Top Five Off-Season Trades That Impact 2010

SS J.J. Hardy to the Minnesota Twins for OF Carlos Gomez

Hardy had a down year in 2009, hitting .229/.302/.357 and getting demoted to the minors at one point. But there’s hope for a rebound: his 2009 BABIP was about 40 points below his expected BABIP, which is based on his batted-ball profile. Hardy didn’t show as much pop as in years past with a .128 ISO (.166 career average). But there’s little reason to think the 27-year-old suddenly lost his power stroke. Minnesota’s new shortstop could be quite the bargain if he matches his 2007-2008 production.

Gomez possesses top-shelf speed, but he’s very much a work in progress. The 24-year-old outfielder showed modest improvement in his plate discipline in 2009, increasing his walk rate from 4.2 to 6.5%. However, he hasn’t been able to handle big league heat: Gomez has been -1.33 runs below average against fastballs during his short career. That has led to lots of weak contact, as Gomez popped the ball up nearly 20% of the time in 2009. He’s raw on the bases, too. After swiping 33 bags in 44 attempts in 2008 (75% success rate), Gomez stole just 14 bases in 21 attempts in 2009 (67%).

Hardy’s departure in Milwaukee opens the door for top shortstop prospect Alcides Escobar. The wiry Escobar is a burner, having swiped 42 bases in 52 tries at Triple-A. His bat has shown signs of life recently, though he’s a free swinger who doesn’t project to add much extra-base punch. Speaking of free swingers, Gomez’ departure from Minnesota gives former star prospect Delmon Young a little more rope, with Denard Span shifting to center field. Of course, Young might just hang himself that with that rope if his strike zone remains the size of Lake Superior.

RHP Javier Vazquez and LHP Boone Logan to the Yankees for OF Melky Cabrera, LHP Mike Dunn and RHP Arodys Vizcaino

The well-traveled Vazquez won’t replicate his 2009 production in the Bronx, as the fly-ball-oriented starter is headed from an NL park that depresses home runs to an AL venue that inflated tater-production in its inaugural season. That being said, Vazquez should still be high on your draft board. Over the past three seasons, the righty has the fourth-best K/BB ratio among starters (4.2), with a top-10 WHIP (1.15) and a top-20 FIP (3.74), as well. Vazquez is as durable as they come, too: he topped the 200-inning mark every season from 2000 to 2009, save for his 2004 campaign with the Yankees. As a bonus, he’ll be backed by the most potent offense in the game. Expect a high-3.00 ERA with a great WHIP.

Cabrera isn’t an exciting fantasy option, but the 25-year-old switch-hitter did manage a decent .274/.336/.416 line in 2009. He reversed a three-year decline in his walk rate, and posted the best ISO (.142) of his career. Melky’s no speed demon, but he did nab 10 bases in 12 tries. The question is: can he do more? Cabrera had a career .296/.349/.420 line in the minors, with a mild .124 ISO. He makes a lot of contact and isn’t punch-less, but he will have hit the ball with more authority to be relevant outside of NL-only leagues.

LHP Cliff Lee to the Seattle Mariners; RHP Roy Halladay, RHP Phillippe Aumont, RHP J.C. Ramirez and OF Tyson Gillies to the Phillies; RHP Kyle Drabek, C Travis d’Arnaud and OF Michael Taylor to the Blue Jays (Toronto later traded Taylor to the Athletics for 3B/1B Brett Wallace)

Over the past two years, Lee has established himself as a top-five starting pitcher. From 2008 to 2009, the lefty has the third-best FIP and K/BB ratio among starters, with the 10th-best WHIP. Now, Lee will be pitching in the best possible spot for a southpaw pitcher with fly-ball tendencies. Safeco Field has been brutal to right-handed power hitters, and has decreased home runs by 7% compared to a neutral ball park since 2007. Even better, Lee will be backed by perhaps the best defensive unit in the big leagues.

Halladay, meanwhile, is just about the safest bet among all pitchers. Roy’s K rate has increased four years straight, climbing from 5.4 K/9 in 2006 to 7.8 in 2009. The whiffs have cut into his ground-ball rate (from 61% in 2006 to 50% in 2009), but Halladay still burns plenty of worms. The 6’6’’ righty will be moving to a park that has inflated home runs by 14% over the past three years, so the grounder rate bears watching. But it’s easy to envision Halladay mowing down NL lineups and adding another Cy Young to his trophy case.

Wallace’s lumber is nearly big league ready – the lefty batter works the count well and has above-average-power potential. He’ll be more valuable if he can stick at third base, but they don’t call him “The Walrus” for nothing. Wallace will likely shift to first base at some point. Drabek, whose low-90s heat and power curve punched out 150 hitters in 158 innings between High-A and Double-A, could be a top-of-the-rotation arm. Aumont, a 6’7’’ righty with a sizzling fastball, looks like a closer-in-waiting if he improves his control and stays healthy. A hulking right-handed batter, Taylor has an intriguing combination of plus power (.229 ISO between Double-A and Triple-A) and deceptive athleticism (21 combined steals).

OF Curtis Granderson to the Yankees; RHP Max Scherzer, LHP Daniel Schlereth, LHP Mike Dunn and OF Austin Jackson to the Tigers; RHP Edwin Jackson and RHP Ian Kennedy to the Diamondbacks

Granderson’s .249/.327/.453 line in 2009 looks middling, but he’s a great bounceback candidate. His walk, strikeout and ISO figures were similar to 2008, when he hit .280/.365/.494. What changed? Granderson’s BABIP fell to .276, compared to his career .323 average. The lefty batter does scuffle against same-handed pitching (career .614 OPS vs. lefties), but he’s a good bet to go 30/20 again in 2010.

Scherzer’s first full year in the rotation was a rousing success, with a 9.2 K/9 rate and a 3.87 FIP. His blistering fastball, sharp slider and hard change-up led to a 77% contact rate, a top-15 mark among starters. About the only thing that can derail Scherzer is health; he has a troubling history of shoulder ailments.

Schlereth, a lefty reliever with a power fastball/breaking ball combo, could soon become Detroit’s closer. He’ll need to sharpen his control, though. Austin Jackson has a well-rounded skill set, though none of his tools stick out. He stole 24 bases in 28 tries in Triple-A last year. However, Jackson’s plate discipline has declined with each promotion, and his power is average.

Edwin Jackson made a good deal of progress in 2009, raising his K/BB ratio from 1.4 to 2.3 and lowering his FIP from 4.88 to 4.28. The former Dodgers prospect has a great slider (+1.89 runs per 100 pitches in 2009), but his fastball remains a batting practice pitch (-0.41 runs/100). Getting a better handle on his heater would allow Jackson to improve upon his poor 54% rate of first-pitch strikes. Jackson is good, but his 3.62 ERA might make him overvalued on draft day.

A former USC star with a career 2.69 FIP in the minors, Kennedy has yet to taste success in the Majors. His stuff (high-80s fastball, plus change-up, decent slider and curve) isn’t as good as his numbers would suggest, though the D-Backs still have high hopes for the 25-year-old. Kennedy’s 2009 season was derailed by surgery to remove an aneurysm in his right armpit. However, he did help his stock with a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League.

RHP Brandon Morrow to the Blue Jays for RHP Brandon League and OF Johermyn Chavez

Morrow was handled terribly by Seattle’s previous regime. The fifth overall pick in the 2006 draft was shoved into the M’s bullpen in 2007, instead of being given time to develop his secondary pitches and build stamina as a starter in the minors. After two more years of bouncing between starting and relieving, Morrow is now 25 and pitches like a live-armed Low-A hurler. His talent is obvious, as the righty has punched out 9.3 hitters per nine innings in the Majors. Unfortunately, his control (5.8 BB/9) is abysmal. Morrow’s mid-90s fastball (+0.5 runs per 100 pitches thrown) and occasional mid-80s change-up (+0.2) have been effective, but his mid-80s slider (-0.5) often misses. He’s a project, but Morrow could provide value as either a starter or a closer.

League is fresh off his best season, having posted a 3.58 FIP out of the bullpen. The 27-year-old right-hander struck out 9.2 batters per nine frames, well above his career 6.9 average. He did so by trading some mid-90s sinkers for mid-80s change-ups. League’s change-up was worth +2.7 runs per 100 pitches, which helped him lower his contact rate from 82% to 71%. He still induced plenty of grounders, with a 56% ground-ball rate. There has been some rumbling that League could get some starts with his new team, but he has never started in the Majors and last took regular turns in a rotation at High-A in 2003.




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A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at david.golebiewski@gmail.com and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.

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