In a game thread a few days ago, I brought up an idea. Chase Headley on the last-place Padres has been rumored to be available in a trade. Headley, who plays left field and third base, is a Super Two player under team control through 2014. My idea is to trade Lonnie Chisenhall straight-up for Headley.
The current discouraging losing streak almost made me drop this post. But the fact is, the Indians remain only 1.5 games out of first place in a weak division. There is still hope. A few weeks ago, we had lost our early-season lead and fallen behind the red-hot White Sox, and we wondered at the time if we would get to first place again. But we did. It was not due to our own play as much as it was to Chicago's slump, but this reinforces the fact that this is a weak division. A team hanging around .500 for most of the season will have a chance to win it all if it can improve its play and win the Central.
Back to Chase Headley. He is hitting .780 in OPS this season; more impressively, he has a .834 OPS on the road, away from famously pitcher-friendly Petco Park. His career road OPS is .810. This site explains that for his first two years of arbitration, he has been paid as if he were worth $8.7 to $11.6 million on the free agent market, and if you go with the higher number, his surplus value for the remainder of his contract is $19.6 million. That amount is equal to one hitter ranked from #26-50 by Baseball America, or to a couple of slightly lower-ranked prestigious prospects. The Tribe doesn't have a good enough farm system to make this trade by putting together a package of multiple prospects from the minor leagues. But it does have Lonnie Chisenhall, who was ranked #31 after 2009 and #25 after 2010.
The rationale for this trade is that Headley is a proven hitter and can help in our "window" of contending in the next two-and-a-half seasons, and will immediately upgrade either third base or left field, whereas Chisenhall is promising but as yet unproven. Headley switch-hits, so it would help balance our lineup. The Padres get a promising young bat with power - an attribute they need more of in their hitters - under team control through 2017, while trading a hitter whose salary will be going up during their rebuilding years and who will probably be gone before they contend again.
Is this too much for Headley? Not enough (has Chisenhall hurt his stock)? Perhaps the Padres would prefer a package with multiple players, in which case we're out of luck.
I'm not committed to this idea 100%, but just throwing it out there.Now for more moves. Since we wouldn't have traded Chisenhall for Quentin, Soriano, Lee, etc., anyway, a Headley-Chisenhall trade would still leave open the possibility of trading for one of them.
Carlos Lee is my favorite, at the moment; he would supplant Kotchman at 1st base and leave Hannahan and Lopez to play 3rd for now (with Headley in left field). Fangraphs projects him to produce 0.6 WAR over the rest of the season, but it seems to dislike his defense at first base. I actually got the opposite impression of his defense from briefly listening to Houston's radio broadcasters (I was not able to watch), and I'm skeptical of defensive metrics, so let's just discard that. Fangraphs projects Lee and Soriano to have very similar wOBA (though they are very different players - Lee has a .351 OBP and is hard to strike out, whereas Soriano strikes out a ton and has only a .304 OBP, but has more power) over the remainder of the season, and it projects 1 WAR for Soriano, so I'll project the same for Lee. Lee is owed $18.5 million for the season. If Houston picks up $15 million and we pay $3.5, then we are left with a surplus value of $1.5 mil (I think this is how it works). That should be equal to a Grade C pitcher 23 or younger. In our system, that might be Felix Sterling, Elvis Araujo, Cody Anderson, or T.J. House.
According to Fangraphs, Soriano is worth about the same - a Single-A pitcher. I'm a little surprised that the price tag is that low, since Soriano would be around for another 2 1/2 seasons; but perhaps that would actually be a disadvantage because of his age. My preference for Lee is based mostly on my desire for more base-runners and fewer strikeouts with RISP and less than two outs. If a second player is needed to complete the deal (for either player) due to the competitiveness of the market, I'd be fine with adding a lower-level hitter to the deal, or perhaps someone like Jeremie Tice or Jared Goedert if either team is interested.
Quentin? I'm not sure what it would take to land him. Those on the Quentin bandwagon can provide their own input.
I would also like to land another starter. Kevin Millwood of the Mariners should be available. Joe Saunders (Diamondbacks), Ryan Dempster (Cubs), and Brandon McCarthy (Athletics) will probably be available after they come off the DL. Saunders may be ready next week, but I don't know the timetable for the other two. I would think one or two mid-level or lower prospects would be enough to land each of them, though McCarthy might be more expensive. Would a trade for Carlos Quentin preclude an additional starter?
Comments? Perhaps ShapNetti and company shouldn't make a trade at all, and just hang on to the prospects. Perhaps you think a few trades won't do nearly enough to push this team into a playoff spot. Fine, but I'd like to try, at least.