Westwood Blues

Monday, July 31, 2006

Monday Morning Buzz

The word out of New York is that a Giants/Mets deal featuring Jason Schmidt is seen as unlikely. The New York Post (warning - New York Post link) explains:
"The Mets have long had heavy interest in Giants righty Jason Schmidt, and yesterday they made a push for the All-Star, according to an MLB team executive. But they were facing an earlier deadline, and after midnight last night, a deal was almost positively not going to happen.

Schmidt, who is 7-7 with a 3.18 ERA and will be a free agent after the season, became a 10-and-5 player as of midnight ET last night, meaning he can reject any trade. So even though the actual trade deadline is today at 4 p.m. ET, the deadline for Schmidt was basically 16 hours earlier."
The Star Ledger has more:
"Late last night, the Mets were in negotiations with the Giants in an effort to acquire right-hander Jason Schmidt. The deal is a long shot, but it was intriguing enough to both sides that they were exchanging names. Interestingly, Lastings Milledge, who'd been the key name in the Mets' murky efforts to land Barry Zito from Oakland, is not one of the names involved in talks with the Giants. San Francisco, according to a person close to the talks, would rather make Aaron Heilman the centerpiece of a Schmidt deal, adding a prospect or two around him."
For what it's worth, Jon Heyman of SI.com apparently has different sources than the Star Ledger as he reports that a Schmidt to the Mets deal would have involved Lastings Milledge:
"Mets general manager Omar Minaya was debating late Sunday night whether to surrender one of the biggest pieces of the Mets' future to acquire either Schmidt or Oswalt and greatly enhance his team's immediate chances. The asking price for both Schmidt and Oswalt is believed to revolve around multi-talented young outfielder Lastings Milledge...

...Milledge was the only key name known to be connected to the Schmidt talks..."


Sunday, July 30, 2006

Trade Deadline Eve News and Notes

Buyers or sellers? Or both?

Brian Sabean faces a challenging task - balancing the realities of a mediocre team and a thin farm system with the demands of his bosses who want to see a competitive team on the field for the rest of 2006 and beyond.

Jayson Stark of espn.com (subscription required) has the lowdown on the latest rumors involving Jason Schmidt:
"In a starting-pitching market devoid of juicy names, Schmidt has been the two-ton gorilla waiting to enter the room for weeks. Well, that room is now officially open. Clubs that made contact with the Mets on Sunday say they were talking to the Giants about a potential deal to bring Schmidt to New York. And the Giants were said to be listening...

...So while they're telling teams they still think they're in both the NL West and wild-card races (they're four games out in each), there are indications that the Mets have gotten their attention. It's believed the Rangers and Red Sox have also inquired on Schmidt. And there were conversations with the White Sox about him earlier in the month. So the Giants at least will have some interesting options. But they've made it clear that for someone to pull this off, it's going to be "expensive." They would want at least two players back -- either two top-tier young players they can rebuild around or one player like that and a young starting pitcher who could replace Schmidt in the rotation now and down the road. So an official of one team described this deal Sunday as "more unlikely than likely."
As the analyst at Rotoworld points out, the Giants should be able to get a good return in exchange for Schmidt, because Schmidt would be "easily the best pitcher on the market."

Another note to keep in mind - Sabean could ostensibly be trading Schmidt and two draft picks (if Schmidt isn't re-signed by his new team). I think Sabes is playing this right. If you want Jason Schmidt, it's going to be "expensive."

Meanwhile, Giants beat writer Henry Schulman has the latest from rumorville:
"Manager Felipe Alou said he had not spoken to general manager Brian Sabean since Thursday, suggesting as of Sunday morning that no trades were imminent. However, industry sources said Sabean continued to be making offers for other teams' players and fielding offers for his own.

The most likely outcome by today's 1 p.m. deadline was thought to be a minor deal, perhaps an insurance catcher or more bullpen help, although one cannot rule out a last-minute impact trade if another team lowers its demands."


Thursday, July 27, 2006

Like the Swallows Returning to San Juan Capistrano...

It's late July, which means it's time for Glenn Dickey's annual column where he implores the Giants to have a firesale. Here is the 2006 version of Glenn Dickey's firesale column as printed in the Examiner. Wait, Glenn Dickey writes for the Examiner? Wait, the Examiner is still in business? Seriously?
"This is an old team, vulnerable to injuries, with uncertain pitching and inconsistent hitting...

Next year will be worse.

The Giants' strategy the past six years has been to keep the nucleus of the team together and bring in, through trades and free agency, veterans who can supplement them. The strategy worked well for five years, but it is bankrupt now."
Ok, this was actually from the 2002 (yes, 2002) version of Dickey's annual firesale column, but he's basically written the same thing every year since then.

At the very least, in his 2004 firesale column, he acknowledges the Giants believe they would take a PR hit if they white flagged the season:
"Sabean has made some excellent midseason trades in the past but he's never been in the situation of having to plug two gaping holes like this. If he makes a trade to plug one of these holes, it wouldn't be enough for this season and would be a further setback for the farm system.

The fear of the Giants since moving into their new park has been that the fan base quickly would erode if the team was not competitive. That's fueled the almost frantic reshuffling of the team each season to stay in the hunt."
Whether or not trading Jason Schmidt (for Brandon McCarthy and Brian Anderson, as Dickey advocates) would be wise from a baseball standpoint is a debatable point. But I can't imagine that the Giants believe this would be a wise move from a business standpoint. Moreover, I can't imagine that Giants believe this type of move would be wise from a baseball standpoint, especially when they still consider themselves to be contenders in 2006.

Sorry Glenn, no firesale for you! Come back, one year!


Sunday, July 23, 2006

News and Notes (* With Update *)

Buster Olney of espn.com (subscription required) provides some insight into how the Shea Hillenbrand deal went down:
"Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi raved about how aggressive Brian Sabean was in making the deal for Shea Hillenbrand. Ricciardi talked to seven teams and gave them all the same speech: We're going to make a deal quickly, and whoever steps to the plate the fastest is going to get this guy. Ricciardi then presented his trade requests to each of the seven teams, and after talking with Sabean about pitching, the Giants' GM replied, "I'll call you back in two hours." And he did. "To me, that should tell the guys in [San Francisco's] clubhouse that Brian cares about making them better," said Ricciardi."

In looking at Jason Schmidt's Baseball Reference page, I noticed that the Giants acquired Schmidt on July 30, 2001. Assuming I'm understanding 10/5 rules correctly, Schmidt will become a 10/5 player on July 30, 2006 and can therefore veto a trade if the Giants were to move him on July 30, 2006 or anytime thereafter. It's very unlikely that Schmidt will be traded in the first place, especially in light of the Giants recent hot streak, but this is yet another reason why it would be very surprising to see Schmidt traded this season.

Update 7/25 9:00 AM: Andrew Baggarly confirms that Schmidt will be a 10/5 player on July 30, 2006:
"Schmidt will gain a complete no-trade provision on July 30, the fifth anniversary of his being placed on the Giants' roster. Players with 10 years of service time and at least five with their current club have the right to refuse any trade.

Players often request extra compensation, perks or even a contract extension for the courtesy of waiving their no-trade rights.

And Schmidt, who has two small children, isn't keen on going anywhere. He is a free agent after the season.

"Is this a place I'd want to come back to? Yeah, in a heartbeat," Schmidt said. "I'd love to retire as a Giant. But it's not always up to me. And free agency is a thing that I had a blast doing last time (in 2001)."


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Trade Market

In recent years, the Giants strategy at the trade deadline was straightforward - trade prospects/young players for soon to be free agents who could help the team down the stretch run. And if you can re-sign the new acquisitions (i.e. Jason Schmidt), then great.

This year's trade deadline could bring a new dynamic. Ken Rosenthal explains:
"The Giants could gain nearly $50 million in payroll flexibility this off-season by parting with five potential free agents — Bonds, right fielder Moises Alou, right-hander Jason Schmidt, second baseman Ray Durham and outfielder Steve Finley.

But rather than overpay for other free agents — and lose top draft picks as compensation — the Giants could become aggressive traders, using their newfound spending power to absorb inflated contracts from other clubs.

The Giants haven't valued draft picks in recent years, forfeiting them in almost cavalier fashion while trying to build a championship team around Bonds. Offering financial relief to prospective trade partners would be another way to preserve young talent. Teams that make such deals generally avoid parting with top prospects."
Facing a thin free agent market and not wanting to part with the few prospects in the organization, this could be a desirable strategy for the Giants. As Rosenthal explains, the talent exchanging hands would be anything but equitable. The main asset the Giants have to offer their trading partner would be salary relief.

Rosenthal suggests the Giants are in the market for Jose Vidro. Given his injury concerns, Vidro wouldn't be the most desirable name out there. Bobby Abreu, anyone? Pat Burrell?

Jayson Stark of espn.com (subscription required) suggests a different strategy:
"The Giants are more interested in winning than they are in unloading. So they have no desire to export Schmidt just because he's about to shoot down the free-agent exit ramp. But one GM who has talked with them says Schmidt is available if he brings back a package that includes a young starting pitcher they can plug into this year's rotation and beyond, plus another piece or pieces. So while that rumored deal with the White Sox for Brandon McCarthy (plus center fielder Brian Anderson) doesn't look likely, it's the kind of trade the Giants would make.

"I don't see them re-signing him," the GM says of Schmidt. "I think he's run his course there. So they're in a funny position. Yeah, they could get hot and win the division. But how far are they capable of going if they do? So is it better to hold onto him, or is it better to get a guy like a McCarthy who can be there for the next four, five years? If you keep Jason Schmidt, he might win seven games the rest of the year. But if you trade for Brandon McCarthy, he might win five. Giving up those two wins, to me, would be worth it. And I think that's how the Giants are thinking."
While I don't believe SF will trade Schmidt unless they're completely overwhelmed, the Giants could employ a similar strategy with, say Ray Durham, Steve Finley, or Moises Alou - accept a short-term downgrade for the rest of 2006 at 2B or OF, but get a young player in return who could help the Giants in future years.


Monday, July 03, 2006

More Quick Hitters

...David Smith of Retrosheet fame made a presentation at the recent SABR convention which "tests the effects of batting order on team run scoring." I'll post a link to Smith's research if one ever becomes available. Dan Agonistes has a report on Smith's presentation:
"He concluded that lineup slot of the first batter in an inning matters a great deal in a team's average scoring and that lineups appear to be well designed in that the best scoring results are seen when the man in the leadoff slot bats first in any inning. In his comments, however, he appeared to contradict the conventional sabermetric wisdom that lineup construction (in other words the order in which players appear in the order) matters little over the course of a season, however I don't believe his data really spoke to the issue."
Very interesting. Does lineup construction really matter?


...Just how bad is the 1B situation? We're halfway through the season and Lance Niekro's EqA (.230) is nearly identical to Jose Vizcaino's EqA (.229). And speaking of EqA, guess who ranks 2nd in the NL in EqA? Reports of the death of Barry Bonds' career have been greatly exaggerated...


...Baseball Digest Daily has an interview with Brian Sabean. Here is an excerpt where Sabes discusses rookie southpaw and 2006 Nathan J. Schierholtz Award winner Jonathan Sanchez:
"BDD: You also brought up Jonathan Sanchez from AA recently. Is there any thought of eventually moving him into the closer role? Do you think he's ready for that at this point?

BS: He’s very versatile. If anything, we’ve discussed him as a starter which he’s done in the past. We’re not quite certain on how or when to get him into the game. He hasn’t pitched as much as we would have liked him to, but he certainly deserves to be here. But guys like [Jack] Taschner and [Brian] Wilson, Wilson’s already been up, from AAA are going to chip in.

That’s what’s interesting about the trade market. What we’ll need to do with the bullpen or what we’ll need to do with our pitching in general, we can address internally. If we need another starter, we can add one. Pitching wise, I think we’re in pretty good shape and that includes guys like Sanchez."