It’s trade rumor season. It’s time for fans of contenders to lust after the best players on lesser teams. The airways of AM radio are already full of trade ideas, many of them ridiculous. Their most valuable player for your least valuable prospects is no way to build a trade, and those rumors are easy to dismiss.
The problem is, even if we set the filter higher, and listen only to rumors that come from reputable sources and concern acquirable names, we are still going to hear a decent amount of hogwash. Let’s just take a couple tasty morsels and examine why the rumored swap makes little sense for one team in the dance. Even a real rumor from a real source can be a real silly idea.
Wilson Betemit to the Angels
This tidbit comes from Ken Rosenthal, the best scooper by at least one metric, but it has problems. Alberto Callaspo is no foundational piece for a franchise. This year’s walk rate aside, his only above-average skill so far has been the ability to avoid the strikeout. He makes contact. Not powerful contact — his .108 career ISO looks more like a middle infielder’s output — but contact nonetheless. Add in some suspect fielding and below-average speed and it’s not the most attractive package. Here’s the thing though. Betemit is no improvement. Well, sure, Betemit walks a little more and his .175 career ISO is a little better. But he strikes out more than twice as often as Callaspo, and by most accounts, he’s a worse defender. That takes most of his added value away. Callaspo is showing a .326 wOBA and has a career .317 wOBA. Betemit has a .322 wOBA this year, and .334 for his career. Add in the defense, and it’s a wash. Sure, Sean O’Sullivan is not a great pitcher, but that doesn’t mean that the Angels have an infinite number of mediocre prospects to keeping sending to the Royals for their mediocre players that provide a mediocre upgrade over their in-house options at best.
Conor Jackson to the Pirates
This one is a real head-scratcher. Who is Conor Jackson to replace on the first-place Pittsburgh team? His .249/.323/.330 line and resulting .298 wOBA this year represent his third-straight year with a sub-par offensive performance, and it only gets worse if you include the fact that he’s a first baseman or corner outfielder in the field. He certainly won’t replace Garrett Jones (.328 wOBA) even if Jones is struggling. With the emergence of rookie Alex Presley (.402 wOBA in 76 PAs), the team doesn’t have an obvious outfield position waiting for Jackson. At first base, Lyle Overbay has been bad enough to consider for an upgrade, but even in his reduced state, Overbay comes out ahead (.301 wOBA). Before a platoon is recommended, remember that righty Steve Pearce (.318 wOBA) is due back Friday. And once Jose Tabata returns, the team can move Jones to first most nights. In the end, Conor Jackson is just too much like the other dudes hanging around on the Pirates already (Matt Diaz, Xavier Paul and John Bowker) to spend any resources on his acquisition.
Those are two trades, and they aren’t even of the “Ubaldo Jimenez for Eduardo Nunez” variety. Though the names in these trades are easily movable, they don’t seem likely to move. Neither player is a real upgrade for the acquiring team, and so they aren’t worth the assets they may cost. These rumors don’t make sense. Which is why, of course, they’re likely going to happen.