Results tagged ‘ Winter Meetings ’
These are the facts as I know them. Eight days ago, the Minnesota Twins’ had just three starting pitchers on their Major League depth chart. The Twins also didn’t have a single ready-made option in the Minor Leagues — no one who had pitched consistently enough at Triple-A to move on up without first asking questions.
Eight days later — and without a significant free-agent signing in between — the Twins have acquired three starters in two trades. The headlines:
Top prospect Meyer shipped to Twins — 11/29/12
Twins add Phils’ May to prospect haul — 12/06/12
The one-week transformation from pitching-poor falls under my purview — and interests me — because all three are young, controllable assets and two are what we around here call top prospects. Alex Meyer was No. 2 in the Nationals’ system, and Trevor May was No. 2 in the Phils’; they are now the Twins’ third- and fifth-ranked farmhands by MLB.com’s standard. (The third pitcher, another twenty-something right-hander in Vance Worley, has already pitched in the Majors and pitched well.)
With that said and set up, here is what the Twins’ five-man rotation could like in 2015. As you can see, it could be quite formidable (and long-lasting, as none of the pitchers below can become a free agent before 2018).
2. Trevor May: A peg below Meyer, has a fastball-curveball combo that is very good, just not as good. Likely to start ’13 a step ahead, Triple-A Rochester.
3 .Scott Diamond: Proven commodity out of my purview.
4. Vance Worley: Proven commodity (as long as he can stay healthy) out of my purview.
5b. Kyle Gibson: Once a more high-profile prospect (before undergoing elbow surgery), Gibson should be entrenched two seasons from now. Scouts differ on his ceiling, but he should slot in nicely here.
5c-g: 2011 first-round pick Hudson Boyd and 2012 first-round pick Jose Berrios won’t truly arrive before ’16. Right-handers Matthew Summers and Madison Boer could end up as middle relievers. And then there’s Cole De Vries, who will find a job harder to come by in the years ahead.
The annual Rule 5 Draft will wrap up this week’s Winter Meetings on Thursday (audio-only on MLB.com). For details on how the Draft works, consult MiLB.com’s handy how-to.
I sort of chuckle about this time every year. After three days of discussing five-team trades and multi-million-dollar signings, a fourth is focused on a bunch of discarded Minor Leaguers switching organizations for $50,000 pittances. And let’s not fool ourselves — that is what this is. Consider that you have to go all the way back to the 2006 Rule 5 Draft to find a player who made a significant impact on the team that drafted him. (Yes, R.A. Dickey was plucked by the Mariners in the 2007 Draft, but something tells me he’s better known as a Met.) Amazingly, right-handed pitcher Joakim Soria (Royals) was drafted second overall in ’06, one spot ahead of Josh Hamilton (Cubs, before he was sold to the Reds and eventually traded to the Rangers). And, coincidentally, Soria signed a two-year free agent contract Wednesday with the Rangers, who are also seeking a cost-effective reunion with Hamilton.
From what I can tell, there are no Dickeys, Sorias or Hamiltons in this year’s crop of available discards. But that, too, is part of the humor of the Rule 5 Draft and why it happens at all. A Major League organization’s baseball operations staff has drafted a player out of school, has developed him on the farm and, four to six years later, has decided he is not worth a treasured 40-man roster spot. Then said player proves very worthy of another club’s 40-man. That’s the way it works — when it works at all.
It should also be said that because a Rule 5 Major League phase draftee has to be “protected” on the 25-man roster throughout the season, it is far easier for a club to “hide” an inexperienced pitcher in its bullpen (as the Twins did with one Johan Santana in 2000) than an inexperienced position player on the bench. (Most clubs construct their clubs with seven-man ‘pens and four/five-man benches.) That explains why 13 of MLB.com’s Top 20 Rule 5 candidates are hurlers. (Not among those 13 is Astros’ Double-A right-hander Jason Stoffel, who in my opinion could be best prepared to pitch in Major League middle relief next summer.)
But I can’t help not notice a trend of available “prospects” in the pool of players this time around. Three on MLB.com’s list posted an OPS of .800-plus this past season; a fourth nearly reached the mark and plays the premium position of catcher; and a fifth isn’t on the list at all. And if you hadn’t noticed, we live in a post-Moneyball era that places increased value (and, therefore, dollars) on getting on base and hitting home runs. So what I see are five potential sluggers and power-starving teams willing to take a five-figure flier on them.
1. Nate Freiman: The right-handed-hitting first baseman registered a .298/.370/.502 slash line at Double-A San Antonio (Padres) this season. He will be 26 on Opening Day and has little defensive versatility but his home run totals (22 in 2011 and 24 in ’12) and relatively low strikeout totals suggest he could fare well against even greater competition. His back-to-back multi-homer games for Team Israel in WBC qualifying competition in September only helped his case.
2. Chris McGuiness: The lefty-hitting first baseman registered a .268/.366/.474 slash line at Double-A Frisco (Rangers). He is two years younger than Freiman but has been a less consistent performer in the Minor Leagues. Was his 27-RBI, MVP run in the Arizona Fall League a mirage?
3. Jeremy Hazelbaker: The lefty-hitting corner outfielder registered a .273/.335/.472 slash line between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket (Red Sox). He might be the best pure hitter among Draft-eligible Minor Leaguers. He needs to cut down on his strikeouts going forward, but his 19 home runs and 36 stolen bases demonstrate his varied offensive talents.
4. Jason Hagerty: The switch-hitting catcher registered a .248/.354/.389 slash line in a clipped season at Double-A San Antonio (Pads). He is also a solid receiver behind home plate but would be chosen here if a team believes his once-promising bat can improve.
5. Jesus Aguilar: The right-hitting first baseman registered a .280/.372/.461 slash line at Class A Advanced Carolina and Double-A Akron (Indians). He is just 22 and could really use a full season at the Triple-A level. With back-to-back 100-strikeouts seasons in the Minors, it’s hard to believe he would be able to contribute right away in the Majors.
Let’s keep this all very simple and put it in bullet-form. According to a report Friday from the venerable Jeff Passan:
- the Royals are willing to trade their top prospect — and, perhaps, baseball’s top prospect — Wil Myers
- the Royals will seek young, front-line starting pitching in any deal for Myers
- the Royals have discussed such a swap with the Rays, the D-backs, the A’s and the Mariners
As much as it might seem a surprise for a down-and-out, on-its-way-back team to be “dangling” or “shopping” such an impactful slugger with zero Major League service time, this news should not, in fact, come as a surprise. Let’s stay simple and explain why:
- the Royals appear set with their outfield to begin 2013 — and unwilling to make room for Myers (he could force the issue with a big Spring Training)
- the Royals appear set with an offensive nucleus of young sluggers (which includes the names Butler, Gordon, Moustakas, Hosmer, Perez — not Myers)
- the Royals do not appear set with their starting rotation (in no small part because prospects Mike Montgomery, John Lamb and Chris Dwyer have stalled in the Minors)
Which brings us to the Rays, the D-backs, the A’s and the Mariners. What Passan doesn’t tell us, I will. What he doesn’t tell us, of course, is which pitching prospects Kansas City might be targeting from each of these four potential trading partners. Let’s take them one at a time:
- Major League rotation: James Shields, David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, Alex Cobb/Jeff Niemman
- Expendable prospects: Chris Archer (AAA), Alex Torres (AAA), Alex Colome (AAA), Enny Romero (High-A), Felipe Rivero (A), Taylor Guerrieri and Blake Snell (Low-A)
- The proposal for Myers: Chris Archer and Taylor Guerrieri for Myers
- Why it Wil/won’t work: The Rays will be loathe to part with two elite hurlers and may insist on an Archer-and-anybody-but-Guerrieri package, but including their 2011 first-round draftee probably puts them ahead in the race to land Myers. And Tampa Bay might overpay (in its mind) to get a can’t-miss slugger that it can control contractually for the next six years. … Don’t discount Romero or Rivero, who like Guerrieri are far away from the Majors, but have very live arms.
- Major League rotation: Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill, Daniel Hudson, Wade Miley, Pat Corbin/Tyler Skaggs
- Expendable prospects: Trevor Bauer (AAA), David Holmberg (AA), Anthony Meo (High-A), Archie Bradley (A)
- The proposal for Myers: Trevor Bauer, David Holmberg and Anthony Meo for Myers and SS/2B prospect Christian Colon
- Why it Wil/won’t work: We’ve seen national reports that — before they were shot down — depicted the D-backs making and taking calls on Trevor Bauer. So this could be the trade makes the most sense: Arizona trades a pitcher it undervalues to Kansas City for a slugger it undervalues. Has there ever been a prospects-only deal that could also be a change-of-scenery-needed swap for both players? … I expanded my proposal above to include two more Arizona hurlers because we know that the D-backs are starving for a shortstop and that the Royals’ Colon, while not a plus defender at the position, can hit enough to play there. (And Colon is obviously blocked in K.C. by Alcides Escobar.)
- Major League rotation: Brett Anderson, Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, A.J. Griffin, Bartolo Colon/Brandon McCarthy (free agent)
- Expendable prospects: Dan Straily (AAA), Brad Peacock (AAA), Sonny Gray (AA), A.J. Cole (High-A)
- The proposal for Myers: Dan Straily and Brad Peacock for Myers
- Why it Wil/won’t work: What do Billy Beane and Co. in Oakland have going for them? They may be the lone club of the four that can offer Dayton Moore two Major League-ready, top-of-the-rotation pitchers. The Royals could insist on the more-proven A.J. Griffin or the higher-ceiling Cole, but it’s hard to imagine them not being at least instrigued by a Straily-Peacock combo. … One flaw in this proposal is really two: Peacock, for all of his stuff, had a 6.01ERA at Triple-A this year, and it would behoove GM Moore to wonder if he is too much like another exiled Athletic right-hander: Vin Mazzaro.
- Major League rotation: Felix Hernandez, Jason Vargas, Hisashi Iwakuma, Blake Beavan, Erasmo Ramirez
- Expendable prospects: Danny Hultzen (AAA), Taijuan Walker (AA), James Paxton (AA), Brandon Maurer (AA), Jordon Shipers (A)
- The proposal for Myers: Danny Hultzen and Jordan Shipers for Myers
- Why it Wil/won’t work: Of the four, this deal has the most obstacles to getting done. The Mariners will offer Danny Hultzen, the Royals will want Taijuan Walker, and the Mariners will not want to counter with the logical next best thing: Hultzen AND James Paxton. And I don’t blame them. The M’s MLB rotation is thin, and all three members of the Hultzen-Walker-Paxton trio will probably be needed in Seattle by 2014. Pulling off this transaction would be as gutsy as that Michael Pineda-for-Jesus Montero memory of last offseason.
During my most recent workday here at MiLB.com on Saturday, I wrote about some top prospects that could be traded as we near next month’s Winter Meetings in Nashville. I mentioned about 10 names and … none of them were Blue Jays.
Well, the joke is on me.
If you haven’t already heard, this was our first major offseason trade involving talented Minor Leaguers, which was first broken by Fox Sports’ Morosi/Rosenthal team on Twitter last (Tuesday) night.
Blue Jays get: Veterans Jose Reyes (shortstop), Josh Johnson (righty starter), Mark Buehrle (lefty starter), Emilio Bonifacio (utility man) and John Buck (catcher).
Marlins get: Veteran Yunel Escobar (shortstop), rookie Henderson Alvarez (righty starter) and prospects Jake Marisnick (center fielder), Justin Nicolino (lefty starter), Anthony DeSclafani (righty starter) and Adeiny Hechavarria (shortstop).
Simply put (and not giving much consideration to the Major League veterans exchanged and committed money that changed hands, both of which are beyond my scope): The Blue Jays made out well.
Here is why: Yes, they yielded three of their top seven prospects, but none are what we would call blue-chip or elite-level prospects and Toronto’s system sports the depth to simply replace them. Let’s take these guys one at a time:
Player 1: Marisnick, who hasn’t produced consistent results above low-A, has yet to prove he can be an above-average hitter. The 2009 third-round draftee has quieted some concerns with his .837 OPS through 19 Arizona Fall League games, but he remains very much a work-in-progress in the batter’s box. His defensive and base-running skills were more impressive in 2012.
Player 2: Nicolino, a third of that Lansing trio, was pretty flawless in ’12, posting a 2.46 ERA in 28 games (22 starts) while sporting a 119-21 K-BB ratio. But if we’re looking for flaws, here is one: Unlike former rotation mates Noah Syndergaard and Aaron Sanchez, Nicolino doesn’t have blow-by, dominating stuff, as evidenced by his opponents’ .246 batting average. Nicolino does have very good stuff (fastball, curveball and plus changeup), he strikes me as the kind of guy who will be more limited (than Syndergaard and Sanchez) when he competes against Class A Advanced, Double-A, Triple-A and Major League hitters. Remember, he hasn’t faced any of them yet.
Replacements: In addition to Syndergaard and Sanchez, the Jays have Sean Nolin, Deck McGuire and John Stilson coming along as well as younger hurler-in-training Roberto Osuna. That still leaves ’11- and ’12-drafted lefty starters Daniel Norris and Matthew Smoral, both of whom have a chance to be as good as or better than Nicolino in the future.
Player 3: Hechavarria is among the best fielding shortstops in baseball (and no slouch as a base-stealer), but the Jays weren’t sold enough on his hit tool to install him as the long-term response to Escobar’s inevitable exit.
Replacements: In addition to the former Met Reyes, who may not finish his current contract in Toronto (the guess here is that he won’t), the Jays front office is very high on unranked farmhand Ryan Goins. Despite the fact that Goins has not played above Double-A — he posted a .289/.342/.403 line 136 games there last year — he is now seen as the heir apparent at the position.
I would also add this: The Toronto organization All-Stars piece I filed recently (and which will run the middle of next month) did not include any of the four Jays-turned-Marlins. It just so happens that Gose (outfield, over Marisnick), Nolin (lefty starter, over Nicolino), Goins (shortstop, over Hechavarria) and Syndergaard (right starter, over DeSclafani) all made the list.
That softens the blow of my last, short-sighted blog post. A little bit anyway.
Put this on your hot stove and cook it: We are still three weeks from baseball’s Winter Meetings and already the names of Minor League prospects — not just Major League players — are being bandied about as trade bait.
This is the world we live in — a world in which national, rumor-mongering ball writers and fans are growing increasingly savvy about not only teams’ complete 25-man roster, but their 40-man and beyond. If you’re anything like them, you’re also highly aware of many of your team’s Top 20 Prospects, guys who are perhaps years from getting to the bigs.
Which explains why there are already talks about the Reds potentially moving shortstop Didi Gregorius, the D-backs maybe (but probably not) parting with pitcher Trevor Bauer, among other ideas (that’s all they really are at this point) about clubs shipping off untested twenty-somethings.
So jumping in on the speculation? Don’t mind if I do. In fact, the next piece I will be working on for MiLB.com will focus on what type of “prospect packages” Major League execs need to be presented with to end, say, the Justin Upton Era in Arizona or the Jacoby Ellsbury Era in Boston.
As much interest as there is in prospects, however, it is still the the established Major League player that is the conversation-starter. The Red Sox would call the Giants to initiate Ellsbury-for-Gary Brown talks — it’s very unlikely such a deal would come about the other way around.
With that fact in mind, I present a list of prospects who could be moved based on their respective organizations’ depth (irrespective of their rumored interest in a big-time big leaguer like, say, the Rays’ James Shields or the Indians’ Asdrubal Cabrera because such interest is more likely to be rumored than real). Here are guys who are potentially expendable if their teams want to trade up this offseason:
Tampa Bay Rays – Starting pitcher Chris Archer or Alex Colome – Some would have you believe that GM Andrew Friedman needs to trade Shields or fellow vet starter David Price before their price tag gets out of hand, but Shields has club-friendly options through 2014, and it will be difficult to get equal value for Price. Friedman’s shortcut: Deal Archer or Colome and still have more than enough pitching both in the bigs and the pipeline.
Oakland A’s – Infielder Grant Green – The A’s are not in the habit of trading Major League-quality hitters with zero Major League service time, but this is a unique case. GM Billy Beane and brass need a shortstop and, by their own evaluations, Green is a below-average defender there. This is why they have tried Green in center field (unsuccessful), third base (ehh) and, most recently, second base (adequate). It’s all well and good that Green could be a good utility man, but his bat is too good to not play everyday. Swapping him for a player the A’s do deem a two-way player at short (Gregorius?) would seem to make the most sense.
Seattle Mariners – Infielder Nick Franklin or Stefen Romero –The M’s have and like Dustin Ackley at second and, apparently, don’t see Franklin as a strong enough defender at shortstop. (Another prospect, Brad Miller, who will begin next season at Double-A, could be the long-term solution there.) That leaves Franklin and, to a lesser degree, Romero (who could move to third base) stuck behind Ackley. For all the talk about dealing lefty starter James Paxton, why not keep their potential super-rotation intact.
More musings: If the Rangers deal a shortstop this winter, expect it to be Class A slick fielder Luis Sardinas. … If the Braves decide they can spend to resign catcher Brian McCann past the 2013 season, that would make defensive-minded backstop Christian Bethancourt expendable. … Speaking of catchers, the Marlins could deal J.T. Realmuto given the show Rob Brantly put on this year. … If the cash-poor Mets can reach an extension agreement third baseman David Wright, Wilmer Flores could be a casualty. … What do the Nats do with Anthony Rendon, a plus defender at third base, with face-of-the-franchise Ryan Zimmerman signed through 2019. Rendon, Washington’s top pick in 2011, will likely begin ’13 at Double-A and isn’t far from Show-ready. … Even if the D-backs don’t give up on Upton, it would seem logical to include A.J. Pollock in an offseason deal. He’s not in the team’s plans the way that Adam Eaton is.