Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Notes on the 2011 MLB Trade Deadline: NL West edition

With this season's trade deadline set to expire at the end of July, most news coming out of the sport seems wrought with rumors, speculation and trade advice.  Below is a quick rundown of all the divisions along with each team's probable status, names involved, measured opinions by author, etc.

*note: all stats and team standings were taken prior to July 20, 2011


According to the playoff odds report at Baseball Prospectus, the Giants are expected to easily win the division with 93 expected wins while the DBacks (82.2) and Rockies (80.1) fighting it out for a distant second.  Recently, the Giants have won eight out of ten and sit on top of the division with a, somewhat, comfortable 4 1/2 game lead over the DBacks.  The Rockies are still struggling to play .500 ball and are 10 1/2 behind.

Below is a quick breakdown of each team's 2011 payroll and the number of free agents (club options were included) and arbitration eligibles in 2012:

2011 Payroll 2012 FA's 2012 Arbs.
Giants $118.2 M 7 12
Dbacks $56.5 M 4 5
Rockies $82.3 M 3 4
Dodgers $119.7 M 12 6
Padres $45.8 M 4 14

As I previously reported in the Hardball Times awhile back, the Dodgers should see a large chunk of their payroll fall next season no matter who is running that ship.  On the other hand, the Padres have some major decisions to make in terms of salary structure after this season.

Notable 2012 free agents:

Heath Bell, Ryan Ludwick (Padres)
Hiroki Kuroda (Dodgers)
Kelly Johnson (DBacks)
Cody Ross, Javier Lopez (Giants)

Obviously, the Giants have been deemed buyers and their trade yesterday for Jeff Keppinger from the Astros is only the beginning in terms of improving their offense.  But, honestly, how aggressive do the Giants need to be?

Currently the Giants are dealing with some injures to their infield with Miguel Tejada (ab injury), Freddy Sanchez (dislocated shoulder) and Aubrey Huff (stiff back) currently on the mend.  The addsition of Keppinger and Brandon Belt.  Offense has been an issue in San Francisco as they are near the bottom in terms of team wOBA (.299) and wRC+ (85).  Both Tejada and Huff have been well below average offensively but, according to manager Bruce Bochy, no plans are in order to usurp Huff as the everyday first baseman.  Like last season, pitching has been key for the Giants and I don't see any reason to worry about regression in that department.

Carlos Beltran has been linked to the Giants; and before the Keppinger trade, some reported that the team was close to pulling off a deal for Michael Cuddyear as a possible MI option.

The Giants are also looking for help at catcher and Ivan Rodriguez has been linked to them since the Buster Posey injury.  But Pudge has had trouble producing and his bat should be calssified as below replacement level.  One possibility could be Miguel Olivo from the Mariners, his numbers aren't overwhelming but he has decent power and the M's would probably welcome the cut in payroll since he is due a slight raise next season (from 2.5M to 3.75M).

The Giants do have the revenue to take on more payroll but do they have an attractive surplus in prospects to put together a deal?  GM Brian Sabean has labeled Zack Wheeler and Brandon Belt as "untouchables" and without either of those two in the discussion - it'll be tough to see the Giants picking up a game-changing bat.


The DBacks have publicly stated that they are in the market for a starting pitcher, preferably a quality one to bolster their back-end.  If they were able to sneak into the playoffs, it would be nice to have that solid #3 to sneak Josh Collmenter into the bullpen for the playoffs. 

For the DBacks, improvement in the pen as well as defense have been major components for their surprise season.  Both Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson have pitched like bonafide aces with only Kennedy due for a raise next season as he begins to enter his first year of arbitration.  (Although I do wonder what the further addition of Dan Haren would have done for this team and staff?  Two more years of team control at a cost well below his market value?? Hmmm, I sure hope Tyler Skaggs and Patrick Corbin end up being worth it since replacing Haren for Joe Saunders is a no-brainer.)

I doubt the Rockies would part with Ubaldo Jimenez to another team within their own division - especially with those team-friendly club options in 2013 and  '14.

Other starters that could/should be available:
  • Hiroki Kuroda - same division but feasible since he'll be a FA after this season.
  • Wandy Rodriguez - under team control through 2014, trade value is high but balky elbow must be addressed.
  • Rich Harden - A's would love to sell high but his spotty health record makes him a risk.
  • Brett Myers - decreasing velocity and struggles with the long ball are troublesome. Club option is 2013 is contigent on performance next season.
  • Erik Bedard - a solid lefty would fit nice in the DBacks rotation; he suffered a sprained knee last month and reports don't see him coming back until next week.
  • James Shields - another nice addition but is it worth the DBacks' future?  He has very affordable club options from 2012-14 and that fact alone will make the Rays asking price very high.
  • Edwin Jackson - could a return to AZ be in store?  He'll be a FA this offseason but I'm sure the Sox aren't happy how this trade eventually turned out - which makes returning him to AZ for a small return very unlikely.
  • Javier Vasquez - among the Marlin starters, Javy should be the easiest to move.  He has been pitching very well of late but his price should be kept low since he is essentially a rental.

**UPDATE: Stephen Drew's potential season ending injury (fractured ankle) could throw a wet towel on AZ's playoff hopes.  Cody Ransom will probably be called up to the parent club but at 35 years old he may be more of a Quad-A player (although Drew, it can be argued, has put together a pretty underwhelming offensive season with a .313 wOBA and 91 wRC+ but defensively he has looked solid and that could be a factor the rest of the way).


Among the sellers in this division, the Rockies seem to be testing the waters in terms of Jimenez's trade value.  Many expected this team to be much more competitive but I think it would be a mistake to ship off some of their affordable centerpieces.  Unless a deal blows them away, I think it will be best to stand pat and reassess themselves after the season is over.

The Dodgers have some decisions to make this offseason.  The front office will be busy fielding offers for Kuroda but the real interesting offers could come from those interested in Andre Ethier.  Not much talk beyond some fan speculation has centered on Ethier as a trade target but with the team debating on what to do during his final arb. hearing this offseason - it would make sense for the Dodgers to shop him around.

The Padres will be selling Heath Bell and should receive plenty of interest.  I know some teams may be looking at other affordable options like Mike Adams and Corey Luebke but that wouldn't make much sense due to their affordability.  The team is also dangling Ryan Ludwick and Chase Headley for a potential trade.  Ludwick could be seen as a serviceable piece and a move away from Petco should help his power numbers; Headley will receive some interest especially with third base being a position of demand.



With this division fast becoming a two team race, I don't see the need for the Giants and DBacks to heavily mortgage or sell some of their younger players off for rentals. 

The injury to Stephen Drew could change things give the DBacks some pause in terms of projected competitiveness and with the Rockies contemplating a role as seller - the Giants may not feel any urgency to pursue a Carlos Beltran or Hunter Pence and may just be in market for to bolster their depth and bench.

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