’s departure talking, though.
So with Kennedy, Calero, Bradley, Scutaro, Antonio Perez and Adam Melhuse signed up, that leaves just three arbitration eligible players left unsigned: Justin Duchscherer, Bobby Kielty and Kirk Saarloos.
Duchscherer is due a big raise (up from $345,000), as he’s been invaluable to the team out of the bullpen. Since moving there in 2004, he’s posted a 2.80 ERA with a 195:60 K:BB ratio. Since 2005 he’s been even better, with a 2.48 ERA and 136:28 K:BB ratio.
Kielty looks like a player with a disappearing career. With Jay Payton gone it would appear that more ABs would flow his way, but it looks as if the Dan Johnson/Mike Piazza 1B/DH position will put Nick Swisher back in the outfield, leaving little room for the Klown. Swisher, Mark Kotsay, Milton Bradley and possibly Ryan Goleski will all likely get time before Kielty. Goleski has to remain on the 25-man roster all season as a Rule V pick, or he goes back to the Indians. With Goleski’s potential and Kielty’s extreme platoon split, I’d guess Kielty may not be around soon.
Kirk Saarloos is an interesting case. He, by all accounts, doesn’t have much “stuff”. He strikes out people at one of the lowest rates in the game, excluding knuckle-ballers, and doesn’t throw hard. His sinker, his best pitch, isn’t anything to write home about. But somehow he manages to pitch very well at times. That’s balanced by a few poor outings, to give him a mid-4.00 ERA and a slot as a 5th/fill-in starter. Insofar as it might be easy to rip the guy for his seeming dearth of MLB frontline talent, I’ve got to admit that I like the guy, and I’m rooting for him. Here’s hoping Los Kirk can find more of what some have called his “pixie dust”; the ability to get people out when they least expect it.
Erubiel Durazo, as I’ve mentioned previously, has been playing very well in Mexico. So well, in fact, that he’ll be crossing the border to Arizona come March, and vying for a spot in Oakland’s spring training lineup.
Playing for the Naranjeros de Hermosillo, Durazo hit .344 with 18 home runs and 56 RBIs in 63 games.
Of course, don’t expect that to translate to an MLB season of 40+ homers and a .340+ average.
It’s certainly possible that Durazo has regained his stroke after his Tommy John surgery more than a year ago. He could return to the 2004 Durazo that seemed to validate Billy Beane dubbing him his “Holy Grail”. That season, Durazo put up a line of .321/.396/.523 with 22 home runs and 35 doubles.
I’d be happy to see Durazo get near .280/.370/.490 with 18 home runs and 25 doubles; production he is certainly capable of.
It should be noted that Mike Piazza, the
shiny new… unknown quantity… interesting reclamation project… um… “new designated hitter” that the A’s signed is projected to put up the following line: .267/.344/.467, 16 HR, 15 doubles.
Piazza may have to earn his playing time. Assuming Durazo is back, which remains to be seen.
An emerging storyline to follow through spring training will definitely be the 1B/DH battle between Dan Johnson, Erubiel Durazo and Mike Piazza. All have shown the ability to hit .320 with 20+ home runs, but they also have all shown the ability to hit .250 with 10 home runs…
So the A’s just came to terms with two of the more worthless players in baseball.
Antonio Perez is worthless as an offensive player, at least in his current state of affairs. In 2006 Perez, as you may recall with horror, had one of the worst offensive seasons in the long and sometimes inglorious history of the game.
Perez hit .102, and actually contributed more to the success of the team as a pinch-runner, filling that role 18 times last season. He kept Frank Thomas off of the basepaths late in the game, likely helping the Big
Payday Hurt stay healthy enough to leave for Toronto power Oakland’s offense.
Perez will probably fill some of the same roles he did in 2006, as a pinch-runner and occasional infield replacement, but Oakland has to be hoping he can find his 2005 form, instead of, well, whatever you’d call his “performance” last year.
As for Lou Merloni, I don’t like this deal for a number of reasons. First and foremost, he’s a 36 year old infielder who strikes out almost three times as much as he walks, and his career slugging percentage is, brace yourselves… 16 points less than Jason Kendall’s. At least it’s just a non-roster Spring Training deal.
The other big reason I don’t like Merloni goes back to 2003, and one of the more classless displays I’ve ever seen in baseball. I’ll let this description by Sean McAdam of the Providence Journal explain:
… things got worse a few innings into the game when ESPN cameras showed four Sox players — Doug Mirabelli, Lou Merloni, Tim Wakefield and Adrian Brown — standing on the top step of the home dugout. On their jackets, spelled out with masking tape, was “Lilly,” — a reference to Oakland starter Ted Lilly — spelled out phonetically, an invitation to the fans in attendance to chant Lilly’s name in a mocking fashion.
“That’s bush league,” said a disgusted Red Sox official. “That’s something you might see in high school. Might.”
And yet, there it was, in a postseason playoff game, for the nation to see.
Call it holding a grudge, if you must, but Merloni is someone that I could do without having on the team I follow and cover. His “skills” won’t be missed on the field, and his class, or lack thereof, won’t be missed off of it.
With Barry Zito now officially gone, there have been some rumblings about what the starting rotation for the A’s will look like next year. Of course, we’ve all known that Zito would be gone since about a year ago, but once again, Billy Beane had more foresight than the average fan (or average blogger, as it may be). He stockpiled starters like my grandma stockpiled boxes of macaroni and cheese before Y2K. Beane’s strategy appears that it will pay off, though. For my part, I’m still working on eating all of that mac and cheese…
The A’s hoarded Joe Kennedy, Chad Gaudin, Brad Halsey, Kirk Saarloos, and the big free agent signing, Esteban Loaiza. They seemed to have a wealth of number 4 and 5 type starters, and many assumed that they’d part with them at the trade deadline to fill in the holes for a playoff run.
To the surprise of many, Beane was silent in late July, and chose to keep his spare parts in the bullpen.
I’ll admit, I wasn’t completely thrilled with the amount of money Beane committed to Esteban Loaiza last offseason. Three years for $21 million seemed a bit… excessive.
Comparing that to the trucks of cash that have been delivered to the houses of pitchers this year, though, it begins to look more reasonable.
In April and May of 2006, as Loaiza was hitting 85 on the radar gun and topping 8.00 on the ERA charts, I was one of many to call for Loaiza to be unceremoniously dumped off of the Bay Bridge.
Of course, Loaiza redeemed himself after a stint on the DL with a phantom injury, and had a great end to the season.
The other starters were called upon when Rich Harden, who seems to get hurt quite a lot, shockingly went on the DL twice. Shane Komine and Jason Windsor were called up from AAA, and performed about as well as they were expected to. That is, they kept their ERA under 7.00 for 5+ innings a start.
So now that Zito, who never missed a start in his seven year career, is gone, there is a noticeable hole in the top end of the Oakland rotation.
Dan Haren has shown himself to be both talented and durable, so he would seemingly get the nod for the top slot over the enigmatic Rich Harden. If Harden can somehow, miraculously make 25+ starts in 2007 without making a trip to the DL with a strain of some sort, he can be penciled in as the number 2 man.
Loaiza showed that he’s not an average pitcher. He’s either above average in his starts, or below average. He gave up 5 or more runs in eight of his 26 starts, and gave up 2 or less in nine of 26. There wasn’t a whole lot of middle ground there. Hopefully the good Loaiza shows up more often than the poor one. He’s the #3 pitcher in this projected rotation.
Assuming Joe Blanton doesn’t get traded to the Mets for Beane-coveted OF Lastings Milledge, which doesn’t look likely at this time, he’s the number four pitcher. Blanton has been characterized as a control pitcher without much stuff, which sounds unfair, but the more I look at his peripheral stats, the more I believe it. He doesn’t particularly look like that style of pitcher on the mound, but when you strikeout as few as he does, while walking an average amount and giving up seemingly random amounts of runs, you begin to look like a young, not-yet-crafty Jamie Moyer type.
So this brings us to the five-spot. The front-runners seem to be Kirk Saarloos, Joe Kennedy, Chad Gaudin, Brad Halsey, Jason Windsor and Shane Komine. Which is to say, there are no front-runners, only possibilities.
Saarloos has the most recent experience starting, but he’s seen mediocre success based largely on… who knows what. He doesn’t throw hard, his best pitch is a sinker that is figured out by the 5th inning, and he strikes out batters at a rate so low it makes Joe Blanton look like Nolan Ryan. I see a future in the bullpen for the likable yet average Saarloos.
Joe Kennedy has been the Opening Day starter for two teams. Of course, they were the Rockies and Devil Rays, so that’s not really saying much. Kennedy has had a few problems staying healthy, and he seems to be fitting in the reliever role nicely. I don’t see him moving to the rotation, but he is a favorite of Beane’s, so you never know.
Chad Gaudin has great “stuff”. That’s not in question. Whether he can avoid walking as many as Barry Zito does every year is in doubt, though. If he can keep his BB/9 rate below 4, he’ll be dangerous. He’s my personal favorite to make the rotation out of Spring Training.
Brad Halsey is beginning to look like one of those great prospects that get traded a couple times, and then develop into an above average reliever. He’s been given chances to start in Arizona and Oakland, and hasn’t impressed people enough to keep a spot. As much as I’d like to see “Ballsy” Brad Halsey stay in the green and gold, I see in my crystal ball a year or so of relief appearances followed by his inclusion in a three-way trade at the trade deadline or winter meetings.
Jason Windsor, in his three starts, flashed the kind of talent that he’s supposed to have, but also was exposed as being an as-yet unready prospect. Perhaps he can make the rotation next year, after he’s fully and completely recovered from his brutal workload in the College World Series. He also still needs to gain the confidence in his pitches that someone who works the black of the strikezone needs to have.
Shane Komine has made a remarkable recovery from his Tommy John surgery, and for a pitcher that most consider a relief candidate, looks an awful lot like a starter. He might have the strikeout rate and pitch array to make it in the big leagues, but I think he needs at least a half season more in AAA to really get back into the groove.
So there you have it, my ideas for who will fill out Oakland’s rotation in 2007.
What’s that you say? I didn’t really clear things up that much? Ok, you got me. I thought the answer would sift out at the end of this process, but it certainly didn’t, at least not any more than some idea that Chad Gaudin might make a good starter.
As is the case with virtually every team, the last bits of the puzzle will have to be discovered during Spring Training. Look for a competition between Gaudin, Saarloos and Windsor this March. That’s what I would expect, although, knowing this team, there’s as much chance that we’re all wrong as there is that one of those players is the 5th starter.
Accounting for that possibility, I’ll make my backup projection Aaron Heilman. Hey, you never know…
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According to numerous sources, Barry Zito has agreed to a deal with the San Francisco Giants. He’ll get $126 million over 7 years to pitch for the San Francisco Geriatrics, the 6th richest deal in MLB history.
Zito’s main selling point was his durability. He hasn’t had much success since winning the Cy Young in 2002. His control issues haven’t gone away, as he walked the second most hitters of any pitcher in baseball last season. His BB/9 rate has steadily climbed since 2002, and his SO/9 rate has dropped almost every year.
Nevertheless, I’m sorry to see Zito go. I knew it was inevitable that he’d hang up the white shoes, but now that he’s agreed to a deal, it’s sinking in.
There was something special about watching Zito’s famous curveball dive in a graceful arc, even if it ended up in the dirt in front of home plate. Zito seemed to personify the attitude of the A’s for so long, that once he’s gone, there will be a glaring hole. Folks like Nick Swisher and Dan Haren will step up, but it will be different to not see Zito sprawled on the outfield grass before his start, doing his yoga-like stretches.
For a player that claimed it wasn’t about the money; that he wanted to sign with a team that was in the hunt for World Series rings, this is a questionable move. The Giants are objectively further away from even making the playoffs than the A’s are, and can’t surround Zito with the kind of talent he needs to win games.
It’s always about the money. I’m OK with that, I just wish players would stop trying to pretend that it’s not.
Zito is a fly ball pitcher, and he’ll soon find out that even though he’s moving to the NL, he’ll give up a ton of extra base hits in the gaps at Phone Booth park. The average age of the Giants outfielders is 37; they’re not going to get to as many fly balls as Jay Payton, Mark Kotsay and Milton Bradley did.
I’m not going to wish anything but success for Zito, but I wouldn’t be surprised if after about two years of putting up ERAs of around 4.00 for a below .500 San Francisco team, he’s dangled on the trade market at the July deadline. It will be difficul to trade a contract as large as his, but I’m sure Brain Sabean will try.
I’m still a little baffled that Zito didn’t sign with the Mets, though. They were a perfect destination for him. They’re a contender, they have the money, and Rick Peterson, his old pitching coach, is there. That tells me that the market for Zito wasn’t as high as what he signed for. I’m guessing that the Rangers and Mets were offering deals in the range of 6-7 years at 13-16 million a year. When the Giants offered a deal that blew the others out of the water, Zito bit.
It all smacks of Scott Boras, really. When a player under his control signs a fat deal with a non-contender, I really shouldn’t be surprised.
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