In case you missed Volume 1 last week, Let There Be News is a recap of the most interesting stories from the previous week.
A lot of the value in this column resides in linked content. I would like to reference non-mainstream writers whenever possible. It would be easy for me to link to Ken Rosenthal, Dave Cameron or Buster Olney every week and call it a day, but that doesn’t expose a lot of the good writing hiding in corners of the internet.
The problem is that the good writing hides from me, too. That’s where you come in. If you see something (or write something) that you think is worthy of link, send it my way. My contact info is in my signature below. No promises, but I will look.
No. 4: The year ended
Jose Bautista was an absolute beast. In addition to mashing, he’s the first player to walk in over 20 percent of his plate appearances since Barry Bonds. As spectacular as he was, Bautista’s performance was closer to vintage Albert Pujols than Bonds.
A new Collective Bargaining Agreement was signed with all kinds of new bells and whistles.
No. 3 Melvin Mora retires
Mora was one of those rare late bloomers. He signed his first professional contract as a 19-year-old, finally broke into the big leagues at age 27, and reached a brief two-year peak in 2003 as a 31-year-old.
No. 2 Padres acquire Carlos Quentin
Last week, the White Sox re-signed John Danks in a move that created some confusion. Weren’t the White Sox supposed to be rebuilding?
A week and some days later, White Sox GM Kenny Williams once again donned his “rebuilding” hat. Quentin was traded for pitching prospects Simon Castro and Pedro Hernandez. The interesting thing about this trade is that none of the parts seem to fit at first glance.
Quentin features near elite power, the kind that can make Petco park look like a normal stadium. In that sense, the Padres have acquired a traditional cleanup hitter to help generate offense. However, he comes with some major warts.
His defense, never considered a strong suit, has been suspect in recent years. Plantar fasciitis hurt Quentin’s mobility in 2009. That could also help explain the heinous negative 24 Ultimate Zone Rating he accrued in 2010. A variety of defensive metrics rate his 2011 season as roughly league average.
Injuries—a fractured wrist in 2008 and plantar fasciitis in 2009—have limited Quentin’s ability to stay on the field. He is also known for being hit by pitches, a trait that invites further injury.
In return for Quentin, the White Sox acquired two suspect prospects. Castro was once considered one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, but skills regression and a rough 2011 campaign have turned him into a bit of a reclamation project.
His velocity fluctuated from the mid-80s to the mid-90s in 2011, which is worrying. Baseball Prospect Nation notes that he’s now viewed as a back of the rotation starter or middle reliever. Kenny Williams thinks his people have identified how to get him back on track.
Hernandez is a fringy lefty. He limits walks but none of his other skills stand out. Baseball Prospect Nation (linked above) views him as a swing man and notes a change-up that has plus potential.
From the Padres’ perspective, this deal seems to be about trading two mediocre pitching prospects for a bona fide major league power hitter. They will probably hope to re-trade him at the July trade deadline for a better prospect. The risks are obvious: Injury and/or bad defense could leave the Padres short two prospects and approximately $8 million.
The White Sox’ motives are clearer. They dodge Quentin’s final season of arbitration and receive two prospects who may be able to contribute at the major league level. Castro in particular still has some prospect luster if the White Sox can help him improve his consistency and control.
No. 1 Red Sox acquire Bailey and Sweeney
This one is easy to evaluate. The Red Sox are focused on finishing the season under the luxury tax threshold after accruing $3.4 million in taxes in 2011. The Red Sox certainly can afford to pay some tax, but there are tax percentage escalators for teams that finish above the threshold multiple seasons in a row. The Red Sox would like those to reset.
With that in mind, it’s not surprising that the Red Sox were keen to find a closer on the trade market. Ryan Madson and Francisco Cordero are among the best names available in free agency, but neither would come cheaply. With Bailey and Mark Melancon, Boston has a revamped, cost-effective bullpen.
Sweeney is an interesting addition to the trade. With Ryan Kalish set to begin the year on the disabled list and Reddick headed to Oakland, the Sox will turn to Sweeney as the strong half of a right field platoon (Darnell McDonald or Mike Aviles will see the rest of the action). Sweeney is a defense-first outfielder, but as Marc Normandin notes, his work against right-handed pitching is acceptable.
Reddick is the prize of the deal for the A’s. He’s athletic in the outfield, which allows him to contribute above average defense. He features solid power and contact skills but will have to contend with an unfriendly home park in Oakland. He’s not terribly patient at the plate, but has shown signs of improving. Since he doesn’t have any standout skills, some analysts have labeled him a second division starter. Oakland may be a third division team at this point and Reddick should stand out as one of its best players in 2012.
The prospects involved are both of the longshot variety. Alcantara is projectable but nowhere near the big leagues. Head is an advanced hitter, but may not have a defensive home that matches his bat. John Sickels has more details on the pair.