Sunday, July 19, 2009

Two Stupid General Managers

I feel like a decent portion of my younger life was based on Saturday morning cartoons. Not as much as many kid's formative years, bu still a sizable chunk. One of the shows that sticks out was entitled Two Stupid Dogs. Frankly, I cannot really remember any shows besides this one and the blatantly homosexual Captain Planet. I can recall a substantial portion of that show, but my only specific memory of Two Stupid Dogs is of an episode where, for what seems like it was the entire show (30 minutes? 15 minutes?) the titular characters sat outside the exit door to a store trying to figure out how to get in. For purposes of this article, one dog shall be known as Omar Minaya. The other is now Dayton Moore (Or DMGM, if you prefer. I do). I know I like to go to ridiculous length on these sorts of things, so I'll try to keep this to a paragraph apiece.

Last weekend the New York Mets, presided over by Omar Minaya, traded Ryan Church for Jeff Francoeur. Both players are right fielders, and it's not likely that either one will make or break a team's season (For a great breakdown of the trade, I recommend this. I disagree with their analysis, but it's funny. Even those of you who dislike baseball might enjoy it). But it is still submoronic on the part of the Mets. Ryan Church has below-average power and an above-average eye for a corner OF, combined with an ability to post a reasonable batting average and play slightly above-average defense, and an inability to hit left-handed pitching. He is in his first year of arbitration, meaning he comes at a reasonable price and can be cut after the season at no future cost to his team (Full disclosure: Church's numbers have gone downhill since a concussion last year. But with no commitment after the season, this is a very limited risk). The Braves already have a corner OF who can mash lefties but not hit righties in Matt Diaz, so by combining he and Church, the Braves have created a good two-headed outfielder out of readily available pieces at a very low cost, making this an excellent trade for Frank Wren. Francoeur, on the other hand, is not a major league baseball player. He is bad at hitting for average, plate discipline, baserunning, hitting for power and average at best defense (All his defensive value is in his arm. His range is abysmal). Presumably he would also be a bad pitcher as well, but to the best of my knowledge he has never been asked to do that. When he came up to the bigs in 2005 he looked like one of the game's bright young stars, but now that he is in a five-year decline, that is long gone. For last year and this year, Francoeur has been worth negative wins to his team. The Mets, beset by injuries, cited the fact that Francoeur has never been hurt as one of the reasons they traded for him. Which makes it kind of funny that the only way Francoeur could help a team is by actually getting hurt, thereby causing them to play a player who would not hurt the team as much. The salaries in the deal are a wash, as Francoeur is in the same arbitration year as Church, and the Braves threw in a bit of cash to make them match. If I had any confidence that the Mets would cut him at season's end, this would be less damaging. Francoeur is also seven years younger than Church, but given his track record of de-improving, all this means is that he will still be young enough to play baseball in 2015, when he will be striking out twice per at bat.

Moving to the Junior circuit, the Kansas City Royals, under the management of DMGM, traded two minor-league pitchers (Derrick Saito and Dan Cortes) for shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt. Before the season, Baseball America ranked Cortes as the Royals' third-best prospect. He has struggled a bit this year and had some off-field issues, but he still should have some value. Which is more than can be said for Betancourt. Continuing the theme of the day, Betancourt was promoted to the majors in 2005, and immdiately showed promise as a decent-hitting young shortstop who was very good defensively. He had little power and no plate discipline whatsoever, but was cost-controlled for six more years and flashed some spectacular work with the glove. What happened then is one of those times where scouting and statistics go hand in hand. In the three and a half years since his auspicious start, Betancourt has gotten worse in the field every single year (If you care, his UZR/150s, in order: 2.1, 0.7, -1.4, -12.7, -17.4. That's runs saved per 150 games, essentially. For obvious reasons, negative numbers are bad). Beyond that, his offense stagnated the first three seasons, and has nosedived the last two. Yuni has limited power and will swing at anything up to and including an attempt to intentionally walk him (He set a career-high of 17 walks in 2006, and matched it in 2008. 17. In 558 plate appearances). All his value is tied up in his batting average, which has declined sharply since 2007. Why? Well, scouting reports show a player with limited range in the field these days who is also slow on the basepaths (Career steals: 24 in 44 attempts. Grounded into 23 double plays last year, a number Jim Rice only topped 4 times), probably because he appears to be carrying at least 20 more pounds than he was when he entered the league. Combine that with the fact that he doesn't bother to try to get better at baseball by practicing (He had run-ins with management over missed batting practices and fielding drills), and you have a player rapidly working his way out of baseball. The worst of it? Former Mariners GM Bill Bavasi (Now coincidentally unemployed) gave Betancourt a contract that runs through 2011 guaranteed, with the club having the option to buy out 2012 for $2 million. Assuming the Royals will buy out that year, they just traded their #3 prospect plus a throw-in for the right to pay a sub-replacement level player in steep decline $9 million dollars. The sheer amount of stupidity involved is mind-blowing. If any baseball clubs are reading this and would like to consider hiring me, I promise I can do a better job than Minaya and DMGM. Heck, I think the dogs could.

1 comment:

your mom said...

Okay, I still didn't manage to read through the whole thing, but I did like the link! And I love the way you managed to tie a post on baseball to an absolutely ridiculous cartoon :)