Tuesday, September 07, 2004

More Delgado Thinking

The team Jack mentions that I've seen most often linked to Delgado is the Dodgers, and I think they'll be interested if they can find the money and/or dump Shawn Green in the off-season.

That won't be easy, as I think Green is beginning his decline. He's slumped his way through most of the last two seasons, has seen his OBP and SLG (the components of most of his value, because he's never been a hitter for average -- he's only hit over .300 once, five years ago) erode, and is beginning to struggle against left-handed pitching. Although he has been better in the second half, he's hitting .262/.348/448 on the season, hardly numbers you want to see from your first baseman (where he has gotten 65% of his ABs this year). Why wouldn't the Dodgers be interested in improving at that position? Well, for one thing, Green makes $16.7M this year and a similar amount next year in his contract year. Hee Seop Choi makes close to the minimum, is hitting .198/.319/.302 after the All-Star Break, and only .253/.372/.452 on the season.

The Yankees will have interest, but their profligate spending over the last few years will finally complicate things. However, there is no question about their need at the position.

Whether Jason Giambi is healthy or not going into next season, there is no denying that his numbers began a slow decline in 2002 that began to gather more speed this year. Though still a dangerous hitter, the 2003 version of Giambi was 92 points worse than his peak (2001) in batting average, 65 points off his peak OBP, and 133 points off his peak SLG. That would be reason enough to worry even if he had held steady at that plateau this year . . . but he hasn't. Instead, he's lost another 29 points off his batting average, 53 points off his OBP, and 124 points off his SLG, while seemingly suffering every malady known to man. I think most people realize Tony Clark is done, at least unless he is hitting right-handed pitching (only .243 average, but an .889 OPS). John Olerud has had a moderately successful stint as a Yankee, but you wonder if he has interest in another year in Gotham at a significantly reduced salary. He and Clark don't make an effective platoon, either, since neither man hits left-handed pitching.

It seems to me that the Yankees are in the same boat as the Dodgers: if they could find a taker for even half of Giambi's monster salary ($13.8M next year, $21.8M in 2005, $24.8M in 2006, $21M in 2007, and a $5M buyout of a $22M otherwise owed for 2008), they might be interested. I don't think there will be any takers, and thankfully, even the Yankees have to have some limit to payroll dollars they can commit to aging players, so I agree with Jack that they aren't a likely shopper for Delgado's services.

I don't think the Red Sox, Orioles, or Braves will be players, either. Doug Mientkiewicz is under contract to the BoSox for $3.75M next year (and the club has an option at the same salary for 2006), and undoubtedly doesn't want David Ortiz to become a full-time DH if that means Manny Ramirez has to become a full-time leftfielder. The Orioles got burned with a lot of big signings that didn't result in contention in a tough division, and if they spend much this off-season, I think it will be on pitching. Rafael Palmeiro hasn't had much of a year, but he is probably a better bargain at $4.5M (club option) next year than Delgado would be for twice that. The Braves have been in salary-cutting mode for a couple of years now, and seem unlikely to chase the declining years of a star for near-star money.

The Mets might be a player. Except for some non-insured, deferred money, Mo Vaughn comes off the books after this year, they don't have any other logical candidates (except Mike Piazza, who has more ABs at 1B than catcher this year and seems finally ready to accept the position change), and that division seems as up for grabs as any in baseball. They have the money, and depending on Piazza's health and willingness/ability to become a full-time first baseman, the need.

If everything falls into place, the Mariners might have little competition for Delgado's services. I still think it would be a mistake to sign him, especially if the cost is four years. I wouldn't got there, even if the value of the entire contract is only $25M ($6.25M per). I think the Mariners should indicate interest for one year (or maybe a year and an option/buyout) if there is no competition/market for Delgado's services, then focus on more important priorities and come back to him only if and when he finds nothing better or longer. At some price point, though, despite their salary issues, the Yankees, Mets and Dodgers will consider this. If the Mariners get pushed into anything beyond a couple of years, or much above an average of $7M salary for Delgado, I think they are making a mistake.


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