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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Reds Acquire Eddie Guardado

In an effort to get some help for the Reds' miserable bullpen, the Wayne Krivsky traded one of their few legitimate starting pitching prospects, 22-year old Travis Chick, for lefty reliever Eddie Guardado of the Seattle Mariners. Guardado, 35, has been a major league closer for most of the last 5 seasons, but fell on hard times in April of this year and lost his job to the younger J. J. Putz. Here are Guardado's recent stats:
2003/MIN 65.3 8.3 1.9 0.96 0.240 2.89 3.40 3.52 22.30 0.34
2004/SEA 45.3 8.9 2.8 1.59 0.213 2.78 4.50 4.30 17.30 0.33
2005/SEA 56.3 7.7 2.4 1.12 0.268 2.72 3.91 3.99 12.70 0.35
2006/SEA 23.0 8.6 4.3 3.13 0.313 5.48 7.24 --- 1.30 ---
From '03 to '05, Guardado was a solid and dependable reliever. He struck men out at an rate well above average while exhibiting excellent control. He did tend to give up his share of home runs (see especially 2004), but was able to remain effective thanks to his other peripherals. Guardado did have three consecutive years with BABIP's well below average, which does indicate he was somewhat lucky to be posting those sub-3 ERA's. Nevertheless, a glance at his FIP and PERA shows that he would still be a solid reliever with a more typical BABIP. The one real alarm that I see here is that he is very much a fly ball pitcher, inducing ground balls only ~33% of the time. That might be trouble in GABP.

The more immediately concerning item, however, is his 2006 performance. Guardado has been absolutely lit up this year. While his strikeouts remain quite good, his control has been horrible (4.3 bb/9), and he's given up home runs at an insane rate thus far (3.13 hr/9!). Even so, there are hopeful signs. His ERA in April was a Chris Hammond-esque 8.31, but his May and June ERAs improved to 2.25 and 4.50, respectively. Seven of his 11 walks on the season occurred in April, so it looks like he's solved his early control problems. Unfortunately, his HR-rate has been constant, giving up 3 in April, 2 in May, and 3 again in June. I will say that I'm more encouraged about the reduction in his walks than I am concerned about the HR-rate...

But what can we expect from him? Well, his PECOTA line predicted a solid season for Guardado (3.54 ERA, 9.0 VORP in 45.7 innings), and I think it's reasonable to expect--or at least hope--that he'll throw about that well in the second half. If he can, that'd be huge for the Reds. It won't solve their bullpen problems, but it certainly would improve matters. If he can be as effective as he has been the last three years, he might allow Jerry Narron to alternate between Coffey or Guardado in the 9th depending on the opposing lineup. This could really ease the burden on Coffey as he gets more acclimated to the closer role. Overall, I think this move should help us this season. Hopefully this is the first in a series of three or so moves to bring in some arms and sure up this pen.

Update: Marc says that Guardado will move into the closer role, with Coffey going back to the shut 'em down setup role. I'm fine with this, at least for starters. Coffey clearly was more comfortable in that role, and Guardado has long experience in the closer role. The only time I"ll object is if the #3-5 hitters of an opposing team happen to be all left-handers, and all hit back-to-back in the 8th inning. It sure will be nice to know we'll have a chance to see Coffey prior to the 9th inning from this point on...

I did want to take a minute to look at what we lost in Travis Chick. Chick was the main guy in the Joe Randa deal last July, and came here along with AAA-starter Justin Germano. Here are Chick's recent numbers:
2003/FLO-A- 52.0 8.3 4.5 0.52 0.357 5.71 3.60 6.53 -12.2 --
2004/FLO-A 91.1 11.1 2.7 1.09 0.297 4.04 3.20 5.61 -1.1 --
2004/SD-A 42.1 11.8 1.9 0.86 0.282 2.13 2.46 5.31 5.3 ---
2005/SD-AA 97.1 8.5 3.7 1.11 0.323 5.27 4.15 6.20 -12.3 39%
2005/CIN-AA 46.1 4.1 5.3 0.98 0.264 4.86 5.46 7.11 -0.4 40%
2006/CIN-AA 84.0 8.3 3.9 1.29 0.277 4.61 4.51 --- --- ---
Chick's time in the minor leagues has shown him to be a guy who can get good strikeout numbers, but also a guy who has trouble with his control. Thus far, his 2006 campaign looks very similar to his '05 campaign, both at the AA-level. I had hoped to see a bit more improvement from him this year. Nevertheless, he's only 22, he's talented, and still has time to put it together. He may turn out to be a middle-of-the-rotation starting pitcher in the next few years, or he also might never get past AAA. Still, I have a hunch that we may have given something up here in Chick, so let's all hope that Guardado is worth it. If he helps the Reds get to the playoffs this year, he will be.

Other moves today include:
  • Brain Shackelford optioned to Louisville following his arrest by Milwaukee police on sexual assault charges. Let's hope that is a mistake. He was replaced by Mike Gosling.
  • Designated Quinton McCracken for assignment. They recalled DeWayne Wise to replace him. More on Wise later, though I'm not overly enamored with him.
  • Activated Edwin Encarnacion from the disabled list. To make room, Elizardo Ramirez was optioned to Louisville. Given that this comes on the heels of yet another quality start by our young starter, I am positive this is just a way to get EZ a start over the all-star break, and that we'll see him on the mound on the third or fourth day post break.
  • As to who Guardado will replace, the easiest person to send back down would be Gosling.