Monday, December 8, 2008

Rangers move Laird to the Tigers for Prospects

Late friday evening, the Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers came to terms on a deal that would send Gerald Laird to Detroit in exchange for two pitching prospects, Guillermo Moscoso and Carlos Melo. My first impression of this deal, is that the Tigers received a good haul for what can be considered as wildcard type prospects.

Even though I initially felt as though the Tigers had come out on top in this deal, I was curious why they set their sights so low. A friend later pointed out that this trade was made for defensive purposes and defensive purposes alone. In which case, this was probably as good as the Tigers could have gotten.

However, the Tigers have to have a concern regarding Gerald Laird's durability. At 29 years old, it has to be troubling that Laird has not once played a full season. In 2007, the season in which Laird had his career high in plate appearances, he also had what is arguably the worst offensive season of his career.

That being said, if this trade was indeed made for defensive reasons, then certainly this career wOBA (Weighted On Base Average-more on that later this week) catcher is a fine player to add. Durability, however, is still a cause for concern.

While Laird has never truly been given an opportunity to be an everyday catcher, he also has not done an incredible amount in earning that job. While Laird is a fine defensive catcher, he still needs to show that he can be excellent as a full time catcher.

Laird did not cost the Tigers any of their top prospects-the few that the organization does have. What Laird did cost the Tigers is a hard throwing pitcher that is close to being Major League ready, and a youngster with an incredible ceiling.

The first, and closest player to the majors, Guilermo Moscoso is an absolutely interesting acquisition. Moscoso was signed out of Venezuela as a 19 year old. It was not until two years later that he would make his professional North American debut.

Since this time, Moscoso has provided an outstanding strikeout rate, coupled with an equally as impressive walk rate. There is, however, concern that his success has been more a product of performing against younger competition, as at 25 years old, Moscoso has only thrown 34.2 innings above A ball.

That aside, those 34.2 double A innings were outstanding. Posting a 6.25 stikeout to walk ratio at any level of baseball is outstanding. It will be interesting to see how Moscoso developes and is certainly a player that the Tigers will regret moving.

One order of concern, durability. Moscoso has never exceeded 100 innings in a professional season. Couple that with his performance thus far in the Venezuela Winter League, albeit in a small sample.

The second player is equally as intriguing, although very far from the Majors. Carlos Melo, the 17 year old from Dominican Republic is a name to remember. The kid is already registering a fastball between 92 and 96mph. Melo registered 61 strikeouts in 49 innings, good for 10 strikeouts per nine innings-an excellent rate at any level.

As expected from a raw and electric teenager from Latin America, Melo struggled with his control, registering 3.5 walks per nine innings. This is not a dreadful statistic, but certainly one that Melo will need to work on in order to build his stock.

As I initially suggested, this looks like a win for the Tigers. However, I am inclined to assert that the Rangers got the best part of this deal through adding a very nice long term piece in Melo. Further, I wonder if the overall value of Laird will be significant than any one of a number of free agent catchers. While Laird will certainly be the best defensive catcher, is that enough to make up for his offensive short comings.

Additionally, I gather that the pitching starved Tigers will regret the loss of Moscoso, specifically if Jeremy Bonderman can not return from his injury and if Armando Galarraga can not repeat his unexpected success.

That being said, the Tigers are better behind the dish entering Opening Day of 2009 then they were entering Opening Day of 2008. The club also saves some money in the process.

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