Last night Geovany Soto was traded to the Texas Rangers for Jake Brigham. Brigham is a 24 year old right handed pitcher who has spent each of 2011 and 2012 for AA Frisco. His ERA over 2 seasons has basically been 4.5 and his FIP not much better. His FIP sits at 4.58 this year, his second time through the league.
Brigham was drafted in the 6th round by the Rangers and thanks to Baseball America's draft database, here's what they had to say at the time of the draft.
Few players in the high school class took a bigger step back from last fall to this spring than Brigham. He has shown a feel for pitching, a pair of potential plus pitches in his fastball and breaking ball and a fluid, easy delivery in the past. His delivery looked more mechanical this spring, and his control and velocity suffered. At his best, Brigham features a low-90s fastball, which has been up to 94 mph, and a hard-biting 82 mph slider. His arm works well from a high three-quarters slot that allows him to pitch downhill. He has shown good command and a feel for pitching, though he isn't as aggressive as he should be. Brigham played at a small high school, and some scouts said he played down to his poor competition. He regained his command and velocity later in the year, with only a handful of scouts at some of his starts. Based on his past performance, he could still be drafted in the top three rounds, and a good performance at the Florida high school all-star game in Seabring could rekindle interest right before the draft.
He signed early enough to made 14 appearances (11 starts) for the Texas AZL team. He threw 58.1 innings and as far as first impressions went, he probably drew some more attention than he had when the season began. He threw 58.1 innings and allowed 54 hits, but also struckout 8.9 and walked fewer than 3 batters per 9. Those aren't eye popping numbers, but the strikeout and walks per 9 are good enough for an 18 year old in the AZL. Better than good enough actually.
The following year in the Northwest League, another short-season league, he made 15 starts and the numbers weren't nearly what they were a year before. In 77 innings his walked jumped to 4 per 9 and his strikeouts dropped to 7.6. Although he had a pretty good 3.16 ERA, it was helped out by a 70% strand rate and his FIP was more than a run and a half higher.
He had Tommy John surgery sometime before the start of the 2008 season and missed the entire year.
Returning to action in 2009 he threw 89.1 innings and allowed over 10 hits per 9. He did strikeout more than in 2007 and his walks declined, but neither number stood out. In 2010 his hits dropped, but his strikeouts did too.
Looking at the numbers through this point in his career, I'm kind of surprised the Rangers didn't move him to the bullpen. It's unlikely his strikeout rate in the low minors is going to be anything other than ugly if he ever reached the big leagues and he wasn't a control artist so that too would likely get worse. He wasn't particularly difficult to hit either. I know he was still just 22 at this point, but he was two years removed from surgery, his numbers were trending the wrong direction and he was stuck in the low minors.
I'm sure the Rangers argued that his performance in A ball was enough to give him another shot and maybe it was at the time.
He hasn't been terrible in 2011 or 2012 at AA, but he hasn't been that impressive. At the age of 24 in AA, second time through, you'd expect some improvement and that hasn't happened. I won't be surprised to see this guy moved to the bullpen, but maybe the Cubs think they can turn him into a serviceable starter. It will be interesting to see where he reports.
Casey Coleman will reportedly be recalled to take Paul Maholm's spot on the roster so it's possible the Cubs bump him to AAA. I don't know what else he can do at AA at this point. His performance in AAA will determine whether or not he can be a fringe starter or a reliever.
BBTIA profiled Jake Brigham in 2010.
Baseball America wrote a bit about the trade and here's what they say about Brigham:
Brigham had tied for the Texas League lead with 116 strikeouts at the time of the trade, but he stood alone in first place with 19 home runs allowed thanks to a severe platoon split. Lefthanded batters get a good look at the ball because of Brigham's overhand arm slot, and they have batted .287/.369/.544 with 10 homers in 171 at-bats against him. He made up for that deficiency by fanning a quarter of the righthanded batters to oppose him with a solid fastball/curveball mix. Brigham topped out near 97 mph a couple years ago but sits more comfortably at 88-92 these days.
This is another reason why I think bullpen is where he ends up and where he ends up before too long.
Evaluating this type of trade in the ways I have before (trade value) is rather difficult. Brigham was unranked by Sickels this year and at best a C prospect. He might have about $1.5 million in value in a trade, but it won't be more than that. Soto's in-season projections are way better than his performance. ZiPS projects a .314 wOBA and .7 WAR over 152 plate appearances. Over 5 plate appearances that's a little better than 2 WAR.
Matt Swartz projected he'd be paid about $4.3 million next year, which is less than a win worth of money. So there's surplus trade value here. A total of .7 this year and perhaps as much as 2 next year for a total of about 2.7. He's owed about $5 million assuming the Rangers tender him a contract next year and received a player worth about $13.5 million until his contract expires at the end of next season. His surplus trade value was about $8 million and the Cubs acquired someone worth less than $2 million. Maybe less than $1 million.
Analyzing the deal like that makes it come out to a pretty poor deal for the Cubs and that's how I've been evaluating trades and should this one too. However, I think we can apply a little common sense here. First, it's hard to believe Soto is as good as his projection, but we can ignore that. Second, it's likely the Cubs would have non-tendered Soto this offseason if they hadn't traded him. As such, Soto would provide roughly .2 to .3 more WAR (using a lower projection of course) and that's worth about $1 million. They received about that in return.
So this is a little more difficult. I'm willing to accept that this is a fair deal because I do think the Cubs would have non-tendered him and I do think the projections are overly optimistic though I do also expect Soto to be better than he has been. The Cubs come away with a guy who probably isn't going to remain a starter by the time he reaches the big leagues and could prove to be a useful arm in the bullpen. The value seems about right to me and that was my first impression last night. The Cubs gave up someone who isn't really that good and they were going to non-tender him anyway. They get a guy who really isn't any good and probably a reliever, but just might be of some value down the road.
UPDATE: The Cubs also acquired a player to be named later or cash and they sent cash along in the deal. This is likely to offset itself so it won't matter much to any analysis.