I think we’re all in agreement that if and when a Dodger starter gets traded, it’s probably going to be Aaron Harang. That’s because of all the reasons we’ve been over before, mainly because he’s not a bullpen option and (unlike Chris Capuano) probably wouldn’t even consider the thought. So sure, it could be Capuano who goes, or Ted Lilly, but I don’t think I’ll get too much argument that it’s probably going to be Harang.
While we’d all like to think that Harang — coming off a decent 3.61 ERA season — could bring back the righty 1B/OF this team so badly needs or perhaps another option at third base, the problem is he’s just not that good. I know, I know, for a fifth starter that ERA over 180 innings isn’t that bad. But it’s also not backed by a 4.14 FIP, and as FanGraphs czar Dave Cameron noted on Twitter yesterday, “Teams interested in Aaron Harang might want to check his BB/K trend.” Let’s do that.
Boy, it’s too bad that giant floating head of Dusty Baker got in his way after 2007. So sure, Harang has some mild value. He’s also entering his age-35 season, is striking out less and walking more than ever, and can vest a $7m option for 2014 if he pitches 180.1 innings in this year — or almost exactly what he threw in 2012. That, plus the fact that the Dodgers have a full 40-man roster, means that more than likely they’re ending up with a decent-but-not-outstanding prospect return for him.
Taking a page from a discussion that Chris Jackson started in the comments yesterday, let’s try to figure out exactly who that player will be. With science! Sort of. Not really.
1. Identify the teams most likely to trade for Harang.
Other than a few teams like San Francisco, Detroit, & Cincinnati who clearly have no need for another starter, you could probably make some sort of case for about 20 other clubs in baseball that might find a small upgrade with Harang. But then you eliminate NL West rivals — I know, Harang in Coors Field would be fun — and teams like Houston & Miami that aren’t even in position to bother, and that list starts to shrink a little. To keep this manageable, let’s settle on the Brewers & Orioles (who scouted his start yesterday), and also the Twins, Pirates, & Mets, all among the teams who had been connected over the winter and could still use some rotation love. (And, it should be noted, largely don’t have the major league piece available the Dodgers would need.) No, I’m not including Texas, who just lost Martin Perez, because not only would Harang be a terrible fit in that park, they’re probably going to sign Kyle Lohse — and Robbie Ross might be better anyway.
2. Find prospects that are good, but not too good.
Good prospects get included on top ten lists. Lesser prospects don’t even make the top twenty. For example, when the Dodgers traded Dana Eveland to Baltimore last year, they got Tyler Henson (ranked as Baseball America’s #22 Oriole prospect) and Jarret Martin, who I don’t believe was ranked at all. Harang’s clearly better than Eveland, so let’s stick with the #11-20 prospect range as defined in BA 2013. (Yes, I’m aware this is already flawed, because one team’s #24 prospect could be better than another team’s #14 guy, and when you get past the top five or so it’s all very subjective anyway. We’re trying to have some fun here.)
With our five teams, that’s 50 names. Time to narrow them down.
3. Eliminate anyone who had been a first round pick in the last three years or currently holds a 40-man roster spot.
Teams are probably not willing to give up on a first round pick just yet, and the Dodgers will probably need to find at least one roster spot as it is for whichever reliever might make it — and two if they decide to have Tim Federowicz play every day in Triple-A, meaning Wilkin Castillo, Ramon Castro, or Jesus Flores would need a spot.
So long, Steve Johnson (BAL), Jed Bradley, Mark Rogers, Logan Schafer, Hiram Burgos, Khris Davis (MIL), Joe Benson — who I actually kind of like — Daniel Santana, Travis Harrison, Levi Michael, Chris Herrmann, B.J. Hermsen (MIN), Robert Carson, Hansel Robles, Wilfredo Tovar (NYM), Vic Black, Tony Sanchez, Andrew Oliver, Bryan Morris (PIT).
19 down, 31 to go.
4. Eliminate anyone else who was drafted in 2012, and therefore can’t even be dealt.
That removes 7 more, 24 remaining. We’re halfway there.
5. Eliminate any outfielder at Double-A or above.
When trying to obtain minor leaguers, you generally look for best talent available rather than filling a need. In this case, the Dodgers have so many outfielders at the top three levels that guys like Kyle Russell are in genuine danger of being cut. (Or, perhaps, included in a deal like this.) Let’s assume they’re not adding more here.
6. Eliminate anyone with the word “parasites” in the second paragraph of a story about them.
From a more technical perspective, they wouldn’t even be trading for a Cuban defector who has only just recently signed with Baltimore anyway, but…
Cuban defector outfielder Henry Urrutia, displaced in Haiti since the Orioles signed him to a $778,500 bonus in the summer, is expected to report to the club’s minor league facility at Twin Lakes Park some time this weekend.
“There’s a lot of unknown about what kind of shape he’s in,” Showalter said, “in more ways than one, parasites, other stuff you need to rule out.”
…no thanks. 20 left.
7. Eliminate anyone who still hasn’t made it out of A-ball after five seasons.
The fact that Nick Bucci is even ranked here says a lot about the state of the Milwaukee system, I think. 19 to go.
At this point, the low-hanging fruit is gone and we’re left with a lot of teenagers who haven’t yet left the Dominican and college draftees who are old for their leagues — and Minnesota, with only infielder Jorge Polanco remaining, has been almost entirely eliminated. Rather than really go through each and every one and make this stretch on endlessly, let’s hit the lightning round.
Give extra credit to any team that has been confirmed to be actively scouting Harang now.
We know that’s Baltimore & Milwaukee, though of course I’m sure many other teams are sniffing around.
Give extra credit to any team that has made similar trades with the Dodgers in recent years.
As discussed above, Ned Colletti and Dan Duquette hooked up on the Eveland deal last year. Colletti also swapped Chin-lung Hu for Michael Antonini with Sandy Alderson in 2010, a few months after the horrible Octavio Dotel deal with Neal Huntington, and Vinny Rottino for Claudio Vargas with Doug Melvin in 2009. The Dodgers and Twins haven’t agreed on a move since 1995, so they’re out entirely here. Baltimore wins this round because their deal was not only the most recent, it was the most similar.
So we’re going to go with Baltimore as the most likely destination, and the “winners”, somewhat subjectively from the few remaining, are A-ball outfielder Glynn Davis (described as “blazing speed, will take a walk” here and as high as Baltimore’s #7 prospect here) and 22-year-old Texan Clay Schrader, a lefty who has huge strikeout stuff — 157 whiffs in 116 pro innings — and the control problems to match.
Sexy? No. But then again, neither is the prospect of having Harang guarantee that vesting option.
(thanks to Dustin Nosler for some research assistance)