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Transaction Oracle
— A Timely Look at Transactions as They Happen

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Royals - Acquired Gathright

Kansas City Royals - Acquired OF Joey Gathright and 2B Fernando Cortez from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for P J.P. Howell.

You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.  After all the hype, it comes down to what Dayton Moore actually does with the Royals and it’s hard to say his first move is anything but uninspiring.

The Royals are a team of very few strengths.  One of those very few strengths is David DeJesus.  The team does not have enough strengths that it can afford to take one of the better starting centerfielders in baseball and decided to use him as an average-ish leftfielder.  The team especially cannot afford to squander DeJesus’ value as a player in order to take advantage of the exceedingly low value that Gathright can bring to a team right now.  Gathright’s still incredibly raw - he relies on his legs for everything, isn’t a particularly talented defensive player, and has no arm.  He’s not the bunter that other guys of this type are, either.  Could Gathright hit 320/370/370 in the majors someday?  Maybe.  But most players of the type will go the Jason Tyner route instead.  Fernando Cortez is a future stathead un-favorite, whose offense exists only to make players like Juan Castro look good by comparison.

What are the Royals other strengths?  Well, I can’t think of any, but I’m pretty sure that young pitching prospects is not one of them.  Howell’s not the prospect that Justin Verlander or Jeremy Sowell or Francisco Liriano are, but the Royals are not deep in young pitching and he was worth hanging onto.  Project starting pitchers (Howell’s more of a Jamie Moyer type who relies on craft rather than stuff) are just more useful to the Royals than project centerfielders - they already have a centerfielder for their core.

C- for Moore’s first move.

From the point of view of the Devil Rays, this is a nice little trade, which accurately deals a surplus for a need, though it’s obviously not grand theft on the level of Kazmir/Zambrano.  The Rays are committed to giving Rocco Baldelli every chance to stay healthy and remain in the lineup, they’re rightly committing to Carl Crawford, and they have a number of high-end outfield prospects (Delmon Young and Elijah Dukes) to find jobs for out there, not to mention they might need yet another spot out there depending on the final destination of B.J. Upton’s glove.  Gathright is almost certainly the least valuable baseball player of this group and isn’t particularly young - he’s 6 months younger than Gomes and older than all of Crawford, Baldelli, Young, Dukes, and Upton.  As said above, Howell is unlikely to have a high-ceiling, but like the Royals, the Rays would be very happy to just have another starting pitcher that can throw 190 innings of 4.75-5.00 ERA pitching a year.  The Rays gave away something they don’t need for something they do and if you do that enough, your team’s in good shape at the strategic level.

Dan Szymborski Posted: June 20, 2006 at 11:54 PM | 40 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. hardrain Posted: June 21, 2006 at 07:06 AM (#2070534)
A prelude to Sanders to the Yankees perhaps?
   2. MM1f Posted: June 21, 2006 at 07:19 AM (#2070536)
"The team does not have enough strengths that it can afford to take one of the better starting centerfielders in baseball and decided to use him as an average-ish leftfielder. The team especially cannot afford to squander DeJesus’ value as a player in order to take advantage of the exceedingly low value that Gathright can bring to a team right now. "

Come on. Putting Gathright in the lineup isn't affecting the production or playing time they get from DeJesus. It certainly isn't squandering his value at all.

The question is, is Gathright an improvement over whatever assortment of bodies theyve been putting in left?
   3. 6 - 4 - 3 Posted: June 21, 2006 at 07:48 AM (#2070538)
FWIW, I tend to agree with #2.

I also don't quite understand why nearly everyone is analyzing this trade purely from the Royals' POV. The DRays correctly identified their most expendable centerfielder and flipped him for a B/B- pitching prospect for him. That's possibly the team's best move since the Kazmir trade.
   4. Zach Posted: June 21, 2006 at 08:28 AM (#2070540)
I also don't quite understand why nearly everyone is analyzing this trade purely from the Royals' POV.

Well, I do it because I'm a Royals fan. Most people probably look at it from the Royals POV because it seems like the kind of trade where the Royals were the buyers and the DRays were the sellers. In other words, I think it was the possibility of Gathright being available that started negotiations, with Howell entering the deal later on. That, plus it was Moore's first trade, and he chose to make it from a position of relative weakness to a position of relative strength make it a very provocative trade by the Royals.

I also agree with #2. DeJesus is a good center fielder, but not so good that you're squandering a lot of defensive value putting him in left. If Gathright pans out, he could be nearly as good as DeJesus in his own right.

In the short term, all of Moore's trades should be evaluated on a straight-up basis of adding or subtracting talent to the team. At almost every position the Royals could stand to upgrade or build a little depth, so they shouldn't be picky about the order they do it in. Two weeks ago, the Royals had no healthy center fielder and crummy DHs. Now they've got a DH/right field platoon and two center fielders. If the best prospect they can get for their trade bait plays center field, they should go for lucky number 3 and never look back.
   5. Dan Szymborski Posted: June 21, 2006 at 12:10 PM (#2070556)
Come on. Putting Gathright in the lineup isn't affecting the production or playing time they get from DeJesus. It certainly isn't squandering his value at all.

Sure it is. They've turned a really good centerfielder into an OK leftfielder. Gathright will be hard-pressed to come even close to the miserable .686 OPS the Royals have gotten out of left field this season. And now the Royals have one less place to move a bat to.

But the point is, the Royals should be making these trades with an eye to putting a good team on the field down the road. If Moore is as capable as the hype said he was, he should have no trouble finding a leftfielder that hits a lot better than Gathright. A chimp with a dart board would have trouble finding a AAA leftfielder that didn't.

In other words, I think it was the possibility of Gathright being available that started negotiations, with Howell entering the deal later on.

This isn't a point in Moore's favor - Gathright's not good enough that being "made available" is some exciting event.

I also agree with #2. DeJesus is a good center fielder, but not so good that you're squandering a lot of defensive value putting him in left. If Gathright pans out, he could be nearly as good as DeJesus in his own right.

But they're not moving DeJesus *after* Gathright pans out, they're moving him to make room for a guy who, more likely than not, will never be even a mediocre starting centerfielder.
   6. Dan Szymborski Posted: June 21, 2006 at 12:13 PM (#2070557)
Two weeks ago, the Royals had no healthy center fielder and crummy DHs. Now they've got a DH/right field platoon and two center fielders. If the best prospect they can get for their trade bait plays center field, they should go for lucky number 3 and never look back.

That's called instant gratification.

They don't now have two centerfielders anyway - they have a centerfielder playing leftfield and AAA pinch-runner playing center. At this point in his career, Joey Gathright is as much a viable major league centerfielder as Russ Ortiz is a viable starter.

The Royals gave up an OK pitching prospect in order to have a crummy player at a different position and waste DeJesus' value, to boot.
   7. Kanst Posted: June 21, 2006 at 05:21 PM (#2070789)
The way I look at it is right now the Royals need talent. Howell was a mediocre starting pitcher and Gathright has the chance to be very good. Remember in the offseason Gathright had a lot of trade value. Gathright had issues putting the ball in play this year but he did show good plate discipline in his callup. If he plays regularly he could put up a line around .270/.350/.350 and could probably steal 50 bases. That is a decent ceiling, I was suprised to see this opinion because to me it looked like a real bad trade on the DRay's part and I was pissed that my Yankees didnt make an offer. Gathright has the potential to be a pretty good centerfielder, and even right now he is probably one of the best defensive centerfielders in baseball
   8. Brandon in MO (Yunitility Infielder) Posted: June 21, 2006 at 05:32 PM (#2070795)
He’s not the bunter that other guys of this type are, either

Is this something that has been verified in Durham, or are we judging his bunting purely by how he bunts on turf?
   9. Dan Szymborski Posted: June 21, 2006 at 06:06 PM (#2070825)
Remember in the offseason Gathright had a lot of trade value.

That's because of the difference between his actual and perceived value. That's an argument for the Devil Rays trading him, not for the Royals acquiring him.

If he plays regularly he could put up a line around .270/.350/.350 and could probably steal 50 bases.

That's the very high end. The more likely scenario is that he plays like Jason Tyner or Esix Snead.

The thing is that Gathright is not particularly young - he's 25, so we're not talking about a raw 20-year-old like Carl Crawford was. People vastly overrate the chances that a 24 or 25-year-old prospect will improve and if Gathright doesn't improve, you have a guy that has hit 244/312/291 in the majors.

even right now he is probably one of the best defensive centerfielders in baseball

Is there any basis for this statement other than the fact that Gathright is really fast? His scouting reports have been mixed. The team sent him down last April primarily because of disappointment in his defense and continually tells the St. Petersburg Times that he needs to work on his defense. The admittedly small Rays blogosphere has been complaining about his defense for awhile. His zone ratings are strictly middle of the pack (and lower than David DeJesus).
   10. Dan Szymborski Posted: June 21, 2006 at 06:10 PM (#2070829)
Is this something that has been verified in Durham, or are we judging his bunting purely by how he bunts on turf?

While Piniella's complaints were in the majors, the team was on Gathright for awhile about the bunting. He knows it's a problem, too, (why else would he come into spring training announcing to the press how much he worked on his bunting in the offseason?).
   11. Suff Posted: June 21, 2006 at 06:25 PM (#2070837)
It seems to me that Joey Gathright is no better - probably worse - than Willy Taveras. And as an Astros fan, I can tell you that Willy Taveras is no prize. At least Willy has hit for some average and has a good throwing arm. As both an Astros fan and a Royals fan, I wish that if the Royals were going for this type of player, they would have taken Taveras off the Astros' hands - though a mediocre pitching prospect isn't really what the Astros need right now.
   12. zonk Posted: June 21, 2006 at 06:27 PM (#2070839)
That's because of the difference between his actual and perceived value.

Exactly. Gathright has "value" only because the entire Roto world is salivating over him playing enough (and getting on base enough) to be the next Vince Coleman. Take fantasy baseball out of the world and few of us would have ever heard of and cared about Joey...
   13. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: June 21, 2006 at 06:55 PM (#2070872)
Dan, I understand a lot of your criticisms. I don't think Gathright will be an Esix Snead - Joey's minor league numbers are much better and he has demonstrated some ability to hit at the MLB level, which Esix and Tyner never did.

But its not like they traded a stud pitcher for him. I like Howell's minor league numbers, but its hard to ignore his stuff. Its not really very good. If Gathright can slightly improve the Royals defense (and therefore pitching) by playing a better OF than Emil Brown, I think its a good deal. If he can steal a ton of bases at a good rate, that adds some value. Frankly, I think speed has become a very underrated trait by some GMs (and wildly overrated by others).

Gathright looks like a poor man's Juan Pierre to me.
   14. Ozzie's gay friend Posted: June 21, 2006 at 06:59 PM (#2070875)
Dan, I disagree here.

The Royals have lots of good "chimp with dart" AAA leftfielders. Who put up around a .700 ops with defense ranging (no pun) from horrible (emil brown, chip ambres) to so-so (AAAron Guiel).

I think you are vastly overrating the abilities of wavierbait, AAAA leftfielders.

lets break it down, the royals are:

replacing Emil Brown's D in left with Dejesus'
Upgrrade, a big one at that.

Replacing Emil Brown's bat with Gathright.
Probably a downgrade, could be close though Gathright could put up a better OBP, and obviously speed etc.

Replacing Matt Stair's bat with an Emil/Stair platoon.
upgrade
   15. Randomly Fluctuating Defensive Metric Posted: June 21, 2006 at 07:02 PM (#2070880)
I always thought Tyner could pan out with a full season of AB's. You know, hit .290, steal some bases, and he has had two really good years running with Rochester. He definitely should be on a big league bench somewhere with his speed. As for the man who can leap over cars in a single bound, he has great tools but I believe his pitch recogonition is poor. He gets jammed very easily and often flails helplessly at breaking balls in the dirt. I remember A-Rod really complimenting Howell last year on how he conducted his business in a start against the Yankees. Seems like a risky move for KC.
   16. Dr Love Posted: June 21, 2006 at 07:09 PM (#2070887)

even right now he is probably one of the best defensive centerfielders in baseball

Is there any basis for this statement other than the fact that Gathright is really fast? His scouting reports have been mixed. The team sent him down last April primarily because of disappointment in his defense and continually tells the St. Petersburg Times that he needs to work on his defense. The admittedly small Rays blogosphere has been complaining about his defense for awhile. His zone ratings are strictly middle of the pack (and lower than David DeJesus).


FWIW, the Fielding Bible has him as the 5th best CF. And as I type this the page opposite his rating and comment falls out of the book.
   17. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: June 21, 2006 at 07:16 PM (#2070894)
I have to disagree with Dan and give this one to the Royals. Gathright is likely to at least be useful in a reserve role, and I don't see much of anything to like about Howell. Moore did a good job of buying low.
   18. The Buddy Biancalana Hit Counter Posted: June 21, 2006 at 07:40 PM (#2070928)
The Royals are so bad right now that it be argued that acquiring Joey Gathright as an everyday player improves the team.

The bigger problem I foresee for Dayton Moore is that the Royals are so bad that, though it should be fairly easy to find players better than those currently on the major league roster, it will be difficult to use either the players on the major league roster or those in the minor leagues to acquire good players.
   19. Dan Szymborski Posted: June 21, 2006 at 07:50 PM (#2070945)

The Royals have lots of good "chimp with dart" AAA leftfielders. Who put up around a .700 ops with defense ranging (no pun) from horrible (emil brown, chip ambres) to so-so (AAAron Guiel).

I think you are vastly overrating the abilities of wavierbait, AAAA leftfielders.


The Royals did worse than the chimp.

I don't think Gathright will be an Esix Snead - Joey's minor league numbers are much better and he has demonstrated some ability to hit at the MLB level, which Esix and Tyner never did.

OK, Esix was kinda mean, but here are Gathright's career numbers (MLEs and MLB combined):

2002: 218/292/221
2003: 273/333/298
2004: 295/351/333
2005: 273/329/346
2006: 207/311/250

I can't imagine how Gathright will be useful in the majors unless "pinch-runner" comes back in style due to a change in offense.

Again, he's not all that young - he's 25.
   20. Dan Szymborski Posted: June 21, 2006 at 07:56 PM (#2070958)
FWIW, the Fielding Bible has him as the 5th best CF.

We've come a long with with fielding data, but those +23 plays was still based off of just 70 games and has to be taken with a grain of salt considering the much less optimistic scouting report and the nearly 50-point drop in zone rating this season.
   21. Der Komminsk-sar Posted: June 21, 2006 at 07:59 PM (#2070965)
Is this something that has been verified in Durham
He's an solid, but unexceptional, bunter on grass from what I can tell - best at slap 'n' dash.

Also, I'd guess he's an above-average center fielder defensively - he's very good at going back on the ball in the gap - while the arm and routes need work, that kind of speed is hard to "negate".
   22. Ozzie's gay friend Posted: June 21, 2006 at 08:29 PM (#2071006)
Who are all these free and avalible outfielders who hitt better than Emil Brown does in the royals lineup?

The Royals have always been willing to try waiver wire, AAAA guys whenever they can get their hands on them. And if it's a good pickup they're lucky to hit as well as Emil Brown is.


Come on Dan, I though this sabermeteric myth had been busted already.
   23. Ozzie's gay friend Posted: June 21, 2006 at 08:50 PM (#2071027)
you got me.

holy cow though! I can't belive he's hitting 352/381/534!
   24. The Buddy Biancalana Hit Counter Posted: June 21, 2006 at 08:53 PM (#2071032)
One of them's hitting 352/381/534 for the Braves and was not only free for the Royals taking, was in fact a Royal.

Letting a potential Diaz/Guiel platoon hit 371/408/649 and 276/371/538 respectively over 850 PAs in Omaha so that Buddy Bell could marvel about Terrence Long's fine play and Emil Brown's career year could be converted into...a regular Emil Brown year this season did rather undermine Allard Baird's ability to find decent free talent.
   25. Ozzie's gay friend Posted: June 21, 2006 at 09:03 PM (#2071046)
I can't believe teams aren't asking about T-Long.
   26. Mike Emeigh Posted: June 21, 2006 at 09:04 PM (#2071049)
One of them's hitting 352/381/534 for the Braves and was not only free for the Royals taking, was in fact a Royal.


In 114 plate appearances. With brutal defense, AFAICT. And which breaks down as:

.680/.714/1.160 against Florida (in 29 PAs)
.250/.271/.313 against everyone else (in 85 PAs).

He's an solid, but unexceptional, bunter on grass from what I can tell - best at slap 'n' dash.


This is a pretty accurate assessment. In the last full game I saw Gathright play, he tried to bunt his way on twice, both bunts were pedestrian, and he was thrown out both times. He gets the bat on the ball when trying to bunt, and has an idea what he needs to do, but his bunts have been either too hard (mostly) or too soft (where the catcher has an easy play), and I have yet to see him attempt a drag bunt (which is usually a harder play to make) - most of his bunts are pushed toward 3B.

-- MWE
   27. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: June 21, 2006 at 09:12 PM (#2071057)
I can't believe teams aren't asking about T-Long.

That makes me laugh and cry at the same time.

It does concern me that Gathright's high BA in the minors (which pumps up his OBA) could possibly be due to poor minor league defenses or poor minor league infields.
   28. Der Komminsk-sar Posted: June 21, 2006 at 09:20 PM (#2071071)
I saw him do an absolutely beautiful drag bunt once last year - never saw him try one again. Otherwise, I've seen what you've seen, Mike.

***

As for Diaz, I'm the only apologist for his defense out there, but I remain one: it's okay (forget all the professionals who hate it, or that the Braves replace him defensively). He's got solid quickness, largely making up for his bad routes (which have improved now that his vision has been corrected), has largely divested himself of the errors that plagued his early career, and has a good arm. No, I haven't seen his flub from the other night yet.

Tiny sample size theater: his ZR is .947 in left this year.
   29. Dan Szymborski Posted: June 21, 2006 at 09:34 PM (#2071094)
(which have improved now that his vision has been corrected)

Oops, you did mention it.
   30. Athletic Supporter can feel the slow rot Posted: June 22, 2006 at 12:41 AM (#2071450)
Take fantasy baseball out of the world and few of us would have ever heard of and cared about Joey...

Dude, Joey Gathright jumped over an SUV.

Joey Gathright is awesome.
   31. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: June 22, 2006 at 01:47 PM (#2072147)
I also don't quite understand why nearly everyone is analyzing this trade purely from the Royals' POV.

I agree with this. I understand that there are more Royals fans than Rays fans in BTF, but it seems to me that a Transaction Oracle that analyzes moves throughout MLB should be looking at things from both a Royals and a Rays perspective.

I appreciate reading all the comments/analysis of Moore's first move, but I'll be honest -- I know next to nothing about J.P. Howell and, frankly, from a site that strives to be "baseball for the thinking fan," I was hoping that Szym might provide some insight into how this trade looks for the Rays, who need all the pitching they can get.

On the bright side, Jamie Shields is looking good and they are finally moving Seth McClung out of the rotation, so things are looking up!
   32. Dan Szymborski Posted: June 26, 2006 at 04:57 PM (#2076387)
appreciate reading all the comments/analysis of Moore's first move, but I'll be honest -- I know next to nothing about J.P. Howell and, frankly, from a site that strives to be "baseball for the thinking fan," I was hoping that Szym might provide some insight into how this trade looks for the Rays, who need all the pitching they can get.


Touché. I really skimped on the Devil Ray end here - I'm adding a section to the entry.
   33. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: June 26, 2006 at 05:08 PM (#2076395)
Thanks, Dan.
   34. fra paolo Posted: April 13, 2010 at 04:46 PM (#3501611)
I think the final grade on this one has to be an 'A-' to Dan. I'm marking him down slightly because he didn't correctly anticipate that Howell's future lay in the bullpen, and not as a starter.
   35. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: April 13, 2010 at 04:54 PM (#3501619)

I think the final grade on this one has to be an 'A-' to Dan. I'm marking him down slightly because he didn't correctly anticipate that Howell's future lay in the bullpen, and not as a starter.


He should also be marked down for predicting DeJesus would be less valuable in LF. If you account for his superb defense, he was actually a very valuable player in LF.

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