Brett Wallace was traded three times in a matter of 371 days. On July 24, 2009, he was sent by the St. Louis Cardinals along with Shane Peterson and Clayton Mortensen for Matt Holliday. Less than five months later, on December 16, 2009, he was dealt to Toronto in exchange for Michael Taylor. Finally, in a pre-trade deadline deal about seven months later, he was swapped for Houston’s Anthony Gose. Clearly, he was a man on the move, but looking back only one of those trades – the deal involving Taylor – has yet to have a decided winner.
The Cardinals are the obvious winners in the first Wallace trade, especially now that Albert Pujolshas headed westward. Peterson, 24, made his first appearance in Triple-A last season and hit a solid .293/.377/.479 in 191 plate appearances, numbers that were a lot better than his showing in Double-A early that season (.260/.357/.379). He’s a decent prospect, not quite starting outfielder material at the big league level, but should do no worse than a solid fourth outfielder. As for Mortensen, he’s now a replacement level swingman for the Rockies.
The last trade involving Wallace was the deal that brought Gose, 20, who ranked #59 on Keith Law’s annual top 100 prospects list. According to Law, “His defense alone makes him a big leaguer, and even a modest improvement in the two-strike approach makes him a regular, with an All-Star ceiling if he continues to make these large adjustments.” And with Wallace now behind Jimmy Paredes at third base and Carlos Lee at first, it’s pretty easy to assume that Toronto come out ahead in this deal as well.
That just leaves the Taylor-for-Wallace swap as yet to be decided. So, which team did better more than two years later?
Prior to the trade, Michael Taylor was coming off an impressive season. As a 23-year-old, he hit .320/.395/.549 with 20 homeruns between Double-A and Triple-A. And Baseball America, the prospect gurus, ranked him as the twenty-ninth best prospect in the game. Since then, however, Taylor’s status has lost some of its luster.
Between 2010 and 2011, both seasons spent as a fulltime outfielder in Triple-A, he’s hit .272/.353/.456, nice, solid numbers, but nothing particularly noteworthy. Plus, his power, which seemed to be blossoming at the time of the deal, has taken a step backward, despite the uptick in 2011. Defensively, he’s a solid fielder in right, but could serve as a useful backup in center as well. Overall, Taylor, like Wallace, will likely never live up to his once lofty expectations.
As I noted in a previous post, Wallace’s ceiling is limited by slightly below-average walk rates, poor defense, and lack luster power. Taylor, however, should prove to be a valuable fourth outfielder. He sports a 9.8% career walk rate in the minors, average power, decent speed, and enough skill on defense to be a 2.0 WAR player in a full season, or an average big league starter. And that’s before considering the long term prospects of both players: Taylor has positional flexibility and a wide-range of skills; Wallace, however, has a poor body-type, zero positional flexibility, and lackluster peripherals.
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