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Thought on Marlins Pickup of Villone

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Florida Marlins: Moving towards the trade deadline this past weekend there were a number of tantalizing rumors involving the Florida Marlins. A.J. Burnett was sailing out of town in exchange for a raft of prospects, or perhaps he was being shackled to the two years and $18,000,000 remaining on Mike Lowell's contract. Jose Contreras and Mark Redman were possibly coming in on deals; super-prospects Jeremy Hermida and Jason Vargas were possibly going out. At the end of the day the only player picked up was lefty reliever Ron Villone for minor league hurlers Yorman Bazardo and Mike Flannery.


Some have raised concerns that a prospect of Bazardo's pedigree was shipped out so unceremoniously for what looks a lot like a LOOGY. Luckily for those of us paid to write about these things, the trade is a little more complicated than that.


First, while Bazardo is worth some excitement, he's not exactly a can't miss prospect. For as much heat as he brings, his strikeout rate in Double-A of 6.06 per nine is unimpressive, and his walk rate of 3.0 per nine is positively pedestrian. In his defense, he brings a great fastball, scouts love his stuff, and as Chris Kahrl expertly pointed out, "he did make a clean jump to Double-A by his 21st birthday."


Mike Flannery is even less interesting. In 2005 he has been having a great year in Double-A, but he's 26 and he's looked ugly the two times he was tested at higher levels. So the Marlins sent out, at best, an arm and a half, and in exchange they got Ron Villone. Did they need a Villone? Absolutely.


At press time last night the combined Run Average for right-handed Marlins relievers was 4.46 (while their Fair RA was 4.25). The eight lefties the Marlins have used as relievers combined for a 5.89 RA and a 6.72 Fair RA. If you remove Villone's contributions already this August the lefties combined for an atrocious 6.21 RA and 7.15 Fair RA. Bottom line: the Marlins' pen was struggling mightily from the left side.


Villone may not be the first name that jumps into your head when you think "shutdown reliever," but he's had a fantastic year in 2005 (2.30 ERA, 42 K and 24 BB in 43.0 IP) and his split vs. lefties is fantastic (2005: .545 OPS vs. LHB, 2002-2004: .671). It's no rental, either: Villone is under contract for 2006 at $2,000,000 (with an additional $1,000,000 in incentives if he notches 30 games started), and considering the fact that's he's accumulated 93 starts in the previous six years, he could serve multiply as a swing-man 6th starter, the long man in the pen, or a lefty specialist.


There are three final compliments to pay the Marlins on this move. First, though sending Bazardo out wasn't easy, it was a heck of a lot cheaper than the deals many felt they were going to make at the deadline. They hung onto Hermida, Vargas, Scott Olsen, Jason Stokes, Jeff Allison, and Josh Willingham, all players that surely attracted a lot of attention in negotiations. Second, the team dealt minor league arms, something they have in spades, especially after taking five pitchers in the first 44 overall selections of the 2005 draft. Third, the Marlins got something done. Lots of teams in far more desperate situations couldn't complete the deals they needed. At press time the Marlins had a solid 15.06% chance of making the playoffs, and that can't have been hurt by securing a strong arm for the bullpen.


--Tom Gorman





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