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August 16, 2011

Transaction Analysis

Delmon Dealt UPDATED

by Kevin Goldstein and R.J. Anderson

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League

DETROIT TIGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired OF-R Delmon Young from Twins for LHP Cole Nelson and RHP Lester Oliveros. [8/15]

There is some intrigue with this move. On the surface, acquiring a right-handed outfielder makes a good bit of sense for the Tigers. They hold a 2 1/2-game lead over the Indians entering play on Monday, and starting left fielder Brennan Boesch is experiencing a right thumb strain that has limited him to one plate appearance in recent days. Jim Leyland has used Andy Dirks in left field in the wake of Boesch’s injury, but there is reason to believe this trade might not be about replacing Dirks.

Young appeared to be headed in the right direction with a strong showing in 2010, but his ascent towards respectability has petered out in 2011. He never developed into much of a power hitter, but his ISO now sits comfortably below .100, and that is a problem for a player who cannot field, does not walk, and has never posted a batting average over .300. Young is only 25 and has hit better since returning from the disabled list (.286/.352/.429 in 108 plate appearances), but he will qualify for free agency after the 2012 season and could be due in excess of $6 million next season.

Even with those negatives, though, Young offers some value. For instance, he fights crime alongside a mutant rat, and he hits let-handed pitching. Leyland has taken steps to limit Dirks’s exposure to lefties as 85 percent of his plate appearances have come against righties. Young, meanwhile, has historically hit lefties better than righties, posting an OPS over .800 in 2009 and 2010. That combination should be enough for Detroit to pull the plug on Magglio Ordonez as an everyday player.

Ordonez was horrible in the first half (a .217/.290/.301 slash line) and has slipped further in the second half (.235/.264/.286). PECOTA is optimistic that Ordonez could provide some offense over the rest of the season, but there is a legitimate chance he is done as a useful major leaguer, especially since he has little to offer beyond his bat. Detroit has to pay Ordonez the remainder of his $10 million salary whether he plays, is benched, or is released, so there is no disincentive to do what’s best for the team at this point. A Dirks-Young platoon isn’t the sexiest thing in high heels, but the Tigers goal is improving enough to gain entry to October. If that means writing Ordonez off as a sunk cost, then so be it.—R.J. Anderson

MINNESOTA TWINS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired LHP Cole Nelson and RHP Lester Oliveros from Tigers for OF-R Delmon Young. [8/15]

A tenth-round pick in last year's draft, Nelson created some buzz in his pro debut when he allowed just 12 hits over 27 1/3 innings while striking out 36, but he's come down to earth in his full season debut with a 4.87 ERA in the Florida State League.  He was moved to the bullpen in early July, where he has pitched much better. At 6-foot-7 and 233 pounds, Nelson is an imposing presence on the mound, and his best pitch is a low-90s fastball than can get up to 94.  It features a strong downward plane due to his height, producing plenty of ground balls. He throws a hybrid breaking ball with some bite, but the bread and butter is his fastball with movement and velocity.  With just one plus pitch, his future lies solely in the bullpen.

A 23-year-old Venezuelan, Oliveros is a short, stocky righthander with a fastball that earns high grades for both its velocity and movement, but he's yet to find another pitch that will help him succeed in the big leagues, where he struck out just four of the 53 batters he faced in nine July appearances. He's been outstanding since moving down to Double-A, but that is a level where man can often live by fastball alone. Scout have noted improved control and more aggressiveness, but little in the way of progress with his fringy slider. The arm strength and age give him a chance to turn into a solid middle reliever, but it's no guarantee.—Kevin Goldstein

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here
R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here

Related Content:  Andy Dirks

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