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Just The Sports: Reds-Nationals Trade

Just The Sports

Friday, July 14, 2006

Reds-Nationals Trade

Since I know you have been on pins and needles regarding my thoughts on the Reds-Nationals trade that occurred, here they finally are. The eight-player trade was dangerously one-sided in favor of the Washington Nationals, which may be the first trade where Jim Bowden came out on top. Even though there were eight players involved in the trade, the trade was really about five players: Royce Clayton, Gary Majewski, Bill Bray, Felipe Lopez, and Austin Kearns. This is nothing the other players, but it would be much less interesting if I included them in this discussion.

From a Cincinnati Reds perspective, this was an awful move and reinforces that the Reds organization is only interested in hiring general managers who are incompetent when it comes to gauging a player's value. Rarely, if ever, is it a good idea to trade for middle relievers while trading away everyday players who actually provide value to your team. Even very good middle relievers pitch so infrequently and are so reliant on the context of the game, it makes no sense to trade anything but a poor starter for them.

One compliment which should be given to the Cincinnati Reds is they do a good job of deploying their better relievers in high leverage situations. For the first half of the season, the correlation between their relievers' WXRL and Leverage was .780, above average for major league teams. Since the bullpen was poor overall, it did not matter that much, but I'm just trying to make Reds fans feel better at this point. How Majewski is supposed to help be a savior to this bullpen is a conundrum.

Majewski had a good season in 2005, but he has not equalled that performance in 2006. Right now, he is sitting on .015 WXRL so he has been just a whisker above replacement-level. In addition, his home run rate has tripled from last year (.21 HR/9) to this year (.65 HR/9). It is still low, but there is no evidence to suggest 2005 was not a fluke year and 2006 is the pitcher he will be going into the future. There is no evidence to suggest it is either, though. His Fielding-Independent ERA of 4.32 is nothing to smile about either and is simply not worth trading for.

As for Bill Bray, he has been the Nationals' third best reliever in WXRL (Wins Above Replacement Level) with .399, but the Nationals have wasted his talent in ridiculously low leveraged situations for a reliever (.86 Leverage). With the Reds track record so far, I have no doubt they will use him in higher leverage situations. Hopefully, they will be ones that are higher in leverage than the one Majewski sees. For those who think Bray's higher WXRL is a result of pitching in lower leveraged situations than Majewski, just remember that they have faced about the same quality batter (.372 wOBA for Bray to .366 wOBA for Majewski).

Trading for Royce Clayton is also a surprise because I was unaware any team still wanted Royce Clayton on their team. In getting Clayton, the Reds trade away a player in Felipe Lopez who had the highest VORP among NL shortstops in 2005 and the 6th highest this year for a player in Royce Clayton who was 12th in VORP among NL shortstops in 2005 and 13th this year. The worst part about the trade is that Clayton is supposed to be a defensive upgrade over Lopez. Only he's really not and hasn't been an above-average defensive player since 2003.

Actually, the Reds got a below-average fielder to replace their below-average fielder. Only the new below-average fielder can't hit.

The Washington Nationals came out looking good after this trade and how could they not. Felipe Lopez has a career wOBA of .358, which even though I did not check it, I am willing to bet is better than Royce Clayton's. He also has the advantage of being 26 and entering the prime of his career. So far, Lopez has shown improvement in his plate discipline, seeing his strikeout percentage decrease and his walk-to-strikeout ratio increase. His slugging percentage has not been consistent for his career, but his on-base percentage has been on the rise since 2002 so I think the Nationals will be happy with the player they have gotten.

Austin Kearns is another very find pick-up for the Nationals, with a career wOBA of .395, right about what you want from a corner outfielder. It would probably be higher if not for the Reds jerking their outfielders around for a couple of seasons. Some may be scared off by his strikeouts, but give me strikeouts any day if the player is going to slug around .500 when he gets the at-bats. Especially when the player also has a .200 isolated power percentage.

Bowden gets his Reds players back and the Reds general managers continue to be incompetent.


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