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After a day spent at a symposium on steroids yesterday in Boston, it is time to catch up on some events in baseball. First of all, let us analyze the first trade of the offseason (brings a tear to my eye...I love the offseason).

Washington sends Vinny Castilla to San Diego. San Diego sends Brian Lawrence and cash to Washington.

What I have been telling everyone who asks me is that Brian Lawrence is nothing great, especially when taken out of Petco (luckily he is heading to an extremely pitching friendly stadium and division) but in exchange for Vinny Castilla it is a good deal. For the Nats anyways. I am not entirely sure what Kevin Towers is thinking bringing in Vinny Castilla to play third. Joe Randa filed for free agency, but Sean Burroughs (read: cheap alternative for a team who needs to re-sign Brian Giles) was there to play third in his stead. Let's take a look at Burroughs and Castilla.

Net Runs Above Average, for those who are not familiar with it, combines offensive and defensive value into one figure, which is useful in its rate stat form (NRAA, which is in per 100 game format) and cumulative form (NRAA/Games Played). League average is 0.00. Using NRAA, we can figure a player's Established Performance Level and roughly see what the next season may bring. Of course, these numbers always have to be presented with caveats. For example, we see that Vinny Castilla's EPL places him as a slightly above average player, with Sean Burroughs clocking in at slightly below league average. EqA, which is used in the offensive part of the equation for NRAA, adjusts for park, but I think I want to take a look at mOPS+ for a second opinion on offense. mOPS+ is modifiedOPS, created by our very own SalB. The equation is (2.2*OBP)+ISO. We then take that and adjust it so that it can be presented in mOPS+ form, where league average is 100. Here are the figures for Castilla and Burroughs in 2005:

Castilla: mOPS .851; mOPS+ 97
Burroughs: mOPS .774; mOPS+ 89

Petco is a more extreme pitcher's park from RFK from what I have been seeing and hearing around the Internet, so Burroughs is most likely not quite as far away as he appears here. We must remember he is also better defensively than Castilla, and that is how the gap shrinks. I also do not expect to see Burroughs with an ISO of .049 again anytime soon. I am not saying he is going to turn into a power hitter or anything, but He should be able to slug over .350 (I hope). Let's look at Castilla's splits to see why is mOPS+ is so close to league average.

Thanks to a major spike upwards as well as just as big a trend in a downward spiral, Vinny Castilla ended up hovering a tad below league average. I would still peg him for a little bit lower offensively next year, without even taking Petco into account.

Now the real key for this deal is Ryan Zimmerman. Brian Lawrence is nothing special as a pitcher, but I do agree with Christina Kahrl's sentiments expressed in her Transaction Analysis yesterday.

...his peripherals in San Diego seem to have held steady, except for the batting average on balls in play. Now sure, he's coming from a pitcher's park, so I don't expect RFK to help him any more than Petco did or did not, but if his defense-dependent stats improve, he should be the solid starter he was in seasons before 2005.

I don't expect RFK to help him any considering his Petco affiliation, but the fact that he will also get to consistently pitch in Florida, Shea Stadium, and Atlanta bodes well for him. Maybe an arrangement can be worked out where he avoids pitching in Philadelphia, much like Ozzie Guillen did while catering to Freddy Garcia's splits this year in Chicago. Back to Ryan Zimmerman...

Now I do not expect Ryan Zimmerman to have a higher NRAA than Albert Pujols in 2006 or anything, but he should be better than Vinny Castilla...and won't take $3 million away out of the coffer. Here are his minor league stats for 2005 as well.

Harrisburg (AA)
AB: 233
2B: 20
HR: 9
BB: 15
SB: 1/6
mOPS: 1.018

He also hit .471/.471/1.059 in 17 AB in single-A Savannah. He was drafted 4th overall in the 2005 draft, and already appears to be ready for the majors. We shall see, but even with regression I expect him to be better than Vinny Castilla in 2006. This is the real key to the deal for Lawrence, and by shipping off Castilla and his salary and getting a serviceable starting pitcher in return for him, Jim Bowden actually impressed me for once. Don't worry, time and the universe did not stop when it happened or anything. Thankfully.

Update [2005-11-6 11:3:18 by Marc Normandin]: One more thing. If trading Brian Lawrence is meant to open up a spot in the rotation for David Wells via a trade with Boston, it makes more sense, but still, you have to think they could have done better. Hopefully a trade with Wells goes through so the Padres did not pick up Castilla and lose Lawrence for nothing.

Update [2005-11-7 7:6:43 by Marc Normandin]: From Mike's Baseball Rants:

So here we have a trade that is win-win for the Nats and loss-loss for the Padres even though on paper it looks a straight-up trade of each team's payroll headache. I guess those beads looked like a pretty good trade for that old isle of Manhattan a few centuries ago too.