As the trade deadline approached yesterday, the Mariners swung a three-team deal with the Red Sox and Dodgers that landed them two prospects, one from each team. The Mariners had to say goodbye to Erik Bedard and minors pitcher Josh Fields for outfielders Chih-Hsien Chiang (BOS) and Trayvon Robinson (LA).
Trades in baseball are rarely even talent swaps because player value takes form not only in ability, but also in age and contract status. Erik Bedard is a fantastic pitcher when healthy, and he has pitched very effectively for the Ms this season, but his contract is also up at the end of the year. The Ms are now out of the race, and holding onto Bedard would not do anything to change that. They basically just traded a rental player to Boston for two guys who could start competing for the left and center field spots. And we could even still re-sign Bedard during the offseason! This was one of those trades that was really a no-brainer for the Ms. They pretty much lost nothing for a shot at two prospects close to major league ready.
What we gave up:
Erik Bedard has pitched at times like one of the best pitchers in the league. However, he has accumulated just 46 starts since 2008 due to injury problems. But like I mentioned before, this was about trading an expiring contract for something. Even if that something is dirt, it’s dirt the Ms wouldn’t have otherwise.
Josh Fields has been a relief pitcher in the the M’s upper minor leagues for a few seasons now, posting a 4.54 ERA and a 1.43 K/BB ratio. Anything under 2.0 is bad for K/BB ratios, and a 4.54 ERA to go along with an unimpressive FIP as a relief pitcher isn’t too good either. He has some strike out stuff, but walks way to many batters, and doesn’t seem like much of a loss at this point. I hope I do not eat my words on that one.
What we got!
Trayvon Robinson has been in the minors since he was 17, and has worked his way up to AAA now as a 23-year-old. His numbers this season look gaudy on the surface: .293/.375/.563 with 26 HR and 41 total extra base hits. However these figures need to be taken with a grain of salt. As pointed out by Jay Yenich, Albuquerque’s ballpark has a homerun factor of 153. That means if you take any team in a normal ballpark and put them in the Isotopes’ ballpark, they’ll hit 1.53 times as many homeruns as they would normally. Now stick him in Safeco Field with a homerun factor of something like 90, and his power takes a serious hit. Being a switch hitter, he won’t always have to deal with Safeco’s treatment of right-handed power bats, so that’s nice. It could just be that some of those dingers turn into doubles, and he’s a 20 HR power guy with 30 doubles. It’s hard to say, but he’s not going to step in and hit 30 HR next year in Safeco.
One point of concern is a vicious strikeout rate. We’re all too familiar with high-strikeout guys this season. The difference between Peguero and Robinson? In his last two seasons, Robinson has walked nearly 13% of the time. In Peguero’s last two minor league seasons, he walked in 9% of his plate appearances, and just 7.3% in AAA. If Robinson can maintain some sort of healthy walk rate at the major league level, then he won’t just be another hack. Defensively he can play center, which adds flexibility and value in itself. I would not be surprised to see him get a shot in Seattle before this year is through.
Chih-Hsien Chiang has seen his numbers explode at the AA level this season. He’s gone from a .260/.312/.420 line to .340/.402/.648. Suspicious ones will question a BABIP increase from .281 to .371 this season, and call it luck. Some of it probably is, but his line drive rate has increased from 15% to 19%, and that probably has something to do with maturity and growth, rather than pure luck. No player can sustain a .371 BABIP, but the significant increase in line drives is reason to believe he’s learning how to hit. Other signs of true growth include a huge increase in power. He’s hitting homeruns at nearly twice the rate he did last season in AA Portland, and he’s seen an isolated power increase of 149 points. Isolated power is a convenient way to look at power increases free of changes in batting average.
His walk rate is not high–about 7%–but his strikeout rate is proportionately low, too, so he’s definitely more of a contact guy than the other Mariner options (Peguero, Halman, Robinson). According to Jay’s post at USSMariner (cited above), he was converted from the infield to the outfield in 2009. This could mean A) he sucks at defense, or B) he’s extremely versatile, and his flexibility could be a major asset. Who knows.
In the end, the Mariners landed two intriguing prospects at the price of virtually nothing. We will miss Bedard, for sure, but his expiring contract had almost no baseball value to a non-playoff team like Seattle. We stole two prospects, and I’m happy with that.