I detected a real sense of impatience as far as the Dodgers were concerned. Not impatience on the part of the Dodgers — rather, impatience on the part of people observing the Dodgers. Not that they’d been totally quiet, but they had been inactive. Now, Wednesday, the Dodgers have gotten themselves involved in a doozy. It’s a three-way trade, with the best player neither leaving the Dodgers, nor joining them. Instead, the Dodgers helped facilitate the Reds sending a quality third baseman to the White Sox. The full player breakdown:
White Sox get:
White Sox lose:
- Todd Frazier
- Francelis Montas
- Trayce Thompson
- Micah Johnson
- Jose Peraza
- Scott Schebler
- Brandon Dixon
Frazier to Chicago, three Chicago prospects to Los Angeles, three Los Angeles prospects to Cincinnati. It stands to reason the Dodgers had to get involved because the Reds and White Sox couldn’t find an easy match straight up. Implying the Reds are higher on, say, the Peraza centerpiece than they would’ve been on a Montas centerpiece. These things can be kind of complicated to analyze, but let’s go team by team.
White Sox side
A year ago, the White Sox made some win-now moves, trying to capitalize on the peaks of Chris Sale, Jose Abreu, and Jose Quintana. It didn’t work out — not because the stars were bad, but because the depth was just never there. It was a thin team, and thin teams have just about zero margin of error. Now the White Sox are pushing forward, gunning for a winnable division in 2016. Instead of selling some parts off, the Sox are trying to improve, and Frazier addresses what would’ve been a weakness.
Last year’s White Sox had two position players worth at least 2 WAR, and four position players worth at least 1 WAR. So they finished last in baseball with a combined position-player WAR of 3.1. Right now the White Sox project to have four position players worth at least 2 WAR, and seven worth at least 1 WAR. Things still aren’t great, but their position players overall project 25th, not 30th, and look at the division around them. The Royals just won, but they’re missing impact pieces. The Tigers are caught somewhere in between. The Twins, at best, are average. And the Indians are intriguing yet flawed. There’s an opportunity here, maybe an even better opportunity than there was in 2015, and so the organization dipped into a thin crop of prospects to bring in a two-year regular.
Frazier isn’t young, but he’s also not old, and he’ll cost something like $20 – 25 million the next two years combined. He’ll probably be worth something like 6 – 7 wins, because he blends power with defense, and whatever concerns you might have about him leaving the hitter-friendly Cincinnati environment, Chicago’s friendly, too. Indeed, Frazier dropped off down the stretch. Indeed, he became more pull-happy. But he dropped off down the stretch in 2014, too, and his 2015 overall was just fine. Frazier is an impact player on this team, and he’ll bump Brett Lawrie to second base, and now the infield almost looks legitimate.
The Sox still have their problems with depth, and that’s why they won’t be a favorite, barring more additions. They’re thin in the outfield and they don’t have a shortstop and the back of the rotation could be weak. But the collection isn’t bad, and it shouldn’t be too tough to find a quality fourth outfielder. The Sox had to go in one direction. They chose to go toward winning. They were right on the bubble, but this division can be seized.
As for the prospects being lost — you don’t get Todd Frazier for free. Montas is the main player, because he’s an arm who can start and still get the ball up to 100 miles per hour. One thing he hasn’t done is steadily dominate, and because of issues with control and repertoire depth, plenty of people see Montas as a reliever. If the White Sox agree with the assessment, they won’t lament the loss. Thompson is an interesting second piece, because unlike a lot of toolsy minor-league outfielders, he seemed to build on his promise last year. He had a strong big-league debut, and he’s someone who can hit for power and also play some center field. That makes him an interesting player. Johnson is a mobile second baseman with a better record in the upper minors than in the majors. I’ll talk about these players some more in the Dodgers section. Only Thompson figured to have a relevant role on the 2016 White Sox.
It’s easy to say this now, but the Reds should’ve sold last July. The All-Star Game complicated factors, but it probably shouldn’t have. No, the Reds couldn’t have foreseen Aroldis Chapman’s domestic-violence incident. No, the Reds couldn’t have foreseen Todd Frazier’s miserable second half. But as the Reds went into the break, they were 39-47, way behind all the relevant competition. They were bad, and they had Chapman and Frazier at astronomical values. What they could’ve foreseen is that Chapman and Frazier wouldn’t lift their stocks any higher. Ultimately, those two stuck around. Chapman might now be untradeable. Frazier didn’t fetch what he could’ve fetched.
No sense in crying about the timing, though. What’s done is done and you can’t keep playing the what-if game. The Reds are obvious sellers, so Frazier was an obvious piece to go, and now he’s gone, and it’s time to think more about the future. The next season is going to be a bad one. They just want to see progress from the young players of interest.
The Reds didn’t end up with a true blue-chip prospect. Peraza has seemed like one in the past, but his star has dimmed, the Reds being his third organization in the past several months. Make no mistake — he’s a former top prospect for a reason. He’s not yet 22, he makes a ton of contact, and his top speed rivals that of some vehicles. With the speed, contact, and ability to play up the middle, Peraza is a near-certain big-leaguer. He has kind of a high floor. But Peraza also doesn’t walk, and he’ll never hit for power. He underwhelmed last year in Triple-A. So Peraza also has a limited ceiling.
The biggest fans of Peraza in the world might see him as the next Jose Altuve. They have similar records and similar profiles, and obviously Altuve has turned himself into a borderline star on a contending team. But then, that’s as good as it can get, and Altuve was much better in the minor leagues. He’s got a bit more pop, too, that Peraza might not be able to match. The overwhelming majority of players with Peraza’s profile are below-average hitters, and since Peraza is more defensively competent than defensively gifted, he’s going to need to use his legs. They make him go quick, and that’s a weapon. But I see Peraza more like a 1-2 win player than a 2-3 win player. I haven’t been impressed.
The appeal is that Peraza’s close. Like Eugenio Suarez, he’s a young infielder who can help just about right away. The Reds also probably prefer Peraza to Montas because they have enough young starter candidates with control and secondary-stuff issues. In this move, the Reds went for low-upside certainty, instead of a big gamble. I don’t know if it’s the right call, but it’s a call.
Schebler is of at least some interest as a second piece. His 2015 didn’t take him in the right direction, and his raw skills are limited, leaving him as a probable left fielder with some power upside. But the power is real:
Schebler’s kind of a bounce-back candidate, and the Reds are in need of a left fielder. Jesse Winker is on the way, but Jay Bruce is probably on the way out, so there’s a way for Schebler to play if he earns it. Again, he’s probably something like a 1-2 win player, but if you think about it like that, he might be even with Peraza. You might consider that good or bad.
Dixon? He’s 24 soon, and he’s a second baseman who’s struggled pretty badly above High-A. He has power, but an approach in need of dramatic improvement. He’s a long-shot. Maybe he’s the real upside play here, but the odds are stacked against him.
The Dodgers are neither getting Frazier nor flipping him, so some might consider their end the least interesting. Others I’ve seen consider their side to be the most interesting. At the very least, it’s unusual, this basically being a swap of three prospects for three prospects. Some have speculated that the Dodgers are just loading up to prepare for a potential move for Jose Fernandez. Maybe. Or maybe they’re just loading up with people they like more than the people they had previously.
At the top, the Dodgers exchanged Peraza for Montas. Peraza is covered above, and when the Dodgers first got him, it seemed like the Braves were selling him low. It implied that the Braves didn’t think Peraza was going to gain any more value, and now the Dodgers, like the Braves before them, have given Peraza up despite his proximity to the majors. It suggests a lack of faith. Not that that should be damning — the Dodgers also gave up on Dee Gordon. The Marlins are thrilled to have him. But there are legitimate reasons to doubt Peraza, and in Montas, the Dodgers could have a different player who could help right now.
Yeah, Montas has been a starter, and maybe the Dodgers give him a chance to keep at it, if they don’t turn around and trade him. I don’t know what they’re going to do. But I can say this much: I ran some PITCHf/x comps, and by far the best comp for Montas’ fastball is Ken Giles’ fastball. Montas also throws a slider pretty often, and though it isn’t such a great comp for the Giles slider, it still suggests big reliever upside. Could be the Dodgers think Montas is ready to be a high-level reliever today, or soon. It’s no secret they’ve been looking for bullpen help. Montas is a fit for what they need.
On the next level, you have an exchange of Schebler for Thompson. Both are about the same age, and both profile mostly as fourth outfielders, but where Schebler’s 2015 took him backward, Thompson’s 2015 took him forward, and he had a successful 135 big-league plate appearances. Thompson comes with more tools, and the Dodgers probably prefer his defensive ability, as he can cut it in center. This past year, Thompson trimmed his strikeouts while hitting more balls on the ground, and there’s starter upside, if someone were to ever give him the chance. Schebler’s more quiet. Thompson’s more visually impressive. He also seems likely to have the better career.
Then there’s the exchange of Dixon for Johnson. Dixon is a long-shot prospect, and Johnson is a (nearly) 25-year-old post-prospect who seems like a backup infielder. Johnson’s upside is very low, but the funny thing here is Johnson might be a realistic outcome for Peraza. Peraza bats righty and he makes more contact, but Johnson has a limited bat and less-limited legs. Johnson’s unlikely to do a whole lot, but in a way, he could supply what Peraza would supply, while the team can turn Peraza into something else. Upside is a tease. Reality is mean.
The bulk of the critical response I’ve seen says the Reds are getting shafted. I don’t think it’s quite that bad — Frazier’s value took a hit, and both Peraza and Schebler are near-ready useful pieces. Peraza could turn into an interesting starter. But there’s no question Peraza can be only so good, and some might believe the Reds should be aiming for higher ceilings. Near-ready players are just players who’ll be ready while the Reds continue to look up at the rest of the division.
But the Reds, at least, will have their infield, even after Brandon Phillips is traded. It’s something, and moving Frazier was necessary for this process to continue. The White Sox will be happy to have Frazier, because he’ll be able to hit in that environment, and the division is winnable. Montas is a high-risk loss who’s very likely to just be a reliever. For the Dodgers, they turned three players into three players who, overall, they like more. The differences might be slight, but they’re there, and now the Dodgers have more options. Could be about having depth. Could be about trading depth. The Dodgers might just be getting started. Just getting started, by getting involved in a giant three-team trade. They know how to keep things spicy.
Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.