Monday, October 27, 2008

Teahen Crumpets

With the InterWebs abuzz with news that the Indians have been in talks with their divisional rivals for Mark Teahen, let’s take a quick look at what getting Teahen would mean for the Indians and which of the (alleged) group of players the Royals have targeted would make this a worthwhile deal for the Tribe. Teahen, as most people have already looked up at some point over the last day or so, is a versatile LH hitter who has recently played 3B, 1B, and both corner OF with his natural position being 3B. So the Indians are looking at him as the “infield addition” of the off-season, right?

Let’s hope not, as Teahen posted a .715 OPS last year for the Royals, 3rd worst in the AL among qualified OF. He struck out 131 times to only 46 walks (to put that K number in perspective, Grady struck out 1 fewer time in 62 more AB) and has never hit more than 18 HR in any of his four seasons in KC. Perhaps he was playing out of position in the OF for the Royals (though reports of his defense at 3B are less than glowing), but translating his .715 OPS to 3B doesn’t make it look any better than it does in the OF as it would only have bested Chone Figgins (whose OBP was.367 OBP) and Oakland’s AAAA 3B Jack Hannahan this year in terms of pitting him against the rest of the 3B in the AL.

Teahen’s best quality is his versatility, making him a kind of “poor man’s Casey Blake” (and raise your hand if you ever thought those words would be typed in that order) in that he can adequately play a few positions, while not really excelling at any of them. Here’s the difference between Teahan and Blake though (and not that Teahen in LH and Lacey Cake is RH) – Blake has performed at or somewhat above league average for the last two years while Teahen has been below average the last two years and Teahen has trended in the wrong direction since his strong 2006.
Consider what the two of them did in 2007 and 2008
Teahen – 2007
.285 BA / .353 OBP / .410 SLG / .763 OPS with 7 HR and 60 RBI in 544 AB

Teahen – 2008
.255 BA / .313 OBP / .402 SLG / .715 OPS with 15 HR and 59 RBI in 572 RBI

Blake – 2007
.270 BA / .339 OBP / .437 SLG / .776 OPS with 18 HR and 78 RBI in 588 AB

Blake – 2008
.274 BA / .345 OBP / .463 SLG / .808 OPS with 21 HR and 81 RBI in 536 AB
If you ever thought that Casey Blake was a stop-gap until something better came along, Teahen is below that as he’s putting his numbers up at ages that should see him peaking while Blake has outperformed Teahen despite his being on the south side of 35.
Casey Blake without the power…who is arbitration-eligible?
No thanks…

Of course, it’s feasible that the Indians surveyed the players that would be available to play either 2B or 3B, see Teahen as a (relatively) cheap option that wouldn’t cost much in terms of players or committed dollars and they could go about improving the team in ways having nothing to do with the infield. That is, they would find a temporary “solution” to 2B/3B as soon as moves can be made and throw all attention at filling the hole in the rotation and perhaps augmenting the bullpen.

That logic doesn’t hold much water to me, though, as Teahen – even as a stop-gap – is less than desirable and certainly doesn’t immediately improve the offense or the defense of the team. I suppose it makes some sense if the Indians are looking to add Teahan to ONLY serve as a LH super-utility guy and giving up some of the flotsam and jetsam that is rolling around their OF depth to get him. The Royals, apparently, are interested in a troika of Tribe OF to play CF so they can move David DeJesus to LF. The Ben Francisco Treat (who can’t play CF, regardless of what anyone tells me), Frank the Tank (who can certainly play CF) and Trevor Crowe (who is a non-prospect to me at this point) are the three mentioned in the original Kansas City Star piece.

Breaking these down one by one and starting with the player most people want to (inexplicably) keep, Francisco’s probably a little more valuable than Teahen in that he’s less expensive and further away from FA, but they’re actually fairly similar players in that they’re both around the same age and don’t figure to have much higher of a ceiling than what they’ve already shown themselves to be – average MLB players. If you want to gloss over the fact that Francisco was nearly the definition of mediocrity over his last 100 games (.251 BA / .324 OBP / .412 SLG / .736 OPS) while playing subpar defense and think that HE’s more than a stop-gap or a 4th OF, that’s fine. But Francisco is what he is and doesn’t figure to suddenly “take the next step”, because it just doesn’t seem to be there. Whereas it seems that Teahen has one “skill” (his versatility) that is valuable, Francisco doesn’t have one aspect of his game that separates him from the average player. He does many decent things, but lacks that one compelling skill that boosts his value.

Speaking of that one “compelling skill” that sets a player apart, Frank the Tank’s defense is what makes him more valuable than a player like Teahen. If the Royals truly do want a CF to allow them to move DeJesus (and his career .782 OPS) to LF the only player on the Indians that fits that bill is really Gutierrez. But for me, Gutierrez’s defense takes him off the table as his value (a defensively superb CF who can sit at the bottom of the lineup and provide speed and occasional pop) to MANY teams would net more than a player like Mark Teahen. It’s true that Gutierrez regressed offensively in 2008, but trading him straight-up for a player that doesn’t upgrade the roster significantly would look like selling low on Gutierrez, if only because there’s plenty of teams who would find an everyday spot for him based on his defense alone. Ideally if they’re going to dangle Guts, I'd like to see them use him as the second piece in the trade to get some starting pitching as he’s not going to be a centerpiece in any deal, but could be put together with someone (say, Mr. Show Pack) to net a good-to-very-good player from another team.

As for moving Trevor Crowe for Mark Teahan (or nearly anybody, for that matter), if the player we’re getting back would join the parent club and help them in ANY capacity, my answer is, “yes…yes…yes”. Please save me the Trevor Crowe solid prospect argument as he has yet to excel as a minor-leaguer (or have that break-out year in MiLB that foretells future success) and he’s now a 25-year-old with 35 games played above AA. Couple the fact that he’s been unable to leapfrog the middling players ahead of him in the organization with the addition of Michael Brantley – meaning that that Indians have a similarly skilled player, who is 4 years younger, with more upside, who figures to play on the same team with him in 2009 – and you can see how Crowe fits here.
Just take a look at the Tribe OF depth chart:
Sizemore
Choo
Francisco
Gutierrez
Dellucci
LaPorta
Brantley
Crowe
That’s #8 on the depth chart for a team that has a DH locked into a long-term deal and two players who will definitely make up 2/3 of the Tribe OF in Grady and The BLC that are both less than a year older than Crowe. He is the definition of a “depth” player at this point in the organization whose ceiling is to be like Ben Francisco…and we already have one of those.

All told, we’re really talking about giving up one of our auxiliary pieces at a position of depth for an auxiliary piece (and PLEASE let’s hope that Teahen, if he is acquired, would not be thought of as more than that) at a position of need. All three of the Tribe players mentioned by the KC Star look like 4th OF with the one player who has a quantifiable skill that separates him (Gutierrez) being the one player I wouldn’t make this move for.

If KC is willing to give Francisco a chance in CF, I would make the move for Teahen if only to add a LH bat and greater flexibility to the roster. If the Royals pressed for Frank, I'd ask for another player who would be more than a throw-in as Gutz possesses that one exceptional skill that both Francisco and Teahen lack. As for Crowe, tell me where I sign up to get a MLB player that immediately joins the 25-man roster for nothing more than a 25-year-old player that sits right now as the 8th OF on the depth chart while sitting in AAA.

If the Indians are trading for Teahen, I hope that it’s simply to fill a spot on the bench and not to become a fixture in the everyday lineup and that the Royals either think that Francisco can play CF or are (for whatever reason) more enamored with Trevor Crowe than even his most ardent admirer in the Indians’ organization. If not, the idea of him being the “answer” at 3B, however, is no more compelling than simply saying that Jamey Carroll (.014 OPS points below Teahen last year with a better glove at 3B) will take most of the games at 3B in 2009.

8 comments:

JHH said...

Unfortunately if a starting pitcher is the new offseason priority of the front office then Teahen may be the best stopgap solution open to the Indians.

If the Indian's needs include starting pitching, a closer or at least bullpen help, and a third baseman than something has to give. It looks like maybe third base could be the first show to drop.

Vince said...

I'd rather give Marte a chance than give anything up for Teahen. And we've got Jamey Carroll to give us Teahen-like numbers at 3B if nothing else works out. We need a 2B or 3B that is really going to improve the team, not just another study in mediocrity.

Jeff said...

Last season, Indians the Indians 3B position hit .260/.325/.379. 2B? .249/.331/.328. Given that an average AL batter hit .267/.335/.420, "mediocrity" would incrementally improve either of those positions.

Jeremy said...

Franklin showed he doesn't have the bat to play every day in the outfield. We already have a designated pinch runner in Barfield. We are too deep in outfield prospects to keep Franklin. Crowe (when healthy) and Francisco are more likely to be worth a spot on the roster this season. Crowe obviously will need to show us something starting the year in AAA before getting a call up.

The key to this is that I believe Franklin has shown us in the 2 seasons in the majors all he can do with a bat, and it isn't good enough.

Paul Cousineau said...

I'm with Vince on the "mediocrity" argument that even if it does just represent an "incremental" upgrade, it's just not that much of an improvement to merit the move or the additional salary.

And if either 2B or 3B is supposed to be a priority, the moves that would follow this one would have improve the team pretty significantly.

As for the Frank-bashing and the Francisco love, I agree that we're deep in OF prospects. But not too deep to keep Franklin and his defense and speed.
Regarding the offense between the two, just take a look at the best two months for each this past year:
Francisco - May 2008
.305/.352/.500/.852 over 82 AB

Francisco - July 2008
.256/.330/.465/.795 over 86 AB

Gutz - August 2008
.302/.355/.523/.878 over 86 AB

Gutz - September 2008
.328/.432/.410/.842 over 61 AB

Sure, they're small sample sizes, but as well as Ben played before the All-Star break, Frank did just as well after. If we're talking about similar players then, isn't defense what seperates them?

By the way, Barfield's pinch-running duties are limited to September as that seems to be the only time that there's room for the roster for him.

Crowe's also going to have to show more than just "something" to break into the Indians' plans in Columbus next year.

R.M. Jennings said...

So... can we get a Winter Haven- er, Goodyear Countdown Clock?

And claim our rightful status as championship-drought capital of the country?

Cy Slapnicka said...

i'm so sick of the championship drought tickers. the media changes the criteria, based on who they want to give the title to. philly had the longest drought of 4 sport cities that are in eastern PA and have fans that are famous for abusing a guy that comes around at xmas.

how bout this, if your city has won something in any of the 4 major sports in the last 25 years, we don't care.

what i found interesting was the fact that in his quest to play for a contender, jim thome was evaded by his 2nd world series ring in the past 3 years. talk about the karma police seeking revenge. honestly it should be 3 rings in three years, but we shit the bed last year.

Cy Slapnicka said...

this week's sign the apocalypse is upon us: chris berman will be interviewing mccain and obama for MNF next week.