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Intradivisional musings

There's been a lot of talk over the last couple of days about Bernie's comments from the other day about the Cards being in the market for an SP. Initially I thought Millwood or Padilla from the Rangers were the most likely but it was revealed later that was the Brewers' Chris Capuano was the likely target.

As these rumors about Capuano started to fly, there was talk of Reyes being involved and perhaps that the trade would expand to involve Rolen and that the Cards might receive Bill Hall or Kevin Mench and Tony Gwynn, Jr.

I have no idea whether or not these rumors are true, but I thought we should evaluate the plausibility of these rumors and whether or not this trade might be one worth making. Doug Melvin's denied speaking to the Cards of late but that doesn't mean that other prime movers in the Brewers' organization haven't had discussions w/ Mozeliak or someone else in the Cards' organization.

First, is it conceivable that the Brewers could trade Capuano within the division? We know that this doesn't happen that often, mostly b/c teams are afraid the players they trade will come back to haunt them. You don't want to risk making your opponents better as well. But I'm of the opinion that, if the Brewers think trading Capuano for Reyes makes them better, then they believe that this trade will likely make the Cards worse so why wouldn't they do it?

What about Capuano as a Cardinal? He stunk last year, which sort of fits the criteria for what the Cards are looking for - someone we can trade for relatively cheaply and fit into the rotation. He only pitched 150 innings last year - finishing w/ a 5.10 era. His WARP1 was 3.3 and THT credited him w/ exactly 1 WSAB.

He is, however, coming off 2 solid seasons. In '05 and '06 combined he threw 440 innings, had ERA's of 3.99 and 4.03, and had 350 K's. However, one interesting thing about his successful years as opposed to last year is that his FIP in '05 was 4.54 while last year it was 4.44. Perhaps his unsuccessful season last year resulted, at least partly, from the Brewers' atrocious defense. So maybe there is reason to believe that last year was an aberration if put in the right situation.

Is he worth giving up Reyes for? That's entirely another question but we should be clear that Reyes will be traded this offseason. Should he be? Perhaps; perhaps not. But it's going to happen - he has no options left and there's every reason to believe that Tony and Duncan are sick of him. So he'll be traded - probably in a trade for a vet like Capuano.

The major problem w/ trading Reyes for Capuano is that Reyes has accumulated less than 2 years of service time, meaning that he has 5 years `til free agency. If you don't think Reyes will ever amount to anything - who cares? But if you're like me, and think that there's a decent chance that he'll turn into an average MLB starter - giving up 5 years of relatively cheap SP is a lot to give up. Capuano is 2 years from free agency. Would Capuano have to be 2 ½ times better than Reyes to justify the trade? Capuano does have at least 2 years (depending on how you see his '07) of solid pitching and Reyes just doesn't so we have more reason to be confident in Capuano's ability to be average or better than in Reyes'. However, I ask again - is it likely that he'll be 2 ½ times better than Reyes?

What about opening up the trade to include Rolen? Would the Brewers be interested? They'd be fools not to be interested and Doug Melvin is no fool. As I mentioned, their defense was atrocious last year - it probably cost them the division title and Ryan Braun was a primary culprit. His bat has to be in the lineup of course but he's beyond abysmal defensively and probably belongs in LF or at 1B. Unfortunately (for them) they already have a horrendous defensive player whose bat they must keep in the lineup at 1B so LF is Braun's best option. Putting Rolen at 3B and Braun in LF improves their team immediately. Using FRAA as a baseline, just last year Rolen was +16 FRAA and Braun was -25 FRAA - that's a 41 run difference, 4 wins, on defense alone. Even if you assume that Rolen would only be as good offensively as the man he'd replace in their lineup (Geoff Jenkins), Rolen adds 4 wins to the Brew Crew. Some don't like BP's defensive metrics. Even so, he's gotta be worth at least 2-3 wins on defense alone.

Would Rolen waive his no-trade to go to Milwaukee? Let's see - Midwestern team, contender, chance to stick it to Tony 15 times a year - yeah, I think he'd waive it. It seems as though Mozeliak is really working hard to try and trade Rolen so this part is conceivable.

What about Bill Hall? I'm not convinced Hall is worth Rolen. Hall has tremendous power, is relatively young, and has speed. He's also versatile - having played SS, 3B, and CF over the last few years. However, he also strikes out a ton - 393 times the last 3 years, and seldom walks - 142 during the same time period. His career OBP is .320 (yuck!) and his career high is just .345. Defensively, he's average at best though. He's hard to peg - BP and THT have him about league average defensively at 3rd. David Pinto measured him for CF last year and SS in '06, his primary positions and had him as the 2nd worst CF in baseball last year and the best SS in baseball in '06 . So it's possible he could be OK at 3rd.

Hall's OPS over the last 3 years has been .837, .898, and .740. His respective VORP's were 36.3, 44.3 and 6.7. Maybe moving back to the infield can get his VORP back into the 35-40 range. That would put him at around Garett Atkins' level. That, and average defense at 3B makes this trade look a little better than I originally thought. He'll be 28 when next season starts and has 2 years until free agency. Bill James has him pegged for 22 homers and an .800 OPS and ZIPS has him projected at 20 HR and an .811 OPS for next season. As I said, that's all better than I originally thought - Rolen and Reyes for Capuano and Hall. Interesting. I may have just talked myself into it.

So what about Mench and Gwynn? First of all, neither are everyday players and neither would solve the hole at 3B created by trading Rolen. Mench does mash left-handers. You could platoon him w/ Ludwick or Gwynn in LF and trade Duncan for a 3B or pitching or something. Gwynn can play all 3 OF positions but has a career OPS+ of 61. Isn't Schumaker as good or better? Why would we want him? Mench does have some value as part of a platoon. He's got a career OPS of .924 vs. lefties in 775 PA's but I'd rather have a AA half-prospect than Tony Gwynn, Jr.

So what about that -- Capuano, Mench and a decent but not great prospect for Rolen and Reyes? Mench platoons w/ Duncan and the other 3 OF spots belong to Edmonds, Ludwick and Ankiel. Mench is a free agent at the end of '08 so he really doesn't do much for the club. He mashes lefties and challenges the clubhouse uniform personnel to find a helmet big enough to fit his Heed - "It's like an orange on a toothpick. THAT'S A VIRTUAL PLANETOID!" . Aside from that, and the relentless jokes, he does nothing for me. Pass.

But Rolen and Reyes for Capuano and Hall is an idea worth exploring. We'd save a little money, but not really enough to justify send some coin to Milwaukee. Both Hall and Capuano are arbitration eligible this year and will earn, together, about $9 million. Rolen's $12 M + Reyes, say $1 M means the Cards would save about $4 million. I don't see a need to send the Beermakers any cash. We'd get 2 guys under control for 2 years and there's no reason to think that Capuano and Hall couldn't be at least league average over the next couple of years. We're going to trade Reyes anyway - maybe Capuano is the best we can do.

Millwood is under contract for the next 3 years and is owed $46.5 M - OUCH! When I first looked at that a couple of days ago, I didn't notice that his signing bonus hadn't been paid yet - talk about a virtual planetoid! Wow! Padilla is under contract for 2 more years at $23 M and is certifiable. His best ERA+ over the last 4 years was 102 in '06 - that was the year he hit 17 batters. Capuano's ERA+s over the last 3 years have been 107, 113, and 88 and there's every reason to believe that last year's would've been right around 100 w/ a better defense.

Something may still happen re: Rolen w/ the loser of the Miguel Cabrera sweepstakes - probably either the Dodgers or Angels. That might open up the possibility of Ervin Santana or, dare I say, Chad Billingsley? Doubt it but maybe there's something better out there but the idea of Reyes and Rolen for Capuano and Hall has more merit now than when I originally considered it. The problem is still trading 5 years of Reyes for 2 years of Capuano - it's possible that Reyes will be more valuable over 5 years than Capuano over 2, and that Rolen will be better than Hall - if so, we'd be screwed. You'd have to think this trade will still be there later - the Brew Crew's not trading for Cabrera so let's wait a while and explore this if something can't be worked out w/ the 2 LA/Anaheim/Santa Monica/Fullerton/Santa Ana/Chino/Yorba Linda teams.