Think Blue

Obsessing over the Dodgers' minor league system so you don't have to.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Casey Blake trade review

The Dodgers finally got their big bat that will push them over the top! At least, that's how Ned Colletti will spin it. A deeper look at the value given up and received should help us understand this deal better.

What the Dodgers got

Casey Blake is a 34 (soon to be 35) year old corner-infielder/outfielder with a career OPS of .782. His current contract expires at the end of the season and he's due to become a free agent in the offseason. His current salary is $6.1 million and the Indians are paying off the rest of it, so he's basically playing for free.

Blake has averaged 21 Homeruns per season from 2003-2007 and he has 11 already in 2008. His plate discipline is okay and he's posted a slightly-above average on-base percentage for his career. Defensively, Casey is average at first, slightly below average at third and slightly above average in right field (according to Baseball Prospectus' "Rate" statistic). So most of his value comes in his bat.

When he was traded, Blake had accrued just over 2 wins above replacement level for the Indians. With about a third of the season remaining, I feel it wouldn't be precarious to expect 1 more win from him as a Dodger. Now, with the Dodgers currently residing a game back of first and at a break even 52-52, the division could be decided by one game. However, a team that's on pace to win roughly 80 games needs more than just an extra win to ensure a playoff berth.

One more key component to this deal is Blake's Elias Sports Bureau rating, which is used to determine compensation for free agents. As of last year, he rated as a Type B player, though he was the highest rated Type B player in the AL, just missing the Top 20% with a 72.571 score. However, when moved into the NL, his score ties him with Ryan Zimmerman at #16. That moves him into the Top 20%, making him a Type A free agent. Also, since he's having a better year than he did in 2006, it's likely that he'll be rated even higher at the end of this season. So if the Dodgers offer Blake arbitration at the end of the season and he declines it to sign with another team, the Dodgers would receive two draft picks from the team that signs him.

What the Dodgers gave up

In exchange for their new third baseman, the Dodgers sent catcher Carlos Santana and right-handed pitcher Jon Meloan to Cleveland.

Carlos Santana was signed in 2004 as a third baseman. In the 2006 instructional league, Santana was converted to catcher and spent the 2007 season adjusting to the position in Low A ball. He struggled with the bat, posting a line of .223/.318/.370. An unexpected promotion to High A was met with unexpected results, as he was among the league leaders in walks, on-base percentage and OPS. He also leads all of the minor leagues in runs batted in. At the time of the trade, Santana was batting .323/.431/.563.

On offense, Santana's contact ability has been much improved over last season. His power is more gap to gap, but he shows occasional homerun power. His best tool is his eye, evident in the fact that he has more career walks (178) than strikeouts (174). Defensively, Carlos is agile and moves well behind the plate, showing the ability to block a lot of balls. While he has a strong arm, accuracy has been a problem this year with him racking up a significant amount of throwing errors.

Santana's offensive stats need to be taken with a grain of salt, as the California League is mostly a launching pad. Also, his BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is much higher than his line drive percentage would suggest, which could artificially inflate his production. He also has some work to do defensively, specifically with getting the ball to second base on steal attempts. But overall, Carlos projects as a solid backstop with some offensive upside.

Jon Meloan is a 2005 draftee out of the University of Arizona. In 2006, he moved to the bullpen and saw his stuff take a big step forward, specifically his fastball and slider. He debuted in the majors as a reliever in 2007, but struggled with his control and lasted only 5 games before being sent down. This season, after being ranked as the 8th best prospect in the Dodgers' system by Baseball America, Jon returned to the rotation in Las Vegas.

Asking any pitcher to perform in the Pacific Coast League is a lot, as it's also a very good environment for hitters. Meloan's 4.97 ERA is sure to evoke some looks of disgust and his 60 walks in 105 innings don't help, but allowing only 7 HR in 21 games and striking out just under a batter an inning are positive signs. Still, Jon's future is likely in the bullpen, where he could potentially take over as Cleveland's closer.

Who won the deal?

What can't be forgotten in this deal was the fact that Blake DeWitt and Andy LaRoche now find themselves back in the minors. While DeWitt stopped hitting after May, LaRoche was never given a fair shake. And I have the feeling that LaRoche could post similar numbers to Blake over the last two months of the season.

The mistreatment of LaRoche has been appalling. After dominating in the minors, he gets spot starts between pinch-hitting appearances and lots of time on the bench. Whereas DeWitt was given months to assimilate, LaRoche was given days. And now the trade rumors are swirling, with Andy's name smack-dab in the middle. I'm almost beginning to hope he gets traded to a team that will actually appreciate him and treat him like more than a bargaining chip.

Also, while DeWitt's bat has all but disappeared into the depths of replacement-level production, his glove has been very valuable. He's established himself as one of the best defensive third basemen in the league and provided the Dodgers with 2.4 wins above replacement level with his glove alone. So the Dodgers have essentially replaced DeWitt's glove with Casey's bat.

If Blake becomes a Type A free agent and the Dodgers receive two draft picks for him, it would soften the blow of losing two good prospects (although the likelihood of replacing them would be slim). If he's a Type B free agent or decides to re-sign/accept arbitration, this really can't be viewed as anything but a loss. This was simply Colletti making a deal to make a deal, with a near-total disregard for the collateral damage done by delaying LaRoche's entrenchment at third or the cost of losing out on 6 dirt cheap years of Santana and Meloan. He threw away millions in potential production for 2 months of something he already had.


  • At 8:59 AM , Blogger Emperor361 said...

    Totally agree. I know Santana is "blocked", and Meloan numbers are bad this year, but Meloan's numbers prior to this year are staggering, and we sure could have gotten more for Santana.

    And I absolutely couldn't agree more about LaRoche. I've been sick thinking they were going to trade him. Even with a low average, LaRoche's MLB OBP would be about equal to Blake's because his plate discipline is so good, and with any playing time at all, it's not hard to see him producing more than we'll get from Blake.

    The worst part about this, I think, is that with Blake having to adjust to pitchers he's never seen before, I don't think we can even expect him to be as good, overall, as either of the kids whose playing time he's taking away.

    I've really lost a lot of confidence in Ned. At least he didn't go totally bonehead and go after Jack Wilson, David Eckstein, or Alex Cora. He has protected the real crown jewels, but, man, Meloan and Santana are way too much to give up for a half season of Casey Blake, even if he ends up as Type A.


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