After a day of perusing the Internet, I’m back into preview/review mode. Today is the Expos, and for explanation on how I’m doing my previews, see this link. Enjoy...
It looked as if Vladimir Guerrero moving to another franchise was the beginning of the Expos demise. And while the team landed in last place this year, there is hope for the future. This is largely because the team holds two of the brightest young hitters in the game, Brad Wilkerson and Nick Johnson. Losing Jose Vidro hurts, but the team remains optimistic about Orlando Cabrera.
Before the season, the Expos were looking to improve these positions to help for the loss of Vlad:
1B 2003: .274/.343/.448
3B 2003: .230/.298/.331
LF 2003: .261/.336/.426
CF 2003: .246/.305/.351
Johnson and Wilkerson just destroyed the first base and left field categories in 2004, allowing Batista and Sledge to have average years. We should have suspected this from Johnson and Wilkerson as their previous patience numbers (see AtR) showed. Wilkerson walks, finally developed power, and has no platoon split. Johnson is the demi-God of walks, and though he couldn’t top 450 at-bats, still showed considerable power.
At the beginning of the year, Montreal was having success with this lineup:
1. Vidro- 2B
2. Cabrera- SS
3. Johnson- 1B
4. Everett- RF
5. Wilkerson- LF
6. Batista- 3B
7. Sledge- CF
8. Schneider- C
Vidro really did make sense in the leadoff slot, despite having one of the better slugging percentages for Major League 2B. Much of Vidro’s SLG is derived from his exorbitant amount of doubles, which works wonders in the leadoff hole. After only 16 home runs this year, Vidro has topped twenty home runs only once, but is consistently above forty doubles. Couple that with an OBP guaranteed to be above .380 and you have a fantastic leadoff man.
This really made Vidro attractive to Paul DePodesta in Los Angeles, who beat out the Cashmans, Epsteins, and Hendrys to nab one of the league’s best 2B. And just for Joel Hanrahan and Joel Guzman? It was a steal for the new Dodger GM for sure, but not nearly enough to take the NL West.
Omar Minaya decided to keep Orlando Cabrera, largely because he’s voiced his desire to remain an Expo so loudly. With the recent rumors that Robert Johnson will buy the team in a month’s time, Cabrera might be in for some big cash. With a 20/20 year in his belt, Cabrera is one of the six best SS in the game, a high compliment considering the likes of Tejada, Nomar, Jeter, Renteria, and Furcal are in this debate. And wow, it’s still weird to write that without A-Rod.
While the offense managed to improve, it was the pitching that took a drastic step down in 2004. The team was really hoping Livan Hernandez would yield more that a mid-level prospect at the deadline, but the White Sox were really the ones dangling prospects. The Expos were hoping that Claudio Vargas would build upon his 2003 season, but instead he took a giant leap backwards into the 5.00s.
Will Tomo Ohka ever return to his 2002 self? Apparently not. I think the Expos would be best to get out of that situation ASAP. Tony Armas doesn’t look like he’ll ever touch his potential, but sadly, he was the Expos top starter in 2004. Zach Day’s depressing 5.00 K/9 really makes the Milton Bradley trade look like a Shapiro steal. Hanrahan was impressive in August and September, and he’s the probable bet for best Expo starter in 2005.
The bullpen went through spurts, and struggled early with Frank Robinson’s stuborness to take Rocky Biddle out of the closer’s role. It was obvious from day one that Chad Cordero was the best fit for the job, but Robinson felt it necessary to ignore every peripheral number out there, and go with the experienced veteran. Did this guy really play under Earl Weaver?
Luis Ayala remains a nice groundball threat in the bullpen, but Joey Eischen has been deemed worthless. I’m a big Dan Smith fan, but a seller of T.K. Tucker. Randy Choate may after all turn into a decent LOOGY, but hey, even Eischen looked good once.
Of all Major League Baseball’s upcoming workload, getting rid of the Expos should be priority number one. Selling Robert Johnson the team, and then moving it to Washington is well worth the relocation fee that Peter Angelos would get. But if this team could possibly keep Orlando Cabrera, that would be great. Omar Minaya’s done a good job with what he’s been given, and I hope the team at least gives him a chance for the GM slot. Now Frank Robinson on the other hand...
See anything good around the Internet lately, drop it in the comments. Also, what’s the consensus on an Expo finish?