Tag: 2011 MLB Trade Deadline

Cincinnati Reds: Does Ryan Hanigan Have a Future with the Team?

Since making his MLB debut in 2007, Cincinnati Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan has without a doubt been a valuable asset to the Reds organization.

As both a backup catcher and a spot starter, Hanigan has proven himself to be a clutch hitter and a solid defender behind the plate.

Many baseball fans, including me, expected to see Hanigan earn more of a full-time role with the Reds once the recent trade deadline had passed, but Cincinnati elected to hold on to veteran Ramon Hernandez and keep Hanigan in his usual on-again, off-again role.

One has to wonder, with Hernandez playing at a high level and with two hot minor league catching prospects in Devin Mesoraco and Yasmani Grandal itching to make their way up to the majors, where exactly Hanigan fits in Cincinnati’s plans for the future.

Hernandez is 35 years old and projected to become a free agent at the season’s end, but the Reds didn’t trade him when given a chance to at the deadline, and that could mean that they intend to bring him back in 2012. After all, there are several Cincinnati pitchers, including emerging star Johnny Cueto, who prefer to pitch to Hernandez due to their familiarity with his catching style. 

Whatever the Reds decide to do with Hanigan down the line, there’s no question that he will still have a future in the league. Catchers (even backups) are remarkably valuable in the MLB, and while he’s not a superstar by any means, Hanigan has shown year after year that he can hold down home plate with the best of them.

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Texas Rangers: Analysis of the Tommy Hunter, Chris Davis trade for Koji Uehara

Almost instantly after today’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays, the Texas Rangers made a deal for the reliever that they desperately need.

General manager Jon Daniels made a deal with the Baltimore Orioles to send pitcher Tommy Hunter and first baseman Chris Davis in exchange for reliever Koji Uehara.

A trade involving Chris Davis comes as no surprise to me, as he was destined to find another team to play for.

He tore it up in the minor leagues but just can’t seem to outperform Mitch Moreland at first. As a result, he was pushed over to third base to sub for an injured Adrian Beltre. He’s a power bat that is of no use to the Rangers on the bench, so moving him in a trade is exactly what needed to happen.

However, including Tommy Hunter in the deal is a bit of a surprise. He’s been a solid pitcher throughout his career with Texas but his sabermetrics have been lagging behind Derek Holland and Matt Harrison.

Also, given Hunter’s history of injuries, this move is one that will not hurt the Rangers in the long run and will clear a spot in the bullpen for Uehara and possibly another pitcher. Hunter did a lot for Texas last season and will be missed, but a move like this is necessary to clear up the bullpen issues.

Uehara is by far the best reliever in the American League. Opponents are batting .151 against him (tied for first in the AL) and he leads the league in walks and hits per inning pitched (WHIP), strikeouts-per-walk, and is third in walks-per-nine-innings.

His three primary pitches are the fastball, split finger fastball, and the change up with an appearance percentage of 66, 21, and 11 respectively. His earned run average is 1.72 with a fielding independent earned run average of 2.52.

This is exactly the kind of move the Rangers needed to make in order to make their run for another AL West title and another trip to the World Series go as smoothly as last year. A solid bullpen is going to mean a lot to this team and Uehara’s presence should provide a tremendous boost.

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MLB Trade Deadline: After Landing Hunter Pence, Whom Will Ruben Amaro Target?

Do you have any friends who you absolutely adore, but hate talking to? I know I do. Whenever they call, I can’t seem to get off the phone fast enough.

That’s what it must be like for Ruben Amaro’s fellow general managers around Major League Baseball. 

Amaro has been in baseball his entire life and knows everyone.  However, when other GMs see his caller ID on their phones, they must cringe.

“Oh no, what does that man want now?” they all must say.

Whatever it is that Amaro does say to them must make them want to get off the phone quickly; they must be willing to give up practically anything to just shut him up. 

There’s no other explanation for how he continually gets the players he wants from the teams he wants by giving up the scraps he no longer needs.

For the second time in as many Julys, Amaro has “stolen” a player from the Houston Astros.

Reports were that he’d offered Jonathan Singleton and Jarred Cosart for the 28-year-old Hunter Pence a while back, but was flatly rejected. Then rumors started surfacing that Domonic Brown’s name was being floated around in trade talks for Pence, and many Phillies fans panicked. Why give up the future that is currently learning at the major league level, a player that is projected to be better than the one you’re acquiring?

Instead of parting with the one player he’d refused to in dealing for aces Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, and Roy Oswalt, Amaro re-offered the package, included a couple of “players to be named later” (one of whom is rumored to be Double-A pitcher Josh Zeid), and wouldn’t let Astros GM Ed Wade off the phone until he accepted. 

Thus, the Phillies acquired Hunter Pence, who will be starting in Philadelphia’s right field beginning Saturday night.

Ruben Amaro has struck again! 

Once again he has gotten the player he targeted and only given up what he felt was expendable.

Now that he has done so, two questions have arisen: Do the Phillies have enough? If not, who will Amaro go after next?

As constructed, the Phillies have enough to potentially win the World Series. 

But before they dealt for Hunter Pence, the same could have been said. He’s an extra piece for a team that could have won the World Series without him. 

But he’s nice to have.

Now that the right-handed hitter they lacked is in the fold, what other piece or pieces do they go after? 

With Roy Oswalt seemingly on his way back to the rotation (and if history tells us anything, Oswalt is going to be dominant down the stretch and into the postseason), Vance Worley impersonating Roy Halladay, and the other aces performing well, the rotation is stacked for another deep run into October.

Once Placido Polanco returns from his injury, the Phillies will have nine everyday players for eight spots.  (The bet here is that Domonic Brown’s playing time gets cut down, as he has not produced as well expected and has actually cost the Phillies some games this year.)  

The only two places at which the Phillies really could use an upgrade are on the bench and in the bullpen. 

The bullpen has been strong all year, and with Brad Lidge back and showing his best stuff since 2008, it could get stronger. 

But it’s difficult to imagine the Phillies having 100-percent confidence in the abilities of Antonio Bastardo and Michael Stutes to get the biggest outs of the season under the hot lights of October. 

A veteran arm would be a tremendous addition, and with the market flooded with them, an acquisition shouldn’t be too hard to imagine.

Heath Bell and the like are probably out of the question, given payroll constraints and a dearth of prospects in the minor leagues.

But the Phillies could add a midlevel piece such as Tyler Clippard or Mike Gonzales. Some rumors put Octavio Dotel on the market as well, but nothing to tie the Phillies to him.

The Phillies definitely need some help on the bench. 

The only rumor floating around the internet is that Ruben Amaro has contacted the Minnesota Twins about the possibility of reacquiring Jim Thome.  The 40-year-old slugger is closing in on 600 home runs and would fit in with the Phillies much the way Matt Stairs did in 2008. Nothing would be sweeter than watching Thome launch a Brian Wilson fastball into McCovey Cove in the NLCS.

The Phillies are going to win the 2011 World Series.

I’ve believed that from the start of the season, and nothing I’ve seen has change my mind.

Ruben Amaro has his faults as a general manager, but he is aggressive and makes bold moves.  

With only hours left before the 2011 trading deadline, it will be interesting to see what other rabbit Amaro can pull out of his hat.

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MLB Trade Deadline: Phillies Overpaid for Hunter Pence

In 2010 Hunter Pence must have hit .345 with 43 home runs, 52 doubles, 125 walks, and 173 RBI.

He also must have sucker punched the official scorer’s child.

Otherwise, it would be hard to explain why the Philadelphia Phillies (along with some other teams) were so intent on acquiring him.

The Phillies committed four prospects to acquire the former Houston Astros right fielder, including pitcher Jarred Cosart and first baseman Jonathon Singleton, the 70th and 39th ranked prospects in the country according to Baseball America (pre-2011).

Now, Hunter Pence is a very solid player. He is above-average at every aspect of his game, except for patience.

And, in defense of Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., Pence represents a significant upgrade over 23-year-old rookie Domonic Brown and is under team control through 2013.

But for two top prospects, as well as two additional prospects, the impact of a new player needs to be absolutely huge, such as transforming a borderline contender to a playoff team.

The Milwaukee Brewers’ 2008 trade to acquire CC Sabathia in exchange for top prospects Matt LaPorta, Zach Jackson, and Michael Brantley is a great example of this. The Brewers were in the hunt and would have been on the outside looking in if Sabathia hadn’t come to Milwaukee and gone 11-2 with a 1.60 ERA in 17 starts.

Upgrading right field in Philadelphia will not have that big of an impact at least not in 2011.

The Phillies are already the best team in the National League. They’re already the odds-on favorite to win the World Series.

Unless Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee break each other’s left thumbs in a pregame arm-wrestling match, the Phillies will have home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

This trade doesn’t substantially change the likelihood of anything that could be influenced by the regular season.

Once you just get into the playoffs, anything can happen. Your odds of winning it all whether you’re the 2001 Seattle Mariners or the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals are basically one in eight, whether your right fielder is an established big leaguer or a roughly league-average rookie.

In a small enough sample of five or seven games, anything can happen. Alex Rodriguez can go 1-for-14. Chad Ogea can pitch like Cy Young.

That’s what makes October so great.

If the Phillies don’t win it all, it won’t have anything to do with any lack of production they might get from right field, but rather it will mean that their star-studded rotation imploded and Rollins, Victorino, Utley, and Howard all struggled mightily.

Look at the player they acquired to upgrade their outfield. Really look at him. This isn’t a big-time game changer.

This is Hunter Pence.

Pence owns a career on-base percentage of .339, one point lower than that of the immortal Roger Cedeno. In three full seasons, Pence has not eclipsed a .500 slugging percentage.

He’s a good player. He’s not a game-changer.

You don’t trade top prospects for the Hyundai Elentra of ballplayers. 

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Philadelphia Phillies: Are They Interested in Jim Thome or Jason Giambi?

After acquiring Hunter Pence from the Houston Astros just yesterday, it looks like the Philadelphia Phillies have no intentions of slowing down.

Jayson Stark tweeted earlier that the Phillies may be interested in another power hitter, specifically Jason Giambi or former Phillie Jim Thome. The tweet stated:

Next #Phillies move might not be for an arm. Still have interest in HR threat off the bench like Jason Giambi. Even asked on Thome.

When everyone in the lineup is healthy, the current bench players include: Ben Francisco, Brian Schneider, Wilson Valdez, Michael Martinez and Ross Gload.

There isn’t much power there.

Considering Schneider is the backup catcher, the Phillies probably want to replace Gload, who has just six RBI this year with no home runs.

The Phillies were rumored earlier in the week to be interested in Giambi and he “appeared almost certain to go to Philly” according to Troy Renck, who covers the Rockies. But Thome is a brand new name.

Although Giambi and Thome are both 40 years old, I think they would be solid fits for the Phillies. 

Giambi is used to the “bench-power guy” role with the Rockies and has done a great job with it by hitting 10 HR and knocking in 24 runs so far this season.

Thome, on the other hand, has been a valuable DH for the Twins. In just 52 games this year (he suffered an injury this year), he has seven home runs and had 25 last year in just 108 games.

Both of these guys still have some pop in their bat and could become valuable options for the playoffs. Just think of them as playing the same role Matt Stairs did in 2008.

If the Phillies can get one of these guys for cheap, I say go for it. Besides, wouldn’t you want to see Thome hit his 600th home run in a Phillies jersey? 

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MLB Trade Deadline Grades: Boston Red Sox Add Royals Infielder Mike Aviles

The Boston Red Sox have traded infielder Yamaico Navarro and pitching prospect Kendal Volz for Kansas City infielder Mike Aviles.

On the surface, it’s a bit of an odd move, as Aviles is going through a difficult 2011.  His slash line of .222/.261/.395 is brutal to look at, and the Royals only recently recalled him from AAA after his poor performance earned him an option to the minors.

Boston must like his versatility. Aviles can play third base or either of the middle positions, though his 2011 UZR is minus-0.8 according to Fangraphs.  

Aviles’ best year came in 2008 when he posted and .834 OPS in 102 games with Kansas City.  He also managed an 11.1 UZR that season at shortstop.  

Since then, however, his development has stalled.  His career path makes the trade a little surprising. It’s unclear what the team sees in Aviles that makes him preferable to Boston’s existing options.

One of those was Navarro, who now heads to K.C.  The Red Sox are content to give up on the 23-year-old utility man, who hasn’t progressed as the organization had hoped.  Through 16 big league games in 2011, he posted a .626 OPS.  

His numbers at AAA Pawtucket were somewhat more respectable (.831 through 34 games), but the Sox obviously didn’t see him contributing in the near future.

The right-handed Volz compiled a 3.33 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP in 51.1 innings with High A Salem this year.  Despite those nice numbers, he’s not on the organization’s top 20 prospects.

Still, it seems like Boston just gave up a fair amount of potential for very little return.  Other than providing depth at multiple spots, Aviles adds little to the team.  

Were he an excellent defender, the swap might have made more sense, but this has the distinct feeling of a throwaway trade.

If the Sox are banking on a recurrence of vintage 2008 Aviles, they’d better be prepared for disappointment.  And to send a pair of 23-year-olds packing seems rather rash given the team’s needs.

The obvious but limited upside is his ability to man shortstop, a perennial sore spot in Boston.

At best this trade is a C, and that’s only if Aviles improves on his first-half struggles. 

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MLB Trade Deadline: Atlanta Braves’ Most Beneficial Scenario Is with Padres

While the trade market is dwindling and two of the Atlanta Braves‘ top targets have been taken, there still remains a trade possibility or two that would be nearly ideal for the Braves.

The most reasonable and beneficial trade would involve the San Diego Padres.

Earlier this week, I wrote an article explaining the Braves’ need for a relief pitcher, and Bryce Sumida responded with an article explaining the Braves’ need for an outfielder.

Both articles present reliable facts, and it seems the ideal scenario for the Braves would land them a consistent outfielder along with a strong reliever.

The Padres are widely known to have one of the best bullpens in the NL and seem willing to make a deal involving one of their relievers.

Among San Diego’s relievers whom the Braves could target, the best option would be Mike Adams.

The Atlanta Big Three of Jonny Venters, Eric O’Flaherty, and Craig Kimbrel has been overused, a problem Adams could solve by contributing above-average numbers to the team.

After pitching 48 innings this season, he displays an amazing ERA of 1.13.

The Padres also happen to have an outfielder whom the Braves have reportedly been looking closely at.

Ryan Ludwick, though he is not the greatest outfielder on the Braves’ list, would definitely be an improvement to their struggling offense.

He is a right-handed batter, which would be helpful to a Braves lineup that is dominated by left-handed hitters. Also, while he plays mainly left field, he has played all three outfield positions and could play center field if necessary.

His career batting average is .262, and this season he has compiled 11 home runs and 62 RBI.

As for the return price for which the Padres would ask for these two players, it would certainly not be low.

While Wren seems extremely reluctant to lose any of his top pitching prospects, it may be necessary.

Especially with Hunter Pence now in Philadelphia, it is extremely important for the Braves to improve their offense.

The Braves need to be willing to give up at least one or two of their top prospects, or as many as four or five lesser prospects.

Wren should definitely consider trading away Mike Minor or Randall Delgado because their potential could be wasted due to Atlanta’s depth. The Braves have so many great young pitchers that they do not have room for all of them in their rotation, and it may be worth it to trade them away in order to receive consistent offense.

It is absolutely necessary to the Braves’ success that they trade for a consistent outfielder as well as a reliever.

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Rangers Prospect Joe Wieland Throws No-Hitter Amidst Trade Rumors

With all the pressure on his shoulders, Rangers Double-A prospect Joe Wieland went out and threw a no-hitter Friday night against the San Antonio Missions. He allowed one walk and faced the minimum 27 batters as the sole baserunner was eliminated trying to steal second base.

Wieland’s timing could not have been better as Major League scouts have been in attendance the last few weeks evaluating pieces for a potential deadline deal. The latest rumors have been with San Diego in the Heath Bell discussions as teammates Wieland, Robbie Erlin and Tanner Scheppers have been the hottest names in the possible swap.

Wieland has to hear the rumors. How can he not in a world obsessed with Twitter and reporters trying to be the first to break a story.

In an interview with ESPN’s Richard Durrett, Wieland said about the rumors, “Whatever happens, happens. I try not to think about it too much, but it’s out there.”

Wieland needed only 109 pitches to retire the 27 Missions’ batters with seven coming via the strikeout. What makes this no-no even more impressive is that it came against the team with the most runs scored in the Texas League this year.

Wieland is having one of the best pitching seasons in the entire Rangers organization. Since making the jump to Double-A in June, Wieland has an ERA of 1.23. While in Myrtle Beach, Wieland had a similarly small ERA at 2.10 while also striking out 96 batters in 85 innings. He also owned a mind-boggling 24 strikeout-to-walk ratio before getting the call-up.

In the same Durrett article, Wieland credits the Rangers system for his progress as a pitcher. “I love the Rangers. I feel like I wouldn’t be where I’m at if I wasn’t in this system. As a pitcher, I feel like this is the best system to be in for developmental reasons. We have the best coaching staff, on top of that, there’s Nolan Ryan running the show.”

Wieland has vaulted himself into the discussion of top Rangers pitching prospects which is already loaded with names like Martin Perez, Erlin, Scheppers, Robbie Ross and Barrett Loux. With the abundance of prospects, it’s likely that one or two of these names will be moved for Padres closer Heath Bell.

There is no secret that the Rangers bullpen has been awful this season. It’s also one of the few holes on a team loaded with offense and a solid pitching staff. Bell has been the subject of trade rumors ever since last season but with the Padres doubtful to re-sign the hefty hurler after the season, a deal seems more imminent than ever before.

The Rangers have been pushing hard for Bell and are rumored to be the favorites for his services. If the Rangers do land the big guy, Wieland’s outstanding pitching this season could be the reason why.

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Phillies Fans Need to Temper Expectations for the Team and Hunter Pence

Sure, Hunter Pence is an improvement right now. Even though offensively, I expected Brown and Pence to be roughly equal for rest of the season, Pence certainly is the better defensive player at this point. No Brown supporter will deny that. But the trade does not guarantee anything.

I’d be a lot more on board with the move if I knew our worst outfielder, not including Gload, was not going to be manning left field every night. I’d even be fine with moving Brown down to Triple-A if I knew it was John Mayberry Jr. going to be starting instead of Ibanez. But that’s not happening.

Back to Pence. Fans should be prepared when he hits a slump this season, which is bound to happen as his batting average of balls in play regresses to more normal levels. When that happens, I’m sure you’ll hear sports talk folk attributing it to “adjusting” to his new team.

Around this time you’ll also be hearing such questions as, “How does he hit in Citizens Bank Park?” “What are his numbers against the Braves?” “Does he hit the Giants well?”

I can tell you the answer quite easily. Despite whatever numbers you’ll read and look up in such splits, he’s going to hit pretty much the same as his overall career numbers suggest. Citizens Bank Park is a better hitter’s park than Minute Maid Park, but not as much as people think. In fact, so far this year, Minute Maid has been more hitter friendly than Citizens Bank. 

Sure, 3-for-22 with one walk and eight strikeouts against Tim Lincecum is not a good start, but 23 plate appearances is hardly enough of a sample. Chances are he’ll do better in the future—certainly not .800 OPS good, but better than .356.

Pence is a nice player, but not a great one. Since 2009, he’s a very respectable 15th among outfielders in fWAR with 9.9. Unfortunately among these top 15, his .351 wOBA is 14th, ahead of only Michael Bourn. If you prefer Baseball-Reference‘s WAR, he’s accumulated 7.7 wins over the same time period. If he was starting in right field from day one with the Phillies, they’d probably have an additional one or two wins.

That one or two wins should put things in perspective when entering the playoffs. For the sake of argument and giving him the benefit of the doubt, say he would have been worth two extra wins in those 105 team games. That comes to roughly .02 wins added per game. In a seven game series, his addition would add roughly .14 wins. That should help show that his addition does not make a drastic difference in a single playoff series.

Yes, the addition of Pence slightly increases the Phillies chances of reaching and winning the World Series, but in the crapshoot that is the playoffs, nothing is certain. Just ask the Cardinals.

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MLB Trade Deadline: Diamondbacks Acquire Michael Restovich

The Arizona Diamondbacks added minor league outfield depth by acquiring Michael Restovich from the Chicago White Sox for cash on July 27.

Restovich, who has not played in the major leagues since 2007, was hitting .229 for the Charlotte Knights—the White Sox’s Triple-A team—at the time of the transaction. He has hit .222 in three games since then.

The Knights are not losing much. In addition to his .229 batting average, he had 37 strikeouts, a meager .365 slugging percentage and a .282 on-base percentage prior to the move.

Restovich was once a top prospect in the Minnesota Twins organization and in 2000 was rated the 26th best prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America. He came to the major leagues in 2002 and hit .308 in 13 at-bats, giving the big club a taste of what they hoped he would produce.

However, the power-hitting prospect slugged only three home runs in 61 games over three seasons for the Twins and was shipped off. He then spent time with the Colorado Rockies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals, finding consistent struggles at the plate.

Save for this season, Restovich has never been a poor minor league hitter—his .284 batting average and 214 home runs can attest to that—however, he has struggled at the major league level, posting a .239 batting average in 152 games.

This was one of the more blasé moves of the past week and may very well end up being completely meaningless. Or, it could become one of those surprise deals that helps totally turn a team around.

But I wouldn’t count on that.

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