2013 Potential Trade Targets — Part II

Quentin. (Doug Pensinger/Getty)
Quentin. (Doug Pensinger/Getty)

Last week, I scoured through some of the RAB comments (bold!, I know), and wrote a post on a few potential trade candidates. Since then, we’ve received several trade suggestions. So, what was initially expected to be a two-part series has now become a four-part series. With that said, let’s dive into part deux.

Carlos Quentin
A former Diamondbacks first round draft pick (2003), Carlos Quentin, has done fairly well this season, batting .262/.364/.482 (.367 wOBA, 143 wRC+) over 195 plate appearance heading into last night’s game. He’s spent time throughout his career at both outfield corners, and would represent a noticeable upgrade over the cumulatively less-than-stellar production of Ichiro Suzuki, Vernon Wells, Thomas Neal, Brennan Boesch, and former Yankee, Ben Francisco.

Eventually, Curtis Granderson will return, though who knows how he’ll do after having sustained injuries to both the wrist/forearm and the hand. Zoilo Almonte has been a feel good story thus far, though I think it’s unrealistic to expect him to be a productive full-time starting big leaguer right away. Much to Carlos’ credit, he takes a fair amount of walks (9.2 BB%) and doesn’t give up a ton of strike outs (15.5 K%).  He also fits the Yankees hit-for-power mantra (.237 ISO). On the surface, Quentin (who’ll be turning 31 years old in August), makes for a sensible choice in trade targets. As an added bonus, the Yankees would never have to wonder who’d be willing to fight Zack Greinke should he get mouthy on the mound again, so there’s that.

Just as with all players, there are some concerns though. For starters, Quentin’s never been particularly consistent. He had a really solid season in 2008 (4.7 fWAR) in which he ended fifth on the MVP balloting. Other than that though, he’s been very mediocre through limited play (just twice in his career has he amassed over 500 plate appearances). Why the limited exposure, you may ask?  Well, the answer is simple — injuries, injuries, and more injuries. Here’s the run down:

  1. 2003 — Tommy John Surgery
  2. 2007 — Partial tear of left labrum
  3. 2008 — Injured wrist after slamming bat in frustration (later reported that he had a fractured wrist and would undergo season-ending surgery).
  4. 2009 — Plantar fasciitis
  5. 2011 — Sprained left shoulder on a diving catch (would make only two more plate appearances the rest of the season)
  6. 2012 — Opened the season on the DL after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee to repair a torn meniscus (his knee bothered him again later in September which resulted in another season-ending surgery)
  7. 2013 — Sore left shoulder, sore right knee, sore right wrist (all have kept him day-to-day this season)

Quentin is also currently signed to a three-year, $27M contract (with a mutual option for 2016) with the Padres, though he has expressed a willingness to waive his no-trade clause for an AL club if he could take on a designated hitter role. These last two points are what make this scenario challenging. The team would be taking on a defensively limited guy for a couple seasons who’s not only injury prone, but also earns an average of $9 million a year. Moreover, we’re talking about a guy who is realistically only capable of playing in the lineup as a DH on any sort of regular basis (if at all). To make matters worse, over the past few seasons, Quentin has also shown an increased tendancy of not hitting lefties.

Quentin wouldn’t necessarily resolve the outfield concerns, nor would he help with the inevitable log jam at DH. It’s also difficult to say what this would cost the Yankees in terms of prospects. Perhaps San Diego requests a couple mid-level prospects and some salary relief. Or maybe they ask for more given the lack of options available by the trade deadline. Basically, I think this is one of those ideas that’s kind of nice in theory, but isn’t the most practical in reality.

Mike Morse
My gut reaction to Morse was “Here’s another guy that I have absolutely no interest in.” He’s been generally regarded as sub-par defensively and on the bases. While he does showcase some power (career .197 ISO), he doesn’t take walks at all (career 6.1 BB%) and strikes out often (career 22.2 K%).

So with proper bias in place, I visited FanGraphs. To Morse’s credit, he’s actually produced relatively well the past few seasons, basically since getting the opportunity to play full-time (148 wRC+ in 2011, 113 wRC+ in 2012, and 115 wRC+ so far in 2013), though he too has been limited in exposure throughout his career overall (only one season with 500+ at bats). Oddly, this season Morse has had some difficulty with righties despite being a .284 career hitter against them (through 138 plate appearances in 2013, he’s batting .225). I don’t think that that would be a deal-breaker by any means, but it would be something to keep an eye out on.

The Mariners owed Morse $7 million this season so the Yankees would only be on the hook for about $3.5M or so at most, depending on when the deal is done — granted that’s not really cheap for a rental. He’s also a free agent next season, so I don’t think the Yankees would be necessarily forced to give up a whole lot despite Morse’s solid start to the season, especially if the Mariners are expecting any salary relief. Again, maybe a middling prospect and some cash gets it done. As an added bonus, Morse can also play first base, which would alleviate some of the burden currently being caused by a cooling Lyle Overbay and an injured Mark Teixeira. In other words, I actually give this proposal a relunctant thumbs up. I think it may make sense now given the overall lack of power production, and wouldn’t hinder the team too much down the road.

Hart. (Mark Hirsch/Getty)
Hart. (Mark Hirsch/Getty)

Corey Hart
 A guy like Hart sure is tempting, huh?  We’re talking about a guy who’s been pretty good offensively the past few seasons (career .276/.334/.491, .354 wOBA, 117 wRC+), has hit over 25 home runs in each of the past three seasons, and who is only 31 years old. Hart’s concluding his three-year commitment with the Brewers (owed $10.3M this year) and is expected to be a free agent after the season. Better yet, we’re talking about a guy who plays Right Field and First Base — a guy kind of like Nick Swisher.  The Brewers are currently sitting in last place in the N.L. Central at 31-43, so they may even be sellers by the deadline (or perhaps before).

So what’s the catch?  Well for starters he’s been sidelined all season recovering from knee surgery. He was supposed to be back in May initially. Then he was expected to return in June. Now he’s not going to be back until after the All-Star break at the earliest. Knee injuries are a pain (literally) and they take time to recover from. It’ll be interesting to see how he does when he returns. He may go back to being his old self, or he may struggle at the plate if he’s unable to deal with the impact of pivoting through the swing. Hart is the kind of guy who wouldn’t necessarily come cheap either.  Aside from some salary relief, I’d imagine the Brewers would be looking for an above-average prospect despite the injury.

That said, Hart would be the type of player who I would hope the team seroiusly considers in the offseason if he has a strong second half of this season. Who knows, maybe another short-term deal is plausible if enough teams question his durability heading forward.

Alex Rios
Mike discussed Rios briefly in last Friday’s mailbag. He hit on my two biggest gripes against Rios, age 32. He’s been very inconsistent throughout his career and would cost quite a bit (he’s owed $13M this season and next, so the Yanks would presumably be on the hook for up to as much as $20M). Frankly, it was viewed as an act of brilliance when the Blue Jays managed to dump both Rios’ and Wells’ contracts onto other teams; I’m not sure I want to be cheering on the team that intentionally acquires both after having already committed two years too many to Ichiro. That’s a lot of cash for a potentially disasterous outfield.

To be fair, Rios was pretty solid last season, and has been pretty good this season so far (.280/.340/.465, .348 wOBA, 116 wRC+ with 11 home runs), and would certainly mark an upgrade over what the team’s been marching out into right field. On the plus side, Rios has been relatively healthy throughout his career, has some speed on the bases, and can handle pitchers of either handedness (which is a nice change of pace given all the platoon players the team currently employs). One interesting tidbit is that almost all of Rios’ home runs are hit to left field (he’s a dead pull hitter). When I checked out his home run trajectories and then overlaid Yankee stadium, they all would have been Home Runs. The point is, maybe Death Valley in left-center wouldn’t be that much of a hindrance to Rios despite less-than-ideal dimensions for his swing.

I guess what it comes down to is whether you think Rios will continue his production for another season and a half. He seems to have figured it out these last couple seasons with the White Sox. Given that it’s not my money (or my ass on the line), I’d be tempted to take this gamble assuming the cost of acquiring Rios is reasonable beyond the dollars and cents. The White Sox also currently stink (31-43), so they very well could be realistic sellers by the trade deadline.

(Mike McGinnis/Getty)
Aramis. (Mike McGinnis/Getty)

Aramis Ramirez
The first thing I’ll say about Aramis is that I didn’t realize he was already 35 years old. I forget that he’s been in the league since 1998 having spent time with the Pirates, Cubs and Brewers. The second thing I’ll say about Aramis is that he’s a Third Baseman, which by default, makes him appealing to me given the nonsense the Yankees are currently fielding at the position.

As it turns out, Ramirez has actually been pretty good too. After posting a strong season last year (5.8 fWAR), he’s continued to swing the bat well this season (.267/.347/.413, .336 wOBA, 113 wRC+). He provides some power (.151 ISO) and patience (10.2 BB%). He doesn’t strike out a ton either (18.1%), and has been pretty effective throughout his career when it comes to hitting for average (.285 BA) which is fueled by a career .292 BABIP. And as mentioned above, the Brewers will be a team likely to sell.

So, time to bring him on board, right? Well, not so fast. There are some hurdles. First, Alex Rodriguez could potentially return to the roster not too long after the All-Star break. This creates a bit of a lineup logjam. I assume they would try to to keep both Ramirez’s and Rodriguez’s bat in the lineup which means one will have to play DH — a spot already occupied by Travis Hafner, and eventually shared with Derek Jeter and probably Teixeira (should he not go the season-ending surgery route).

Secondly, Ramirez wouldn’t be going anywhere anytime soon if the Yankees did acquire him. He’s owed $10M this season and $16M next season, with a $14M dollar mutual option ($4 million buyout) in 2015. So what else is new with the expensive 35-year-old you might ask? Well, he’s also recovering from a knee injury. I’m not sure he’s the type of guy you want to break the bank on when it comes to rejuvenating an already severely injured lineup. I assume the Brewers will look for at least a couple decent prospects in addition to salary relief. Right idea, wrong timing here maybe. Then again, that seems to be the case for a lot of trade candidates, really.

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A way, way too early look at possible trade deadline targets

(Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)
(Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

We are now less than three weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting for duty in Tampa, meaning it’s looking less and less likely that Brian Cashman & Co. will pull a major move out of their sleeve this offseason. The Yankees still need a starting catcher (not happening), a DH (will probably happen), bench help (almost certainly will happen), and various depth pieces (will happen) before the start of the season, so the shopping list isn’t small. Since it’s unlikely each of those holes will be filled before the season, let’s look ahead at some players who might be available at the trade deadline.

Now, looking ahead seven months and trying to figure which teams will be in it and who be available is very, very tricky business. At this time last year I was touting Andre Ethier as a potential deadline DH target, yet by time late-July rolled around he had signed a new extension and the Dodgers were suddenly owned by free-spending billionaires. There are surprise contenders and surprise extensions every summer, which throws a wrench into the trade market. Since we like talking about possible trades though, here are a few players in their walk years — I’m assuming the Yankees won’t want to take on any multi-year contracts given the 2014 payroll plan — on projected non/maybe-contenders who might be available at midseason.

(Ezra Shaw/Getty)
(Ezra Shaw/Getty)

Grant Balfour
The Athletics surprised everyone last season with their late surge to the AL West crown, but you don’t have to try real hard to envision a scenario in which they’re out of the race and far behind the Angels and Rangers come the deadline. Oakland had a ton of walk-off wins and nearly all of their rookie arms worked out last year, neither of which I would count on happening again. The Yankees have had some interest in Balfour before, and the 35-year-old right-hander would be an obvious target if things go wrong in the bullpen and another late-game arm is needed.

Matt Garza & Ricky Nolasco
The Yankees have plenty of pitching depth at the moment, but we know how this stuff goes. It has a way of disappearing quickly. CC Sabathia is coming off elbow surgery, Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte are up their in age, Phil Hughes seems to perpetually walk the tightrope, and no one really knows what to expect out of Ivan Nova and David Phelps. Since Adam Warren and Brett Marshall are the next-in-line guys in Triple-A, a veteran starter could easily be on the trade deadline agenda. The Cubs and Marlins aren’t going anywhere and they’ve already been shopping Garza and Nolasco, respectively, so it’s a safe bet both guys will be moved at some point before the end of July. Garza, 29, has AL East experience while the 30-year-old Nolasco is more of a break glass in case of emergency option. The Yankees have had interest in both in the not-too-distant past.

Corey Hart
Hart, 30, was supposed to have knee surgery yesterday, but he pushed the procedure back so he could get a second opinion. He was expected to miss three or four months once he had the operation. Hart is basically another Mike Morse, except he hits for a slightly lower average and makes up the on-base numbers with walks. He hits for power from the right side and can play either corner outfield spot in addition to first base. DH is always an option as well. The Brewers overhauled their league-worst bullpen from a year ago but didn’t add any starting pitching, so contending in the tough (but winnable!) NL Central will be a chore. For what it’s worth, Brewers GM Doug Melvin was non-committal when asked about signing Hart to an extension a few weeks ago.

(Doug Pensinger/Getty)
(Doug Pensinger/Getty)

Todd Helton
This one might be coming out of left field, but I think there’s potential here. Helton, 39, fits the Ichiro Suzuki/Lance Berkman mold of a former great who has been toiling on a non-contender for years and could request a trade in hopes of one last shot at a World Championship. He’s battled knee, hip, and back injuries in recent years but still provides value at the plate because he’s very disciplined (13.8 BB% in 2012, 14.4% career) and he doesn’t strike out much (15.5 K% in 2012, 12.1% career). Yes, the guy has been in the big leagues since 1997 and he still has more unintentional walks (1,111) than strikeouts (1,088) to his name. His power (.164 ISO last two years) is mostly the product of Coors Field — Yankee Stadium is a pretty good place to hit as well — and he will need a platoon partner. Helton has already hinted at retiring after the season, and if the Yankees need a left-handed hitter for their DH spot come July, and I bet his name pops up in rumors. He fits the good clubhouse presence, veteran change of scenery guy mold perfectly.

Carlos Ruiz
Ruiz, 34, has to serve a 25-game amphetamines-related suspension to open the season, but he’ll still have about three months before the deadline to prove last season’s 151 wRC+ wasn’t a fluke. I don’t expect him to ever hit like that again, but he’s been an above-average hitter over the last four seasons because he takes walks (career 10.4 BB%) and doesn’t strike out (career 11.1 K%). He’ll probably go back to hitting single-digit homers again, but that’s fine given his batting average and on-base ability. Chooch has consistently ranked in the top-six of the various catcher defense rankings (2010, 2011, 2012) and he’s thrown out base-stealers at a league average rate or better throughout his career. If the Phillies skid to the finish and make Ruiz available at the deadline, he’d be the perfect rental for New York even if he doesn’t repeat 2012 and reverts back to his 2008-2010 form.

Mailbag: Pence, Hart, Shoppach, Ross, Nets

Five questions this week, but four of them got relatively short answers. Make sure to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything at any time.

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Chris Young)

Tucker asks: With the Cole Hamels extension, could Hunter Pence be a trade option for the Yankees? Could he help to replace Nick Swisher next year?

Pence, 29, is having a solid year (111 wRC+) but has been just a touch worse than his career norm (118 wRC+). His walk rate (8.6%) is better than his career average but otherwise the power numbers (.180 ISO) are normal. He’s hitting for a slightly lower average than usual (.267), most likely due to BABIP issues (.299 this year vs. .324 career). Pence has stopped stealing bases (only four so far) and the various defensive metrics say he’s trending downward in the outfield. He’s making $10.4M this year and will likely jump up to $14-15M through arbitration next year before becoming a free agent the following winter.

Now that all that is out of the way, sure. Pence definitely makes sense as a stopgap outfielder in 2013. My only concern is that the Phillies are going to market him as a superstar even though he very clearly is not. He’s a consistent, profile right fielder who never ever gets hurt. At the same point of his career, Dan Uggla was traded for a big league ready bullpen prospect (Mike Dunn) and a fringy utility player/everyday big leaguer (Omar Infante). Pence is a bit of a hacker and that concerns me, but I feel like the disconnect between the type of player he’s perceived to be and the type of player he actual is will make things difficult.

Chip asks: Would trading for Corey Hart be wise? The Brewers look to be on the edge of falling out of the race and Hart is signed at reasonable money for [next season]. Yeah, he sucks at defense and doesn’t take walks but I would imagine he’d outproduce Chris Dickerson (or they could somewhat platoon) next season.

The 30-year-old Hart is owed $10M next season, the last one on the three-year, $26.5M deal he signed in the middle of the 2010 season. He owns a 117 wRC+ this season, right in line with his career norm (115 wRC+). Apparently the Brewers would have to be overwhelmed to deal him, and Hart’s not a guy you go overwhelming his club to acquire. He’s similar to Pence in terms of raw production — both right-handed hitters too — but gives you cost certainty next year. He’s an option, but it always comes down to price.

(Kevin C. Cox/Getty)

Nick asks: Do you think the Yankees could look at Kevin Shoppach or David Ross to be the starter over Russell Martin next season?

Sure, I think so. Shoppach is a straight platoon player (126 wRC+ vs. LHP last three years) and Ross has been the best backup catcher in baseball since landing with the Braves (123 wRC+ overall last three years). Neither is a Gold Glove type defender but they’re not awful. The offense makes up for it. Both Shoppach and Ross are playing for less than $1.7M this season and will be free agents this coming winter. They’re both great stopgaps options as far as I’m concerned, though there are legitimate questions about Ross’ ability to be productive in more than 180 plate appearances or so.

Nico asks: Are there any MLB managers who buck the conventional righty-vs-lefty mentality when they’re facing changeup specialists with reverse platoon splits? Does Joe Maddon? Can we ever hope to see that from Joe Girardi in the Bronx?

Maddon has done it plenty of times it past — you’ll see it referred to as The Danks Theory around the web. Maddon first used it against …wait for it … John Danks in 2010, loading his lineup with left-handers — the switch-hitters batted left-handed as well — to take away his changeup. The result? They hammered him for eight runs in four innings. Tampa still does it occasionally but I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard of another team doing it.

I can’t imagine the Yankees and Girardi will employ something similar anytime soon. It’s too against the grain I think. Tommy Milone, who shut the Yankees down and set a career-high in strikeouts in Oakland last week, is a perfect Danks Theory candidate as a soft-tossing changeup guy. Instead, New York has faced him twice this year with a right-handed heavy lineup and he’s pitched well both times. Alas.

Ori asks: With the Nets moving to Brooklyn and having a formidable roster now, do you think YES Network ratings will spike, and if so, will this help the Yankees in doling out more cash for a big name?

I don’t know much about basketball at all, but there sure seems to be a lot of buzz around the Nets these days, no? I have no idea how the financials work between the network and the team, but I have to think that higher YES Network ratings — regardless if it’s the Yankees, Nets, Yankeeographies, whatever — the better it is for the Yankees overall. The team has never had a problem with shelling out big bucks for a player though, and I don’t think improved YES ratings will cause ownership to suddenly scrap the 2014 payroll plan or anything like that.