Trade Bait: Rizzo Traded Again, Now a Cubbie

Anyone getting the feeling that the major league front offices are starting to become one big fraternity? Theo Epstien’s regime, that came from Boston, just traded with a GM in San Diego (Josh Byrnes) who used to be an assistant under Theo as well as the current Cubs GM Jed Hoyer, for a player who was originally drafted by Boston.

Recently, the Cubs traded young pitcher right-hander Andrew Cashner and outfielder Kyung-Min Na to the San Diego Padres for first baseman Anthony Rizzo and right-hander Zach Cates.

Rizzo, of course, is the centerpiece of this deal as he was a notable portion of the Adrian Gonzalez trade from the Padres to the Red Sox last winter and he has recently been displaced by the Mat Latos deal that brought Yonder Alonzo to play first base in San Diego. Though I’m not convinced he’s going to hit for a good average, he should be a good middle of the order hitter for the Cubs down the road.

Cates didn’t make Baseball America‘s top 10 list for the Padres for 2012, nor did he make the top 25 on Minor League Ball‘s preliminary list, though he was mentioned under “others”. But he ranked 16th on Minor League Ball’s prospect list for the Cubs (posted after the trade), stating that he has a live arm and could be a breakout candidate. He has a good fastball with a plus change, but he’s still working on his curveball.

Cashner is a power arm that could be an could be a candidate for the rotation, but that is doubtful anymore with his injury history. It is more likely that Cashner settles in towards the back of the bullpen for San Diego. But it is not all bad, he has the stuff that he could eventually be pretty good out of a setup role and possibly close out games.

Na is an outfielder with virtually no power and was caught in 1/3 of his stolen base attempts. On the good side, he’s only 19, very young for a player at Double-A and he produces a good walk rate. Regardless, he seems to be a forth or more likely fifth outfielder at this point. There’s an outside chance that he learns to steal bases efficiently and hits for a higher average as he matures, but I’d rather bet on Cates’s chance at success.

Anyone can tell you that if you can trade a reliever for a position player, do it. That adage is true with even this trade. If I had a belief that Cashner could stay healthy in a starting role, this trade would be much closer, but Andrew hasn’t sold me on that in his short career. The most interesting part of this trade though is that the Cubs intend to give first base to Bryan LaHair after his tremendous season at Triple-A last year, giving Rizzo a little more seasoning in the minors. Maybe they’re hopeful that LaHair will be able to produce well enough to draw some trade interest at some point during the season before they bring Rizzo up.


Trade Bait: Marlins Catch Big Z…and his Baggage

Once again, the Miami Marlins are making a big splash in an effort to improve their team for 2012. They are hoping to catch lightening in a bottle by trading for the Cubs’ Carlos Zambrano. It is an interesting move considering “Big Z’s” explosive personality and the fact that he hasn’t pitched as dominantly has he has in the past.

The Miami Marlins will only have to pay Zambrano $2.5 million of the $18 million he is owed. There’s also been a restructuring of his contract, Carlos has agreed to waive the vesting option for 2013 and they have also negotiated a $100,000 incentive into his contract if he becomes the 2012 Comeback Player of the Year. Regardless of how much they pay him, the Marlins should hope that he isn’t a negative impact on the team and that fellow Venezuelan Ozzie Guillen can keep him focused and on the right track throughout the season.

In return the Cubs receive former first round pick Chris Volstad. The 6′-8″ righty has eaten plenty of innings for the Marlins over the past few seasons, but has always been hittable and carried high ERAs. They have control over him for another couple seasons, allowing them to take their time with some of their younger pitching prospects in the minors. A change of scenery may be good for Volstad as well, but moving from the spatious park that the Marlins used to have to Wrigley doesn’t bode well for him if he is already struggling.

This is a decent trade for both sides. The Cubbies gutted their rotation even more, though they needed to get rid of Big Z from a PR standpoint. The move helps them start fresh, even though they have to pay most of his salary for the 2012 season. They need the gutting, not just of their entire rotation, but of the entire system. The Cubs need to be rebuilt from the ground up.

As for the Marlins, I’m getting worried about TEAM make up. It will be a tall order for Ozzie this season to balance all the personalities in the clubhouse, from the explosive Zambrano, to the nonchalant and now quietly disgruntled Hanley Ramirez, to Logan Morrison, who can’t keep his mouth shut he’ll have his hands full with just three players of a 25-man roster.


Latos Trade Fall Out

Although the Mat Latos trade impacted both the Cincinnati Reds and the San Diego Padres significantly, the impacts of the trade will be felt across baseball. Some will be immediate, but others will be later down the road.

First and foremost will be the existing trade market for starting pitching. Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane already had high expectations in his return on a potential Gio Gonzalez trade, now it is much less likely that he will come down from those demands. Although his return on Gonzalez will likely be less than Latos as the former has a much higher walk rate and is further along in the arbitration timeline, the demands will still be there. Beane has been rumored to request Jesus Montero, Manny Banuelos AND Dellin Betances from the Yankees. He’s likely to come down from that batch, but I can still see him holding the line at two of the three in a potential trade along with a one or two lesser prospects on the heels of the Gonzalez transaction.

That’s just Gio Gonzalez the suitors for John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Jair Jurrjens, Matt Garza and any of the potential Rays starters to be dealt will need to pony up more as the current organizations for these starters are salivating at the chance for a higher potential return. This could likely bog down the trade market as a rift could form between the have and have-nots on what is an acceptable exchange for these players.

Second, there’s the impact of possible subsequent trades. Yonder Alonso is a better fit at first base in PETCO Park for the Padres than Anthony Rizzo. His swing produces line-drive power that plays better in the spacious confines than the flyball-hitting Rizzo. Immediately trade rumors have floated around that San Diego would ship him off to Chicago as the Cubs new GM Jed Hoyer (former Padres GM) acquired him from the new Cubs President and former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein. With the Cubs in a rebuilding mode, Rizzo could fit right in with their plans if they decided not to acquire Prince Fielder. But the Cubs are not the only ones with 1B/DH vacancies that could be interested in Rizzo as a cheap option with future upside. The Seattle Mariners, Tampa Bay Rays, Pittsburgh Pirates, Baltimore Orioles and the Texas Rangers could all be interested in trading for Rizzo.

But what if Hoyer and Epstein are interested and snatch up the available Rizzo? What does that do to Prince Fielder’s market? With the Cubs out, the market gets even thinner for Fielder. With money already spent on Aramis Ramirez, Fielder is out of Milwaukee’s plans. The Miami Marlins have stated a few times that they are not interested, even though Fielder graduated from high school in Melbourne, Florida. Although there are some other speculative candidates, the Seattle Mariners would be the only team left that has stated an outward interest in bringing in slugger.

In addition to Rizzo, Padres GM Josh Byrnes has some additional trade bait waiting on his club from this transaction. Edinson Volquez will be in his second year back from Tommy John surgery, marking him already as rebound candidate. Throwing him into PETCO for half his games will only help his value rebound more. Although it is doubtful that he’ll return to his 2008 form, he may turn into a viable starter that will have value at the trade deadline. As deep as Volquez is into his arbitration timeline, you have to think that Byrnes acquired him with the sole intention to rebuild value and flip for more prospects.

There’s also Nick Hundley who’s now just keeping home plate warm for catching prospect Yasmani Grandal. Like Rizzo, Hundley could be pushed aside as Grandal powers his way to the majors. Hundley’s name could be on the trade market this July or next winter, netting an additional return for the improving Padres farm system.

Look for this trade to be modeled after, much like the Braves\Rangers trade involving Mark Teixeira has been in recent years.


Trade Bait: Bartlett to San Diego

The San Diego Padres have tried multiple players at shortstop over the past few seasons.  Last season alone, the triad of Everth Cabrera, Jerry Hairston, and Miguel Tejada each played over 450 innings at the position.  In Jason Bartlett the Padres saw a stable source of defense and a possible offensive catalyst as well.  They felt that giving up relievers Adam Russell and Cesar Ramos to the Tampa Rays was a viable exchange to obtain Bartlett’s services for the upcoming season.

Although Bartlett’s UZR at short has gone downward over the past couple seasons, injuries possibly played a significant role in the drop this past season.  His defense should rebound and he should provide a reliable defensive presence behind the Padres’ pitchers.  Jason should also settle in at the top of the Padres’ lineup.  Although 2010 was a down season for him, Bartlett has shown the ability to get on-base at a decent rate and steal a few bases.  He should be a good addition to a Padres team that has recently witnessed a major subtraction. 

With Reid Brignac apparently apartently ready to take over at short and their bullpen decimated, trading away Bartlett for relief help was an blatantly obvious path for the Rays.

Russell is the better arm of the two in this deal.  Standing in at 6′-8″, he’s able to get a good downward plane on his low-to-mid 90s fastball, helping him to stack up the ground ball outs as well as a strikeout ratio of near 9.0 per 9/IP.  His repertoire also includes a curveball, slider, and a change-up.  If the Rays can cut down on his walks, Russel can become a valuable option for them down the road.

Ramos has been hit often in his limited time in the majors, but the Rays hope that he has the stuff to become a decent lefty out of the pen.  Cesar is still adjusting to switching over into full-time relief, but is should allow him to be more protected against right-handed hitters who hit him like a batting practice pitcher. 

In 2008, his first season with the Rays and their first time in the playoffs, Bartlett was named the team MVP.  The Padres hope that he can become the same for him in the upcoming season.  This looks good for the Padres and would be even better if they can sign him long-term.  But it also depletes their options for the bullpen even more. 

Then again, the Padres grow dominant relievers with seemingly relative ease.


Trade Bait: A-Gon to Bost-on

The trade that has been rumored for more than a year has finally been consumated. The Boston Red Sox have acquired Adrian Gonzalez from the San Diego Padres for minor leaguers Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo, Reymond Fuentes and a PTBNL. Numerous media outlets have broken down this trade and the players involved, so after briefly taking a look at it, I’m going to note the outfall from this trade.

A-Gon is a game-changer of a hitter. His presence in the middle of the Red Sox lineup should be significant. In San Diego he wasn’t protected well in the lineup and was hitting in the spatious PETCO Park. Although he’ll be expensive over the next seven years, he should be well worth the money.

Although there are few that believe the Casey Kelly will be an ace pitcher, he should be a good #2 pitcher. I also like Fuentes, although he is raw, his speed and his bat should be a nice addition to the lineup in four years. However, I am less impressed with Rizzo. Although he has a great personal story, I am worried about his ability to hit for enough of an average in the majors. However, he’s still just 21 and has time to adjust.

Kelly’s loss may be tough for Red Sox fans, but much of the Sox’ rotation is locked up, it would he hard for him to push those high-dollar starters aside. By the time that the Sox have an opening, other younger arms will likely have been developed.

In the end, if Fuentes develops as some believe he could, the young outfielder may be the more regretable loss for the Sox. But he is still very raw and will take time to develop. If Cameron Maybin is able to become a stable presence for the Padres over the next few seasons, Fuentes may be ready before Maybin leaves via free agency, allowing the team to capture some prospects without leaving a hole in centerfield.

Although Rizzo could possibly be ready by mid-season (at the earliest), the Padres will likely be sifting through the market for a first baseman to replace Gonzalez. A cheap one-year replacement may be utilized. Troy Glaus or Lyle Overbay may be low cost options, while a splash on Adam LaRoche or Derek Lee may also be seen if they can’t land multi-year deals elsewhere.

On the Red Sox’ side, Adrian’s acquisition effectively ends their pursuit to re-sign another Adrian…Beltre.  They’ll take a decent defensive hit due to this, but Beltre’s injury history makes the Gonzalez pick-up logical.

It’s a decent deal for both sides. The Red Sox received a game-changer while the Padres recieved more than the first round and supplemental pick that they would have acquired if they let him walk after next season.


Trade Bait: Padres get Ludwick in Three-Way Deal

The St. Louis Cardinals, San Diego Padres, and the Cleveland Indians entered into an interesting 3-way deal on deadline day.  The Padres in need of offense, picked up Ryan Ludwick, the Cardinals pulled in Jake Westbrook and a Padres prospect, and the Indians received one of the Padres pitching prospects.

Ludwick, 32, is hitting .281 with 11 home runs and 43 RBI on the season, but he is clobbering right-handed pitching this season (yes, completely opposite of convential splits).  If teamed with a decent right-handed bat, the Padres would have a near All-Star production caliber platoon.  He’ll likely get most of the playing time except for all but the tough lefties, letting Chris Denorfia sub in occationally.  It’s a pretty good addition to the lackluster Padres lineup and to their clubhouse.

Veteran Jake Westbrook has been slowly coming back from Tommy John surgery this season.  His ERA is the highest he’s had since 2002, but his WHIP is almost idential to his career average.  He’ll slot into the fourth spot in the rotation and should eat innings well for the Cards.  Pitching under Dave Duncan’s watchful eye should help him as well.  Veteran pitchers like Westbrook have thrived under his tutiledge.

The Cardinals also receive pitching prospect Nick Greenwood in the deal.  The lefty saw success his first season in the minors in 2009, but has struggled in A-ball this season.  An eventual switch to the pen and concentration on only two pitches may help his track to the majors more likely.

The hot-hitting Jon Jay will take most of Ludwick’s at-bats for the rest of the season.  He’s been a nice surprise for the Cardinals this season, providing the team a wealth of outfielders that they felt they could deal from to get better. b Ludwick was also going to get more expensive in arbitration after the season.  With the team trying to save money were it can to attempt to sign Albert Pujols to an extention, dealing Ludwick was inevitable at one point or another.

The Indians meanwhile have shed Westbrook’s payroll and take in Padres pitching prospect Corey Kluber.  The 24-year-old Kluber is having a good season in Double-A, leading the league in strikeouts, posting an impressive 10.0 K/9 rate overall.  He has a four-pitch mix that some say could lead him to stay in the rotation, but he may excel out of the pen.

At first glance, it looks as if the Padres have come out ahead in this deal, but we’ll have to see what Dave Duncan can do with Westbrook as we head towards the playoffs.  If he can make Jeff Suppan and Jeff Weaver look good, Westbrook could turn into a nice find for them.


Trade Bait: Tejada to the Padres

The Orioles are rebuilding and the Padres are…..well you thought they’d be rebuilding right now too.  But the Padres have been in the lead in the NL West for most of the summer and at times have had the best record in the National League.  Now they are looking to improve their chances at winning a National League pennant by trading for Miguel Tejada.

Tejada isn’t the star hitter he once was, but he should be a decent role-player and veteran presence for the team.  He’ll back up Chase Headley at third base and Everth Cabrera at short.  This will put Manager Bud Black into a quandary of deciding about sticking with a good defense at short and putting up with a .199 batting average, or going with lesser defense and a bit better stick.

In return the Orioles made out well by convincing Padres GM Jed Hoyer to give them pitching prospect Wynn Pelzer, ranked by John Sickels as the team’s 5th overall prospect heading into 2010.  Baseball America ranked Pelzer seventh.  He has a heavy mid-90s fastball, but his walk rate is pretty high.  A move to the pen could result in higher 90s on his fastball, allowing him to become a dominant closer.

This is a very good move by the Orioles.  As for the Padres, typically I would say this is going to hurt for a low-payroll team, but they seem to grow dominant relievers in PETCO Park like crabgrass in my back yard.


Trade Bait: Athletics get Kouz

The Oakland Athletics have traded outfielders Aaron Cunningham and Scott Hairston to the San Diego Padres for third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff and second baseman Eric Sogard.  It’s a notable trade from many aspects, but the most notable has to be: Is Billy Beane actually looking at his defense? 

When Kouzmanoff first came up in the Cleveland Indians’ system, he was known for his bat.  But a few seasons of hard work, Kouz is slightly better than average defensively, but his bat is somewhat mediocre now.  Playing half his games in Petco doesn’t help though.  He’ll drastically improve Oakland’s defense at the hot corner. But it also signals that the team isn’t counting on Eric Chavez to return.

Jake Fox, acquired earlier this off-season, now looks like a man without a position….much like he was in Chicago.  It was assumed that he would play an ugly third base for the A’s this season while Chavez spends most of his time in the trainer’s room.  He could push Daric Barton from first base, but Barton fields better and everyone knows that Billy Beane likes anyone with a .372 OBP (though with little power).  Barton’s line after the All-Star break is nice as well (.287/.386/.434).  He could also push aside the recently re-signed Jack Cust in the DH spot.  It would be the best position for him to play defensively.  Most likely he’ll be the right-handed platoon-mate for Cust, who’s horrid against left-handers (.221/.321/.300). 

The Athletics also received second baseman Eric Sogard, who was taken in the second round of the 2007 draft.  The infielder’s claim to fame in the minors is that he has walked 162 times, while striking out only 141 times.  He has only mild power, marginal in the field, and has troubles with lefties.  John Sickels, over at Minor League Ball, lists him as the #20 prospect in the Padres’ system.  He may be useful off the bench for Beane in time, but the team already has Adrian Cardenas (lefty hitter) and Jemile Weeks (switch hitter) in the system.

The prize of the trade for the Padres may be outfielder Aaron Cunningham.  Depending on who you talk to, Cunningham could be a decent starting outfielder with light power and speed.  He could easily snatch up a job in the outfield out of spring training if he hits well enough.  Defensively, he should be better than Chase Headley or Kyle Blanks in the outfield. 

The Padres also receive old friend Scott Hairston, who they traded away to the Athletics last year.  Hairston was pathetic with the A’s, but could take over in center for the Padres if he hits again like he did the last time he was in a Padres uniform.

The other notable impact is that the trade allows Chase Headley to move back to third base, his natural position.  Hopefully it will allow him to settle in and hit like scouts thought he would as he rose through the Padres’ minor league system.

Defensively, both teams will benefit from the trade as the Athletics will actually have a natural third baseman now and the Padres get at least one poor defensive outfielder from roaming the corners of Petco Park.  I’d give the slight edge to the Padres as Cunningham has more potential than Sogard.  I still think he’s a long-term fourth outfielder though.

Has Billy Beane learned something from Jack Zduriencik, or has he just finally realized the need to improve his team’s lackluster defense?


New Year’s Resolutions

The other day I read a funny post from More Hardball entitled, “New Year’s Resolutions“.  The article goes over some New Year’s resolutions that a few baseball players, and a couple teams, should have.  When you need a laugh go over to their site and check it out.

But there’s a few others that I thought I would add on some General Mangers:

Padres GM Jed Hoyer

  1. Send the entire 40-man roster out on the street to ask for donations to sign a free agent.
  2. Nab a better return for Adrian Gonzalez at the trade deadline than the Mark Teixeira trade.

Tigers GM Dave Dombroski

  1. Find a taker for Dontrelle Willis, Nate Robertson, Carlos Guillen, etc, etc, etc.
  2. Develop the farm system beyond just relievers.

Braves GM Frank Wren

  1. Try not to piss off any more former Braves stars.  (at least he’s moved on to current players like Lowe)
  2. Don’t trade Tommy Hanson for a two year rental on J.D. Drew. (You know what I mean)

Giants GM Brian Sabean

  1. Try to sign at least one free agent under 35 years old.
  2. Actually pull off a trade.

Mets GM Omar Minaya

  1. Do not to sign Joel Piniero to a Oliver Perez-like contract.
  2. Try not to overpay for Bengie Molina since there really isn’t much of a market out there for him.

Royals GM Dayton Moore:

  1. Don’t sign Scott Podsednik…..ooops!
  2. Find players with decent defense and OBP.

Looks like these GMs have their work cut out for them if they are going to meet these resolutions.


Jed Hoyer the New Padres GM

Jed Hoyer, who’s name has been mentioned as a candidate for quite a few General Manager positions, has been announced as the new San Diego Padres GM.  Jed will be the second assistant to Boston Red Sox GM Theo Epstein to take over the reigns of an NL West team.  The Arizona Diamondbacks hired Josh Byrnes in 2005.

Hoyer will  have his work cut out for him as he inherits a team in relative disarray as former GM Kevin Towers was forced to cut and slash the payroll this past season.  The farm system, though improved, isn’t that great, lacking high-end prospects.

Wikipedia has some background on Hoyer, including his time as part of the “gang” that sat in the GM position in Boston while Epstein went on a 10-week hiatus.

Baseball Analysts has a very good interview of Hoyer conducted in February 2007.  It is a good read that even includes a passage where Hoyer talks about being in Kinkos at 4:30 am putting together arbitration binders recently.  I guess it’s not just college students in Kinkos that late at night.

From all that I have read, Jed is highly thought of in the baseball community and is poised to improve the Padres.  Hopefully he retains Paul DePodesta and surrounds himself with other notable veteran front office staff.