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December 9, 2009

Prospectus Today

Strange Dealings in the Desert

by Joe Sheehan

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To answer the question up front: No, I don't understand it, either. Let's see what we can figure out:

Tigers trade Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson for Max Scherzer, Austin Jackson, Daniel Schlereth, and Phil Coke.

It looks like a salary dump, and as Clay Davenport pointed out yesterday internally, it's exactly the kind of move you don't make, swapping out assets with value to subsidize the assets that do not have value. The Tigers have $35 million of worthless and another $35 million of dead weight on their roster, players they have no hope of trading away, but this deal doesn't address any of that, it simply makes the rest of the payroll lower at a significant cost to the short-term prospects of the ballclub. The deal would look better had the Tigers forced one of their two trade partners to take Dontrelle Willis or Magglio Ordońez, lopping some of that money off the payroll.

Now, Jackson for Scherzer is likely an upgrade-more on that later-but the rest of the deal is going to leave the Tigers without a good center fielder in 2010, and maybe 2011. Center field isn't a position you can fill easily, and the internal options, Wilkin Ramirez and Casper Wells, are flawed prospects unlikely to be even average major-league players next season. The Tigers aren't going to spend money on the position-they could have simply kept Granderson if they wanted to do that-so this trade likely reduces the AL Central to three contenders next season.

I defended the decision to play Ordońez last season, because you play to win the game, and the division. Perhaps that decision, which added $18 million to the 2010 payroll, was what led to this trade. It was still the right call, however; it's this trade that can be criticized.

What's interesting is that the trade holds up well on its merits independent of being a salary dump. Jackson had the best season of his career last year, improving his location and doing a better job of putting hitters away. Still just 26, you can expect him to sustain these gains, making him a low-second or high-third starter. He, not Granderson, is the most valuable player the Tigers dealt away in the trade. What they got back, though, is a potential stud. Scherzer has struck out more than a batter per inning in more than a season in the majors, with nearly three strikeouts for every walk. The D'backs have managed his workload carefully since making him the 11th pick of the 2006 draft, and at 25, he has both a stronger skill set and higher upside than Jackson. A top three of Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello, and Scherzer is a tremendous start to a championship rotation, and is the biggest selling point to this deal.

The second is that Curtis Granderson is overrated. Granderson's historic 2007 season is the image, but the reality is a player who strikes out too much to post a high average or OBP, who doesn't hit lefties, and whose defense is good enough for his position, but not superior. By UZR he's saved about three runs a year on average since 2007, by Plus/Minus about five runs a year, and remember that he's likely seen his defensive peak. Offensively, he's averaged 35 runs above replacement per year in those same three seasons, which includes that peak '07 season. Granderson has been about a four-win player through his peak, a number that doesn't include the tactical issues he presents. Granderson is a platoon player who simply cannot hit left-handers, making him exploitable in high-leverage situations and therefore slightly less valuable than his overall line would indicate. He's not a .272/.344/.484 hitter late in games; he's a .210/.270/.344 one against any sentient manager. All the good citizen points in the world-and Granderson gets many-don't make up for that critical flaw.

The Tigers had a declining asset with higher perceived value than actual value whose peak was behind him. The asset is underpaid-Granderson makes just $25.75 million guaranteed over the next three seasons-but that particular trait isn't as helpful to the Tigers because of where the cost savings on Granderson was being spent. The Tigers may have correctly concluded that they couldn't reasonably put a winning team around him in the next year, maybe next two years, and therefore needed to cash in this asset for players who can help them win.

The nominal replacement for Granderson is Austin Jackson, who looks more like a tweener than a solution. Jackson has put up nearly identical lines the past two seasons at Double-A and then Triple-A, showing himself to be a .290 hitter who strikes out a bit too much for a player with a .120 isolated power. More disturbing is that he played 37 games on the outfield corners this year, which is odd treatment for a nominal center-field prospect, and confirms the idea that he can't stay in center. If true, he's a fourth oufielder, because his bat isn't going to play on a corner barring significant power development. Jackson has a .413 SLG above A-ball, which isn't going to get it done.

The two left-handed relievers in the deal… I'm trying to remember the last time a team acquired two left-handed relievers in one trade. I can't. Coke is a lefty specialist with a high fly-ball rate; Schlereth is supposed to be more than that, based on his first-round pedigree and the caliber of his stuff. He's walked 38 men in 58 professional innings, so I'm not at all convinced we're looking at more than Chuck McElroy with a backstory. In any case, neither player changes the evaluation of the trade that much. The Tigers probably made this deal for the wrong reasons, but getting Scherzer is a win for them, and trading away Granderson is less costly than it seems.

Yankees trade Austin Jackson, Phil Coke, and Ian Kennedy for Curtis Granderson.

Before the complaining starts, let's make something clear: every single team in baseball could have afforded to acquire Curtis Granderson. The Yankees didn't buy him, but when you look at the trade as it appears from their standpoint, it's hard not to have one thought: "Really?" The Yankees simply didn't give up anything they will miss or anything that should have significant value over any span of time. Jackson's prospect status is marginal given his lack of power development and the question of whether he can be an everyday center fielder. Coke is fungible and might never have pitched for the Yankees again after last October's struggles. Kennedy, who I like, is 25, has a career MLB ERA of 6.03 and threw 23 innings last year in a season marred by surgery on his right biceps. He was maybe the Yankees' sixth starter, maybe their seventh, and that was before Andy Pettitte made noises about coming back.

The Yankees made do last season batting their center fielders ninth, getting decent work from Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner. They came into the offseason with questions about their outfield, seemingly reluctant to pay the price for Matt Holliday or Jason Bay, unwilling to offer arbitration to Johnny Damon, and caught staring at a market that lacked real solutions. Granderson addresses the problem, and while he's the same player he was five paragraphs ago, the Yankees can leverage his skills better than the Tigers could have. The Yankees are a better team, so the marginal wins Granderson creates will have more value. Granderson won't have to lead off in New York, a role for which he's never been well-suited; he can bat second, wrapped in the same safe space between two good right-handed/switch-hitting batters that protected Johnny Damon last year. The Yankees can use Cabrera or Nick Swisher or an as-yet-unacquired player to caddy for Granderson against southpaws. Yankee Stadium's center field is a bit smaller than that of Comerica Field, which should make Granderson's job afield easier, and he'll probably share the pasture with better defenders in Cabrera, Gardner, and Swisher than he did last year in Detroit (Ordońez and Carlos Guillen, among others). The Yankees are better positioned to utilize Granderson and better positioned to leverage the value he provides.

For the Yankees, this is essentially a free upgrade at a position that was looking like a challenge to fill. It allows them to stay out of the left-field market and hoard cash for next winter. It costs them three players who, it could be argued, were not going to play for them in any future season. It's surprising that Granderson could be acquired for so little investment-a number of GMs are undoubtedly shaking their heads this morning about this part of the deal-but this appears to be a case where 90 percent of success is simply answering your phone.

Diamondbacks trade Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth for Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy.

"Well, this is stupid."

When I woke up Tuesday morning and read about this rumor on MLB.com, I sent an e-mail to our internal list with just that subject line.

Solve for X, and the D'backs' part of this trade is Max Scherzer and prospects for Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy. ... Unless Scherzer has some really egregious personal habits, that's insane, and makes me wonder how anyone could report this and not say, "Hmmmm...that doesn't pass the smell test." And I'm one of the guys who still likes Edwin Jackson.

I mean, I dismissed the trade out of hand. So that it was made, and made with the D'backs throwing in their 2008 first-round draft pick… no, I do not get it at all. Kennedy is not a pitcher you trade for; he threw fewer than 30 innings last season, had no possible role for the Yankees next year and, oh yeah, a career ERA above six. The Diamondbacks have been looking for rotation depth, but you can get guys like Kennedy in the minor-league free-agent market, or by sifting through the non-tenders, or by waiting until February for the last guys hanging around waiting to be signed for peanuts. You don't need to trade for a guy like this, and you certainly don't need to trade Max Scherzer for a guy like this.

Scherzer and Jackson were comparable pitchers in '09, Jackson throwing more innings in a tougher league, Scherzer having better peripheral stats, so calling them equal last year is fair. Scherzer is younger, has better raw stuff, and many more years under team control. There doesn't seem to be any reason to prefer Jackson to Scherzer; as much as I like Jackson, it's not like he has an extended track record of pitching at this level, nor much reason to think he'll be better than Scherzer over the next couple of seasons. The deal costs the Diamondbacks money, as Jackson will be able to make $7 million or so through arbitration. You could have kept Scherzer and signed a bunch of proto-Kennedys for that coin. You'd still have Schlereth, too.

The only, and I mean the only, way this makes sense for the Diamondbacks is if they are absolutely convinced that Scherzer cannot hold up as a starter. You may recall that when he was drafted, there was concern about a quirk in his delivery, a violent jerk of his head that created non-specific concerns about his durability. That's been tamped down a bit, and Scherzer hasn't had much in the way of health problems yet, but he's still not exacly Greg Maddux out there. The Diamondbacks have seen more of Scherzer than anyone, and they may have decided to trade him before he gets hurt, for whatever they can get.

Even if you grant that premise, this isn't the trade to make. If the Diamondbacks had simply put Max Scherzer, with his one-plus year of service time, his great fastball, his career K-rate, and his scouty goodness on the market, they had to have been able to do better than a lateral move that costs more money and a possible fourth starter in Kennedy. Mind you, they had to put Schlereth in the deal to make it as well. It's a bad trade on the surface and it's a bad trade if you dig deeper, because there's no way that Max Scherzer isn't worth more than this. The Diamondbacks got worse and raised their payroll at the same time, which is a rapid path to extinction.

I'm chatting at 1 p.m. We'll talk about this deal and anything else going on in an hour.

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

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

BP Comment Quick Links

mafrth77

I think the health difference between Jackson and Scherzer is real. There were starts last year when Scherzer's velo would simply dissapear and he got killed.If Jackson can command his fastball a little better the NL West will make this deal look good for the D-Backs.

Dec 09, 2009 10:12 AM
rating: 0
 
John Carter

The small difference in peripherals does not make up for the huge difference in innings (let alone the league difference on top of that and completely ignoring ERA). So, no, calling them equal last year is not close to fair.

Dec 09, 2009 10:28 AM
rating: 2
 
Dave Holgado

I had the same reactions as you, Joe. I say this as a Yankee fan, but even if they were intent on moving Max Scherzer due to health concerns, why does Arizona get the Yankees involved in this thing at all? Couldn't they have ponied up an A-Jax level prospect to DET in order to score Curtis Granderson as well? If not Brandon Allen (due to their otherwise gaping hole at 1B), then say, A.J. Pollock (for whom Austin Jackson may be a very good comp)? Do they still have that much faith in Chris Young in center, or the Eric Byrnes/Gerardo Parra combo in left, for that matter? Granderson would represent a significant upgrade offensively at either position, and a big defensive one in LF to boot.

A real head scratcher. And Cashman finally atones for that famous head scratcher 3-way deal of yesteryear, when Oakland ended up with Ted Lilly and prospects, Detroit (the real winner of that deal, apologies to Michael Lewis) netted Carlos Pena and Jeremy Bonderman, and the Yanks got... ahem... Jeff Weaver. (This time the Tigers are the A's, the Yanks are the Tigers, and the D-Backs are the Yanks.)

Dec 09, 2009 10:39 AM
rating: 3
 
Schlom

I guess the Dbacks think that the first half Edwin Jackson (212/272/345 with 1.060 WHIP and 2.8 K/BB ratio) is the one they are getting, not the 2nd half one (290/356/500, 1.527 WHIP and 1.8 K/BB ratio). Although it should probably be pointed out that his BABIP was .249 in the first half and .312 in the second.

Dec 09, 2009 10:49 AM
rating: 2
 
Richie

I don't get the criticism of the Tigers. "It's a good trade, but bad because it doesn't address their needs." Because they can't find anyone stupid enough to take the $$$$ albatrosses off their hands, they're otherwise not supposed to make trades? I don't see the point there at all.

Dec 09, 2009 11:17 AM
rating: 11
 
Jim Humdingding

Kevin Goldstein is on the staff, and the defensive review of Jackson consist of the following quote?

"More disturbing is that he played 37 games on the outfield corners this year, which is odd treatment for a nominal center-field prospect, and confirms the idea that he can’t stay in center. If true, he’s a fourth oufielder, because his bat isn’t going to play on a corner barring significant power development."

Why don't you ask Goldstein for a defensive assessment? Aren't there other possible reasons he played 37 games in the corner, like they wanted to get some CF experience for another player? Or, they wanted Jackson to get experience in LF in case the big league club needed him there? Another site known for their prospect analysis suggested that both his range and arm are good or plus in CF. Don't we deserve something more convincing than games played by position?

Dec 09, 2009 11:42 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

Kevin's written that Jackson has lost some speed since being drafted, however his most recent assessments of Jackson have been pretty positive.

To me, it's about using data. If your CF prospect is a CF prospect, he doesn't move to a corner so Ramiro Pena can play there. You know who played some CF for SWB this year? Todd Linden. Also Colin Curtis. Jackson played 37 games on the corners, and only 10 of those could possibly been because of Pena or Brett Gardner. Colby Rasmus didn't do that. Andrew McCutchen did--pretty much all so that Nyjer Morgan, God of Defense, could play.

The Yankees weren't convinced Jackson could play CF, and they handled him that way.

Dec 09, 2009 12:02 PM
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

Guess I can't edit these...McCutchen played about ten games out of CF, total, over two years, pretty much all so that Morgan could play CF.

Dec 09, 2009 12:04 PM
 
Adam Hobson

I'm not sure that logic holds up. If the Yanks weren't sure of Jackson's defense wouldn't they play him in center MORE - so he could get as much practice and experience as possible. Playing the outfield is only half about speed, the other half is experience, getting the right jump on the ball and taking good angles.

It wasn't like Jackson was replaced in center by defensive "gods" like Nyjer Morgan so the McCutchen comp doesn't really play.

Jackson was played all over the outfield so he could get experience across the outfield, because with Melky and Gardner already in the majors, there was a good chance that if Jackson was promoted in season it would be for an injury replacement in the corners.

That all said, I'm not a big Jackson fan and it has nothing to do with his defense. It's more that all I'm seeing as his offensive ceiling is Jacoby Ellsbury sans-hype and with half the steals. That's a nice player for sure, but certainly not a star or someone you bother to hold on to when better options are presented. Hell, Brett Gardner is already in the major leagues and is basically 90% of that player already.

Dec 09, 2009 15:12 PM
rating: 2
 
J Scott

I know that for awhile there, SWB was running Ramiro Pena out there in CF trying to make him more of an overall "Utility Guy" than merely a reserve INF Guy.

Dec 09, 2009 11:49 AM
rating: 0
 
drmboat
(754)

I was thinking that this move by Hinch was exactly the opposite of what Beane would have done in his glory days. Beane used to be great at getting himself involved in a 3-way deal and getting something-for-nothing out of it. Hinch seemed to get himself involved in the deal to get nothing-for-something.

Dec 09, 2009 12:09 PM
rating: 0
 
Seth Cohen

I think the Dbacks should have given Scherzer another year to prove he can't start. The problem isn't necessarily durability, its efficiency (and hence development), with his pitch counts crossing the magic number before the 7th inning all too often. The weak bullpen was not helped by this last year. The other problem is that the team has no starters, even if they are freely available. Webb is a question mark, and Davis and Garland (and Petit) are all gone. They need arms. Maybe Kennedy impressed them enough in the AFL, and given his former prospect status they liked the 2 for 1 aspect of the deal. As far as the offense, goes, it sounds like they are going to go with 'the kids need to hit' again. To address a question above: Eric Byrnes and Chris Young will play because of their contracts.

Dec 09, 2009 13:47 PM
rating: 0
 
andrews

I also don't get the bit about this being a bad trade because the Tigers have lots of bad contracts?

This is a very good trade for the Tigers with the potential to be a great one, Christina Karl explained why far better than i can. A good trade can help all parties, but there's always something satisfying about declaring a winner and out of the blocks it has to be the Tigers.

I was really sad when it was announced because Granderson is possibly my faviurite Tiger, but that's just sentimenalism and it didn't last long.

Dec 09, 2009 14:09 PM
rating: 0
 
T. Kiefer

Hi Joe--

You say "that Curtis Granderson is overrated" and "trading away Granderson is less costly than it seems", yet "this trade likely reduces the AL Central to three contenders next season". This seems inconsistent, unless you mean the three teams to be the White Sox, the Twins and the Tigers. Or you mean to say that the Tigers were competitive in the AL Central by one straw, and Grandy was the last straw. But that doesn't seem right either.

(By the way, since Grandy's stats are almost across the board identical to Grady Sizemore's, to be consistent it seems you're committed to saying Sizemore's overrated too.)

Dec 09, 2009 15:03 PM
rating: -1
 
Adam Hobson

I've heard the Granderson is basically Sizemore comparison a few times now and I don't buy it.

First off, Sizemore is only 26 now and just entering his prime, while Granderson is 28 and at his prime. Their triple slash lines do look similar, but where Sizemore is better is the important - OBP. He's got a .020 on Granderson, and a good 20 or more walks each year. And even with the similar triple slash lines, Sizemore has put those numbers up longer, he became a regular a year before Granderson and younger, he entered the league three years younger than Granderson did.

Dec 09, 2009 15:35 PM
rating: 3
 
Richard Bergstrom

I think Tom Gorzellany and John Grabow came to the Cubs in the same trade and they were both used out of the pen initially.

Also, I still don't understand how this is a three-way trade. Aren't they basically two separate trades?

Dec 09, 2009 16:04 PM
rating: -2
 
etothepiiplus43

Kennedy makes it a three-way trade. He moved from the Yankees to the Tigers and then moved on to the D-Backs. Since no player went from the D-Backs to the Yankees, this is a three-way trade.

Dec 09, 2009 18:14 PM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

Just one further point... Curtis Granderson will now be overdrafted in pretty much every casual fantasy league this year. People will be talking about all the runs and RBIs he'll be getting, but there's a good chance he'll steal less (which will hurt his value).

I'll peg him at .270, 20HR, 15 SB with 100 R and 85 RBI with a .290 30HR 20 SB peak but I wouldn't grab him until the 7th round or so.

Dec 09, 2009 16:11 PM
rating: -1
 
Al Skorupa

Why would he steal less?

Johnny Damon, older and less speedy, hitting out of the #2 spot stole 25, 27, 29 and 12(injuries) with the Yankees.

The Yankees run plenty. In fact, in 09 the Yanks stole 111 bases while the Tigers stole only 72.

I would predict a bump in Runs, HR, RBI and SB. In fact, given how bad Comerica was for him and how friendly Yankee Stadium will be, I could see 30-40 HRs (he did just hit 30 in Detroit). He could be a real fantasy monster. Im less confident in the AVG rebounding, as I think he's legitimately changed his approach some, giving up some contact for power.

Dec 09, 2009 22:29 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Damon had a peak of 46 SB and broke 30 SB four times. He also was a leadoff man for most of that and notionally, his "job" was to get in scoring position via steal (or hit).

Granderson never stole more than 26 and never got on base with the regularity Damon did. He also won't be the leadoff hitter so he might feel more content to let other people drive him in instead of stealing.

Granderson's never hit 40 home runs and has only hit 30 HR once. Changing parks won't spike his home run rate by 10... Even with the home park factor, I doubt he'd break 40. I'd love to see HitTrax look at it though. I wonder how much work it would be to take a hitter's spraychart in Comerica and see which hits would still be home runs in the new Yankee Stadium.

Unfortunately, your line of thinking is why I'm saying he's going to be overdrafted in a lot of leagues. I'll take him 7th but I bet he'll go as high as the 2nd or 3rd round in some drafts.

Dec 10, 2009 07:35 AM
rating: 0
 
Brian Cartwright

"you can get guys like Kennedy in the minor-league free-agent market, or by sifting through the non-tenders, or by waiting until February for the last guys hanging around waiting to be signed for peanuts"

Yes, Kennedy had a historic meltdown in 9 starts at the beginning of 2008, and missed most of 2009, but he's a guy who put up 300 quality innings at USC over 3 seasons, then tore thru the minor leagues, with a career milb ERA of 1.96 in 248 IP. In 8 minor league starts to end 2009 (4 in the IL, 4 in the AFL) Kennedy allowed 1 HR, 12 bb 53 K in 51 IP. All this is ignored because of 50 innings in the spring of 2008?

Here's how I have the four pitchers projected:

      ERA WHIP HR9 BB9  SO9  
Scherzer 3.79 1.28 0.9 3.6 9.4
Schlereth 4.06 1.42 0.7 5.3 10.1

Kennedy 4.24 1.38 0.8 3.8 7.8
Jackson 4.56 1.17 1.1 3.6 6.5


I am impressed with Scherzer. I have projected him with a mid to high 3's ERA since his sophomore year of college.

Schlereth has skills, but is wild and as a releiver will not get as many innings to contribute.

I'm not a Jackson fan...he's had one good half in the last good many years.

And then Kennedy. I think he can be a solid middle of the rotation starter.

So Arizona trades a starter and a reliever to get two starters, although of the two coming, Jackson is not nearly as good as Scherzer and Kennedy is still not proven with his lack of any success so far in MLB.

Dec 09, 2009 19:10 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

Good stuff, Brian. Two things:

--Kennedy striking out eight men per nine seems awfully unrealistic. That would make him probably top-ten K guy in the league.

--Would giving up 20 homers and nearly 100 walks produce just a 4.24 ERA?

Your optimism about Kennedy is noted. I do think the league switch is big for him.

Dec 09, 2009 21:19 PM
 
Rob_in_CT

I'm not as down on Kennedy as Joe is, but the problem I saw with his performance in the majors is that guys weren't chasing close pitches. He wasn't wild in the majors. As far as I can tell, he pitched the same way he would have in the minors, and the difference was major league hitters wouldn't chase.

That's both good and bad, I suppose. He's close. A small improvement in command (or perhaps his newly-minted cutter) could turn him into that #3 starter he supposedly can be. I hope so, even though it will now be bittersweet.

Dec 10, 2009 06:45 AM
rating: 0
 
Rob_in_CT

Also, I think pitching in the AL East made it all the more difficult for him to adjust to the majors. It's an unforgiving place. Joba and Hughes - both better prospects - have had their struggles too.

Dec 10, 2009 06:47 AM
rating: 0
 
Brian Cartwright

with the rates I projected for Kennedy, he'd have to pitch 230 inning to allow 20 HRs and 100 walks. If we go with 162 IP, it's 14 HR, 68 BB, 140 SO. Kennedy has been stingy on HRs, as he only allowed 1 in 53 IP in 2009. I project him at about 70-75% of mlb rate.

4.24 ERA is based on a projected wOBA allowed of .323 (mlb average is .332)

Dec 09, 2009 22:00 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

I was thinking 210, but honestly, I was doing the math in my head. Thanks for the explanation.

Dec 10, 2009 01:20 AM
 
kriscolic

This reminds me, a bit, as a Mets fan, of the Kazmir trade in that he was also a stud prospect who would never ever hold up as a starter. Except that he pretty much has. At least the D'backs didn't wind up with Vic Zambrano.

Dec 10, 2009 08:15 AM
rating: 0
 
flyingdutchman

Sheehan linked to this article in his newsletter today to talk about his errors regarding Kennedy. But a quick glance makes me think there was a bit of laziness regarding Austin Jackson and Granderson that he might want to own up to, as well.

Sep 13, 2011 11:25 AM
rating: 0
 
andrews

I love looking up these old Tiger trades. Seriously why does any GM deal with Dave Dombrowski. He owns them all every single time.

Nov 14, 2012 16:37 PM
rating: 0
 
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