Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Modest Trade Proposal

This time of year, baseball junkies flood the interweb and talk radio with trade proposals; most unrealistic, some implausible, and a few that might actually make some sense. It’s for you, the reader, to decide in which category to place this one.

The proposal is this: Robinson Cano, Ian Kennedy, Kei Igawa for Chad Billingley and Matt Kemp and Andruw Jones. The reasoning is this:

First off, as last season showed, Cano needs tough love to get him to play to his massive potential. Cano got his contract and coasted through the first half of the season, fully expecting to play himself out of his slump. Didn’t happen. Finally and too late in the season, Girardi punished Cano and lo and behold! Cano responded by batting .389 over the last 9 games, and .299 over the last 22—with 7 doubles in those 22 games. To whit, his former coach, who now coaches for the Dodgers, Larry Bowa, was just the man who could push Cano’s buttons and get him to play hard and well. In fact, should Cano head to L.A. I would look for Cano to regain his All-Star form fairly quickly, especially playing in the N.L. West against the Padres and Giants. And besides, Jeff Kent is, to put it politely, aging. Cano would fit in perfectly with his former manager and coach.

Former 1st round pick Ian Kennedy, who had a rough season, would probably love the familiar scenery that L.A. would bring—he went to USC and is from California. He’d also probably appreciate the DH-free National League and the pitcher’s park in LA. Though he had a rough season in 2008, scouts are still high on Kennedy—his plus change and curve and excellent command give him a great chance to be a top pitcher. In fact, just recently, the Brewers and White Sox and a few other teams have been sniffing around the young Yankee pitcher—however, the Yankees for now, seem reluctant to give up on a former first round pick. For this trade, however, they might be willing.

The same could be said for Kei Igawa—that a pitcher’s park and a league without Big Papi and Jim Thome-type DHs would be to his liking. Also, getting out of the glare of the Big Apple media circus and into the more mellow California atmosphere couldn’t hurt. Igawa, to his credit pitched very well in AAA in 2008, striking out 117 in 156.1 innings to the tune of 1.19 WHIP. It wouldn't be surprising if Igawa actually becomes something of a minor force out in the NL West (Again, the Dodgers face the light-hitting D-Backs, Padres and Giants a bunch of times).

For the Yankees, the trade speaks for itself. And that speech would begin and end with “Chad Billingsley.” Saying the Yanks need a young pitcher is like saying Popeye needs spinach. Billingsley and his 200 IP would be most welcome to Joe Girardi, considering his 2009 rotation right now is mostly made up of prayer.

Matt Kemp—and his power/speed number of 23.8 which ranked him 6th in the NL last year—could solidify the CF question nicely; pushing Brett Gardner and Melky Cabrera to 4th OF/trade bait status. But the real key for the Dodgers is the last name on the deal—Andruw Jones. The Yankees taking Andruw Jones off the Dodgers hands is everything to LA in this deal. They could then turn around and use the 15 million they saved in ditching him to go sign Manny to play left field. Frankly, the Dodgers have no one else in their lineup who scares pitchers anywhere close to the level that Manny does. If he goes, so do the Dodgers chances of having any real chance at a pennant.

So here is how the deal would pan out for the 2009 Yankees and Dodgers (assuming there aren’t other free agent pickups or trades).

Manny Ramirez
Juan Pierre
Andre Ethier

Johnny Damon
Matt Kemp
Xavier Nady

Hiroki Kuroda
Clayton Kershaw
Jason Schmidt
Ian Kennedy
James McDonald
Kei Igawa

Chien-Ming Wang
Chad Billingsley
Joba Chamberlain
Andy Petitte
Phil Hughes
Alfredo Aceves

This trade gives the Dodgers a talented staff—a good mix of youth and experience—with two lefties that give Joe Torre options. Kuroda pitched very well in his first season in America and should only be better his second season around. Kershaw is an ace in diapers and should be dominating National League hitters shortly. McDonald is no slouch himself, having owned minor league baseball, and could be ready to pitch in L.A. sooner rather than later in the 2009 season. The outfield is a good balance of power (Manny’s 17 HRs in 53 games along with Ethier’s 20 HRs) with speed and defense (Pierre had 40 stolen bases and Ethier had 11 assists). But the real cherry for the Dodgers is getting 15 million dollars free for Manny. The Dodgers cannot let many go and this deal secures him in Dodger Blue. So getting a former 1st round pitcher with massive potential, a former Japanese League lefty strikeout artist and a phenomenally talented RBI machine to replace Jeff Kent are all wonderful and a windfall. Getting Manny would be a coup.

For the Yankees—Chad Billingsley, Chad Billingsley, Chad Billingsley. The absolute key to the deal for New York—a 23-year pitcher with 437 innings of big league experience experience—and would immediately help solidify the Yankees 2009 rotation with the innings he is capable of. Matt Kemp would be a nice solidification of CF, but he isn’t a deal-breaker. In fact, should the Dodgers balk on parting with him (which I don’t think they would—their outfield is jammed as is), the Yankees could take some solid prospects instead. As for Andruw Jones, he has already publically stated, he’d like to return to Atlanta, so this would be a one-year rental for the Yankees. An expensive one, indeed, but something the Yankees can take for one year—especially with the revenue the new stadium should provide. And really, anything Jones could provide would be gravy.

The Yankees could then go get Orlando Hudson to fill the second base hole and use either Brett Gardner or Melky Cabrera as trade bait. (I’d prefer they trade Melky, myself.)

On the whole, the trade makes sense as is. A few tweaks here and there could be done; throwing in Eric Duncan? Chin Lung Hu? Giving up prospects instead of Kemp? Maybe. But the deal, as is constructed now makes sense to me.

Probably never happen though.

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