Thursday, December 08, 2005

Red Sox Get Mark Loretta

The Red Sox traded back-up catcher Doug Mirabelli to the Padres for second baseman Mark Loretta. Here are my observations on this trade:

1. This was mainly a money move on the part of the Padres. They need a catcher and they needed the cash to re-sign closer Trevor Hoffman. That's why they did this deal. Loretta will make $3.75 million in 2006 vs Mirabelli's $1.5 million. It was no coincidence that the re-signing of Trevor Hoffman was announced almost simultaneously with this deal. The Padres hope that low-paid rookie Josh Barfield will be able to take Loretta's second base spot.

2. I found it interesting that the Red Sox kept Tim Wakefield in the loop as far as this trade is concerned. That's commendable. It also shows that they were aware of the extreme splits in ERA Wakefield had last year when Mirabelli caught vs. when Varitek caught him. I hope Kelly Shoppach spends as much time as possible practicing catching knuckleballs. Wakefield's knuckler is so good that I could see it destroying any confidence Stoppach has in his defensive abilities. The Red Sox may pick up a veteran back-up just to catch Wakefield.

3. Doug Mirabelli is a good player. The plan is probably to platoon Mirabelli with Miguel Olivo with Mirabelli playing against righties (career .698 OPS vs. a .889 OPS against lefties) and Olivo against lefties (.910 career OPS vs. lefties but just .569 against righties) . The Padres are praying that Ramon Hernandez doesn't accept arbitration. They dearly want to tell him to kiss off at this point. The Padre fans should also know they are getting a truly good guy in Mirabelli. If Hernandez acted sour or bitter in his time in San Diego - Mirabelli will be sunny and funny and an instant favorite with fans, sportswriters and radio guys.

4. Mark Loretta was a big fan favorite in San Diego and a top player. People point to 2004 (and it was a great year) but Loretta also has a career .301 batting average in 11-seasons. He only spent two seasons in San Diego but he made a big impact on the fans with his demeanor and professionalism. I happened to be in Los Angeles yesterday and I was listening to San Diego sports radio. The radio guys were both saying that Loretta was the only thing in the world that could turn them into Red Sox fans. And the folks who sponsor Loretta's page (I'm assuming they're Padres fans) are already wishing him luck in Boston.

5. In a strange way - they Red Sox actually saved cash in this deal. Sure Mirabelli was only to be paid $1.5 million against Loretta's $3.75 million but the Red Sox opening day 2nd baseman, Mark Bellhorn, made $2.75 million. Thus the opening day back-up catcher / second baseman combo will cost less in 2006 than in 2005. Plus (and this is the big plus) - the rumors are Dustin Pedroia moving to short (with Alex Cora the back-up) and Edgar Renteria and his $10 million salary heading out of town.

6. Tom Verducci says this trade will be hard to top as the worst trade of the winter (from the Padres point of view). How quickly people forget the Vinnie Castilla trade (maybe Verducci considers that a "late fall" trade?). I do agree that this is another trade that makes Kevin Towers look like a dunce. Basically he had to trade one of the most popular players on the team because Towers made bad moves. Loretta had to be traded because Towers handed out no-trade clauses like candy and now Ryan Klesko and his $10 million contract and Matt Stairs prouction refuse to be traded away from the beach. Towers is the guy who traded FOR Chan Ho Park and his $13 million 2006 contract when Park was radioactive to everyone else. This trade may be bad from the Padres perspective but its not even in the top 10 of bad moves by Kevin Towers.

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