With the acquisition of Ryan Theriot, it appears that part one of the Mozeliak / LaRussa master plan for jettisoning Brendan Ryan is complete. Personally, I think the Cardinals would be foolish to trade Boog. But unless I miss my guess, Ryan is likely to be gone within the week. This got me thinking about two general questions.
1) What is Brendan Ryan worth?
2) What might the Cardinals get in return for Boog?
STEP ONE - VALUE
2010 - 0.9
2009 - 3.4
2008 - 0.3
2007 - 1.6
TOTAL - 6.2
Ryan has averaged about 1.5 WAR per season. Yes, this has clearly been assisted by his stellar defensive abilities. But the numbers by themselves are respectable. Keep in mind that his first two years were in a part-time status. Projecting forward, I think we can assume Ryan is good for somewhere between 1-2 WAR annually, at least for the next five years or so (assuming he plays somewhere regularly).
2010 - 57
2009 - 97
2008 - 59
2007 - 95
AVERAGE - 77
Ok, here's the part of Ryan's game that sucks. Lets just roll with it. A seventy-seven OPS is pretty darn poor. But I think its also worth pointing out that Ryan's range is fairly broad. In two of his four seasons, Ryan managed to post a nearly acceptable 100 OPS. This suggests he has the capability to be serviceable as a hitter. Barely.
2010 - 11.5
2009 - 7.2
2008 - 3.8
2007 - 0.6
TOTAL - 23.1
I could just as easily have used some other sabermetric stat like his Total Zone rating, but I figured UZR was the prettiest, because it showed the best possible direction. Brendan Ryan's fielding is electric. No one is denying this. He was deserving of a Gold Glove this year. He could still finish his career with five of those things. I also checked his TZ rating verses other shortstops. Ryan is elite level. The people ahead of him are noticeably older, with the exception of Tulowitski (who just got the insane contract, btw).
SHOW ME THE MONEY
Finally, you can't talk about value until you mention the money. Ryan is entering the first of three arbitration years. That means for the next three years, he is (theoretically) very affordable. What is he poised to make the next three years? Well, I'm no expert on arbitration values, but I used JJ Hardy from the Twins as a comp. Hardy has managed 9.9 WAR over six seasons. His arbitration years, he received $2.6M, $4.6M, and $5.1M. My guess is Ryan comes in south of that figure, meaning he costs the Cardinals (or some other team) about $8-10M over the next three years.
STEP TWO - TRADES
So with all of this in mind, I now ask the fuzzier question of what Mozeliak and company should ask for in return for Boog. I'm assuming a fair-value trade here, not one where the Cardinals take sixty cents on the dollar or something nonsensical. To that end, I'd like to propose a few potential trade possibilities that make a small glimmer of sense. I tried to take needs of both teams into consideration with these ideas. I also tried to look for matches between the Cardinals and high-octane offense teams (as they can absorb Ryan's lack of plate prowess). Feel free to mock, argue, scold, or insult me below.
Brendan Ryan for Joel Zumaya (RP, Tigers)
I've been reading about Zumaya being non-tendered, but likely to return to Detroit. But I think there's a potential good match here. Zumaya is still in the arbitration years of his service time, albeit further along. He's also had some minor injury issues and inconsistencies. But he also has very high upside. He has a terrifying fastball and other skillsets that would make him attractive. Furthermore, I think he'd do very well under Duncan's instruction and with a talented catcher like Yadi behind the plate. In return, the Tigers get a vastly superior SS to Peralta, at least in terms of defense. And Detroit's offense is already in the top third of the league, likely to improve with the acquisition of Victor Martinez.
Brendan Ryan for Drake Britton (SP, Red Sox)
I know, I know. You're asking who this guy is. He's one of the Red Sox's better prospects in the minors. And he projects to have very high upside. I linked his profile here, for those curious. I was tempted to list Casey Kelly, the Sox top prospect, but I don't think they'd give up that high a prize for Ryan. Then again, what do I know. I DO know that the Red Sox have an aging Scutaro at SS (35 years old). I also wondered whether I should suggest Jed Lowrie, who would be a nice infield improvement. Just remember, I'm trying to identify realistic matches that offer fair value to both sides.
Brendan Ryan for Joba Chamberlain (RP, Yankees)
Joba has been a disappointment for the Yankees, but it may be that a change in environment would do wonders for his confidence and play. The Cardinals would be taking something of a gamble, but they could potentially have a solid starter or reliever if they made this move. The Yankees in return would have a low-cost defensive upgrade. Yes, they may sign Jeter. But the Yankees are the type of team that would love to drop a talented defender into the game in the later innings (presumably when they are preserving their leads). Chamberlain and Ryan would also have the benefit of effectively being a salary push.
Anyway, I've blathered on long enough. This is where you tell me I'm full of it. And one final note - I do NOT think the Cardinals should trade Ryan. His upside is just too high for my taste, and I feel as if they would be trading low. But if the clubhouse chemistry needs to be tinkered with, then so be it.