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Here's a Thought: Analyzing the Robert Manuel/Wladimir Balentien Trade

CHICAGO - APRIL 29:  Wladimir Balentien #25 of the Seattle Mariners bats against the Chicago White Sox during the game on April 29, 2009 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Nathaniel StoltzSenior Analyst IJuly 30, 2009

The Reds and Mariners swapped two very interesting players yesterday, with Cincinnati sending right-handed reliever Robert Manuel to Seattle for outfielder Wladimir Balentien.

Manuel is a really strange pitcher. He throws a mid-to-high-80's fastball, a below-average slider, and a below-average changeup.

Is it possible for an overhand-throwing major league pitcher to have worse stuff than that? Even Jamie Moyer has a plus changeup.

Even stranger, Manuel is overly reliant on the fastball, throwing it about 70 percent of the time. The pitch comes in 84-89 mph, but nobody seems to be able to hit it.

Manuel's thrown four-and-one-third scoreless innings in the majors and absolutely dominated the minors.

Balentien hit .213/.271/.355 with Seattle, and didn't really have a role in the Mariners' outfield with Michael Saunders, Franklin Gutierrez, and Ichiro.

Despite his major league struggles (.209/.260/.359), Balentien remains somewhat promising, although he's now 25 and running out of time to translate his tools and minor league success to the majors.

Balentien lacks ideal plate discipline, although he has made strides in that regard this year, and he also hits far too many grounders for a power hitter, although he's made a slight bit of progress there as well.

Both players will benefit from their new parks. Manuel, an extreme flyball pitcher, will benefit from Safeco's distant outfield fences and keep more outfield flies in the yard.

Balentien, a power hitter, will benefit from the shorter outfield fences in Cincinnati.

It's an interesting trade--a guy who scouts hate but stats love (Manuel) for a guy who scouts love, put up numbers in the minors, and has failed miserably in the majors (Balentien).

I think the trade hinges on Dusty Baker's patience with his new outfielder. If given time, Balentien could still develop into an everyday player, but Baker is known for messing up young players' careers (Jason Dubois, anyone?).

Manuel's a pretty safe bet to be a quality reliever. Balentien may boom or bust. Credit Seattle with giving up an outfielder they didn't need and receiving a quality player in return, and credit Cincinnati for taking a chance on a guy with some upside.

My gut says Seattle will win this deal, but it really hinges on Balentien's performance and Baker's patience with him.

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