Nationals Baseball: Super Starter #1 trade bait

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Super Starter #1 trade bait

Rizzo seems pretty confident he can get the Nationals a #1 starter through a trade. This supposes that there will be #1 starters available and that the Nats have enough available talented prospects to get them. I have my doubts on both of these assumptions. But since we have nothing better to do, let's play in Rizzo's dream world, the place where Carlos Pena swings a candy cane bat and hits a marshmallow ball safely into play one out of every 5 times.

Who could be available? Well the Rays are looking to cut salary and Jamie Shields and Matt Garza are potential places to start. Shields has a contracted bump in salary next season, while Garza is looking at a hefty arbitration raise. Let's not forget though, the Rays will already dump 27+ million by letting Crawford, Pena, and Soriano walk. It's not like they have to deal both these guys to make an impact on next year's payroll. Even though he'll probably make less, I think Shields is likely to go being older and trending downward. His big sell is team control through 2014, though it is a control based on ever increasing salary. I really hesitate to call Shields a #1 starter though. Garza is more in that vein, but I think the Rays would probably keep him (he'll be a deal even with arbitration) at least for one more year. Maybe a team can blow away the Rays and get him but can the Nats blow them away?

Jeremy Guthrie and Zack Grienke are two more that may be available in the "blow us away" category since they are heading toward free agency on bad teams. I think both these guys would excel on the Nats (I love guys coming over from the AL), however it's hard to see them being dealt. They are both under team control for a couple more years and both teams are hoping to get better. If they do get dealt this offseason the price will be awfully high - like best prospect in the minors type high. I don't see the Nats pulling this off without Strasburg or Harper being part of the deal.

In the big contract realm, Derek Lowe is a possibility. He's got two more 15 million dollar years for a Braves team loaded with starters. It wouldn't take that much to get him, but again is this guy really a #1? Plus at 37 he seems like an injury risk waiting to happen, doesn't he?

The most likely possibility out there of being available and having enough baggage that the Nats could pull of a deal is Carlos Zambrano. Yes, he was awesome to end the year. He also is crazy and has 40 to 60 million left on his deal. It's a big gamble, but Carlos was only 29 this year, has no history of injury, and is a #1 type guy. It's a good gamble on good pitching... if you can afford it.

Some more "out of the box" scenarios

Joba Chamberlain - AL->NL move. Possibility of buying low. If he fails again as a starter he should be a good reliever (look at the 2nd half of this year if you doubt it). The over-hyping may keep the price too high to be worth it. He did in fact fail as a starter once already so definitely not a "#1".

Josh Beckett - AL->NL. Contract and depth might make him movable. Bad 2010 season was originally part of my Nats playoffs 2011 plan (he'd bomb, Red Sox would choose not to resign, Nats would gamble and it would pay off. Didn't figure the Sox would be dumb enough to go in with a big deal before the season). It'd be a really early white flag. Injury risk.

Dallas Braden AL->NL. Feels like the A's will always listen and they have pitching depth. Braden hits FA a couple years earlier than other young pitchers on the team. A's desperately need offense. If he were on the market the Nats don't have the "this year or next" young offensive help to give the A's in return.

Bronson Arroyo FA after next season and already told Reds he won't take discount to stay so trade might be possible. Reds also have pitching depth. Still they want him to stay, he wants to stay and I think his next contract is going to be an overpay. Heading into mid 30s.

Wandy Rodriguez Astros really need to rebuild, thought about dealing Wandy this year. Free agent next year. Should be gettable with Nats level talent. He's not young though (32) and is he a #1?

Chad Billingsly Dodgers ownership a mess. Billingsly up for some big arbitration raises. They at least considered the possibility of dealing him. They didn't deal him though, even in deals for Lee or Oswalt. Got totally back on track 2nd half of the year, so much so that I don't see a deal happening at all.


Wally said...

Nice rundown, Harper. Of all these guys, I would only consider Grienke, Beckett, Billingsley and Garza #1s (but that is not to say that the others aren't better than almost all of our guys, though), and I just can't see the first three actually available. Kind of begs the question of whether any of the others are appreciably better than Kuroda or De La Rosa (I think Kuroda is a Type B, De La Rosa is an A, though) to be worth the cost in players. And please, please, please no Zambrano. After Jose Guillen, Dukes and Morgan, we are all full up on crazy, they can go sell it somewhere else. Fortunately, I cannot see Rizzo going for him under almost any circumstance.

Some other possibilities - White Sox dump Peavy? Porcello? - Tigers may go for one of the MIs. Nolasco, just because they are the Marlins?

Harper said...

Yeah the first three are definitely in the "theoretically available, practically not" category.

Given Peavy's injury issues (1/2 a season of starts the last 2 years - may not open next year) and huge contract (16 next, 17 after that) I don't see a team offering enough to make it worthwhile for the Sox. Besides - they are a vet heavy team unlikely to deal for prospects. If Peavy is healthy they let Garcia walk.

Porcello - no way. Way too early to give up a guy with first round talent and under control until 2015.

Marlins - forgot about that. Always possible to catch them in fire sale mode. However I think the Marlins will actually hold off on selling and will actually build going into their new park like any team not run by idiots would. (and going into their last few years of Hanley)

Wally said...

I didn't realize Peavy was hurt again. I think if Rizzo calls Detroit and starts with Desmond + Milone, they at least have a discussion. Tigers look pretty barren up the middle.

It does kind of make you wonder why Rizzo seems so bullish on it, though?

Anonymous said...

you have to kidding me. The Tigers would laugh at you if you offered Desmond+Milone. It would take Zimmermann+more to get Porcello.

Harper said...

I agree with Anon. The conversation started with "How about Desmond and Milone for Porcello" ends with a lot of laughing in Motown. I'm not even sure ZNN + more would work.

(I'm assuming you're talking Jordan and not Ryan. Because the "+ more" is on the wrong side of the equation if you're talking Zimmerman)

Wally said...

At the risk of continuing the laughter. I think that you guys are underselling Desmond's desirability. I think that he is one of the 10 most desirable SS right now. I didn't say best, because contract and controllable years matter. Here is my argument - among SS, he was 17th in WAR last year, 13th in wOBA and 12th in OPS. he makes $400k the next two years and then 3 arb years. There are names ahead of him in WAR, for instance, that are old vet types who had decent years at relatively high salaries - Tejada, Uribe, Peralta, Cabrera. So, even before factoring in improvement for Desmond, just production at salary level for 2010 and 2011, he is already right there at the top 10. Then, if you project him to be more like his 2d half, then he moves up.

So, said another way, if I am a GM, here are the guys that I clearly take ahead of him at their expected cost - Tulo and Hanley, obviously. Drew had a good year, and I'll buy that it is his level, not previous years. So Drew at $5m for 2011 comes ahead. Andrus at $400k for one more year - yeah, I take him. Then two tougher ones - Castro at $400k for the next two years? Probably. Alexei Ramirez at $1.1m and then arb? I am not sure, but for argument sake, ok he is ahead of Desi. That is six.

Then come the tougher calls, and I think that you can make a plausible argument that two more years of Desi at $400k plus 3 arb years beats them all. Reyes? Clearly better, but he is $11m next year and then FA, and been hurt. Yunel escobar? going in to arbitration,and not clearly better (imho) Alex Gon ($2.5m) and Scutaro ($5m plus buyout)? AGon looks like a pretty good value for next year, but then he is a FA. Jeter at 3 X $15m? If you are a GM balancing win now, building for the future, and payroll considerations, doesn't Desmond look attractive?

Wally said...

By the way, would you take a flyer on Burnett or Lackey if it were primarily a salary dump (but you had to eat virtually all remaining salary?)

Harper said...

It's mostly about age & upside. A less heralded prospect at age 25, is going to be valued far less than a more heralded one at 21. It's not that Desmond isn't wanted, it's that Porcello is really wanted. (contract situations are roughly similar)

It's a little about positional performance. Throw 1 million dollars at a replacement SS and likely he won't be good - but he won't be THAT worse over the course of a year than Desmond. Throw the same amount at a pitcher to take Porcello's place and he'll probably not last the year. The cost of a decent 3rd starter is much higher than an start worthy SS. Porcello's WAR is almost double Desmond's, even though I'd be hardpressed to say his year was much better.

Yes on Lackey. No on Burnett. But I've never liked Burnett. Even after last year's playoffs my feeling was "Good job, but the Yanks still shouldn't have signed you to that deal. It's horrible"