Haren for a Harem
Joe Saunders with minor league pitching coach Zeke Zimmerman at minor league spring training in April 2004.
This is why the Angels stockpile pitching depth in the minors.
The Angels acquired ace pitcher Dan Haren from the Arizona Diamondbacks Sunday in exchange for major league left-hander Joe Saunders, Salt Lake reliever Rafael Rodriguez, Rancho Cucamonga southpaw Pat Corbin, and a player to be named later.
According to the Arizona Republic, the PTBNL is Cedar Rapids left-hander Tyler Skaggs.
Dan Woike of the Orange County Register quotes Angels general manager Tony Reagins as saying that the Diamondbacks can choose from one of three players on a list. Arizona GM Jerry Dipoto told the Republic:
We can’t deny the volume and the depth that this brings us as an organization. The names involved in the deal on a prospect level, particularly Corbin, and the player to be named, give us extreme prospect depth, at a position, left-handed pitcher, that anybody would covet. In the case of the player to be named, we’ll have to discuss that as soon as we get to that point. We got to what we wanted to get to. We were able to add to our club now, provide for our club’s future and at the same time we were able to create a better balance and flexibility in the way our dollars have been allocated on our major league payroll to be able to better tend to the different holes on our major league club as it stands today.
Assuming the quotes from both GMs are accurate, it would suggest that the list contains three left-handed pitchers, all of whom would be considered top prospects. In addition to Skaggs, that list might also include Arkansas pitcher Trevor Reckling, Cedar Rapids pitcher Tyler Kehrer, perhaps even Orem’s Max Russell, who was drafted in the fourth round last June.
Major league baseball draft rules forbid trading a draftee until one year after he signs. If that’s the holdup, it would eliminate Reckling and Kehrer (who signed June 11, 2009). Skaggs signed on August 7, 2009, so he can’t be traded until then.
The Angels believe that pitching is the coin of the realm, which is why they’ve leaned heavily towards drafting pitchers in the early rounds. They’ve relied on that pitching depth in making trade deadline deals the last two years.
The Angels sent lefty Alex Torres to the Tampa Bay Rays on August 28, 2009, along with infielders Sean Rodriguez and Matt Sweeney, for Scott Kazmir. On July 23, they traded RHP Sean O’Sullivan and LHP Will Smith to the Royals for Alberto Callaspo. And now they’ve traded four pitchers to the Diamondbacks for Haren.
That’s four left-handed pitching prospects — Torres, Smith, Corbin and PTBNL — traded within the last year. Along with Saunders.
These deals leave the Angels dangerously thin in organizational depth from the south side of the mound. Scott Kazmir, ineffective and currently disabled, is the only left-handed starter on the parent club roster. The next “top” prospect would be Reckling, who failed at Triple-A this year and recently returned to Double-A.
Salt Lake reliever Rafael Rodriguez was long viewed as a toolsy pitcher with low-to-mid-90s velocity and a wicked slider, but was never able to pitch with consistency. He was the Bees’ closer this year, logging ten saves and posting a 2.28 ERA away from hitter-friendly Spring Mobile Ballpark. He’s been around since 2002, so some might think he’s older than he is, but Rafy doesn’t turn 26 until September 24 so he could certainly blossom in the Diamondbacks’ bullpen.
Here are FutureAngels.com videos of the pitchers sent to Arizona, including the presumed Tyler Skaggs. You need Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection to watch:
Rafael Rodriguez pitching for Cedar Rapids in August 2003
Joe Saunders pitching for Rancho Cucamonga in April 2004
Pat Corbin pitching for Cedar Rapids on May 1
Tyler Skaggs pitching for Cedar Rapids on May 3
Playing for Peanuts
I just finished watching a ten-part documentary series called Playing For Peanuts, which is about a team in the independent South Coast League. The league operated only one year, in 2007, and then folded.
The center of the story is Wally Backman. You might remember
he was hired to manage the Diamondbacks and fired four days later due to a domestic problem that hit the papers. Backman was desperate to get back into the game, so he agreed to manage the South Georgia Peanuts.
Wally was wired with a mic for the entire season. He was combustible, he was controversial, he got suspended, he got fired, he got rehired. But he passionately loved the game and defended his players.
The backdrop for all this is the absolutely horrid conditions in this indy league. It had four teams, and one of the four lost its stadium lease after a week so it had to play on the road for the rest of the year. There was a drug controversy — again, involving the Peanuts — and as the financial losses mounted the players wound up having to be their own grounds crew.
Despite all this, the Peanuts somehow won the pennant.
The series was originally envisioned as ten 30-minute episodes, or 22 minutes without commercials, to run on regional sports networks. The producer issued the series on DVD. It arrived yesterday and I couldn’t wait to watch the next episode. It was dramatic, it was funny, it was everything you’d want in a baseball documentary.
And if you’re looking for an Angels tie … The hitting coach was Larry Olenberger, the father of former Angels minor league pitcher Kasey Olenberger. You’ll see wearing Angels T-shirts and pictures of Kasey in Angels gear on his locker.
You can order the DVD through www.playingforpeanuts.com. It’s $25 plus $5 for shipping. I love finding little gems like this no one has ever heard about. It’s a perfect gift for a baseball fan.