Archive for 2011 Trade Deadline

Is There a Trade Market for Carlos Lee?

Last Saturday, Jon Heyman mused via Twitter that he hadn’t yet seen any trade interest develop in Astros’ first baseman/outfielder Carlos Lee. The tone of Heyman’s tweet was one of surprise; he noted “Guy did have 90-plus rbis for awful team.”

Putting aside Heyman’s reliance on RBI to make his point, the question remains. Is there a trade market for Carlos Lee? He will turn 36 next June and is in the last year of six-year/$100 million contract with the Astros. According to Cot’s Contracts, the Astros still owe Lee $19 million.

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Jim Thome Returns to Cleveland

In an Indians uniform, Jim Thome had a better on-base percentage than Manny Ramirez, a better OPS than Tris Speaker and more home runs than everyone by a country mile. And with Travis Hafner ailing once again, Thome gets the 41st-birthday present that we all wish for — he gets to come home.

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Deadline Recap: Against The Ubaldo Jimenez Trade

I love trades, transactions, and rumors. Love ’em. While the actual game of baseball is pretty cool too — you know, I’ll watch it on occasion — there’s something endlessly fascinating about discussing roster moves. The flurry of action around the trade deadline makes it one of my favorite times of the season, and it’s one of the few things fans of rebuilding teams have to look forward to each year.

There’s just something so addicting about the deadline. Following the trade deadline on Twitter is like watching the climax of a giant, twisting, real-life soap opera unfold 140 characters at a time. Rumors are buzzing everywhere, emotions are running high, analysts are making over-the-top assessments, and debates are flying nearly as fast as the rumors. It’s an adrenaline rush that doesn’t require an HDTV or special effects, just a knowledge of the narratives surrounding this year’s season. It’s the ultimate story — a real-time novel with 30 authors and millions of attentive readers.

But one of the key reasons I love this time of the year is because it stimulates so much good analysis and debate. Each trade can be debated on the merits of the return for both sides — something saberists love to do — but there are also underlying philosophical debates about proper team building and strategy. How close is close enough to justify making a run at the playoffs?  Should this team be looking to sell or buy? What should be this organization’s long-term plan? Are they working toward it? Sometimes the answer to these questions are easy; other times they can be the cause of all sorts of debate.

The Ubaldo Jimenez trade is a great example. I have conflicting emotions on this trade: while I like the total package the Rockies got back in return, I really dislike the trade from a philosophical point of view.

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Deadline Recap: Position Player Upgrades

With the non-waiver trade deadline past us, we can take a step back and see how each contender upgraded its roster. Because the season is two-thirds over, these players might not have an enormous impact. But for a contender sitting on the fringe, or a leader wanting to solidify its position, these acquisitions could make enough of a difference now, and then a bigger one come playoff time, when everyone starts from scratch.

To project the positional upgrade the team will receive, we’ll look at the wRAA the team has received so far from the position, the projected wRAA for the incumbent, and the projected wRAA for the replacement, based on ZiPS rest of season. We’ll assume 230 PA, which is based on a prorated 700 PA season. I’m leaving out defense, because I’m not comfortable projecting 1/3 of a season. I’m also leaving out guys such as Jerry Hairston, who are injury fill-ins rather than upgrades.

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Deadline Recap: The “Should Have Done Mores”

Last week, I ranked the thirty major league teams based on their level of need to make moves prior to Sunday’s trade deadline. Some teams had a pressing need to acquire players in order to enhance their odds of making the playoffs. Other teams needed to capitalize on the high value of their assets and move them for the best possible returns of prospects. In reviewing the list now that the deadline has passed, most of the teams fell right in line with their rankings.

But the activity of certain teams over the weekend proved quite interesting. A couple of teams with a number of trade chips and a need to move them stood pat, while others made moves that clashed with their biggest needs. Another team primed for a playoff push made lateral moves, which is almost as bad as not doing anything at all. Obviously, each front office has its own way of operating and generating a game plan, but I can’t help but wonder what some of these teams were thinking this week.

Here are the teams whose activity approaching the deadline was questionable, and their rankings on the Trade Deadline Necessities list:

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Boston Fortifies Rotation With Bedard

For many pundits, the Boston Red Sox were the clear best team in baseball this year. Ever since a 2-10 start, the Sox have won over two-thirds of their games, with a stellar 64-30 record. They lead the American League in both actual record and first-order (Pythagorean) record, and their 67.8-37.2 third-order record is a full two games clear of the Philadelphia Phillies.

But even the best teams are rarely without weakness, and with Clay Buchholz’s status uncertain, the Red Sox found themselves with some shallowness in their rotation. Sure, John Lackey, Andrew Miller, and Tim Wakefield would have no problem bringing an offense with as much firepower as Boston’s to the playoffs, particularly with an 8.5 game lead on Los Angeles for the Wild Card if they can’t hold their 2 game lead on New York in the East. But in the playoffs, the Red Sox will have to get by potent offenses such as the Yankees and the Rangers, and with Lackey and Miller as the third and fourth options out of the rotation, the Red Sox had a clear need to upgrade.

Upgrade they did, as the Red Sox pulled a three-way deadline deal to add Erik Bedard from the Mariners. To swing the deal, the Red Sox sent prospects C Tim Federowicz, RP Juan Rodriguez and SP Stephen Fife to the Dodgers in order to acquire OF Trayvon Robinson, who was then flipped along with OF Chih-Hsien Chang to the Mariners, bringing RP Josh Fields back as well as Bedard.

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Adams Joins Reformed Rangers Bullpen

After weeks of rumors about the Padres and Rangers being engaged in talks for closer Heath Bell, the teams pulled off a deal… involving setup man Mike Adams.

The Rangers, fresh off of acquiring Koji Uehara on Saturday, sent pitching prospects Robert Erlin and Joseph Wieland to San Diego to bring aboard arguably the best non-closing relief pitcher in the game. Since joining the Padres in 2008, Adams has thrown 217 innings with the following pertinent numbers: 137 (!) hits, 10.0 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 0.90 WHIP, 1.66 ERA and 2.48 SIERA. He ranks towards the top in each of those categories, and his 5.2 WAR in the span is the highest among setup men and middle relievers in the National League, and second to Matt Thornton across both leagues.

Simply put, Mike Adams is one of the very best relievers in baseball, regardless of whether or not he closes out the ninth inning, and was the top reliever on the market. Right behind him was Uehara, who has been equally filthy over the last two seasons. In acquiring both pitchers, the Rangers fixed a significant deficiency: the bullpen.

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Cardinals Add Furcal to Mix

In an effort to sure up their interior defense, the St. Louis Cardinals agreed to a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers, bringing Rafael Furcal back east in exchange for Double-A outfielder Alex Castellanos. The trade was first reported last night, but could not be made official until Furcal – a 10/5 player – waived his no-trade clause to complete the transaction.

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Pirates Add To Outfield With Ludwick

At the outset the Pirates had a solid plan in the outfield. They flanked superstar center fielder Andrew McCutchen with young up-and-comer Jose Tabata in left, and a platoon of Garrett Jones and Matt Diaz in right. It might not have been the heaviest-hitting outfield combination in the league, but it didn’t appear to be a problem area, either. Since then those plans have hit a few snags. Tabata hit the DL, Jones failed to produce even one batting run above average in the first four months, and Diaz has been an unmitigated disaster at the plate. Rookie Alex Presley helped for a while, but he, too, hit the DL. Their need for outfield help persisted until a few minutes before today’s non-waiver trade deadline, when they acquired Ryan Ludwick from the Padres for a player to be named later.

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Oakland Uses Brad Ziegler to Free Brandon Allen

The Athletics traded a reliever and got back a young player that, despite his struggles to date, already has shown more power than anyone on the Oakland roster not named Josh Willingham. Yes, they used Brad Ziegler to (hopefully) free Brandon Allen.

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Bourn Seeks Playoff Identity In Atlanta

The Braves finally got in on one of the most active trade deadlines in recent memory Sunday morning, when they acquired Michael Bourn from the Astros. In doing so, the Braves were able to part with quantity over quality and get a guy who perfectly fits their ballclub.

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Giants Acquire Orlando Cabrera

Not content with Jeff Keppinger and Carlos Beltran as trade deadline acquisitions, the San Francisco Giants added veteran middle infielder Orlando Cabrera to the mix. In exchange for Cabrera, the Giants sent 23-year-old outfielder Thomas Neal to the Cleveland Indians – who had little use for Cabrera after Jason Kipnis was promoted.

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Pirates Acquire Derrek Lee

Just hours after acquiring their potential first baseman of the future (Chris Davis), the Baltimore Orioles shipped off their first baseman of the present – Derrek Lee – to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for yet another young first baseman in Aaron Baker. Selected in the 11th round of the 2009 draft, Baker has produced above-average offensive marks since turning pro. Meanwhile, his age (23) and his level (A+) probably give him an advantage. Although Baker may never turn in to anything more than an organizational soldier, his power potential is worth taking a shot on; especially since the 35-year-old Lee is not in Baltimore’s post-2011 plans.

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Why Did the Rockies Trade Ubaldo?

The Rockies and Indians finalized a deal Saturday night that sent ace Ubaldo Jimenez to Cleveland in exchange for prospects Alex White, Joe Gardner, Matt McBride and Drew Pomeranz. The rumors swirling around Jimenez were strange from the start, since a team in the Rockies position usually looks to acquire pitchers of that ilk rather than deal them away. However, after learning of the exact return package and assessing the state of the Rockies organization, dealing away Jimenez made more sense than it originally seemed, and might benefit the team more over the next few years.

In Jimenez, the Rockies had a very valuable trade chip if he was ever to be made available. He tallied about 4.5 WAR in 2008, and then sat right around 6 WAR in both 2009 and 2010. Cost-controlled pitchers with that type of resume just aren’t generally made available, since those are the pitchers teams try to build around, not without. Jimenez is currently signed to a four-year, $10 million deal that expires in 2012, with club options for $3.75 million in 2013 and $8 million the very next season. By virtue of his contract, however, he can void the 2014 option if traded.

In spite of the cost control, if a great deal of the budget is already committed and the top prospects within the system — who were going to be relied upon to contribute in the major league rotation before 2013-14 — weren’t developing up to expectations, then there isn’t a whole lot to actually build with. By trading away Jimenez, the Rockies basically admitted one of two things, if not both:

1) They were bearish on Jimenez’ ability to ever reach that 5+ WAR area again
2) They have soured on farmhands like Christian Friedrich and Tyler Matzek, who haven’t developed the way the organization envisioned

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Jimenez Makes Playoffs More Realistic in the Cleve

When authors for, and readers of, FanGraphs gathered at Goodyear Park in Arizona this past March for a panel that included Chris Antonetti, it was apparent that, while the Cleveland GM had legitimate optimism regarding the club’s future, his expectations for the 2010 season were more muted.

Nor would anyone begrudge him this: the team’s two most well-compensated players (Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner), each contending with lingering injuries, had combined for fewer than two wins in 2010. Hitting prodigy and 2010-callup Carlos Santana’s season had ended abruptly with a home-plate collision and subsequent knee surgery (particularly discouraging for a catcher); and the No. 1 starter for the team, Fausto Carmona, was probably more of a No. 3 or 4 starter for a contender. Really, Shin-Soo Choo appeared to be the only thing which one might call an “impact player.”

That, less than five months later, Antonetti and Co. would be making a deadline deal with a view towards securing a postseason berth, seemed improbable.

In fact, that’s precisely what’s happended, as, last night, Cleveland acquired Colorado ace Ubaldo Jimenez from the Rockies in exchange for minor-league pitchers Joe Gardner, Drew Pomeranz, and Alex White and catcher/first base-type Matt McBride.

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Hairston, Marquis Bid Farewell to D.C.

The Nationals made a pair of moves Saturday, sending utility-man Jerry Hairston Jr to the Brewers and starting pitcher Jason Marquis to the Diamondbacks. Both were marginal moves that weren’t all that exciting, but the Nats turned two players who didn’t factor into their plans into prospects who might. In exchange for Hairston, the Brewers sent back outfielder Erik Komatsu. For Marquis, the Diamondbacks traded away shortstop Zach Walters. Neither prospect is what we might label “can’t-miss” but both have the upside to help the Nationals as their rebuilding blossoms into contention.

Hairston signed a one year, $2 million deal in the offseason with the Nats, leading some to question why a team in their position even needed someone like him. Well, this is why. As the trade deadline approaches, some fringe contender is going to need middle infield help, either to replace a failed starter or to bide time due to an injury, and will make a trade for a player of that ilk. Hairston accomplishes both of those goals for the Brewers, who are not only dealing with the offensive impotence of Casey McGehee and Yuniesky Betancourt, but also injuries to Rickie Weeks and Carlos Gomez.

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Koji Uehara To Texas and To Close?

Today, the Rangers traded Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter to the Orioles for setup man Koji Uehara. Some might balk at the asking price, but it’s become obvious that neither Hunter nor Davis were going to figure in to the Rangers’ future plans. And Uehara might end up at the cheapest way for the Rangers to upgrade their late-inning relief.

It’s true that there are a lot of years of control left on the young players that the Orioles acquired. Both can be free agents in 2016 at the earliest. But it’s also true that both players had muted upside.

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Red Sox Acquire Aviles From Royals

With the flurry of rumors around the trade deadline, it can be easy for a move to sneak up seemingly out of nowhere. Theo Epstein and Dayton Moore pulled the trigger on one of those deals this afternoon, with the Red Sox acquiring second baseman Mike Aviles from the Royals for minor leaguers Yamaico Navarro, a 23-year-old versatile infielder, and Kendal Volz, a 23-year-old righty reliever.

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Detroit Tigers Acquire Doug Fister

The Detroit Tigers made a move that will help them today and in the future, acquiring starting pitcher Doug Fister from the Seattle Mariners. The Tigers will also receive reliever David Pauley, and will send Casper Wells, Charlie Furbush, Francisco Martinez and a PTBNL to Seattle.

With Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello already in place, the Tigers headed into the trade deadline looking for a back-end starter. Fister, owner of a 3.33 ERA, will slide in nicely behind Detroit’s other arms. While Fister’s ERA is certainly a result of Safeco Field and the Mariners’ defense, he is by no means a product of a great situation. Fister’s xFIP currently sits below 4.00, as does his SIERA. While his league-average numbers are all well and good, Fister’s value comes from his contract situation. The 27-year old won’t be arbitration eligible until 2013, giving the Tigers another year or two of very cheap production.

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A Pence for a Championship?

You’re the shepherd of a contending team. Your veteran left fielder is 10% worse than the average major leaguer and your young right fielder is part of a tandem that’s third-worst in the National League at he position. An exciting young corner outfielder is available on the market. Acquiring the upgrade is a no-brainer, right?

A lot of ink will be spilled about how Hunter Pence is over-rated. You can point out that he’s got a below-average walk rate. You can say his strikeout rate is only average. It’s true that his power looks above average when compared to the league but is only about the same as the average right fielder (.163 ISO for Pence, .168 for the average right-fielder). It’s even true that he steals bases at a less-than-efficient rate (63%).

And yet, acquiring Pence makes sense for the Phillies.

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