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November 5, 2009

Transaction Action

A Teahen Scandal?

by Christina Kahrl

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CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Re-signed 1B/OF-L Mark Kotsay to a one-year, $1.5 million contract. [11/4]
Acquired 4C-L Mark Teahen from the Royals for 2B-L Chris Getz and 3B-R Josh Fields. [11/5]

If the Teahen trade goes down, as it seems it will, this will be interesting. Initial speculation suggests that Teahen's purpose would be to stock right field. If true, that's news both good and bad. It's good in that it means that they see Alex Rios as their everyday center fielder, where Rios' bat plays better. It's bad news, however, because it means that they haven't really beaten the Podzilla problem of starting a bad-hitting regular in the outfield. Now 2700+ PAs into it, Teahen's career as a hitter is now substantial enough that we can kick aside his slumps and brief good patches and take him for what he is-a guy who'll post an EqA in the .250-.260 range, doesn't walk much, and has lousy power for a starting outfielder-career .419 sluggers in right field aren't assets, they're liabilities. His arbitration-eligibility makes him expensive-he made almost $3.6 million in 2009-so if he's a starting outfielder, he's a stumbling block in terms of his addition to the payroll as well as in the lineup.

So, take a step back. What if Teahen's not going to play right field? What if, instead, he's going to resume regular duty at third base, where his glove work may not be special, but it's endurable, and where his virtues as a hitter are more typically standard? Major league third basemen managed a .264 EqA last year; Teahen's good for something around that. If Rios comes out of his fugue, he can be a league-average or better hitter in center; expensive, but employable, and an improvement on last year's cast of characters, let alone Jerry Owens. You still have to find a start-worthy right fielder (unless they retain Jermaine Dye) as well as a DH, unless they re-sign Jim Thome, in which case they'll have put the band back together, only with a better supporting cast.

All of which goes towards what would be the significantly beneficial upshot of adding Teahen to their infield, which is that it gives them a clear reason to push Gordon Beckham back into the middle infield, taking over the second-base job that a year ago we expected would be his by 2010. It's surprising to me that this isn't more readily obvious; the Sox moved Alexei Ramirez to short after he'd had a good rookie season at second, after all, so it isn't like the Sox shrink from these sorts of changes. At second, Beckham's a future All-Star and a significant offensive asset. Add in the eventual breakthrough of Tyler Flowers, and you can start to see the shape of an offense that actually scores runs instead of supplying them in desultory fashion.

Was the price worth it? Certainly, although the expense needs to be measured more in terms of what it'll cost to employ Teahen (yet to be determined) as well as the role he winds up in, because if he's their right fielder, he doesn't just cost them money and at-bats, he costs them the opportunities to explore better alternatives in right field. Getz is just a placeholding, scrappy, organizational soldier type as starting second basemen go; nice to have, easy to deal, and not too difficult to find another like him. Fields represents another disappointing legacy of their older, more conservative, college-oriented draft strategy that produced so little in the way of worthwhile talent, and which they broke with sharply in 2007 when they picked Aaron Poreda. Teahen might have just turned 28, and that can inspire appropriate tut-tutting that he's as good as he'll ever be. But keep in mind that Fields will turn 27 next month, so it isn't like the Sox surrendered some unrealized future potential-they knew what they had, and didn't like it.


KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Traded 4C-L Mark Teahen to the White Sox for 2B-L Chris Getz and 3B-R Josh Fields. [11/5]

The Royals didn't want to have to deal with Teahen's arbitration case, preferring to non-tender him, so somewhat like the Akinori Iwamura trade, this was a matter of ditching someone they weren't going to keep for something, or in this case, just about anything. But I also think they very simply had increasingly little idea about what Teahen was for. That's more than a little understandable, considering he's turned out to be a lot less valuable than expected, whether you set your expectometer to his being drafted by Billy Beane or when he came back from a demotion having (briefly) rediscovered how to hit. He'd been reduced to something of a lineup flywheel, covering an outfield corner when they were short there, or third base whenever the latest Alex Gordon issue cropped up. The most celestial mystery was the decision to make him the club's Opening Day second baseman this year, a particularly inspired bit of reflexively answering a question with the same answer of initial resort. ("We need a _______." "Teahen?" Mad lib away.) A few ugly plays later, they got over that notion three games into the experience.

The question now is what Getz and Fields do for Kansas City, besides cost less combined while taking up more space. Illustrate the second law of thermodynamics as symptoms of Royal entropy? It beats me. Sure, it's easy to say you'd rather have Teahen, maybe, but Teahen was outbound, so if anything, we could be generous and take this as a violation of the first law and the conservation of energy, in that the Royals got something that's supposed to be something for something that was about to become nothing. Me, I'm not sure I buy it: they had something about to become nothing, and traded it away for something that appears to already be nothing, just more of it.

If I were stocking an infield, I'd rather have Alex Gordon at third base than Fields, and Alberto Callaspo at second than Getz. In this, I suspect Dayton Moore and I are like-minded; the Royals, ill-starred as they may be, already have Gordon and Callaspo. Getz isn't really a great utility option, although he does have experience at third and short, and if this organization could see a Teahen-shaped second baseman, and is the sort of outfit that throws money at Willie Bloomquist for being scrappy, I can see how they might decide Getz is their sort of scrappy utility infielder. It beats another spin with Luis Hernandez, right? So put a gold star on that and call it progress-y.

As for Fields, he is reliably, politely referred to as athletic, what with his past play on college gridirons for Oklahoma State, where he still holds the record for career touchdown passes. Try as they might, the Royals never will make it to the Cotton Bowl, unfortunately, so they've taken on the task of doing with him what the Sox could not, and figure out what he's for on the diamond. His play at third base could be flat-footed and tentative, and if he doesn't play third, it's worth wondering whether he'll ever hit enough to be an asset at any other corner. If Fields is bound for the outfield-as has been at times rumored-he's not a great alternative to the still-awful lineup choice the Royals had between Mike Jacobs or Jose Guillen while they still had Teahen in their possession; it's sort of like choosing flavors at a Howard Johnson's when you really would rather be at Paciugo if actual satisfaction is the goal. If you want to moon over Strat cards past, people are still fond of his brief bit of southpaw smashing in 2007, when he slugged .698 against them in his rookie season. He didn't replicate anything like that in his time at Charlotte in 2008 or this year in The Show, though, so there's not a lot to hang your hat on. Have we mentioned he's got athleticism going for him?

It's easy to be cruel here; these are the Royals, after all. Even so, you can credit Dayton Moore for converting the economic certainty that Teahen was an ex-Royal into two warm bodies on the 40-man. You can credit him for landing people you can bet they'll use in 2010, because this should help spare them any more mistakes big (like Guillen) or small (like Bloomquist) when it comes to picking your 2010 Royals position players. You can hope that the cost savings realized by deleting Teahen by whatever method encourages them to do their pitchers a favor and pick up their 2010 option on Coco Crisp. It would be easy to kibitz on what else he might have gotten for Teahen, but it's important to recognize that Teahen's career has not been all that special.

It might be more appropriate to wonder what the point was, since this doesn't advance the Royals in any particular direction beyond "staffed," and as sorry as their lot may be, this isn't a division stocked with unassailably great ballclubs. To do so would be to ask whether they plan on wasting Zack Greinke's greatness, however, and that could be seen as impolite.


SEATTLE MARINERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Claimed RHP Yusmeiro Petit off of waivers from the Diamondbacks. [11/4]

Petit's may have managed 7.4 K/9, but that was pretty much the lone highlight of a miserable season with the Snakes. It might seem strange to expect good things from him moving from the National League to the American, but I expect a key component to his potential success in Seattle is tied to his fly-balling ways and coming to a club in a bigger ballpark that also places an obvious premium on outfield defense. His G/F ratio was 0.6, and whatever his strikeout rate suggests, he's not a power pitcher as much as one who gets by with guile; pitching in Corporate Banky Bank Bandbox, he got spindled and mutilated, allowing a dozen homers and 37 runs in 41⅓ IP. That's not to say he didn't get punished for his mistakes on the road-seven homers allowed in 48⅓ IP doesn't get mistaken for 'good' except in a relative sense-but there's enough here to like as far as a flyer. If Petit makes it through the winter on the 40-man, you can take that as an evaluation of how highly they value his upside; if he doesn't, it's worth having dibs on him in case nobody else has the desire to claim him later on this winter.


ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Outrighted OF-Ls Alex Romero and Trent Oeltjen to Reno (Triple-A); declined to pick up their 2010 club option for 1B-L Chad Tracy noted that INF-L Danny Richar and RHP Daniel Cabrera have filed for free agency; further noted the losses of RHP Yusmeiro Petit and LHP Doug Slaten on waiver claims by the Mariners and Nationals, respectively. [11/4]

Before their free-agent declarations (and decisions about whether to offer any of them arbitration), the Snakes are down to 37 players in-house to carry on their 40-man over the winter, counting their trio on the 60-day DL (Brandon Webb, Chad Qualls, and the especially ill-fated Conor Jackson). However, Doug Davis, Qualls, and Scott Schoeneweis are eligible for free agency, with a 2010 club option on Webb (which appears to be a certainty). So we're probably down to 34, and they nevertheless have some additional slack that seems likely to be cast off by the time they add minor leaguers they'll want to protect from the Rule 5 draft: there's not a lot of cause to carry journeymen like Luke Carlin or Josh Whitesell across a full winter, not when those are players of the type you can replace or retain via minor league free agency between now and February, and make room for as required.

All of which goes towards my way of saying that it's interesting that they decided to punt Petit and Slaten. Not that they aren't much more than staff filler-a fifth starter if Petit's in a rotation, or a long reliever and a second lefty if they're both in the bullpen. Those aren't useless things to have, of course, just obviously replaceable, and it's interesting that the pair has been discarded, and for what we can infer from the decision as far as the organization's relative confidence in its remaining pitching talent.


CINCINNATI REDS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Outrighted 1B-L Kevin Barker to Louisville (Triple-A). [11/4]

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Declined to pick up their 2010 club option for $10 million on RHP Jon Garland, making him a free agent. [11/5]

SAN DIEGO PADRES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Outrighted 2B-R Edgar Gonzalez to Portland (Triple-A). [11/4]

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Claimed LHP Doug Slaten off of waivers from the Diamondbacks. [11/4]

Whatever muscles are involved in cringing, you'd have to expect that Nationals fans are used to flexing them, but as nabs of second lefty aspirants go, Slaten's not the worst guy to grab. He can dial up his fastball to around 90 on average, he mixes in a good slider, and take him out of the horrors of the bandbox in Phoenix, and you might have a worthwhile reliever. His career rates against lefties in the majors aren't dominating (.261/.322/.394 overall), striking out 22 percent of them, but it's worth seeing what he might do elsewhere, as he's held lefties to .245/.283/.363 in 91 PAs away from the Ballpark Formerly Known as Bob. If he flops, he's easily cut-worthy, so it isn't like the stakes are all that high either way.


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

Related Content:  Scrappy,  A's,  Yusmeiro Petit

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