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Van Slyke, Rosario should be on Indians radar

Van Slyke, Rosario should be on Indians radar
Scott Van Slyke (Photo: AP)
December 3, 2014
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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 KempYasiel 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.

Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffmlbdraft, or email him at jellis121@yahoo.com

User Comments

Ryan
December 9, 2014 - 9:49 PM EST
Exactly how "bad" is this Rosario's defense at catcher? Is it tolerable as the #3 catcher on the club? That way Francona will be comfortable letting Gomes DH on his off-days with someone to back-up Perez in case something happens? I know Santana could do it but it seems like the team is gunshy after his concussion issues.
Devin
December 4, 2014 - 2:00 PM EST
I just want to clarify that the Devin suggesting Khris Davis (me) is a different Devin than that one excited about Scott Van Slyke. I never thought this would be an issue.
GSon
December 4, 2014 - 8:36 AM EST
Any player or prospect coming from the Atlanta system has to be looked at with a jaundiced eye.. That is a team that seldom lets any player get away that can play.. History with the Braves & Indians have proven this eventuality over the years and currently that the Indians almost always lose when a trade occurs: e.g. Andy Marte?.. Michael Bourn?. etc..

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..

Thoughts?..
alton
December 4, 2014 - 2:20 AM EST
I'm not buying Evan Gattis as a legitimate big league outfielder, that body screams 1B/DH. He may have the arm but the athleticism would be an issue.
Rocky55
December 3, 2014 - 11:42 PM EST
Braves close to signing Markakis, making Evan Gattis expendable. I'd prefer Gattis, younger, cheaper, controlled through '18, to Moss, older, more expensive, only 2 years of control. I also believe that Gattis can be had for a lower cost. Moss is better in the OF though.
alton
December 3, 2014 - 11:15 PM EST
If the tribe can't put an impressive enough package together to get SVS, Moss is still a HUGE upgrade over Murphy. And yes I would trade Ramirez and live with a month of Aviles until lindor comes up if that's what is necessary. Could also look into a buy low option like Stephen Drew to man SS if we must trade Ramirez to upgrade the ball club. We can't make trades for legit players and give up only decent prospects, something has to move the needle.
Homer
December 3, 2014 - 10:58 PM EST
I'm just thinking out loud here, but I wonder if this possible trade came about through losing out on Josh Donaldson. I'm mean, maybe they had talks realized they were close, and decided to move on, and swung back around to Moss.

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.
GSon
December 3, 2014 - 10:42 PM EST
@Walter: The LA Dodgers are attempting to achieve fixing at least three areas on their major league roster entering the 2015 season.. They are in order:

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..
Walter
December 3, 2014 - 9:39 PM EST
Going to take the Indians to trade Ramirez to get Moss or Van Slyke. Both teams looking for SS while we look for a power hitting OF along with half the teams in MLB.

Tondo
December 3, 2014 - 8:31 PM EST
Homer, I just hope JRam isn't the centerpiece of the deal. Moss is a 31yo, 2-3WAR player coming off a hip injury, so who knows if he will ever he the same. He's projected to earn 7mil. If the main piece is an OF like Frazier or Naquin, even both, I'd be ok with. Ramsey, Moncrief, Holt, EGonz, Aguilar and most ML-ready BP arms could be other options.

Naquin/EGonz/CC Lee would be worth the gamble. Just hope it's not Lindor, JRam or Urshela
Devin
December 3, 2014 - 5:47 PM EST
This site is going to blow up from excitement if the Indians trade for Van Slyke, me included
Homer
December 3, 2014 - 5:07 PM EST
Mlbtraderumors.com reports the Indians and A's have maybe, probably, possibly, might have, could be talking (listening) on Brandon Moss. Moss is a LH power bat with ability to play RF, LF, 1b, and DH. He comes with two yrs of control and made $4.1M last yr. Moss has two yrs of arb remaining.
Scott Van Slyke
December 3, 2014 - 3:56 PM EST
Van Slyke needs to be traded for right fing now. I'm serial
Homer
December 3, 2014 - 3:25 PM EST
I'm with Clay, get both. I saw this (Rosario and Heisey / SVS) last night thought the same thing.
Canadian Joe
December 3, 2014 - 3:25 PM EST
Phillies are going nowhere. Pederson seems the logical piece. A lot of speculation right now. Perhaps the meetings next week sort some of it out.
BrianM
December 3, 2014 - 2:47 PM EST
The most recent and realistic thing I have heard about the LA outfield is that the Phillies were scouting LA's minor league players. Most people seem to believe Pederson could be the centerpiece of a Hamels deal, and that sounds about right to me. Definitely more realistic than the Phillies acquiring Bogaerts/Betts or Russel/Bryant/Soler. I did just ask a question in a FG chat though, and if Pederson and Kemp are both moved, they really won't have anyone to play CF, and if they trade Pederson, they have to deal with Kemp's crap defense out there, so maybe Pederson stays put.
C L Who
December 3, 2014 - 2:41 PM EST
The LA Times sports writers were also perplexed about the Heisey signing in yesterday's article. The conclusion was that "something must be in the works" regarding the Dodgers' outfield logjam.

BrianM
December 3, 2014 - 2:33 PM EST
I totally agree with you AHS. The reason we haven't heard Van Slyke's name in any rumors is because they have seriously expressed they have no interest in trading them. However as I had mentioned below, the Heisey deal does make me wonder. I'd be surprised if they were able to move even one of Crawford/Ethier, let alone both of them, so you have to expect that two of Pederson/Van Slyke/Kemp/Puig could potentially be moved. Right now It's looking like Kemp and Pederson could be the most likely to depart, but who knows. Losing Kemp and Pederson in the same offseason doesn't sound like something a competitive team would want to do.
allhailshapiro
December 3, 2014 - 1:05 PM EST
I still do not see how these moves mean the Dodgers are trading arguably thieir 2nd most productive OFer. They are better off taking pennies on the dollar for Crawford and Ethier, then starting Puig, Van Slyke n Kemp. They can even find a team for Kemp and get value, then have Puig, Van Slyke, Pederson and Heisey for the bench. I'm just not getting how a team in 'win now' mode deals away the more productive OFer, which is what Van Slyke is. I don't Friedman has suddenly gotten stupid just because he is in LA now.
Canadian Joe
December 3, 2014 - 12:54 PM EST
Interesting takes on these 2 guys. But I think the major factors are what the Rox and Dodgers want for them, and what changes need to be made on the roster.Either would fit, though I still like Van Slyke. Rosario's benefit is that he can catch (albeit questionably), and with Perez and Santana behind Gomes, does that make Perez available. Love these discussions.
Devin
December 3, 2014 - 12:49 PM EST
A name I haven't heard mentioned much but I think would be a great target would be Khris Davis. Still young (27 next season), RH OF w/ some serious pop (.214 ISO last year; and a ridiculous .316 ISO in 2013) and probably wouldn't cost nearly as much as a Cespedes. Get on the ringer, CA!
Clay
December 3, 2014 - 12:39 PM EST
Screw it, get both.
shy
December 3, 2014 - 12:04 PM EST
Hard to figure Rosario. Great rookie season. I remember MIke Krukow and Duane Kuiper thinking he was the best hitting young catcher in baseball at the time- and there was Ruiz, Santana, Wieters, Zunino, Perez to compare with so it was quite an accolade. But his sudden drop off could be correlated to either pitchers finding his weaknesses and pitching to them or PED's and the sudden acceleration of widespread testing that began in 2013. I personally have not seen him play and don't know enough to make a comprehensive assessment. Unless I was convinced t he could come in and hit .260 w 25 bombs there is no way I would experiment with him in the outfield. I do like Van Slyke. I think Farheed or whatever his name is in LA is nuts signing Heisey unless it's a remake the culture thing. Hey I wonder what he would give us for Tylers Holt and Naquin
BrianM
December 3, 2014 - 11:49 AM EST
I mentioned a couple days ago that it was reported that LA had no interest in dealing Van Slyke, but the Heisey signing does make that report seem very questionable. I'm all for trying to bring him in, but I don't think he comes cheap. Any RHB with a .900 OPS, even in limited PT, who also is cheap and under contract for 5 more years will be valued highly. It would be nice if it only cost one of Hagadone or Scrabble, but I think they would want Crockett along with a top 10-15 prospect. Wouldn't be surprised if they asked for E Gonzalez along with Crockett. I might do that deal, but it seems quite steep.
Discollama
December 3, 2014 - 11:44 AM EST
Mark:

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.
Matthew
December 3, 2014 - 11:15 AM EST
Fangraphs or someone did a piece not long ago that showed players' offensive numbers normalized after leaving Coors. They lost the advantage of Coors, but also were better able to hit breaking balls when they weren't playing half their games in Coors. COL players always have big H/R splits, and most of the time the players turn out to be just fine elsewhere.
Mark
December 3, 2014 - 11:04 AM EST
Discollama, Risario had a .533 road OPS last year (compared to .925 at home)!!! I don't care what you claim, that is not the kind of hitter I would want.

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.
Discollama
December 3, 2014 - 10:56 AM EST
Seriously, I'm sick of hearing about players H/R splits after they spend any length of time in Coors Field. Yes, Coors does inflate offense more than any other park in the league, but you can find similar splits for almost any Rockies player for just about any player in a hitter friendly park. Hitters generally just do better at home than on the road, after all, they play half of their games there and often tailor their swings to the park.

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.

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