09 July 2014

What the Orioles Could Receive for Nelson Cruz

What is a pie-full of Cruz worth?
The Orioles are currently competitive in the playoff race. As of July 6th they're 48-40 and are in first place by two games. But I still hear discontent from Orioles fans. Some think that this team doesn't have the ability to pull off the type of win streak that would pull the Orioles away from the pack. Others think that this team simply doesn't have enough talent to make it to the playoffs despite the fact that they'd be in the playoffs if they started today.

Players such as Matt Wieters, Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy, Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis, Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris and Darren O'Day will all have reached free agency at either the end of this or next year. The Orioles will be able to keep some of that talent but not all of it. If the Orioles aren't good enough to win this year then it will be harder to win in 2015 when some of these players are gone. If the Orioles aren't good bets to make it to the playoffs this year then they need to consider selling.

The Orioles have valuable pieces. Position players like Hardy and Markakis would be in demand. Starters like Chen and Norris are cheap and servicable and would interest a contender. Teams interested in relievers may want O'Day or Webb. But the most valuable piece would be Nelson Cruz. Nelson Cruz is putting up a .290/.356/.582 line, a .399 wOBA, 27 HRs and 71 RBI. If the Orioles were willing to trade him then he'd be one of the few powerful bats in a trade market that includes Willingham (can't stay healthy), Dexter Fowler (no power) and Adam Dunn (can only play DH). There isn't likely to be a single bat with the power potential that Nelson Cruz brings to the table.

There have been very few good offensive players traded at the trade deadline in recent years. The last guy as good as Cruz that was traded was Carlos Beltran. The Giants were forced to part with Zach Wheeler, a top fifty pitching prospect. Matt Holliday is another offensive star traded at the trade deadline in return for current Oriole Brett Wallace (ranked #40 that year and #27 the year after by Baseball America) and two C+ prospects.

There have been a few good arms traded recently at the trade deadline. The Rangers traded C.J Edwards (ranked #28 by Baseball America the following year), Mike Olt, Neil Ramirez and Justin Grimm in return for Matt Garza. The Angels traded Segura (ranked #55 by Baseball America that year and ineligible after) and two B- prospects for Zach Greinke.

It's questionable whether the Orioles should expect to receive a return as good as the ones received in the deals above. Nelson Cruz isn't as good as Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday or Zach Greinke. But these deals do give some guidance for what the Orioles should expect namely a top 50-75 prospect and a few B-/C+ pieces.

According to ESPN's playoff odds, the Athletics, Angels, Mariners, Orioles, Tigers, Blue Jays and the Royals are the favorites to make it to the playoffs while the Yankees and Indians are in the still in the picture but long shots. If the Orioles do decide to trade their best offensive player this year then it is likely they will fall out of competition quickly. In such a case it is likely that the Mariners and Royals would each compete for the remaining wild card spot while the Blue Jays would take the AL East.

Both the Mariners and Royals could really use Cruz. The Mariners have received limited production from any outfielder or DH aside from Michael Saunders. One of the Mariners best hitters has been Endy Chavez. The Royals have received limited production from Nori Aoki and have been rumored to be looking for a right fielder as well as some bench help. Nelson Cruz has historically played right field and would be an excellent addition to the Royals lineup. The Royals have only two players that have hit 10 home runs so far this season. The entire Royals team only has 24 more home runs than Nelson Cruz.

Both teams are under pressure to win this year. The Mariners went out and signed Robinson Cano in free agency for 10 years and 240 million. Teams don't make that kind of signing unless they think they can win right away. The Royals made a huge trade for James Shields in the offseason before 2013 in return for a top prospect. As the Baseball America quoted notes fans of the Royals felt that the team paid too much to get James Shields. James Shields is a free agent at the end of this season. If the Royals can't make it to the playoffs this year then the Royals General Manager will look like a failure. Both teams really could use Nelson Cruz if they want to win this year and can ill-afford him going to the other team. This sets up a pretty beautiful bidding war between those two teams for the services of Nelson Cruz. The winner gets a top bat and the knowledge that the Orioles will be crippled in their attempt to seize the final wild card spot.

The Mariners had three prospects that started 2014 in Baseball America's top 100 and they are Taijuan Walker (#11), D.J Peterson (#85) and James Paxton (#99). It is unlikely that the Mariners would be willing to trade Taijuan Walker in return for Nelson Cruz. James Paxton has had a lat muscle injury for much of the year and it is unlikely the Orioles would be interested in him as the centerpiece of a Nelson Cruz trade. D.J Peterson was the Mariners first round pick in 2013 and is a 22 year old slugging prospect that recently received a promotion to AA after crushing HiA pitching. However, as John Sickels notes he has a huge home/away split and played in a batter friendly ballpark. Keith Law stated in his recent chat that D.J Peterson is not a top 50 prospect in his eyes and believes that he'll become only an above-average bat. He currently plays third base in the minors but is expected to be a first baseman in the majors. Baseball America recently ranked him #46 in its midseason rankings.

D.J Peterson is roughly a top 50 prospect and would be a reasonable centerpiece for a Nelson Cruz trade. The Orioles would probably want another B- or C+ prospect. One player they may consider is Chris Taylor. Chris Taylor is a glove-first shortstop but despite destroying AAA pitching scouts still question how effective his bat will be in the majors. He has been proving scouts wrong ever since he was drafted as many people questioned whether he'd be able to hit against even HiA pitching. J.P Breen of Baseball Prospectus believes that his upside is too limited to ever make him a top 100 prospect. Prospect Insider ranked Chris Taylor #6 in the system at mid-season and was told by scouts that this was too high of a ranking.

I think that Nelson Cruz for D.J Peterson, Chris Taylor and a C prospect could work for both teams.

The Royals had four prospects that started the year in Baseball America's Top 100 and they are Kyle Zimmer (#23), Yordano Ventura (#26), Raul Mondesi (#47) and Jorge Bonifacio (#90). Yordano Ventura has made it to the majors and should be considered untouchable. Kyle Zimmer has suffered a number of injuries and may not pitch this year. It would be risky to make him the centerpiece of a trade. Jorge Bonifacio is putting up poor offensive numbers in AA and probably wouldn't be considered good enough to be a centerpiece target.

Raul Mondesi is a legitimate shortstop prospect. He started in LoA as a 17 year old and put up roughly league average numbers --- extremely impressive for a prospect that young. This year he received a promotion to HiA Wilmington and after a strong April he simply has struggled in May and June. He currently has just a .211/.271/.359 line and a wRC+ of 56. He is the youngest position player in HiA and one of only five players younger than 20 with 50 or more PAs. Despite those numbers, Keith Law ranked him #18 in his midseason rankings while Baseball America ranked him #22. The Royals may not be willing to trade him in a deal.

Hunter Dozier is a legitimate third base prospect and was ranked #39 in Baseball America's Top 50 midseason prospects. He would be another potential option.

I wonder if the Orioles and Royals would be interested in one of the following deals:

Cruz and Flaherty for Mondesi and a C prospect or
Cruz and Lombardozzi for Dozier and a C+ prospect

If the Orioles decide that this team needs to add more talent then it makes sense to start trading veteran players for prospects. Nelson Cruz is one of our most valuable trade chips and should be able to return at least one top hundred prospect.


Anonymous said...

What the hell did I just read?

Anonymous said...

First place? SELL SELL SELL!!!!

Philip said...

We're in first place!
The long term is less important, at this time, than the short term.
Trading Cruz would render unattainable the reason why we play ball in the first place.
Yes we're going to lose a bunch of pieces, including Cruz, QO or not, after the season.
But you're suggesting that we fold tents NOW.
Nobody is beating the As this year(possibly the Angels too) but no one would call a loss in the ALCS a bad year.
Wise drafting,QOs, good dealing at the winter meetings(no more Ubaldo signings please!) and we can continue to be relevant while our young guys mature.
If you insist on trading a valuable piece, the Royals or Mariners would love Steve Pearce, and his value will never be higher.
But fans would scream almost as loud.

Anonymous said...

The only scenario we trade him is if we start losing, which means Cruz probably stops producing. In this case, his value likely drops and we would be lucky to get any Top100 prospects.

I enjoyed the analysis but it seems like a waste of time.

Jon Shepherd said...

Just to clarify...the author is not suggesting to sell now. It is based on the premise brought up in the first couple paragraphs of a subset of fans who think this team is destined to flounder.

What this should tell you is if that happens, the take will not be all that great.

Matt Perez said...

I'm still hearing from some fans thinking the Os should sell even though they're in first. It's gotten quieter over the past week after the win streak but if the Os go cold they'll come out again. Some point to projections saying that we've overachieved. Others think that a loss in the ALCS wouldn't be a good enough year.

Cruz would be the best bat on the market and could net a strong return. Pearce would be considerably less valuable.

Our next 31 games are against opponents in the playoff hunt and is a reasonably difficult stretch. Toronto has 4 out of their next 21 games against opponents in the playoff hunt until they play us on August 5th.

Very possible that things could look bad by the deadline without Cruz struggling.

Agree that many fans would throw a fit. One of many reasons why I wouldn't bet on a trade. But it is interesting to think about.

Unknown said...

With the Orioles in first place at 49-40 by 2.5 games, I seriously doubt they're going to do any selling at the trade deadline. I guess this confirms it wouldn't be worth it anyway. Good thing those fans don't run the team lol.

Holliday for Brett Wallace and two C+ prospects, yeah I'd pass on that haul for Cruz. Fans would be PISSED if the Orioles just decided too say "welp, we're in first but let's just concede this season"

Matt Kremnitzer said...

I'd honestly like to read some of the comments of people who think the Orioles should sell right now. Where are you seeing them?

Jon Shepherd said...

Personally, the last I saw anything was a month or so ago. With a horrible July...some folks might pop up with that opinion.

Rick said...

Certainly this is a different A's team and the Angels are chock full of talent, BUT if the O's find themselves in the playoffs you can't automatically count them out (not saying anyone on here is). However, if you could correctly assume they'd get knocked out, then any fan is crazy to say they'd rather finish as an AL runner up than cash in on our pending free agents to stay competitive for future years (when guys like Gausman, Bundy & Co. will all hopefully be making Big League contributions).

The one reason it would never happen though is because that would be an incredible loss of money, and possibly the loss of a job for Dan Duquette and another uproar over Angelos. O's fans haven't shown support like this since '97 (2012 was fine and all but most fans saved their money and emotions for the playoffs). I have to imagine that counts for something.

Matt Perez said...

Brett Wallace was a good prospect once upon a time. He didn't pan out but that's baseball for you. Although I do wonder whether traded top 100 prospects do worse then non-traded ones.

Went back looking for examples of comments. In retrospect, I've seen more comments saying that the Orioles have had a flukish season or that the Os are unable to go a run and haven't explicitly stated the Os should sell. Enough that it probably means I remembered incorrectly.

My apologies.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

No worries. Things can change quickly. I wrote my own Cruz trade chip possibility piece a month ago (http://camdendepot.blogspot.com/2014/06/nelson-cruz-potential-trade-chip.html), when the O's were about .500 and the opportunity to make the playoffs didn't seem as high.

The East is not very good this year, but the O's could certainly lose a bunch of games after the all-star break, when their scheduled looks more difficult. Who knows?

Unknown said...

Besides the Athletics the O's have that team first attitude and everyone seems to step up when they need too this year, getting rid of Cruz would be awful and very 1998-2010 front office Oriole management, cut the BS and win when you have the unity and talent. Most owners/players/fans can feel if its a special year and this is one of them for the Birds, deal for one more starting pitcher and let the team cruise into the World Series breaking the homerun record on the way there. Buck Showalter will not let this team fail, Even with mediocre pitching an extremely potent offense and incredible defense at the corners and outfield is all you need, peace

Anonymous said...

First of all, the blgger seems to vastly underrate the value of right handed power hitters in baseball--especially ones who can still do a serviceable job in the outfield so that he is viable for either league.

Secondly, Cruz also has an amazing history in the post-season which only amps up his value to a contendor. The ruminations of possible trade return for the orioles seems really inept--unproven talents with a less than 10% shot of ever having lasting careers, let alone being quality players.

Finally, and the big one, if I was Jones, Machado, Hardy etc...and the O's traded away my chance for the post season for a prospect or 2 that have a slim chance of panning out in a few years--I'd be gone. I'd never re-sign with the O's and I'd ask for a trade also.

Didn't even Palmiero accept less money to leave Baltimore when Angelos started liberating the talent and hopes of the post season. We could end up as taboo cellar dwellers for years again if this happens.

Clearly the blogger didn't think this through.

Unknown said...

Prospects come and go, but pennants fly for ever.

18-1 said...

I think the author is the one who thinks the OS will fall. The AL lEast is theirs to win. What team on paper has better talent?......I will make sure to stop reading blog.

Anonymous said...

This article just made me stop reading Camden Depot. It's been a good ride.

Jon Shepherd said...

These comments are fantastic. Keep them coming!

Matt Perez said...

Matt - Totally forgot about that post.

Beltran was having a great season when traded to the Giants and was viewed as a better player at that time then Cruz is now. The Mets received a top 50 pitching prospect and were seen as winning the deal. I'm not sure why anyone would expect Cruz to get more in return.

Jones and Machado can't really go anywhere. If this is the last year that we're successful until they hit free agency then this team would have bad been three years in a row. Making it to the playoffs four ago won't have much of an impact on them.

Anonymous said...

Seriously? A team leading their division is going to trade away perhaps the best hitter in the AL...what exactly are you smoking? This is one of the dumbest articles written in the last decade.

Jon Shepherd said...

Anon - I think you might be having difficulty with the word "If" and probably the entirety of the first two paragraphs. The article, as mentioned several times, is an exercise in estimating Cruz' worth, which is a valid exercise at any point in time. A framework was established in the first two paragraphs to put forward a scenario where you could think about this in a more real time situation.