Against the Grain: As Joe Sheehan noted last week, there is often a disproportionate difference in salary between comparable players eligible for free agency and those eligible only for arbitration. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim however, are becoming a bit of a maverick and free agency seems no different.
Paul Byrd was signed as a free agent to a one-year, $5 million deal back in December, while arbitration eligible Jarrod Washburn reached an one-year accord worth $6.5 million. The two make for an interesting comparison in that their three-year translated averages are similar:
Byrd K/9 BB/9 K/BB HR/9 H/9
2001 3.94 1.93 2.04 0.89 9.45
2002 4.48 1.15 3.91 1.11 7.18
2004 5.29 1.17 4.53 1.17 8.66
AVG 4.56 1.34 3.42 1.08 8.08
Washburn K/9 BB/9 K/BB HR/9 H/9
2002 5.65 2.32 2.44 0.82 8.11
2003 4.81 2.25 2.14 1.22 7.60
2004 4.67 2.11 2.21 1.00 8.48
AVG 5.08 2.24 2.27 1.02 8.03
While neither pitcher has a great line, Byrd has made a strong case for being the better of the two over the past three years in which he has pitched. As his strikeout and walk rates have improved. Byrd's HR rate has increased, but Angel Stadium played better for home runs than did Turner Field in 2004, so there is reason to believe that will change. Meanwhile, it seems the Angels are still paying for Washburn's 2002 season. The left-hander has dropped almost a whole strikeout per nine innings in the last three years and though his walks have also decreased, it is not enough to make up for a drop in his K/BB ratio, where Byrd is clearly superior. Still, PECOTA rates them about the same, with a 17.7 VORP forecast for Byrd versus 18.1 for Washburn.
PECOTA also shows Byrd as having a wider range of possible performances, an implicit acknowledgement of his missed time over the past two years. Keep in mind that Byrd didn't miss a start after returning from Tommy John surgery, and the track record has been good for Tommy John survivors of late. Byrd's metrics indicate he has a good chance to beat his PECOTA projection.
Oh Kendry! The Angels signed Cuban defector Kendry Morales to a six-year contract in early December. Scouting Director Eddie Bane has been on record saying that Morales is ready for prime time. Unfortunately, the Angels have nowhere to put him. The Angels have committed to Dallas McPherson at third base and Darin Erstad just won a Gold Glove at first base. Casey Kotchman seems to have the inside track at designated hitter. The outfield is just as crowded with Garret Anderson, Steve Finley and Vladimir Guerrero, to say nothing of Juan Rivera and Jeff DaVanon.
So where does this leave the Angels? It probably gives them a good excuse to send Morales to the minors. As an article in Baseball Prospectus 2005 will cover, Cuban baseball seems comparable to the Carolina League, so this does not seem unreasonable. However, based on the track record of disappointing Cuban hitters, there's a significant risk that Morales' six-year contract will become an albatross.
We are a fantasy baseball league whose draft is scheduled for April 14. Ten men enter (or nine or eight), and one man leaves.
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