Earlier today I broke down the big deal of the day as the Yankees picked up Javier Vazquez in exchange for Melky Cabrera and a couple of prospects (you can read all about the deal at Breaking Down: Javier Vazquez). Here, I’ll break down “the other deal” dealing with two potentially dominating righties.
Note: You can also read Paul Bruno’s take on the deal at JaysFan.com.
Mariners receive: RHP Brandon League and minor leaguer (either OF Yohermyn Chavez or C Brian Jeroloman)
Blue Jays receive: Brandon Morrow.
We don’t know yet which minor leaguer will be included with Brandon League. Neither option is a top flight, sure fire star at the big league level, but most pundits seem to favor Chavez even though he isn’t amongst the top-10 prospects in the Blues organization (Jeroloman can pick it behind the dish, but his bat is sorely lacking).
League throws a heavy, and I mean power-sinking fastball that has averaged 95.5 mph during his big league career. When you combine that heat with the darting, downward action, it’s hardly a surprise that League has held batters to a .258 batting average in his career (the surprise is that the number is that high). A potentially dominating strikeout arm – he had 76 punchouts in just 74.2 innings last season – League is much, much better than the 3-6 record with a 4.58 ERA that he posted last season. The biggest plus on his side is that he has brought his walk rate down two years running, and last years 2.53 BB/9 mark allowed him to post a strong 3.62 K/BB ratio given his strikeout abilities. And that is just it. If League throws strikes and avoids the walk he could potentially dominate. Don’t forget that this man owns a 3.13 GB/FB ratio in his career, and when you strike out a batter per inning and have a GB/FB mark better than three, well, they usually end up putting your face on the cover of a video game.
Blue Jays Haul
Brandon Morrow was drafted 5th overall out of the University of California at Berkley in 2006. Standing 6’3″ and weighing about 200 lbs, Morrow has one of those arms that scouts simply fall all over themselves to sign. The owner of a 95 mph fastball, batters have little chance to hit him when he is “on,” a fact reflected in his .223 BAA mark through 197.2 career innings. In that time Morrow has posted a solid 3.96 ERA and more than a strikeout per inning with 204, so why would the Mariners consider trading this 25 year old who most scouts think will either be a #2 or #3 starter? The Mariners must have grown tired of his inability to throw strikes. In his brief career, remember batters hit just .223 against him and he owns a 9.29 K/9 mark, Morrow has handed out free passes like Santa gives out hope during the Christmas season. Morrow posted a 5.68 BB/9 mark last season in 69.2 innings and that was an improvement over his career mark of 5.83.
It should also be pointed out that he has spent time as a starter and reliever (the Mariners yanked him around the past two years which certainly hasn’t helped his development). Here are his numbers in both roles.
Reliever: 3.65 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 10.12 K/9, .217 BAA in 118.1 IP
Starter: 4.42 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 8.05 K/9, .232 BAA in 79.1 IP
The numbers regress a bit when he has starts, hardly a shock given the 100 percent all the time attitude hurlers can take when working only an inning out of the bullpen.
As nice a power arm as League has, and let’s face the Mariners are certainly wise to be hedging their bets with David Aardsma who had a lot of ninth inning success last year despite some rather odd totals in his pitching line (like a sky-high fly ball rate but a miniscule HR/F mark), I just don’t understand this deal at all. Morrow certainly needs to figure out a way to harness his stuff, but if he does this young man is a potential all-star. Not that he will ever amount to anything remotely like guys such as Randy Johnson, Nolan Ryan and Sandy Koufax, but the history of the game is littered with plenty of hard throwers who took a few years to get their barrings (it’s also why a guy like Oliver Perez is making $12 million a year). If Aardsma implodes and League goes on to save 30 games than no one will likely be too upset, but if Morrow locates his control and rips off a bunch of 15 victory, 200 K seasons this is going to look like one awful move. You gotta love what the Blue Jays are doing this off-season as their new front office group clearly is bringing in boatloads of talent to vie for major league jobs.
By Ray Flowers