On Myers, the Uptons and the Yankees infield


A few questions, maybe some answers. Maybe not.

Who wins the Padres-Rays-Nats deal?

Too soon to say, since there’s 11 players involved, most of them minor-leaguers, most of them obscure until Wednesday.

ESPN.com’s Dave Schoenfeld says everyone wins, which is a nice thought, Christmas being next week, but unlikely. Like pyramid schemes, trades only offer that illusion.

Both Tampa Bay and San Diego won 77 games last year, and both have new general managers in Matthew Silverman and A.J. Preller, respectively, who both demonstrated they’re going to do something, anything, even if it’s the wrong thing. Sometimes acceptance needs to come before resolution.

It’s an odd deal in that the Rays’ winning the trade is contingent on prospect Steven Souza becoming the kind of major-league hitter Wil Myers was as a rookie 2013. And yet the prospect Souza is 20 months older than the established player Myers. That makes about as much sense as moving the Rays back to Montreal.

Myers hit .291, slugged .478 and was AL Rookie of the Year at age 22; Souza was in high A ball at the same age. Once Myers was traded for James Shields and the Rays were lauded; two years later the Royals went to the World Series, and neither Myers nor Shields will be with the same team in 2015.

In the world of prospects, potential often trumps production, which is why so many of the top 100 prospects lists include players who are so far away from the majors. It takes time for flaws to be as noticeable as talent.

The Rays made the deal on the same principles which guide advertising or Let’s Make A Deal: don’t be content with what you have, because somewhere there’s something better.

Maybe that’s Souza, whose diving catch saved Jordan Zimmermann’s no-hitter and who has had OPSes of .938, .944 and 1.004 in his last three minor-league seasons.

But Souza will be 26 shortly after Opening Day 2015 and has had just 23 big-league at-bats; Myers won’t be 26 until 2017, and he’s already had 660 big-league at-bats.

There’s a reason for that, and it’s the same one the Rays traded for Myers in the first place. They seem to have forgotten what it was.

Do the Braves have a plan?

Yes, and it’s apparently simple: Undo whatever fired GM Frank Wren did.

There’s probably more to it, of course, and it likely has little to do with Wren, but who doesn’t love a purge?

Since Wren has been fired, the Braves have:

  • Dealt Jordan Walden (2.88 ERA, .541 OPS against, 127 ERA+ in 2014; 254 career strikeouts in 211.2 innings), added by Wren for home-run throwing Tommy Hanson, to St. Louis for Shelby Miller (as if Jason Heyward wasn’t enough).
  • Designated for assignment Anthony Varvaro, despite his second straight sub 3.00 ERA (2.63 ERA, .632 OPS, 139 ERA+). Wren acquired Varvaro for the price of a waiver claim, and it’s incomprehensible that a team which lost 83 games has 39 players more worthy of protecting than Varvaro (David Hale? Tyler Pastornicky? Zoile Almonte? Jim Johnson? Jose Constanza? Why not George Costanza?)
  • Reacquired reliever Arodys Vizcaino, who Wren traded away in 2012 (Reed Johnson, Paul Maholm), for a second baseman (Tommy LaStella) who might be better than the one the Braves still have (Phil Gosselin till Jose Peraza, a bigger Josse Altuve wannabe, arrives).
  • Traded Justin Upton, whose acquisition was once heralded as the renaissance of the Braves, for a stocking full of prospects. Two years ago the Braves bragged about the future of a young outfield of two Uptons and Heyward. Now, two of them are gone, only the worst and highest-paid remains, and the Padres are crowing about their outfield. The Padres.
  • Are still trying to trade third baseman Chris Johnson, whom Wren extended for three years and $20 million, and B.J. Upton, whose $75 million contract means the Braves are as stuck with him as they are with their Buffalo Bills-like legacy. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Dave O’Brien tweeted that “other teams don’t want to pay any of $” in saying how hard it is to trade B.J., but forget the dollars. It’s also unlikely teams want a defensively declining centerfielder to hit .208, slug .333 and strike out 173 times, either.
  • Is Chase Headley worth $13 million a year?

    Yes, if Pablo Sandoval is worth $18 million. More if WAR is to be believed, even if that’s mostly thanks to Headley’s defense.

    But it’s a revealing comparison: Headley’s .756 career OPS, skewed even that high by his .outlier 875 in 2012, is 55 points less than Sandoval’s .811, but Sandoval has hit into 26 more double plays in a half season’s worth of less career games, and Headley’s defense over the last three year is superior (Headley at 2.4 WAR, Sandoval -0.1).

    The latter point may be magnified as soon as Wade Miley, Rick Porcello and Justin Masterson throw hot shots down the third base line.

    Headley is 27 months older, which matters (especially since his contract is four years), and his 2012 is so extreme when compared to the rest of his career: his 31 homers are one-third his career total and more than any two other seasons combined, and his 115 RBIs are 51 more than his next-best total and more than any other two seasons combined, with the exception of 2009-10 (64 and 58).

    But Headley’s career .347 on-base percentage is a point higher than Sandoval’s, and his .409 slugging percentage may perk up with the move to Yankee Stadium. So may Sandoval’s .465 in Fenway, though like Headley since 2012, Pablo hasn’t slugged his career mark since 2011.

    The Yankees kept Headley instead of Martin Prado, whom they dealt Friday for pitcher Nathan Eovaldi (and Garrett Jones and a prospect). Eovaldi has a reputation as one of the hardest-throwing pitchers in baseball, but he’s also been one of the hardest hit — he has a career .271 batting average against, and gave up an NL-high 223 hits in 199.2 innings last year (wins may not matter, but his 15-35 career mark is as much of an affront as David Ortiz’s jersey buried under the new Yankee Stadium would have been).

    The good news for Yankees fans is Prado’s exit opens second base to two rookies who have value: Jose Pirela and Rob Refsnyder.
    Pirela is older by 16 months (25-24 next opening day) and more versatile, but Refnsyder can get on base better, as his .389 career minor-league on-base percentage attests.

    He should be the Yankees’ Opening Day second baseman.

    Unless they trade again.

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