Ranking the deals

In know this is the umpteenth ranking of proposed deals on the table for Johan Santana, but there seems to be lack of consensus on who's offering the best deal. LEN3 just posted a blog entry that got more than 700 comments in one day on the subject. According to LEN3, it's down to the Red Sox, Yankees and Mets. Each team is offering four players, including a major league center fielder and three prospects.

The trouble is, how do we evaluate the rumored deals side by side when there is such a lack of consensus on the prospects involved. Seth Stohs ranks the prospects bandied about. His ranking differs greatly from John Sickels' rankings of the Yankees , Red Sox, and Mets. I could go into other subscription sources, which differ from both rankings, but Seth and Sickels will suffice for this discussion. The only difficulty is several of the players are no longer prospects, so I will have to slot them in based on my own appraisal because neither ranks them. Feel free to dispute my slotting of the major leaguers involved in the comments section.

First, let's examine whom various media reports have identified as trade targets:

Red Sox
There are two packages on the table: One involves John Lester, Coco Crisp, Jed Lowrie and Justin Masterson. The other involves Jacoby Ellsbury, Lowrie, Masterson, and a fourth prospect--either Michael Bowden or Ryan Kalish. I don't think the Sox will hold up the deal if it's over Bowden versus Kalish.

Yankees
The two solid names are Melky Cabrera and Philip Hughes. At one time, talks broke off because the Twins demanded Ian Kennedy and another prospect and the Yankees would only part with one mid-level prospect and certainly not Kennedy. Well, talks are back on and they have come to the middle somewhat. The Twins have backed off their demands for Kennedy and the Yankees have agreed to offer two prospects somewhat above midlevel. The best we can guess right now is it's pitcher Jeff Marquez and either Jose Tabata or Austin Jackson. Rumor has it the Yankees are higher on Tabata than the Twins, so I would finger Jackson as the fourth element.

Mets
There is a lot less clarity on the Mets because of persistent rumors that the Twins are demanding Jose Reyes in a trade despite Minaya's adamant refusal and the Twins acquisition of Adam Everette. I dispute these rumors on another diary on this site. So I'm going to set them aside and go with a more credible list.

The list I've seen starts with Carlos Gomez and Fernando Martinez and two pitchers from a list of four: Mike Pelfrey, Philip Humber, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra.

Now let's examine the two rankings. Seth ranks them thus (with the Twins own prospects sprinkled in for reference and some mind blowingly optimistic upside projects to go along with them):

Philip Hughes - New York Yankees - Roger Clemens
Fernando Martinez - New York Mets - Ken Griffey Jr
Carlos Gomez - New York Mets - Carlos Beltran
Jacoby Ellsbury - Boston Red Sox - Johnny Damon
Deolis Guerra - New York Mets - Pedro Martinez
Jose Tabata - New  York Yankees - Andre Dawson
·         Tyler Robertson
·         Anthony Swarzak
Jon Lester - Boston Red Sox - Andy Pettitte
Jed Lowrie - Boston Red Sox - Dustin Pedroia with more pop
Ian Kennedy - New York Yankees - Kevin Slowey
·         Trevor Plouffe
Kevin Mulvey - New York Mets - Jon Garland
Jeff Marquez - New York Yankees - Freddy Garcia
·         Brian Duensing
·         Jeff Manship
Michael Bowden - Boston Red Sox - Jake Peavy
·         Chris Parmelee
·         Danny Valencia
·         Alex Burnett
·         Joe Benson
Ryan Kalish - Boston Red Sox - Austin Kearns (the good year)
Austin Jackson - New York Yankees - Jason Bay (at best)
·         Erik Lis
·         Eduardo Morlan - traded to Tampa
·         Oswaldo Sosa
·         Ben Revere
Justin Masterson - Boston Red Sox - Carlos Silva
·         David Winfree

Just going on Sickels' preliminary ranking and assigning my own ranking for the non prospects in parentheses:

Philip Hughes: (A)
Jacoby Ellsbury: A-
Jed Lowrie: A-
Fernando Martinez: B+
Jose Tabata: B+
Ian Kennedy: B+
John Lester: (B+)
Deolis Guerra: B+
Carlos Gomez: B (might go to B+ in the book)
Kevin Mulvey: B (might go to B+ in the book)
Melky Cabrera: (B)
Coco Crisp: (B)
Michael Bowden: B
Justin Masterson: B
Ryan Kalish: B
Austin Jackson: B-
Philip Humber: B-
Jeffrey Marquez: C+

I tend to side with Sickels' ranking based on esoteric analysis from my new favorite site: firstinning.com, which I urge you to do on your own time. I know Sickels pays attention to such things as FIP, GB%, BAPIP and LD%, which are the gold standard of my evaluations. Seth pays more attention to ERA, age, and walk rate, which are important too, but less so, IMO.

The other thing to consider is how well the three packages fit into the Twins short and long-term plans. All things considered, I would rather have the package that helps this team win a championship in the new ballpark as opposed to competing for the wild card in 2008. Your mileage may vary. I pick the best deals without really knowing whether the teams would give up these packages.

  1. Red Sox: Ellsbury (A-), Lowrie (A-), Bowden (B) and Masterson (B).
  2. Mets: Martinez (B+),  Guerra (B+), Gomez (B), and  Mulvey (B).
  3. Yankees: Hughes (A), Cabrera (B), Jackson (B-) and Marquez (C+)
One proviso: The Mets might not give up Guerra and might prefer Humber (B-) instead. In which case, they still don't slip into Yankee land, but their deal is less attractive. Also, I'm not as sold on Guerra as Sickels is. His grade is mostly due to his age (18) and level (A+). But his numbers suggest he's being rushed in typical Mets fashion. And if the Yankees exchange Tabata (B+) for Jackson, their offer suddenly vaults them ahead of the Mets, but still does not get them into Red Sox territory.

Conclusion
If I were Bill Smith, I would take any of the three offers. But I think the Red Sox's offer gives the Twins the best chance long term while the Yankees offer gives the Twins the best chance short term. The Mets offer gives better long term value than the Yankees but little short-term value.

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