12/20/2004: It's good to see....
that while Brian Gunn has retired Redbird Nation, at least he hasn't hung up his cleats when it comes to baseball writing. Brian has a good post up at The Hardball Times: The A's and Cardinals Trade: the St. Louis Perspective, wherein Brian weighs in on this weekend's trade that turned Oakland's Big Three into Oakland's Big One (does that make Barry Zito Oakland's Big Unit, or does Randy Johnson hold a copyright or trademark rights on that?):
I'm not a fan of the trade. The Cards gave up a lot of talent -- a future #3 pitcher in Danny Haren, a live bullpen arm with a lifetime ERA+ of 149 in Kiko Calero, and a teenage hitting prodigy in Daric Barton. If you're going to give up all those goodies, you better make sure you get someone sturdy and dependable in return -- if not a sure thing, then a reasonably sure thing.In addition to this piece, Brian is listed on the sidebar of The Hardball Times under "Lineup", which bodes well that we'll be seeing more of Brian's stellar analysis this upcoming season.
Mark Mulder is not my idea of a reasonably sure thing. Before August 2003, he certainly was. In fact, from 2001 to 2003 he was one of the ten best starting pitchers in baseball. But he hasn't been able to finish out either of the last two seasons. He went down with a stress fracture to his hip two years ago, and then last year simply fell apart. His ERA after the All-Star Break was 6.13, and only one of his starts down the stretch could be called even moderately decent.
That's a curious fit for a team like the Cardinals, who seem to be building primarily for October. Even more curious is why [Cardinals GM] Walt Jocketty would trade one of his two best pitching prospects (Anthony Reyes being the other), his best hitting prospect, and one of his best relievers for a guy who looks to me like Matt Morris' twin brother.
Now, some upsides for Cardinals fans: first of all, despite my reservations about Mulder, it's quite possible this deal improves the team in 2005. Haren has nifty stuff, but he still hasn't quite learned how to pitch, and it wouldn't surprise me if Mulder keeps more runs off the board than Haren and Calero combined.
For a team whose window of opportunity is closing (their outfield is particularly old), Jocketty may be right to focus on the near future, even if it means unloading a potential superstar in Daric Barton. And speaking of Barton, he sure looks enticing on paper (a .313/.445/.511 line in A ball, and he doesn't turn 20 until August) -- but he's still got a long way to go. Plus his defense is only so-so, meaning he'll probably be moved to a corner outfield slot, where his offense is less exploitable. And there are whispers that he's battled weight problems, also not great for a catcher.
In other words, it seems like both Oakland and St. Louis took some big risks in this deal. If nothing else, it adds real spice to the Hot Stove League.
I'm ecstatic about it.
Len on 12.20.04 @ 08:27 PM CST