Dejan Kovacevic, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s beat writer who blogs with the diligence of a full-timer, sent me, in the wake of the Morgan-Milledge trade, an email with a fascinating question.
Jason Bay to the Red Sox, Xavier Nady to the Yankees, Nate McLouth to the Braves, and now Nyjer Morgan to the Nationals – when was the last time a team traded four quality everyday outfielders in a year’s time? (Notice he’s not even considering Eric Hinske as outfielder #4.5).
I immediately flashed back to the Braves’ full-scale makeover in March, 1997. On the 25th they offed Marquis Grissom and David Justice to Cleveland for Kenny Lofton. Two days later, they sent Jermaine Dye to the Royals for Michael Tucker. At season’s end they let Lofton walk as a free agent – not a trade, but still some pretty big turnover in seven months.
Dejan suggested the Marlins’ fire sale of that same year, that extended into ’98. He was right. On November 11, 1997 they swapped Moises Alou to Houston, and a week later, Devon White to the brand new Diamondbacks. Then in the deal that bought them Mike Piazza as a trading chip in May, 1998, they sent the Dodgers Gary Sheffield and Jim Eisenreich, both of whom had been starting in Florida. Also in that deal was Bobby Bonilla, who had been playing third in Florida, and just for good measure, back on November 20th they’d sent Jeff Conine (their first baseman at the time) to Kansas City. That is six quality major league outfielders dealt in a span of six months plus a week.
By the way, all this trading and chronology research was done in a matter of seconds at the impeccable site Retrosheet.Org – if you’ve never been, give yourself an hour. It is like having the Baseball Hall of Fame Library on your laptop.
I’m still not sure if the Pirates made out like bandits in their latest offload, or got sold a rubber peach. Lastings Milledge sure has all the talent you could hope for. But if you’re playing center and they tell you to play a little deeper, and you ignore them, and the ball gets hit over your head, and then it happens at least once more, I’m not convinced that a broken finger and banishment to Syracuse is enough to straighten you out. You might need an exorcism.
HE CLICKS AS A STARTER AND THE CUBS CALL HIM UP TO… MOP-UP?
I know Jeff Samardzija is the Third Rail of baseball blog topics, but is anybody confused as to the Cubbies’ logic (again)? He stars out of the pen in August, stinks in September, stinks this spring. They send him back to Des Moines to work him back into starting shape, where he shines (5-3, 3.72, 13 games). They now promote him again… to do what?
He appears last night in the 9th inning, Cubs down 3-0 to Colorado.
So he’s the mop-up guy?
Even this makes too little sense to be random Cub goofy non-planning. The Cubs’ bullpen has been erratic to say the least and one assumes the $10,000,000 man was not summoned to pitch in losses. But is he thought to be a set-up man, or could there more to this? The Cub bullpen is third from the bottom in saves (only Atlanta and Washington have fewer). They have blown thirteen opportunities. “Blown saves” is a somewhat random and unrefined stat — Washington leads the majors with seventeen; the only other team with more than the Cubs is the Dodgers, with fifteen, and they’re not exactly bailing water. Nevertheless, the Cubs are also eleventh in the NL in Holds (another vague stat, but somewhat usable).
Since they talked him out of shoulder pads, many Cub front office dreamers have thought that Samardzija might make a nice starting pitcher, but he could be a dominant reliever. I’m just wondering if this recall (especially when it involved the demotion of the perfectly adequate Jose Ascanio), coming as it does on the first occasion the Cubs have brought him in without making a big deal out of it, doesn’t suggest they might be trying a stealth restructuring of the bullpen.