Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Clifton Phifer Philly

Still two days away from the Trading Deadline, it appears that he Indians have traded Cliff Lee and Ben Francisco to the Philadelphia Phillies for AAA RHP Carlos Carrasco, SS Jason Knapp, C Lou Marsen, and RHP Jason Knapp in a move that signals that wholesale changes could be coming in the very near future and that contention in the 2010 just became less likely.

Before getting into the players coming to Cleveland in exchange for Lee and Frisco, let’s take a look at the rumor that dominated most of the Trading Deadline season as the Phillies courted Jays’ RHP Roy Halladay, eventually backing away from the table when the Jays demanded a king’s ransom of Kyle Drabek, JA Happ, and Dominic Brown and/or Michael Taylor for 1 ½ years of Doc Halladay fronting the Philadelphia rotation. The demands by the Jays did not seem out of line, given the analysis by Dave Cameron as to the value that Halladay would provide.

After extending that exercise to Lee, the thought was that while Halladay had a larger body of work in terms of performance, the lower amount of money owed to Lee compared to Halladay made the value of the two pitchers relatively similar, if not identical. Now, news that none of the players that the Jays demanded for Halladay (and rightfully so) have been included in the Lee deal for the Phillies starts to throw up the red flags.

Instead of demanding Drabek (the top pitching prospect for the Phillies right now) or Happ (already thriving in MLB), the Indians seem to have centered their deal for Lee around one very high-ceiling young arm in Jason Knapp and a AAA perennial prospect in Carlos Carrasco with two upper-level position players in Lou Marson and Jason Donald coming as organizational filler that could see the Indians’ roster as early as this year. While prior to the season Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus had Carrasco (#1), Marson (#5), Donald (#6), Knapp (#10), the return (when looked at as a whole) is not…um, not quite what we were expecting:
Carlos Carrasco RHP – Age 22
2009 (AAA) – 6-9, 5.18 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 3.0 BB/9, 8.8 K/9, 2.95 BB/K in 114 2/3 IP
Carrasco’s youth and power pitching arsenal portend good things for the young RHP, though those attributes have not yet translated to the AAA level this season. He throws a low-90’s fastball, complementing it with a changeup and a curve, none of which has developed as a true strike-out pitch. Most scouts see his upside as that of a second or third starter, with only the most optimistic predicting front-line stuff from him, age considered. Just as likely though, is that he is a frustrating rotational filler who allows innings to get away from him as he matures as a pitcher. Carrasco is a possibility for the rotation in 2010, but to expect tremendous things out of him that early is foolhardy.

Jason Knapp RHP – Age 18

2009 (A) – 2-7, 4.01 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 4.1 BB/9, 11.7 K/9, 2.85 K/BB in 85 1/3 IP
If Carrasco is the “finished product” in the deal, Knapp is the wild card as he has hit 97 MPH on the gun as an 18-year-old and is a big, strong power pitcher who works his secondary stuff off of his fastball. He could mature into a top-of-the-rotation starter (although not any time soon) or he could flame out through injury or ineffectiveness a long way from Cleveland with the possibility even existing that the bullpen is his eventual home. Certainly one red flag that goes up is the fact that Knapp was shut down on July 11th with “shoulder fatigue” and has yet to pitch since…but that’s the risk of a player like Knapp, who certainly represents the high risk/high reward portion of the deal.

Jason Donald SS – Age 24
2009 (AAA) - .236 BA / .297 OBP / .332 SLG / .629 OPS with 1 HR, 15 2B in 23 PA
A player that projects, initially at least, as a utility IF in the Majors, Donald does a number of things very well, but not one thing well enough to justify his consistent inclusion in an MLB lineup, at least not right now. There’s a chance that he can develop into a moderately effective 2B, but it’s much more likely that Donald projects to a utility IF who can play a number of positions effectively.

Lou Marson C – Age 23
2009 (AAA) - .294 BA / .382 OBP / .370 SLG / .751 OPS with 1 HR, 13 2B in 241 PA
Marson is a high-OBP, low-SLG catcher whose ball-to-bat ability is his greatest strength as well as providing solid, if unspectacular, defense. His lack of power is disconcerting and probably prevents him from every truly projecting as an everyday MLB catcher. If he did, he would fall into the Jason Kendall mode of a high-contact placeholder who probably fits better as a back-up catcher.

For a guttural response to this, this trade makes no sense for the Indians on any level. According to numerous reports, Carrasco was one of the players discussed in the CC deal last year in a deal that the Indians turned down. The difference, of course, being that CC was under contract for ½ of a season when he was dealt as Lee is still under contract for 1 ½ seasons – meaning that a ½ of a year for CC is worth less than 1 ½ years for Lee, particularly when you consider Carrasco’s struggles this year. If Carrasco is the major chip (and I’m having a little trouble considering an 18-year-old in A-ball as the “major” piece), then he certainly doesn’t fill the bill of an MLB-ready starter or even an exceptional prospect a little further away.

It’s probably true that you can slot Carrasco into the rotation in 2010, but how much of a difference is putting him in there than putting a player like Hector Rondon in the 2010 rotation?

And that, to me, is the disappointment of the whole trade at first glance – it unquestionably takes 2010 off the table for the Indians and gives them no real blue-chip prospect who can be relied on to contribute mightily in 2010 or even 2011. Sure, maybe Donald and Marson are close…but Donald looks like the replacement for Jamey Carroll more than anything else for next year and Marson is a AAA catcher in an organization now boasting Victor, Shoppach, Gimenez, Torregas, and Carlos Santana as 2010 options at catcher.

Certainly it looks like a sign that more moves are coming, as holding on to Victor (particularly looking at the 2010 rotation WITH Carrasco) makes less sense today and there’s a likelihood that the move is strictly a salary dump of Lee’s contract for 2010 (which is about the only level it makes sense at), with the edict coming to extract the most value for Lee in the next two days and the return being thus.

The return however, is underwhelming on many levels particularly for the Indians’ most marketable player going for what looks to be a group of mid-level (if close to MLB-ready) prospects.

Much more to come on this sad day - but for now, we’ll have to sit and wait to see if the other shoe drops with Victor as the head-scratching, the violent reactions, and the questions come faster than they can find an answer.


Les Savy Ferd said...

It'd be interesting to compare this trade to the Colon deal in that both are structured similarly.

SP Colon was moved (with at the time a PTBNL) for

AA SP Cliff Lee
AAA 2B Brandon Phillips (who was regarded as the best prospect in their system at the time)
19 year-old A OF Grady Sizemore who had still yet to hit is first HR of the season.
and 34 year old 1B Lee Stevens

(If I got any of those deets mixed up I apologize. My simple google search turned sour after a few tries)

Richard said...

Donald was a top 50 prospect going into the season so I'm a bit higher on him than most people.I'm guessing this is due to his stats this year. He is still recovering from a knee injury and think he has a future at 2nd or 3rd. I'll be interested to see what Keith Law and Dave Cameron have to say on the deal. Carrasco and Knapp both seem to be solid talents.

Marson is the one who really confuses me. Its gotta mean another trade coming right?

Beyond the Boxscore has a nice recap of the prospects as well

Richard said...

its ugly

Phillies get Lee, give up few high-end assets
“For the Phillies, this looks like a steal. In Cliff Lee, they acquire one of the best pitchers in the American League over the past 18 months while retaining their top two prospects and trading four guys who all have serious question marks. “
“Cleveland's return is going to end up leaning very heavily on 19-year-old right-hander Jason Knapp, who is currently on the shelf with shoulder fatigue. Knapp is a low-three quarters slinger with a shoulder-heavy arm action, landing on a stiff front leg and struggling to close his front shoulder. He's been sitting in the mid-90s this spring, but his curveball and changeup remain below average; it's possible he won't ever have an average curve from that arm slot. The arm strength and the results for a 19-year-old in full-season A-ball are both very impressive, so even with the other concerns he has potential, but he's a high-risk/high-reward guy. Cleveland rarely has guys like this in their system because they tend to draft conservatively, and their best homegrown prospect right now, 20-year-old shortstop Lonnie Chisenhall, was a pick where they broke out of their typical draft philosophy. The remaining players headed to Cleveland are inventory. Coming into 2009, Jason Donald, 24, projected as either an average defensive shortstop or above-average second baseman; his bat plays at either position but probably won't at third base, and he performed terribly in Triple-A this year before going down with a torn meniscus in his left knee in June, an injury from which he just returned to Triple-A. If the injured left knee was the true cause of his struggles, then it's a good buy-low move for Cleveland. Right-hander Carlos Carrasco is just 22 and has shown an above-average fastball, but he lacks a plus or even above-average secondary pitch, his command is poor and his on-field makeup has been a major question for two years; he doesn't respond well to adversity between the lines and, according to multiple sources, was so upset about seeing his name in trade talks last year that he pulled himself from a start during warm-ups and may have deliberately pitched poorly to try to hurt his trade value. Catcher Lou Marson, 23, makes a lot of contact and controls the strike zone but his swing path takes the bat down to the ball, resulting in a ton of ground balls and therefore little to no power. With Carlos Santana already the catcher of the future in Cleveland, Marson looks like either a future backup or an asset for the Indians to move somewhere else. At this point it's hard to see any logic for Cleveland to retain Victor Martinez; their chances to contend in 2010 are largely gone because of the dearth of major league-ready starting pitching in the organization, and they're not in a payroll bracket where they're going to go out and buy three-fifths of a playoff rotation. Keeping Martinez, a productive but injury-prone catcher, with Santana and Marson sitting in Triple-A, doesn't make much sense given the front office's evident decision to rebuild.”

Cy Slapnicka said...

I'm actually kind of glad that the summer of 2010 has been freed up for me, as I've been enjoying my freedom this one.

The A.G.B said...

I'm not going to lie...I LOVE this deal. I think it is actually fairly better than the haul we got for Sabathia. The Sabathia trade seemed to revolve around two players and two players alone: Brantley and LaPorta. It is all-or-nothing with them. I think the Lee trade has a little more room for error.

For starters, Lee is a little bit older than Sabathia was and traded him does not seem as big a failure as trading Sabathia did (who wants to see an Ace go in his prime?). From what I've heard, Carrasco and Donald can contribute as early as next year. Marson is an interesting add as well simply for what he could potentially mean for the fate of Victor or Shoppach.

Then you add the one Brantley/LaPorta potential type in Knapp and I think you could have a great deal. You have players ready to compete as early as next year but who still have plenty of upside (remember Carrasco is ony 22-years-old and was seen as nearly fair compensation for CC Sabathia just one year ago), and one potential All-Star who has time to work his way up through the Minors (I heard someone say that Knapp looks like a young Halladay)

If you buy into the premise that Lee should have been traded, which I do because we weren't going anywhere with him anyway, then I think this trade looks absolutely brilliant on paper.

Shapiro didn't rob the Phillies a la Colon, but he did get the best deal that he possibly could have, I believe.

Alex Trebek said...

I would like to revoke my earlier statement about the Indians being in a "strong" position next year. There's always the year after next year.......

Spills said...

I'm sorry AGB, but there is no way this deal compares to the CC haul. Donald and Marson are unlikely to ever see time with Cleveland, unless we're talking in a backup role for Marson to Santana with trades for Shoppach and El Capitan.

Carrasco screams nut job, there is no way he adds anything to this team next year besides gopher fodder. If he cannot adjust to more mature hitters in AAA, how the hell is he going to make it in the bigs?

The fact that this entire deal hinges on a 19 year old shut down with shoulder soreness, while pitching from a slot thought to add stress to the shoulder, is mildly upsetting.

The fact that not one of the players discussed in the Halladay deal is anywhere to be found in this group just pisses me off.

Hyde said...

I'm a little more high on Marson now than I was a few hours ago, though he's more of a "traditional" catcher. We've needed Victor's bat because we've had so many relatively weak sticks at first and in left. But if we can upgrade those spots, then it's easier to carry a .700 OPS guy with solid defense behind the plate.

I'm still very anti-trade, though. Here's what bugs me about Shapiro (there are a lot of things, but this is the biggest): as he discussed the Lee trade, he referenced the trade that brought Lee here in the first place, and the Travis Hafner acquisition etc--message being "Hey, we've done this before, people complained, and it worked. Think about how bad things would have been had we not made the tough calls back then. Trust us."

So it's Shapiro's contention that the 2002-09 Indians are a success story? More losing seasons than winning seasons, one playoff appearance? The gap between Shapiro's excessive pride in the job he and his lieutenants have done and the results on the field is irritating.

Rebuild 1.0 has to be judged a failure. Now he's saying he's trying to set the Indians up for another run with the current core. Sorry Mark, but you lost the benefit of the doubt, not when the last "run" amounted to one year.

Hyde said...

One other thing: Shapiro says the Indians of today are in much better shape than the team he inherited in 2002. I think that's true in some respects, but there's one huge (as in 290 pounds) exception: there's no 21-year-old C.C. Sabathia on the current Tribe. Veterans of the '90s Indians know that there's nothing harder to acquire than a true ace, and while one never knows about development (no one in 2002 ever profiled Lee as a future ace), it's hard to see one on the current Tribe or in the upper reaches of the system. I'm not sure Shapiro appreciates how fortunate he was to inherit C.C, the last above average major league player the Indians have drafted and signed.

BTW, the word verification right now is (no joke) "expuking."