The Conversation: Who won these trades?by THT Staff
December 23, 2011
We've seen a series of significant trades in the last few days, with the Red and Nats feeling cheeky about the immediate future and the second division A's, Padres and Cubs going young. The deals have inspired considerable talk among Hardball Times staffers, especially those who follow those teams.
Here's what we've been talking about:
The Nationals get rotation lefty Gio Gonzalez from the A's for prospects: right-handers A.J. Cole and Brad Peacock, lefty Tom Milone and catcher Derek Norris.
The Padres traded ace Mat Latosto the Reds for right-hander Edinson Volquez and three prospects: first baseman/outfielder Yonder Alonso, right-handed reliever Brad Boxberger and catcher Yasmani Grandal.
The A's traded another of their established starters, Trevor Cahill and reliever Craig Breslow to the Diamondbacks for promising starter Jarrod Parker, outfielder Collin Cowgill and relief prospect Ryan Cook.
The Reds get lefty setup man Sean Marshall from the Cubs for left-hander Travis Wood, outfielder Dave Sappelt and minor league infielder Ronald Torreyes.
Here's how the conversation has gone:
The Gonzalez trade:
John Barten: First reaction is that Oakland might end up being really, really bad this year. Like 50-win bad if they don't get some huge breakthroughs by guys like Mike Taylor and Chris Carter.
Still, the Gio deal is a huge haul of prospects. Almost makes up for the Cahill deal. Boy, Oakland must love Parker and the Nats must really love Gio. Personally, I love A.J. Cole and have since the lead-up to his draft.
I had a thought with Gio that maybe the Nats are seeing something in him that indicates that they can get him to throw more strikes in D.C., protected by a home park that is a difficult place to hit home runs, but Oakland isn't exactly Coors circa 1999 and Gio's 2011 season was better than I had remembered, probably because his walk rate killed my roto team's WHIP all year. Is it possible they just saw the 3.12 ERA and just bought high?
I suppose there is an argument to always being willing to bet on a pitcher who strikes out a ton of batters. There's a school of thought that Jonathan Sanchez has a high ceiling because he gets strikeouts and people talk themselves into "hey, if they can get him to stop walking guys." I don't buy into that because I think Sanchez is one of those guys who is what he is because it is as much a strategy on his part to do what works for him instead of a mechanical flaw. I don't think he's really a sure thing to keep missing bats if he threw a higher percentage of strikes. You could probably talk me into that kind of optimism with Gonzalez.
Brad Johnson: " Is it possible they just saw the 3.12 ERA and just bought high?"
The Nationals have some very intelligent personnel in the front office. They almost certainly bought high, but it wasn't the shiny ERA that convinced them to pull the trigger. My instinct is that they looked at the short term pitching market and decided that Gio was now the best name available. You can bet that they did their best to acquire Latos last week.
Keep in mind, the NL East is vulnerable right now. The Phillies have at best treaded water so far. The Marlins got better, but still seem to be a couple players short of relevant. And the Braves seem to have an issue with owning too many role players. In that sense, the Nationals can throw their name in the hat by upgrading from Peacock or Ross Detwilerto Gonzalez in the rotation and hoping that Stephen Strasburg, a healthy Jordan Zimmermann, a bounce-back from Jayson Werth and a repeat from Michael Morse can buoy the team over 90 wins.
As for the prospect side of the deal, Norris and Milone are walking a fine tightrope in terms of value. A stumble out of the gate in 2012 could completely eliminate any trade value they possess. Peacock and Cole are in better shape in terms of holding value but again, it's no sure thing that they would still be valuable several months from now.
My inclination is that the Nationals should have held on to these guys and waited for a better pitcher to become available. They could then include a fifth guy like Sammy Solis to finalize the deal. But if they're worried about their prospects losing value, then it makes sense to acquire the best guy available now.
Latos to the Reds
Myron Logan: From the Padres' perspective, the deal has generally been praised nationally. There's a bit of concern among Padres fans that the Pads acquired players at positions where they are deep at the minor league level. One could argue Anthony Rizzo is a better first base prospect than Yonder Alonso, though Alonso is generally seen as more polished and perhaps a better fit for Petco.
At catcher the Padres have Nick Hundley on the big-league club, and solid prospects like 2011 second-round draft pick Austin Hedges and Jason Hagerty in the minors. Grandal probably offers the most upside, but the Padres are organizationally deep at catcher.
Still, we're talking about prospects here. The idea, just like in the draft, is generally to take the best players available. There's really no such thing as too much minor league depth at a certain position; acquire good players and things will work themselves out. Not to mention, the Padres acquired Edinson Volquez in the deal, clearly a wild-card but a guy who could be effective again in Petco's pitcher-friendly confines. Also, Brad Boxberger has a chance to be a shut-down reliever as soon as 2012.
From the Reds' perspective, they're on the opposite side, dealing from organizational depth with Joey Votto entrenched at first base and catcher Devin Mesoraco developing into their best prospect. One of the things you can do with too many prospects is deal them, and that's what the Reds have done here. Further, they have a clear opening in the National League Central as the Cardinals will be without Albert Pujols and the Brewers may be without Prince Fielder (and Ryan Braun for 50 games).
In Latos, they've acquired a potential ace with four years left before free agency. Latos could be worth anywhere from $25-50 million in surplus value over those four years, depending on how he's evaluated going forward. There have to be some maturity and workload concerns, but the Reds obviously feel Latos is the real deal. They dealt some very nice pieces to San Diego, but they have a chance to win a couple of division titles and flags fly forever.
Brad Johnson: Keep in mind that once Votto is no longer with the Reds, they will still have two years of Latos they can sell. There's a bust factor to consider here, but if Latos can mature into an ace then they should have no problem acquiring a similar package to the one they gave up. The most likely scenario is that they get back a good Grandal-quality prospect and a couple ancillary pieces.
Greg Simons: This is a good win-now move for Cincinnati. With Votto almost certainly gone when his contract expires following the 2013 season, and with St. Louis and Milwaukee weaker with their own slugging first basemen no longer around, it's time to strike. Latos significantly upgrades the Reds rotation while costing them an enigmatic starter in Edinson Volquez, two blocked prospects in Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal, and a relief pitcher in Brad Boxberger. Cincy might miss some of these guys in 2014, but the cost was worth it for the shot at the division over the next two seasons.
San Diego dealt a very nice pitcher for a load of talent it can use well into the future. Volquez will look better simply by moving from Great American Ball Park to Petco Field, and maybe he's a change-of-scenery guy. Alonso steps into the first-base battle with Anthony Rizzo, Jesus Guzman and Kyle Blanks—one these guys has to come through, right? Grandal should challenge Nick Hundley for the starting catcher job as soon as 2013, and Boxberger has the potential to fill Heath Bell's shoes in a similar time frame.
This appears to be a rare win-win trade.
John Barten: So if this is a win now while we still have Votto kind of move, do the Reds take the next step and go all in on 2012 and 2013, talking the owner into upping the budget and stripping the B/B- prospects from the farm and trying to capitalize on the losses of Pujols and Fielder among their rivals to get a couple playoff runs in before Votto heads for more lucrative pastures? Or do they hedge and stay the course in case they actually manage to retain Votto at a manageable price?
Brad Johnson: I think they have to hedge a little simply because their roster is no shoo-in to compete, even with more additions. The Cardinals are still a pretty strong team for one. And the Brewers have a lot going for them even without Fielder and 50 games of Braun. They might find themselves selling Votto prior to free agency after all.
Matt Kovach: Well, I think this trade says that the Reds think they are about even with the other teams in their division. If anything given the current makeup of the teams they are within five games of each other.
Jason Linden: I agree that the Reds think they are even with the other teams. As much as they were overly fortunate in 2010, they were very unlucky last year. There was language from the front office that they felt the team was competitive even before the Latos trade. So, clearly, they believe there is going to be a very good team on the field next year.
I find it interesting to hear what people think of Volquez' inclusion. Frankly, I viewed it as a salary dump for the Reds. If you look closely at his numbers, Volquez has had one good half-season and that was before Tommy John surgery and a PED suspension.
Additionally, it's hard to articulate how bad Volquez was last year. I understand that all the stats want to regress him to the mean and I doubt he'll post conventional stats as bad as he did last year, especially in Petco, but there should be some healthy skepticism regarding his ability to be a successful major league starter. In most of his starts last year, he had long stretches when he simply could not find the plate and it was during these stretches that he gave up many of his homers, leading me to believe (and I'm going off memory with this) that he was desperate to throw a strike so he sent a straight fastball down the middle of the plate and, well, you know how that usually turns out.
My view of Volquez right now is that he is, effectively, a high-upside prospect who also has a very low floor and no options.
As for how this affects Votto, I think that depends entirely on the next two years. If they go to the playoffs in 2012 and 2013, I can see them finding the money to sign him, but a lot of things have to go right for that to happen and a lot of things could change between now and then.
Overall, I tend to agree with the assessment that this is a win-win trade. Alonso and Grandal weren't going to play for the Reds anytime soon and they really did need help in the rotation if they were going to make a run at the playoffs.
Marshall for Wood
Brad Johnson: It's a pretty ho-hum deal to me. Marshall is a closer-quality reliever and those are costly to acquire. The big piece in the deal, Wood, is somewhere between a swingman and a fourth starter for a first division club. It will be interesting to see if his new cutter allows him to become more of a rotation fixture down the line. Cutters seem to be synonymous with breakouts these days.
David Wade: Cost-controlled for several years at the back of the rotation (Wood) and now a couple of interesting prospects for a (albeit very good) middle reliever. Have to think the Reds just overpaid again.
Nick Fleder: Wood was average last year (1.1 WAR over ~100 innings, meaning 2+ WAR in 200 innings; league average, in other words), and it seemed apparent it was an off year. His strikeout rate went down from the previous season, his walk rate up, and his luck went from very good to fairly bad. I think he's more than a 2 WAR pitcher in the upcoming season as he's stretched out and given a safe rotation spot.
Marshall is a top-notch reliever, but it's hard to imagine his upside for 2012 is higher than Wood's. It seems unlikely that Marshall would post another 2.8 WAR season, but there is some safety in placing in the back innings a stud reliever who will produce.
Does this mean that the Reds rely on Bronson Arroyo still? It's hard to fathom how bad he was last year; four times worse than Edinson Volquez.
Seems like an "eh" deal to me. Long term, I have no doubt the Reds will regret it; that is, unless they win the world series with Sean Marshall manning the ninth. I doubt it, though.
Jason Linden: Agreed. This is a big overpay. Sappelt makes it especially so. Not that he was any great shakes, but he figured to be a decent fourth outfielder. The Reds are really starting to get thin in Triple-A. That roster, as currently constructed, is not going to withstand any injuries.
John Barten: I wonder if Marshall could best be used by converting him back to the rotation. He was good against both righties and lefties last year and he has a history as a starter, notably a good 2007.
Cahill to Arizona
Greg Simons: The Diamondbacks are trying to turn their smoke-and-mirrors division title into something with a bit more substance, and Trevor Cahill does that. The changes in parks from a pitcher-friendly one to a hitters' environment doesn't help, but he's also going from the American League to the National League, so this transition could make the move a wash.
Cahill's no ace, but he'll fit in nicely with Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson, two other AL imports who have thrived in Arizona. That's a high-quality young trio to front a rotation. Craig Breslow fits GM Kevin Towers' MO of constructing a top-flight bullpen on the cheap.
I initially panned this deal for Oakland, thinking the A's didn't receive enough in return. However, I may have been too focused on Cahill's stellar 2010 season while overlooking his mediocre 2011. Jarrod Parker has the potential to be a true ace hurler, but he has to show he is fully recovered from Tommy John surgery. If he gets back to being the pitcher he's been hyped to be, he can exceed Cahill's value. Still, that's a rather large "if."
Collin Cowgill had a bland major league debut after a terrific Triple-A showing. Ryan Sweeney had been scheduled to start at all three outfield spots, so he has to be relieved that Cowgill is listed as the starting center fielder on the A's official team depth chart, leaving Sweeney only right and left to cover.
Ryan Cook is a reliever. 'Nuff said.
Brad Johnson: You have to think it would be more efficient for Sweeney to cover a corner and center rather than left field and right field ...