There was a bevy of trade activity in the NL Central over the past few days with only the Brewers staying silent. Here are my quick takes on the winners and losers, which interestingly enough seem to be an inverse of the standings.
Cubs – Our good pal Paul Sullivan had a good take on the Cubs-Dodgers trade: you have to look at it as two separate traders. One was Lilly for minor league pitchers Brett Wallach and Kyle Smit. Fangraphs had neither among the Dodgers top ten prospects and that is a little bit disappointing considering John Ely’s name was being thrown around. But Wallach is projected to be ready to contribute in either 2011 or 2012 and Smit has potential. Adding organizational pitching depth never hurts, especially for a 35-year old starter.
Blake DeWitt doesn’t excite all that much but when you view it as a Theriot for DeWitt swap, it feels better. He’s not much different than Theriot in terms of averages and slugging, but this season he’s walked twice as much. The main thing about DeWitt is that he’s cheaper and younger. The jury is still out on whether he’ll enjoy collecting TOOTBLANS as much.
The Cubs didn’t make an earth-shattering move but Hendry was able to pull of a rather shrewd one, despite the fact he had to ship money to the Dodgers.
Pirates – I liked that the Pirates traded off parts of their bullpen (Octavio Dotel, Javier Lopez) albeit in different ways. I wasn’t so sure about their trade for Chris Snyder though.
They were able to snag two minor leaguers for Dotel: RHP James McDonald and OF Andrew Lambo. Lambo is an interesting case: he’s a highly-ceiling guy but has had marijuana issues (not PEDs). It’s a risk, but one worth taking especially when you are giving up an older reliever that isn’t having the greatest year.
The Javier Lopez deal will most likely end up being a whole-lot-of-nothing because they received two 27-year-olds that haven’t had much success in the majors in OF John Bowker and RHP Joe Martinez. In both traders, however, the Pirates dealt guys who won’t be around when they become contenders to add depth to the organization. Quiet moves, but incremental ones.
Astros – The Astros needed to bolster their sagging farm system, and their two best routes to that were Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt. Now that they’ve traded both I don’t think the return was all that spectacular. Oswalt is a great pitcher: he’s never posted and FIP over 4 and his K/9 this season is the highest it has been since 2002. And though it seems like he’s been around forever, he’s only 32.
They got a decent return on him but not as great as it seems he would bring in. J.A. Happ is middle-of-the-road major league starter (4.33 FIP v. 2.93 ERA in 2009) with decent walk and strikeout numbers. That’s helpful but not overly exciting. Brett Wallace is a big-time power prospect but it looks like he may end up being one-dimensional. There’s time for him to develop, and with the Berkman trade he’ll get playing time right away, but the pressure is on for him to produce the star the Astros needed in return for Oswalt.
The Berkman return was also good but not great. They got RHP Mark Melancon, who was ranked the fifth-best Yankee prospect by Fangraphs, and IF Jimmy Paredes. All in all there are some possibilities with the players Houston got for both long-time Astros. But as it stands right now I’m just not buying that they are enough improve the Astros chances of contending in the near future.
Cardinals – Jake Westbrook definitely fills a need for the Cardinals as they needed to stabilize the back end of their rotation. But I think they may have miscalculated their priorities a bit. Offensive depth is not a luxury they have to play with. Ludwick was one of four players on the Cardinals with a wOBA above .350. I don’t see the production they’ll get from Westbrook on the mound to be greater than what they could have gotten from Ludwick at the plate.
Reds – They had a valuable trade chip in 1B Yonder Alonso that is blocked by Joey Votto. They also have some holes on a team that could realistically make the playoffs (i.e. starting pitcher). I just can’t understand why Walt Jocketty didn’t marry those two ideas.