A Hypothetical Chris Davis Trade: Moneyballing with the Oakland A’s.

The Trade

A few weeks ago I threw out a potential trade wherein Chris Davis was sent to Oakland for a bevy of prospects. My original trade proposal was:

BAL sends: Chris Davis (1B)

OAK sends: Addison Russell (SS), Sonny Gray (SP), Dan Straily (SP), Nolan Sanburn (RP), Michael Choice (OF)

Originally when I proposed this swap, Gray hadn’t dazzled in the playoffs yet, so it seemed on its face a swap of mostly untested young players for a true impact bat in Davis. We all know about Chris Davis, so let me give a brief introduction to the players the O’s would receive in return:

Addison Russell - courtesy of milb.com

Addison Russell – courtesy of milb.com

Addison Russell (SS)

Ranked as the 6th best prospect in all of baseball by Keith Law in July, Russell is a 19 year old shortstop with a very advanced feel for hitting at his age. Law notes:

He’s hitting .326/.379/.565 since June 1, to choose one arbitrary (Gregorian) endpoint, and continues to impress with his range and especially his hands at shortstop.

Russell is one of the top 4 SS prospects in the minors right now with Xander Bogaerts, Francisco Lindor, and Carlos Correa. Drafted out of high school, Russell is still far away from impacting MLB, but he’s expected to move faster than most other high school guys.

Michael Choice (OF)

Choice can be looked at as a Chris Davis-lite. He has a ton of power, but strikes out a lot in getting to that power. Choice typically plays CF, but he’d likely move to LF if acquired by the O’s. Choice hit .302/.390/.445 for Triple A Sacramento, but currently doesn’t have a spot in an already crowded Oakland outfield. Choice is most often listed as the second best prospect in the Oakland system behind Russell.

Choice is seasoned enough in the minors that he could reasonably be expected to step in and play full-time LF next season if he were to be acquired by the O’s. He should have enough in his bat to profile as average in left, especially considering his defense would be better than most out there.

Sonny Gray (SP)

Drafted 18th overall out of Vanderbilt University just a few years ago, Gray has the pedigree of being a mid-rotation starter. In 2011 after being drafted he was sent directly to AA where he posted a 0.45 ERA in 5 starts. Repeating the level in 2012 had Gray post a 4.14 ERA in 140+ innings, leading to a late promotion to AAA. Gray repeated the level this season, but his work in MLB is what’s worth noting. He posted a 2.67 ERA (2.70 FIP, 2.92 xFIP) over 64 big league innings this season.

Gray works primarily with a 4-seam fastball, curve, and less commonly a sinker and change. He’s also been known to throw a cutter/slider on occasion which comes in about 6 mph slower than his fastball and sinker.

Dan Straily (SP)

Straily has a similar arsenal to Gray, though he uses his slider as his primary breaking ball rather than the curve. Straily has fringy stuff, probably better suited for the back end of the rotation. Over 190+ major league innings Straily’s ERA is a solid 3.94, though his FIP and xFIP suggests it should be about half a run higher than that.

Straily’s biggest issue is that he works primarily on the edges of the plate, so he has seen his k rates drop, while his bb rates rose moving from the minors to MLB. It’s possible that simply attacking the zone more with his offspeed stuff would result in better results for the relatively soft-tossing (91.2 mph) righty.

Nolan Sanburn (RP)

MLB.com ranked Sanburn as the 10th best prospect in the Oakland system, but that ranking comes primarily from the fact that he’s likely a reliever long term. Here’s a note on his stuff from MLB.com:

Sanburn can crank it up into the upper-90s in shorter stints, sitting around 95 mph. He couples that with a hard, biting slurvy curve that can be nasty at times. While he’s generally around the strike zone and goes right after hitters, his overall command needs to be refined.

Sanburn has worked primarily as a reliever for the A’s single A affiliates, but there’s still hope that he can start. His stuff certainly seems like it would hold up under a starter’s workload. However, Sanburn mostly came in for relief in college, so his arm hasn’t been stretched out. Even if he ends up in the ‘pen, he has the stuff to be a power arm in the back end of the bullpen.

 

So what other moves do you make to compliment this one. Surely this trade hurts the offense, even if it bolsters the rotation a bit. Here are some complimentary moves I’d make to improve the overall roster going into 2014:

Free Agency

My first target would be Alexander Guerrero whom I wrote about previously for BSL. I think it ultimately takes 4 or 5 years and $30M – $35M to sign him, so let’s just use the 4/$32M offer that fell through with the Dodgers as a baseline. He’d be my starting second baseman on opening day, assuming his conditioning is where it needs to be after a season off.

My second target is another international player in Masahiro Tanaka, the starting pitcher from Japan. Rather than Yu Darvish, as many claim, Tanaka reminds me of Hiroki Kuroda, a control artist with good enough stuff to stay ahead of MLB hitters. Tanaka limits walks, and could hopefully go deeper into games than another former NPB All-Star in the rotation: Chen. I think it’s safe to assume that Tanaka gets paid similarly to Darvish, which is more a statement on how far under market value the Rangers were able to sign Darvish for, than an endorsement of Tanaka. Let’s assume the O’s reach a pact around 6/$50M for the sake of this exercise.

Next I would sign Corey Hart to replace Chris Davis’ production at first base. Hart has a career triple slash of .276/.334/.491 but missed all of 2013 due to a knee injury. Coming off a 3 year, $36M pact with Milwaukee, Hart will likely be in line for a 1 or 2 year deal given his health issues. My offer would be somewhere around 2/$10M with a club option for a 3rd year. That number would vary depending on the market, but that seems a reasonable price for Hart. I’d plug him in as my opening day first baseman.

The fourth significant free agent signing I’d make would be to bring back Nate McLouth to have he and Choice split time in left field. I’d try to get both McLouth and Choice in the lineup when possible, but I wouldn’t force it. Worst-case scenario is that one takes over the starting role while the other becomes a 4th-outfielder for the club.

I would look to bring in some low risk, high reward type players during the offseason as well. This includes targeting injury-prone players like Grady Sizemore, as well as PED-user Nelson Cruz. If Texas offers Cruz a qualifying offer, that would remove him from my list of targets, as he’s not worth losing the draft pick over.

As for pitching, I’d target reclamation projects, similar to Francisco Liriano in Pittsburgh last year. Some intriguing names include: Erik Bedard, Roy Halladay, Phil Hughes, and Scott Kazmir.

I’d also bring in some bullpen arms, focusing primarily on guys whose time seems to have passed. If the price is right and my scouts liked what they saw I’d look long and hard at Ryan Madson, Fernando Rodney, and Brian Wilson. There are plenty of other relievers who could be had cheaply that would improve the bullpen. Some of these names could be Joba Chamberlain, Michael Bowden, Eric O’Flaherty, and Oliver Perez.

Trades

The one and only trade I’d make that would significantly impact my ‘starting lineup’ would be to move Jim Johnson for prospects. Honestly, I don’t particularly care what the prospects were, though I’d prefer pitching prospects if possible. The best offer gets Johnson, and his likely $10M salary for next season.

I’d also listen to offers on JJ Hardy if other teams were interested. I wouldn’t actively try to move Hardy prior to the season, but if I found a good offer I’d consider it. Ultimately I want Schoop and Gausman to repeat AAA for at least the first half of next season, so I’d rather not make any moves that forced them into starting roles on the MLB club.

My Starters

C: Matt Wieters
1B: Corey Hart
2B: Alexander Guerrero
3B: Manny Machado
SS: JJ Hardy
RF: Nick Markakis
CF: Adam Jones
LF: Michael Choice
DH: Wilson Betemit/Danny Valencia

SP1: Chris Tillman
SP2: Masahiro Tanaka
SP3: Sonny Gray
SP4: Wei-Yin Chen
SP 5: Dan Straily

SU: Darren O’Day
SU: Brian Wilson
CP: Ryan Madson

Payroll

So the O’s total salaries for next season, under my plan would come out to be somwehere around $105 million. The breakdown is below:

Players currently on the O’s roster: ~$70.5M

New Additions: Guerrero: $8M, Tanaka: $8.5M, Hart: $5M, McLouth: $5M, Misc. FAs: $8M

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About the author


Jeff Long   

Orioles Analyst

Jeff was the owner of the Orioles blog Warehouse Worthy, which focused on making advanced statistics a part of the conversation for the average fan. Outside of baseball, Jeff is a graduate of Loyola University where he received his Bachelor’s and Master’s in Business Administration. The Maryland native currently works for an Advertising Agency in downtown Baltimore. Previously a contributor to Beyond the Boxscore, he joined Baseball Prospectus in September 2014.


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