Change Of Scenery

As the off-season winds down, teams are starting to get a better look at how their roster is going to shake out and where certain players fit together on the field and in the line-up. However, there are several teams that have surplus players at positions and should be actively looking to make a move to redistribute some talent in a more efficient manner. Here are three players who would have more value to another club than they do to the one they’re on currently.

Luke Scott, OF, Baltimore

With the acquisition of Felix Pie to play LF, the Orioles are relegating Scott to the DH spot, since he doesn’t fit into their Three CF plan. However, Scott just doesn’t have a DH skillset – he’s a decent enough hitter (CHONE has him .255/.343/.462 for 2008), but he’s also a pretty decent defensive outfielder. He has a career UZR/150 of +8.5, well above average for a corner OF. In 1,300 career plate appearances, he’s racked up +7.3 wins, or just about +3.5 wins per full season.

As an OF, he’s projected for something like +2.0 to +2.5 wins for 2009. As a DH, though, where his defensive value would be nullified, that drops to +1.0 to +1.5 wins. There are a pretty long list of teams who could use a low cost, league average corner outfielder, and the Orioles would do well to find one of those teams and strike a deal. Finding a guy to DH and give you a .350 wOBA isn’t very hard, particularly in this free agent market. They’ll get more value by trading Scott and signing a stop-gap DH than they will by using him as just a hitter.

Willy Aybar, 3B, Tampa Bay

We’ve talked Aybar earlier this winter, but he still remains the best reserve player in baseball. A 25-year-old switch-hitting infielder who has accumulated +3.9 wins in 745 career PA shouldn’t be looking at a job where he only plays a couple of times per week. Aybar is an everyday major league player, and only Tampa’s loaded organizational depth chart prevents him from laying hold of a full time job. The question in his case, though, is what motivation would the Rays have to deal him? What else do they need?

In many ways, Aybar is being punished for the fact that the Rays have done such a great job of building a roster around him. Not only do they not have a regular job for him, but they don’t have any glaring needs that they should be trying to fill via trade. Their weakest link is in the bullpen, but as they showed last year, you don’t have to give up talented players to build a success relief corps. Realistically, Aybar’s going to have to hope for an injury to get any real playing time. For his sake, let’s hope he gets an opportunity before the reserve infielder label sticks.

Austin Kearns, OF, Washington

Jim Bowden’s fondness for toolsy outfielders is no secret, as he routinely scoops up every available power/speed guy who hasn’t figured out how to hit a baseball. Thanks to his obsessive nature of collecting upside guys and shoving them into a locker room together, the Nationals have an overloaded outfield and not enough room for everyone to play. Elijah Dukes is the one guy who should absolutely play everyday, no questions asked, but the other two spots have to be split among Lastings Milledge, Josh Willlingham, Willie Harris, Wily Mo Pena, and Kearns, not to mention the always lurking Corey Patterson, who got a minor league contract and will be in spring training with the Nationals.

Kearns has fallen a long way from his top prospect days, and was especially horrendous last year. However, he’s still an excellent defensive outfielder heading into his age 28 season and a year away from free agency (the odds of his $10 million option for 2010 being exercise are slim), so he’d make a useful reclamation project for a team with at-bats to spare for an outfielder. Kearns simply has less utility for a team like Washington than he would for a club that is one OF short of filling out their roster, and with a limited future in the nation’s capital, it’s in everyone’s best interests if he moves on before the year starts.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

7 Responses to “Change Of Scenery”

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  1. mymrbig says:

    Dave, does the thought of Luke Scott or Kearns playing LF for the M’s do anything for you? Don’t know that anyone wants to take on Kearns’ salary at this point, so that might be more complicated. I wonder if the Orioles properly value Scott’s defense?

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  2. Salty Dog says:

    Luke Scott to the Mariners for Aaron Heilman could make sense for both teams. Mariners need a corner OF, Orioles make Heilman happy by giving him a chance to start. If Baltimore wants more, maybe throw in Wlad Balentien, since he’s not going to have a roster spot with Scott being added. Not that they need more young OF’ers, but Pie is certainly not a sure thing.

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  3. rwperu34 says:

    Lastings Milledge needs to play everyday for two reasons. First, he is at an age and stage of his career that you don’t sit him on the bench for Wilingham, Pena, Harris, or Kearns. Second, if you sit him, that means Corey Patterson or Roger Bernadina is in the lineup, and that’s a problem.

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  4. Scappy says:

    What about trying Scott at 1st base?

    His bat is more potent than Millar, and Millar is a below average fielder so how bad could Scott be there relatively speaking.

    Upon further review it looks like Millar is still unsigned. Sign him to the minimum just in case Scott does not pan out manning 1st.

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    • Trenchtown says:

      Even more then that, why not just have Aubrey Huff stay at DH and put Luke at 1st? that should add another .5 wins from positional adjustment alone and since Luke is an above average corner outfielder defensively it certainly is out the question that he could be an above average first baseman or even a well above average 1st baseman. He’s listed at 6’0″ which isn’t tall but not too bad. With a little defensive boost he could be right back up in that 2 to 2.5 win range and the Orioles still get the benefit of Pie’s defense in left

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    • Trenchtown says:

      one more addition, Huff was -12.7 UZR/150 last year at first base in admittedly small sample size and -2.9 for his career. Huff is probably a -10 < X < 0 defender at first, so Scott could be a ten run upgrade over their current plan, with some room for upside. If I were the O’s I would be hanging on to Scott

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  5. The Typical Idiot Fan says:

    “Elijah Dukes is the one guy who should absolutely play everyday, no questions asked”

    Or it’s on, dawg. You dead, dawg. I ain’t even bulls——-. Your kids too, dawg. It don’t even matter to me who is in the car with you. N—–, all I know is, n—–, when I see your m—–f——- a– riding, dawg, it’s on. As a matter of fact, I’m coming to your m—–f—— house.

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