July 10, 2012

The Thome Trade

I realize this post is not the most timely as the trade for Jim Thome actually transpired over a week ago.  But as more and more rumors of the Orioles being active players in the trade market continue to pop up, I can't stop thinking about what the Thome trade means for the direction the Orioles organization is going to take at the trade deadline.  If the Orioles were willing to deal two prospects for a 41 year old DH that most likely will not be with the team after this season, they certainly must consider themselves buyers at the trade deadline and contenders for a playoff spot.  The Orioles front office will most likely be looking to upgrade the roster at the trade deadline at the cost of either young major league players or prospects.  I don't think that is the right strategy to take at this point for the Orioles.

First, let's look at the Thome trade.  The Orioles traded Kyle Simon (RHP) and Gabriel Lino (C) for Thome.  Kyle Simon was a 4th round draft pick of the Orioles in the 2011 draft out of the University of Arizona.  Simon was pitching in High A Frederick and had accumulated a 2-8 record with a 3.96 ERA and a 4.44 FIP. The reason he was expendable was that he doesn't miss enough bats and only had a 6.07 K/9 rate with the Keys.  He kept his walks under control with a 2.60 BB/9 rate in 72.2 innings but according to Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus, his best asset is an upper 80's sinker that generates a lot of groundballs.  Without any plus secondary pitches, his profile seems to fit best in middle relief which is where the Phillies have already moved him. 

Gabriel Lino signed with the Orioles in 2009 out of Venezuela at 16 years old.  His numbers this season in Low A Delmarva aren't terribly inspiring with a line of .218/.282/.340 and only 4 home runs.  However, as a 19 year old playing his first season in full season ball, the scouting reports are very important for him at this stage of his career.  You can read a great scouting report from Mike Newman of FanGraphs here.  From the scouting reports I've seen, Lino has good raw power potential and the athletic ability to become an average to plus defensive catcher.  The bat is still a work in progress, but he's still very young so it has time to develop.  The range of outcomes here is wide, but he could have a career as a regular or a defensive minded backup if the bat doesn't develop.

So how much value is Thome going to bring to the club this year in order to offset the value of these two youngsters?  ZiPS projects Thome to hit for a line of .243/.339/.486 in 124 plate appearances which would provide 0.6 WAR to the team.  It looks like ZiPS still expects Thome to play in the National League and doesn't forecast the uptick in playing time available with the Orioles by playing DH.  So let's add another 100 plate appearances or so.  That makes Thome worth about 1.0 WAR from now until the end of the season.  This is a little simplistic, but let's say for the sake of argument that the combination of Chris Davis, Mark Reynolds, Wilson Betemit, and Nick Johnson would have produced 0.5 WAR at DH.  That makes the addition of Thome worth about 0.5 WAR to the Orioles this year on the field.

This is the 3rd time Thome has been traded in the past 4 seasons, so we should be able to gauge his market value from the other times he was moved during the season.  Here are the recent trades he has been involved in:

August 31, 2009: Traded by the Chicago White Sox with cash to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Justin Fuller

August 25, 2011: Traded from the Minnesota Twins to the Cleveland Indians for a player to be named or cash.  In September, the Indians sent the Twins $20,000.

June 30, 2012: Traded by the Philadelphia Phillies to the Baltimore Orioles for Gabriel Lino and Kyle Simon.

If you're like me, you had to look up Justin Fuller just to see who he was.  The best I can tell, he's no longer playing professional baseball.  Last year, Thome was traded for $20,000 and 2 years prior he was traded for a non-prospect who is now out of professional baseball.  But this year for the Orioles to get him from the Phillies (who had Ryan Howard coming back, no DH spot and no place to play him), they had to give up a decent catcher prospect and a future middle reliever?  Something doesn't smell right here.  Why would Dan Duquette agree to give up 2 prospects when the going rate was either one non-prospect or cash?  Now both of the prior deals were August waiver deals after the trade deadline but that shouldn't change Thome's value to this extent. 

This deal seems like an overpay.  In the end, it may not matter much if the two prospects the Orioles traded don't amount to much.  But we have to question the process that the Orioles front office took in consummating this trade.  The Orioles improved a very small amount on the field, while giving up a decent prospect in Lino and a not so great prospect in Simon.  Based on the prior deals that Thome has been involved in, Duquette should have been able to consummate the deal by only including Simon.  That deal would have been justifiable to take a shot at the second wild card, which the Orioles currently hold if the season were to end today.  As it is, it looks like Duquette misjudged the market price for Thome in a hurry to add a piece to the roster. 

Since the Orioles have a plethora of left handed DH types, this deal doesn't make any sense to me.  The Orioles real need is starting pitching, not a left handed DH.  I wouldn't be surprised if that's what the Orioles focus on next.

This started out as a post about what the Thome trade meant to the Orioles direction at the trade deadline.  It turned out to be a more in depth review of the Thome trade.  I guess I had more to say about it than I thought.  Next time, I'll outline my position on what the Orioles should do at the deadline and also what they're likely to do.  Somehow, I have a feeling that the two won't match up.

1 comment:

  1. the orioles need to pull their head out of the toilet. Thome is a joke and is the last thing they need. They might as well have signed geronimo berroa.. poor form Duquette