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.

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

comments powered by Disqus