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whether or not you believe preston wilson is a better player than juan encarnacion, the astros clearly got a better deal than the cardinals in the market for make-do outfielders. houston must pay wilson $4m in 2006, after which they can either a) invoke a 3 yr / $24m option, or more likely b) buy the stiff out for half a million bucks and replace him with a better and/or cheaper player. as i said a while back, for players this mediocre, one year of service is much, much more valuable than three. gotta credit the astros for acquiring the stopgap they needed without entangling themselves beyond 2006.

i've already said plenty on this subject and prob'y don't need to say another word about it. . . . .

the pirates also managed to keep their deal with jeromy burnitz to a single year (with a club option), but it's a costly one -- $6.7m, nearly twice what st louis will pay juan'cion in 2006. if anybody can come up with a rationale for why a major-league team would offer jeromy burnitz more than what reggie sanders, juan encarnacion, jacque jones, or preston wilson makes . . . . please don't post it here. please get help. right away.

the burnitz signing appears to have put another outfielder named wilson on the market -- the pirates' craig, who can mash. both pittsburgh papers think he's likely to be dealt, as his natural positions (corner of and 1st base) are now taken by jason bay, burnitz, and sean casey. from the pittsburgh tribune:

Burnitz will play right field for the Pirates, thus making expendable either Craig Wilson or Jody Gerut, the latter of whom avoided arbitration by signing a one-year contract with the club last month.

Considering that Wilson, who earned $3 million during an injury-plagued 2005 season, likely stands to land a salary increase at his arbitration hearing next month, it seems almost certain that the Pirates would try to deal the versatile outfielder/first baseman, who is two seasons removed from hitting 29 homers and driving in 82 runs.

a few people have mentioned wilson's name here in various comments threads, and i can understand why. he has a career obp of .363 and career ops of .851; his career lows in both categories exceed encar'cion's career highs. he also manhandles left-handed pitching -- .988 ops vs them over the last three seasons. wilson does whiff a ton (so what) and is a bad outfielder; he also is set for an arbitration-triggered raise into the $4m-$5m range. but if the pirates would take marquis for him, the salaries would offset and he'd fit.

woulda made a lot more sense if the cards hadn't already spent $15m on a right fielder. and given the team's focus on outfield defense -- which may or may not stem from the new ballpark's generously proportioned lawns -- wilson might never have been considered in any case. at first i doubted that the pirates would make such a trade with a division rival, but it then occurred to me that the pirates' more proximate rivals aren't the cardinals but rather the wild-card-type teams -- houston, philadelphia, san francisco, chicago, the mets. a 200-inning league-avg pitcher might be very attractive to a team like the pirates, who just want to get into that club and play meaningful september games. . . .

i'm not holding my breath, but you never know.

rich and bryan at baseball analysts have a followup to their top 30 free-agents survey, comparing their projected salaries with the actual ones. a few comments of interest:

  • aj burnett: "Burnett turned 29 on Tuesday. His age and career W-L record (49-50) are identical to Chris Carpenter when the latter joined the Cardinals in 2004. Could Burnett put up his best season to date in 2006, followed by a Cy Young Award in 2007?"
  • brian giles: "We would not be surprised if he turns out to be the biggest bargain of this year's free agent class."
  • matt morris: "Not quite as bad of a deal as Washburn, but if we were grading it, Sabean would earn a big, fat `D.'"
  • juan encarnacion: "Who would you rather have, Reggie Sanders for $5 million per for two years or Juan Encarnacion for $5 million per for three years?"
but again -- i've already said plenty on this subject and prob'y don't need to say another word about it. . . . .

finally, a plug: my buddy tim over at mlbtraderumors.com has finished the 1st edition of the roto authority fantasy baseball guide. you can check out a free preview and/or order the book at his site.