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the market for reyes

i've been meaning for a while to sketch out some parameters for anthony reyes' trade value. almost without question he'll be launched; what type of return does a player like him tend to fetch?

lucky for us, a number of players with reyes' general profile have been dealt within the last year, so we have a number of fresh data points to refer to. by "reyes' general profile," i mean a player who was a top 3 prospect within his organization; was ranked on baseball america's top-100 prospects list; struggled upon reaching the majors; and then, while still an unestablished talent (or worse), got shipped off.

our first precedent from the 2006-07 off-season is one-time houston prospect jason hirsh, an extremely comparable player to reyes. they're the same age, were drafted the same year (2003), posted similar minor-league numbers, and were ranked very close to each other on baseball america's watch lists. both guys reached the majors in 2006 and had up-and-down debuts. hirsh got packaged up last winter with taylor buchholz and willy taveras in exchange for jason jennings, a league-averagey pitcher with one year left on his contract. it was a terrible trade for the astros and probably was one of the reasons tim purpurra got fired.

next case would be gavin floyd, the flame-throwing philadelphia prospect who was hurried through the minors (essentially bypassing double A) and opened the 2005 season in the big-league rotation. after beating the cardinals in his season debut, he gave up 21 runs over his next 7 innings pitched and was sent back to scranton. he wasn't much better in 2006 (7.29 era in 11 starts), so the phillies packaged him up with gio gonzalez in exchange for freddy garcia, who like jennings had one year left on his deal. the white sox look like the winners here --- garcia got hurt and floyd looks like a bust, but gonazlez had a standout year at double A and will be a top 50 prospect heading into next season.

turn your attention now to brandon mccarthy, the chisox farmhand who came up in 2005, the sox' championship year. despite turning in 150 league-average innings over two seasons, mccarthy somehow was judged a failure. never really got a chance, it seems to me. he was traded for the rangers' john danks, a highly touted prospect in his own right. mccarthy remained a league-average performer in texas this year before getting hurt; danks, meanwhile, went 6-13 with a 5.50 era. . . . . one last case from 2007: during the season the braves cut bait on kyle davies, a former top-60 prospect who coughed up too many walks and too many homers. all the braves could get for him was two months' worth of octavio dotel --- and dotel spent 1.5 of those months on the disabled list. . . .

if we go back a year, we find failed dodger prospect edwin jackson getting dealt as part of a package for danys baez, then entering the last year of his contract; and one year prior to that we find jerome williams getting traded as part of a package for latroy hawkins, the wrecked and ruined chicago reliever with 5 months to run on his deal. . . . . noticing a pattern? with only one exception (brandon mccarthy), all of these disappointments were dealt for players in their walk year --- rentals lasting one season or less. and in all but two cases, the sheen-off prospect had to be bundled with other players --- they no longer possessed enough value to carry a trade on their own. what do these examples suggest about reyes? they suggest it's realistic to think that reyes plus a certain number of others (and by "others," i mean guys like blake hawksworth, mark hamilton, brendan ryan, mark worrell, cody haerther) might be sufficient to pry renteria free from the braves, or garland from the white sox, or furcal from the dodgers. it doesn't mean such a trade will happen, of course; they might get esteban loiaiza for him, or wily mo pena. but it's not far-fetched to think that reyes could be the main piece in a package that nets one year of a decent player.

whether or not this would represent a good outcome is a matter of opinion, and opinions will differ --- as they always do where reyes is concerned.

i had another question about reyes' trade value: when a pitcher (any pitcher, not just a young one) has stats as bad as anthony's, how much can you reasonably expect to get back for him? toward that end, i filtered my lahmann database for pitcher-seasons since 1995 with 5 wins or fewer, 12 losses or more, and era's above 5.00. the yield was a few dozen names, but one in particular jumped right out at me: jose jimenez, who went 5-14, 5.85 for the 1999 cardinals --- the last losing cardinals team before this one. jimenez, you'll recall, was the centerpiece of the package that brought over darryl kile, and he was nowhere near the prospect that reyes was. he didn't reach double A until age 24 (the same age wainwright and reyes reached the big leagues), and at the time he was called up to st louis he'd only made 4 starts at triple A. jimenez was never on anybody's watch list; while he was coming up through the ranks, the most heralded pitchers in the stl organization were matt morris, rick ankiel, chad hutchinson, and bud smith.

jimenez also was a different type of pitcher than reyes. he was a pitch-to-contacter whose best offering was a hard sinker. so in many very substantial ways, these guys are not comparable at all. nonetheless, their final years in st louis (presumed, in reyes' case) were very much alike statistically:

w-l era fip k/9 w/9 hr/9 lob%
reyes 07 2-14 6.04 5.21 6.2 3.6 1.3 60.3
jimenez 99 5-14 5.85 4.60 6.2 3.9 0.9 60.6

i included both pitchers' strand rates to illustrate another similarity: both guys pitched very well in non-RISP situations but got hammered with men on base --- especially with 2 outs. if jimenez, a 2d-tier prospect coming off an awful year, was attractive enough to fetch a #1-type starter like darryl kile, then maybe reyes could bring a true ace?

not so fast. kile was far from an ace at the time; he was a free-agent bust whom the rockies couldn't get rid of fast enough. they didn't care who they got back in that trade --- they just wanted to clear their payroll of kile, who'd posted a 6.20 era in 1999 and was entering his walk year on a salary of about $8 million (which in those days was considered a back-breaking contract). jimenez's chief appeal was his low price tag, not his ability (although colorado did make decent use of him as a closer). and he was only one of 4 players st louis sent over --- the other three were manny aybar, rick croushore, and brent butler. (the cardinals also got dave veres and luther hackman back in the deal.) then as now, the cards had a formless rotation and needed a workhorse who could throw 200 innings; they bet that kile might regain his form once he left coors field, and he did. but at the time he was acquired, nobody would have described him as a true frontline pitcher; he was a pricey 1-year reclamation with a very spotty record --- only 1 sub-4.00 era in the 6 years before the trade. in st louis, kile finally became a consistently good pitcher; he represents one of duncan's best rehab stories.

in any case, this particular precedent tends to reinforce the conclusion we arrived at above --- reyes might, as part of a package, be enough to land a veteran in his walk year. in my opinion, that'd be a pretty meager return on reyes' promise; it's not the type of trade rebuilding organizations usually make. but given anthony's awkward fit with this coaching staff we'd prob'y have to consider such an outcome a triumph.