This article is a combination effort from a few of the writers on the site. As the pieces come into my mailbox I'll tack on more analysis to this piece over the weekend, so be sure to check back on it.
Womack to Reds - Joe Giovannetti
The Yankees unloaded Womack to the Cincinnati Reds for second baseman Kevin Howard.
It's strange that Womack even ended up in New York in the first place last year. He's always been a guy regarded for his versatility in the field and speed at the top of the lineup, while the Yankees typically -- at least recently -- go after guys with good plate discipline who can drive the ball. At age 33 in 2004 Womack had arguably his best season, putting up a .264 EQA. 2004 was out of line with the rest of his career (.243 EQA), which the Yankees should've seen as a fluke.
Womack lost his second base job to rookie Robinson Cano midway through the season. Torre banished Womack to play centerfield in the stadium, once the stable of great thoroughbreds, now the place where old horses are put out to pasture. Womack put up an OPS of .519 as an outfielder.
Howard put up a line of .296/.346/.428 last season at double A Chattanooga. The numbers are modest at best for a 24 year old, but considering he's a decade younger than Womack and less of a strain on the Yankees payroll this has to be considered at least a partial success for them.
Womack will return to the NL where is role as a pinch runner and utility infielder brings some value, but if the Reds should resist handing him a starting job before spring training.
Ray King for Bigbie and Miles - Matthew Philip
So the Cardinals need to clear some salary to make room for, what, Mark Grudzielanek's exorbitant $3 million demand? Well, they saved all of $1.77 million on their lone Winter Meetings swap, a trade of Ray King to the Rockies for spare parts Aaron Miles and Larry Bigbie. This is the kind of trade -- a proven LOOGY for cheap bench players who may have to start -- that we've come to expect from non-contending teams like the Rockies. Only this time, the roles are reversed: the Cardinals -- instead of acting like the best team in the league (as they were in 2005) are playing the part of the pathetic loser.
It's perhaps not as bad as that for the Cardinals, who appear to have had a tough time rebounding from the Burnett spurning. Prior to 2005, Baseball Prospectus projected the Cards' end of the deal to fare much better than the Rockies' from 2006-2009 (in VORP):
Then again, for 2005, they projected Miles at 7.3 (reality: 1.5) and Bigbie at 12.8 (reality: -3.2). As for the actual impact the players will have, St. Louis gets more of what they didn't need in a backup second baseman (Hector Luna, Bo Hart, Scott Seabol and Deivi Cruz, whom they signed just two days before the trade!) and corner outfielder (John Rodriguez, So Taguchi, John Gall, Skip Schumaker). So it's difficult to see how they've improved themselves above their replacement options for 2006. As for the Rockies, King gives them a solid LOOGY, potentially: He really stank last year, with his translated ERA jumping from 2.66 in '04 to 4.11, and an alarming 11.3 H/9. Bottom line: A trade of minor impact, either way, but the Rockies come out ahead. In the Cardinals' defense, this move should perhaps be characterized as a divestment of a risky player, rather than a salary dump.
[Note] BtB author Sal B wanted the disclaimer put in that he likes the trade.
Six Signings of Significance: Winter Meetings - Dan Scotto
They commissioned me to write about the contracts that went down at the winter meetings. So let's do them alphabetically.
A.J. Burnett: 5 years, $55 million, for a pitcher with a subpar track record and loads of hype. Sound familiar? Yeah, it's Darren Dreifort all over again, except that $55 million now isn't quite as much money as it was back then. I also like Burnett a little bit. His strikeout rate is quite friendly and he finally was healthy for a full season. That all said, Burnett's a lock for one or two injury-plagued seasons (most pitchers on a five-year deal would be). The money's not bad; it's the years that hurt. The low end of possible outcomes is Dreifort II. The high end? A solid #2 starter who is paid less than an ever-inflating market for pitchers. Peg him somewhere in between there.
Paul Byrd: This guy? Byrd resurfaced this year with his best season... in a long time. He was a solid pitcher for the Angels and he's posted three straight seasons with ERAs under 4. His best attribute is his control, by far; he only walked 28 last season in a bunch of innings. His 2 year, $14.25 million deal is right about where the going rate for average pitchers will be, and it's only two years. This will probably be better than the Millwood contract, the man he is most likely replacing in their rotation. That's an awfully low K/PA (.121), so his margin for error is pretty small. All in all, Paul Byrd making $7+ million per year isn't a bad deal. God, I never thought I'd say that.
Elmer Dessens: It's hard to believe that Elmer Dessens is really 35 (he will be come Opening Day), but it's true. And the Royals begin their spending spree in all the right places. Dessens could fit in as an average reliever or a below average starter. It's not that it's a bad deal (2 yrs, $3.4 million isn't horrendous), it's just pointless. That $3.4 million would have been better spent on some high-yield bonds or something, and then reinvested in the team at a date that the team can really compete. I know you've gotta build from somewhere, but why Elmer Dessens? Dessens had a 3.56 ERA last year with the Dodgers. Dessens' norm is more like a 4.46 ERA than last year's BABIP-fueled 3.56. I won't kill the Royals for this one, but it's difficult to be positive there.
Rafael Furcal: There have been two camps established over Furcal's deal: the one that looks at money (it's too huge!) and the one that looks at years (it's just right). I'm in the years camp, and the 3 yr, $39 million deal that Furcal got from the Dodgers is a pretty solid deal. Going from one pitcher's park to another, Furcal's been as steady as you can be over the last few years. His OBP has hovered between .340 and .350, and his isolated power is right around .150, consistently. He runs well and they say he's a great defender (RATE of 114 last year, which is incredibly). It's a lot of money, but baseball's rich right now. This is the best signing of the bunch.
Todd Jones: "Todd is a quality relief pitcher who had a tremendous season in 2005," Tigers president Dave Dombrowski said. "He adds a veteran presence to our bullpen and is the type of individual the organization was looking to fill this role." (From SeattlePI.com). Veteran presence should be one of those watchwords: once it gets said, you know something is up. So Todd Jones cashes in for his flukey 2005: he halved his walk-rate and sliced his home runs allowed. He was a very good pitcher in 2005, but seriously, Jones will be 38 this year and this was the first time, well... ever, that Jones has been an excellent pitcher. I don't remember who said it, but the best rationale I've ever heard for relievers like this was something to the effect of "if these guys pop up every year, why bother signing them to huge deals?" 2 years, $11 million isn't huge, but for a middle reliever who just happened to throw 70 great innings and accumulate some saves, this is a bad one.
Jose Mesa: Ah, Joe Table. The 39-year old just netted a couple million more, signing with the Rockies. The contract is small; it's only 1 year, $2.515 million guaranteed (part of that is the inevitable buyout of his second year, which is an option). Mesa's G/F is right around 1; the average is closer to 1.3. He has struggled with the longball in the past, and something tells me it could pretty easily happen again.
You know, Mesa has 319 saves. That's pretty scary. If things broke his way, he could cross 350. If things REALLY broke his way, he might get to 400. Is anybody going to make the Mesa HOF case? I thought so.
Mackowiak for Marte - Richard Wade
Both the White Sox and the Pirates were in possession of a useful player that their managers didn't want. Marte had a conflict with Guillen during the season and it was only a matter of time before he was moved. The Pirates brought in Jim Tracy this off season and are apparently working to bring in his type of player and that means getting rid of those who don't fit the mold. Mackowiak strikes out too much for Tracy's taste.
So, we know why Chicago and Pittsburgh wished to rid themselves of the players in the deal, but why did the other want them? In Chicago, there is some need for a bat off the bench and one that provides insurance for Crede is a plus. As for the Pirates, Marte is a solid arm and one cannot have enough pitching.
Each team gets fair value for a player they didn't want. Pretty even trade.