Trade Deadline Notes
1: In a year in which the M’s have again collapsed, their big deadline move = trading a young, cost-controlled pitcher. We’ve all known teams were kicking the tires on Fister and Vargas, and I understand it given the team’s runs scored/runs allowed. But, and I know this sounds obvious, teams generally don’t trade league-average or better players making league minimum when they’re rebuilding. So… huh.
The M’s will receive a decent haul, especially once the player-to-be-named is, er, named. Casper Wells is an upgrade; I think he’s what Mike Saunders was supposed to be. He’ll need to adjust to Safeco, but a platoon of Carp and Wells seems to ensure league average production from that spot. Getting LF to league average is the sort of little victory that only an M’s fan would cherish, but I cherish it. He’s hit well for the Tigers in limited duty, and has shown some power in the minors. If the deal centered on Wells, however, I think we’d all be pretty disappointed.
Shannon Drayer reports that the PTBNL is one of the Tigers 2010 draft picks, which changes the complexion of the deal quite a bit. Without this piece, the M’s would’ve turned an above average-player on league minimum for a couple of guys who, if things broke right, could be above-average players for league minimum one day. Say what you want about trading from a position of strength, that’d be bad.
2: I think Furbush is interesting, and I hope he gets a chance to start with Seattle next year. He’s got some deception in his delivery, but let’s be clear: he throws harder than Doug Fister does, and he does it as a lefty. Just looking at his (terrible) starts, his FB was in the 91 range and he gets a lot more swings and misses than Fister with it. Of course, Fister was never about K’s, so it’s sort of an apples-to-oranges comparison, but, for what it’s worth, if Furbush cuts his HRs and/or walks, he’s a good MLB pitcher. We already know he’s a good AAA pitcher, and that’s helpful in itself, as the M’s don’t really have any of those at the moment.
I also have to say that I’m less dismissive of deceptive deliveries now than I was at the beginning of the year. I saw Josh Collmenter’s AAA debut against the Rainiers last year, and the over-the-top righty confused the Rainiers mightily with so-so stuff. The Rainiers got another crack at him late in the year and pounded him. As a result, I concurred with Keith Law’s view that Collmenter would regress hard and fast after his great start with Arizona, but instead, he’s maintained his Fisterian FIP/xFIP numbers. George Sherrill is another guy who’s made a decent living out of his deceptive left-handed delivery. He’s not a model of consistency, no, but he’s been effective for several years in and around bouts of ineffectiveness.
3: Fister’s defense-independent stats this year are great, and everyone’s talked about his velocity gain. But look at Fister’s pitch fx velocity chart here. You see an extraordinarily stable trend, with a big bump between late-May and mid-June of this year. I’m not sure what that velocity spike was all about, but it doesn’t seem to have stuck around. On May 30th, Fister averaged an astonishing (for him) 91 MPH on his two- and four-seam FBs, touching 94 MPH. It was such an odd result, I thought it couldn’t be real. But the Orioles starter, Jake Arrieta, looked normal. Fister backed it up in his next start by averaging 90+, touching 93. On June 9th, he faced Detroit and averaged over 91 MPH, and again hit 94 with his best FB. After that, his velocity got a bit more volatile, and he then settled in around his old 89 MPH average. The other day in the Bronx, for example, Fister’s average FB dipped below 89 MPH. On the year, he’s at 89, or exactly where he was in 2009. His 2010 looks anomalous for a number of reasons, and while it’s important to reiterate that Fister’s throwing a bit harder than he was last year, the difference is nowhere near what it was in mid-June. Fister apparently isn’t a guy who can throw 90-92 with regularity. I don’t know what happened there, but I’m glad he faced Detroit during that streak.
4: The most unlikely deal of the day had to be Cleveland’s pick-up of Ubaldo Jimenez. Twitter lit up with rumors of the deal (initially including both Drew Pomeranz and Jason Kipnis, but then settling on Pomeranz and Alex White) in the hour or so before Jimenez was scheduled to take the hill against the Padres. Some Indians fans thought it was crazy for a true-talent .500 team to trade away its top minors arms for the chance to steal a division title this year, and many are skeptical about the Indians chances next year as well.
But it’s not like Detroit’s a juggernaut; in fact, NO team in the AL Central has a positive run differential. The Indians didn’t give up their top position player prospect in Kipnis, and they got an enigmatic but extremely talented top-of-the-rotation starter in Jimenez. Pomeranz has had a brilliant season for AA Akron/A+ Kinston, but as a first rounder out of college, that shouldn’t be unexpected. He’s a lefty with mid-90s velocity, though, so it’s not like he’s overmatched hitters who are flummoxed by change-ups. Alex White’s a solid, if unspectacular back-of-the-rotation guy, and they also picked up ground-ball machine Joe Gardner; all three pitchers were in the Indians top 10 prospect list. I understand the deal from Cleveland’s point of view; they wouldn’t be a great playoff team, but they’d throw Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Masterson in a short series. Couple this deal with the Fister trade, and the AL Central’s the best race to watch this year.
5: The intrigue of the evening came when a deal between the A’s and Red Sox sending Rich Harden to Boston in exchange for 1B prospect Lars Anderson was announced, then retracted. It seemed to be a done deal, then the A’s beat writer Susan Slusser reported that Harden announced he was happy to be an Athletic and was looking forward to his next start (against the M’s). Now Boston confirms that the deal fell through, apparently because of concerns about Harden’s medicals (we’re talking about Rich Harden here, so not sure what Boston was looking for). This is interesting in that it means Boston could theoretically still be involved in talks regarding Erik Bedard, and because the original deal was something of a head-scratcher from Oakland’s point of view.
6: The Rangers acquired Orioles closer Koji Uehara for AAA 1B/3B Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter. This cements the Rangers status as prohibitive favorites, and allows the Orioles to cash in on a good season by Uehara (and what do they need with a closer?). Opinions about this one are divided. Some thought it was a clear overpay by Texas. Others thought Uehara was the class of the relievers on the market – better than Heath Bell/Brandon League – and that the price wasn’t too steep. Davis has great power, but he hasn’t been a good MLB hitter since 2008, and while his exploits in AAA are impressive, they’re also familiar. Tommy Hunter’s been injured and then moved to the pen. If he’s a starter, he’s got #4 upside. Some Orioles fans think the return just isn’t what the O’s need – they don’t need low-level MLB players, the argument goes, they need high-ceiling prospects.
7: The newest Tacoma Rainier debuted tonight in a rout of Las Vegas. Wily Mo Pena kicked off his Rainiers career in style with a line drive HR to left center. Neither the LF nor CF moved; they just turned and admired it, which is impressive given the relatively low launch-angle of the thing. You get the sense that baseballs or spheroids of some sort tormented Pena as a child or in a previous life.