Trade Deadline Head Scratchers

Earlier today I wrote about the trade deadline winners so I feel the need to write, not about the losers, it’s too soon to tell, but about the deals and non-deals that made me scratch my head and wondering what the team was thinking. With that said, here are the trades that left me in wonder:

The Giants trade for Cabrera: The Giants traded Thomas Neal, a prospect in that has a good chance to be a solid 4th outfielder for Orlando Cabrera, a guy with -0.7 fWAR and a -7.2 UZR. Yes, the Giants need middle infield help but Cabrera should not be playing on any contending team and the fact they gave up a prospect for him makes the deal even worse. This is after they traded Zack Wheeler for Carlos Beltran. Sure, Beltran was the best position player available but they get 2+ months of Beltran and no compensation pick and lose a potential top-of-the-rotation starter with 6 years of control.

The Dodgers give Robinson away: The Dodgers apparently love to give legit prospects away for bulk prospects with bench potential. They traded Trayvon Robinson who was hitting .293/.375/.563 with 26 homeruns in his first season in AAA. He has great raw power but swings and misses a lot and is still raw for a guy who will be 24 on September 1st. He has the wheels to play center but is better suited for left and could have been starting there next year for the Dodgers but they wanted a future back up catcher in Tim Federowicz with no bat and two future right-handed relievers in Stephen Fife and Juan Rodriguez. On top of this they are holding on to aging veterans when they need to save money and rebuild.

The Twins proposal of Span for Storen and not trading Cuddyer: Why would the Twins, who need to be selling high on Michael Cuddyer, be trying to trade Denard Span, a true center fielder who was well on his way to a 5 fWAR season, for Drew Storen, a potential 1 fWAR reliever? Don’t get me wrong, I really like Storen, but Span was having an All-Star year and has that potential moving forward and Storen is a reliever. You don’t make trades like that. What you do is make trades that involve soon-to-be free agents named Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel who are hitting .298/.370/.477 with 16 homeruns and a career high 138 wRC+ while  playing multiple positions and .303/.356/.444 with a 126 wRC+ all while the market is hot for hitters.

The non-moves by losing ball clubs: I have no idea why the only move the A’s made was trading Brad Ziegler. I do like the trade because they got Brandon Allen in return but they held on to too many pieces that could have netted solid returns like Coco Crisp, Josh Willingham, Conor Jackson, Michael Wuertz, Brian Fuentes, and Grant Balfour. The Cubs also held on to guys like Kerry Wood, Aramis Ramirez, and Carlos Pena. I can only imagine the return they’d get for Ramirez who has 19 homeruns and passable defense at one of the worst hitting positions in 2011. The Royals held on to Melky Cabrera, 2010’s worst player who is having a career year hitting .304/.340/.466 with 13 homeruns and 14 stolen bases and, amazingly, passable defense in center and, amazingly, great base running with a +3.9 Bsr. They also held on to Jeff Francoeur who was hitting .272/.326/.464 and an excellent +4.1 UZR in right.

The non-moves by winning ball clubs: The Yankees decided to stand pat and not add a needed starting pitcher for the second deadline in a row. In fact, the most talks surrounding them were about reliever Heath Bell and it was wise of them not to pay heavily for something they did not need. The Angels sat around and complained about the price during the deadline rather than adding a legit bat. The Rays, who had pieces to sell and buy, did absolutely nothing. They could have been the biggest buyers with their farm system and not even traded their top 3 prospects. They desperately need bats and I do not blame them for holding on to B.J. Upton, Casey Kotchman, or Johnny Damon if they think they are still contenders in the AL East. But, if they happened to be sellers why did they not make a deal involving Upton, Kotchman, Damon, Joel Peralta, Kyle Farnsworth, Jeff Niemann, Wade Davis, or Alex Cobb? Heck, why didn’t they make a trade imvolving a pitcher for a bat anyway. They could have still been contending and helped their 2012 club with the right bat.

-Jonathan C. Mitchell can be found writing about the Tampa Bay Rays at DRaysBay and you can follow him on twitter at @FigureFilbert and follow MLBdirt at @MLBdirt

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Who Will Represent Oakland in the All-Star Game?

This is a weird team to try and find an All-Star on. Injuries and a horrible offense have plagued this team all year. The highest fWAR player on the team is injured starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy who only has nine starts on the season. His 2.0 fWAR is almost double the highest offensive player’s total and 0.6 higher than the next closest player. One could easily argue that the “one player per team” rule is ridiculous and, while they would probably be right, Oakland would most likely be left without a player on the American League All-Star team this year.

Gio Gonzalez leads all non-injured Athletics with 1.4 fWAR. He currently sits with a 2.69 ERA and 3.62 FIP in 87 innings pitched. His 8.48 K/9 ranks 6th among all AL starters but his 4.34 BB/9 are second worst in the AL. The two things Gio has going for him are that the Athletics have to have a representative at the game and that the AL roster will need a left-hander that can get a strikeout late in the game.

Trevor Cahill was well on his way to not only making the All-Star roster but competing for the AL Cy Young Award. He has cooled down considerably and currently sits at 1.2 fWAR with a 3.24 ERA and 3.97 FIP in 100 innings pitched. He is 3rd in the AL among starting pitchers with a 55.5% ground ball rate and has a decent 6.67 K/9 but, like Gio, he walks too many guys with a 3.78 BB/9 which is 5th worst in the AL.

Another option is to pull someone from the bullpen, which has been a bright spot for this club. Brad Ziegler leads the bullpen with 0.6 fWAR and has a 1.93 ERA and 1.97 FIP and gets 66.7% ground balls but only has 23.1 innings. I would rather see Grant Balfour get the nod with his 9.48 K/9 and 2.59 EAR in 31.1 innings.

Kurt Suzuki is the leading offensive candidate. He leads the team in fWAR with 1.1 and as a catcher you might be able to justify finding him a spot on the All-Star roster but the AL already has Russell Martin winning a spot due to voting and Alex Avila might be the most deserving catcher. Carlos Santana and Matt Wieters deserve to be on the team ahead of Suzuki as well. Suzuki may not be the best choice based on stats but he may the only candidate to represent this team.

If I had to pick today I would probably go with Gio Gonzalez. I am not big on having more than 3-4 relievers on the All-Star roster and Gio has, so far, had the best season among those who have worn an Athletics jersey and can still throw a ball 60 feet 6 inches.

-Jonathan C. Mitchell can be found writing about the Tampa Bay Rays at DRaysBay and you can follow him on twitter at @FigureFilbert and follow MLBdirt at @MLBdirt

2011 AL West Preview

1. Texas Rangers

The Good: The Rangers are a young talented team that has emphasized pitching over offense and this group has not hit the ceiling yet. They may have one of the best offenses in the game with MVP Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz (a MVP caliber player), Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus and having 3 guys to play all 8 positions and DH with David Murphy, Mike Napoli and Mr. Ranger Michael Young. Adding Adrian Beltre was a smart move because he helps improve a shoddy Rangers defense and will benefit greatly from hitting in Texas with this lineup. The Rangers have talent on the mound as well with CJ Wilson, Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, Darren O’Day and Neftali Feliz.

The Bad: How does this team fare without Cliff Lee? Granted, Lee was average in the regular season with the Rangers but, he will be sorely missed. Asking to have CJ Wilson and Colby Lewis  replicate 2010, something they have never done before that, while also anchoring the rotation is the biggest key to the Rangers season. If this duo falters the Rangers are not winning this division. The bullpen has talent and plenty of nice numbers but, it needs to show more poise as they were occasionally hit up in big spots last season.

What to Look For: The balance of playing time and productivity of the Napoli-Murphy-Young trio will be interesting to watch. If RHP Tanner Scheppers and OF Engel Beltre continue to shine in the minors they could get a call up. Is Brandon Webb OK? Is he still the best sinker ball pitcher in the game? That is something to watch. Also, the learning curves of Tommy Hunter, Matt Harrison and most importantly, Derek Holland will be critical to the Rangers success.

Projection: While maybe a tick below last year’s bunch the Rangers are plenty good and could be even better. The pitching has to fall into place, like any team. It would be a wise choice not to bet against this bunch.

89-73 (1st Place)

2. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The Good: The Angels can go toe to toe with anyone with starting pitching. Dan Haren, Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana and Joel Pineiro are a pretty safe quartet to keep you in games. Although it had some problems last year the bullpen has promise too considering it added Hisanori Takahashi and Scott Downs to go along with Fernando Rodney and Kevin Jepsen.

The Bad: The Angels were embarrassed in free agency this past winter and had to take on the overly bloated Vernon Wells contract. The Halos have major question marks with C Jeff Mathis and 3B Maicer Izturis. Both guys are usually bench guys with little power and are being forced into everyday roles. While it is good that the Angels are giving kids 1B Mark Trumbo and CF Peter Burjos shots at the big leagues they also need these kids to produce right away which maybe too much to ask. The Halos can only hope and wonder when 1B Kendry Morales can come back and contribute after ankle surgery. Morales is the most vital cog to the Angels offense.

What to Watch For: The Angels need top prospect C Hank Conger to make the break through to the Show sooner rather than later. The same can be said for OF Mike Trout. The outfield trio of Torii Hunter, Vernon Wells and Bobby Abreu gets another year older with the same measure of offensive expectation to produce. Can they all still do it? Can Erick Aybar replicate his 2009 season or is the player we all saw last year? The bullpen while upgraded, has major issues.

Projection: Age, bullpen problems and consistent offense, not something you are used to hearing with a Mike Scioscia team. The Angels have plenty of questions but, they also have plenty of starting pitching and a good manager. If the Rangers falter don’t be too surprised to see the Angels somehow in the mix to take the AL West flag.

86-76 (2nd Place)

3. Oakland A’s

The Good: The A’s have one of the  best starting rotations in the AL when all healthy. Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, Dallas Braden and Gio Gonzalez can confound and hold down offenses most nights. The great thing about the staff is there aren’t all the same type of pitcher each one is different and has a different wrinkle throwing offenses off.  Adding OF’s David DeJesus, Josh Willingham and Hideki Matsui was a major boost to a punchless offense. The A’s also have a very good bullpen as well with Grant Balfour, Brian Fuentes, Mike Wuertz, Brad Ziegler and closer Andrew Bailey.

The Bad: The A’s offense got off the hook in 2010 because the Mariners offense was so historically bad. This team needs home runs desperately because it was powerless in 2010. The A’s have to hope the additions of Matsui, Willingham and DeJesus pay off. Also, having OF prospects Chris Carter and Michael Taylor break through to the MLB Level full time would help too.

What to Look For: If the A’s stay healthy and pitch to their potential and possibly get Rich Harden healthy throwing strikes out of the bullpen then look out, this team could win the division their pitching is that good.

Projection: A down year for the AL West means the time is ripe for the A’s to strike. This is a good team that just needs more runs to be scored. Billy Beane did a solid job upgrading this team and while they are picked here at 3rd place I think if Texas loses this division it’s more likely because the A’s win it not the Angels.

85-77 (3rd Place)

The Good: A very limited selection here. The Mariners do have the reigning CY Young Award winner who is soon to be 25 in Felix Hernandez. The Marniers also have a future Hall of Famer in Ichiro Suzuki who is good for a .310 plus batting average, 30 plus steals, 200 hundred plus hits and a Gold Glove in rightfield. The Mariners boast a pretty good defensive team as well.

The Bad: The offense was so bad last year it was epically and historically atrocious. Scary thing is the only thing the Mariners did was add Jack Cust to the everyday lineup which means a lot more of unneeded strikeouts but, some much need walks and homeruns. The Mariners desperately need 2009 years from Franklin Gutierrez and Chone Figgins not the bad 2010 years they had. The bullpen had its problems last year as well. You can add David Aardsma as a guy needed to have a year like he did in 2009 not last year. Jason Vargas and Doug Fister were OK for this rotation in 2010. It would be nice to see Erik Bedard just get on the mound in 2011 doing his Carl Pavano Yankees impression for the Mariners. This staff doesn’t have a real compliment to Felix Hernandez which is a problem.

What to Look For: The Mariners desperately need 1B Justin Smoak and LF Michael Saunders to figure it out and impact the everyday lineup immediately if this team has any expectation to be decent. You better add prospects LHP Mauricio Robles, RHP Michael Pineda and 2B Dustin Ackley to that list as well. That’s a lot of things that have to happen for things to be good this year in Seattle.

Projection: The offense couldn’t be much worse than it was in 2010 could it? Or could it be?  This is an odd year and the book says the Mariners will be 85 plus win team if you follow their past 5 years. I don’t know how they will pull that off this year but, then again no else saw them being good in 2007 and 2009 either. I don’t forsee them being a .500 or better team this year. But, then again I have been wrong many times before.

65-97 (4th Place)