A guy in my fantasy baseball league sent me three e-mails last night, wanting to make some big trades to shake up the league. He sent me a long list of position players and pitchers he was willing to trade and a similar list of players on my team he had interest in.
If only it was so easy in real life.
A couple of texts back and forth and Dayton Moore could have Wilson Betemit shipped off for a promising AA arm. Want some insurance up the middle next year? Bam! Three more texts and Mike Aviles and Bruce Chen are sent over in exchange for a, well, younger version of Mike Aviles with better defense. Another text and Jeff Francouer is traded to a contender for a AAA starting pitcher just a tweak away from a major league rotation.
Well, we all know it is not that easy. Even when we try to play general manager in a realistic fashion (which I do fairly often), it is hard to be truly realistic.
Foremost, while major league baseball players are commodities, they are also people. Guys that teams like and dislike, whose teammates like and dislike. While winning games in 2011 may not be a big priority, especially to many of us waiting for The Process to mature, you can bet that the Royals who have to trudge out on the field everyday are more interested in winning that building for the future. As a GM, are you sending a potentially damaging message by trading well-liked veterans like Chen and Francouer? Money, personalties, relationships and perceptions have as much to do with making a major league baseball trade as the actual exchange of on-field talent.
That said, July is trading season or, as we have become accostumed to in Royals territory: selling season. While I am still working on what plan of action makes sense for Kansas City, let’s run down the list of players likely to get mentioned/rumored/theorized as tradeable commodities this month.
Joakim Soria – I think we are getting back to the point where we can refer to Soria as an elite closer, and one with an very team friendly contract. A lot of teams would like to have Soria, but not many are willing to pay the price to acquire him. Ever since Boston fleeced Seattle in the Heathcliff Slocumb trade, established closers have not brought back a tremendous booty in trades. I ran an analysis on this the spring before last, came up with a reasonable three player package the Phillies might give up for Soria based upon trades of other closers (and there are not many) and was immediately shot down by Royals’ fans as not getting enought and by Phillies’ fans as asking for too much. I have a hard time believing that actual GM conversations about Soria – if there are any – go much differently. Besides, the thought of Montgomery-Duffy-Odorizzi handing off to Collins-Holland-Coleman-Crow handing off to Soria by the middle of 2012 still sounds pretty good to me.
Billy Butler – Yes, Billy is slow and yes, he doesn’t hit for enough power and yes, he is maybe marginally acceptable at first base, but he still can hit. If Butler is not outright sulking about not playing the field, he is at least grumpy about the situation. I am not sure if that helps his trade value (a team might believe that Butler will get hot at the plate if they live with him at first everyday) or hurts it (the old ‘bad attitude’ stamp). No matter which, I don’t think the Royals have any intention of trading Butler.
I doubt the organization has any more faith in Clint Robinson than they did in Kila Ka’aihue, Butler just signed a four year extension and, grumpy or not, still has an on-base percentage of .395. Frankly, if Eric Hosmer is going to hit for power and Alex Gordon is going to be a near All-Star, isn’t it okay for Butler to hit .300 with 45 doubles and 15 home runs?
Perhaps the better question for Royals’ fans advocating a Butler trade. If you see his faults, don’t you think other GM’s do, too? Assuming that, what would YOU give up for Billy Butler. My guess is that answer, once you put your Royals’ hat back on, keeps Billy in a Kansas City uniform this year.
Wilson Betemit – Pretty much forgot he existed, haven’t you? Sadly, most major league GMs probably have as well. Betemit has pop, is a swith-hitter and won’t turn 30 until this November. In a pinch, you could play him at short, second or the outfield, which makes him somewhat attractive in the NL where you could live with him playing second for a couple of innings after using him to pinch hit.
I think Betemit gets traded as the Royals basically don’t play him, he will be a free agent at the end of the season and Mike Aviles can easily take his spot on the bench next to Mitch Maier. I don’t think the team gets much in return: probably someone’s version of Sean O’Sullivan or Vin Mazarro who the Royals hope can emerge as the next Bruce Chen instead of the next O’Sullivan or Mazarro.
Mike Aviles – When left alone in one position, Aviles has shown he will hit major league pitching (see 2008 and 2010). When bounced around the lineup and the infield, Aviles has shown bad defense and less offense (see 2011). While he can play short, third and second, Mike does not appear to take well to the play here, play there, maybe not play at all role of a utility man. Given that KC demoted him to Omaha to play Chris Getz everyday and is set on the left side with Moustakas and Escobar, a rival general manager is unlikely to offer much, if anything in return.
Melky Cabrera – You know, if we are all so certain that Alex Gordon turned the corner at age 27, why is it they we are less likely to believe so with 26 year old Melky? As I have pointed out before, Cabrera is a lot more at-bats into his career, but he seems to be getting better as the year goes on as opposed to worse. He might well fit better in the Royals’ 2012 outfield (in right, not center) than in any other team’s outfield.
Besides, there were rumblings of Cabrera being a bad influence on Robinson Cano in New York and the perception that he pretty much didn’t care in Atlanta last year. True or not, those things will come up when trying to get a decent return for Cabrera.
Jeff Francouer – Jeff is right on his career numbers this season, but carries the reputation of being a great clubhouse guy and always playing hard. A very good defender who could fit in a contender’s lineup against left-handed pitching and would certainly not disrupt the clubhouse, Francouer is the kind of guy who teams look for at the trade deadline. What a contender is willing to give up, however, is a bigger question.
In the past, Francouer has been traded for Ryan Church and Joaquin Arias.
Bruce Chen – Ned Yost will likely quit if Dayton Moore trades Chen, so that might be the end of the discussion right there. Seriously though, Chen has been Kansas City’s best pitcher this year, might have been last year and still had to sign a minor league deal back with KC to get a paying job this spring. Good guy, who has reinvented himself into a legitimate major league starter, but for whom no rival GM is probably salivating over.
Jeff Francis – He has a track record of being a top line starter on a good baseball team, so a trade partner will view Francis as a guy with pennant run experience. Currently, Jeff leads the league in hits allowed, which is not going to win you any Top 10 prospects in a trade, but he has some value as a relatively young (30) option who might get better the farther he gets away from injury.
So, go ahead and put your gene