The Twitter mailbag returns for a second straight week to provide some “baseball” content as we wait for the Major League Baseball owners and the MLB Players Association to meet for just the second time since the lockout started Dec. 2.
Not to be overly critical of the two parties, but TWO TIMES IN SEVEN WEEKS?
The Twitter mailbag has consumed vegetables three times over that period.
It certainly doesn’t seem representative of the pre-lockout preaching from both sides about their supposed motivation and urgency to reach a new collective-bargaining agreement and ensure an on-time start to spring training and the regular season.
But, hey, it’s only the popularity and legacy of the game at stake.
You know how there is always one GM in your fantasy league that doesn’t quite do the research, understand the concept of player value and can eventually be convinced to trade away a quality player(s) if you simply overwhelm him with quantity?
MLB general managers aren’t like that … anymore. With the amount of information available on each player, the number of analysts and scouts employed by each team to provide statistical and in-person evaluations and improved scrutiny of trade offers, it’s almost impossible to trick GMs into making a lopsided trade. Yes, it still happens, but often those decisions are based on desperation instead of logic.
This is a roundabout way of answering that trying to offer Taylor Trammell, Luis Torrens and Jake Fraley to the A’s for third baseman Matt Chapman isn’t going to happen. And offering that same trio to Pittsburgh for All-Star center fielder Bryan Reynolds will get you laughed out of the room.
If you want to get All-Star talent, you have to trade away prospects with potential to become All-Stars.
Let’s take a closer look at each player mentioned:
Taylor Trammell — A first-round pick in 2016 and a Top 100 prospect for three organizations, including the Mariners, he no longer qualifies for official prospect status, having exceeded rookie limitations with two stints in the big leagues in 2021 that he might not have been ready to handle. At age 24, he’s far from a finished product as a player and there is potential for major growth and improvement into an above average every-day player.
The overall numbers in a rookie season where he played in 51 games were ugly — a .160/.256/.359 slash line with seven doubles, eight homers, 18 RBI, 17 walks and a whopping 75 strikeouts in 178 plate appearances.
Trammell struggled with MLB-level off-speed pitches, posting a .116 batting average on breaking pitches and swinging and missing at 59.6% of the breaking balls and changeups thrown to him. Left-handed pitchers often overwhelmed him, forcing Seattle to use him platoon situations when possible.
From a defensive standpoint, his improved arm strength is still below league average for center field and right field. Scouts were critical of his delayed reads and inefficient routes to fly balls, believing he uses his speed to overcome for mistakes.
An optimistic opposing MLB scout believes that Trammell’s tireless work ethic and his package of size, strength and athleticism will allow him to overcome some of the early deficiencies through time and game experience to be something more than a fourth outfielder but doesn’t see him as being an All-Star level player without significant improvements to his swing and approach.
Luis Torrens — Neither the Mariners nor scouts believe that his defense behind the plate is quite as abysmal as he displayed in his 37 games at catcher in 2021. But that agreement ends when it comes to how good Torrens can be as a catcher. The Mariners think he can be something more than adequate while most scouts think he will never be more than below average defensively.
Is his production at the plate good enough to offset his issues behind it? It needs to be for him to remain at the MLB level since he isn’t a good catcher and designated hitter can’t be a primary position. In his first 29 games before being sent to Tacoma, he posted a .178/.219/.300 slash line with five doubles, two homers, six RBI, four walks and 25 strikeouts. He returned to hit a .266/.326/.477 slash line with 11 doubles, two triples, 13 homers, 41 RBI, 24 walks and 74 strikeouts. Per FanGraphs weighted runs created metric to measure offensive value, Torrens was a +121 over that span with 100 being average.
Jake Fraley — Late in spring training, when he was still competing for the starting left field job and a spot on the opening day roster, a group of MLB scouts were asked about Fraley and his possibilities as a MLB player.
To paraphrase one scout’s comment, removing the profanity: That guy is 25, acts like he’s 45 and moves like he’s 65.
It was a less than complimentary way of saying that Fraley’s body betrays him when he plays on an everyday basis. Since being acquired from Tampa in 2018, Fraley has had five trips to the injured list — four at the MLB level and one while at Class AAA Tacoma.
Three injured list stints (strained hamstring, COVID-19 and a shoulder strain) limited him to 78 games in 2021.
A 45-game stretch between May 31 through July 11 yielded a .250/.392/.462 slash line with seven homers, 22 RBI, 25 walks and 35 strikeouts. But that success came largely against right-handed pitching and ended when he went on the COVID IL. In 101 MLB plate appearances vs. MLB lefties, he has a .151/.277/.198 slash line with a double, a homer, 14 walks and 38 strikeouts.
Despite several highlight catches in 2021, he’s considered a below average defensive outfielder who struggles to get quality jumps on fly balls with poor routes to them.
“It’s why he’s always having to dive or crash into a wall,” a MLB scout said.
If you are a GM for a team, would you give up a proven MLB player for a former Top 100 prospect, a catcher that can’t really catch and an injury-riddled fourth outfielder?
A warning: It’s a route that will make you unhealthier, won’t make you rich, leave you stressed, question your life choices, turn you into an irascible cynic and love every minute of it.
Yet, I wouldn’t change my path to this job.
But to answer your question: I first got a teaching degree from Dickinson State University despite realizing that I really loathed kids about two days into my student teaching. I went back to school to get a journalism degree from the University of Montana. From there, I followed what was the traditional way of success in this business — starting at a small newspaper and slowly working your way up the ranks, proving yourself at each level through hard work and getting a little lucky. From the Havre Daily News, the Idaho State Journal to the Tacoma News Tribune and eventually The Times. It was an exercise in patience I didn’t have, bringing infuriating frustration at times and it made me a better journalist for it.