Trading pitching prospects.

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Run down a
list of the Rangers’ most effective young (i.e., controllable) big league
pitchers in 2009:

 

Scott
Feldman, Frankie Francisco, C.J. Wilson, Darren O’Day, Tommy Hunter, Doug
Mathis.

 

Francisco,
according to
Baseball America, was Boston’s number 10 prospect in 2002, two
years and two organizations before he’d reach the big leagues.  He wasn’t
among the White Sox’s top 10 prospects in 2003, not among the Rangers’ top 10
in 2004.

 

Wilson was the Rangers’ number eight prospect in 2003, two years
and a Tommy John surgery before he got to Arlington.

 

Feldman,
Hunter, and Mathis were never on a Rangers Top 10 list.

 

O’Day was
never on a Top 10 list with the Angels, who left him exposed to the Rule 5
Draft, or with the Mets, who were smart enough to select him in the draft but
foolish enough to float him out on waivers after four early April appearances,
three of which were scoreless and one of which saw him allow two unearned runs.

 

Brandon
McCarthy was once high up on Chicago’s
Top 10.  Matt Harrison was high up on Atlanta’s.  Josh Rupe landed on the
Rangers’ Top 10 in two of his first three years in the system.

 

Texas is in the hunt but got only 11
starts this year out of McCarthy (4.92 ERA) and may get no more this year.
 The club got only 11 from Harrison (6.11
ERA) and, we learned yesterday, won’t get any more.  The 4.2 innings that
Rupe (15.43) pitched in April cost him his 40-man roster spot and his place in
the plans.

 

The best
pitching prospects aren’t always the most dependable big leaguers.  Some
will be slowed by injuries.  Some won’t get major league hitters out.
 Many will contribute, but not always as much as a number of pitchers who
were less hyped as minor leaguers.

 

It’s one
reason you can’t hesitate to trade prospects just because you’re building
something strong.  

 

Now, you
don’t trade Derek Holland for Kevin Correia and Eulogio De La Cruz, which is
what the Mets did five years ago when they shipped Scott Kazmir to Tampa Bay
for Victor Zambrano and Bartolome Fortunato.

 

There’s a
fan/media mindset that this isn’t the year to push all the chips in at the
trade deadline.  OK: No C.C. Sabathia rentals.  I’m with you there.

 

But does
that mean you say to yourself, “I have the deepest farm system in baseball, and
building from within is the name of the game.  I can’t afford to move any
prospects even though I have a shot to win this year”?  

 

St. Louis virtually emptied its farm system
by trading Brett Wallace in today’s Matt Holliday deal.  Texas would have to make five blockbuster
trades in the next six days to empty its system.

 

Wallace may
not pan out to be any better than Daric Barton, the last young slugger that the
Cardinals sent to the A’s as part of a huge deal.  Then again, Oakland wouldn’t undo that 2004 trade, which sent Mark
Mulder to St. Louis,
because it also netted them Dan Haren.

 

And Arizona would never take
back the 2007 trade that sent four of its top six prospects, including Brett
Anderson, to the A’s to get Haren.

 

The key for
the Diamondbacks was that they were getting a controllable young player in
Haren, not a rental.  It would take that huge a package for Texas to get Roy Halladay, and I’m resigned to the likely
fact that even if the offer was enough for Toronto, Halladay wouldn’t agree to come
here.  But I’m all for striking in the next week, for a player not as
singular as Halladay, as long as he’s controllable.

 

It’s why I
proposed a Zack Greinke trade a year ago that would have included Harrison or
Eric Hurley plus four others, and one this spring that involved Harrison and
Justin Smoak for Josh Johnson or Matt Cain.

 

Bill Ladson
of MLB.com reports that Texas
has been scouting the Nationals, and whether that means we’re looking at John
Lannan or Josh Willingham or Adam Dunn, I’m encouraged.

 

Ken
Rosenthal of Fox Sports notes that Texas is
among at least four teams interested in St.
Louis’s Troy Glaus, who is rehabbing now on the farm
after shoulder surgery.  (If we do deal for him, I’ll trade a Bound
Edition for the first photo of Glaus posing with Jason Grilli.)  Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi add that left-handed
relievers Scott Downs (Toronto) and George
Sherrill (Baltimore)
are on the Rangers’ radar.

 

Cliff Lee?
 Gotta be careful there, considering how poorly he’s pitched in Rangers
Ballpark over his career.  (Though, unlike Halladay, his trouble with Texas extends to his
home park as well, so maybe in his case it really is the opponent and not the
park.)  I’m interested, but not if Holland
or Smoak or Neftali Feliz or Martin Perez is involved.

 

Zach Duke
or Bronson Arroyo or Aaron Harang or Doug Davis?  Not for anything close
to that top tier.

 

Correia?
 For a reasonable return, sure.

 

He’s sort
of a good example of all this, actually.  As he was coming up in the
Giants system early this decade, he was on a clear second tier in that system,
well behind Cain, Merkin Valdez, and David Aardsma.  Cain developed into
what he was supposed to.  Valdez
is 27 and hasn’t come close to fulfilling his promise.  Aardsma has come
into his own this year, but has been traded four times in the last four years,
the last two times for minor leaguers you’ve never heard of and probably never
will.

 

Meanwhile,
Correia has carved out his own useful little place in this game, and could be
traded this coming week as San Diego
tries to further its own rebuilding effort.  It won’t take Holland and Smoak to get
him.  It won’t take Holland
or Smoak to get him.  

 

There are
players like Correia (under control through 2010) and Willingham (under control
through 2011) who could make this club better right now, without costing Holland or Smoak or Feliz
or Perez.  This organization can afford to move some of its better
prospects without killing its system, maybe managing to improve its chances to
stay in this fight in 2009.  What if the Angels land Halladay and don’t
have to give up Jered Weaver to do so?  Will you feel as good about 2010
as you do about this season?

 

I’m OK
trading pitchers like Kasey Kiker or Omar Poveda or Guillermo Moscoso or Blake
Beavan or Wilfredo Boscan in the right deal, to get someone established and
controllable.  That doesn’t mean I don’t think those guys will make it in
the big leagues.  They may, they may not.  But they won’t all make it
(and if miraculously they all do, there won’t be room for all of them in
Texas), and if you don’t take chances by moving some of them for players that
you know can help, you’re going to end up holding onto a number of them past
the point at which they have any value to you at all, either as big league
players or trade chips.

 

Kiker (4-0,
1.22 in his last six starts) and Poveda (2-0, 2.39 in his last four) in
particular have gotten hot at the right time.  The two 21-year-olds are
pitching well in AA, the level at which rebuilding teams generally start to
zero in on prospects as trade targets.  Moscoso is 3-2, 1.85 in six starts
and a long relief appearance for Oklahoma. 

 

Would you
trade Poveda and Mitch Moreland for Willingham?  Would you expand it to
include Moscoso for right-handed reliever Tyler Clippard?

 

I sure
would (not that I’m sure the Nationals would), but I get the sense that a lot
of the opinion-makers in this market have decided that trading prospects for
veterans would be an unwelcome departure from the Plan — no matter who the
prospects are, or the veterans — and the minute a trade like that one goes
down, you’ll see columnists comparing Poveda to John Danks, Moreland to Adrian
Gonzalez, Moscoso to Armando Galarraga, Willingham to Randy Velarde, and
Clippard to Kevin Gryboski.

 

How did you
feel when Texas
traded Ricardo Rodriguez for Vicente Padilla?

 

It’s going
to be a fascinating week.  The end of July always is.

 

We all
believe that as good as this season has been, better days for this franchise
are ahead.  But if you’re one of those who’s been convinced that trading
prospects for veterans in the next six days would be foolish, by definition, I’d
encourage you to stay away from the generalizations that you’re being fed and
keep an open mind.  Don’t let it kill your optimism, and don’t get
brainwashed into thinking that such a trade would automatically kill any sort
of franchise momentum.

 

Instead, it
could mobilize an additional, more immediate, very welcome type of momentum.

 

 

You can read more from Jamey
Newberg
at www.NewbergReport.com.

 

 

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