WTNYNovember 15, 2003
Transaction News
By Bryan Smith

Since news as been dead the last week, I thought the A.J. Pierzynski trade was good enough to make a weekend post. In case you don't know the exact terms, they are:

A.J. Pierzynski and either cash or a P2NL for Joe Nathan, Boof Bonser, and Francisco Liriano

At first glance I thought Brian Sabean was nuts for giving up so much young talent, but my views have cooled. Sabean is obviously big into the TINSTAPP theory, reasons behind trading Ainsworth, Nate Bump, Kevin Olsen, and lots of others in the past. Guys like Jerome Williams and Jesse Foppert are rare, but getting high value for everyone else is the theory. And, it added a little offense for Mr. Bonds.

The Giants need offense, as the first base, shortstop, and right field positions are all open during the offseason. To do so, Sabean has brought in a left-handed doubles hitting catcher that can hit anywhere in the lineup. His OPS has risen each of the last three seasons (763, 773, 824), and hits both lefties and right-handers. Some are other positives are Pierzynski's road line (328/381/486), and numbers after the break (332/391/450) are very positive indicators. Pac Bell (or whatever the Hell it is) is a big park, but I think that will fit into Pierzynski's doubles style. I expect he'll have an OPS a little above .824 next season, with his career high in RBI.

What this means for the G-Men is Yorvit Torrealba, who many thought was ready to start, moves to the bench. While Torrealba didn't hit lefties well in 2003 (.212 in 33AB), he did very well in 2002 (.385 in 26AB). My guess is he'll battle for a spot with Alberto Castillo, or will be included in another deal Sabean pulls off. But, Yorvit won't be getting 200AB here anytime soon.

This deal also means that San Francisco trusts Robb Nen a lot for 2003, and will not be moving Felix Rodriguez. If Worrell doesn't return either, it's a must to re-sign Herges. A one-time great bullpen is losing arms very quickly. But what this means for the Minnesota bullpen is an entirely different ordeal. Joe Nathan is suberb against right-handers (.136BAA), while left-handers hit .275 last season. It surely means LaTroy Hawkins won't be invited back, and it also infers the team is leaning towards starting Grant Balfour.

It will be very hard to predict Nathan's success next season, as there are some confusing indicators. He had a 1.99ERA at home, but his road ERA is 3.99. He won't be in a big stadium next season, so we'll see if that makes a difference. But, there is no question that Nathan gradually improved as the season went on, which explains his 3.59 first half ERA, versus a 1.59ERA after the break. Using Joe against right-handers will give him much success next season, and I think a 2.50ERA in 70-80 innings is what you can expect.

The other players in the deal are highly regarded pitching prospects, one of which has a blog named after him. Boof has had Baseball America top ten rankings of 11 in 2001, as high as 2 in 2002, and he dropped to six before last season. In 2002, BA said he had "maturity and talent" and noted a 92-95mph fastball. His secondary pitches "show promise", but he has trouble throwing them for strikes. Opponents were hitting just .203 before this season, and that didn't go up much this season. Boof had a pretty good season at AA, going 7-10, with a 4.00ERA. He allowed only 122 hits in 135 innings, striking out 103 while walking 67. The strikeout rate is the lowest of his career, and the walk rate remains high. Bonser will be in AAA next season, and will likely take Eric Milton's spot in the rotation in 2005.

Francisco Liriano is a much different player, as his track record is hardly existent. Liriano threw just nine terrible innings in 2003, before shoulder problems shut him down the rest of the season. While Baseball America did rank him number six in the organization before 2003, they did say the largest concern was his shoulder. Liriano is a hard-throwing leftie that had three Major League-ready pitches before his injury. He is still a very good prospect, with a considerable amount of upside. In a lot of ways, he reminds me of Johan Santana.

To clarify, Pierzynski is the only player set to make money next season, somewhere in the $2-3M range. I wonder if this signals the Giants won't bring Rich Aurilia back, which would be a huge mistake. Anyway, this trade fit to both teams needs, as it gave the Twins extra cash for Guardado and Stewart, along with a replacement for Hawkins. The Giants landed one of the league's better catchers, and another bat around Mr. Bonds...

Quickly, other news:

- Mike Timlin was re-signed for $2.5M, a good deal for Boston. Timlin had a sensational postseason, and definitely has gas left in the tank.
- Danys Baez had his option declined, making him a free agent. The Phillies are said to be interested, but using Baez in any role besides middle relief is stupid.
- The Padres made a nice claim in Henri Stanley from the Astros. He hit .292/368/445 in AAA, with good plate discipline and 15 steals. He has a very good chance to make the team in 2003, assuming he beats out Brian Buchanon for the left-handed hitting outfield bench player.
- Sweet Lou got two old players, Paul Abbot and John Halama signed. As I see it, Jeremi Gonzalez, Victor Zambrano, Joe Kennedy, Chad Gaudin, Doug Waechtler, Jorge Sosa, Dewon Brazelton, Jon Switzer, Abbott, and Halama are all vying for rotation slots. Kennedy is probably going to be non-tendered, and he wouldn't be a bad sign for someone with a big park. My guess? Gonzalez, Zambrano, Gaudin, Waechtler, and Halama or Abbot to start the season. Sosa will go the bullpen, while Brazelton and Switzer will start in AAA.

See ya Monday...