SSTN Weekly Mailbag: Finding A Trade Fit For CJ Abrams And A Return For Didi!
By Andy Singer
Another week, another disappointing round of labor negotiations. Most of you know that I’m firmly in the players’ camp, as MLB has increasingly taken a larger cut of the revenue pie in the last 10 years and continually proves that it is a poor steward for the game of baseball. While some people cast the labor strife as billionaires versus millionaires, I don’t see it that way. Remember, it’s the owners that locked out the players. The core of player demands in this negotiation from an economic perspective represent a relative pinprick to most owners’ bottom-lines. The same owners, by the way, who have shown over and over in the last decade and change that they don’t care about their paying customers at the ballpark. How often are the seats in front of “the moat” behind home plate at Yankee Stadium empty? Does it matter to the Yankees’ ownership group? No, because they’re raking in the dollars from corporate contracts for those seats, never mind that the seats are only used a handful of times during the year. The price for a family of four to get cheap tickets, either park in the garage or take a train/subway, eat a hot dog, and get a drink at Yankee Stadium is at least $200 even for the savvy, frugal shopper, effectively pricing a large segment of people out of the game. The players are looking for equity from their employers, people who can easily afford it, and don’t have the interests of the game in mind at all. I didn’t expect the owners to go down without a fight, and don’t be surprised if they’re willing to take the game we love with them. I miss baseball, but I’m glad the Players Association is finally negotiating with a little backbone, given that their demands are far from exorbitant relative to the numbers we’re talking about.
As always, thanks for the great questions, and keep them coming to SSTNReadermail@gmail.com. In this week’s SSTN Mailbag, we’ll evaluate some ideas for prying CJ Abrams from the Padres and discuss a possible return for Sir Didi! Let’s get at it:
Fuster asks: Meanwhile I’m still thinking about getting CJ Abrams from the Padres
and lately I’m wondering if the Pods would be more willing to move the kid if they could package him with Hosmer and get an albatross contract off their books.
is it possible that the Yankees would take Eric in order to get CJ?
and if so, could a package of Gallo, Gil and Green get them Abrams, Hosmer and Gore or is that overly complex and somewhat silly?
Fuster loves CJ Abrams, and for good reason. The last time we discussed Abrams here at the SSTN Mailbag, I hedged my bet and said that we really needed to table any discussions about Abrams until we knew that he was fully healthy. For those uninitiated, CJ Abrams got off to a torrid start at AA this season at the plate, hitting .296/.363/.420 before a scary collision at 2B ended Abrams’ season with a broken tibia and sprained MCL. Abrams is a a guy who depends on his legs for value, with genuine top-of-the-scale speed on the 20-80 scouting scale that also manifests itself in plus range at SS. Leg injuries can also wreak havoc on hitting and throwing mechanics, so recovery from an injury of this magnitude is no small thing.
Since we last spoke, Abrams was seen at team instructs in the fall running, hitting, and throwing. The upshot: Abrams is healthy and appears to have all of his speed and mechanics intact following recovery. He looked good enough at instructs that most publicly available scouting services ranked CJ Abrams inside of the top-10 prospects in all of baseball, with Fangraphs ranking Abrams #3. Of some concern is the fact that Abrams had to leave instructs early with a bruised shoulder, but all indications are that he’ll come to Spring Training healthy. If there’s a knock on Abrams, it’s that he really doesn’t have much power, but he’s shown great feel to hit, and presently projects to stroke his fair share of doubles even if he doesn’t add further muscle.
Abrams can absolutely stick at SS, as his defense is well above-average with a quick release that helps his plus arm play up even further. The problem is that the Padres already have Fernando Tatis Jr. at SS, making it likely that one of them will have to move to CF. All indications are that the guy to do it right now would be Abrams, and his toolset lends itself well to CF, though I wouldn’t call a transition from the infield dirt to the outfield a sure-thing. This is going to be the tough part for a Padres team firmly ready to compete now: do they make a blockbuster trade involving Abrams to make the current team better, or do they hold him and hope they can find a way to manipulate the lineup to fit both Tatis Jr. and Abrams?
Should the Padres choose the former path, everyone in baseball should give AJ Preller a call. A trade could very easily take multiple paths. On the one hand, the Padres could choose to trade Abrams straight up for pieces, in which case the price will be significant (and I’m not sure the Yankees have enough pieces that fit the Padres needs who also have lots of trade value). On the other hand, the Padres have a bad contract they could shed to help lower the cost for an acquiring team: Eric Hosmer.
Eric Hosmer’s Free Agent deal was bad before the ink even dried. I have to give credit to the Padres for their willingness to spend money to improve the team even as the teams around them hesitate to do the same, but Hosmer was always a bad bet on a huge contract. Hosmer has been an average hitter or slightly less at first base since signing with the Padres in 2018, with the exception of a well above-average offensive power surge in 2020 that appears to be an aberration. Despite that, Hosmer is still on the books through 2025 (he has a player option following the 2022 season, but he’d be nuts to exercise his right to Free Agency), and it will be a significant nut against the luxury tax threshold, whatever that looks like eventually. Since I’ve been overwhelmingly negative, here are the positives: Hosmer makes a lot of hard contact, he is left handed, some metrics credit him with solid defense at 1B, and he really doesn’t strike out much. Besides the contract though, Hosmer is a groundball hitter that can’t consistently capitalize on hitting the ball hard, other metrics credit him with very poor defense (which is closer to what my eye sees), and he’s firmly in the decline phase of his career. In order for the Yanks to take back Hosmer, the Yanks would have to be getting the deal of the century from the Padres. A player like Abrams is tempting, but unless the Padres kicked in some money to offset the luxury tax ramifications, Hosmer’s inclusion is close to a non-starter for me.
In a vacuum though, Fuster’s trade framework makes a fair amount of sense from a value perspective. Baseball Trade Values says the Padres are getting a slight win here, but I think they’re undervaluing Gore, who looks to have made some significant mechanical overhauls and is closer to the pitcher he was coming into 2019:
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The Padres get a left-handed bopper in the outfield, a versatile pitcher who can be used either as a bullpen bulk guy, a high-leverage reliever, or a starter, and a top-flight relief pitcher. That would certainly help them match-up against the Dodgers in 2022. The Yankees get a high-end SS/CF, a pitcher who is more likely to stick as a starter (but comes with very real risk), and take on Hosmer and hope that the fact that he’s left-handed helps him take advantage of the short porch in RF at Yankee Stadium.
While this trade works on paper for both sides, I have a hard time seeing the Padres attach prospects with Gore’s or Abrams’ value to get rid of Hosmer’s contract. The devil is in the details, and I think this would be a tough framework to get either side to agree to.
Nolan proposes the following trade: Aaron Hicks to the Philadelphia Phillies for Didi Gregarious.
Interesting! Some of you may know that Didi Gregorius was my favorite player from the post-Jeter era through the end of his time with the Yanks. I loved his personality, rocket arm from SS, the grace with which he took up the position out of Jeter’s shadow, and the surprising pop he provided. In short, Didi was great as a Yankee.
Unfortunately, time has not been kind to Sir Didi. Other than an excellent offensive performance in the shortened 2020 season, Gregorius has been well below-average both offensively and defensively, displaying little of the player we fell in love with in NY, though at 32, it is certainly possible that he has one or two more good seasons left in him. He also still has some pop in his bat and strikes out at a below-average rate, something good for the current offense. While the bottom may fall out completely, there is definitely some logic to pursuing Didi.
Didi Gregorius would add significantly to the luxury tax bill in 2022, roughly $14 million, so acquiring him might necessarily mean offsetting that salary increase with someone like Aaron Hicks. On the surface, both teams get something they need: the Yanks get a stop-gap SS who is familiar with both the organization and the bright lights of the New York media, while the Phillies get a guy who can play CF and gets on base, something that roster desperately needs in front of Bryce Harper.
I’ve been chewing on this trade for a few days, and I was ready to shoot it down, but the more I think about it, the more I like it. I have always been an Aaron Hicks fan, and do believe in a bounce-back of some kind in 2022, but I also really like the idea of having Didi Gregorius around as the transition to the SS of the future. Due to the length of Hicks’ deal, the Yanks would likely have to kick in a mid-level prospect to get a deal like this done, and the team would still have to go out and find someone to play CF (no small task), but the essentials are there.
I’m not sure either team would do this deal in real life, as both would need to supplement SS and CF from outside the organization in order to make this deal a reality, but I talk myself into it the more I think about it.