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Baseball Told the Right WayIn-depth Baseball analysis on various topics regarding the sport we all love!
Los Angeles Dodgers
Give up: Get:The Dodgers were the busiest team at the trading deadline. They made four deals that shipped off five of their current regulars. In their blockbuster, the Dodgers sent LoDuca, Mota, and Encarnacion to the Marlins for Penny, Choi, and prospect Bill Murphy. The Dodgers not only improved this year, but they also got younger and cheaper, so this trade improves them down the road. How can any rational person think this trade benefits the Marlins?
Unfortunately, that is exactly what the mainstream media is telling everybody, check here, here, and here. All those articles seem to forget that Choi was even involved in the deal. At best they casually mention that Choi is hitting .270/.388/.495, and Jayson Stark doesn't even mention Choi as part of the deal!
Are they serious? This guy has the 10th best OPS in MLB for a first baseman, plays great defense, and oh, not to mention, is 25, cheap, and only will get better. In the minors he showed the ability to hit lefties, and I don’t see why with regular at-bats he won't be able to hit major league lefties. I already wrote about the apparent bias against Choi and I am amazed to see it still exists, given his development in 2004.
Brad Penny adds a legitimate ace that the Dodgers needed after Kevin Brown left. A front three of Penny, Odalis Perez, and Kaz Ishii is at least talented enough to take them deep in the playoffs. Before this trade, no chance.
With Choi to play first base, Shawn Green moves back to right field. Newly acquired Steve Finley plays center (although he ought to play right, letting Bradley play CF). On the offensive side, the Dodgers essentially replaced LoDuca's at-bats with Dave Ross/Brett Mayne. Ross and Mayne are pretty much the definition of replacement, and LoDuca has a VORP (Value Over Rreplacement Player) of 22.3 this year. Finley (23.7) and Choi (27.9) step into the lineup replacing the at-bats of Encarnacion and Ventura who are both replacement level, and Roberts (11.3). The Dodgers offense has improved by somewhere around 10 runs.
The pitching improves as well, with Penny replacing Wilson Alvarez in the rotation. Alvarez goes back to the pen, where he was much more effective, to replace the departed Mota. Only five relievers have been better than Mota, but 20 innings of lights out relief is a lot less than the 90 or so you will get out of Brad Penny, even after adjusting for leverage. Penny has a VORP of 33.3 so far, while Mota is at 24.4, so the Dodgers got better in their pitching staff as well.
Choi is almost certainly a better defensive 1B than Shawn Green. If Finley plays CF, the outfield defense will not be as good, but if he moves to right (or left) it will be comparable. Even if Finley plays center, the defensive drop won't be anywhere near 10-20 runs, so even at a slight hit to the outfield defense, overall the Dodgers are a better team today.
The one part that puzzles me is why the Dodgers traded Tom Martin for lefty pitching prospect Matt Merricks. Martin is no stud, and he won't be hard to replace, but he's been decent. Why would a GM want to even bother finding someone to replace him at this time of the year? Merricks is nothing to get all excited about, so this part puzzles me. I have to assume the Dodgers know something about Martin they aren't letting out.
Usually, in deadline deals a team has to give up prospects to improve. Paul DePodesta's strategy at his first deadline was to throw a clusterbomb of deals out there, confuse the hell out of everybody, and when the smoke clears, the Dodgers have an improved offense and pitching staff.
The net cost of these improvement is the two prospects they gave up. The Dodgers got semi-prospect Henri Stanley from the Red Sox for Roberts, which helps offset that. Stanley could be a decent OF, much like Roberts, with more power and less steals.
The Dodgers also gave up Reggie Abercrombie, a prototypical five-tool prospect who has never shown the actual ability to hit a baseball. I would call him a non-prospect at this time, and I bet DePodesta was looking to swing him in a deal ever since he first looked over the organizational depth charts.
Koyie Hill is the better out of the two. A pretty solid hitter for a catcher, Hill was having his best year, hitting .286/.339/.471 in AAA. He is also said to play great defense despite originally being a third baseman. At worst Hill is a backup big-league catcher. At best he's that in 2005, and blossoms into a solid regular down the road. Definitely an expendable part for playoff team.
Summary: Dodgers improved both offense and defense with marginal hits to their defense and bullpen. Is it enough to overcome the loss of leadership from fan-favorite Paul LoDuca? The cost in prospects is small, but the Tom Martin mystery raises an interesting question.
Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Give up: Get:Tampa Bay wasn't expected to active at the deadline. It doesn't make sense for them to trade Victor Zambrano. He's reasonably cheap for three more years, and he has been reasonably effective. On the other hand, as soon as the Mets started calling and offering top prospects for him, Chuck LaMar must have crapped his pants with excitement.
Jose Diaz is only a mid-level prospect. Most likely he'll be switched to relief, and if he ever learns to throw strikes with any consistency, he'll probablly be a good one, but he looks like a throw-in, albeit with potential.
Then there is Scott Kazmir. I don’t know whats not to like. He's a 20 year-old lefty who throws in the mid-90s with nasty breaking pitches. Twenty years old, already in AA, and he has dominated every place he's been, showing excellent control and the ability to strike out anybody he faces. Injuries are all that stand in the way of Kazmir, and he is one of only a few pitchers in the minors who have the potential to be a Cy Young contender for many years to come.
With Kazmir on board, the Devil Rays could seriously be a contender in a couple years. I'm serious. No, really, I'm not kidding about this. They have so much talent at all levels of their organization that if things come together, they could have a three or four year run of October baseball in Tampa. Chuck LaMar hasn’t yet convinced me of the ability to not screw up, but this trade is a start. If he continues the trend, we could be looking at a Devil Ray team in 2006 or 2007 something like this:
C Toby Hall
1B Aubrey Huff
SS B.J. Upton
LF Carl Crawford
CF Rocco Baldelli
RF Delmon Young
SP Scott Kazmir
SP Chad Gaudin
SP Doug Waechter
SP Seth McClung
Now if they could have only gotten a top 2B or 3B prospect for Tino Martinez, they would be in business. That team has a chance to be pretty damn good. Check back in two years, maybe I'll be telling you guys, "I told you so".
Summary:Devil Rays get great return on a pitcher who never developed, look to build a strong young team for the future.
Kansas City Royals
Give up: Get:I have to imagine the conversation between Mets GM Jim "worse than Dan" Duquette and Royals GM Allan Baird went something like this:
Duquette: Hey Allan, how's the season going?
Baird: Not too good, how's that Vlad signing worked out for you?
Duquette: Aw, we lost out in that one, but we do have the chance to get Kris Benson and maybe be a .500 team again. Which reminds me…..
Duquette: The Pirates want that guy Jose Bautista back, I need to make a deal for him.
Baird: Didn’t they give him up in the Rule 5 draft?
Duquette: Yeah, but they want him back. Don’t ask me Allan, Littlefield is an idiot. So what's it going to take?
Baird: Uh, well….I've just been informed by my coaching staff that Alberto Castillo sucks and apparently Benito Santiago is a fossil, so we're a little short at catcher. How bout that Huber kid?
Duquette: Sure, done deal.
Baird: Uh, ok.
At which point Allan Baird hangs up in shock, wondering if it was true that he just turned a waiver wire pickup into one of the best catching prospects in baseball.
Maybe Huber will never turn into a good player, and maybe his defense will force the Royals to move him from behind the plate, but Huber is a 22 year-old catcher who hit .271/.414/.487 at AA this year, and is a hell of a lot more valuable than Jose Bautista.
While the Nunez for Seanez swap with the Royals is simply a decent deal, the Huber trade is trade is a steal for the Royals (or should we say a gift). It is the polar opposite of the Neifi Perez for Jermaine Dye trade in 2001. Those two cancel each other out and Allan Baird is starting to inch his way closer to respectability in my book.
Summary:With an absolute steal of a trade, Royals turn a waiver wire pick into one of the best catching prospects in baseball. It doesn't get better than that for a team looking to build for the future.
Give up: Get:The Cubs fixed their biggest hole on the offensive side. I mean that enormous, gaping, black hole of outs at shortstop. Nomar, in all likelihood, will be about 10-20 runs better than the trifecta from hell. That is an absolutely huge improvement. It's not quite a Barry Bonds for Desi Relaford improvement, but its pretty close.
The cost to do this? Not much, suprisingly. Someone call the Mets!
The Cubs gave up Gonzalez, who was expendable anyways. They also gave up three decent prospects, but were they worth Nomar? They will almost certainly be worth Nomar if they can ink him to a reasonable contract, but even if they can't, they dealt from their strength.
The loss of Harris is partly offset by the gain of Matt Murton from the Red Sox. Murton is a pretty decent hitter, albeit much lower in his development. Harris can hit, and he's the closest to big league ready out of the group, but he's much more likely to be a solid utility player than anywhere near the talent of Nomar.
Francis Beltran has pretty nasty stuff, but hasn’t learned to control it yet. Maybe he will, but with the near-excess of Cubs pitching prospects, he is expendable.
Much like Beltran, Justin Jones is expendable considering the incredible number of live arms in the Cubs system. Jones is also still only 19 and in A-ball, and there is still a long way to go before he is major league ready.
I don’t know how anyone can look at this and say this isn't a great trade for the Cubs. Even if Nomar gets hurt tommorrow and all three prospects turn into decent major leaguers, nobody will legitimately be able to fault the Cubs for making this deal.
Summary:Did what the Mets failed to do: kept their top prospects off the block and still fixed their biggest hole. Could have used a decent 4th outfielder or another arm in the pen, but they have a couple options once all their starters get healthy.
As always, email Curt to tell him he's wrong.