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Friday, July 31, 2009
One of the more minor moves lost in the insanity of the 2009 MLB Trade Deadline was the swap of first baseman Casey Kotchman and Adam Laroche. LaRoche himself was recently traded to the Red Sox from the Pirates; and they immediately swapped him for Casey Kotchman of the Braves.
On a value scale, this trade is simple. LaRoche projects for a .366 wOBA going forward, which yields about 19 batting runs above average over a full season. He also has been worth about -5 runs with the glove over his career. When you combine the two and add a positional adjustment, he projects to about a 2 WAR player going forward. Kotchman derives his value in a different sort of way. He projects to have a .348 wOBA going forward, which just 9 batting runs above average. However; unlike LaRoche, he is a good defender, with a career +3 UZR/150 at first. So they both project to be about the same player going forward.
So why am I writing about this simple and somewhat boring trade? Well, the storyline behind it is somewhat funny.
LaRoche was originally drafted by the Braves in 2000. He languished in the minors for sometime; however, in 2006 he had he best season in the majors, with a .379 wOBA in 557 plate appearances. After that, he was traded to the Pirates for closer Mike Gonzolez.
In 2007, the Braves were in contention at the trade deadline. They decided to trade Neftali Feliz, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Matt Harrison, Beau Jones and Elvis Andrus to the Rangers for Mark Teixeira. It's worth noting that Andruws, Saltalamacchia and Harrison have all had success in the majors, while Feliz is one of the top prospects in the Rangers system.
The Braves failed to make the playoffs in 07, and at halfway point of the 2008 season they traded away Texiera to the Angels for Casey Kotchman. Then they just traded Kotchman to get LaRoche from the Red Sox.
Let's look at this from another angle. Over the past year and a half the Braves have traded away these players:
And they have gotten back...
The irony behind all this was that LaRoche was already on the Braves to begin with! They must really like this guy.
On what has been one of the busiest trade deadlines in a long, long time, another team has made a big time move to try an make a playoff run this year. This time, the White Sox have acquired Jake Peavy for 4 other players.
First let's focus Peavy. At 28 years old, he has cemented himself as one of the best starters in baseball. His career FIP is 3.46 and according to FanGraphs, he has totaled 25.6 Wins Above Replacement since he made his debut in 2002, which ranks him among the best pitchers in baseball during that span.
Signed for 3 more years at 52 million dollars, the White Sox now will be paying him as roughly a 4 WAR player when you assume a slight decline phase and factor in a discount for a long term deal.
So does Peavy figure to be worth that much? Well, ZIPS thinks him currently capable of a 3.24 FIP. If you raise that .5 points for moving out of PETCO and moving to the tougher league, than he projects to be about a 4.5 WAR player over a full season. Considering that the White Sox are right in the mix of the playoff race this year, and there are no teams who figure to run away with the division next year, this certainly seems like a good return for the White Sox.
Now who did they give up? Well... a lot. They traded away two young left handed starters, in Clayton Richard and Aaron Peroda, who have already seen time in the majors. Richard, in 136.2 innings over this year and last, has a 4.28 FIP, and ZIPS thinks him capable of a 4.54 FIP going forward. A quick look as his Pitch f/x numbers shows that he throws a fastball in the low 90's, a 2 seamer, a slider and a changeup. With a career 3.29 BB/9, he is basically the definition of an average stater in the majors. Peroda has pitched in the pen so far in the majors; however, he profiles as a starter long term. In 11 innings this year he has a 3.33 FIP, and ZIPS projects him to have a 4.36 FIP going forward.
In addition to those two pitchers, who are both capable of league average numbers right now, and are cost controlled for the next 5-6 years; the Padres were also able to swindle two prospects out of the Sox. Dexter Carter, a RHP in Single A, was striking out nearly 11 batters per 9 and had a 2.84 FIP. Adam Russell is another interesting guy. He is 26, with only 26 innings in the majors, but stands at 6-8 and throws in the mid 90's with the fastball. Also, in those 26 innings in the majors, he managed to put up a 3.32 FIP. Right now, he profiles as a reliever, but he has experience as a starter in the minors before.
So let's review. The Padres trade 3 years of an expensive Jake Peavy for 3 major league ready starters, 2 of which are projected be be league average or better, and another good prospect in Carter. As a Cardinals fan, I thought trading Wallace for Holliday was too much; however, this deal makes that one look like a steal. In fact, just Peroda and Richard combined project to be worth the same to the Padres as Peavy would be to the Sox; and they are under team control for a combined 8 years longer.
Kenny Williams had better hope the White Sox make the playoffs over the next couple of years.
Just before the trade deadline passed a few hours ago, the Red Sox and Indians completed a trade which will send catcher Victor Martinez to the Red Sox in exchange for pitchers Justin Masterson, Nick Hagadone, and Bryan Price. Masterson is the best-known pitcher in the deal, having made quite an impact last season but struggling a bit this year despite strong peripherals. Victor Martinez is considered one of the better offensive catchers in the game, but is also considered one of the worst defensive players at the position.
Presumably, he won't be playing much defense at catcher for the Red Sox with the presence of team captain Jason Varitek behind the plate. In addition to Varitek blocking him at catcher, the Red Sox have players already positioned at the other two places Martinez is capable of playing--designated hitter and first base. Let's rule out the possibility of Martinez playing catcher more often that Varitek's current backup. It's also convenient to do this because catcher defense is incredibly difficult to measure, if it's currently possible to do so at all. So how many runs better does this make the Red Sox in these three scenarios:
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Boston has come to terms with Cleveland in a deal that sends Victor Martinez to the Red Sox in return for Justin Masterson and a pair of pitching prospects.
Martinez fills a big void in Boston's lineup. His numbers on the year, .286/.368/.464, are nearly identical to his career averages. He also provides some flexibility defensively with the ability to catch when Varitek needs a rest and also play first in case Lowell gets re-injured. Martinez should provide exactly the boost the Sox need, a proven slugger to ease the struggle of designated hitter David Ortiz. Martinez is owed roughly two million for the rest of 2009 and has a club option for seven million in 2010.
Cleveland in return is getting a young but effective major league pitcher in Justin Masterson. Masterson is just 25 but already has 160.1 professional innings under his belt, including 15 starts. His FIP stands at a respectable 4.27. Masterson is best known for his sinker which he uses to induce ground balls at as impressive 52 percent rate in his career. He has struggled with his command at times (3.65 walks per nine innings) but his control in the minors was good and he is improving as he gains experience. Masterson has been used primarily as a reliever with Boston, coming in to get double-plays and ground outs, but he projects as a middle of the rotation starter.
Nick Hagadone is just a year removed from Tommy John surgery. A closer in college, Hagadone was a first round pick in 2007 and its easy to see why. This big lefty has immense potential with an overpowering fastball (clocked as high as 98 mph), a sharp breaking slider, and a developing change-up. Boston has been extremely cautious with his development as he has thrown just 25 innings so far this year. Although he has thrown just 59.1 innings in his three minor league seasons, he has averaged 11.73 strikeouts per nine innings. While he has struggled with his control with 28 walks in that span, he has simply overpowered batters in the low levels of the minors and has allowed just a single home run in parts of three seasons.
Bryan Price was taken in the first round in 2008 out of Rice. Just 22 years old, the talented right-hander began this season in Low-A where he earned a promotion after just eight starts. In 44 innings he struck out 40 batters and posted a strong 2.86 FIP. His numbers in Advanced-A are nearly as impressive. Despite a 6.54 ERA and 1-6 record, Price has struck out 57 in 52.1 innings and his FIP is 3.22. His numbers are inflated by a .390 BABIP and a 57 percent strand rate.
On paper this looks like a deal that benefits both teams. Boston and Cleveland each filled their needs, Boston with a bat and Cleveland with young pitching. Hagadone is the player that could swing this trade in either direction. If he develops and stays injury-free the Sox could be kicking themselves for giving him up.
Also worth noting is the second move the Red Sox made today, swapping first baseman with the Atlanta Braves. Boston sent recently acquired Adam LaRoche to the Braves for Casey Kotchman. Both players are pretty similar except that Kocthman is four years younger. Also, LaRoche becomes a free-agent at the end of the year, while Kotchman is under contract for two more seasons. Kotchman is expected to provide a left-handed bat off the bench.
Greetings from the Great Baseball Nerd Round-Up of 2009: SABR 39 in Washington DC.
Really, really weird thing just happened to me. I just finished giving a presentation "The Baseball Philosophy of Charles Comiskey" - (it went pretty well, which was weird enough in itself) - when something quite unexpected happen. I was approached by someone from the syndicated radio show Talking Baseball to do an interview with them. They liked my talk and when they found out I had finished a book slated to come out later this year titled Evaluating Baseball's Managers, they thought they could get a scoop by talking to me about it on the air.
That was just so frickin' weird. Though I've often thought of myself as quite vanilla, I certainly never thought of myself as any sort of scoop.
The interview lasted about 15 minutes and I though it went well. I don't know when it'll air, but I heard third-hand that it'll be Sunday. (NOTE: When I say third-hand, I mean not from the Talking Baseball guys, but from someone else at SABR they interviewed, so the day might be wrong). The show is in about 50 markets they said. I don't know which ones expect that Chicago is known of them.
Sorry for any excessive naval-gazing, but I've never been interviewed before and don't seriously expect to be interviewed again. So: cooool. Weird, but cool.