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August 1, 2009

Prospectus Today

Deadline Day Recap

by Joe Sheehan

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More than any individual transaction, the story of the 2009 trade deadline was just how much activity there was. After years of the deadline falling short of outsized expectations, major league GMs gave us plenty to chew on this season. Of the 19 teams playing for this season, 13 made moves to strengthen their roster in the past few days, as did the noncontending Reds. Of the 11 teams playing for future seasons, all but those Reds, the Royals, and Diamondbacks made a deadline deal to acquire younger, less expensive players. It was the most active trade deadline in memory, and one of the more entertaining baseball days we've had in some time.

Considering just trades that happened since my last column-basically, the stuff from Thursday and Friday-here are some opinions about the deadline activity.

Best Move

Trading for a pitcher on the disabled list would hardly seem to qualify, but Kenny Williams finally got his man, trading Aaron Poreda and three other pitchers for Jake Peavy. It's a huge gamble with both short-term upside-Peavy should be back from his ankle injury for September-and long-term payoff-he's signed through 2012 at a reasonable $16 million average annual value (AAV), with a big 2013 option. The elbow injury that curtailed his 2008 season is a concern, of course, as is the possibility that Peavy's ankle won't let him pitch or pitch effectively during the Sox' pennant push. Nevertheless, for what amounts to Poreda and filler (I'm not a Clayton Richard fan, although he'll love Petco), it's a strong move that, at worst, positions the Sox as co-favorites in the AL Central.

Honorable mention goes to the Tigers, who opened Friday's action by picking up 12 starts of Jarrod Washburn for next to nothing. The 70 or so innings will enable them to stay in the race in the Central, something that was looking unlikely as Rick Porcello fell apart slowly and the team tapped pitchers like Luke French-traded in the deal-to fill out the fifth slot. Even normal Jarrod Washburn, a league-average starter, is a source of help for the Tigers' push.

Worst Move

The Braves continued rotating through first baseman, swapping out the current model, Casey Kotchman, for the 2006 version in Adam LaRoche. Even though they didn't spend more money in the deal-the Red Sox picked up the cost difference between the two players-the Braves at best made a lateral move, and may have made themselves worse. Kotchman is matching LaRoche this season with a .272 EqA (to the travelin' man's .271) and has a superior glove. He's also outplayed LaRoche as measured by WARP1 in both of the last two seasons. It appears that the Braves, led by GM Frank Wren, evaluated the two players solely by their home runs and RBI; you can't explain the deal any other way.

Biggest Head-Scratcher

The Reds had slipped nine games behind the Cardinals heading into last night's game, and with one of the game's worst offenses backing a disappointing rotation, seemed like a seller. Then they completed a deal with the Blue Jays to acquire 34-year-old Scott Rolen and the last $15 million (less some undisclosed amount that the Jays are paying) left on an eight-year deal he signed before his body broke down. Rolen is having his best season in some time, and brings a strong glove; however the Reds can't leverage his talent this year and are unlikely to in 2010, because they simply won't be good enough. As I put it in chat, it's as if Walt Jocketty thought, "Hey, the last time I traded for Scott Rolen, my team won the World Series a few years later." It's a bad deal for a team that seems to not understand where it is in the success cycle.

Best Under-the-Radar Move

It is hard to describe just how much better Nick Johnson makes the Marlins. He essentially turns them from an afterthought in the wild-card race to a contender, by being that much better than Emilio Bonifacio, who he will likely replace in the lineup. It is rare for a team to make a 100-point gain in OBP in a single lineup spot in one deal, but that's what the Fish have done here, and they've likely done it in a defense-neutral way. Bonifacio's been a sub-replacement-level bat while batting leadoff and second all year, has crippled a Marlins' offense that has plenty of power. Johnson can slide into Bonifacio's second slot and be worth about two wins to the Marlins in a vaccum; I suspect the value of replacing a .290 OBP with a .400 one in front of Hanley Ramirez will be worth a little more than that in real life.

Overrated Move

Nothing against Victor Martinez, a very good player having a strong season after a lost 2008 campaign, but the idea that he changes the story for the Red Sox is overblown. A year ago, when Jason Varitek was one of the worst players in the league, this would have been a monster deal. Now, Varitek is playing well, and given his status with the team, he's going to keep his job. That means Martinez will play a lot of first base and DH, and his .294 EqA bat isn't anything special in those roles. It's a small upgrade on Adam LaRoche once you consider defense. The gap between Martinez-as-catcher and Martinez-as-other is huge, a reminder that the ability to play catcher and hit well is a special combination of skills.

Where this deal should help the Sox is by giving them an out to cut ties with Varitek next year, installing Martinez as their #1 catcher and reaping the benefits of that decision. For the rest of this season, however, the trade amounts to a depth play, giving Terry Francona flexibility in assembling his lineup and batting order each day.

Wallflowers

The Texas teams did nothing and liked it? The Astros, playing for now, didn't have much to trade, so it's not terribly surprising that they completed no deals. Look for Ed Wade to try and bolster his bullpen and bench by acquiring players who clear waivers, nabbing minor improvements here and there, as he did in 2008 by snagging LaTroy Hawkins. The Astros simply don't have the prospects to make major moves, a real problem in their "play for now" strategy.

On the other hand, the Rangers have enough prospects for the entire state, and they retained all of them. There's no question that the Rangers could have traded for Roy Halladay, and the Blue Jays' righty might not have pushed them into the playoffs, but he would have helped close the gap on the Angels in 2009 while fronting the division-winning rotation in 2010. A deal was available if Jon Daniels and J.P. Ricciardi had wanted to make one, because the Jays could have taken a lesson from the Indians and worried less about where the returning players ranked in the Rangers' system and more about where they would rank in their own. An apparent insistence on two players from Column A-Derek Holland and Justin Smoak-as well as Halladay's objections to going to Arlington scuttled any hope of a deal. It's not the worst outcome for the Rangers, as they face short-term financial difficulties in addition to their lineup's OBP issues, but this is certainly the type of deal, swapping some potential for certainty, that they can look to make over the next 12 months.

Staying

Halladay, obviously, was the dominant story of the past three weeks, and he ended up right where he started. The Blue Jays shouldn't re-sign him, so we'll go through this again in December, and for the Jays' sake, let's hope J.P. Ricciardi threads the needle that the no-trade clause creates and makes a deal just as good as his one that shipped Rolen to the Reds.

I have no idea why Adam Dunn is still in Washington, but there he is. The Nationals did do the right thing by sending Nick Johnson and Joe Beimel to contenders, but retaining Dunn, the highest-valued player of the group, does little for them other than push them from 65 to 70 wins next season. Yay.

Both Heath Bell and Adrian Gonzalez are still Padres. With the team having traded Jake Peavy, however, all illusion of winning for the next few seasons is gone, and you have to figure that both players will be the topic of heavy bidding at the winter meetings. I would be shocked, just floored, if either was a Padre on April 1, 2010.

The trade deadline was a lot of fun this year, and it sets up what should be a ridiculously exciting last few months of the season, with races in five of six divisions, some involving up to four teams, and an NL wild-card race that will once again be a barn-burner with, as of this morning, eight teams within 6˝ games of the lead. The focus that has been on front offices for the last few weeks goes back to the field today.

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

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

BP Comment Quick Links

cbirkemeier

Joe, can't the logic you applied to the Halladay non-deal also be applied to the Dunn non-deal? I don't understand why you're okay with Halladay staying put but not with Dunn.

Aug 01, 2009 08:55 AM
rating: 0
 
acmcdowell

I believe the difference for Toronto is with all the pitchers coming back from injury and Travis Snider hopefully adjusted to the bigs, the Jays will have a shot at the playoffs next year. The Nationals, however, have almost no shot at the playoffs.

Aug 01, 2009 09:15 AM
rating: -1
 
Ira

I think that what Joe was trying to say was that it was ok for the Rangers to not break the bank to get Halladay and the mistake was on the Blue Jays side for asking too much. But, with a high profile guy who really didn't want to be dealt, the Jays may have intentionally asked for too much so that they retained the appearance of trying to trade him while in actuality waiting for the off-season, where they could make Halladay realize that the team wasn't going to go anywhere. Or lock him up longer and hope that Boston, New York, or^H^H AND Tampa Bay get swallowed up by Hurricanes in October/November.

Aug 01, 2009 09:16 AM
rating: 3
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

A Halladay trade is a franchise-defining deal, and the package of prospects you get has to be just right. A Dunn trade isn't as important, and for where the Nats are it's important that they just get value back.

More to the point, you don't auction Adam Dunn. No one wanted him last winter, and likely as not he won't be in much demand in this coming offseason. But midseason, when he's raking and teams need bats, immediately, you are in better position.

That's the difference.

Aug 02, 2009 01:48 AM
 
ncimon

Thanks for the excellent overview, as usual. I believe that the Red Sox had more in mind than a bat to power them to the playoffs in their pursuit of Victor Martinez. Anyone who's watched Mike Lowell limp along for a few months, with very little lateral movement to his left, has understood that they needed to go in a different direction. Since Youkilis plays third more than adequately, Martinez gives them the option of a decent bat at first, or a very good bat behind the plate. He's a slightly better hitter from the left than the right side (.843 L / .810 R OPS), whereas Varitek is considerably worse from the left (.760 L / .913 R). Finally, Kotchman gives them some defensive chops at first, something they weren't going to get from LaRoche. You're right, it isn't a game changer. It does, however, keep them in the game.

Aug 01, 2009 09:29 AM
rating: 6
 
One Flap Down

There was also value for the Red Sox acquiring Martinez in that they kept him from going to Tampa Bay, although how serious the Rays were about acquiring him is an open question.

Aug 01, 2009 13:33 PM
rating: 2
 
Ira

Joe, on your assessment of the Rangers decision not to trade their prospects, I agree that not trading was the best move. I won't say that either Holland or Feliz WILL be better than Halladay next year or the year after, but as we saw on Wednesday, Holland is a great pitcher. His control is a thing to behold, and if he has any flaw, its that he throws too many strikes and sometimes tries to rely on the life of his fastball to get guys out (hence the 14 home runs allowed). Feliz on the other hand, is probably better. Don't forget that Feliz is still a year younger than Holland, and while it doesn't appear that he's beating up AAA, as a reliever over the last month or so he's pitched 17.1 innings and struck out 20 men while allowing just 14 hits and 4 walks. Not to forget that thing that the scouts drool over, the 100 MPH gun attached to his right shoulder. As far as Smoak goes, I don't have to mention how good he is, that's a fact. Borbon is ok, but I won't lose any sleep if they traded him.

Deeper on the farm, the AA ball club has Beavan and Kasey Kiker and Omar Poveda and a 22 year old named Michael Kirkman who's not bad either. Down at Bakersfield they have Richard Bleier, Main, Kennil Gomez, and Tim Murphy. Farther down at Hickory we see Boscan, Jacob Brigham, Font, Martin Perez, Carlos Pimentel, Neil Ramirez and Joe Wieland. Last but not least at Spokane you have Robby Ross, of the 50 k's in 39.1 innings.

That's talent coming in waves. No reason to panic this year. So you let Blalock and Padilla go this off season and let Holland and Feliz and Smoak take over their spots, and while running away with the 2010 division, you can trade a Blake Beavan and Borbon and a Carlos Pimentel to fill a hole next year. And if the Rangers make the post season this year, so much the better for next years attendance.

BTW, Feliz should be up this month..... start your salivation.

Aug 01, 2009 09:44 AM
rating: 2
 
rscully
(130)

I think the refusal to move Dunn is defensible -- if Rizzo didn't like what he was offered (and the Johnson and Beimel deals suggest that he was being lowballed, at least for those guys, because of the perception that he HAD to make a deal), then it's not an unreasonable gamble to think that he might be able to get more for Dunn in the offseason or as the deadline approaches next year if the dynamics of demand are different.

And in the meantime, he helps the Nats suck a little less and prevents the impression that they're blowing up and starting over -- which might be what they actually need to do but would be a really tough pill for an already shaky fanbase to swallow.

Aug 01, 2009 11:06 AM
rating: 4
 
Hendo

Agreed, the Nats have to avoid getting lowballed, but they do have to make deals, and on Friday they made the least costly ones. I'll expect a bit more aggressiveness -- and higher returns -- once the Nats get a non-interim GM in place (and at the moment it doesn't look like Rizzo's the guy, for whatever reason).

Aug 01, 2009 11:22 AM
rating: 1
 
phuturephillies

Might wanna check Varitek's month to month splits this year

.881
.824
.750
.736

He's on his last leg.

Aug 01, 2009 11:53 AM
rating: 1
 
One Flap Down

Yeah, but is Boston really going to sit him more than once or twice a week?

Aug 01, 2009 13:34 PM
rating: 0
 
phuturephillies

They should. He may be a warrior, but he's really slipping offensively, and his gamecalling/leadership/grit isn't enough to warrant him starting 5 days a week. With Wakefield on the DL, the need for Kottaras is gone.

I'd use V-Mart (C) > Youkilis (1B) > Lowell (3B) as the primary setup for 5 out of every 7 games, as long as Lowell is healthy enough to contribute. When he needs a rest, then go

Varitek (C) > V-Mart (1B) > Youkilis (3B)

Alternatively, you can go Varitek (C) > Kotchman (1B) > Youkilis (3B) > V-Mart (DH) against tough lefties.

Aug 01, 2009 16:12 PM
rating: 0
 
roughcarrigan

We can only hope.
Like last year, Varitek can still hit righty but after a brief April-May resurgence, has resumed the terrible performance batting lefty that he exhibited last year.

Interestingly, Victor Martinez has been a much better hitter batting lefty, so the outlines of platoon arrangement easily presents itself.

I doubt that Francona will hold to it but there it is.

Also, this deal gives the Red Sox a catcher for next year.

Aug 01, 2009 19:56 PM
rating: 1
 
judyblum

Well, yes, they can sit Varitek, and Lowell, Ortiz, and even occasionally Youkilis, for Victor Martinez, that is almost entirely the whole point of the trade from their perspective.

Aug 03, 2009 05:25 AM
rating: 0
 
Glasscock

Kotchman's hitting almost 40% more grounds balls than LaRoche.

Aug 01, 2009 12:45 PM
rating: 0
 
joel3green

I can't see ranking Atlanta's move below the Reds. LaRoche has had some success both in second halves of seasons and in Atlanta. Maybe the hope is that environment and attitude have something to do with his better performances previously.
Knowing Kotchman is not the answer, and then getting rid of him for anybody with just a chance to be better (even not a good chance) is a good idea, if only to avoid "Don Wert" syndrome were someone become a fixture where he is nearly good enough.

Picking up Rolen is a head scratcher, maybe a personal favor more than a strategic move, but if the Reds are paying as much salary as they seem to be, it is a monkey-wrench for the next year's budget as well, that makes it worse than LaRoche, at least to my thinking.

Aug 01, 2009 13:09 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Rob McQuown
BP staff

To me, some of the value of the LaRoche acquisition will be determined by how often he gets "rested" against LHP. He's a career .275/.346/.500 hitter against RHP, which - while not Mark Teixeira (.279/.369/.543 vsR, career) - isn't bad. And while he hasn't been buried in Petco or the like, he hasn't played in great hitting environments, either. The dark side of this is that he really doesn't deserve a lineup spot against LHP.

Aug 02, 2009 05:40 AM
 
xBrandxBlandx

LaRoche's 1st half/2nd half splits are drastic. He's a career .252/.326/.447 hitter in the first and a .295/.356/.544 hitter in the second. Unless you lend absolutely no credence to the possibility that these splits represent something other than noise, I don't see how you can call this a lateral move at best. That 2nd half edition more than makes up for any ability lost in the field.

Aug 01, 2009 14:01 PM
rating: 0
 
roughcarrigan

Interestingly, Kotchman was having the better July and, himself, has a career second half OPS 70 points higher than his first half OPS.

Aug 01, 2009 20:00 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Rob McQuown
BP staff

I think you have to be careful using "career splits" for Kotchman. His brutal 2004 was almost entirely "first half", as were his unthinkably bad 88 PA in 2006. Meanwhile, his good 2005 season was almost all "second half". Those three (albeit very partial) seasons account for a lot of his split.

LaRoche, on the other hand has seemingly turned into a different player in 2nd halves of full seasons. Of course, such a trend is very frequently NOT repeatable, even if we've seen it several times. But it is historically a real same-season improvement, as opposed to Kotchman's career split differences.

Aug 02, 2009 05:35 AM
 
Richard Bergstrom

You know, with all the trades at the deadline, there weren't any outright clunkers. Sure, you might question the Reds for picking up Rolen, but you can sort of see a logic to it if they are emphasizing defense and decided Encarnacion wasn't going to cut it. You might think the Giants got robbed, but you can see a methodology for why they got Sanchez from the Pirates. Even with LaRoche to the Braves, you can understand a desire to get the first baseman you developed in your farm system instead of keeping the one you have (Kotchman) who you think of as a disappointment.

Maybe it's just me, but the GMs seemed to pull more intelligent moves this year.

Aug 01, 2009 15:09 PM
rating: 4
 
Cox813

"It appears that the Braves, led by GM Frank Wren, evaluated the two players solely by their home runs and RBI; you can’t explain the deal any other way."

It's pretty easy to rationalize, actually - LaRoche is an expiring contract and Kotchman, being arb-eligible, was going to be DFA'd this offseason anyway. It's a money move.

Aug 01, 2009 17:49 PM
rating: 1
 
elm
(41)

But this isn't the NBA where expiring contracts are valuable: if the Braves non-tender Kotchman instead of offering him arb, they owe him nothing next year anyway. So where's the money being saved? Unless, since Boston's paying LaRoche's remaining salary, you mean this trade was to save the million or so left on Kotchamn's salary? A lot of effort to save not much money if that's the case.

Aug 01, 2009 20:48 PM
rating: 1
 
Griffin
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

I just wish the Phillies would have made a move. Oh wait, they picked up Cliff Lee...no need to mention that one though.

Aug 01, 2009 19:15 PM
rating: -8
 
strupp

Just out of curiosity, where would you have put that move in the context of his article? Or is this more "Joe doesn't like my team" kvetching?

Aug 01, 2009 19:33 PM
rating: 0
 
sandriola

He mentioned that trade in his Thursday column.

Aug 01, 2009 19:39 PM
rating: 0
 
elm
(41)

Not only did he mention it, he said it was "fantastic" for the Phillies. But it wouldn't be a Joe Sheehan column if someone didn't imply he was biased for it..

Aug 01, 2009 20:50 PM
rating: 5
 
Drew

Seriously - the "what about my team?!" complaints are just too funny.

Aug 01, 2009 23:31 PM
rating: 0
 
Tuck
(667)

Having had the privilege of watching the Reds every game the last few years, it is obvious that Edwin Encarnacion had to go. Terrible fundamental player, lackadasical and unfocused... exactly what CIN does not need. He won't be a major leaguer in two years.

So they pay $10 mil or so for an erstwhile stud who can still pick it and rack some doubles (HR's in GAB?). If he plays 130 games next year it will be worth it, easily. And they gain some ancillary if incalculable benefits in the clubhouse and with fans.

The only problem I might have is not with the money, but the prospects. That seemed a bit generous. But, again, E.Ency is on his way to sub-replacement, so it evens out.

Aug 02, 2009 06:03 AM
rating: 0
 
Schere

Well, I don't think Encarnacion brought much value in this trade, do you? So they might have been better off just DFA'ing Encarnacion, or trading him for an A-ball reliever.

Aug 02, 2009 09:38 AM
rating: 0
 
mdupske

He may have been all those things in the field but the guy can still hit. Saying a 26-year old who can hit 20 HRs a year will be out of the league in two years is stupid. Toronto should be able to turn him into a DH or 1B and let him hit.

Aug 02, 2009 19:27 PM
rating: 1
 
Nathan M. Smith

I guess I'm confused about why the only way to justify the Kotchman for LaRoche deal is HR and RBI. The way the team is justifying it to the media is that they're hoping LaRoche has his standard second half. Now, for his career, LaRoche has 1780 PA of 770 OPS hitting in the first half, and 1200 PA of 900 OPS hitting in the second half.

Now, maybe that's still just a sample-size illusion, but it's not a crazy justification for the trade.

Also, the Braves are leaking that they probably would've nontendered Kotchman for clubhouse reasons after this year, because, apparently, he talked to fellow ex-Angel Garret Anderson and nobody else on the team. I'm pretty sure this weighed in the decision as well, though it may just be PR.

Aug 02, 2009 08:45 AM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

Sounds kind of flimsy.. that's like letting Glavine, Smoltz and Maddux go for playing too much golf together.

Aug 02, 2009 20:07 PM
rating: 0
 
Chad

Yeah, because Casey Kotchman is Maddux, Glavine or Smoltz...

Aug 05, 2009 10:34 AM
rating: 0
 
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