Friday, October 28, 2005

Adjusting The Margins

Cap'n Leatherpants continued his Man of Action motif yesterday. Not only did he put crayon to paper on a six-month extension, but he hopped right into the transaction fray, signing two infielders, Damian Jackson and Bernie Castro.

Neither is going to remind anyone of Barry Larkin or even Randy Velarde, but taken together, they exemplify what Bowden does best -- bringing in spare parts to supplement a team. His problem has been identifying the core of a team, hoping that his spare parts will grow into the role. Needless to say, that's a strategy that rarely worked.

Let's start with Bernie. I haven't seen details, but I'm pretty sure he was given a minor league contract. That's where I expect him to end up. He had a cup of coffee with the Orioles at the end of the season, but he's not especially young. He'll presumably stay in NO where he'll be Vidro injury insurance. If Vidro goes down, we won't need to trade John Patterson away for 3 months worth of Junior Spivey.

His main asset is speed. He's a fast runner, with excellent base-stealing ability. He doesn't have much power, but he has a decent batting eye, and doesn't strike out a lot. He handled himself well in the short time he was in Baltimore. Essentially, he's a faster version of Jamey Carroll.

Damian Jackson was signed to a 1-year $700,000 major league contract. He'll be on the bench as the jack of all trades. It's a good signing. Jackson is the perfect player for the National League. He can play competently at every position, giving the manager plenty of late-game double-switch options. He has excellent speed, and is a great base stealer (15-2 last season; 132-36 for his career).

He's not much of a hitter, with an OPS+ hovering near 90. (Remember that 100 is league average) But that's better than Jamey Carroll's 70 or Carlos Baerga's 78.

But you're not signing him as your top PHer. He gives the team the late-inning speed it lacked, the versatility of playing multiple positions (including short stop!). Given this team's injury history, that's especially vital.

It's a good job by Bowden.

Nationals Farm Authority, who also writes about the transactions, speculates (and laments) that this could mean the end of Jamey Carroll's tenure. I'm not so sure.

Carroll is arbitration eligible, meaning he'll get a handsome raise, but he's not going to be rich overnight. While Carroll isn't especially great, he's a hard worker, a good ambassador for the team, and appears to be a genuinely nice guy. There's some value in that. Hopefully they can work out some sort of deal before the arbitration process. Maybe an extra year or two in exchange for less money? I'd hate to lose him.

NFA also notes that Bowden has said bye to Deivi Cruz, and that he would like to keep Junior Spivey. The Spivey thing seems to me, as it does to NFA, like a ruse. Spivey is also aribitration eligible and will be making $4 millionish under the process. Unless he's starting (which would mean a trade of Vidro -- a good thing, but that's a topic for another day!), he's not worth the money. But Spivey, even at that price, could be tradeable. When push comes to shove, though, I really don't think they'll be extending Spivey's contract.

But as he's shown several times, you're never quite sure what Bowden is going to do.