Thursday, November 05, 2009
Both sides come out ahead in Teahen swapPosted by Evan Brunell
The Chicago White Sox and Kansas City Royals hooked up for an intradivision trade the day after the World Series ended, agreeing to send 3B/RF Mark Teahen to the south side of Chicago in exchange for 2B Chris Getz and 3B Josh Fields.
This trade is certainly no blockbuster, but the trade appears to be very telling on how each general manager is approaching the offseason and construction of its roster.
Gordon Beckham has long been viewed as a second baseman or shortstop, with his time at third base only due to extenuating circumstances. With the Teahen acquisition, the now-former Royal could slot in at third while Beckham assumes the vacant second base spot.
Another option that places Beckham at short is to move the Cuban Missile, Alexei Ramirez, back to second base of whence he came in 2008. All indications I've heard about the club's position on Ramirez leads me to believe they're committed to Alexei at short, leaving second as Beckham's only possible move if the ChiSox want Teahen at third. (Defense is irrelevant: according to UZR, Teahen is bad at both 3B and RF, so it's a pick your poison type deal.)
I also have a difficult time believing the White Sox would deal two infield pieces to receive someone they plan on stashing in the outfield. While it's true that the club has two outfield spots vacant, is opening up another vacant spot at second really the right idea, unless you have a contingency plan in place?
I think that this deal is valuable from Williams' perspective because it allows him to go in multiple directions. If Orlando Hudson falls in his lap (which I have a sneaking suspicion will happen), then you see Teahen as the club's right-fielder. If Johnny Damon and Rick Ankiel decide Chicago should be their new home, you slot Teahen in at third base.
Teahen represents a starting player for Chicago, one that keeps Williams flexible in acquiring future players. He won't have to shoehorn his focus on one particular position like he would have if he had acquired a true third-baseman or true right-fielder. For the trigger-happy GM, that's a dream come true.
On the Royals end, you're finally seeing GM Dayton Moore pick up potential high-reward payoffs. The acquisition of Fields reminds me a lot of the Pirates' deal for Jeff Clement at the trading deadline, which saw Jack Wilson headed to Seattle. Both boast home-run power but had passed the prospect stage and were merely frustrating their current franchises, so off they went.
I can't see Fields displacing Gordon at third, but I expect him to become Kansas City's full-time first baseman. There's really no way to predict how well Fields will fare, but it's the kind of move that struggling clubs should make instead of dealing for an overpaid first-baseman essentially is Josh Fields. (That would be Mike Jacobs.)
Getz is highly likely to win the starting second base job and gives the Royals another set of wheels to work with (25 stolen bases). While his overall line of .261/.324/.347 may not seem impressive, he suffered from a strained right oblique and sports hernia over his last two months of the season. Toss out those two months, and his final line becomes more impressive: .272/.327/.373. A .256 slugging percentage in May (which may have resulted from a fractured bone in his right middle finger) is what tempers his slugging percentage under .400. Of course, at this juncture, you're talking three good months and three bad months, of which the bad months may have been related to injury.
I think it's safe to say if Getz stays relatively healthy, he's good for a slugging percentage just under .400, 30 stolen bases and a .260-.270 batting average. If he can develop some plate discipline and add 10-20 points to his OBP total, he suddenly becomes a very good second baseman.
Getz's acquisition has the potential to pay off, but if it doesn't, it won't harm the club. It does seem to shove Alberto Callaspo out of a starting spot despite a very productive .300/.356/.457 campaign. To Moore's credit, he seems to realize that given Callaspo's history, it's likely his season was a fluke. Even if it's not, Callaspo will have no trouble playing his way into a starting spot somewhere.
In essense, this trade boils down to Moore taking a chance on Getz and Fields being productive. If not, they're really no worse off than they were: Teahen was only getting older, more expensive and wasn't a franchise piece to build around. The payoff of one or both of the new Royals succeeding will impact the Royals' far more than Teahen will.
From Chicago's end of things, it gives them a starting position player with the flexibility to play multiple positions, allowing Williams to continue upgrading his team where he chooses, not where he's forced to.
Evan Brunell is currently editor of Fire Brand of the American League, a Red Sox blog he began in 2003. He also scores games at Fenway Park for MLB. He was the co-founder and president of MVN, an independent sports media web site.