Saturday, July 27, 2013

Enough Depth for an Impact Bat?

I feel like posting something today, and I don't feel like editing whatever I blurt out so....

While Texas has had some luck finding impact bats to fill in lineup holes - Napoli - and had the prescience to nab an underrated mid-order bat via FA - Beltre - they don't seem to have game-planned the 2013 and 2014 rosters very well.  Hamilton and Naps were replaced by Berkman and Pierzynski (with TX refusing to overpay in trade or $$ other players during the offseason), while a Moreland bounce back was predicted and a resurgent David Murphy was presumed.  For 2014, both Cruz and Murphy are FA and there are ZERO middle-order prospects on the horizon now that  Olt has been traded.  

Given that the only high level assets are in LowA (all hitters and no high ceiling starters to speak off outside of Jackson) , and that there aren't any impact FA bats available during the off-season, it looks like it might have been worthwhile to overpay on a couple of big bats (in FA $$ or prospects) this year in anticipation of the dearth of free agents in 2013 as well as the the lack of high minors bats ready to play or trade.   Texas will be in a bind next year, having to find 4 starters (RF, LF, C, DH) and a 4th OF from a restricted pool of compelling FA  while their trade prospects will be limited by a lack of diversity in their prospects (all hitters from Low A).  Texas will likely have to plug in league average/fringe average vets on 1 year deals once again, and it will have to further denude its minor league system of its only assets (hitters).  They might even be tempted to sign some bad deals but they might choose to settle on a stop-gap approach similar to 2013 and continue to rely on improving their pitching staff as much as possible and upgrade (and overpay in prospects) at the deadline (again -though the depth will be even thinner in 2014).

So, by way of that digression, what kind of prospects does Texas have in order to acquire one or more bats for their playoff run?  Do they have enough to acquire a high impact bat or will they have to settle for a couple of 34yo platoon types who won't be around next year but whose loss will continue to be felt during the following offseason/ trade deadline due to the thinned out prospect pool averrable for trade.  It would seem that one good bet would be to acquire someone with another year on their contract to fill a roster spot next year and reduce the need to overpay in  FA or trade.  Unless you want to give up Sardinas or Odor or Jackson (further limited by another NeRa DL stay, likely eliminating him from any deal) you'll likely only be able to acquire an older veteran for what you are willing to pay:  your #5 starters on the HighA roster (Eickhoff, Asher, Martinez); your high-leverage relievers  Font, Miller, Lindblom(?), Bonilla(?), Henry(?), Payano(?); possibly some Low A kids like Sadzeck,  LeClerc, Kela); your plus-D reserves (Beltre, Garcia, Gentry(?)).  That is all you got, right?  Not really enough for a young impact bat to be sure.   

Clearly you want to avoid throwing in any of  Sardinas, Odor or Jackson to preserve your flexibility to trade for a young impact bat during the off-season; those three guys might be your best bet to headline a deal given that they will be the only prospects in the upper minors worth acquiring.  Including a high ceiling bat with that group (say Gallo, Williams, Brinson or Alfaro) and maybe an arm from the ML roster, and you might have yourself a new middle-order bat.  But I digress, yet again.  

So, keeping in mind the players you need to keep for some off-season trade flourishes, coupled with NeRa removing himself form the prospect pool due to another DL stay (and chronic shoulder problems), which further delimits Texas' available prospect pool by TWO (reserving 2 more prospects to complete the terms of the Garza trade with the Cubs), Texas has limited resources that will likely bring limited returns.  So I think the most likely scenario for this season, is that Texas will acquire a starting caliber, 30-something RH bat (RF/LF/DH/1B) with a year on his contract along with a reserve RH bat for the limited ceiling prospects articulated above, while saving their high-ceiling players to use for trades this off-season to fill a couple more holes in the lineup.  At that time, the high-ceiling Hickory bats will have had a full year in the minors, giving scouts a good look at them, with most of them ready for HighA, while the Odor-Sardinas-Jackson triumvirate will have graduated to AA, providing clubs some near-ready ML talent to choose from.

That would be the analysis through rose-colored glasses; I just borrowed them from Mark Cuban.  

Wait.  The real (off-season) wild card here is probably Andrus and Kinsler.  The best way to trade for an impact bat would be to trade one of these guys and plug Profar into whatever role remains.  So, yeah, I take all that back about 2014 and prospects and stuff;  one of these guys is gone.   There are just two many holes to fill on the club to not take advantage of their value.

And one more thing.  It might be reassuring to list the injured players who will be coming back next year as well, infusing the system with a couple more high-ceiling prospects, though, many with injuries, if not also warts of some other kind:  Matt West (TJ; setup; PEDS), Roman Mendez (elbow fracture, again; setup); Zach Cone (achilles {heel; hitting}; possible 4th OF); Kevin Matthews (shoulder impingement; terrible command); David Perez (TJ; terrible pre-injury; makeup); Chad Bell (TJ; 5th starter?); Cody Buckel (Yips; #4?); Jeily Arias (DSL; injured?/500K; with team?).

Or they could do nothing and hope to acquire players after the trade deadline.  Welp.


Monday, July 22, 2013

Matt Garza for Kids

So Texas acquired Matt Garza today for a pretty steep package:  Mike Olt, Justin Grimm, CJ Edwards, and PTBNL.  The relative pain of the package depends entirely on the last item.  Could it be a high ceiling, high risk flyer (Alfaro)?  Or and injured player contingent upon health at end of year (maybe they take Brigham back?)? Odor?  Sardinas?

Basically, there is a lot of risk with Olt as he has had a terrible year (.193 vs RHP) and has some seemingly unresolved vision/mental issues.  But, as he is blocked in Texas for the next few years, unless you wanted to see him at 1B or LF, then getting a mid-roto starter for him is exactly how you'd expect his value to be cashed in.  As for Grimm, he had lots of buzz from some about being a solid #3 type starter, while many, including myself, thought he seemed more like a #4 (given his terrible struggles in AAA in '12, changeup, flat FB) and he has pitched like a # 4 this year, err, badly, this year, but I can see why people might still think of him as a # 3 with 2 plus pitches and nice command.

I've heard folks like the two Jasons (Parks and Cole)  pin a likely #4 ceiling on Edwards though I'm not exactly clear why.  Maybe his secs (stuff/feel) don't profile as plus offerings or it is his complete lack of physical projection, or difficulty maintaining velo after the 5th inning, I don't know. But if he is 3 years away as a #4, I can live with that, although his loss hurts given the complete preponderance of #5/LR profiles throughout the system due to poor drafting (thus far), and previous trades, etc.

So yeah, the PTBNL will make or break this deal for me.  The loss of any of the three could make you wince in retrospect a few years down the line, possible as soon as next year with Grimm/Olt, especially considering that those two might have been used to trade for a COF next year given that we will need two.

The biggest question about Texas' current quandaries at the deadline, is that 2 of the 3 gambles that Texas took in April have failed (Pen, Roto, Lineup), necessitating a big package (still one to come for a hitter?) to close the holes.  Texas gambled that they had the rotation depth necessary to avoid signing a mid-rotation arm during FA, or perhaps traded for one with the SAME prospect package (for 33 starts), while also gambling on their lineup by assuming that they could get by with Murphy (and Moreland) as starters and that Berkman would be healthy.  Moreland was fine pre-injury, while Murphy and Berkman have been busts.  Those are the kind of gambles that cost you all of your upper tier prospects and we're just waiting for the other shoe to drop when a hitter is acquired (kiss Sardinas or Odor + goodbye?).

It is all good and fine that Texas pinned its hopes on internal development (Perez, Grimm, Tepesch, Scheppers, Martin, Ortiz, Moreland, Ross) and hole-plugging (Pryz, Berkman) while hoping for bounce-back years from vets (and we got those from Kinz, Cruz) but an argument could be made that the price for filling the current holes on the roster will strip a good chunk of the upper level talent in the system when it could have been avoided during the off-season/Spring.

Couple of twitter updates from, well, twitter:

#Texas didn't include Odor after some concerns arose from TX re Garcia's elbow.  So they got Grimm instead.  Is Odor more highly rated than Grimm?  Had Grimm been that bad?  Who know....twitter gossip.
#As for the PTBNL, it could be NeRa, but if it isn't the Cubs can select two other prospects.  WOW!  If true, man, this could be a 5 prospect deal.  Rich.
#and now twitterverse tells us that Olt's concussion issues and Garcia's elbow cancelled out or something...
#The twitter-reported refusal to inlcude Jackson in any deal suggests that Texas scouts think that Jackson is a likely mid-rotation starter, which runs counter to some prospect writers pegging him as a likely pen arm.  But then Don Welke probably still loves Jordan Akins so who's to say....

I will say that I say the NeRa-like pen profile for Jackson is because, like NeRa,  he has been a 5ip/100pitch guy, inefficient enough with the approach and the mechanics and the command to firmly move the dial in the scouts imagination firmly towards the pen and away from the roto. However, after skipping 3 starts over late may to late June (not due to injury to my knowlege), Jackson might have been tweaked a bit to improve his efficiency and command, pitching into the 6th inning in 5 straight starts.  Food for thought.  If you think he is a # 3 then he is the only #3 currently in full-season ball in the Texas system (think about that for a second...WOW!) so he might very well be worth holding onto for that reason alone.

So until the Player(s) TBNL are, well, named later, the upper levels of the Texas system have only three starting-caliber prospects:  Odor, Sardinas, and Jackson (with some still suggesting they see him as a late-innings guy).  NeRa is almost universally regarded as a pen arm (and an interesting one to be sure, a possible closer?).


Maintaining a good reputation with your trading partner is important.  Remember when Jake Brigham landed on the DL last season shortly after being traded to the Cubs for Soto?  Well, the Cubs might have been none to happy as they preferred Loux and got an injured Brigham in his stead.  At the end of the year, Texas rectified that situation and returned Brigham in exchange for Loux and a PTBNL.  Now Texas was either overcompensating the Cubs, essentially admitting that Brigham's issue might have been more serious (or something), or they already knew that Brigham had some red flags from last year and had already made this arrangement with the Cubs in case Brigham faltered.  What makes me think Texas was admitting some fault and desired to make amends to keep from injuring their rep on the trade market, rather than simple consummating a variation of the trade already agreed upon, is that there was complete radio silence about he matter from both the Cubs, the Rangers, and the beat writers about the issue. Texas seems to have simply said, sorry, let's work this out so that there are not aggrieved parties or unintended consequences, like, say, having the Cubs boycott TX from future prospect-laden deals.  That whole thing was handled strangely, quietly, but amicably in the end.

The deal likely just got worse with NeRa going on the DL today with a biceps injury per Scott Lucas. So this now becomes a 5 for 1 deal; cross your fingers that no high-ceiling position players aren't thrown into the deal.


JUNIOR is OUT!!!!!!!

Donnie Junior has relinquished his role as GM for the Mavs!   This is the best summer ever for Mavs fans.  After the the dissolution of their 2-year post-championship rebuild/demolition, 1st round embarrassment in the 2012 playoffs followed by missing them altogether in 2013, there is light at the end of the tunnel.  We will have to weather his parting salvo of questionable contracts/players, and the pain of underselling Dirk during 2 of his few remaining prime years,  but at least the team now has assets to deal - RIP plan powder!

After foreswearing the Mavs around 2008 due to Junior's questionable moves/talent evaluation/vision, I hereby lift my blogging ban on my beloved Mavs.

The only issue is that Cuban says that Junior is still in charge of talent evaluation!...wait what?!

Some strangely worded press releases coming out from the MBT including all of those breathless items in Junior's press release touting a new (high tech, new fangly, never seen before) Mavs future and some such. Sounds like a lot of rebranding going on, rebranding failure as boundless opportunity for a moribund franchise.  Yeah, alright, just give me better amateur/pro talent evaluation and acquisition and keep all of the shiny new things wherever they were hidden from view in their previous occultation.  This is really Cubes admitting things went off the rails without saying as much as, well, this is rebranding qua apology as only Cubes can do it:  "Things will be betta... you see, bigger, bolder, shinier...did i say bolder...and...Newer, did i say newer...yeah, ya see...YOU'LL see."  We'll see.

To wit, Cuban fired the strength coach, and issued a similarly zany PR talking about all of the PTS (performance technology sciences) that had been lacking all up in here.  OK.

Also, as Junior's last hurrah, they traded Nick Calathes, who, many think, is a better player than Gal Mekel, but who apparently did not meet Carlisle's muster (or something). A Calathes breakout, coupled with repeated vines of Mekel's 3-point shot will be Junior's last hoorah (or how about a Larkin vs Schroeder highlight reel where Schroeder looks really really good, and Junior, once the king of international b-ball FA, shows just how out of step he's become, muttering something to himself about P&R efficiencies, when Rondo redux materializes).

That brings up another issue with the Mavs talent evaluation team since Carlisle came on board. It seems that Carlisle might have a bit too much influence in the Mavs draft room these days as the org settles on systems guys and niche pieces that please him (and likely the MBT overall) over highest ceiling.  BIG MISTAKE and one that seems to have been overlooked as it does stem in part from Junior's draft philosophy:  he only cared about guys who could hit the corner three, eschewing raw players or big but short rebounders who couldn't shoot; he was looking for fitment over talent.  Shame. I think this philosophy lives in in Carlisle, and who's effect might still be seen from Junior's higher perch.  so we'll have to see just how much the new GM and his scouting staff can countermand the impetus of this internal club culture (system vs talent; pieces vs players; roles vs upside)  that they will likely encounter when laying the  groundwork to stop the forward motion of the Junior/Cube rebuild, what with all of the new (and questionable) signings that the aborted non-rebuild generated, and push it back on track towards...well...towards something else.

Per Zach Lowe, Roland Beech has returned to the FO from the bench:

Maybe Keith Grant has been here too long too...he's a talent evaluator, draft-nik too right?  and he's been here since the 1980s!

More Cubes rebranding:  It isn't us, it's YOU!

"If there's one missing piece between what everyone is saying and what we're doing, everybody, I think, has dismissed Dirk -- like Dirk is done and he's on the downside and he can't play anymore and he's not the type of contributor that he was," Cuban said during an appearance on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM's Galloway and Company.

The transcript from the Cubes/Galloway interview via TTMG.

Cube's response:  State of the Mavs July 2010 - July 2013.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Trade Deadline: Prospect Hierarchy

So the trade deadline is coming up but word has it that the Cubs want to deal Garza before his next scheduled start to maintain/increase his value.  Given the rumored interest from TX I thought I would throw out the names of their most desirable prospects for Garza or other veteran players.

While Texas might consider moving some starting position players on their 25, they are more likely to keep roster in tact by delving into their minor league system.  The only issue with that is that Texas hardly has any talent in the upper minors, so Texas would likely have to include an extra prospect if we are dealing with A-ball kids (and no major leaguers).  They could look into trading Moreland (who we really have no replacement for, giving Berkman's swoon/injuries and Olt's terrible year) or Kinsler/Andrus, but both of those guys would bring back more in an off-season trade, though Profar would be there as a replacement.  You could also look at dealing from your bullpen, say Scheppers  (given that Feliz will be coming back in 2014) or Ross (as some might still view him as having a SP's ceiling) but we really don't have anyone to replace them that is proven.  Unproven but talent arms could fill in, say Grimm and Tepesch, but neither have pitched out of the pen this year so that would be a risk.

So given that they are likely to maintain their 25, what prospects with _ starter ceilings _ does Texas have to offer.  Unless a team is willing to take a chance on Texas' low-A high-ceiling players, the pool is shallow, and even shallower still given that many of them are dealing with assorted injuries:

Justin Grimm SP (recent forearm tightness, out since 7/12)
Nick Tepesch SP (elbow soreness, DL'd since 7/6)

Mike Olt, 3B (vision/hitting issues)

Neil Ramirez, SP/Setup (skipped recent start due to _most recent_ shoulder soreness, which crops up one or more times a year for him)

Luis Sardinas SS (healthy shoulders for the last 1 1/2 years)
Rougned Odor 2b
Luke Jackson SP/Setup (might have been promoted in another system)

CJ Edwards SP (would've been promoted to HighA in another system)
Jorge Alfaro C/RF (repeating LowA so longer full-season track record)

That is about it for the high ceiling guys outside of LowA (or on the verge of a HighA promotion).
The other well-known hitters - and say someone like high risk/high ceiling wildcard like Yohander Mendez in SS Spokane - come with a high degree of risk that would only be offset with a package of 1-2 players who are (near) major league ready (however a club sees it).  Texas might also have to compensate for the added injury risks that some of these currently injured players bring with them, maybe throwing in a lower ceiling arm or utility player of some sort (Beltre, L. Garcia, Chirinos, Teo, Odubel, Alberto).

Now a club like Houston might be quite content to settle on one or more of Texas' high risk/high ceiling hitters (Gallo, Williams, Brinson  and call it a day as it fits their development arc but normally a club is trading for low risk talent at the trade deadline so taking a shot at a player with the very raw skill set of someone like Jorge Alfaro, who is just as likely to stick in RF as he is at C, won't likely make sense for most clubs as a headliner.  One also has to wonder how Texas feels about giving up on players they have invested in so heavily, from 3-5 million dollars.  Those might not be players you want to dump for low value; you want to hold onto them until their value increases in proportion to the investment (as much as possible for a prospect).  So Texas might just suggest that they are not available (Mazara, Beras, Guzman).

Texas doesn't really have any high ceiling pitching depth in the system outside of the players mentioned, but there are some fringy #5/pen types that could be used as filler (Asher, Martinez, Eickhoff, Payano, Sadzeck) most of whom are likely pen arms, with a couple who might have the stuff for a setup role down the line.

A couple of bullpen arms who might be included in the back end of any deal could be Wilmer Font and Justin Miller.  Both pitchers have plus plus fastballs with Font not really having anything else and Miller coming back from TJ (Font had it in 2010).  Given that they will still have West, Mendez, Bonilla, and Henry in the system next year, those are pieces that can be replaced.

However it shakes out, it will be interesting to see what Texas has to give up to get a couple of pieces at the deadline.


Friday, July 5, 2013

Texas goes all in on j2

Texas has reportedly gone way over  their 1,943,700M cap to sign three 7-figure j2-eligible prospects:  Dominican RHP Marcos Diplan, 1.3M$ ;  Venezuelan SS Yeyson Yrizarri, 1.35M$; and Dominican OF Jose Almonte, 1.8M$.  They have also reportedly signed Dominican SS Michael de Leon, 550K$ and three Mexican prospects:   RHP Edgar Arredondo, LHP Samuel Zazueta, and RHP Daniel Duarte.  Only 25% of the bonuses for Mexican players count against their bonus pool.

They might not be done given the severe penalties that apply to teams going more than 15% or their bonus pool allotment:  100% tax on coverage and prohibition on signing talent over 250K$.   So now that they are over that 15% threshold might as well get 2 years worth of players, right?   There are only a few players that remain that Texas might entertain paying DOUBLE for but Eloy Jimenez (Cubs 2.8m) might have been the only one worth angling for.  Some other possible 7-figure kids are:  DR CF Leonardo Molina (dob 8/1 - NYY, 1.4M), DR 3B (1B) Rafael Devers (Bos, 1.5m), DR 3B (1B) Luis Encarnacion (dob 8/9 - PHI, 1M), DR 3B Anderson Franco (8/15-NATS, 900K) TAI RHP Jen-He Tseng (Cubs, 1.625m), and maybe a sleeper like VZ SS (2B/CF) Luis Carpio (dob 7/11,  NYM - 300K) - though likely not for 7-figures.

As an alternative to these pricey options  (as each sign is now double the actual bonus),  I could also see Texas limiting itself to 250k and under kids, which would certainly make more economic sense than paying a really raw or defensively limited player 2 million if you thought they were a risky sign at 1 million.  Guess we'll see.

As it stands, Texas will pay a tax of 100% on anything over their pool of 1.94M (or 2.876M if you believe the rumors that they have acquired slots from FL - denied by JD) so the cost of their 5 million dollar bounty so far will be at least 8.05 million but only about 7.1 million if they actually did buy out Florida's last 3 slots (932.1K) . Got that?

Kiley McDaniel has an updated list of the players that have signed around the league.

Here is a scouting blurb on Arredondo from Ben Badler:

MLB gave Mexican League teams a pretty sweet deal when it determined that Mexican players signed through the Mexican League will only have the portion of the bonus that goes to the player—25 percent—count against a team’s bonus pool. That should help inflate the price of Mexican righthander Edgar Arredondo, whose rights are owned by Quintana Roo of the Mexican League. Arredondo is 6-foot-3, 190 pounds with solid mechanics for his age and an 87-91 mph fastball. He throws a solid changeup that flashes average and is ahead of his below-average curveball. Some scouts like his feel for pitching, although he’s not as advanced as Julio Urias was last year when the Dodgers signed him from the Mexico City Red Devils.

Jason Parks on Diplan:

RHP Marcos Diplan (Rangers)
Despite a market reputation as a baseball factory, the Dominican Republic doesn’t produce a lot of quality major-league starters, a reality with numerous explanations [possible explanations]. A lack of pitchability is often seen as the biggest villain. Diplan stands out for his impressive raw stuff and his advanced pitchability for his age, attributes that help offset his diminutive size and the reputation of the region for producing more relief arms than impact starters. When I saw Diplan back in January, the right-hander pounded the zone with a low-90s fastball (touched 93) delivered from a lower slot. He showed feel for both a fading 80 mph changeup and a low-70s curveball, brought into game action with the swagger of a much more physically imposing arm. He was the best arm I saw at the Dominican Showcase, and it wasn’t even close


DPL j2 reel of their signing class

The total price tag of Texas' (5) announced signings comes to $5.350.000, with an overage of 3.406.300 against their 1.943.700 slot.    Once the 100% penalty on the overage is factored in, the minimum price tag for Texas' J2 spree comes to $8.756.300:  1.943.700  + 2(3.406.300).