Run down a list of the Rangers' most effective young (i.e., controllable) big league pitchers in 2009:
Scott Feldman, Frankie Francisco, C.J. Wilson, Darren O'Day, Tommy Hunter, Doug Mathis.
Francisco, according to Baseball America, was Boston's number 10 prospect in 2002, two years and two organizations before he'd reach the big leagues. He wasn't among the White Sox's top 10 prospects in 2003, not among the Rangers' top 10 in 2004.
Wilson was the Rangers' number eight prospect in 2003, two years and a Tommy John surgery before he got to Arlington.
Feldman, Hunter, and Mathis were never on a Rangers Top 10 list.
O'Day was never on a Top 10 list with the Angels, who left him exposed to the Rule 5 Draft, or with the Mets, who were smart enough to select him in the draft but foolish enough to float him out on waivers after four early April appearances, three of which were scoreless and one of which saw him allow two unearned runs.
Brandon McCarthy was once high up on Chicago's Top 10. Matt Harrison was high up on Atlanta's. Josh Rupe landed on the Rangers' Top 10 in two of his first three years in the system.
Texas is in the hunt but got only 11 starts this year out of McCarthy (4.92 ERA) and may get no more this year. The club got only 11 from Harrison (6.11 ERA) and, we learned yesterday, won't get any more. The 4.2 innings that Rupe (15.43) pitched in April cost him his 40-man roster spot and his place in the plans.
The best pitching prospects aren't always the most dependable big leaguers. Some will be slowed by injuries. Some won't get major league hitters out. Many will contribute, but not always as much as a number of pitchers who were less hyped as minor leaguers.
It's one reason you can't hesitate to trade prospects just because you're building something strong.
Now, you don't trade Derek Holland for Kevin Correia and Eulogio De La Cruz, which is what the Mets did five years ago when they shipped Scott Kazmir to Tampa Bay for Victor Zambrano and Bartolome Fortunato.
There's a fan/media mindset that this isn't the year to push all the chips in at the trade deadline. OK: No C.C. Sabathia rentals. I'm with you there.
But does that mean you say to yourself, "I have the deepest farm system in baseball, and building from within is the name of the game. I can't afford to move any prospects even though I have a shot to win this year"?
St. Louis virtually emptied its farm system by trading Brett Wallace in today's Matt Holliday deal. Texas would have to make five blockbuster trades in the next six days to empty its system.
Wallace may not pan out to be any better than Daric Barton, the last young slugger that the Cardinals sent to the A's as part of a huge deal. Then again, Oakland wouldn't undo that 2004 trade, which sent Mark Mulder to St. Louis, because it also netted them Dan Haren.
And Arizona would never take back the 2007 trade that sent four of its top six prospects, including Brett Anderson, to the A's to get Haren.
The key for the Diamondbacks was that they were getting a controllable young player in Haren, not a rental. It would take that huge a package for Texas to get Roy Halladay, and I'm resigned to the likely fact that even if the offer was enough for Toronto, Halladay wouldn't agree to come here. But I'm all for striking in the next week, for a player not as singular as Halladay, as long as he's controllable.
It's why I proposed a Zack Greinke trade a year ago that would have included Harrison or Eric Hurley plus four others, and one this spring that involved Harrison and Justin Smoak for Josh Johnson or Matt Cain.
Bill Ladson of MLB.com reports that Texas has been scouting the Nationals, and whether that means we're looking at John Lannan or Josh Willingham or Adam Dunn, I'm encouraged.
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports notes that Texas is among at least four teams interested in St. Louis's Troy Glaus, who is rehabbing now on the farm after shoulder surgery. (If we do deal for him, I'll trade a Bound Edition for the first photo of Glaus posing with Jason Grilli.) Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi add that left-handed relievers Scott Downs (Toronto) and George Sherrill (Baltimore) are on the Rangers' radar.
Cliff Lee? Gotta be careful there, considering how poorly he's pitched in Rangers Ballpark over his career. (Though, unlike Halladay, his trouble with Texas extends to his home park as well, so maybe in his case it really is the opponent and not the park.) I'm interested, but not if Holland or Smoak or Neftali Feliz or Martin Perez is involved.
Zach Duke or Bronson Arroyo or Aaron Harang or Doug Davis? Not for anything close to that top tier.
Correia? For a reasonable return, sure.
He's sort of a good example of all this, actually. As he was coming up in the Giants system early this decade, he was on a clear second tier in that system, well behind Cain, Merkin Valdez, and David Aardsma. Cain developed into what he was supposed to. Valdez is 27 and hasn't come close to fulfilling his promise. Aardsma has come into his own this year, but has been traded four times in the last four years, the last two times for minor leaguers you've never heard of and probably never will.
Meanwhile, Correia has carved out his own useful little place in this game, and could be traded this coming week as San Diego tries to further its own rebuilding effort. It won't take Holland and Smoak to get him. It won't take Holland or Smoak to get him.
There are players like Correia (under control through 2010) and Willingham (under control through 2011) who could make this club better right now, without costing Holland or Smoak or Feliz or Perez. This organization can afford to move some of its better prospects without killing its system, maybe managing to improve its chances to stay in this fight in 2009. What if the Angels land Halladay and don't have to give up Jered Weaver to do so? Will you feel as good about 2010 as you do about this season?
I'm OK trading pitchers like Kasey Kiker or Omar Poveda or Guillermo Moscoso or Blake Beavan or Wilfredo Boscan in the right deal, to get someone established and controllable. That doesn't mean I don't think those guys will make it in the big leagues. They may, they may not. But they won't all make it (and if miraculously they all do, there won't be room for all of them in Texas), and if you don't take chances by moving some of them for players that you know can help, you're going to end up holding onto a number of them past the point at which they have any value to you at all, either as big league players or trade chips.
Kiker (4-0, 1.22 in his last six starts) and Poveda (2-0, 2.39 in his last four) in particular have gotten hot at the right time. The two 21-year-olds are pitching well in AA, the level at which rebuilding teams generally start to zero in on prospects as trade targets. Moscoso is 3-2, 1.85 in six starts and a long relief appearance for Oklahoma.
Would you trade Poveda and Mitch Moreland for Willingham? Would you expand it to include Moscoso for right-handed reliever Tyler Clippard?
I sure would (not that I'm sure the Nationals would), but I get the sense that a lot of the opinion-makers in this market have decided that trading prospects for veterans would be an unwelcome departure from the Plan -- no matter who the prospects are, or the veterans -- and the minute a trade like that one goes down, you'll see columnists comparing Poveda to John Danks, Moreland to Adrian Gonzalez, Moscoso to Armando Galarraga, Willingham to Randy Velarde, and Clippard to Kevin Gryboski.
How did you feel when Texas traded Ricardo Rodriguez for Vicente Padilla?
It's going to be a fascinating week. The end of July always is.
We all believe that as good as this season has been, better days for this franchise are ahead. But if you're one of those who's been convinced that trading prospects for veterans in the next six days would be foolish, by definition, I'd encourage you to stay away from the generalizations that you're being fed and keep an open mind. Don't let it kill your optimism, and don't get brainwashed into thinking that such a trade would automatically kill any sort of franchise momentum.
Instead, it could mobilize an additional, more immediate, very welcome type of momentum.
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(c) Jamey Newberg
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