Today, if you haven't heard, the A's traded 3B Jack Hannahan to the Mariners for minor league RHP Justin Souza.
Before we look at the trade itself, let's consider the players involved.
Hannahan is an unbelievable defender, possibly the top 3B gloveman in the game. He can handle second and short as well.
An adequate hitter in the minors, Hannahan was pigeonholed as a Quad-A guy by the Tigers. I always thought he and Casey McGehee, a similarly talented defensive 3B with a similarly average Triple-A bat, would be nifty non-star third basemen in the majors.
Several years later, the verdict is in.
I was right about McGehee; I was wrong about Hannahan.
The A's traded for Hannahan in late 2007, and he initially proved me right, hitting .278/.369/.424. He looked very similar to Eric Chavez circa 2006: an .800 OPS third baseman with outstanding defense.
He hasn't hit since.
After a .218/.305/.342 as the A's everyday third baseman last season, and was even worse this year, hitting .192/.263/.329 in Triple-A and .193/.278/.303 with Oakland.
While Hannahan has average-plus plate discipline, he's well-below-average at making contact on his swings both inside and outside the zone. He's come up empty on 22.8 percent of swings over his career, well above the 19.1 percent MLB average in that period.
Hannahan has enough power to rope some doubles and occasionally clear the fences, but he's no Russell Branyan: his power isn't good enough to overcome his contact deficiencies.
In reality, Hannahan is something like a .225/.320/.350 hitter, and while that's okay enough for reserve duty given his fielding, he really isn't more than a replacement-level guy at age 29.
As for Souza, here's my profile on him in June 29th's "Prospects & Projects: Seattle Mariners:"
"Justin Souza is a 23-year-old Double-A swingman.
Well, he’s got a 3.31 ERA and sparkling 51/16 K/BB ratio in 65.3 innings.
Souza won’t be a star, but he’s pitched well in both starting and relief roles. A short righty, Souza can get his heater up to 94, and it has solid late tail. He throws a high-70s slider with a lot of break to back up the fastball.
Souza has excellent command, and his two-pitch mix could allow him to succeed as a swingman in the majors. He may have to move back to relief (his original role) full-time to get a big league look. Souza’s changeup isn’t very good because he didn’t throw it much in the bullpen.
Souza could have a nice major league career, but plenty of 23-year-olds put up nice Double-A lines and wind up topping out in Triple-A. Time will tell if he’ll be a major league swingman, major league reliever, or just a Triple-A guy."
Now that the strengths and weaknesses of both players have been illustrated, let's look at the trade itself.
First, from the A's perspective:
The A's had no use for Hannahan. With Tommy Everidge, Eric Patterson, and Cliff Pennington around and Adrian Cardenas and Corey Wimberly just behind them, Oakland has plenty of better-hitting infield options.
One weakness with the A's is their upper-level pitching. They've put retreads like Shawn Chacon, Jerome Williams, Daniel Haigwood, and Daniel Barone into the Double-A and Triple-A rotations. Adding Souza to the staff of one of the upper-level affiliates gives the team a more legitimate future big-league guy to replace a roster-filler type.
Given that the A's got rid of a guy who they didn't need, and got someone they could use, you have to say Billy Beane did a nice job here. When you're rebuilding, it's important to always get younger and add upside, not just at the big-league level, but in the minors as well. The A's did just that.
And for Seattle:
Just 4.5 games out of first place, the Mariners still want to make a run at a weak AL West in the years before Oakland and Texas' prospects kick in and make them the two powers of the division.
Yesterday, they traded Yuniesky Betancourt, a no-hit, no-field player.
Today, they got Jack Hannahan, a no-hit, great-field player.
Given that in that span of time, they got two project minor leaguers and gave up one, you still have to say the M's win the two days overall. Souza's most generous upside is as a fourth starter, and even that's a stretch.
Ronny Cedeno is hitting .152, and Chris Woodward has a .639 OPS. Neither one has a great glove, so the Mariners get Hannahan, who isn't really an offensive downgrade, but is a big defensive upgrade.
Ultimately, the Mariners won't really miss Souza, who could turn out okay, but also could top out in Triple-A. He'll most likely be an adequate guy to have around at the back of the rotation or in a sixth-inning role—the sort of guy who is okay, but no sort of difference-maker.
While Souza is basically average across-the-board, Hannahan has a much more polarized skillset, in that he defends extremely well but hits terribly. Ultimately, like Souza, he's a decent back-of-the-roster guy, but he doesn't really make most teams better.
Given the alternatives Seattle has, the deal makes some sense—they traded a future spare-part pitcher for a present-day spare-part position player.
I see this move as something Oakland had to do. I don't see it as something Seattle had to do. If I'm Jack Zduriencik, I could take this deal or leave it. It's slightly beneficial to the Mariners, but I wonder how much more they would have to give up to get a third baseman with some actual hitting skill, like Andy Marte or Jesus Guzman.
So there you have it: Great move for the A's, decent move by the M's.