An Interesting Rumor

Dave · December 7, 2010 at 3:26 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Per Shannon Drayer on twitter, the M’s have begun to focus on a new option to handle second base this year, and you might remember this one – Luis Valbuena, who the M’s shipped to Cleveland in the Franklin Gutierrez deal. He’s been nothing short of awful since going to Cleveland, posting a .243 (!) wOBA last year that is astonishingly awful for a player who has showed some legitimate promise. He would have been one of the worst hitters on last year’s Mariners team, and that’s saying something.

That said, Valbuena absolutely killed Triple-A in each of the last two years (in admittedly small samples of about 100 PA each), and his minor league track record was strong in Seattle as well. He’s still youngish in that he just turned 25 last week, though time is running out for him to establish himself as a Major League player. In some ways, he’s at the same point of his career that Adam Moore is – if he doesn’t hit in 2011, he’s probably going to get stuck with the AAAA player label and struggle to get another real shot at regular playing time.

Valbuena offers a very different package than we thought the M’s might have targeted. Rather than going for a steady veteran who would hold down second base for a few months, they’d get a guy who could theoretically take the job and run with it, or flame out spectacularly. Perhaps they see the two months before Ackley comes up as a worthwhile opportunity to take a flyer on a guy – if he sucks, you’ve got his replacement on the doorstep, and if he’s good, you now have an interesting player that you didn’t have before. Cleveland thought enough of his defense to give him time at shortstop, so there is a dream scenario where he hits enough to hold a starting job and fields enough to convince the team to let him take over for Jack Wilson, but that’s getting near the land of wish-casting.

If Cleveland isn’t asking for a huge return, it could be an interesting opportunity to buy low on a talented underachiever, and at the league minimum for 2011, he’d fit into the team’s need to deal with budgetary restrictions. That said, giving him the second base job out of spring training, coming off the kind of season he had last year, also increases the team’s chance of being absolutely terrible, and that’s the kind of outcome that could get everyone in the front office fired.

It’s a risk. It might be one worth taking. At the very least, it’s an interesting rumor in a day that has lacked them.

Comments

20 Responses to “An Interesting Rumor”

  1. TomC on December 7th, 2010 3:35 pm

    I say go for it, although it is most likely Valbuena stinks up the joint. We will need a couple of low cost/high potential reward deals like this to pay off for the Mariners to have a chance at being worth watching next year.

  2. Nathan on December 7th, 2010 3:48 pm

    http://mlb.fanhouse.com/2010/12/07/rays-motivated-to-trade-matt-garza/

    If he’s available and the Rays need bullpen help and cheap pitching would Aardsma, Fister, and Saunders be enough?

  3. Jordan on December 7th, 2010 4:00 pm

    Personally, I thought we gave up on Valbuena too quickly as w/ most of our prospects. Depending on what we pretended to give up, I like the idea but wish the M’s weren’t in the “flyer-taking” position.

    If he’s available and the Rays need bullpen help and cheap pitching would Aardsma, Fister, and Saunders be enough?

    I doubt that would be enough. But, even if it were who do you then slot in @ left field? We don’t really have an in-house replacement and the likelihood of seeing an Upton-like trade is perhaps out of question. Not to mention, would we be giving up on Saunders too quickly?

  4. shortbus on December 7th, 2010 4:03 pm

    Is the risk that Valbuena is terrible and helps the M’s lose more games worth keeping Ackley in Tacoma and away from Super Two status? If Ackley is killing it in spring training, along with his AFL performance, isn’t it pretty hard to push Valbuena in front of him?

    At least with a cheap “proven veteran” type you can claim you want to start the year with a “known quantity” at 2B on a team that is very young overall.

  5. jared_kopp on December 7th, 2010 4:03 pm

    I like Valbuena a lot even after the nightmare that was last season. I don’t think we can rely on him to be the absolute solution for next season, but if we can get him and maybe another guy to battle it out for the position out of spring training, its worth a shot, right?

    *Provided of course we can find anyone else. Also provided that we don’t have to give up much in return. I’d send a low ceiling reliever maybe. Or maybe one of our lesser outfield prospects.

  6. Nathan on December 7th, 2010 4:11 pm

    I doubt that would be enough. But, even if it were who do you then slot in @ left field? We don’t really have an in-house replacement and the likelihood of seeing an Upton-like trade is perhaps out of question. Not to mention, would we be giving up on Saunders too quickly?

    We’d have to sign Matt Diaz or somone else. But it seems like it would be worth it if we could have Felix, Pineda, and Garza.

  7. Jordan on December 7th, 2010 4:17 pm

    Excellent point Shortbus, but the Mariners have the built-in excuse of his defense needs work/still learning a new position.

    >>We’d have to sign Matt Diaz

    I’m okay with that, but we were looking at him primarily as a platoon partner. Plus, what little leverage (come play in Safeco and we will not overpay you as others teams might) we have is exacerbated when we trade away our only actual option at that position.

  8. Mariners2620 on December 7th, 2010 4:53 pm

    Would a Varvaro, Saunders, and Aardsma trade for Garza be realistic? If not Varvaro, possibly Josh Fields.

  9. Leroy Stanton on December 7th, 2010 4:53 pm

    You could make the same arguments for Tuiasosopo at 3B and leaving Figgins at 2B until Ackley is ready. And we already have Tui.

  10. johndango on December 7th, 2010 5:04 pm

    How sad that we have to chalk this up as an interesting rumor.

  11. firecap81 on December 7th, 2010 7:16 pm

    “he had last year, also increases the team’s chance of being absolutely terrible, and that’s the kind of outcome that could get everyone in the front office fired”
    I say go for it then, the above results would be well worth it.

  12. eponymous coward on December 7th, 2010 7:47 pm

    You could make the same arguments for Tuiasosopo at 3B and leaving Figgins at 2B until Ackley is ready. And we already have Tui.

    If we can get Valbuena for next to nothing (“here, have a AAA live arm that fogs a mirror”), what exactly is the problem with getting multiple options to play in the infield? Yeah, this is a bit of Large Item Pickup Day, but at this point, the M’s need warm bodies.

    Also:

    Valbuena in AAA: .404 OBP, .862 OPS
    Tui in AAA: .370 OBP, .820 OPS

    Valbuena can actually play reasonable 2B. Tui is terrible at 3B. It should be pretty obvious who the better player is, given that the sticks are at least comparable (and arguably in Valbuena’s favor).

  13. bongo on December 7th, 2010 8:11 pm

    The Indians desire to move Valbuena may depend in part on whether they sign Nick Punto. If they get Punto, given that they’ve already got Cabrera and they recently signed Hanahan to a minor league contract, I suspect they’re be more interested in pitching from the Mariners than an infielder (Tui?).

  14. Leroy Stanton on December 7th, 2010 8:30 pm

    If we can get Valbuena for next to nothing (“here, have a AAA live arm that fogs a mirror”), what exactly is the problem with getting multiple options to play in the infield?

    Who said acquiring Valbuena was a problem? As with any player, it really depends on what it costs to acquire him.

    Valbuena can actually play reasonable 2B. Tui is terrible at 3B.

    I’m not sure what you’re basing this on, but I know that in the past you’ve said that Figgins is terrible at 2B and very good at 3B. I don’t really see how that’s possible, but presumably you’re basing it on last year’s UZR/150 at 2B. Thing is, Valbuena has about one year of UZR data at 2B and it says he’s pretty bad too.

  15. Johnny Slick on December 7th, 2010 9:08 pm

    My reasoning against it is that it violates the Rule of Awesome. You can’t just trade for a guy who turns into aWesome, then get back in trade what you traded for the guy and have him turn out to be aWesome as well. Nobody would ever trade with you ever again.

    On another note, is Jack Z really that close to getting canned? I guess the Lueke situation might have exacerbated things but does the front front office not realize how badly Bavasi screwed this team over or something? Another thing which I know has been said before but which still bears repeating: if the M’s had reversed their ’09 and ’10 seasons, would Z be in any hot water whatsoever?

  16. jared_kopp on December 8th, 2010 12:20 am

    I’m not sure what you’re basing this on, but I know that in the past you’ve said that Figgins is terrible at 2B and very good at 3B. I don’t really see how that’s possible, but presumably you’re basing it on last year’s UZR/150 at 2B. Thing is, Valbuena has about one year of UZR data at 2B and it says he’s pretty bad too.

    In Valbuena’s case we have about a season and a half worth of data. One season of UZR, good or bad, isn’t enough to come to a consensus conclusion on a player’s true talent level at a particular position. The other factor here is that UZR, while and excellent metric, is not the only tool used to rate a player’s defense. Thus, there are a couple of elements working in Valbuena’s favor. He is still young and subject to development, the sample size of his defensive metrics is somewhat incomplete and the scouting reports suggest he should be better defensively than he has been. This doesn’t necessarily mean that if Valbuena produces great UZR numbers this year we should herald him as the best defensive 2B ever (though that would likely be the take for many) – but it does mean that its possible he simply hasn’t quite put it together yet and just needs more time at the position.

    Figgins on the other hand – we have almost twice the amount of data on in regards to his 2B performance. Overall, the numbers there suggest that he is well below average. I don’t know how he profiles from a scouting perspective, but as all we really have to go on with him is results it would appear that he’s not very effective.

    The other issue here is that of maximizing the impact of the talent we have. Figgins is, over the course of his career, a stellar third baseman based on UZR. If we can bring in a guy who at least profiles as a good fielder (or at least halfway decent) to play second, then we would be better served as we could then slide Figgins over to third, playing to his strengths.

  17. philosofool on December 8th, 2010 6:57 am

    Valbuena makes an interesting utility infielder if he doesn’t pan out as a regular, right?

    Also, he had a .209 (!) BABIP versus RHP last season with a 3.5% IFFB rate, and that was the majority of his appearances. (He’s a LHB.) I’d be shocked if he’s not a rebound candidate given that he has a reverse platoon split over very small samples. This could be a good move for the M’s, but it’s not going to shake the earth.

  18. msfanmike on December 8th, 2010 10:08 am

    I would rather see Miguel Olivo at 2B.

    If Valbuena can simply be picked up off the scrap heap- fine, give it a whirl; but to trade for him? Come on!

    It definitely was a slow news day.

  19. Liam on December 8th, 2010 10:11 am
  20. scott19 on December 8th, 2010 12:23 pm

    That Bruce Drennan rant was too funny — even if he did forget that they actually got Valbuena from the M’s and not the Mets! :)

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