Sunday, July 30, 2006

Hank Blalock

The trade rumors that have raised my eyebrows the most are the ones that have the Rangers looking to deal Hank Blalock and the ones that have them looking to pick up Miguel Tejada. I realize that this may have something to do with other players they would acquire in the process, but I'd guess that it's more than likely that they'd be paying more than just Blalock to pick up Tejada when it's all said and done. In other words, we could be talking about the Rangers paying $29m to Tejada for 2006-8 instead of the $12m they would owe Blalock, plus also paying $13m to age-33 Tejada. And what's more is that, presumably, Texas wants to move Tejada to third base.

Tejada is definitely an excellent hitter, but this strikes me as making a move because it can be called an upgrade rather than because it is a meaningful upgrade. Tejada would probably provide better defense, but given that defensively Tejada isn't really a premier shortstop, we couldn't reasonably expect that to amount to much more than a win per year. It's hard to imagine projecting Blalock as a below average hitter, so even a generous projection for Tejada puts him only 20 or so runs above Blalock per season. So it would be unrealistic to expect Tejada to be worth much more than 3 wins per season over Blalock, or 7 wins over the course of Blalock's contract. That amounts to paying $17m for 7 wins, which is reasonable, but which quickly falls from that if the Rangers have to trade significant talent beyond Blalock for it.

However, Blalock has been a good hitter thus far in his career and is only 25, so it would be surprising if he wasn't more of a +10 type of hitter in his 26-27 seasons. Beyond that, there's a very easy way to almost nullify Tejada's offensive advantage: stop using Blalock against lefties. There are not that many LHB in baseball who should be getting starts against LHP, and it's extremely clear that Blalock is not one of the exceptions. Even in his disappointing 2005 and 2006 campaigns, he's hit about .300/.360/.460 against RHP. A right-handed hitting platoon third baseman is one of the easier pieces in baseball to pick up, and the Rangers already have one on hand in Mark DeRosa, and they've got enough RHB in the outfield that they don't need him playing there.

Moreover, one of the reasons the Rangers are purportedly shopping Blalock is that he is notorious for second-half slumps. Given that Blalock gets almost no days off, I don't think it would be surprising that giving him days off against southpaws would cut against the second-half declines.

While trading for Tejada could theoretically make the difference in the Rangers' postseason hopes, it will probably amount to picking up a few marginal runs per year at a $17m cost. And if the Rangers end up missing the playoffs by a game, it won't have been their failure to get Tejada that cost them; it will have been their reluctance to acknowledge the need to platoon Blalock.


At 2:43 PM, Blogger Yo La Tengo said...

Interesting take. I might be remembering incorrectly, but don't a lot of metrics show Tejada to be a superior fielder? And I think the plan is for Young to move to 3B to accomodate Tejada, which is good beause IIRC Young is not a good defender.

At 3:39 PM, Blogger Fifth Outfielder said...

The Young to 3B rumor made its first appearance that I know of a little after I wrote this, and certainly would upgrade the value of such a deal by a few more runs per year. Although Young is, apparently, having a much better defensive season in 2006. If the Dewan research (I've only heard about it second hand) about his positioning was right, then we might expect that improvement to be somewhat more permanent.

Tejada had a kind of negative defensive rep in the Oakland years, and was avg in UZR's, negative in most of the other metrics, IIRC. By all metrics, he had an outstanding 2004 with the glove, but hasn't been much better than average since.

In Will Carroll's latest he actually wrote that Blalock was on the block *because* of his platoon split - assuming Will's sources are right, that's a baffling way to run a club. "Either stop being left-handed or get off our team..."


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