Fire Dayton Moore

Fire Dayton Moore
It's time.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Santana's time is up

One bit of news seems to be dominating the sports universe today. Of course it's not the story of the football player who will miss four games due to a drug suspension, it's the story about a baseball player who will miss 65 games with no pay. But I'm not here to write about witch hunts and double standards.

I'm here to write about the second biggest news item of the day in baseball. The Rangers finally landed their man, Matt Garza, from the Cubs. The deal was as follows:

To Texas: P Matt Garza
To Chicago: 3B Mike Olt, P C.J. Edwards, P Justin Grimm, one or two players to be named later
Garza, who sports a 3.17 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, nearly 8 K's per nine innings and a 3.1 K/BB rate in 11 starts this year, is a free agent after the season and turns 30 in November. So for a two-month rental, the Cubs received perhaps their third baseman of the future, an exciting pitching prospect, an inexpensive arm to fill the back of the rotation or front of the bullpen, and perhaps something of value from the one or two PTBNL. Not too shabby.

And let us not forget the Cubs already dealt Scott Feldman (30, also a free agent after the season) for two interesting arms in Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop plus cash. Thus, the Cubs have virtually set the basement and ceiling prices for starting pitching this summer.

Just a little further west across the Midwest, Kansas City owns the rights to a pitcher with a 3.18 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 7.2 K/9, 3.7 K/BB in 19 starts against more American League hitters than Garza. This pitcher is also a free agent after the season and turns 31 in December, so therefore should be on the Royals' trading block. This pitcher is, of course, Ervin Santana, and the operative word here is "should" since we must, of course, factor Dayton Moore into the equation.

Late last week ESPN posted five American League and five National League trades that must or needed to happen. This was No. 5 on the NL list, looking at it from the San Francisco Giants' perspective:

Right off the bat, I see one glaring problem with this deal. The Giants are arguably in worse position than the Royals. Yes, they're only 5.5 games out of first place and 9.5 games out of a wild card spot. However, they're fourth in their division.

As much as I would like to think the Diamondbacks' chariot will eventually turn into a pumpkin, they've made it this far. The same could be said for the Rockies. But most importantly, the Dodgers are surging. I have a sinking suspicion Brian Sabean views the rest of the season more rationally now than Moore viewed the Royals' 2013 season back in December. In other words, I don't think he'll be buying.

Even if Sabean is buying, Gary Brown isn't the prospect he once was. Brown is a Quad-A player if I ever saw one, slashing .244/.304/.421 this year in Fresno in the PCL of all places. He has 12 homers and 12 steals, but he also has 96 strikeouts in 97 games (a 24 percent strikeout rate compared to 16 percent in 2012) and he's been caught stealing nine times. He's supposedly a strong defender, but all of this adds up to him being a career fourth outfielder.

As for Williamson, he may never even reach Triple-A. At 23, he's a year younger than Brown, but is currently at San Jose in High-A. He is slashing .280/.364/.480 with 17 home runs and seven steals. Those numbers look nice and all, but he's also struck out 94 times in 98 games at a 25 percent clip and he's walked just 35 times. At 23, he should be hitting much better at such a low level. It would appear to me he's simply crushing young pitchers' mistakes and flailing at their good stuff. But to be fair, you can't really scout stats.

Suffice it to say, if Santana is dealt for such a package, I'll be sorely disappointed. I'd rate it even below what the Cubs received for Feldman.

From my point of view, the Cubs got three Major League contributors for Garza, who is a facsimile of Santana. Olt probably won't live up to the hype that surrounded him last season but as long as Moustakas is in the majors, he won't be the worst hitting third baseman in the game (although Olt's glove is probably inferior). Edwards might flame out (he's been assigned to the Cubs' Double-A affiliate) but if he doesn't could be exciting, and Grimm is what he is, but he is capable of holding down a 25-man roster spot, which at the right price is valuable in itself.

Now that Garza is out of the equation for any suitors the Rangers were bidding against, the price for Santana, if anything, should be higher. The A's were rumored to be in the mix. Maybe that was Billy Beane working his magic to raise the Rangers' bid for Garza and that wouldn't surprise me.

If the A's are genuinely looking for another starter, though, a straight up swap of Santana for second baseman Grant Green would seem reasonable to me. Green is currently up with the A's and hitless in his first 12 big league at bats, but they can't all be Yasiel Puig.

In Green, the Royals would get a 6'3", 180 pound second baseman with a shortstop background, who would erase the memory of Chris Getz and Johnny Giavotella. Green has averaged nearly 14 home runs a season (including only a half season this year, obviously) the last four years and he stole 13 bases last year. His strikeout rate the last two years, both in Triple-A, is 16 percent although his walk rate is below 10 percent. So maybe he would carry over some of Getz and Giavotella's shortcomings, but he at least has some power potential, he is a former first round pick, and is under team control for some time.

I don't know who would say "no" to that deal. I presume it would be Beane because I'm sure he would feel confident about getting Santana for someone like Jemile Weeks instead or get more than just Santana in return for Green. In which case, I'd gladly include Getz/Giavotella and/or a reliever and/or pay the rest of Santana's contract. If that's too rich for Beane's blood, there are other options out there.

Such a deal is just a phone call away with another club. Well, and the Royals need somebody on their end of the line savvy enough to pull it off, which sadly they do not.

Fire Dayton Moore

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