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Wilson Betemit for Scott Proctor
2007-07-31 10:18
by Cliff Corcoran
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

As we inch toward the 4:00 pm trading deadline, the Yankees have made what could turn out to be their only deadline deal by sending Scott Proctor back to the Dodgers for infielder Wilson Betemit. This trade impresses me in several ways:

First, this is not a win-now trade. Rather than giving up prospects for middle relievers of dubious value, the Yankees have traded a 30-year-old middle reliever of dubious value for a 25-year-old infielder in his third full major league season whose top PECOTA comp is Carlos Guillen. There's some question as to how the Yankees will utilize Betemit, but there's no doubt that they got the superior player in the deal.

Second is just how talented Betemit is. A switch-hitter who can play second, third, and short and even made an emergency appearance in right field for the Dodgers earlier this year, Betemit has a good bit of pop and improving plate discipline and probably deserves a starting job somewhere in the major leagues.

I'll take a closer look at Betemit in just a second, but before I do, the third thing that impresses me about this deal is that Brian Cashman essentially turned Robin Ventura (whom he dealt to the Dodgers for Proctor and Bubba Crosby at the 2003 deadline) into Betemit, getting Proctor's solid 2006 season out of the pen along the way. The Ventura deal infuriated me at the time. I was sure that Ventura would have been a valuable bat off the bench in the Yankees' postseason run, and I'm still convinced that he could have made the difference in the 2003 World Series, but it's hard to argue against it now. Ventura, then 35, played 151 games for the Dodgers over a season and a half, totaling 1.5 wins over replacement (per Baseball Prospectus's WARP) for L.A. before retiring. In parts of three seasons, Crosby accumulated 0.7 WARP and was sent on his way before he could do much harm (Adam Kennedy's "triple" in the 2005 ALDS was as much if not more Gary Sheffield's fault than Crosby's). Proctor, meanwhile, compiled 6.1 WARP for the Yankees over four seasons (4 of those wins coming last year) to give the Yankees a 5.3 win advantage in the Ventura trade alone. That the Yankees now have Betemit to show for all of that is just fantastic work on Cashman's part.

Wilson Betemit was signed as a right-hand-hitting shortstop out of the Dominican Republic by the Atlanta Braves in 1996. The deal was illegal as Betemit was just 14 at the time, but the Braves paid the penalty to keep Betemit, who learned to switch-hit and by the age of 19 was hitting .355/.394/.514 in double-A, which earned him a brief cup of coffee in the major leagues and a whole lotta hype. Betamit stalled out there, however, struggling with his weight, shifting to third base, and spending the next three years at triple-A, struggling in the first and showing only mild improvements in the next two before getting his second taste of the majors with brief call-ups in May and September of 2004 at the age of 22. Out of options in 2005, Betemit finally spent a full season in the bigs and even got to start at third base during Chipper Jones' annual stint on the disabled list. He hit a solid .305/.359/.435 that season and .281/.344/.497 the next year with Atlanta before being flipped to the Dodgers at the 2006 trading deadline for Danys Baez and Willy Aybar. Installed as the Dodgers' starting third baseman, Betemit kept up that pace with a little less patience but a bit more power through early September, but then slumped badly hitting .175/.264/.238 from September 5 through the end of the 2006 season. Betemit was even worse in April of this year, hitting .120/.299/.160 through May 1, but since then he's been raking to a .283/.392/.623 tune.

Overall, even with those two awful months mixed in, Betemit has seen his isolated power (ISP = SLG - AVG)) and plate discipline (ISD = OBP - AVG) numbers increase in each of the last two seasons from .130 ISP and .054 ISD in 2005, to .206 ISP and .083 ISD in 2006, to .243 ISP and .128 ISD thus far this year, both of which are just outstanding numbers.

Here's Dodger Thoughts' Jon Weisman on Betemit's Dodger career:

While no All-Star, Betemit, particularly against right-handed pitchers, was quite simply one of the Dodgers' best hitters. He was often mocked for his propensity to strike out [151 Ks in 604 PA in 2006 and 2007 combined], but those strikeouts distracted the critics from realizing his value.

However many times he made an out, it was more rare than any Dodger infielder except Jeff Kent and James Loney. His slugging percentage was also higher than any Dodger infielder except those two. Much has been made of Nomar Garciaparra's July hot streak, yet few noticed that Betemit was even hotter, with a .500 on-base percentage and .667 slugging percentage [actually .677].

Betemit lost fans because simply because of the type of outs he made, not because of the quantity. He was a book judged by its cover. And that always makes me sad.

As to why the Dodgers were willing to deal such a player, Weisman again:

"That fact remains that the Dodgers will stick with Garciaparra and Kent at third base and second base for the remainder of the season as long as they stay healthy, so that there was no starting role for Betemit. And with Andy LaRoche, Tony Abreu and Chin-Lung Hu in the minor leagues, the Dodgers are also covered for the future. At least one of these players has a higher ceiling than Betemit."

Still, Weisman agrees that Betemit is, "a more valuable player than Proctor," and that "trading for a middle reliever is almost by definition against good judgment, unless you're giving up a fringe minor-leaguer in the process." Adding only that, "the Dodgers were probably never going to warm up to Betemit--even though he hit 19 home runs in 330 at-bats as a Dodger."

So Betemit is a young, multi-talented hitter and infielder who's good enough to start, but what is he going to do on the Yankees?

That's a good question. For now I imagine he'll replace Chris Basak on the roster while Saturday's starter (who one assumes will be Phil Hughes) will eventually take Proctor's vacated position on the pitching staff, which had only been carrying four starters since Basak replaced Kei Igawa on Friday. ESPN's Buster Olney reported that the Yankees liked Betemit because "he could play first base for them this year," but failed to mention that Betemit's never played first base in the major leagues before while Andy Phillips has hit .304/.350/.420 since being recalled, .317/.360/.442 since taking over the starting job at first base, and is in the midst of an 11-game hitting streak. Besides which, Betemit and Phillips would not make a good platoon as both are better against righty pitching (Phillips repeating last year's odd reverse split, and the switch-hitting Betemit doing the bulk of his damage hitting lefty).

It's widely believed that Betemit was primarily obtained to be Alex Rodriguez insurance, as Betemit could become the Yankees' starting third baseman in 2008 should Rodriguez opt out of his contract and sign elsewhere. That's not a bad get for a redundant right-handed middle reliever who had a 1.51 WHIP on the season, has allowed four homers in his last six innings pitched, and against whom opposing hitters are hitting .298/.391/.482 since June 1. If nothing else, it gives the Yankees the best utility infielder they've had under Joe Torre by incredible leaps and bounds, even though it seems likely that Miguel Cairo will stick around to be a redundant drain on the roster (a.k.a. pinch-runner).

Should Rodriguez sign an extension to stay in New York, Betemit could be flipped over the winter for something a lot better than Scott Proctor or retained as the lone utility infielder leaving Cairo to find work elsewhere. Whatever becomes of him, Betemit is a great addition and a significant upgrade for the Yankees whether you're comparing him to the player he was traded for (Proctor), the player he replaces on the roster (Basak), or the player whose playing time he'll likely most effect (Cairo).

As for the bullpen, with 15 minutes to go until the deadline, the latest news is that Eric Gagne may be headed to Boston, while Joba Chamberlain and Edwar Ramirez could wind up getting the call to solidify the Yankee pen with Chris Britton still on the DL for Scranton, Brian Bruney likely getting demoted, and the fate of Kyle Farnsworth still to be determined.

Update: Sox got Gagne (for mL CF David Murphy and LHP Kason Gabbard), which gives them an insane endgame provided Gagne stays healthy.

Comments
2007-07-31 12:54:38
1.   yankz
Six minutes to go, and Farnsworth is still in pinstripes. Damn.

Great analysis BTW, thanks.

2007-07-31 13:01:12
2.   monkeypants
Regarding Gagné and the Sox--it is certainly not a bad move for them. I mean, more better is always betterer, and all that. But they really don't have much need in BP. I guess this could be a move aimed more at the postseason than regular season.

But I also wonder if it wasn't a defensive move, to keep Gagné away from the Yankees, just in case. This is not to say that it was a panic trade, or that the Sox 'fear' the this season's not so mighty Yankees. But BP is a place where the Yankees could improve dramatically via trade, especially since (in theory) the starting pitching (Hughes) and hitting (Giambi) will improve from within.

2007-07-31 13:01:57
3.   yankz
And that's time. Yay for Farns. Any chance they did something under the table that wasn't at all reported?
2007-07-31 13:04:58
4.   yankz
A LoHud comment re Gagne: "If Gagne stays healthy and Okajima maintains his performance, this is the best bullpen in history."

That might be true, but to just say that without researching, before Gagne even throws a pitch, seems a little ridiculous.

2007-07-31 13:06:25
5.   Jeteupthemiddle
3 Well, every year trades continue to be reported until 4:20 or so.

I think Farnsworth survived though.

I am sure, however, that he will be put on waivers...if claimed the team can have him and his salary...if not then they could explore a trade for whatever prospects.

2007-07-31 13:15:26
6.   Cliff Corcoran
2 No way the Sox are sweating the Yanks here. They made that move for the postseason and, provided they can keep Gagne healthy for it, it could very well pay off that way. The Sox are in position to make a deal to get a Championship, the Yankees are not. Both teams appear to have made the right deal for them. Kudos to the Yanks for not trading young talent for a rental setup man with a scary injury history in a season in which the playoffs are a longshot.
2007-07-31 13:23:47
7.   joejoejoe
I love the Betemit deal. It gives Cashman a ton of flexibility in the offseason and gives Torre a strong backup IF this season. I'm questioning why the Yankees didn't get a stronger RH bat but with Phillips hitting maybe it's not as big a deal as I think.

I'm amazed at how bad the speculation is on ESPN. They had Melky going everywhere for junk, basically because he's not a name player. Do these people watch the games? Melky has great in CF for months. He's making a name for himself and all they want to do is trade him for big names.

2007-07-31 13:27:26
8.   E-Rocker
I just don't understand how the Sox pulled off this trade. Not that I was that enamored by Gagne, but it seems that Texas was just poking fun at the Yankees by asking for one of our two stud pitching prospects. Then they take a relatively cheesy offer from Boston and accept. I'm just sitting here scratching my head...and cursing the Red Sox.
2007-07-31 13:31:36
9.   Cliff Corcoran
8 Gabbard had been pitching very well in the majors. He's a groundballing lefty, which is big for a team in a launching pad. Not a bad trade for Texas given Gagne's a rental.
2007-07-31 13:35:28
10.   Shaun P
8 Everything I read earlier said the Rangers initially asked the Sox for Buchholz and Ellsbury. So its not like they were asking the Yanks for their best, and telling the Sox they'd take anything.

I think Cliff has the best analysis of the situation in 6. The Yanks are not a sure thing to make the playoffs this year (much as I'd like to believe otherwise). Better to have younger, cheaper talent on hand for the future than to rent a guy for two months, when he probably doesn't add much to the bottom line.

Or, to put it another way - how much is Gagne worth the rest of the season, in terms of wins? Maybe two at most? The Yanks could easily get that just by promoting Joba and dumping Farnsworth from the 8th inning slot - and that's without considering using Edwar and Britton instead of Proctor and Bruney.

Gagne would have been nice, but the Yanks not getting him doesn't bother me.

2007-07-31 13:36:31
11.   Eric Enders
Gagne actually was part of the best bullpen in baseball history -- the 2003 Dodgers. That bullpen posted the lowest ERA in known baseball history (going back to 1981, which apparently is as far back as Elias could determine these things).
2007-07-31 13:36:36
12.   markp
I agree-Boston offered more than we did. Good for them, and I'm glad we still have Horne et al.
Betemit is a flat out steal-an OPS+ over 100 since he turned 23 and he can play all over the IF. Hopefully we can keep him for a while as a UIF.
2007-07-31 13:39:48
13.   ChrisS
8 I'm sure it will be ammo for those who think Cashman should be fired.

Next December on the Banter:
"I don't get why Cashman couldn't get Gagne when all Boston gave up was a Jeff Karstens clone and a prospect ..."

Followed by 50 posts arguing over whether Karstens is a Gabbard clone, whether Cashman is insane, and the merits of using stats versus the BFOG+ ratio.

2007-07-31 13:40:36
14.   joejoejoe
Betemit (or Cano) also become nice sweeteners if the Yankees want to dump somebody making big bank (Damon, Giambi) in the offseason. Maybe you can get close to equal talent back in a trade with by moving an expensive chip along with a minimum salary chip and address other needs.
2007-07-31 13:40:38
15.   pistolpete
Gabbard's major league experience was too small of a sample for my tastes - take a look at the minor league stats someone posted comparing he and Karstens, and I think you'll find we got hosed by the Rangers. I think they're still annoyed at us about '96.

Oh well. Gagne still has to survive the regular season without an injury to be a factor in the playoffs.

Me? I'm more excited to see Phil Franchise and Joba pitch in the next few weeks. Two of the top prospects in ALL of baseball, and you say they're being promoted to the Yankees? Soon?

Eric who? ;-)

2007-07-31 13:42:21
16.   Yu-Hsing Chen
9 Cliff, Gabbard's .220ish BABIP screams fluke though, as does his underwhelming periphals. he's clearly not Chien Ming Wang, and when the pundits called Wang for being a lucky no strike out guy, he still had a .270 BABIP and a much higher GB rate.
2007-07-31 13:44:39
17.   standuptriple
15 '96? What about them paying %25 for A-Rod while they watch Wilkerson on a regular basis?
2007-07-31 13:45:02
18.   Yu-Hsing Chen
He makes more sense to the Ranger than Clippard, but IMHO they should just redo the park to give the pitchers a chance in the first place.
2007-07-31 13:45:05
19.   E-Rocker
13 I'm definitely not blaming Ca$h. Like I said, I wasn't that into Gagne anyway. I actually like the fact that we didn't get rid of any prospects. I would have liked to see K-Farn go before Proctor, but oh well.

But it just makes you wonder what Texas didn't like about whatever offer the Yanks made (Clippard, DeSalvo, etc.)

2007-07-31 13:46:10
20.   Cliff Corcoran
Okay, a bunch of putting words in my mouth going on in 15 and 16. I agree with you both on your evaluations of Gabbard.
2007-07-31 13:46:37
21.   pistolpete
17 Well that too, but it sure didn't look like a great deal until 2007, no?
2007-07-31 13:47:31
22.   Yu-Hsing Chen
DeSalvo is worth nothing, he's at best a interesting project that most likely should be turned into a reliever, Clippard is worth plenty... but the Texas Park is terrible for FB pitchers like him, if this was Seattle / Washinton etc we're talking about, Clippard definately be more worthwhile.
2007-07-31 13:48:59
23.   pistolpete
20 Did I put words in your mouth? Didn't intend to - I thought it was more of a 'supplement' to your thoughts on the Gagne deal. :)
2007-07-31 13:50:21
24.   Cliff Corcoran
23 Implication that I ignored the small sample and declared him a good ML pitcher. Maybe I put words in your mouth? :)
2007-07-31 13:50:58
25.   New Amsterdam Yankees
15 16 I don't think Cliff was arguing that Gabbard is particularly good, just that his strong starts temporarily inflated his value (along with the Texas park factors mentioned). Besides, no one's ever accused Daniels of being a genius, Tex trade notwithstanding.

13 "Next December on the Banter:
"I don't get why Cashman couldn't get Gagne when all Boston gave up was a Jeff Karstens clone and a prospect ..."

Followed by 50 posts arguing over whether Karstens is a Gabbard clone, whether Cashman is insane, and the merits of using stats versus the BFOG+ ratio."

Hysterical. Well done.

2007-07-31 13:53:30
26.   ChrisS
19 It wasn't aimed at you, but there are some people on here that are, ah, tenacious about re-living trades that weren't perfect.

21 I don't think so.

2007-07-31 13:56:07
27.   SF Yanks
"Me? I'm more excited to see Phil Franchise and Joba pitch in the next few weeks. Two of the top prospects in ALL of baseball, and you say they're being promoted to the Yankees? Soon?

Eric who? ;-) "

I agree with you there. There's nothing better than watching young stud pithcers coming from the Yanks farm. Clippard, Hughes, Joba... damn! I can't wait for Saturday. If someone doesn't "special link" me on Saturday I will be one unhappy camper.

2007-07-31 13:59:25
28.   Bama Yankee
27 You do know how to get that "special link" yourself, don't you?
2007-07-31 14:02:32
29.   tommyl
Great analysis Cliff, thanks a lot!
2007-07-31 14:02:59
30.   pistolpete
24 What 25 said. His 4-0 start must have looked pretty good to Texas.

Damn, we should have traded Aaron Small in '05 based on that principle...

2007-07-31 14:10:36
31.   tommyl
Um, supposedly Rivera wants to explore free agency, via Kat O'Brien:

http://tinyurl.com/34c4lq

ummmm....that is bad.

2007-07-31 14:11:43
32.   pistolpete
I think Mo just wants to see what he's worth - not worried.
2007-07-31 14:16:19
33.   SF Yanks
28 Well last year I left the browser open from Friday nights game and it would work on Sat but so far I haven't been able to get that to work this year. I know there is another way, like grabbing an IP from another country but that's outta my league. Is that what you're talking about? If you don't want to explain it here, here's my email: Topher00ATcomcastDOTnet
2007-07-31 14:17:24
34.   vocallytrnsfrmd
I'm really happy about the deal. Scott Proctor is very close to becoming damaged goods (that good 'ol "Joe Torre Effect") while Betemit is a solid hitting infielder with a lot of unreached potential. He makes Cashman super-flexible in the off-season, they might be able to swing say...Cano and Betemit for a Miggy Cabrera, or a front of Rotation pitcher (Gooo C.C.!!!). Very smart, Cashmoney...very smart.
2007-07-31 14:21:10
35.   SF Yanks
At first I was iffy on the deal, but thank God for Cliff's in-depth analysis to convince me otherwise. I'm sure Cliff could convince me that giving up Farnsworthless for J Santana is a bad idea. Well, maybe not that far but I wouldn't rule it out. :)
2007-07-31 14:31:23
36.   standuptriple
34 Please tell me you aren't quoting TOyota Vallejo in that comment.
2007-07-31 14:36:53
37.   Bama Yankee
33 I just sent you an email.
2007-07-31 14:43:23
38.   Shaun P
31 Two words:

Negotiating tactics.

(And here's four more: Mo won't go anywhere.)

2007-07-31 14:43:40
39.   Peter
Wow, Proctor is already off the sidebar and Betemit is on. You guys (Cliff and Alex) work fast.
2007-07-31 14:48:29
40.   JL25and3
21 Seriously? It's looked like a good deal every single day since it was made.
2007-07-31 14:50:09
41.   SF Yanks
37 Back at ya.
2007-07-31 14:55:07
42.   JL25and3
34 I think that last year was the best Proctor was ever going to be, no matter what the usage. I don't expect him to be that good again, just because...well, he isn't that good. He's a perfectly okay middle reliever, capable of pitching quite well in stretches, but no better than that.
2007-07-31 15:17:57
43.   cult of basebaal
from petey over at LOHUD:

The Yankees could have had Eric Gagne this morning. The cost would have been Melky Cabrera or Ian Kennedy according to people involved in the process.

During a dugout interview session a few minutes ago, Brian Cashman said the cost was prohibitive.

"I couldn't get (Texas) off certain players," he said.

2007-07-31 15:25:44
44.   Yankees Brasil
I think Proctor is gonna end up giving 755 or 756 to Bonds..
2007-07-31 15:27:27
45.   RIYank
42 Yeah, I was very high on Proctor last year but it now looks like that was a bit of a lucky stretch he had early in the '06 season.

Hey, carrying over from an earlier thread, I can certainly see why nobody wants to project Gabbard or Karstens from 40 - 60 innings of MLB, but I did look at their BPro profiles and they are not similar at all. I couldn't see any reason why ny2dc said they were basically the same, or whatever he said. They aren't similar in K, in BB, in GB/FB, or anything.

Anyway, water under the bridge.

2007-07-31 15:28:57
46.   RIYank
44 Hm, good point. Everyday reliever. Righty. Gopher balls. Division. It all adds up.
2007-07-31 15:32:34
47.   Yankees Brasil
46 I kinda feel bad for him, hope he K's Bonds!!
2007-07-31 16:29:38
48.   ny2ca2dc
45 Their MiLB numbers are pretty similar from memory; regardless I was speaking in terms of rough upside.

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