An Opportunity Arises

Dave · May 6, 2009 at 1:03 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Usually, when teams get frustrated with one of their own underachievers, they don’t get a chance to trade that guy away and get anything of value back. It either turns into a dump-the-contract kind of situation where the team gives the player away, or they go in another direction and just let that guy sit on the bench while everyone regrets the situation.

Thanks to a move by the Minnesota Twins this afternoon, a window may have just opened for the Mariners.

The Twins, more than any other team in baseball, value contact hitting. They hate strikeouts – it’s an organizational philosophy that is preached at their kids from day one. They want aggressive, high contact guys who hit for average and are willing to sacrifice power to get that. They also care very little for statistical analysis, and give no heed to any of the newer defensive metrics out there. They evaluate defense by scouting reports and tools. They’re a small ball, speed and defense kind of team, and as long as Ron Gardenhire‘s the manager, they always will be.

There’s not a team in baseball more apt to value Yuniesky Betancourt than the Twins. He fits all of the things they like in a player – he’s fast, he’s got good defensive tools, he’s almost impossible to strike out, he hits the ball on the ground, and he’s a high average hitter. The things that he fails at – drawing walks, working counts, living up to his defensive reputation – are the things that the Twins value less than anyone else in baseball.

Betancourt and the Twins are a match made in heaven. He’s their kind of player. No other organization in the game will see as much value in Yuni as the Twins.

And as of today, the Twins could use a middle infielder.

They just demoted starting second baseman Alexi Casilla to Triple-A, as he’s gotten on Ron Gardenhire‘s last nerve. He made some fundamental mistakes over the weekend, dropping a throw on a relay from the outfield, and has always struggled to live up to Gardenhire’s expectations. The fact that he’s hitting .167 to start the year didn’t help.

To replace him on the roster, the Twins called up Matt Tolbert, who is more of a corner infielder than a middle guy. They’ll give Casilla’s playing time to Brendan Harris, but he profiles more as a utility player than anything else. A Punto-Harris middle infield tandem is not exactly the stuff that the Twins dream of.

Jack, get on the phone. Call Bill Smith and tell him that you’d like to talk about acquiring Casilla. Point out that your team is too right-handed, and you wouldn’t mind adding a switch-hitter to the roster. Do the whole change of scenery thing. When Smith asks what you’re willing to give up, make it sound like it kills you to part with your starting shortstop, but throw out the old “I know I have to give something to get something” line, and see if he’ll throw in Jose Mijares just to make it easier on you.

Alexi Casilla isn’t a great player – he’s basically a switch-hitting Yuni with a few more walks – but there’s no doubt that this team is better with Cedeno at SS and Casilla as the utility guy than they are with Betancourt at SS and Cedeno backing him up. You ship out the biggest defensive liability on the team, replace a hacking right-handed bat with a slightly more patient left-handed one, and shed some future contract obligations in the process. If Smith is willing to give you a decent second piece to “even the deal”, all the better.

Yuni to Minnesota. Make it happen, Jack. Gifts like this don’t come along all that often.


75 Responses to “An Opportunity Arises”

  1. joser on May 6th, 2009 4:36 pm

    From the bizofbaseball:

    A transaction including a player to be named later must be completed within six months. The player may not be an active Major Leaguer player during the interval between the trade and the date the player is named. As a result, most players to be named later are minor leaguers.

    At the time of a trade, clubs sometimes agree on a list of players from which the player to be named will be selected. They also may agree on an amount of money to be exchanged in lieu of a player.

    Clubs may include a player to be named later in a trade if a player is not eligible to be traded. For example, once a draft pick signs a professional contract, he may not be traded until an entire year has elapsed (the Pete Incaviglia Rule). Additionally, a player on a minor-league reserve list may not be traded between November 20 and the Rule 5 draft in December, so trades during that window may include a PTBNL.

  2. joser on May 6th, 2009 4:40 pm

    abender20: I like Stewart, but I think a big part of the reason the Rockies have been “jerking him around” is because he’s their utility guy. He may not like being their Willie Bloomquist (or maybe he does, I don’t know) but that’s pretty valuable to the Rockies. So you’re right, he wouldn’t be cheap. Like the suggestions for Lowrie or Callaspo, it all comes down to what you’d have to give up.

  3. CMC_Stags on May 6th, 2009 4:52 pm

    Just so we’re all on the same page, the Bill Bavasi gravy train gift that keeps on giving will be giving this to Betancourt:
    $2M this year
    $3M in 2010
    $4M in 2011
    and $2M in 2012 — because I’m assuming they’ll buy out his option rather than pay $6M to a 30 year old SS who fell off a cliff 5 years earlier.

    Are we to the point now that giving up Yuni for nothing to get out from under his contract would be a good deal? Assuming, as Joser did, that the M’s buy him out of the 2012 deal, he’s owed $9M for 2010 and 2011. Assuming that free agents are making about $4.5M per WAR in the market, which means Yuni would have positive trade value if he’s worth 1 win or more per season and has negative trade value at less than 1 win per season.

    After posting 1.7 WAR seasons in 2006 and 2007 he posted a 0.3 WAR season last year and is already at -0.3 WAR – below replacement level – so far this year. If the M’s could trade Yuni for a bag of peanuts, I’m to the point where I would think it was a good deal; if for nothing else to get out from under his contract.

    If the M’s can get back some AAAA player with a shot of contributing for peanuts back in the deal, even better.


    I do think there is a chance that once Yuni is a free agent or is in a contract year and feels like he has something to play for financially that he might make more of an effort. This creates the possibility that he plays better after he leaves. But even if that happens, it’s not going to happen while he plays for the Mariners.

  4. dchappelle on May 6th, 2009 5:00 pm

    Ugh, Alexi Casilla is terrible though. A bad defender (at 2nd no less), and a worse than Yuni hitter. But, I guess you’d be saving your $s at least. Maybe he gets to better than replacement value in his peak years.

    I think this has about .0001% of happening though. I think our front office actually values Yuni.

  5. Broadcast James on May 6th, 2009 5:03 pm

    Man I have to say I enjoy Dave’s “smackdowns” more than Derek’s. 🙂 Sorry DMZ 🙂

    Seriously though, on a totally subjective level I’m ready to let go of Betancourt, I’ve been a booster of his in the past, but flubbing those easy grounders a few Sunday’s ago broke the camel in my mind’s back.

    If he’s below or around replacement level, seems like he should be easy to replace?

  6. Red Apple on May 6th, 2009 5:16 pm

    Ugh, Alexi Casilla is terrible though. A bad defender (at 2nd no less), and a worse than Yuni hitter. But, I guess you’d be saving your $s at least. Maybe he gets to better than replacement value in his peak years.

    Dave envisions his likely role as utility infielder, though…with Cedeno getting the bulk of playing time.

    Besides that, why not trade for him while his value is low? He’s off to a bad start and in the doghouse…maybe he’ll turn things around with us.

    Heh, I remember in the offseason being chided for saying Lopez had put up “a career year” in ’08. Maybe I was right after all.

  7. Dave on May 6th, 2009 5:18 pm

    I was advocating for trading Lopez all winter. You weren’t exactly out on an island there.

  8. Lauren, token chick on May 6th, 2009 5:20 pm

    I know there’s got to be a German term that neatly combines my sad affection for Yuni with my recognition that these arguments probably all make sense with a soupcon of unreasoning belief that he! will! improve! magically!

  9. okori on May 6th, 2009 5:22 pm


    $4 mill a year.. That’s what I said, or meant to say.. If it came off differently, that’s my bad..

    and Carlos Garcia is who I want to bring in.. So I had some typos.. Remeber him.. The coach, that most people tied into the team say got to Yuni.

    Do you just talk man? Don’t really address the issues..

    Let’s keep stretching ya..

    Ozzie Guillen comps to Yuni offensively.. Good..


    Did I say that Yuni’s a SS, or that he needs to move to 2nd Base?

    So saying he’s horrible defensively means 0 to me. I’m not saying he’s a SS..

    Did we hear any of that..

    AND as YOU stated.. Casilla’s a Util guy..

    On the others that say that Yuni has no skill, the power hasn’t gone anywhere, it just hasn’t materialized, because he has no approach. He can be pitched to, and usually swings at pitches away. Can’t drive those..

    How are we doing there Dave?? Argue some of this, instead of taking shots..

  10. CMC_Stags on May 6th, 2009 5:22 pm

    If he’s below or around replacement level, seems like he should be easy to replace?

    Well, not as easy as we’d like.

    1) The M’s don’t have a quality young SS in the system that is MLB ready.

    2) The highest upside SS in the system (if he can stick at SS) is out for the year with a broken bone.

    3) Trading for a decent SS mid-season is going to be more costly than a fringe contender should pay.

    4) Ronny Cedeno is basically a AAAA SS so far based on his MLB track record. His career total WAR is -0.7, mostly based on a disastrous 2006 season when he was brought up too early by the Cubs.

    If the M’s can trade Yuni but don’t get a SS in a deal, you’re looking at Ronny Cedeno at starting SS for the rest of the year with Chris Woodward coming up and playing the utility role.

  11. jephdood on May 6th, 2009 5:30 pm

    If the M’s can trade Yuni but don’t get a SS in a deal, you’re looking at Ronny Cedeno at starting SS for the rest of the year with Chris Woodward coming up and playing the utility role.

    I’m fine with that. And maybe they might go there as soon as Cedeno’s hammy allows it.

  12. Broadcast James on May 6th, 2009 5:33 pm

    Thanks CMC-Stags… Sometimes “replacement level” feels like a bit of a misnomer.

    Another thought, is there really no one tooling around in the Caribbean or Japan that we could pick up? How would that work? Is that totally unfeasible?

  13. jimmylauderdale on May 6th, 2009 5:47 pm

    With Bobby Cox turning Kelly Johnson into a strictly platoon player at 2b, does that make him any more attainable for the M’s?

    Of course, with Escobar and Infante (Who Cox seems to be like) already there, it seems doubtful they would be interested in any sort of middle infielder swap.

  14. Red Apple on May 6th, 2009 5:52 pm

    One serving of Kelly Johnson, please. And a plate of Jeff Clement (pun intended). Let’s bring some left-handedness into this lineup, pronto.

  15. Dave on May 6th, 2009 6:23 pm

    Do you just talk man? Don’t really address the issues..

    Yes. In six years of blogging here, plus my writings for FanGraphs and the Wall Street Journal, I’m well known for avoiding the issues. I never dig into any substance. I’m all fluff.

    Ozzie Guillen comps to Yuni offensively.. Good..

    Not good. I’m not sure if you realize it or not, but Ozzie Guillen was one of the worst hitters in the history of baseball.

    Seriously. Ever. wRAA, career, all time:

    1. Bill Bergen, -287
    2. Alfredo Griffin, -287
    3. Ozzie Guillen, -282

    Those are the three guys with the lowest runs above average scores of all time. Comparing a hitter to Guillen is like comparing a movie to Gigli.

    So saying he’s horrible defensively means 0 to me. I’m not saying he’s a SS..

    Right – you’re just suggesting that we should take a guy who can’t hit or field and move him to a position where the expected level of offense is higher. Excuse me for not seeing the brilliance of having an Ozzie Guillen level hitter playing second base.

    On the others that say that Yuni has no skill, the power hasn’t gone anywhere, it just hasn’t materialized, because he has no approach.

    Oh, good, so all we need to do is teach him how to do something he’s never done before. I’m sure that will be easy. No problem.

    How are we doing there Dave?

    I’m doing fine. I feel bad for you though.

  16. DAMellen on May 6th, 2009 7:36 pm

    I agree, Dave. You always avoid the issue. For example, you never said what you think of Alberto Callaspo and Jed Lowrie. How much would they cost? It seems like both teams could have an interest in Clement so that seems like a solid place to start. What do you think it would take?

    In all seriousness, you do a fine job of taking issues head on, but I am curious what you think of those two players.

  17. Dave on May 6th, 2009 7:43 pm

    There’s no reason for their teams to trade them.

  18. SonOfZavaras on May 6th, 2009 8:07 pm

    I’ve had my disagreements with you, Dave, but one thing I’ll never say is you avoid issues or fluff an argument.

    Broadcast James had a real interesting idea- is there any veteran from the Pacific Rim that could be posted, signed and play SS for us over the next couple of years? Or from anywhere else, for that matter…

    And, BTW, Dave, it’s, um….apology time.

    For me.

    Regarding that Mike Cameron debate. I went ahead and joined FanGraphs yesterday and ran a few graphs on Cameron.

    The numbers don’t support me, overall.

    In terms of K%, yes they do. But no one in their right mind would just take K% as a sole basis for judging a player’s worth. And, I maintain that in and of itself, 1,600+ SO in a 14-year career would be an eyesore.

    Until you dig deeper on what a player’s doing. Like with wOBA. Slg.%. And OBP.

    Mike Cameron is well over the norm in all of this, and for a career, his line is right on top of the mean on most of those. As a matter of fact, he’s had very few years where’s he’s ever been in the “poor” range of any of those stats.

    I didn’t even bother trying to get a graph on 300-300 players (past and projected future) to see how he stacks up once I was done with those.

    Put it this way: anybody from the Athletics or Diamondbacks’ (among others) front office would have looked at my statement and told me “you’re nuts”.

    Mike Cameron is underrated. The numbers are clear. You were right. I’m wrong, wrong, wrong.

    (Yuniesky Betancourt is my new poster-boy for unrealized potential at the ML level. And he stands to be there for a good, long time.)

    That being so said, I agree with you 100% and from the get-go on Betancourt.

    Trade his butt. For anything approximating more value to the team.

    I have two questions for you, Dave. One: did you play baseball in high school, college? I don’t know, honestly. Strictly out of curiousity.

    And two: Are there any good books that have come out on SABRmetrics that you haven’t already endorsed on this site, and would recommend picking up? I’m all good on Bill James publications and getting more versed on The Hardball Times.

  19. DMZ on May 6th, 2009 8:20 pm

    If you get two, get Tango’s “The Book” and BP’s “Baseball Between the Numbers” edited by Jonah Keri — it’ll be as close to an accelerated catch-up to current thinking as you can get for $20 or so.

  20. SonOfZavaras on May 6th, 2009 8:25 pm

    Thanks, DMZ. Living next to a Borders Books comes in downright handy sometimes…

  21. Dave on May 6th, 2009 8:43 pm

    Good you saw the light on Cameron. Yea, he strikes out a lot. But he does so many other things well – draws walks, hits for power, runs the bases, plays great defense. He’s been a terrific player for a long time, but because people grew up worshiping batting average, home runs, RBIs, and avoiding strikeouts, he never got the recognition he deserved.

    And yes, I played HS ball. Caught for most of my career. And yes, I drew a lot of walks.

  22. DAMellen on May 6th, 2009 9:18 pm

    I was afraid you’d say that. Teams really need to be more willing to trade the exact players we need. It would make everything a lot easier. For us.

  23. Sinking Away on May 6th, 2009 9:56 pm

    I watched Alexi Casilla play just before he was cut and it was clear why he was cut (both defensively and offensively he is lacking a bit of they expected from him). The Twins think they have someone better in the minors. That might be true, but I agree, they might also find value in Yuni and there aren’t any other teams that I can think of who might feel the same same way. Given that, let’s hope Z can get this done before the Twins see Yuni the way we do. He’s good against the AL Central, grab him before no one else does.

  24. SonOfZavaras on May 6th, 2009 10:13 pm

    Jeff Passan has an article on Raul Ibanez out, with a healthy amount of it dedicated to his defensive “perception”.

    I won’t go into opinions espoused around here to death, but I will say that while I liked him as a player, I think it’s a pretty good thing Ruben Amaro, Jr. isn’t our GM.

  25. joser on May 8th, 2009 4:47 pm

    I think Citizen’s Bank park, with its much smaller left field, is helping the perception of Raul’s defense a lot. That doesn’t mean he’s a better defender than we’ve given him credit for, but it does mean his limitations don’t hurt the Phillies as much as they hurt the M’s.

    In other news: the A’s picked up Adam Kennedy on a minor league contract for a PTBNL. So he’s stashed away in Sacramento, out of the reach of Zduriencik.

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