Unconventional Wisdom: Angels score with deal that was a must
One of the tropes I tend to hammer on is that teams should be built to win in October, not simply to get there. Winning is the gift that keeps on giving, good for attendance spikes, better local market media and ad revenue, and permanent satisfaction that you've done more than someone like the Yankees or Braves lately. Who knows, it might even make you an acceptably Angeleno franchise, instead of a suburban wannabe.
This isn't going to be a paean to current Angels GM
In practical terms,
All very interesting, and all very validating for the Angels' way of doing things, except
So all the talk about Teixeira as an RBI guy in the middle of the order is relatively unimportant, not on an Angels team that's just not going to give him that many baserunners to plate in the first place. Instead what's really going to matter are the things he can control -- the power he'll deliver and the OBP that he'll add from the middle of the order. His presence in the lineup will spare the Angels the indignity of batting
The price for Teixeira -- a bullpen arm in
In the abstract, the picks themselves might have been worth it as a matter of repurposing Kotchman and Marek after both have come up short relative to the hopes invested in them as prospects, so from that point of view adding the two months with Tex at first base to take their best shot at winning the whole shebang just makes this that much tastier. Add in that they'll be up a spot on the 40-man over the winter, and it's a move that creates all sorts of little benefits beyond the obvious one of adding Teixeira's bat.
If there's really something to credit Reagins for, it's some combination of the following factors:
• The recognition that no matter how much Kotchman was an organizational favorite son -- literally, since his dad's in his third decade as a scout and manager in the organization -- he wasn't blossoming into the kind of premium bat you need at first base.
• Accepting the math that three years of an adequate first baseman is something you give up to get two months of one of the best at the position to maximize this team's shot at another World Series win, because an adequate Kotchman is something you can replace without any effort (with minor league first baseman
• You didn't have to give up a blue-chip prospect to address your lineup's shortcomings. An arm to flavor the deal in an exchange of first basemen can be written off as the cost of doing business.
• You didn't settle. The Angels are playing to win, not just against their AL West rivals, but with an eye towards playing deep into October. This last might seem obvious, but
As for the Braves, GM
As a result, since Kotchman's going to be a seven-figure player for the rest of his pre-free agency career with the Braves after his two-month introduction, the real question is whether or not he's worth it, or if he isn't the sort of player you go out of your way to avoid this kind of commitment to. The answer isn't really a very happy one for Braves fans.
Kotchman is usually evaluated in terms of power potential (mostly unrealized) and fielding acumen. Granting him the fielding, that leaves us with the first baseman's primary responsibility, hitting prowess. Kotchman's career has had its share of hiccups, between too much time spent cooling his heels waiting for the organization's man crush on
This year he hasn't improved any in the power department while getting dramatically worse as hitting coach
If that doesn't sound like a championship ballplayer, you're beginning to get the idea. Obviously his inconsistency is both his bane and his best defense against criticism; as he moves deeper into his expected peak period through his age-25 through age-29 seasons, if he can lean more toward that 2007 campaign, he's a worthwhile placeholder. If he keeps see-sawing between millstone and asset, however, he'll be an exasperating player who will be hard to trade high when his value is up, and hard to stomach when it's low.
The second player in the deal, Marek, has value, but it's not really enough to say this is an exchange that's going to do Atlanta that much good. He's a max-effort hurler who has been moved to the pen in his first season in Double-A this year, and with consistently good velocity and a usable curve to keep people honest. With 57 strikeouts in 46 2/3 IP he has punched out slightly more than 28 percent of the hitters he's faced, but he has also walked 21 hitters. He's not overly fly ball-prone, which bodes well for his future in any environment.
A Braves scout might think they can work with him to perhaps move him back to the rotation and maximize the value he might have; he did manage to strike out more than seven batters per nine innings over 25 starts in Rancho Cucamonga in the high-offense Cal League last year. However, it initially looks like he's slotted to stay in the pen, where maybe he becomes a useful guy and maybe he knocks around for a while as something less than a premium reliever; the margin between the two is very slim, and so broad that it seems unlikely he'll do all that much to recoup the value expended in the deal -- both Teixeira and the draft picks that left with him.
To give Wren credit, he was in a tough spot, and he also wound up having to make a pretty quick call. The Angels gave him an erratically valuable first baseman who will be under team control for the next three years and a live-armed minor league reliever. It isn't inconceivable that Wren will look good in a year or two, especially if Kotchman finally finds himself and settles in, but even if he just recaptures the walks, a low-powered first baseman is the kind of player whom you have to compensate for in your lineup, not build around.