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Transaction Oracle
— A Timely Look at Transactions as They Happen

Tuesday, January 22, 2002

Colorado Rockies/New York Mets/Milwaukee Brewers

Trade a lot of players to each other.  As simple as I can make it:

New York Mets:  Traded P Glendon Rusch, 1B-3B Todd Zeile, UT Lenny Harris and OF Benny Agbayani for P Jeff D’Amico, OF Mark Sweeney, IF Lou Collier, OF Jeromy Burnitz, 1B-OF Ross Gload and P Craig House.

Milwaukee Brewers:  Traded P Jeff D’Amico, OF Jeromy Burnitz, IF Lou Collier and OF Mark Sweeney for P Glendon Rusch, OF Alex Ochoa and UT Lenny Harris.

Colorado Rockies:  Traded OF Alex Ochoa, 1B-OF Ross Gload and P Craig House for 1B-3B Todd Zeile and OF Benny Agbayani.

Wow, that’s very complex.  I’ll make it a lot simpler.  The differences in value essentially break down into 2 small trades:

- Mets trade Rusch for D’Amico
- Mets trade Zeile for House and Gload

Where’s Jeromy Burnitz and Benny Agbayani?  I honestly don’t think a realistic expectation of a 2002 for Burnitz is all that much better (if any) than that of Agbayani.  The Mets would have had the 1997 and 1999 versions of Burnitz if they had kept him the first time, but they’re getting 2002, not 1999 and Burnitz is older and much slower than he was the last time he had a really good season.  Agbayani has the most recent bad season of the two, but he also has the most recent good season of the two.  While the media is hailing the addition of Burnitz as the Mets’ answer to Sheffield, I don’t see it.  The Braves upgraded from a likely average player to a superstar; the Mets upgrade from a likely average player to a likely average player.

Where’s Lenny Harris, CLUTCH SUPER PINCH HITTING SUPERSTAR OF THE WORLD?  Left off intentionally as he’s really simply waiver-wire fodder and has the most pinch-hits not because of an excellent career that redefined pinch-hitting, but being a 37-year old player who spent a long career as a pinch-hitter without being good enough to have a bigger role.  Harris had two great pinch-hitting stints in 1998 and 1999, but had some seasons as putrid as those two were great both before and since.

Harris, career:  271/319/350
Harris, career pinch hitting:  263/313/329

If Harris has any kind of accomplishment worthy of any kind of accolade, I don’t see it.

Rusch for D’Amico is, I think, a trade of two pitchers of similar value, but in different packages.  D’Amico is more likely to be a top pitcher than Rusch is, but he’s also more likely to get injured and be ineffective or not pitching at all.  Despite D’Amico apparently being around forever, he’s actually younger than Rusch.

As to Zeile for Gload and House, that’s a good move for the Mets.  They have to pay some money, but Gload while not the player that had that unbelievable month in Iowa a few years ago, is interesting enough, along with House, to save the other 3 million and get rid of a player who wasn’t going to play anyway.

Dan Szymborski Posted: January 22, 2002 at 04:29 PM | 28 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Steve Treder Posted: January 22, 2002 at 05:06 PM (#553067)
Um, would it be too much to ask for an analysis of this three-team deal from the perspective of, oh I don't know, some team other than the Mets?

Specifically, what in the hell are the Rockies attempting to do?

As for the Brewers, I think it's fairly clear: a treading-water move, the latest in a series of treading-water moves dating to approximately 1989. What's amazing about the Brewers is that they've never really been BAD; they just manage to hover in this state of eternal mediocrity. I think the White Sox from about 1930 to about 1950 would be the closest historical comparison. What an achievement, Bud!
   2. Repoz Posted: January 22, 2002 at 05:44 PM (#553068)
I'd like to say that Milwaukee moved Burnitz to make room for either David Krynzel or Cristian Guerrero but Krynzel is a centerfielder and is 2-3 years away and Vlade's rough around the edges cousin is also 2-3 years away....At least they didn't give away the mucho heralded Neugebauer/Jones/Hendrickson/ pitching prospect triad, while the desultory Seligs keep kicking the tires.
   3. Bob T Posted: January 22, 2002 at 05:45 PM (#553069)
Are any comments on this site allowed to be framed in ways that don't involve the Mets or Red Sox?
   4. J. Cross Posted: January 22, 2002 at 07:05 PM (#553075)
The Mets won't become the Orioles because Phillips isn't Syd Thrift.

Some players salaries will jump in 2003 but they won't be paying a portion of the salaries for Zeile and Justice. Also, I believe that St. Rey is in his final year. Still, the Mets will be hard pressed to resign Alfonzo, Alomar, Leiter and Estes but they should be able to let Leiter and/or Estes go. Phillips HAS brought in Chen and D'Amico who both have a chance to step in as an ace in the future. I'd rather have those guys than Alex Escobar and Billy Traber.

In John Sickels' minor league report he rated the Mets farm system as average. It's weak at the top but I wouldn't predict a long period of doom and gloom beginning in 2003. If some people on this site had their way teams would constantly be rebuilding and never going for it.
   5. Steve Treder Posted: January 22, 2002 at 07:35 PM (#553081)
"One question here is whether Dan O'Dowd is bipolar. One winter he spends wildly, overpaying for everybody, the next he's a salary dumper. He talks a lot about fielding a younger, more athletic team, and then he goes out and gets a statue to play 3B, and two guys you'd like playing DH to compete for the LF job. Perhaps he plans on moving either Agbayani or Cust along to the league in which they belong, but even if he does you gotta have serious doubts about this guy's ability to formulate a long-term plan and stick with it for more than 15 minutes."

Pree-cisely. O'Dowd makes transactions for the sake of making transactions, moving in no discernable direction, but with a high rate of energy expended.

Oops! Sorry! We're supposed to only talk about the Mets!
   6. Dan Szymborski Posted: January 22, 2002 at 07:54 PM (#553084)
Mets/Red Sox bias? I don't even like the Mets or the Red Sox.

The Mets are the only team that attempted to do something in this trade. They might not have done it well, but at least the idea (trade random dreck for Super Slugger Man) existed.

How many times can somebody say "Milwaukee pointlessy makes random trade involving random players?" It's pretty much the null hypothesis at this point that anything that Milwaukee does will fall under that header. The Brewers see problems that don't exist and then attempt to solve the non-existent problems in ways that wouldn't solve the non-existent problems even if they did exist.

The Orioles are bad, but at least their thinking is the type of idiocy that provides a source of perverse entertainment. The Brewers type of bad is like eating a bowl non-fat unflavored ice milk a la Ned Flanders.

As for the Rockies, Zeile simply fills 3B for a year and then leaves. O'Dowd is O'Dowd: He can make brilliant moves in isolation but they don't seem to be part of any long-term plan.
   7. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 22, 2002 at 08:25 PM (#553087)
The Brewers are bland, but then that makes the trade a couple years back to Cleveland that got them Sexson quite odd. How many times has a team acted (signing hammonds, jose hernandez, valentin-eldred for navarro and snyder, etc.) then acted smart (sexson cleveland deal) and then gone back to acting strange again (this offseason)? I dont know but its funky, maybe Milwaukee is bipolar too, or maybe they drink a lot.

Has BA come out with the minor league rankings for this year already? I guess I must have missed it if they did. Can one get to that on the website?
   8. Repoz Posted: January 22, 2002 at 10:25 PM (#553094)
   9. VegasRobb Posted: January 22, 2002 at 11:12 PM (#553098)
I still think the Rockies would have been better off trying Cust out at thirdbase. Could he have been that much worse than Zeile?

The Rockies still have a bunch of guys trying fighting for the left field job. Maybe there's another trade coming up?

I hope Gload gets a chance with the Mets. I always pull for guys in his situation (decent skills but blocked at the major league level). Isn't he better than Timo (I'm really 30) Perez?

I know there's a FREE ERUBIEL DURAZO campaign, is there any chance for a PLAY JACK CUST AT THIRD one?
   10. Dan 'The Boy' Werr Posted: January 22, 2002 at 11:41 PM (#553099)
First of all, linking revenue to population runs into the problem of TV revenues providing such a big chunk. What looks like a small market population-wise might have a huge boost from television.

Second, I'm not sold on even linking attendance to population. A ballpark can only hold so many people, and it seems to me that any of the cities that have them (except maybe Montreal) could fill up a ballpark every night if the team merits it. For example, some of the highest attendances this year were in Seattle, Cleveland, and St. Louis, which are realtively small potatoes as far as the census is concerned. I think the team is more important than the city. Remember Minnesota's attendance when they had great teams?

In short, if you lift the Seattle Mariners out of Seattle and plunked them down in any other major league stadium, you'd probably see attendance there just like you do in Seattle (well, I hate to say it, but you might need to take Safeco Field, too, to get it quite that high). Still, from 1995-1997, Seattle nearly doubled their attendance per game with no new stadium and without moving.

Let me add, however, that a larger city might have an easier time having decent attendance when the team isn't doing well. I guess what I'm trying to say is that teams really can't rightfully blame financial woes on population.
   11. I am Ted F'ing Williams Posted: January 23, 2002 at 12:08 AM (#553100)
Mets: I think Steve Phillps does the "patch job" every year. For that reason, I don't see the black hole coming that some do; they have one-year black holes because that's their approach. Last year was a black hole (when they essentially did nothing), so they addressed some needs with nice-but-nothing-spectacular moves. The limited time they'll have with Burnitz and Alomar (and Piazza at this point) doesn't matter to the Mets, they'll make more patchwork moves next year. Unless they win. Then they'll do nothing again and suck in 2003. It's the Mets way.

Rockies: I don't think Zeile and Agbayani are that bad for them. Their power is light, though Coors will help them. They do get on base, which is the biggest need in Coors. And that's why I can't figure out why they do nothing about their pitching. Hampton was a disaster waiting to happen for them with those walk totals. Kile was OK one year, bad the next. I think what they need to do is just get pitchers who throw strikes. They'll never be able to sign the power guys like Schilling, those guys can get better numbers elsewhere. I think the approach the Rox should try is just get older pitchers that can help fill the rotation and not think about 1-5 guys. (I figure the stud amateur pitchers will hold out on them if drafted.) Just guys who keep the walk totals down. Pitchers who aren't overwhelming, but just get the ball over the plate. Neagle was adequate. Astacio was adequate. Can't they find enough money to throw at guys like Kevin Tapani? Steve Woodard? Ismael Valdes? Terry Adams? No world beaters, just cheap average (not below average)arms. Their approach right now just seems to be throw anyone out there and see what happens. Which may work OK at Coors but will kill them on the road.

Brewers: they seem to be spending a lot of effort trying to replace Devon White. Sounds to me like a much needed void. I don't have a problem with them trading Burnitz, but offensively this club just gets weaker and weaker. They'll probably wind up getting David Bell, too.
   12. I am Ted F'ing Williams Posted: January 23, 2002 at 12:24 AM (#553101)
Per Capita income also has a lot to do with the success of a market. Seattle and Denver are near the top (growing rapidly $$-wise in the last 10 years or so), and so can probably draw well and get decent TV money with just an average team. Cities lower on the per capita income scale need better teams to make money (KC, Pittsburgh, Miami). Population helps, but if you were to just drop a million poor people into Kansas City, it wouldn't translate into any more revenue for the Royals.

It's no surprise that the NHL expanded into San Jose even though the NHL struggled in the "bay area" just 15 years earlier. The numbers (people and $$) warranted it.
   13. Voros McCracken Posted: January 23, 2002 at 03:00 AM (#553105)

I thought the Sexson deal was pretty lousy when it happened and I still think it's not real good.

Remember that it boiled down to Wickman, Woodard and Bere for Richie Sexson. Woodard was a good pitcher who had a bad month with the Brewers and since then has suffered through some bad luck and a lack of opportunities. On the other hand, both Wickman and Bere have been pretty good. Both were probably at least equal players "value-wise" in 2001 to Sexson.

And as for this deal, I really don't think it's all that bad for them. They get Ochoa, who while not as good a player as Burnitz, might figure to be almost as good considering defense. They get Glendon Rusch who could wind up being their best pitcher this year (he'd be my pick from their staff).

While I think both Collier and Sweeney are useful players to have, the Brewers weren't about to think so, so they're really irrelevant.

The team that I can't figure out is Colorado. They traded Ochoa, House and Gload for Todd Zeile, who almost certainly is no better than Greg Norton, and Benny Agbayani, who is roughly equivalent to Ochoa value-wise. Why, exactly? What does this do for them?

And on Jeff D'Amico, it always amazes me how often people treat various injuries as positives. D'Amico's littany of arm problems is seen as a positive as it serves as a way to exclude his bad performances ("Hey, he was injured.") and include his good performances ("If he can just stay healthy, he'll be like this all the time.")

Anyway, the only thing of significant value they gave up was Rusch, and they did get Burnitz and D'Amico and a bunch of useful spare parts to help Norfolk out.

As I see it:

Mets = Good Trade
   14. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: January 23, 2002 at 03:32 AM (#553106)
Dan S.

Where's Jeromy Burnitz and Benny Agbayani? I honestly don't think a realistic expectation of a 2002 for Burnitz is all that much better (if any) than that of Agbayani. The Mets would have had the 1997 and 1999 versions of Burnitz if they had kept him the first time, but they're getting 2002, not 1999 and Burnitz is older and much slower than he was the last time he had a really good season. Agbayani has the most recent bad season of the two, but he also has the most recent good season of the two. While the media is hailing the addition of Burnitz as the Mets' answer to Sheffield, I don't see it. The Braves upgraded from a likely average player to a superstar; the Mets upgrade from a likely average player to a likely average player.

Thank you. Being surrounded by Mets fans (offline, I mean) I thought I was the only one who had bothered to look at Burnitz's performance over the last couple of years. He's Bubba Trammell with better defense. A more consistent version of Benny Agbayani. He's not a star. He's not a replacement for Juan Gonzalez. He's just a consolation prize, in the same way Zeile was a consolation prize for Olerud.
   15. Repoz Posted: January 23, 2002 at 04:01 AM (#553108)
   16. NTNgod Posted: January 23, 2002 at 04:20 AM (#553109)
In defense of the Sexson trade, since as a Brewer fan, trades that AREN'T embarrassing are few and far between....

From the Brewer standpoint, I would look at Sexson, Rigdon, Davis, Scutaro v. Wickman, Bere, and Woodard this way:

Wickman - Wisconsin native, local boy made etc. Sorry to see him go, but a closer, when the Brewers had/have so many other holes wasn't doing them a lot good.

Bere - impending free agent who wasn't likely to re-sign, so they really were only trading away a month or two of his services.

Woodard - 2000 was a disaster for him in Milwaukee; became EXTREMELY unhappy because the Brewers wouldn't do a multi-year deal. Had some rocky outings, was pulled from the rotation, and reportedly stopped talking to coaches and teammates. He may still become a good pitcher, but it wasn't going to happen in Milwaukee.

Sexson - Hasn't been the OBP black hole I was expected when the Brewers acquired him. He's posted more than respectable numbers. Just as importantly, he replaced the Charlie Hayes/Kevin Barker/Tyler Houston troika the Brewers were trotting out at first in 2000 (it was as ugly as it sounds).

Davis - Really didn't pitch much for Milwaukee, but was flipped to Colorado as part of the Mike DeJean deal. DeJean turned out to have himself a decent little season in 2001.

Rigdon - O.K., he's just kind of there

Scutaro - I hope the poor little guy likes Indy. Too bad, actually.

I'd think the Brewers AT LEAST came out even, since they traded two players who weren't going to be around in 2001 and a 'closer' they didn't really need, for at worst, a first baseman who had an .889 OPS (which was light-years better than any alternative the Brewers would have thrown out there) and a throw-in who helped net them a decent reliever.

Most of the other Brewer trades, of course, I can't and won't try to justify :)
   17. Alan Posted: January 23, 2002 at 04:32 AM (#553110)
Everyone keeps saying the Mets farm system is barren now, because of all these trades. Let's take a look at what's been done to their farm sytem this winter:

Players lost:
   18. Voros McCracken Posted: January 23, 2002 at 07:17 AM (#553113)

Well truth be told if platooning was an option, then a Ross Gload/Alex Ochoa platoon was likely to be better than Benny out there.

And more importantly, before he came to the Rockies Ochoa for the past two and a half years looked like a very nice player capable of playing everyday. I don't know what happened all of the sudden, whether he was hurt or what, but he'd been playing very well for quite some time. I'd expect a decent improvement this year from him.

And Rockies backup outfielders become Rockies starting outfielders fairly quickly considering Hollandsworth and Walker's perennial trips to the DL. I just don't see what the Rockies accomplished other than taking on some of Todd Zeile's salary.

And House and Gload are not insignificant losses. Both are capable of contributing in the majors with a break or two.
   19. Jose Bautista Bobblehead Day Posted: January 23, 2002 at 10:13 AM (#553114)
Why is the blanket assumption being made that Todd Zeile will be a butcher in his return to the hot corner? Sure, he was horrible at first base with the Mets, but that shouldn't obscure his ability to play third base. The stats simply don't bear out the notion that he will be bad.

For instance, Zeile has been above the league average in Range Factor every year he has played at third base, except for 1990 and 1995 (playing 24 and 75 games, respectively). Deride Range Factor for what you will, but there is some validity in the statistic.

A measure that I use (double play / error ratio), though unscientific, has Zeile turning slighly more double plays than making errors over the course of his career.

Scot Rolen, the Gold Glove third baseman in the National League this year, turned 1.83 double plays per error.

For purposes of comparison, Chipper Jones (who, by all accounts, plays at least a passable third base) has made more errors than double plays turned.

All I am saying is give Zeile a chance.
   20. Dan Szymborski Posted: January 23, 2002 at 03:50 PM (#553115)
I didn't think Zeile was all that bad before, but I do think that his defense at 3rd has to raise a bit of concern (although I did not raise the issue in my comment at the top). Skills not used tend to erode and not only has Zeile aged two years farther into his 30s, he's also spent two years away from 3rd. It's a very open question as to how well Zeile will be able to go back to 3rd, but I think the Rockies will be able to answer that question for themselves in spring training.

I've always been a big supporter of Alfonzo at shortstop and Thome at 3rd, but there's no way I'd put Thome back at 3rd at this point (look how much bigger he is!) and I'd have to think long and hard about moving Alfonzo back to short.
   21. Alan Posted: January 23, 2002 at 10:51 PM (#553127)
I think Henke was the better pitcher quality, but I'd vote for Sutter before I vote Henke. Henke was a better pitcher for a longer period of time, but Sutter isn't far off in career ERA and he threw almost 250 more innings in 2 fewer seasons. That's nothing small. However, I wouldn't vote for either of them.
   22. Alan Posted: January 23, 2002 at 10:54 PM (#553128)
"I think Henke was the better pitcher quality"

Change that to "I think Henke was a pitcher of better quality for most of his career than Sutter was."
   23. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: January 24, 2002 at 10:41 AM (#553131)

Regarding Zeile at third, he had offseason elbow surgery. The Mets were publicly expressing the opinion that he wasn't capable of playing third because he could no longer throw. So even if he were a good third baseman before, and even if the two years off from the position hasn't affected his ability to play, he may not be able to play the position.

And James, range factor's pretty meaningless. And being better than Chipper Jones, a fielder so bad he was moved off the position, is hardly an endorsement.
   24. Robert Dudek Posted: January 24, 2002 at 03:24 PM (#553132)

I don't think you can assume Chipper is a bad fielder just because he was moved off the position. Instead it could be indicate of management stupidity. If you have any actual evidence that Chipper is a bad third baseman then I'll be happy to examine it.
   25. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: January 24, 2002 at 05:26 PM (#553134)
Robert, I don't have the info on me, but I can reference it. Jones' zone ratings have ranged from mediocre to abysmal.
   26. Robert Dudek Posted: January 25, 2002 at 07:15 PM (#553138)
I don't know what Chipper did before 2001 but his ZR was .770 versus an ML average of .761 for the position. He made 238 out of 309 plays, which is 2.9 plays above average.

I don't think ZR is the whole story; I believe there are park factors which can affect this stat. Let's assume for the sake of argument that Chipper is a slightly below average 3B defensively. That means that a great deal of his value is lost by moving him to LF.

Honestly, I can't understand the Braves moving him and acquiring Castilla.
   27. NTNgod Posted: January 26, 2002 at 11:23 PM (#553140)
FWIW, the Mets just shipped Gload back to the Rocks:

Mets send Gload back to Colorado for cash
   28. NTNgod Posted: December 19, 2003 at 10:31 AM (#553144)
Over/Under on how long it takes for someone to adopt 'Bill Collector' as their new screen name?

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