Trading Season is Coming Fast

A few notes on the upcoming hilarity which will be trade season as we wait for Aaron Harang and the Dodgers to take on Brandon McCarthy (potentially my favorite non-Dodger pitcher) and the Athletics tonight…

* We can slow down on those Ryan Dempster rumors for now. Dempster was placed on the disabled list with a sore right lat. It’s not expected to be serious, and it won’t take him off the market entirely, since the trade deadline isn’t for another six weeks. He was expected to be a fast mover in the market, however, and now any interested buyers will not only have to factor in his health, they’ll have to note that they could be receiving 4-5 fewer of his starts than they might have otherwise. In some way, this is a good thing, because it hopefully lowers his value.

* The Red Sox are apparently very motivated to move Kevin Youkilis. Or at least, that’s what Ken Rosenthal & Jon Paul Morosi claim…

The last days of Kevin Youkilis in a Boston Red Sox uniform may be approaching.

Trade dialogue surrounding the beleaguered Boston third baseman has intensified in the last 24 to 48 hours, major-league sources told The Red Sox have made clear that (a) Youkilis is available and (b) they are willing to include cash to facilitate a better player return. In response, a number of clubs have indicated that they have interest in acquiring the three-time All-Star.

“He’s being shopped everywhere,” said one high-ranking official with a National League club.

Youkilis has struggled, with his single last night being his first in more than a week. Obviously, if he doesn’t start producing, it’s pointless for any team to want him; on the other hand, I’m still having a hard time believing that a guy with a .373 OBP last year is just done, and as we’ve been over, the 1B/3B bar in Los Angeles is so, so low right now. As with Dempster, the silver lining here may be that his trade value has plummeted; Chris Cwik at FanGraphs investigates just how much:

Even if those teams are desperate for help at their corner infield slots, they shouldn’t have to give up any significant prospects for Youkilis. Middlebrooks’ play has made Youkilis redundant. If the Red Sox continue to play Youkilis at third, they’ll do so at the expense of Middlebrooks. And since the Red Sox already have better players at first and DH, the Red Sox don’t have a lot of leverage. If the Red Sox were to cover most — or all — of Youkilis’ remaining salary, it’s possible they could receive a low-level impact player. Maybe a reliever or a good bat off the bench. But right now, there’s no reason for a team to break the bank on Youkilis.

Even with his struggles, there is going to be a market for Kevin Youkilis. And while he would represent upgrades at third for some contending teams, he would be even more valuable moving back to first base. That makes the Dodgers and the Indians two of the teams that should be inquiring about Youkilis. And considering Kenny Williams is no stranger to taking risks, the White Sox will likely be involved as well. He’s had a history of success, and there will probably be a team willing to take a risk on him turning things around. But unless he starts producing soon, the Red Sox are going to receive pennies on the dollar for him.

* How worried should we be about Ned Colletti being the man in control this July? We’ve long since come to terms with the fact that few of us are big Colletti fans, particularly when it comes to big-ticket free agents or high-profile trades. (He’s much better on the smaller stuff.) Over at Baseball Prospectus, R.J. Anderson breaks down Colletti’s reputation as a GM who loves to trade prospects, noting that of the 36 “young” players Colletti has traded, 17 never appeared in the bigs (so far, at least) and 14 more contributed almost no value. Of the remaining five – Edwin Jackson, Dioner Navarro, Cody Ross, Carlos Santana, & James McDonald – Anderson grades three deals as “fail” and two as “pass”.

Colletti’s evaluation mistakes cost the Dodgers two middle-of-the-rotation starters, an All-Star catcher, and a good fourth outfielder at most. But what about the flip side? What about when Colletti correctly evaluated his own prospects? Silver wrote, “One of [Colletti's] strengths seems to be knowing when to bail on his own players.” In the time since, Colletti has reaffirmed that notion. Some of Colletti’s better trades have come when correctly identifying the lemons in his own bunch. He traded Bryan Morris and LaRoche to acquire Manny Ramirez (easily the best deal of his career), used the intrigue of Joel Guzman to land Julio Lugo (whom, for whatever reason, fell to pieces, mitigating an otherwise clever deal), grabbed Jon Garland for Tony Abreu, got Jim Thome for nothing, and added Ted Lilly and Ryan Theriot for Blake DeWitt and two prospects who were unable to make the Cubs’ top-20 list this preseason.

Tagging Colletti as a good or bad general manager adds no value. What can add value is breaking general managers down to tools and skills. Colletti seems to understand that future value is worth less than present value, particularly when his team has the ability to compete now and the resources to compete later. Proper evaluation is the engine in Colletti’s machine. That means the Dodgers have to continue to land potentially useful players and continue to evaluate and harvest the potentially overvalued prospects. Every once and a while, Colletti is going to miss on a player. It happens; even John Schuerholz, the master of farm system self-evaluation, lost a few times.

This isn’t to say that Dodgers fans should have blind faith in Colletti, just that cowering in fear seems to be equally as unreasonable.

I’d say that’s fair, and it’s amazing how much less negativity there is about Colletti when you look at trades only and forget the hundreds of millions wasted on Juan Pierre, Andruw Jones, Jason Schmidt, Juan Uribe, and others. Still, I can’t say I have a ton of faith in him trying to out-negotiate Theo Epstein and many of the other GMs.

* Finally, please send your best wishes… to Roberto Baly of Vin Scully is My Homeboy, who is dealing with some health concerns. Roberto runs a great blog and is by all indications an even better person, and we all wish him the best.