Victor Diaz Rumors

Minor Moves: Diaz, Ardoin

A couple of small deals came over the wires recently. 

The Rangers acquired outfielder Victor Diaz for catcher Mike Nickeas.  Diaz, 24, is having big-time problems with Triple A this season (.606 OPS).  It’s surprising because he hit Triple A pitching pretty well as a 22 year-old.  He earned 280 ABs with the big club last year and managed to slug .468. 

Back in the summer of ’03, Diaz was sent from the Dodgers to the Mets in the Jeromy Burnitz deal.  He’s not known for his defense, and has been tried at 1B, 2B, 3B, C, LF, and RF in his career.  Perhaps a steady position and a change of scenery will get this once top-prospect back on track.

Nickeas is a 23 year-old catcher from Georgia Tech.  He has never done much offensively at Double A and will report to the Class A St. Lucie Mets. He could be a Major League backup a few years down the road.

Speaking of backup backstops, the Orioles claimed Danny Ardoin off waivers from the Rockies.  He’s a 32 year-old minor league lifer.  It’s hard to make this move sound interesting.  He played with Miguel Tejada in the minors, does that help?   

Another Option For St. Louis

My Mets source has sent an update regarding the recent Victor Diaz information.  Seems the Cards just weren’t offering enough in Mark Worrell for Diaz.  Diaz remains widely available, and could be used to acquire a decent second baseman like Mark Grudzielanek.

The Cardinals have another outfielder on the radar – old favorite Reggie Sanders.  Reggie is 38 now, and he’s not showing any ability to get on base as a regular for the Royals.  Still, his .259/.301/.476 line (8 home runs) is not far from his work with St. Louis back in ’04.  Sanders typically walks about 7-8% of the time, but this year it’s been below 6%.  I guess his new club is influencing his style – KC is second to last in the AL in walks this year.

Sanders’s .777 OPS is just the 12th best among AL right fielders.  He signed a two-year, $10MM deal with the Royals last offseason.  He’d probably play left field if he returned to St. Louis.  As a group, the Cardinals’ left fielders have hit just .243/.305/.321 with one home run.  At the least, Sanders would provide a power threat.

The Cardinals will likely settle for a second tier outfielder in the trade market, as I’m told Anthony Reyes and Adam Wainwright are being slotted into the 2007 rotation.

Cards Interested In Victor Diaz

Walt Jocketty and the Cardinals are currently mulling over various options to add an outfield bat, and one player who is definitely on the radar is Victor Diaz

The 24 year-old Diaz had a fine year in 2005 between Triple A and the Majors.  However, after losing the Mets’ right field battle to Xavier Nady this year Diaz has become the odd man out.  He’s stumbled to a .245/.310/.371 line in Triple A and his stock is at an all-time low.  Still, Diaz has shown 25 HR power and was projected to hit .265/.323/.469 for the Mets by Baseball Prospectus’s PECOTA system.

New York doesn’t have much use for Diaz, and one player they like is 24 year-old righthander Mark Worrell in the Cardinals’ system.  Worrell uses an unorthodox, sometimes sidearm delivery to retire hitters.  He did a fine job as a closer in A ball last year, but the jump to Double A hasn’t been so kind.  Worrell has 15 saves and a 1.28 WHIP, but he also owns a 5.27 ERA.  Walks and home runs have been a problem.

It’s a swap that makes sense – a couple of minor leaguers who have not met expectations this year.  My Mets source tells me that discussions are ongoing.   

Latest Mets/Soriano Rumor

A source of mine reports some info concerning the Mets’ interest in Alfonso Soriano:

The Mets do want Soriano, but they’ll only make a deal if the Nats will accept Kaz Matsui.  The Nats would use Matsui at shortstop and would also receive Victor Diaz.

Matsui will be out until mid-April with a sprained knee ligament.  He last played shortstop in 2004, appearing in 110 games there.

This morning, Soriano plans to announce whether he’s willing to play left field for the Nationals.  The fact that he’s even considering it leads me to believe that he will play out there.  Soriano refused to play LF on Monday and would likely be placed on the disqualified list if he refuses again.  He’d lose his salary and right to become a free agent after 2006 in that case. I’m pretty sure his agent is going to advise that he gives in.  Still, he may still be a trade candidate if he’s enormously unhappy with the Nationals. 

Another note from the article: it looks like Jon Daniels pulled one over on Jim Bowden.

"Texas denied Washington permission to talk to Soriano about a switch from second base to left field until the players took their physicals and the trade was official."

Diaz may start the season in Triple A, as Xavier Nady is the heavy favorite for right field for the Mets.

Jason Marquis for Victor Diaz?

Just got word from my main Mets source with all sorts of good info.

With Pedro’s status a question mark at this point, Omar Minaya would like to add a proven veteran starting pitcher to the middle of the rotation.  The Mets first preference is Jason Marquis (a New York native, for what it’s worth).  They’ve offered a package beginning with Victor Diaz to entice Walt Jocketty.  Diaz would probably be an upgrade over the Cards’ current left field options.  The Mets aren’t thrilled with Diaz’s defense and would be content to try Xavier Nady in right field.

Other options include two Boston starters.  The Mets would love to bring Matt Clement back to the NL, but they don’t want to give up a lot to get him and are wary of his salary.  Bronson Arroyo‘s name has also come up.

The White Sox could also be a factor if they decide to part with Jose Contreras.

Keep an eye this spring on the right field battle, Pedro’s toe, and the 4th-5th starter spots in the rotation.  A spring trade is a good possibility.

The Soriano thing has pretty much been debunked; the Mets will see where Kaz Matsui takes them and then try Anderson Hernandez as needed.

The Biggest Games. The Best Tickets.

Latest Red Sox Rumor – Clement, Vidro, Milledge

Several emailers have alerted me to a post made over at Sons of Sam Horn late last night.  A respected poster lays out this scenario:

Red Sox trade Matt Clement and Alex Cora
Nationals trade Jose Vidro and Jay Bergmann
Mets trade Lastings Milledge and Xavier Nady (with some chance of Victor Diaz instead of Milledge)

Red Sox receive Milledge and Nady
Nationals receive Clement and Cora plus cash if Clement pitches over 150 innings
Mets receive Vidro and Bergmann plus a PTNBL from either Nats or Sox depending on Vidro’s health. (Livan Hernandez could end up with the Mets as well)

I paraphrased a few things but this is all from the post.  I haven’t heard anything about these players lately, but I thought the rumor would make for interesting discussion.  My thoughts:

From the Red Sox point of view, it’s either a steal or a salary dump.  It’d be a steal if Milledge were indeed the centerpiece.  However, there are some who believe Milledge is not even a top 100 prospect.  Don’t gasp, Mets fans – David Luciani knows what he’s talking about and still respects Milledge.

If the Red Sox are acquiring Diaz and Nady for Clement, I can’t see a big improvement to their club for 2006.  It would have to be motivated by the $19MM owed to Clement over the next two seasons, but the Red Sox aren’t having budget problems so it doesn’t make a lot of sense.  The issue of whether the Sox have starting pitching depth from which to deal has been debated endlessly; it depends on how you evaluate their young guys.

The Nationals wouldn’t be surrendering much to get Clement.  I’ve been told Vidro’s health is still questionable, and he makes $23MM over the next three seasons.  The team would love to get out from under that contract.  24 year-old Bergmann looks like a decent enough reliever, but not a top tier prospect.  The Nationals would definitely have to bump someone out of the rotation to give Clement a spot.  They are currently six deep with Tony Armas, Ryan Drese, Livan Hernandez, Brian Lawrence, Ramon Ortiz, and John Patterson.

The deal makes the least amount of sense for the Mets.  It’s been stated repeatedly that the team wants to hold onto Milledge, and that is thought to be the only reason they haven’t traded for Barry Zito.  So the addition of Vidro and his albatross contract doesn’t equate here.  Add Livan Hernandez and you might have something, but the 30 year-old may not be ace material anymore after posting a 1.43 WHIP in 2005.

Benson Dealt To Orioles; Zito Implications?

Many of you have already noticed by now that Newsday is reporting that the Mets traded Kris Benson to the Orioles for Jorge Julio and John Maine.  A tip of the cap to Orioles Hangout; I’m pretty sure they confirmation first.

The question on most people’s minds is this: is the Benson swap the initial movement indicating a trade of Barry Zito to the Mets?  If you recall, my Mets source indicated yesterday that Benson would be traded to Baltimore to acquire a prospect to Billy Beane’s liking.  I’ve got word out to a couple of sources to see if anything has changed.  In the meantime, let’s see what we can deduce.

First off, would the A’s have use for John Maine?  The 24 year-old righty starter was ranked 6th in the Orioles’ organization by Baseball America entering the 2005 season.  According to BA back then, Maine needed to refine his command and had a ceiling as a #3 starter.  They also mentioned that he was "probably a #4 or 5 guy on a first-division club."  Maine pitched kind of like a #4 starter in 128 innings at Triple A Ottawa in ’05.  He posted a 4.56 ERA with improved control while maintaining a solid K rate.

I haven’t projected Maine myself yet, but ZiPS thought he’d throw 153 innings of 4.41 ball in his first extended trial with the Orioles.  I think that’s great value for the price.  For basis of comparison, Maine’s 2005 doesn’t look terribly different from Danny Haren‘s 2004.  Haren was certainly better, but it’s a fair comparison.  Interestingly, Baseball Prospectus lists these comparables for Maine: Joel Pineiro (2002), A.J. Burnett (2001), Juan Marichal (1961), Bob Gibson (1960), and strangely, Jorge Julio (2003).  I know the A’s already have a stable of starters, but Maine probably needs a little more time and a team can never have too much starting pitching depth.

I would speculate that the Mets would hang onto Jorge Julio to serve as Aaron Heilman‘s replacement.  While most analysis today indicates that the Benson trade simply means Heilman starts for the Mets, I am skeptical.  According to MetsBlog earlier this month:

"The problem is that the only person who seems to see Heilman as a starter is Heilman.  Nearly all scouts and experts that I talked with all explained the same thing: Heilman’s repertoire is too hittable during his second time through a lineup."

Should Minaya package up Victor Diaz with someone to acquire a top flight prospect suitable to the A’s, I could really see this Zito deal coming to fruition.   

New Possible Zito Scenario

Just got a note from my Mets source on a possible Barry Zito trade scenario.  Here’s how this could play out:

The Orioles still have some interest in Kris Benson; VP Jim Duquette likes him.  Benson would be dealt to the O’s for young players of Billy Beane’s choice.

Victor Diaz would be shipped off by the Mets as well, but again for prospects coveted by Oakland.  The A’s don’t have room for Diaz given their glut of 1B/DH/OF types.  The prospects from both deals would then be packaged with Aaron Heilman and the Mets would receive Zito.

The Mets would likely sign Jeff DaVanon to platoon in right field with Xavier Nady to complement this trade.  The switch-hitting DaVanon didn’t do much with righties this year, but posted an .824 OPS against them in 2004.  Nady has a career line of .323/.400/.452 in 124 at-bats versus southpaws.   So keep an eye out for a DaVanon signing and Benson trade, because that could spell a Zito deal.

New Manny Scenario Discussed?

A source close to the Mets organization has supplied me with a possible trade scenario that is being discussed.  It’s complicated, but I thought I’d put it out there.

Mets trade: Aaron Heilman, Cliff Floyd, Victor Diaz, Brian Bannister
Mets get: Manny Ramirez

TB trades: Julio Lugo, Joey Gathright
TB receives: Aaron Heilman, Victor Diaz, Bronson Arroyo

Red Sox trade: Manny Ramirez, Bronson Arroyo
Red Sox receive: Julio Lugo, Joey Gathright, Cliff Floyd, Brian Bannister

Wow.  I’m not sure if this is any more plausible than the other complicated possibilities floating around, but this is a solid source.  Let’s see if it passes the reality test.

The Mets give up Heilman, Floyd, Diaz, and Bannister for Manny.  That’s a huge bounty, but the only real gem there is Heilman.  Plus, Manny is still a superstar.  Diaz is a good outfield prospect, and Bannister is a B level starter with a low ceiling.  Floyd is a year away from free agency and expendable if Manny is acquired.  The Mets could always try to get Manny and keep Floyd, but Floyd hasn’t played RF since 2002.  I would say this portion is not too far-fetched.

How about Tampa Bay’s side of things?  First off, my guess is that upper management would be reluctant to package Lugo and Gathright together.  As with the Huff/Baez rumors, why not just trade them separately and maximize the return?  The demand is certainly there.  Lugo is a hot commodity right now, and the Rays have been asking for a lot of Gathright (Scott Olsen?).  Arroyo would make a great #2 for TB; I’ve projected him to lead the Red Sox in wins in 2006.  The team doesn’t have a need for Diaz in a stacked outfield.  Then again, he’d be a decent fit at first base.  They’d probably love to have Heilman in the rotation or closing games.  Overall, I’d label this part of the trade as somewhat questionable.

The Red Sox are basically getting three quality Major Leaguers in return for a superstar and a promising young starter.  Given Floyd’s injury record and impending free agency, I can see his inclusion.  Gathright hasn’t proven anything at the Major League level yet; only Lugo is a known quantity, and he’s also got free agency looming.  So if you look at it that way, things seem fair for the Red Sox.  The Mets might even have to throw in some cash to make this work for the Sox.       

Wild Rumor From Gotham Baseball

Gotham Baseball’s Mark Healey has heard a massive trade rumor from "multiple independent baseball sources."  Of course, it’s subject to change, isn’t close, and all the usual disclaimers.  Here’s the Cliff Notes version of it:

"Mets would send Heilman and Matsui (and $5 million) to Tampa Bay for Lugo. Then New York would send Lugo, Kris Benson, Brian Bannister and Victor Diaz to Baltimore for Tejada, and then send Tejada to the Red Sox for Manny Ramirez."

Let’s stop right there.  My opinion on each step of this possible deal:

Aaron Heilman for Julio Lugo sounds like fair value to me.  Gotham’s sources have the Mets eating $5MM of the $8MM owed to Kaz Matsui in 2006.  That part gels with the information I’ve heard from my Mets source that New York would have to pay at least half of Matsui’s salary to unload him. I’m not sure how the Devil Rays would structure their infield, with Jorge Cantu entrenched at second base and B.J. Upton ready to take over at short.  I had thought the D-Rays would hold out for more than this for Lugo – a good reliever plus someone else’s baggage.  I still feel that they’ll want more.

So then the Orioles are giving up their superstar shortstop, possibly one of the five best players in baseball, for Julio Lugo, Kris Benson, Brian Bannister, and Victor Diaz.  This is where the plausibility of the rumor breaks down for me.  The Orioles have given every indication that they need a star player back for Tejada – they’re not even sold on Mark Prior.  Lugo’s a good player for $5MM, but he hits free agency after that.  Benson is a fourth starter who figures to post an ERA around 4 over the next two seasons while being paid more than $15MM.  That doesn’t add much value for the O’s.  Bannister is a smart young pitcher with a good minor league track record, but Baseball America has said he’s "not overpowering" and "doesn’t have a high ceiling."  Diaz is still a valuable prospect, but could easily turn out to be a career reserve.

To sum it up, the Orioles are giving up Tejada to get a pretty good SS in his contract year, an overpaid fourth starter, a B-level pitching prospect, and a solid outfield prospect.  That’s quantity over quality, and I don’t see it happening.

To finish it off, the Mets ship Tejada to the Red Sox for Manny, effectively giving up nothing impressive for the superstar outfielder, considering the players sent to Baltimore.  Not entirely sold on that step, and I’d heard the Orioles did not want Tejada to play for a division rival.

UPDATE:  Just asked my Mets source whether the above scenario could happen.  He said there’s no way: "Orioles get screwed, the Red Sox get screwed, and the Mets have everything go their way." 

Healey’s article also mentions these comments from a baseball official:

"If Barry Zito doesn’t get dealt before opening day, the A’s are screwed.  No one is willing to pay Beane’s price after what the Braves paid for Hudson [Namely, Dan Meyer, Juan Cruz and Charles Thomas]."

I don’t agree with the baseball official, for what it’s worth.  The A’s hold all the cards with Zito.  They have absolutely no need to unload him, and will boast a deep rotation if they keep Zito until July.  I find it odd that the official cites the Hudson trade as hurting Beane’s ability to make major trades.  The Tim Hudson deal is one where the Braves can be labeled a clear winner.  The highly touted Meyer quickly got hurt and is a question mark, Cruz wasn’t deemed Major League ready by Oakland, and Charles Thomas has completely crapped out.  Perhaps the official meant to refer to the Mark Mulder trade.