Monday, July 31, 2006

Trade Deadline Hangover

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For some, the trade deadline is an event. For me, it’s a sickness - a compulsive obsession that starts in March and builds until I’m in the throws of a semi-conscious twitch over the last few days of July. I’m only partially exaggerating. I couldn’t be happier it’s over, like the morning after my bachelor party.

The queasy feeling I have reminds me of that morning, too. The Twins mostly sat on their hands, and no matter how much I want to justify it, there’s no way to deny the disappointment. This team looked like it was in a position to do some things, and there were things left to do.

It’s forgivable to not get another starting pitcher. Not that they didn’t need one; it was their biggest need. I’m as bullish on the Twins minor league pitching as anyone, but Brad Radke’s last start should have Twins fans, coaches and management concerned. If he tries to “battle his way through this thing” and stinks, there is NO shot for the Wild Card. But there just wasn’t much out there worth pursuing, and what little there was mostly stayed with their own team.

More disappointing was not adding a right-handed power bat to the mix. I know, I know, Torii Hunter is back and hit a home run last night. And Michael Cuddyer continues to impress. But neither really belongs in that spot between Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. There were a few players available who might have fit that mold, and at least two of them were traded yesterday.

The one who wasn’t was Alfonso Soriano, and again, Terry Ryan gets a free pass on that one. The Washington Nationals GM, Jim Bowden, has often come up short on change when trying to board the clue bus. Remember that contract he gave Cristian Guzman? Dealing with incompetence is always a crapshoot, since you can’t save someone from himself. If it’s true that the Twins were willing to give up Scott Baker and Jason Kubel for Soriano, and Bowden turned it down, well, you can’t say Ryan didn’t try.

On the other hand, two lesser names with big right-handed power WERE moved, and they were moved for next to nothing. Craig Wilson, the streaky right-handed slugger for the Pirates, was traded to the Yankees. Ryan Shealy, a right-handed slugger for the Rockies AAA team was traded to the Royals. Neither is a great fit for the Twins defensively, since neither could play left field here, but both would have provided some right-handed pop, even if it was just as insurance policies.

Ryan appeared on the Twins broadcast last night to talk about the deadline, and it sounds like he is having trouble making tradess because of the Twins past deals. He was asked if he had any GMs call him today out of the blue who hadn’t talked to him previously about a trade. He said he had, just an hour before today’s deadline, and he was very interested in the deal. Which resulted in the other GM immediately withdrawing the offer, afraid he had made a Sabean-ormous sized mistake.

He added that he liked having Wayne Krivsky acting as the GM of the Reds, since Krivsky knows that the Twins aren’t trying to pull any fast ones, while other GMs might be more cautious. I wonder if Krivsky will feel the same way in a couple of years, because the one trade the Twins made looks like a real steal from Krivsky’s crib.

When the Twins traded away Kyle Lohse to the Reds yesterday, they acquired Zachary Ward, who looks to be ten times the prospect I thought they would receive. I hadn’t heard of Ward before yesterday, but there’s a lot to like from his profile. He was a third round pick last year, he has a high strikeout rate, has only give up two home runs in over 100 innings pitched. There’s some anecdotal evidence that he tends to induce ground balls, and with twelve hit batters this year, it looks like he’s not afraid to pitch inside. Finally, his splits show that he’s improved every month in Low-A ball.

Everything about him sounds great, except for those last two words. He’s absolutely dominated that level for the last two months and he’s 22 years old, so the Twins are likely to start moving him aggressively through their system. I wouldn’t be shocked if he jumps High-A ball and starts out in New Britain immediately, though the Twins may want to see what they have first.

Ward is more evidence (and there was plenty before this, I assure you) that I should be careful about pointing fingers too much in Ryan’s direction today. If the worst news is that they didn’t get Wilson and Shealy (two names which most Twins fans probably have never heard), that’s not such bad news. Maybe good enough to help me recover from this post trade deadline hangover.


twins15 said...

Yeah, I was just happy to get rid of Lohse at all, so to actually get someone who sounds like a decent prospect for him is nice.

HrbekIsMyHero said...

Couldn't agree more on Craig Wilson. The Yankees got him for Shawn?!?! Chacon?!?! UGH. I thought Wilson slotted very well into the DH role, sort of what RonDL was supposed to be. How long can they survive with Rabe/Tyner out there? Granted they had good nights and have played brilliantly, but we know it's a mirage, don't we?

I have no problems with Ryan. He sounds and acts like your grumpy neighbor/grandpa, but when he says "there are no gentlemen among this new crowd of general managers," I have no doubt he speaks the absolute truth. And, absolutely, someone called about Torii in the last hour then hit the bricks when Ryan said, "sure, we'll move him." Laughs. The Lohse trade was ok, but I don't have that much hope for this prospect, but he's a college pitcher (I think) and should dominate A ball. We'll see if he gets to New Britain if he's anything. If he makes the majors, Ryan is once again proven brilliant under these conditions.

Lonestar said...

If Jason Kubel can play LF in the Dome, Craig Wilson can.

The proposed trade raises the question: Whither Jason Kubel? Two years ago he was untouchable. I know he has lost a year of development. I know he has a balky knee that might keep him out of the OF for the rest of the year/his career. But was is the real condition of his knee? Is he worth only a summer rental of Soriano.

Thankfully Bowden values toolsy OF's and passed on Kubel.

John said...

I agree with you, lonestar. I wouldn't trade Kubel for Soriano straight up, let alone throwing in Baker. If Ryan really offered him, then either

1) the Twins have some concerns about his knees long term or
2) the Twins really wanted Soriano bad.

HrbekIsMyHero said...

Who knows about Kubel's knee? I can definitely see him becoming more of a DH than a pure LF in time. Why trade him? I assume if TRyan got Soriano he intended to at least try to sign him long term. We hear plenty about where Soriano wants to go, and that's probably right, but Ryan doesn't usually do rentals. In that case, Kubel is far from redundant but probably a necessary subtraction to add the big RH bat.

I pray this means TR will aggressively pursue (and this time, land) the "Big right handed power bat" (trademark) to slot between the two left handers in the off season. I don't think Soriano is ideal for that role, and so, I too am reasonably glad the deal for him fell through.

Anonymous said...

Geek, it's good to see this site is running again. I haven't stopped by since the end of last season, when you said you weren't going to post anymore. The allure of the Twins was too much? ;)

Zac Ward: After doing a little digging, I found some scouting reports on him. He has a low to mid 90s fastball with sink, which usually sits at 93-94mph, an outstanding slider, and a show-me changeup. His slider was rated the best in the Reds minor league system by BaseballAmerica prior to this year. Apparently his fastball and changeup have the potential to be plus-pitches, to go along with his plus-plus slider. That would give him ace stuff. He's a short-armer, ala Billy Wagner or the late Darryl Kile. The fact that he's a short-armer, combined with his changeup's lack of development, have led some to believe he's better suited for the bullpen, or eventually will become a late-inning reliever. He struggled with control of his fastball earlier this year, but has since straightened himself out.

I'm guessing, and this is just conjecture based on the scouting reports and his stats, that he pounds the strike zone with his sinking fastball, and uses that nasty slider to strike out anyone he gets 2 strikes on.

He leads the low-A midwest league in WHIP, and is 4th in ERA. He just missed making the all-star team, due to a slow-ish start. That is probably a good thing for us Twins fans, as he might not have been traded if he had made the all-star team. As a college pitcher with the numbers he has put up, he probably shouldn't still be in low-A ball. He doesn't appear to be struggling with control or anything like that, so perhaps there's another, non-statistical reason he's still there. Or maybe the Reds don't know what they're doing. I was midly surprised to see him report to low-A Beloit, but the Twins probably want to get a feel for him within the organization.

As for the trade being a steal, I think Terrell Lohse might have been the best pitcher traded at the deadline. Remember this guy posted a 4.18 ERA last year. A change of team and league (with that ~1-1.50 pitcher ERA difference...) should do him a lot of good. I wouldn't be too surprised to see him pitch well for the Reds, he just needed to get out of Minnesota. This was probably a win-win deal.

MF - formerly posted as KyleLohse

Anonymous said...

"... and with twelve hit batters this year, it looks like he’s not afraid to pitch inside"

Or maybe he's just wild.

MNPundit said...

If Ryan had talked to me about gentleman I would have laughed in his face. Baseball is a game where you need to win, and the best way to do that is to take advantage of those who are bound by rules of honor that aren't actually rules, or the stupid which as TG said has risks of its own.

I don't blame Ryan for this deadline since he's shown zero propensity for trade deadline movement. I expected nothing and got a little.

I am kind of annoyed that the Tigers improved. That not only seems unfair, it also makes me wonder why can they do it when we can't?

Moss said...

The word you were trying to use is "throes".

brianS said...

Moss, they don't teech speling at Carleton.

<:-0 ('86)