Saturday, July 31, 2010

Minor dealings

In the end, the Red Sox only made two small moves at the trade deadline. This wasn't all that surprising, given how little press had been devoted to legitimate trade rumors involving the team. Neither of the trades will help the team in 2010, and while they're not exactly waiving the white flag, it is hard to view them as serious contenders at this point, especially given the Yankees' additions. Of course, a nice run with a healthy lineup could change that.

In a straight 1-1 trade with the Giants, the Sox traded away Ramon Ramirez and picked up AA relief prospect Daniel Turpen. Turpen currently has a 4.04 ERA in AA, although he did pitch extremely well in 2009 across multiple levels. Not exactly a stud prospect, but Turpin was in San Francisco's top 40 entering the season. Ramon Ramirez wasn't able to reproduce the success he had with the Red Sox in 2009 when he posted a 2.84 ERA in nearly 70 innings. Along with Manny Delcarmen, who was also on the trading block but not moved, Ramirez contributed to a mediocre middle relief core, which had been a strength last year. Of course, if you actually look at the underlying numbers, the main difference between the 2009 version of Ramon Ramirez and the 2010 version is luck. In 2009 he was lucky, in 2010 wasn't. His strikeout rate, walk rate, and groundball rate all were similar in the two years.

In another trade, the Red Sox sent starting pitcher Roman Mendez, first base prospect Chris McGuiness, a player to be named later, and cash to the Rangers for perpetual prospect Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Since being a top 25 prospect in the Braves system and being the headliner for their Mark Teixeira deal, Saltalamacchia has struggled with injuries, ineffectiveness, and even a bit of Steve Blass disease in AAA this spring. The deal obviously depends on who the player to be named later is and how much cash is involved, but it doesn't appear like they gave up too much in this deal. Mendez has the ceiling to be a major league pitcher, but has struggled this year in the Sally League. McGuiness, who was also in the Sally League, was putting up very nice numbers in A ball this year (.298/.416/.504), but that is to be expected for a 22 year old polished college hitter. He was also fairly well blocked in the Red Sox farm system, with Anthony Rizzo at AA despite being a year younger and Lars Anderson at AAA, despite only being six months older. It isn't a bad price to pay for someone who could be your catcher of the future, but Saltalamacchia is hardly a sure thing. On the bright side, at least the Red Sox didn't trade Jon Lester to the Braves for Saltalamacchia, way back when.

Instead of addressing depth issues through trades, it looks like the Red Sox will try and use their farm system instead. Top outfield prospect Ryan Kalish was called up this afternoon, taking Jeremy Hermida's spot on the roster, and started in left field, going 2/4 with a run and a RBI. Starting pitching prospects Michael Bowden and Felix Doubront, a lefty, have been transitioned to the bullpen for the remainder of the season and will likely get some big league appearances. With the roster spot that was opened up by the Ramon Ramirez deal, the Sox called up left handed reliever Dustin Richardson. Finally, although the regular trade deadline has passed, the Sox may be able to add useful players through the waiver process, which is awfully complicated. The general gist of it is that if a player is expensive, the Red Sox may be able to snag him.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

If I were Dayton Moore...

The Royals are in their usual position of spinning off pieces at this trade deadline. Since they rarely have very good players, the deals they make are typically fairly small and address a need here or there. They've already traded away Alberto Callaspo to the Angels for Sean O'Sullivan and Will Smith, two nearly major league ready starting pitchers. Although neither are anything special, considering how bad the back of the Royals' rotation is, it isn't a bad deal. They also traded Scott Podsednik, a useful fantasy player, but a disaster if he's your starting left fielder, to the Dodgers for a couple of very minor prospects. Neither are expected to be major contributors at the major league level, but the key here is the Royals now have playing time opening up for their young and young-ish players stuck in the minors.

Right now, priority #1 has to be to trade Jose Guillen. Yes, he's owed $4.5 million on his disastrous 3 year, $36 million contract. No, he can't play defense. Yes, he's had repeated run ins with management and other players due to a bad attitude and lack of effort. But he can hit pretty well, and there are some teams out there (the Giants immediately come to mind) that have some pretty putrid outfielders of their own. I would call up Brian Sabean, especially now that some of his other targets have already been moved, and offer to eat the salary. Jose Guillen is a sunk cost. No matter what the Royals do, they're not going to be able to recoup that money - it is gone whether they trade him or not. Considering that they've already budgeted that money and the fact that ponying up the $4.5 million ought to net them a much nicer prospect, Moore just needs to suck it up and get whatever he can for Guillen. A solid, if unsexy, relief pitching prospect would be a nice find; the Royals' bullpen has very little depth beyond Soria and Robinson Tejeda. I'd try something similar with Rick Ankiel, although since he's coming off an injury and was not effective when he was healthy, it could be a very limited market.

With the two trades, my proposed trade for Guillen, and DeJesus' injury, the Royals would all of a sudden have loads of playing time. For the time being they've been playing Wilson Betemit at 3B. Betemit is a nice stop gap and a solid utility player, but come September, they ought to take a a look at Mike Moustakas at third base. Moustakas destroyed the ball at AA this year, and while he's currently struggling at AAA, he clearly is the third basemen of the future for them.

With Guillen gone, the Royals would need a full time DH. Thankfully, they have Kila Ka'aihue rotting in AAA. Despite years of terrible production at DH, the Royals have let Ka'aihue rot in AAA without ever giving him a chance with regular playing time. He put up a 1.000 OPS in AAA in 2008 at the age of 24, which earned him a call up, but he had a chance as a full time player. The following offseason, the Royals traded Leo Nunez for Mike Jacobs. Nunez has closer the last two years for the Marlins. Mike Jacobs put up a .297 OBP for the Royals in 2009 and was then non-tendered. Whoops. Ka'aihue slumped a bit in 2009, but has been unbelievably good at AAA again this year. According to Minor League Splits, his minor league equivalent OBP is .370, only the now injured David DeJesus and Billy Butler have higher OBPs.

Finally, the Royals need to play Alex Gordon and Mitch Maier full time from here on out. Maier is the only true center fielder under contract for next year, so they need to see if he can put up acceptable numbers or if they need to look elsewhere. Finally, Alex Gordon, the next George Brett, is now a left fielder. According to scouting reports, his defense has been solid. After missing most of last year with a hip injury and getting demoted this year, the Royals need to give him one last shot with regular playing time to see if they can salvage something out of this fallen top prospect. Despite his horrendous .573 OPS (which actually beats out fellow fallen 3B prospect Brandon Wood's .411 quite handily), there are reasons to hope. Gordon hit .315/.442/.557 in the minors, so if he can finally translate that minor league success to the majors, the Royals could have at least a league average left fielder on their hands.

Despite years of futility, there is some hope for the Royals. Beyond the players I've mentioned, they also have Eric Hosmer (1B) who is excelling as a 20 year old in AA and Mike Montgomery, an excellent 20 year-old left handed starting pitcher who also was promoted to AA this year. Some have gone so far as to say that the Royals have the best farm system in baseball. Making the little right moves, such as giving some older minor leaguers a shot, could help surround these up and coming young players with a nice supporting cast.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Scott Downs is a nice trading chip for the Blue Jays to have. In a year where a lot of teams are struggling with bullpen issues, Downs is clearly the best reliever on the market. Plus, as a lefty, he can fit into any number of roles in a bullpen, from 8th inning set up guy to the guy you turn to against tough left handed hitters. To top it all off, just like Billy Wagner last year, Downs is set to be a type A free agent, so if a team offers arbitration, they could net a first round draft pick and a sandwich round draft pick.

All of that does make him valuable, but these reports are just insane. According to George King of the NY Post and Jon Heyman of SI, the Jays asked the Yankees for Jesus Montero or Joba Chamberlain for Downs and asked the Red Sox for Casey Kelly or Jose Iglesias. I guess it doesn't hurt to ask, but hopefully Alex Anthopoulos knows that the days of trading a couple prospects for a reliever rental are long gone.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Yet another reason why Yankee Stadium (new or old) is terrible

Sorry for the lack of posts lately - I've been busy trying to close out my field season before a big trip to South Africa. For a quick, relatively content free post, enjoy yet another reason why Fenway Park is better than Yankee Stadium, courtesy of ESPN's rundown of vendor health code violations.

Fenway Park
Boston Red Sox
Vendors with critical violations: 4%

Inspection report excerpt: Inspectors found raw steak that had warmed to almost 60 degrees, which was above safe temperatures.

Yankee Stadium
New York Yankees
Vendors with critical violations: 48%

Inspection report excerpt: Five hot dogs registered 91 degrees in a hot-holding unit when they were supposed to be no cooler than 140. Inspectors also had a vendor dump a bottle of Chivas Regal whiskey containing dead fruit flies.

Are the dead fruit flies good luck like the worm in the tequila? (OK, it is really in mescal, if you're being picky about it)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Prospect Check Up: Michael Bowden

The Red Sox recently announced that Michael Bowden, one of their more advanced pitching prospects, would be shifting from the rotation in Pawtucket to the bullpen. Coming in to the season, Bowden was among the best prospects in the Red Sox system, #8 according to Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus (subscription required), but outside of the top 10 according to Baseball America, perhaps due to his lack of upside. Given the fact that Felix Doubront has gotten a couple of spot starts over the last couple of weeks, it appears that he has leap frogged Bowden in the eyes of the front office. Bowden was ranked as high as he was due to safety; according to scouts, his ceiling is a mid to back end of the rotation starter, which makes it very hard for Bowden to crack the deep Red Sox pitching rotation. But he is one of the very few advanced prospects the Red Sox have, and coming into the season he looked like a useful depth player, but more valuable as a trading chip.

However, with the shift to the bullpen the Red Sox appear to be looking for ways that Bowden can contribute to the team this season. Bowden's numbers at AAA are excellent, both for this year (3.77 ERA, 1.1WHIP) and his career as a whole (3.39 ERA, 1.16 WHIP). However, Bowden's strikeout rate is pretty mediocre, sitting right around 6.3 K/9 for 2010 and his career in AAA. Knowing that strike out rates typically drop as pitchers move up levels, particularly when moving up to the majors, it is easy to see why the Red Sox don't view Bowden as a sure fire starter.

However, based on a study by Sean Smith (creator of the CHONE projections), switching from a start to a reliever typically increases strikeouts by about 15%. Considering how weak the bullpen has been this year, thanks to injuries and underperformers including expected 7th and 8th inning guys such as Delcarmen and Okajima, Bowden could play a major role down the stretch. That said, don't mistake him for Daniel Bard last season; Bowden doesn't have anywhere close to the strikeout rate or the upside, even out of the pen.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Delcarmen to DL, Sox call up Manuel

Another day, another injury. After getting lit up for a couple of games, Manny Delcarmen admitted that he's been experiencing forearm soreness. While it is too bad that he didn't come forward with his injury right away, this is actually a step in the right direction for Delcarmen, who hid an injury during his horrid second half of 2009.

To take his place, the Red Sox have called up Robert Manuel. When the Sox acquired him in December, I did a detailed write up about him. I have a lot of faith in his minor league numbers and I think he could really contribute as a 6th or 7th inning guy. Manuel has continued his success in the minors this year (1.54 ERA, 0.95 WHIP). Manuel doesn't have dominating stuff, but does have excellent control and strikes out enough batters to have spectacular K:BB numbers.

Troubles at C

Reports now have Tek on the DL with a broken foot, and he could be out 4-6 weeks. With V-Mart also on the DL and the Sox top two catching prosepcts on the DL as well, as Bill mentioned, that leaves them without a starting catcher. The Sox have traded for old friend Kevin Cash, though his production at plate horrendous. He's a career 0.188/0.250/0.291 hitter, though at least ZIPs projects him to hit 0.211/0.282/0.338. Their backup for the time being appears to be Gustavo Molina, who, before the Cash trade, was the only healthy catcher (out of five!) on the 40 man roster. Molina, a 28 year old right handed batter, was hitting 0.239/0.292/0.413 in Pawtucket this year.

Obviously, neither Cash nor Molina are going to hit much, but what impact will this have on the team offensively? Based on ZIPs projected rest of season stats, the dropoff from Victor Martinez to either Cash or Molina (their projected lines are very similar) looks to be about 4 runs over the 12 games Martinez will be on the DL, assuming he comes back after the minimum. Using the quick conversion of 10 runs to a win, the injuries to Martinez and Varitek look to cost the Sox about four tenths of a win. It's a number that is a lot lower than I expected, but it is assuming that Victor can come back after a minimum stay on the DL, and it isn't factoring in the other injuries at 2B, SP, and OF. All in all, those are starting to add up, especially in a tight AL East race. At this point I'd be happy if the Sox can just hold it together and play .500 ball until the All Star Break.