Grand Cards: Apocalypse Now: The Haul

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Apocalypse Now: The Haul

Let's dive right in.

When looking at three team trades, I like to think of things as happening in sequence, and not simultaneously. In so doing, this trade emerged:

For Curtis Granderson:
  • CF Austin Jackson

  • LHP Phil Coke

  • RHP Ian Kennedy

For Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy:
  • RHP Max Scherzer

  • LHP Daniel Schlereth

That's the haul. At the end of the day the Tigers end up with Jackson, Coke, Scherzer and Schlereth. Let's take a look at these players one at a time.

Max Scherzer
Scherzer is the gem in the trade. The solid (6-3, 213) 2006 first round pick (11th Overall) burst onto the scene in 2008 with a scintillating big league debutin which he went four perfect innings and struck out seven. With that he was given the informal "untouchable" tag by the Diamondbacks, who had a power-armed star in the making. How'd that work out for them? Not bad. Here's 2009:

9-11 4.12 ERA, 111 ERA+, 1.344 WHIP, 170.1 IP, 174 SO, 2.76 K/BB Ratio

That's the makings of a nice young pitcher, in my opinion. In fact, it looks much better than Justin Verlander's age 25 season in which he was worse in every statistical category, although you can take that with a grain of salt, as Verlander was terrible in 2008 and had a stronger track record to predict a rebound. Whatever you think, Scherzer is a 25 year old power arm, that has been respectable in his first two seasons in the major leagues and is under team control for five more years. In my opinion Scherzer is an upgrade over Edwin Jackson and can be a long-term piece of a great Verlander/Scherzer/Porcello rotation.

How did the Tigers end up with him? Apparently, the Diamondbacks thought that he projects as a reliever, with faulty mechanics and a herky-jerky motion dooming him for an injury prone career. I'm hoping that's not the case, for obvious reasons, but even two good years out of Scherzer is an upgrade over the same from Edwin Jackson, for cost considerations alone.

Disconcerting is the revelation that the D-backs may have proposed Scherzer for Jackson straight up (h/t Mack Avenue Tigers)

Daniel Schlereth
Dude is marrying a girl from Michigan with a family full of Tigers fans. That's good enough for me.

Schlereth was a teammate of Ryan Perry at Arizona and was actually drafted by the D-backs after the Tigers drafted Perry in the first round of the 2008 draft. He was on the Tigers' short list at the time, so you know that they're familiar with him. The hard throwing lefty is reliever all the way but could be an impact arm in the Tigers bullpen. Some projected him as the future D-backs closer, and he was pegged as the #3 prospect in their system going into last season (h/t Detroit Tigers Weblog).

This is a good addition to the bullpen--6 years of team control, excellent arm, left handed. The addition of Schlereth makes the more-expensive Bobby Seay expendable, with Fu-Te Ni holding down the other lefty spot in the pen. Great pitching prospect addition who can make an immediate impact and can be the core of an fireballing young bullpen corps in Detroit for years to come.

Phil Coke
He's not Phil Hughes. It'd be nice, but he's not. If sample sizes weren't an issue I'd point to his ERA+ of 724 (!!!) in 2008, but alas, we're limited by the conventions of statistical measure. I'm not so sure about Coke. The lefty has been a serviceable reliever out of the bullpen for the Yankees, but at age 27 the 26th round draft pick from 2002 doesn't seem to have a very high ceiling. This looks like the Tigers trying to fill some pieces more than anything, which would make sense, if they didn't already have a lefty reliever in this trade, two others in their current bullpen and a free-agent signed the day before.

Unless...he can start, which is something that he did with reasonable success throughout his minor league career. If Coke can become a reliable left handed starter, then this is a whole different ball game, and the Tigers have given every indication that they'd give him the chance to compete for that spot. At only 27 and 5 years of team control left, he could be your Nate Robertson circa 2006 without the price tag.

Austin Jackson
The other reason this whole thing went down. The Tigers felt comfortable dealing Granderson as long as they got a major-league ready position player in return. Jackson is that guy. Last summer the NY Times profiled him as "a star under construction." He was the Yankees' #1 overall prospect in 2009 and is considered by many to be the real deal. On top of all of that, he has the moral character, maturity and great personality that we've come to expect from our Center Fielders.

But man, I'm not sold. Here's the good stuff: Jackson is 22 and is under team control for 6 more years and he is way cheaper than Granderson, who was already cheap. But does anyone else see that 800 lb. gorilla? No, just me?

Here are Jackson's stats in the Minors. Here are Granderson's. Maybe I'm nuts, but Granderson's stats were so superior to Jacksons at every level that it is kind of ridiculous.

Jackson hit .300 in the minors with no power and only ok speed on the basepaths. I had said before that in a best case scenario, Jackson develops into Curtis Granderson and the Tigers have him for 6 years. I'm actually not sure that's possible. I think the best case scenario is that he develops into Chet Lemon, which hey, great. Chet Lemon was an excellent player in his day and I'd be happy to have his equivalent on my team for a decade or what have you. But you don't build a team around Chet Lemon, you add him to the mix to fill in the holes. I'm very, very afraid that Jackson's ceiling isn't nearly as high as people think.

This is just the overview of the players in the trade--I'm not getting into the implications for the franchise until the next post, and I have a feeling that this deal will make more sense, but I do have some preliminary thoughts.

The more I think about it, the more I dislike this trade. I'm going to assume that Scherzer for Jackson was not offered straight-up, because if it was, then this would be a horrendous trade. Even so, I'm just reaching for a reason that the Tigers needed to include the Yankees in this at all.

You want Scherzer? Fine--here's Edwin Jackson and another mid-level pitcher. You can keep Schlereth. I just don't think that giving up Ian Kennedy was painful for the Yankees or particularly helpful to the D-backs. Remove that from the mix the Yankees portion makes no sense.

As for Austin Jackson. I like him and I hope that he turns out to be good, but I don't think that people are recognizing how talented and productive Curtis Granderson was. At least Joe Posnanski has his head on straight. From a talent standpoint, I think the Tigers lose. Granderson will spend the next three years as one of the three best center fielders in the American League. He may hit 40 Home Runs with the Yankee Stadium short porch. Simply by virtue of being a Yankee he will be a perennial All-Star and win 2-3 Gold Gloves. Meanwhile, the Tigers will take a prospect that was less regarded and less talented than Cameron Maybin and hope that he turns into someone who is way better than Cameron Maybin.

I'm not sold. And this doesn't even touch on the fact that the fanbase is furious, the face of the franchise is gone and merchandise sales will be down. Nope, this just tells me that the Tigers won't be as good without Granderson on it than they would be with him.

Tomorrow, we'll look at how this fits into the overall franchise master plan to try and make some sense of why this trade needed to go down.