All sorts of rumors are flying around out there, mostly about free agents. But there is a fair amount of stuff about younger, team-controlled players potentially being moved. This isn’t a rumors site, nor do I have any special connections that would allow me to divulge scenarios posited by “anonymous scouts” or “unnamed executives from rival teams.” However, there are some interesting things being said about players that teams might want to try and acquire if they are available at a reasonable cost. I’m not talking about completely ripping off the other team. Speculating and analyzing about hypothetical “ripoff” trades isn’t interesting. Obviously, if a team can “get one over” on another team, they should probably do it. Executives are kicking the tires on players all the time, and while I don’t know what it would take to get them, I want to highlight four relatively young ones that plenty of teams should be calling about.
The World Champion San Francisco Giants managed to earn their crown despite a very disappointing year from a player who just a season ago looked like a young superstar: Pablo Sandoval. But even a great nickname couldn’t hide Kung Fu Panda’s problems at plate this season, and in the playoffs the Giants had so little faith in him that they used a combination of Juan Uribe, Mike Fontenot, and Edgar Renteria at shortstop and third base in order to play him as little as possible. Using the leverage of “winning the World Series without him,” the Giants are reportedly going to take a hard line with Sandoval about his conditioning this off-season. Yes, Sandoval had a bad year at the plate, looks awkward around third base (to say the least), and hit poorly this season. It may be a combination of his bad conditioning and (in the case of his hitting) BABIP chickens coming home to roost. However, the defensive metrics don’t see him as irredeemably bad at third, and even if he is, a .396 wOBA during his age-23 2009 season is stunning. Even with his body type, his age indicates room for offensive growth such that his bat could play anywhere — CHONE’s August update saw him as a +20/150 hitter. Who knows, maybe a trade is just the motivation he needs to get his conditioning together? Sandoval isn’t arbitration eligible until 2012, so teams should be calling Brian Sabean (if they can reach him) to see just how deep the organization’s disillusionment with their young, “big-boned” third baseman runs.
After a 2009 season in which Chris Iannetta gave up a considerable chunk of playing time to Yorvit Torrealba, the Rockies seemed to commit to Iannetta as their primary catcher, signing him through through 2012 with a club option for 2013. After a cold (and very short) start to 2010, the Rockies installed a red-hot Miguel Olivo as the starter and sent Iannetta down to AAA. With Olivo traded to the Blue Jays, the way is finally clear for Iannetta, right? Well, the Rockies are rumored to be interested in Mike Napoli. Who knows how much there is to this, and how far it will go, and even if Napoli would play much catcher for the Rockies. Still, other teams have to wonder how much the Rockies are actually into Iannetta given recent history. He’s not a defensive whiz, but he isn’t horrible, and despite a poor offensive performance in 2010 in a very small (and BABIP-unlucky) sample, he’s still a 27-year old catcher with a a103 career wRC+, and is projected to be +8 in a neutral context. He’s a good offensive catcher who is locked up to a reasonable contract, and thanks to the Rockies, doesn’t have an excessive amount of mileage on his knees. Given the Rockies; seeming eagerness to hedge their bets on Iannetta, teams have to at least inquire.
In a brief blurb, the White Sox are rumored to be willing to listen to offers for Gordon Beckham. Beckham’s second season went much less swimmnigly than his first, with dropoffs in walks, strikeouts, average, power… pretty much everything. Still, he was impressive in the minors and 2009, will only be 24 at the beginning of 2011, and seemed to right the ship a bit in July and August (for whatever that’s worth). He has played second and third for the White Sox, and some still wonder if he could have stuck at shortstop (his position in college). His 2010 was pretty ugly, but he’s under team control for a while yet, and Kenny Williams isn’t known for being shy about trading.
I won’t belabor the point about Colby Rasmus. He’s obviously a good, young center fielder. We also know that his manager decided to bench him for stretches in favor of inferior players during a time in which the Cardinals were in the playoff race. While the St. Louis front office has wisely said they want to keep Rasmus, with Tony La Russa (and his great reputation for reconciling with players) coming back in 2011, one has to wonder how much of that public sentiment is “real” and how much of it is to preserve their leverage. This is probably the most obvious one, and I’m sure teams have already been trying to get Rasmus, but this (incomplete) list wouldn’t be right without him on it.
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