May 9, 2014
TTO Scoresheet Podcast
Finding Trade Targets
Now that we’ve progressed past the point in the season where most owners’ initial reluctance to tinker with their teams has melted away, it is time to begin searching for value in the trade market. As we looked for specific players to target, we identified four general themes which may prove profitable, if properly exploited.
Struggling so far this year, Pablo Sandoval is in no real danger of losing his job and bears many of the typical hallmarks of potential improvement. His poor performance does not stem from setbacks in plate discipline, but he has hit a few more ground balls than in years prior and more than double the number of infield fly balls. As a result, he’s sporting a low batting average on balls in play, which should rebound as he reverts to his career norms. As a guy we were touting before the season, consider us optimistic that he’ll rebound and be able to right the ship.
Currently triple slashing a not completely terrible .210/.315/.419, Pedro Alvarez is near the bottom of the BABIP leaderboard, sporting a shiny .209 number that’s simply not in line with what he’s done in the past or how well he’s currently hitting the ball. A frustrated owner tired of Alvarez not quite living up to expectations might be willing to part with him for a lot less than he would a month from now.
Stars at a Discount
Prince Fielder owners are likely right to be panicking right now, which makes him a relatively attractive trade target. Ordinarily, it’s difficult to get someone perceived at a star at a discount from any owner who understands the value of buy low-sell high. In Prince’s case, however, there’s a weight/early decline narrative that may be sending a lot of savvy owners towards the exits. This may be accurate, but it strikes us as an opportunity for a risk-loving trader to jump in, particularly with a lot of the team owners who believe themselves to be contenders.
You probably won’t be able to get Stephen Strasburg for spare parts and loose change. But if he’s owned by someone who buys into the sports radio talk that suggests Strasburg is a delicate porcelain doll of pretty pretty princess and isn’t thrilled with his admittedly pedestrian 3.60 ERA, he’s definitely worth making a play. Strasburg is striking out 13 per nine innings with a crazy high BABIP, and it is fairly difficult to lose a trade in which you get him, both in terms of this season and the future.
Small Sample Size Shouldn’t Affect the Sheen
As one of the reasons Astros fans believe in the process and future potential, George Springer has yet to deliver this year. Hitting a paltry .191/.257/.221, Springer has not shown any of his power or patience in the majors that earned him high marks through the minor leagues. He’s been moved in the lineup but probably won’t be demoted any time soon, so if the guy that’s carried him the past few years is scared that he can’t make it in the show, you might have the chance to take a risk that he’ll be just fine and needs some time to figure it out—after all, it has only been a month.
Unlike Springer, Oswaldo Arcia did not have the same chance of staying in the majors through his struggles and was moved to Triple A while dealing with some hand and wrist injury issues. He’s done well enough in his stint at Rochester but before the injury he was probably the worst hitter on this list, at .111/.158/.222 in less than a week of playing time. Obviously he’s still got potential, so if the wrist injury or the need for playing time now has his Scoresheet owner nervous, he’s a good trade target.
A pure case of relative value for rebuilders. we think everyone who’s made it to this corner of the internet understands that Jedd Gyorko’s first hundred at-bats of 2014 do affect his long-term value slightly, but are more generally considered a fluke. The problem is, this fluke is so bad that he’s unplayable for a post-season contender. Teams that are contending with Gyorko are likely going to be forced to upgrade the position, making Gyorko himself the best trade bait. Just to be clear, he’s a pretty marginal keeper, but he is a keeper, and teams looking to grab 2015 talent at wholesale prices should try to move their better-performing second baseman (that’s all of them) for Gyorko plus supplemental value.
Opportunity May Come Knocking
We’d generally prefer to trade for talented players in bad circumstances than the other way around. Trevor Cahill got tossed out of the clown car that is the Diamondbacks’ 2014 season after just a couple of bad starts. Those starts are enough to make him useless for a postseason rotation, but you still have to make it to the postseason first. His value is currently being crushed by a bullpen role that shows no sign of ceasing, but we’re always just an injury or trade away from Cahill getting another start. Just to be clear, this is a pure “bulk innings” play, as owners who already have innings should trade for quality performance instead.
If you’ve been with us since the preseason, you know that we were really high on Tommy La Stella, who had a chance to make the Braves out of spring training. He hasn’t been lighting the minors on fire, but his .370 OBP there is about 130 points higher than Dan Uggla. Uggla probably isn’t quite as bad as he’s been playing, but with some rumors swirling around that the Braves could be making a switch in the near future, now may be the time to jump on the La Stella bandwagon.
In the podcast: This week, the Outcomes answer reader mail about supplementals and building a bullpen, and discuss their picks for potential trade targets. The Outcomes provide analysis more hard-hitting than the star of an Indonesian martial arts movie.