Dave Cameron — of FanGraphs fame — posted a rather intriguing article on ESPN Wednesday morning entitled: 5 AL Moves That Need to Happen. (Warning, it’s part of ESPN’s Insider.) It’s nothing more than conjecture, something to pass the time prior to the beginning of free agency. But it’s a good read, typical of Cameron.
In it he describes a potential Justin Upton deal to Tampa, his brother, B.J., signing with the Yankees, Detroit taking a gamble on Melky Cabrera, and Eric Chavez re-uniting with the A’s. The one point of contention I have, however, is the potential Shin-Soo Choo to the Rangers, in exchange for right-hander Tanner Scheppers and first baseman Mitch Moreland.
It’s under the fair assumption that Josh Hamilton departs from Texas, and adding Choo would fill the Rangers’ need for a “legitimate left-handed bat.” The fit for Texas is obvious. But I’m shocked that the return for Cleveland is so little, a promising, unproven backend reliever and a below-average starting first baseman.
Choo seemed on the brink of stardom – or at least recognizably talented outside of the Cleveland market – a few seasons ago, coming off of 5.1 and 6.1 fWAR seasons. But the 30-year-old right fielder succumbed to injury in 2011, losing 74 games to a fractured thumb and abdominal strain.
He followed up his disappointing, injury-marred 2011 (.259/.344/.390) by hitting .283/.373/.441 this year, and his total offensive production — according to Weighted Runs Created Plus — was 31% above the league average, par with the rest of his career. It was his defense that stumbled — which isn’t a concern at this point given his age, fluctuating results in defensive metrics, and strong track record — that caused his win total to be just 2.6.
I’m not concerned about Choo’s value or his awful showing against lefties this season (he’s typically hit them better throughout his career, though far from great). He’s a complete five-tool player that’s often underrated.
And for that the Indians receive Scheppers and Moreland?
Scheppers would definitely be the centerpiece of the deal, a tall, lean right-hander armed with an upper 90s fastball and a curveball that shows “two-plane break (giving) him a second plus pitch,” according to Baseball America’s 2012 Prospect Handbook. But because of a prior injury history — he dropped in the 2008 draft because of shoulder concerns — his ceiling is limited to that of a backend reliever, albeit one that could potentially be dominant.
The problem, of course, is that Scheppers will be 26 at the start of the year, has a bit of cloudy injury history, and the Indians lone area of strength is in their bullpen depth, even if they do deal Chris Perez this offseason.
As for Moreland, well, he’s 27, has been a league average bat in over 1000 career plate appearances and would be just another left-hander in an already left-handed heavy lineup.
And while this deal would certainly be a coup for the Rangers, I fail to see how this makes a long term impact for the Indians. Cleveland deals away arguably its best player, who is still under contract for a year, and gets in return a promising reliever and a bat that likely won’t be starting in two years? It’s hard to envision that happening. And, frankly, there’s no way — at least I hope — that if this deal is actually floated out there that Cleveland would pull the trigger, especially with the reminder of Jason Knapp’s once promising career still lingering at its shoulder threads.
Shameless plug: Dave, if you happen to read this I would love the opportunity to write for FanGraphs.
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