By chance, I know Scott Lucas, who does a fantastic job of covering the Rangers farm system for the preeminent Rangers blog, The Newberg Report.
Rather than give my reaction to the Danny Gutierrez trade, I decided it would be best to ask Scott the following via email:
So the reports (which at this point have not been verified by the Rangers' brass, but surely will by the time this goes up) are that the Royals have traded RHP Daniel Gutierrez to the Rangers for catcher Manuel Pina and outfielder Tim Smith.
As Royals fans, we knew Gutierrez as a player who has been suspended for violation of team rules in 2007 and missed most of this 2009 season while rehabbing an inflamed right shoulder away from the team reportedly under the instruction of his agent Scott Boras.
We also knew him as a high-ceiling prospect with a plus curve and solid command of both his curve and fastball. On nearly every organizational pre-season prospect ranking list, Gutierrez was a top 10 prospect.
Meanwhile, both players the Royals received do not appear to have been nearly as lauded. Most analysis seems to be falling somewhere in the neighborhood of both projecting out as role players on the Major League level—at best—with Pina seeming to fit the mold of the defense-first catcher and Smith being likened to David DeJesus in the Royals' blogosphere.
All that being said, what can the Royals say they got back for their problematic prospect?
Are these initial reactions to who the Royals are getting back accurate?
In your estimation (and obviously with prospects there is going to be a heartier degree of uncertainty), did the Rangers come out ahead in this deal?
Scott was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to respond with the following:
Neither Smith nor Pina ranked among Texas's Top 30 in Baseball America's preseason rankings. I rated Pina 41st and Smith 46th entering the season. Now, I'd probably have Smith in the low 20s and Pina more-or-less unchanged.
Pina owns a good, though not great, defensive reputation. Texas has promoted him pretty aggressively despite modest offensive development. He's shown a little more power this year, but in general he's a .260 hitter light on secondary skills.
He's just 22, so there's time, but he'll need to step up just to be an adequate backup. Pina hit a totally uncharacteristic .400/.452/.600 through mid-May in AA, after which he's batted a paltry .199/.254/.305.
Smith was Texas's 7th rounder in 2006 out of Arizona State. He played a little CF in his rookie season but is best suited to the corners. Smith makes good contact and has shown developing power and patience plus decent speed. That said, his upside isn't high; perhaps he becomes a fourth outfielder. Smith's all-out playing style has compared favorably to David Murphy and the revered Rusty Greer. If he tops out in AAA, it won't be for lack of hustle. A broken rib ended his season early, he played a couple of rehab games in Arizona and is now with Team Canada.
Odds are that both will provide quality organizational depth rather than Major League talent. Pina will be Rule 5-eligible if not placed on the 40-man roster this winter. Smith's doesn't require protection until 2010.
The trade certainly does not balance the pitcher-heavy quality of Texas's minor-league system. Still, the Rangers probably see it as gaining a "B" prospect for two "Cs" and an affordable risk.
Obviously, there were some issues between Gutierrez and the Royals' front office, but the returns for a nearly unanimous pre-season top 10 prospect within the organization seem middling, at best.
Thanks again for your time and help, Scott.