Last post, I discussed that Samardzija is a solid #2 starter based on peripherals and expected WAR. His value is about 10 WAR for two seasons – this accounted by the surplus value of his contract as an arb player for 2014 and 2015. That given this, and prospects valuation and high bust rate, the Cubs could likely garner, at their most favorable, 3-4 20-60 rated prospects in all of baseball, if we use Baseball America as the ranking schema. (Say you could land 3 guys in the 35-50 range. a top 20 would be almost a 1 to 1 trade.) And that a top 20 or higher pick is an substantial overpay for Samardzija, even with his stuff (95MPH, lots of Ks) actually being more no. 1-like.
Today, we look at potential suitors that could offer value before the 2014 season begins.
The potential teams/suitors:
- New York Mets
Meet the Mets
The New York Met currently have a pool of interesting prospects. Noah Syndergaard landed #16 on the updated BA 2014 prospect list. Just a few days ago, Mr. Syndergaard wowed Terry Collins, his future manager with gas at 97MPH and an Uncle Charlie that batters will be bitching about come Thanksgiving. Noah’s Arc and Flamethrowing prowess alone should tell you he’s off the list – teams are all looking for that #1 pitcher, the Mets, all ready have Matt Harvey – if he comes back from injury 95% of what he was – and Zach Wheeler to front their rotation. Well, the battle for top of the rotation supremacy will come when Mr. Syndergaard makes it up mid-2014.
RHP Rafael Montero, #68, is more in the Cubs ballpark, if they could clone him 2 or 3 times. At 23, Rafael is ready to go big time after a very respectable AAA season. He’s a strike thrower; in 348 minor league innings, he’s walked just 67 batters. Even at Las Vegas last season, he was at 2.5BB/9. Not flashy, this would be a solid #3 guy in a rotation. His numbers do bare out some nice comparison to others, including the aforementioned Wheeler:
The Mets, thereafter, do have other interesting prospects: So 23-yr old LHP Steven Matz (rated #28 among lefties by Baseball America) and 23-yr old C Kevin Plawecki (#8 in BA in a strong class). Matz, another guy that went under the knife, is talented bringing a 95MPH fastball now, but it comes with the inherent question: for how long before another surgery all but ends a promising career. Plawecki, a much better offensive catcher than a defensive one (though he does/has called games), with a high contact rate (77K in 773PA and decent walks, 67) hit .294 at St. Lucie, A+ ball. With C Travis d’Arnaud still ranked the top catching prospect in the BA rankings – despite his injury-plagued career – the Mets have some luxury to trade Plawecki, if d’Arnaud takes off big. (As the Cubs have no highly-rated catching prospects – and must put all their hopes on Welington Castillo health and performance – they do fit together in this regard. And the Cubs have 3rd base prospects, aplenty – Christian Villanueva, Jeimer Candelario, Mike Olt (rebound candidate), Kris Bryant (top 10 prospect), reflecting a surplus–to–surplus swap.)
Nevertheless, all this said, the Mets are highly unlikely to part ways with much this year. They are not expected to compete in 2014 for playoffs. So, unless another miracle hits Broadway, the Shark ain’t flying close to New York except on a Cubs game day. 2015 is the time when the Mets will be dangerous…
Toronto too has some nice prize pitching. Seems they do a lot of the time – as Mr. Noah Syndergaard was drafted in the 1st round by Toronto. Aaron Sanchez (#32) and Marcus Stroman (#55) are in the range and type of equal value the Cubs would look for in a trade. Toronto, after once again finishing out of the money in their division, hasn’t made much noise in the offseason as Alex Anthopoulos, senior VP and GM, has to see the hand for 2014 being about staying pat with the very expensive talent. All the teams in the division – New York spend 1/2 a BILLION, the Red Sox reloaded the gun some, the Orioles swapped around some players and payroll, and the Rays…are just managed better from the GM down to field.
The Blue Jays top man has these dilemmas: 2014 payroll is $131.8 million. 2015 payroll for just 5 of those players: $77million plus Ricky Romero at $7.5M. 15 players are over 30 on the team – and aren’t going anywhere until after 2015 season. So only if Alex is crazy, should he give up his two best pitching prospects -when RA Dickey is nearly my age and Mark Buehrle, mister consistency, has to have some possibility of falling victim to father time even with Canada’s healthcare system. After 2015, Alex has the freedom to explore other options. Canada’s last team may well finish last again.
Origins of Ruth
Baltimore, another AL East contender, has attempted to build up to compete – SP Ubaldo Jimenez, SP Suk-Min Yoon and OF/DH Nelson Cruz added – but it will come down to the current roster of stars/every day players like Machado, Davis, Markakis, Jones, Weiters, and Hardy to provide the impetus to move up. Their window for successful playoff appearance may be closing due to finances: as Chris Davis will be getting paying $15-18M in 2015 in arbitration and then off to free agency and Nick Markakis team option of $17.5M will pay Chris Davis for 2015. Their current rotation is iffy, but that’s where the prospects come in.
Baltimore too is sitting on three prospects; RHPs Dylan Bundy (#15) Kevin Gausman(#20) and LHP Eduardo Rodriguez(#65). Bundy had TJ in June 2013 – in essence – he’s ripe for a comeback in late July or August, just as a potential pennant maybe shaping up. Gausman has been highly rated, without a large track record (97 IP in the minors) and getting a rude awakening to MLB hitters in his first 5 starting outings with 7 long balls. Thereafter, he worked pretty well out of the bullpen with 95MPH stuff, but lacking consistency with his offspeed stuff. 20-year old Rodriguez pitched at AA Bowie and struck out more guys(8.9 K/9) and so, he’s thought of as #6 rated LHP by Baseball America in a weak group.
But the Orioles as a small market team really can’t afford to take a two-year position on Samardzija unless they are more certain than not on playoffs and their game plan is to sign Shark at full market price (extension 5/$75M+ likely). But June/July 2014 could change this: if the Orioles are ahead, and Bundy is not progressing as well, but not having setbacks either, or Gausman is doing a Samardzija impersonation: young talented arm, but will take another couple of years to get it all figured out. Then, these two teams align a bit better. Still the market for pitching is always slim it seems…and less affluent teams have to hang on to their assets.
$tar Buck$ in $eattle
The Mariners are ripe for a trade.
With Seattle’s owner Hiroshi Yamauchi death last year, this franchise is in upheaval as the manager Eric Wedge was let go early after a miserable season. The front office went large – signing Robinson Cano for $240 million – even as reports have it that GM Jack Zduriencik is less-than-savvy at the sabermetric ways, quote:
The sources question Zduriencik’s credentials to properly build a roster, saying he sold Lincoln and Armstrong on hiring him five years ago with a job application package prepared not by him, but by recently dismissed Mariners special assistant Tony Blengino.
Usually too, after a long-time owner dies, the caretaker FO (Howard Lincoln et. al.) attempt to flip the team onto the market. They buy up player assets, promote it as a top team, especially after getting it to the playoffs. At least, that is the hope.
Seattle has been forever sleeping on baseball. The recent successes of Seahawks in the Super Bowl must Mariners sting a bit, if you are a entertainment dollar competitor. This said, for the Mariners to succeed in 2014, and supplant Texas or Oakland, or even the LA story, they need more talent added to drive up that ask for the team in 2015 or beyond. Cano is not getting any younger, after all.
Money seems to be an limiting issue, ironically, if they don’t want spend it on the remaining difference maker left. Here are some active remaining Free Agents to fill out the team:
- Ervin Santana (31)
- Johan Santana (34)
- Joe Saunders (33)
- Barry Zito (36)
Vernon Wells (35)
- Casey Kotchman (31)
- Kendrys Morales (30)
Given additions of 2B/SS Willie Bloomquist, Fernando Rodney (closer), 1B/RF Corey Hart, and RHP Scott Baker (minor), it leaves on to wonder who the Mariners are looking for at what price other than cheap. They finished at 71-91 last year, but should have by Pythagorean W-L: 67-95. So even if they get 8WAR from Cano, and things go really well elsewhere with Kyle Seager and Michael Saunders and Dustin Ackley, they are likely around 81 wins. Their problem is that Hisashi Iwakuma just had a injury that could be 4-6 weeks from a healing. Does that cost them his All-Star production? You bet.
Their current depth chart of starters:
So, the Mariners need a hotline friend to bail out Jack from jail of his own making. The Cubs have four pieces worthy of trade discussion: Jeff Samardzija, Nate Schierholtz, Justin Ruggiano, and Junior Lake. Schierholtz fills an RF need and has an average lefty bat (wRC+ 101). As Seattle have OF issues, this would offer them a RF platoon option for Corey Hart (who hasn’t played in the MLB since 2012). CF/LF Justin Ruggiano has a right hand bat that works well against lefty pitching in his career, slugging over .500. Lake is a youthful RH hitter that kills lefties during his brief tenure in the bigs and he offers raw ability in LF and CF that could improve with time.
Logan Morrison is either 1B/LF who might split with Justin Smoak assuming the long jam Jack created isn’t settled there too. The overriding problem is that they have guys that can hit righties -in Morrison, Michael Saunders, and Justin Smoak, but struggle mightily against lefties. And they have a bevy of lefty hitters: Cano, Seager, Ackley, Miller, Saunders, Morrison, plus Smoak is a switch hitter than might as well be a lefty full-time. Nick Franklin and Abraham Almonte are switch hitters – both with better splits as lefty hitters.
This very weird lefty love is somewhat due to the nature of Safeco Field. In part, it is pitcher friendly, especially against RH power guys, going back to the Adrian Beltre/Richie Sexson days. But you can’t win games against lefty pitchers (31.5% of their starts) with a lineup with this glaring weakness. They batted .227/.293/.367 against lefties; .242/.311/.400 against the righties. They need a right-hand bat. (Franklin Gutierrez hit lefties well – he’s likely gone for the 2014 season.)
|Chicago White Sox||1154||0.288||0.655||0.243||2.10%||6.60%||19.60%|
Meanwhile, the Cubs don’t need to be too worried about Ruggiano, or even Lake, if the prospect flood promised is coming in 2015. That will fix their lefty split problem seen above in 2013.
The Mariners have some interesting pieces: LHP James Paxton, LHP Danny Hultzen, 2B Nick Franklin, C Jesus Montero, and LHP Luiz Gohara to name a few not RHP Taijuan Walker, likely untouchable. Paxton was rated (#99) in the Baseball America list and #9 as a LHP prospect. In his September call up, his fastball velocity around 95MPH (98 top) in all 4 starts where he through 95-97 pitches for 5-7 innings. In short, a lefty with gas – but some control issues. Age is 25 – but are the Cubs developing 95MPH throwing lefties?
LHP Danny Hultzen is another promising pitcher who just went under the knife for shoulder (repair damage in his labrum, capsule, and partially torn rotator cuff) in October 2013. It’s a shoulder, not a good sign, many guys never come back. So here’s a guy with no likelihood of pitching until 2015, if then. But, the Cubs took a trade flier on Arodys Vizcaino in 2012. Here it is 2014. So, Danny Hultzen is more of a throw-in and hope for the best piece. From Lookout Landing, A Seattle Blog:
Nothing worked out according to plan regarding Danny Hultzen, other than him being a very good pitcher when he pitched.
2B/SS Nick Franklin has a rough first season in Seattle, first doing ok, then a slump in August, then a partial rebound. Now, he’s out of a job (Cano), and available in trade from MLB Trade Rumors. At 23, this March, Franklin has value even to the Cubs. He is capable of playing 2B as the Cubs fans might of had their fill of Darwin Barney, whose glove is good, but his bat is not getting better (Franklin was better 5-6 year younger). As a lefty, Franklin hit 11 home runs. And while the Cubs are stocking up on RH mashers (Baez, Bryant, Soler, Almora), they need just a bit of balance in the future (Arismendy Alcantara and Franklin are switch guys).
Last is C Jesus Montero. He was recently called out by GM Jack for his ballooning up by 40 lbs.
“We are disappointed in how he came in physically,” Zduriencik said bluntly.
That disinterest in conditioning in the offseason didn’t do much change the minds of people who have been skeptical of Montero’s work ethic. It certainly didn’t inspire Zduriencik, who was clearly unhappy with the situation.
“It’s up to him,” Zduriencik said. ” I have zero expectations for Jesus Montero. Any expectations I had are gone.”
It’s a far cry from when Montero was expected to be serious offensive contributor when they acquired him from the Yankees before the 2012 season. In 2012, Montero hit .260 with 15 homers and 62 RBI in 135 games. It seemed to be decent start to be a big league career. But now it’s seems to be headed backward at a pace much faster than Montero running the bases.
Understandably, he’s a flier. He needs a new home. At 24, from Guacara, Carabobo, Venezuela he would be someone you try to mold back to a respectable MLB backup catcher, with power.
Luis Gohara was a 16 in Rookie ball. But you gotta like 5 years from now if he’s developed right. Jack won’t be around the front office in five years if the Mariners don’t win this year or next much.
Plausible trade: Samardzija and Lake/Ruggiano for Paxton, Hultzen, Franklin, Montero, Gohara. Seattle gets a solid #2 pitcher – to take stress off Walker – who can be a #1 against #4 starters daily. Ruggiano for Franklin in the batting order. Seattle has a versatile OF with potential to balance their lineup card. Franklin and Paxton could flame out – but the Shark value is satisfied if they are only 1-2 WAR players for 3-4 seasons. Hultzen is a flier. Montero one too. Gohara is a long way from a finished product – so its potential more in 2018.
Pittsburgh and Texas: Pittsburgh is inter-division and James Taillon and Tyler Glasnow are not pieces they should trade. They spent enough years at the bottom, and don’t want that position again. Texas should buy more arms…or less trades with the Cubs or Tigers.
The Mariners get a 2-3-4 WAR pitcher in a ballpark suited to Shark’s abilities. A righty in Justin Ruggiano that might balance their offense and can play passable outfield in all 3 fields. The Cubs get 2 good pieces – Franklin and Paxton – that can do plenty towards the future if they meet and achieve their talent levels, never a certainty. Hultzen and Montero are fliers for the future – with both having to overcome and persevere going forward. Gohara too is a long shot – that won’t hurt Seattle for years if ever, nor benefit the Cubs by 2018, if ever. It’s a balance in trades.
Many will say the Cubs got took – but they will lose Samardzija unless they meet his price or demands by 2015’s end. And he’ll be over 30. Some will say the Mariners got the burn – because they lose Franklin and Paxton who might be 4-5 years of solid performance. So who blinks?