Goodbye JJ, Hello Defense
Rosenthal says it’s a done deal. From the M’s perspective, this is what’s being reported:
M’s trade RHP J.J. Putz, RHP Sean Green, OF Jeremy Reed, and 2B Luis Valbuena for OF Franklin Gutierrez, RHP Aaron Heilman, OF Endy Chavez, 1B Mike Carp, and “minor leaguers” from Cleveland.
Z’s first significant trade is certainly a big one – probably the most interesting trade the M’s have pulled off in five years. Let’s break down the pieces by win value.
Putz (+2 wins), Green (+1 win), Reed (+0.5 wins), and Valbuena (+1 win) represent a net loss of about 4.5 wins over replacement level players. Combined, they’ll make about $7 million in 2009, so it’s definitely a valuable group of players – productive and cheap. Putz and Valbuena are the real pieces of value, though – Reed and Green are role players. Valbuena could be a league average second baseman pretty quickly, and the Indians did well to spot him as a guy who could help them long term. I hate giving up Valbuena, as I was hopeful the M’s would sell high on Lopez and keep Luis as his replacement.
However, the M’s aren’t getting a bunch of crap in return.
Gutierrez is a +2 win OF (yes, even with a questionable bat, he’s a league average player) who instantly solves the center field problem. Heilman is a +1 win reliever with an undefined role. He wants to start but isn’t good enough to, so if they can convince him to close, that’s in everyone’s best interests. Chavez is a +1 win OF who will probably share time with Wlad (like Gutierrez, his defense is other worldly), and Carp is a +0 win prospect with moderate upside – think Lyle Overbay if he develops well.
The M’s ship off about +4.5 wins and get back +4 wins, so you could call it a big push overall, but that’s where the nuances come in. Here are the reasons I like this deal:
1. The +2 win player the M’s are getting back is much younger than the +2 win player they’re giving up, and they have him under team control for a lot longer. For where this team is, Gutierrez is more valuable than Putz.
2. One of Valbuena or Lopez had to go, because there was no way for them to coexist at full value. In that sense, the M’s swapped a prospect at a position of depth for a prospect at a position where they have a gaping hole. I like Valbuena better than Carp, but Carp has a much clearer road to a job in Seattle.
3. By acquiring Gutierrez and Chavez, the M’s just have given themselves the ability to run out one of the best outfield defenses in baseball on days where they send a contact pitcher to the hill. A Chavez/Gutierrez/Ichiro outfield will make Silva and Washburn look significantly better than they really are, and by investing in the defense, the M’s have made it possible that they could salvage some value from a pair of bad contracts.
To me, those three things swing this trade into the plus column for the M’s. That doesn’t make it a total home run – Heilman’s desire to start and the loss of Putz and Green make it much more likely that Morrow’s going to remain in the bullpen, Chavez is only under team control for one year, and Gutierrez’s right-handed bat isn’t a great fit for Safeco.
But in this case, I’d say the positives outweigh the negatives. It’s not an outright fleecing like Putz for Joyce would have been (and if that was on the table, I’d have done that before I did this, but it’s quite possible that was never offered), but I’d say that the Mariners are better right now than they were yesterday and they have a brighter future, and that makes this a good trade.