Saturday, July 5, 2008

Trade Speculator - CC Sabathia - Part I

For Charles Carstens and the Indians, hopefully this Trade Speculator is part one of one. As reported by Tim Hardicourt and Anthony Witrado, the Milwaukee Brewers and Cleveland Indians are in negotiations to work out a deal that revolve around CC Sabathia. As far as names are concerned, the only reports are that the Indians have checked out Milwaukee's high A affiliate, the Brevard County Manatees. Canadian Taylor Green is a name that came up, although I can't see the Indians making a trade for prospects that are that far from the majors. Hardicourt and Witrado assert that the Brewers probably wouldn't part with Green and the other top third base prospect, Matt Gamel. However, Shapiro has been quite sly with his trade negotiations, so expect him to get a lot here.

Despite the report from Hardicourt and Witrado, Ken Rosenthal is suggesting that the Brewers have offered their top prospect, Matt LaPorta. It additionally sounds as if they are willing to send Alcides Escobar in a package for Sabathia. Rosenthal, however, suggests that an additional piece would have to come from Cleveland in this proposed package.

If the Indians could land Escobar, the middle infield that this team would sport at the end of 2009 and beyond would be, in my opinion, the best of all time. Maybe not with the sticks, but I'm certain it would be impossible to hit a ground ball up the middle on those two slick fielders. Additionally, we would see some of the most remarkable double plays ever!

Stepping away from my Cleveland colored glasses for a moment, let's take a look at what the experts have to say about LaPorta and Escobar.

Kevin Goldstein, the Baseball Prospectus writer whom I source several times a week, rated LaPorta as the #1 prospect in the Brewers organization and the 4th player under 25. Keep in mind that LaPorta is in the company of All Stars Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun, as well as pitcher Yovani Gallardo. In other words, if LaPorta was in any other organization, he would arguably be their top under 25 talent.

I will ignore what negative Goldstein has to say about LaPorta as it focuses on his fielding and fielding alone. The reason being, when the bat is as good as LaPorta's is projected to be, you are excused for having cement hands. Here is what Goldstein has to say,
LaPorta has true impact potential offensively, with some scouts believing that he had the best power and the best pitch recognition in last June's draft. He has the patience to wait for a pitch to hit, the bat speed to let balls carry deep into the zone, the strength to power them out to all fields, and the hand/eye coordination to hit for average as well. Moved to the outfield for the first time in his career after signing, the Brewers praised his work ethic in learning the new position, and his ability to leave his defensive issues behind him when he stepped to the plate.
'True impact potential offensively'. Given as a 23 year old, LaPorta has 19 moonshots thus far for his double A club, it appears as though he has been accurately labeled.

Sickels agrees that LaPorta's bat is legit, although like Goldstein, he questions LaPorta's glove dropping the kid to #19 on his prospect hitters list. A B+ rating is solid, if not spectacular for a hitter with such little experience within professional baseball. This only further impresses me on the success that LaPorta has had to date.

Despite recent word that the Brewers will be unwilling to part with Escobar if they are already sending LaPorta, let's quickly check out the player whom the Indians might have involved in this package.

Escobar is not going to win a triple crown any time soon. In fact, he probably never will. The lack of power, which led a scout to tell Goldstein, that Escobar is "about as strong as my sister". Furthermore, according to Goldstein, Escobar's "highly-aggressive approach limits his on-base ability. He also has a sizable platoon split, with much more effectiveness against southpaws."

The Indians would be receiving a high average, outstanding defensive short stop. This could be an addition by subtraction as it would allow them to freely shop Casey Blake and eventually move Jhonny Peralta to the hot corner.

Looking through the Brewers organization, four names stuck out to me as players I would want if I were running the Indians.

First, Zachary Braddock, a 20 year old left handed starter pitching in high A. Currently Braddock is having a mediocre season, but much of that can be blamed on poor luck and lack of control. Sickels rated Braddock as a C+ prospect entering this season, and I would imagine that rating to remain the same as of today. The strikeouts have taken a hit, but he is still young enough to turn things around in that regard.

Second, Corey Frerichs. This 22 year old reliever is dominating low A ball with an 11.72 K/9 (strikeouts per nine innings). Like Braddock his walk rate is fairly high, and at Frerichs age, he may never turn into Rafael Betancourt, but from the numbers, the kid looks like a nice piece to acquire. Frerichs isn't showing up on anyones prospect lists, to his price may be low enough to get as a throw in.

Third, catcher Jonathan Lucroy. The 22 year old catcher, drafted in the 3rd round and touted as the second best hitting catcher in the 2007 draft behind Matt Weiters, an Orioles prospect. Thus far, Lucroy has not disappointed and liek LaPorta, is a defensive renaissance from being an even higher rated prospect. Sickels rated Lucroy as a B- entering this season.

Lastly, 20 year old right handed starter, Jeremy Jeffress. I gather that Jeffress would be incredibly difficult to pry from the Brewers as he is having success in high A at a relatively young age. Sickels rated Jefress as a B prospect assuming that he is no longer a threat to be suspended for violating the leagues substance abuse program. Goldstein had the following to say while rating the first rounder a 4 star prospect,
On a pure velocity level, Jeffress ranks with any arm in the minors, as he parked his fastball consistently at 94-97 mph, and touched 100 mph on several occasions last year. He flashes a good curveball at times, and has begun to show some feel for a changeup as well, despite being very new to the pitch. He's an outstanding athlete, and his arm action is clean.
Of the four, Jeffress is presumably the most difficult to obtain. Shapiro, however, may be able to offer to rid the Brewers of the headaches Jeffers causes. Obviously Lucroy's defensive issues would have to be cleared, as the team does not need another Ryan Garko.

Given the current LaPorta for Sabathia offer, the Indians should not hesitate to make this move. Mark Shapiro should act quickly. Given the day to day uncertainty of MLB players, anything could happen in an instant which could simultaneously make Sabathia undesirable, and the Brewers from wanting to send their most coveted prospect. Given the fact that I am an Indians fan, this is a trade I will be monitoring closely.

BallHype: hype it up!

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