Wednesday, April 07, 2004

The Diaz trade 

Einar Diaz was traded over the weekend, and the deal has been commented on by the Transaction Oracle and Jamey Newberg (along with Chris Kahrl in the Transaction Analysis, although his comments were mainly a snarky re-hash of how stupid John Hart was for trading Einar Diaz in the first place).

I didn't comment on the deal this weekend, because I didn't really know what to say about it. And I still don't, really. I am amazed that they were able to get anything for Diaz at all, but then, they kicked in Justin Echols as part of the deal, so that has to be taken into account. My initial reaction was that they would have been better off just releasing Diaz, but after looking a little more closely, I don't think that's the case any more...Josh McKinley and Chris Young are decent prospects, worth more combined than Echols alone.

The depressing part of this deal, of course, is that it dredges up the original Einar Diaz trade, where the Rangers gave away a pretty nice hitting prospect in Travis Hafner to get Diaz in the first place. Diaz was what he's always been in 2003, a good defensive catcher who doesn't hit much, and it seems like we could have found someone like that on the waiver wire or as a NRI without giving up Hafner...hell, we brought in two of those guys this spring, in Ken Huckaby and Rod Barajas.

At the end of the day, the net effect of the two Einar Diaz trades ends up being Aaron Myette, Travis Hafner, and Justin Echols for Ryan Drese, Josh McKinley, Chris Young, and one season's worth of Einar Diaz at $3.5 million. Myette is gone from Cleveland, and while he is floating around hoping that the light eventually comes on and he's able to channel his electric stuff well enough to become a good setup man, for all intents and purposes, he's a non-factor at this point.

Ryan Drese is still hanging around in AAA, with the Rangers still holding out hope that he can be an adequate fifth starter or middle reliever. He's got more value than Myette, in the sense that he had an option left and thus is still here, but barring a major turnaround, his value is pretty minimal.

That leaves the two pitchers and the two positional players. Young is older than Echols, and is more of a project, even though he pitched at a higher level than Echols last year. He's a giant guy who has frustrated pitching coaches because he hasn't been able to generate the velocity they believe he should generate with his frame. Echols is one of Melvin's coterie of high school pitchers, who has put up a fireballer's peripherals in the minors (lots of strikeouts, lots of walks, not many hits) despite having average velocity. With Echols, as with a lot of young pitchers, his ability to succeed depends upon his ability to cut down on his walks, although his lack of a dominating fastball makes his chances of success less likely than others with his profile as he advances.

Young and Echols are both middling prospects, and neither is real likely to make an impact. As Jamey pointed out, the most interesting question (which we can't really answer at this point) is which team pushed to include these two pitchers in the deal.

As for McKinley versus Hafner...well, the Rangers spent $1.5 million to get Brad Fullmer, who is basically an older version of Travis Hafner, this season. That was a cheap, reasonable deal, and I praised the Rangers for making it, although obviously, if they had never made the original bad Diaz trade, it wouldn't have been necessary.

But that highlights the thinking behind making Hafner available...why hold onto a guy who projects to be a pretty good DH when you can sign one any offseason on the cheap? And that does make a certain amount of sense...the mistake Hart made, however, as he made repeatedly in Cleveland, is not getting value for a young player who is expendable. The problem isn't with trading Hafner...it is with trading Hafner and getting little of value in return.

McKinley is being converted to catcher, and will apparently be the starting catcher for AA Frisco this year. If he takes to the position, he'll probably hit well enough to be a pretty decent major league starter. If not, he's a future utilityman, at best. Given that he's a guy that Fuson apparently has targeted for a while, since he was part of the aborted Juan Gonzalez trade last summer, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for a while, in light of Fuson's track record.

Again, though, what is most frustrating about this move is that it amounts to making the best of a bad situation that was self-inflicted. And that seems to be what most of the Rangers' deals lately have involved, be it the Darren Oliver trade for Carl Everett, the Esteban Yan trade, the Andy Pratt-Ben Kozlowski trade, and, in particular, the ridiculous Alex Rodriguez trade.

After a while, as a fan, it gets tiresome praising the Rangers for doing a pretty good job cleaning up a mess that they created in the first place.

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