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Early Off-Season Trade Analysis

It is no secret that this year's free agent class has few tantalizing options, and the best proof of that is the number of trades that have already been completed this off-season. Weaker free agent classes are actually a good sign for baseball, because it means most teams have the ability to sign and retain their premier players (either that or they are like the Marlins, who have been smart enough to trade stars they can't keep for premier talents; see the Josh Beckett deal where they netted Hanley Ramirez). It is nice to see a number of old-fashioned baseball deals shaping this off-season. Here is a look at all of them to this point:

  • Tigers acquire SS Edgar Rentaria (85) from the Braves for SP Jair Jurrjens (60/86) and OF Gorkys Hernandez (32/80) - Atlanta needs starting pitching, and had a surplus at shortstop with Rentaria and the up-and-coming Yunel Escobar (79/83). Detroit had a hole to fill at first, but smartly decided to put Carlos Guillen there full-time and look for a shortstop, dangling their surplus of starting pitching as bait. This is a classic example of a trade where two teams' weaknesses and strengths matched up nicely. The Braves think Jurrjens can compete for a starting spot next season, but I think he's still one year away. Gorkys Hernandez can fly, but he's still awful raw. Rentaria is a steal for the Tigers, though if Jurrjens reaches his potential this deal will not look bad for the Braves either. Much depends on Escobar too, who I'm not completely sold on yet.
  • Phillies acquire RP Brad Lidge (79) and INF Eric Bruntlett (68) from the Astros for OF Michael Bourn (79), RP Geoff Geary (62), and 3B Mike Costanzo (55/78) - Philadelphia was looking for a closer so that they could move Brett Myers back into the starting rotation. Houston was looking for a center fielder so that they could move Hunter Pence to right field. This seems to be a fairly even swap, though I do think Bruntlett is a very solid reserve infielder, and I wonder who Houston has in mind at closer. Looking for one on the free agent market would make sense.
  • Tigers acquire OF Jacque Jones (75) from the Cubs for INF Omar Infante (70) - Detroit had a glaring hole in left field, and Chicago has been trying to dump Jones for some time. Jones is not a great player, but he is serviceable and makes the Tigers a better team. Infante gives the Cubs added versatility, and at 25 years old it is not out of the question that he could develop further into a borderline starter. Between this deal and the Rentaria one, Detroit is clearly the most improved team thus far in the off-season.
  • Twins acquire OF Craig Monroe (63) from the Cubs for a player to be named later - It was clear the Twins needed to add some punch to their lineup, and they are hoping that Monroe can bounce back and provide it. I think he will bounce back some, but how much? He has a ton of power in his bat, but still he has only been a decent player at best his entire career. Monroe won't make the Twins worse, especially at such a low price, but I wonder if he improves their team.
  • Astros acquire RP Oscar Villareal (71) from the Braves for OF Josh Anderson (63/74) - I still wonder who Houston's closer will be, but kudos to them for upgrading their bullpen at the cost of a fringe prospect with no clear path to the majors in the Astros system. On the other hand, I'm concerned about the Braves' offense. They do have Mark Teixeira, but word is Anderson will compete for the starting center field job, and they have now handed the reigns over at shortstop to Yunel Escobar. Both are offensive downgrades, and the Braves did not exactly light up the scoreboard last year. Based on Atlanta's two trades this off-season, their new GM Doug Wren loves speed. Like Gorkys Hernandez, Anderson can fly, but do little else.
Free agents are beginning to sign, but I think that trades will continue to make the most noise this off-season. At some point the White Sox are going to have to trade either Joe Crede of Josh Fields, and the Dodgers could package some of their prospects for an impact player like Miguel Cabrera. Who knows, maybe the M's could find a taker for Richie Sexson.