Hot Stove Analysis: Mets, Fish Change NL East

Mets GM Omar Minaya has been busy (Photo: Teale)

The New York Mets continue to restructure their roster while the Marlins continue to dismantle theirs. Will Ned Colletti's first signing be fruitful in LA? InsidethePark.com's Ian Levin takes us inside the deals.

The Deal:
The Los Angeles Dodgers sign shortstop Rafael Furcal to a three-year, $39 million contract.

Inside the Deal:
New General Manager Ned Colletti needed to find a way to make a splash and he turned to the 27-year-old Rafael Furcal to do just that. Furcal is one of the best defensive shortstops in the game with excellent range and instincts and owns possibly the best shortstop arm in the game.

At the plate, Furcal brings a wide variety of skills. Throughout his career he has been used as a leadoff hitter and his .348 on-base percentage is a decent mark. He typically will hit about 10 home runs per year while stealing around 30 bases. Combining his spectacular defense with his solid offensive output, the switch hitter is one of the best shortstops around.

Why it Works:
Furcal was a great fit for the Dodgers. This solves their problem for an offensive shortstop and a leadoff hitter. The price, however, is a little steep. At $13 million per year, Furcal will be far from a good value. The three years is beneficial to both sides as it allows the Dodgers to get out before his age starts to catch up to him and will allow Furcal to get another long-term deal.

Score: 65 present, 65 future
The Deal:
The New York Mets acquire catcher Paul Lo Duca from the Florida Marlins for two minor leaguers – pitcher Gabriel Hernandez and outfielder Dante Brinkley.

Inside the Deal:
Omar Minaya wasn't lying when he said there would be more moves coming. This move, however, wasn't exactly what was expected. All the talk had them inking either Bengie Molina or Ramon Hernandez, but Minaya went another route, picking up Lo Duca and curbing the payroll hit.

Lo Duca made a name for himself in 2001 when he hit .320 with 25 homers. Although his power has never come close to matching his career year, he has typically hit for a decent average. The Mets view Lo Duca as a No. 2 hitter and perhaps that's the reason they chose him over a free agent.

The Marlins have taken another step closer to cornering the market on prospects. Gaby Hernandez projects as at least a number three starter, thanks to his lively low-90s fastball and plus changeup. Brinkley dominated Low-A but doesn't project as a regular. Hernandez is the key to this deal and makes the trade excellent for the Fish.

Why it Works:
Two out of three ain't bad. The Mets have made two excellent acquisitions so far this off-season but this has to be chalked up as a misstep. They could have spent a little more and signed either Molina or Hernandez, both of whom will likely outperform Lo Duca in 2006. Also, signing a free agent would have saved them a valuable prospect in Hernandez, who could have been used at the deadline to acquire a needed talent for the pennant drive.

Score:
Mets:
30 present, 25 future
Marlins: 50 present, 70 future
The Deal:
The Toronto Blue Jays sign pitcher A.J. Burnett to a five-year, $55 million contract.

Inside the Deal:
The Jays needed to find a way to compete in the ultra-competitive AL East and they knew that B.J. Ryan wouldn't be enough. They pulled out all the stops and threw the money towards Burnett and landed the biggest fish of the off-season.

The right-hander has some of the best pure stuff in the league. He can dial his fastball up to 98 and can back that up with a killer hook. He already has a no-hitter on his resume and is always a threat to throw another.

The problem with Burnett has been and will be his injury problems. He has already had Tommy John surgery so that may no longer be a problem, but he has had only two seasons in which he has thrown at least 200 innings and some question whether he can do it again. His mechanics need refining and have led to command issues to go along with the durability concerns.

Why it Works:
The Blue Jays had to make a move. They are far behind the Sox and the Yanks and this is a big step toward closing the gap. With Burnett and ace, Roy Halladay, they now have the best rotation in the East and can make a push for the crown - with a little luck.

Score: 70 present, 65 future
The Deal:
The Chicago Cubs acquire center fielder Juan Pierre from the Florida Marlins for pitcher Sergio Mitre and two minor-leaguers – pitchers Renyel Pinto and Ricky Nolasco.

Inside the Deal:
The fire sale is complete. The Marlins have now moved every player of value on their roster other than Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. For Pierre, however, they got the worst haul of all their deals. Pierre is coming off a down year but it is more likely the exception rather than the rule. The Cubs pick up an adequate center fielder and a solid leadoff hitter in Pierre, something they desperately needed.

Mitre has had some major league experience, posting a career ERA of 6.12. He is still just 25 years old and has some potential as a back-of-the-rotation starter. Pinto's stock has fallen quite a bit but can still help a team down the road. Nolasco dominated Double-A at 22 years old and has the stuff to be a number three or four starter. He could be the best piece in this deal for the Marlins.

Why it Works:
The Cubs desperately needed a leadoff hitter and a center fielder and Pierre gives them both. They were able to pick him up without giving up a ton of talent. The Marlins got a decent haul but they likely would have been able to do better somewhere else with a little patience.

Score: Cubs: 70 present, 65 future
Marlins: 40 present, 55 future
The Deal:
The Washington Nationals acquire second baseman Alfonso Soriano from the Texas Rangers for outfielders Brad Wilkerson, Terrmel Sledge, and a player to be named later.

Inside the Deal:
Soriano is one of the biggest threats at the plate among middle infielders. He has lightning-quick wrists which allow him to turn on even the best fastball. He is a threat to go deep whenever he is at the plate and steal a base whenever he desires. He strikes out his fair share of times and does not walk much but the power and speed can not be overlooked.

It took some time for Brad Wilkerson to get going but once he did, he hit the ground running. In his first full season in the majors, he hit .266/.370/.469 with 20 home runs. He had a huge 2004, hitting 32 homers and 39 doubles. However, his power took a big step back in 2005. All of his peripherals remained consistent but his home run output dropped to just 11. Still, Wilkerson is a solid offensive player and can play any outfield position as well as first base.

Why it Works:
The motivation behind the deal for the Nationals is questionable. Soriano insists he won't move off of second base, where he is one of the worst defenders in the league, and the Nationals have former All-Star Jose Vidro manning the position. Wilkerson gives the Rangers flexibility as he can play wherever they need him most. This deal works for the Rangers much more than the Nats.

Score: Nationals: 35 present, 30 future
Rangers: 55 present, 55 future
The Deal:
The Atlanta Braves acquire shortstop Edgar Renteria and cash from the Boston Red Sox for third baseman Andy Marte.

Inside the Deal:
Edgar Renteria was once one of the best shortstops in the game. He could hit some homers, steal some bases, and play solid defense. However, he is no longer the same player he used to be. His power has evaporated, he isn't stealing bases, and his average has dropped. His career as an impact player appears to be over.

Andy Marte is one of the best young players in the game. At 21 years old, he had a very solid season at Triple-A, posting excellent K/BB rates and showing great pop. He is one of the best offensive prospects in the game and can more than handle his own defensively at the hot corner.

Why it Works:
This trade doesn't make any sense for the Braves. If they were forced to play Marte at shortstop, he'd out-hit and possibly play better defense than Renteria in 2006. As if that weren't enough, Marte will make about $8 million less. The money Boston is paying Atlanta to take Renteria is well worth it to get a talent like Andy Marte.

Score: Braves: 30 present, 20 future
Red Sox: 65 present, 80 future

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