SSTN Mailbag: Trade Proposals
I tend not to pay very much attention to All-Star festivities. In baseball, I've paid even less attention since MLB changed the Home Run Derby format, which was the only event about which I had even marginal interest. I tuned in to watch the Derby this year, immediately noticed the impact the juiced ball was having on home run distance (seriously, how far would Stanton or Judge hit a ball with the juiced core that was used at this year's Home Run Derby?!?), and became almost immediately bored by the timed format and constant time outs. The new format is even more taxing for hitters than the old, asking them to swing at full effort in a short span of time, so now even fewer real stars want to participate, so I can't honestly say I was even that interested in the lineup. Worst of all, the real reason I tuned in was to ensure that I didn't miss the start of The Captain, but the Home Run Derby ran so far overtime that I dozed off 20 minutes into a program that should have been the star of ESPN's programming. The Home Run Derby needs some real changes to make it relevant to players and fans again. On the bright side, I did finally catch all of Episodes 1 and 2 of The Captain...if you haven't watched yet, you should - it's really well done, even if we have to take Jeter's perspective with a grain of salt. If you're in your mid-30s like me, and grew up with Jeter's dynasty teams, The Captain is simply mesmerizing.
As always, thanks for the great questions and keep them coming to SSTNReadermail@gmail.com. In this week's SSTN Mailbag, we'll talk about a couple of trade proposals, one that involves getting something of value for Joey Gallo, and another that helps our outfield depth. Let's get at it:
Fuster asks: Suppose they pay the remainder of Gallo's salary and throw in Oswaldo Cabrera and a Luis Gil to be named later?
can the Pods be convinced to let go of CJ Abrams, who has so far failed to unseat Kim as the back-up at shortstop?
Cabrera and Gil's value have dropped like lead weights in water since the start of the 2022 season, I'd argue in a manner that is even more detrimental to value than Joey Gallo. We all know what Gallo's story is at this point, so I won't bore you by rehashing it. Despite his warts, I still think multiple teams would have interest in Gallo for the rest of the season as a trial prior to a long-term signing in the offseason. With that in mind, let's look at the other guys Fuster mentions above.
Gil was wild before Tommy John Surgery, with control and secondary stuff chief among his obstacles to becoming a mainstay in the Majors. Now facing a long recovery from a serious procedure that comes with many more risks than most casual observers acknowledge, Gil has almost no shot of bringing back a legitimate impact piece.
Oswaldo Cabrera, who I still really like long-term, was struggling in his first extended chance at AAA, and just as it seemed like he might be turning a corner, he got hurt. Reports are that he should be back soon, but I think many scouts are concerned enough about his hit tool, tight hips, and ultimate positional fit that without a stronger body of work at AAA, Cabrera is likely among the guys that should be retained at least through part of next season.
CJ Abrams has certainly struggled in his first taste of big league action, about that there is little question. While you can squint and see that maybe he's had a little bit of bad batted ball luck as evidenced by a low BABIP relative to his speed, I think Abrams definitely needs more seasoning. None of this should be surprising, and I don't think the Padres are concerned about Abrams' long-term future, knowing that they were extremely aggressive in promoting him to cover for Tatis Jr.'s absence in the first half of the season. Just how aggressive was Abrams' promotion? For a hitter drafted out of high school as an 18-year old, how many minor league plate appearances would you expect prior to a big league promotion, even one as advanced as Abrams? Can we call it +/- 1500-2000 plate appearances, taking into account the lost minor league season in 2020? I would argue that even that is relatively aggressive, but I could see it. For reference, Anthony Volpe is at 1011 career minor league plate appearances as of today, and even as aggressively as he's moved, I'd expect that he'll have +/- 1400-1500 plate appearances prior to his first cup of coffee at the Majors.
Ready for where Abrams is at right now? 499 minor league plate appearances!!!! To say his promotion was aggressive is like saying Formula One cars are a little faster than a street car; that massively undersells just how big a jump the Padres asked Abrams to make. I would go so far as to argue that the aggressive promotion was unfair to Abrams. Nothing that was observed in Abrams' first go-round in the Majors should have changed talent evaluators' projections regarding Abrams' future value. That is to say, I don't think anyone is going to be able to pry Abrams away from the Padres right now without forking over a fair amount of value.
Even if the Yankees covered 100% of Gallo's salary, Gallo, Cabrera, and a Gil-like piece are shy of what it will take to get Abrams. I love the guy, and think he'll be a very valuable SS/2B/CF some year soon, but it's going to have to hurt a lot more than this to get Abrams.
I have another idea for Gallo that I'll share next week that follows along the lines Fuster is getting at, but it involves another West Coast team and doesn't involve the Yankees acquiring a prospect...
Lance opines: Yankees should trade for Rafael Ortega.
I was shocked to find out that any Yankee diehards that read SSTN actually know who Rafael Ortega is - sometimes, I even underestimate our own fans, a stupid move on my part. For those unaware, Rafael Ortega is a longtime journeyman outfielder who can capably play all 3 outfield positions, but had never really found a full-time Major League role until the last year and a half with the Cubbies. At age 30, with his first real significant MLB playing time since 2018, Ortega produced at a surprising clip for the Cubs in 2021, batting .291/.360/.463, with 11 homers, 120 OPS+/128 Rbat+ (I'll explain in a future post...think of it like OPS+), and playable strikeout and walk rates. Ortega also bats from the left side and uses the whole field...and he's cheap. This sounds like a win-win, right?
Well...not quite. Ortega has come back down to Earth in 2022, with a 96 OPS+ (and just 4 homers), poor defensive metrics, and diminished speed. Ortega struggled in April, followed it up with a May and June that was in-line offensively with his 2022 season, but he's truly cratered in July, most recently mired in an 0-22 slide. His underlying metrics both this season and last season show that last season's results were likely fluky, as he doesn't hit the ball particularly hard consistently, his raw power is fringe average based on max exit velocity, his defensive metrics don't look good over the last two seasons, and just doesn't do enough damage to pitches thrown in the happy zone according to Statcast.
However, that doesn't mean that Ortega shouldn't be of some interest as a backup plan. His underlying plate discipline and contact numbers are excellent, bordering on elite, he's left-handed, can probably play decent defense if dedicated to a corner outfield spot, and his spray chart indicates that some of his doubles and fly balls to right field would have been homers at Yankee Stadium. I wouldn't give up anything significant to get Ortega, but I think he'd be an interesting 4th/5th outfielder if the Yankees can't acquire something more significant at the deadline and are able to move Gallo.