Friday, July 28, 2006

Lee To Texas For Cordero And Mensch: Que?

The Milwaukee Brewers traded White Sox castoff Carlos Lee to the Texas Rangers for Francisco Cordero and Kevin Mensch. Some minor leaguers were included, among them Brewers prospect Nelson Cruz, who may help the Rangers down the line.

I see how this helps the Brewers. I don't see at all how this helps the Rangers, who are much closer to a playoff spot than Milwaukee is.

Lee has become a competent left fielder in the time since he left Chicago for Milwaukee, and has always been an excellent hitter. He's on pace for more than 30 homers and more than 100 RBIs. But Mensch is also a competent outfielder, and the Rangers offense improves only marginally by replacing him with Lee. Right now, the Rangers are about average offensively for the American League. Though Lee is more consistent, he'll only add about 30-40 more RBIs and 15-20 more runs. This moves Texas into the slightly above average category, but no higher. Maybe he gets them 2 or 3 more wins.

But what the Rangers give up is even worse. The Rangers play in a hitters park. Though it is large, hitters do quite well in their park and pitchers do quite poorly. Cordero, who was an All Star closer in 2004, throws strikeouts, average over 1 per inning. Not only does that make him an effective reliever -- he's dropped down to the role of righthanded set-up -- it is essential for a team playing in a hitters park. The Houston Astros, who play inside of a shoebox, made it to the world series last year because they had three effective strikeout pitchers in their rotation: Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, and Roy Oswalt. They also had a closer in Brad Lidge who threw 103 strikeouts in 70 innings.

Without strikeouts, the Rangers can't win. They just gave up 35-40 strikeouts. Put another way, there will be 35-40 innings over the coruse of the rest of the season where the ball will go into play, and they will have to field the ball successfully to get one of the three outs. In a park like Arlington, I don't like their chances.

How they'll fill the hole they just made in their pitching staff, I don't know.

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