They got Mark Teixeira for what?
July 30, 2008 11 Comments
I’ve got to hand it to the Los Angeles California Angels of Anaheim, California which is near Los Angeles. They didn’t get the Garrett Anderson replacement that they needed, but they got something that might end up being even better for them. And they didn’t really give up a lot. The Braves got hosed.
In case you missed it, the LACAoACwinLA’s got Mark Teixeira from the Braves (who acquired him a mere year ago… remember this?) for Casey Kotchman and Steve Marek. I can only scratch my head and wonder what the Braves were thinking. Sure, Teixeira is a free agent at the end of the year, and Braves have decided to run up the white flag on this year, so they had to get something for him. But, all of the buzz said that there were several teams in line for Mr. Teixeira’s services, and that the Braves originally wanted to get three fairly high level players in return. They ended up with two, and I’m not at all sold on Kotchman as being high level. Maybe I’m being a bit harsh on the Braves. This is really only a two-month rental, so we’re not talking about a big chip to trade, but Joe Sheehan at Baseball Prospectus pointed out that he’s probably the one player left on the market (Manny Ramirez notwithstanding) that’s worth 3 wins to a team over the next few months.
It’s nice that Kotchman doesn’t strike out much, and that he even walked more than he struck out last year, but all that means is that Kotchman puts the ball in play a lot. When he does put the ball in play, he’s a very ground ball happy hitter, with the majority of his balls kissing the grass. When he does get the ball in the air, only about 10% of those balls leave the yard. Kotchman’s line drive rate is a lowly 16% this year. He does make good contact, but who needs a contact/singles hitter who shows limited power potential at first base? Then again, the Braves aren’t exactly busting at the seams with soon-to-be-ready first base prospects, so Kotchman might just be a stopgap for a few years. On the other hand, the Angels have Matthew Brown (25 years old, hit .326/.377/.594 at Salt Lake City), and ever the prospect Kendry Morales (25 years old, .310/.347/.482 at SLC) ready to step in. Maybe the Braves should have asked for one of those two? Maybe?
Steve Marek is a 24 year old right-handed pitcher at AA, who just recently moved to the pen, and it seems to have done a world of good for him. He’s now striking out 11 per nine innings (used to be 7.5), and has a good K/BB ratio and an OPS against of .601. Pretty good numbers, which probably project him to be a good RH reliever (dare I say “closer”?) down the road. The Angels had another like him (Ryan Aldridge) at AA who fits the same profile, so they must have figured that Marek was a redundant part.
But that’s it? For the fourth-best NL first baseman by VORP (behind Berkman, Pujols, and Conor Jackson) and 29th best player by VORP in all of MLB? With multiple teams bidding? Something just ain’t right here. The Braves gave up that Saltalaralphmacchio guy and some other nice pieces for Teixeira last year at this time. It made sense at the time, and the Braves were unlucky that it didn’t work out, but this seems like a fiasco for the Braves. Maybe the market was much softer than was reported, although the Braves still had 48 more hours to play chicken with the Angels and anyone else who was calling. People make bad decisions on short deadlines. Did no one in the Braves organization ever take a psychology class?
But, here’s Teixeira walking away from the Braves for a good (in the sportscaster sense of the word) first baseman and a reliever prospect. To add insult to injury, if Tex signs elsewhere next year, the LACAoACwinLA’s get the draft picks that he will surely rate. Is that all there is?
David Cameron over at FanGraphs showed how Teixeira will benefit the Angels at the plate, at least on paper. I looked at the OPA! numbers (my Retrosheet-compatable defensive rating system) for Teixeira and Kotchman for 2007. Kotchman was about 6 runs better than (ahem, 2 time Gold Glove winner) Teixeira last year, but both were hovering around average for the position, with Kotchman slightly above and Tex slightly below. The Angels take a small hit on defense, but nothing that Teixeira won’t easily make up for with his bat. The Angels made out like a couple of high schoolers in an empty movie theatre.
The Angels are playing over their heads as far as their Pythagorean record goes (by 8-12 games, according to Baseball Prospectus’ adjusted standings), but the reality is that they are 11.5 games up on second place Texas, the A’s have already loudly surrendered, and the Mariners are on their way to losing 100 games. The Angels simply have to coast into the playoffs this year. Once they get there, they’re a much better team than they were 24 hours ago. Even if they lose Teixeira at the end of the year, they have cover in the organization at first base that doesn’t look to be any worse than Kotchman. So their net cost to load up for the playoffs was a placeholder and one AA pitching prospect. Well played.
On a related note, be sure to tune in to MVN’s coverage of the trading deadline on Thursday, starting at 9 am Eastern, going to 4 pm. Maybe later.