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Post Holiday Signing Analysis Part Deux

I would have had this up yesterday, but the Internet decided that no, I couldn't have it up, and yes, it would eat all of my analysis about 5 minutes before I could submit it. That is very disheartening to be sure, so I'm going to rewrite it today.

The St. Louis Cardinals have had a rough offseason, having to replace a few players, including the recently retired Larry Walker and the newly departed Mark Grudzielanek. They replaced these two with Juan Encarnacion and Junior Spivey respectively. One of these replacements is adequate, and the other is going to be a problem. Encarnacion basically had an out of line season that he turned into a 3 year deal for $15 million with the Cards. He was terrible in 2004, and his 2005 was around the same level as his mediocre 2003. A higher batting average made it look like he improved greatly though:

He improved his walk rate and had a higher batting average, and he really did have a decent year with the bat, but he won't match the right field production from 2005 in St. Louis. Let's start by comparing Walker and Encarnacion.

Walker hit .289/.384/.502 in 2005, while Encarnacion had a line of .287/.349/.447. Walker's Equivalent Average was .301, while Encarnacion's was .279; good, but much closer to league average than Walker. Here is a list of the top 10 rightfielders in the National League according to Value Over Replacement Player, a Baseball Prospectus stat.

  1. Brian Giles 65.1
  2. Bobby Abreu 56.8
  3. Geoff Jenkins 49.8
  4. Shawn Green 38.0
  5. Jose Guillen 35.4
  6. J.D. Drew 31.0
  7. Larry Walker 29.1
  8. Juan Encarnacion 28.3
  9. Jason Lane 28.2
  10. Matt Lawton 23.2

Juan Encarnacion was in 8th place, and directly beihnd Larry Walker no less. The problem is, Encarnacion had 563 plate appearances, compared to Walker's 367, a difference of 196. When you compare Encarnacion to the production in right field right for St. Louis last year, it is not as close. Larry Walker, So Taguchi and John Mabry combined for 46.1 VORP in 2005; 17.8 VORP more than Encarnacion, which is almost 2 wins more, and that isn't counting defense. Which only makes it worse for Juan really; he is below average for his career, and 2005 was no exception.

The Junior Spivey deal has much more potential to work out. Spivey and Grudzielanek are much closer to the same player than Encarnacion and borderline Hall of Famer Larry Walker are. Grudzielanek was worth 4.0 Wins Above Replacement Player in 2005, which is really below league average by a little. A .258 EqA, A Rate2 of 99 (1 run below average per 100 games), and a batting average driven line of .294/.334/.407 are all pretty average. Spivey's line with Milwaukee was poor, but his time in Washington was a slight improvement, albeit still ugly. He had a .265 EqA in Washington though, which would be an improvement over Grudzielanek if it can be sustained. Spivey is essentially a league average shortstop according to Rate2 as well, so no loss or gain there. Really the biggest plus is that Spivey will make $1.2 million in 2006, while Grudzielanek will make $4 million with the Royals.

Speaking of the Nationals, Ramon Ortiz was signed to round out a rotation that has potential to be both semi-excellent and semi-patchwork.

Ortiz's homerun rate should drop in RFK if for no other reason than it is not Cincy's ballpark. His Batting Average on Balls in Play was roughly league average, so unless RFK depresses BABIP I don't expect much difference there. Livan Hernandez and John Patterson head the front of the rotation as a combination that more than half the league wishes for. The problem is that the 3-4-5 spots are filled by perenially injured Tony Armas Jr., Sunny Kim, and Ramon Ortiz. Ortiz should improve in Washington as compared to Cincinnati, but don't expect anything amazing. He is a cheap option to round out a rotation, and should be capable of that in 2006.

I'd just like to add something to the Burnitz article from before. Since he has decided to move on to Pittsburgh rather than Baltimore as initally reported, my outlook on the deal is a little different. ESPN's projected depth charts page has Jody Gerut starting in right field on Opening Day for the Pirates, but Craig Wilson should be the one there, and since he's not I can only assume he isn't starting the season due to injury. I'd still prefer to have Craig Wilson over Jeromy Burnitz though, for monetary and production purposes. Wilson had a .289 EqA in 2005, after a .285 EqA in 2004 and a .293 in 2003. You know what you are getting with him. Burnitz was essentially league average last year in Wrigley, and isn't going to get any better. Burnitz is better defensively, but not enough to offset the offensive differences. Burnitz's Net Runs Above Average was 5.07 in 2005, while Wilson's was 12.91; a weird signing. Of course, Burnitz is not so expensive that he can't be shoved aside while he is there, but if he left the Orioles deal because he was unsure of his role with the team if Manny Ramirez was dealt there, he certainly shouldn't be signing with Pittsburgh instead.

One last deal for today. Preston Wilson signed with the Astros for one year, $4 million. Where he is going to play is a mystery though. Lance Berkman is moving back to left field now that Jeff Bagwell will be healthy in 2006 at first base. Jason Lane is in the other corner, and as previously mentioned, ranked 9th among NL RF's in VORP. Not extremely impressive or anything, but worth close to 3 wins on offense alone. Willy Taveras is the weak link offensively in the outfield, but he should improve with time and is excellent defensively, thus making him too valuable to move. A great defensive centerfielder in a high offense park? I'll take 2, thank you. Most likely Lane will be bounced if someone has to move, which disapoints me, since Lane has been better than Wilson since he came up in 2002. Interesting situation; the Astros want more offense, so they sign a guy known for hitting homeruns and nothing else to replace a guy who was tied for second on their team in homeruns. It isn't that I think homeruns are the mightiest of the offensive stats, it's just that I assume this is the Astros thinking, since Wilson doesn't do anything else particularly well. Then again, he did drive in 141 runs once. I hope you can hear and feel the sarcasm coming off of that. If worse comes to worse, they can always trade Wilson back to the Nationals in exchange for something promising. If Bowden trades Alfonso Soriano, he'll need another outfielder. Of course if he keeps Soriano he still might need another outfielder, so we'll see.