Friday, July 28, 2006

As reported by Keith Law at ESPN (and linked to at the BTF), the Rangers have traded for Carlos Lee.

I am not concerned with who "won" this trade, or how it shapes up for the future, or who is best using their budget. My only concern is what effect this has on the AL West race this season.

To that end, the only parts of the trade that matter are the Rangers giving up Kevin Mench and Francisco Cordero for Lee.

First of all, what's the difference between Lee and Mench?

Here are their Batting Runs Above Average for the last few years, as calculated by Clay Davenport at Baseball Prospectus, though I've prorated it to 60 games:
Year   Lee   Mench
2003 4 5
2004 9 4
2005 5 1
2006 11 0
Avg 7 3
Wtd 8 2
(The "Wtd" there is a weighted average, where this season is multipied by four, last season by three, 2004 by two, and 2003 by one, and the total is divided by ten; this gives more importance to the more recent performances).

So based on the past few years, we might expect the offensive difference between Lee and Mench to be around five runs -- half of a win. Of course, if Lee continues to hit as he has this season (it's been his best offensive year thus far), the difference could be as much as one win. And this is a tight division.

How about defense? Chris Dial at BTF converted players' zone ratings to runs prevented at the All Star Break, and he had Mench at -6 runs in right field and Lee as roughly average in left. Last season, he had Mench at +7 in left field and -3 in right, with Lee -4 in left. David Pinto's PMR had them roughly equal in left field last season.

Honestly, I don't think either one of them is a good fielder, though if you stick them in left they can get by. I don't think there's a tremendous difference between them on that count, so I'll say the difference between them for the balance of this year overall projects to be around half-a-win to maybe a win in favor of the Rangers.

Of course, Texas also gave up Francisco Cordero. Cordero has struggled to the tune of a 4.81 ERA this season, but if you look at his game log it's obvious that he has turned things around a bit since an awful beginning to the year, his most recent outing notwithstanding. He's not great, but he makes the Rangers bullpen just a bit shallower. Maybe a few runs, I don't know.

So I don't think Texas has improved themselves immensely; I think the one-half-to-one-win range seems reasonable. Of course, every little bit counts. But will Bill Stoneman see fit to answer?

For a team more in need of pitching than another bat, the Rangers sure must think very little of Cordero anymore. But that aside, Texas still wins this trade by just a hair. I doubt this move alone really shifts the balance of power in the West. Its still a toss up between all three teams at this point (sorry Mariners).
I hope he doesn't answer - he just doesn't need to.

If they can get Tejada without giving up Kendrick, Wood, or a major league starter, that's one thing.

Otherwise they have solved the need for a power hitting OF by playing Rivera every day, and added a productive bat to the IF by playing Howie every day - whether its 2b, 1b, or 3b.
Angels didn't hit a homer in tonight's satisfying win, but the lineup they threw out there certainly does not lack power.
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