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August 3, 2009
Balance of the AL's Major Deadline Moves
Acquired RHP Jake Peavy from the Padres for LHPs Clayton Richard and Aaron Poreda and RHPs Dexter Carter and Adam Russell; recalled INF-R Brent Lillibridge from Charlotte. [7/31]
Optioned INF-R Brent Lillibridge to Charlotte; recalled RHP Jhonny Nunez from Charlotte. [8/1]
Credit Kenny Williams with looking at a pile of Richard, Jose Contreras, and Bartolo Colon to select his fourth and fifth starters, and deciding that the correct answer for at least his fourth was an either/or between Gavin Floyd and John Danks. Adding Peavy to the front three-for this year's last leg of the stretch, sure, but more importantly for the next several seasons to come-will be one of those add-ons the benefit of which should pay and keep paying for years to come. Even the challenge of adding an injured player such as Peavy reflects one of the Sox's not-so-hidden virtues: as Will Carroll will tell you, Herm Schneider's training staff is one of the assets this club uses to good effect. If the Sox do better in getting Peavy back in working order and keeping him there, it wouldn't be the most surprising development.
To spread the credit, however, keep in mind that the costs involved were considerable: beyond a talent-laden package of pitching, the Sox are on the hook for the $48 million owed to the former Pad person through 2012, plus the additional expense of picking either a $4 million buyout or a $22 million club option for 2013. So skip crediting just Kenny Williams for finally getting his man, whatever other might and should be said about Jerry Reinsdorf, credit ownership for its willingness to take on the expense.* That said, Reinsdorf's comment about paying $52 million for a pitcher seems more than a bit telling in terms of what it says about the likelihood of that 2013 option getting picked up. Unless hyperinflation of some flavor is in the cards, I anticipate this is a pickup for this season and the next three.
To go over the obvious, this is a win-now rotation that, in part because of Peavy's absence until the end of the month or so, might not actually win now, it is at least well set up to win in the future in a division where none of the other rivals seems likely to blossom into the next dynasty. A rotation fronted by Peavy delivering anything like last season's .614 Support-Neutral Winning Percentage to go with Mark Buehrle and John Danks should be able to go toe-to-toe with anything the Tigers and Twins run out there the next three seasons, and if Gavin Floyd keeps on rolling as well as he has this season-counting one quality start blown after six innings, he's thrown 15 in 21 turns-he makes this a four-deep proposition.
The question is whether it was worth the price in prospects, setting aside the willingness to take on the salary. There, it's less clear-cut. Starting with Richard as the semi-established big-leaguer in the exchange, as an athletic power southpaw who turned the corner as a prospect last season, I like his potential to shine in the NL with Petco to help him quite a bit, especially since he's going to be escaping a particularly tough park. Poreda's the pure blue-chipper and an even better bet to star in the senior circuit as a southpaw who cooks with gas. Carter's not exactly a sleeper, but he's another big man who throws hard, and he was dominating the Sally League; he'll be sure to rank among the best prospects in his new organization, having already taken a big step forward in his first full season. Russell's a useful arm who can contribute in a big-league bullpen.
As much as Peavy's a name player, the Sox paid a name-player's price in terms of the talent alone. The only way this ends well for the Sox in the long view is if Peavy delivers on his half of the proposition and helps deliver another few shots at division titles. You can't call this a genius move: it took something to get something, and Peavy's definitely worth getting, but my hope is that Sox fans understand this isn't simply about this season's stretch drive, it's about winning titles in the next three seasons as well. As Clay Davenport noted earlier today, the Sox were a going concern already as far as this season's concerned, and remain one still. If the team they were already making that bid with was just about good enough to "sneak" another division title in, this year same as last, the fun is that a Peavy-packing rotation wouldn't be a treat for the beasts from the East in a short series.
One interesting wrinkle from having dealt Richard is that, with Bartolo Colon on the DL as well, they're actually short a designated fifth starter for the next couple of weeks. Thanks to offdays on the schedule, they'll need only one spot start from somebody this next Saturday (against the Indians) before they can pencil Colon in against the Royals on the 18th (another soft landing, that). Another pen-fronting start from D.J. Carrasco might do the trick, but from elsewhere on the 40-man roster, the club could call up lefty Wes Whisler or righty Carlos Torres, both of whom have already gotten their first tastes of the majors, and both of whom are doing good things in the Knights' rotation.
*: Keeping in mind that Jose Contreras and Octavio Dotel's combined $16 million for 2009 will be coming off of the books, not to mention the need to resolve where to go with Jim Thome now that his deal's run out. Even if the Sox were predisposed to re-sign everybody, in this environment you can anticipate lower annual salaries for several Sox veterans.
Traded C/1B-S Victor Martinez to the Red Sox for RHPs Justin Masterson and Bryan Price and LHP Nick Hagadone; recalled C-R Wyatt Toregas from Columbus (Triple-A). [7/31]
Designated RHP Winston Abreu and LHP Mike Gosling for assignment; recalled RHP Jensen Lewis from Columbus. [8/1]
The Tribe definitely got value for a year and two months of Victor Martinez, but the fact that they didn't land any of Boston's best pitching prospects has to rate as a minor disappointment. Adding Masterson to a pen short of talent of any stripe is helpful, but it's not earth-shattering good news: he's been a nice little middle reliever for Boston in a low-leverage role, so it isn't exactly like they replaced Rafael Betancourt as much as they added a sponge for a rotation whose results might tend, in the post-Lee environment, to be messy. A 4.91 FRA and the big platoon split you'd expect from a guy who comes at you from a lower arm angle suggests that he might not just be a relief-oriented right-hander shy that third pitch, he might never graduate to anything more than that middleman's role. Again, the Indians need relief help in every flavor, but while this is the guy most people have heard of, this isn't what made the deal happen.
Instead, I wonder if it really has to be all about Hagadone. Don't get me wrong; Price has promise. He's a right-hander who, having come over from Rice in the first round of the '08 draft after closing in college, ought to be useful and interesting. His power sinker/slider combo and occasional funks with his delivery seems to suggest a future return to the pen, and, as a former top-program pick, getting the bejeebus beat out of him in High-A this summer after some early-season success in Low-A doesn't speak well of his staying a starter. Still, he has a pedigree, stuff, and 31/97 BB/K ratio in 96
Is Hagadone? Having come back from Tommy John surgery this season, the power southpaw's doing everything his believers would wish for. Mid-90s heat from a lefty is hard to find, and before the surgery, his slider was an equally fearsome pitch. Add in high marks for his changeup and his work ethic, and you get the package that compelled the Sox to pick him out of the University of Washington in the sandwich round of the '07 draft. Returning to the mound after missing most of 2008 and the first two months of '09, the Sox were handling him carefully, having him average less than three innings per start in the Sally League as he gets used to live competition again. Even so, he's managed 32 strikeouts in 25 IP, walking 14 and hitting another four in what is, after all, a period where a guy's still getting his command back. The combination of advanced-program experience in college plus electric stuff should accelerate his timetable next season, but I wouldn't expect that to go further than escaping A-ball.
As good as Hagadone and Price might be as prospects, it's going to be hard to grade how well Mark Shapiro did here. As a point of relative reference, by the time either or both makes the majors to stay, Victor Martinez may have already departed Boston as a free agent. Watching Masterson chip in a bit in the big-league bullpen isn't going to inspire endless amounts of patience in a fan base that's already cranky over the undelivered promise of the last several seasons, but that's what they're going to have to get by on until we see if the Indians' player development people get Hagadone and Price to the majors intact and ready to deal as adroitly from the mound as Shapiro was to deal for them. The problem with pitching packages is that so frequently the usual casualty rates leave you with a survivor or two and a lot of "might have been" anecdotes. Even if we accept Masterson in the majors and one of the two pitchers working out as a rate of return, that doesn't sound like a lot relative to surrendering eight months of everyday regular-season play from a player as good as Victor Martinez.
To get back to the big-league bullpen, as for shoring up the pen at present by bringing back Jensen Lewis, just as Rafael Perez had responded to the shame of demotion to Columbus by shaming the International League, Lewis was insanely over-qualified for Triple-A. As a Clipper, he struck out 28 in 18
Acquired SS-R Orlando Cabrera from the Athletics for INF-R Tyler Ladendorf. [7/31]
Optioned 3B-L Brian Buscher to Rochester (Triple-A); activated SS-R Orlando Cabrera. [8/1]
It's a trade, yes, and I suppose it will help the Twins win, what with Cabrera's reputation afield, past participation in various playoff pushes, and even long experience (however long ago) as a rug-pounder back in his original incarnation as an Expo. He's an asset on the bases (his 2.6 EqBRR would lead his new team) and he remains a sound defender at short, and the Twins should be able to use the defensive help-for all the blather about Twins and fundamentals and whatnot, they're just 18th in the majors in Park-Adjusted Defensive Efficiency. Add in that Cabrera's reputation for being a bit of an emotional player might suggest more enthusiasm playing in the Humpdome than playing out the season's string with an already-dead A's team, and it isn't inconceivable to suggest that he might improve upon his .250 EqA.
That said, he was hitting about the way you should expect (he was projected for a .252 EqA before the year), and the improvement relative to the .230-something EqA that Twins shortstops were producing already makes this a modest offensive improvement at most. The only way it becomes something more than that is if the Twins find the right combination of roles and players between Brendan Harris, Nick Punto, and Alexi Casilla to fix the lineup's ugliest hole, the one over at second base. A multiplicity of options didn't provide answers across multiple positions, and it remains to be seen if Ron Gardenhire can make the right choice at a specific position when he has to choose from among all of them. (We're setting aside Joe Crede's health issues to keep things sunny as far as this conversation's concerned.) If the Twins have a magic combination that tells them they'll get Casilla turned around or Punto back to utility as a utilityman, you'd have thunk they'd have employed it by now. Perhaps playing Harris at second becomes easier to handle with the benefit of having Cabrera at short, and that nets them some runs on offense, but even he isn't hitting well enough to make a strong argument against their just doing as they'd planned to, and seeing if Casilla can redeem himself.
I guess the point is this: the Twins made a deal. That's keen. It didn't significantly improve their chances of making the playoffs, since they're still more of a stalking horse compared to the better shots enjoyed by the Tigers and White Sox, and it took a worthwhile prospect to make what is only a multi-month rental happen. Maybe this might inspire faith and hope in the Minnesotan masses, but the team's more significant move by far will be to bench Delmon Young and reduce the number of outfield offense vortices of suck to one (Carlos Gomez) in the hope that it propels the club beyond a definitively mediocre .260 team EqA. Because of the defensive boost Cabrera provides, this isn't merely fan base-minded window dressing, but it isn't that much more than that either.
Placed 1B-L Daric Barton on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring). [7/27]
Traded RHP Sean Gallagher to the Padres to complete the Scott Hairston trade; purchased the contract of 1B/3B-R Tommy Everidge from Sacramento (Triple-A). [7/28]
Traded SS-R Orlando Cabrera to the Twins for INF-R Tyler Ladendorf; recalled MI-S Cliff Pennington from Sacramento. [7/31]
As moves go, I'm happy to see Cabrera shipped out. Indeed, I wish it had happened a month ago, because this team was just as sunk then, and they were going to be better off learning whether or not Pennington's glove will play at short everyday in the majors. Any indication they have that he'll make it or not means one more or less item on the winter shopping list, because the job isn't going to wind up with Gregorio Petit; I suppose it isn't inconceivable that Josh Horton enters the picture in the second half of 2010, but better to see if Pennington's a playable placeholder in the meantime. As their turning to another organizational soldier in Everidge reflects, there's a lot to be said for playable placeholdery over perfunctory ex-famous person performance, and whether that's Cabrera at short or Jason Giambi at first, the A's are in need of bodies as much as anything at this point as they play for time.
Of course, if the benefit of waiting on putting Cabrera someplace else was that it might yield a better prospect, you can do worse than Ladendorf. The Twins' second-round pick last season after starring as a juco player in Texas, he's just 21 years old and toolsy enough to stick at shortstop. He tore up the short-season Appy League in June to garner a promotion to Low-A, where he's been much less successful, but there's some upside there, in terms of power at the plate and a gun that'll shine at short.
Finally, shipping out Gallagher in the Hairston deal makes enough sense; as another bit of disposable Cubs-sourced depth acquired in bulk in the generally still-lamentable Harden trade, he didn't have much of a place inside an A's organization already better equipped with right-handed pitching talent they'd gotten from other teams or developed themselves.
Designated 1B/3B-R Chris Shelton for assignment; activated LHP Lucas French. [8/1]