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following up a few threads from yesterday:

junior spivey: he got his first hit yesterday and didn't strike out in five at-bats, but both matt leach and derrick goold write today that spivey's struggles, combined with a strong early showing by hector luna, have turned 2b into a wide-open race. spivey's track record probably still gives him the benefit of the doubt (as it should), and he's still drawing most of the starts at 2b -- 4 so far, vs. 2 for luna and 1 for miles -- but it sounds as if he better string a few singles together, just to make sure.

victor diaz: i checked his temporal splits and saw something i didn't like. young players often mash the ball their first time around the league, then go ice cold as the league figures them out (see bo hart and, to a lesser extent, john rodriguez). that didn't happen to diaz -- not entirely; he had an .804 ops before the all-star break, .787 after it. but look at his walk-strikeout ratio:

bb so avg obp slg
1st half
(124 at-bats)
24 36 .242 .369 .435
2d half
(156 at-bats)
6 46 .269 .293 .494

what happened here? it looks like the pitchers figured diaz out, and he failed to adjust. that may be what happened -- but there might be another explanation. after showing such great discipline early on, diaz got hurt on june 30 and spent the entire month of july and the first half of august on the dl; don't know what ailed him (anybody?). in his first game back, on august 12, diaz went 3 for 4 with 2 home runs, after which -- perhaps mistaking himself for babe ruth -- he apparently spent the rest of the season swinging at ev'ything, from his heels. typical rookie thing; happens all the time. so i'm gonna interpret the fearful bb-k numbers as evidence of a young player's immaturity -- ie, something he can grow or be coached out of -- rather than exposure of a fatal hole in his swing. it's not as if the pitchers dominated him, after all; he did slug nearly .500 for the half.

for fun i used pinto's lineup toy to gauge the impact a diaz acquisition might have, slotting victor into the #7 hole behind encarnacion (with spivey 2d). result: no change; the lineup projects to 5.0 runs a game, same as if bigbie plays. of course, the toy doesn't account for marginal effects like platoon splits and bench strength; if you could factor those in, you might see a few runs' advantage.

but diaz's main appeal isn't his ability upgrade the current-year roster; it's his ability to provide payroll relief moving forward -- ie to be a solid regular or semi-regular for a few seasons while playing for six figures. if you have him, maybe you can then offload encarnacion's salary next winter -- which, in turn, makes it easier to pick up edmonds' option.

it's not a strong rumor and prob'y won't go anywhere, but i do think a marquis-for-diaz deal (if offered) would be well worth the cardinals' consideration.

miguel cabrera: leave aside the question of whether the cardinals have really, truly begun looking into a trade for cabrera. let's examine the broader premise: are the marlins really shopping him for payroll reasons? a lot of people can't believe it. he's not even arb-eligible yet; his 2006 salary will be just $472K. but he will be arb-eligible this winter, and that's why the marlins are concerned: they don't want to be on the hook for the whopping raise he is certain to get. flash back to 2004, when a similarly precocious superstar -- albert pujols, cabrera's #9 comp at Baseball Reference -- got his first arbitration-eligible contract. he made $7 million in his first arb-eligible year -- and his salary was only that low because albert was in the first year of a 7-year backloaded deal. the following year another young star, adam dunn, made $4.6 million in his first arb-eligible deal; cabrera's a better player and will make more than that, and he's nearly as good as albert and will have four years of salary inflation to drive up his price.

now carry this forward: cabrera gets raised to, say, $8m in 2007; then $10m in 2008 and god knows how much in 2009. (another benchmark -- alfonso soriano is making $10m this season in his last arb-eligible year; cabrera is a better player and will have three years of salary inflation before he reaches that point, so he should be worth $10 million plus you name it.) now: does anybody think the marlins will be back in contention as soon as 2009? fat chance. by the time they're ready to contend again cabrera will be a free agent; hence he is of absolutely no use to them. it makes total sense for them to dump him now and get back some players who will still be affordable by the time florida cycles back into contention. it would be more surprising to see the marlins keep him than trade him.

but then -- wouldn't the same logic apply to dontrelle willis? he signed his first arb-eligible deal this year for $4.6 million, but it's an unusual contract -- the base salary plus bonus equals only $2.9 million, and the rest is either deferred money or incentive bonuses. that will enable the marlins to afford dontrelle for this season; if they can structure a similar deal next off-season, maybe they can still afford him for 2007. but they obviously will want to dump him before the deferred payments come due, and i don't know when that is. in any case, willis -- like cabrera -- will be a free agent long before the marlins get themselves back into contention. he's of no use to them. so fast-forward to midseason: if the cards offered, say, reyes mccormick and haerther for dontrelle . . . wouldn't florida at least have to listen? they just dumped another arb-eligible pitcher, josh beckett -- whose contract is similar in total value to dontrelle's, ~$4.5m -- to boston for a comparable package of prospects. maybe they'd insist on colby rasmus; if so i still think it'd be worth it. by adding dontrelle to carpenter, the cards would have the thing that has beaten them all these years -- the 2-headed monster at the top of the rotation, the schilling-johnson, schilling-pedro, clemens-oswalt type of pairing. with both pitchers locked up through 2008, the cardinals wouldn't have to fear any postseason foe for sev'l years; on the contrary, they would be the feared ones.

ah, sweet daydreams -- just what springtime is made for.