Friday, August 22, 2008
Manny v. Holliday?
In addition to being a cyborg sent back from the future to kill John Connor while hitting .340 for the Rockies on a yearly basis, Matt Holliday is a Big Scary Bat that's probably going to be on the trading block this winter as our confrere at DJF, Parkes, so kindly brought to our attention the other day.
We've got the ball rolling about on off-season roster moves and you the fans want to talk about this, so let's talk about this...
Some factoids, in bullet points:
* Holliday is under contract for 2009 at the modest price of $13.5 million, which might not even be enough to bring in one of the "B" DHs like Jim Thome or Jason Giambi this offseason
* Scott Boras is Holliday's agent and they will be looking for a "franchise player"-type deal the Jays cannot afford (because of Vernon Wells...), so it's one and out if he is acquired via trade
* Holliday, 29 to start next season, has been OPS-ing well over .900 on the road this year for those who dismiss him as a Coors' Field creation. His cumulative OPS+, park neutral, is about 150 over the past three years. That translates into Canadian.
* He's also probably the most slam dunk Type A potential free agent you can imagine, and if he walks at the end of 2009, there will be sweet compensatory draft picks. Sweeter than the caramel at the centre of a Skor bar.
* Travis Snider might be ready for spring 2009, but will almost certainly be a more polished hitter after a full year at AAA, pencilled in for full-time ML duties in 2010
Do you see where I'm going with this? While it's "only cash" to sign a free agent DH, you do end up giving up a compensatory draft pick along with laying your money on the table. And let's not forget that the sum you pay out for a free agent is going to be millions in excess of the cost of Holliday... for an inferior hitter who can't play defense, but that's another argument. So you do lose "something" by going with a free agent rather than trade.
If you do trade for Holliday instead you don't lose the pick in addition to gaining another one when he walks at the end of the year. You do lose prospects in the trade package that brings him in, but you'd at least be setting yourself up nicely to bring in equivilant talent in the next draft.
What would the Rockies be looking for as a trade package? Reasonable expectations would probably be something along the lines of what Pirates' GM Neal Huntington got in return for Jason Bay at the deadline. I know Bay's not the same calibre of hitter as Holliday, but he was controllable for 1 years + 2 months at the time of the deal whereas it's only one year for Holliday. Those prospects who went to Steeltown again? Craig Hansen, Brandon Moss, Andy Laroche, and Bryan Morris.
Laroche was/is a blue chipper who became the Buc's starting third baseman, Hansen is a non-descript reliever who has shown little of note in 2+ partial seasons in the bigs, Brandon Moss is looking like a more-than-serviceable 4th OF (no offense there, you get plenty of ABs in that role in the NL), and Morris is a 21-year-old reliever in A ball whose a long way off. Essentially what you're talking about here is a 4 for 1 prospect package made up of one "A" level talent and 3 guys you'd be charitable to call Bs.
The Rox will be impolitely rebuffed if they ask for Travis Snider, so there's no point even mentioning him here. I think I'd also assume the Lind is off table as well after earning himself a permament spot on the 25-man roster.
The Rox greatest need for 2009 is, of course, pitching, while they'd probably also like to upgrade at 2B and would likely be interested in an OF to take Holliday's place. I would also note that their only reliable lefty in the pen, Brian Fuentes, is likely to depart via free agency. A guy like Brian Tallet would not be useless to them.
I'd reckon that if they really want to seriously enter into negotiations with the Rockies on Holliday, the Jays have to be willing to entertain a package centred around either Scott Campbell or Brett Cecil. Those are real, legitimate blue chippers and you're not going to reel in an elite talent like Holliday without sacrificing one of them. The other 3 names you add on are interchangeable, but we could live without arms like Davis Romero, Brad Mills, or pretty much any other pitcher in the system. Major leaguers Jason Frasor and Brian Tallet are not useless, though they're going to be redundant here in 2009.
You might be thinking that Cecil or Campbell + is just too much to stomach for one year of Matt Holliday, and if that's your opinion you're entitled to it. I disagree. But keep in mind that Manny might well prove cost prohibitive (and he's 37 going into next year) and also ask yourself whether *declining, high-injury risk* sluggers like Giambi or Thome would even entertain the idea of coming to Toronto after what happened to Frank Thomas. Hell, the Mariners might even throw a wack of cash at Raul Ibanez to stick around, taking JP's favourite C-lister off the market.
Basically what I'm saying is that it's a big assumption that the most coveted free agent DHs are even signable and trade might be the only means of getting the bat that makes the Jays really and truly competive in 2009. Or you can just batten down the hatchs and wait for 2010. That's not a horrible idea, either.
Looking at the big picture, I'm not at all averse to making a major push for Holliday and would probably prefer that to seeking a FA solution. Personally, I think the risk/cost of going after one of the elderly free agent DHs is probably greater than that of selling off one of the organizations top 3 prospects and add-ons (who can be replaced with compensatory picks) for a year of Matt Holliday. The 60 point OPS+ boost out of the DH hole you get from a player of Holliday's calibre gives this offense a pulse and I don't feel as confident predicting the same level of production from Manny even, much less Thome or Giambi. And Holliday is cheaper, too, which leaves a bit of cash left over to splash out on a SS.
Also, we'd get a year of JaysTalk callers referring to Roy Holliday and Matt Halladay.
He who dares, wins, fellas.
-- Johnny Was