Last year the Devil Rays posted had only two pitchers with a VORP in double digits. But those pitchers (Scott Kazmir and James Shields) were very good, allowing 47.2 and 45.4 fewer runs than a replacement player. As reference points, Santana came in at 57.7 and Pettitte clocked 36.8.
Matt Garza managed an 11.3 in 15 starts. Given a full season, he could post a VORP in the low 20s.
Here's the thing: Garza is guaranteed to replace a pitcher (or pitchers) who played below replacement last year since only Kazmir, Shields, and Sonnastine (VORP 0.2) posted a positive number among the starters.
Assuming that the Rays front office reads this blog they'll know to ditch JP Howell, Jae Seo, and Casey Fossum (though it's possible they could come up with the idea on their own). That trio combined to pitch 179 innings in 30 starts while allowing more than 13 hits/9 innings. For a negative 50.2 VORP.
Plugging in Garza could be a 70 run gain for the Rays.
Ten runs of VORP roughly translates to one win. The value is actually non-linear, so that moving from 100 wins to 107 is harder than moving from 66 to 73 wins. Which is what the Rays are poised to do.
Meanwhile, the Twins received Delmon Young, a player with a full toolbox who is still learning to use them. He posted a .288/.316/.408 line over nearly 700 PA, a 5.7 VORP
According to Peter Abraham, the Twins plan to use Young in left field. But Jason Kubel played left part of last year (466 PA) and played well (13.5 VORP). Could Kubel play center? Or is the MLB depth chart correct that he'll be limited to full time DH duties?
If the depth chart is right, that pushes Craig Monroe (-15.7 VORP) to the bench. While that's a good thing, I have to call this a loss for the Twins, for now. Until the traded prospects develop (and I don't know much about any of them), the Twins have traded a good pitcher for a mediocre outfielder.
But what have the Rays given up? Simply put, nothing they didn't have in abundance. Where there had been a log-jam for playing time among Young, Baldelli and Gomes in RF and at DH, the Rays can now plug each into whichever position they feel is best (assuming Baldelli can stay healthy).
As I've said, Young's 5.7 VORP came over a full season. Jonny Gomes got only 394 PA and put up a better VORP (7.9). More Gomes is a good thing for the Rays. Maybe not another win, but every little bit helps.
It's not those 7 extra wins that worry me (though they could come from us, they could also come from our competition).
What worries me is this move: it signals that the Rays' front office is done overvaluing their position players. Garza is a decent player. 24 years old next season, his WHIP is high (1.50), but if he can refine his control on that high 90s fastball and continue to improve his curve and change he could be a star.
With David Price on the way, the Rays finally have a decent looking rotation.
We've been saying the Rays needed to turn their bats into arms if they were going to compete in the AL East. They've started to do that- and that's a scary thought.