I usually don't spend so much time on a rumor surrounding the Rays but I've decided to do a lot of talking on the possible trading of Rocco Baldelli to the Braves for Chuck James, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Yunel Escobar. Put on your reading glasses, the rest is after the jump.
Okay let's begin with Rocco. The case could possibly be made that `The Rocc' had a better season in the time he played than Carl Crawford. For reference here are the lines with other stats thrown in:
Rocc (92 games): .302/.339/.533 16 HR 57 RBI 10 SB 1 CS
CC (151 games) :.305/.348/.482 18 HR 77 RBI 58 SB 9 CS
Rocco is a thoroughbred centerfielder who covers loads of ground and we honestly don't know if anybody in the system could replace him next season. Let's get back to that later.
As most of you know Rocco is my favorite current player so I may be slightly biased towards keeping him, however I'm looking at this potential deal and we're talking about getting who Baseball America ranked 1st, 3rd, and 6th in the Braves system.
Let's start with Jarrod Saltalamacchia; I'll just call him `Salty' from now on. Salty got a little `hefty' last season, and long range he may have to change out of his catching gear for something less strenuous on his knees and back.
Major league comparisons have been made to Jason Varitek; however last season he struggled his way to a .230 batting average, even so he hit 9 homeruns and had an OBP of .350, he's only 21 but I could see him reaching the majors late into next season if he were to tear through AA early on.
As far as the Rays system, let's be honest we've never actually had a great catching prospect; that Saltalamacchia is. Currently looking at the organization, Dioner Navarro has yet to prove he can hit, even if he is only 22 he's proven he's a fine defensive catcher. Shawn Riggans is more of a defensive catcher but is still in his mid 20's and again didn't show much at all in his time (albeit minimal) at the major league level.
Also note he's a switch hitter, all of these factors put together would lead one to believe that if the Rays went through with this deal, Matt Wieters, the outstanding Georgia Tech 1b / C / DH would not be the number one pick in the upcoming draft.
Next let's look at Yunel Escobar, the shortstop. He doesn't possess the speed that most shortstops have, but does have an above average arm and strong hands. The thing that has caused his stock to rise was his .407 average in the Arizona Fall League, though I wouldn't put loads of stock into that as Ben Zobrist finished third. Escobar could either make a nice trading piece or a possible solution at second or third base; for the team being he'd be the furthest away of the major leagues and a non item to the major league club for a few seasons.
Finally let's get to the big part of this possible deal; Chuck James. The lefty who in his first career starts 2 hit the Rays. As a left-handed "rich man's" James Shields, or as Joe Maddon called him "Tom Glavine" he would really compliment Scott Kazmir as a polar opposite.
James is probably going to develop into a 3-4 arm in what figures to (hopefully) be a loaded rotation with Jeff Niemann, Mitch Talbot, Wade Davis, Jake McGee, and of course that Kazmir kid. He needs to develop a third pitch to go with his changeup and 89-92 sitting fastball and that pitch is more than likely his slider.
I ran him through the `APA' (this stat thingy for the new readers) and he ranked third amongst the Rays pitchers, behind Kazmir (345) and Shields (197). James (183) did finish ahead of Casey Fossum (174) which is incredible considering he pitched less five less innings after the modifications. James is also a flyball pitcher but with the speed of our OF that would actually play to our advantage in the homer supressing Trop.
Finally let's take Delmon Young's point of view into this...
"I don't want to face that guy no more. It's that changeup. He threw me a 2-0 changeup and I thought I broke my bat on my back." That's from a guy who was called a `future hall of famer' from two managers during his `premiere' month.
Last but not least let's touch on the effect of losing Rocco for the Rays lineup. To being with we could possibly lose a lot of leather as nobody knows what B.J. Upton will do in either LF or CF if CC agrees to move to center. Next he's yet to show he can hit at the major league level yet I feel he proved a little bit by ending last year hot, if he becomes more aggressive at the plate rather than taking many looking-third strike calls he could become a prototypical leadoff hitter : patient, speed, strokes of power.
So what does all of this say from me? Personally I was high on the idea of Penn + Cabrera for Rocco since it presented one extremely high reward arm and a decent arm to boot, the Rays asked for Chris Ray and Adam Loewen, go figure.
Chuck James hasn't been the apple of my eye, I'll admit I make fun of Salty for being tubby or having a `Jeremy Brown-esque' chest, heck I even admit I really didn't care about Escobar at all. However at the end of the day we won't win without pitching. Now we can wait another year or two and see what comes of our prospects, our we can go out and get a guy like Chuck James and two high reward prospects like Escobar and Salty and perhaps find two diamonds in the rough.
So what am I ranting at here....I cannot say I would be upset if we made this deal. That's a big if considering the Braves only want to give us Davies, Salty, and Escobar, we're pushing for Chuck James to be included. The ball is in Atlanta's court, will they make the deal, taking away a load of talent, to have Andruw Jones replacement on hand? Or do they take the risk of Andruw leaving them high and dry?
I guess we could find out soon, but I honestly doubt unless the DRO is satisfied with these select three that we make a move before the season starts, at least a Rocco trade. Bare with the rest of us as we await what very well could become (cue the cliché police) a brave new world for the Rays.