With trade propositions swirling around the New York Yankees and Mets for left-hander Johan Santana of the Minnesota Twins, the deal that is “close” to being completed between the Twins and Tampa Bay Rays looks tame. However, it could very well end up as the loudest trade of the off-season when all is said and done.
The six-player swap has the Rays exporting outfielder Delmon Young, second baseman Brendan Harris, and outfielder Jason Pridie. The Twins are exporting starting pitcher Matt Garza, shortstop Jason Bartlett, and relief pitcher Juan Rincon.
It sounds cliche, but the trade does benefit both teams.
The Twins will fill Bartlett’s spot at shortstop with Alexi Casilla, who was at second base mostly last season, but that will be Harris’ spot in ’08. Most importantly, however, the Twins recoup a good portion of the production they got from Torii Hunter, now an Angel, with Delmon Young.
The Rays ship out one of their better outfielders, but they are always well-stocked when it comes to outfielders — not so much so when it comes to pitching. They bolster an already good-looking rotation (Scott Kazmir, James Shields, possibly David Price) with the addition of Garza. Their infield is fine on the corners (Carlos Pena at first base, Akinori Iwamura at third), but in-between it is rather unimpressive, and swapping Harris for Bartlett doesn’t help that. Juan Rincon bolsters what was a horrible Rays bullpen in ’07.
Let’s break down the trade, looking at each player individually.
Young has a high ceiling. He hits line drives, has power potential and above-average speed, and plays good defense. As Torii Hunter’s replacement, at least in the lineup, don’t be surprised if he actually outproduces Hunter in ’08.
Out of 11 qualified AL right fielders, Young had the fifth-best RZR. In addition, he was third among AL RF with 16 assists, and had the sixth-most plays made out of his zone. He’s moving from FieldTurf to FieldTurf, so he won’t have any unfamiliarity with defending against batted balls hit his way.
Offensively, he didn’t blow anyone away in his first full season (42nd among MLB rookies in VORP), and he hasn’t shown patience at the plate (26 walks in 681 plate appearances; 144th out of 162 with an average of 3.51 pitches per plate appearance). However, he does have a ton of potential, and his percentages on batted balls speak in his favor (22% of his batted balls are line drives). Expect that .343 BABIP to drop, though.
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In 2008, Harris will put on his fifth different MLB uniform in as many seasons. He’d previously been with the Chicago Cubs, Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals, Cincinnati Reds, the Rays, and now, the Twins.
Unlike Young, Harris did impress offensively in his first full season as a Major Leaguer, ranking 7th overall in VORP. Although his offensive production isn’t eye-popping, when you compare it to the typical AL second baseman, it’s above-average (Robinson Cano, Brian Roberts, Placido Polanco, and Ian Kinsler are the cream of the offensive crop in the AL and Harris doesn’t fall too far behind them). However, like Young, Harris showed a lack of patience at the plate, drawing only 42 walks in 576 PA, and only saw an average of 3.59 pitches per PA.
Harris doesn’t have quite the potential that Young has (Bill James projects him to slightly regress in ’08), but should be a nice complement to what should be a balanced Twins offense centered around Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.
Pridie, a six-year Minor League veteran, might have finally put it together in ’07 with AAA Durham. Since 2004, he has significantly regressed from a .794 OPS with A Charleston, to a .675 OPS in ’05 between A+ Visalia and AA Montgomery, to a .585 OPS in ’06 with Montgomery.
In ’07, however, he put up a total .839 OPS between Montgomery and Durham, with the better part of it coming in AAA against tougher competition (10 HR and 39 RBI in 245 AB).
In addition to his batting, he can also steal bases — he stole 26 last season, though he did get thrown out 10 times (72% success rate). If he can be coached into a .254 swing in OPS, he can be coached into smarter baserunning. His speed also contributed to his 11 triples and 32 doubles (for those of you counting, that makes 57 extra-base hits out of 159 total hits — almost one out of every three hits is going for extra bases).
One of the only things you couldn’t like about Garza last season was how many baserunners he allowed (1.542 WHIP). However, some of that was due to a high .345 BABIP.
Otherwise, there was a ton to like about the now-24-year-old. He put up a 118 ERA+ and 67 strikeouts in 83 innings, and almost 48% of his batted balls were grounders. Aside from Johan Santana, understandably, he was the most reliable starter for the Twins last season.
He doesn’t pack much offensive firepower, but he will play good defense. He ranked second among AL SS last season in plays made out of his zone, and ranked sixth among 11 qualified AL SS in RZR, though he was only five-thousandths of a point behind third-place Michael Young (.809 to .804).
Offensively, he gets on base slightly higher than the league average (.341 to .335 over his career) but doesn’t have any power (career .362 SLG to league-average .425). He does have good speed and baserunning smarts, stealing 23 of 26 bases (88% success rate) last season.
UPDATE: The original deal originally had Juan Rincon heading to the Rays, but concerns about his elbow led to Minor League pitcher Eduardo Morlan being shipped out instead. Source: The Heater.So, if this deal actually goes through, it works out nicely for both teams and it might be the the noisiest the off-season gets. Here’s hoping the Mets don’t pull off a miracle and put together a package that appeals to the Twins and lands them Johan Santana, or appeals to the Oakland Athletics and lands them Rich Harden or Joe Blanton.
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