M’s, A’s & NATS THREE WAY DEAL
The A’s, M’s and Nats Make a Three Way Deal
While this trade doesn’t pass the litmus test for a blockbuster it certainly has implications for quite a number of players and Fantasy managers. The three way deal involved the movement of six players all together: C John Jaso goes from Seattle to Oakland, OF/1B Mike Morse moves from Washington to Seattle, while the Nationals acquire two pitching prospects (righthanders A.J. Cole and Blake Treinen) and a player to be named from Oakland. In addition, C George Kotteras was designated for assignment by the A’s.
From what I’ve read about the trade in some of the local media outlets of the teams involved, there are quite a few folks scratching their heads about this deal. However, when you think about it in the context of some of the other moves these teams have made, at least two of the three parties involved have done exactly what has made them successful in the past. The third team, well, not so much. Let’s look at each team’s haul and try to understand the motivation. Then we’ll examine the winners and losers from a Fantasy standpoint.
Billy Beane Playing Moneyball Again
Arguably, the A’s gave up two potentially very good pitchers in Cole and Treinen. However, Oakland GM Billy Beane has shown time and again that he has a very good eye for evaluating pitching talent and moving pitchers in trade for effective bats for his lineup. So, while Cole and Treinen could become big time stars, they could also just as easily flop. In the meantime, Beane has acquired in John Jaso, the exact sort of patient-at-the-plate, high-OBP type of hitter he’s targeted ever since he adopted his Moneyball tactics. Jaso has a career OBP of .359 and notched a .394 mark in 361 PA with the Mariners last season. He crushes right-hand pitching but struggles with lefties, and Jaso has shown some developing power over the last season. Prior to 2012, his Isolated Power (ISO) peaked at .130, but he mashed 10 homers last season and notched enough extra base hits to raise his ISO to .180. Given a full season of at bats, Jaso could approach 20 home runs while maintaining a batting average within shooting distance of .275. The losers in this deal are George Kotteras, who may or may not be signed by another team, Derek Norris, who goes from starter to a backup role behind Jaso, and the Mariners, who will now be looking to defensively-challenged Jesus Montero to handle the majority of the backstop duties.
Washington Keeps Stockpiling Talent
I’ve already made it clear that A.J Cole and Blake Treinen could easily flop. That’s the way it is with all prospects, but the risk factor is multiplied several times over when it comes to pitching prospects. However, the Nationals are clearly the biggest beneficiaries of this deal. Michael Morse is only under contract for one more season before he can test the free agent market. So the Nationals only gave up one year of a player for whom they had no starting position and received two power arms in return. Even if only one of the two pitchers in question becomes a viable arm out of the bullpen, they will have gotten him for practically nothing in return. They were in need of a left-handed reliever and wanted to get one in return for Morse. However, the signing of Rafael Soriano, a versatile pitcher they can use in multiple roles out of their bullpen, reduced the need to acquire a lefty specialist. Soriano silences right-handed bats to the tune of a .170 Batting Average Against (BAA) and a K:BB ratio of 4.7. However, against left-handed batters he has a healthy .233 BAA and a 2.2 K:BB ratio. While he isn’t exactly dominating against lefties, he is effective enough that the Nationals can throw him out there in virtually any situation against hitters from both sides of the plate and not worry about the game getting out of hand. Plus, with closer Drew Storen a little more than six months removed from an injury, Soriano gives them a backup closer with tons of experience. Fantasy players in “Holds” leagues will want to draft Soriano, as he’ll get plenty of opportunities to produce in that category. But more importantly, should Storen need time on the disabled list, Soriano would likely get an opportunity to close out games during his absence. So the Nationals could afford to let Morse go for a couple of prospects and this trade gives them pitching depth that could help sustain their already dominant position on the mound.
Seattle Cornering the Corner Market
Herein lay the head-scratching component of this three way trade. Prior to this deal the Mariners were already overstocked with corner outfield-first base-designated hitter type players. Justin Smoak, Kendrys Morales, Casper Wells, Raul Ibanez, Jason Bay, Casper Wells, and lurking on the depth chart somewhere, Mike Jacobs, are all candidates to play at either first base or one of the corner outfield spots. It was believed that Jesus Montero was the DH for this team, but now he’ll have to be the primary catcher with Jaso gone to Oakland. Morse has made it perfectly clear that he doesn’t want to be a DH, and who can blame him? He’s too young to give up playing in the field, and his first shot at free agency looms at the end of the 2013 season. The Mariners have too many bodies to fill a limited number of roster spots. And let’s not forget that with Montero behind the dish and Morse in right field, the Mariners offense may have taken a step forward but their defense will be taking two steps backward. So the biggest losers here could very well be Seattle’s pitching staff. The bottom line here is that someone among the group of Smoak, Morales, Wells, Ibanez and Bay is going to lose at bats because there are only two spots in the lineup for those five players. As for Morse, the Mariners moved the fences in to make their stadium a bit more hitter-friendly, so he could be the beneficiary of a power spike in his new home. His Fantasy value, however, will remain unchanged. He’s still no more than a fourth or fifth outfielder in deep mixed league play and perhaps a third outfielder or corner infielder in AL-only leagues. Of course, the Mariners could have another move up their sleeve. They could flip one of their surplus players to another team for a catcher. The Red Sox could use a right-handed bat and have catchers to trade. But we’ll have to wait and see, perhaps into the start of spring training to find out if Seattle is just stockpiling for another move. Otherwise, it’s a true head scratcher.
Tim McCullough is the Assistant Editor for RotoExperts.com. Questions, comments and requests are welcome. Contact Tim at email@example.com
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