Jerry Blevins for Billy Burns. Go!
Going back to our trade analysis method hashed out last week, the Nats easily won this trade on relative value. Blevins might not be worth all that much, relievers are just limited in that way, but Burns would not have likely helped the Nats next year. Both Eury Perez and Steven Souza are ahead of Burns on the "help us now" list for the OF and Brian Goodwin is ahead of him on the "help us later" list. Not that three minor league guys can't fail to meet expectations but they are no more likely to do that than Burns himself.
Absolute value is for future scholars to debate but I'll take a guess that the A's end up on top. I can see Billy being a decent 3rd / 4th OF for a few years which will get you more value than a few years of a reliever. In this way it's a deal that makes sense for both sides, assuming the A's had replacements in line for Blevins (they think they do with Abad and Pomeranz). Nats get better for 2014. A's trade a fungible resource (relief pitching) for a potential bigger return down the road.
Anyway let's look at the stats. First thing to note is that Blevins is not a LOOGY. Here are those splits I promised you
v R : .220 / .314 / .322
v L : .250 / .340 / .419
v R : .219 / .333 / .310
v L : .182 / .248 / .327
v R : .190 / .267 / .314
v L : .253 / .299 / .442
See? If anything he's been better against righties over the past 3 years. The take away though is that he's been effective against both sides. This is important because a LOOGY is like a Tyler Moore for the bullpen. Limited in such a way that if you're roster isn't well made around him, it can make a manager's life more difficult as opposed to easier.
Great! Any cause for concern? Isn't there always? Let's go to the fancy stats!
Blevins is an fly-ball pitcher with a FB-rate which will probably end up in the upper 40s. That's not great but it doesn't mean Blevins will immediately be a gopher-ball pitcher coming to a new park. Clippard is the biggest fly-ball pitcher on the Nats with a FB-rate over 55% last year. Soriano was third on the team (42%). Expect a couple more homers but it shouldn't be a career-destroyer. Shouldn't
Blevins BABIP has been pretty damn low the last couple of years .242 in 2013. .224 in 2012. But given that it was .278 in 2011 I think it's as much skill as luck. I don't think he'll get to a .220 level this year but .250? Completely reasonable.
LOB-rate high (77.3%) but not unreasonable in 2013, might have been so in 2012 (84.4%). K-rate isn't great but BB-rate dropping along with it. FB speed is steady. Age is fine.
I think if I were to guess I'd say that 2012 was a bit of a mirage. He had everything go his way, probably in part because he changed into a different pitcher that year. He had been a guy throwing 60%+ FBs and move to throwing under 50% and more junk. So if you are expecting a deserved* say 2.50 ERA season I don't see it happening. In fact, I'd expect a bit of a ERA bump, something closer to 3.50. That's not great but it's good enough to eat up some innings and give Williams a solid lefty option out of the pen, more reliable than the young Krol or Abad (who really tanked after a super fast start)
*relief pitchers pitch relatively few innings so they are more likely to luck into good/bad ERAs despite what they deserve.
What about Billy Burns?
Well you first have to understand he's not that great a prospect. Didn't make Sickels' Top 20 for last year or Baseball America's Top 10 for this year. These aren't end-all, be-all lists but they give you an idea of where he stands. Why so "low"? Because he's been on the old-side for the leagues he's been in and he has ZERO power and power matters. Literally he's hit one home run in 1000+ plate appearances in the minor leagues. He had 21 XBH total last year. To put that in perspective Lombo had just 3 fewer XBH in 150 fewer at bats. (or if that doesn't register - if Lombo had the amount of at bats Burns did he would have had about 25% more XBH, in the major leagues). ZERO power.
He does have a good eye and is super fast so if he can hit .250+ there might be some use for him as a 5th OF type. One thing I will note is that I can't find anything saying he was a good fielder, which is odd given his superior speed. Not that he's a bad one, just that usually if you are a super fast you are noted as a superior fielder, as well. That's not the case with Burns. That cuts down his value a bit more.
Can he hit .250+ in the majors? He did hit .325 in AA but it was just 30 games so we'll see him try again and thus he probably won't get a good look until later in the year. That's even considering the A's will probably try to fast track him because of his age, the fact his value is in having all that speed, and the A's mediocre OF prospects. My guess is that he can, but can never generate power so lines like .280 / .360 / .370 will be seen. A little tough to start a guy like that but as a pinch-runner, bunter, contact just-get-on-base or move-the-runner-over pinch hitter? He could work.
This year will really be telling though - put up another .average well over .300 into the summer and the Nats lost a useful but replaceable piece, fall to under .300 and the Nats gave up nothing, hit well over .300 and add some power and the Nats will rue the deal. (but I really don't see the latter happening)