Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Trade Reflection Part Three: The Hot Stove Series - Part One

Sitting near the mid-way point of MLB's 2008 Season, what better time to reflect upon the previous Hot Stove League. This, also sparked by Bob Nightendale of the USA Today reflecting upon some of the same trades.

The Big Ones - Starting Pitcher Edition

The New York Mets acquire Johan Santana from the Minnesota Twins for Carlos Gomez, Phil Humber, Deolis Guerra, and Kevin Mulvey.

Obviously when the best pitcher in the game is traded, the trade will be referred to as the biggest of the off season. While other trades have been equally as important, I will start off with this trade as it is one that raised the most eye brows. That is, very few saw the haul the Twins received as equal to what was allegedly on the table. We all remember the rumors of the Red Sox offering all of their top prospects? Or the Yankees dangling everyone in their system? Even I asserted that the Twins received less then the Athletics did in the Haren deal.

Nearly three months into the season, it is difficult to argue with what the Twins received. While Gomez has a long way to go before becoming an All-Star centerfielder, and the Twins wouldn't even argue that they rushed the kid, he has certainly held his own in Minnesota. Improved patience at the plate and some overall growth, should equate to a very productive career for Gomez.

Humber has continued the regression that many people expected out of him. The strikeouts have decreased, and unfortunately the free passes have increased. While Humber made a decent case to make the team out of Spring Training, the Twins were obviously smart in keeping him down. At this point, Humber isn't worth a whole lot.

At the time of the trade, Mulvey was considered the third best pitcher in the Mets organization. As a 23 year old, he has certainly held his own in Triple A, and currently looks like a nice prospect, but nothing spectacular. A handful of starts for the Twins is likely at some point this season, at which point we will have a better understanding of exactly the type of pitcher Mulvey will be.

Lastly, Deolis Guerra, the pitcher with a name I can sadly spell without looking up, has been somewhat of a disappointment. Keeping in mind the kid still is not 20 years old, yet has more then held his own against far more advanced competition keeps his status somewhat high. John Sickels remains optimistic about Guerra simply because of his age and that the kid would be fortunate to be at this level had he been drafted out of high school in 2007.

In return for all of these question marks, the Mets have cruised along with Johan Santana. Despite numbers that are a far cry from that of his early seasons with the Twins, Santana remains an anchor in an otherwise shaky Mets rotation. Consider that Mike Pelfrey (whom was nearly traded to the Twins) has the third best ERA on the team. That said, with the Mets struggling to keep their heads above water, and the club moving to a new ballpark for the 2009 season, this trade is looking more and more in the Mets favor.
Mid-season Grade: Mets. This gap may widen if the high ceiling prospects that the Twins received continue to fall far from their potential.

The Arizona Diamondbacks acquire Dan Haren and Connor Robertson from the Oakland Athletics for Brett Anderson, Greg Smith, Dana Eveland, Carlos Gonzalez, Aaron Cunningham, and Chris Carter.

Only Billy Beane could turn one player (Mulder) into so many highly coveted prospects while saving the organization money and not losing a beat. Many are skeptical of Beane, but the guy knows how to run a business. That aside, there wasn't any way to argue against what Beane received at the time of the trade, and considering the A's performance to this point, it's tough to knock them for what Beane put together after it. Let's see how the players pan out.

Young lefty Brett Anderson has looked solid to this point in the season. Both his strikeout and walk rates have improved this season and Anderson looks poised to make a jump to the next level. At only 20 years old, the Athletics have no need to rush the kid, but they should reward him, despite being fairly unlucky.

Both Smith and Eveland have been better then advertised. Coming to Oakland, neither were considered as top of the rotation starters, in fact, it could be argued that neither were expected to truly make much of an impact in 2008. However, with highly sustainable numbers, both pitchers have proven that as 24, they are here to stay. The rest of the league has to hope that Beane doesn't swing them for another crop of prospects. Keep in mind, neither will be elite pitchers, but both should have some decent staying power if healthy.

As if the three pitchers were not enough, Beane also received underrated and underappreciated Carlos Gonzalez. Gonzalez posted some nice numbers in Triple A, even better when you consider he is all of 22 years old, and has done fine in the majors. The numbers have not been spectacular, but it appears as if he is with the Athletics to stay and should be a nice, although not spectacular, young bat.

Cunningham hasn't been anything overly impressive at Double A, but is fairly young for his level of competition. Displaying a decent walk rate at the plate, Cunningham is that 'typical' Athletic player of the past. The kid probably has the same value today that he had on the day of the trade.

The last piece of the trade is absolutely tearing the cover off of the ball. One of Minor League Baseball's Chris Carter's has 20 home runs in only 74 minor league games. Playing high A ball as a 21 year old, Carter's power cannot be questioned. His plate discipline however, now that is another story. Carter is striking out at a Ryan Howard-esqe pace of over 31%. All that being said, the power is incredible and will definitely be Carter's calling card to the major leagues. His stock has definitely gone up since the trade.

In return, the Diamondbacks made out fairly well themselves. To start, Connor Robertson is doing just fine in Triple A this season. As a reliever, Robertson has a very good chance at making the big club at some point this season. That, however, was more or less a throw-in. Probably the last player on the A's 40 man roster whom they would have been required let go in order to make room for Smith or Eveland.

Haren, is the player whom Josh Byrnes and many other front office executives around baseball were dying to acquire. To this point, Haren has been as solid as could be. Although the strikeout rate has taken a marginal dip, Haren has been extraordinarily stingy with the walks.

The Seattle Mariners acquire Erik Bedard from the Baltimore Orioles for Adam Jones, George Sherrill, Chris Tillman, Kam Mickolio, and Anthony Butler.

Initially, I saw this as a win for the Mariners, figuring this would put them over the top and make them the obvious choice for winner of the American League West. However after the later reports came through of the two additional prospects, I began to call this trade a wash. At this point, even that is pushing it as things certainly have not went as planned, with the Mariners playing some ugly ball and Bedard being less then spectacular with his new team.

Conversely, the Orioles have gotten far more then they ever could have expected despite the struggles of Jones and mediocre performances from the Mickolio and Butler. Keep in mind, I am stating mediocre, I am not writing the kids off, rather, I am asserting that they have not made major steps forward. However, there isn't a major league organization that would not love to have the 20 year old Butler as an A Ball starter.

The big gains have come from George Sherrill and Chris Tillman, who have been equally unreal this season. For Sherrill, the Orioles received a left handed anchor to their bullpen. The 31 year old has continued his impressive play and is being mentioned as a pitcher that will presumably be traded before the July 31st deadline.

The gem, however, is Chris Tillman. As a 20 year old, Tillman looks absolutely incredible in Double A. There is little doubt in my mind that this kid will shoot up essentially every prospect list and will be that player the Mariners regret letting go. As is, Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus (subscription required) is suggesting that Tillman's stock has gone "Way up, because what else can you say for a 20-year-old power arm dominating at the upper levels?"

Mid-season Grade: Orioles by a landslide. I think after Sherrill is moved and if, as rumored, Bedard is moved, for what will undeniably be a lesser amount then the M's gave up, this will go down as one of the biggest heist's of all time.

BallHype: hype it up!

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