Matthew Pouliot

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Johan and Everything Else

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The rumor mill is churning fast and furious from the winter meetings in Nashville and Rotoworld's player news page has up-to-the-minute updates on Johan Santana, Miguel Cabrera, Erik Bedard, Dan Haren, and every other name being thrown around the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center.

Along with our unmatched coverage of rumors and speculation, here's our take on the ever-growing list of trades that have actually been completed ...

To Nationals: OF Lastings Milledge
To Mets: C Brian Schneider, OF Ryan Church

GM Jim Bowden's obsession with toolsy outfielders resulted in a pretty good trade this time. Schneider and Church both have their uses, but neither was in the Nationals' long-range plans. If Milledge's stock has dropped, it's more due to questions about his defense in center than his long-term offensive outlook. He hit .272/.341/.446 in 184 at-bats for the Mets last season, and he's just 22 years old. The Nats will probably stick him in center initially and hope for the best.

It's a substantial price to pay, but the Mets are getting a better catcher here than they would have had in Yorvit Torrealba or Johnny Estrada, who seems set to be non-tendered. Still, we would have liked the pickup a lot more three years ago. Schneider deserved to win a Gold Glove or two in his prime, but he's declined both defensively and offensively in the last two seasons. He hit .235/.326/.336 last year and had a similar line in 2006. A modest rebound on offense is possible, but it can't be counted on. The Mets will pay him $9.8 million over the next two seasons before he becomes a free agent.

Church will be treated as the third player in the deal, but he might prove more valuable to the Mets than Brian Schneider, either as the team's primary right fielder or as an additional piece of trade bait. He's not really GM Omar Minaya's kind of player, so it's always possible that he'll be sent to another team in a deal for pitching. If kept, he should play right field against righties. He's a career .271/.348/.462 hitter in 997 at-bats, and he'll be a defensive upgrade over Shawn Green. Plus, he's four years away from free agency.

To Twins: OF Delmon Young, IF Brendan Harris, OF Jason Pridie
To Rays: RHP Matt Garza, SS Jason Bartlett, RHP Eduardo Morlan

We liked the deal more when it initially included Juan Rincon instead of Morlan, but the Twins are still picking up a 22-year-old bat with Hall of Fame potential. Young was a below average regular as a rookie, but he still smacked a lot of line drives and more home run power is on the way. What remains to be seen is whether he'll learn to do a better job of waiting for his pitch or if he'll continue to do AL pitching staffs favors by reaching for the ball. Odds are that he'll have at least one more year in which he puts up superficially strong Triple Crown numbers without doing a lot to help his team win games.

The Twins still get the top property in the deal, but with Morlan's inclusion over Juan Rincon, Tampa Bay recieves Nos. 2, 3 and 4. Garza will slot right into their rotation behind Scott Kazmir and Jamie Shields. As things stand now, Andy Sonnanstine and Edwin Jackson are the favorites for the last two spots, with J.P. Howell, Jason Hammel and maybe Jeff Niemann in the running. Garza projects as a long-term No. 2 starter, and as a nice bonus, he's still under control for six years, while Young is under control for five. Bartlett is four years away from free agency.

Bartlett seemed set for a long run as the Twins' shortstop after establishing himself in 2006, but the club decided it was worth downgrading, probably to Nick Punto, in order to bring in Delmon Young. Bartlett will play regularly for Tampa Bay next year and then perhaps move to second base in 2009 to make room for Reid Brignac. In truth, he's the better shortstop of the two. Still, he'd have to turn in a big 2008 to make the Rays consider moving Brignac instead.

Harris broke through with the Rays last season, hitting .286/.343/.434 in 521 at-bats. He was miscast as a starting shortstop, but he's a solid defender at second or third, making him a useful player while he's cheap. Fortunately, he still has two years left before he's even arbitration eligible. The Twins figure to play him regularly somewhere, probably at second.

Minnesota reacquires Pridie two years after taking him in the Rule 5 draft and later returning him to Tampa Bay. He's a better prospect now, but his .318/.375/.539 line in 245 Triple-A at-bats last season was out of character. The 24-year-old projects as a long-term reserve. Still, he'd be a better choice than Denard Span to serve as a stopgap center fielder for Minnesota.

The change from the original deal is Morlan subbing in for Juan Rincon, due to Rincon's unfavorable injury reports. We were pretty neutral on the deal before, but this swings it over to the Rays' side. Healthy or not, Rincon wasn't a great bet to be worth what he was due in arbitration. Morlan, on the other hand, is one of the top five or 10 relief prospects in baseball. The 21-year-old had a 3.10 ERA and a 99/20 K/BB ratio in 69 2/3 innings at Single-A Fort Myers and Double-A New Britain last season. Maybe the Twins would have been foolish to let this deal fall apart over a relief prospect, but if the Rays wanted Rincon in the first place, there should have been a better compromise available.

To White Sox: OF Carlos Quentin
To Diamondbacks: 1b Chris Carter

A great gamble for the White Sox here. Quentin is questionable for Opening Day following October surgery to repair the rotator cuff and labrum in his left (non-throwing) shoulder, but he should be the team's regular left fielder once he proves he's all the way back. Actually, he should play right over Jermaine Dye, but that probably won't happen. Quentin is a very good defender in a corner still capable of turning in some 25-homer seasons in the majors. His acquisition makes it more likely that Josh Fields will be the White Sox's third baseman next year, with Joe Crede getting either traded or non-tendered.

Carter, who turns 21 this month, hit .291/.383/.522 for low Single-A Kannapolis last season. He's a right-handed hitter with 30-homer potential, but he's not much of a defender and he's a long way from the majors. While he does become one of Arizona's top-five prospects, he's not a good enough return for Quentin.

To Nationals: OF Elijah Dukes
To Rays: LHP Glenn Gibson

Gibson is a quality prospect, but he's a long way from the majors and he's worth sacrificing to gamble on Dukes' potential. If Dukes is on best behavior in spring training, he should get a chance to battle Wily Mo Pena and Lastings Milledge for playing time, with all three making the team. If not, he can be optioned back to Triple-A, a scenario that would become more likely if Nick Johnson shows up healthy and Dmitri Young needs to refamiliarize himself with left field. More so than Milledge, Pena becomes a riskier pick in fantasy leagues with Dukes around.

Gibson, a 2006 fourth-round pick, went 4-3 with a 3.10 ERA, 47 H and 58/15 K/BB in 58 IP after reporting to SS Single-A Vermont in late June. A fastball-curveball pitcher with No. 3-starter upside, he goes from slotting somewhere in the 7-10 range among Nationals prospects to 10-15 in the Tampa Bay system.

To Braves: IF/OF Omar Infante, LHP Will Ohman
To Cubs: RHP Jose Ascanio

It's not very often you see two major leaguers traded for a relief prospect, but the Cubs are shedding salary and picking up a pretty good arm here. Ascanio had a 2.54 ERA and a 71/18 K/BB ratio in 78 IP in Double-A last season. He gave up nine earned runs and posted a 13/6 K/BB ratio in 16 innings for the Braves. The 22-year-old is likely to settle in as a major league setup man, though he may still be a year away.

The versatile Infante gives the Braves a better backup shortstop, though he's still less than ideal in that role. He's better defensively at second base and in center field, and he could be used in a platoon role against lefties at either spot. This probably means that Martin Prado will open the season in the minors rather than as a reserve.

The Cubs soured on Ohman quickly because of his command troubles, but this is a southpaw who has limited left-handed hitters to a .196 average and struck out more than a batter an inning in his career. We'd take him over J.C. Romero, who just got $12 million for three years from the Phillies, and he's only owed $1.6 million next year. It's a nice pickup for the Braves.

To Rockies: RHP Jose Capellan
To Tigers: RHP Denny Bautista

One well-traveled former top pitching prospect for another. We think the Rockies got the better of this one. Bautista throws hard and has a better offspeed pitch than Capellan, but the command just isn't there. The 27-year-old has a 6.93 ERA and a 77/55 K/BB ratio in 115 2/3 innings as a major leaguer. He'll compete for a spot as a fifth starter or as a middle reliever.

It didn't look like Bautista was ever going to help the Rockies. Capellan is no sure bet, either, but he offers a bit better command of the strike zone to go along with his big fastball. He has a 4.90 ERA and a 96/50 K/BB ratio in 121 1/3 innings as a major leaguer. The Rockies figure to try him as a middle reliever.

To Nationals: RHP Tyler Clippard
To Yankees: RHP Jonathan Albaladejo

Makes a lot of sense for both teams. Clippard is a better bet in the NL than he ever would have been in the AL and could prove to be a third or fourth starter for the Nationals. Albaladejo, meanwhile, showed a lot of promise as a reliever both in Triple-A and in a late-season callup. We just hope the Yankees use him better than they did Chris Britton.

Matthew Pouliot is the Executive Editor of and has been doing the site's baseball projections for the last 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @matthewpouliot.
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