Jim Bowden's Top 10 Trade Targets - He Must Be Very Busy

Jim Bowden's Top 10 Trade Targets

He Must Be Very Busy

We’re a little over two weeks into the baseball season, but that doesn’t stop baseball writers from thinking about midseason trades (that probably won’t happen). Jim Bowden decided to enlighten us as to several players he thinks will be traded this year, as well as the teams that should trade for them. However, Jim didn’t feel like doing any research before writing his article, so it’s actually pretty bad. I like to imagine him sitting in a lounge chair drinking a Mai Tai while occasionally reaching to grab his laptop and pound out a few words based upon player reputations from a few years ago.

Ask any Cincinnati fan about the Jim Bowden era and you will likely lose your hearing after hearing them scream and curse for a solid ten minutes straight. After recovering your hearing, you’ll still remember that Jim Bowden took over a team that had won the World Series 2 years before, yet only went to the playoffs once in 11 years, despite having Barry Larkin, Jose Rijo, Ken Griffey Jr., Reggie Sanders, Mike Cameron and others. He was also GM of the Nationals for five years of no playoffs, but he did make sure they lost over 100 games in consecutive years so they could get Strasburg and Harper, so yay I guess.

Anyway, dynamite Jim took a break from his vacation to rub out a quickie as to which players will be traded. Let’s see it Jimbo!

Baseball is witnessing the most competitive balance in more than two decades. As a result, general managers of contending teams already are preparing and targeting potential trade partners for the July 31 trade deadline. All the same, non-contenders are scouting the top prospects in the contenders’ farm system and noting their own trade targets.

For that reason, even 120 days out from the July 31 trade deadline, it isn’t at all too early to be thinking about possible trades.

OK, I’m confused already. So Jim’s saying that the league is gripped by parity, which would indicate that there are fewer sad-sack teams that will obviously be sellers. Then he says contending teams (which would be most of the league by his first sentence) are looking for trade partners while non-contenders (which would be, basically, the Astros) are looking at contending teams (which is everyone else). Then he says it isn’t too early to think about trades.

If we don’t know who is going to be a buyer or a seller, since everyone is competitive, how can we know who to even think about trading? The premise of the VERY FIRST LINE of the article basically makes the rest of the article moot.

Maybe I’m being too rough on Jim. He is a former GM, he has no reason to know about logic or writing. Wait, he was a Communications and Business Administration major in college? OK, well that was back in 1985, they couldn’t have invented logic back then. Let’s see how he does on his analysis.

1. Chase Headley | 3B

OK, Chase Headley makes sense. His name had been tossed around in a few articles in the offseason, the Padres looked at dealing him last year, and they are still nowhere near contention. A solid choice.

After Headley’s breakout 2012 season, the Padres and Headley engaged in a few conversations about a long-term contract. However, when Headley’s representatives compared him to Ryan Zimmerman, Evan Longoria and David Wright, the conversation quickly died. The Padres felt Headley needed to show the same production for a longer period of time than just a single season to be paid in the range of Zimmerman, Wright and Longoria.

Hmm, those are some pretty big names to be compared to. This does sound like Headley’s people may have been aiming high (though that is, technically, their job). Of course, Washington and New York are huge East Coast markets, while Tampa has been a perennial contender during Longoria’s career (largely because of him), so they’ve gotten more exposure and seem like bigger stars. Let’s take a look at these players by WAR during the first 4 years after coming to the majors (the first season they played over 100 games) to evaluate the cold hard stats:

Player A: 4.8 (122 games), 7.1 (157), 8.1 (151), 7.5 (133)

Player B: 4.7 (160 games), 4.1 (154), 8.3 (160), 6.8 (160)

Player C: 2.9 (157 games), 4.6 (162), 2.7 (106), 7.3 (157)

Player D: 0.6 (156 games), 3.9 (161), 2.8 (113), 6.2 (161)

Looking at this, you’d say that Player A is head-and-shoulders better than the rest of the crew. Player B is slightly more durable, but not quite as consistently awesome. Players C and D improved over their first 2 years, got injured, then came back and put up big numbers.

Player A is Longoria, B is Wright, C is Zimmerman and D is Headley.

Headley is clearly not as good as Longoria and Wright were when they came up, but he’s not far off of Zimmerman. Zimmerman did have these in his age 21 – 24 seasons, whereas these are Headley’s 25 – 28 seasons, but the similarities are enough that the agents shouldn’t be laughed out of the room.

More importantly, though the mainstream media only just heard about him last year because he led the league in RBI after languishing in the awfulness that is the Padres home stadium and terrible lineup, Headley has been consistently productive for 3 years now. If you pro-rate his 2011 performance over a full season, that comes out to 4.0 WAR, meaning that he’s been a borderline all-star (5+ WAR) for about 3 years. If Headley had 3 all-star game appearances instead of 0, people would not bat an eye at a comparison to Longoria, Wright and Zimmerman, particularly given the dearth of decent 3B in the league right now.

And they were right.

I will not concede this point to Bowden. He shows no sign of having looked into this at all, aside for “who have I heard of on ESPN.”

However, Headley fractured his left thumb in spring training and is out until at least mid-April. If Padres are in the pennant race in July,

Extremely not likely given the fact that they are missing their best player.

they’ll keep Headley and try to sign him in the offseason. However, if they’re out of it by the end of July, then a deal is a real possibility.

The Padres are going to deal Headley, there’s no doubt about it. They are 2-6 and have the third worst run differential in the league. They’ve also been snakebitten by injuries. This isn’t their year, and their owners have shown no interest in paying anyone. So where does Jim think Headley’s going?

Trade partners: Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs

OK, the Braves make sense, but they just went out and spent money and prospects on the Uptons – they may be tapped out this year. They also seem to be doing just fine with their current lineup, so they will probably avoid making too big of a splash.

The Dodgers certainly need a 3B and have an infinite payroll, but their farm system is empty, the Padres don’t have any expensive contracts they can dump on the Dodgers, and they probably don’t want to trade their best player to a division rival who will hold onto him for the next decade.

The Yankees need 3B, but they have been adamant about staying under the luxury tax next year, so they probably don’t want to take on another player that they will have to pay up for next year when they already have to drive a Brinks truck up to Cano.

Bowden later lists the Pirates as a seller, in which case I doubt they’d want to rent Headley. They also have Pedro Alvarez, who has been a bit of a disappointment as a prospect, but actually piled up 2.8 WAR last year and is still just 26 – they’re probably not trading for a 3B.

The Phillies have the corpse of Michael Young out there, but given their age, farm system and seasonal prospects (the Nationals and Braves look VERY good), probably won’t be buyers.

The Cubs are going to be sellers this year. They do not want a 28 year old 3B. He would be an improvement, but Theo Henry is trying to build the farm system, not bury it. #JuliusCaesarReference

2. Matt Garza | RHP

Garza is an impending free agent, and although Cubs GM Jed Hoyer told me it was more likely they would sign Garza long term than trade him, blaming the difficulty in acquiring top-of-the-rotation starters via trade or the free-agent market,

You have the GM saying they’re going to sign him. This is occasionally a ruse to prop up a player’s trade value, but the Cubs have a pretty high threshold for their budget, so overpaying a solid starter (4.0 WAR over his 2 seasons with the Cubs) is not a big deal to them. Furthermore, they made a pretty big investment in Garza a few years back when they traded a dazzling array of prospects for him, so they are unlikely to just let him walk.

Hoyer and team president Theo Epstein also are smart enough to trade Garza in July for a prospect package and re-sign Garza as a free agent in the offseason.

Is this a thing that happens? I am sure that there have been instances of players returning to the team that traded them as a rental, but it has to be in the minority. Lance Berkman, who loved the Astros, did not re-sign with them after they traded him – why would Matt Garza go back to Chicago? Does he have particularly fond memories of the past 2 years? Do Hoyer and Epstein have magical powers? Are they JEDI?!!!!

Of course, Garza has to prove he is healthy and effective first.

Oh, right – people have to want to trade for him. Given that he is out until Mid-May and is coming off of a year where he had a 102 ERA+ over only 103 innings, the market may be a bit dry. Considering that Chicago would not get a very good haul for him and he probably stays a Cub.

Trade partners: Los Angeles Angels, Kansas City Royals, Cleveland Indians, Philadelphia Phillies, Milwaukee Brewers

The Phillies have some real problems, but getting a 29 year-old starting pitcher is probably pretty far down their list of solutions.

3. Ricky Nolasco | RHP

This is where Jimbo just hits cruise control and starts throwing out some real BS.

Since being acquired from the Chicago Cubs in a 2005 trade for Juan Pierre, Nolasco has been a workhorse, going 76-65 in his seven seasons with the Marlins. He’s won in double digits in six of those seasons, pitching at least 180 innings four times.

When you hear baseball writers throw certain words around like scrappy, gritty or workhorse, you know that there is some real crap coming up. When they start mentioning wins in the traditional sense and throw out an arbitrary inning count (200 is usually the baseline for a full-time starter), then you know what’s going to happen.

Look at Nolasco’s numbers on Baseball-Reference. This guy has one season where he has an ERA+ above 100 (back in 2008 when Lehman Brothers still existed). Somehow, despite playing on a pretty bad team, he has managed to grit his way to a winning record over 7 seasons.

Maybe he’s a strikeout pitcher? No, his K/9 hit 9.5 in 2009 and has been dropping steadily ever since to 5.9 in 2012. Maybe he’s a control pitcher? No, his K:BB has been in decline and was a mediocre 2.66 in 2012. Maybe he’s a groundball pitcher who gets a lot of outs that way? No, his GB:FB ratio is below 1.0 and his WHIP has been north of 1.35 each of the past 2 seasons. In fact, the only thing he’s ever led the league in was hits surrendered in 2011.

I guess that means he’s actually a mediocre pitcher. Who has broken 200 IP just twice in his career and has not produced a WAR above 2.0 outside of his fluke 2008 season. Sign me up.

Finally in his free-agent walk year, it is unlikely the Marlins will give him the long-term contract that he’s seeking.

The Marlins are a very cheap franchise. This is not an example of it. This is called “being smart” and “not paying mediocre pitchers.”

But a contender looking for a solid No. 3 starter will come calling.

I weep for whichever team that is.

Trade partners: Indians, Angels

Good luck to the Chuck Finley duo (Indians and Angels). Jean jackets and White Snake videos for everyone.

4. Bud Norris | RHP

You can be assured of two things with the Astros -- they will lose 100 games again, and Jeff Luhnow will not stop dealing his best assets, especially when he’s offered opportunities to acquire three or four players for one.

Does Jim know about some negotiation that he isn’t letting on here? How does he know it will be 3 or 4 prospects? Norris is not Randy Johnson or even Eric Bedard. Teams are much stingier with their prospects nowadays. If Bud Norris does fetch 3 or 4 prospects, they will be pretty low-ceiling ones.

The 28-year-old Norris’ stock has been rising among GMs, and if he can decrease his walks between now and July, Luhnow could get a decent haul for him.

And if the school nerd can decrease his acne and raise his muscle, he can take the captain of the cheerleading team to prom. Some things just aren’t happening.

Bud Norris is a solid strikeout pitcher (career 8.8 K/9), but he is also a bit wild (career 3.8 BB/9). We have 575 innings telling us this. The trend has not been improving either. He is what he is – if GMs are interested, it will not be because he finds a way to have fewer walks in the next dozen starts.

Norris was tremendous at home last year, where he posted a 1.71 ERA in 11 starts, with 82 strikeouts and only 17 walks in 73 2/3 innings pitched.

This makes no sense. The stat is correct, but it’s baffling. Minute Maid is known as a hitter’s park, but, somehow, Bud Norris pitched like early 1960’s Bob Gibson there last year.

Now, in 2011 he was more even between home and road, and his 2013 looks more like 2011 thus far.

However, even if we’re just looking at 2012, unless whatever team acquires Norris figures out how to play home games in Minute Maid Park (impossible unless the Astros somehow trade Norris to themselves for prospects), they have to come to terms with the fact that he had a 6.94 ERA in 94.2 IP with 83Ks and 49BBs everywhere that wasn’t Houston.

Trade partners: Angels, Tampa Bay Rays, Pirates, San Francisco Giants

The Angels do need pitching. The Pirates can improve their pitching more just by promoting Gerrit Cole, which would cost them 0 prospects.

Given their pitching staffs, I have no idea why the Rays or Giants would want Norris. Perhaps the Giants would be interested if someone got injured, since their farm system doesn’t have any starting pitching talent that seems ready to step up soon, but the Rays are flush with pitching. Maybe Luhnow can sell ice cubes to an eskimo, but I doubt he could sell pitching to the Rays.

5. Justin Morneau | 1B

The 33-year-old has spent his entire 11-year career with the Twins and he would have to approve any trade because of his 10-and-5 rights (10 years in the majors, five with one team). But as an impending free agent, he knows the Twins probably won’t sign him to another long-term contract and are far from contention, so he might be willing to accept a trade to a contender

This does not address why any team would want a 33 year-old 1B who hasn’t played a full season since the Bush administration and who has a whopping 0.2 WAR in 203 games over the past 2 seasons.

6. Lucas Harrell | RHP

I doubt the Astros would trade both of their best starting pitchers.

Why not? They traded ALL of their reasonable starting position players (except for Altuve) over the past few years. What reason do they have to hold onto a pitcher who will be on the wrong side of 30 the next time they even sniff .500?

But with so many clubs desperate for starting rotation help, Luhnow might be offered a deal he can’t refuse.

I think that deal starts at a bag of baseballs, a case of Lone Star, and a hearty handshake.

The 28-year-old Harrell finished 2012 at 11-11 with a 3.76 ERA -- quite the feat pitching for a team that lost 107 games.

All the more impressive since he was below league average in WHIP (1.36), K/9 (6.5), and K:BB (1.79).

Also, this isn’t the steroid era anymore – 3.76 ERA was only 6% better than league average.

As his command and control improve, [in his age 28 season, which would be a miracle,] Harrell could have even a better season in 2013, as he has started to figure out how to get outs earlier in the count and keep hitters off balance.

This is definitely on display with his decreased BB/9 and increase K:BB.

Nope. The opposite is true. I know it’s only 2 starts, but if you’re going to make a statement this early, like Bowden does, then at least have it be correct.

BTW, could you tell what I added to Jim’s work above? Hint: it’s the part that makes sense and is in brackets.

Trade partners: Pirates, Giants, Colorado Rockies

Again with the Giants. I also discussed the Pirates before. I do like how the Angels and Rays are not included here, while the Rockies were added in.

7. Steve Cishek | RHP

Cishek took over the closer’s role from Heath Bell last summer and delivered a 2.69 ERA and 15 saves. The Marlins were so confident in him they dealt Bell to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the offseason.

I think that had more to do with Bell’s awful 1.56 WHIP, 5.09 ERA, and awful contract than it did with Cishek’s success, but Cishek did pitch well.

The sinkerballer’s stock has gone up so much that contending teams believe he can get it done against the best lineups in the postseason.

Hmm, great inference by contending teams – a guy pitches very well against the league, which includes postseason teams, so he’ll probably pitch well against those lineups in the postseason.

The fact that he’s under team control through 2017 and not eligible for arbitration until 2014 also increases value. The Marlins would be foolish not to trade Cishek while his value is at its peak.

Let’s see, cheap and under team control through 2017 (that’s 4 years away). No arbitration until 2014 (so REALLY cheap the next 2 years). While the Marlins could get value for him, and closers on bad teams are often trade targets, I’m not sure that Loria will deal him this year. Next year or the year after, probably.

8. Huston Street | RHP

His club-friendly deal of $7 million per season runs through 2014, and with a team option of the same $7 million in 2015, his trade value only increases.

Conversely, wouldn’t the Padres like to keep a cheap asset that they have shown they like? The Padres don’t hand out contracts often – I’d think they’d want to keep someone that they actually do give one to.

Bowden also lists Soriano and Grilli as targets, with no mention of the albatross that is Soriano’s contract (he, in fact, mentions Soriano’s no-trade clause as if that would be the holdup in a deal) or that fact that the Pirates gave the 36 year-old Grilli the first multi-year contract OF HIS CAREER (so they’d be unlikely to deal him so quickly). But I can’t go on – I’m just exhausted from this bad writing. It really takes it out of me. To embrace a hack-writer love and use a food metaphor here, this kind of bad writing is like the dessert table in the buffet – I just want to tear into it and leave no survivors, but when I’m done, I’m in a minor food coma and can’t get my Uptons straight.

The fact that Bowden’s column calls him a “baseball insider” is borderline offensive. I’m going to have to go read some well-researched analysis from Jonah Keri or David Schoenfield to get my mind right.

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