Hyzd(u) and Neal

Kind of a sad attempt at trying to get the title to sound like “Hide and Seek”. Oh well.
So, assuming you haven’t been under a rock (okay, so since the trade didn’t garner many ripples, more like under a paper) you know that Adam Hyzdu (thank god he’s gone, I kept spelling his name ‘Hydzu’) was traded to the San Diego Padres to be “experienced insurance at Triple-A” in the words of San Diego GM Kevin Towers.
The Padres have now gotten ripped on two straight deals by the Boston Red Sox. First, there was the ridiculously slanted to Boston deal of Dave Roberts for Jay Payton, Ramon Vazquez, David Pauley, and $2.25 million. And now they get “Experienced Insurance At Triple-A” for Blaine Neal, who is going to become our best middle reliever by the end of the year and is a mere 26 years old, although will turn 27 shortly. The dude had a 1.86 ERA for Triple-A Portland and was called up to San Diego where he then finished with a nice little 4.07 ERA. Not withstanding the fact that that 4.07 ERA (40 games, 42.0 IP) is better than Mike Timlin, his ERA was 2.70 until four bad outings in September, shooting it to 4.70 and Neal just ran out of time to get it under 4.00. Not even that, but he struggled initially in his call-up, so that 4.07 ERA is even better.

Neal spent the first two months at Triple-A, then struggled when he was called up to the parent club in June. His season turned for the better in July, and for the next two months he pitched extremely well. He faded badly starting September, but rebounded with four scoreless innings in his final three outings. (Fox Sports)

Here’s what Rotoworld had to say about the trade.

Theo Epstein is getting the better of former boss Kevin Towers again, although this benefits San Diego a little more than losing Neal on waivers would have. The Padres clearly were leaning toward not keeping Neal as their final reliever. They may go with Steve Sparks or Randy Williams. Neal would probably be Byung-Hyun Kim’s replacement should the Red Sox make another trade. Once viewed as a potential closer by the Marlins, Neal still has the stuff to be an average or above average reliever. He threw well for the Padres last year until some problems in September. (Rotoworld)

In addition, Neal throws about 94-95 and was once thought to be a future closer. He still could, but right now I’d call him a Matt Mantei in waiting to be a great set-up man if he ever matures. His slider is his secondary pitch, and his main problem is that he doesn’t utilize the strike zone enough as he stays around the middle-thigh and belt. If he can expand it to above the belt and down to the knees (Jason Varitek, I’m looking at you) then his stuff is filthy.
Bottom line: Great trade.
BASEBALL PROSPECTUS LOVES THE SAWX
Yes, they sure do. In the AL East Preview they say some sweet stuff. How sweet? Well, certainly not as sweet as a Cadbury Creme Egg, but:

The Yankees’ run prevention took a big step backwards last year, as they gave up more than 800 tallies for the first time since 2000. They could well repeat that feat in 2005, and will certainly not be much below that figure. They’re more reliant on their defense, not less, and the Yankees defense is just not good. I project them to allow 805 runs, which combined with the fall-off in offense, would mean they’d struggle to get much past 90 wins.
That should leave the division wide open for the Red Sox. The World Champions avoided the trap of becoming too attached to the players who’d won them a title, save for an overly generous contract handed out to Jason Varitek. Given the options available had they lost their backstop, however, the short-term benefit of having him may end up being worth paying through the nose for his decline.
The 2004 Red Sox had one of the deepest rosters in recent memory, and the 2005 team will be much the same. In stark contrast to the Yankees, the Red Sox have good players who can contribute all over their bench, no players within hailing distance of replacement level in their lineup, and relative bargains in the rotation. The manner in which they’ve stocked the roster, top to bottom, is a huge credit to the organization.

Wade Miller’s inability to open the season means that a bad idea involving Bronson Arroyo–the Sox third-best starter last year–won’t be implemented. He’ll open the year in the rotation and deserves to stay there all season. He could make the All-Star team and put up an ERA in the low 3.00s for the season. I expect him to be one of the ten best starters in what is suddenly a pitching-thin league.

Finally, someone else sees the potential here that Arroyo has. I just read that Wade Miller is ahead in his rehab schedule and might make 28 starts this year:

Back on March 9, Wade Miller conceded he’ll miss at least one month of the season, to give his rotator cuff sufficient time to mend, and “hopefully come back for the last five months.”
Yesterday, he said, “Hopefully, I’ll be back before then. The way I’ve been feeling the last few bullpens, I haven’t had any setbacks, and I’ve been letting the ball go. The biggest thing was the fastball. I’ve been throwing it where I want to.”
Miller intends to throw in a minor league game before the Sox break camp, which is a week from tomorrow. He then plans to travel with the team rather than stay in extended spring training so he can remain under the watch of assistant trainer Chris Correnti.
“Then a rehab assignment, about the time their games begin,” Miller said.
That accelerated timetable could allow Miller to make approximately 28 starts. Privately, the Sox have hoped for half a season out of Miller, considering anything more a bonus. (Boston Globe)

So if Wade Miller makes 28 starts, that means he misses 4-5, as most starting pitchers make 32-33 starts. That mean Bronson Arroyo needs to have a HUGE April to ensure he keeps his spot. If Wakefield is his normal self (by the way, he starts the Red Sox Opening Day on April 11th, great honor and well deserved – and Curt Schilling went to Tito with a tentative plan for when he could return, and surprise, he wanted to come back the 11th. Francona nixed that idea for now.) and puts up a, say, 4.50 ERA and Arroyo puts up what he has so far in spring training (2.87 ERA) maybe we can finally see Arroyo get the respect he deserves to stay in the rotation.
Back to Baseball Prospectus:

The Red Sox were better than the Yankees last year, and they’re better than them this year. They’ll win the division, likely without much drama.

Ooh, handily winning the division title? That would perhaps be sweeter than a Cadbury Creme Egg.