Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Juicy and Non-Tendered 

The blogosphere is flying with ideas on the best of the non-tenders who the M's should acquire, so I'll add my two cents.

Certainly David Eckstein and Alex Cora deserve a look as an alternative to Jose Lopez. Either one would likely need to be given a good shot at the starting shortstop job in order to consider coming to Seattle. These guys are not going to take a backup role to a rookie unless no one else offers them a job. But if we were to give either of them the starting reins in Seattle, we would likely get similar production as Lopez (though perhaps without upside), and most likely better defense. It would give Lopez another year to work on his defense in AAA (and perhaps begin working on his footwork for 2B). Not a bad idea, but it may be no better than the Rich Aurilia signing of last year. I like the idea of using Eckstein against the Angels, and he is quite the character, and that's always fun to add to an already character-laden clubhouse.

Eckstein was dumped because the Angels signed Jolbert's little brother Orlando to a 4-year, $32 million contract! Congrats to the Cabrera family. Orlando is a nice shortstop, but not the kind of offensive force I would want the M's to spend this kind of jack on.

OPS for past three years (2002, 2003, 2004); VORP for past three years:
Player A (701, 807, 689) (22.7, 49.8, 14.7)
Player B (805, 625, 745) (34.7, -0.7, 19.4)
Player C (752, 651, 671) (37.5, 11.5, 15.7)
Player D (n/a, 770, 696) (-11.3, 19.8, 7.5)
Player E (n/a, 638, 613) (8.3, 1.4, -2.1)

As you could probably guess, player E is Willie Bloomquist, the definition of replacement level and the guy who should have been non-tendered. Player A just received a huge contract from the Angels, who obviously think he will return to 2003 form. Player D is his big brother, who is a solid utilityman. Player B is Alex Cora and Player C is David Eckstein.

Note that Jose Lopez had a VORP of -0.6 in his rookie 2004 season. He may blossom, but then again, he may not. If we can land Eckstein or Cora for a bargain price, it solidifies the offense, and allows Lopez time to grow his skills to where he dominates AAA. And, if the M's signed David Eckstein, it is quite possible that they would release one Willie F. Bloomquist.

So, the Optimist is all for a David Eckstein signing. How about that other name mentioned prominently, Wade Miller. Wade Miller was a dominating righty for the Astros but missed the end of 2004 with a frayed rotator cuff in his pitching arm. The Astros non-tendered him to avoid arbitration on a guy who $3.4 million last year, and before getting injured put up numbers (7-7, 3.35 ERA in 89 innings) that might still have earned him a healthy raise. So, the question is how much the Astros think he's worth, and whether the M's might consider upping the dollars on a one-year contract or even going for two years on a guy who won't pitch off a mound for another two risks.

Without the health issue, there is no question that you go after Wade Miller. With the injury, it may be that he has a mediocre 2005, but is fully recovered by 2006. That is how I would play it, and try to sign Miller to a 2-year, $8 million contract (or 1 year, $3 million with 2nd year $5 million option/$1 million buyout). If he returns to form, its a bargain. If not, its a $4 million gamble thats off the books by 2006. Astros GM Tim Purpura summed it up perfectly.
"There's a chance somebody could come out of it with a very productive pitcher and probably an equal chance that somebody could come out of it with an injured pitcher."
Of course, the Optimist is still on the Odalis Perez bandwagon, and it appears that at least Perez' agent still thinks its a possibility
"It's definitely a possibility," said Perez's agent, Fern Cuza. "I know beefing up the offense was their first priority, so we'll see what happens. Odalis definitely has interest."
Given a choice between Wade Miller and Odalis Perez, I'd still go with the riskier Wade Miller first. But why not add both? The cost to add Perez and Miller for 2005 is probably less than $10 million. In a perfect world, we could offset that by trading Winn, Spiezio and Franklin to a team with payroll needs and roster holes (the Giants, Cubs, and Mets come to mind - who is the Mets 1B if they don't land Delgado?) for something trivial, like Sean Green, or a bag of donuts. Or, better yet, M's management just adds the freakin' payroll as an "I'm sorry" for the debacle of 2004.

Imagine a rotation that looks like...
Joel Pineiro
Wade Miller
Odalis Perez
Bobby Madritsch
Jamie Moyer

If not traded, Ryan Franklin moves into the long relief role he was born for. Gil Meche allows Miller time to ease into the rotation, and is ready to replace anyone who gets hurt or is ineffective. If Meche goes to the bullpen, he could be a dominating setup man, or even the closer should Guardado falter. All of a sudden, we have a rotation that, along with our offense, looks like a true World Series contender.

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