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Each trade is graded according to its quality for that team:
= extremely high quality
= high quality
= average quality
= low quality
C Paul Lo Duca
RHP Guillermo Mota
OF Juan Encarnacion
RHP Brad Penny
1B Hee Seop Choi
LHP Bill Murphy
Buster Olney on the Marlins: |
Why they did it: The Marlins needed upgrades in their offense and their bullpen, adding protection to closer Armando Benitez, and they picked up a solid hitter in Lo Duca (.301 average, .351 on-base percentage), a proven run-producer in Encarnacion, and one of baseball's best set-up men in Mota. The potential risk: In dealing Penny, the Marlins are gambling that the depth in their rotation will hold up -- that Josh Beckett's blister problem won't resurface, that Dontrelle Willis will pitch with greater consistency, that A.J. Burnett's command will improve as he continues to recover from surgery. Murphy has allowed 59 walks and 17 homers in 103 2/3 innings in Double A this season, while generating 113 strikeouts and a 4.08 ERA, but scouts believe he's better than those numbers. The potential reward: They strengthened their lineup markedly and got Mota, against whom opponents are hitting .228. He's 8-4 with a power arm, and has generated 52 strikeouts in 63 innings. Conclusion: Great trade for the Marlins, a deal that will give them a chance to win the NL East and perhaps defend their world title.
Buster Olney on the Dodgers:
Why they did it: The Dodgers are looking to upgrade their starting rotation, and there could be more dealing to come -- perhaps for Arizona's Steve Finley or Randy Johnson.
The potential risk: L.A. effectively broke up what was the heart of the team --- the Dodgers' exceptional bullpen. Between closer Eric Gagne and setup men Mota and Darren Dreifort, the Dodgers had a chance to go into the postseason with some Nasty Boys-type clones: That trio had amassed 181 strikeouts in 155 innings. Mota was a huge part of this team, and Lo Duca was the heart and soul of the club, a guy who always played hard. Penny upgrades the rotation, if he stays in L.A., and his postseason experience will help, but he is not a dominant pitcher. Choi hits homers and draws walks, but he had 78 whiffs in 281 at-bats this year, and he was hitting .238 with runners in scoring position; part of the reason the Marlins needed to make this trade was because rallies tended to die with Choi. The reported acquisition of Charles Johnson would bring another high punchout guy, with 69 in 240 at-bats. In some ways, it's as if the Dodgers forgot they had accumulated one of the best records in the game, at 59-42 -- and 35-20 since May 28.
The potential reward: If they get Johnson and Finley, in the end, the Marlins' deal makes more sense. Both are postseason tested, and Johnson would be the anchor for the staff.
Conclusion: Strange. They've messed with success.
RHP Kris Benson (from Pirates)
RHP Victor Zambrano (from Devil Rays)
LHP Ty Wigginton (to Pirates)
3B Jose Bautista (to Pirates)
RHP Matt Peterson (to Pirates)
LHP Scott Kazmir (to Devil Rays)
Buster Olney's analysis:
Why they did it: The Mets are trying to get younger in their starting rotation, and they upgraded in stuff for this year; to date, the Mets' pitchers rank 14th among 16 NL teams in strikeouts per nine innings, and it's very hard to remain competitive unless some of your pitchers miss bats.
Potential risk: Huge. It doesn't appear as if the Mets are good enough to contend this year, because of weak middle relief, erratic defense, and an odd mix of hitters. But in the end, they probably will wind up paying double fare for Benson -- first, in the toll of prospects they dealt to get him, and then when they give him a huge contract to keep him off the free agent market and that will probably be something in the range of three years, $27 million (but wouldn't you love to have the leverage of Benson's agent right now and ask for $12 million-$13 million a year with the Mets under enormous pressure to get a deal done). That makes no sense whatsoever; it would have made more sense to keep the prospects and go hard after Benson in the offseason.
Zambrano is underrated and he perhaps has meant more to his staff in Tampa Bay than any other pitcher, because of his ability to eat up innings. But Zambrano has allowed 96 walks in 128 innings, with 16 hit batsmen and four wild pitches. Those are shocking numbers, real hints that he isn't going to get better -- and for that, they gave up their top pitching prospect, in Scott Kazmir? Weird.
And then there is the question of whether either Benson or Zambrano can pitch in New York, where the fans won't tolerate the kind of high-priced bust Benson had been earlier in his career, or a guy who can't throw strikes.
Potential reward: There are no dominant teams in the NL East, and it is conceivable that the Mets -- who have a relatively easy schedule in the last two months -- could win the division. That is the only possible way the Mets could justify making these trades. Short of that, they are a debacle.
Conclusion: Once again, a New York team caught up in the vortex of trying to win before it's ready. That's what has killed the Knicks and the Rangers recently, and it may be what compelled the Mets to make these two trades.