Trading for a catcher: A Nouveau-Bergeron Report.

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I’ve been a little under the weather the last
couple days, so I’ve reached out to our pal north of the border to pinch-hit
today.  You might remember this guy from
a couple entries he shared with us in 2006.

 

But first, two quick things.

 

Huge thanks to Scott Lucas for his best year
of daily reporting on the Rangers minor league system yet.  I doubt we’ve seen his ceiling yet, though – instead
of eight AAA games a season to report on in his backyard, he’ll now get more
than 70.  Awesome work this year,
man.  Thanks.

 

The video of Thad Levine’s Q&A with us at
Sherlock’s last week is now
online at DallasSportsNetwork.tv (click here)
, thanks to Ted Price.  Among the highlights: a fascinating
explanation of the process the club goes through when pursuing a trade, with a
specific walk-through for us on the Cliff Lee deal, and some comments on how the
organization views the catcher position in the short term.

 

(By the way, not only did that night’s Game-Watching
Party boost this season’s Newberg Report event record to 7-0, it also broke the
team’s five-game skid and kicked off what is now a six-game win streak.)

 

OK.  Behave
for the sub. 

 

 

 

THE NOUVEAU-BERGERON
REPORT

 

The tragic number for the Jays is now down to four.  It would be a waste of time talking about
tonight’s game in Baltimore or the weekend series in Boston.  This isn’t a bad team – we’d be in second
place in the AL West – but there’s plenty of work to be done if we’re gonna
make any noise the next few years in the East. 
Let’s look at something two of the four teams who will be in the playoffs
this year did in 2007 to help get them where they are now.

 

Texas traded Mark Teixeira (and Ron Mahay) to Atlanta at the
July trade deadline that year, getting future cornerstones Elvis Andrus and Neftali
Feliz, neither of whom had yet reached Class AA, plus rookie catcher Jarrod
Saltalamacchia and lefthanders Matt Harrison (AA) and Beau Jones (Low A).   

 

That November, Tampa Bay traded Rookie of the Year runner-up
Delmon Young to Minnesota for young righthander Matt Garza and shortstop Jason
Bartlett.  (The Rays also gave up utility
infielder Brendan Harris and minor league outfielder Jason Pridie, who the
Twins had drafted via Rule 5 two years earlier but sold back to the Rays, and
the Twins parted with relief prospect Eduardo Morlan.) 

 

You think the Braves would like a do-over on that first one?  General Manager John Schuerholz, about to vacate
his post, got super-aggressive, trading for Teixeira, Mahay, Octavio Dotel, and
Royce Ring on July 31, but ended up missing the playoffs for just the second
time in 13 years.  And the Braves haven’t
been to the post-season since.

 

They’re two games out of first in the NL East right now.  But how much better off would they be if they’d
held onto Andrus and Feliz?  Or moved
those two in separate trades from each other and from Saltalamacchia, who lots
of teams wanted, and Harrison, who was Atlanta’s top pitching prospect coming
into that season and second maybe only to Tommy Hanson at the time of the
Rangers trade?

 

For one thing, if they’d kept Andrus they wouldn’t have had
to trade the player they felt made him expendable – the regressing Yunel
Escobar – two months ago for middle-aged shortstop Alex Gonzalez.  (As a Jays fan, I couldn’t be happier that
they did.) 

 

Toronto has a unique surplus at a key position and an opportunity
to get better because of it. 

 

Tampa Bay had Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton in its outfield,
Rocco Baldelli bouncing in and out of health, and Desmond Jennings coming when
they decided in November 2007 to trade Young, who had some rumoured makeup
issues, for a young starter with top-of-the-rotation potential.  (They had Elijah Dukes, too, but he would be
traded five days after Young was.)

 

When Atlanta traded Andrus in July 2007, the club had veteran
shortstop Edgar Renteria locked up through 2009, and the 24-year-old Escobar two
months into his rookie season, hitting .314/.358/.400. 

 

The names aren’t as glitzy, but the depth we have in
catchers may be almost as strong as what the Rays had in the outfield and the
Braves had at shortstop three years ago.

 

This year at AAA Las Vegas, we had J.P. Arencibia, MVP of
the Pacific Coast League.  At High A
Dunedin, there was Travis d’Arnaud, ranked by Florida State League managers as
the circuit’s best defensive catcher.  At
Low A Lansing, A.J. Jimenez was ranked as the Midwest League’s best defensive
catcher.  Some people think Short-Season
A Auburn catcher Carlos Perez will be the best of the whole group.

 

It’s the kind of strength behind the plate that the Rangers
seemingly had two years ago . . . which illustrates the importance of not holding
onto everyone too long. 

 

At the end of the 2008 season, every newspaper in the Boston
market and in North Texas, not to mention the ESPN and Fox folks among others, had
Gerald Laird and Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden and Max Ramirez lined up
on one side, and Clay Buchholz and Justin Masterson and Michael Bowden and
Daniel Bard and Nick Hagadone on the other, and constructed a thousand trade
rumours.  Who knows if the Rangers had
any real opportunities to make a catcher-for-pitcher deal with the Red Sox that
winter?  But if they did, it’s too bad
for them that they didn’t pounce.

 

And in short order, Texas has gone from catching-rich to completely
unsure about the position going forward.

 

There’s a lesson there.

 

And for Toronto, I think, an opportunity.

 

To draw a comparison, John Buck is probably our Laird.  Nice player, but he’s not the long-term
answer, both because he’s 30 years old and a free agent, and because Arencibia,
the offense-first Saltalamacchia equivalent, is probably ready.  While he’s not as close to the big leagues, d’Arnaud
is what Teagarden was in 2008, an agile defender who throws well and profiles as
a regular despite less upside with the bat. 
There’s not really a Ramirez equivalent in the Toronto system, just as
there wasn’t a Perez down below two years ago in the Rangers organization (though
in retrospect maybe Jose Felix was that guy). 

 

So if the idea is to take advantage of that depth now,
rather than hope our guys’ value builds even further, the question becomes
whether to trade one of the catchers in a huge deal, like the Braves did with
Andrus, or to move one in more of a value-for-value swap, like the Rays more or
less did with Young.

 

The Jays system is average. 
There are high-end righthanders Kyle Drabek and Zach Stewart, plus a
leadoff center field type in Anthony Gose, all of whom were acquired in trades,
plus 2010 first-round righty Deck McGuire, Cuban shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria,
and the catchers.  Toronto needs to be
building its young core, not loading up for one veteran player and mortgaging
the top tier of the farm to do it. 

 

So I like the Rays-Twins model better.

 

Which catcher do I trade? 
Depends on which one it takes to get the player we want, of course, but
it seems that d’Arnaud should be the guy. 
Traded a year ago himself in what was Philadelphia’s own Teixeira deal -
Drabek, d’Arnaud, and Michael Taylor from the Phillies to the Jays for Roy
Halladay (Taylor was flipped to Oakland for Brett Wallace, who was then sent to
Houston in July for Gose, who had come from Philadelphia in the Roy Oswalt
trade) – the 22-year-old was having a strong year at High A before a back
injury cut his season short at the end of July. 
Would we be selling low since d’Arnaud finished the year hurt?  Maybe so, but given the weak state of the
position across the league, there could be a team willing to step up on him.

 

I don’t move Arencibia. 
Let Buck sign elsewhere, and give J.P. the job.  Keep Jose Molina around to back him up. 

 

I’d rather not move Perez, and at age 19 with only
short-season experience he’s not going to key a deal yet anyway.

 

Jimenez isn’t on the same tier as the others.

 

For me, Arencibia is the answer in Toronto right now, and we
can be patient with Perez as he develops. 
If d’Arnaud isn’t so devalued by the back injury that clubs are trying
to steal him from us, it would make sense that he’d be the one to move.

 

Speaking of how the Rangers’ catching depth turned upside
down the past couple years, that’s the team I want to deal with.  They could use a long-term answer behind the
plate.  And they’re loaded with trade
pieces.

 

(Also speaking of Texas, you ought to read this outstanding
article
that good Canadian Jonah Keri published this week on pitching
injuries, with its focus on what the Rangers are doing to build and protect
their young arms.  It’s remarkable work.)

 

You know, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Rangers, who
have used Matt Treanor, Bengie Molina, Teagarden, Ramirez, and Saltalamacchia
this year, go after Buck this winter, just as they did last off-season.  Maybe they go with Buck and Treanor, and keep
Teagarden at AAA since he’ll have one option left.

 

Felix will be at AA.  Texas
can pair him up with d’Arnaud and develop them together.  Maybe that’s the tandem in Arlington one day.

 

What do we target from the Rangers?  What does Toronto need?  In the short term, maybe a first baseman or
DH (whichever spot Adam Lind doesn’t fill) and some major bullpen help (several
key guys are likely gone this winter). 
Long term, the way this lineup strikes out, we could use some guys who
reach base, and probably another outfielder to develop. 

 

But you can’t solve every need in one trade.

 

And you have to trade wisely.  I don’t even want to look back at what we did
with Michael Young, Felipe Lopez, Cesar Izturis, and Brent Abernathy when we
had all of them coming up as middle infield prospects.  We traded all of them, and lost in every
deal.

 

I want Tanner Scheppers or Alexi Ogando.  Jason Frasor and Scott Downs are probably
gone after this season, and who knows if we keep Kevin Gregg around?  Either Scheppers or Ogando steps into the
bullpen right away and eventually settles in as our Neftali Feliz. 

 

I’d like Mitch Moreland, too, but I’m not sure the Rangers would
move him unless they have a plans to bring in a big bat at first base this winter.
 David Murphy would be a great fit, but
that’s another player I’d have a hard time seeing the Rangers part with for a future
piece, given their plans to contend again in 2011.

 

I like Pedro Strop, too. 
He hasn’t done it in Texas, but neither did Robinson Tejeda. 

 

And I love Engel Beltre, a five-tool center field talent who
started to put things together this year. 

 

Ramirez will be out of options and I like the bat, but if
Arencibia settles in as the starter here, his backup needs to be a more
dependable veteran.  Again, Jose Molina
is a perfect fit.

 

How about this: Travis d’Arnaud and John McDonald (yeah, he’s
36, but he’s under contract for $1.5 million next year and would give Texas a
lockdown defender who can back up at every infield position, plus he’s shown a
little pop this season) for either Scheppers or Ogando, plus Chris Davis, who
has an option left and needs a change of scenery? 

 

Is that too much to ask Texas for?  If it is, they’re the kind of organization
that would probably take a high-reward kid even if he’s years away, maybe one
from Latin America.  OK, give them 20-year-old
Dominican righty Misual Diaz.

 

Or how about d’Arnaud and McDonald for Beltre and Strop?

 

Even though young catching is thin right now around the
league, there are several teams with a surplus like we have.  The Reds have Yasmani Grandal and Devin Mesoraco.  The Nationals have Wilson Ramos and Derek
Norris.  The Rockies have Wilin Rosario,
Jordan Pacheco, and Michael McKenry.  The
Yankees, behind Jesus Montero (man, Seattle screwed up on that Cliff Lee deal),
have Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez.  Cleveland
has Lou Marson (who Philadelphia traded as part of its package for Lee a year
ago) behind Carlos Santana.

 

The point is there are other teams out there with a high-end
catcher prospect they can trade.  I think
the Jays need to jump on this before they find themselves like the Rangers did
when they held onto their depth too long.

 

The Texas catching situation, with Buck and Treanor in the big
leagues, Teagarden and Ramirez at AAA, and d’Arnaud and Felix at AA (with Jorge
Alfaro and Kellin Deglan developing below, and maybe Vin DiFazio or Tomas Telis
if his arm bounces back or Leonel De Los Santos if the bat comes around at all),
would suddenly look pretty good again.  And
Scheppers or Ogando can be our Matt Garza – or we can bring in an upside
position player like Beltre that fills a bigger developmental need than d’Arnaud
does right now.

 

So: (1) d’Arnaud, McDonald, and Diaz for Scheppers or Ogando
and Davis or (2) d’Arnaud and McDonald for Beltre and Strop.  Who says no?

 

Thanks to my Jays buddies T.A. Seiber, Doron Barbalat
(FrontOfficeFans.com), and Mick Doherty (Battersbox.ca) for talking this stuff through
with me.  Good day.

 

 

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(c) Jamey Newberg

http://www.newbergreport.com

Twitter 
@newbergreport

1 Comment

It will never happen for Sheppers + Ogando. Option 2 would be the best you could hope for.

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