Foppert and Torrealba
The M’s traded Randy Winn and got a catcher hitting .226 and a Triple-A pitcher coming off arm surgery. Great, we already have those in spades, right?
Wrong. This is a terrific trade for the M’s, swapping a player they did not need for two potentially useful players who make nothing. Obviously, the main reason to deal Winn was to get Chris Snelling regular playing time, which this trade will allow. Even with Winn’s superior defense and the fact that he’s been an underrated performer in Seattle, swapping out Winn for Snelling and saving $4 million, the difference between their ’05 salaries, is a big gain for the M’s. So, had they traded Winn for nothing, it could have helped the club.
They didn’t trade him for nothing, however. They got two players who could help this club and, at worst, have no downside at all.
Jesse Foppert was, as recent as two years ago, the best pitching prospect in baseball (granted, in a thin year for pitching prospects). He rode his 94 MPH fastball and good slider to massive strikeout rates and soared through the Giants system. He was terrific in the PCL at age 22, and then solid for the Giants despite pitching through an arm injury that eventually required Tommy John surgery. He missed most of 2004 and hasn’t regained his old form yet; he’s still throwing 88-91 and his command comes and goes. He’s a work in progress, and will almost certainly report to Tacoma to join the Rainiers.
As a prospect, he’s very similar to Clint Nageotte. Both are fastball/slider pitchers who, when healthy, miss a lot of bats. Both have command issues, and both have seen their stock fall due to injuries. Nageotte’s stuff is mostly back already, so he’s ahead of Foppert on the recovery scale, but he also didn’t have TJ surgery. If Foppert’s velocity comes back, he’s every bit the prospect Nageotte is. If it doesn’t, he’s still got a chance to be effective; his numbers in Triple-A this year show a moderately interesting prospect even with his current stuff.
So, the M’s swapped Winn for a guy who closely resembles one of their better upper level pitching prospects. That’s a nice haul, right? Winn for Foppert by itself is a good deal.
But the M’s also got Yorvit Torrealba, a 27-year-old catcher with moderate offensive skills and a solid defensive reputation. Torrealba has been the Giants backup catcher since 2002, and while he’s never emerged as a guy you want to start regularly, he’s been a fairly productive contributor, and instantly becomes the best major league catcher in the organization. No, his .227 average last year and his .226 average this year aren’t what you look for in a starting catcher, but he’s not allergic to walks and has a bit of power, leading to a guy who isn’t an embarrassment at the plate. His .228 EqA this year is poor, for certain (the worst of his career), but looks Ruthian in comparison to Miguel Olivo’s .136 and Pat Border’s .160.
Torrealba is more than capable of hitting .250/.310/.370 next year while making a half million dollars, giving the M’s a solid option at catcher. In terms of run value over the course of a season, the difference between Yorvit Torrealba and Miguel Olivo this year is the same as the difference between Raul Ibanez and Travis Hafner. It’s a very significant upgrade, and allows the M’s to have an option other than trotting Olivo out there every day and hoping he doesn’t go 0-5.
Torrealba, in a perfect world, is a backup catcher who gets 175 at-bats. For $600,000 or whatever he’s going to make next year, that’s a valuable piece, and something the Mariners lacked.
In exchange for a player the M’s didn’t need, the M’s picked up one they did and an arm with significant upside. They also saved several million in ’05 salary.
There’s no way to view this as anything but a win. Very nice move by Bill Bavasi.