Monday, June 22, 2009

Time to Sell High: Dallas Braden?

I'll admit this right off the bat: the argument in favor of trading Dallas Braden at the trading deadline is very out of the box. Braden, who will turn 26 in August, is putting together the best season of his young career this season. Braden has a 5-6 record with a 3.26 ERA in 15 starts this season. His performance this season has been nothing short of stellar even though the Athletics have struggled to play consistent baseball this season. Furthermore, Braden is not eligible for arbitration until 2011 and will not be a free agent until at least 2014.

Obviously, there are lots of reasons why the Athletics should hold onto Braden.

But let's take a look at why/if it makes sense for the Athletics to look into moving Dallas Braden. In this marketplace, when so many teams are struggling to find a top flight starting pitcher, it does not look like any impact starting pitcher will be available. Jake Peavy is hurt. Erik Bedard is hurt. The Indians will probably hold onto Cliff Lee. As it looks right now, the best starting pitcher, who might be traded is Jarrod Washburn. But in reality, he is nothing more than a #3 or #4.

So with the market lacking impact starting pitchers, the Athletics should be able to maximize their return on Braden, who is pitching like an ace this season. Because the supply of available impact starting pitchers is low, but the demand for impact starting pitchers is high, the Athletics could conceivably have a bunch of teams very interested in acquiring Braden. The return on Braden would obviously be very high because of his age, contract status, and performance.

Does trading Braden make sense for the Athletics? It could. There is always the risk that Braden's performance improves dramatically over the next few seasons and he becomes a top flight starting pitcher. But on the other hand, the Athletics have the opportunity to sell high on Braden after just a couple months of solid pitching.

This would be a classic Billy Beane sell high trade that would turn the baseball world upside down.



tHeMARksMiTh said...

Braden is a very interesting player. On one hand, you're right. He's having a very good year. Braden even has a 3.51 FIP, which suggests his ERA isn't that far-fetched. Why has he improved a whole run in ERA and FIP? His BABIP is .305 (.005 up from last year). His LD% is up to 20% (up 2%). And his LOB% of 76.4 is normal. But somehow, Braden is striking out almost 6 per 9 (up from 5.15), and he's walking almost a batter less per 9 (3.14 to 2.39).

On the other hand, is this just a mirage? He did strike out a lot of hitters in the minors, and he didn't walk all that many people. It's reasonable to think that his K and BB numbers would improve. But some things could concern teams. He is a pretty fly ball-heavy pitcher (.86 in his career GB/FB) in a pitcher-friendly park (leading to a 5.4 HR/FB%), and if he doesn't strike out more hitters, he may not be as effective elsewhere. And will perception work against him? He wasn't really a big, big prospect, and I wonder if teams still think he's more of a 4 or 5 guy in most rotations.

But he's having one of the most under-the-radar seasons, even though his success seems to be legit.

Anonymous said...

The Athletics would have to jump at any reasonable package offered. Not that I think Braden isn't underrated. It's the depth of starting pitching for Oakland. They have five legitamite high upside rookies already in Anderson, Cahill, Mazzaro, Outman, and Gio Gonzalez. The A's don't exactly have much young hitters in their system, even though they spent their last two first round picks on position players, Weeks has disappointed and Green is no sure bet. If they could deal Braden for a corner infielder, Beane would be able to do it with the amount of pitchers he already has.

Jorge Says No! said...

Anon: great points.

My only question is how high are the A's on Gio Gonzalez?