By R.J. Anderson //
Although the Athletics and Royals did not agree on the first trade of the offseason, they did pull off most-talked about deal thus far. The details have left fielder David DeJesus heading to Oakland, while starting pitchers Vin Mazarro and Justin Marks go to Kansas City. Marks holds some middle-of-the-rotation upside, but clearly the bigger names here are DeJesus and Mazzaro.
DeJesus is a typical Athletics outfielder, or at least typical of the past few years. He plays good defense, reaches base, and does not hit for much power, while going about his business in an unheralded fashion. DeJesus’ line over the last three seasons is .300/.363/.443 with an average of 14 home runs per 700 plate appearances and eight stolen bases; which is to say he is a much better player in real life than in fantasy.
An extra instance of DeJesus’ value in real life being higher than his fantasy value comes in the form of draft compensation. The soon-to-be 31-year-old projects as a borderline Type A free agent. Meaning he could bring the Athletics draft picks in return for being signed by another team next offseason.
DeJesus is not the first former Royals outfielder to head to Oakland either, joining a worthwhile group that includes Johnny Damon, Jermaine Dye, and past/present teammate Coco Crisp. Oakland being an extreme pitchers’ park explains why each of their slash lines dropped (except Crisp) during their time there relative to their Kansas City experience. Expect the trend to hold true with DeJesus, meaning he’ll probably hit below .300 and perhaps closer to 10 home runs than 15.
Meanwhile, the Royals get Mazzaro. The 24-year-old posted a 4.27 ERA during his first full season in the major leagues. A late-season demotion raised some eyebrows and iffy peripherals project to an ERA nearly a run higher (Mazzaro was saved by better performance with men on base than otherwise, and other factors). Mazzaro throws a sinker that theoretically should make him a groundball master, but his groundball rates are pedestrian at 41% for his career. Meanwhile, Oakland’s infield defense was one of the best in the league, while Kansas City’s is not.
Along with the park effects, expect an increase in WHIP and ERA, unless Mazzaro gets better in a hurry. Keep in mind that he does only have 35 major league starts under his belt and barely 200 innings. Pitchers do not age like hitters, but it’s just way too early to proclaim Mazzaro as a bottom feeder unworthy of a major league rotation spot to open the 2011 season.
It’s easy to fall into the rhetoric surrounding Billy Beane and Dayton Moore and assume Beane just pulled a fast one on Moore. Time may prove that to be true, but this trade feels more even than lopsided, even if neither of these players hold much fantasy value.
For more on Vin Mazzaro and mid-rotation candidates check out Bloomberg Sports’ Front Office.