Trade Scenarios: Jeff Keppinger to the Cleveland Indians

This is the first of two pieces on various trade scenarios this week. Today, we're looking at sending one Jeff Keppinger to the Cleveland Indians, thus fixing their lineup troubles. There are problems with this scenario, just like the last two, but before I lay those out, I'll say that Friday, we're going to have another one of these. It's going to be a suggestion from another writer on the site, native_astro, and I wanted to reiterate that I'm open to suggestions. Like many of you suggested, I'll try and update the Braves scenario with just Bourn, but in the meantime, if you have any ideas, feel free to email them to thecrawfishboxes@gmail.com

On to the Cleveland Indians...In case you only paid attention to the Futures Game for Jose Altuve, the U.S. Team's second baseman Jason Kipnis hit a home run and generally looked great. He's also hitting .297/.380/.506 for the Cleveland Indians Triple-A affiliate. The natural question to ask is why would Cleveland trade for Keppinger to man second base if they could just bring up Kipnis?

That's the main problem with this scenario, but doesn't entirely rule it out. After all, the Indians need some offensive help, and Kepp could play the role of super sub pretty well. After the jump, we'll break down what he might be worth and what the Astros could get for him...

Let's use the Trade Value Calculator to see what Kepp's value might be. As a refresher, the TVC takes Kepp's projected fWAR totals over the two seasons he's under team control. Since his salary can't be known yet for 2012, we assume that his salary will be 80 percent of his total value. 

By looking at that fWAR projection and multiplying that by the cost of a win on the free agent market, we get his value based on performance. Subtract his current and future salaries from that, and you'll get his surplus value, which is what we use to calculate these trade scenarios.

Based on Kepp's stats through half this season, I've got him down for 1.5  fWAR, then 1.5 for 2012. Add to that a projected Type A free agency at the end of those two years, and Kepp's surplus value is at $11.1 million. That's a pretty good chunk of change, and is probably more than many of you expected of him. So, let's lower that total to a cool 10 million just for public perception purposes.

A quick refresher on the value of prospects shows us that a Top 50 pitcher is worth 15.9 million, a Top 100 pitcher is worth 9.8 million, a Grade B pitcher is worth 7.3 million, a Grade C+ pitcher 23 or older is worth 1.5 million and a Grade C hitter under 22 is worth 0.7 million. So, the Astros might expect to get back a Grade B pitcher or hitter and another prospect for Kepp. No one major, but it should be a nice deal for a player who could help Houston down the road.

In that respect, a deal for Kepp will probably look more like the Casey Blake deal from a few years ago (Blake to the Dodgers for Jon Meloan and Carlos Santana...before he was Carlos Santana) than the Pudge Rodriguez deal (where Houston got two prospects who didn't amount to much but were fairly well regarded at the time). Keep that in mind as we look at the following players. 

1) Nick Weglarz, OF/1B - Though not listed on a Top 100 list, Weglarz is the highest ranking player on Baseball America's Top 30 prospects on here. He's graded out as a B on John Sickels' rankings, but that may drop after he's had a disastrous year backsliding into Double-A. Weglarz is almost a mirror image of Brett Wallace. The only thing the two have in common is suspect defense. Otherwise, Weglarz is all power, no average, while Wallace is all average, no power. Picking up Weglarz would be redundant, but this team does need power.

2) Jason Knapp, RHP - I have no thoughts that Houston would ask for Knapp or that he's in play in any trade scenario. See, he recently had another shoulder surgery and has been ruled out for the rest of the season. The only reason I include him here is I think Houston would be interested in him if he weren't hurt. Knapp has an intriguing, power skillset and is still young, but injuries have been a problem. Oh, did I mention he was also drafted by the Phillies, coming to Cleveland in the Cliff Lee deal? That's why Houston might look at him.

3) Joe Gardner, RHP -  Look closely, because Gardner is the only other Type B player on this list. He's a little bit unique, in that Gardner doesn't have flashy strikeout numbers. Instead, he relies on a heavy sinker coming from a three-quarters delivery. That combination has made him effective, but some struggles with his control this season at Double-A might limit his value. He also may be projected as a big league closer instead of sticking as a starter.

4) Josh Judy, RHP - One of two players on this list to actually show time in the major leagues this season, Judy is a reliever. You know how much Ed Wade loves those guys. Judy actually profiles similarly to Mark Melancon as far as stuff goes. Both live in the low 90's with some sink, but have the makeup to be pretty good relievers. He wouldn't be a centerpiece, but Judy is intriguing enough to get in a Kepp trade.

5) Cord Phelps, 2B - The other big leaguer, Phelps may have been passed on the depth chart by Kipnis. His brief time in the bigs this season showed he can get on base at a good clip, but he's not hitting worth a damn. In the minors, Phelps showed off power and a good eye, which is a great combination. Honestly, Houston couldn't do worse than him as a second base option until Jose Altuve is ready to go.

Since we have a way to value players, that gives us Weglarz worth 5.5 million, Knapp worth 2.1 million, Gardner worth 7.3 million, Judy worth 1.5 million and Phelps worth $700,000. Now, we start slapping together some trade scenarios.

Scenario One: Astros trade Keppinger to Cleveland for Nick Weglarz, Josh Judy and Cord Phelps - Because Weglarz value is only about half of what Kepp's figures to be, we added in two more prospects to pad out the numbers. This still doesn't get Houston to 10 million in value, but it comes close. Plus, I really like both Phelps and Judy, but there's not nearly enough value there to justify sending Kepp for just the two.

Scenario Two: Astros trade Keppinger to Cleveland for Cord Phelps and Joe Gardner - Again, with this deal, Houston gets a MLB-ready second baseman to fill in for Kepp while also getting a good pitching prospect who's already fairly developed. Gardner would fit into the wave of players currently at Corpus and his floor is pretty high. Houston wouldn't get the value for Kepp in this deal, but they'd probably be happy with the return.

Scenario Three: Astros trade Keppinger to Cleveland for Joe Gardner and Josh Judy - Ditto what I said about Gardner above, just with Judy added in here. This is the deal for Ed Wade, since it gives him two potential relievers. We all know how much Ed Wade likes his relievers. 

None of these deals are terribly great, but I think I like the addition of some of the lower floor guys. Frankly, I don't like Weglarz as a centerpiece, because (as I said) he's redundant with Wallace. Gardner makes some sense, and if Houston could somehow get Gardner, Phelps and Judy, that'd be a pretty nice deal. I just doubt they'll get three prospects in return for Keppinger, however much my calculator says his value really is.

What do you think? Which deal would you make? Are there any Cleveland prospects I missed that you'd include? Do you think the Indians need Kepp in the first place?

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