Want to know what a player thinks about trades like this?
As fans you have your perspective. There are large contingents of fans in both markets, NY and Boston, that lean towards the Bill James approach to players and their teams, and probably an equal amount of ‘old schoolers’ that believe their eyes tell them all they need to know, even when not backed up by stats or facts.
As players we have the advantage, and disadvantage of a very unique and different perspective. There is a human element at work for us that not even the most ardent fan can understand. On one hand there is “My God, we might add the most talented pitcher in the world to an already established World Champion roster”. On the other hand, the hand you either can’t understand or don’t care about is the fact that these deals usually involve one or more people that have literally become family members.
There is a change in perspective, and I am speaking about my perspective only, that happens when you play 22 years in the game. When I was younger and asked about things like this I’d answer usually saying something like “Hell ya, that would be awesome, he’d make us unbeatable.” That’s happened more than once. Being quick to respond to questions, (aka engaging mouth before brain) it seemed like the right answer, I felt that way.
Then at some point you realize that while anyone and everyone might agree that a trade makes your team better, or worse, or status quo, people outside the loop take responses and comments made by players at times like these as disrespectful and uncaring about our teammates. In their eyes what you have really said is “I don’t care about the fact we have to trade one or more of my teammates”. Remember the Millar/Arod/Nomar scandal in ’03?
In many cases nothing could be farther from the truth. A few things are at work here, inside the trade and out.
The first and I think most important part is that guys like Jon Lester, Jed Lowrie and anyone else being named in this deal are learning that this is truly a business when it comes to the team you are playing for. Jon’s been through this before, so has Coco, but it’s a shock to the system that first time. I was caught totally unaware and blown away when it first happened to me because I first heard about the trade to the Orioles as I was walking to the bullpen to pitch a game in AA and happened to pass by a TV and saw my name scrolling across the ticker, “The Orioles have traded Mike Boddicker to the Boston Red Sox for OF Brady Anderson and RHP Curt Schilling”, BOOM! That’s how I found out baseball wasn’t about personal loyalties when it comes down to the business aspect. It’s not a bad thing, you certainly wish it were different as a player but the sooner you get it the easier this life becomes to live, especially over the winter and around the trade deadline.
Nowhere is that more apparent than it has become in Boston. I don’t mean that to sound callous, because it’s not, but if nothing else the winter of 2004 told every person in this organization that personal bonds and relationships would never come before trying to field a winning team. Pedro? Hey you had arguably the greatest 3 year run in the history of the game, you helped us win our first World Series in 86 years, and while it’s much appreciated, your contract demands we believe to be too much for too long, thanks, good luck. Same thing in Derek’s case. A few months earlier they shipped off the guy some people belived to be the franchises iconic player in Nomar. As players you find yourself getting caught between a rock and a hard place. There is an immense difference here though, and in New York. Both of the franchises are built to win, now. If the personel to win isn’t in place, now, today, immediately, you go trade for it, or buy it. There is no true rebuilding phase. In places like this a rebuilding phase lasts a year tops. Every contract for current players is put in place with an eye not only to that players future, but also to that players potential trade value, the next seasons free agent crop and many other factors.
All of these things serve to chill the personal aspects of the player club relationship. For years when I was growing up a fan there was never a shortage of crying from fan bases about player loyalty. Players were almost exclusively railed for leaving one place to get more money somewhere else, as if we were supposed to take into account the fans desire for us to stay, even if the club didn’t want that to happen at any price above their willingness to spend. We were supposed to remain with our team because fans wanted us to be as loyal to them as they were to us. The fan cuts out the middleman (the team) in thinking it through sometimes, we cannot.
Back to the current scenario. What I have heard is pretty much the same thing everyone else has. The Sox have tabled Jon Lester, Coco, and two young kids, and also a package of Jacoby and 2 other kids, to Minnesota in exchange for the games best left handed pitcher. The Yanks, as I understand it, have tabled Phil Hughes, Melky Cabrera and I believe one other player.
The Sox have drawn the line at NOT including both Ellsbury and Lester in the deal together, the Yanks have drawn the line at Ian Kennedy and/or some combination of their upper tier prospects.
Mr Steinbrenners son has stated that their offer is far and away the best. I think that’s patently false, but let’s go another direction one second. Regardless of what anyone wants to think or believe about the packages being presented the only opinion that matters is the inherent value of these players to the Minnesota Twins. A team that has made it known that there are factors outside of talent that figure in here.
Understand before I make the following comments that I think highly of every player being named in this deal. I have more knowledge of the major league players other than Phil Hughes than I do the prospects. There is a recurring theme out there that Melky Cabrera is a far superior piece of the pie here than Coco Crisp. A claim I would argue adamantly against. First off Melky is a career .275 hitter to Coco being a career .280 hitter. Now we all know that batting average is one of the last statistics newer front offices will table during a players evaluation. There is OBP, SLG, OPS, K/BB and more.
From a purely talent standpoint there are many paths to go down. The first and hardest to define talent is defense. I have no idea how good/bad of an OF Melky is. From what I saw he is a good OF. Decent arm and covers ground. Coco on the other hand I would argue should have won the Gold Glove this year, hands down. He doesn’t have a cannon for an arm but I have never seen an OF impact games and save runs to the degree he did this year. Next to Andruw Jones, Tori Hunter and maybe 1-2 others Coco is as good at playing CF as anyone I’ve ever seen or player with.
Offensively you are talking about one guy who homers about every 91 abs. Coco homers about twice as much. Melky gets on base a bit more (.11%), while Coco outslugs him by more than 20 points. Given that he’s got about 1400 more career ab’s that’s no small thing. So for someone to say that there is a wide disparity in talent I think is seriously reaching here.
The off the field pieces to this could be far more impacting in this deal. Coco is due to make, I think, around 5m next year, whereas Melky will be making something slightly above the minimum. Coco is 4 years older. I wonder how much that really matters here? I don’t imagine you would trade players and have 5-7 year projections being a significant factor. Wouldn’t it be far more realistic to use 3-4 year projections in the current environment?
So much can happen and especially in these markets that thinking through how much impact a player is going to have 5-6 years out doesn’t seem realistic.
So if you look at the next 3-4 years I would think you might project Melky to possibly get better? Coco is in those ‘prime’ years according to BP and Bill James. He’ll get older but the years he’s under contract are years that position players usually peak at. He adds a speed dimension as well. That matters more to a team playing on turf than it might mean to a team on grass. People would claim that the Coco didn’t live up to the potential he was supposed to coming from Cleveland. Coming out of Cleveland he was a 300 30 double 15 hr 15-20 steal guy who played ridiculous CF. In my opinion he’s more apt to be closer to that guy over the next few years than the guy who was hurt in 06 and just never got on track this year. That being said he was still an impact player for us. His CF defense won games this year.
Now move onto the pitching parts of this trade, not the prospects in the deal. I can’t speak to pitchers in this deal beyond Hughes and Lester.
The hype around Phil Hughes is big. Projected as a future #1 I didn’t see anything to make me think he didn’t have the ability to get there.
On the surface you have a 21 year old kid who had the peripheral numbers you hope would continue to trend up. He strikes out a good number of hitters and gives up fewer hits than IP. How that projects is anyone’s guess but I’ll trust that the people that project him are good. Bottom line is that being a #1 for Boston or NY is different than being a #1 anywhere else. In addition to the home market aspects of pitching for these teams the fact of the matter is your a #1 in the most offensive oriented division in the game. Finesse and contact guys have a real hard time being consistently good in the AL East. Can he do it? Sure he can. Will he? No idea. The facts are that he didn’t get buried in his first trip around the league but he also didn’t pull a Brandon Webb. The near no-no was probably an indication of his potential on nights he’s on.
For me that was always the way I tried to project young pitchers. Looking at a young guy I always ask “If this guy has all his pitches and is commanding his fastball, what’s his best night line score?”
Some guys best nights is 7ip 4h and 2 runs, that’s their peak. For pitchers like Clay Bucholz you already saw what his best night can be. Josh, on his best night, with his stuff all working and commanding his FB I see his best nights as dominating near no hit shutouts. You could say that Phil Hughes is that guy as well. The other nice thing is that this kid is obviously a late bloomer. Going from undrafted (I’ve since been made aware that he was a #1 pick, I used ESPN to get my information and their player page shows him as undrafted, teach me to trust the media!) to an elite #1 prospect at his age means he either got velocity that pushed his stuff to ++ or he ‘turned a corner’ and mentally understands the game better than most young kids. He’s poised, plus stuff, and has great physical attributes. Does that make him much more, if any more, valuable than a Jon Lester?
Say what you want about peripherals. He walks too many guys right now, but he gets his K’s as well. More hits than IP. Fact of the matter is the kid is 11-2 in regular season games, has beaten cancer, and dominated in Colorado, in a world series clinching game. How do those fit or even bear mentioning in the same sentence? In my opinion those things go together because they speak to character and makeup. He finds ways to win, even when he’s not on, he’s overcome life adversity on a national stage few of us could have done with the grace and dignity he did, and he was as sharp as I have ever seen him, and consistent, in the biggest most important game he ever pitched in. Don’t discount that.
I’m biased, I know him. His character is off the charts. He has a HUGE amount of drive and competes his ass off. His goal is to become a #1, not just pitch here. Why is that important? It’s important because it means you will never ever have to worry about this kid pushing himself or doing what he’s supposed to. He soaks up advice and lives and breathes pitching and getting better.
The other piece to this puzzle is Jacoby Ellsbury. I am not sure there is anything negative you can say about him other than he just hasn’t played much. His ‘sample size’ is small but not irrelevant. The fact of the matter is the kid plays the game at another level. His small sample size was in the midst of the AL East pennant race, and post season. He was huge for us earlier in the year, setting himself up to come back and have a let down given how good his numbers were, and did the exact opposite. Again, he played the most important games he’ll ever play in, and not only was he at his best, but he was better than just about every other player that played in these same games.
He hits 353 in over 100 at bats, covers basically all three OF positions from CF, and pumps some energy into the top of an already powerful offense adding the first legitimate base stealing threat this club has had in years. You can’t tell me anyone in this deal has shown the ability to have a higher ceiling than someone who’s already put some framing around their ceiling. His peak is WAY up there. Will he match those numbers over a career? Probably not unless he is a hall of fame player. But that’s a pretty damn good start and an indicator of the ability when you put up those kinds of numbers in the middle of a pennant race during your 1st taste of the big leagues. Then you basically put those numbers to shame over the course of 6 of the most important games you’ll ever play in.
Fact of the matter is the names being mentioned as possibly getting traded from Boston are all my teammates. Great kids with immense talent. I don’t want any of them to leave. I also understand that there is a good chance NONE of the players being talked about will be wearing the uniforms they currently wear their entire careers. Players get traded, we get that, we also get that there is a side to this that makes us view it as a business when it comes to the team, but personal when it’s our teammates. They go hand in hand.
So ya, I would LOVE to see Johan Santana in a Red Sox uniform next year. If it could happen and we didn’t have to trade anyone I know that would be perfect. That ain’t happening. I look at this as the opportunity of a lifetime for everyone involved on both sides. Johan has a chance to become part of Red Sox Nation, and there’s nothing like that anywhere in sports. Not only that but he would just add to the legacy that’s being built across the major sports leagues and Boston franchises. Garnett, Allen, Brady, Beckett, Dice K, Manny, Papi, Papelbon. Who out there can run across their big 3 with that kind of star power?
The guys that might head to Minnesota are all at VERY early stages of their careers with a chance to become impact players/pitchers for a franchise that has an incredibly devoted fan base. It will be a huge opportunity for them. It’s a great thing.
If it doesn’t happen then we go about trying to win another World Championship with a roster that’s already proven it can do it. That isn’t a bad ‘fall back’ position.
Either way 4-6 players lives will most likely change forever in the next 24-48 hours, and it’ll be good for baseball and good for the teams involved. So I hope it’s us, but I’m more than ok if it’s not.