Long post this morning, so grab yourself a cup of coffee and get comfy…
Padres Sign Cruz
As noted yesterday in the comments (you’re reading those, of course), the San Diego Union-Tribune is reporting that the Padres have signed outfielder Jose Cruz Jr. to a 1-year, $650,000 deal. Is he the answer to anyone’s prayers? No. Is he a useful guy to have around at a very cheap price? Absolutely.
Cruz is coming off a terrible season in which he hit .233/.353/.381 for the Dodgers. Over a 10-year career, however, his numbers are a much more respectable .249/.339/.453 (OPS+ of 104). He turns 33 in April so there’s a decent chance he’ll bounce back to league average. Mike Cameron is listed as Cruz’ most similar batter through age 32 at Baseball-Reference. Former Padres Ruppert Jones (#2), Kevin McReynolds (#5), and Ron Gant (#8) also make his list of top 10 comps.
Reports on Cruz’ defense are mixed. He won a Gold Glove in 2003 while playing for the San Francisco Giants, but there is talk that his game has slipped since then. Looking at range factor (always a dicey proposition), his numbers are slightly below average in center and well above average on either corner.
As the roster currently stands (for whatever that’s worth in December), Terrmel Sledge would be the starter in left field, with the switch-hitter Cruz playing against southpaws. For his career, Cruz has an OPS about 50 points higher batting from the right side.
Cruz essentially replaces Dave Roberts in the fourth outfield slot and is a better fit for the Padres because he’s strong against left-handed pitching and he comes at a fraction of the cost. Look at it this way: he’s got a higher career OPS+ than Jose Guillen (98), who just signed with the Mariners for 1 year, $5.5 million. Or, if you prefer, the Padres picked up a slightly above-average outfielder for less than the price of Geoff Blum or, better yet, Tanyon Sturtze. Seriously, where’s the risk in that?
Padres Eye Maddux
MLB.com and other outlets are indicating that the Pads have serious interest in bringing future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux to San Diego to help fill out the 2007 rotation. The asking price is believed to be 2 years, $22-25 million, and the Dodgers also are thought to be in the mix. Sure, the guy turns 41 in April, but he’s provided 199 innings or more of better-than-league-average ERA every year since 1988.
Maddux no longer dominates, but who cares? He still never misses a start, and his ERA since 2003 is a very respectable 4.10. Plus, can you imagine letting kids like Jake Peavy, Chris Young, and Clay Hensley have unlimited access to the wisdom of both Maddux and Trevor Hoffman?
Hello. Let’s get this thing done!
I’m attacking the book on several fronts right now. The two main items I’m working on are:
- the September 4 game against the Rockies at Petco Park where Josh Barfield hit a walk-off homer off Brian Fuentes
- an evaluation of every trade Kevin Towers has made during his tenure as Padres GM
I’ve just gotten through the bottom of the second inning. If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend sifting through an entire game at a very slow pace, rewinding as necessary to catch various nuances and subtleties that can be missed in real time.
In this one, Mike Cameron ends the second with a fly ball that Cory Sullivan catches about a half-step away from the fence in deepest center field. Cameron swings at the first pitch, an 89-mph Josh Fogg fastball on the inner half of the plate, and absolutely hammers it. If Cameron gets his hands through the zone a little quicker, he hits the ball out of the park to left or left-center.
But Cameron doesn’t turn on the pitch, at least partly because the previous batter, Russell Braynan, has seen nothing but off-speed pitches from Fogg. The separation between his fastball and change-up isn’t huge — about 8-9 mph — but it’s just enough to keep Cameron from pulling the ball and get Fogg out of the inning without damage. The best part, though, is watching Fogg come off the mound and walk back to the dugout. He’s got a big ol’ smile across his face — he knows he got away with one, and he knows exactly how he did it.
I’ve just finished compiling a list of every trade Towers has made. I still need to go through and evaluate them, but here’s a little something to geek on in the meantime.
Since his first meaningful trade on December 21, 1995, Towers has made 89 deals that involved at least one win share passing hands. The net of those deals, in terms of win shares, is +459 in the Padres favor. That’s actually a staggering number, and one that shocks (no offense to Towers) the heck out of me.
Here are Towers’ 10 “best” trades in terms of win shares gained by the Padres through 2006:
- March 29, 1999. Traded Andy Sheets and Gus Kennedy (minors) to the Anaheim Angels. Received Phil Nevin and Keith Volkman (minors). +121 win shares
- December 22, 1999. Traded Wally Joyner, Reggie Sanders, and Quilvio Veras to the Atlanta Braves. Received Bret Boone, Ryan Klesko, and Jason Shiell. +115
- December 21, 1995. Traded Bip Roberts and Bryan Wolff (minors) to the Kansas City Royals. Received Wally Joyner and Aaron Dorlarque (minors). +52
- June 18, 1996. Traded Brad Ausmus, Andujar Cedeno, and Russ Spear (minors) to the Detroit Tigers. Received John Flaherty and Chris Gomez. +48
- November 19, 1997. Traded Trey Beamon and Tim Worrell to the Detroit Tigers. Received Dan Miceli, Donne Wall, and Ryan Balfe (minors) +32
- December 20, 2004. Traded Jay Payton, Ramon Vazquez, David Pauley, and cash to the Boston Red Sox. Received Dave Roberts. +32
- February 2, 1999. Traded Mark Sweeney and Greg Vaughn to the Cincinnati Reds. Received Damian Jackson, Reggie Sanders, and Josh Harris (minors). +30
- November 10, 1999. Traded Andy Ashby to the Philadelphia Phillies. Received Adam Eaton, Carlton Loewer, and Steve Montgomery. +30
- December 11, 2000. Traded Donne Wall to the New York Mets. Received Bubba Trammell. +27
- March 28, 2001. Traded Matt Clement, Eric Owens, and Omar Ortiz (minors) to the Florida Marlins. Received Cesar Crespo and Mark Kotsay. +30
Quick observations: First, a lot of Towers’ “great” deals came during the late-’90s; only one of his top 10 (the Roberts trade) has occurred in the past five years. Second, Towers owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to his former college teammate, Mr. Joyner. Third, the Mike Cameron deal will be on this list a year from now; it’s already at +20.
I should add a disclaimer here that this isn’t necessarily the order in which Towers’ top trades will appear in the book. Win shares are just a starting point for us, something to look at while we’re dissecting and analyzing each of these deals.
And now for the “worst” deals of Towers’ tenure:
- December 15, 1997. Traded Derrek Lee, Rafael Medina, and Steve Hoff (minors) to the Florida Marlins. Received Kevin Brown. -65 win shares
- August 2, 2001. Traded Woody Williams to the St. Louis Cardinals. Received Ray Lankford and cash. -27
- November 26, 2003. Traded Mark Kotsay to the Oakland Athletics. Received Terrence Long and Ramon Hernandez. -23
- March 22, 1996. Traded Raul Casanova, Richie Lewis, and Melvin Nieves to the Detroit Tigers. Received Sean Bergman, Todd Steverson, and Cade Gaspar (minors). -22
- February 23, 2000. Traded John Vander Wal, Geraldo Padua (minors), and James Sak (minors) to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Received Al Martin and cash. -20
- December 7, 2005. Traded Mark Loretta to the Boston Red Sox. Received Doug Mirabelli. -16
- November 18, 1997. Traded John Flaherty to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Received Brian Boehringer and Andy Sheets. -15
- December 16, 1996. Traded Willie Blair and Brian Johnson to the Detroit Tigers. Received Joey Eischen and Cam Smith (minors). -14
- March 21, 2006. Traded Dave Ross to the Cincinnati Reds. Received Bobby Basham (minors). -13
- June 26, 2002. Traded Alan Embree and Andy Shibilo (minors) to the Boston Red Sox. Received Brad Baker (minors) and Dan Giese (minors). -13
Heh. If you’re wondering why we don’t stop with win shares when evaluating these deals, #1 up there should give you a pretty good clue. There’s a strong chance this one will end up in my final list of top five trades Towers has made due to what Brown’s presence meant to the franchise. Without Brown, there is no World Series; without the World Series, there is no Petco Park; without Petco Park, there might not be baseball in San Diego.
The other thing I find interesting is that, with a few exceptions (Williams for Lankford, which was defensible at the time; the Randy Myers deal, which doesn’t show up on this list because no win shares were exchanged; the Mirabelli fiasco, which was vindicated a few months later), Towers doesn’t get taken to the cleaners when he goes to the trading table. Get on the guy for his infatuation with the Rule V draft, but Towers’ track record in trades is fantastic — and much better than I’d imagined.
Final stupid number thingy:
- positive win shares: 46 (average gain, 17.5)
- no difference: 3
- negative win shares: 40 (average loss, 8.65)
Man, I really do need to get a life. Anyway, just a little something to chew on while we’re waiting to see what happens with Maddux. Enjoy!