Thursday, November 20, 2003


The Mariners' new GM's first move was to overpay Raul Ibanez at $13 M for 3 years. What's more, it'll cost the Mariners a first round draft pick. Not smart. Whatever pop Ibanzez brought to the Royals, don't expect to see much of it in Safeco. I'm sure the boys at U.S.S. Mariner are suicidal by now.

I'm pleased the Jays have acquired Ted Lilly for Bobby Kielty, if only because it means the farce of trying to convince Kelvim Escobar that he's not worth anything more than the two year, $10 M deal he reportedly turned down is over. Escobar has all the potential in the world, but clubs like the Blue Jays don't pay for "potential". They pay for results. And Escobar doesn't have them.

As for Kielty, this power/patience combo may or may not turn into the next Brian Giles, but he's expendible to a club with the OF depth like the Blue Jays. (Terry Ryan, watch and learn: these are the kind of deals you should be making with your team's depth, not locking up your mediocre and replaceable talents to long-term contracts.) Look for young Gabe Gross to be the Jays' everyday RF by June.

As for the Jays' new LHP, he's also got a lot of unfulfilled potential, but ultimately I think he's worth the risk. Realistically, Lilly and Escobar are equally as likely to break out next year, and both as likely to be infuriatingly inconsistent and ultimately mediocre. What Lilly has over Escobar (and Jeff Weaver, for that matter--great move, Cashman) is his salary. Lilly's arbitration elligible, but his salary should still stay well below $3 M. All in all, I think he's a good gamble for a #3 starter.

As for Pat Hentgen, it's hard to get excited about this--although I think it's a decent risk for $2.2 M. Let me put it this way: it's not as idiotic as the Leafs resigning a crippled Doug Gilmour last year. I'm sure J.P. and Keith weren't fooled by Hentgen's low second-half ERA (Hentgen's DIPS ERA was over a run and a half higher than his actual 3.10 ERA after the break), so the expectation is probably 200 IP and 4.50 ERA. Not bad for a #4 starter.

David Pinto figures Lilly and Hentgen to be about 1 win (or 3 Win Shares) better than Escobar and Lidle. That sounds about right, so I guess it's fair to conclude J.P. has again managed to cut payroll without sacrificing talent.

Now the challenge is to improve.

To compete in the AL East, however, that still leaves the Jays without the necessary #2 starter. (In the AL Central, J.P.'s Jays would decimate the three stooges: Ryan's Twins, Williams' White Sox, and Baird's Royals.)

I'd love to see J.P. go out and sign Kevin Millwood (3 years, $25 M?) while the Yanks, Bosox, and Astros squabble over Pettitte and Colon, but I doubt it will happen. Firstly, J.P. and Keith need to figure out how much Halladay's going to cost them long term before he can make another big deal. And secondly, the New Haven kids should start showing up in July and August next year, and may be ready to contribute as early as 2005.

In the meantime, another securing another high upside/high risk/low cost starter (Batista?) and securing a couple of mid-tier relievers (Leskanic? Quantrill? Rhodes?) for those days when Halladay doesn't start is the best way to proceed for 2004.

If Beane and Towers ever complete their deal, I'll talk about that one too.

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