On Wednesday afternoon an interesting, semi-significant 11-player baseball trade between the Padres, Rays and Nationals went down. The deal isn’t 100 percent official, pending physicals. The most noteworthy part of the trade is Wil Myers, the 2013 American League Rookie of the Year, goes from Tampa to San Diego.
Here’s what the proposed deal looks like:
- Trea Turner, Joe Ross to the Nationals.
- Myers, Ryan Hanigan and minor leaguers Jose Castillo and Gerardo Reyes to Padres.
- Steven Souza, Travis Ott, Rene Rivera, Burch Smith, and Jake Bauers to the Rays.
I’d truly love to give some solid analysis of this trade since everyone associated with this site loves winter baseball transactions more than Christmas carols, but I’ll be honest and admit of those 11 players I’d only heard of three of them before Wednesday: Myers, Hanigan and Souza. The only reason Souza’s name stands out is due to the amazing catch he made to preserve Jordan Zimmermann’s no-hitter on the final day of the regular season.
Myers put together a nice rookie season, hence the Rookie of the Year award. He was poor during an injury-plagued 2014, finishing with a .224/.294/.320 slash line with six homers in 325 at bats. At this point we don’t know if he’s going to follow the Ben Grieve career path or the Mike Trout career path of former American League RoYs. Dave Cameron of FanGraphs speculates Myers needs to hit for more power or cut down his strikeout rate — he whiffed 90 times in 2014 — to achieve long-term success in the majors.
So that’s the big piece of the puzzle. If you’re a Padres fan, you’re probably excited on Myers name-value alone. Throw him together with the Matt Kemp trade — assuming it goes through with reports about issues with both his hips surfacing Thursday — and there’s reasonable optimism for the club. San Diego still has a ways to go to catch up with San Francisco or Los Angeles in the National League West, but at least the team is showing a sign of intent this winter.
As for the rest of the deal? Well, I like baseball. I’m locked in from March through October and the entire Hot Stove season, but again, you probably have to devote every waking hour of your life to the sport to be familiar with the farm systems of all 30 clubs. Tampa is in clear rebuilding mode after losing Andrew Friedman and Joe Maddon so they dealt an asset in Myers to gain even more potential assets including Souza, whom scouts are high on. In Trea Turner the Nationals land a potential replacement for Ian Desmond at short. Even so, when a trade like this happens, moving so many unfamiliar minor leaguers you have to put faith in the scouting departments of the teams involved considering they’ve, you know, actually seen the players on a baseball field rather than looking at their stats or reading about them in Baseball America or whatever other site makes projections.
Bet you a hot, fresh Burger King Yumbo sandwich, I’m not alone here.
The sheer number of prospects and minor league players coupled with how they’re treated as assets and trading chips certainly sets baseball aside from most other North American pro sports. The NFL rarely trades and when it does, nine times out of 10 its for draft picks rather than player-for-player. The NBA sees tons of exchanges, but the salary cap is always a factor and draft picks often come into play, moreso than players on D-League rosters being dealt. (Yes Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 pick in 2014, was traded this summer but that was a rare scenario that involved LeBron James returning to Cleveland.)
What’s fun about landing a draft pick rather than a prospect is that it’s indeed a real asset, but also something you can blindly speculate upon until the pick is in. As a fan you temporarily get the best of both worlds.
Anyways, when it comes to baseball prospects it’s hardly an exact science, despite all the system rankings. You can sell to your fanbase that you’ve acquired the No. 1-rated player in another team’s system and it creates buzz. The potential of what a minor league player couldbe worth isn’t exactly tangible, but it is something baseball fans find comfort in. Look at all the buzz the Cubs are generating this winter, primarily around players like Javy Baez and Jorge Soler — combined 302 at bats in the Majors — and Addison Russell, who’s never played an inning of short in the bigs. There’s nothing wrong with this and by all accounts the Cubs have some legit players ready to be unleashed in April 2015, but until they perform we just don’t know.
Pointing out the lottery-like aspects of prospects is nothing new. I figured a decent way to end this would be looking back to 2008 when Cleveland traded CC Sabathia to Milwaukee. The biggest piece of the deal going back to the Indians was Matt LaPorta. He never panned out and last played in the majors in 2012. Two months after the trade the Brewers also sent over another player to complete the deal. That player turned out to be Michael Brantley, who finished third in the 2014 American League MVP voting.
Based on how baseball tends to operate, a couple players from the Myers trade will end up as viable long-term players, the rest we’ll never hear from again. Time, as always, will tell.