Hot Stove Analysis: Mega Deals Leave Impact

Baseball's second season is officially underway and is your resource for keeping up with the transactions.

The Deal

The Red Sox acquire right-handed pitchers Josh Beckett and Guillermo Mota and third baseman Mike Lowell from the Marlins for four minor-leaguers – shortstop Hanley Ramirez, and right-handed pitchers Anibal Sanchez, Jesus Delgado, and Harvey Garcia.

Inside the Deal

For the Red Sox: Last year, the Sox were one key ingredient away from repeating as World Series Champs – pitching. It didn't take long for the post-Theo regime to fill a hole in the starting staff. The key to the trade, Josh Beckett, is one of the best young arms in the game. If he can overcome his blister problems, he is a perennial Cy Young candidate.

Aside from Beckett, the Sox were able to pick up two players that can help them return to the promise land. Guillermo Mota battled injuries in 2005 and his numbers took a hit. Given the winter to recover, it would not be surprising to see him return to form from a few years ago.

Mike Lowell went from an All-Star to a dead contract overnight and the Marlins were desperate to get him off the team. The Red Sox will be able to afford his salary and if he finds a way to bounce back, could be a key player on the '06 team.

For the Marlins: This is one of the best prospect hauls any team has received in a trade in recent history. Hanley Ramirez is one of the top shortstop prospects in baseball. Even though he had an overall down year offensively, he made some progress. His power numbers dropped but his walk and strikeout rates improved. He is still raw but has a great deal of upside and could be the Marlins' opening day shortstop in 2007.

Anibal Sanchez was one of the more impressive pitchers in the 2005 Futures' Game. He possesses a live mid-90s fastball along with his solid curveball and changeup. He has been dominant thus far in his trek through the minors, posting a career 2.46 ERA and a 259:69 K:BB rate.

Jesus Delgado and Harvey Garcia are two young pitchers who have shown some potential in Single-A in 2005. Delgado is the better prospect but both could help a major league bullpen down the line.

Why it Works

For the Sox: In Beckett, the Sox get the piece they need to get back to the World Series. Mota is a strong addition to a depleted bullpen and Lowell could bounce back to be a solid contributor.

Score (20 to 80): 65 present, 55 future

For the Marlins: They are looking to dump salary and succeeded by getting rid of Mike Lowell. However, it cost them a young, cheap arm in Beckett to do it. They picked up a nice haul of prospects. This deal for the Fish is better judged down the road when the prospects have developed. However, given the track record of prospects in general, it doesn't look good.

Score: 30 present, 55 future
The Deal

The New York Mets acquire first baseman Carlos Delgado and cash from the Florida Marlins for first baseman Mike Jacobs and two minor-leaguers – right-hander Yusmeiro Petit and third baseman Grant Psomas.

Inside the Deal

For the Mets: Flash back one year ago and the Mets were in on the Carlos Delgado sweepstakes down to the wire. However, Delgado believed at the time that the Marlins had a better chance to win and decided to head to south Florida. One year later, the tables have turned and the slugger is on his way to the Big Apple.

Delgado is one of the best hitters in the game. His average always hovers around .300 and his on-base percentage around .400. Thirty-plus homers and 100+ RBI are the norm. He isn't the ideal defender at first base but his offense more than makes up for it.

Considering the vacuum that was first base for the Mets in '05. This is a major upgrade. The deal instantly makes the New York offense one of the best in the league as the domino effect allows everyone to move into a spot in the lineup better suited for their talents.

For the Marlins: In another cost-cutting move, the Marlins decided to dump their highest-paid player a year after signing him as a free agent. In a move geared towards the future, they picked up three players who all have the potential to help the Major League roster.

Mike Jacobs, a two-time Sterling Player of the Year in the Mets' organization, was called up mid-season to take the roster spot of the injured Mike Piazza. In 100 Major League at-bats, he hit .310/.375/.710 with 11 homers. The left-handed hitter has a lot of work to do defensively at first but has proven he can hold his own at the plate. While he will never match his projected numbers from 2005, he can easily turn into a perennial .280 hitter with 25 homer power.

Yusmeiro Petit burst onto the prospect scene in 2004 after dominating A-ball. He doesn't wow scouts but has yet to fail at any level. Many pitchers with similar stuff have hit a wall around Triple-A so 2006 will be key for the future success of Petit.

Grant Psomas may turn out to be the best part of the deal for the Fish. He was drafted in the 15th round in 2004 out of West Virginia and initially struggled in professional ball. However, something clicked and he dominated A-ball in 2005, hitting .300/.403/.551 with 19 homers in the South Atlantic League. The third baseman is a little raw and a few years away but could be a key piece for the Marlins next run.

Why it Works

For the Mets: Many will argue that the Mets overpaid for a player that they were competing against themselves to acquire. However, if they had waited until Paul Konerko to sign a deal, the competition for Delgado could have quickly heated up. By acting quickly, they paid a little more but were able to get the player they needed most.

Score: 70 present, 55 future

For the Marlins: Again, the Fish were looking to dump salary and did it the right way this time; by trading a player that makes a lot of money. Dealing Delgado seals the deal that they will be unable to contend in '06 but they have geared the organization for the future. Jacobs will be a league-average first baseman and will be able to hold down the position. Petit adds to a now extremely deep farm system and can impact the ML team as soon as late '06 if his stuff is able to translate. Psomas is a few years away but may be the best player they received in this deal.

Score: 30 present, 60 future
The Deal

The Chicago White Sox acquire first baseman Jim Thome and cash from the Philadelphia Phillies for center fielder Aaron Rowand and two minor-leaguers – left-handed pitchers Gio Gonzalez and Daniel Haigwood

Inside the Deal

For the White Sox: It is not often you see the defending World Series Champions make such an extreme change to the make-up of the team. However, General Manager Kenny Williams decided the team needed a boost. They sent their Gold Glove caliber center fielder, Rowand and two promising prospects for Thome.

Thome is signed to one of the worst contracts in the league. The Phillies will be paying about half of the remaining money and the Sox will be on the hook for just about $7 million per season.

The slugging first baseman is coming off an awful season in which he hit just .207 with seven home runs in 59 games. A frayed tendon in his elbow needed surgery that cost him most of the season. At 35 years old, Thome is approaching the end of his career and coming back from an injury will be harder than ever. When healthy, he still possesses unparalleled raw power and can be an asset to any team.

For the Phillies: This trade fills two needs for the Phils. They are able to solve a growing problem that many teams would love to have. With Ryan Howard forcing his way into the lineup and first base being his only potential position, a move had to be made. Thome or Howard had to go and considering age and contracts, Thome was the logical choice. With Thome off the roster, the youngster can take control of the position for years to come.

While clearing room at first, they were also able to add a quality center fielder. Rowand is just 28 years old and entering the prime of his career. He had an outstanding year at the plate in 2004, hitting .310/.361/.544 with 24 home runs and 17 stolen bases, but took a step back in '05, dropping to .270/.329/.407 with 13 homers and 16 swipes.

The Phillies should expect a line somewhere between these two extremes moving forward. Combining his offensive and defensive talents makes him a very solid acquisition for the Phillies.

Rowand wasn't the only young player they were able to pick up. They were able to snag two of the better left-handed prospects in the game. Haigwood is a 22-year-old left-hander and posted excellent peripherals in 2005. He possesses an average fastball but his secondary offerings are solid. He may help the Phillies as soon as late in this year.

The real prize of the trade may be Gio Gonzalez. The 20-year-old lefty has impressed scouts and statisticians alike. His live fastball tops out in the mid-90s, his change-up has shown potential, and his curveball is a plus offering. He has just two years of minor league experience but averaged well over 10 strikeouts per nine innings each year. He has dominated at each step of the way and has a very high ceiling.

Why it Works

For the White Sox: Well, it really doesn't. The risk of Thome never being the same is very high and there was an in-house candidate that is about as risky but would cost less both in terms of money and talent needed to acquire: Frank Thomas. The Big Hurt loves Chicago and Chicago loves him. Given the DH role he is currently a better option than Thome.

Score: 30 present, 20 future

For the Phillies: They clear up roster space and some money while picking up excellent defense up the middle and two solid prospects. Even if neither prospect pans out as expected, Rowand is sure to make an impact in Philadelphia. This trade has the potential to be a monumental steal for the Phils.

Score: 70 present, 80 future
The Deal

The Toronto Blue Jays sign lefty closer B.J. Ryan to a five-year, $47 million contract.

Inside the Deal

Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi was recently told by management that they were going to raise payroll and he would be able to spend more freely this winter. Like a little kid getting his allowance, Ricciardi let the money burn a hole in his pocket. He went head-first after Ryan, throwing whatever he could at the lefty to induce him to sign. The deal was struck quickly and its impact will be felt for the rest of the winter.

There is no doubt that B.J. Ryan is a very good pitcher. He has improved the movement on his low-to-mid-90s fastball and it is now a plus pitch. The 29-year-old adds in a sharp slider as a second plus offering and hitters don't have much of a chance when he is on. He has shown that he can handle the pressure that comes along with closing. His stuff or mental makeup is not a question.

The problem with this deal is merely financial. Ryan will max out at 80 innings per year, costing the Jays roughly $1 million per eight innings. Closers are an overrated commodity. Derrick Turnbow was amazing for the Brewers at a fraction of that cost.

Todd Jones came out of nowhere to rebound and shut down the 9th for the Marlins. Every year, there are numerous closers that take the league by storm and make little more than the minimum. There are approximately 1458 innings in a season and to get locked into $10 million for 80 of them is poor money management. There are better values out there.

Why it Works

There are some benefits that the Jays receive from this deal. They are looking to make a move in the highly-competitive AL East and need every little edge they can get to make up ground. Bringing in a solid closer could help them lure top pitchers north of the border. If this deal helps them pick up other big players, it has to be considered a success.

Score: 40 present, 35 future
The Deal

The New York Mets sign closer Billy Wagner to a four-year, $43 million contract.

Inside the Deal

On the surface, this deal would seem to be similar to the Ryan contract. However the Mets are on the verge of a contender and have the resources to take the financial hit. If Wagner is the final piece of the puzzle, his contract will be covered by increased revenues generated by a World Series contender. This contract is similar to the one Pedro Martinez signed last winter. They are willing to take a hit at the back end of the contract for the boost it will give them today.

Wagner has established himself as one of the premier closers in the league. Other than an injury-filled season, Wagner has never posted an ERA higher than 2.85. He is coming off a season in which he posted the lowest ERA of his career and looks as strong as ever.

The flamethrower is armed with a 100 mile-per-hour fastball that he can locate anywhere in the strike zone. It is an electric pitch that causes the crowd to roar when the radar gun hits triple digits. He is not just a one-pitch pitcher, however, as he mixes in a solid slider to keep hitters off balance.

While his strikeout rate dropped slightly from his established level (10.08 per nine in '05 and 11.99 per nine for his career), it was still well above average. His walk and home run rates remained steady and he has yet to show any real signs of aging.

Why it Works

The Mets were in contention for the NL Wild Card until September when the team, particularly the bull pen, broke down. Wagner is a proven closer capable of anchoring a championship team. With him at the end of the game, he makes every pitcher on the staff better. He may be the key for the Mets' hopes in 2006.

Score: 75 present, 60 future
The Deal

The Chicago White Sox re-signed first baseman Paul Konerko to a five-year, $60 million contract.

Inside the Deal

General Manager Kenny Williams already made a significant change to his World Series squad by swapping Aaron Rowand for Jim Thome so there was no way he'd be able to explain letting the biggest fish, Paul Konerko, go free. Konerko is coming off the best season of his career and he continuously came through in the playoffs when the Sox needed him most - perfect timing for a player in the last year of his contract.

The slugging first baseman will be 30 years old when opening day comes around. Not often are players with his skillset (plus power, decent average, no speed) able to maintain their established levels of production into their 30s. Konerko may have another year or two where he is worth the $12 million per season. However, like many other contracts that have been signed recently, the back end of the deal is going to hurt the Sox.

Why it Works

The Sox desperately needed to hang on to Konerko. He was the biggest bat in the lineup last year and the fans would have declared war on the White Sox if they let him walk after the team finally came through with a championship. The deal will be fine for two or three years but the Sox could be looking to unload him during the 2008 off-season.

Score: 60 present, 35 future
The Deal

The San Diego Padres re-signed outfielder Brian Giles to a three-year, $30 million contract.

Inside the Deal

Brian Giles is the poster boy for expected career paths. He got off to a late start but continuously found ways to improve. He finally broke though as a superstar talent at age 28. His power remained outstanding for four seasons, through age 31, and then gradually began a decline.

After four seasons in the high-30s, he quickly dropped down to the 20s and hit just 15 last season. While the power has come and gone, his on-base skills have remained among the best in the league.

Giles does a little of everything (aside from walk, which he does a lot of). He'll hit some home runs, steal a few bases, hit for a good average, and play average defense in left. He will enter the 2006 season at 36 years old and that does not bode well for his future. Even though the contract is relatively short, the lefty may be nothing more than a fourth outfielder at the end of it.

Why it Works

Giles is a California guy. He was born there, lives there, and wanted to stay there. While he listened to offers from other teams, the likely scenario played out. With a small boost, the Padres could be a contender in 2006 and the walk-machine will be a key piece to their push.

Score: 65 present, 40 future
The Deal

The Philadelphia Phillies sign right-hander Tom Gordon to a three-year $18 million contract.

Inside the Deal

"Flash" Gordon is coming off two excellent seasons setting up Mariano Rivera for the Yankees and has found a way to parlay that success into a three-year contract. The Phillies saw that the market for relievers was spinning out of control and felt they had to jump aboard. Gordon can still be an effective reliever but given his age, he will surely not be one of the elite closers in the game.

Why it Works

The Phillies lost their closer Billy Wagner to the Mets and felt they needed to keep pace so they went after the veteran. It is a typical Pat Gillick move. With Ryan Madson in house and capable of holding down the job, this is a sub-par move.

Score: 40 present, 40 future
The Deal

The New York Yankees sign right-hander Kyle Farnsworth to a three-year, $17 million contract.

Inside the Deal

The Yankees are looking a little desperate these days. Over in Queens, the Mets are making blockbuster moves and The Boss is steaming. He told his baseball department that they had to make some sort of move. Was this really the best they could come up with?

Farnsworth has three speeds - fast, faster, and fastest. His heater can reach triple-digits and he can back it up with a slider in the low-90s. He has been dominant at times but has also lost it on occasion. When on, he is one of the more dominant relievers in the game.

Why it Works

The Bombers just lost their top set-up man in Tom Gordon and needed to replace him. The bullpen was one of the worst in baseball in '05 and aside from Mo Rivera, they had no quality arms left. Farnsworth gives them a second option for the late innings and can fill in for Mo when needed. The move will help the team's depth, even at this high cost.

Score: 55 present, 60 future
The Deal The Minnesota Twins acquired second baseman Luis Castillo from the Florida Marlins for minor league right-handed pitchers Travis Bowyer and Scott Taylor.

Inside the Deal: For the Twins: Second base was easily their weakest position in 2005. They tried everyone from Nick Punto to Luis Rivas. Bret Boone was even picked up off the scrap heap from the Mariners but he didn't work out either. Castillo battled some injuries in 2005 but he remains the same player: a sure-handed defender with solid on-base skills and good speed. He will be a solid upgrade for the Twinkies as they look to get back to October.

For the Marlins: Let the fire sale continue. Castillo was just the next piece to move and there will be more yet to come. In the deal the Fish pick up a solid reliever in Bowyer. He had a 2.78 ERA with a 96:40 K:BB ratio in Triple-A last season. He has a live fastball in the mid-90s and backs it up with an improving slider. He may be a key reliever on the 2006 squad. Tyler, however, is not much of a prospect. He posted a merely average year in Single-A at age 22. He may help down the line but Bowyer was the key to this trade.

Why it Works:
For the Twins: They are able to add a quality player to sure up the middle of the diamond and the top of the order. It was a need based trade and they did very well considering the small price they paid.

Score: 70 present, 60 futre

For the Marlins: This deal is similar to their other moves this winter. Considering the success they've had in picking up quality prospects in their other deals, this haul is a little disappointing. Still, Bowyer is a solid prospect and can contribute soon and they were able to clear Castillo's salary.

Score: 30 present, 40 future
The Deal:

The Seattle Mariners signed catcher Kenji Johjima to a three-year, $16.5 million contract.

Inside the Deal

The catcher position for the Mariners in 2005 was one of the worst in all of baseball. Rotating the likes of Miguel Olivo and Yorvit Torrealba, the position combined to produce a .216/.253/.313 line. Of the many off-season priorities for the M's, this was surely one of the most important. Any solid upgrade would guarantee them a few more wins in '06.

Johjima is considered a risky signing for two reasons: changing leagues and the language barrier. There have been a few recent cases of players coming over from Japan to the US. Some have turned out successful like Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui, while others, namely Kazuo Matsui, have failed to live up to the hype. The language barrier will not likely create a problem. Johjima knows some English and is working hard at becoming fluent. Also, he has worked with American pitchers before. As long as he can "talk baseball," he will be fine.

At the plate, Johjima is unlike previous Japanese imports. Instead of pulling off the ball at the end of his swing, he has more of a typical American swing where he drives through the ball. He has shown excellent plate discipline and that skill will surely translate well. Behind the plate, the catcher is considered a Gold Glove candidate. He moves well and is a solid catch-and-throw backstop.

Why it Works

At about $5.5 million per year, Johjima will cost less than the other top catchers on the market. While he has some inherent risk, he also has more upside than either Bengie Molina or Ramon Hernandez. As a bonus, the Mariners will not have to give up a draft pick for signing him. The short contract won't block catching prospect Jeff Clement when he is ready to take over. This is a huge upgrade for a team that desperately needed one.

Score: 70 present, 65 future

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