Torres Gets Extension

In addition to the roster moves discussed in the post below, the Pirates also sent Terry Adams and C.J. Nitkowski to the minors. But, more importantly, they will sign Salomon Torres to a two-year extension for $6.5 million that carries him through the 2008 season.

As a baseball move, this is dumb. It's dumb, first, because Torres was already signed through 2006, is well into his 30s, and has had only one season in his career (2004) in which he could be described as an elite reliever. He didn't strike out many batters last year, even during his excellent second half, which suggests that in 2006 he's unlikely to approach the 2.76 ERA he recorded in 2005.

Second, it's dumb because even at his best, Torres is a role player, and the Pirates aren't in a position to commit money in 2008 to a guy who won't be a core player in the best of circumstances.

Third, it's dumb because reliever performance is highly variable. The Bucs obviously didn't heed the advice in the Yankees chapter of Baseball Prospectus 2006. In that chapter, the BP authors show that nearly all of the best relievers in 2000-2002 suffered a dramatic decline in performance between 2000-2002 and 2003-2005. They also showed that many of the top relievers in any given year tend to have their places at the top taken by other relievers in the next year. The point of all this is that you shouldn't make expensive commitments to any but the very best relievers because good relievers aren't likely to stay that way, and because good relievers come out of nowhere all the time. This is true even for the Yankees, who have lots of money and contend every year. It's doubly true for the Pirates, who don't have money and aren't contending.

Then consider, again, that Torres is 34. If relatively young men like 2000-2002-era Octavio Dotel, Keith Foulke, Armando Benitez, Steve Kline and Byung-Hyun Kim all took big steps backward in 2003-2005, what are we to expect from a much older guy like Salomon Torres, keeping in mind that this deal carries him three years into the future? This contract is very, very likely to be a minor albatross by the time it's over.

As recently as this offseason, the few fans left willing to defend Dave Littlefield often did so on the grounds that at least he wasn't messing up the team with long-term contracts. With the Jack Wilson and Torres contracts, that's no longer the case. And if $6.5 million doesn't seem like a big deal to you, consider that the Pirates traded Aramis Ramirez for nothing in order to get out from under his 2004 $6 million salary. The Torres contract can seriously hurt the Pirates in the future.

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