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December 2, 2010

Prospectus Perspective

A Dirty Half-Dozen

by Christina Kahrl

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As I gear up for my latest dose of fun with the TSA and fly to Orlando for next week's Winter Meetings, it's easy to anticipate all sorts of stuff that might happen. However, unlike last year's get together in Indianapolis, this time around there aren't a big backlog of unsecret, telegraphed moves we know won't go down until everyone checks in—like last year's non-shocking Chone Figgins signing, for example. Instead, this year we've had a ton of early winter activity, as teams have moved quickly before picking their 40-mans, and before non-tendering potential arbitration cases. We've had some early re-signings, with Brian Sabean the most noticeable recidivist in securing Aubrey Huff's services already, while Ruben Amaro Jr. managed to avoid the temptation this time around.

However, there's a big difference between the deals you think might happen, the deals you wish would happen, and just plain-old deals that are at least worth funning around with. With that said, here's a list of six possibilities that I'd like to see or feel there's some underlying logic to support them.

1. The Red Sox trade Marco Scutaro to the Reds for Matt Maloney.

We talked about the field of shortstop options a bit Wednesday, so here's my more aggressive suggestion that the Red Sox get serious about making a move and just go ahead and put Scooter in the Queen City. For the Reds, this just makes too much sense to overlook. Even if Scooter's walk rates stay south of 10 percent, between moving to the weaker league, a weak division, and getting a shot at spending half of his season in the best right-handed power park in the major leagues, he could put up a season that might make people remember that all sorts of unlikelies get to be seen as star shortstops, like Rich Aurilia in the '90s, or Scutaro after the 2009 season.

That said, the Red Sox need things, so it isn't like this is just a giveaway. The Reds' second-rank pitching talent could contribute to all sorts of ballclubs, so here's a thought: Walt Jocketty deals from depth, and sends Maloney, a left-hander, to Boston to get his team its shortstop and leadoff hitter. Boston needs upper-level lefty pitching talent, no matter how far along Felix Doubront has come, and if they non-tender Hideki Okajima today, they'll have a slot in the bullpen for the a nice Irish boy to step in right away. If Maloney's blend of well-located lefty-standard heat plus solid command of his breaking stuff makes for a quality Okajima replacement right away, that's great, but he's enough of a prospect to be a viable choice for the fifth slot if (or when) rotation injuries mound up. And there's nothing that says Theo Epstein couldn't just repurpose Maloney in a later deal when his club needs something more specific than roster spots and offloading last year's good ideas.

2. A Red Sox Outfielder Has Gotta Go Somewhere to Somebody for Something.

You might expect that Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury both should be on the move, especially as the Sox try to come to terms with either Jayson Werth or Carl Crawford. In the veteran center fielder Cameron's case, he's under contract for just 2011 for $7.75 million, while Ellsbury is already halfway to free agency, and is thus only under club control for three more years.

Complicating the picture is the near-readiness of a pair of top-shelf outfield prospects, Josh Reddick and Ryan Kalish. Since J.D. Drew, like Cameron, is under contract for just one more season, at least one eventual slot is going to open up for Reddick and/or Kalish in 2012, even after Epstein brings in a big-ticket free agent. The question is whether the Sox might not prefer to cut to the chase. Kalish and Reddick both might be better prospects than Ellsbury, after all.

But complicating matters in each instance is the fact that you're talking about players who lost most of 2010 to injury. Cameron is presumably healed up from his surgery, but Ellsbury should have only just resumed activities with the team with the beginning of Wednesday's winter workouts. Moving either, now, will involve an extensive exchange of medical information, physicals, and, in the absence of complete confidence, steep discounting.

So who needs an outfielder? Lots of people, of course, and plenty of teams have some salary space to wiggle with. If the Sox end up settling for sending Cameron to the Cardinals for a prospect not on the 40-man, ideally it'd be a pitcher, perhaps left-handed. While Cameron's stated preference to not play right field is something to work around, he's been willing to provide his employer lip service in the past, giving John Mozeliak and Tony La Russa plenty of time to see whether they're talking Matt Holliday into moving to right or encouraging Colby Rasmus to scoot over for a season.

3. The Rays trade James Shields to the Brewers for Mat Gamel and Manny Parra.

I know, I've been trying to trade Big Game James for a while now, but the Brewers need pitching, and the Rays, however much they're talking about moving quietly, would be much better off opening up a rotation slot for Jeremy Hellickson. They could also use a quality bat in the DH slot, one they'll be able to control, possibly move out to left or even first base if they have to, but basically, just somebody who's more valuable than Willy Aybar and has some measure of upside. So why not call Doug Melvin and ask after his positionless live bat, and deal from rotation depth to get Gamel, a prospect better suited for the DH league? That said, Gamel's ceiling looks a lot lower than it was a couple of years ago, especially as he heads into a year in which he'll turn 26 without actually achieving all that much. Parra is a live-armed lefty the Brewers haven't been able to sort out, but perhaps the Rays can do better.

4. The A's trade Kevin Kouzmanoff to the Orioles for Nolan Reimold.

Nobody said every trade would be a blockbuster, but the Orioles have already noisily announced their distrust of Josh Bell as their immediate hot-corner solution, and have little reason to be very fond of Reimold, an oldish organizational player who made a splash in 2009, came back hurt, and never got on track in his sophomore season. Considering that he's already 27, he's not the sort of farmhand with an elaborate future ahead of him, and between a platoon-worthy split, an arm strong enough to go to waste as long as Nick Markakis is the everyday right fielder, and some pop, he could be used to acquire a temporary third-base solution. Enter Kouzmanoff, a disappointment in his own way in Oakland, still not much of a defender at the hot corner per multiple metrics, but a known quantity. If the A's haven't already non-tendered the ex-Padre, they could always turn around and flip him for the platoon partner in right field Ryan Sweeney is begging for.

5. The Cubs trade Kosuke Fukudome and Stacks O'Cash to the Royals for Chris Getz and a PTBNL.

After trading away David DeJesus, the Royals really ought to give some thought to adding outfield help, at least for the time being, and besides, who but the damned and desperate would sign with them of their own free will? So why not take on Fukudome's last season before free agency, to get themselves a leadoff hitter and a starter in one corner, and repurpose one of those roster spots wasted on Kenny Williams' excess filler infielders? Heck, it even gives Billy Butler, Kila Ka'aihue, and Alex Gordon the opportunity to bat with somebody on base.

The problem with Fukudome's deal—beyond the no-trade clause that no amount of charm will wish away—is the stack of perks that he's due. Eight first-class round-trip plane tickets to Japan? A personal trainer, masseuse, interpreter, and $25,000 for moving expenses? Those are the main items, but rather than dicker with the Royals on how to make those things happen out on the prairie, just add another brick of Benjamins or two and make the whole headache go away already. If Stacks has to be as big as $7 million-8 million of his $13.5 million pay package for 2011, that's an understandable price tag to pay off the perks and buy back the roster spot and the playing time you're going to want to split between Tyler Colvin and perhaps Brandon Guyer later on in-season, for around the minimum. Try to reassure Fukudome that he's going to a team that also trains in Arizona, and that Kansas City is slightly closer to the land of the rising sun.

6. The Rockies trade Jason Hammel to the Nationals for Ian Desmond.

The logic here is that the Rockies could use an infielder who might just become their starting second baseman, and after re-signing Jorge De La Rosa they're in a position to deal from depth in the rotation. Hammel is the lowest man on their totem pole, plus he's out of options yet three years removed from free agency, so he's going to become only more and more expensive for a guy who may not even be guaranteed a rotation slot. As for Desmond, if he's a bit stretched at shortstop, a move across the bag shouldn't hurt, and putting him in Coors would help a little with his strikeout rate, and his power stroke might blossom at altitude. The Nats are looking for a young veteran who can chomp innings while remaining under club control for the near future, and Hammel is good enough to fill that bill and perhaps become a solid mid-rotation asset.

Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Christina's other articles. You can contact Christina by clicking here

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35 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

phnath

Do you think Chris Nelson has a shot to win the 2B job? I can't see Desmond as much of an upgrade over him.

Dec 02, 2010 05:29 AM
rating: 1
 
Peter7899

Why the heck would the Cubs want Chris Getz? Why would anyone want Chris Getz? If Stacks are involved, then the Cubs should ask for Ka'aihue.

Dec 02, 2010 06:38 AM
rating: 1
 
Jon KK

My reaction as well, re Getz.

Dec 02, 2010 06:58 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

You could hope for it, but I don't think the Royals would go for it, and at this point, moving Fukudome would be more about getting back some portion of his salary. I'm not a big fan of Getz, but if DeWitt broke down--or A-Ram got hurt--then somebody's gotta play second, and I don't think Darwin Barney or Tony Thomas would be the best fall-backs. I pondered making it Josh Fields instead, in the same way that I mulled somehow sending Fukudome to the D'backs (again, swallowing a lot of cash) and Padres (ditto).

The real problem is that it's really Fukudome's call as far as any deal. My thought with KC is that it's only a six-month sentence, and he might be paroled two months early for good performance.

Dec 02, 2010 07:42 AM
 
69wildcat

Just give Fukudome the cash and tell him to go home. I'm no longer a Cubs fan but do watch them when WGN shows the occasional game. For the life of me I do not understand how Fukudome got that contract in the first place or how Hendry is able to keep his job.

Dec 02, 2010 08:28 AM
rating: -1
 
yekkel

Hendry's continued employment is one of life's great imponderables.

Dec 02, 2010 11:36 AM
rating: 0
 
Peter7899

Marquez Smith would be an adequate A-Ram injury replacement if he doesn't get picked in the Rule 5 Draft.

I think the Kila Monster is very tradeable with Hosmer starting 2011 in the upper minors, and Billy Butler manning first already. If the Cubs added a relief prospect, I think the deal would get done.

I happen to be one, though, that thinks Fukudome is an integral part in a respectable 2011 for the Cubs. He looked like he was finally turning the corner the last 2 months of the season.

Dec 02, 2010 10:09 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

Agreed as far as Smith, but the Royals were willing to DH Butler and play Ka'aihue at first base in September, and I'd still see that as their best solution.

Given so many lurches during his time in the States, I'd suggest that Fukudome's turning points are legion; it's the end results that tend to leave you wondering what the fuss was about in the first place.

Dec 02, 2010 14:19 PM
 
Kampfer

Hammel is a really good pitcher and is fairly ideal for Coors. Kevin Kouzmanoff is a pretty good thirdbaseman and is better than Reimold. I just don't understand these two trades at all.

Dec 02, 2010 07:36 AM
rating: -1
 
comish4lif

From the Nats perspective, is Hammel that much better than the rest of the #4/#5 starters that they have?

I'm not overselling Desmond, but is a starter with a 4.57 ERA in his 2 seasons as a starter worth a young MI with upside?

Dec 02, 2010 08:57 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

A reasonable point, but Hammel's upside outside of altitude vs. Desmond's solid, decent brand of adequacy as a middle infielder at sea level is what makes the proposition so interesting. YMMV.

Dec 02, 2010 14:20 PM
 
comish4lif

hammel's splits for 2010:

Home ERA: 4.08
Road ERA: 5.56

They were pretty much the opposite, I just don't have the confidence that Hammel will be better than any of the current options: Lannan, Livo, Zimmermann, Marquis, Maya... Sure, he's better than Stammen, Martin, Martis, Atilano... But I think Hammel's skills aren't that unique. Besides, he seems like the kind of pitcher that will blow up when he gets to Washington.

Dec 05, 2010 04:45 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

One year's results? This is not a thing to draw final conclusions upon, given that's a fairly tiny sample in the lifetime of a ballplayer.

Dec 05, 2010 19:12 PM
 
jhardman

Christina - you forgot to mention that in the Nationals/Rockies trade for Colorado to get a mediocre catcher to force Chris Iannetta to the bench again.... The Nationals would have to throw in a catcher in the deal to allow this trend to continue. Free Chris Iannetta!

Dec 02, 2010 07:41 AM
rating: 1
 
ofMontreal

Nice one Christina. But I really think you underestimate the love the Reds hold for young Mr. Janish. I think this is a 'the kid stays in the movie' situation.

Dec 02, 2010 10:03 AM
rating: -1
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

While I'm willing to come around on Janish when the alternative is Orlando Cabrera, I like the idea of what Scutaro would do in that park.

Dec 02, 2010 14:22 PM
 
IvanGrushenko

Who plays 3B for the A's? Encarnacion?

Dec 02, 2010 10:13 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

Yep. Kouzmanoff's defense really isn't special, so given a choice between the two, I'd favor Encarnacion, especially in light of how many concessions to defense have been made elsewhere in the lineup.

Dec 02, 2010 14:23 PM
 
calhounite

Ellsbury is the young, marketable face of the franchise. What other young proven player do they have? Ellsbury's not going anywhere especially for an injury-induced discount. Ellsbury's been durable, and his injury wasn't of a chronic nature.

Dec 02, 2010 10:19 AM
rating: 0
 
Hibernaut

I'm assuming you meant "young, proven outfielder," since Jon Lester and Dustin Pedroia are still on the roster. Not to mention Buchholz and Bard, both of whom are younger than Ellsbury and certainly fan-friendly thusfar.

Dec 02, 2010 11:17 AM
rating: 3
 
Sam F

Ellsbury is 27, older than Lester, Lowrie, Buchholz and Bard, not to mention Kalish, Reddick, Navarro and Lars Anderson, and only a month younger than Pedroia.

In 2010, he publicly blamed the Sox training staff for his injuries, hinted that the organization was to blame for shifting him out of CF, and multiple news outlets published stories that effectively said his teammates and coaches don't like him.

He's a poor center fielder (terrible routes and positioning outweigh his speed and skills) and Theo clearly knew that when he signed Cameron to take over in center. His speed is flashy but his offense doesn't carry a corner outfield spot and we've probably seen his peak season at age 25.

For all that, I would hope we can get a bit more than Matt Maloney for him, but I would be shocked if he's not gone this offseason, likely to shore up the terrible pen.

Dec 02, 2010 11:18 AM
rating: 4
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

I think others have already responded to this with the points I'd make as well, so I'm just chiming in to say I don't think people should minus a guy, just because they disagree with his argument. I disagree with dryice as well, as far as Ellsbury's value or the argument that he's young (or someone you'd want as 'face of the franchise'), but I'd prefer to keep this dynamic and inclusive.

Dec 02, 2010 14:26 PM
 
calhounite

Thanks Christina, I post my comments with no regard to their popularity/acceptiblity vis-a-vis a team's homies, so they disappear sometimes..but, yea, forgot about Peds, whose the real, untradeable face of this franchise.

Still, Ellsbury's the only other homegrown, proven, controlled player, so have a hard time believing they'd let him go. The guy called out the facts (his injury was misdiagnosed to the detriment of his health and career), but the orgnization made every effort to rehabilitate his image after the resulting flack. Know a few Bostonian ladies, and they are head over heels enamored with the guy.

Marketability and affordability have to be constraints/factors for any team.

Dec 02, 2010 15:58 PM
rating: 0
 
Ben Solow

It's strange that you straight up ignored the list of other homegrown, proven, controlled, young players that others provided. Jon Lester doesn't meet those qualifications? He's younger and better than Ellsbury, has a much better track record, and is also homegrown. Pedroia and Youkilis are the face of the franchise in terms of on the field talent as well, not Ellsbury. Buchholz may not have the track record yet, but Bard has put together two pretty dominant seasons, not to mention the slew of other young players that are likely to join the team over the next few years.

Marketability is likely not a huge constraint when you sell out every game and own your own network with a dedicated fan base. Ellsbury probably helps sell a few t-shirts and some of the disgusting pink hats, but the real revenue maximizing strategy for any team is winning lots of baseball games.

Dec 02, 2010 20:28 PM
rating: 0
 
metfanaaron2001

I think Fukudome gets an unwarranted bad rap. There's a difference between being overpaid and being useless. Fukudome gets on base and has sporadic power, which isn't a star, but it also isn't a player who you should be trying to dump at all costs.

I don't think Christina's trade is a bad idea, but the Cubs shouldn't trade Fukudome just to get rid of his salary. They should do it if they have a plan to put the saved money to a different, better use.

Dec 02, 2010 11:19 AM
rating: 7
 
Peter7899

Not to mention solid defense in RF.

Dec 02, 2010 12:43 PM
rating: 0
 
JayhawkBill

While I can see the Red Sox trading both Scutaro and Ellsbury, I don't see Scutaro for a second-tier relief pitcher as a trade that Boston would be likely to accept. Boston wants to concentrate talent by trading depth for star-quality talent, so it's more likely that they would trade both Scutaro and Ellsbury, and maybe a prospect or two, for a single, better player.

Dec 02, 2010 11:49 AM
rating: 0
 
Sacramento

Hey Christina, any chance of a pre-meetings Transaction Analysis?

Dec 02, 2010 12:15 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

I'm planning on blogging a bit about the moves made over the next couple of days, and I'll be writing articles about the moves in Orlando in their wake, same as last year.

Dec 02, 2010 14:29 PM
 
Matt Kory

I'd be surprised if they traded Scutaro. I'm a huge proponent of Lowrie but the guy has had some serious health issues. They're already putting their eggs in one breakable basket at catcher, and installing Lowrie as the starting shortstop in December on top of that gets into some dangerous territory.

Dec 02, 2010 14:16 PM
rating: 0
 
Drew Miller

Yeah I don't see it either. Unless the Sox brass really do think Iglesias is ready. Which, defensively, he probably is right now.

Dec 02, 2010 22:10 PM
rating: 0
 
Drew Miller

Ah, another anti-Sox member voting down Red Sox interests. Joy.

Dec 03, 2010 10:11 AM
rating: -1
 
Drew Miller

Not you, matty--whoever votes us down for simply contributing.

Dec 03, 2010 10:11 AM
rating: -1
 
McNulty

Reimold had a lot of personal issues last year. And by personal issues, I mean a crazy baby momma situation. I'd rather stick with him and hope he bounces back. Plus your choice for third (Encarnacion) got non-tendered today.

Dec 02, 2010 20:59 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

Aye, he did, but we'll talk about that tomorrow (Monday).

Dec 05, 2010 19:17 PM
 
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