Friday morning’s three-team, nine-piece trade, which was headlined by Oakland’s acquisition of Jurickson Profar, has obvious implications for the AL West, as a playoff team just added a 25-year-old who posted 2.9 WAR this past season and can play all over the field. But this deal is also a case study in talent churning, and forces us to consider if there’s more eligible international talent out there than we realize. Here’s a rundown of the trade:
- Jurickson Profar, INF (from Texas)
- Brock Burke, LHP (from Tampa Bay)
- Kyle Bird, LHP (from Tampa Bay)
- Yoel Espinal, RHP (from Tampa Bay)
- Eli White, INF (from Oakland)
- $750,000 International Amateur Pool Space (from Oakland)
Tampa Bay gets:
- Emilio Pagan, RHP (from Oakland)
- 2019 Draft Competitive Balance Round A selection, currently pick No. 38 overall (from Oakland)
- Rollie Lacy, RHP (from Texas)
There are so many moving parts in this deal that it might be best to evaluate how the deal balances by looking at additions and subtractions team-by-team, starting with Oakland.
In: Jurickson Profar
Out: Emilio Pagan, Eli White, an early draft pick, a pretty large chunk of international pool space
Profar was once an upper echelon prospect, a hyper-advanced wunderkind who looked already looked comfortable and performed against upper-level minor leaguers when he was 17. He was lauded not because he had elite physical skills and was destined for superstardom, but because he was so polished, mature, safe, and competent in every facet of baseball, and he seemed likely to race through the minors and be an above-average big leaguer for a decade or more. He debuted with Texas at age 19, then spent a half decade in prospect limbo due to a myriad of injuries (most significantly, shoulder injuries that caused him to miss almost all of 2013 and 2014), and because Texas’ infield was full of Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor.
When Profar finally got healthy, he languished in the upper minors and became a vocal malcontent, especially when Texas neglected to call him up in September of 2017, after he had wrapped up a strong 2017 season at Triple-A. It was a transparent manipulation of Profar’s service time.
I collected updated thoughts on Profar in February and the reports were down a bit compared to where they were when he was a proper prospect. Of course, teams were aware of the context of his situation and thought some of the depressed reports were the result of him being aloof and frustrated with his organization, leaving open the possibility that he might break out if given a change of scenery. Instead, 2018 injuries opened up a spot on Texas’ infield, meaning Profar finally got regular big league at-bats, and broke out. He hit .253/.334/.458 with 20 homers, 35 doubles and 10 steals while playing all over the field. He tallied 2.9 WAR.
This Jay Jaffe post provides an exhaustive look at how Profar performed last year, though I think it’s worth adding that there’s a pretty significant disparity between what Baseball Savant expected Profar to slug based on his 2018 batted ball profile (xSLG of .393) and what xStats expected (.430), even though they’re setting out to measure the same thing. Barring a swing change that takes advantage of his bat-to-ball skills, it seems reasonable to expect a little bit of regression from Profar’s power output next year, but he’s still clearly a productive hitter and a versatile, if unspectacular, defender with two years of team control remaining. He’ll replace Jed Lowrie in Oakland and hit the open market in 2021. (Profar projects to be half a win better than Lowrie next year and is not an age-based risk to decline like Lowrie is.) Profar will be 28 when he starts his next contract.
In exchange, Oakland moved four years of control in a middle relief piece (Pagan) and a near-ready bench/utility type (Eli White), and two non-player assets in the draft pick and International pool space. The Brewers traded a similar pick in their deal for reliever Alex Claudio, which will likely result in a prospect who we’d evaluate as a 45 or 40+ FV player. White’s FV is similar. He’s a plus runner who can play all over the field and he has some bat to ball skills, but he probably lacks the power to profile as a true everyday player.
In: Brock Burke, Eli White, Kyle Bird, Yoel Espinal, $750,000 of International Pool Space
Out: Profar, Rollie Lacy
The Rangers are undergoing a full-scale rebuild and seems unlikely to be competitive during either of Profar’s two remaining arbitration years. Plus, the way they handled him in 2017 may have strained their relationship, making it less likely that he would re-sign with them. They’re also arguably selling high on a player who most of the industry seemed a bit down on before the season, has had injury issues, and whose power output might regress next year. In return they get back a package of quantity more than quality, with Burke and White as the de facto headliners.
Burke had a breakout 2018 (which really may have started in 2017) that ended with a dynamite month and a half at Double-A Montgomery, during which he struck out 71 hitters in 55 innings. He has a plus fastball that sits 91-95 and touches 96 but plays up because Burke creates huge, down-mound extension and has an uncommonly vertical arm slot. Changeup development likely played a role in his breakout, as the pitch was much different last year (82-85mph, at times with cut) than in 2017 (78-80mph), and it’s fair to speculate that something like a grip change took place here. Burke has two breaking balls that are both about average, though he uses the curveball pretty sparingly. He profiles as a No. 4 or 5 starter.
After doing very little in pro ball, White also had a breakout 2018 (albeit at age 24), and hit .306/.388/.450 at Double-A Midland. He then went to the Arizona Fall League, where he was heavily scrutinized by the entire industry. White had only really played shortstop until this year when he began seeing time at second and third base. He fits best at second but is fine at all three spots, and his plus speed might enable him to one day run down balls in the outfield as well. He’s a near-ready, multi-positional utility man who should provide the kind of defensive flexibility teams are starting to prioritize.
Bird is a lefty spin rate monster with four pitches. Last year, his low-80s slider averaged about 2650 rpm, his curveball about 2800, with both marks way above big league average. He sits 90-92 and has below-average command. He’s 25 and projects in middle relief. Espinal throws hard (94-95), and has a weird sinker/power changeup offspeed pitch in the 89-91 range. He doesn’t always clear his front side properly, which causes some of his fastballs to sail on him, but he can also dump his mid-80s slider into the strike zone. He’s 26 and also projects in middle relief, though teams are more certain about Bird’s prospects than Espinal’s because they’re more confident in Bird’s strike-throwing. From a Future Value standpoint, both Burke and White will both be in the 45/40+ area when we write up Texas’ system this offseason (likely slotting them in the 10-15 range of players in that farm), while Bird and Espinal will be in the 40/35+ area, at the back of the list.
It’s hard to say what Texas will do with an extra $750,000 in pool space. There have now been two trades involving pool space in the last week, the other being the Ivan Nova deal. Most big name individual international prospects have signed, but $750,000 is a pretty big chunk of change, and inspired me and colleague Kiley McDaniel to ask around baseball if there’s a player who is either eligible to sign right now or who teams speculate will be eligible before this IFA signing period ends in June. The consensus is that there is not, and that it’s more likely that Texas will spread this bonus money out among several $100,000 – $300,000 talents over the next couple of months.
In: Oakland’s Competitive Balance pick, Emilio Pagan, Rollie Lacy
Out: Burke, Bird, Espinal
Tampa Bay is reckoning with the same issue that other teams with deep farm systems have had to deal with: they need to consolidate their overflow of decent upper-level prospects or risk losing them for nothing when they hit minor league free agency or are Rule 5 eligible. Both Bird and Espinal are in their mid-20s, so turning them over into similarly valued assets that they’re not at risk of losing for a while makes a ton of sense. Burke is pretty good but for us, slots behind Brent Honeywell, Brendan McKay, a healthy Jose DeLeon and Anthony Banda, to say nothing of the pitchers already on the Rays big league roster. Essentially flipping him for a pick that should result in a prospect whose FV mirror’s Burke’s (as I posit in the Claudio article linked above) makes sense.
Pagan, now on his third org in three years after he was sent to Oakland in the Ryon Healy trade, immediately steps into the Rays bullpen as a traditional four-seam/slider middle reliever, and Lacy (who Texas acquired from the Cubs in the Cole Hamels deal) is the kind of strike-throwing, changeup arm Tampa Bay likes to horde as they attempt to build another Ryan Yarbrough. He has an upper-80s fastball and scouts have him as a up and down arm, but guys with good changeups like Lacy often outperform scout expectations.
Asset value calculations are tough to do precisely in a situation like this because $/WAR values are not linear, and the 2.5 WAR Profar is projected to generate next year means way more to a competitive team like Oakland than it does to a rebuilding Texas. Craig Edwards has Profar’s surplus value calculated at a combined $37 million over the next two years (his arbitration salary is likely to be low due to a relative lack of playing time, with MLB Trade Rumors projecting him to make $3.4 million), while Oakland gave up about $12 million worth of assets (White at $4 million, a Draft pick at $5 million, Pagan at $2 million, and IFA space of $1.5 mil) to acquire him based on Craig’s methodology. That seems like highway robbery for Oakland, but again, Profar wasn’t generating that kind of revenue on a bad Texas team. This makes it a common sense deal for the Rangers based on where they are on the competitive spectrum, even if it’s painful to part with a good everyday player the organization has been attached to for nearly a decade.
Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.