Padres, Nationals kick off the Hot Stove action

So I’m a little late on this one, but I thought I would take a look at last week’s Vinny Castilla-for-Brian Lawrence swap that Jim Bowden and Kevin Towers pulled off last week.
Castilla heads west from Washington to make room for the Nats’ third baseman of the future, Ryan Zimmerman. In exchange, the Nats received the 29-year-old right hander whose never really lived up to the expectations that he would be a decent number three starter.
No matter how you spin it, this is a highly questionable move for the Padres. They’re giving up a 29-year-old arm in exchange for a 38-year-old third baseman whose owed over $3 million next year. On the other hand is Lawrence who is owed $3.5 million in 2006. Monetarily, this is a wash. But what about player value?
The Padres have a hole at third that needs filling. Joe Randa won’t be back and the Sean Burroughs experiment is about over. So they went out and landed Castilla who is just one season removed from a 35 HR, 131 RBI season…in Colorado. Castilla has long enjoyed a reputation built on Coors Field. Looking at his 2004 splits, however, gives us a better indication of Castilla. Two seasons ago, he hit .321/.379/.575 at home and just .218/.281/.493 on the road. While he hit more home runs on the road than at home, he had 17 more doubles at home than on the road. Clearly, he liked hitting in Coors, and as Coors in 2004 had a Park Factor of 120 for hitters, who didn’t?
Last year, in RFK Stadium, Castilla’s numbers thumped back to Earth.He hit .254/.311/.453 in a park with a Park Factor (as calculated on Baseball Reference of 93 for hitters.
So this aging, oft-injured third baseman is moving across the country to a park with a Park Factor of 90. He’s actually managed to land in a worse park for a player of his ilk than the vast reaches of RFK Stadium.
If Castilla, an aging third baseman, reaches his 2004 levels of 583 at-bats (doubtful), what should we expect from him? Well, first I took at look at his comparable hitters, according to Baseball Reference. On average, sluggers putting up similar career numbers to Castilla witnessed about a 33% decline in AB/HR. In 2004, Castilla hit one home run around every 41 at-bats. Pro-rated to 583 at-bats, that’s 14 home runs. So playing in RFK, Castilla, in 583 at-bats at age 38, could have been expected to hit around 11 home runs.
But Castilla’s playing in a stadium even less friendly to home run hitters than RFK. While the difference is fairly small, it’s probably good for a home run or two off of Castilla’s totals. He’ll be playing more games in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Arizona, all pitcher-friendly stadiums. So give him maybe 9 or 10 home runs next season in a less-than-impressive Padres lineup that won’t offer him any more protection than the Nats would have.
His other stats will decline too. His robust .253/.319/.403 line will look a little worse this time next year. Do the Padres really expect this though? Not so much, according to GM Kevin Towers.
Towers was quoted last week as saying the following: “Vinny has a little more proven track record for power and RBI. He’s a middle-of-the-lineup-type hitter, and defensively he’s one of the best. Plus, he’s going to give us leadership.” Clearly, Towers hasn’t done his home work. Vinny was a middle-of-the-lineup type hitter in Colorado. He hasn’t show the propensity to succeed in vast pitcher’s parks and at a frail age 38, he’s not likely to rediscover the touch that had him blasting a non-Coors Field career high of 25 dingers in 2001 with Tampa Bay and Houston. The Padres are in for disappointment.
Meanwhile, the Nats get a back end starter with poor (and declining) peripherals. Lawrence pitched to a line of 5.01 K/9 IP, 1.91 K/BB and a line of .273/.329/.420. Yet, for the Nats, it doesn’t matter. They unloaded a player they deemed unnecessary to pave the way for a young prospect. They landed a pitcher who just needs to give them innings as he’s done every year for the Padres and keep them in the game. Lawrence should do that for them.
So the ever-active Bowden lands another player who may or may not turn out to be the next John Patterson while Kevin Towers optimistically lands a 38 year old with a cranky back who can’t hit for power at sea level. Score one for the Nats.

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One Response to Padres, Nationals kick off the Hot Stove action

  1. Rob Bonter says:

    Ed Wade would be proud of Towers for his short-sightedness and stupidity. Ed didn’t like standing alone in those areas. But Towers still has a way to go to match the modern era ineptitude king – like demolishing the upper level of an MLB farm system.

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