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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

AN ALTERNATIVE PRESENTS ITSELF 

Over the past couple of weeks, I've been posting about the possibility of the Angels acquiring Alex Rodriguez. Recent developments, long-rumored, present us with another potential option for improving the Angel offense.

The Florida Marlins are reportedly willing to put Miguel Cabrera on the market.

Miguel Cabrera is a young hitter of astonishing quality and achievement. He doesn't turn 25 until April; here are some stats of Cabrera and two other hitters through the age of 24:
Player     PA  OPS+  HR  AVG  OBP  SLG
Player A 3173 145 140 .316 .365 .543
Cabrera 3072 143 138 .313 .388 .542
Player B 3156 142 165 .298 .380 .552
Player A is Hank Aaron.

Player B is Frank Robinson.

There are, however, certain negatives to Cabrera:

1. His defense.
By all accounts, both anecdotal and statistical, Cabrera is a bad third baseman. Per the Baseball Info Solutions data at the Hardball Times, he was approximately 15 plays below the league average on balls in his zone last year, worth over 10 runs (he also had an unexceptional total of plays made outside of his zone, though this doesn't necessarily mean anything). He was approximately -8 plays, or around -6 runs, below average in 2006.

2. His conditioning.
Miguel Cabrera is progressively becoming a fatter and fatter bastard. This bodes ill for his conditioning, long-term health, and his ability to play defense and run the bases.

3. He will cost a fortune -- in players.
The Marlins are allegedly seeking a young third baseman, a young pitcher, and a center fielder.

It just so happens that the Angels can offer such a package: Brandon Wood, one of Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana, and -- though he may be older than what the Marlins are looking for -- Chone Figgins.

This is a steep price, even for a hitter of Cabrera's talents. But while Brandon Wood is looking like the next Dean Palmer (not a bad thing with good glove at either of his potential positions), Cabrera is a sure bet.

Of course, trading one of Saunders and Santana would mean we'd have to go out and get a starting pitcher. Intriguingly, Florida is also looking to shop Dontrelle Willis. Would Florida accept a package of Wood, Saunders/Santana, Figgins, and maybe one more mid-level prospect (not Adenhart) for Cabrera and Willis? I suspect they'd think about it. Should the Angels?

Let's break this down:

- Is Miguel Cabrera a step up from Brandon Wood? Almost certainly.

- With Reggie Willits around to caddy Gary Matthews Jr and Garret Anderson, with the payroll flexibility to bring Juan Rivera back to support the corners, and with Maicer Izturis providing roughly league-average production as a infield backup, is Chone Figgins expendable? I like the guy, and he's coming off a big year, but I can't help but answer "yes".

- Is giving up one of Saunders and Santana and getting Willits an upgrade or downgrade, and if it's the latter, is it enough to negate the improvement made by adding Cabrera to the lineup?

By BB-Ref's linear weights figures, Cabrera has been +46.3, +56.6, and +45.7 runs above average, offensively, in each of the last three years; he's a good bet to be +50 or so in the next couple of years. Dock 10 runs for his D, he's still a +40 player, roughly 4 wins above average. Chone Figgins, whom Cabrera would be replacing in the lineup, over the past three years has been +1.8, -13.4, and +13.4 (these figures include basestealing, but not other baserunning). Even with his defense, I'd guess that Figgins in 2008 projects to be roughly average, maybe just a bit above.

So we're looking at maybe a 35-40-run difference between Cabrera and Figgins.

It is obvious that the difference, in the short term, between Saunders/Santana and Willits will be far less than 40 runs. Let's look at their totals the past four years, which of course for the Halos is only a couple of years (PR is Pitching Runs, or Earned Runs Prevented Above Average):
Pitcher    BF   K/BF   BB/BF   HR/BF   H/BF   ERA+   PR   PR/IP
Willis 3725 .165 .077 .022 .241 113 +28 +.032
Saunders 816 .152 .082 .025 .257 97 - 3 -.016
Santana 2104 .174 .083 .030 .235 92 -20 -.041
As you can see, Willis has been better over the past few seasons than the two Angel youths. However, somewhat like Santana, he's coming off a bad season where he pitched well below-average.

I'll spare you the details, but looking at Willis' batted-ball stats, we can see that he allowed home runs more frequently last year on flyballs than at most other points in his career, which could have been a big part of his struggles. Whether or not that's a fluky thing or a sign of a change in his skill level, I don't know. If he's healthy, I have trouble believing that he just forgot how to pitch or something.

My preference would be to only give up Wood and Figgins -- that does open a shortstop hole in 2009, but we don't know that Wood would fill it, anyway, though if we still have him in 2008 I'd love for him to return to that position at AAA -- for Cabrera. I think there's a good chance that both of Saunders and Santana will be at least as productive (and cheaper) than Willis in the next few years (based on their component stats and relative ages), so I don't know that I'd like to exchange one of them. But I can see talks moving in that direction, and, despite the money, Willis is probably a solid bet to shore up the bottom of the rotation.

As for the question of Cabrera vis-a-vis A-Rod, the question is really "What are we more willing to part with -- players or money?" I don't know what Arte's answer to this would be. From a roster construction standpoint, the ideal would be to sign A-Rod and hold on to all our chips; Wood can be bred for short, Saunders and Santana can develop, and we still have Figgins to play or be traded for a pitcher if we don't trust in the tykes.

Even re-signing Cabrera and/or Willis in future years would likely cost less (combined) than A-Rod would -- though of course that's a few years down the road -- so that's obviously a more cost-effective solution in terms of dollars (though adding a shortstop to the payroll -- or re-signing Orlando Cabrera -- in lieu of the bargain Wood is another financial cost to consider in that scenario).

I do think these are the best two alternatives of which we're aware; there is occasional talk of Miguel Tejada, but Tejada's on the wrong side of 30 and is not a hitter of the caliber of either Rodriguez or Miggy, and may well demand a package of similar value (to the Cabrera package) in exchange.

So, money or players? I don't know.

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Comments:
I'm not getting it. You are implying that Florida would think about a wood, Figgins, Santana trade for Cabrera. Then to top it off it would only take a mid-level prospect to improve it enough to get Willis? Id love to see this as an Angel fan but no effin way would they think about a move that stupid. Wood is the only reasonable addition to that offer on our side which is why they want Kendrick in addition to Wood. Willis wont go the same year Cabrera does. We should go after ARod and hope to god that Kendrick, Wood and (name prospect) dont go to Florida
 
You think Wood, Saunders or Santana and Figgins is a lot for a proven young IMPACT hitter like mcab??? I do that deal in an instant. The Marlins I think will Start with Weaver/Adenhart or Kendrick, Wood,Napoli or Mathis. Now thats when it get tough with Kendrich in the mix. But I do the deal anyway, because a hitter like mcab doesn't come around to offen. The weight issues can and will be dealt with I think by the Angels.
 
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