Rockies-A's Trade Analysis: Matt Holliday for Street, Smith and Gonzalez
Smith came to Oakland in the Dan Haren trade and he significantly outperformed what anybody expected of him, but he walked 87 batters and struck out only 111, and his minor league numbers do not suggest that he'll ever be much more than a LAIM.
In any case, he's going to Coors, where the thin air and his lack of a reliable out pitch will likely cause his ERA to balloon over 5.00. Baseball-reference.com suggests a modest ERA increase of just half a run, but their algorithm doesn't compensate for how outs get made and runs get scored. A finesse lefty, without blinding speed or a sharp sinker or a big curve, naturally has to rely on his defense, and Smith, a severe fly ball pitcher, is no exception.
How severe? Out of 89 qualified MLB pitchers in 2008, Smith's Ground/Fly ratio was 82nd. And he's leaving sea-level Oakland, where a lot of those pop flies were either caught in the outfield or in the expansive foul territory.
Of course, Smith is not all the Rockies will get in exchange for their vaunted outfielder, who finished second in the NL MVP voting in 2007.
Since the Rockies will likely lose closer Brian Fuentes to free agency, Street would theoretically help to fill that need, though Street's not exactly a top-flight closer.
Gonzalez came to Oakland in the Dan Haren trade as well, just a year ago, and immediately went from being Arizona's No. 1 prospect to being the A's No. 1 prospect.
In any case, the man just turned 23 two weeks ago, and his hacking style of offense (81K's and only 13 walks this year in the majors, typically about 3 or 4-to-1 in the minors) should be helped significantly by playing in Coors. He won't have to walk much because pitches that fool him at sea level will be easier to hit, and fewer of the balls he doesn't hit squarely will get caught for outs.
Additionally, Gonzalez has the speed to cover a lot of ground in CF, something the Rockies need with their ballpark, as John Dewan rated him as +3 plays in CF this year. That means that Gonzalez could allow them to keep Willy Taveras (who was -5 this year, and also can't hit at all) on the bench, where he belongs.
The other possibility for inclusion in the trade was OF Ryan Sweeney, who hit quite a bit better than Gonzalez this year (.286/.350/.383) and also went 9/10 in stolen bases, though he is about eight months older than Gonzalez.
So they need help. Oddly, Matt Holliday is a left fielder, the one position in the Oakland lineup that was actually somewhat productive on offense. Jack Cust played about 90 games there, and his 132 OPS+, 77 Runs, 77 RBI, 33 homers and 111 walks all led the team, and that 111 mark led the whole American League.
Unfortunately, so did his 192 strikeouts, and his .231 batting average was, shall we say, less than stellar. Also, in those 90 or so games, according to John Dewan's Fielding Bible, Cust made about 14 plays less than an average left fielder would have. When you consider how often he was probably removed for a defensive replacement, well, here is a man born to be a DH, right?
Matt Holliday, by contrast, was +11 plays in the field, in more than twice as many innings, so they've probably just improved the outfield defense by a dozen runs or more.
Granted, Coors Field has been toned down a lot in recent years, mostly due to the use of a humidor to keep balls a little mushy, but it's still a park that increases run scoring by about 10 percent, compared to an average ballpark.
Hits of all kinds are easier to get there, to the tune of about 8-10 percent each, because of the thin air and the spacious, overcompensating outfield. Oakland is down about sea level, or, you know, Bay level, but most of the reason for its reputation as a pitchers' park is all the foul territory, up to 30 feet more on each baseline, compared to Coors Field. This makes balls that are routine fouls in the stands at other parks into outs in Oakland.
Holliday's been great in Colorado over the course of his career, hitting .357/.423/.645 in 359 games, with a respectable .280/.348/.455 on the road. That split was not as severe this year as it had been in the past, only about a 100-point OPS gap, instead of about 250 or more. Still, there's no question that he's benefited, and no doubt that he'll see a decline in his numbers, at least on the face of them, in Oakland.
Baseball-reference.com's park adjuster gizmo says instead of the .321/25/88 he hit this year, he would have hit .311/24/77 in Oakland, but this seems too modest a drop to me. ESPN's park adjustments show the effects on individual types of hits and runs overall, and if you apply those ratios to his 2008 home stats, and then re-tally...
R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG OPS
Home=OAK 95 161 36 1 21 77 76 109 .299 .393 .486 .879
Home=COL 107 173 38 2 25 88 74 104 .321 .409 .538 .947
That looks more like it.
Holliday can be expected to strike out a little more, and hit for extra bases quite a bit less. He loses about a dozen runs and almost as many RBI, and the fact that his new teammates can't hit a lick means he'll probably do even worse than I've suggested in those areas.
And that, my friends, is not enough to make the A's a good team again next year, but that may not be in Billy Beane's plans. Holliday is eligible for free agency after the 2009 season, and Oakland is not usually the type of team to sign would be free agents approaching 30+ years of age to big, long-term deals.
It's possible, I suppose, that they see something in Holliday that will give them pause, want to make an exception. More likely though, they decided that they could do without Street, since they have Brad Zeigler, and Gonzalez, perhaps because the young, hack-tastic outfielder isn't their type, and that Greg Smith's stock will never be higher.
And that scenario is pretty likely, as in order for the Oaklands to make a threat next year, they need a lot of young, untested players to all start succeeding at once. There's no lack of potential on the Oakland roster, but they need Dana Eveland and Justin Duchscherer to keep pitching well, and stay healthy, and for some combination of Sean Gallagher, Dan Meyer, Dallas Braden, Gio Gonzalez and/or Josh Outman to start pitching well, for more than a quarter of a season.
They also need continued production from Ryan Sweeney, Kurt Suzuki and Jack Cust, if not improvement, and they need at least three decent bats from the likes of Daric Barton, Aaron Cunningham, Eric Patterson, Rajai Davis, Donnie Murphy, Cliff Pennington, Travis Buck and Chris Denorfia.
They're also stuck with the disabled Eric Chavez and the minimum $26 million they owe him through 2010, if they buy out his 2011 option. So there's not a lot of money to throw around at free agents or other big-name trade bait.
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