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Wednesday Wrap-Up

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I'd say "I don't know where to begin" but I think we all know that's a blatant lie.

The contracts Alfonso Soriano got from the Cubs, Juan Pierre got from the Dodgers, and Carlos Lee will get from the Orioles/Astros are funny to look at, but that's about it. We'll never have to think of them again. This Gary Matthews Jr. thing, though...that's just the gift that'll keep on giving for the next five years. Bill Stoneman missed out on all the good players he wanted so he went ahead and gave the same money to a mediocre one instead, paying $50m/5yr for what'll amount to only a handful of extra wins over the life of the deal. There are a million reasons to be skeptical of Matthews sustaining his 2006 level of production, and if he reverts to his career numbers then the Angels are essentially going to be paying eight figures for a guy they could've claimed for free two days ago. That's probably overstating the case a little bit, but Matthews has only been a capable everyday player once in his career, and Anaheim's banking on his being able to repeat that success until he's 36. Color me unconvinced. Oh yeah, and I haven't seen any legitimate evidence that he's even good defensively. Whoops.

It's been argued that "we analysts" have to change the way we look at these contracts because the market is just flush with a lot of new money to be spent, but we've seen this kind of inflation before, and within a few years everything came right back down to Earth. It wasn't a permanent shift then, and I doubt it's a permanent shift now. I don't think there's that much more money out there than usual, anyway - I think it's just that the teams who have it want to spend it, and without (m)any A-list free agents they end up giving it to worse players, because that's what the demand bears out. It's a bad situation for teams in need of cornerstones, as there just aren't any available.

It's not even necessarily the money that I find so crazy. Four years for Speier? Five for Pierre? Five for Matthews? Eight for Soriano? Contract lengths are out of control. It's one thing to pay too much for short-term production, but these teams have guaranteed metric assloads of money for future years they don't have a prayer of predicting. The further ahead you go, the murkier the picture gets. Who the hell knows how these guys are going to be doing four or five years down the road? Nobody does, although given that none of the players are about to enter their primes, it's a safe bet that they'll be worse. Too often length gets overlooked in favor of annual money when people talk about free agent contracts, but it's every bit as relevant an issue.

The next five years of Mariner existence got better today, if only by a little bit. That puts a smile on my face.

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More PMR: David Pinto posted shortstops yesterday. Results:

Top: Adam Everett
Top Everyday Player: Adam Everett (he's absolutely spectacular)
Bottom: Aaron Hill
Bottom Everyday Player: Felipe Lopez
Mariners: Yuniesky Betancourt, 4th out of 37

Finally, an advanced metric that likes Betancourt's defense. He was #1 in the AL, making 27 more outs than you would've expected of an average player at his position (Derek Jeter, -14). Again - and I say this every time - it's only one stat, and by itself it doesn't mean very much, but at least now I don't have to feel like a Yankees fan when I claim that every single measure of shortstop defense is incorrect.

It's interesting to see Adam Everett at the very top of the list, since oftentimes you'll get a guy who only played half the season or so and turned in a flukey performance (like Kendry Morales). It's the same way for either extreme, really, since the less a guy sees the field, the less time he has to regress to the mean. This is just another indication of how unbelievable a shortstop Adam Everett really is; he's able to sustain what seems like an anomalous level of play. Betancourt's good, but he doesn't have the best glove in baseball.

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At some point down the road we're going to see a GM load his team with the eight best defensive players in the league. That team's lineup is going to suck.

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A line from Rotoworld that caught my eye:

Miguel Batista is a fallback option for a lot of the teams looking at Vicente Padilla, Gil Meche and Ted Lilly.

2006 ERA, FIP, xFIP:

Batista: 4.58, 4.52, 4.88
Meche: 4.48, 4.71, 4.79
Padilla: 4.50, 4.34, 4.62
Lilly: 4.31, 4.81, 4.77

God, this is almost embarrassing.

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More on Speier:

"It's just exactly like Justin said - the '02 playoffs and World Series and everything that led up (had) to do with the strength of the bullpen on that ballclub," general manager Bill Stoneman said.

First of all, the Angels scored 851 runs and had a 3.85 top-5 rotation ERA that season. They scored 101 runs in 16 games come October, while Weber/Donnelly/Percival/Rodriguez combined for only a 4.17 postseason ERA. The bullpen was a strength, but for some reason people continue to downplay the importance of Anaheim's entire lineup catching fire. Hitting won them that championship.

...but that's all beside the point. What's important, like I said on Sunday, is that the strong Angel bullpens of the early '00's were built on the cheap, with rookies or journeyman taking the lead roles for close to the league minimum. Somehow, in the years that have passed, Bill Stoneman has lost his way, and now he's going backwards. I wonder if it might be time to develop an age-related decline curve for general managers.

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In Mariner news, there isn't any.

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Late update: Brian Sabean, who's only still employed because of Barry Bonds, might come out of this market even luckier than some of the free agents. In the past few days he's missed out on both Pierre and Matthews, allegedly offering Matthews the same contract he got from Bill Stoneman. Remarkable.

On that note, here's my favorite picture ever, courtesy of McCovey Chronicles.