Monday, July 21, 2008

Trade Speculator - Clubhouse Warriors

The Trade Speculator returns to reflect upon two trades that have occurred since the end of the All Star Break. Both trades were relatively small deals, but both will have a valuable enough impact on their respective teams to make them worth discussing.

On July 17th, the Arizona Diamondbacks reacquired Tony Clark from the San Diego Padres in exchange for minor league league pitcher Evan Sribner.

Paul DePodesta, a special assistant for the Padres, wrote his opinion of the trade, an interesting read. According to this entry, DePodesta states that the Padres have been looking at the young pitcher since early this season. So much goes on in baseball that none of us have any idea about.

In my opinion, the Padres did excellent here. They signed Tony Clark for under a million dollars to start this season. While Clark has not been the most outstanding player this season, he has performed at a level slightly above replacement, which is fine for the cost. However, the Padres knew when they signed Clark that the investment was minimal, with the reward being substantial. Giving such a small contract to a veteran player like Clark, a player who is known around the league for being a good clubhouse guy, someone teams look to during this time of year, the signing was an easy one to make.

That the Padres flipped Clark for a prospect only further elevates the value of this preseason signing.

In return, the Padres received 2007 28th round pick Evan Scribner. Scribner played four years for Central Connecticut State University, mostly as a starter. At CCSU, Scribner had a fairly decent career, albeit against weak competition. During his four years there, Scribner posted the following numbers:

WHIP 1.32
K/9 7
K/BB 3.93
ERA 3.34
BAA 0.261
SLGA 0.353

Not terrible numbers, but it explains why he wasn't selected until the 28th round. As a college senior, he didn't have any negotiating leverage, which also could have caused a slight fall at the draft.

Scribner recently turned 23 years old and has had a fairly successful run through the Padres minor leagues. Reaching high A this season Scribner has had a decent amount of success at every level. Keep in mind, however, that the majority of his opponents have been substantially younger and less experienced. However, keeping his walk rate down while racking up strikeouts is a good sign at any age, at any level.

His college strikeout to walk ratio would put him well above league average in that category among Major League pitchers. It isn't impossible to believe that the rate he has posted to date during his professional career wouldn't maintain, or at least come close to this long term.

The scouting reports on Scribner say the same things, a 90mph fastball which tops out around 92 with gusts of wind. He has a 'slow looping' curve, although this doesn't sound as if it is coming off as a positive. Most importantly, Scribner can hit the strike zone.

This isn't the kind of report that makes a person gush, nor will it ever land Scribner on anyones top prospect lists, but he could develop into an adequate major league reliever. Presumably not one with an overly important job. More information should be released about Scribner this offseason.

Overall, I like what the Padres have done here. The cost was minimal, even though the current reward is minimal. That said, it's not as if the Diamondbacks broke the bank here, so overall there isn't a winner or a loser.

However, the Diamondbacks new first base platoon of Chad Tracy and Clark forces Conor Jackson out of position and limits the possibility of the Diamondbacks making a trade for an impact corner outfield bat. But their clubhouse will be strong and thus improves their chances of winning, right?

On July 20th, the Giants agreed to send Ray Durham to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for Darren Ford and Steve Hammond. Similar to the Diamondbacks-Padres trade I just examined, this was a team that is out of it, moving an expiring contract for prospects.

My first reaction to this trade was that this trade will immediately help the Brewers. I then became curious as to what 'type' of free agent Ray Durham will be after this season. Given that the Brew Crew are very unlikely to resign the second basemen, it is of major consideration whether Durham will be rated as a type A or B free agent this offseason.

With the free agent depth at second base for this upcoming season, it appears as if Durham will slot in as a type B free agent. This is definitely part and parcel with what the Brewers gave up as they could conceivably end up as gaining on this trade. For now, I will look at what the Brewers currently received.

Ray Durham adds a veteran switch hitter, who prior to this season, had been a superior hitter against lefties then righties. In other words, the Brewers did nothing to improve their current issues against righties. The Brewers are only on the hook for half of Durham's remaining contract, which will cost them about $1.5M.

With others rumored to be available, it seems more as if the Brewers acted quickly rather then getting the best deal out there.

However, it is not as if the Brewers were selling assets which had much, if any, future within the organization. Considering that the corner outfield spots are manned for years to come with Ryan Braun and Corey Hart, and while the player the Brewers moved projects long term as a center fielder, we aren't talking about a major change to the overall appearance of this club.

That prospect, Darren Ford, a speedy 22 year old outfield prospect who has been in high A this season, a level he spent much of 2007 at. There truly is not enough one can say about the speed Darren Ford displays as he ranked as the #3 base runner in 2006 and in the top 20 for 2007 according to Baseball Prospectus.

Drawing a sufficient amount of walks to be a major league regular-if not at least a strong 4th outfielder-Ford's major weakness is his inability to make contact. One would think as a 22 year old, repeating this level of baseball, that Ford would be making strides, however, that is not the case, and Ford has the highest strikeout rate of his career (11.8%). That he has shown little to no power only adds emphasis to his inability to control the strike zone.

While still young, with Aaron Rowand around until the end of the 2012 season, Ford has ample time to improve at the plate and at least cut down on the strikeouts. Possibly Rowand can teach Ford a thing or two during Spring Training.

Additionally, the Giants received Steve Hammond, a pitcher who took approximately TWO full seasons to conquer double A. I use the word 'conquer' lightly, as Hammond was hardly deserving of a promotion after his 26th birthday this season.

What little information available about Hammond suggests that he won't be anything more then a 5th starter in a rotation, and even expecting that much out of him is a stretch. The numbers don't lie.

John Sickels at Minor League Ball has rated Hammond as a C, C+, and a C prospect over the last three respective seasons. Two of the instances, Sickels mentions Hammond as a victim of organizational depth. In a third, Sickels calls him an 'underrated arm to watch'.

There are also signs which point to Hammond becoming a reliever. In one report, an author cited a K rate which drops as Hammond goes further into a game. In another piece, Hammond is cited as having neither plus stuff, nor control, lacking an out pitch and velocity. At best, we're talking a project for the Giants.

The Giants come out of this trade with two projects and $1.5M in the bank. This also opens up the roster to allow youngsters Emmanuel Burriss and Eugenio Velez some additional playing time-both should be the Opening Day starters for the Giants in 2009 and offer a nice, young middle infield.

I wonder, however, if the Giants could have received slightly more, while eating the entire contract.

Overall, unlike at Brew Crew Ball, I have to suggest that the Brewers took this deal. Durham is a fine veteran to have on the roster and will offer a bat off the bench that can provide a little pop, with a decent amount of walks. The cost, $1.5M and two prospects which wouldn't have much impact on the team anyways.

The trade market is wide open. There are a lot of buyers and teams still deciding whether they are buyers or sellers. This ought to be one of the more interesting deadline days in recent memory.

BallHype: hype it up!

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