Wheelin’, Dealin’ and Reloading

By now, you may have heard the slight controversy involving Ken Griffey Jr. and the Seattle Mariners. Here’s the brief recap if you hadn’t: Griffey, 40, was unavailable to pinch hit recently because when manager Don Wakamatsu went to find him, Griffey was allegedly asleep in the clubhouse (this isn’t verified and new statements indicate the allegation may be half-true at best). At any rate, with an average hovering around the Mendoza line, Griffey – a future Hall of Famer – is well past his prime and may be released, or may be persuaded to retire.

The Mariners are last in the AL in runs scored and only ahead of Houston. It’s well understood that they need offensive help to contend in 2010 and Kansas City may be an ideal trading partner for them.

All optimism aside, the Royals aren’t going to contend in 2010. Maybe if Tom Berenger were our catcher, maybe of Joseph Gordon-Levitt was our biggest fan, maybe if Zack Greinke sold his soul for a win. But otherwise, we need to look ahead and gather as many future pieces as we can for the last years of club control for Billy Butler, Mike Aviles, Alberto Callaspo and Joakim Soria (2013/2014). That core, along with upcoming prospects Wil Myers, Eric Hosmer, Mike Montgomery, Aaron Crow and Mike Moustakas, won’t be playing alongside David DeJesus or Jose Guillen (at the rate things are going, I wouldn’t anticipate Greinke either, but that’s another discussion).

Guillen, with 8 homers, 21 RBI and an .849 OPS would fit in Seattle’s lineup as a power hitting DH or right fielder (if they were so brave to put him out there). Some issues are his age, speed and reputation. Combining Guillen and Milton Bradley could be like a match and a powder keg, although Guillen has been much more mellow in 2010 after multiple episodes of clubhouse drama throughout his career. Another snag would be his $12 million salary for 2010. Kansas City would have to eat a big chunk to get a good return, and I’d guess it’d have to be at least $10 million of it.

DeJesus owns a career slash line of .285/.357/.426. He’s not spectacular in any one category, but he’s not deficient in any either. He’s a solid everyday outfielder who’ll provide above average defense, speed, on-base skills, average power and a reasonable penchant for scoring runs and driving in RBI despite his power limitations. In short, he’s the consummate roleplayer who can be the last piece to a contender’s puzzle. He’s making $4.5 million in 2010 and has a club option for 2011 at $6 million.

Of the two, DeJesus is the more attractive option, of course and thus would provide the better return for the Royals. He may not be the best fit for Seattle, though, as they have a roster seemingly full of table-setters and nobody to clear the bases. If DeJesus is to be traded, he may be a good fit for the Yankees as they look to fill their lineup as Curtis Granderson recovers from a groin injury. But for the sake of this exercise, let’s say the Mariners are interested in DeJesus. What return could Kansas City expect?

In the offseason, the Red Sox gave up LHP Hunter Jones, a 26 year old AAA reliever and 21 year old LHP Jose Alvarez for 26 year old Jeremy Hermida (.264/.343/.427/.770 for his career). That seems to be a decent baseline for DeJesus, though he has less upside than Hermida.

With that in mind, I would like to get any two of the following Mariners farmhands:

LHP Brian Moran (21) – 6’3 185 lbs, 7th round pick in 2009

Year Age Tm Lev W L ERA IP WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2009 20 2 Teams A-Rk 1 3 3.18 28.1 1.024 6.4 0.0 2.9 9.8 3.44
2009 20 Pulaski Rk 1 0 3.72 9.2 0.828 5.6 0.0 1.9 13.0 7.00
2009 20 Clinton A 0 3 2.89 18.2 1.125 6.8 0.0 3.4 8.2 2.43
2010 21 Clinton A 1 1 2.35 15.1 1.109 10.0 0.0 0.0 10.6
2 Seasons 2 4 2.89 43.2 1.053 7.6 0.0 1.9 10.1 5.44
A (2 seasons) 1 4 2.65 34.0 1.118 8.2 0.0 1.9 9.3 5.00
Rk (1 season) 1 0 3.72 9.2 0.828 5.6 0.0 1.9 13.0 7.00
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/11/2010.

3B/1B Nate Tenbrink (23) – 6’2″ 202 lbs, 2008 7th round pick (and Olathe, KS product)

Year Tm Lev PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BA OBP SLG OPS
2008 Everett A- 252 43 40 9 0 5 21 24 .198 .339 .317 .655
2009 Clinton A 527 76 129 24 7 10 59 14 .282 .357 .431 .788
2010 High Desert A+ 133 22 46 7 4 4 27 5 .393 .458 .624 1.082
3 Seasons 912 141 215 40 11 19 107 43 .277 .367 .430 .797
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/11/2010.

RHP Kenn Kasparek (24) – 6’8″ 200 lbs, 2008 12th round pick

Year Tm Lev W L ERA IP WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2008 2 Teams A–Rk 5 4 3.98 52.0 1.365 8.3 0.9 4.0 11.2 2.83
2008 Pulaski Rk 3 1 3.10 20.1 1.033 8.0 1.3 1.3 11.1 8.33
2008 Everett A- 2 3 4.55 31.2 1.579 8.5 0.6 5.7 11.4 2.00
2009 Clinton A 10 6 2.41 141.2 1.115 8.0 0.3 2.0 8.5 4.19
2010 High Desert A+ 2 1 2.80 35.1 1.189 9.2 0.8 1.5 5.1 3.33
3 Seasons 17 11 2.83 229.0 1.183 8.3 0.5 2.4 8.6 3.59
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/11/2010.

RHP Michael Pineda (21) – 6’5″ 180lbs, undrafted FA signing in 2005

Year Tm Lev W L ERA IP WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2006 Mariners FRk 2 1 0.44 20.1 1.033 6.2 0.0 3.1 6.2 2.00
2007 Mariners FRk 6 1 2.29 59.0 1.373 10.7 0.3 1.7 7.3 4.36
2008 Wisconsin A 8 6 1.95 138.1 1.041 7.1 0.5 2.3 8.3 3.66
2009 2 Teams A+-Rk 4 2 2.66 47.1 0.782 5.9 0.6 1.1 9.9 8.67
2009 Mariners Rk 0 0 0.00 3.0 0.667 6.0 0.0 0.0 12.0
2009 High Desert A+ 4 2 2.84 44.1 0.789 5.9 0.6 1.2 9.7 8.00
2010 West Tenn AA 2 0 2.23 32.1 1.175 8.1 0.3 2.5 11.1 4.44
5 Seasons 22 10 2.06 297.1 1.080 7.7 0.4 2.1 8.5 4.15
FRk (2 seasons) 8 2 1.82 79.1 1.286 9.5 0.2 2.0 7.0 3.44
A (1 season) 8 6 1.95 138.1 1.041 7.1 0.5 2.3 8.3 3.66
AA (1 season) 2 0 2.23 32.1 1.175 8.1 0.3 2.5 11.1 4.44
Rk (1 season) 0 0 0.00 3.0 0.667 6.0 0.0 0.0 12.0
A+ (1 season) 4 2 2.84 44.1 0.789 5.9 0.6 1.2 9.7 8.00
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/11/2010.

LHP Mauricio Robles (21) – 5’10″ 205lbs, undrafted free agent signing in 2006

Year Tm Lev W L ERA IP WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2006 Marlins/Tigers FRk 0 1 3.38 16.0 2.062 9.6 0.0 9.0 11.2 1.25
2007 Tigers FRk 3 6 3.26 69.0 1.261 7.8 0.5 3.5 10.8 3.07
2008 West Michigan A 5 3 2.66 91.1 1.182 5.3 0.2 5.3 7.8 1.46
2009 3 Teams A-A+ 11 8 3.86 123.2 1.310 7.4 0.7 4.4 10.6 2.42
2009 West Michigan A 4 4 4.63 56.1 1.278 7.2 1.0 4.3 11.3 2.63
2009 Lakeland A+ 4 2 3.60 35.0 1.371 8.7 0.8 3.6 10.3 2.86
2009 High Desert A+ 3 2 2.78 32.1 1.299 6.4 0.3 5.3 9.5 1.79
2010 West Tenn AA 3 1 3.30 30.0 1.067 6.0 0.3 3.6 10.5 2.92
5 Seasons 22 19 3.33 330.0 1.279 6.9 0.5 4.6 9.9 2.14
A (2 seasons) 9 7 3.41 147.2 1.219 6.0 0.5 4.9 9.1 1.85
FRk (2 seasons) 3 7 3.28 85.0 1.412 8.2 0.4 4.6 10.9 2.40
A+ (1 season) 7 4 3.21 67.1 1.337 7.6 0.5 4.4 9.9 2.24
AA (1 season) 3 1 3.30 30.0 1.067 6.0 0.3 3.6 10.5 2.92
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/11/2010.

The biggest prizes on the list are Pineda and Robles, ranked #7 and #13 respectively in the Mariners system by Baseball America. Robles has mostly been used in relief and has had lower than average control, but makes up for it with a high strikeout rate that’s been consistent through every level in the minors. He also keeps the ball in the ballpark, which helps his cause. Oh and he’s left-handed. Always a plus.

Pineda’s scouting report mentions that his pitches have a lot of movement, including a cutter he runs up at about 91mph to complement his 95mph four-seamer. He’s added weight to fill out and could project to be a mid-rotation type which would take advantage of his strong K/BB ratio.

Kasparek is interesting due to his size. At 6’8″, he could be dominant, and his early strikeout rates demonstrate that. He has solid control as well. A couple of concerns are that at 24 years old, he’s still in High-A and in 2007 he underwent Tommy John Surgery. He also has a 5.1 K/9 rate in 35.1 innings in High Desert compared to an 8.6 career rate.

Tenbrink has progressed at every level and you’ll notice he had 41 extra base hits in 2009 and thus far has 15 in High-A. He’s also been successful at stealing bases at a moderate rate while playing at the corners and in left field.

Brian Moran could be the type of toss-in that could develop into a steal just looking at his numbers. He’s dominated the lower levels so far, as he’s yet to give up a homerun and looks to have plus control with a high strikeout rate. He’s also left-handed and only 21 years old.

I’ll admit I’m no expert on the Seattle minor league system, but these seem like intriguing prospects. Pineda’s my favorite option, and I like Moran’s potential on paper, as well. And if we’re able to move Guillen (and get Kila Ka’aihue regular at-bats in the process) I’d take any of these guys. For DeJesus, we’d likely only receive one in return but could potentially get another prospect with them. Unfortunately, neither Royal would command Dustin Ackley, but there are still potentially valuable assets that could be had in a deal.

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Topics: AL Central, Baseball, Brian Moran, David DeJesus, Dayton Moore, Hunter Jones, Jeremy Hermida, Jose Alvarez, Jose Guillen, Kansas City Royals, KC, Ken Griffey Jr, Ken Wakamatsu, Kenn Kasparek, Kila Kaaihue, Mauricio Robles, Michael Pineda, Milton Bradley, MLB, Nate Tenbrink, Royals, Seattle Mariners

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  • Tom Barkwell

    I sympathize with Griffey. I fell asleep myself last night during the sixth inning of the Royals game. The good news is I didn’t really miss much, either.

    DeJesus is definitely not worth 6M for next year. That contract was signed before the market for solid role players fell to its current level (witness Podsednik at 1.65M). If we can get a viable prospect in return, I think we should trade him, even though I like him.

  • http://www.farfromport.wordpress.com Harrison

    Hey nice little write up.

    I’m late to the game but I’d like to weight in and say that Moran is available. At this time he is nothing more than organizational depth and almost positively a bullpen arm. He doesn’t have over powering stuff (FB tops out around high 80s) but he does indeed have plus control and at low-a clinton which is pitchers heavy pitchers enivornment there is no reason for college pitcher with plus control not to excell.

    Kenn Kasparek isn’t a bad pick-up at all. High Desert does mess with pitchers number a bit but we’ve all been watching his K/9 drop and it has me a bit worried too.

    Looking on the otherside of the tabel a better piece with about the same value would be Andrew Carraway. Doesn’t have dominate stuff but has plus-plus control and has shown it so far this year.

    Robels however is an amazing prospect and was stolen from the Tigers system in the Jarrod Washburn trade. He has been used as a starter pretty exclusively since being acquired. He does have a little bit of of control issue but not nearly to the extent of Dan *the prize of the yuniesky bentacourt trade* Cortes whom you have a better chance of returning to your system. Robles most likely tops out as a #3 starter but he could be something special. I am of thinking he could be closer to a #2 starter.

    The only reason Pineda is not ranked higher in BA is due to his elbow injury he suffered last year. There was some doubt on if he could stay healthy, which he has. The guy is a #2 starter all the way.

    In my mind and most Mariner fans Pineda and Robles = No Touchie! :)

    Great write up man! Love the Baseball-Reference tables.

    I did a post earlier this week on Mariner prospects that keepers vs. sellers. If you are interested in checking it out.

  • Michael Engel

    Thanks for the input Harrison! I figured that Pineda and Robles would be a best case. Really, for Guillen, I think most Royals fans would take whatever a team would offer that had any kind of major league potential down the line. He’s been the bane of many a Royals fan’s existence.

    DeJesus could and should command more, but he’s also not a bad piece to the puzzle and could possibly be a nice piece if he stuck with the Royals – or they may not even pick up his option. It’s like in poker, an all-in or fold situation.

    But again, thanks for the input. I like to get a feel of how other teams’ fans view their prospects and appreciate the feedback.

    Also you guys can have Betancourt back. Really. He’s all yours as far as I’m concerned…

  • http://www.farfromport.wordpress.com Harrison

    I completely agree about DeJesus. The guy is a solid baseball player that is completely undervalued. I wonder who will end up with him next year being free-agent, could be an excellent consolation prize to Carl Crawford.

    Unfortunately with having Saunders in left and looking like he is putting it together at the plate there is little need for him at this point. Which hopefully drives Bradley to the DH permanently.

    But if you want to send Billy Butler or KK our way, we are in need of an upgrade at first base. I’d gladly give your Cortes back for either! :)

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