Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Trade #2

The Nationals continued their hot stove season today, jumping in as a third party to a trade between the Rays and Padres. The Padres added to their long list of somewhat surprising offseason moves, picking up former Rookie of the Year Wil Myers from the Rays. The Rays, cutting bait after only 2 season of Wil Myers, added to their minor league stockpile with the pieces coming over from the Padres and found their Wil Myers replacement in the form of Nats outfielder Steven Souza. There are a lot of angles to this trade, obviously, but let’s take a look at what it means for the Nationals.

Stephen Souza’s trade value was the highest it has ever been this offseason. He wrapped up a minor league career tearing up AAA in 2014 to the tune of a .350 batting average and some postseason accolades. He is the ultimate shiny prospect, yet to be tarnished by the harsh realities of the majors. Souza has power, as his .240 ISO in AAA in 2014 attests to, but he struggles with strikeouts. He does post decent walk rates, though, so he is not totally a swing for the fences or strike out guy. Steamer projects him to hit .269/.336/.441 in 2015, a solid line for a starting corner outfielder. For the Nationals, though, he was at best a 4th outfielder in 2014. Spectacular no-hitter catch notwithstanding, he most likely slots in as a corner outfielder, a position not likely to be open for the Nationals for several years. He was also competing with fellow star prospect Michael Taylor, whose defensive chops line him up to be Span’s replacement in CF in the near future. Souza’s best bet at regular playing time in 2014 for the Nationals would have come on the heels of an injury to Werth or Harper. Those two do have a somewhat lengthy injury history, so it’s not like Souza’s place on the Nationals was without value. However, a 4th outfielder is not an impossible commodity to replace. This trade most likely signals a big opportunity for Michael Taylor to stick at the MLB level in 2015.

Trea Turner is the shinier of the two prospects the Nats picked up. He was just drafted 13th overall in June, reaching the Padres A ball team by the end of the season, and hitting .369/.447/.529 while doing so. He came out of NC State and that college experience likely gave him a leg up on the competition in rookie ball and A ball, so take that early slash line with a grain of salt. Reports peg him as a great athlete, with the tools to stick at shortstop long term. He flashed some speed (30 SBs across the three levels he played at) and good enough pop (.160 ISO in A ball). had him ranked as the fifth best prospect in the Padres system. For someone so young, the failure rate is still pretty high, even with that history. Don’t pencil him in as the future starting SS for the Nats just yet. Some people might speculate what this means for Desmond’s future. Turner is no threat to get the MLB call up in 2015, and 2016 would even be a stretch. The Nationals plan with Desmond is the same, with or without this trade taking place. If it comes to it, the Nationals would likely move an older Desmond to third or second base if Turner was really pushing for playing time in the future (i.e. 2016 and beyond should a long term deal get worked out with Desi). Turner will need some seasoning, but has the potential to be a key member of the Nationals long term plans.

The second prospect the Nationals acquired is no slouch himself. Another former first round draft pick, Joe Ross was ranked as the Padres eighth best prospect. The younger brother of current Padres pitcher Tyson Ross, he hasn’t yet put up stellar minor league numbers. He is a hard thrower working to develop his off speed pitches into reliable options. He has yet to show major strike out ability, although the consensus seems to be that the strikeouts will come as he learns control and perfects those off speed pitches. He had some shoulder issues in 2011, so that would be something keep an eye on. Ross is a good example of someone who scouts are high on even though the traditional and analytical stats at the minor league level don’t immediately scream star. For pitchers especially, it’s a transition to learn how to really pitch at the professional level. The consensus from the scouts seem to be that he has the stuff to do that, given the time. 

Now, keep in mind, there are a few moving pieces still in play. Wil Myers is coming off of a wrist injury so will likely have to pass a physical. Turner is not technically eligible to be traded yet as he was drafted in the 2014 amateur draft and will be considered a Player To Be Named Later until reaching eligibility. If all the details concerning the Nationals are true, though, the Nats acquired two players with potentially bright futures in areas of a known future need (SS) and a position with lots of attrition (SP), giving up one solid player from a position of depth (OF). While I hate the internet’s reaction to assign a winner and loser to every trade, Rizzo made out pretty well here.

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