Bourjos for Lannan? Surely You Jest.

Toward the end of his weekly Sunday notes column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo included the following write-up on John Lannan:

Lannan, 27, is a terrific option as an end-of-the rotation starter now that Washington has signed Edwin Jackson. There is a lot of speculation that the Nationals will deal him to the Angels for center fielder Peter Bourjos, with Mike Trout on the way to play that position in Anaheim. But the Nationals could also move Jayson Werth to center and sign a right fielder. It now appears that Yoenis Cespedes is not in their plans and they have cooled on B.J. Upton. Lannan, who went 10-13 last year with a 3.70 ERA and a (high) 1.462 WHIP, would be a good option for a team like Boston, but the Red Sox don’t seem to have the center fielder to give back, especially with Ryan Kalish unable to play until June. “It doesn’t have to be a center fielder,’’ said one major league source. “They don’t have to get a center fielder in that deal as long as they get a center fielder some other way. The Red Sox make a lot of sense.’’

Again, with emphasis added:

There is a lot of speculation that the Nationals will deal him to the Angels for center fielder Peter Bourjos…

The report doesn’t say who is doing that speculating, or how much they’d had to drink prior to suggesting that swap, but Cafardo’s a good reporter and we should give him some benefit of the doubt that he’s not just publishing the rantings of his partially-sane neighbor. The sentence suggests that the speculation is coming from within the game itself, and he quotes a “Major League source” a few sentences later, so let’s assume for a second that the speculators have some inside knowledge.

That still doesn’t make this suggestion any less crazy. Regardless of what kind of faith you put in defensive metrics, Bourjos still grades out as a highly valuable property. As a 24-year-old in his first full season in the Majors, he hit .271/.327/.438, good for a 111 wRC+ – a better mark than the one posted by Adam Jones and Chris Young, just to name a few. Even if you include his poor results from his rookie season of 2010, Bourjos has still been a league average hitter during his time in the big leagues, and his abilities at the plate pale in comparison to what he can do in the field.

One of the fastest players in baseball, Bourjos can really cover ground in the outfield. UZR has rated him at +24 runs in just over 1,700 big league innings – even if you regress that heavily, you’re still going to project him as a +5 to +10 defender in center field going forward, which makes him one of the most valuable defenders in the sport. A guy who can simultaneously be a league average hitter and a premium defender at an up-the-middle position is an extremely valuable piece, usually checking in between +3 and +4 wins in full season value.

Have we mentioned that Bourjos is under team control for the next five seasons and will make something close to the league minimum for the next two years?

Yes, the Angels have Mike Trout and a perceived logjam in the outfield. Yes, you can make a case that having Trout and Bourjos play side by side will lead to some diminishing returns in defensive value, and that perhaps the Angels should consider moving Bourjos to help solidify other positions on their roster – though, to be fair, teams like the Rays and Yankees have done quite well playing multiple center field types next to each other, and there’s no reason why the Angels can’t follow this same path with Bourjos and Trout. But, even if we assume that the Angels should entertain offers for Bourjos, the idea of swapping him for John Lannan is still absolutely insane.

If you evaluate Lannan strictly by run prevention, he is a slightly above average starting pitcher. In 750 innings in the big leagues, he has a career ERA- of 98, compared to a league average of 103 for starting pitchers as a whole since 2007. That’s decent. It’s not great, but it’s okay, and okay has value for a team looking for stability at the back end of their rotation.

However, Lannan’s stuff and peripherals suggest that evaluating him strictly by his run prevention might not be a great idea. His carer xFIP- is 108, a bit below average for a starting pitcher, and he was demoted to the minors in 2010 when he failed to sustain his lower-than-average BABIP history. There’s clearly some downside here, and Lannan’s not exactly a guy you can count on for a 98 ERA- going forward.

In fact, Lannan is basically the east coast version of Joe Saunders, another groundball lefty who throws strikes, eats innings, and has generally produced better than expected ERAs without striking anyone out. When you look at their numbers side by side, it’s almost impossible to tell them apart. The market thought so much of Saunders’ value that he was non-tendered by the Diamondbacks, then was mostly ignored in his pursuit of a multi-year contract in free agency. He eventually returned to Arizona for $6 million on a one year deal.

Lannan is due $5 million in 2012, and will follow in Saunders footsteps next winter – if he has another typical season, he’ll likely be a non-tender candidate, as teams generally prefer not to pay upwards of $10 million for these kinds of soft-tossing back-end starters. If Lannan has any surplus value above and beyond what his salary calls for him to earn, it’s minimal at best. For instance, Jeremy Guthrie – a better version of this pitcher-type who has cut his teeth in the AL East – was just swapped for a pair of middling arms with limited club control already making salaries near their actual value, and Gutrhie’s resume and stuff are both superior to Lannan’s.

The idea that the Angels would trade one of the most valuable young center fielders in baseball for one year of a fairly compensated #5 starter is kind of hilarious. The Angels have spent the winter remaking themselves as legitimate contenders in the AL West – there’s no reason for them to undo that by just giving away their starting center fielder and making their team drastically worse for both the present and the future in the process.

If the Nationals want to pry Bourjos from the Angels hands, they’ll have to do a lot better than peddling a starter they no longer want. For five years of team control of a guy like Bourjos, a more realistic return would be offering up someone like Jordan Zimmermann – as a super-two with only four years of team control remaining and a history of arm problems, the Angels might be wise to even pass on that kind of offer. But, it would at least be an offer that Jerry DiPoto would have to consider.

This Lannan for Bourjos thing, though? Even if they put Drew Storen and a couple of prospects in the deal, it should still be an automatic no. Bourjos is good, young, and cheap – Lannan is none of those things, and it’s not even clear that he’s obviously better than current fifth starter Jerome Williams. There might be industry speculation about that kind of swap, but it’s not speculation that should be taken overly seriously.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

78 Responses to “Bourjos for Lannan? Surely You Jest.”

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  1. David says:

    As a Nats fan, I endorse this proposed trade.

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  2. Yirmiyahu says:

    The deal looks fine if you look only at Lannan’s ERA, and completely ignore Bourjos’ defense. It’s like the Angels never read Moneyball and don’t employ anyone who understands basic sabermetrics.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      Even then, it’s insane. The service time and salary differences would make this trade ludicrous even if we thought Lannan and Bourjos were equally valuable players on the field.

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      • Yirmiyahu says:

        A little bit more insanity: the Nationals have no leverage right now. After signing Jackson, Lannan is their 6th best starter (but the second highest paid). If there’s no market for Oswalt/Jackson, there’s definitely no market for Lannan.

        I’m inclined to think that Cafardo was just baselessly speculating on his own and there’s 0% chance of such a trade happening.

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      • Brady says:

        You come off as such a d bag. You are way to strongly opinionated. Using words such as insane and ludicrous. Your just putting down people that come to your website. He is entitled to his opinion and should not be ridiculed.

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      • Marc says:

        @Brady, Nick Cafardo is the one who is way too strongly opinionated. Living in Boston and reading his garbage every week in the newspaper every week, I cannot begin to express in words how much $h!t he throws against the wall on a weekly basis. It’s especially painful because I’m an Angels fan, and have had to suffer through these proposed trades from Cafardo: Bourjos-Lannan, Bourjos-Wade Davis, Mark Trumbo-Wade Davis. Cafardo’s sources are talking heads just like him. I guarantee he gets half of his information from wanna-bes like Jim Duquette and Jim Bowden. Cafardo is a pi$$-poor excuse for a reporter and it’s insulting he’d even consider the thought that Jerry DiPoto would entertain such stupidity.

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    • Parker says:

      “It’s like the Angels never read Moneyball and don’t employ anyone who understands basic sabermetrics.”

      That makes sense; they did recently trade for a CF with 30HR power.

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  3. jaywrong says:

    Laughable trade. And wtf quality.

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  4. Justin says:

    Cafardo is NOT a good reporter anymore, and has spent the last 5-10 years relying on his few contacts in the game while throwing crap against the wall. He’s become the epitome of a lazy hack reporter. He should be ignored or mocked at all times.

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    • will says:

      yikes. what do you really think though?

      In this case I kinda have to agree though. Common sense should prevail on this purported trade. The Angels would have to be real, real sour on Bourjos’ makeup, because talent-wise, this trade is beyond absurd. Lannan on sight test alone is barely worth a mid-level prospect.

      The benefits of being a lefty.

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    • rbt says:

      I don’t live in Boston so don’t read Cafardo all the time, but my first gut instinct is to agree that he is not a good reporter. I have seen multiple similar instances of him proposing outrageous trades or rumoring them. He was the one who started the Royals-want-to-trade-Greinke-for-Francoeur-but-the-Braves-are-balking story a few years back.

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      • Misfit says:

        I live in the Boston market and catch Cafardo from time to time on NESN before a Sox game. He seems like a nice enough guy who genuinely loves the game, so it pains me to say that he is one bad reporter. Pretty much 100% of the time that I am reading an article on boston.com that I vehemently disagree with I scroll up and see that it’s a Cafardo piece (and that’s because I ignore anything written by Shaughnessy). The game has long since past him by and the Boston Globe would do well to waive goodbye to Mr. Cafardo.

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      • Marc says:

        @Misfit, totally agree with you, as someone who also lives in the Boston area. Cafardo isn’t a bad guy, but he’s worried about the younger generation of reporters coming for his job, so he constantly has to float these ridiculous rumors to make it look like he has inside info. As an Angels fan though, it gets pretty old listening to Cafardo write about my team, especially when he proposes trading our second-best position player for a retread #5 starter. He also seems to think that Mark Trumbo is Jason Giambi on ‘roids.

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  5. Moe Koltun says:

    Jordan Zimmerman for Bourjos has got to be a great trade for the Angels, I understand it’s only 4 years of team control, but their 1-5 in the rotation would be the best in baseball by a relatively wide margin (Ervin Santana as your 5? Yes please.). Also, just on a WAR level, in 160 innings J Zimm put up a 3.7 WAR, Bourjos put up a 4.3 WAR in a near-full season with a .338 BABIP. I know he’s fast, but that certainly seems likely to regress. I like Bourjos more than most, but I think a Zimmerman swap with him is a very good trade for the Angels, especially for their specific situation, and probably a good one for the Nats’ too with their gaping hole in center field. Why isn’t this trade happening?

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  6. Kevin S. says:

    Of course, Jerry DiPito is the same man who thought Joe Saunders was a quality headliner for Dan Haren, so who knows what’s going on here.

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  7. JCA says:

    It is also strange that Cafardo reports his source as saying Lannan would be a good option for the Red Sox. Even assuming they can squeeze $5MM under the luxury tax threshold, as they were supposedly willing to do for Edwin Jackson, I would think that the organization would take those peripheral measures seriously, especially in as unfriendly a park for lefties who pitch to contact as Fenway. You have to wonder if Nick’s source was in Washington trying to dissemble.

    If Washington were to move a lefty, probably both Ross Detwiler and Tom Gorzellany would be two who would have more value in trade.

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  8. B N says:

    Yah, that is a weird article. Do some people just have no sense when it comes to pitchers with L last names? “Surely, with a rotation with Lester, Lackey, and Lannan in it- the world will be our oyster! If by that, you mean a very difficult and dangerous thing you have to open with a knife, that if harvested in the wrong season can give you a deadly and exceptionally painful illness.”

    * With no offense intended to Lester for mentioning him in the same sentence of those other L-guys, Lester is awesome. Almost awesome enough to offset the other two…

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  9. Drew says:

    I couldn’t agree more. When first reading through Cafardo’s list of rumors on MLBTR, I quickly scanned them at first as there were quite a few. You could literally hear a record screeching as my brain caught up with the first note and quickly doubled back to see if I had read the detail correctly. My subsequent reaction was either it was some sort of early April fools joke or that Tony Reagins had somehow wormed his way back into the Angels front office. But as there was not an additional rumor stating that the Angels had refused a Harper for Mathis trade straight up, I assumed it had to be the former.

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    • Joe says:

      Literally hear a record screeching in your brain?

      You should go to a doctor about that….

      ….or perhaps learn what the word “literally’ means and not simply use it as a point of emphasis.

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      • stumanji says:

        Chris Traeger would like to have a word with you…

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      • bpdelia says:

        Well to be fair he didn’t say it ass literally in his brain. Just that he literally heard the sound. It makes the usevof literally unnecessary as we would not assume he was speaking figuratively about the wound nut its not wrong. He didn’t say “i literally had a screaching record player in my head”. Also pointing out poor grammar by amateur commenters while not pointing out yet another article on fr rife with errors is silly. Why would you even bother commenting on the grammar of a commenter? Its petty, childish, hurtful, indulging and uncalled for.
        perhaps you should see a doctor about your superiority complex and general douchiness. And i make that suggestion literally…..get help.

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  10. Ponderous says:

    Did they let Tony Reagins one more day for old times sake?

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  11. My echo and bunnymen says:

    Joe Saunders has a 1 year deal for $6 million.

    In other news, if this is true and this happens then my excitement for the upcoming season for the Angels will disappear.

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  12. Chris says:

    this would certainly help the nats out on the defensive end and would make mike trout a starting centerfield for the angels, i like the trade! plus jon lannon would make a great long reliever for the already stacked angels rotation.

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  13. TheJoeFrom1993 says:

    Good article; I’m glad this type of speculation is being addressed.

    My guess is that Eleanor Abernathy is the source of the trade rumor.

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  14. TheGrandslamwich says:

    While I agree that Lannan for Bourjos would be a terrible idea, if the Angels are in win-now mode wouldn’t Bourjos be the most movable piece the Angels have (outside of Trout who I’m sure is untouchable)? The Hunter and Wells contracts are more or less unmovable and I doubt the Angels will just eat those sunk costs and DFA them.

    In overall value, they could trade Bourjos (while expecting some regression) for a SP to create the most dominant rotation in baseball while installing one of the top prospects in the game in CF. Otherwise they keep Bourjos, call up Trout, platoon the old guys and keep the already solid rotation? Wells really can’t be as bad as he was last year… They could also package Bourjos with one of their excess DH’s and get a little something more.

    I’m not saying they should do this for Lannan, but if they can pull someone like Zimmermann (as suggested above) out of it I’d pull that trigger.

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    • Keith says:

      I don’t think it’s smart now. This is more of a summer concept, in my opinion. Mike Trout is 20 years old. When he played a little last season, he was pretty mediocre. They would be better-served letting him work through any minor flaws in his game in AAA for the time being, as they have a competent CF in Bourjos.

      In the above scenario, they then don’t have a problem where they trade Bourjos, find out Trout isn’t ready, then get stuck wasting a year of service time on a not-ready Trout. That, or Hunter goes back to CF and Abreu plays RF, which we all know would be an apocalyptic nightmare for Angels fans.

      They really should just let Trout play in the minors a bit and force their hand.

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  15. Greg says:

    Stupidity. I believe that there was a misprint. The author either meant to say “Vernon Wells” where he said “Bourjos”, or he meant to say “Strassberg”, where he sand “Lannan”.

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  16. Wally says:

    Lannan for Bourjos – agreed, its stupidity.

    Bourjos for Jordan Zimmermann – equal stupidity. Zimmermann is the equal of the top young pitchers who were traded this offseason: Latos, Gonzalez, and even Pineda. You don’t trade that for a good D CF who had one surprisingly good offensive season (which was supported by a BABIP 60 points higher than his previous season).

    Franklin Gutierrez (2009) – .283/.339/.425 (.764 OPS)
    Peter Bourjos (2011) – .271/.327/.438 (.765 OPS)

    Gutierrez for Ricky Romero following the 2009 season – how would that one be for the Jays ’round about now?

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    • cpebbles says:

      Yeah, while I agree with the general premise of the article, I think GMs are pretty reluctant to value guys like Bourjos too, and probably with good reason. Teams that count on superlative defense holding up year after year have been disappointed time after time the last several years.

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    • rotofan says:

      Gutierrez is not a great comparator for Bourjos:

      (1) Bourjos’ big season came at age 24; Gutierrez came at 26. Even if the two were equal as offensive talents at those age — and they were not — Bourjos would have a higher upside on age alone.

      (2) Bourjos had fewer than 200 PA before his big season, not enough time to establish anything. Gutierrez had nearly 900 PA of poor offensive performance before his big year.

      (3) Bourjos had a lot more power as a 24-year-old than Gutierrez, with a career IPO of .170.

      (4) Bourjos’ big challenge is plate discipline but he showed improvement last year. Gutierrez was somewhat more advanced in that regard but not by much at the same stage.

      (4) You write about Gutierrez as if 2009 was a complete fluke without regard to a severe gastrointestinal ailment since that left him losing much of his weight and muscle. While he may never regain the core strength, its absurd to suggest his injury-influenced decline is somehow predictive for Bourjos.

      (5) Bourjos’s xBABIP in 2011 was about .315 or .320 depending upon which calculator is used. His actual BABIP was .338, which was in the same neighbourhood of what was expected. The aberration was 2010, when his BABIP was about 50 points lower than his xBABIP. Gutierrez’s BABIP was about 45 points higher than his xBABIP in 2009, so it appears he, not Bourjos, was more the beneficiary of luck. Bourjos’s low mark of BABIP in the minors was .326 while three times it was .357 or higher. Any reasonable analysis would assume that the .226 BABIP in a limited number of at-bats in 2010 was the anomaly.

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      • Wally says:

        I wasn’t predicting that Bourjos WILL decline, just that (a) the risk of a Gutierrez-like decline is present, and (b) his offensive performance last year surprised most baseball analysts/commentators, and he’ll need to do it for at least another 1-2 years before his market value takes that into account as his true level.

        I like the guy, but I think it is absurd to suggest that his market value is equal to Jordan Zimmermann.

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      • Bill King says:

        @Wally

        His true market value is around Zimmerman, but that’s what this entire discussion is about: who can get less for their assets than the Angels?

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  17. Dexter Bobo says:

    Ahhhh, the lull in worthwhile topics for Fangraphs articles that comes between the end of free agency and the start of spring training… how relaxing it is to read such pointless words.

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  18. Steve says:

    Trout for Harper. Now that’s a Nats/Angels trade discussion that would get some page hits…

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    • Bill King says:

      more likely it would get people attempting to burn down the white house

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    • Jim says:

      Trout for Harper? No thanks! Mike Trout is a class act with unlimited potential…I have heard comparisons with Mickey Mantle. I have seen the behavior of Bryce Harper on a few occasions, and I am not impressed at all.

      Keep Peter Bourjos Jerry Dipoto, and don’t ruin a great offseason by making this kind of Reaginsesque trade at ther last minute.

      After a couple of more seasons under Angels control, and allowing Trout to develop more…perhaps Bourjos could go to the Nats for RYAN Zimmerman, not Jordan.

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  19. Gerry Fraley says:

    Cafardo = Evan Grant

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  20. Preston says:

    To much is being made of the Angels surplus at the corners. Next year the Angel’s will wave goodbye to Hunter and Abreu, Morales may be non-tendered if he is still unable to return from injury and if Wells doesn’t have a significant dead cat bounce they might decide to cut him and eat the money. With a lot of money committed to Pujols, Wells and the pitching staff it would be nice to have some cost controlled players on the roster. So while Trumbo and Borjous seem like the fungible pieces now, they are the pieces that offer the most in 2013 and beyond. So I think the Angels will stay put and let the glut of DH/Corner players they have now fight for playing time this year knowing it will thin out next year.

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    • Marc says:

      Totally agree. And these trades are just totally ridiculous. Bourjos/Trumbo for a #5 starter?!? Bobby Abreu (.366 OBP vs. RHP), for a middle reliever?!? Give me a break. I also love the notion that we have a gaping hole @ 3B when Callaspo had a .366 OBP and the 4th highest OPS amongst AL third basemen last year

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  21. Ron Paul says:

    Certainly the team that traded for a crappy V.Wells & his $100 mil contract in exchange for a guy who would be an MVP candidate at an affordable salary wouldn’t ever consider such a dastardly deal as Bourjos for Lannan……

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  22. Joel says:

    Now if it was Bourjos AND Wells for Lannan, with no cash involved, then maybe we have something.

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  23. Colin says:

    I think he’ll get traded if the Nationals find anything that’s more enticing than eating the $1.5mil to cut him at the end of spring training. He does have one more option, however. The Nats could just keep him and enjoy having an accomplished 6th starter for when he is needed.
    But some team will trade for him if it will allow them to give a few “real” prospects proper seasoning on the farm, especially if the cost is low/high A ball, b level prospects. Couldn’t the O’s, Stros, A’s, etc. benefit from such a trade?

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  24. Colin says:

    Also, the Nats did trade Langerhans for Michael Morse. What’s wrong with lopsided trades?

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  25. Bill Smith would do it, but only if you throw in a decent reliever.

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  26. Bill Smith says:

    It’s not really on the level of Ramos for Capps. Maybe, I can talk some sense into Terry Ryan and get him to offer Span. Then, we can have two Nick Blackburns. Three, I guess if you count Marquis. Four, if you count Pavano.

    If Gardy could only get Liriano to pitch to contact…

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  27. Frank says:

    Ok,then how ’bout Bourjos for Lannan, Adam LaRoche, and a coupla extra potatoes?

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  28. kick me in the GO NATS says:

    I personally would rather trade Wang, Detwiler, and Gorzellany in package before lannan. Lannan is a sure thing for 180 IPs.

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  29. Jason says:

    Carfado is the same guy that thinks Bud is going to offer up Starlin Castro as compensation for one year of Theo Epstein. In short, he’s an idiot.

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  30. Matty Brown says:

    I want AA to get on the phone right now and trade Brett Cecil for Bourjos

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  31. Franco says:

    Here’s hoping the Mets swoop in and offer up Pelfrey for Bourjos

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  32. rotofan says:

    Any team that signed Gary Matthews to a fat contract and traded for Vernon Wells is more than capable of trading Bourjos for Lannan.

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  33. Randy says:

    If there was any truth to it, I’d have to hope there were other players involved. Morales? LaRoche? Ian Desmond?

    *rubs chin*

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  34. Michael says:

    The OF log jam can be remedied by inventing a time machine and not trading for Vernon Wells.

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  35. Bill King says:

    maybe Cafardo wrote this to see if we were paying attention and on our toes……. yeahhh… something like that!

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  36. blovy8 says:

    Bourjos has a hip issue he’s been playing though, right? He probably wouldn’t even pass the physical.

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  37. Greg says:

    Bourjos is soon going to be considered the best CF south of Matt Kemp. Partnered with Mike Trout, the best RF, and Trumbo in LF, combining to form the best all white OF in the past 40 years.

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  38. hector says:

    Williams is better then lannan. Here I can make something that makes no sense: Vernon Wells for Bryce Harper straight up.

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  39. Rick says:

    If I’m in an AL-only fantasy league that does not have a big emphasis on Stolen Bases (counts for half as much as other categories) and a panicked owner is offering me Peter Bourjos for Colby Lewis, should I accept? I’d lose him if he goes to the Nats, and I’ve been wrong before for assuming the Halos act like a rational ballclub.

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  40. David says:

    I’m just wondering why the Jays don’t get BBQ’d for trading Napoli for a broken down reliever. At least we fired Reagins for being an idiot. Toronto hasn’t even spent the money they saved on Wells.

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