Around the blogosphere and in the comments here there has been some consternation of late, now that he’s healthy, about why Travis Snider can’t seem to shove Rajai Davis aside and reclaim the left field job that many hoped would have been his from the start of the season.
“If he keeps doing what he’s doing, he’ll find his way back,” said Alex Anthopoulos over the weekend, according to the Toronto Sun, “but right now Raj hasn’t done anything to lose that job.”
Now, it certainly wouldn’t hurt for Snider to be back at Vegas for more than, say, a week before he gets thrown into the fire– especially when Anthopoulos told the Sun that, when he comes up, he wants Snider to play every day, not to mention that the GM has insisted before that when he’s up, he wants it to be for good… not that he has a whole lot of choice, as Snider will head into 2013 out of options.
Still, I think you can at least make the argument that Snider’s time ought to be now, and yet… there’s Rajai Davis being run out there every night– and playing pretty well, to boot. In fact, I recall, after Vlad Guerrero was allowed to walk, pointing out to a sour fan who was ready for big Vladdy to ride in on his white horse and save the season, that Davis– with his .340 wOBA and 114 wRC+ this season– has been considerably better than Vlad was last year with the Orioles– .314 and 95– and he can field a position too.
The surprise burst of value from Davis– he was worth 3.8 wins, per FanGraphs, in 2009, posting a .354 wOBA, so it’s not entirely out of nowhere– led me to speculate in yesterday’s Afternoon Snack that Davis is very possibly keeping his starting position in left only in order to showcase him as the trade deadline approaches.
Now, I don’t particularly like the word “showcase” in this sense, because– as was astutely pointed out in the comments– after nearly 2000 plate appearances in the Majors, teams have a pretty good idea of what Davis is going to bring, and aren’t going to be swayed a whole lot by an extra month’s worth of at-bats.
I think that’s generally true, and absolutely how a smart front office should approach acquiring a player at the trade deadline. Thing is… a lot of times they don’t– especially once teams start getting desperate to find the right roster pieces to put in place for a playoff run.
We’ve seen Alex Anthopoulos take advantage of such situations in each of the last two seasons, in fact, shipping career 77 wRC+ Alex Gonzalez off to Atlanta for Yunel Escobar in 2010, while he was playing like an above average hitter for the first time ever, and packaging a mysteriously-above-replacement-level Corey Patterson among the spare parts that netted the club Colby Rasmus last summer.
Escobar and Rasmus had other baggage, of course, but they too were players who were probably evaluated a little to strongly by their former teams based on small, single-season sample sizes– though it’s obviously kinda hard to fault the Cardinals, given how their season turned out.
Regardless, what it suggests to me– albeit in a small sample size of its own– is that there’s some reason to believe that there’s value in continuing to run Davis out there, believing that clubs may inflate the importance of his current play as they place more of their focus on the stretch run, rather than the long-term. It’s hardly foolproof, but I understand why continuing to let Davis show his value may be more in the club’s interest right now than forcing Snider into the mix and hoping that he plays well enough to keep it from looking as though his continued presence in the lineup isn’t tantamount to raising the white flag on the season.
I say that despite the other pushback my suggestion that Davis is a trade chip received, which is that the changes to the CBA have drastically altered the trade landscape, with the recent trade of Kevin Youkilis being an example of just how positively limp we can expect the trade market to be this time around, thanks to the fact that prospects exchanged for rental players can no longer be recouped somewhat through compensation draft picks when the rental hits free agency.
Parkes has written about “the New Hot Stove” at Getting Blanked, and while I don’t doubt for a second that the CBA will change how trades are approached– for example, would the Cardinals had given up Rasmus for the package they received had there not been the additional compensation likely coming to them when they let Edwin Jackson and Octavio Dotel walk? Not likely– I can’t for a second imagine there won’t still be clubs desperate to not miss out on a fleeting playoff chance in the here and now, or to shore up a division title and avoid the Wild Card Play-In game.
Last year the Giants, for instance, dealt their number two prospect– Zack Wheeler, who was number 31 on Keith Law’s mid-season Top 50 prospects last summer– for Carlos Beltran, a free-agent-to-be who had a provision in his contract that his club couldn’t offer him arbitration at the deal’s conclusion, thus preventing them from getting a draft pick in return.
Now, this may have been a special case of lunacy– though, to my surprise, the Giants were actually four games up on the day of the deal, and not just taking one long, last, epic piss into the ocean to save their season as I thought I remembered– but it’s not like they were the only club interested, either. While albeit only one deal, the Beltran trade, I think, undermines, at least a little bit, the notion that teams are going to be so afraid to deal prospects now that compensation picks are no longer in play.
Further to that, I’m not entirely convinced that the draft picks were as much of a lure as we sometimes tend to believe– after all, under the old system we’re talking about clubs getting a pick that’s a year away, which could mean, thanks to the old signing deadline, a player two years away from even starting in pro ball– and however many years after that before they’re able to make any kind of tangible contribution to the Major League club. The Jays, who covet draft picks as much as anybody, felt Rasmus was worth passing up two of them (well… technically, as one was for Jackson, who nobody believes they were ever interested in actually keeping).
So, what I’m driving at here is, it’s still anybody’s guess as to how the CBA changes will impact this year’s trade market– including, presumably, front offices around baseball– and there is certainly at least a little bit of evidence to think that major deals are going to get done, and– going back to the original question– that the hot hand of Rajai Davis is possibly going to give him a little more value to a contending club now than he would have had over the winter, coming off a below-replacement-level campaign.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that Davis is going to be traded, or needs to be traded– as was also pointed out during yesterday’s discussion, he’s a very nice piece for the Jays themselves, bringing late-game speed, OK defence, a solid bat against left-handers and a 2013 club option for $3-million to their fourth outfield spot– but I just don’t yet believe that because the CBA has changed and because the expensive husk of a player who used to be Kevin Youkilis was only able to fetch a utility man and a one-time pitching prospect who no longer looks quite as promising as he once did, that there isn’t a potential fit somewhere for Davis and that it isn’t worthwhile to do whatever the club can to maximize his perceived value.
So… that’s why you won’t see me bemoaning the current status of Snider. And why you will see me trying a figure out a way to suggest to Detroit Tigers fans how good Davis and Kelly Johnson might look in a darker shade of blue. And all we’d want back is a young starter! Huh? Huh? Huh?
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