Thursday, November 03, 2005

Adios Castilla!

Huzzah for Jim Bowden! He waved his magical transaction wand and turned Vinny Castilla into Brian Lawrence and a pile of cash. Score one for PT Bowden!

First, the financials. Vinny had one year left for $3.2 million. Lawrence has one year left on his contract for $3.5 million. The odds are pretty good that the Padres sent the difference over, giving the transaction zero net cost to the Nats. Lawrence has a $5.7 million team option for 2007 or a $550K buyout. The Padres will send money along to pay all but $125K of that buyout.

Second, the players. We know about Vinny. He is what he is. While injuries (and age) sapped what was a thrilling start, he was entering 2006 as a player without a position. Ryan Zimmerman is more than capable of filling that role (for about $3 million less, too!), both defensively, but probably offensively as well. Some of the stories leaked out throughout the year indicated that Vinny might not play well with others when it comes time to riding pine next year. And, more importantly, if Frank does come back next year, it eliminates any tempation to jot the vet's name in the lineup card. Thanks for the memories Vinny! We enjoyed it, but it's time to say goodbye!

Lawrence won't win the Cy Young next year, but he's a solid #4. He's a pretty extreme groundball pitcher with excellent control. He's very durable. Had he squeezed another four and a third innings out of his arm, it would've been four straight seasons with 200 innings pitched. As it is, he's made 31 or more starts each of his four full season in the bigs.

Just 29, he had a bit of a down year this season with a 4.83 ERA. But his ERA+ (where 100 is league average) have been 104, 94, 97, 80 over his last four seasons. It's likely it was just a bad year. Those things happen sometimes. Looking through his numbers there's nothing to indicate a decline in his stuff. He's not really a strikeout pitcher (just 4.9 K/9), but he rarely walks anyone (2.6 BB/9) and was pretty solid at keeping the ball in the park (.81 HR/9).

Add those numbers up, and you have a pitcher who was probably better than his results. I hate using luck as an excuse (I think it's the stathead's answer to chemistry) but sometimes more hits just fall in. That's what appears to be the case with Lawrence. If you get your abacus out and process the numbers (don't ask me how, I just eat the sausage), those numbers are more in line with a 4.13 ERA.

He's basically the poor man's Esteban Loaiza. For his career, their numbers are actually pretty similar. Neither is likely to pitch eight innings of shutout ball, but they'll give you a quality start way more often than not, racking up the innings and the decisions (both wins AND losses.)

Just a few other thoughts...
  • This opens up a spot on the bench for Rick Short or Brendan Harris. In the Washington Post story linked above, Bowden mentions Harris' name for the first time. He's been ripping the ball in the Arizona Fall League, and the team keeps saying that he's more of a third baseman than a middle infielder. That's where his future lays apparently
  • With Patterson and Livan taking up the first two slots in the rotation, this gives the Nationals more depth at the ass-end. Ryan Drese should be recovered from shoulder surgery, and Jon Rauch and Hector Carrasco (if re-signed) could serve as swing men. Truthfully, I'd give Rauch a crack at the fifth starter's job, but if they didn't do it last season, coming off the 2004 he had, I can't see them doing it next year either.
  • Interesting that he worked the trade out with a GM who reportedly has ZERO respect for him.
  • If you look at the list of similar pitchers (see the bottom) for Brian Lawrence (that is those whose career statistics are most like his), number four is interesting: Tomo Ohka. Whatever happened to him?

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