Friday’s hot topic was the trade of Matt Holliday from the Oakland A’s to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for three prospects. Will this give the Cards a leg up on the rest of the very tight NL Central?
Let’s give this a look see.
In acquiring Matt Holliday, that means that the Cards are effectively replacing what used to be the departed Chris Duncan or the disappointing Rick Ankiel (since rookie Colby Rasmus made an impact on the team and now plays center) with a so-far disappointing Holliday. As a defender, Holliday is better than Duncan, but not appreciably better than Ankiel in left. However, he might be about 20 runs better as a hitter – and likely to be more healthy – than the combination of Duncan and Ankiel. Moving Ankiel to the bench as a fourth outfielder, pinch hitter isn’t a bad thing either. If Holliday goes haywire upon his return to the NL – hitting like Manny Ramirez in LA or Mark Teixeira in LAA (Angels) last year – it could be better, but you cannot predict .350 and power for two months.
I’m not convinced that this is going to make Albert Pujols a better hitter. So, stop saying that, sports reporters – Pujols doesn’t need protection and people are still going to be afraid to pitch to him. It’s just depth in the lineup – and good depth.
What the Cardinals really need is for Mark DeRosa to get hot and make the team forget the Joe Thurston experiment, and for Julio Lugo to break free as the new second baseman, hitting better than Khalil Greene, Brian Barden, and Tyler Green have hit trying to impersonate a shortstop. Brendan Ryan has been good enough, but if Lugo suddenly finds his form at the top of the lineup, THAT extra 15 – 20 runs would be equally valuable. In the NL central, forty extra runs in 65 games would be a significant improvement – possibly worth 6 games to the good, and in a race as close as this one, an extra six wins would go a long way to putting St. Louis in the playoffs.
For Oakland, they get three prospects. What did Oakland receive?
Most analysts are saying the keystone is Brett Wallace, a first round pick in 2008 who has stormed through A, AA, and now AAA for St. Louis. At Memphis, Wallace was hitting .293 with a little power (which I believe will continue to improve), and until recently had always shown patience at the plate. His OBP in two minor league seasons is .390, though it was over .400 at every stop until Memphis. Oakland’s current third sacker, Eric Chavez, is rehabbing and may not return to his prime. He’s 32 and will have missed more than two seasons worth of games in the last three years. So – this addresses an important need for Oakland in 2010 and beyond. In fact, Wallace’s stats make you think of Eric Chavez in his prime, which would be great for the A’s over the next five or six seasons.
Shane Peterson is a 21 year old outfielder who has shown some speed and a little pop in his bat since being drafted in the second round of the 2008 draft out of Long Beach State. His numbers remind me a little of Juan Encarnacion, hopefully with a little bit better speed. As of today, I think he projects out as a good fourth outfielder and if he could add a little power to his frame, would be a nice addition to someone’s lineup. At 15 – 70 – .275, he’s probably the bottom edge of where you’d want a starting outfielder to be, but if he got to 20 – 80 – .290, he’d be very nice.
The third prospect was another first round pick: Clayton Mortensen, who was taken in 2007 out of Gonzaga. He’s not a bad option, having shown improvement in 2009 pitching in AAA for Memphis. He was in AAA for fourteen starts last year, seventeen starts this year and his H/9 rate is down a full hit, his strikeout rate has improved, and his walk rate has gone from 4.7 to 2.9 per nine innings. And, despite pitching in the PCL, he’s had decent success keeping the ball in the park.
Look – the A’s were only going to get two more months of Holliday. He’s a free agent at the end of the season, so assuming Oakland wasn’t planning to sign him, they might have received two decent draft picks as compensation. Instead, they got the equivalance of three high draft picks, and got three picks that have shown improvement and potential. So, I’d have to grade the trade as a very positive one for the As, and one that could have a significant impact as early as 2010.
And, for St. Louis, they added someone who could help finish the job and win the NL Central – and, if he signs, could pair up with Albert Pujols for a couple of playoff runs over the next four or five years. If he LEAVES, the Cards get two more early round picks – which makes up for two of the three they lost. So, it’s still potentially positive for St. Louis.
All in all – I think it’s a great deal for both clubs, though I’d lean slightly in favor of Oakland.
In Other News…
The Cubs lost Ted Lilly to the DL for two weeks with an ailing shoulder. Kevin Hart will likely take his starts, and fortunately Ryan Dempster is nearly ready to return. Justin Berg arrives from AAA to help in the bullpen. If you were wonder, Berg is nice, but not a prospect. [MLB]
Texas starter Vincente Padilla was diagnosed with H1N1 – swine flu. He’ll be fine – already feels better – but out for a few more days. According to ESPN, Padilla is the fifth Ranger to come down with the flu in recent days. [ESPN]
Welcome Back! Alex Gonzalez returns to the Reds from the DL.