Alongside the Gonzalez signing, the Reds also signed veteran lefthander Mike Stanton to a 2-year, $5.5 million deal ($2.75 million/year). Stanton, 39, was originally signed as a 13th round selection by the Atlanta Braves in 1987, which is the same year that some of my current students (college sophomores) were born. He rose through the Braves' system very quickly, though he was converted to relief by the end of his second minor league season. He made his debut in just his third year of pro ball at age 22, and has been a late-inning lefty ever since. Recent stats:
A lot of people have compared the Stanton signing to that of Chris Hammond last winter. Hammon is another aging lefthander, and we all know how that turned out. But there's a big difference. When Hammond was signed, he had already shown major drops in his peripheral stats in the previous season, and that loss of skill caught up with him by June to the tune of a 6.91 ERA. Stanton, on the other hand, hasn't shown signs of slowing down. Yes, compared to the performances of his mid-early 30's, Stanton's strikeout rate has dropped. But it's held constant the last 4 years at between 6-7 k/9. And all the while he has been consistently effective, which is especially evident in his peripheral-based FIP stats.
The key to his success seems to be that he doesn't allow many balls to leave the yard via the home run. In fact, his HR/9 numbers topped 1.0 (the approximate league-average) only one year from 1999 through 2006. That's a great thing for someone who will pitch half his games in GABP. The only thing about this is that I can't figure out how he does it. His GB% indicates that he's more of a fly ball pitcher than someone who induces grounders. So hopefully this doesn't reverse next year--I doubt it will. Provided that he's able to keep his ageless consistency going, Stanton should be a nice addition to the ballclub, particularly against lefthanders.
Overall, I like the Stanton signing. The one thing that causes me to raise an eyebrow is that it's a two year deal, which is always a risk when the player involved will be 41 by the end of the contract. Nevertheless, left-handed relievers tend to have good staying power due to their relatively low usage, so I'm hopeful and optimistic that we'll get the full length of his contract out of Stanton. If so, we'll have a solid veteran lefthander who can replace the injured (though maybe not retired?) Kent Mercker.
A few words on LaRue
Tomorrow I'll try to relay some thoughts on the LaRue trade. My opinion of it will depend in large part on how much of his salary the Reds are paying next year. I've yet to see those figures reported anywhere, and I may wait to say much about this until those numbers surface. I will say that I fully expect LaRue to rebound next year. He might not be in 2005 form, but his PrOPS last season was still in the 0.800 despite his otherwise apparent struggles. I've written about LaRue's OPS vs. PrOPS oddities in previous articles, so I'll just refer you there for now. ... Also, I have to say, this has to be the most excited anyone has been about being traded to Kansas City in a long time. :)