Setting The Stage
Texas: The two-time defending American League Champions have been close to triumph two years running. There is a juggernaut that is looming within the division after the Angels backed up dumptrucks full of $100 bills in front of the houses of the best free agent hitter and the best free agent pitcher. Fate is fickle, and you never know when you will be back. Yu Darvish is probably coming to town, which is great, but it's time to shore up your weaknesses and man the battlements.
Baltimore: All hopes were pinned on the arrival of the cavalry. The cavalry finally arrived and those hopes have since died of dysentery. You now know there are no sure prospects, and that the only thing that can save this franchise is a steady stream of potential players, praying that out of enough quality prospects enough will stick. In the minors, outside of Dylan Bundy, Machado and Schoop, the cupboard is mostly bare. The team paid $87 million to players and lost 93 games in 2011.
The Orioles receive:
2B Rougned Odor
RHP Tanner Scheppers
OF Jacob Skole
RHP Matt West
The Rangers receive:
They made the World Series, but there were holes in the Rangers ballclub along the way. There were a number of weak points, including the bullpen, which had a 4.11 ERA on the year. That's only slightly better than the 4.18 bullpen ERA that the Orioles managed, both among the worst int he league. Texas gave up some players for some rentals, but in the crucial game 6 of the World Series, they were still relying on the likes of 40-year old Darren Oliver, and Mark Lowe and Scott Feldman. Two of these trades involved the Orioles.
The Rangers also had weak production from first base, with Mitch Moreland getting 500 plate appearances and putting up a .733 OPS. Mark Reynolds might represent an upgrade here, but if the Orioles are going to get value for him in a trade, I don't think this is the best place to do it.
Another problem area for the Rangers was the outfield. 29-year old David Murphy received 440 plate appearances and managed a .729 OPS. Less time was given to the younger Craig Gentry and Julio Borbon, who also did not impress. Josh Hamilton can't play 162 games and only has a year remaining before free agency. The Rangers farm system has several international prospects slotted to play the outfield, including Leonys Martin, but their time hasn't arrived quite yet.
Recent real-world trades between the Orioles and Rangers have involved the O's taking players that Texas was getting ready to give up on anyway. Tommy Hunter, Chris Davis, Pedro Strop and Taylor Teagarden all fit into this category. Andy MacPhail's battlecry was getting "major league-ready" players, but what that really meant was he got players who'd appeared in the big leagues but mostly failed and thus didn't stick. We are driving a harder bargain here. We don't want the guys who are on the cusp of a DFA or an offseason non-tender.
In exchange for Jones and Johnson, we want potential. As we well know, right now the O's organization has virtually none. The Rangers are receiving two years of Jones at moderate cost, a good player who can allow Hamilton to man the less-demanding left field. He's also a player who could thrive in an environment where there is no expectation that he could or should be the best player on the team. Johnson has three cost-controlled years before free agency. He's been a workhorse for the Orioles, but shouldn't have to chew up as many innings on a better team. He gets a lot of ground balls.
After the O's re-assigned most of their professional scouting department, the joke was that they would be relying essentially on Baseball America and John Sickels prospect lists to scout players. For this trade, I have done precisely this. Recently, trading prospects has been a less efficient market, but, the Nationals did part with four players for Gio Gonzalez. The players the Nats gave up had grades of B+, B, B, and B- from Sickels.
I am deeming the Jones/Johnson combination to be worth four players in return, but not as high-quality as the ones the Nationals gave up for Gio. Three prospects for two solid MLB players seemed like too little to me, but four almost seems like too much. I've tried to balance this out by having the Orioles take on players with less polish or otherwise more risk involved.
Odor, a B prospect, signed out of Venezuela for $425,000 and played in low-A at age 17. The O's don't have a good 2B prospect deep in the minors. This isn't aiming at the very top of the Rangers system, but he's #5 according to Sickels. I don't know anything else about him except that his name is awesome and I want to hear Gary Thorne try to pronounce it on a nightly basis.
Scheppers is a B- prospect whom Sickels rated as the #11 Rangers prospect. He was drafted out of high school by the Orioles in the 29th round of 2005, but did not sign. He was also drafted by the Pirates in the 2nd round in 2008, but again did not sign. The Rangers took him with a supplemental first round pick in 2009, and he signed for $1.25 million. He was the #42 Baseball America prospect prior to 2010 and the #84 prospect prior to 2011. Scheppers has struck a lot of dudes out in the minors, but he'll be 25 next season and is described as having injury issues and command issues. Like, 4.2 BB/9 in AAA command issues.
Skole, another B- prospect, was a Rangers first round pick in 2010. Skole was drafted 15th with the compensation pick Texas received for failing to sign Matt Purke in 2009. He has the raw/toolsy label and is going to be just 20 years old next season. He is #15 in the Rangers system on Sickels' list. I've picked him because I thought the O's needed to get an outfielder back in this trade. This is something of a numbers game. The Rangers gave Skole $1.557 million to sign, which is a lot, but this July they gave $5M to OF prospect Nomar Mazara out of the DR and $3.5M to another DR outfield prospect, Ronald Guzman. That's not counting the $15.5M they gave to Martin, a Cuban defector, in May. Texas has the least invested in Skole, and that makes him the most expendable in this trade.
West is a C+ prospect. He used to play third base. He converted to pitcher after four years in professional ball. 2011 was his first season as a pitcher. West struck out 35 batters and only walked one in 26 innings at low-A Spokane. That is impressive, but he'll be 23 and just hitting high-A next season. Plus it was a really small sample size. So you know, Texas, we'll just go ahead and take your #23 prospect off your hands, and don't worry too much because he'll probably never amount to anything, especially not in our farm system...
The Orioles are giving up two known quantities in Jones and Johnson. In exchange, they are receiving two young and raw players who are by no means sure things, and two older prospects who project as relievers and have some risk involved - injuries/command issues in the case of Scheppers, and a recent conversion to pitcher by West. The Rangers receive two solid pieces where there is a need in their club's immediate future without completely having their farm system raided of its top-end talent.
The Scouting Reports (read: Baseball Reference Pages)
You tell me.