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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Blockbuster sends 12 packing

There was a pretty big trade last night.  As a Braves fan I'm sick and as a Cleveland supporter and a little befuddled.  Here's a quick rundown of each team's transaction starting with the middleman:

Cleveland sends OF Franklin Gutierrez to Seattle for RP Joe Smith and 2b Luis Valbuena 

Gutierrez represents a nice little lefty masher while playing good defense in both corners and center.  This past season was his first real chance to play everyday and he did not live up to expectations.  Cleveland already had Ben Francisco and Shin -Soo Choo so one had to move. I think Cleveland chose the right guy.  
Valbuena is a nice little gamble for 2b.  He gets on base at a fair clip and has some nice doubles power.  He's got the body of Carlos Baerga though, so if he doesn't stay in shape he might lose nearly all his value.
Joe Smith is a nifty sidearming righty that fits in well in a pen already stocked with goodies. Cleveland now has a situational righty to slide in late innings enabling Rafael Perez and Rafael Betancourt to keep their multi-inning roles.  Once Kerry Wood finalizes his deal this bullpen will be set.  It will also be the best in baseball.

Seattle traded RP JJ Putz, RP Sean Green, and OF Jeremy Reed to NY Mets and 2b Luis Valbuena to Cleveland for OF Endy Chavez, RHP Aaron Heilman, RHP prospect Maikel Cleto, 1b prospect Mike Carp, LHP Jason Vargas, OF Ezequiel Carrera, and OF Franklin Gutierrez.

The Mariners get a whopping seven players here.  I'll sort through as fast as I can.

Losing Putz means relatively little to a team that is not in contention.  Green was a nice reliever that had some value but he can be replaced also.
For Seattle Francisco is the guy that made this deal work.  He'll turn 26 in spring so his potential is just now starting to show.  Plays very good defense and is a superb baserunner.  There is some power potential but it seems likely he'll stay a doubles hitter accompanied by a lot of triples as long as his speed holds up.  It remains to be seen if he plays center or left but I have a feeling Seattle puts him in center to see if he can handle it (which he will).  As a fantasy player my eye is on him.
Endy Chavez should be used as a fourth outfielder since his hitting skills are weak at best.  He's another excellent defender who's probably best known for his catch in game 7 of the 2006 NLCS than anything else.
Aaron Heilman is a disgruntled reliever who told the Mets to start him or trade him.  Well, Aaron, you got your wish.  If used as a starter it will be a disaster since he only has two decent pitches and a pretty significant platoon split. Should ably fill the vacancy left by Sean Green.
Vargas is a bit of an enigma to me.  He destroyed the lower minors and showed loads of potential in AA, but once he hit AAA the wheels came off.  Maybe he can't hack it as a starter.  Some work with the pitching coaches should turn him into a valuable reliever.
Ezekiel Carrera is all wheels, Mike Carp looks like a lefty hitting Ryan Garko, and Maikel Cleto is only 19 so there's still time for him to turn into a dominating closer.  

NY Mets traded OF Endy Chavez, OF Ezequiel Carrera, RP Aaron Heilman, RP Maikel Cleto, LHP Jason Vargas, 1b Mike Carp, and to Seattle and RP Joe Smith to Cleveland for RP JJ Putz, RP Sean Green, and OF Jeremy Reed.

JJ Putz gives the Mets a dominating reliever (when healthy) that's actually better than KRod.  He has averaged more than 11 strikeouts per 9 innings over the last three seasons and, if memory serves me correctly, saved 35 consecutive games in 2007.  
Sean Green is a sinkerballing reliever whose biggest concern is that Luis Castillo remembers how to play defense.  Green has solid control and to use the ever popular phrase "a move to the National League can only help."
Jeremy Reed takes Endy Chavez's place as 4th outfielder/late inning defensive replacement.  This guy was a hot prospect but never developed power or mastered the strike zone.

Verdict:  Surprisingly, I really like what this deal does for the Indians.  The AL Central is a division completely up for grabs this season and little moves like this one might be difference makers.  Seattle gets to restock the the upper levels of their minor league system and gets to embark on a risk-free experiment known as Franklin Gutierrez.  But really, let's not fool ourselves.  The team with the biggest improvement from this trade is the Mets.  Reed and Green essentially replace two guys they were traded for (and are younger) while Putz improves them by 2-3 wins.  Maybe as much as 5 if you look at the guys he replaced.  As a Braves fan I just threw up a little.
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