In the third installment of my Oakland Trade Bait series, I'm going to be doing something a little differently. Instead of looking at who Oakland has to trade, I'm going to be looking at who Oakland wants. With last night's news that Eric Chavez's career is all but over, Oakland's problem at third base has changed from a big hole to a vast, gaping chasm.
The Carter experiment was a big failure. Other than that, it was been basically fill-ins at the hot corner for A's affiliates. Cardenas could eventually make the move, but only if Ellis is healthy and not traded, and then after that, if Jemile Weeks stays healthy and gets something out of his potential. Jason Christian and Christian Vitters are doing alright in the low minors, but neither could help Oakland right now, and neither project to be stars.
Today I will be looking at almost every 3B prospect in the National League. As a reference, I mainly used John Sickels' blog, which is a tremendous site which you should check out if you aren't already a member. I'll be looking at 3B prospects team by team, comparing their holes with our strengths, and looking at possible win/win deals.
The A's strength is obviously pitching up and down. And I mean all kinds of pitching: safe bets like Outman and Simmons, wild cards like H-Rod and Leon, and high-risk, high-reward types like Hunter and Ross. Oakland also has quite a bit of strength at 1B, with Doolittle, Carter and Barton. Second base is also a strong point, with strong prospects like Weeks and Cardenas and high quality replacement level players like Pennington and Petit.
In looking at different prospects, I'll be including where Sickels ranked them in his top 20 by team (on his website, not his book), his grade (in this case A through C, where all grades take into account risk, potential, etc.), whatever little blurbs he wrote about them on his website, and how they're doing this year.
By the way, you are forewarned. This post is a doozy.
After a hot start, the Marlins have slowed down a lot, and actually have a team BA (not that it matters) lower than the Athletics, but still find themselves just 3 GB of the division. Florida has gotten very little production out of their outfield and their second basemen. They have the fifth best FIP in baseball right now (their two best relievers have been Kiko Calero and Dan Meyer!), so pitching isn't really a huge problem.
I don't know if hte Marlins would be willing to take on a contract like Holliday's, but he would put them right back in the NL East race. One thing the Marlins don't have, though, is a lot of quality pitching prospects, so a swap might be possible.
3) Matt Dominguez (B+) - "Close to an A-, impressive power with steller glove, but have some concerns about his plate discipline." Dominguez has hit well at home, in a hitter's park, but not very well on the road. He's struggling this year at A+, OPSing just .597. Perhaps a Mazzaro or Simmons for Dominguez swap?
San Diego Padres
The Padres minor league system is a lot like the Marlins, except a lot crappier. They have an awful lot of 1B and OF prospects, and not a lot of quality pitching. I find it hard to believe that the Padres would part way with any quality prospects, but they don't have any awesome 3B prospects.
19) Logan Forsythe (C+) - "Good glove, polished bat, lack of power could make him a Joe Randa type." He has shown tremendous control of the strike zone, hitting .310/.470/.484, with 34 BB against 30 K so far in A+. He's far away, but those numbers are nice. If he could develop some more power, or just keep that bat control, he could turn into a real nice prospect. Maybe a guy like Lansford or Italiano? Would they get the job done?
St. Louis Cardinals
After a quick start, the Cardinals have fallen to 3 GB of the Brewers in the NL Central. With one of the better offenses in baseball, hte pitching is what's causing them problems. Without a true closer, the Cardinals bullpen is terrible. If the Cardinals are looking for pitching help now, the A's have a lot of high level replacement relievers (guys like Cameron and Kilby), but if they want legit pitching prospects, they're probably looking at a Demel or Carignan.
St. Louis also has a pretty bad infield defense, especially at 2B with Schumaker. If they wanted to replace him with a poorer hitter, but much better defender, they'd be looking to deal for Petit or Pennington.
2) Brett Wallace (A-) - "Monster bat should be ready within a year. Glove at third should be adequate in the short run." Hitting .280/.403/.438 in 34 games at AA, but I believe he's been moved up to AAA now. I don't know if the A's would want to give up much for him if he wasn't going to stick at 3B for more than a couple of years, but he's blocked at 1B by the best player in baseball. He's not as slow as he looks; I don't know if he could play the OF, but even there, the Cards have Ludwick, Ankiel, Rasmus and Duncan.
I wonder if a prospect swap built around Cardenas+ would get the job done. He helps out as soon as this year, and Cardenas would be ready sooner in the NL, possibly helping them out by the end of the year, too. Since they need bullpen help, would you do Demel/Carignan/Leon/Gio and Cardenas for Wallace? Too much? To little?
12) David Freese (C+) - "An older prospect and plate discipline looks spotty, but he has power and a good glove at third." Apparently, Freese is injured due to a nagging ankle injury sustained in a car accident a while ago. He's appeared in 9 games for the Cardinals this year.
14) Allen Craig (C+) - "A personal favorite, could rank as high as 9 or 10 depending on crteria. I think he'll hit, though glove isn't the best and he's got a lot of competition." He's currently OPSing .659 at AAA.
With so much competition, I think a deal for Demel or Carignan might get the job done for a guy like Freese or Craig. Freese looks better (to me, anyways), even though he's older. The A's need power, and a deal like that looks to be win/win.
The Pirates are just plane bad. They pitched well enough for about a four or five day stretch earlier this season, but they're back where they belong: 7 GB. All I know is we'd have to give up a truckload of talent and then some to get Alvarez, including Cahill or Anderson. The Pirates trading Alvarez isn't going to happen, but with him being the 3B of the future, they have a couple other decent 3B prospects, and need a lot of pitching help. Andy LaRoche is also an interesting name.
6) Neil Walker (C+) - "Slipping in strike zone judgement is worrisome, but he's still quite young and adapted well to third base. When Andy LaRoche gets hurt again, Walker could have a brief window of oppurtunity before Alvarez is ready." Low average, poor plate discipline, and is struggling at AAA, just like last year.
12) Matt Hague (C+) - "He always hit in college, and he's hit well as a pro, too. Will probably move to the outfield. An overlooked sleeper." I'm not sure if the move to the OF would be prompted by him sucking at 3B or the presence of Alvarez and LaRoche.
20) Jarek Cunningham (C) - "Played very well in rookie ball, strong bat, his stock had dropped pre-draft due to injury." He's very far away, and he hasn't played in 2009. He's probably not the answer to to the A's 3B problem.
Quite simply, the Astros wouldu be stupid to trade away ANY of their prospects. With Jason Castro as their best prospect ranked as a B prospect, they need all the help they can get.
8) Chris Johnson (C+) - "Hasn't hit outside the Texas League. I've seen both Sutton [I'll mention him later] and Johnson play. Johnson has better tools, but Sutton is far more polished and skillful." He's struggling mightily in AAA so far.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers are a really good team right now. Even without Manny, they still have an average to good player at nearly every position (except for wherever Juan Pierre is playing), and their farm system is well-balanced, too. There really is not much they need, and with Casey Blake clearly not the long-term answer at 3B, they may be reluctant to give up their good, young third basemen.
9) Austin Gallagher (C+) - "Sleeper prospect. Needs to tighten strike zone, but I think more power will come." Still in A- ball, quite a long ways away.
15) Pedro Baez (C) - "Excellent power potential and a strong arm, but there's a 43.7% chance (to pull a number out of the air) that he is pitching four years from now. Horrible plate discipline." Sickels is right on, here. He's OPSing .789 in A+, and the OPS is very heavy in slugging. He could turn into a Pedro Feliz type player.
San Francisco Giants
The Giants are 6.5 games out, but have a very good rotation, and could try to make a run for it with Manny out, though I don't why. They have Pablo Sandoval right now, who looks like a possible long-term solutino at 3B. Sabean's always had an obsession with that big bat, so maybe they could make a play for Holliday? They also need 2B help.
6) Conor Gillaspie (B-) - "I ike the Midwest guys. Polished bat, will hit for average and get on base, glove needs to be more reliable, but I think it will." He hasn't hit for power at all so far, slugging just .339 with 1 HR in 58 career games in the minors.
19) Jesus Guzman (C+) - "Signed away from Oakland as a minor league free agent. I think his progress was real." He's hitting .354/.376/.578, and he would be real nice to have right now. Do you think a deal like Leon for Guzman would work out and get him back?
New York Mets
The Mets are tied with Philadelphia for first place in the NL East. They have a weak LF right now, and a deal of Holliday for a blue chip prospect could work well for both teams. The Mets also have Daniel Murphy playing LF. I remember hearing on ESPN that Murphy could be the guy that moves Wright off 3B, because his defense is so good. Obviously it's ESPN and therefore unreliable, but he hasn't played 3B at all in the majors, so I really have no idea if he would stick at 3B or not.
1) Wilmer Flores (B+) - "I might take some flack for this, but in this case I think his upside is higher than F-Mart. If I could have just one of them, I'd pick Flores." Flores is a long ways away, but represents a high-risk/high-reward at SS/3B. He would cost a lot, and most likely acquired for a Holliday than a prospect swap.
6) Jefry Marte (C+) - "Could be a star if it all comes together, but still rather raw. Considering B- but for me that's aggressive for a rookie ball guy." Marte is struggling badly in low A. He's a very long ways away, and a big risk.
The Rockies played well a couple of years ago, but haven't been able to put it together over the last couple of years. They have Ian Stewart, who has seen success but not consistent playing time. Steward could cost an ugly amount of talent, but he represents a real solution at 3B. If they keep Stewart, he's blocking their 3B prospects. The Rockies always need pitching prospects.
11) Darin Holcomb (C+) - "Excellent plate discipline. But Power and defense need to show at higher levels." Struggling quite a bit in AA after skipping A+.
The Brewers are in first place in the NL Central, but just lost second baseman Rickie Weeks for the season. Their pitch-to-contact staff is now in trouble, because they have to slide people over and significantly downgrade their defense. Is Cardenas too much of a stretch for them? He may not be ready quick enough. Petit and Pennington could fit.
1) Mat Gamel (B+) - "Bat is very impressive, not sure about where he fits on the roster due to defensive limitations." Game's a very interesting case. In all likelihood, he's not a 3B, he's a LF or a DH. But the Brewers already have a shitty 3B playing LF in Braun. I think he could be had, but he'd be expensive and unlikely to stick at 3B. Does the bat outweigh the D? I doubt it.
14) Taylor Green (C+) - "Solid hitter, but perhaps not enough pop to play third in the long run." There was talk that he was included in the Sabathia deal, but the Indians chose another player instead. I like him, and he wouldn't be impossible to acquire, but he's a ways away to help soon, and there are still questions about his bat.
The Reds have a lot of good young pieces and they're close to competing, but in that ballpark, their pitching could always use improvements. Some good relief prospects might be able to get talks going.
4) Neftali Soto (B) - "Very impressed with his long term potential. Could use more patience, but strikeout rate isn't bad and he's very young." He seriously never walks.
7) Drew Sutton (C+) - "I see him as a useful role player due to broad secondary skills." He is a second baseman, but he's seen time at third. He was traded to the Reds by the Astros for Jeff Keppinger. Decent idea.
10) Juan Francisco (C+) - "Enormous power potential, very young, but dismal discipline. Did reduce strikeouts last year." Sickels is right on, again. He has an OBP of less than .300 in his minor league career, but very good power.
With Aramis Ramirez, a guy like Vitters isn't untouchable, but he would cost quite a bit. The Cubs farm system isn't really that strong right now.
1) Josh Vitters (B+) - "Hopefully the home run power should start to come in 2009. Great contact hitting skills adn still very yonug." Hitting .352/.382/.541 in Low A. He's a long ways away, but that power may finally be coming around. The Cubs will be reluctant to give him, but a good deal could be made. Maybe a guy like Mazzaro and a relief prospect? It seems like too little to me.
Really nothing there... Oakland probably could have built a huge package for Zimmerman a while ago, but he recently signed a long-term extension, so that's probably all but impossible now. He's basically all they have.
There isn't anything here, either. Of Sickels top 20, 16 of them are pitchers and 14 of those are RHP. They're pretty much looking for the same things the A's are.
The Phillies have a very good infield, even if Rollins is overrated. Utley is a fixture at 2B. Feliz is what he is: a 20 HR guy with low OBP. He's consistent though. When Feliz' time is up, they may move Donald to 3B, because he doesn't sound he'll stick at SS.
4) Jason Donald (B-) - "Still doubt he has the range for SS. But I like the bat a lot. Borderline grade B?" Maybe a move to 3B would be good for him. He's struggling in AAA right now.
Chipper's there now, but he's getting old. Even when Chippers out, the Braves seem to due alright at 3B. Their farm is a lot weaker after giving most of it up in the Teixeira deal a couple years ago.
15) Eric Campbell (C+) - "If his head is on straight, could surprise people in '09" Struggling badly in AA.
This pretty much sums up all the NL 3B prospects, and it confirms what I suspected. There's not a whole lot there. It's not as easy as, "Go get a good, young third baseman, but don't give up Cahill, Anderson, Mazzaro, Cardenas or Carter." If you want a Vitters or a Wallace or an Alvarez or a Dominguez, you'll have to give up as much talent as you're getting in return.
Of those top tier prospects, very few of them are MLB ready, so patience is going to be a must. If you're pushing for Wallace, chances are, the A's will have the same problem a few years down the road, when he has to move off 3B. Alvarez is too expensive. Vitters and Dominguez are pretty far away, and will require a lot of patience.
In my opinion, the easiest guys to acquire would be Jesus Guzman or David Freese. I like Logan Forsythe, too, and don't think we'd have to give up an arm and a leg to get any of them. They're all blocked or have lots of competition, and we could likely deal from a position of strength, like a Leon or a Ross or a Demel.
Anyways, what do you gys think? I undersand that many of you want to say you're sick of Hannahan and Crosby, and want a real good prospect like Alvarez or Wallace, but are you prepared to offer up Cahill or Anderson for him?