Saturday, June 28, 2008

Trade Reflection Part Four: The Hot Stove Series - Part Two

In the previous section of Trade Reflections, I took a look at the marque trades from the 2007/08 Hot Stove League. In this series, I will focus on three pitcher for hitter swaps that occurred. Unlike the previous reflections, these trades have resulted in clear cut winners, trades which are already paying dividends.

Keep in mind, the old addage which states that a manager never trades a starting pitcher for a hitter. Especially young, high ceiling pitchers.

Immediate Dividends - Pitchers for Hitters

The Tampa Bay Rays acquire Matt Garza, Jason Bartlett, and Eduardo Morlan from the Minnesota Twins for Delmon Young, Brendan Harris, and Jason Pridie.

As of 48 hours ago, this was a much closer trade. Garza was having a fine, yet unspectacular season. He has spent some time on the disabled list with what sounded like a serious elbow injury. This led to Garza having a brutal April where he walked more hitters then he struck out. The time off has clearly done wonders for Garza and he has had two of the best months of his professional career.

At 24 years old, the kid is legitimizing the high praise he received as a minor leaguer, where he rated as high as an A prospect according to John Sickels at Minor League Ball. Additionally, Keven Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus last rated Garza as an 'excellent' prospect, the best in the Twins organization entering the 2007 season. Seems like sufficient praise to me and all signs pointing to future ace.

Owning a 4.25 FIP, which is mostly due to a terrible April, Garza is heading in the direction of stardom. If he can remain healthy, he will undeniably give the Rays the best 1 thru 3 in the majors. Watching him own the Marlins on Wednesday was a treat.

Adding Bartlett to the puzzle has helped the Rays significantly. A year ago, this team was the worst fielding team in the majors. While Bartlett hasn't been without fault, his range has made the Rays one of the strongest teams up the middle.

Lastly, 22 year old Eduardo Morlan missed a month and a half of action this season and has consequently only thrown 12 innings of relief for the Rays Double A club, the Montgomery Biscuits. It appears as though the injury flared up early in the season, where the Biscuits simply let him rest, however after letting up 5 runs on April 20th, it was only a matter of time before the young Cuban was shut down. In 6.1 innings in June, Morlan has allowed 1 run, with 8 baserunners and two strikeouts. Far from dominant, but far from terrible.

The center piece going to the Twins, and one of my personal favorites, Delmon Young, has definitely disappointed in his second full major league season. At just 22 years old there is still plenty of room to grow for Delmon, but the Twins certainly expected more from the first overall pick, and one time consensus top prospect.

However, the news is not all bad with Delmon. He has taken substantial strides in both his walk and strikeout rates. In fact, his strikeout to walk ratio is bordering on league average and has shown a steady improvement this season. With a brutal home run per fly ball rate, look for Delmon to have a big second half and close the gap that Garza has created.

Following baseball quite closely, it came as a surprise to me that Harris has played in the majority of the Twins ballgames this season. This may be due to Harris, by all measures, being a fairly poor player this season. Essentially, the Twins would be no worse without Harris.

At 23 years old Pridie had a fairly strong minor league season in 2007. Splitting time between Double and Triple A Pridie displayed the numbers of a player poised to be a forth outfielder. A year later, and Pridie would struggle to earn the label "Quadruple A".

Mid-season Grade: While this trade can be reflected upon for the next 4-6 years, at this point, given that the Twins have gotten nothing from Harris and Pridie, and Garza has outperformed Young, the Rays are the clear winners. When one also considers that the Rays truly have nowhere for Delmon to play currently, and Garza has allowed the Rays to take their time with all of the prized pitching prospects, the decision becomes that much more easy to make.

The Detroit Tigers 'give away' Jair Jurrjens and Gorkys Hernandez to the Atlanta Braves for Edgar Renteria.

While the Tigers received a little more name power then the Mets did when they traded away Kazmir, it wouldn't surprise me if the results remained the same. Renteria is a fine hitter and a decent defensive short stop. The move allowed the Tigers to slide the fast aging Carlos Guillen to the hot corner and the growing waste line of Miguel Cabrera to the old man corner. In fact, I would argue that the shifting of positions was the most significant part of this trade.

Renteria has performed at the level everyone outside of Detroit expected. That is, those outside of Detroit saw a hitter whom could not hold his own in the American League. Those in Detroit saw a hitter with batting title potential. The soon to be 33 year old should be counted on for a little more then replacement level production.

Meanwhile, the Braves again cleaned house. That is, consider the Braves moved prospect SUPER bust Andy Marte for Renteria, received two solid years out of Renteria and then sent him packing in the last year of his contract for Jurrjens and Hernandez. Yes Chipper, the baseball gods are sure acting against you!

I recalled watching Jurrjens pitch against Fausto Carmona and the Cleveland Indians last season and thinking to myself, 'wow, this kid looks just like Carmona!' It was everything about him, from his build to his delivery and pitches. The only thing missing was Fausto's nasty grill. Armed with only a slightly slower fastball, slider, change combination, Jurrjens has the same ridiculous movement of Carmona.

The groundball percentage isn't quite there yet, but if last nights dominant performance against the Jays is an indication of things to come, WATCH OUT!

There isn't much to say about Gorkys. He is 20 years old and succeeding while playing at a very advanced level for his age. The power leaves a little to be desired, and he could cut down on his strikeouts, but overall, the kid is doing a fine job at High A.

Mid-season Grade: Had the Tigers sent Hernandez for Renteria this trade probably would have graded out as a wash. The Braves wanted to get Yunel Escobar in the lineup, and rid themselves of Renteria's $10M contract. That the Braves also received the 22 year old Jurrjens is quite the epic heist. Even if Renteria hits the game winning single in game 7 of the World Series, the Tigers overpaid for a players name.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim trade Orlando Cabrera to the Chicago White Sox for Jon Garland.

The Reds-Rangers trade would have fit perfectly in here, but I already reflected on that trade. So I will make do with the Cabrera-Garland trade which came as a surprise to the baseball world. Rare is it to see two teams trade such valuable assets, but like the Braves wanting to make room for Escobar, this was a trade which was required to open up spots on the respective ballclubs.

In Garland, the Angels received an innings eater. There was a feeling after this trade that the Angels made out the better of the two given Garland's move to an easier division and into a more pitcher friendly ballpark. To this point, Garland has posted what is essentially his career averages, with the exception of his home run per fly ball rate. Something that comes as a surprise to everyone.

Garland has been steady, yet unspectacular. Quietly going about his business as the Angels "#3" starter behind Lackey and Weaver. Garland's addition nearly resulted in one of Santana or Saunders not making the club out of Spring Training, however, an injury to Kelvim Escobar allowed for the young duo to make the club. Additionally, Garland's addition has helped the Angels own the majors 5th best ERA by starters, while logging the second most innings. This acquisition will be most notable in the playoffs, when the Angels will have a second veteran in the rotation.

Similar to Garland, Cabrera has had essentially a career average season. Would the White Sox be better off with Uribe as an everyday player? Probably not. And the added depth has definitely helped this team as it leads the American League Central.

Mid-season Grade: This trade grades out as a wash, although if I was pressed to pick a winner, I would take the ChiSox. The move, as mentioned added depth to the White Sox infield. But it also allowed for Danks and Floyd to simply take a job out of Spring Training. Both pitchers have been spectacular and I am certain that not being pressured into succeeding has certainly helped. To the Angels defense, Garland filled a hole that the Escobar injury created. With middle infield deep within the Angels system, they could afford to move Cabrera. Rare is it to find a trade that works out perfectly for both sides, this may be one of them.

BallHype: hype it up!

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