Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Trade Winds are a Blowin'

Let’s see:

1. 2nd Annual Carl Crawford to the White Sox trade rumor – check
2. Random Scott Kazmir to New York rumor – check
3. Tons of chatter on message boards on other teams fleecing the Rays for their players – check

That means one thing – the Hot Stove League is in full swing. Baseball’s annual swap meet is humming right along at a fever pitch even though there haven’t been any big deals yet. The biggest news has been players resigning such as Alex Rodriguez with the Yankees and Mike Lowell with the Red Sox. The names rumored to be on the block are huge. Johan Santana, dubbed by some as the best pitcher in the game, is on the move to New York (Mets and Yankees), Red Sox, Angels or whoever else meets whatever outrageous price Minnesota is looking for. Miguel Cabreara has been mentioned in as many stories as Santana often for the same players that are in the Santana rumors.

While nothing solid looks to be eminent it does keep fans busy coming up with their own unsubstantiated and all out crazy trade rumors. As usual Joe Commenter thinks they are smarter than the 30 GM’s in Major League Baseball. Apparently if GM’s read more blogs and message boards they’d be a lot better at their job.

That makes today’s rumor so interesting. A proposed “mega deal” between the Rays and the Twins has spread through the internet community like a California wildfire. La Velle E. Neal III (great name by the way) reports on that the two clubs are “close to finalizing a multi-player deal” that would send Delmon Young, Brendan Harris and Jason Pridie to Minnesota for stud pitching prospect Matt Garza, reliever Juan Rincon and shortstop Jason Bartlett.

Reaction from the masses has been mixed. Opinions have ranged from it being a horrible deal for the Rays to being a horrible deal for the Twins to it being a great trade for both clubs. This is an extension of fans having a tendency to over value their own prospects. Delmon Young could be the next great right-handed hitter a la Albert Pujols. Or he could be a one year wonder (paging Kevin Maas). Matt Garza could be a dominating starter or he could blow his arm out skipping rocks on a river somewhere.

The point is, well one of the points is, that you have to surrender talent to receive talent. With all of the scouting and information on players available the chances of one team robbing another in a trade are greatly reduced. There won’t be too many Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano deals anytime soon, especially in the off-season.

Many fans would like to see Young in a Rays uniform for many years to come. These same fans acknowledge that the Rays can use another starter in the rotation. Well they can’t have it both ways. Teams aren’t going to deal a number 3 or above starter to the Rays for an oft-injured Rocco Baldelli or malcontent such as Elijah Dukes.

So it comes to dealing key players. The two biggest chips in the Rays arsenal are Delmon Young and Carl Crawford. Right now Young may have more upside to his career, but Crawford is more important to the organization. CC is still young enough to just be entering his prime, but also has enough experience that you know what you’re getting out of him year in and year out – 50 steals, over .300, 15-20 home runs and slightly above average defense in left.

Young has one year and despite the fact that it was arguably a Rookie of the Year caliber season there are still a lot of question marks for his career. Will he hit for power (only 13 homeruns in 645 at bats)? Will he curb his strikeouts (127 last season)? Those are realistic concerns.

If this deal goes down it will be the first major deal for the new ownership; deadline deals not withstanding. It will give the Rays a strong rotation (Kazmir, James Shields, Garza, Andy “The Chosen One” Sonnanstine, Ed Jackson) for next year. With Jeff Niemann and David Price around the bend Tampa Bay could have a dominating staff for years to come.

The outfield of the future from a few seasons ago (Carl Crawford, Josh Hamilton and Delmon Young) never materialized and has morphed into Crawford, BJ Upton and as yet to be named right fielder if Young is moved. Next season will probably see a platoon of Jon Gomes, Justin Ruggiano or a yet to be signed journeyman in right. While losing Delmon would be a blow to the lineup the Rays could hope that the addition of Evan Longoria would offset any loss of offense.

As usual all of this could be for naught if the deal doesn’t happen. The important point (see there is more than one) is that fans shouldn’t reject a deal out of the gate just because it involves a player that has been billed as a can’t miss prospect. He is still just a prospect. There’s a 50/50 chance he could turn into a bust. Then you only can say – “Gee if only we had dealt him back when he was good”.

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