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Two huge trades went through yesterday and both of them impact the Twins to some degree.
Yankees Acquire Ichiro Suzuki
Yesterday the Yankees acquired Ichiro Suzuki (and cash) for little more than a lesser prospect and a waiver wire pickup. It had been reported that they had explored trades for both Denard Span and Shane Victorino of the Phillies, so this gives the Twins one less suitor to court. But it doesn’t properly reflect the market.
In nearly all respects except name recognition, Denard Span is worth quite a bit more than Ichiro to a major league team. Ichiro is 38, comes with a price tag over $6M for this year, is a free agent at the end of the year, and his OBP is just .288. (For reference, Tsuyoshi Nishioka’s OBP last year was just 10 points lower.) Span is 28, will cost the team $1M, is under contract for two more years (plus a 3rd year team option) and has an OBP of .340. Finally, Ichiro had trade veto rights, so he was only going to go where he WANTED to go. This was a salary dump, and possibly a favor to Ichiro, which is very different than a Span trade would be.
But it does mean one less team is interested in Span, taken by a player we didn’t really know is on the market. That doesn’t mean that the market has dried up. As far as lead-off hitters go, there are still plenty of options: Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Baltimore and the Dodgers could all be labeled “borderline desperate” for a high OBP player. So could the Nationals, who incidentally approached the Twins about Span last year.
The more I look at it, the more I believe that some team is going to talk themselves into Span at the deadline. He’s a better fit for more teams than has generally been acknowledged.
Tigers Acquire Anibal Sanchez
When the Marlins, who had seemingly pushed all their chips into the middle of the table this offseason, announced they were looking to sell off key players, it was bad news for the Twins. The Marlins have plenty to offer teams looking to get better. That includes right-handed pitcher Anibal Sanchez, who is becoming a free agent at the end of the year and positioned to do even better than Francisco Liriano on the free agent market.
He was traded yesterday to the Detroit Tigers along with Omar Infante, a starting second baseman. In return, the Tigers built a package around starting pitcher Jacob Turner, who entered the season as an “A” prospect, though he’s struggled a bit in AAA and the majors this year. They added a couple of “C” prospects too.
Meanwhile, there were multiple reports that the Cubs had an agreemenent to trade Ryan Dempster to the Braves for a package that include Randall Delgado, another “A” starting pitching prospect who has struggled a bit this year in the majors.
This suggests that right now, eight days before the deadline, aggressive (or risk-adverse) teams are willing to overpay with borderline “A” pitching prospects for an exceptional pitcher. That doesn’t mean the Twins have received that kind of an offer. Dempster was clearly valued higher than Liriano. Sanchez is at least comparable, and certainly has been more consistent. (Also, since the Tigers are in the Twins division it was unlikely they would want to trade the Twins a prospect that will face them for years to come.)
There are still a few hands to play before we find out where Liriano ranks in the trade market. Lots of additional names could hit the market - or they could not. The Phillies are negotiating with Cole Hamels. Zach Greinke and Matt Garza both suddenly have injury concerns. Either way, there are still plenty of teams interested in Liriano. But so far, the market seems to be dictating that the market for moving a pitcher like Liriano is strong. We’ll see in the next week whether it gets better or worse.
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