Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The New Year + MLB Trade Action (Its 'Called Better Late Than Never')

In this weeks MLB Action report, I will look at two trades (I know, a lot behind). The first, a trade the Minnesota Twins made with the Tampa Bay Rays (sidenote: I'm a fan of the new Rays hats). As well, the trade the Texas Rangers made with the Cincinatti Reds.

Minnesota Twins trades Matt Garza, Jason Bartlett and Eduardo Morlan to the Tampa Rays for Delmon Young, Brendan Harris and Jason Pridie.

The first major trade that occurred during the Hot Stove league was not one of the trades that many were expecting. No Santana, no Bay and no Bedard. This trade was also one that is not frequently seen. That is, rarely do we see two teams trading players whom are or were rated as top prospects within their organization. Both Garza and Young were rated as the top prospect in their respective organizations the final year they were eligible to be rated by John Sickels.

I'm not going to really get into Morlan, Bartlett, Harris or Pridie, but in my opinion, it appears as if the Twins got the better of this deal. Bartlett had a terrible season while Harris showed he can handle the bigs adequately. But not one of them stick out as an impact player anytime soon. Morlan may be a player to watch though as he has been successful at a young age at relatively high level of competition.

Matt Garza is a bona fide ace in the making! Given a full workload in 2008 and he should take the first steps to giving Tampa Bay one of the best, if not the best, one-two punch in the majors. Here is what had to say about Garza in 2006:
"His heater sits in the low to mid 90s, and it has been clocked as high as 96 miles per hour. As is not the case with his other pitches, Garza relies on his fastball, and has confidence in it when he throws it.

...his slider is a good one, being clocked in the mid 80s, and his changeup is showing the potential to be a solid pitch in his arsenal. Add those pitches to a high 70s curveball, and you have the makings of a pretty lethal repertoire.

If there is one thing that the scouts would change about Garza, it is his reluctance to trust his pitches."
At the time Garza was just 22 with all of 56 professional innings. He will enter the season as the Rays #3 or 4 pitcher although he will perform more like a slightly mediocre #2. Didn't the Rays have NO pitching just a couple years back? Between Kazmir, Shields and Garza the Rays are set up nicely for years to come. And if some of the top prospect pitchers (subscription required - teaser: Price, Davis, Morlan and Niemann ranked #2, 3, 6 and 7th in the organization respectively) pan out, watch out for this already ridiculously young and deep team.

However, its not as if the Rays sent a borderline replacement level pitcher to the Twins for Garza. They sent one of the most highly regarded high school hitters to be drafted since Alex Rodriguez! Delmon Young is exactly what a young, highly regarded prospect is supposed to be - toolsy and raw! He is also exactly what the Twins need and a player who with a few years development, could team with Morneau and Mauer to form a deadly middle of the order for the Twins. Marc Hulet has the following to say about Delmon:
"Young reaches that level, he should be a star because all the tools, that led him to be taken No.1 overall in the nation, are still there. But many thought he'd already be at that level, including himself."
Not the greatest praise yet, but projecting any 22 year old to become a star in just his 3rd professional season has to say something.

So you may be wondering who won this deal? Typically I would take the team that traded for the everyday player. And even though I believe Young is going to develop into an all-star and become a RFer to remember, I will give this trade to the Rays. The Rays acquired what every team in the majors searches high and low for, starting pitching. Add in that Garza looks like a mighty fine starting pitcher, maybe not a #1, but a very skilled #2. Also, consider that the Rays traded from a position of incredible strength (Crawford, Baldelli and Upton man an already dynamic OF) and really, are no worse offensively then they were prior to the trade, makes this an obvious win for them.

Let me take this moment to let everyone know that the two trades I am looking at here are not what I feel are the BIGGEST trades of the Hot Stove League, rather, they are trades that I feel will show the most immediate improvement to the individual ball clubs. I will discuss other trades and moves at a later date.

Texas Rangers trade pitchers Edinson Volquez and Danny Herrera to the Cincinatti Reds for outfielder Josh Hamilton.

What is to not like about this trade? Well, a lot! The Rangers were just beginning to develop a decent core of young pitching and the last thing the Reds need is another fly ball pitcher - hello Eric Milton!

Josh Hamilton has all the talent in the world and put it on display in 2007 in his first extended playing time of professional baseball since 2002! Not only that, but he decided to do so after under 100 plate appearances above A Ball. Everyone heard how incredible his come back story was, as a kid he made some terrible decisions, here is an awesome article from the which goes over the ups and downs of what this 26 year old has already endured - I would actually suggest reading that over most, if not all, of my pieces. A lot of people forget he was the #1 draft pick of the Rays in 1999, but as a toolsy OFer, Hamilton impressed, even though he had a tough time staying healthy - which could be attributed to his drug use.

Hamilton is said to be capable of playing CF and it sounds as if that is where the Rangers are going to play him. Bill James projects an incredible line for Hamilton of .302/.382/.598 (31HR in 410 at bats!) and I can't wait to see where others project him. But playing in Texas with Kinsler, Young and Salta-You're-Not-Going-To-Be-Working-Here-chia should give Hamilton ample opportunities to prove Bill James' projection correct - hopefully with more at bats. However, there is always the possibility for a (knock on wood) relapse or injury.

The Reds, like the Rays, traded from a position of depth. How this team keeps pumping out prospect after prospect of solid hitters is beyond me, especially considering their inability to find pitching. However, things appear to be going in the right direction with Bailey and Cueto. They still control Griffey Jr and Dunn, and they have a young core of talent leading with Brandon Phillips (also know as 'my boy'), Edwin Encarnacion, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce.

I have two major complaints of the Reds. The first, is why they wanted a fly ball pitcher. Edinson Volquez, while having an impressive minor league track record that is made up of solid strikeout rates and average walk rates, Volquez has failed to live up to the hype in the majors, mostly due to his propensity for giving up free passes. While he should improve being in the NL, moving to Great American Ballpark is not going to help his cause - check out that link and the HR rates at GAB the last 5 years!

My second complaint to the Reds is their trading of Hamilton. While he is still raw and no sure thing, I am confident that the team could have gotten a great haul for Adam Dunn at the trade deadline. At this time, the team should have know what they had in not only Hamilton, but also in Votto and Bruce. Also, given Dunn's price tag and soon-to-be-expiring contract, the franchise would have been better served investing that money in say, the draft? They could have landed this years Porcello.

I guess as you can see, I'm definitely favoring the Rangers side of this deal, but not by much. The team was going to have a hole either way you look at it and I suppose getting a nearly certain everyday player for an uncertain pitching prospect is not a terrible trade off. Even though the team could have had Hamilton for nothing - that fact, is what makes this deal close, in that the Reds essentially acquired a top pitching prospect by allowing Hamilton to make the big league roster last April.

So there is my review of trades that happened a while ago and have undoubtedly been hammered into the heads of everyone. The New Year is around the corner and I have some big ideas for the rest of the off season and entering the 2008 big league season. What you can look forward to for 2008 - Minor League Mondays, Team by Team pre-season reports, more opinion articles and much more. Thanks for reading, and enjoy the rest of the holidays.

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