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.


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