Wednesday, July 29, 2009

July 29 - A Big Day of Trades

The July 31 deadline was still two days away, but July 29 felt like the trading deadline. There were four deals on July 29, with the Pirates and the Mariners each doing two deals but the monster trade was between the Indians and the Phillies.

1) The Indians send Cliff Lee and Ben Francisco to the Phillies for four of their top ten minor league prospects - pitcher Carlos Carrasco, shortstop Jason Donald, catcher Lou Marson and pitcher Jason Knapp. Lee, the 2008 Cy Young award winner, was 7-9 this season with a very solid 3.14 ERA inn 22 starts. He immediately gives the Phillies a great 1-2 punch with Cole Hamels. Lee has an $8 million option for next year, which the Phillies will most certainly pick up (considering Oliver Perez makes $12 million a year, Lee is a bargain at $8 million). Francisco has 10 HRs, 33 RBIs and 13 steals and was starting most games for the Indians. He will now be the fourth outfielder.

Carrasco, signed by Philadelphia as a free agent in 2003, was the Phillies #2 prospect. He was struggling at Triple A this season with a 5.18 ERA. However he has 112 strikeouts in 114 innings and his strikeouts to walks ratio is a very good 3-1 ratio (only 38 walks in 114 innings). Donald, drafted in the third round of 2006, recently just came back from surgery on his knee. He has struggled as well at Triple A, hitting only .230. However, when healthy, in his last two seasons at A and AA ball, he hit over .300. Marson, a fourth round pick in 2004, has terrific patience at the plate, having drawn 239 walks in his major league career. He can hit for average but not for power. Knapp, a former second round pick in 2008, is currently on the minor league DL with shoulder fatigue. However Knapp has struck out 111 batters in 85 innings in A ball this season with a strikeouts to walks ratio of nearly 3 to 1.

Analysis - Fair deal for both sides with the advantage going to the Phillies. The Phillies get their ace without giving up their two top prospects, Kyle Drabek or Dominic Brown (or even Michael Taylor, their top prospect closest to being ready). They also get a good fourth outfielder in Francisco who gives them speed off the bench, something they are really lacking. The Phillies now can be considered right along with the Dodgers as the team to beat in the National League.

The Indians get a good deal of talent. Each of the four players they received were listed by Baseball America as being one of the Phillies Top Ten prospects. Carrasco and Marson are the closest to helping right now, especially if the Indians trade Victor Martinez today as rumored. Knapp gives them a pitching prospect so desperately needed considering all the pitching prospect failures they have. And if Donald regains his hitting stroke at Triple A, then the Indians may have their second baseman of the future.

2) The Pirates send shortstop Jack Wilson and pitcher Ian Snell to the Mariners for shortstop Ronny Cedeno, first baseman/catcher Jeff Clement and pitching prospects Aaron Pribanic, Brett Lorin and Nathan Adcock. Wilson, who could be a free agent after this season (his contract has a club option of $8 million for 2010), was hitting .267 with four homers and 31 RBIs. But Wilson has been always known for his defense. Snell, who had his best year in 2007 ( 3.76 ERA in 208 innings with 177 innings), has struggled since. So much so that he was sent down to Triple A, where he was downright dominant (0.96 ERA and 47 Ks in 37 innings).

Clement, a former first round draft pick, was hitting .288 at Tacoma with 14 HRs, 33 doubles and 68 RBIs. With Seattle last season, Clement struggled in 200 plus at bats, hitting .227 with 5 HRs and 23 RBIs. As for Cedeno, at the plate, he makes Jack Wilson look like Derek Jeter. This season, Cedeno was hitting .170 with 5 HRs and 17 RBIs in 182 at bats. He is a lifetime .238 hitter. Pribanic, a third round pick in 2008, had a 3.21 ERA at Class A Clinton. Lorin, a fifth round pick in 2008 and a teammate of Pribanic's at Clinton, has an ERA of 2.44 and is averaging a strikeout per inning in 88 innings. Adcock, a fifth round pick in 2006, has struggled at high A High Desert with a 5.21 ERA and 4.5 walks per 9 innings (he does have 260 strikeouts in 320 minor league innings).

Trade Analysis - Well, lo and behold. Two days after I wrote at length about Neal Huntington's bad deals, Neal pulls off his first of two good trades of the day. This is the gem of the two. Wilson is a great fielder with some pop. His one home run is not really indicative of Wilson, who averaged nearly 10 HRs a season the past five seasons. Still, a relatively light hitting Wilson is not worth $8 million for next season. Snell wore out his welcome in Pittsburgh with an attitude that often didn't match his stats. He actually requested his demotion to Triple A, noting that there was "Too much negativity." He was due to make $4.25 million next season and that's too much to pay a Triple A pitcher who wants no part of the Pirates. The Pirates should immediately call Clement up and let him play. He definitely has 20 HR potential with the short but high porch at PNC. Lorin and Pribanic look to be future middle starting rotation guys, so the Pirates did very well here.

Seattle made this trade thinking they still have a chance for the wild card being five and a half games behind the Red Sox coming into Thursday's play (they are not out of the AL West but have a bigger deficit to overcome being seven and a half games behind the Angels). However, there had been talk that Seattle was going to trade Jarrod Washburn (and they still might). Wilson will give them the everyday shortstop they need for the next year and two months. But again, he is not worth $8 million. Snell is an absolute wild card. He might pitched to his potential like he did in 2007. Or he might implode again and be the 2009 pitcher with a 5.32 ERA who for his career has averaged 4.5 walks per nine innings. Clement never had a chance to show his potential while with the Mariners and that might come back to haunt them.

3) The Pirates send Freddy Sanchez to the Giants for pitching prospect Tim Alderson. Sanchez, the 2006 NL batting champ and a lifetime .300 hitter, was hitting .296 this season Sanchez plugs an immediate hole for the Giants at second base and gives them a top of the order hitter so desperately needed on a team that is next to last in the National League in runs scored. The doubles machine should find the gaps at AT&T Park to his liking.

In Alderson, the Pirates get the #62 rated prospect in baseball by Baseball Prospectus. Alderson, the 22nd overall pick in the 2007 draft, has pitched well since promoted to Double A. Alderson has a 6-1 record with a 3.47 ERA and a strikeouts to walks ratio of 3 to 1. The Baseball Cube's scouting report gives Alderson 100 percent efficiency rating, a 97 control rating and a 84 K rating. Pretty damn good.

Trade Analysis - Good for both sides. Right now, Giants GM Brian Sabean is going for this year. Sanchez gives the Giants a legitimate two hitter and solid play in the field. He will make $8 million next year which I guess is fine, but here's another team that could have got Orlando Hudson a lot cheaper. Sabean must also think that with Lincecum, Cain and Jonathan Sanchez, he could afford to trade Alderson. But with Zito and Randy Johnson on their way out, trading Alderson could be a huge mistake if the Giants don't make the playoffs.

As for the Pirates, this is two for two for Huntington on the day. Alderson is a legitimate top of the rotation pitching prospect, something they desperately needed. It's clearly evident that Huntington thought that his farm system and team needed to be completely rebuilt. With the trades of Sanchez and Wilson, Huntington has traded 5/8 of his starting lineup from the beginning of this season (Nate McLouth, Nyjer Morgan, Adam LaRoche, Wilson and Sanchez).

4) Mariners trade outfielder Vladimir Balentien to the Reds for pitcher Robert Manuel. Balentien was always a top prospect for the Mariners (was listed as the #5 prospect in 2008). However, he didn't get his 11 rating in contact from the Baseball Cube for nothing. In his two plus years playing for the Mariners, Balentien has struck out 122 times in 401 at bats, hitting .209. But he did have 12 homers during that time and he has a 97 rating on power. Meanwhile Manuel, an undrafted free agent, quietly has been one of the Reds best prospects, averaging 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings with a strikeouts to walks ratio of more than 5 to 1 (yes, you read that right). He was the closer at Louisville for the Reds with 10 saves and a 2.70 ERA. He has pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings for the Reds

Analysis - Balentien wore out his welcome with the Mariners with his lack of contact. Thus he was designated for assignment in favor of Michael Saunders before the trade. That the Mariners got such a good pitcher like Manuel in return for him is a win win situation. The Reds, desperate for offense, hope to straighten Balentien out. Since they are short in the outfield, Balentien will get to play right away. Time will tell if the Reds can straighten Balentien out, but I give the advantage for now to the Mariners, who certainly could use the bullpen help.

5) From July 27 - The Indians trade Ryan Garko to the Giants for pitcher Scott Barnes. Garko, who had 90 RBIs last year in less than 500 at bats, was hitting .280 this season with 11 HRs and 39 RBIs in 246 at bats. Garko immediately becomes the everyday first baseman for the Giants. Barnes, the ninth rated prospect in the Giants system this season, is having a stellar year at Class High A San Jose with a 12-3 record, 2.85 ERA averaging a strikeout per inning in 98 innings.

Analysis - Again, the Giants trade a solid pitching prospect for an everyday bat. Sabean has certainly upgraded his offense with Garko and Sanchez. Has he mortgaged the future trading two solid pitching prospects in Alderson and Barnes. Again, its a matter of time, but Sabean had to do something with the current putrid state of the Giants offense. Will Garko and Sanchez make the difference we'll see.

For the Indians, its curious to see them trade a player who had 90 RBIs last season and is just arbitration eligible for the next three years. They could have signed him to a reasonable contract. But with Andy Marte, Matt LaPorta and others available to play first, including even Victor Martinez, Garko was expendable. Barnes gives the Indians another solid arm in the minors but he is at least two years away. Give the advantage to the Giants for getting a reasonably inexpensive every day bat here.

There is still a good amount of time left till the July 31 4:00 PM trade deadline. Roy Halladay, Victor Martinez, George Sherill among others are the big names being talked about. Something interesting usually happens but the past two days have been pretty eventful already.

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