Saturday, November 03, 2007

Off-Season Trade Idea #1

I assume I'll have more of these as the off-season wears on, but this is a deal I've been thinking about for months. The two Florida teams have been working on some kind of "pitching for a center fielder" deal for a while. Now that the soon-to-be former Devil Rays seem to have their outfield of Crawford, Upton, and Young set for the next ten years, their other outfield parts should be expendable.

So why not trade Rocco Baldelli to the Marlins for Dontrelle Willis?

This just makes sense - both players have been overrated for years, and both should have been traded two years ago while they still had value. It would be the ultimate challenge trade for the two inter-league rivals, and although I don't think either one has the guts to pull it off, I think it benefits both clubs.

Florida needs another bat in the lineup and has been running through the likes of Reggie Abercrombie, Alejandro De Aza, and Alfredo Amezaga in center field over the past few seasons. Baldelli's a huge health question mark, but if he's in the lineup, he gives you pretty good power and speed and his glove won't kill you. He's also got a reasonable price tag, as he's signed for only $2.25 million in '08, with club options from '09 to '11. He's high risk, health-wise, but low-risk money-wise, and high-reward performance-wise. With all of the young pitchers Florida already has, they need to make a move to upgrade their offense.

Tampa Bay obviously has the outfield surplus, and their offense as a whole has the potential to be scary in 2008 with or without Baldelli. At this point, they don't need him, but they can't expect to get much back for him, and Willis is a risky proposition in his own right. However, he can at least give the team innings (he's pitched over 200 in each of the last three seasons), and he does still have a high upside. Personally, I think he'd get killed in the American League, but what other options are out there?

I wouldn't even fault the Devil Rays for getting him just as a placeholder until David Price is ready; he's also charismatic and could put people in the seats when he pitches. Tampa has been working to grow their fan base, making them more of a regional team (see the games in Orlando last year). A recognizable face like Willis, whether he produces or not, could help them in that regard, and build them up a little bit in the public eye before they're really ready to contend in a year or two. They stand to gain a lot on and off the field.

Which is exactly why I think the Marlins wouldn't make this deal. I think they'd want a lot more than just Baldelli for Willis, even though Willis isn't nearly as valuable as they think he is. Could Tampa Bay throw in something like a B-level prospect to make it work? Would they even want to, and would that be enough for the Marlins?

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