Several news sources and blogs have already chimed in on the news, so I’m a little late to the party. Today the Royals traded Mark Teahen to the Chicago White Sox for Chris Getz and Josh Fields. Many are applauding this as a “good” move by the Royals. As for me I’m okay with the deal, but congratulations Dayton, you have confounded me once again.
There has been a lot of posturing on whether or not this trade is official, but when there is so much smoke, there is definitely a fire and I’m writing this under the assumption that the deal is done. If you want to know what others are saying about the trade, you can click here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. I’m sure I have missed some, and I’m sure there are plenty more posts to come on this topic, but that is plenty to get you a feel for the general reaction to the deal.
Then there is this from fellow FanSided blogger, Steve Fetch, who goes so far as to call Mark Teahen a “terrible” player. I may think more highly of Teahen than most, but he is far from a terrible player. Anyone who has watched him play knows better.
Mark Teahen, at 28 years old, is basically the epitome of the league average player. Offensively, in 5 seasons, he sports an OPS+ of 97 and a slash line of 0.269/.331/.419. In 2009 he stayed within variance of his career numbers while hitting 0.271/.325/.408 and did all that was asked of him. Defensively, the Royals haven’t done him any favors, and the statistics reflect negatively upon him because of it. If the team had allowed Mark to develop and focus on one position, his UZR and other defensive measures would look a lot different than they do today. Let’s not forget that heading into the season, the team’s plan for Teahen was to play him at 2B. That experiment lasted only 3 games before injuries forced the team to play him elsewhere, but it shouldn’t be minimized that he spent most of spring training putting in work at 2B. Instead of having one position to call his own in 2009, he played 3B, RF, and 1B (inexplicably) in addition to 2B. He hasn’t stayed at one position since 2005-2006 when he played 3B full time. His UZR/150 at 3B in 2005, his rookie season, was -17.6. Then in 2006 his UZR/150 was 0.4 and he had the look of a player who was on his way to being an above average defensive 3B. This poor mark in 2005 looked to be a case of a rookie getting his feet wet in the majors more than indicating some deficiencies in his ability. Thanks to Alex Gordon’s hip injury, Teahen was forced to spend most of the year at 3B, three years later. The fact that he responded with a UZR/150 of -10.9 is actually pretty impressive considering the circumstances. It is those circumstances that tell more of the story than the defensive stats do. Of course with all of that said the White Sox reportedly plan on playing him in RF as Jermaine Dye’s replacement so his potential ability at 3B is basically moot, but I think it highlights the fact that the stats give an incomplete measure of Mark Teahen as a defensive player. If the White Sox leave him to play one position on a daily basis; RF, 3B, wherever, he will give them at worst, average production offensively and defensively. It doesn’t hurt that he is going from a relatively inept team with a weak lineup playing in a pitcher’s ballpark to a solid team with a solid lineup in a hitter’s ballpark.
Mark Teahen’s WAR has not been negative since his rookie campaign. For me to call a player terrible they, at the very least, need to rate out as inferior to a replacement level player. I fully expect to see a much different and more productive Mark Teahen playing for the White Sox next season. He is a talented, athletic player who is moving away from the futility of Kansas City and the shadow of the Carlos Beltran trade to join a team that is generally competitive and, despite being managed by Ozzie Guillen, stable. Put the line on Mark Teahen’s 2010 OPS+ at 110 and I’ll take the over.
So what do the Royals get in Chris Getz and Josh Fields?
Chris Getz is 26 years old, hits left-handed, and entered the 2009 season as Chicago’s 9th best prospect in Baseball America’s 2009 Prospect Handbook. He spent most of the season in the majors while hitting 0.261/.324/.347 with 2 HR, 25 SB, 30 BB, and 54 SO in 375 at bats. In 374 minor league games; he played 300 at 2B, 52 at SS, 15 in LF, 6 at 3B, and 1 as a DH. He has played 2B in all 113 games with the White Sox, and figures to fill that role with the Royals. Defensively his UZR/150 in 2009 was -6.7 which is very similar to the -7.5 UZR/150 turned in by Alberto Callaspo this season. Getz is known for his ability to work counts, make solid line drive contact, and hit to all fields. The last line of his BA Prospect Handbook doesn’t paint the brightest picture, “Long term, he projects as more of a utilityman than a regular,” but stranger things have happened.
Josh Fields is 26 years old, hits right-handed, and entered the 2009 season as a huge question mark for the White Sox. After hitting 23 HR in 373 ML at bats in 2007, he fell off the map in 2008. Fields managed to hit just 0.156/.229/.188 in 32 at bats for the Sox and only 0.249/.350/.432 in the minors. 2009 was more of the same as he hit just 0.222/.301/.347 in 239 ML at bats. Defensively things are just as unimpressive. His UZR/150 at 3B the last 3 seasons has been -13.9, -5.2, -11.6.
Financially I get this move. Teahen made $3.575 million in 2009, and via salary arbitration figures to make in excess of $4 million in 2010. Getz and Fields, on the other hand, will make near league minimum during the 2010 season.
Outside of the financial implications, this move puzzles me. Alberto Callaspo is only 4 months older than Getz and is a superior offensive player in both the short and long term pictures. Getz does hit left-handed, but Callaspo is a switch-hitter so that seems to favor Alberto as well. If Getz was a solid defensive player, then this deal would make more sense since Callaspo could easily slide into the DH role. With a decent glove at 2B next to him, Billy could continue to learn to play 1B on the fly and continue to progress toward league average. The reality however, is that Getz is statistically very similar to Callaspo with the glove. Chris does possess far better speed and quickness, plus the scouting reports indicate that he should be a capable defensive player so maybe the statistics aren’t reflective of the type of defensive player he will become. If that is the case, then I can roll with Chris Getz as a member of the Royals.
Another direction the team can go with Getz on board is to play him at 2B, move Callaspo to 3B (UZR/150 loves him there), and have Gordon and Butler share the 1B/DH duties. I’m on board with all of that, but then Josh Fields gets thrown in the mix. I don’t know what to make of Fields and his role with the Royals in 2010, but what I do know is that I don’t like it. I’m not a big Josh Fields fan, never have been, and his last two seasons certainly haven’t helped his case. The Royals don’t need his services at either 1B or 3B, and he doesn’t hit enough to play DH. The only positive that Fields brings to the table is that his arrival makes it almost a certainty that Mike Jacobs will be non-tendered.
Again I am a huge Teahen fan, and I’m sad to see him go, but I really like the acquisition of Chris Getz. If the deal was Teahen for Getz straight up, I’d be completely on board. But Dayton also acquired Josh Fields, and that is where this trade kind of loses me. Granted if I like Teahen for Getz, straight up than anything the Royals get in addition should just be considered a bonus. Kind of like buying a box of Legos for your kids and realizing that you got 402 pieces instead of 400. Then again that comparison doesn’t really jive, since the two extra Legos can be used to build something and have value on their own. I have no idea what Dayton is trying to build by acquiring Fields so I am left to assume one of three things. One, there are more trades coming and after those deals, Fields’ presence on the roster will make sense. Two, the team has real concerns about Alex Gordon’s health or future in general. Three, there is no hidden plan here and the acquisition of Fields is just another part of Dayton’s general insanity.
Taking the dollars out of the picture, Dayton Moore just trading a versatile ML average player for a ML average 2B and a fringe 3B who has struggled to hit in AAA the last 2 seasons. If 2B was a gaping hole for the Royals I could see the logic of trading Teahen’s versatility to fill 2B on an everyday basis. As we know, 2B wasn’t a huge priority with the offensive emergence of Callaspo during the 2009 season and the return of a healthy Mike Aviles to serve as the back up 2B/SS for 2010. Teahen was also the best option for the Royals in RF so now Dayton needs to address that slot as well. I get that money did play a part in this deal and I don’t have a problem with that aspect of this trade, but I wonder if the money saved will be used to add to the roster in other areas.
There is a lot of offseason that needs to play out so my official stance, as it stands now, is that I’m just “okay” with this trade. I love the acquisition of Getz and my opinion of him grows the more I write about and think about him as a member of the Royals. I’m not a fan of losing Teahen, but due to the financial implications, I understand and I wish him the best in Chicago when he’s not playing the Royals or Twins. I think the acquisition of Fields is a complete waste of time and hope that his time with the organization is spent in Omaha unless he has an offensive epiphany along the way. If Callaspo loses everyday ABs as a result of this move my opinion of it will go south in a hurry. If Gordon and/or Butler lose everyday ABs because Josh Fields is on the roster, then I’m probably going to get really upset.
Programming Note: Due to the above rumored transaction, this week’s edition of KoK Tunes & Links will appear at some point in the coming days.