Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Lazy Sunday with Some Action Taken

Remember the whole “at this point, play the waiting game - if Cards won't part with Chris Perez and Mets won't trade Bobby Parnell right now...wait for them to become desperate enough to be willing to part with a young impact arm for a few months of DeRosa” from Thursday’s piece?

That took about a day and a half as news that Mark DeRosa has, in fact, been traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Perez and a PTBNL (which will handled in a manner similar to way that Mike Brantley was selected by the Indians off of a list of possibilities at the conclusion of the MiLB seasons) as the Indians decided that the time was now to cash in their biggest trading chip and add the young, MLB-ready arm that they are so badly in need of.

DeRosa’s departure brings a quick end to his tenure as an Indian, one in which he found himself traded for bullpen prospects and netted the team (at least) one bullpen prospect with the time in between spent patrolling 3B, 1B, LF, and RF all while providing the steady contributions that the Indians thought they were acquiring last New Year’s Eve.

His departure, however, also trumpets the arrival of Chris Perez, a RHP power reliever who has worked his fastball and slider mix into a quick trip to MLB after being a 1st round pick in 2006. After signing with the Cards, he spent the remainder of the 2006 season in A ball, striking out 32 batters in 29 1/3 IP (while also walking 19), then spent 2007 in AA and AAA, compiling an ERA of 2.96, a WHIP of 1.17 and striking out 77 batters in 54 1/3 IP.

Last year, Perez started the season with the Cards’ AAA affiliate and earned a shot to contribute to the parent club at the age of 22 by dominating in Memphis, with a WHIP of 1.18 and striking out 38 batters in just 25 1/3 IP. He arrived in St. Louis in mid-May and worked his way up the Cardinals’ bullpen ladder, finishing 23 of the 41 games that he pitched in and notching 7 saves in the season as his gaudy K numbers continued (42 K in 41 2/3 IP), but the control issues that hampered him somewhat in his MiLB career raised a bit of a red flag, with 22 BB in those 41 2/3 IP. This year, after a brief stint in AAA Memphis to start the season, he re-emerged in St. Louis as a back-end option with the same devastating K numbers (30 K in 23 2/3 IP), but the same inconsistency in terms of allowing walks (15 BB in those 23 2/3 IP).

Perez’s ability to miss bats is his strength, as his high K numbers suggest as does the fact that MLB hitters have posted a .195 BA against him this season; but his inability to throw strikes at times presents the downside with a young arm like Perez. That, however, should not be taken to be a downer in the acquisition, though, as Perez brings a repertoire of a fastball and a slider that the Indians simply do not possess among their home-grown relievers and the fact that he is so young certainly portends good things.

How young is he?
He’ll turn 24 on July 1st and has already logged 65 1/3 IP over the last two seasons in MLB.
How does that age rank in terms of Indians’ pitchers?
He’s immediately the youngest pitcher for the Indians and is older than only Chuck Lofgren (by 7 months) among pitchers in Columbus.
If you were looking for a young, MLB-ready, impact arm for the Indians bullpen as a return for DeRosa, Perez is about as good a fit as you’re going to find.

But, the Indians got “only” a reliever for DeRosa when the market was reported to be so hot for him?
I suppose if you want to look at it that way, you certainly can – but the Indians are desperately in need of young, talented arms that can contribute from Day 1 in the rotation or in the bullpen and will remain under club control for the foreseeable future. With a not-yet-24-year-old RH reliever who can touch 99 MPH on the gun (and usually sits in the mid-90s with the fastball) with a complementary wicked slider who has 7 career saves with over 65 IP to date on his resume, Perez fits that bill. Throw in the fact that the earliest he MAY be eligible for arbitration is after next year and you begin to see that Perez is about as close as the Indians were going to come in terms of maximizing their return for a couple of months for DeRosa, particularly when you look at how Perez fills their needs.

Obviously, acquiring Perez is not a panacea for the bullpen and obtaining a high-ceiling reliever is certainly not without risks (as his high BB rate can attest), but the Indians find themselves in a position where they need impact arms now and they need those impact arms in the bullpen most of all. If what Baseball Prospectus’ 2009 Annual said about Perez before the season that “the Cardinals’ closer of the future has a classic plus-fastball/plus-slider combination; he’s only a modicum of improved control away from being elite” is even close to true (they had Perez as their 66th best prospect in all of MLB coming into the season), then any risk associated with Perez is easy to accept, particularly when the player that the Indians give up to net him is essentially a rent-a-player for the Cards.

The other factor that will be interesting to watch in the DeRosa deal is how this PTBNL shakes out because you almost have to assume that it’s going to be another arm, given what the Tribe is targeting. According to Castro, “GM Mark Shapiro said the PTBN component is an important one, akin to the Coco Crisp and Michael Brantley acquisitions in the past” which means that DeRosa-for-Perez straight up is not the whole deal and, according to Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (or at least his Twitter account), “the quality of the player to be named later is tied into whether the Cardinals sign DeRosa to stay beyond this season.”
So throw that log on the fire.

All told, obviously passing judgment on a deal less than 12 hours after said deal is consummated is obviously wildly premature. But if the thought was out there that DeRosa was the best chip to upgrade the talent in the organization in terms of bringing an impact arm, and one that was either MLB-tested or MLB-ready, Perez is a pretty good net result in what the boys at Viva El Birdos feel will be “four years from now this will be remembered as the Chris Perez trade.”

Moving on from DeRosa (though certainly not done with it), let’s roll right into a Lazy Sunday because…well, it’s Sunday:
On the topic of what’s gone wrong with the Indians, Jay Levin of the LGT espouses some theories in a piece called “However Beautiful the Strategy” that really gets to the crux of where the Indians find themselves and how they got there. Unsurprisingly from Levin, it’s a well-thought out, insightful piece that breaks down all of the potential “this went wrong” ideas clearly and lays out very specifically what aspects of the organization may have failed and how each may have done so.
Set aside some time to read this and don’t simply click the link, see that it’s a long piece, scan it quickly, and move on…no, read it even if it takes a while because it’s absolutely worth your time.

As for the “Wedge Watch”, for an interesting look at whether changing a manager mid-season has, historically, resulted in a “bump” in terms of performance on the field, The Hardball Times has a comprehensive analysis of that very question. At this point, I think a “bump” that could put the Indians back into contention for 2009 isn’t happening here, regardless of who comes in, if only because it would take everything that has gone so horribly wrong for the team to simply turn on a dime and go so unbelievably right…and that just isn’t going to happen.

As for whether that move for a new manager will happen this year, it certainly sounds as if Shapiro is stepping in front of his manager, ready to take a bullet even if, as Jon Heymann reports:
One person with ties to the Indians claims things have gotten “stale,” and perhaps a change wouldn't be such a bad thing. At 30-43, they are surely one of baseball's most underachieving teams. “Maybe they need a new voice,” that person said.
Shapiro disagrees: "I don't think a new voice is going to change the bullpen's performance."
Maybe so, and Wedge should be safe as long as Shapiro continues to believe Wedge isn't the problem. And even if Shapiro's bosses don't share that sentiment, the club-owning Dolans do believe in their GM, who is expected to eventually be promoted to club president. So it would be something of a surprise if they overruled Shapiro now.

Anyone else following this thing, while the voice in your head says, “like sands through the hourglass, so are the Days of Our Lives…”

Switching gears to the obligatory “Will the Indians trade Cliff Lee” stack, Ken Rosenthal reports that the Dodgers have inquired about Clifton Phifer (no surprise there) and that the Indians have said that they will entertain moving him “if they are offered a potential top-of-the-rotation starter at the level of the Braves' Tommy Hanson or Red Sox's Clay Buchholz.”

Truthfully, I’m not sure that a return like a Tommy Hanson or a Clay Buchholz justifies trading a year and a half of wildly affordable innings from a LH Cy Young Award winner. Hanson and Buchholz, between them, have 22 MLB starts with simply not enough time to draw legitimate opinions about either. The 22-year-old Hanson just emerged from AAA and while early reports are positive, they are just that – early reports. Meanwhile, the 23-year-old Buchholz is constantly put forth as this wildly hyped prospect, but in 18 games in MLB, he’s posted a 5.56 ERA and a 1.60 WHIP with a 1.84 K/BB ratio.

What would it really take?
Well, if the Dodgers are interested, guys who are young and have proven themselves in MLB like Clayton Kershaw (a 21-year-old with a career 4.05 ERA and a career 1.43 WHIP over 35 starts) or Chad Billingsley (a 24-year-old with a career 3.24 ERA and a career 1.38 WHIP over 83 career starts) are exactly who would fit the bill.

But (back to Rosenthal), “the Dodgers' best young starting pitchers, right-hander Chad Billingsley and lefty Clayton Kershaw, are part of the major-league rotation and all but untouchable” so there’s that answer or if Jayson Stark is to be believed on the topic, “What the Indians have told those teams is that they'd “have to be overwhelmed” to deal Lee. But given the lack of top-of-the-rotation alternatives, is it possible that somebody could succeed in overwhelming them? Sure, theoretically -- especially if the overwhelming offer included a future No. 1-type starter. But the Brewers aren't trading Yovani Gallardo. The Dodgers aren't trading Clayton Kershaw. The Phillies aren't trading Cole Hamels, or even Kyle Drabek. So it's doubtful any of those deals can happen.”

While that may be true, that kind of return is what the Indians should be targeting, if they do move a season and a half of Lee if you take a look at what the team trading for Lee would be netting. That return would be a LH pitcher scheduled to make a little less than $12M over the next SEASON AND A HALF (less than $3M still owed to him in 2009 and $9M owed to him in 2010) who is currently sitting on the 3rd highest VORP in MLB a year after posting the highest VORP.

Seeing what other pitchers are providing this year for a little more money this year over ONE year, it’s not a stretch to hear the Indians ask for more than just a AAA “can‘t miss” prospect at this point due to the amount of time that Lee would be pitching and the affordability of his deal. Oh, and another reason that the Indians should ask for the“moon and the stars” if they did to decide to move Lee can again be best seen here in Joel Sherman’s piece from last week that the Indians are nothing without Lee in 2010 and the events of the past week haven’t changed that, making Sherman’s argument as relevant as ever.

Changes are afoot and the first domino has fallen in the DeRosa deal…what next?


Spills said...

At what point does something have to go right for this team?

This team reached its apex in '07 after gaining that 3-1 lead with #1 and #4 in Cy Young voting sure to wrap up the series in 6 games tops. (Now that I'm writing this, that series sounds eerily similar to the feelings going into the Magic series this year. Please God, do not put the LeBrons through anything close to the hell that has been the past 2 years of Indians' baseball.)

I believe that after this year, Shapiro should move to replace Wedge. I believe this should happen for no other reason than to give the players who have failed him a swift kick in the rear end.

In fact, as this season devolves (I cannot begin to describe the disgust of watching those first two Cubs games in person), might it be prudent to bring up a new interim-manager along with the AAA positional players? I would love to see some competition for every major league position not manned by Victor, Choo, Valbuena, Cabrera, and a healthy Grady.

Bah, I can't believe I'm looking forward to a Brown's season likely to net us a grand total of 7 wins if everything goes well.

Unknown said...

Two brief stat lines:

For 5.5 Million at age 34

.270 BA
13 HR
50 RBI
.342 OBP
.457 SL
9 Errors


For 5 million at age 35

.298 BA
11 HR
48 RBI
.365 OBP
.517 SL
5 errors

The first player you looked at was the most coveted and versatile players in the league, and it happens to be Mark DeRosa of the St. Louis Cardinals.

The second player you looked at was a versatile guy that many people in this town loved to rip and couldn't wait to get out of Cleveland. His name is Casey Blake of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Funny how similar they really are this year.

All in all, we wind up with two, young bullpen guys in Jon Meloan and Chris Perez, our catcher of the future in Carlos Santana, and a PTBNL. Not bad for two high end utilty guys, right?

rodells said...

Don't think I forgot about this place!

Good trade in my books.

While I cringe thinking that Duncan/LaRussa signed off on trading a pitcher, I think they realize how much value DeRosa brings to the table allowing them to deal a good young arm.

Anonymous said...

@Ryz - I'd be a lot more sympathetic to the comparison if Wedge had actually USED Blake's versatility, rather than doggedly plunking him at third everyday at the expense of both the ML roster and organizational development. And of course none of that takes into account the fact that he's on a 3-year deal. I know, I know, you were just making conversation, but get back to me with his numbers in 2011 before we start writing love letters about the guy.

rodells - The PTBNL will be an arm as well -- that's why we were dealing with the Cardinals. Between Alex White and Chris Reyes, Shaponetti's obviously decided to start playing for high-ceiling relief arms. There's a new strategy afoot and I'm all for it.

Finally, my word verification image is "bustio," which I enjoy very much.

Alex Trebek said...

What is up with this Francisco/Gimenez platoon in the final outfield spot? Why not LaPorta or Brantley? I know LaPorta is mostly playing first now, but Wedge likes moving players to different positions....

Tom Waddle said...

I'll bet the tribe aren't brining them up because of contact control. If they bring these guys up now, they'll be super 2's and arbitration eligible after the 2011 season. If they wait until August they won't be arbitration eligible until after the 2012 season.

It's probably worth a couple million bucks on each guy to wait until August.

Paul Cousineau said...

Not sure where your math puts you in terms of arbitration, but everything I've read is that it's actually before the beginning or middle of June where Super-2 becomes an issue, so we're past that.

You're right that it's worth a couple million bucks and another full year of control to wait on it...but they're already in the clear on that.