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Good with the bad (cont.)

Posted: Wednesday January 18, 2006 2:03PM; Updated: Wednesday January 18, 2006 6:48PM
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Five Moves I Didn't Like

B.J. Ryan has an unorthodox motion, but he got the job done for the Orioles last season, saving 36 games.
B.J. Ryan has an unorthodox motion, but he got the job done for the Orioles last season, saving 36 games.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

1. Nationals trade three players for second baseman Alfonso Soriano
Bill James once wrote that the most important principle in understanding why some players are underrated while others are overrated is "that specialists are always overrated, while players who do many things well are always underrated." Bobby Abreu, a player who does a variety of things well, is an example of an underrated player. Soriano fits James' definition of an overrated player. What Soriano does well is steal bases and hit for power. Soriano displays flashes of brilliance, but his numbers have shown a downward trend after two years in Texas. His 2005 splits provide all the incriminating evidence needed: .315/.355/.656 with 25 homers and 73 RBIs at home vs. .224/.265/.374 with 11 homers and 31 RBIs on the road.

Once compared with a young Hank Aaron, Soriano has become more like a skinny Dave Kingman with wheels. He's moving from one of the best hitter's parks in the game to one of the worst. I don't like this trade at all for the Nationals. Moreover, Soriano has been vocal about not wanting to change positions. Things could get ugly rather quickly for him, especially with manager Frank Robinson to contend with. Meanwhile, the Rangers get several useful players in return -- outfielders Brad Wilkerson and Terrmel Sledge and minor leaguer Armando Galarraga.

2. Blue Jays sign closer B.J. Ryan to a five-year, $47 million deal
Don't get me wrong, I like Ryan. He's a competitor and his slider is rough and especially difficult on lefties. (Ryan's hurky-jerky mechanics bring Sid Fernandez to mind. They both strike out a lot of batters without throwing that hard.) Granted, teams like the Blue Jays have to be more than generous to land big money players. But in spite of Ryan's talent and the reality of Toronto's circumstances, the dollars and years involved are enough to make you shudder. I feel similarly queasy about the A.J. Burnett signing. It's clear the Jays are shooting for the stars and hoping to break up the stranglehold the Yankees and Red Sox have had on the AL East in recent years. If Ryan and Burnett can stay healthy, Toronto should be in the mix, but those are two expensive "ifs."

3. Padres trade second baseman Mark Loretta to the Red Sox for catcher Doug Mirabelli
This one inspired such widespread head-scratching that you have to wonder if the Padres know something we don't about their former All-Star second baseman. Their official line was that they rid themselves of Loretta to clear room to sign Giles and Trevor Hoffman. But $3.75 million for a player of Loretta's quality is entirely equitable, don't you think? How do you trade a high-caliber starting second baseman for a backup catcher? Even as a straight money dump it isn't practical. The Pads made some good moves, but this one, coupled with the lamentable acquisition of Vinny Castilla, just doesn't add up.

4. Mets trade outfielder Mike Cameron to the Padres for outfielder Xavier Nady
I don't like this one at all from New York's perspective. Saving money played a part in their thinking, but the Mets gave up a plus outfielder for a platoon player. Cameron is going to be a godsend for the Padres defensively, and although he doesn't hit for average, he's got some pop and is more than competent with the bat. By all counts he's also a mensch, as well as a consummate pro in the clubhouse, exactly the kind of cherry-on-the-top guy that winning teams often feature.

5. Cubs sign Scott Eyre; Cardinals sign Braden Looper
To be fair to all you touchy fans from Chicago and St. Louis -- it's hard to believe there's anything of weight beyond the reach of the Yankees and Red Sox, but there you have it -- let's include both Eyre (three years, $11 million) and Looper (three years, $13.5 million) as a package deal. Here we have two essentially replaceable relievers who were paid too much money. Yes, that's what the market bore this offseason. Bobby Howry got a choice contract too -- three years, $12 million. However, neither Looper nor Eyre is as good as Howry -- forget Flash Gordon or Kyle Farnsworth -- yet they almost got paid as much.

Alex Belth is the founder and co-author of Bronx Banter. His biography of Curt Flood, Stepping Up: The Story of All-Star Curt Flood and His Fight for Baseball Players' Rights, is available for pre-order on Amazon.com.