Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Morris Traded With No Cash!

Amazingly, the Giants have traded away Matt Morris to the Pittsburgh Pirates for OF Rajai Davis, straight up:

The Giants were looking for a team to take some of their high-salaried players, and the Pirates will pick up the remainder of Morris' $10,037,283 contract for this season. He is due $9.5 million for next season, plus a $2 million payment at the end of the season.

"Almost at the 11th hour we were talking to two other teams I would consider competitors in the playoff situation. Pittsburgh stepped up, not only to take on the player as is -- meaning the contract -- but the potential return," in Davis, Sabean said.

Apparently the Pirates liked how Morris mentored Cain and other young pitchers on the Giants staff and I guess he decided that it would help take pressure off their good young starters.

Rajai Davis

He's 26 years old, hasn't done much in the majors. In Baseball America's 2007 Prospect book, he was the Pirates' 27th best prospect. For perspective, David Quinowski is the Giants 27th best prospect.

He is the prototypical Sabean acquisition of the past few years: tons o' speed. He's a CF who has stolen 224 bases in six minor league seasons. He had good bat control when he started, almost a 1:1 ratio for BB/K, but he started hitting the wall in AA and AAA, as his ratio dropped to about 50-60%. So he has hit for a pretty good batting average, about .280 the past two seasons in AA and AAA, and walks enough to get his OBP up to the .340-.350 level, which is OK if he can do it at the majors (but probably not). His minors career line of .303/.374/.402/.776 would be pretty good in the majors, but of course, it is the rare hitter who can hit as well in the majors as the minors, there is a leap in talent level they face in the pitchers they hit against in the majors that represents the higher level of difficulty that is the majors.

BP notes that he "is beginning to look like Chris Duffy Lite." That's not a great comparison and they also noted the Pirates penchant to develop 4th OF types and YET still didn't mention his name, they mentioned three other OFs. That's pretty sad. Minor League Baseball Analyst views Davis as a reserve LF/CF: "incredibly quick athlete does solid job as leadoff hitter, making contact and drawing walks. Lacks poower and can be overpowered by good pitching. Shows solid range in CF..." and notes his above-average speed. They rated him 15th best prospect. BA notes that "His average and plate discipline have suffered against more experienced pitchers since reaching Double-A. Davis spent the final six weeks of last season with the Pirates and didn't start a game, an indication the organization views him as a reserve outfielder long-term." They didn't really have much else to say other than chronicle his path up the system and to note his great speed. As noted above, they rated him 27th in the Pirates system.

So there is the hope that he will translate his good bat control - he's still around 85% contact rate even with his reduced BB/K ratio and that's good - into a good batting average, but at 26 years old, he's done as a prospect. He seems to be a Jason Ellison type who is much better at stealing bases. He's batting .321/.390/.459/.849 (but with .352 BABIP) in AAA this year, with 27 stolen bases (and 9 CS for only a 75% success rate; very much like Ellison; he was a little better in 2006, 45 of 58, or 78%).

Giants Thoughts

I (and other fans) were hoping that the Giants would be able to trade Morris for a nice shiny prospect somewhere, but apparently Morris killed his market value with that flop of a July that he had. He also had some unkind comments about the Giants once he learned of the trade, which added to his recent negative comments about the team.

He seems like a nice guy but he did us no favor pitching with a broken rib last year and he was like a rookie starting out his first season with us too, leading to a poor first season with us. Then those unprofessional complaints, he should be pointing his finger at himself: if he was even average during July, we might be under 10 games behind right now (11 games right now) but here's the EARNED runs he gave up starting with his June 17 start: 8 runs, 4, 1, 6, 6, 6, 4, 6. If he would have just given up 3 runs in those starts instead (4.50 ERA for 6 IP), we would have had 3 more wins right now, 8 games back, plus two other games would have been tied; assuming one is a win, that's 7 games back now.

Now I guess we will see Russ Ortiz get to start for us and hopefully, if he can pitch well over the rest of the month, we might be able to flip him too for another prospect, since he really wants to start and not relieve, which is where I think he can help us most. So he won't be here next season most likely and we won't get anything in terms of pick compensation, so hopefully he does well and can be traded. Then we could have Misch start in September and see how he does.

I like the way Misch had been pitching the past two seasons, I wouldn't mind seeing him start for us next year, in competition with Sanchez for the #5 spot behind Cain, Lincecum, Lowry, and Zito. If he loses, he can take a spot in the bullpen, he's been excellent there the past two seasons; if he wins, I think he could possibly outdo Noah Lowry, his rise through the system mimicked Lowry except that he outdid Lowry at every level until AAA, if I remember right, but I think he righted himself the next season and has done very well for us since.

This trade was nothing like what people were hoping for. But the good news is that the Giants now save around $4M this year that can be used next year, plus take $9.5M off the books for next year, which frees up more money to bid for free agents as needed. Given the talk about going young and accepting less competitive results in 2008, we might be able to save some money for free agents in the 2009-2010 timeframe instead, or do a similar pickup of a veteran where we take on salary and give up a non-prospect like Davis.

Plus, judging from the comments, Morris's time with the Giants was just about up, I wish him the best of luck in Pittsburg, except if he faces the Giants, in which case I hope he pitches like he has lately.


  1. That's what I get for wanting to get this out fast: according to the Giants info release, the Giants also get the ever popular PTBNL (Player To Be Named Later): http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20070731&content_id=2119958&vkey=news_sf&fext=.jsp&c_id=sf.

    That makes more sense. I thought one prospect seemed kind of low, but thought maybe that's the market for a pitcher who was so horrible since mid-June. Clearly, this was the safety valve on the deal: if Morris does well for the rest of the season, they get a better prospect, if he doesn't do well, they get a lesser one.

    Sabean in this article noted that had Morris pitched better, the Giants would probably have been able to deal him to a contender as they would have been willing to give up more, but it took a desperate wannabe team to step up to the plate. Perhaps the Pirates are hoping he corrects his problems in August and then ship him out for more in late August.

  2. Listening to the Brian Sabean news conference, it was noted that Davis is interesting for his speed and playing CF plus the PTBNL "could be pretty good too". Davis seems better than, say, Joey Gathright, in that in addition to speed, Rajai has demonstrated an ability to hit for some average and get some walks, making him leadoff material.

    Sabean also noted that Davis will join the team soon and he will be further evaluated closely then.

    About other trade possibilities for other vets on the team, there was some interest, but movement was slow on the part of buyers, so he expects players to make it through waivers and allow them to make further moves in August, and they are definitely open to moving players.

    He also mentioned that there were two other teams who are contenders interested. Someone asked if doing the deal before having to waive was a motivation and Sabean said that it wasn't, that getting the flexibility now was more important than what might happen after the deadline, in the waiver period. In other words, the bird in the hand cliche.

    About the new starter, sounds like Ortiz is not ready, he needs another rehab start, but would not commit to naming Misch or anyone.

    Parameters about PTBNL: usually a named group of players is the pool that SF can pick from, plus date for player to be agreed on by both teams, both are agreed upon the deal; if later agree on PTBNL then player traded, if not, then there is a cash consideration; that's how PTBNL is normally done he noted.

    Pitching as future yet pitching traded dichotomy, what is balance asks reporter: see how things turn out, give people opportunity, wanted flexibility in the offseason. Noted that if they were unable to sign a position player, they might go after pitching and strengthen that.

    Turned the page on how things were done in the past, that resulted in Morris being dealt. This seems to imply that in the past, wouldn't give up and would keep the vets, but now willing to shut down and move on to prepare for next season. That is part of what was noted when Sabean was re-signed to his extension. That it happened to be the Pirates apparently was just how it worked out, perhaps if he pitched better, the contenders would have offered more.

    Should have noted that press release noted that Davis was 9 for 22 in his last 13 games, plus, I guess I didn't notice because he was moving up each season, he stole more than 40 bases in each of his previous 4 minor league seasons. He also finished his AAA stint with a 21-game hitting streak.

    So he appears to be showing improvement in line with his history of good BB/K ratios in terms of hitting, so he appears to be improved this season.

  3. Hello Martin. Thanks for the detail on the Sabean interview - as I'm out of area I can't listen to that, so really appreciate your reporting it.
    I think most people are on board with this trade, but I have heard/read some complaining, which I think is preposterous. If you're a Roto league owner, you never make this trade, because the "value" or "production" right here and now is widely disproportionate. But this ain't Roto league and there are lots of other considerations, many of which you and Sabean have addressed. Just clearing the approx $13 million is a huge coup. We have lost NOTHING because we can so easily replace Morris (Ortiz, Misch, Sanchez, all behind door A, and Blackely, Kinney, Palmer behind door B). That we got a real, bona fide prospect is phenomenal. To get a team to take on $13 mil, they usually want to give you their 40th round draft pick - the guy who'se spending his 4th year in the Az league. But Davis becomes part of the mix of our young OFs - and the more competition, the better. And surplus is also good. This comes right out of
    Sabean's philosphy of developing a surplus of pitching - then you can trade without hurting your 25 man roster - just plug in the next guy in line. The same is kind of true w/ OFs. We're positioned to trade 1 or 2 of Winn, Roberts, Ort, Schierholtz, Davis, Lewis, Bowker, Timpner - and to chose from among them the 4 we want manning the OF next year - and, to a large extent, into the upcoming years.. So, I think this is a great preparatory step. It is extremely short sighted to evaluate this trade (Morris vs Davis) because that is not what it is about. The trade is about flexibility, unloading $13_ mil in obligation, opening competition/ rewarding the best of the minor league prospects, both pitching and OF. And the real significance of the trade cannot be seen here in August; it won't be fully known until next April 3, when we see the MLB roster.
    Finally, I know his 50 or so 2007 ABs are small sample size, but I think the fact that he hit 148 last year in 24 ABs then improved to a respectable 170 this year, with more MLB playing time, is significant. I understand pitchers haven't had a chance to figure him out, but my recollection is Niekro, Ellison, Linden never had a productive stretch in the bigs - whereas Davis has had a quite successful "rookie" season.

  4. I'm disappointed because I posted about Davis right after the deal was announced and my comment never showed up. When I read the preliminary report I was angry. Angry the only guy we moved was Morris and mad we ended up with a 26 year-old part-time outfielder who couldn't even break through with the Pirates.

    As I was ranting I started looking at his numbers and noticed some potential. I've actually grown to liking the guy already. I could see him being a starting centerfielder with leadoff potential. My only issue is the fact he's 26, soon to be 27(I think). He's also more likely to be a #2 or #8 type hitter rather than leadoff. Another issue, we have Roberts under contract for next season(right?) and this guy doesn't have the offense to justify playing in the corners. It might not matter though, considering next season will be about rebuilding anyways. He is our only major league ready prospect whose best position is CF. Lewis is "serviceable" in center but his fielding is suspect. Timpner might be ready soon but I don't think he's a long-term solution. He's hitting well though. Horwitz is looking good but I don't know about in CF.

    I'd also like to see the PTBNL list.

    I'd actually like to see the Giants re-sign Winn. He's been our best position player this season. He offers above average defense in right and handles centerfield just as well. I'll admit, I have a bit of a man-crush on him. He is much better suited offensively to be in center. Just not the kind of power production you hope for in right.

    What I'd really like is for the Giants to find him a good situation, trade him at the waiver deadline and re-sign him in the offseason. Winn recently bought a house in the Bay Area.

    Speaking of the waiver deadline, is that what Sabean was waiting for? Did he think the deadline is tomorrow? I couldn't believe the only guy he dealt was Morris. You mean to tell me no one wanted Sweeney or Klesko? No one wanted Ray Durham? I can almost guarantee the Braves called about Kline. I'm sure quite a few teams inquired about Kline. I'd like to see Vizquel, Durham and Klesko go. Then we could see Ishikawa, Frandsen and Velez.

  5. I guess I wasn't clear enough, but Davis is pretty much a non-prospect if he's unable to break into the Pirates crowd of AAAA OFs. He has some nice qualities and basically we are taking him for a spin to see if he's really improved/developed or if he just learned to hit AAA pitching (at 26, I'm guessing more of the latter). Hopefully the scouts saw something they like about him, but I just noticed yesterday that former Giants 3B prospect Brian Buscher was actually promoted to the Twins roster; he was a Rule 5 Draftee from us last off-season, so why didn't we put him on our 40 man? The Twins couldn't be that desperate for a 3B could they? Plus we have a lot of all-field/no-hit OF, we couldn't have dropped one to keep Buscher? But I admit I don't know who was on the list when we lost him, he was a disappointment, just like Bowker was, then did well this year...

    Matt, Winn is signed for another 2 years if I remember right, so don't worry. There are other fans who think he's a problem and want to trade him. So you are in the minority, with me. He is not great in RF but he's a good complementary piece.

    Ralph Barbieri made me mad yesterday ranting about Roberts when Roberts has been one of our hottest hitters the past month and the reason we have been having a semi-good stretch of winning here, he's been starting rallies and stuff.

    Davis is no great defensive CF, one of the comments on him is that his speed allows him to make up for his mistakes, I've not seen one that says he's good defensively in CF. But, of course, Lewis is worse.

    Roberts was actually great in LF last season. If we don't sign Bonds, we could move him to LF plus platoon him there, play others in CF, and leave Winn in RF. Horwitz is at best a corner OF, his only skill is really being able to hit the baseball well. We don't have any real CF prospect that I can see.

    Sabean said that the reporters will not only not know the date a decision must be made, but won't know the list either. So we ain't going to see it either.

    To make a deal, you need two sides to agree. Judging by how little we got for Morris, plus other middling deals that went through the league, I don't think any of the teams were willing to part with anything much good and likewise no team wanted to give up on players for so little. Sabean made comment to that previously last week on his weekly show on KNBR.

    I think most of our vets who we could move will make it through waivers. Even though he said Morris was not moved because of the deadline, I think he's the only one who might not have made it through waivers and they would have been stuck with him until the off-season. I think his comments have also pushed him out the door faster.

    The others are marked by either not being THAT good or having more years on their contract. Feliz, Klesko, Sweeney, and Vizquel are not difference makers and so should make it through. Aurilia, Kline, Durham, Roberts, and Winn have more years on their contracts and aren't that good that others would risk making a waiver claim and getting stuck with him. Plus, they haven't been that GOOD either, they have all been up and down this season.

    I would have liked to see some go and bring up young guys. Sabean seemed to intimate that they want the same thing but were unable to move anyone. I think we will see more movement in the middle to end of August, when teams have a better feel for whether they are in the race or not, plus additional injuries crop up, plus teams get desperate for that one complementary piece they need, a PH, a reliever, an extra bat in the lineup to rest the regulars.

  6. Obsessivegiantscompulsive,

    How can you say Randy Winn is having a bad year and thus he would join Durham, Roberts, and Aurilia as being someone who would make it thru waivers for fear he isn't worth the years and dollars that remain on his contract? Randy is hitting .300 with a .356 OBP and a .780 OPS which are all above his career averages. Randy's performance for the remaining two years and $16.25M on his contract are slightly below market price in today's market.

  7. giantsrainman, I didn't say Winn is having a bad year, I just said that he wasn't having a good year for a RF. His OPS - this year and for his career - is not RF worthy, the average RF has an OPS of 813 since 2000, and Winn is a high 700 OPS guy, just short of average. His defense and arm is adequate in RF, but not gold glove good, though certainly better than when he plays CF.

    That plus a contract which is OK to slightly rich in size for an average OF that runs for another two years, 2008 and 2009, I don't think any team is desperate enough for an average RF to take on his contract.

    In any case, I just remembered that the Giants would find it hard to trade Winn this year anyway, I think he has a no-trade clause this year and would have to get concessions to get traded. Plus I think he has a limited no-trade for next season as well.

    Plus, while I'm noting that I think he will pass through waivers, as much as I would like to play our young guys, I like having Roberts and Winn in the OF, and it looks like, assuming Bonds is gone next season, we will be mixing and matching Lewis, Schierholtz, and Davis in the OF, depending on the opposing starting pitcher.

    Lastly, I don't see us getting very much in any trade of veterans right now, particularly since Feliz, Vizquel and Durham have done so poorly thus far. As maligned Feliz has been, his July was totally off the chart compared to his career, so I would wait until late August to trade, to see if he can continue to take walks and avoid strikeouts. Vizquel has actually be almost OK since horrible April, but then who will we put in SS? If Ivan Ochoa is finally ready, I would put him in and see what happens, but then who would we get next year? And Schoop, while good defensively, is pretty bad offensively, probably another Neifi Perez. Durham would have to be on total fire in August to be tradeable, he was so cold April-July, though warming lately.

    Klesko would probably get us something, but unless they are platooning Ishikawa and Niekro at 1B next season, I want to keep Klesko around for 2008. However, if the Giants don't know if they will be able to sign him for next year, they need to trade him for whatever they can get, we get no picks for him going free agent, most probably (not sure how Elias rating/ranking works - they don't release the formula/methodology - but Klesko missed all of 2006 season; however, it seems like playing time is not that big a factor, as Alou was rated an A free agent and he missed a lot of time with us, so maybe Klesko could get us at least a B pick).

    I forgot about Aurilia. He could play SS but not on a daily basis I don't think. I would keep him because he can play a number of different positions in case of injury or poor performance, and he is an OK hitter for the most part still I think.

  8. Oh, you know me, I reread and have another thought: about Winn, I would add you never know, look at who took Morris off our hands. Maybe they'll want to do the same with Winn, he's better than their collection of AAAA OF they have.

    I'm hoping that Morris pitches well enough to get us a better PTBNL but not so good that they can trade him off to a contender for a good prospect. I don't think I need to fear the latter, but clearly we have no reason to expect the former either. However, he had a nice start the other day, just a lot of BABIP bad luck in hits, so hopefully he can build off that.

  9. I don't know where I got the idea that Winn is a free agent after the season. Is there a website that shows the Giants contracts?

    Anyone watch Davis start last night? My cable went out so I missed the game. I noticed he stole a base, so that's a plus. I have a feeling Bochy will let him run rampant on the bases whenever he gets the opportunity.

    I don't think Winn could clear waivers. Don't think he or Roberts would be dealt anyways. They're both playing well and could help some of the young guys adjust.

    Klesko needs to go. He's been great lately. I'm not looking right now but I believe his OPS is in the 900 range. Aurilia can finish out the season as the starter with Ishikawa getting a chance to play also. It's tough though. Like you said, it could be worth more to keep them.

  10. Go to Cot's contracts: http://mlbcontracts.blogspot.com/

    Here is the Giants contracts: http://mlbcontracts.blogspot.com/2004/12/san-francisco-giants_30.html

    It's the place to go for contract details.

    Yeah, Klesko has been a career high 800 OPS hitter, that's why he has lasted as long as he has. If we can get a pick for him going free agent, I would rather do that, but if not, then a trade would be good.

    I would love to see Ishikawa at 1B, not because I "love" him as some accuse me of, but more that we have to fish or cut bait with him pretty soon, I think next year is his last year we can option him down, so starting 2009 we either keep him up here or expose him to Rule 5 draft.

    May as well see what we got, see how he does against good pitching on a regular basis. When someone hits so many homers - and they are monster shots, I saw one once in San Jose, he just skied it high and deep.

  11. Oops should have finished my thought: when you have a homerun hitter like that, you have to see what you got at some point, and Norwich was only masking his skill at mashing the ball, which his stint in San Jose shows that he's still got that skill, it was Norwich screwing around with him and anybody in Connecticut who has power, making Bowker's sudden power surge all the more amazing.

    Still, check this out: Bowker in Connecticut hits a homer every 48 AB; on the road, he hits a homer every 16 AB. Quite a dichotomy again, no?

    Unfortunately, he's only good against RHP, much like Lewis and, to a lesser extent, Schierholtz. But boy, what power he is showing, I can't wait to see how he does in AAA next season.



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