Can Mike Rizzo replicate the trade he made on July 29, 2010?

Mike Rizzo trade

Photo by Andrew Lang for TalkNats

Baseball historians might remember when Mike Rizzo traded closer Matt Capps on July 29, 2010 for top prospect catcher Wilson Ramos. It felt like thievery at the time — and it was. Capps was a reclamation project who pitched to a 5.80 ERA the season prior to the trade. He was cut loose by the Pirates and Rizzo signed him for the 2010 season and he became the Nats lone All-Star in the 2010 season. Ramos was blocked by a catcher named Joe Mauer. It was the perfect confluence of need for both sides, and Mike Rizzo pounced and made the trade of Capps for Ramos. Can Mike Rizzo replicate a trade like that? I am asking that question for a friend.

There has been some huge trades this off-season that began with the Giancarlo Stanton trade, Marcel Ozuna,  and finally Gerrit Cole has been traded. Some teams seem more willing to trade prospects for their needs rather then commit to big dollar free agent deals.

If you listened to Al Galdi who does a baseball radio show on DC’s ESPN 980, he suggested trading Gio Gonzalez. Yes, I have hinted at the same move in a “sell high” trade in order to clear payroll and enter the free agent market to replace Gio. My suggestion months ago was to sign Lance Lynn, however after learning that the Nats were over the salary cap last year they would have to forfeit their 2nd and 5th picks in this year’s draft if they signed Lynn and that has changed my thinking. On Saturday morning, Galdi laid out his reasoning:

Fans of the Washington Nationals are so used to Mike Rizzo making multiple big moves that they are clamoring for something. Keep in mind the Nats really could do nothing else this off-season and be ready to start the season with Dave Martinez‘s current roster. On the other hand, there is room for improvement. Is it time for Mike Rizzo to call the Marlins again about Realmuto? What about matching up with the Cleveland Indians?

The Cleveland Indians have catchers Roberto Perez and Yan Gomes under guaranteed contracts for at least 2 more years. Unless they trade or DFA (designate for assignment) a catcher, they have no room for top prospect catcher Francisco Mejia for 2 more years on their current depth chart. The 22-year-old prospect did get a September call-up and only got thirteen at-bats and delivered 2-hits. Mejia moved up the prospect charts to #14 overall with a strong showing in this past autumnal Arizona Fall League when he hit .365 for the Glendale Desert Dogs.

When the news broke that Jay Bruce was not going to return to the Cleveland Indians and was heading back to the team that just traded him a little over 5 months ago, it left a void in the Indians outfield. Both Michael Brantley and Brandon Guyer had surgeries in December. Brantley had ankle surgery and  Guyer had wrist surgery.  Bradley Zimmer will be one of the starters and Lonnie Chisenhall has been a platoon bat facing mostly right-handed pitchers. The Indians could use a right-handed outfielder who could not only handle a bat but also provide improved defense. The Indians outfielders were ranked at the bottom of outfield defense.

Buster Olney wrote, “So while it’s true the Indians lost really important … solid hitters in Carlos Santana and Jay Bruce, Cleveland is still the safest bet to get to October — with Francisco LindorJose Ramirez, Kluber, Carlos CarrascoAndrew Miller, et al. It’s a great team in a division that may be noncompetitive. The Indians have been relatively quiet this winter so far, but they’re still in the market for a right-handed hitting outfielder or super utility man — Eduardo Nunez might be the perfect fit — and a right-handed reliever.”

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Francisco Mejia if he was a Nat.

Could Mike Rizzo put together a trade to get Mejia as the Nationals catcher of the near-future? Would Michael Taylor plus a minor leaguer be enough to get the Indians to move? Ken Rosenthal on MLB Network said that he thinks the Indians are just about tapped out on payroll and could look to trade for a right-fielder.

Michael A. Taylor is now cost controlled for $2.5 million for this year with 3-years of team-control remaining. Taylor put up a +3.1 WAR in only 118 games last season which ranks higher on a per-game basis than all but 19 outfielders.  Maybe the Marlins could trade the Indians an outfielder like Christian Yelich. There are probably other outfielders available for trade like Andrew McCutchen, and there are several available outfielders on the free agent market like Lorenzo Cain.

When you look at Michael A. Taylor, he was just one of the breakout outfield stars in 2017 along with Aaron Judge, Tommy Pham Chris Taylor, and Aaron Hicks. Since there were many outfielders who were limited to games played because of injuries that affected the season WAR totals for players like Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, it also affected Michael A. Taylor who only appeared in 118 games last season. We decided to reseed the outfielders by WAR per game (multiplied by 100). Not surprising, Michael A. Taylor and Lorenzo Cain were almost virtually tied in value. Taylor is 5-years younger than Cain, and it really comes down to progression and regression of skills, cost per year, and years of control. Fangraphs had Michael A. Taylor as the 26th most valuable outfielder (20th om a per game basis) and the list shows how far Taylor has progressed in value.

What this could prove to Nats fans is how valuable MAT was in the  regular season during 2017 and we all witnessed what he did during the NLDS. A Mike Rizzo trade still looks remote at this point, and the only trade the Nationals have been rumored in was for J.T. Realmuto and Yelich. There is still time for Mike Rizzo — but is he ready to pounce?

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