Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Good, the Bad and the Neal Huntington

There have been a few trades in major league baseball the last few days. They have a range of good, bad and ugly, or as I like to call it "The Good, The Bad and the Neal Huntington."

The Good - The A's trade star outfielder Matt Holliday to the Cardinals for third baseman Brett Wallace, outfielder Shane Peterson and right-handed pitcher Clayton Mortensen. The A's also threw in 1.5 million in cash in the deal.

The A's got two former first round picks in Wallace and Mortensen, who are in Triple A, and a former second round pick in Peterson who is in Double A. This is in exchange for an outfielder in Holliday who was hitting 286 with 11 homers and 54 RBIs but last season hit .321 with 25 HRs and 88 RBIs, and who is a free agent in two months and 1.5 million in cash.

The Cardinals got the star hitter that Tony LaRussa so desperately wanted to back up Albert Pujols with and Holliday responded with a four for five first night as the Cards pounded the Phillies. The lifetime .316 hitter will be very happy to be playing for a first place team and should see LOTS of good pitches to hit with Pujols in front of him.

However, the Cards did give up a lot for a player they will have for a little more than 2 months (3 months if they make the playoffs). Wallace is one of the top 10 prospects in baseball currently and his bat is ready for the major leagues. However, his glove is a question mark and he may end up at 1B for the A's. Mortensen is only spending his second year in the minors and is already at Triple A. He projects as a back end of the rotation starter. Peterson is an OBP machine who fits in with Billy Beane's ideal type of players. He is starting to hit for a little more power, as he has hit seven home runs this season as opposed to only one home run last season. But for Peterson, this is also his second year in the minors and the A's desperately need a leadoff hitter

But give Cardinals GM John Mozeliak credit for at least going for the brass ring. He knows with a starting staff of Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainright and Joel Pineiro, his team probably has the best starting rotation in the NL Central. And now with Holliday to combine with Pujols and hopefully Ryan Ludwick resurging, the Cards are now the team to beat. Sometimes you have to give up a lot to get a lot. As for Billy Beane, he again proves how to get talent for talent.

The Bad - The Cardinals trade outfielder Chris Duncan to the Red Sox for shortstop Julio Lugo. Now the Cardinals needed a shortstop really bad with Khalil Greene's anxiety issues and Brendan Ryan not really a true shortstop. The question is will Lugo be the starting shortstop and are the Cardinals kicking in any salary? Lugo has 13.5 million left on his contract (not one of Theo Epstein's better moves).

The Boston Herald says that the Sox are going to be responsible for his contract, but does that mean the Cards are responsible for Duncan's $825,000? Who knows, but I find it hard to believe that Theo Epstein would pay for the entire remaining contract of Lugo plus the 2.5 million for LaRoche (see below), plus the the $825,000 for Duncan. Lugo by the way was hurt most of the season till recently, when the Red Sox designated him for assignment. He was hitting .284 with one home run in 37 games, so he still can play. Duncan was hitting .227 with 5 home runs and 32 RBIs and was sent to Triple A. Duncan will be strictly depth on a crowded Sox bench. You just wonder if the Cards could have just waited for Lugo to be released, which is what most people thought and then sign him.

The Neal Huntington - The Pirates trade Adam LaRoche for shorstop Argenis Diaz and pitcher Hunter Strickland. The Red Sox will assume the rest of LaRoche's salary for the season, 2.5 million.

The Pirates got a .253 hitting Double A shortstop who was signed as a free agent and a 18th round pick pitcher in Single A ball for a first baseman who was hitting .247 with 12 HRs and 40 RBIs (last season .270 25 HRs and 85 RBIs), who was a free agent at the end of the season, but historically has a .900 OPS the second half of the season and also averaged 26 HRs and 88 RBIs the last three seasons.

The A's got two players who were former first round picks and another player who was a former second round pick for Holliday. Huntington couldn't even get a player considered in the top ten prospects for the Boston Red Sox in his deal. The Holliday deal only reinforces how bad this deal was for the Pirates. In fact, the #11 prospect for the Sox, Yamaico Navarro was immediately moved up to Portland to replace Diaz. Somehow I don't think the Sox are going to miss Diaz.

That's just real awesome work by Huntington. Nice to see he is continuing in the tradition of inept Pirate GMs such as Dave Littlefield and Cam Bonifay. In fact, I have been so impressed by the ineptitude of Huntington, he will be featured in my next article entitled "The Curious Case of Neal Huntington".

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