Thursday, January 3, 2008

Two Moves for Thursday January 3rd, 2007

Has anyone ever played Kan Jam? I had the experience of playing this game once, and, well lets just say I didn't come away impressed. I had a difficult time understanding why anyone would purchase this game. So now, I am going to make this my official stand against Kan Jam. I do not care how much fun you think you had playing this game with your bros, it stinks!

I'm in the process of writing my piece on MLB 2007 awards, but when news came about of a pretty big trade in the majors, I just had to put it out there.


The Oakland A's trade Nick Swisher to the Chicago White Sox for Gio Gonzalez, Fuatino De Los Santos and Ryan Sweeney.

Wow! The A's have officially cleaned house with this one. I can't see the A's not trading Blanton, Street, Chavez, etc at this point. Although, let it be known that the haul they received for Swisher is quite solid, if not spectacular. According to John Sickels, the A's grabbed the top two prospects in the White Sox organization (I ranked Gonzalez as the #1 Pale Hose when I made my list a week ago-to be released when pitchers and catchers meet). As an aside, this is the type of trade I make when I start a franchise on a video console.

But lets get to the players. I'll start with what the White Sox are getting, as this is the player to provide the quickest impact. In 2004, I tried to ruin Nick Swisher's career by welcoming him to Toronto and the majors with my lungs, apparently I failed and he is on his way to being a solid major leaguer. Swisher is a power hitting lefty, with an excellent ability to take a walk. Although, he may be better known for his role in Michael Lewis' Moneyball,
"If Billy had the first pick in the entire draft he'd take Swisher with it. He appreciates Swisher more than any man on the planet..." (106).
What to expect from Swisher? Well, he moves from a lineup with essentially nobody around him as protection to a lineup where he could bat as low as 6th with some pretty solid hitters ahead of him-and presumably behind him. There is also the factor of hitting in one of the leagues top HR ballparks. ESPN.com's ballpark factors has ranked US Cellular as the #4, #2 and #1 home run boosting ballpark in the majors over the last three seasons.

Prior to the trade Bill James had projected Swisher to post essentially the same line as in 2007 at .262/.380/.480. After the 2006 season, Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA projection system projected a .256/.363/.489 line. I imagine both will increase their totals, and for fantasy leaguers, if Swisher wasn't already in the upper teir of 1B, he now is.

As an Indians fan, I must step up and say that I am officially worried about the clubs chances in 2008. Pitchers and catchers are to meet in a few weeks and Mark Shapiro has yet to do a thing of substance. The 2007 version of the Indians was extremely fortunate with their health and watching the Tigers and White Sox make these moves is worrisome. I do have some solace that both teams essentially sold the farms stating that they were in it to win now, but the heart of the White Sox order, is going to be absolutely deadly.

I do, however, need to commend Billy Beane, for not only moving a player he had fallen in love with, but also by nabbing some excellent high ceiling prospects. As I mentioned, John Sickels had Gonzalez and De Los Santos as the top two prospects in the White Sox organization, with Sweeney not too far behind at #5; albeit, a weak #5.

In Gonzalez the Athletics grabbed a pitcher with a top of the rotation ceiling. The kid was named as the White Sox #4 prospect in January of 2007 by Baseball Prospectus and the #2 prospect in November of the same year. Heres the scouting report from that same article,
"Gonzalez has average velocity (89-91 mph) on his fastball, but he can reach back and touch 93 at times, and it features natural lefty movement, almost looking more like a cutter on occasion. He uses it effectively to get ahead in the count and set up his curveball, which is among the best in the minors. It’s a hard-breaking power pitch that comes in fast, then falls off the table. His changeup is improving, and his control made significant strides from the previous season."
We are talking some nice, but not spectacular praise here. However, teams need #3 starters, and with a little more development, Gonzalez might be able to crack the top of a teams rotation.

Next up, Faustino De Los Santos, whom I spotted and named as one of my 10 prospects to watch for in 2009-he stuck out like a sore thumb in a terrible ChiSox system. While ranking De Los Santos the #1 prospect in the White Sox organization Baseball Prospectus had the following to say about him this November,
"Built like a tree trunk, de los Santos gets tremendous drive. His fastball sits at 91-95 mph, touching 98 at times; it also has late movement, and he commands it very well. His breaking pitch is a power curve with hard late bite, and it's a true out pitch when he’s on. He understands the importance of developing an offspeed pitch, and he improved his changeup over the course of the year."
There is one thing I want to key in on here. "[T]ouching 98 at times; it also has late movement, and he commands it very well." Turning all of 22 years old this coming February, De Los Santos is slightly behind where he should be in terms of level of competition, but with stuff as nasty as his sounds, it wouldn't surprise me to see him start the year in high A ball and make his way to Sacramento (the A's triple A affiliate), having a solid chance at making the rotation for 2009.

The last piece of the trade, and presumably a player Beane is hoping to use as a bench player in the future, soon to be 23 year old Ryan Sweeney. After Sweeney's age 21 season, Baseball Prospectus had the following to say about him,
"Scouts love the size, the picture-perfect swing, the power potential and the plus outfield arm. Has yet to have a breakout campaign but has held is own despite consistently being a year ahead of most high school picks from his class. Just enough range, thanks to good instincts, to play all three outfield positions."
Not spectacular praise, however noteworthy enough to give hope that he is just going to be a late bloomer.

I have to grade this as a win for Billy Beane and the Athletics. Not only do I feel that Gonzalez and De Los Santos are going to be solid major leaguers and do for the A's what Haren/Blanton/Harden and Zito/Hudson/Mulder did during their tenures. I also take marks away from the White Sox for acquiring a player (who is essentially under contract for 5 years at $7M a year) they could have acquired for a second round draft choice in Jose Guillen. Statistically there would have been a marginal downgrade, but not enough to justify trading away a teams top two prospects.


In other Major League news, the St. Louis Cardinals have signed oft-injured pitcher Matt Clement to a one year deal, plus an option. Depending on the value of this contract, I would say the Cardinals made an excellent signing here. Matt Clement has been a middle of the rotation type starter throughout his career, having posted a career NRA of 4.69. While that number in and of itself does not sit as a fantasy owners dream season, understand that Clements career has been a tale of two halves. The first half where the lowest he could manage to get his NRA was 5.12, whereas the second half the highest Clement's NRA would get is 4.48.

With that being said, I would expect Clement to be about a 4.30-4.45 NRA type guy and probably in the #3 or #4 starter mold. Given the Cardinals current rotation headed by Chris Carpenter and Adam Wrainwright, Clement and recently re-signed Joel Pineiro should provide solid middle of the rotation numbers.

Update 01/04/08 - 1:05am
Baseball Musings.com has sourced the value of the contract-which I will officially state is DIRT CHEAP at $6.5M if Clement pitches 200 or more innings. The option varies based on achievement levels Clement hits, however if he hits any one of them, starting at 160 innings, renewing is a no-brainer as the most the option can reach is $11M, and that is only if Clement is in the top 5 of Cy Young voting during the 2008 season. One can imagine the likelihood of that occurring.

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