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Deal or no deal?

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Ben makes a point in the comments to the last post, that's definitely worth looking into a bit more. "The only thing I worry about in this deal is our ability to keep Davis longer then this coming season. The planned inability, perhaps, the entire reason that Eveland was included in the deal? Anyone have a guess as to what kind of contract Davis would be looking for right now? My personal guess is 6 mil for 3 or 4 years." It is, certainly, significant that we gave up three players over whom the Brewers will have control for a long time, and received a prospect who is out of options (Kryspqzakj@^# - I won't learn how to spell his name if he's gonna be gone by Opening Day), a starter eligible for free-agency after this year (Davis) and Eveland. We traded control for quality, it seems to me.

The Republic reports that Davis is interested in staying, according to his agent. Josh Byrnes, on the other hand, is playing a little hard to get, coyly saying that he doesn't want to overpay: "We've been very careful with multiyear commitments. We value our flexibility." Caution is wise, since it's not only Davis that we need to deal with - Hernandez 2.0 is also going to be a free-agent after this year. Rumblings suggest Davis is probably more likely to be extended than Livan, I suspect not least because of the age difference. Though both are allegedly born in 1975, I'm doubtful about that for Hernandez, especially given the huge questionmark over the real age of his half-brother, Orlando. It wouldn't be a shock if he was nearer 35 than thirty.

The Rep also says of Davis, "He compares favorably to free-agent pitchers currently on the market who are seeking deals worth $8 million per season and upward." And, lo, according to Baseball Reference, the most similar pitcher to Davis is currently Odalis Perez, who was signed to a 3-year, $24m contract by the Dodgers in 2004. That would seem about the mark for Doug: two years of significant free-agent inflation on the Perez deal are countered by the fact he was coming off a 127 ERA+ season, not the 91 ERA+ season just experienced by Davis. There is no rush to sign Davis, and part of me wants to wait and make sure the sharp increase in his ERA last year was a genuine blip, as I hope. But, the danger of doing that would be, if he does return to form, the price of extending him would increase.

One thing to note about our new starter, though it's a minor point: he's not a great hitter. He went 3-for-65 last year, with one walk and 22 K's. That .046 average was actually a significant improvement over the 2004 figure where he was 1-for-64, with 43 K's. [Kip Wells of the Pirates actually walked Davis in a May 23 game, and is still undergoing therapy as a result. ;-)] But then, in 2005, he exploded - relatively - to hit .137. That's the only year in his career he's reached three figures, so I wouldn't expect too much from his plate appearances. Mind you, Claudio Vargas has a career .072 average, almost the same as Davis (.071), so the trade shouldn't exactly derail our offense.

It's interesting to parallel this with another swap carried out by Josh Byrnes last winter: Vazquez to the White Sox. There, we handed over one starting pitcher, but received another one who could help us now (Hernandez 1.0) plus a prospect for the future (Chris Young). That's basically what we've done in this trade too, in the shapes of Davis and Eveland, as a swap for Vargas, and so I'm wondering if this is going to be Byrnes' modus operandi. A quick scope of the trades Arizona has done since last November also shows that thirty percent involved four or more players, and half of them three or more. He seems to enjoy putting those "bundles" together, and so, if we make a splash, it could be a Sexson-like, many for one, trade. Let's just hope with a happier ending...

Is that it as far as deals go? Quite possibly, at least as far as the rotation goes. At the end of last season, JB said, "We probably don't need to add two (starters). But you never know." Going through what else he said in that piece, however, I would not be surprised to see us make another move for a hitter: while Eric Byrnes has been named as the left-fielder for 2007, he seems a prime candidate [along with Jorge Julio] to be moved. Sure, Scott Hairston might be shifted instead, but he would likely be able to provide almost equal offense in LF, at a fraction of the cost, and Eric Byrnes - as a 25/25 guy - would fetch a whole lot more in return on the open market than someone who, first turn around, wasn't exactly outstanding in the major-leagues. The biggest questionmark is Hairston's defense, which is widely regarded as wretched. Still, if he comes anywhere near his Tucson stats [.323 with 26 HR], we would be happy to overlook a large chunk of defensive indifference.