Could I... trade Willingham?
by, 02-24-2013 at 09:40 PM (3503 Views)
I hope to make this the first edition of a series where I weigh in on debatable topics at appropriate times. Maybe this particular one would be more appropriate at the trade deadline. In fact, I know it would be.
However, given the news out of Tampa that Yankees LF Curtis Granderson broke his arm today and will miss 10 weeks, I think taking a look at this scenario during Spring Training seems somewhat appropriate.
Power. The Hammer hit 35 home runs in his Twins debut. While Harmon Killebrew owns the Top 8 Twins single-season home run records, Willingham is tied with Bob Allison for 9th. Simply put, Willingham is one of the best home run hitters the Twins have ever had.
Contract. There is no arguing that Willingham is signed to a very team-friendly contract. He is on the hook for $7 million this year. If he makes 525 plate appearances in 2013, he will trigger a clause that makes his contract worth $8 million in 2014, which is still very reasonable.
Likability. While it's possible no one will ever be more likable than Jim Thome, Willingham is up there. While not hitting Jackjobs (that's for you, Parker), Willingham (or, more accurately, his wife) was tweeting pictures of him and his newborn son. Willingham is very active in the community and has his own charity. It should also be noted that if you google "Josh Willingham arrested" the results you're going to get are stories about Alabama and Auburn football.
Value. We'll get more into this in the next topic, but Willingham's value might never be higher.
Age. The Hammer just turned 34 last week. On a team that is struggling to compete - and appears to be rebuilding - it is unlikely that Willingham will be there when things turn around.
Durability. While Willingham had career-highs in both Home Runs and RBI, he also set new marks in games played (145) and plate appearances (615). He's been sidelined due to varying degrees of back, neck, shoulder and ankle injuries. The likelihood that Willingham sustains improved durability as he approaches his mid-30s is not high. Which brings me back to why his "value" is not only high, but also delicate.
Defense. Willingham's value is tied up in his bat, as his defense is below replacement-level and declining. His defense may even appear worse now that he's not sharing ground with Ben Revere and Denard Span.
I believe I share the same opinion as the Twins Front Office exhibited last season and this offseason: We'd have to be blown away to make Willingham available.
So could the Yankees do it? Well, maybe would they want to is the first question. Losing Granderson (lefty) means that Matt Diaz and Juan Rivera assume his spot for now. Both are right-handed, but neither very good. Even if Granderson misses only 5 weeks, he'll return to a lineup that features Brett Gardner and Ichiro (both lefties) in the outfield and Travis Hafner (also a lefty) as the primary DH. Wouldn't they benefit from adding another right-handed hitter? I would think so.
So begs the question again... could the Yankees blow the Twins away? That's a question I've been considering since the Granderson news broke this afternoon. The rumor last year was that a return on Willingham wouldn't be higher than a back-of-the-rotation starter. I thought it was crazy then and I think it's crazy now.
WHAT WOULD IT TAKE:
I don't think the Yankees would part with prospect C Gary Sanchez. Maybe I draw the line in the sand there: He'd need to be included in any deal. The 57th ranked prospect in baseball (so says BA) will probably be ready in 2015. He would fit into prospect rankings right next to Alex Meyer. Sanchez and a low-level "C" pitching prospect (like LHP Rony Bautista) would likely be enough of an offer to say "yes".
Without Sanchez, is there any other way? I would never say never. My favorite Yankees prospect is OF Tyler Austin, who is the youngest of the Yankees top three OF prospects (Mason Williams and Slade Heathcott), but has already advanced to the highest level (AA). Austin, who bats right-handed, could join Oswaldo Arcia as the "Future of the Corners". The Twins could also give him another shot at 3B, where he logged a majority of his innings in 2011. Austin ranked #77 (BA) and #75 (MLB.com) on pre-season prospect lists. Like Arcia, Austin "flat-out rakes".
In addition to Austin, I would ask for RHP Jose Campos (who has a checkered injury past) or LHP Manny Banuelos (who is out this year after having Tommy John surgery) and, for good measure, I still want that low-level pitching prospect included as well.
If the Yankees balk - and Willingham plays out his contract as a Twin - I'm still a happy camper for all of the reasons I listed above.
What are your thoughts? Is Josh Willingham part of the Twins solution as their Left Fielder? Or is what he could bring back in a trade a better part of the solution?