I trust everyone had a good Thanksgiving. We spent most of yesterday ploughing through the first series of Sleeper Cell, the Showtime series about terrorists in Los Angeles, and the efforts of an FBI undercover officer to reveal their plot. The significance of this to this blog is [SPOILER ALERT!], that said plot involves a three-pronged attack on baseball stadiums in LA, New York (the Yankees, natch) and Washington with phosgene, aimed at killing "150,000" or so. That seems a bit optimistic, given the Nationals only pulled in 26,500 per game last year, 22nd-best in the majors and only about 750 more than Arizona. For maximum body-count they'd have been better off going for St. Louis, which would also have given them a nice East-Middle-West series.
Anyway, it was amusing how the Dodgers wanted nothing to do with the production. While Showtime could get the exterior shots (which are on public land), they couldn't even use the Dodgers logos, and had to fake the inside with a mix of CGI and footage shot at the stadium in Rancho Cucamonga. Not really very convincing, but you have to work with what you can, I guess. Oh, and while I was hoping it might be a Dodgers/D'backs contest, the game in question was the Dodgers vs. the Reds. Seems we don't get any love or coverage, even from terrorist cells. ;-) Still, a good show, almost up there with 24 [though lacking the dramatic revelations], and we set a new record by watching eight hours of it in one day. That'll keep us ticking over until Jack Bauer returns in January.
Otherwise, it was the usual Thanksgiving, of massive over-indulgence in foodstuffs, that left me groaning and trying to find a position in bed that would not apply pressure to my stomach. Nice to chat to a lot of people, including some we've not seen in ages. This included one of SnakePit Jr's friends, who now works at one of the top talent agencies in Hollywood. He told us a story about Brad Pitt, who was there for a morning meeting; they asked if he wanted something to eat, and he asked for a plate of fruit, but no melon. However, the plate brought by the intern included melon, and Pitt turned to the intern and said, "You're fired." No-one quite knew how to react to this - was it a joke? - but the agency owner ended up getting rid of the intern, as if Pitt had ever come back and seen the intern there, there could have been hell to pay. I'd have said this kind of thing only happened in screenplays, but the source here is pretty impeccable.
The big news in AZ was the surprise trade of Johnny Estrada, Claudio Vargas and Greg Aquino to the Brewers today. Estrada getting dealt was, of course, not exactly a shock, but that we also sent two pitchers with him was unexpected, especially including a starting arm. However, Claudio Vargas was no better than our #4 this season, and would likely have lost out there to the younger, cheaper, better Edgar Gonzalez. The first result of this trade is to solidify the front three in the rotation as Webb, Hernandez 2.0, Davis: EdGon now looks like the #4 starter, with the 5th spot filled by whichever one of EnGon, Nippert, Owings, etc. looks best (EnGon may have the edge, being out of options).
I am a little concerned about Doug Davis's potential in Arizona, given his ERA has gone steadily North from 3.39 in 2004, to 4.91 last year - and that's in a neutral ballpark. Plus, at age 31, he isn't getting any younger. If he can rebound to his career average of 4.35, I'd settle for that - walking fewer guys would seem to be the key there, and the fact he's a lefty has got to be part of the reason he was acquired. There's an interesting situation with his contract: this is his last year of arbitration, and one presumes the aim is to lock him up for a bit. Word from Milwaukee is, he was looking for a three-year deal, and the Brewers' reluctance to spend the cash on that, is part of the reason behind the trade.
Dana Eveland is another lefty, who reminds some people of David Wells, and I'm not just talking about the pitching side, since he hits the scales at 240 lbs, despite being only 6'1". No surprise, then, that he has had trouble in the past with weight issues. That said, the stats last year at AAA look decent enough: nineteen starts with an ERA of 2.74, and a K:BB ratio of 110:41. He had a stint in the Brewers bullpen late on, but didn't do so well there, with an 8.13 ERA in 27.2 innings. He is still pretty young, however, having only turned 23 just last month, and he has yet to post an ERA above three at any level of his four-year trip through the minors. This kid has potential, there's no doubt about it, and could be a contender for the #5 rotation spot out of spring training, if he can lay off the Krispy Kremes.
Dave Krynzel is a player who could give me a great deal of trouble in the spelling department. At first, it seems an odd choice to pick a CF prospect, given we are shining Chris Young for a long, glorious tenure at that position, and he is very definitely the least component of this trade, having hit only .231 with seven HR for the Brewers' Triple-A affiliate in 2006. Still, there's no doubting his speed, given that in 2005-06 he stole 47 bases in 59 attempts, and he could be a backup for Young, especially if the touted trade for Eric Byrnes (not least touted by Levski) comes to fruition.
Brew Crew Ball are enthusiastic about the trade, which does give me cause for concern. I mean, didn't they screw us over enough in the Sexson trade? :-) In particular, the following:
I do think they are over-looking a couple of things, not least the fact that Estrada's OPS is a regression waiting to happen. His 2006 figure of .746 is almost 60 points above the career figure of .687, though it's conceivable the likely drop in his batting average could be balanced by an increase in walks, since they will hardly be any fewer in number than they were last season. But he also moves from a hitter-friendly park to a neutral one, which will hurt. That will also make Vargas look better, and based purely on last year's figures, he would be a cheaper, younger, better version of Davis. On the other hand, don't forget, less than 18 months ago, he was put on waivers by Washington, so getting anything for him counts as a successful reclamation project. I'm guessing the Brewers looked at his hefty splits (road ERA = 4.12, home ERA = 5.60, and an overall figure in 29 Chase starts of 5.25) and thought he'd do better away from Phoenix.
The enigma is Greg Aquino, who was the longest-serving member of the Diamondbacks organization - signed by Arizona all the way back on November 8th, 1995 as a 17-year old. His ERA+ over the past three years is 93, mostly thanks to a horrid 2005, but he had a decent 4.47 ERA last season. That was probably a bit lucky, since his WHIP was a hefty 1.614. He seems like your typically fungible reliever, and while I'm kinda sorry to see such a loyal player get disposed of, he'll be easily replaced, just as Cormier and Villarreal were last season. Incidentally, that now makes Jose Valverde the "organizational veteran", having signed as a minor-league free agent on January 31st, 1997.
Will see how it works out, but I think it's a decent haul, given everyone knew we "had" to trade Estrada. We've got one credible middle-of-the-rotation starter, a starting prospect with significant upside, and a CF prospect too. We've lost a catcher who had a career year, so are selling high, and two players who don't seem much more than replacement level, in a back of the rotation starter and a reliever. I doubt this will be the last move of the hot-stove season, however, and I'm keen to see what else Josh Byrnes might have up his sleeve.