Saturday, December 15, 2007

Trades! The week's big trades (Haren, Valverde, Tejada)...

I don't think it's a surprise to anyone that this is one my favorite times of the year because of all the moves being made by different teams. An early Christmas for some teams this week as trades are being made and star players are being gift wrapped for their new General Managers. Let's run it down:

Billy Beane's hard on for prospects continued as he took the decision to trade arguably his top starter Dan Haren along with Connor Robertson for a package of prospects to the Diamondbacks. The fact of the matter is, Beane is an intelligent GM and he knew it would be quite a struggle for his team to make the playoffs this season and he has also previously learnt the value of trading top-flight starters with the Mulder/Hudson trades. He went after left handed pitchers in this deal, acquiring Brett Anderson, Dana Eveland and Greg Smith along with infielder Chris Carter and outfielders Aaron Cunningham and Carlos Gonzalez. The "prospect acquisition" trade is always a difficult one to breakdown when it happens, and would be better judged five years from now. But, none of the prospects acquired are true impact players except for Cunningham.

With the acquisition of Haren, The D-Backs now have an incredible 1-2 punch of Brandon Webb and Dan Haren. This team made the playoffs last season and were able to acquire an all-star starter, signed cheaply without giving up one Major League piece! They were smart to utilize a deep farm system to acquire something they needed, a 27 year old, 15 game winner with the potential to win 20 on this team. ZiPS actually sees Haren regressing a little in IPs and ERA+ and therefore affecting his record (14-11).

The D-Backs were not done however, as they acquired major league depth from the Astros (reliever Chad Qualls, pitcher Juan Gutierrez and utility player Chris Burke) for their closer, and the Major League saves leader for the 2007 season, Jose Valverde.

This trade was "very much connected" to the first one to re-acquire some depth after trading away a lot of young players in the first deal. First off, they lose their closer but acquire one late inning reliever, Qualls (9 win shares, ERA+ of 144), who may take his role and is a candidate along with Brandon Lyon (11 win shares, ERA+ of 176) and Tony Pena (10 win shares, ERA+ of 144). it not strange that Pena and Tony Pena both come from the Dominican Republic, both made their debuts in 2006 and both had great breakout 2007 seasons? Aside from Pena Sr., they are the only "Tony Pena"s listed on BR...when is the last time two players with identical names have had this type of break through in the same year? Why isn't more time devoted to this?

Burke will come off the bench and can play the outfield or the middle infield while the 23 year-old Gutierrez is a young arm who may start or be a reliever for a deep D-Backs pitching staff. The trade is risky, trading a proven closer on a team contending for the playoffs isn't always the easiest proposition but should pay good dividends and was needed in the grand scheme of things, if the D-Backs need a top end reliever at mid-season, they still have pieces to get it done.

The Ed Wade era is in full effect in Houston, he was busy this week picking up closer Jose Valverde and shortstop Miguel Tejada. The team needed fixing after a 73-89 season and Wade has undertaken some changes. Valverde should immediately step into the closer role liberated by the trade of Brad Lidge and should be an upgrade over a closer who the fanbase lost a bit of confidence in the past seasons and only ended up with 19 saves last year. Valverde had an ERA+ of 177 in 64.3 innings last year with 47 saves and he provided 12 win shares as compared to Lidge's 9.

Tejada is declining, however his bat will be a major upgrade over the Everett (56 OPS+ in 220 ABs) and Loretta (89 OPS+ in 460 total ABs) tandem that played SS last season...that's right Mark Loretta played shortstop last year for a major league team...something he hadn't done on a full time basis since 2000. Tejada had only 18 home runs last season bud was an above average batter (109 OPS+), whether he can regain his swing from a few years ago is a big questions, certainly since his name came out in the Mitchell Report. I'm not saying anything, I'm just saying...his name is on the list...and Baltimore traded him the day before it came out...and he regressed last year with stricter drug polices...

The prospects given up by Houston are pretty good too: The number two and three prospects in their system according to Baseball America (starters Troy Patton and Matt Albers) along with 4th oufielder Luke Scott (who has some pop), reliever Dennis Sarfate (who some project as a future closer, this article talks about his 101 mph fastball) & third baseman and masher Mike Costanzo. The Astros definitely have a more dynamic offense with his addition however they gave up a lot of depth in two trades while not solving their issues with starting pitching. Along with the questions stemming from the Mitchell Report, there are questions whether Tejada can still play SS and if not, how well he would make the transition to third base.

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