Braves Check: Trade Deadline Week

After splitting the week against the Marlins and Phillies, the Braves have wisely decided that it’s not in their best interests to keep pursuing a division title in 2008.  The Mets are hot as fire, and the Braves sit 7.5 games behind the Mets and still in fourth place (7 behind the Phillies, 6.5 behind the Marlins).  Honestly, they would have to have won all six games last week to make even a somewhat rational case to be buyers, so it’s good that the team’s management has come to this decision before it’s too late.  With Chipper and Hudson both going on the DL this week (and the latter’s outlook looking bleak, as he is visiting Dr. James Andrews today this week), the trade rumors may soon become reality.

Cutting to the chase, the team reportedly has offers for Mark Teixeira on which they could pull the trigger immediately, which tells me that the market for his services hasn’t totally dried up.  The Braves would certainly prefer major-league talent, with their sights set on competing next year.  A team getting Tex will also likely get 2 compensatory draft choices, so that’s another factor to consider

If you’re not already following the rumors on the MLB Trade Rumors site, you’re missing out on all sorts of good stuff.  I can’t keep track of everything the way that they can, and Talking Chop has done a good job keeping up with the Braves fan’s perspective.

Teixeira is the obvious choice for the Braves to move in a deal this year, but Will Ohman is reportedly in demand, and Mark Kotsay should also be shopped around.  As much as I’d hate to lose someone with Ohman’s comedic talent (search YouTube for Ohman introducing the Braves lineup on Saturday if you haven’t seen it), his value is probably at an absolute peak right now, and Kotsay’s may be as well.

Dave Cameron has a nice post today at FanGraphs on the impact Teixeira’s bat would have on several different contenders (the answer: not much).  My expectations on what the Braves might get for him have been fairly low, but the Braves’ asking price appears to be high (they reportedly asked for Max Scherzer, Jarrod Parker, and Chad Tracy from the D-Backs).  I’d expect something in the middle now, and if that’s the case, the Braves are poised to get a pretty good return for him.

Rather than address the rumors themselves, I thought I’d spend some time this week looking at the players the Braves have been rumored to ask for in possible Teixeira deals.  This will be a sort of primer for player analysis following any potential trade.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Chad Tracy has been a plus OPS guy playing corner infield spots (and the outfield prior to 2006) for the D-Backs when he has been healthy.  His numbers are inflated by playing in Arizona, because Chase Field is one of the friendlier hitters’ parks in the league.  He could be an average first baseman, a decent second option for Chipper Jones, or a placeholder for Tyler Flowers/Freddie Freeman, depending on how you want to look at it.  Tracy is under team control through 2010.  He’d be owed a pro-rated share of $3.75M for this year, $4.75M next year, and $7M for 2010 if his team option is exercised (with a $1M buyout if not).

Micah Owings looks like a back-of-the-rotation starter at this point, but he’s still young and has some value.  At age 24 (25 by season’s end), he also still has room for much-needed improvement.  His ERA this year is near 6.00 in 100+ innings, so it’s a good thing he can also hit.  I guess the Braves want a major-league player in the deal, but I’m not enamored with Owings personally.  For what it’s worth, he’s from Gainesville (an hour outside Atlanta), which makes him the type of player the Braves love.

Max Scherzer is probably untouchable for the D-Backs, but I’ll talk about him anyway because he’d be such a steal if the Braves got him.  A 23-year-old with great strikeout potential and a slight ground ball tendency is a huge asset.  He was signed to a major-league contract in 2007 after being drafted in the first round of the 2006 draft out of Missouri.  He’s also a Scott Boras client, which would be relevant two years from now, when his 4-year/$4.3M deal runs out.

Jarrod Parker was last year’s first-round pick, also a RHP like Scherzer.  Both were rated B+ prospects by John Sickels, whose minor league player evaluations I trust the most.  That’s a generous grade for him, so the Braves would probably be lucky to come out with just one of these two players, much less both.  This is Parker’s first professional season, and he’s having moderate success in single-A as a 19-year-old.

It’s mostly wishful thinking on my part to think the Braves could get Conor Jackson in a deal.  Jackson may not be an elite power hitter, but an ISO of .180 isn’t bad, and it looks like he can hit for average with the best of them.  He’s making the league minimum for now and is entering his prime.

I think Josh Byrnes is too smart to mortgage the farm for Teixeira in the same way the Braves did last year.  Getting more than one of the latter three players in a deal would be highway robbery.

Los Angeles Dodgers

James Loney would probably be the cornerstone of any deal with the Dodgers, and he would be a good one while under team control for a few more years.  If his power seems modest, consider that he has basically a season-and-a-half of major league experience at age 24, and he’s posting a 111 OPS+ this year, the lowest of any single season in his career to date.   He’s a legit contact hitter, and if his gap power turns into home run power, as it often does with a player reaching this stage in his career, he could be one of the NL’s top first basemen.

Angels

Casey Kotchman has a lower ceiling than Loney or Jackson in my opinion, but he’s under team control until 2012, making him an interesting possibility for a trade.  He’s a league-average OPS guy right now.

Brandon Wood has seen his prospect status soar into the stratosphere and die down again in the last few years.  He hasn’t shown anything in two cups of coffee with the major league club, but I don’t think anyone doubts his potential as a power hitter.  The question for Wood is his ability to make contact in the big leagues, and perhaps to some extent, what position he will play (if he becomes a Brave).  Would he be Chipper’s successor at third, or will he somehow displace Yunel Escobar at short?

Trading for Freddy Sandoval might be buying high if he’s not included with at least Kotchman and someone else.  Sandoval has been an old-for-his-league guy who has watched his numbers get better every year, and he’s tearing the cover off the ball in AAA this year at age 25 (26 by season’s end).  He’s played all over the place this year but historically has been at third base.  I’m not sure I see his appeal as anything other than organizational depth, but I’ve seen his name a couple times in these rumors.

Nick Adenhart‘s control, and subsequently his prospect status, has slipped this year.  He’s still quite young (21, 22 at season’s end) and by most accounts still looks great, but he just hasn’t been great this year.  His status in a deal probably depends as much on what the Braves think about him as anything else.  I couldn’t tell you if this year has been a fluke or not.

Boston Red Sox

This probably isn’t going to happen.  Tex isn’t a huge improvement over Kevin Youkilis/David Ortiz, and the Sox aren’t likely to include Youkilis in a deal.

Tampa Bay Rays

I haven’t read many names in connection with the Rays because most of what I read about them includes a list of which prospects are untouchable (Price, Davis, etc.).  They have a need, but they don’t make as good a match as a trade partner.  I’d be content to develop talent if I were them, but at what point do you have so many good young arms in your system that you can’t use them all?

New York Yankees

I’m not a fan of Melky Cabrera, the oft-mentioned piece in any significant Yankee deal.  He hasn’t turned on the hit-for-power switch in the majors, and he’s not even hitting for average this year.  With a glut of outfield prospects in the Braves’ system, I don’t see them trying for him, either.

Ian Kennedy would be a better option from the Yankees’ system, as he has basically mastered the minor leagues at age 23.  He projects better than some of the Braves’ young starters, and he could be penciled into the 2009 rotation.

As usual, there’s not a lot of depth in the Yankee farm system, and they don’t have much affordable major-league talent to offer.  Sure, they’d want Teixeira, but trading with them could be more difficult than trading with some of the above teams.

Last Week’s Stats

I won’t add any commentary.  Here they are:

http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=p1yenOyDW3pWwC3oEjZdEaw&output=html&gid=5&single=true&range=a1:g23

http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=p1yenOyDW3pWwC3oEjZdEaw&output=html&gid=6&single=true&range=a1:g16

http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=p1yenOyDW3pWwC3oEjZdEaw&output=html&gid=7&single=true&range=k1:s11

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