Monday, July 21, 2008

Ray-Ray Leaving Bay for Two Specs, OK?

The Giants have traded Ray Durham to the Brew Crew for two minorly hyped prospects, 22 year old Class A outfielder Darren Ford (speedster, 48 stolen bases - second best in minors - in 59 attempts but not a hitter, .230 and already 88 strikeouts) and 26 year old AAA lefty starting pitcher Steve Hammond (Vallejo native; did well in AA then struggled in AAA, 0-4 record, 7.41 ERA). Accounts from Merc, Chron, sfgiants.com, and AP.

They are not very highly rated, though good enough to Baseball America ranked Ford 21st best prospect and Hammonds 27th in Milwaukee's farm system.

Ford was noted by Baseball America for his one tool "that can't be taught - blazing speed... The question is whether Ford can develop the rest of his game..." They note that he should walk more and strikeout less, plus bunt more, as he can turn ordinary groundballs into base hits with his extraordinary speed. He just needs to make contact. BA notes that he could play CF in the majors right now, he's an outstanding defender. They also rated him the fastest baserunner and best defensive outfielder in the Brewer's minor league system.

Hammonds was rated #7 in 2007 but fell 20 spots, according to the Brewers, "because he worked too hard." Apparently he bulked up, which slowed down his delivery, and he wasn't a power pitcher before that, throwing 88-92. BA thinks he's "increasingly likely that" his "future will be as a reliever," as he is already 26 years old.

McKamey rated Ford a potentially average starting CF, but still a bit away from reaching that potential (7C, where 7 is average player and C is 50% probability of making potential): "Explosive athlete with plus speed" but "lacks power" and "arm strength is below average," "primary need is to get on-base," as he doesn't walk much. Still, he was rated 11th in the Brewers system by McKamey.

Hammonds was rated a potential #5 starter, but viewed as a below-average player who is nonetheless close to his potential (6B, where 6 is platoon player and B is 70% probability of making potential). One reason he probably did so well in AA this season is because it is his third season there, he was promoted there in 2006, spent full season in 2007, and again in 2008 before being promoted to AAA. Notes: "Strong-framed pitcher" "lacking strikeout ability and was subject to the long ball. Mechanics get out-of-whack easily, which decreases command and velocity." However, "short/compact delivery that is very deceptive, making his FB appear harder."

The Giants also threw in some cash to the Brewers in order to complete the trade, which was initiated by the Brewers during the All-Star break and finalized once they came into town to play the Giants. Apparently Brewers GM Doug Melvin and Sabean "go back a long way". The Chron reported that the Giants saved about half the $3M Durham had left on his contract, which makes sense to me, splitting the difference. Brewers also paid him $200,000 as a fee for giving up his 10 year/5 year rights to refuse the trade, as it was in his contract.

Durham actually asked for the trade to be postponed to after the game so that he would not have to play against the Giants on Sunday, out of respect for his former teammates. In fact, he was so emotional about the whole thing that he could only watch around 3 innings before heading back into the locker room, as it was a weird feeling, being out there and rooting for both teams.

Sabean noted in the various accounts that the Giants will not trade any young pitchers and it would be unlikely that the club would acquire a veteran hitter in any deal, as they are not going to rent a player. He also said that the Giants will be as active as possible in order to give the younger players more playing time, as "Ray is the first transaction". He also noted, "We stayed true to our word. No matter where we were in the standings and what we thought our chances were, we needed at some point to turn our fortunes to our younger players."

They are not going to go with anyone regularly yet at 2B. Burriss started Sunday but Velez and Ochoa will also be in the mix. It wasn't mentioned, but I would think that Castillo would also see some time there as well, plus Denker might also come up if/when Aurilia is traded, and Denker plays both 2B and 3B.

Giants Thoughts

This move probably only gets the Sabean Naysayers complaining about why it took so long to do, that it should have been done last off-season. However, most of them were short-sighted and impatient because the only way Durham could have been traded last off-season is if they Giants sent the other team his full $7M salary and they probably would have gotten maybe one player and certainly nobody on any team's Top 30 list. They ended up with two and saving around $1-2M, money that will go towards paying Buster Posey's bonus. They had to let Durham re-establish his value so that they could move him advantageously. The short-sighted naysayers would have just dumped him.

Not that the two players are really that good. They are certainly closer to the majors than any amateurs we could have selected if Durham were signed away as a free agent in the coming off-season, but nowhere near the potential of any pick we might have gotten. However, given his history of injuries, nobody is going to sign him and give his former team the draft picks without that team offering him arbitration. And given that Durham stayed with the Giants with his last contract for an amount that I thought was low, had the Giants kept him, he probably would have accepted arbitration and would have received even more money in a contract from the Giants and continue to block the re-building process.

No, it is much better this way, the Giants are officially done with Durham and moving on.

Both prospects are typical Giants prospects: an extra speedy centerfielder who plays great defense but can't hit nor walk worth a lick and a crafty pitcher with no strikeout pitch nor any power. Given Baseball America's comment that Hammond used to be #7 but strong-armed his way to oblivion, I think that he probably - given the Giants history with pitchers like him - can regain some prospect status and eventually contribute to us in some way. Ford, I am not sure he will ever figure out how to get on-base, but if anyone can do it, I think Carney Lansford can, I always liked him as a hitter. Plus his speed is really good, rated by McKamey as 8th out of all prospects this season, just ahead of Velez (9th), slightly ahead of Burriss (15th), and Fairley made the list too, 22nd. And the Giants do love their speedsters, it will be interesting what he does for us after joining us.

But anything they can contribute in the future will be gravy to me, as the main things to me are, first, that we saved some of his salary this season which we can now spend on signing draft picks like Posey (or spent on signing Rodriguez), and second, that Durham is traded, opening up a spot for a prospect to get some MLB playing time. Burriss has been OK in his time up here, and I've wanted to see Ochoa get a chance this season to show what he's got.

Amazingly, some Brewer fans were upset over losing the two prospects. Durham helps shore up a weak spot for them at 2B, as Weeks has been horrible this season. He's always had the potential - he was super hot last season according to some, with OPS over 1.000 for two months or so - but never been able to do it consistently. He's also good for hitting, power and speed off the bench. Ray is going to help them - particularly since he won't be playing full-time, Melvin noted maybe starts twice a week - get closer in the pennant race and it won't be his fault if the team doesn't make it. They would have been lucky if either prospect ever contributed significantly over half a season, let alone making the majors period.

Gino Promoted

In other news, Yabu was DLed and Gino Espinelli was called up, which kicked him off the Olympic team. I've been watching him since he was drafted, not heralded at all, but just seemed to get the job done as he has risen through the farm system. Just a player I had nice vibes about so I followed him, but there's no significance to this, as I used to follow and like Joe Bateman and he never did anything for us, he finally left the team last off-season, not sure if he left or was drafted off the team (I think maybe the latter). Good luck Gino!

Other Trade Talk

I think the Giants were hoping to trade Yabu but his recent poor outings and now DL probably would preclude that now. Giants reportedly on the trading block include Rich Aurilia, Randy Winn, Omar Vizquel, and even Benji Molina, with a rumor that the Chron reported a day or two ago that the Marlins were looking at him, though I'm not sure what the Giants would do without him, unless we got a catcher in return. I doubt there will be much interest in Dave Roberts, particularly since he won't get many starts, from what it seems from public talk about how he'll be used going forward, though apparently Lewis has a bunion causing him trouble and surgery is being considered, even though that would cost him 8 months. And I don' think Castillo will get much interest either, though if he gets a lot of starts at 2B, someone might bite on him for 2B, but we probably wouldn't get anyone more than a low rated reliever for him.

The good news is that the Giants have officially put the young pitchers off the table for future trade talks. I think that is the best path to take, basically keep the core group together and let them gel and learn together over the next season or two. If the Giants aren't ready to compete by 2010-11, then we can think about trading away any of them. For the future, it is best to build as strong a pitching staff as we can so that our offense does not have to do much in order for us to win. I don't think we are far from that now, with our big three doing so well. If Zito can ever return to any semblance to his former goodness, and I think he can, then we will really be set for the future.

Pitching Rotation

Speaking of Zito, I'm glad the Giants moved him in the back of the rotation for the second half - it is Cain, Sanchez, Lincecum, Zito, then Correia - because then he won't be facing the other team's best starters regularly, nor would Lincecum. That should help both of their winning percentages higher relatively going forward. However, Cain and Sanchez will suffer a lot more, particularly Sanchez who was facing back of rotation guys earlier, so they will have to grow up fast and be more consistently good. But I'm not too worried, Cain has usually figured things out by July/August and put up a great streak, and Sanchez has been consistently good for a while now so he should be ready to take on top of rotation guys, so my only worry about him is his innings pitched for the season, since he's never thrown that many in a season as a reliever for the Giants.

Watching Young Arms

However, the Giants should be aware of this and monitoring it, as they recently disclosed that they are thinking of Lincecum in those terms as well. They have talked about even skipping a start here and there to lessen the load on Lincecum's arm, plus taking the days off and giving him the extra day as they come, instead of skipping the #5 spot and keeping him (and the others) on a 5 day schedule. That could mean that Misch might return to the rotation by August to take turns from Sanchez and Lincecum as needed.

2 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. I don't know much about Espinelli. I hope we get to see a lot of him, though. The more young arms the better.

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