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December 10, 2008

One Man And His Five Tools Depart

Texas traded GERALD LAIRD to Detroit for pitchers GUILLERMO MOSCOSO and CARLOS MELO.

Through a combination of bad luck and his very averageness, Laird never enjoyed much job security. Anointed the #1 catcher entering 2004, Laird suffered an injury in mid-May that shelved him for two months. Rod Barajas assumed his role and, amazingly, didn’t surrender it until late in 2006. Then, in July 2007, Texas traded for Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Entering his second year of arbitration after earning $1.6 million in 2008, Laird will earn about $7-8 million over the next two years. That’s a fair price for his services, but Texas should be able to replace him or even surpass him with some combination of Salty, Taylor Teagarden and Max Ramirez, all minimum-wage employees.

Baseball America recently ranked Moscoso 10th in Detroit’s (weak) minor-league system and fifth among pitchers. He’s a mess of contradictions. Good news: BA claimed he has the most upside of any starter in Detroit’s system outside of Rick Porcello and Casey Crosby. He fanned a gigantic 37% of opposing batters upon promotion to AA versus a 6% walk rate. His heater isn’t terribly fast but has great movement. Bad news: He just turned 25. His offspeed stuff is bland. Shoulder problems have limited him to no more than 91 innings in any season (excluding winter ball).

That description says “reliever? to me, though Texas intends to keep him in a starting role for the time being. Off the top of my head, I’d say he ranks somewhere in the high teens to lower twenties in Texas.

Melo is the “lottery ticket? (as described by Adam Morris), a 17-year-old Dominican who can touch 96. He signed at the same time as Texas’s increasingly heralded Martin Perez. He could be special… if he can climb six levels of minor-league ball.

Laird is worth about three wins per season compared to an entire season of, say, Sal Fasano or Guillermo Quiroz. He ranked 17th among catchers in Win Shares in 2008, 18th in 2007. As I said, Texas can replace his production, but whether the trade acquisition will ever be worth three wins in a season is another matter. Detroit took on the salary, while Texas absorbed the risk. This isn’t a bad trade, but I‘d hoped for a little better. There’s a pretty good chance its epitaph will be “Laird for nothing.?

Posted by Lucas at December 10, 2008 03:45 PM