Van Slyke, Rosario should be on Indians radar
I was originally going to talk about the A’s for this week’s column, but that article was pushed back after some breaking news on Tuesday.
Now to many these bits of news might have completely missed their radar and while that is fair I think both should have an effect on the Indians. At the very least I hope that these two situations make the Indians stop and consider the new options on the marketplace who could help improve their roster.
I hope to have the A’s column for earlier next week and my yearly Rule 5 column ready to go later in the week so stay tuned for continuing content. Now onto the breaking news, in the chronological order I saw it.
Rockies looking to trade Wilin Rosario
This was reported by Ken Rosenthal. He also reported it was due to the fact he is a rather lousy defensive catcher and didn’t fit what the organization wants behind the plate. In following his tweets he mentioned they considered moving him to right field last year because he runs well enough and has the arm to handle it.
Rosario has played exactly zero games in the outfield, but it is not the hardest transition to make. If nothing else the Carlos Santana experience has shown us the Indians don’t have a problem with tricky transitions let alone much simpler ones.
There are three primary reasons my curiosity was piqued when I saw Rosario on the block. First and foremost, he offers the rarest of traits in today’s Major Leagues, which is right-handed power. His first full season in the Majors he hit 25 home runs as a starter. He has declined every year since, but I do wonder what switching to a less demanding position where he is not constantly questioned could do for his bat.
On top of the power is that in general for his career he has just demolished left-handers. His career OPS against lefties is 1.009 in nearly 400 plate appearances. Nearly half of his career home runs are against lefties in spite of having half as many plate appearances against lefties compared to righties. In an even more interesting statistical look his strikeout rate is double against righties than lefties. I am not sure why but for whatever reasons he just sees the ball a lot clearer against left-handers. There is no way around it, Rosario’s bat and ability against lefties would be an asset to the Tribe.
The next issue is team control as he can’t be a free agent until after the 2017 season. He would be at worst a valuable bench piece for the next three years while providing lineup balance.
Lastly, while he might not be an everyday catcher, he could work as a backup which is very important when you carry such a small bench. If he could transition to the outfield then his flexibility would be a huge addition to the Indians small bench.
There are also some areas of concern.
I already talked about the diminishing production and the position transition. The other much larger issue is the Coors Field affect and that he is a player with huge splits. In an interesting turn his splits improved a lot in 2013, but where horrible this past season. We are talking about a player with an almost 200 point difference between the road and at home for his career. Needless to say this is a major concern. It is interesting that his home runs are about the same, but the drop in slugging is more due to a drop in his double rates.
Rosario might not be a big name addition, but the fact he is a lefty killer with power from the right side and would be an Indian for three years means I think the Indians would be wise to see about the cost to acquire him. If the cost is high I would pass, but he should be a name the Indians at least look into.
Now time for the next headline, one I first saw reported by former MLB player Bill Bray. He didn’t break the news as ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick did, but it is where I saw it first.
Dodgers trade for Chris Heisey
If you have been a reader of mine for any numbers of years then you have read more than a few articles where I advocated the Indians trade for Heisey as a fourth outfielder who could play all three spots and hit from the right side. While the Indians never listened, it turned out the Dodgers agreed with my assessment.
Now on paper this is a beyond bizarre deal for the Dodgers. They already have Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford and will be trying to find room for Joc Pederson who is one of the top prospects in all of baseball. I didn’t even mention Scott Van Slyke who played a lot in the outfield for the Dodgers. Right there is seven outfielders who should be on the active roster. This won’t work at all. While they could move Kemp, this deal set off a siren in my head.
The reason is simple: Heisey means that Van Slyke is imminently movable.
The reason is they basically replicate each other, but Heisey is a better defender with better position flexibility. You really can’t keep both of those players on the roster and the Dodgers traded a legit pitching prospect in Matt Magillto get Heisey. This was very interesting to me as pitching is a much bigger need than hitting and Magill pitched in the majors a year ago, so it is clear to me the writing is on the wall that Van Slyke will be traded sooner than later.
I have also written about Van Slyke more than a few times but simply as a right-handed bat he is a two win player plus he does bring the flexibility of being able to play three outfield spots and first base. He is nothing more than an average defender at best, but with a small bench you need that flexibility. His OPS last year was .910 and while his reputation is that of a platoon player his OPS against right-handers for his career is .755 in over 200 plate appearances.
So there is a chance much like Yan Gomes that Van Slyke is a player who is underrated because in spite of constant production he was never considered a prospect. I mean in spite of good production in the minors and excellent bloodlines this is a player who had to spend parts of four seasons in Triple-A to get a shot in the majors. Then in spite of excellent production this year his team goes out and finds a replacement for him.
Van Slyke should be cheaper than Rosario and while he might not offer the same upside he actually can’t be a free agent for six more years. He would be with the core of this team longer than Rosario. He also does not need to transition to the outfield and is a much safer bet.
Van Slyke would be a smart buy for the Indians. Much like I did on Tuesday night, I hope that when they saw the Heisey deal their first thought was the same.
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If the scouting group likes Gattis for his bat.. that's good.. If the scouting staff thinks Gattis can play a limited role in the OF.. then okay.. Most important, imho, is that Gattis can catch.. IF he can catch.. and that's what he came to the big leagues doing, then he is of interest.. He could spell Yan behind the plate (Roberto Perez.. doesn't impress as a ML level C.. especially with the bat). Yan's knees may be saved with a game or two per month as DH.. perhaps even a start here or there for Yan at 3B, where he started his professional career.
Any interest in Brandon Moss... would only be as an add in to a player that helps the Indians.. e.g. a return to the Indians of Pomeranz.. Let's just say, I've been a big fan of Pom since before he was drafted...and believe he can succeed either as a starter, if the chance is there, or, as that special long lefty out of the pen..
This is one of potential trades that could involve more pieces, that is, we know Billy Beane is in on making big trades. This could be one that involves multiple pieces.
Another thought, let's assume the Tribe did trade for Moss then David Murphy would seemingly become immediately available. The Tribe would basically be bringing in Moss for $7M while moving Murphy's $6M. The Tribe would essentially be taking on $1M in salary and adding legit power to RF.
1. Short Stop: Immediate requirement for 2015. The Dodgers paid for Alex Guerrero who can't play and has zero trade value due to an odd contract clause.. The Dodgers developed Dee Gordon who can't play.. The Dodgers traded for Darwin Barney and Justin Turner who both can barely play and would not be the answer for first division team. The Dodgers are screwed w/r to a SS. They need to GET ONE now. The choices they have won't work. The Dodgers best prospect plays, Corey Seager, is a SS.. but, not really. He should be a 3B. He doesn't have the range needed for that spot..
1a.The Dodgers desperately need a backstop that can take over as soon as possible.
2. The Dodgers have a logjam of OF'er.. Four are predominantly LHH and three are predominantly RHH. One of the seven (Joc) has very limited experience at the ML level.
3. The Dodgers need at least one RP, preferably a LHRP..
4. The Dodgers need at least one SP
The Dodgers appear to be poised to move one of their many OF'ers for a SS. The availability of Jose Ramirez or Erik Gonzalez would return the lesser of their group (and hence the reason we may be hearing about Lefty Brandon Moss..who, imho, should be avoided).. The Dodgers may go big & attempt to score the best SS in MLB, Troy Tulowitski.. If this comes to pass, then the Indians are no longer involved. The Dodgers may attempt to create a multi team deal.. There are too many variables to have a reason discussion on that.. other than it's a slight possibility...
This could be the "buzz" we'll hear from SD during the coming week.. Should be fun..
Naquin/EGonz/CC Lee would be worth the gamble. Just hope it's not Lindor, JRam or Urshela
The fact of the matter is that if you're a good hitter, you'll still be a good hitter before and after Coors. I cite Walker because the Expos didn't think highly enough of him to protect him and he gets knocks against him because he played in Coors. I mention Holiday because when he was traded to Oakland and immdediately struggled most people attributed this to him being a Coors Field hitter. Walker's splits only go back to 2002 on FanGraphs, but his wRC+ H/R split was 150 vs 126. Holiday's career wRC+ H/R splits are 157 vs 121. Rosario's wRC+ splits are 109 vs 86, not an absurd split for his first three years. For comparison, David Ortiz's wRC+ splits are 151 vs 137, Pedroia's is 124 v 109, Longoria: 137 v 124, Wright 141 v 126, McCutchen 154 vs 134, Jose Bautista 137 v 124, Kinsler 128 vs 93, A-Rod 151 vs 138. I randomly picked these guys off of the WAR leaderboard on FG looking from 2014-2007, and we have to take Rosario's with a grain of salt as we don't know if last year was a blip on the radar for him or a new trend, but his numbers are heavily skewed due to his overall small sample (in comparison with the others that I mentioned) and his wRC+ splits of 122 vs 44 last year.
Most Rockies hitters have to adjust their swings as breaking balls with with just don't sink in Colorado. I would bet money that if we could look at pitch type values with splits, that players who have been in Colorado for more than a year or so mostly have trouble with the sinking stuff away from Coors. Looking at Rosario's Pitchf/x values, for his career, he's had problems with splitters, sinkers, and curveballs. I give him a pass on 3 of 4 years with troubles with sliders and changeups mostly due to the large platoon splits on the pitches themselves.
We should also look at his entire line. Last year saw a spike in BB% (good), a decline in K% (good), a drop in ISO (bad, but still above league average), a spike in GB%, and drops in FB and LD%. The change in batted ball profile seems like something was wrong. On August 27th there was a report of him having a wrist injury, and it looked like it was a problem before that. July-August were his two worst consecutive months, and he really turned it on in September. Combine injury and lack of playing time because the Rockies didn't like his defense behind the plate with early season inconsistencies and you have a recipe for disaster where the player can't get back on track.
I'm not saying that he's a great player, in fact, I'm not sure if he's that good of a fit, but he's cheaper and under control for longer than a guy like Cespedes. He's also on the outs with his team meaning that the trade cost will be lower as well. If he can play scratch defense, hit 20+ HR's with a triple slash similar to his 2012, then he could be a better option.
The plain and simple facts are that yes, Coors boosts offense, but Rosario's sample is small, and most hitters have a positive H/R split, so we can't just chock it all up to a player's home field like so many people love to do when a Rockies player is mentioned. It's bad analysis and anyone versed in basic statistics knows it.
Also, mentioning Holiday and Walker (two great hitters of their generation) does not help make your argument. Those guys would have been great hitters regardess of where they played.
Matt Holiday didn't completely disappear after he was traded from the Rockies, Seth Smith had his best offensive year to date in PetCo of all places (133 wRC+ vs previous career best 124)! Hawpe had nearly identical splits in Colorado and faded before he left. Larry Walker was still a good hitter after he went to StL. Uribe posted terrible numbers while playing in Coors, he had one good with with the ChiSox but was then terrible until he landed in SF. Jeff Cirrilo posted poor offensive numbers while in Coors (he only ever posted good numbers with MIL). Beyond that, we're going into pre-humidor days and things get really messed up. But the fact is that Coors doesn't make hitters good, and we need to stop looking at H/R splits as a way of trying to pinpoint what Rockies hitters will do outside of that park.
This kind of analysis works in fantasy baseball when the player is staying with the Rockies, but not in real life or when talking about his value after a trade.