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It’s been a pretty rough 19 months or so to be a fan of the Colorado Rockies. A combination of ill-fated trades from that time period, poor drafting from the middle to latter part of the last decade, and just plain old rotten luck with injuries and circumstance has left the Rockies with the second worst record in all of baseball over the last 300 games. Yes, it’s been nothing short of terrible – But as Sunday reminded us, it could always be worse.
Yesterday, in what can be described as nothing less than baseball’s equivalent to a daylight armed robbery in a public square, the Tampa Bay Rays acquired Baseball America’s top prospect Wil Myers, pitchers Jake Odorizzi and Mike Montgomery and third baseman Patrick Leonard from Kansas City. In exchange, the Royals will receive two years’ worth of control of James Shields and half relief pitcher / half starter Wade Davis who was about to get a little too expensive for Tampa’s taste.
With the exception of Odorizzi who pitched a grand total of 7.1 innings last season in Kansas City, none of the four players the Royals gave up have reached the majors, so unless you’re familiar with their farm system, it can take a while to fully appreciate the haul that Tampa just pulled in here.
You could start by noting that Wil Myers was the Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year Award winner for 2012 – And also point out that the last five men to win the honor before him (Jay Bruce, Matt Wieters, Jason Heyward, Jeremy Hellickson, and Mike Trout) have all gone on to be nothing less than solid contributors at the major league level. You could go to the SBNation Royals Review blog and read reactions of the fans who are on the ledge. You could even just read reviews of the trade like here, here, and here that all point to multiple reasons why the Rays dusted the floor with this move.
But even this doesn’t quite grasp the scope of the deal and make it really hit home. For that, we turn to John Sickels of Minor League Ball who ranked the Royals top 20 prospects for 2013 last month. According to him, the Royals just gave up their #1, #4, #14, and #17 prospects – and this man tends to know what he’s talking about when it comes to farm systems. He hasn’t done the Rockies list yet for 2013, but we can still take his 2012 list to get a sense of what just happened here.
Can you imagine what the reaction would be here if Colorado traded away the #1, #4, #14, and #17 prospects on Sickels’s list? Think for just one moment about James Shields and Wade Davis for Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story, Christian Friedrich, and Rosell Herrera. People would be calling for O’Dowd’s head on a platter!! Either that or just follow the lead of our own Dan Lucero.
If Dan O'Dowd made a trade like Dayton Moore just did, I'd go to the park, find the freshest dog turd, and mail it to 2001 Blake Street.— Dan Lucero (@danluceroshow) December 10, 2012
Signing Jose Miguel Torres out of Venezuela in July of 2007 was a bold move for the Miami Marlins. Even though the Torres experiment never panned out, signing him was easily justified. Torres was arguably the most talented shortstop from that year's international free agent class. However, ever since the Marlins signed Torres in 2007, they have not shown the same commitment to signing the top international teenagers. Miami needs to forget about Torres and return to rebuilding their team, starting with chasing a few of the top young international prospects.
Jose Miguel Torres was born in October of 1990, the same year that players like Starlin Castro and Brett Lawrie were born. Miguel Torres was raised in the same town of Maracay, Venezuela that has produced Jose Altuve and Miguel Cabrera. Coincidentally, Torres was probably the most talented 16 year-old the Marlins had signed since they signed Miguel Cabrera in the 20th century. However, the comparisons to Cabrera end there.
The players that most frequently sign at a young age out of Latin America are usually shortstops. Torres was a switch-hitting shortstop with fantastic defense that looked like it could only get better. Even if his bat never reached its potential, Torres appeared sure to become a great defensive shortstop. Albert Gonzalez, the Marlins director of international operations, even went so far as to say that Torres would become like Alex Gonzalez, except with more doubles and a higher batting average. Those expectations are insane for a teenager who had never even been to the United States.
Miami signed Torres for a $250,000 bonus and sent him to their Dominican training facility. From 2008-2010, Torres quietly slipped off of the radar of most fans. In those three years, he played in Rookie ball, Jamestown, and Greensboro, never hitting above .255 and with zero combined home runs and triples each of those three seasons. Torres was never expected to have much power, but he turned out to be nothing more than a slap hitter, and not a very good one. In 2011, Torres played in 83 games at High-A Jupiter. He hit .221/.253/.265 with only 11 extra-base hits in 277 at-bats.
Before the 2012 season, Torres's career came to a sad and disappointing end. Torres was suspended 50 games for testing positive for dehydroepiandrosterone, a performance-enhancing substance. Consequently, Torres was released by the Marlins, which probably marks the end of his minor league career. For a player who was signed with such high hopes, it was a rough way for his professional baseball career in the United States to end.
When it comes to 16 year-old international prospects, you never know what you are going to get. Occasionally, the teenager turns into a player like Miguel Cabrera, or a starter at the major league level. However, most of the time, these players never make it to Double-A. That was the case with Torres, despite all the hype he received at 16. However, the Marlins spending a quarter of a million dollars on Torres was justifiable because if they had not paid him, another team would have and also because Miami was proving that they were willing to take risks in international free agency. Unfortunately, Miami's front office these last couple years has strayed away from Latin America and that is the main reason why Miami has such a huge lack of internationally-born teenage prospects.
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Dave Parker 1979 Topps Dave Parker entered the 1979 baseball season coming off an MVP performance during the prior year. And while it would be hard to replicate the amazing season that Parker had in ’78, he had a very … Continue reading →
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The trade we all feared came to fruition Sunday evening. Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard to Tampa for James Shields and Wade Davis.
Update 2: Wil Myers is on his way to Tampa Bay along with Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard. Coming back is James Shields, Wade Davis and a player to be named later.
Looks like there is something possibly maybe going down right now between the Royals and Rays. James Shields is involved, which means Wil Myers almost has to be.
More to come....
Update 1: Sounds like Shields and Wade Davis coming to Kansas City in exchange for Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard.
Real quick on the Rays' pitchers:
What James Shields brings is six straight seasons of 203 innings or more, with all but one of those producing 3.7 fWAR or above. In 2011, Shields tossed 249 innings (fWAR 4.9) and followed that up with 228 innings in 2012 (fWAR 4.3). Last year, Shields posted the highest strikeout rate of his career and his xFIP has improved in each of the past five seasons. Entering his age 31 season, Shields will make $9 million in 2013 and the Royals hold a team option for $12 million (with a $1 million buyout) for the 2014 campaign.
Entering his age 27 season in 2013, Wade Davis will make $2.8 million this season, $4.8 in 2014 and has team options for $7 million, $8 million and $10 million for the 2015 through 2017 seasons. Davis started his first 64 games for the Rays, but appeared strictly in relief in 2012. He threw in 54 games and struck out 11.13 batters per nine innings out of the pen: basically twice his rate as a starter.
Dayton Moore is going for broke.....
Last week, I somehow tripped into the role of co-faux-General Manager of the Houston Astros for the SB Nation Winter Meeting Simulation. The Simulation was conceived and hosted by RoyalsRetro over at our SB Nation sister site, RoyalsReview.com, and the general consensus afterwards was that the exercise was great fun and taught us all a little bit about the complexity of managing a baseball roster on a budget.
The simulation wrap-up can be found here, and I provided a play-by-play throughout the week. Through the process, I traded emails with some very interesting people who write for or are regular readers to various SB Nation baseball websites, and I intend to stay in touch with some of them. Notably, my co-GM Shaun (KCTiger) and I traded somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 emails this week as we bounced ideas off each other, strategized, and fielded or made offers with other clubs. I also exchanged 200+ emails with the Phillies', Royals', and a couple other GM's to work out the specifics of trades.
The rules were simple: we each had total control of our team. RoyalsRetro would act as the agent for all Free Agents (a job he performed admirably, and in some cases well enough to get him hired by players such as Brandon McCarthy, Shaun Marcum, and Jeremy Guthrie), and the GM's would negotiate with him to sign players. The GM's contacted each other directly to work out trades. No 2012 Draft picks could be traded, and contracts had to be average annual value (no front- or back-loaded contracts). Naturally, we all tried to compress the entire offseason into one week, so there were ten times the number of deals and signings as the actual Winter Meetings, but we only had a week to fix our teams and made the most of it.
Here's how it went:
Shaun and I decided that we would work with the Astros' stated budget of $30 million for the 25-man roster, though we decided that payments to non-rostered players (Wandy Rodriguez, for example), would not count towards that. Late in the Sim, as prices skyrocketed beyond a reasonable real-life level, we expanded the budget to $35 million. To my knowledge, we are the only one of the 30 teams that had a budget of less than $50-$60 million by the end of the Sim, and that made our job very interesting. Most teams ended up close to or well over $100 million.
Our strategy broke down into several main goals, under the understanding that we intended the Astros to compete for a playoff spot in 2015 at the earliest:
Over at this post, I detailed the additions/trades that we made through the course of the week. In the interest of brevity, here's a quick summary:
At first, Raburn was intended to be our DH. We liked his upside and he was cheap. But as we started to clear payroll, we realized we had an opportunity to add Kyle Blanks as well. Blanks has suffered at Petco park (mostly due to injury, but also because he is a born DH with no good position and his home park hates hitters in general), and we thought the gamble worth the cost of Batista and Jokisch. I didn't really want to trade Batista, but the addition of Elier Hernandez in an earlier trade (a toolsy international signing with a major league future) made Batista expendable.
Starting Pitcher contracts went crazy pretty early in the sim (4-years/$50 million for Brandon McCarthy, Zack Greinke for 6-years/$175 million, Clayton Kershaw for 10 years/$300 million). As such, there was a bidding war on Marcum, and I was trying to treat this simulation as realistically as possible. I knew it would take an overpay for the Astros to land a rotation anchor, and I really wanted somebody who could help lead the rotation into 2015 and beyond. Marcum has a history of injury, but he has been stellar for several years since his major injury in 2009, and he hasn't posted an ERA over 4.00 since his first full season six years ago. He had several offers on the table (one that I know of for sure was for $40 million over 4 years from a team in contention), so it became clear we would need to up the ante. A frontline starter was the one big expense I was willing to shell out for, and I'm happy with the guy we landed.
Jurrjens, Blanks, and Raburn were obvious fits for the Astros. All three have huge upside and have shown it in the majors in the past, and all three have been in circumstances preventing them from reaching it. These would be the "Lunhow picks" if you want to call them that. All three stand to boost the Astros' chances in 2013, while also being low cost enough to not hurt payroll. If they reach their ceilings (and I believe very strongly in Raburn and Jurrjens at least), they are considerable trade chips later in the season. The deals are also pretty short and will not block top prospects.
The Oswalt signing was a no-brainer to boost attendance in Minute Maid Park, but we also thought he would be a very good pitcher this season, as his FIP last year was only 4.01 with the Rangers. Capps was to add a veteran presence to the bullpen and to replace the loss of Wright, Lopez, and Rodriguez.
Overall, of the prospects we added to the Astros' system, seven of them were listed on MLB.com's list of Top 20 prospects for each organization. In particular, we took advantage of KCTiger's knowledge of the Royals' farm system, as Ventura (#5), Montgomery (#6), Sulbaran (#8), Lamb (#9), and Hernandez (#18) were taken from a system generally considered to be one of the best and added to the Astros' already-improved system. Both of the Phillies' top prospects were from their Top 15, and Valle (#7) would be the top Catching prospect in the Astros' system.
The interesting part of the process was negotiating with other GM's, not knowing if they were using you as leverage to work with somebody else. We spent a lot of time (most of Tuesday) talking with the Phillies about a deal for Norris headlined by pitcher Trevor May, only to have our shot-in-the-dark offer to the Royals almost instantly accepted later in the day.
Also on Tuesday, we were talking to both Co-GM's of the Diamondbacks separately and had two different deals accepted for Jeff Francoeur, only to have both pulled off the table when we tried to get the GM's together to pick which deal that they offered would be the one to go with. I was ticked. Luckily, I already had a handshake agreement with the Cubs in place and was able to fall back on that deal. Thanks to the Cubs GM for being very understanding and waiting on us to try to move Francoeur without cash considerations before accepting his offer.
Some GM's we were able to pull deals with (Wright, Blanks) only took a couple of emails - we both knew exactly what we wanted, and we both were being reasonable. Other trades, such as the one with Philly, were very amicable but took extended conversation to educate each other on the relative values of the players involved.
Every GM wanted to know if Jed Lowrie was available. He absolutely was available but we played it like we thought the Astros really will. We made it clear we wanted multiple top prospects back in the deal, and since we were working with fan bloggers, that was pretty much a non-starter in all cases. A few conversations went beyond the initial few emails, but we did not like the offers we were getting (they were not even close to how we valued Lowrie as an organization). Eventually, Shaun and I decided the best option would be to extend Lowrie to a team-friendly contract that would boost his future trade value while keeping his potent bat in the Astros' lineup for 2013 at least.
In all, I think Shaun and I met our goals completely. There is definitely risk involved with our choices of Raburn and Blanks to play outfield and DH, but for the cost we liked what we had. The rotation was completely revamped and stands to add a significant win total to the 2013 Astros while not blocking any of the best prospects in the long run. We loaded up on extremely high-ceiling prospects (boy were Royals fans at RoyalsReview p/o'ed about the Norris trade), and left our options open for future trades. The trades we did pull off led to some confusion in the bullpen, but the off-season isn't over yet, and plenty of veteran relievers are still available. Until the bullpen is filled (on somebody else's imaginary watch!) we intend to take a closer-by-committee approach.
The SB Nation Winter Meetings Simulation was great fun, and I hope that it will be done again next year - I would definitely want to participate again, and I encourage everybody to look through the comments threads of the various articles related to the event.
"New" Astros 25-man roster (payroll: $32,120,000, plus payouts to W. Rodriguez and the Cubs for Francoeur):
The table below shows how Revere’s numbers compare to the numbers of fellow left-handed speedsters Juan Pierre and Michael BournRead the Rest...
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The Pirates have signed 25-year old lefty reliever Phillippe-Alexandre Valiquette to a minor league deal. He pitched in 16 games (0 starts) in A+AA-ball for the Brewers last year and he was 0-1 with a 6.53 ERA and a 1.89 WHIP. Valiquette has now pitched in 217 games (28 starts) in his first [...]
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The Rays sent James Shields, Wade Davis and a player to be named (who could make this deal look[...]
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