Seriously, why not just trade Brendan Ryan for a bucket of baseballs? The bucket of baseballs would be more useful to the 2011 Cardinals than Maikel Cleto. That’s no knock on Cleto. He may turn into a fine pitcher, but it’s unlikely that he’ll be a fine pitcher any time soon. Actually, it’s unlikely that he’ll be a fine pitcher at any point in his career. He nearly managed a 2*pi era last year (6.16) in A+ ball, and he’s never managed an era lower than 4.24 at any level of professional ball. However, I’m not reacting to this trade solely on what Cleto has done in his very young career (he’s only 21).
I’m looking at this from a completely different perspective. Consider the J.J. Hardy trade involving the Twins and the Orioles. The Twins gave up Hardy, Brendan Harris, and $500K in exchange for minor league right handers Jim Hoey and Brett Jacobson. Harris hit a whopping .157 last year in 108 at-bats, but he is a career .260 hitter and utility infielder. Of greater interest to me is the comparison between Hardy and Ryan. Hardy has a lifetime .263 average, .323 obp, and .423 slugging %. Ryan has a lifetime .259 average, .314 obp, and .344 slugging percentage. Hardy’s 2010 dWAR was 0.0, and Ryan’s was 1.6. In 4 seasons, Ryan has a total WAR value of 6.2, and Hardy has a total WAR of 9.9 in 6 seasons. Hardy’s 2010 salary? $5.1M. Ryan’s 2010 salary? $425K. Statistically, Hardy and Ryan offer similar overall productivity, but Ryan does so at a much lower cost. Advantage, Ryan.
Consider the minor league pitchers involved in the Hardy deal. Jim Hoey spent time at both AA and AAA in 2010, and his 18 games at AAA Norfolk was good for a 3.38 era with 13.5 strikeouts per 9 innings against 7.2 walks per 9 innings. As for Brett Jacobsen, he pitched at A+ level and managed a 2.79 era in 71.0 innings. Jacobsen had an 8-1 record with a 8.5 SO/9 ratio and 3.0 walks per 9 innings.
So, I’ll recap. The Twins turn J.J. Hardy, a utility infielder, and $500K into a AAA pitcher who can probably contribute for them next year and an A-ball pitcher with some promise. The Cardinals turn a top-3 defensive shortstop in the NL into an A-ball pitcher who is unlikely to see the inside of Busch Stadium without buying a ticket. Man, I wish they had gotten at least a bucket of baseballs. This move is really just one step above giving Brendan Ryan away. Isn’t that a lot like what Josh McDaniels did with the Broncos in Denver? That didn’t turn out so great for McDaniels.
I’m normally hesitant to discuss the merits of any trade too quickly, because it may take 2-3 years to really assess the full value. However, I rarely see the value in trading major league talent for A-ball minor league talent. The cost of keeping Ryan on the team was relatively small, and the potential payoff in terms of production or even increased trade value were relatively high. Now the Cardinals have no quality depth at SS, and I would argue that they have no quality defense at that position at all. The Mariners get a really motivated player who plays gold glove-caliber defense. The Cardinals? They get to show the fans how front office ego can stop ground balls up the middle.
UPDATE: Many thanks to the big boss here at PH8 who brought to my attention an obvious effort to plagiarize my work. The offense appears here:
Thankfully, several members of the site’s forum jumped to my defense, and I’m exceedingly impressed by their ethics as demonstrated here:
Update as of 12/18/2010 – Many thanks to the management of Seattle PI for addressing the act of plagiarism and removing the offending post.