December 31, 2007

Trading for a center fielder

Hello all!

Hope you all have had a great holiday season and hopefully you'll all have a fantastic end to '07 and a great beginning to '08. Anyways, there isn't really any new news about anything Twins related, except that we've learned what the new add campaign for the twins will be 'Just who are these guys?' The old add campaign of "Get To Know 'Em" was created to get fans familiarized with some of the new players that had gone through the Twins' system. That is not necessarily the case with this one as most of the new players are from other organizations acquired either via trade or free agency. That list includes Delmon Young, Brendan Harris and Jason Pridie who were all acquired in the trade with the Tampa Bay Rays back in November. It also includes two former Houston Astros infielders Mike Lamb and Adam Everett who were both signed as free agents in December. That list may also include a few new players if the Twins decide to trade their start southpaw pitcher Johan Santana.

So, here we are. Still with Johan Santana in hand and still with an uncertainty of what will happen in that saga. This is what Bill Smith had to say on Friday:
"We have one big issue to deal with," Smith said. "Maybe if we get that taken care of, we'll answer the other questions."
The "big issue" is obviously the fate of Johan Santana. The other questions being the pitching rotation and center field.

It's no surprise that even if we keep Johan Santana, the Twins still need to address the center field position. The team currently has two options (in my mind) to fill the position. They could put the newly acquired Jason Pridie in the spotlight and hope that he has a great season. They could also go with the former first-round pick Denard Span, who was at one point thought to be the heir apparent to Torii Hunter, but many have lost hope in him. I personally have not and I think he'd be a good fit for that position. However, I do think he'd be better suited for another portion of a season in AAA before he takes over. But since the Twins seem to be looking for a center fielder of the future in any future trade, here are a few of the players that the Twins have been linked to via trade:

Jacoby Ellsbury, 24, Boston Red Sox

Ellsbury's name has been thrown around the trade rumors a lot. He's definitely a player the Twins are very high on, and rightfully so, he's a good, young outfielder. He does not posses much power, but he's an ideal leadoff hitter and he also brings great defense at a premium position. His base stealing skills would come in big handy as the Twins no longer have two of their '07 steals leaders in Torii Hunter and Jason Bartlett. The rest of this package is the reason why the Twins have not pulled off a deal involving him. The Twins want the Red Sox to include pitcher Jon Lester along with Ellsbury in the same deal, however the Red Sox have been reluctant to do so, which raises the question; Are they serious about trading for Johan Santana, or are they just in it to drive up the price for the Yankees? He is a great player, however he reminds me a lot of former Red Sox hero Johnny Damon who also was a good leadoff hitter with great speed and limited power. He also reminds me of Kenny Lofton, which would also not be bad. "The Royal Rooters" has a great read on what Jacoby Ellsbury, definitely check it out.
Career Potential: B+
Chances of reaching potential: Very Good
Player comparison: Johnny Damon or Kenny Lofton

Melky Cabrera, 23, New York Yankees

The Twins have been connected with the Yankees pretty much since day 1 of this entire thing and Cabrera's name has come up in almost every report. He doesn't project to be the great player these other guys project to be, but he is still a good option if the rest of the package is there. The Twins are exploring a trade revolved around Phil Hughes and Cabrera with another player or two. The Twins like Cabrera because he's already had two full seasons in the majors and is still only 23 years old. He didn't make the "jump" many were hoping he'd make in '07, as his offensive stats were very similar to his '06 stats, however he definitely made a big leap on defense in '07 and showed the league that he has one of the strongest arms in the majors. If the Twins were to acquire him, they'd have probably the best outfield in terms of arm strength and accuracy. The Twins would probably also lead the league in outfield assists. It'd give the Twins a great marketing slogan to have to help promote their new players, what do you think would be a good slogan for three younger outfielders with great arms? Cabrera's stats are far from spectacular, however he's still a serviceable outfielder who still has potential to grow into a fairly good everyday player. Albeit, he'll probably never be great, which would definitely put him at the bottom of this list in terms of potential. Here's a 'gem' from former Mets GM and current ESPN Baseball analyst, Steve Phillips:
"I like Melky Cabrera for what he is. I think he's a good fourth outfielder, a very good fifth outfielder. I don't see him as an everyday player. Now on the Yankees he can be, because with their offense you can kind of work around him a little bit, but I don't see him as an everyday player on most other teams. He's a role player...Yeah, Melky Cabrera to me is not a reason to not go to the playoffs...I would have explored every possibility of finding a defensive guy to play center field if Melky Cabrera was the sticking point. To me, I don't let Melky Cabrera keep me out of the playoffs if I can bring Eric Gagne in."
Sorry Steve, but Melky Cabrera is not a "good fourth outfielder" or "a very good fifth outfielder." And why would a team need to find a "defensive guy to play center field if Melky Cabrera was the sticking point"? That makes no sense as he' lead all center fielders with 14 outfield assists and was 6th in zone rating. (For those who qualified) His fielding percentage was 12th in the league which was above some very good defensive players such as Carlos Beltran, Mike Cameron, Juan Pierre and Gary Mathews Jr. Good argument, Steve.
Career Potential: C+
Chances of reaching potential: Good
Player comparison: Bernie Williams with a little less power

Adam Jones, 22, Seattle Mariners

Jones is one of my favorite young players in baseball. Reason being is that he reminds me a bit of former Twin Torii Hunter. His body type and aggressiveness are definitely big comparisons. He probably projects to be a better contact hitter than Hunter, but I can see Jones have great defense as Hunter once did and his power potential is right around 30, which is also close to Hunter's. Jones' name has probably come up the least out of the guys on this list, but I think he definitely possesses great potential to be a middle-of-the-lineup batter and although his defense is probably closer to average than great, right now, but he has good enough speed and his instincts are good enough to put him as a potential gold glover. I like Jones a lot, however I think acquiring him would probably be less likely than acquiring any other player on this list, just because the Mariners haven't been mentioned as much as the others.
Career Potential: A-
Chances of reaching potential: Very Good
Player comparison: Torii Hunter

Carlos Gomez, 22, New York Mets

Gomez might have the most potential on this list of players, but he also is the most "raw" player and has very little experience compared to the others as well. He has a great body frame of 6 feet, 4 inches and 195 lbs. He also is considered one of the fastest players in baseball, and has been said to have more speed than teammate Jose Reyes. The Mets are starting to emerge as a possible favorite to land Santana, the question is "what will they give up for him?" According to Jayson Stark, the Twins proposed an offer of outfielders Carlos Gomez and Fernando Marinez as well as pitchers Kevin Mulvey, Mike Pelfrey, and Phil Humber. The Mets reportedly countered with Gomez, two of the pitchers mentioned, and another unnamed prospect. In my opinion, asking for all five of those players is very unreasonable on the Twins behalf and I don't think it'll ever happen. Now, if the unnamed prospect in the counter offer by the Mets happened to be Martinez (which I admit, is doubtful) then I think the Twins would be foolish to not make that trade. But I think a more realistic trade that would be pretty fair for both teams would be outfielders Gomez and Brahiam Maldando along with pitchers Pelfrey, Deolis Guerra, and Mulvey. The Twins are very unlikely to get Martinez as he's one of the highest rated outfield prospects in baseball as well as Carlos Gomez, especially after the team also just traded Lastings Milledge who was also one of their young outfielders that they were going to rely on in the future.
Career Potential: A
Chances of reaching potential: Medium
Player comparison: Carlos Beltran

If you're interested in reading more on some of the Mets prospects being talked about in the trade talks, head on over to SethSpeaks and he lets you "Get To Know 'Em" Mets-style.