Six Feet Deep

Mark Teixeira Casey Kotchman
The July 29 trade of Casey Kotchman and Stephen Marek for Mark Teixeira gave “instant gratification” fans what they’d long demanded — flushing the future for a feel-good quick fix.

 

When the Angels traded Casey Kotchman and Stephen Marek on July 29 to the Atlanta Braves for Mark Teixeira, I posed the question, “Would you trade fifteen years for three months?”

That’s pretty much what they’ve done, as free agent Teixeira seems close to deciding where he’ll cash in his Boras Bucks.

I never pay attention to rumors, but if you want to believe them the consensus has Teixeira going to the Boston Red Sox. The Washington Nationals, Baltimore Orioles and maybe the Yankees are in the hunt along with the Angels.

Even if by some miracle Teixeira signs with Anaheim, it was still a foolish trade.

Here’s what I wrote on July 29:

The switch-hitting Teixeira has been one of the more prolific power hitters in the major leagues during his career. He hit 43 homers in 2005 and 33 in 2006 for Texas. After hitting another 13 for Texas in 2007, he was swapped to the Braves on July 31 for a boatload of prospects.

Teixeira didn’t do the Braves much good, which should be a warning to those who think flushing the farm system for a “name” somehow guarantees a world championship. (Believe me, those people are out there. Read the fan boards.) Not his fault, but individuals don’t win championships. Teams do.

So trading Casey Kotchman, one of the best young hitters in the game, along with bullpen prospect Stephen Marek for Teixeira strikes me as giving in to all those instant gratification people who scream “Win NOW!!!” without thinking about what happens next year and beyond.

Teixeira, 28, is a free agent at season’s end. His agent is Scott Boras. Teixeira didn’t sign an extension with the Braves, his hometown team, so why should we think he’ll sign an extension with the Angels?

If the Angels had been patient, in another few months they could have signed him on the open market. If successful, they could have then traded Kotchman for whatever they could get.

Does Teixeira guarantee a world championship? Of course not. He never won one with the Rangers, and he didn’t win one with the Braves. Again, not his fault, but one player does not make a champion.

Even if the Angels do manage to sign Teixeira to an extension, all they did was acquire him for two months and the post-season. Was it worth Kotchman and Marek? Did swapping Kotchman for Teixeira somehow significantly increase the statistical probability of winning the World Series? Of course not.

The post-season is pretty much a crap shoot. Some among fandom and the press have insisted the Angels could not win the World Series without a second “big bat” to complement Vlad Guerrero, our own version of Boston’s David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. Yet the Angels won their seventh in a row tonight against Boston, which is slumping in the A.L. East, and all seven were achieved without that “big bat.” In fact, Boston might not even reach the post-season.

We all know what happened. Boston got their act together, reached the playoffs as a wild card, and eliminated the Angels, who had the best winning percentage in baseball and Teixeira’s “big bat.”

Whoopee.

The Angels dug their own grave, and are about to be buried in it.

Had they kept Kotchman, it’s anyone’s guess what might have happened. Casey left Atlanta in mid-August when his mother fell ill. He returned two weeks later. His AVG/OBP/SLG when he returned (.305/.394/.402) were much better than before he left (.180/.292/.246). We can only speculate how he would have performed had he stayed with the Angels, but had he left to tend to his mother the Angels would have had to rely on Kendry Morales at first base, who’s yet to have an extended audition at the major league level. Casey’s absence in late August wouldn’t have mattered anyway, because the Angels had a comfortable lead in a weak division, and he would have been back for the playoffs.

As I wrote in July, had they kept Casey, they could still chase Teixeira as a free agent and, if he signed, then trade Kotchman if so inclined. Now the Angels have no options. It’s Teixeira or Bust. If they don’t sign Mark, then they’ll have to go with Morales, or trade their young prospects to fill the hole.

Maybe Teixeira will re-sign with the Angels and all will be well. But they still won’t have the option of trading Kotchman, which would have brought them more talent, maybe the fifth starter they need.

And that’s what “instant gratification” cost them.

UPDATE December 21, 2008 6:30 PM PST — MLB.com reports that the Angels have announced this afternoon they’re pulling out of the Teixeira sweepstakes. Given that the Red Sox made the same announcement two days ago, it sounds like the suitors are drawing the line with Boras’ antics. As I wrote above, I predicted we’d wind up at this point back in July when the trade was made. That said, I’m glad the teams are taking a hard-line stance with Boras, especially in this economy.

UPDATE December 21, 2008 7:00 PM PSTBaltimore Sun sportswriter Peter S_chmuck reports that he called Angels media rep Tim Mead and was told that the withdrawal is “final.”

UPDATE December 22, 2008 6:30 AM PSTIn a column titled, “How Do Fans Like Teixeira Trade Now?” Orange County Register sports columnist Mark Whicker echoes my sentiment. “The Angels are at this place today, with a giant chalk circle guarding the first-base line, because they did what you wanted.”

UPDATE December 22, 2008 9:30 PM PSTMike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels will hold a press conference tomorrow and tell all about the failed Teixeira negotiations … MLB.com reports that the Washington Nationals have increased their offer and might even go so far as to give Teixeira everything Boras demanded.

UPDATE December 23, 2008 8:30 AM PST — Normally I don’t care for Los Angeles Times sportswriter T.J. Simers’ snide gimmick — and it is a gimmick — but today’s column drops the gimmick in favor of some true sports journalism. Well worth the read. In summary, he suggests that Angels owner Arte Moreno let his ego get in the way. He made one offer and was miffed that Boras didn’t accept, so now he’s spinning to cover his backside with the fans, according to Simers.

15 Comments

Blew it up? Dig their own grave and about to buried in it?

That’s a lot of superlatives to be used for a guy like Kotchman. If the Angels’ success or failure rested on the presence (of lack of) of Kotchman, I think they have bigger problems.

It’s tough not to like the guy. I get it. Great bb/k ratio, lots of doubles, great glove. I just have an entirely different opinion about the guy’s ceiling. He also hits way too many groundballs, hasn’t shown incremental development w/r/t power and finds any pitch high in the zone as too delicious to let go.

I guessing you suppose Kotchman to develop power he hasn’t yet consistently shown. Or maybe he’ll begin to draw 100 walks to make up for his lack of run production. If his numbers and potential came from a second baseman, he would easily be considered one of the better guys in the league. But he plays a position that necessitates more.

This guy says it better than I could:

http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy/index.php/unmighty-casey-at-the-bat

And Teixeira actually just went to college in Atlanta. he grew up in Maryland and resides in Texas.

I was really disappointed when Atlanta made that trade. A lot of Braves fans are really hard on Kotchman but I have confidence he will prove them wrong. The Angles did think of him as the first baseman of the future. Obviously they thought he was good. He isn’t going to hit 40 home runs and drive in 120 every year but I think he can turn into a 30-35 home run guy in his prime. Marek had a decent year in the AFL so I think the Braves won in that deal.
http://hardballblog.mlblogs.com/

No offense Stephen, but I believe you’re putting way too much importance on trading Kotchman.

Yes, I liked him too, good kid, greta stock, you probably liked him more, since you have watched Casey almost since he started; he’s like a good friend to you.

That said, he’s not a prremier 1st baseman. More than half the balls off his bat are grounders- thats not good, since he’s not fast. He is not in the upper half, maybe not even two-thirds, of 1st baseman in the pros, as far as stats go. He doesn’t have great power. If it developes more at his age of 26 next year, that would be a surprise.

The Angels will get 2 more draft picks by losing Texiera, if they lose him. I would gladly have tried Morales at first base, and TRADED casey for 2 draft picks last July.

I don’t believe the angels have made any kind of mistake with this.

You people are missing the point abpout Casey. He was an established player,putting up solid numbers. Marek is a going to probably be in the bigs next year.Thats two major leauge guys,for 37 games. So now you all say “we can try out Kendry at 1st”? If he dont work out, you have a shakey infeild at best, with no consistant production,and are back at square one with no big bat. They should have done a sign and trade deal back in july. Next time,I hope we stop listening to the band wagon halo fans that wanna be the yankees in red, and follow our own game plan.

Good for the Angels. I would be tired of Boras’ antics too.
–Jeff
http://redstatebluestate.mlblogs.com/

Right on. They will get draft picks though, right?
There is always a silver lining, at least the Angels didn’t trade Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, Beau Jones, and Matt Harrison for Teixeira (and Ron Mahay). OUCH, and they never even got a draft pick.

Aaron
http://districtboy.mlblogs.com/

Regarding draft picks … They get the first-round pick of the team that signs Teixeira, and they get a supplemental pick between the first and second rounds.

Keep in mind, though, that the value of that first-round pick depends on who signs him. The draft order is inverse to winning percentage. If the Washington Nationals sign him, they should have the first overall pick and we’re sitting pretty. If the Boston Red Sox sign him, we’re near the bottom of the first round and the pick is far less valuable.

Also note that it may be years — if ever — before that draft pick pays off. Baseball America did a study years ago and found that one-third of first-round picks never even make it to the big leagues. It may be seven or eight years before a high school draft pick reaches his prime. You can opt for a college player, but that may mean you’ve skipped over a high school player who’s more talented and requires more patience — or someone else got that high school player because you weren’t willing to be patient.

If the Angels had a poor farm system, stockpiling draft picks would be nice. But they’re doing just fine. And for all the hoopla about “Moneyball,” Billy Beane stockpiling draft picks pretty much backfired if you go back and look at who he got in return.

The Angels had a talented player almost ready for prime time in Casey Kotchman. They flushed him for a quick fix. Now they’re stuck scrambling to find someone else, which may cost them even more prospect talent.

The first 15 draft picks are protected. If he signs with the Nationals, the Angels get their second round pick.

Do a side-by-side comparison of Morales and Kotchman w/r/t splits, including deep-splits. I think it’s a bit premature to disregard Morales as a completely viable option. Even Bill James, whose 2009 projections are out over at fangraphs.com, sees Morales producing at a slightly greater clip than Kotchman next year.

I just don’t understand the dismissal of Morales, a guy also from the system and who took the constant call-up and sent-down with a certain level of grace; something Kotchman tended not to do when Scioscia sat him against lefties. And he didn’t exactly go quietly into that good night when he was traded. The guy simply wasn’t happy in Anaheim.

Thanks for the reminder re the first half of the first round. Which means the scenario is even worse. If Teixeira signs with Washington or Baltimore, we get a sandwich pick between rounds one and two, and a second pick in early round two. If he signs with Boston or the Yankees — something none of us want — we improve slightly to a low first round pick and the sandwich pick.

You can debate Kotchman vs. Morales all you want, but my point was that if they held on to Kotchman instead of making that trade, they would still have him now with Morales in the wings. One could have been traded. Had they signed Teixeira, they could have traded one or both. Would Kotchman + Adenhart bring us a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher? Who knows. But that’s what would have been possible.

That’s what the short-sighted trade cost the Angels.

I had always said it would be a good trade only if we won the World Series or could re-sign Teixiera to a long-term deal. Because we apparently failed at both, then I must agree this was a bad trade. That being said, I think it is a waste of time to blame some fans for a front office decision over which none of them had any influence. Tony Reagins took a gamble that he felt was in the best interest of the team and Arte Moreno approved. Unfortunately we got burned in the end, but pessimism won’t get us anywhere and neither will the constant berating of “instant gratification” fans.
You have many good points, we must look to the future and what bright side there still is. Personally, I feel like Kendry Morales is better than Kotchman. Should Mark Trumbo advance much quicker through the system than anticipated, Morales would be capable of playing in one of the outfield corners. In addition, with two more draft picks come two more potential future angels.

The objective of the MLB season is to make the playoffs, win the playoff series, then win the World Series. Last years Angels team was the best team they fielded in their long history. Just that the team peaked in August and were flat in September and October.

I agreed with the trade of Teixera for Kotchman and Marek. The combination of Vlady and Mark in the middle of the lineup in most years would of got them a World Series victory provided that the team was playing well.

The Angels would of won the American League West without the trade. But to win the World Series, they needed more offense. Their pitching alone would not of been enough to win the World Series. This was the correct trade to make to achieve their goal.

2009 is just another MLB season. Only one team will win the World Series. For that to happen, things will have to go well.

Pretty safe bet that Morales is going to equal what Kotchman was. Angels took Tex to make a strong playoff run, safe bet there as well. The team wasn’t gelling like in ’02. Now, Tex has a track record of not pushing his team higher, but he had no control of KRod giving up runs.

Arte started his ownership with paying for big free agents, and I believe he needs to be high bidder for Tex as well. If only to give the Halos some credibility with BoSox and Yanks fans- if you read their blogs, they seem to lump in the Angels with the Nats and O’s. Vladdy is in decline and needs help- the reasons are there. And, except in the magical ’02 year, when push comes to shove with the Big East boys, the Halos come out shrimpy at the end.

If you believe Arte- this isn’t Anaheim, this is Los Angeles. If that’s the way he wants to play it, have to pay for it. I’m very disheartened about pulling out for Tex, though I do hate Boras, and I do wish a player would have some amount of loyalty to a team. When a guy is eligible for the Hall of Fame, and he’s played for 10 teams, I think he’s deservedly diminished in many eyes.

At the time it seemed like a good trade. They really needed a power hitter, and they truly were the favorites. I’m a Braves fan, and they new they had absolutely no chance of signing Texeira, the only they could do, was get a nice good young prospect in return a.k.a. Kotchman. Right now I think the angels need a right fielder, a first baseman, a second baseman(Howie Kendrick really sucked at the end), and relievers 2 or 3.

In no world, real or theoretical, would any GM give up a top-of-the-rotation starter for Adenhart & Kotchman, especially with the second half Adenhart had and the fact that Kotchman showed signs of regressing last year (18 (!) walks in his time with the Angels last year and OPSed .775 as a first baseman). Who? Peavy? The Padres are set at first. No other team is in any position to trade anyone that qualifies as a top-of-the-rotation starter.

There’s a huge difference between possible and probable.

And to echo Staxda300, the objective in baseball is to win the World Series…period. When evaluating a potential upgrade to a team, every GM asks themselves one question: Does this move move us significantly closer to that goal?

With the way the Angels were hitting at the time, a Teixeira acquisition was an unqualified yes. For the first time all year, the team had a definitive lineup that matched up with anyone. And there was absolutely zero chance Teixeira even considers the Angels if he doesn’t spend time there.

The Angels haven’t lost any production on the field yet. If Morales tanks, crow all you want and I’ll be one of your backup singers because it will actually be proven out. As we sit right now, so little has been lost on a completely reasonable gamble. Last year saw an incredibly average league ripe for grabbing a title.

But backing up the love for Kotchman with true-blue statistics seems a bit prudent at this juncture. And I think Morales’ .332 career minor-league average of .901 OPS is worth considering, all numbers slightly better than Kotchman’s.

Casey has a significant enough major-league sample size to make a reasonable projection as to his future. Heck, the eyeballs tell a worse story.

He’s a poor man’s Adam LaRoche with the same streakiness and injury history.

On another subject, specific draft numbers sit like this:

25th pick in the 1st round – comp. for Rodriguez
30th pick in the 1st round – comp. for Teixeira if he signs with BoSox (likely)
33rd pick in the 1st round – standard pick
37th pick in supplemental – comp. for Rodriguez
38th pick in supplemental – comp. for Teixeira regardless where he signs
39th pick in supplemental – comp. if Garland signs elsewhere
***They’ll lose the 33rd pick if they sign Fuentes

All of this is still pretty significant given the fact that the Angels have lost their first round pick three of the last four years due to free agent signings.

Oh, and some notable supplemental picks since 2001:
David Wright
Joba Chamberlain
Clay Buchholz
Huston Street
Dustin McGowan
Mark Teahan
Gio Gonzalez
Kelly Johnson
Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Just some thoughts. Love the site.

From a business standpoint you need to come up with a home run to be considered successful. For each industry that home run has a certain life span. In sports, it is important to consistently be in the playoffs and win the championship often. It is unrealistic to win the championship every year. Currently in the MLB that honor belongs to Boston Red Socks. The Red Socks have been in the playoff often and won the World Series several times the past few years.

The Angels won the World Series in 2002. They have been consistently in the playoffs but not able to win the World Series since. To rid themselves of the stigma of being only a playoff team, but not a championship organization. The Angels felt that they needed to win the World Series. The 2008 Angels team was the best team they fielded since the 2002 team. But they realized that they did not have enough to win the World Series. The Angels knew that they were going to loose several key players to free agency. The Angels felt that getting Mark Teixeira would pull the team over the hump. So they took the gamble. The 2009 Angels team was going to be in flux anyway. The trade was the correct move to make from an organizational stand point.

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