December 2007

TRADING THE FARM FOR HAREN

Literally. Or almost, anyway.

While a baseball nation turned its lonely post-winter meetings eyes to the Mitchell Report, Oakland A’s ace Dan Haren apparently morphed overnight into Nolan Ryan.

How else to explain the Arizona Diamondbacks trading so much of their admittedly loaded farm system to Oakland for Haren on Friday afternoon?

The D-backs sent six Minor Leaguers to Oakland for Haren and injured Minor League reliever Connor Robertson. Of that sextet I would deem four of them top-of-the-line prospects and two of them among their very best. Here is a quick rundown of the six:

OF Carlos Gonzalez: Ranked No. 23 on MiLB.com’s recent Top 50 prospects list, the two-time Futures Game participant from Venezuela has been viewed as one of the best outfield prospects in the game, thanks to his power and strong arm. The left-handed hitting 22-year-old combined for 86 RBIs between Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Tucson this year.

LHP Brett Anderson: The club’s second-round pick in 2006 out of Oklahoma, he signed late so 2007 marked his pro debut. The 19-year-old son of legendary Oklahoma baseball coach Frank Anderson combined for a 3.07 ERA between two Class A stops, striking out 125 in 120 innings while walking just 21. He throws a slider, curveball and fastball and was a Midwest League All-Star.

1B Chris Carter and OF Aaron Cunningham: Both were acquired during the 2007 season from the Chicago White Sox in separate trades. Carter, 20, is a strapping power hitter taken originally in the 15th round of 2005 out of high school, and hit .291 with 25 homers and 93 RBIs at Class A Kannapolis this season. Cunningham, a speedy center fielder, is a five-tool threat across the board.

LHP Greg Smith: A finesse pitcher with a curve, changeup and fastball that touches 90, was Pioneer League Pitcher of the Year after being drafted in the sixth round of 2005 out of LSU, and has been consistently among his league’s ERA leaders as he’s worked his way up through the system in two-plus seasons.

LHP Dana Eveland: The only member of the six with Major League time under his belt, he missed three months this season to injury but has posted a 2.61 ERA in his Minor League career dating back to signing as a draft-and-follow with Milwaukee in 2003. Most of his Major League time came in 2005. While his big league stints have been in relief, he has primarily been a starter as a pro.

In my opinion, the Athletics may have lost their ace, as most people expected them to, but they have made themselves much deeper and stronger. Only a handful of organizations could have afforded to give up this much for, basically, one Major League ace. Arizona is one of them. — Lisa

 

Tejada deal

Just who did the Orioles get in return for Miguel Tejada. Here’s a little more information on four of the five names (Luke Scott is a full-time big leaguer in my book) headed to Baltimore:

Matt Albers: A durable right-hander with plus arm strength. He’s got an above-average curveball and a feel for a changeup. He profiles as a good No. 3 starter who should eat up 200-plus innings every year.

Dennis Sarfate: Sarfate only spent a couple of months with the Astros, but he was very impressive out of the pen for Houston. He’s got a power arm and a slider that works well in short relief. He used to be a starter, but command issues were a problem. They continued to be this past year before he came to Houston (he was with the Brewers’ Triple-A affiliate in Nashville), but he has the stuff to close or at least be a good setup man if he can command the ball well like he did in Houston.

Troy Patton: The key to the deal, assuming he’s healthy. He’s a No. 2, a No. 3 at worst, if he’s 100 percent, though he’s had some shoulder issues that keep that somewhat in question. While his velocity has dropped some because of the shoulder problems, the positive from that is he’s developed a greater feel for his offspeed stuff.

Mike Costanzo: He only donned an Astros uniform for a brief stretch in the Arizona Fall League, as he came from the Phillies in the Brad Lidge deal this past fall. He’s a left-handed power bat with pop to all fields, though he does swing and miss a fair amount. There’s some question about whether he can play third base at the big-league level. Perhaps he’ll be a left fielder, a first baseman or a DH on an AL club.

Last minute update

Got to go on the air now, but the Rays will deal their pick to the Chicago Cubs, who we think will be taking Brian Barton No. 1…

Rule 5 update

I’m working on the final Rule 5 preview that will have a long list of names that could go tomorrow morning (be sure to tune in to myself and Lisa on MLB.com at 10 a.m. ET). Right now, just wanted to throw up a quick update on the No. 1 pick.

It seems fairly certain that the Tampa Rays will, for the second straight year, trade their pick. Last year, they took outfielder Ryan Goleski and dealt him to the Oakland A’s. I don’t have details on the team who’ll be getting the pick or who the player is, but I’ll update if I find more out.

Tigers update

OK, some more information here…

It looks like the other four players are, in no particular order:

Eulugio De La Cruz, RHP
Mike Rabelo, C
Dallas Trahern, RHP
Burke Badenhop, RHP

Your guesses as to what’s left in the Tigers’ system?

Tigers-Marlins blockbuster

By now, you’ve undoubtedly heard about the huge deal involving the Tigers and Marlins. Just in case you haven’t, the Marlins are sending Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Tigers for Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller and four other Minor Leaguers. Maybin, of course, is an elite prospect, ranking No. 3 overall on our Top 50 prospect ranking. Miller would be too if he hadn’t had too many innings pitched to qualify.

But what about the other quartet of Minor Leaguers? Who else do the Tigers have in their system after trading Gorkys Hernandez and Jair Jurrjens to the Braves for Edgar Renteria. One name being reported is catcher Mike Rabelo, who played 51 games in the bigs this past season. The rest? It’s only guesswork, but here are some possibilities, thinking the Marlins will be looking for guys who are close to big-league ready like Maybin and Miller:

Brent Clevlen: The outfielder does have some big-league time under his belt, though he played in just 117 games in 2007.

Jordan Tata: The right-hander has time in the bigs as a starter and a reliever. He threw just 96 IP in 2007 and tried to make up for some lost time by pitching in winter ball.

Virgil Vazquez: This right-hander made his Major League debut in 2007 after a very successful season in Toledo.

Jeff Larish: The lefty-swinging first baseman has some pop – he led the Eastern League in homers and slugged .515.

Dallas Trahern: He could be a nice inning-eater for a big league rotation very soon, and he’ll play all of next year at age 22.

It could be some of these guys. It could be none of them. I’m sure we’ll all find out in due time…

Notes from Nashville, Monday edition

Hey there, all … despite what it says at the bottom of this post, this is Lisa chiming in here …

So two interesting trades today that saw several young players changing addresses (maybe not all rookies or prospects, but definitely literal youth movement here).

For anyone who may be slightly confused, no, the first baseman named Chris Carter who went from the White Sox to Arizona in the deal for outfielder Carlos Quentin is not the same first baseman named Chris Carter who LEFT Arizona a few months ago in the trade with Boston.

This Chris Carter is a 20-year-old first baseman who posted huge power numbers and a steady bat at Class A Kannapolis this year, hitting .291 with 25 homers and 93 RBIs and earning my colleague Kevin Czerwinski’s nod as the Sox’ Minor League Player of the Year (we each get to pick our own based on which 10 organizations we’re recapping this winter).

While Carter is a few years away from being ready for the Majors, the Diamondbacks are certainly in no hurry to fill the spot at first base, whereas by dealing Quentin they were able to start addressing a surplus of outfield talent and perhaps make room for another Carlos on the way?

Meanwhile, over on the other coast, the Tampa Bay Rays finally dealt troubled outfielder Elijah Dukes to the Washington Nationals in exchange for left-handed pitching prospect Glenn Gibson.

The move takes the immensely talented Dukes away from his home in the Tampa area, in hopes (by both teams) that a change of scenery and address and some distance from his own stomping grounds can allow the 23-year-old to focus on the game and not the distractions off of the field.

Gibson, 20, was the Nationals’ fourth pick in 2006 out of high school on Long Island, New York, and is the son of former big league pitcher Paul Gibson. He went 4-3 with a 3.10 ERA at short-season Vermont this summer. Despite his young age, he’s considered a very polished young pitcher, perhaps because of the bloodlines and growing up around the game.

The move, coupled with the six-player deal the Rays made last week that sent Delmon Young to Minnesota for pitcher Matt Garza, shortstop Jason Bartlett and Minor League pitcher Eduardo Morlan, clears a second spot on the Rays’ 40-man roster.

Why is that significant? Because they hold the first spot in the upcoming Rule 5 draft which will be held on Thursday morning.

The buzz is still minimal for now but I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more in the coming days (and if not, we’ll DEMAND it, ha ha).

But here are a few names to keep an eye on who could factor into this year’s draft:

To me, the most intriguing … and surprising … name on the list is outfielder Brian Barton of the Indians organization. Frankly, I was stunned to see him left unprotected and I will be truly surprised if he makes it through this draft untouched. Barton, signed out of Miami as a non-drafted free agent in the late summer of 2004, was the Indians’ No. 5 prospect coming into 2007 and even though he didn’t match his numbers from ’06 when he hit over .300 with 19 homers and 41 steals, his .305 average with 10 homers and 21 steals between Double-A and Triple-A were still impressive.

At 25 years old (and about to graduate from Miami with his aerospace engineering degree), Barton is the whole package. If he isn’t ready to be a starting outfielder in the Majors, he would certainly be a good candidate for several teams as a fourth guy to start the ’08 season.

Another outfielder who could be called early is Kansas City’s Chris Lubanski, their first-round pick and fifth overall in 2003 out of high school in the Philadelphia area. Though he had a disappointing ’07 campaign when he made his Triple-A debut, he’s always been one of the youngest players in his league and has great tools and makeup across the board. There will be several organizations, I’m sure, anxious to be the beneficiary when he puts it together.

Overall, though, people seem to think it will be a pitching-heavy draft. Among the names being mentioned are Yohan Pino of Minnesota, and two more Royals prospects in Greg Atencio and Dusty Hughes, both of whom pitched in the Arizona Fall League (Hughes, in fact, was voted the league’s Pitcher of the Year in an online poll by fans).

We’ll be back with more Rule 5 musings tomorrow … but for now, it’s off to the lobby!

Why we love the Winter Meetings…

There are many reasons… but atop that list has to be the "baseball people watching." For me, it started even before I left my hometown airport in Pittsburgh. There were some Pirates front office people on my flight down, some folks from the Blue Jays (some of their guys hail from the Burgh)…Sitting on the plane was a sight to behold. Sitting right in front of me: legendary manager Chuck Tanner. Right across the aisle from him? Tigers skipper Jim Leyland. You couldn’t ask for a better precursor to the Winter Meetings. Lisa and I will try to blog as often as we can with what we’re seeing and hearing, especially when it comes to what we’re really focusing on, the Rule 5 draft. — Jonathan

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