Posted 07/30/2009 at 04:00 AM
Lots of uniform changing on Wednesday, and it looks like plenty more to come as we edge closer to the non-waiver deadline. The Indians were involved in what was by far the biggest deal of the day, while the Pirates stripped themselves of two more regulars in what has turned into a complete overhaul of their system at all levels.
The main event was obviously the Cleveland-Philadelphia deal. Cliff Lee is now with the defending champs, and I donít think thereís much doubt that the present Phillies are better than the team that won it all last season. The Indians now have four lefties in their rotation, which is really unusual, but with Lee and Hamels at the top and lone righty Joe Blanton in the best form of his career, itís a very solid qunitet. Plus, Pedro Martinez is on the horizon and anything they get from him is a bonus.
Iím not closing the door on the Phillies trade options, however. I think theyíd like to add another arm for the bullpen, and Orioles lefty George Sherrill could be on their radar screen. Since they did not have to part with J.A. Happ in the Indians deal, might the Phillies be willing to ship him to the Oís for an ideal eighth inning lefty who can also close? The Oís would love to land a lefty starter so that they donít feel compelled to rush Brian Matusz, and we know theyíre looking to move Sherrill.
The Phillies also unexpectedly obtained OF Ben Francisco in the Lee deal. Francisco is a nice fit for the Phillies as a backup OF and a righty bat off the bench. I donít think Francisco is arbitration-eligible till after next season, so the Phils got themselves a decent back of the roster addition with this move.
As for the Indians, I donít think they got much in return. Carlos Carrasco has the big arm, but the results just have not been there. Heís only 22, so thereís lots of room for improvement, but heís stalled at AA and AAA and I think his stock has dropped some. Lou Marson projects as an average big league catcher at best. He might hit for an okay BA, but has little power. Heís not blessed with great defensive tools, either, although his makeup and leadership skills are off the charts. If he stays with Cleveland, it will be as a backup to Carlos Santana. Jason Donald has not hit at AAA this season, so he needs to master that level offensively. He will end up at 2B or as a utility player at the major league level, and does not profile as a star. The intriguing guy in the deal is Jason Knapp, who has a monster fastball and is still only 18 years old. But his mechanics are a mess, heís very raw and despite a ton of Kís at Lo-A, heís getting knocked around pretty hard. Maybe heíll develop, but Iíd bet that if he ever gets to the majors it will be as a reliever, where he can get by with his fastball.
The Pirates unloaded two more starters, as Freddy Sanchez went to the Giants and Jack Wilson ended up with the Mariners in a seven-player deal.
There was quite a bit of surprise expressed about the Bucs landing Tim Alderson even up for Sanchez. Heís a 2007 first-round selection and his progress to date is noteworthy. But Iím not as sold on Alderson as many analysts. The plus is his 6-1, 3.47 ledger at AA this season, which is definitely outstanding. But Iím a little concerned that heís only registered 46 Kís in 72.2 IP of work with Connecticut. True, Alderson is only 20 years old, so the mere fact heís winning games at AA is a very good thing. But I will admit to a bias against prospects who donít miss bats. It doesnít mean they canít win at the highest level, but if a pitcher canít get the whiffs at AA, theyíll generally get even less against more advanced hitters. This is not to suggest that Alderson wonít be a quality big league starter. His velocity could improve as he fills out physically, and he sure appears to have a solid mound presence. But while many will be lauding him as the future ace for the Pirates, I see him more as a middle of the rotation type right now.
The Pittsburgh-Seattle deal looks to me like a big win for the Mariners. Jack Wilson is not popular among fantasy baseball enthusiasts, as heís little more than an acceptable BA type with limited sock and not much speed. The one quibble I have with fantasy leaguers is that they confuse their game with the real thing. Wilson is a superb defender. His presence in the Mariners infield is huge and thatís why they eagerly dealt for him. The fact he caught the first flight out of San Francisco on Wednesday and managed to don a Mariners uniform while they were still playing their day game with the Blue Jays speaks volumes about how thrilled Wilson is to escape what had become a personal purgatory. I really like this acquisition for the Mariners.
Seattle also landed Ian Snell, who has regressed badly since breaking out in 2007. I have never considered Snell more than a back of the rotation type as his control and command are erratic. But if Snell can get back to something approaching his one good major league season, he can help the Mariners.
The Pirates got very little in return for Wilson and Snell. The Bucs were clearly hamstrung on this one as they simply had to trade Wilson. he had become a very disruptive force in the clubhouse as a discontented veteran on a young team, so he had to go and the Bucs didnít figure to get much for him. And they didnít. Jeff Clement is now almost 26 and is still in AAA. Heís listed as a catcher, but he canít catch and will certainly have to play 1B. At that spot, he becomes a likely below average performer offensively. I donít see Clement as more than a marginal prospect at this point. Ronny Cedeno is a below average major leaguer, and is strictly a backup. As for the three young pitchers obtained by the Pirates, none of them are particularly highly regarded, although Brett Lorin might be a sleeper and heís having a very nice year at Lo-A. Teammate Andrew Pribanic throws pretty hard, but heís got only 54 Kís in 87 IP, an alarmingly low ratio at that level. Nathan Adcock is the most advanced currently, as heís at Hi-A. Ignore his numbers there, as High Desert is the worst pitching environment in all of organized baseball. But the scouting reports on Adcock are that aside from a good breaking ball, heíll be very limited unless he can get some movement on his fastball.
The big winner of the day is unquestionably the Phillies. I really like what the Mariners did as well. The Giants gave up a decent prospect, but netted a 2B that might help them win the NL wild card this year. As for the Pirates, well, at least they got some bodies, and one or two of them might pan out down the road. The Indians are the big loser, as they dealt away another Cy Young winner and did not land an elite prospect in return.
Javier Vazquez is having a great year for the Braves and would be a Cy Young contender had he been getting better run support. Nevertheless, Iím going to take my chances against Vazquez here. The Marlins have owned the Braves this season, and with Vandenhurk throwing it pretty well since rejoining the Fish, I like the home teamís chances at a very nice price. The Marlins are my free opinion for Thursday.