As the GM Meetings continue, most of the buzz out of the Rockies has revolved around two players: Atlanta Braves 2B Martin Prado and free agent OF Grady Sizemore. In my mind, Sizemore won't be on this team unless Seth Smith is unloaded in a trade -- which is why Colorado has been dangling him in a potential Prado trade. But is this series of events the best course of action for Colorado?
Warning! Thought Experiments Ahead!
Let's say for the sake of argument that the Rockies do give up Smith + Tim Wheeler for Prado -- a deal that the Braves probably come out ahead on in the long run. We'll say that Prado's talent level over the next two years is a 3 win player at 2B (above league average, in the conversation for the All-Star game). Even at the lower end of his projection (assuming no injuries), Prado should be pretty close to league average (2 WAR each year). For that performance he'll likely be paid in the range of $10-15 million. Considering that over the last couple of years Colorado has gotten well below average performance out of 2B, they would be happy to pay that price for 4-6 WAR.
Sizemore is much more tricky to evaluate, since it has been two years since he was a league average player...but for a 4 year span from 2005 to 2008, he was a MVP caliber player -- accumulating 27.4 fWAR over those 4 years (from ages 22 to 25, by the way). His prior team, Cleveland, didn't think that Sizemore was worth paying $8.5 million (his 2012 club option)...but there's plenty of teams on his trail this off-season. The dude's only 29, but his injury history is certainly a complicating factor here.
He's yet another lefty outfielder (career line against LHP: .227/.315/.378), and we're uncertain about how the injuries (5 surgeries in the last 3 years) have affected his speed and power. According to someone who has watched him closely, his injuries might have affected other parts of his game as well. As a left-fielder, I would project Sizemore as a 2 win player next year -- but there's a range of 0-6 WAR within reason. Given the competition for his services, I can certainly see Colorado needing at least $5 million to sign him...and it might be a worthwhile gamble (if he is amenable) to offer 2/$8 million with the ability to get up to $15 million if he performs well. The potential reward here is undeniable -- and I'd much rather be paying $5 million to Sizemore than to Ty Wigginton.
So, with the assumption that Colorado would be able to sign/trade for Sizemore and Prado at a price of around $8-10 million this winter, let's see if it's worth it for Colorado to do so. Here's the equation we need to be concerned with: is Martin Prado + Grady Sizemore >= 2B committee + Smith + Charlie Blackmon/Tim Wheeler? In this scenario, Colorado would still need to acquire a competent right-handed reserve outfielder but would probably let Ian Stewart/internal solutions fill 3B until Nolan Arenado is ready.
The thought experiment concludes below the jump -- there's also notes about pitching acquisitions, prospect news, and the MLB labor deal.
Here's what I think: Seth Smith is a 2 win player with considerably less risk than Sizemore, even when being used in a platoon. He's the same age as Sizemore but he's under team control for three more years, for which he's likely going to cost about $12-15 million. I see him producing the same value for the Rockies in his 3 years of team control as a corner OF as Prado will in his 2 years at 2B.
However, the value isn't created equally in this situation, as Smith's production would be much easier to replace -- Charlie Blackmon is probably a 1 win player over the course of a season in the same role right now, and Tim Wheeler could be too. At 2B...well let's just say that the internal options aren't as promising to me -- I don't see league average production in the cards for the current wave of ML-ready prospects. Also, the best external 2B option outside of Prado might be Clint Barmes. Forgive me if I am not filled with confidence at that thought. In fact, Prado would tide Colorado over nicely until a player like Josh Rutledge is ready for the Show.
Am I, therefore, a proponent of trading Smith for Prado? Sure I am -- but I would prefer to hold onto both Blackmon and Wheeler, for the simple reason that Colorado's prospect depth at the position behind those two skips a couple of levels. I would counter with Prado for Smith, Thomas Field, and Kent Matthes -- and hope that's enough for Frank Wren to bite.
If Colorado were to lose both Smith and Wheeler (if I had to pick between Blackmon/Wheeler to let go, it would be the latter) to acquire Prado, I could bear it, but only if Colorado were to make a bold risk with Sizemore -- provided. My philosophy is to pay a little extra for prodigious talent, and Sizemore has that in spades. The fact that Cleveland didn't bring him back is worrisome, as are the other indicators about his plate discipline and the fact that this could be another Brandon Webb situation. But...c'mon son! This gentleman has the chance to be an All-Star this season, especially hitting in Coors Field -- I didn't say it was a good chance, mind you.
Bottom line: I think that I've talked myself into Prado/Sizemore at the expense of Smith/Wheeler and a few extra million dollars. That 2012 lineup would be fierce! Ask me tomorrow and I might have a different answer for you.
The Trade Market for Pitchers
Troy Renck's articles from the GM Meetings in Milwaukee both had pitching at the forefront -- one about how Colorado is looking to acquire a 3/4 starter and one about how Jhoulys Chacin needs to relax a little and return to being a stone cold killer on the mound.
The first article had some really interesting nuggets -- foremost of which was that the Rockies have turned their focus on the trade market to pitchers in Tampa Bay and Miami (and away from John Danks/Wandy Rodriguez). That means speculating about Jeff Niemann, Wade Davis, Anibal Sanchez, Ricky Nolasco, and Chris Volstad as trade targets instead.
Both Niemann and Davis have at least 3 years of team control behind them and have survived pitching in the AL East -- with Niemann being my preference of the two. The Miami trio has less team control remaining (1 year for Sanchez, 2 for Nolasco -- at $20.5 million, and 3 for Volstad), but can expect to produce at a higher rate. Of the three Volstad would be the best bargain, but if Colorado was just trying to beef up 2012 Sanchez would be my pick.
Renck also notes that Colorado will be in on Roy Oswalt (not happening) Paul Maholm (I hope it does, actually), and Jeff Francis (the poor man's Maholm at this point -- good thing he will cost less too) among others in the free agent market. If the Rockies get one of Niemann/Volstad/Sanchez plus Maholm this off-season, I'll be satisfied with the rotation depth going into next year.
As for Chacin, Renck writes that Colorado has discussed at the least buying out his arbitration years this off-season, which is almost always a smart idea unless the player is a reliever (Corpas!!!!!!).
In addition, there's some rumblings that Huston Street has drawn interest from Toronto, who is pushing hard for a closer. Loath as I am to trade with a GM as competent as Alex Anthopoulos, the salary relief gained from trading Street would sure be nice -- and it might give Dan O'Dowd more flexibility in acquiring pitchers.
MLB Labor Deal
Word on the street is that there will be a MLB labor agreement very soon. For anyone who was fearing a NBA labor situation, you can probably relax. However, there are a few pieces of the deal that will, I believe, be detrimental to the health of the game long-term.
Specifically, I'm not a fan of a world-wide draft, and I'm definitely not a fan of imposing slot bonuses on signees. I mean, baseball is already losing a bunch of the top athletes to sports like football and basketball. Why make it even less likely that multi-sport prep stars choose baseball as a career? Sure, teams will be paying less in the draft, but the caliber of players will be depressed by the market.
Rob Neyer offers his analysis on the labor deal and comes to similar conclusions.
Nolan Arenado Watch
Our intrepid hero went 3-4 with a run in Salt River's win last night. His AFL line in 114 ABs: .404/.434/.658 with 33 RBIs and 17 XBHs. Arenado no longer has the lead in RBIs, but he does lead the AFL in hits and has only struck out 13 times.
In other prospect news -- in case you have forgotten, Wilin Rosario is also tearing up fall ball. Despite his defensive deficiencies, Rosario gives Colorado the best chance to win if he and Iannetta are together in the big leagues come Opening Day.
Finally, the Casper Ghosts are no more -- they have been replaced in the Pioneer League by the Grand Junction
Purple Pizza Huts Rockies. The move was financially motivated according to the GJ GM, as there weren't enough fans coming to see the Ghosts play.
Baseball-Reference Nugget of the Week -- NBA free since June...aw man
Colorado left-handed hitters put up a better OPS against left-handed pitching (.723) than right-handed hitters did against right-handed pitching (.677). Of course, right-handed hitters didn't hit super well against lefty pitchers either (.737), so that's a pretty good indication that we might need some different right-handed hitters.