Monday, July 29, 2013
Breaking down the Jose Veras trade
By Keith Law
In a trade that nets them reliever Jose Veras, the Tigers gained bullpen depth -- and perhaps a replacement closer -- while giving up two long-range prospects who weren't among their most valuable assets. The Astros, meanwhile, converted a one-year free agent signing into some more lottery tickets for their increasingly tumescent farm system.
Jeff Luhnow has remained steadfast in his plan for the Astros.
Prior to 2013, Veras pitched for three teams in the past three years, averaging just over a half a win of value over replacement level per year, under 2 rWAR total and just 1 fWAR total in 186 innings over that span. (The discrepancy is largely from his 2010 season with the Marlins, where he benefited from a very low .241 BABIP that shows up in his rWAR figure but not in his fWAR.) He's a solid middle reliever who's having a peak year where his stuff isn't substantially different, but he's throwing a few more strikes, especially early in counts. Whether that's a permanent change or a temporary blip is anyone's guess, and he could just as easily maintain that performance for the next two months -- giving Detroit 20-odd quality innings in leveraged situations -- as he could revert to his old form and walk 10 or 11 guys in that span and make Tiger fans nutty. The Tigers also get Veras' option for 2014 at $3.25 million with a $150K buyout, so it's a little more than a pure rental but gives them the potential to walk away if Veras falls off or gets injured -- and they didn't give up any top prospects to get him.
Any time you can flip a fungible reliever for a prospect, even a fringy one, it's a good day for a rebuilding club like Houston -- even more so since they picked Veras up off the scrap heap, cleaned him up a bit and sold him as soon as he had that new closer smell. Danry Vasquez was the No. 5 prospect in the Tigers' system coming into the year, although he's slid from that spot since then; he's a left fielder who hasn't gotten much stronger since signing, hasn't translated a good swing into any kind of power and has been futile against lefties this year in just 88 at-bats. He has a solid approach at the plate, and I like how his hands work, but in the three years since he entered pro ball, he hasn't filled out much at all. He's a lottery ticket for Houston, a guy with everyday upside if the strength ever comes, but a low-probability prospect until then. They're also getting a second player as a PTBNL, reportedly another good flier for the Astros, which will make this a very good return for two months of Veras plus an option year, especially since a closer is a needless luxury for a team en route to 100 losses.
This also removes one reliever with ninth-inning experience from the trade market, which probably leaves Kevin Gregg as the main Proven Closer who's definitely available in a trade -- a fact that should encourage the Phillies, Twins and perhaps the Rangers to explore the markets for their own closers in the next 48 hours.