26 July 2011

Cup of jO's (July 26, 2011): Trading Koji Uehara

Game wrap
No game.

Travel day last night, so we skip the game comments for today. Here's the link for STATS LLC's preview of the opening game of the Baltimore/Toronto series.

Of interest...

All week we'll be using the morning "Cup of jO's" space to explore the trades we think make sense for the O's as the tradeline approaches. To recap, Jon and I have reached the conclusion that this team needs to refresh it's store of young, price controlled players. It isn't time for a "tear it down and build it up" approach yet, but there needs to be an infusion of cheaper talent or the team is simply going to run out of payroll space before they can push their overall talent level pass the low-80s win mark.

Today we look at Koji Uehara. Last week Jon gave a nice synopsis of the pros and cons of trading Koji, and the type of return he would need in order to pull the trigger. Koji's contract includes a reasonable option that will kick in at some point in August, giving the acquiring team another year of cheap performance. Jon takes a sensible approach to figuring out the variables in play in determining expected return:

He is certainly always a risk to be injured, but if the tradeoff is a marginal B level prospect now vs a marginal B level prospect next year or free agent compensation... it makes some sense to delay a deal until the next trade deadline. Added to this, there sure are a lot of right handed relievers on the market right now. You will need a team that has blinders on and focus solely on Koji or the team is going to take in something of little value.

With the exception of a truly elite talent, I'm strongly in favor of moving relief arms when you think they have hit the apex of their value. We are there with Koji. Accordingly, what we are targeting here is one B/B+ prospect and perhaps a throw-in C/C- prospect. But I'm not walking away if it's simply a 1-for-1 resulting in a solid future regular. Using Jon's suggested target teams, and a couple more I think are in play, these are the potential returns I'd be looking for:

Detroit Tigers
1. Chance Ruffin (rhp, Tigers - ML) Ruffin was just promoted and got roughed up in his debut. He's a possible future set-up man who we'll explore in more detail this evening.

2. Andy Oliver (lhp, Toledo - AAA) Oliver has logged some Major League time but has yet to stick upon promotion. He's a potential mid-rotation starter or lefty set-up man, depending on how his development rounds out.

3. Drew Smyly (lhp, Lakeland - A+) Smyly is a projectable lefty with a chance for three average or better offerings. Another potential mid-rotation arm.

Because the Tigers are also shopping for starters, we will be discussing a couple more players both in the context of a Jeremy Guthrie trade, and our "expanded trade" talk at the end of the week.

Suggested Package: Andy Oliver/Chance Ruffin and Drew Smyly

Texas Rangers
1. Michael Olt (3b, Myrtle Beach - A+) Olt has made strides over the past 12 months to both improve his defense and his contact ability at the plate. His calling card is big power, a big need for the O's, but his stock may be rising too quickly for Baltimore to land him in a Koji deal.

2. Jordan Akins (of, Rangers - Rookie) Akins is enjoying a nice year with the Rangers Arizona League Rookie squad. He's a raw but promising four tool player with an excellent chance to stay in center due to his athleticism, foot speed and arm strength. He'll require development, but would be a nice get as part of a 2-for-1.

3. Justin Grimm (rhp, Myrtle Beach - A+) Grimm was an overslot signing in the fifth round of last year's draft, showing mixed results at Myrtle Beach after cruising through the Sally League to start the year. He's being developed as a starter, and has the repertoire and size for it, but might ultimately fit best in a late inning role.

4. Andrew Clark (1b, Hickory - A) Clark, as noted by Jon, is old for the league but doing what he needs to to continue to move up the system. He's a second piece target, but one that should be attainable considering Texas has not yet invested much in him -- monetarily or developmentally.

5. Robbie Erlin (lhp, Frisco - AA) Erlin hasn't found a consistent grove at Frisco, but the stuff is still there. It could be a long shot, but if Baltimore can pry Erlin away he could give the O's solid mid-rotation production from the left side. Most importantly, he could be a much needed strike thrower for the Birds.

Jon mentioned Tanner Scheppers in his piece, but back issues have limited Schep to just 20 IP this year between AA and AAA, and it isn't a risk I'd be willing to take on at this point. There is a nice mix of talent here from which to piece together a deal. The availability of some higher profile arms (such as Heath Bell and Mike Adams) could leave Texas reticent to move their more valuable pieces.

Suggested Package: Robbie Erlin; Mike Olt; Jordan Akins and Justin Grimm

Philadelphia Phillies
1. Jonathan Singleton (1b/of, Clearwater - A+) This seems like a big stretch, but we'll pay it lip service since he was rumored to be available for relief help. Singleton had a breakout year last year before backsliding some here in 2011. He's a potential corner power bat that Baltimore would likely slide back to first base (he's currently in left due to the Ryan Howard contract).

2. Brody Colvin (rhp, Clearwater - A+) A Camden Depot favorite (and part of our "Shadow System"), Colvin missed time this year due to some back troubles not considered to be serious. He is a power arm that would pair up with Bobby Bundy to form a nice 1-2 at Bowie next year.

There is not much I see Philly parting with for Koji, but we will be revisiting the system later this week when we discuss our "expanded trade" talk.

Suggested Package: Jonathan Singleton or Brody Colvin

Pittsburgh Pirates
1. Starling Marte (of, Altoona - AA) Marte has held his own in Double-A, but continues to swing through too many pitches to make full use of his plus-plus foot speed. With McCutchen handling center field at the Major League level, Pittsburgh might be willing to part with the high upside, high risk Marte. His arm, reads and routes should make him an above-average defender in center, long term, and a useful fourth outfielder at minimum.

2. Zach Von Rosenberg (rhp, West Virginia - A) Von Rosenberg is currently teamed up with top Pirates prospect Jameson Taillon at West Virginia, and he may be off the table if Pittsburgh is committed to bringing these two arms along together. But if the Pirates are looking to try and pry open their window of competitiveness a year early, they may be willing to sacrifice one of their low-Minors arms in order to solidify the back-end of their pen for the next 1.5 years. Von Rosenberg is the obvious choice, with more tied to his projectability than "now" stuff, and more highly touted Stetson Allie and Nick Kingham following close behind at short-season State College.

3. Jeff Locke (rhp, Altoona - AA) Locke is a back-end arm as a starter, but could be useful in the pen in short order, due to a deceptive motion and running two-seamer. He's a toss-in piece, and with his development as a starter stuttering the Pirates shouldn't have an issue providing him with a fresh start somewhere else.

4. Brooks Pounders (rhp, West Virginia - A) Pounders is another promising young arm at West Virginia, pitching primarily out of the pen this year. He has potential as a mid-rotation to back-end arm down the line off the strength of his secondaries and workhorse build.

The Pirates aren't likely to mortgage the future in order to add a relief arm -- even one as impressive as Uehara this year. Still, there is a chance for Baltimore to take a stab at some upside talent here. Von Rosenberg is unlikely to be moved, but considering the depth of arms being grown in the Pirates system, maybe they bite.

Suggested Packages: Zach Von Rosenberg; Starling Marte and Brooks Pounders/Jeff Locke

We will touch on our suggested packages later tonight, with more in-depth scouting reports on our targeted acquisitions. Additionally, we'll discuss Uehara again later this weeke in the context of potential larger deals with St. Louis, Philadelphia, Detroit, Atlanta and Arizona, in our "expanded trade" posts.

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