Er, well, if Florida counts as "home", I guess. Yes, the big news today was us swapping Venezuelans with the Marlins: the long-expected trade of Jorge Julio, who has been exchanged for right-hander starter Yusmeiro Petit and cash. We'll have to wait until the full details of the deal come out, and we see how much money we're paying the Marlins, but on the whole I like it. Petit was not exactly impressive last season with the Marlins (a 9.57 ERA in 15 games), but he is only 22.
He was particularly vulnerable to the long-ball, allowing 7 homers in only 26.1 innings. In his defense, only one of those appearances was a starter, and that's what he has been throughout the rest of his minor league career. He did win that start for Florida - albeit with the slight help of eighteen runs of support, and in that game he allowed five runs on eleven hits over six innings.
Though his ERA was quite high last season in Triple-A (4.28), he had a decent K:BB ratio of 68:20. It was even better in 2005 at Double-A, where he fanned 130 batters and walked only 18, and overall in the minors, his ratio is better than 5:1. He'll start the season down in Tucson, and it'll be interesting to see how he stands up in the hitter-friendly PCL. Sure we'd rather have had a groundball pitcher, but he was #68 in Baseball America's Top 100 prospects for 2006, and was the Mets #2 prospect when they traded him to Florida in the Delgado deal. So this is clearly not a salary dump. Well, not entirely. :-)
Levski (as usual) had some good comments on the trade over at DBBP, pointing out "getting a young pitcher whom they'll control for 6+ years AND who's almost MLB ready for a mediocre relief pitcher who threw like crap this spring, was overpaid, and didn't want to be here in the first place IS a trade that's good for the franchise." These thoughts are echoed by Josh Byrnes - albeit somewhat more subtly: "We just felt like Julio really didn't have a defined role and to be able to turn him into a young pitcher who's still 22 and has Major League experience was a better move for us We like Petit. We have for some time, and we're excited to get him. Not an overpowering guy, but a guy with four pitches, very good command, very good changeup and was sort of pushed along at a young age through the Minors and pitched well."
I also note that what Byrnes has effectively done, bearing in mind the deal which brought Julio to us, is swap Orlando Hernandez for Yusmeiro Petit. This is similar to the leverage which converted three middle-relief guys and a waiver-wire pick (Claudio Vargas), via Johnny Estrada, into someone who was an Opening Day starter last year, in Doug Davis, plus Dana Eveland and Dave Krynzel. Got to admire that kind of approach, selling high and buying low.
I'm mildly smug about it, having picked up Julio late on in the fantasy draft yesterday. At the time, I said I was doing so in the expectation of him being dealt to Florida, and picking up lots of save opportunities there. [Admittedly, even I am surprised with the speed at which everything happened and my prediction appears to be coming true] This tactic was met with, shall we say, a degree of scepticism from certain quarters. To which, all I have to say now is, HAHAHA! Who's laughing now? Read 'em and weep, then eat my dust in Saves! HAHAHA!
Er, sorry 'bout that. :-)
The downside is what kind of impact this will have on the bullpen. It's a little chilling to look at our bullpen last year, and realise how many innings we have to replace from within this coming year. In Julio, Aquino, Vizcaino, Choate and Grimsley, we've lost 200+ innings of relief; more than 40% of what we pitched. Who have we added to make up the difference? Okay, in at least a couple of cases, those were not exactly brilliant innings - but somone has to pitch in the blowouts. And say what you like about Julio, his ERA+ with the Diamondbacks was 124. Feel confident Slaten or Peña will be at that level? 'Cos I'm not.
In other news, Enrique Gonzalez's chances of making the rotation appear to have taken a hit after his performance in today's game against the Brewers. The problem was entirely caused by a seven-run third: on each side of that, EnGon was six up, six down, as he went five frames. He allowed six hits and a walk - all during the third inning - and gave up five earned runs. According to Melvin, EnGon started pitching defensively, and that was what hurt him. How much, as far as making the rotation goes, we'll see. Tomorrow, I'll see if I can put together a table with the stats of the various candidates.
Stange (who? anyone?) pitched the sixth; Valverde has a perfect seventh, but Medders allowed a two-run homer in the eighth. Lyon allowed a hit in the ninth. Not much luck for us against former D-back Claudio Vargas, who only let us have three hits and a walk over seven innings, with Upton's RBI triple the offensive highlight. Hairston did get two more hits though, raising his spring average to .400. Just one walk, for Jackson, against six strikeouts for us, though our pitcher's ratio was 2:7 there, which is healthy enough.
Good news on the Quentin front. He swung a bat for the first time since being diagnosed with a slight labrum tear last week. He hit off a tee, and according to Melvin, we are "Probably looking at some soft toss and potentially a game after that depending on how he responds... We're still not out of the woods, obviously, but today was a good day." The target is still to get Quentin ready for Opening Day, if we can get him enough at-bats in the final few days to be ready. I am a little concerned at the pace, which feels hurried, but though his shoulder felt tight today, he said he did not feel any pain. "It was a little good test, and I think I passed it so we're ready to move on." Let's hope this is truly the case.