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A Contract Killing?
2003-12-02 08:53
by Jon Weisman

From Newsday, the whopper of the Dodger offseason:

According to multiple sources, the Yankees have seriously contemplated acquiring righthander Kevin Brown from the Dodgers. In return for Brown, who will turn 39 in March and will make $15 million in each of the next two seasons, the Yankees have offered their beleaguered righthander, Jeff Weaver.

First of all, can I say how stunned I was that Brown has only two years left on his contract with the Dodgers? You might have figured Harry Potter would be in law school before the Brown deal ran its course.

Weaver is owed $15.5 million through 2005, meaning that his contract is almost exactly half the cost of Brown's. Of course, Weaver doesn't appear to be half the pitcher of Brown - a healthy Brown, anyway. He's more like a - 10%.

Still, you have to believe the Dodgers would most certainly make Brown available to anyone, even straight up for Weaver.

They should obviously negotiate for more. Add Nick Johnson to the trade, and it's a slam dunk. For that matter, with all the ridicule the Dodgers got for the picking up Todd Hundley a year ago, acquiring Johnson might be as important for image reasons as talent reasons.

But if it's only Weaver, you set up the T.J. Simers barricades and still make the trade.

Brown is a significant injury risk with a huge salary on a pitching-rich team. Especially with the ownership in transition, they would be eager to add flexibility to the payroll. Moreover, he is the symbol of the misguided excess of the failed Kevin Malone "Bring 'em on" era. If the team can trade the other symbol of the Fox era, Gary Sheffield - which they did fairly easily - they could and should absolutely trade Brown. He is Cisco stock purchased at $80 a share.

Weaver averages fewer than six strikeouts per nine innings, so I'm not betting that he'd turn his career around in Los Angeles. But at age 27, I think one could risk that Weaver is more likely to perform like Omar Daal 2001 than Andy Ashby 2003, or even Hundley 2003.

If you can mine the best from the pitcher, as the Dodgers did with Daal and Terry Adams and Wilson Alvarez, that's gravy. But to lower the payroll by $14.5 million, plus all those round trip plane tickets for Brown's family, that's the meat.

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