Dodgers Shock Baseball by Trading Trayvon Robinson For Organizational Depth

I… am… speechless.

About 30 seconds after the deadline passed, I tried to hit publish on a post titled “Trade Deadline Passes Quietly for Dodgers”. WordPress blew up as I did, and the post never made it live. It included the line that I’m pretty sure I’m glad WP ate, “But let’s look at this in a positive light: being mildly disappointed at the lack of deals is far better than freaking out over the idea that Scott Podsednik, Ryan Theriot, and Octavio Dotel are improvements, right?”

Yeah… about that.

Shortly after the deadline, word broke that the Red Sox had traded for Erik Bedard. Okay, nothing unexpected there. Then Twitter blew up – I mean, literally exploded in a firey hellscape of “WAIT, WHAT?!” – when the news started to filter that the deal was actually a three-team move, and that the Dodgers had included Trayvon Robinson.

Before we all freak out, here’s the facts: Robinson goes off to the Mariners (via Boston) in exchange for catcher Tim Federowicz, RHP Stephen Fife and RHP Juan Rodriguez. I copied that from someone on Twitter, and I have so many browser tabs open right now that I can’t even pretend to know who it’s from at this point, so deal.

On the players coming in – none of whom I’ve heard of before – here’s the bad news: none of the three made Kevin Goldstein’s preseason list of top 20 Sox prospects at Baseball Prospectus before the season. (Robinson, for what it’s worth, was #4 on the Dodger list; it’s not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison, because the Red Sox system is probably deeper overall, but still.)

Over at SoxProspects.com, none of the three are on that top 20 list either. Federowicz is rated #22 (up from 27 in April), Fife is #32 (up from 39), and Rodriguez is 44 (up from 45). From the same site, quick scouting reports on the three:

Federowicz: (24 next week)

Intelligent catcher with ideal frame and strong core. Line drive hitter. Average power potential as swing is on the flat side. Profiles as a gap-to-gap doubles hitter. Makes best contact on balls down and out over the plate. At times struggles to get his hands above the baseball on higher velocity elevated fastballs. Good pitch recognition skills, but can chase hard breaking balls off the plate. Improving plate discipline. Behind the dish, Federowicz presently is above-average defensively. Plus, accurate arm with a fluid release. Can struggle with his grip when throwing, which causes ball to tail into runners during stretches. Outstanding instincts and reflexes. Excels at staying square to the ball with both his body and glove. Fluid footwork, especially when blocking pitches in the dirt. Improving with game management skills and taking charge of the pitching staff. Below-average speed, but heady on the base paths. Projects as a major league backup catcher, with potential as a second division starter. (emphasis mine -  MSTI)

Fife: (25 in October)

Great pitcher’s frame. At Utah, Fife worked middle relief in 2007 and earned a rotation spot for 2008.Two-seam fastball sits between 88-91 mph. Has a four-seamer with more velocity, but doesn’t feature it. Great movement on his two-seamer, tailing down and in on righties. Also works in a biting 76-79 mph curveball and an improving 79-81 mph changeup. Relies mostly on his fastball, but has gone to his curveball as his out pitch on occasion. Working on improving the command of his curve, but has outstanding control overall. Really pounds the strike zone. Fife also has a slider in his arsenal that has been put on the shelf while he works on his curveball. Extreme groundball pitcher. Fares better against righties. Workhorse, went deep into games in college, maintaining velocity well. Ultimately, Fife has a high potential to become a major league pitcher, and whether or not he’s able to become a starter in the bigs depends on how well he hones his secondary stuff. Somewhat jerky delivery with a lot of torque – snaps the ball as it comes out of his hand. Really came on as a draft prospect late in the 2008 NCAA season. Fife missed the first few months of the 2009 season with weakness in his throwing shoulder.

Rodriguez: (23 in December)

Large-framed righty dominated DSL competition in 2009, but was slightly old for the league. Mechanics can use some tuning-up, but he demonstrates a live arm. Attacks hitters. Fastball sits 92-95 mph and shows more life (96-97 mph) in short blasts. Also throws a 79-81 mph slurve, that has some potential if he can sharpen it and get it up in  the mid-80s.  Lots of projection, but he’s behind the age scale because he signed at 19, unlike many other Latin prospects who sign at 16. Needs to develop his curveball to be starter material. Has accumulated impressive strikeout numbers at every level so far with the Red Sox.

Those reports were all from before the season. Here’s what they’ve done so far in 2011:

Federowicz: .275/.337/.397 at AA (is reportedly considered a “plus defender“, says Yahoo’s Tim Brown. BP’s Marc Normandin concurs, saying “above-average defender, better blocking than throwing, possible doubles power. probably a second division starter, more likely solid backup”)

Fife: 11-4, 3.66 ERA, 6.1 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 at AA (known for “pitchability”, whatever that means)

Rodriguez: 2-4, 5.19 ERA, 13.4 K/9, 4.8 BB/9 at A

Mike Andrew of SoxProspects commented on this on Twitter:

My take: #Red Sox traded 3 Rule 5 eligible B-prospects, each w/ a chance to be MLB role players, & a C-Level prospect w/ marginal MLB future

FWIW, each of Chiang, Fife, & Federowicz are Rule 5 eligible this winter. Rodriguez is the 4th chip – predicted that earlier this week.

Meanwhile, Robinson was tearing it up in AAA: 26 homers, and a .293/.375/.563 line. Lest you think that’s merely a product of ABQ, he’s hitting .306/.394/.585 at home, and .280/.354/.537 on the road. That’s in a hitter-friendly league overall, so take it with the requisite grain of salt, but by all indications he’s on the path to being a solid regular, though maybe something less than a star. Meanwhile, the three prospects coming in return all look to be something less than that.

Obviously, this all came out of nowhere, and we’ll need time to digest it. My initial impression, though? Pretty disappointed, and not just because we’ve all grown to love Robinson and the idea of him coming back to play in his hometown.

If anything, this summary of Ned Colleti’s post-trade interview from Eric Stephen of TrueBlueLA sums it up best:

Synopsis from Ned Colletti: “We need catching…it’s easier to find an OF [on FA market] than it is a catcher.

He then went on to claim that you can create an outfielder, but not a catcher, though his comments were drowned out by Russell Martin and Carlos Santana (among others) laughing. In theory, that idea sounds fine. But in practice? Robinson is a solid outfield prospect with a chance to be much more. Federowicz sounds like a placeholder, and the pitchers are intriguing but little more. Position isn’t everything, otherwise you’d see the Jays trading Jose Bautista for, well, Dioner Navarro. (Actually, you wouldn’t, because the Jays have a real general manager.) I like the idea of Ned trying to address the catching issue (you know, the one he created), but in no way is this the way to do it.

Besides, what in the hell is a team deep in pitching, desperate for offense and with a gaping hole in the outfield doing trading an MLB-ready outfield prospect for a catcher who may or may not be able to hit and two mildly interesting pitchers?

The more I read about this trade, the less I like it. It hurts the Dodgers short term, since Robinson was by all accounts coming up in the next month or so. It probably hurts them long term, if Robinson develops as we hope he will. And I can’t imagine how it must feel for Robinson, expecting a call to LA any day, and instead being told to pack his bags for Seattle.

More to come. I guess.

Update: added Keith Law’s thoughts

The Dodgers get … I’m not really sure what they get. Tim Federowicz is a catch-and-throw specialist who isn’t likely to produce enough at the plate to be an average regular, but is plus across the board behind the plate (including a career 34-percent caught-stealing rate) and is no worse than a good backup in the majors. Stephen Fife probably profiles as a right-handed reliever rather than a starter because he lacks the out pitch to start; he’ll touch 95 as a starter with a fringe-average curveball. Juan Rodriguez has a plus fastball, no average second pitch, and below-average command and control — a nice arm to add to your system but a reliever at best and not a high-probability guy either. Unless Robinson was somehow burning a hole in their pockets, this doesn’t make a ton of sense to me, as they didn’t get any prospect as good as he is in the exchange.

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Not that anyone cares about this anymore, but the canceled post had info on Alex Castellanos, so I might as well include it here. Los Angeles did send several million to the Cardinals along with Furcal, though they send up saving $1.4m overall, which was as much the point as it was getting Castellanos, who turns 25 next week.

Castellanos, a 10th-round pick in 2008 out of a small North Carolina college, played second and third base in his first two years with the Cardinals, but is now strictly a right fielder. He was a Texas League All-Star this year with a line of .319/.379/.562, and 19 HR. That sounds nice, though I’ve yet to see a scouting report that says he’s more than a fourth outfielder; he wasn’t even mentioned in Kevin Goldstein’s preseason Top 20 Cardinals prospects list at Baseball Prospectus. Of course, since Furcal is old, incredibly injury-prone, and having a terrible season, anyone who thought he was bringing back a top prospect was fooling themselves.

Since I admittedly hadn’t heard of Castellanos prior to yesterday, let’s let people who know a lot more about him than me fill in the blanks on what to expect.

Jim Callis of Baseball America:

Castellanos was having a career year in Double-A (he ranks eighth in the Texas League in hitting, fifth in homers and fourth in runs scored), but he’ll turn 25 on Thursday and his tools don’t live up to his performance. He has some pop but he has a long swing and chases too many pitches out of the strike zone. His speed and defensive tools are fringy, and the former Belmont Abbey (N.C.) second baseman fits best in right field. Despite his 2011 numbers, he doesn’t have the bat to profile as a big league regular there. He signed for $70,000 as a 10th-round pick in 2008.

Cardinal Nation:

The 24-year-old right-handed hitter was the Cardinals’ 10th-round draft pick in 2008. Castellanos set a new Palm Beach record with 35 doubles last season and his seven triples led the Cardinals system. Though he received votes, he did not crack The Cardinal Nation Top 40 Prospect List during the off-season.

In 2011, Castellanos was The Cardinal Nation Player of the Month for April and has twice been named the Texas League Player of the Week. He has a .319 average, 19 home runs and 62 RBI in 93 games. Castellanos has been especially hot recently, batting .419 with ten RBI in his last ten games.

Springfield News-Leader:

Castellanos, a 10th-round draft pick in 2008 from NCAA D-II Belmont Abbey (N.C.), owned the Texas League’s eighth-best batting average, its fifth-most home runs (19), fifth-most total bases (119). His 62 RBIs are second on the Cardinals behind Matt Adams’ 81.

A right-handed batter, Castellanos, 24, emerged as a potential prospect last season in the high Class A Florida State League, batting .270 but hitting 35 doubles, 13 home runs and owning a .462 slugging percentage in what is widely considered a pitcher’s circuit.

In Springfield, Castellanos still tends to chase too many off-speed pitches he couldn’t handle anyway (off-speed out of the zone). But when on base, he showed good speed and instincts, stealing 10 bases in 11 attempts.

Defensively, he played right field and showed a strong arm, though he tended to get too aggressive with runners on base and would go for the out, rather than hit the cut-off man.

Castellanos said he is being assigned to Chattanooga, Tenn., of the Double-A Southern League.

Future Redbirds (from April 2011)

Looking at the stats, it is pretty clear what type of player Castellanos is so far in his career.  He will swing for the fences and is happy to go down swinging while trying.  He will not try to work a walk and his OBP will not be much more than his AVG. But when he hits the ball it will go very far and he has the ability to stretch a single into a double and double into a triple which helps his slugging numbers.  Once on base, he also has dangerous speed to steal bases at will.  Castellanos is an intriguing prospect based on his power and speed numbers, but will need to cut down on the strikeouts and add some walks to really push his prospect status to the next level.

So it seems pretty clear that Castellanos is a 4th outfielder prospect, at best, with a small possibility of more if his sudden burst this year has something behind it. There’s value in that, I suppose, since Furcal had almost no value on the market, but this isn’t someone who is suddenly a building block for the future.

I’m More Disappointed In Hiroki Kuroda Than I Thought I’d Be


As you’ve no doubt heard, Hiroki Kuroda has informed the Dodgers he will not be waiving his no-trade clause, and thus will be staying with the club for the rest of the season. I have to say, I’m pretty disappointed in that. Don’t get me wrong; I’m a big fan of Kuroda’s. Choosing to exercise his option to stay is well within his rights, and I certainly understand and respect the view of those like Jon Weisman (and, I must say, a surprising amount of Dodger fans, at least among those who post on message boards) who see Kuroda’s decision to stay amongst the turmoil as a refreshing change of pace. I get all of that, and from a human interest point of view, it’s commendable.

Unfortunately, I look at it from more of a “wanting my team to win” point of view, and from that standpoint, it’s hard not to think that Kuroda has hurt the chances to do that, even if only in a small way. A few weeks ago, I noted that I would be more than okay with keeping Kuroda to soak up some innings over the last few months if the deal was just going to be a salary dump, with little in the way of talent coming back. Yet as dominoes have begun to fall over the last few days, we’ve seen that this particular trade season is shaping up as a clear seller’s market. Look at what Toronto was able to do in exchange for some relievers and eating a bad contract. Look how much the Orioles got for 36-year-old Koji Uehara, or the Mets for two months of Carlos Beltran, or the reported return for Ubaldo Jimenez if that goes through. With Detroit, St. Louis, and Cleveland (maybe) all having picked up starters, that left the Red Sox, Yankees, and Rangers to fight over Kuroda, the clear top remaining starter. That’s an enviable position to be in.

I know rumors are just that, but when the Dodgers reportedly asked the Yankees for starter Ivan Nova and one of their three quality catching prospects, several baseball writers I respect greatly tweeted that they didn’t think that was enough of a return, even if the Yankees balked at it. The Dodgers were reportedly even scouting Tiger 3B prospect Nick Castellanos, who they almost certainly weren’t going to get, but at least they were shooting high. As the market took shape, my initial misgivings that the prospects may not be worth the effort turned into a feeling that the Dodgers could really get someone who would make a difference for the future. Not a superstar, of course, but at least a solid starter and perhaps a lottery ticket at one of the positions where the Dodgers have little depth.

Instead, we have 8-10 more starts of Kuroda to look forward to, and that might be it if he decides to go back to Japan after the season. I know some will be happy with that, saying that it proves he’s “true blue” or makes the club better for the last two months, but I don’t really see what that accomplishes. At the end of the season, his current 6-13 record will be something like 8-17, and the team will still be several games under .500 and double-digit games out of a playoff spot. Having Kuroda around, or not, was not going to change the fortunes of the 2011 club. Trading him might have helped future versions of the club, teams he’ll have been long retired from, and while I’m glad he enjoys being a Dodger enough to invoke his no-trade clause, he could have also gone on a two-month road trip somewhere and re-signed in Los Angeles the day after the season ended, if he chose. His gain, short-term, is probably our loss, long-term, and it’ll be a bit hard for me to watch his next start without that thought in the back of my mind.

Hiroki Kuroda Will Agree to a Trade, Unless He Won’t

I usually don’t make posts for quick, small items – the dawn of Twitter killed that, because I used to – but these back-to-back tweets by SI‘s Jon Heyman and the Boston Globe‘s Gordon Edes are too good to pass up.

Heyman, 1:49pm PT:

friend of kuroda says hed be surprised i hiroki consented to a trade out of LA. #tradedeadline

Edes, 1:50pm PT:

Kuroda has indicated to Dodgers that he is open to deals w/Texas, Bos, and NYY. Texas has been pushing hard#trades

The lesson, as always? Don’t believe everything you hear, especially when it’s 23 hours before the trading deadline, and especially especially if it was delivered in 140 characters or less.

 

Report: Dodgers Agree to Trade Rafael Furcal to Cardinals

First reported by Craig Calcaterra at NBC Sports, and since picked up by several other outlets:

A source tells our own Craig Calcaterra that the Cardinals and Dodgers have agreed to the particulars in a Furcal deal and that Furcal is leaning toward waiving his no-trade protection to go to St. Louis.

This does not mean a deal is done, because as a player with 10/5 rights, Furcal could refuse the trade (or, possibly, Calcaterra’s source could be wrong, though it’s not like this is a story that’s coming out of the blue). But there’s just about no chance he does that; why, in his walk year (since there’s no way that option gets picked up), would he want to play the next few weeks on a losing team before likely getting shoved aside for Dee Gordon in September? He’ll go. Bet on it, and it’s the right move for both sides.

I’ll update this post when we hear who is coming back from St. Louis, but let’s set expectations here. Furcal’s value is far, far less than Hiroki Kuroda‘s, so don’t start dreaming about any Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, or Zack Cox types. Much depends on who picks up the majority of the remaining $4m or so on Furcal’s contract, of course.

More to come.

Matt Kemp’s Homer Tops Ted Lilly’s Homers


So much for that mini-slump Matt Kemp was supposedly stuck in during the early-to-mid part of July, right? Kemp entered tonight having reached base ten times over his previous five games, including three doubles, and then outdid himself in the 9-5 win over Arizona by driving in the first five runs on a single and a three-run homer – in addition to a nice diving catch in the top of the 7th. How ridiculous is Kemp right now? After the catch, Sports Illustrated‘s Jon Heyman actually tweeted that as far as he’s concerned, the best player in baseball right now is either Kemp or Toronto’s Jose Bautista, who’s sporting a line of something like .682/.951/2.933. High praise indeed, even if it’s probably not accurate, almost enough to not make you want to cry when reading Ramona Shelburne’s account of how Ned Colletti’s hands are tied by the McCourt mess in signing Kemp to the long-term deal he so clearly deserves. (Speaking of which, the latest report is that those two idiots could spend nearly $35m in legal fees alone settling their divorce case. That’s a completely appropriate use for that kind of cash, isn’t it?)

While Kemp will get the accolades, and rightfully so, it’s important to note that even he can’t drive in five runs on two hits without a little bit of help, and for once, he wasn’t the only Dodger contributing. Six other Dodgers had hits with Juan Rivera and Aaron Miles each chipping in two (Rivera’s were both doubles), and Andre Ethier with three plus a hit-by-pitch.

Of course, all that offense was needed since Ted Lilly gave up two more homers (including one to Willie Bloomquist, which really should be a felony, right?), plus another from Matt Guerrier. Mike MacDougal, terrifyingly the new setup man with Kenley Jansen on the disabled list with an irregular heartbeat, managed to get through the 8th without trouble (as I joked on Twitter, one benefit of his new status is that he won’t have to come in with men on base), and Javy Guerra finished up in the 9th.

The win puts them to 12-11 in July with one game yet to go; they haven’t had a winning month so far in 2011, unless you count March’s 1-0. They’ve also won 11 of 17, which is quite an encouraging streak, and a credit to Don Mattingly, I believe. They’re also still 12.5 games back in the NL West and 13 back in the wild card, so let’s not get too carried away. Still, this team could have easily rolled over and died, and instead they’re showing us some life. We can take some solace in that, at least.

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Roster notes: Josh Lindblom was recalled to take Jansen’s spot on the roster. Jansen is actually feeling well enough that he threw a bullpen session today, but due to the blood thinners he’s on, he’s not allowed to be in a position where he could get hit in the head. Casey Blake went 3-4 with a double in a rehab game tonight, and could take the spot of Juan Uribe, who may go on the DL thanks to a strained groin. Finally, because several of you asked last week, the reason Carlos Monasterios isn’t pitching in the minors is because he hurt his elbow so badly that he underwent Tommy John surgery this week. Don’t expect to see him in the bigs until 2013 at the earliest.

And when, oh when, will we be free of Eugenio Velez?

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Fun as it was to see the offense show some life, let’s not pretend that tonight’s game is in any way more important or interesting than the rapidly-developing trade market, and all of the focus is shining squarely on Hiroki Kuroda, Jamey Carroll, and Rafael Furcal.

The other day, I said that I thought it was 70/30 that Kuroda would stay in Los Angeles, but I’m beginning to soften on that stance. As Ken Gurnick notes at dodgers.com, Kuroda could easily end the speculation by simply saying he’s not going to accept any trades. He hasn’t done that, which sounds like there is at least the possibility that he’ll take a deal that he likes. That plus the fact that Kuroda’s standing as the best starting pitcher available (I’m assuming Ubaldo Jimenez isn’t going anywhere) was enhanced by his nice start the other night allows for the chance that the Dodgers could get a decent prospect in return. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the Yankees saw A.J. Burnett lose to Baltimore (despite 10 strikeouts) tonight and have a doubleheader to deal with tomorrow, either.

As for the infielders, a few days ago I thought it was all but certain that Carroll was gone, particularly when Milwaukee lost Rickie Weeks, but now I think that’s less likely. The Dodgers reportedly would consider trading either Carroll or Furcal, but not both. You can make the argument that that’s foolish – hint: it is – yet if it’s going to be one or the other, you’d have to think it’s Furcal. He’s the one who isn’t going to have a place to play when Dee Gordon returns in September. He’s the one who still has $4m on his contract, and he’s the one who is now drawing interest from several teams, including the Diamondbacks and the Cardinals. (And let’s not miss this opportunity to laugh at the Cardinals for needing to replace the woeful Ryan Theriot, because, ha.) For all the talk of how awful Furcal’s season has been, he does have eight hits in his last six games, including a double tonight, and when he’s healthy he’s certainly a contributor. So I do think he goes, and Carroll stays.

Of course, if it were up to me, they’d both go; Carroll certainly has value in this market. What’s the harm of playing Gordon every day at shortstop, and Miles splitting time at second and third with Blake and Ivan DeJesus until Uribe is healthy? That’ll get you through the season, and while I like Carroll, if you can get something for a guy who’s about to be 38, you do it.

Finally, the end of Gurnick’s trade report is worth reprinting, if only because he presented it with no additional comment:

There also have been inquiries about catchers Rod Barajas and Dioner Navarro.

I can think of a few inquiries there. None of them have anything to do with trades, though.