Bedard, Fields Go in Three-Way Deal, M’s Get OFs Chiang and Robinson
Deals! Just before the deadline, the Mariners pulled off an exchange with the Red Sox and Dodgers that sent LHP Erik Bedard and RHP Josh Fields to the Red Sox and brought in OF Chih-Hsien Chiang from the Sox and OF Trayvon Robinson from the Dodgers. I’ll pass over what the Dodgers are getting, as it doesn’t really interest us, and I’ll leave the commentary on Bedard and Fields limited. I’m sorry to see Bedard go because he was a good pitcher for us this year, loyal, and a rather entertaining figure so long as you weren’t trying to interview him. Fields, I think of subtraction equaling addition at this point. Our first-round pick in 2008, his command has been horrible as a pro and nothing about that has changed this season, to say nothing of the various oblique and other injuries he’s suffered over his career which have meant that he just cracked 100.0 career innings in the past week. Frustrating players are identified as such because they have more potential than they seem to be able to show on a consistent basis, and I don’t really have much reason to think that Fields will shed that label any time soon. So let’s talk about the players we brought in!
Robinson has been a top ten prospect for a couple of years for the Dodgers, though their system has been in poor shape for a little while. He’s one of the rare guys who picked up switch-hitting as a pro and actually managed to stick with it and become proficient. In the PCL this season, he’s hit .293/.375/.563 for the Albuquerque Isotopes with twenty-six home runs (and somehow only nine doubles). There are some issues surrounding this, such as Albuquerque boasting a 153 HR factor for right-handers and a 127 factor for left-handers, but while he’s slugged .585 at home, he’s a good .537 on the road, and about twenty-five points of that are tied up in average alone. Factor in the weirdness of the Pacific Coast League this year as you will, since it’s turned into quite the hitting league this year. What I really like about him, however, is that he pulled a Wlad Balentien by abruptly going from thirty walks a season to sixty to seventy. He still strikes out a lot, but the fact that he’s suddenly capable of drawing a walk makes me hopeful that the power he’s showing is usable. On the field, he’s got good wheels (has been around 40 steals the previous two years, though he only has eight this season) and could easily take over in center field if the need arises. His arm isn’t great, but all things considered, that’s probably his worst tool and center fielders have survived with weak arms. John Sickels also likes him a bit. I’m terrible with player comps, but I could see his best-case scenario being something like a lesser, switch-hitting Mike Cameron. Robinson probably wouldn’t be regarded as an elite prospect, but he’s still very talented and could compete for a spot opening next season.
Chiang is not so hot a prospect, but still interesting on his own merits. He’s a former infielder who was prone to a few too many mental errors and got shifted to the outfield in the 2009 season. The arm has been sufficient enough to get him playing time in right field. The Red Sox had him repeat double-A this year after he hit .260/.312/.420 for Portland last season, and he’s responded by posting a .338/.399/.647 line with a .431 wOBA, with better power numbers in less than three-quarters of the at-bats. He doesn’t walk much, and would probably top out about forty, but he doesn’t strike out much either and wouldn’t be one of the guys we see as risking 100+ Ks a season, probably more like eighty. Chiang is much better against right-handers, with an OPS differential of about .225, though that’s nothing unusual. Since he’s repeating a level and doesn’t get rave reviews for his on-field work, he’s sort of a lower-end, B-level prospect, a few steps below where Robinson is at. Considering we have Peguero and Chavez and others hanging about in the high minors, Chiang may be more interesting for the competition he provides than for anything extraordinary in his toolbox.
All-in-all, I’d say this is a win for the M’s, far better than what was initially coming down the wire, which was some backup catcher coming our way. I wouldn’t say either of these guys is a guy that I’m going to pencil in as the anything of the future, though Robinson has good odds on seeing some time down the road. For what may end up as a rental for the Red Sox (and whatever it is that Fields is), this is a pretty darned good return.