Baseball Toaster Cub Town
I'll Take Door Number Three, Monty
2006-03-21 08:03
by Derek Smart

From the Washington Post (emphasis mine):

The Orioles remain in contact with the Chicago Cubs, who are pushing for a swap of outfielder Luis Matos for Chicago infielder Todd Walker, according to a baseball source. The source said the Cubs are more eager for such a trade, but the Orioles haven't dismissed it.

If I listed all the reasons why this is wrong I'd end up with my fingers and brain bleeding so profusely they'd have to put me in a giant, plastic bubble equipped with its own recirculating, transfusionary sump pump. That sounds unpleasant, so I'll simply say, again, that this potential deal is, on every conceivable level, a bad one.

Let's add the info from The Boston Globe to the mix (again, emphasis mine):

This presumes the Sox will deal Tony Graffanino, who is expected to bring a decent prospect, probably someone who ranks in the No. 6 to No. 10 range on another club's prospect depth chart. Logical suitors: Mets, Marlins, Cubs, and Orioles.

As an exercise in, I don't know, anger inflammation, here's a couple lists of the Cubs' 6th-10th place prospects.

Baseball America
6. Sean Marshall, lhp
7. Ricky Nolasco, rhp
8. Ryan Harvey, of
9. Brian Dopirak, 1b
10. Eric Patterson, 2b

John Sickels
6. Donald Veal, LHP
7. Sean Gallagher, RHP
8. Angel Guzman, RHP
9. Rich Hill, LHP
10. Carlos Marmol, RHP

Admittedly, when folks in the press are talking about prospect rankings they're almost certainly referring to BA, but I wanted to throw Sickels in there just for spice. Obviously, Nolasco's already gone in the Juan Pierre trade, but I don't have my BA prospect book with me, so I can't fill in the gap.

In any case, I'm not much of a prospect maven, so I'll hold off on giving opinions on the involvement of individual players in these deals and simply make mention of the fact that, what is essentially happening if both of these trades go down is that the Cubs are giving Todd Walker and one of their better prospects for a fourth outfielder and an infield backup. Am I alone in finding the overall price steep?

2006-03-21 09:24:41
1.   Ali Nagib
In fairness to Matos, he's got a few things going for him: plus defense, solid OBP numbers (a disasterous 2004 campaign notwithstanding) and he's 6 years younger than Walker. For fun, let's look at their VORP numbers from 2005 (which work out nicely cause they were only 1 PA apart last year):

Walker (2B) - 25.9
Matos (CF) - 7.8

Walker is almost 2 wins better than Matos with the bat. Looks like a slam dunk for ol' Todd. But let's throw in BP's defensive numbers just for fun (which I believe are FRAA):

Walker - (-8)
Matos - (+7)

A run prevented is as good as a run scored, so the defensive numbers give Matos a 15 run advantage with the glove, almost entirely offsetting the difference in their offense. Now, I'm not saying that this trade would be a brilliant move by Hendry by any means, and certainly downgrading your starting lineup to improve your bench may not be the best long term strategy. But if Matos can post a .280/.350/.450 line like he did in 2003 (and given that power is one of the last things to develop, he could certainly still see some real improvement in that area, especially as a righty in Wrigley), he'd be at least as useful as Walker with the bat, and definitely more useful defensively. Todd Walker is a useful player, no doubt, but he's definitely on the wrong side of the aging curve, so there's very little chance for him to get materially better.

Graffanino is basically the definition of a solid utility infielder. He's certainly not going to make or break anyone's team, but he'd be a much better pine-rider than most of the jokers that the Cubs have filled out their roster with the last few years. He's probably worth a B/B- prospect, which is what a guy in the 6-10 range is likely to be, so I'd say a trade of that nature is probably fair. Whether or not it's a good move for the Cubs is another story.

2006-03-21 12:43:24
2.   Marc Normandin
I like Matos myself Derek. I think PECOTA cheats him defensively a tad, and he is basically an average corner guy. Here's my comment from my Orioles preview over at BtB:

2006: Luis Matos .273/.327/.402; -2.09 pNRAA; -1.80 pNRAA/GP

Luis Matos comes in at below average for a left fielder (in centerfield, he is projected to be +3.50 pNRAA), but light years ahead of the 2005 results from Larry Bigbie, Eric Byrnes, and B.J. Surhoff. When .248/.314/.374 is the standout line from the candidates at left, there is a serious issue. I like Matos more than most; if he can stay healthy, he should be league average. I feel like the projection given here cheats him defensively somewhat, which would more than account for the negative run value presented here. A serious improvement for the 06' squad either way.

Oh yeah, if you haven't seen pNRAA yet Derek, its positionally adjusted Net Runs Above Average, my new toy. If you want a copy of the spreadsheet let me know.

2006-03-21 14:17:33
3.   Derek Smart
Guys, I'll admit my thoughts on this are colored by the tint of Walker-philia, as well as about a month-old crappy mood. I'm well beyond the realm of rational thought these days, so thanks for bringing a little unbiased analysis to the party. Granted, I'm not convinced yet (like I said, I ain't rational these days), but I'm considerably less apoplectic than I was before reading these comments.

And, yes Mark, spreadsheet please. ;)

2006-03-21 20:09:48
4.   steffens
I posted this at ( as well:

So far, these rumors about what the Cubs want to do are coming from the Orioles' newspapers. Whoever the source they're referring to is (the Sun referred to "industry sources" and the WaPo referred to a "baseball source"), he's unlikely to have a close connection to the Cubs. As a result, we're likely getting what the Cubs are thinking from an east coast reporter, who's getting it from a source on the east coast, who's getting it from the Orioles GM or an assistant to the GM, who's getting it from someone in the Cubs organization. It wouldn't be surprisingly at all if the Cubs' actual intent is getting muddled along the way.

2006-03-21 20:49:01
5.   fanerman
Where can one obtain this spreadsheet?


2006-03-21 21:58:48
6.   Marc Normandin
Shoot me an e-mail at and I'll send you one. Let me know what you want on it.
2006-03-22 07:14:47
7.   The Boar
I agree that Matos is a serviceable player but he doesn't seem to make sense for the Cubs. We have a starting outfield and with John Mabry, Marquis Grissom, and Angel Pagan, there are plenty of fourth outfield candidates to choose from.

I think Hendry's alleged interest in Matos can be explained as a desire to flip him to the Nationals for either Soriano or Vidro. Frankly, I take the suggestion that Matos is worth a No. 6 to No. 10 prospect as laughable and I think Hendry would agree. However, he may be willing to flip Matos and that No. 6 to No. 10 prospect to Bowden for Vidro or Soriano. As for which Hendry would take, my gut says Soriano, but they are both players that Hendry tends to favor: Vidro, a good player with a bad injury history; or Soriano, an overrated toolsy player that can currently be bought low.

Not that this is a good idea, mind you, but I think it explains the situation.

2006-03-24 08:41:55
8.   James
Derek... I don't know if the price is too steep, it's that the upside of these players is so low that it makes either trade worthless... unless Hendry is already working on a trade to send Matos to another team for an upgrade at second or in the rotation.

And remember, Matos' defensive superiority over Walker is moot since Matos should never see the field for the Cubs, or at least not enough to make an impact. I sure hope there's nowhere for him to play with Murton, Pierre and Jones in the outfield.

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