Royals/Dodgers Trade Analysis: Scott Podsednik for Two Prospects

In the second trade of July 28, the Kansas City Royals sent starting outfielder Scott Podsednik to a Manny Ramirez-less Dodger team for two prospects, catcher Lucas May and pitcher Elisaul Pimentel.

In the wake of injuries to Manny and backup outfielder Reed Johnson, the Dodgers had turned to the antediluvian Garret Anderson for outfield help, which went predictably poorly. The outfield defense was a mess as well.

The Royals were the third AL Central team to make a move on the day, following the Jhonny Peralta/Giovanni Soto trade between the Indians and Tigers. Like the Indians, the Royals are a rebuilding team that need to trade its veterans for any young talent it can get.

Did the Dodgers give up too much for Podsednik? Did the Royals get any prospects of note? Who won the deal? Well, you can go with Jim Callis’ rather concise take, or you can follow me after the jump for some analysis. Or both.

The Obvious

Scott Podsednik, 34, hit .310/.353/.400 for the Royals this year, a year after hitting a near-identical .304/.353/.412 for the White Sox. Before that, he was a poor hitter whose one claim to fame was a .314/.379/.443 year in 2003 and some gaudy steal numbers.

It’s nice that Podsednik made himself into a decent hitter again after so many years of empty .250ish averages, but his 2009 and 2010 wOBA marks are .338 and .336, which indicate he’s just an average bat, not any sort of expert table-setter. He’s fast, but he doesn’t get good reads on balls, particularly in left field, and his arm is below-average, so, like former Dodger outfielder Juan Pierre, his speed doesn’t translate into much defensive ability.

Podsednik does have a $2 million club option for 2011, which he should easily be worth (he’s been worth $4.8 million this year already), but he may not be back for LA next year. His buyout is just $100,000.

If he keeps hitting at this level, Podsednik (1.2 WAR this year already) could be worth nearly a full win in the standings, but that’s likely his ceiling for two months.

The Royals had zero use for Podsednik, as they need to play Alex Gordon and Mitch Maier every day. With Podsednik, Rick Ankiel, and Willie Bloomquist around, that simply wasn’t going to happen, especially with Jose Guillen hogging the DH at-bats. Even if they had room for him, a rebuilding team shouldn’t carry a 34-year-old whose contract expires at the end of the year.

The Not-So-Obvious

May is the “headlining” prospect in the deal. The 25-year-old catcher is a converted infielder who’s been a prospect for quite some time. An offense-first player, he was once known as one of the worst receivers in the minors when he was early in his catching days, as he gave up so many passed balls (31 in 2007, 24 in 2008) that he was considered a long shot to stick at the position.

He’s down to 10 passed balls this year, his fourth as a catcher, although he’s only thrown out 20% of runners against him in Triple-A, so the guy isn’t exactly Jose Molina behind the dish.

May did hit 25 homers in the California League in 2007, and after a down year in 2008, he hit .306/.390/.468 last year in Double-A and .296/.352/.496 in Triple-A this season. A word of warning about the 2010 numbers: Albuquerque is one of the five most hitter-friendly parks in the game, so don’t expect May to be any sort of slugger in the majors. He’s more of a doubles hitter/15 homer guy in the Kurt Suzuki mold, which will suit the Royals–who currently employ the flaccid bat of Jason Kendall as their “offense” behind the plate–just fine. Kendall himself doesn’t boast much of an arm, although May’s receiving skills will be a definite step down from those of the .312 slugger.

Now, Royals fans just have to hope the team gets rid of Kendall, who still has a year and a half on his contract, to make room for May. It’s anyone’s guess as to if or when that will happen, but May will initially report to Triple-A Omaha. He could be a decent starter or excellent backup major league catcher as soon as…right now.

Right there, the Royals have acquired a guy who will be valuable to them for six years for one who would not have been valuable to them for two months. It’s a win from that side already, particularly for a team that really had almost no catchers of note in the entire system.

But they also get Pimentel, a Low-A righty who recently turned 22. In his first year in full-season ball, the Dominican has become a nice sleeper prospect, punching out 97 batters in 90 1/3 innings while walking a decent 35. He’s only allowed 13 homers in 237 minor league innings.

Pimentel’s a projectable pitcher who throws in the 90-91 range right now and has two decent offspeed pitches in a curveball and changeup. He could sit around 92 once his skinny frame matures, and could be more of a flamethrower if moved to relief. Anyone who can get 10 strikeouts per nine is doing something right, and Pimentel looks to be a nice prospect, although he’s far from the majors and not especially young for his level.

The Dodgers, much like the Tigers in the Peralta deal today, are relying too heavily on “proven” players rather than taking a chance on a Triple-A guy with a bit more punch. In their case, they have three Triple-A outfielders who are all mashing the ball in Jay Gibbons (.339/.364/.593), Trent Oeltjen (.317/.372/.540), and Michael Restovich (.296/.365/.509). If they wanted more of a defense/contact type, there’s also Jamie Hoffmann (.315/.372/.435).

The ZiPS rest-of-season projections call for Podsednik to hit .294/.344/.394 the rest of the way–a .738 OPS. I know the Triple-A Albuquerque park inflates numbers, but I really doubt that none of those four outfielders could at least approach that production. Sure, maybe the Triple-A guy they would choose would put up a .700 OPS or so, giving the Dodgers .5 wins instead of .8. You really think those .3 wins are worth two solid prospects? Really?

If the Dodgers’ AAA team was devoid of good-hitting outfielders, and/or the team had a nice big budget, I could actually OK this deal from their side. But Frank McCourt is broke and the team has four replacements who could at least be almost as good as Podsednik just sitting there. Those four replacements are all cheaper, under team control for longer, and, most important, are just a callup away. You don’t have to trade your best catching prospect and a live arm to get them.

Apparently, this logic is lost on Ned Colletti and the Dodgers.

Conclusions

The Royals made a great move here, snagging a potential starting catcher and a nice sleeper arm for a player they had zero (if not negative, as he was blocking Gordon and Maier) use for. The Dodgers–well, they upgraded a position that needed to be upgraded, but they didn’t do the sensible thing and promote from within, instead electing to trade two solid prospects for a 34-year-old who is just average offensively and something of a defensive liability. While Podsednik has some value to the Dodgers, the proper cost of upgrading to him from somebody like Jay Gibbons or Trent Oeltjen for two months is most definitely not Lucas May and Elisaul Pimentel. Royals fans have to be happy with this trade.

Topics: Elisaul Pimentel, Kansas City Royals, LA Dodgers, Lucas May, Scott Podsednik

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  • http://www.marklaflamme.com Mark LaFlamme

    Now there’s a considered and well-expressed analysis. I thank thee for this. Either the piece is brilliant or, as a Royals fan, I just heard what I wanted to hear. Regardless: excellent work!

    • http://bleacherreport.com/users/10925-nathaniel-stoltz Nathaniel Stoltz

      Thanks a lot–glad the work I put into my analyses is as informative as I’d like it to be!

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  • Jeffrey

    I have read a few thoughts on this trade, and this is far and away the best.

    If I have one point of contention, it would be: “Now, Royals fans just have to hope the team gets rid of Kendall, who still has a year and a half on his contract, to make room for May. It’s anyone’s guess as to if or when that will happen, but May will initially report to Triple-A Omaha. He could be a decent starter or excellent backup major league catcher as soon as…right now.”

    Actually, contention may be the wrong word, because I don’t disagree with anything. I simply fear that Dayton Moore, who has shown a propensity to stick with veterans, will continue to ride that wave for a year and a half. Why did he sign Kendall to a 2-year deal in the first place when his career OBP for the past 3 years is sitting right at .645–especially when he watched Buck and Olivo walk? Don’t even get me started on Brayan Pena (28) being better considering his .761 OBP in 2009 only to be used less than any other backup catcher in baseball behind old man Kendall. The Royals could do a number of things–and none of them involve keeping Kendall–but I get the feeling they will keep Kendall.

    • http://bleacherreport.com/users/10925-nathaniel-stoltz Nathaniel Stoltz

      Oh, I agree Moore is likely to stick with Kendall, which is unfortunate. You have to wonder if there’re any takers for him, even if Mooore wanted to deal him.

      But still, getting rid of him would be the sensible move; he never should’ve been signed in the first place.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • kw

    Like the first commenter, I may just be a Royals fan hearing what I want to hear, but I liked your take. I have read a couple of analyses mentioning concern about Pimentel’s age for a player in what I guess is low-A ball. Although he is 22, he just turned 22 (July 10), so he could be at Wilmington next year while still 22 and, if he continues to develop, perhaps at Northwest Arkansas (AA) when he is 23. These are best-case scenarios, of course; he may need more seasoning at Burlington, and he might not develop as hoped. Just saying that I don’t think he is way old for a guy in low-A ball. And if that is the biggest caveat for this trade from the Royals’ point of view, then I don’t think you can fault Dayton Moore. He done good. Again, nice analysis.

    • http://bleacherreport.com/users/10925-nathaniel-stoltz Nathaniel Stoltz

      I don’t think Pimentel needs more seasoning in Burlington, although he’s supposedly going to report there. I’d probably promote him right away if I were Moore (thankfully, I’m not), although the Royals have enviable pitching depth in the minors as it is.

      If Pimentel were much older, I’d be concerned about him being old for the level, but you’re right, he’s pretty much right on the “too old” line, not way over it, so if he’s promoted a bit more aggressively than most, he could be fine agewise at the upper levels.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • http://Thedemellotheory.wordpress.com Matt De Mello

    While I agree this was a trade that didn’t need to happen it does give the Dodgers a little more speed for late inning situations & what they gave up was minimal. #1 Lucas May is not the Dodgers best catching prospect, Tony Delmonico is & Martin isn’t going anywhere.

    This from Baseball America: Lucas May, C, Grade C: Made progress with the bat, but he was repeating the level and defense is still an issue with 20 passed balls in 65 games.

    Yeah you read that right TWENTY! What is the use of a 25 year old backstop that can’t catch the ball? Yeah he hits well in the PCL, but that’s notoriously deceiving. Many players who hit well in the PCL don’t translate to MLB.

    Pimentel is 22 years old in A ball & while his splits this year are decent he doesn’t project to be anything more than a serviceable pitcher at best & didn’t even rate on the top 25 best prospects in the organization. It’s not like we gave up Elbert, Withrow or Lindblom. It’s an unnecessary trade to show the fans that hey we’re doing something & more for next year w/ that paltry salary. He’s the white version of Juan Pierre, but much cheaper.

    • http://bleacherreport.com/users/10925-nathaniel-stoltz Nathaniel Stoltz

      Baseball America also rated May, despite that comment, the best catching prospect in the Dodger organization entering 2010, and the 17th best prospect in the organization. Delmonico did not even make their top 30.

      As I said, May absolutely has had passed-ball issues (those 20 actually represented the culmination of three years of improvement), but he’s cut that down to 10 in 69 games this year. He’s cut the passed balls in half! The guy’s just in his fourth year of catching after being an infielder his whole life, so struggles are to be expected. He’s making enough progress that it looks like he’ll end up solid behind the plate.

      Really, you like Delmonico more? A 23-year-old who’s slugging .346 in the California League? The OBP is nice, but that skillset doesn’t tend to add up to much when you face pitchers who aren’t afraid of you and know how to throw strikes.

      Delmonico also has a whopping 14 PBs in 32 games, so if you thought MAY couldn’t catch…

      Sure, Martin may not go anywhere, but a solid backup/injury replacement would be nice. May could’ve been that. And Pimentel’s a nice arm. I agree he’s not a difference-maker arm, but you don’t just give away starting pitchers who miss bats.

      It’s an unnecessary move in any case, like you say. If the prospects don’t pan out, that’s all it is. But both of them show enough promise that they could be semi-valuable MLB’ers for several years, and if either one meets that potential, then it’s a bad trade for LA. No potential upside (other than a bit of speed of the bench, which could be gotten much cheaper elsewhere) and some potential downside? That’s a bad trade.

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