MLB: Oakland Athletics at Boston Red Sox

Day Two of the Winter Meetings is in the books and there is…slightly more to talk about? Still a lot of smoke but not too much in the way of fire. The slow-developing trades like the Trumbo Extravaganza and the long-rumored Brett Anderson swap finally came to fruition.

What about today? Who knows. Hit the jump for a rundown/recap/rethinking of some of yesterday’s highlights.

Brett Anderson’s Rude Awakening

Players like Brett Anderson are enticing. The intoxicating mix of strikeouts and ground balls mixed with the exotic unpredictability of an oft-injured player make him the darling of fantasy gurus and wanna-be GMs looking to get cute. Heck, he was coveted by more than one actual general manager this winter as teams play the “what if we can keep him healthy” game. Big lefties who throw in the low-to-mid 90s are always in style.

More than one GM might have pursued him but it was Colorado that pulled the trigger on a trade, bringing the former A’s Opening Day starter to the mountains in exchange for beleaguered former prospect Drew Pomeranz. What a difference a trade makes, as Anderson goes from a sheltered hurler playing in one of the biggest ballparks with a great defense behind him to hurling for the Rox in the most supercharged offensive environment in the game.

Poor Brett Anderson might have what it takes to thrive in the thin air of Colorado, mixing his slider (a pitch demonstrated to survive the altitude better than most other breaking balls) and ground balls to keep more balls in the park. But his body has let him down over and over in the past and now he heads to a place where the atmosphere conspires against the body all on its own.

A decent, smart swap for both teams. Two players not too far apart in age but two players on different parts of their career arcs. Given all the extra control for Oakland, a team with a demonstrated ability to convert just about anyone into a passable starter, it is a course correction after a streak of wacky spending.

For Colorado, they continue to outsource their development of mid-level arms, searching for pitchers who come equipped with the weapons to survive their ballpark of extremes. This one comes with an extra health wildcard but there is help on the way, we’re told. They always tell us that, however.

Trumbo Trade Wildcards

When breaking down the three-way trade between the Angels, Diamondbacks, and White Sox yesterday, the coverage here focussed mainly on Mark Trumbo. He’s the centerpiece of the deal and the most known quantity in the trade, a “plus makeup” guy whose skills and abilities I felt were unfairly maligned in most trade coverage.

The more I read and thought about the deal, the more I realized Arizona potentially gave up. There is a lot of belief in Adam Eaton inside the baseball industry, a belief that he will hit at the big league level and provide value with his bat, his glove, and his legs. The White Sox came out and stated very matter-of-factly that Eaton is now their starting center fielder.

Adam Eaton probably won’t become a household name but he could quite easily become an unsexy but steady contributor at the big league level. As a center fielder, that’s not nothing. Fangraphs now features future projections, moving five years into the future using the OLIVER projection system. Eaton’s numbers for each season are right near 3.5 WAR, an above-average contributor with ease.

Take those numbers with a not-insignificantly sized grain of salt but there is a lot to like about Eaton. Just as there is a reason Tyler Skaggs climbed so high up prospect lists over the last two seasons. His ability to miss bats is noteworthy. There are flaws and shortcomings he must overcome before he can be considered a legit big league pitcher but, again, he is not a short season lottery ticket prospect. Tyler Skaggs is very close to realizing his potential as a Major League starter.

Diamondbacks stellar beat writer Nick Piecoro wrote about this worrying trend for the Snakes last night, pointing out that time and time again, they don’t appear to practice good “asset management.” They sell low on prospects at the first sign of faltering, choosing to move on when players stumbled in their “not at all linear” journey to the big leagues.

So far, it hasn’t burned the DBacks on the field, but might the real damage of these short-sighted deals be to the 2016 Snakes without any real benefit to the 2013/2014 clubs?

There is no harm in attempting to improve the present big league product with known commodities or using your minor league “capital” as a coupon to purchase big league players. The big league product is always the priority, and the Snakes have to trust their internal decision making as it relates to the chances their kids ever touch the pie-in-the-sky potential they flash from time to time.

But the Diamondbacks moved out two seemingly valuable pieces in exchange for, essentially, the same player they traded out the winter before. Justin Upton was younger and more expensive and perhaps didn’t fit into Arizona’s culture as well as Mark Trumbo will, but a high power/high strikeout guy was what they didn’t want last year and now moved heaven and earth to get. It’s the AZ way and they make no bones about it.

Bits and Pieces

  • Mark Mulder made some mechanical changes and is now ready to to mount yet another comeback? The story behind the changes is actually an adorable one. Good luck to him.
  • The Reds are “not saying no” on teams that call and ask about Homer Bailey. He’s a free agent at the end of 2014 but he’s also very good, and sure to fetch a tidy reward for the Reds.

    Homer Bailey doesn’t have the same track record of James Shields or the remaining team control of Mat Latos but he represents a good, healthy, young pitcher who improved each of the last two years, boosting his strikeout rate while keeping his walk rate steadily below league-average. He prevents home runs reasonably well and sports above-average ground ball and swinging strike rates. He’s good and will cost a reasonable amount in 2014. If he hits free agency, he will at least return a draft pick as compensation.

    The price will be high but the reward, for a team needing a number two starter, will be worth it.

  • Pablo Sandoval is working away, getting into the bets shape of his life ahead of his walk year in San Francisco. The Giants GM mentioned an extension for the rolly polly third baseman is entirely possible, depending on his conditioning.

    A nice idea for a player who, when healthy, makes a real impact with his bat and his glove. But Sandoval’s grip-and-rip approach could well have a very discrete shelf life. The lure of the free market and the ability to command big time years and dollars could leave the Giants looking around for alternatives.

    Passing on Sandoval only invites more questions. If no him, then who? Are there any internal options to take over and produce at Sandoval’s level? The short answer is no, the long answer is “no not even a little bit.” Easy to say you don’t want to pay market price for a player with an uncertain future but staring at a black hole on your depth chart complicates matters in a hurry.

  • The USA Today reports the Yankees checked in on changeup master and former Tigers closer Joaquin Benoit. The lack of saves might keep his price down and his reverse split-mastery of left-handed hitters make him a nice fit for Yankee Stadium. Moving on from the Mariano Rivera might result in manager Joe Girardi using his binder to stay away from a Proven Closer by keeping a pitcher like Benoit, David Robertson and others in the 9th inning mix.
  • Fresh off a 5 WAR season, the Blue Jays reported offered Colby Rasmus in a trade in their search for starting pitching. Rasmus hits free agency at the conclusion of the 2014 season. Given the paydays just handed out to Jacoby Ellsbury and B.J. Upton, Rasmus knows the market is primed for his arrival.

    But Colby Rasmus just spent the better parts of two seasons, 2011 and 2012, in the woods. Basically two full years looking lost at the plate. 2013 Colby Rasmus was terrific, posting a 130 wRC+ and playing fine defense in center field. But if the Jays have any reason to believe the 2014 edition of Rasmus is more like the guy from the preceding season, they need to trade him, right?

  • Matt Kemp does not appear to be on “the Red Sox radar”, Nick Cafardo reports. But there is still a sense among writers (via scouts and industry sources) that the Dodgers will move their highly-paid outfielder this winter. Read more about Matt Kemp’s uncertain future here.
  • An early rumor that the Phillies will listen on Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee gave way to frantic denials from GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. That the Phils might look to deal Jonathan Papelbon comes much closer to passing the smell test than all-in RAJ moving on from his two best players.