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Friday, May 26, 2006

Transaction Roundup (5/26/06)

I'm posting this in between burping my kid. Seriously, how is it that human infants are so bad at eating? It's not like they have a lot of other things to concentrate on. At least they're good at pooping.

The Reds have made a flurry of transactions over the past week, so it's time to play catch up:

Rich Aurilia activated from the DL; Rainer Olmedo optioned back to AAA-Louisville

Per Marc. Ray Olmedo did a pretty decent job after being used (i think) exclusively as an early-inning pinch hitter. He ended up hitting 0.333/0.400/0.333 in 10 plate appearances. But his future still appears to be, at best, as a guy off the bench in coming years. Still, he's a young kid, so perhaps a trade can be made at some point.

Aurilia's return means greater flexibility around the infield for Narron, which is probably a good thing. He's been extremely effective in his appearances this season, hitting 0.271/0.333/0.510. His power is surprising and will likely decline (though the guy did hit 79 HR's from '99 to '01), though his OBP is right where you'd expect it to be given his career. I like Richie, and having him back does improve our ballclub, as long as he's not overused. I'm not crazy about Narron hitting him 3rd or 4th most days, but I don't get overly excited about lineups, save for who is in them.

I'm going to hold off on posting more stats on Aurilia, as he's next in line for the Better Know a Red feature, which'll hopefully get started again soon.

To make room for Olmedo, spring-phenom Brian Buchanan was released. Buchanon was the guy that everybody loved in spring, but he hasn't been able to do much in Louisville, hitting a woeful 0.179/0.235/0.321 for the Bats in 78 at-bats. It's always a sad thing when I guy is released, but Buchanan was unlikely to ever help the Reds much.

The Reds sign Joe Mays to a minor league contract

Mays, 30, missed all of the 2004 season, and was beat up on in '03 and '05. But he did have a good season in 2001, though his FIP and BABIP indicate that he was no where near as good as his low 3's ERA suggests:
1999/MIN 171.0 6.1 3.5 1.26 0.288 4.37 4.89 --- --- ---
2000/MIN 160.3 5.7 3.8 1.12 0.325 5.56 4.84 --- --- ---
2001/MIN 233.7 4.7 2.5 0.96 0.243 3.16 4.42 --- --- ---
2002/MIN 95.3 3.6 2.4 1.32 0.292 5.38 5.16 --- --- ---
2003/MIN 130.0 3.5 2.7 1.45 0.299 6.30 5.52 5.50 -3.0 49%
2005/MIN 156.0 3.4 2.4 1.33 0.319 5.65 5.21 5.24 -8.4 46%
Basically, Mays is a control-pitcher who relies on contact, defense, and his share of fly balls. While his strikeout rate was decent his rookie year, they plummetted each of the next three years, while his walk rates steadily improved. His best year, 2001, also showed, a substantial drop in his HR-allowed rate, though it's been far worse than league average since. Still, luck apparently played a tremendous role in his 17-13 record that year, with an extremely fortunate 0.243 BABIP and a very average 4.42 FIP.

In fact, I'd go so far to say that Mays' 2001 season is a beautiful example of why statistics like BABIP (it's usually in the 0.290 to 0.300 range) and FIP (I think of it as fielding and luck independent ERA) are so valuable. If you, as a general manager, have the good fortune to see a pitcher have that sort of year, you absolutely have to trade him that offseason. Because he'll almost certainly come back down to earth and lose his value the next year, just as Mays did.

As far as Mays' prospects go for the Reds, frankly, I think it's unlikely that he'll repeat anything like what he did early in his career unless he gets his strikeout rates way up. And 30-year old pitchers with a long track record of inadequacy don't have a renaissance very often. But it's not like the Reds are sticking the guy in their rotation today, so there's not much risk to this either. The only down-side I see is that it caused Josh Hall to be demoted to AA-Chattanooga. But at 25-years old, Hall's not made the sort of progress you'd hope to see from a prospect. Injuries suck.

Marc's post on the transaction

Mike Burns back to Louisville, Cody Ross comes of the DL, then traded to the Marlins

Burns was been ineffective with the Reds thus far and was sent down to make room for Ross's return, who has spent much of the past month in an exaggerated rehab assignment for a bruised finger. And then, today Ross was traded for a player to be named later or cash to make room for Kent Mercker's return from the DL. I'll be interested to see what we get for him, and I'm still curious to see who the player to be named later will be that we sent to the Dodgers for Ross. It's impossible to judge these moves before all the players involved are known. I liked the acquistion of Ross and thought he could be a very effective 4th outfielder. But we already have a few good candidates for a 4th outfielder, so I'm not overly upset that he's no longer with us. Hopefully he'll get some decent playing time with those young Marlins.

Dave Williams designated for assignment; Traded to the Mets for Robert Manuel

This is the biggie. Williams, who was penciled in as our #4 starter when spring training began (pre-Arroyo trade), has been largely terrible this year. And that shouldn't be too much of a surprise, because, as I noted in his BKR feature, Williams' apparently good season with the Pirates last year was heavily influenced by luck. The evidence is in his very low (lucky) 0.264 BABIP and rather bad 5.07 FIP and 5.32 PERA. Another case example of why peripheral-based pitching stats are so valuable.

Anyway, in return for Williams we got Robert Manuel, who had great success in rookie ball last year as an undrafted free agent signee for the Mets. Though as Chris from redleg nation pointed out in Marc's thread on the transaction, he was a bit old (22 yrs) for that league and therefore his success last year should be viewed with at least some skepticism. Stats:
2005/NCAA 66.1 5.6 2.2 1.23 0.248 3.12 4.46
2005/NYM-Rk 56.2 7.8 0.6 0.32 0.307 2.06 2.13
2003/NYM-A- 5.0 9.0 0.0 1.80 0.286 1.80 3.80
Maybe Manuel will turn out to be a sleeper prospect at some point in the future. But at this point, it seems like a pretty poor return for Sean Casey. I know it was a salary dump, but the best salary dumps still involve some fair prospects in return (see the Florida Marlins team this year). For all his faults, Casey was a decent ballplayer who could get on base at a good clip, even in years when he wasn't hitting well. The blame for this end result, however, lies not with our current general manager, Wayne Krivsky, but with Dan O'Brien, who made the Williams deal in the first place. While Casey's salary was too high for his production, he did contribute wins to the Reds in excess of his apparent trade value. As I've said before, O'Brien's clinching failure was his inability to make a deal for a decent pitcher last season and this past offseason. Krivsky bested him on that score in under a month on the job.

The Reds/D-backs game starts in just a few minutes! I'm looking forward to seeing baseball again. I wish my daughter could see more than a foot away, though. We'll just have to sit real close to the tv...