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January 23, 2012

Transaction Analysis

Pena's Power Returns to St. Pete

by R.J. Anderson

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

BOSTON RED SOX
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired RHP Clayton Mortensen from the Rockies for SS-S Marco Scutaro. [1/21]

In effect, Boston trades Scutaro’s contract for a non-entity so they can pursue a starting pitcher. Pardon anyone who finds this trade more befitting of the NBA.

The immediate return on Scutaro is Mortensen, who you may remember as a former first-round pick and as a part of the Matt Holliday-to-St. Louis trade. His stock has slipped since, as the gangly righty’s high-80s sinker gets groundballs, but his overall package has not produced inspiring results in the majors or high-minors in recent years. Unless something changes, Mortensen’s upside might lay in the bullpen as a situational reliever.

Boston’s real prize is ostensibly adding a pitcher like Roy Oswalt to a rotation that already holds Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, and Daniel Bard. Is there a high amount of risk in that projected rotation? Yes. Is there a high amount of potential reward in that projected rotation? Absolutely. Whether the drop-off from Scutaro to the new shortstop (reportedly a Nick Punto-Mikes Aviles platoon) is worth upgrading from Aaron Cook, Andrew Miller, Carlos Silva, or Alfredo Aceves to Oswalt is the equation that needs solving before writing this off as a smart or stupid pursuit. For its part, PECOTA sees Oswalt as the best pitcher of the pack by a fair margin:

Pitcher

PECOTA ERA

Roy Oswalts

3.55

Alfredo Aceves

3.93

Carlos Silva

4.88

Andrew Miller

5.71

Aaron Cook

5.85

Meanwhile, Scutaro hit .284/.356/.404 over the past three seasons, while Punto and Aviles should be able to come close based on their multi-year platoon numbers (Punto versus righties: .249/.345/.344; Aviles versus lefties: .295/.334/.476). One has to be high on the other facets of Scutaro’s game compared to the Punto-Aviles tandem to feel the Red Sox are taking a massive hit at the position.

When viewed in a vacuum, this is a poor trade. In a larger picture, this is just a piece of a sequence of movement. In that sense, the only quibble to take with Boston is whether they could have squeezed more out of Colorado than Mortensen, although time may have been of the essence given the fluidity of negotiations.

MINNESOTA TWINS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Signed RHP Joel Zumaya to a one-year deal that could be worth up to $1.7 million. [1/18]

You knew some team would gamble on Zumaya, the questions were who and how much. We’ve now learned that the answers are the Twins and at least $850,000 with the normal array of incentives that could double Zumaya’s salary with a clean bill of health.

The most recent report on Zumaya suggests that his secondary stuff has been his focus and that he can still bring the heat when necessary. How his stuff will translate versus major leaguers, however, is anyone’s guess at this point. Maybe he returns to his old form, like in 2006 when he struck out 97 and allowed 98 hits-plus-walks, or maybe he settles into being a decent middle reliever with a few too many scars on his right arm.

Unfortunately, envisioning Zumaya as a long-term fixture is a difficult image to conjure. The last time he threw more than 40 major league innings in a season came in his rookie season. In the time since, Zumaya and the 60-day disabled list have become downright chummy, with Zumaya visiting once per season. Just about every major site on his right arm—from his shoulder to his finger, including his elbow and wrist—has caused him to miss time, and pretending all of those issues are in the past is something that must be proven before accepted, rather than wished into existence.

There is a non-zero chance the Twins will receive more return on investment from Zumaya than any other team who signed a free agent reliever this offseason. There is an even better chance that sentence becomes a fixture in future Zumaya write-ups, as his body continues to work against him and his once-promising career.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Signed OF-R Jonny Gomes to a one-year deal worth $1.1 million. [1/20]

When the A’s acquired Seth Smith, the logical follow-up move was to secure a right-handed hitting corner outfielder who could serve in a timeshare with Smith. Sure enough, Gomes fits the bill. Gomes’s multi-year platoon splits include a .293/.385/.477 line versus lefties, whereas Smith has hit .290/.360/.521 against righties. If Bob Melvin can use the two in a strict platoon, the offensive values figure to be worth his time.

Gomes’s defense is a noticeable downgrade from Smith’s, and he will make gaffes on even routine-looking plays, as a Google Images search for Gomes will reveal. At the very least, Gomes’s home runs, peculiar defensive routes, and sophomoric antics should keep A’s fans amused, if not enthused. Perhaps Gomes can bring back the plastic rooster he bought and nicknamed Cocky while in Tampa Bay. Gomes would sneak Cocky into the dugout during rallies and later hid the statuette in a ballpark after a lengthy losing streak.

TAMPA BAY RAYS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Signed 1B-L Carlos Pena to a one-year deal worth $7.25 million. [1/20]

Pena returns to the place where he shed the bust label by earning an All-Star appearance, a Gold Glove, and a Silver Slugger. The list of pros associated with Pena outweighs his cons. He hits dingers, walks, smiles, thunderclaps, and signs tacos; he also strikes out a lot, hits into exaggerated shifts, and struggles with left-handed pitching. That last con tends to call for a platoon, but the Rays dealt with Casey Kotchman playing daily last season, and Pena’s three-year numbers versus lefties dwarf his predecessor’s efforts over the same span.

Some consternation exists about whether Pena can outhit his disappointing 2010 tallies within the American League East at this stage in his career. It is a legitimate question, but keep in mind that Pena’s 2011 season was not just a product of Wrigley Field. As ESPN Florida’s Tommy Rancel noted, Pena posted some of the league’s best power numbers on the road. Besides, Pena’s previous success at Tropicana Field and within the division suggests he should be capable, even with another year added on.

The other concern with Pena is how his defense stacks up to Kotchman’s. Pena might own a Gold Glove, but he lacks aureate defensive metrics (although one could argue that Kotchman possessed an overinflated reputation with the glove too). Skill-set wise, Pena is more nimble, making him more likely to make a play going back on a ball or ranging out of his zone; he also has impressive footwork when adjusting to throws. Kotchman, meanwhile, has surer hands, good in-zone prowess, and a strong, accurate arm. Overall, Kotchman owns the better package, though the change does not figure to threaten the Rays’ ability to field a competent defense.

Even if the Rays are downgrading on defense, the upgrades in offense and reliability make the switch worth the effort. Pena and Kotchman may have posted similar Wins Above Replacement Player scores in 2011, but the former is a safer bet to provide similar value going forward, while the latter seemingly maxed out last season. Having the ability to maximize upside and minimize risk within the same package is unusual, and that makes the Rays’ decision to make their old first baseman into their new first baseman an easy one. 

COLORADO ROCKIES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired SS-S Marco Scutaro from the Red Sox for RHP Clayton Mortensen. [1/21]

Seemingly no other general manager has spent the offseason flipping his roster around like Colorado’s Dan O’Dowd. Come opening day, O’Dowd will have installed new starters at catcher, second base, third base, and right field.

Scutaro will slide from shortstop in Boston to second base in Colorado, a move that figures to help his defense and help O’Dowd solve a problem, at least for the time being. After shuffling through Jose Lopez, Mark Ellis, and a few others last season, the offensive bar is set low enough (.256/.304/.351) that Scutaro’s PECOTA projection (.274/.346/.382) foretells of at least an 18-point gain in each of the slash line categories.

O’Dowd should be heralded for taking advantage of an opportunity and for somehow keeping the details quiet enough to the point where another team did not—perhaps could not—jump in and take Scutaro away for a better offer. Although, maybe that speaks to the velocity in which the deal was completed.


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

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

BP Comment Quick Links

CRP13

Nice work, as usual.

Umm...as the lone voice of Astros fandom that reads this site, could we please get a write-up of the exciting, exciting signings of Jack Cust and Chris Snyder? I know that's not as interesting as the A's signing Johnny Gomes, but I still would like to read BP's take.

Jan 23, 2012 06:15 AM
rating: 6
 
Richard Bergstrom

Never saw a Kerry Wood writeup or the minor leaguers that the Cubs got for Marshall.

Jan 23, 2012 22:45 PM
rating: 0
 
DetroitDale

Soo... as the Tigers give up on a once promising pitcher, a once promising hitter they gave up on who made them regret it signs with another team, when he was the least bad candidate among available free agents to patch the hole in their lineup from VMart's injury... and the Tigers hit the snooze bar, role over and go back to sleep.

Their activity this season consists of giving up on Zumaya, giving up on former first round pick Ryan Perry, trading him for less touted pitcher actually more likely to contribute in the pen, and signing old guy Dotel to replace their once promising injured reliever (not Zumaya, the more receont one Al Albequerque).

That's a whole lot of treading water for last year's 89 win (by pythagorus) who just lost their second best hitter from a lineup that didn't need any new holes.

They still might edge out the Royals for the weakest division in baseball, but this isn't a team ready for a WS run much less repeating last year's first round upset. And what's worse there's no sign outside of the usual spin that management even cares.

Jan 23, 2012 07:00 AM
rating: 0
 
John Carter

I feel your pain, but what would you want them to do? Their answer at third base Nick Castellanos is hopefully only another year away. Their new hole at DH is also hopefully just a year away in a Victor Martinez recovery. Their hole in the rotation is, perhaps, a half year away, but Jacob Turner is not subject to a predictable formula. It is expensive to buy free agents and it is even more expensive to buy them only for one year - unless they get someone who will be grateful to sign with any team, which is presumably their plan.

And, I would presume such a player unlike Carlos Pena to have some outfield skills, because Delmon Young does not possess many of those.

As for the hole at secondbase, there was no secondbaseman on the free agent market. They could have spent millions on Jose Reyes, if he was willing to play for Detroit, but that would have meant moving Jhonny Peralta to seocond base, where he likely would have been unhappy and ineffective, if he was suitable for that position in the first place.

Have some faith. That trade for Doug Fister, which so many of us here thought was a terrible trade at the time (including myself and the BP staff who commented on it), turned out great so far.

The real problem is that Detroit's farm is so bare, they have nobody to trade to fix any of these holes without creating a new one.

Jan 23, 2012 21:59 PM
rating: 0
 
bdesrochers

Far too positive response to Scutaro deal from Red Sox's perspective. Not sure why timing would be an issue when surely the ownership could allow the expenditure for Oswalt with the understanding that Scutaro would be dealt by Opening Day.

That would have given Cherington two months to find the best package for him, if indeed that was whom he was going to always deal to drop salary.

It was a hasty move that is quite poor in and of itself regardless of how sensible the subsequent moves might be. Those future moves did not necessitate this exact move at this exact time.

Jan 23, 2012 07:23 AM
rating: 5
 
timber

I had heard that the Rockies were the only team that would take 100% of Scutaro's salary. Everybody else wanted the Sox to eat some of it. This may have been the best deal available if the point of it was a salary dump.

Jan 23, 2012 09:42 AM
rating: 2
 
ScottyB

Lefty-lefty platoons are rare, but Luke Scott slugs against lefties pretty well, right?

Jan 23, 2012 08:35 AM
rating: 0
 
juiced

I think the Pena move is a huge, underrated signing for the Rays. Their competitors in Detroit and New York need a DH badly, as did the Rays, and they are likely to settle on overrated "names" like Damon, or Vlad, or Matsui. Pena is far younger and better when obp assumes it's rightful spot in the discussion over BA. That the Rays would be able to outmaneuver their far richer competitors on this gives me no end of joy.

Jan 23, 2012 14:11 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

I haven't seen a trade the Rockies have made in the last year that I've been happy with...

Jan 23, 2012 14:21 PM
rating: 0
 
Brock Dahlke

How can you not be happy with this one?

Jan 23, 2012 21:33 PM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

Because the Rockies have about three or four second baseman rookies but they are never patient with their young offensive players. It's a faulty organizational philosophy which has included Chris Iannetta, Dexter Fowler and yes, even Troy Tulowitzki. In addition, the Rockies have spun their wheels on trades this offseason, trading players with some value like Iannetta and Smith and getting little back besides flyball pitchers. In other words, the Rockies aren't increasing organizational value, they aren't developing their minor league players and I don't think Cuddyer + Scutaro turns the Rockies into a contender either.

Jan 23, 2012 22:42 PM
rating: 0
 
cbhampson

I agree with your assessment of the offseason in general, especially the trades of Iannetta and Smith. That said, I really like this trade. While Nelson might at some point become a marginal ML hitter, he isn't close yet. I don't see this as impatience with Nelson but rather capitalizing on the availability of a very good player. Their rotation is going to keep them from contending, but that doesn't mean this wasn't a good move.

Jan 23, 2012 23:18 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

That's kind of the point though. There's no point picking up Scutaro if the Rockies aren't contending. It's best to let the kids play and figure out who would be part of the next contending team. Scutaro's not Utley offensively, so why not give some of those rookies a shot? Smith probably could've produced at Cuddyer's level, and Iannetta is one of the better offensive catchers in the league. Why pay more for "proven vets" that aren't stars?

Jan 24, 2012 17:44 PM
rating: 0
 
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