Thursday, December 31, 2009

Lyon signing ranks among worst of off-season

Dayn Perry's five worst off-season deals makes room for the Astros, with the signing of Brandon Lyon.

To justify giving Lyon three years and $15 million requires a grave misunderstanding of, well, the game of baseball. Lyon, like most unspectacular relievers, has been wildly inconsistent throughout his career. But the Astros, who work daily to distinguish themselves as the worst organization in baseball, seemingly believed in the 2009 version of Lyon. Indeed, last season Lyon posted a 2.86 ERA, but he did so despite some of the weakest peripheral numbers of his career. In other words, he was lucky. The Astros, despite all evidence to the contrary, are gambling that Lyon will continue to be lucky for the next three years. If they're going to throw that much at Lyon, then why wouldn't Ed Wade have just given Jose Valverde, a much better reliever than Lyon, the multi-year deal he sought?



Peanut said...

Lyon did have a very low BABIP last year, thanks in part to the fantastic infield defense behind him (Everett, Inge, Polanco). He'll have another very good defense behind him in 2010, so even though his "luck" should even out--people are far too quick to look at a BABIP number and make a judgment without analyzing past it--I don't think it'll make a terribly large difference in his results. Will he put up the same numbers as last year? No, probably not. But I still think he'll be effective.

Another huge part of the equation that no reporter seems to have paid attention to is Lyon's repertoire. It changed last season--a lot. And it made him more effective. He threw fewer fastballs and curves while adding a slider to the mix. Each pitch was effective for him. I'd wager that the Astros paid more attention to this fact than anything else about his performance when deciding to sign him.

As for the money, well, it is what it is. If Lyon tanks, it's a bad contract but one that won't really hurt the team (much like Kaz's $5 million this season isn't helpful, but it's not one that prohibits any truly necessary signing--I can give my thoughts on the Matsui deal later, but this post is long enough as it is). If Lyon pitches well, it's a bargain.

Another thing to add to the equation is that the Astros' options were quickly becoming fewer. Wade and Co. made their evaluations of the available pitchers, decided that Lyon was better than Fernando Rodney (thank goodness), and paid what it took to snatch him out from the hands of the Phillies.

As for not bringing back Valverde, it's clear that the Astros value their draft picks next year. Gonzalez is a better pitcher than Lyon, but he would have cost a second-round pick. Re-signing Valverde would've resulted in two fewer picks for the Astros. Lyon cost them nothing. Make no mistake: this signing, while for more money than is preferable, is still a step in the right direction. The Astros paid what was necessary to ensure that they got the best available pitcher who wouldn't cost them draft picks. No matter how Lyon performs, his contract won't dominate the payroll.

Sounds like a pretty decent signing to me.

OremLK said...

The part I don't understand about it, Peanut, is why they didn't just offer Hawkins arbitration, or else give him the two years/$7.5 million he wanted. Hawkins is a BETTER reliever than Lyon, by virtually every measure, and the only downside by comparison is that he's older. But so what? He's a bullpen arm. It's not like a position player where if they go down, the alternatives are a massive downgrade in production. We have many good young relievers.

Peanut said...

Only one of Valverde and Hawkins was going to get offered arbitration--had both accepted, the payroll would have been pushed too high. The Astros gambled that Valverde was less likely to accept, and that seems like the right decision.

But I think your point about not re-signing Hawk is a good one. It's possible that the Astros simply don't think he'll be as good over the next two years, but who knows? Another possibility is that they were a little too confident that they could bring him back on their own terms, which led to them getting outbid by the Brewers. That put them in the less desirable position of having to overpay for Lyon, but that mistake won't wind up making the difference for the Astros next season. I don't know which scenario actually happened, but I don't think it'll make a huge difference either way.

The Constable. said...

I like both of your arguments. I think there was some over-confidence from The Apparatus that they could bring LaHawk back. Maybe not just by snapping their fingers, but if you recall in the Winter Meetings, when LaHawk said he was coming to Indianapolis, McTaggart and Ortiz (and most everybody else) thought that he would sign by the end of the day. No one really pointed out that there were 29 other teams looking for deals, too.

The only thing I can think of with the 3-year deal, is that 2012 is around the time the Astros are projected to be competitive again. So instead of spending $15 million on 2010/2011, they traded for Lindstrom on the cheap, who's under control for longer, and got Lyon for that extra year - all for about the same price.

With the Astros, it's always about overall cost.