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Baseball Told the Right WayIn-depth Baseball analysis on various topics regarding the sport we all love!
Because everyone has an opinion.......
The summer trading season has begun, and it has already produced more excitement than any in recent years. You can thank the Phillies, by the way. In 2002, when they waited until the trading deadline to swing a deal for Scott Rolen the price dropped considerably, and they only got back Placido Polanco and Bud Smith (and two months of Mike Timlin) for the second best (and best healthy) third baseman in the league.
Teams have started to realize that the extra month makes a huge difference, and are prepared to give up more if deals happen in June instead of the end of July. As a result, we have already seen three pretty substantial trades.
The Best Pitcher Available??
I'm not sure if he is the best, but Freddy Garcia is certainly the most talented pitcher available on the trade market. On Sunday, the Mariners traded Garcia and catcher Ben Davis to the White Sox for catcher Miguel Olivo, OF prospect Jeremy Reed, and non-prospect SS Mike Morse.
Considering there was a lot of talk of the White Sox going after Russ Ortiz, this one came as a little bit of a surprise. The White Sox have a very good lineup, but a weak rotation. This move addresses that. The only question is: did the White Sox give up too much?
All deals of this type can change dramatically down the road, depending on how the prospects turn out. This one is a little different. Miguel Olivo (right) is a very valuable player, a cheap catcher with great D, who can hit. Something that Ben "replacable" Davis is not.
The White Sox don’t need Olivo's bat in the lineup. Fine, trade him. What's not fine is that Jeremy Reed (left) was included in the deal. Can everybody go back and look at what 23 year old Jeremy Reed has done to professional pitchers so far in his career. He was only hitting .275/.357/.420 in 276 AAA at-bats so far this year, so maybe Kenny Williams got nervous. Even with his so-so start this year, his career minor league numbers are .332/.409/.483. He's only 23 and already holding his own in AAA, so you shouldn't need Baseball Prospectus (they ranked him #2 in MLB, despite his reliance on high average) to tell you that Jeremy Reed is a big-time prospect.
Freddy Garcia is a free agent after this year. The only way this deal makes sense for the White Sox is if they can re-sign Garcia and he is the Garcia of 2001, not the Garcia of 2002 & 2003 who gave up 61 home runs pitching half his games at Safeco Field. Otherwise the White Sox just packaged a very good (and cheap) catcher with one of the better prospects in baseball for three months of Freddy Garcia, who now pitches in one of the better home run parks in baseball.
I know people love ripping on Kenny Williams. I don’t love it. I can't help it so I do anyways. There is absolutely no way that Miguel Olivo and Jeremy Reed are worth three months of Freddy Garcia. Williams only looks good in this deal if he re-signs an effective Garcia, and Jeremy Reed "only" turns into a .300/.360/.450 type outfielder. Otherwise Seattle just raped the White Sox.
The Best Hitter Available
Notice, no question marks. Carlos Beltran was the prize of this years trade class. He very likely is one of the top ten or twenty players in all of baseball. Regardless of how good you think he is, its rare that a player of his caliber gets traded. The Rolen trade maybe doesn't even stack up, you probably have to go back to the Randy Johnson deal of 1998. (Coincidentally, involving Houston and Freddy Garcia)
Regardless, in a three team deal, the Astros sent Octavio Dotel to the A's and minor league catcher John Buck to the Royals. The A's sent minor league 3B Mark Teahen and minor league P Mike Wood to the Royals in exchange for Dotel. The Royals shipped off Beltran for the three prospects. How did they all fare?
It was no secret the Royals were going to trade Beltran. They couldn’t afford to re-sign him and besides, they have David DeJesus, a decent replacement. All that was up in the air was the prospect package it would take to get him. The Royals reportedly asked everyone for help at catcher, third base, and pitching. That is exactly what they got in Buck, Teahen, and Wood.
John Buck is a good hitting catcher, surprisingly hard to find. How good? He's been up and down so it's pretty hard to say. Buck hit .275/.345/.483 in A-ball in 2001. The next year he hit .263/.314/.422 in AA, before fighting injuries and struggling last year in AAA. A catcher with 20+ HR potential will always be a prospect, and Buck is no different. I'm not going to try and make a guess at what he will become, but he could be a very good catcher one day. He also could never adjust to the higher levels and be a backup at best.
Mark Teahen is a decent third base prospect. He can hit, but he hasn't yet shown any power. His power may develop, but he doesn't really look like a star. He certainly could be a solid big-leauge starter though. Joe Randa anybody? He actually could have a career similar to Randa's and make a pretty adequate replacement.
Mike Wood is one of those guys who could surprise people, but also could end up as a quadruple-A player. He has put up three consecutive very good minor league seasons at A, AA, and AAA, yet he's a guy scouts won't rave about. Wood has mediocre stuff but has proven he can pitch. He is probablly the wild card in the deal and could end up anywhere from a right-handed Tom Glavine to John Halama, with the Halama-scenerio being more likely.
So three B-level prospects for Carlos Beltran. Is this what you guys would have asked for? I think I would have asked for at least one A-level prospect (ahem, Jeremy Reed?), although it might have been hard considering it was pretty much assumed Beltran wouldn’t sign an extension. Considering the circumstances, the Royals did o.k. They got three decent prospects, and possibly three decent major leaguers. It's pretty likely that at least one of the three puts together a solid career, in which case the deal is at least defensible. Overall, decent job by the Royals.
It's clear the A's need help in the 'pen. It's also clear that Octavio Dotel embodies "help in the 'pen". Probablly one of the five most dominant relievers in the game, he will do fine stepping into the gaping hole left after Keith Foulke took the money in Boston.
The A's gave up the afore-mentioned Teahen and Wood. Considering they just locked up Eric Chavez for the next six years, and the A's might be the only team in MLB with too much starting pitching, they really only gave up some redundant parts to fill a desperate need. Pretty decent move overall, with the very outside chance that Wood or Teahen turn into a star and makes it look bad in hindsight.
I already voiced my over-bearing opinion on the Hidalgo for Weathers swap. To properly look at either that deal or this Beltran deal, we need to consider the end result. I said previously that the Hidalgo deal made sense for three reasons: 1.) The Astros save money. 2.) They lose a guy Jimy doesn't like and is reported to be not liked by the team. 3.) They have a more-than-adequate replacement in Jason Lane.
With that in mind, the Astros are using the saved money to help pay for Beltran. Good. They still lose a guy they don’t like. I don’t see the value, but, unchanged. The problem is that by bringing in Beltran and re-re-re-re-blocking Jason Lane, they are taking away most of the reason the Hidalgo deal made sense.
Aside from that, the difference between Beltran and Hidalgo is enough to make the two deals, in conjunction, a win for the Astros. You never really know what you are getting out of the streaky Hidalgo, and recently is has been pretty bad (he was hitting .202 in May and .179 in June). Beltran is a better hitter than non-2000 Hidalgo, and we don’t have to even include his defense or baserunning before we realize its definitely an upgrade.
This also shifts Craig Biggio (right), who was killing this team in center, to left (Berkman to right). The upgrade in CF defense should not be underestimated, although we can stop referring to Beltran as a "gold-glover" until he actually proves he is any more than a sportswriters stereotype for a gold-glover in center.
Offensively, we are looking at an upgrade from Hidalgo to Beltran. Pitching-wise, we are looking at a downgrade from Dotel to Weathers. That’s a pretty big downgrade and takes away plenty of the value in upgrading to Beltran. With a decent season from Weathers, the Astros are better this year. With Weathers and Beltran likely gone next year, they look worse (although with some payroll flexibility). The difference betwen Beltran/Weathers and Hidalgo/Dotel isn't really all that great but its definitely an improvement.
So there don’t look to be any real big winners in this deal. It makes the most sense for the A's, the least sense for the Astros, who may be only marginally better. Overall it’s a pretty decent deal for all teams with the big loser being, well, Jason Lane. I would have done things differently if I were Gerry Hunsicker, but at least he has improved his team. He could have done better, but I also don’t know half of what goes on behind the scenes, so this might have been the best available. If somehow, Hunsicker figures out a way to re-sign Beltran to a somewhat reasonable extension, then the Astros become the winners in this deal, but the chances of that happening look to be about as good as Jason Lane getting a chance to play sometime in his career.