Three signings and a trade to report today. I had to wait until I had more to write about than Shawn Estes becoming the 5th starter in San Diego. After all, I can only ramble on so long about his uses. Let's start with Ryan Franklin heading to Philadelphia to become the fourth starter there. Franklin will be in the rotation until midseason at the earliest, when Randy Wolf comes back from his surgery. Franklin is the fourth starter, but it is possible he can be booted out of the rotation if one of the kids who takes the fifth spot pans out better than Franklin. The former Mariner is essentially replacing the recently traded Vicente Padilla in the rotation. Let's take a look at the stats of the two:
Two pitchers with high walk rates compared to their strikeout rates (or in Padilla's case, high for anyone in the league). They both have trouble with the long ball, and their ERA's are pretty comparable over the past three years. Here is the upside to Franklin: He'll give you 200 innings, whereas Padilla always seemed to be among the missing for a time, whether it be issues with effectiveness or health issues. The downside of course is that Franklin pitched in Safeco, a pitcher's haven, in order to get these numbers. Padilla pitched (suffered) in an offensive paradise. Which means Franklin is most likely going to be an issue in the Philadelphia rotation next year, somewhere along the lines of Eric Milton. Being around for 200 innings isn't a good thing if they are 200 innings of getting beat around by the opposing team. If Philadelphia increases Batting Average on Balls in Play, we can also expect Franklin to suffer some more. I don't have that information on hand, but I am going to make sure that we get it so I can reference it in the future. One thing I noticed looking at Franklin's home/road splits for teh past three seasons: his homerun rate is actually lower on the road than it is at home, 1.36 HR/9 compared to 1.48 HR/9. His walk rate is also lower by one, 2.3 BB/9 in comparison to 3.3 BB/9. Let's look at these year by year to make sure one fluke season isn't throwing off the figures:
Interesting how his walk rate declines on the road. His homerun rate is all over the place, but it is always too high. Either way, pitching in Philadelphia isn't going to help things at all, so expect continual decline from Franklin. The best to hope for is that he pitches well enough for 3 months but is then kicked out of the rotation because the fifth starter (be it Gavin Floyd, Robinson Tejada or Eude Brito) pitches better than he does. For only $2.6 million the Phillies can afford to do that.
Shawn Estes signed in San Diego for one-year at an undisclosed amount. The word from the Padres writers I have spoken to or read from is that Estes always beats the Padres, so he was signed to take that away from them. To be fair, for his career he has a 3.52 ERA, a 6.1 K/9 and a .722 winning percentage against the Padres, as compared to his overall career ERA of 4.71. The problem is, the Padres are much more likely to see 4.71 out of Estes than they are 3.52, although the move from the past two hitter's parks he has pitched for (Coors and Arizona) into the comfy confines of Petco should certainly help things. He still has to pitch on the road though, so expect him to end up closer to his career figures than his anti-Padres ERA. As a back of the rotation guy, I actually sort of like Estes. I think he'd be better served as a cheap back of the rotation option in Colorado than in San Diego, but if this means at some point Chan Ho Park will get less innings I am all for it.
This always seems to happen, but let's move on to a former teammate of Shawn Estes. J.T. Snow signed a one-year deal for $2 million with the Boston Red Sox to act as their new Doug Mientkiewicz. The thing is, Snow should do a better job than Minky did. Doug Mientkiewicz had a Net Runs Above Average total of -8.70 in his time with Boston in 2004. He hit .215/.286/.318 and had a Rate2 of 97 (3 runs below average per 100 games...so much for a defensive upgrade over Millar, who also had a Rate2 of 97). I like to say that Minky looks pretty playing first because he dives around like a third basemen, but he really doesn't seem to be that much better than anyone else when actual results are presented, although he used to be much better defensively. J.T. Snow on the other hand hit .275/.343/.365 in a pitcher's park...not exactly stellar, but it isn't going to hurt you in a defensive replacement role, and the OBP will be useful late game. Snow also seems to be above average defensively, as his past three Rate2's are 109, 98 and 107. A useful pickup for the Red Sox, who needed to replace John Olerud's defensive capabilities for late game situations. Kevin Youkilis is very good defensively at third base according to Rate2, but first base is still much too small a sample to draw a conclusion from.
And now for the transaction you've all been waiting for, Corey Koskie was dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers along with cash in exchange for minor league pitcher Bryan Wolfe. Put bluntly, Toronto was dumping salary and a roster spot, and the Brewers picked up yet another platoon option at third base. Let's take a look at how Bill Hall and Corey Koskie fit together at third base.
The bane of Koskie has obviously been left-handed pitching, especially in 2005. Hall seems to mash lefties more than righties, although in 2004 those numbers didn't look so good. Then again, his line for the season was .238/.276/.374 at age 24, and he only had 105 at-bats versus lefties, so I'll cut him some sample size slack. If you can combine Koskie and Hall into one player via platoon, you have yourselves quite the offensive force, as well as someone who won't hurt you defensively. Considering the Jays are supposed to pick up a good portion of the tab, this is an excellent move for the Brewers. Of course, they still have Jeff Cirillo and Russ Branyan to play third base as well. I'm sure Doug Melvin has a plan. Can I just say I think he might be one of the top three General Managers in the game?
As for what the Jays received in return, Shea Hillenbrand will most likely be the Designated Hitter, and Eric Hinske still may move to the outfield to replace Alexis Rios. That would be a mistake. Hinske hits better than Rios, but the defensive gap is quite large. Rios had an NRAA of 1.36 thanks to his defensive contributions in right field, while Hinske posted another below average season overall. Moving a guy who can't field adequately at first or third base to the outfield doesn't exactly qualify as a good move, and his bat isn't good enough to save him out there. Either replace Rios with a real outfielder, or keep him there and hope he progresses somewhat in another major league season. If I'm the Jays I still attempt to move either Hinske or Hillenbrand and insert the remaining one into the lineup as DH. Or you could be heartless and release both of them and then sign Frank Thomas as your DH, but thats just me. Seriously, I bet Mike Piazza or Frank Thomas would far outweigh whatever production the Jays could get out of Hinske or Hillenbrand. Sign both if you want, no one else is offering them a contract, although the A's seem to remain interested in Thomas as their DH. Definitely something to watch if a market for Shea or Hinske develops.