Monday, May 19, 2008

The Twins/Rays trade, 25% of a season later

There are two things you can take to the bank - Jenna Fischer is hot and The Sidler's going to bore you with more baseball stuff!

Today's topic is the off-season trade that brought Delmon Young, Brendan Harris, and Jason Pridie to the Twins in exchange for Matt Garza, Jason Bartlett, and Eduardo Morlan.  I've broken it down into top prospect, middle infielder, and minor leaguer categories for convenience.

Delmon Young vs. Matt Garza

This is going to be the comparison that makes or breaks the trade.  No one is really going to care about Harris vs. Bartlett in five years and there's a much-better-than-zero chance that Pridie and Morlan don't make any impact in the majors.

One thing is for sure, no one doubts Delmon Young's talent.  At least that's what the Twins braintrust and the media keeps saying.  Unfortunately, it is easy to doubt the results so far—his power is non-existent (although those ground-ball extra-base hits in Colorado were sweet), he doesn't walk, and strikes out way too often.  He does have a great arm and has been an efficient base-runner at least.  Prior to the season, some were saying he would immediately step in and replace Torii Hunter's production; clearly, that is a laughable thought.

I bet WWWWWW is happy he didn't fall to us in fantasy baseball.

Similarly, no one doubts Matt Garza's talent.  His season started horribly before going on the DL with nerve irritation in his throwing arm but he has bounced back, going 2-1 with a 3.72 ERA in his 5 post-DL starts.  While that 3.72 ERA puts him ahead of everyone currently in the Twins rotation, his 4.87 season ERA is only better than Boof and Slowey.  Garza hasn't struck out more than 3 batters in any of his starts, is sporting a career low 3.65 K/9 (down 50% from last year), and has a 1:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.  If he starts striking out twice as many batters again and can stay healthy, he should have a league-average-at-worst season.  Not bad for a 25-year old.

Advantage: Rays, but not by much, although the Twins pitching depth has looked good enough to justify trading Garza.  But Garza still has more ace potential than any of the current Twins pitchers, in my opinion.  Delmon has been slightly better than replacement-level player so far and is at least showing some signs of improvement, even if it is well below "impact bat" levels.

Brendan Harris vs. Jason Bartlett

With this part of the trade, the Twins were trading defense for offense.  Yes, Bartlett's errors were annoying, but he has plus range and a strong arm from shortstop, making him a very valuable defender (he is one of the factors behind the Rays tremendous defensive turnaround so far this year).  Brendan Harris, on the other hand, has a terrible defensive reputation and Gardy definitely doesn't seem too happy with what he's seen so far.  Apparently Tolbert's injury came just as Gardy was about to start giving him more playing time at the expense of Harris and Lamb.  But Harris has a better bat and had a 10% better OPS than Bartlett last year that has continued into this season, even though both are having rough starts.  At least Harris' patience at the plate has been a welcome addition to the rest of the hackers currently taking at-bats for the Twins.

Advantage: Rays, slightly.  Bartlett's shored up what was an awful defensive squad (thanks in some part to Harris) and the Twins have gotten so little from Bartlett's replacement, Adam Everett, that I'm hoping for a speedy Punto recovery.  It doesn't hurt that the Rays had Evan Longoria ready at 3B so they could move Aki Iwamura over to 2B and not miss a beat.

Jason Pridie vs. Eduardo Morlan

There just isn't much to see here.  With Neshek's injury, it might be a minor blessing for the 2008 Twins that Juan Rincon wasn't included in the trade.  Morlan has been awful at AA, but his track record suggests better days are ahead.  If he pans out, he'll be a solid, cheap bullpen arm for the Rays in a couple years or so.

Jason Pridie is probably the 3rd best CF prospect on the Twins behind Gomez and Span.  He had a great AAA debut last year but hasn't hit for average or power so far in 2008.  His upside is a 4th OF or future trade throw-in.

Advantage: Push.  The Twins have plenty of pitching prospects to move to the bullpen, but Morlan has a higher ceiling than Pridie.

OVERALL: There's still no clear winner in this trade, even though I think the Rays are slightly ahead at this point.  Putting a small sample size of performance aside, this trade looks great for the Rays from a roster management perspective.  Harris and Young have been replaced by Evan Longoria and a patchwork platoon in RF (Hinske, Haynes, etc.), both of which have outperformed the new Twins.  Garza gives the Rays at least four legit starters for the first time in their history.

The Twins shouldn't be happy with their haul so far.  The team has long-hated shaky defensive players, so Harris is probably not going to be one of Gardy's favorites (hello Punto!) and Delmon appears to have an unnatural ability to keep the ball on the ground.  There is still plenty of pitching depth, but it would be nice to have a more immediate return for the guy with the highest ceiling of the bunch.  Just look at what the Rangers/Reds trade (Josh Hamilton for Edinson Volquez) has done for both teams as an example.

I wasn't a big fan of the trade when it happened and nothing has changed my opinion.  Hopefully I'm as wrong about this trade as I have been about Livan Large Hernandez.  The Common Man has hooked up the negatrometer, so I'm obliged to say Delmon's potential is off the charts; he is going to be the impact bat the Twins need.


WWWWWW said...

Pridie has to be below Revere at this point as well, no?

Bear said...

I've never actually watched "Twins Live," but tonight I saw the first few minutes after the game and have come to two conclusions. First, Jim Souhan should not be conducting interviews on TV. Secondly, Bremer, Blyleven, Coomer, Hughes, and Souhan have got to make up one of the worst broadcast teams in all of MLB, and are all genuinely stupid people.

P.S. Jack Cust is slumping. And always gets pinch ran for in the 6th or 7th inning even though he hits 3rd or 4th.

The Sidler said...

Yep, mistake on my part, Revere is well ahead of Pridie. I'd say he's the #2 CF prospect behind Gomez, who isn't really a prospect at this point. I was only thinking of the ML and AAA squads, and it is dumb to trade for a guy who is third on that depth chart.

I try not to complain about the local media any more than I already do, but FSN is more brutal than usual without Marney Gellner. Who knew she was the superstar on-field reporter of the bunch? Telly's awful, Ann Carroll is awful...Souhan is as good as they have now and he's not a TV guy.

F*ck, Coom Dawg is annoying. He couldn't be more cliche if he tried.