Saturday, December 03, 2005

Bobby Abreu and his Suitors

I'll start this thing off with a response to a comment from the previous Abreu article. It's fairly topical and should make for a nice little introduction to what I want to do here. Yeah, I know I'm lazy. Deal with it.

Anonymous said...

You give a list of pitchers which you would consider "ace" pitchers or at least pitchers that you would trade Bobby Abreu for straight up for. My question for you is are there any other players that you would trade for? Say for instance a top of the line starter that isn't quite an ace along with some prospects. Say a Matt Clement like starter and some pitching prospects. Also my second possibility involves Toronto, a team that has expressed interest in Abreu already this offseason, although this is different from what they were initially thinking. Bobby Abreu for Gustavo Chacin, Chad Gaudin and possibly Eric Hinske. Hinske has had good numbers against right handed pitchers and could be an even better option than Nunez to rotate with David Bell at third base. Possibly even Shea Hillenbrand. I just wanted to see if you would do any of those trades even though you aren't getting that "ace" that everyone would want ideally, you are still getting valuable players in return that could possibly complete the team better. I'm not sure the players I mentioned would give you equivalent value for Abreu but you get the general idea. Keep in mind that the players I mentioned were just for the sake of argument and hopefully you get the idea from the players.

XXX said...

All of the pitchers mentioned on that list aren't going anywhere this offseason. So you are very right in figuring that if Abreu is dealt, it'll be for a package of lesser guys rather than any straight up swap of two guys. If Boston included the right mix of young guys (maybe either Lester or Papelbon) in addition to Clement, that deal would be tempting - an interesting comparison could be made between an offer like that an the current St. Louis rumors.

Chacin doesn't do much for me personally, I'm not sold on him quite yet. He did have a very good rookie year and I take nothing away from him. Gaudin was actually dropped from the Toronto 40 man roster the other day. This could be the precursor to a trade by the Jays involving him or it could just be they felt the need to drop him. If things stand the way they currently are, Gaudin could be available in the Rule 5 draft. He'd be a shrewd pickup there. Hinske is a puzzling guy. His performance has really tampered off since winning the ROY in 2002. He'll be 28 in August and is coming off a year where he didn't play a single game at third. There were reasons for this, of course, but it makes his defense there a question mark at best heading into '06. He also has a bad contract compared to his recent levels of performance. Hillenbrand - I'll pass on him.

Like you said though, the exact players don't matter so much as the general ideas. I think the ideas are good ones. Hopefully my next post will address more of what you want to know. If not, give me a yell and we'll get even deeper into it. Discussion is always encouraged.

The list of number one pitchers from the previous post is fairly interesting (if I do say so myself) and, to me anyway, it is definitely a fun exercise to go through the majors and minors and pick out the pitchers whom you think will be frontline guys, but I’m not sure if the discussion is particularly relevant to the Phillies dealing Abreu. There isn’t a single guy on the list from the previous post who will be traded this offseason – I should probably point out I would have said the same prior to the Beckett deal, but I remain confident there will be no more trades involving these players. So, do we just not trade Abreu then? It just isn’t that simple – it never is. Abreu is being shopped and it is worthwhile to see what his market value is. Some ideas for the GM:

Chicago Cubs: SP Kerry Wood and OF Felix Pie

If the Cubs refuse to include Pie in the deal, substitute the better right now Matt Murton (also an OF). Pie will be difficult to pry loose from the Cubbies, but could be a long-term solution for the Phillies in center field. He posted a solid .304/.349/.554 in 240 AA at bats. The at bats were limited due to a leg injury, but there should be no lasting effects from the injury. 315 minor league strikeouts to 118 walks isn’t pretty, but his power production has been very impressive and he is considered to be a very raw physical talent still learning. He had a very nice year in AA as a 20-year old; this is a great sign as he was one of the younger guys in the league and age relative to league is such an underrated aspect of player evaluation. Pie has all the tools to be a dynamic power/speed guy in centerfield; it is more a matter of if he puts it all together.

Is Kerry Wood available? I have no idea. Cubs have had reported interest in a good number of the free agent starters (they are a darkhorse in the Burnett sweepstakes) plus starting pitching has long been a position of depth for them. Wood may be considered expendable in the right deal. Acquiring Wood would be a savvy pickup by the Phillies – I’d love to see him come in a reclaim his dominance as a starting pitcher, but Wood could also make for a potential big time closer. Wood only pitched 66 innings last year due to injury and is a huge medical risk going forward, but he is talented enough to take a big gamble on. Maybe this deal would have made more sense prior to the Tom Gordon signing, but it would still be a move I’d endorse if the Phils can somehow pull it off.

St. Louis Cardinals: SP Jason Marquis, SP Anthony Reyes, and SP Adam Wainwright

Marquis and Reyes just aren’t enough – one other player needs to be included to push it over the top. The problem about dealing with the Cardinals is their pathetic farm system. They don’t really have much of value down the farm and they have an older big league roster to choose from. Reyes and Wainwright are both young pitchers capable of stepping into the rotation right away if necessary – Reyes is definitely ready now, but maybe Wainwright could use a bit more AAA time. Reyes should be a solid starter for a long time while Wainwright has more of a boom or bust element to his game. Both guys will be 24 years old for the majority of the upcoming season and the fact that each will be under contractual control for 6 years makes them a very appealing duo.

Marquis is the big major leaguer you’d get in return in the deal. He is a solid middle of the rotation starter and not much more. He is absolutely no ace and doesn’t even have the look of a top of the rotation guy – note the dangerously low strikeout rate. Marquis is arbitration eligible this offseason and should get a nice raise (maybe around $5 million total for ’06), but is still reasonably priced for a starting pitcher. An acquisition of a guy like that creates all kinds of fun financial options – the flexibility to make other moves would be great. 3 starting pitchers is quite a haul and probably too steep a price for any team to offer, but it would be what I would demand from St. Louis in return for Abreu.

New York Yankees: SP Chien-Ming Wang, SP Phillip Hughes, and 3B Eric Duncan

This isn’t a package for today; this is a package for the future. It is built on my personal belief that Phillip Hughes will be an absolute stud starting pitcher someday. I like him so much I was tempted to put him on my list of starting pitchers I’d deal Abreu for straight up. Luckily, my better judgment got in the way of this and I left him off (he has only pitched 17.1 innings above low A ball for goodness sake). Even still, I remain very much in love with his potential and think he’ll be a very good one at the big league level. He is young (won’t be 20 until June) so a team could afford to be very patient with him as he moves up in the system. He could spend all of 2006 in High A ball and still be on the express path to the majors. Hughes is 6’5’’ and 220 pounds – classic hard throwing righthander frame. He had a K/9 rate of 9.44 in Low A (68.2 innings) and then an even better 10.7 K/9 after his promotion to High A Tampa. It is a very small sample size, so those numbers should be met with some skepticism. But all Hughes has done as a professional is pitch very, very well (WHIP of .85 in 91.1 innings) and should be expected to continue as he progresses along.

Eric Duncan is a 21-year old third base prospect who already has 451 AA at bats to his name. Getting that many at bats in AA so young is impressive. There is a problem in all of this. Duncan only hit .235 in those 451 at bats and is only .258 career minor league hitter. He does have impressive raw power (19 homeruns in 2005), but the jury is still very much out on his future. At the very least he’d be the Phillies top 3B prospect and one of the most advanced (in level anyway) hitting prospects in the organization. The Phils could afford to take their time with Duncan with 3B potentially covered the next two years (Bell/Nunez in ‘06, Nunez/someone new in ‘07).

The major league element to the deal is Wang. I don’t Wang so much, but he is a legit back of the rotation innings eater starter who will be under team control for five more seasons including the next two on the very cheap. 47 strikeouts in 116.1 innings are not going to cut it. Eventually all of those balls hit off of him will start finding holes in the defense – guys will low K rates do not often succeed. On the plus side (especially for the Phillies) Wang was a crazy groundball pitcher in 2005 (3.08 GO/AO ratio). There is enough to like to make him a decent addition to the deal, but he is not the key by any means. It has been reported that the Phillies asked for Wang in return for Jason Michaels. Since no deal has been struck we can only assume the Yanks turned it down. Something to think about.

Baltimore Orioles: SP Eric Bedard, SP Hayden Penn, and OF Nick Markakis

This is almost certainly more than the Orioles would be willing to offer, but it is the only package I’d accept them. They are another team with a weak minor league system and little worth picking up at the big league level.

Nick Markakis combined for a line of .310/.390/.504 with 41 doubles and 15 homeruns while playing for both Class A Frederick and AA Bowie. Penn was hit hard after reaching the majors, but he was obviously rushed by a less than intelligent Baltimore front office. His AA numbers were very good (3.83 ERA in 100 innings) and he has shown a penchant for getting strikeouts (120/37 K/BB ratio). Both Markakis and Penn profile as plus major league talents and it would be a boon for the Phils to pick up both the O’s top SP prospect and top hitting prospect. It’s highly unlikely of course, but it would be nice.

Bedard will be 27 this upcoming year and should be entering his theoretical prime. He has very few big league innings and minimal wear and tear on his arm which is a nice plus for a still relatively young pitcher. He is under contract for at least 4 more seasons (he isn’t even arbitration eligible yet, but will be next year) so that is another big plus. The Orioles may value him too much to part with him along with their top two minor leaguers – that would be perfectly understandable. It wouldn’t hurt to ask anyway.

Boston Red Sox: SP Bronson Arroyo, C Kelly Shoppach, and SP Jon Lester

Again, this is probably more than the Sox would be willing to give up. It would take a ton to give up Lester (the key to the deal) and I’m not even sure if Abreu would be worth it to them. Lester (22 in January) is coming off a sensational year in AA. He can spend all of 2005 in AAA refining his skills before getting a shot in the rotation fulltime in ’07. Plus he is a lefthander – always a good thing. I never have quite understood the love of Shoppach, but he would be a good guy to include in the deal. The Sox are actively shopping him and he would fit a need for the Phils. He’ll be 26 in April and only has 15 big league at bats so far, but he is still considered a decent prospect by many. He hit .253/.352/.507 in 371 AAA at bats in ’05. Pretty good plate discipline, impressive power spike (26 homers), and a decent defensive track record make him an attractive candidate to land a starting or platoon job somewhere in the near future. A Shoppach/Carlos Ruiz combo in 2007 would work for the Phillies.

Again, I’ll end this with a mention of a big league starter than can help right away. Arroyo has (don’t hold me to it as I’m not 100% sure) two years remaining of arbitration and should be a good value in the short-term. He’ll be 29 next season and would slot in decently after Myers and Lieber in the rotation. The Phils could also choose to stick him in the bullpen where he has had some success. Arroyo could be of use in middle relief or late game help. As you may have noticed, the structures of these deals are all similar. They all seem to include a SP who can help in the short-term and then (ideally) a young pitcher and hitter who can help down the road. It may be asking too much, but I think it is fair for a player like Abreu. Maybe I am overrating him (based off the other rumors I really seem to be), but my main point is simple: there is little pressure to trade Abreu this offseason, so the Phillies ought to be blown away by an offer to do it. These offers blow me away. That’s the idea.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: 3B Dallas McPherson/OF Kendry Morales and RP Scot Shields

This deal is wishful thinking at its best. I love McPherson, but I’ve heard he is as close to an untouchable as the Angels have. Even after two down years in the majors, they remain high on his potential. I think he’ll be a good one. Morales has been rumored in deals for Manny Ramirez. He is a special young hitter, but does not have a position. He is more of a 1B/corner outfielder type right now as his defense is best when hidden from batted balls whenever possible. Stick him in RF as a long-term solution and let him hit. He is another guy I just don’t see the Angels parting with yet. So I won’t get into too much detail with this deal. I’d take either guy along with RP Scot Shields. Apparently, Shields and Brendan Donnelly are being heavily shopped by the club. Might be worth some of Pat Gillick’s time to place a quick call to Bill Stoneman and see what it’ll take to make something work. Imagine an OF with Abreu in left and Vlad Guerrero in right. Anaheim has some of the best minor league talent in baseball and should be set up for a good, long time no matter what they give up this offseason.

Toronto Blue Jays: SP Dustin McGowan, C Curtis Thigpen, and IF Aaron Hill

This is a package of three prospects (Hill being more of a player than a prospect as he established himself pretty well this season in the majors), so I’ll just turn it over to Mr. John Sickels from Here is what he said about these kids on November 28th in Top 20 Pre-Season Prospects in Review:

3) Aaron Hill, SS
Hit .274/.342/.385 in 105 games for Toronto. He will hit better than that in the long run, I'm pretty certain. Main question is how much power he will develop, but batting average and OBP should only improve.

9) Dustin McGowan, RHP
Fully recovered from Tommy John surgery. Posted 6.35 ERA in 45 major league innings, but if you saw him pitch his natural talent was obvious. Even slight improvement in his command will make him a dominator.

18) Curtis Thigpen, C
Sleeper prospect, hit .287/.397/.413 for Lansing in the Midwest League, with an excellent 54/34 BB/K ratio in 293 at-bats. Hit .284/.340/.426 in 39-game trial in Double-A. I like him.

Well put, no? I love McGowan (looks like a young Schilling to me) and Hill could be an instant upgrade at third base. Thigpen is a sleeper, but he has hit well everywhere he has been so far. I would be thrilled with this deal.

Oakland Athletics: SP Barry Zito and C Kurt Suzuki

You can replace Suzuki with RP Jairo Garcia (great K/BB ratio in AAA and just about ready for the majors) if you like, I couldn’t decide on the two. This trade makes a good bit of sense. The Esteban Loaiza signing makes Zito’s future in Oakland questionable. He could be kept (if I had to bet, I’d say he stays this year), but it is also very possible he is now shopped. Oakland has a surplus of starters and I’m sure they could find creative ways to use the $8.5 million owed to Zito in 2006. Zito would give the Phillies a potential top of the line guy and Suzuki would be the heir apparent at catcher. Oakland has shown a willingness to be creative when adding salary, so Abreu’s massive salary might not be such a problem as one would initially think. Either way, I don’t see this deal happening.

So there you have it. All kinds of trade ideas to think about. I realize now that just because I’ve done all of this work, Abreu rumors will die down and he won't wind up going anywhere but his familiar place in right field in South Philly. So if you are a big Abreu fan, you’re welcome. If you aren't a big Abreu fan, what's wrong with you???


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