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If the newspaper editor's adage is true (one letter's a crackpot, two a trend, and three an avalanche of opinion) then my Inbox was snowed under today with queries about a possible Orlando Hudson trade. Despite the sources (including Peter Gammons in a slow news week) this one is fun to contemplate.

2B, with the exception of the Alomar years, has been a revolving door of mediocrities in Toronto. We actually remember the hackmeister Damaso Garcia as a good one, because we've suffered through Danny Ainge and Joey Lawrence and so many others best forgotten. So why, just as the O-Dog seems ready to make an impact, would J.P. trade him?

Two reasons: Russ Adams and Dominic Rich. Adams, not your typical draft-and-hope selection, was a first team All-American at North Carolina, and was voted #1 prospect (those are Mark Mulder's footprints) in the Cape Cod League, which has also produced decent players like Nomar Garciaparra and Todd Helton. The SS, who is expected to end up at second, tore up the NY-Penn League in his pro debut (.464 OBP!) and will see plenty of time in AA New Haven this year.

Rich merely led the Florida State League in batting with a .345 mark, and like Adams, walks more often than he strikes out. It's reasonable to expect that one of these guys will be in Toronto as early as 2004, and with Dave Berg, Felipe Lopez, and/or another bargain free agent available to fill in, the Jays can afford to wait.

Moving Hudson makes sense only if the return is spectacular, and the juiciest rumour is exactly that. I know my colleague in this space has warned every GM against three-way deals that involve Billy Beane, but O-Dog to Colorado, the mighty Erubiel Durazo to Oakland, and two A's prospects to Toronto might just be a triple win. Especially if the kids are John Ford Griffin and Jason Arnold, acquired from the Yankees in the triangle trade of Jeff Weaver, Carlos Pena and Ted Lilly last summer.

OF Griffin hit over .400 three years in a row at Florida State, where his coach compared him quite favourably to former Seminole star J.D. Drew. RHP Arnold toyed with FSL hitters (7-1, 2.48, 83 K and just 22 BB in 80 IP) while still a Tampa Yankee, and handled the jump to AA for his new organization without missing a beat -- 5-1, 2.33, 53 K in 58 IP. Griffin and Arnold wouldn't help the Jays in 2003, but could be stars for a very long time once they arrive. (Aaron Harang, also mentioned in the scuttlebutt, would be in the Toronto rotation sooner, but doesn't have as high an upside as Arnold.)

It actually makes sense -- the Rockies' former 2B Jose Ortiz is off to Japan, and Hudson would put up insane Coors numbers (my over-under on triples is 15.) Durazo's left-handed power bat more than replaces Dave Justice, who nobody expects to return to Oakland (I have him going to the Saskatoon Legends of the Canadian Baseball League in the free agent prediction pool over at Clutch Hits; Gideon's forecast is slightly more credible, but still unlikely.) The A's need offence now, not when Griffin's ready; the still-rebuilding Jays, far ahead of the most optimistic agenda for returning to contention, have the luxury of patience.

Let's hope there's some "fire" amid all this smoke. I am Hudson's biggest fan, but for a better hitter than Drew and a pitcher who just keeps dominating at every new level, the Jays would be foolish to turn it down, especially with two exceptional 2B candidates on the not-too-distant horizon.
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_Sean Whittaker - Thursday, November 21 2002 @ 10:42 PM EST (#102100) #
Well, since I am one of the guilty parties who actually noticed Gammons' column--as you say, a slow news week indeed--and brought it to your attention, I thought that I should really add a comment or two.

Firstly, this possible three-way trade is predicated on the Larry Walker--Matt Williams transaction going through, hardly a sure thing.

Secondly, Billy Beane's rationale for this deal is unquestionably short-term, but is he really prepared to cut bait on two such fine prospects as Arnold and Griffin in exchange for Durazo? Durazo's attitude has been questionable in the past, he's been injury-prone, and he's already reached 29 years of age without getting a full MLB season of ABs: three negatives in the ledger.

Thirdly, would the mainstream Toronto media going to crucify Ricciardi if he deals away Hudson, whose top-tier talent was matched by an equally big mouth during last year's spring training? The Jays' GM could face an overblown furore from reporters looking to milk the infamous "pimp" comment and Ricciardi's supposed pettiness in sending him to the minors for another half-season...
_Jordan - Friday, November 22 2002 @ 12:18 AM EST (#102101) #
First of all, I just want to say that I spent an hour crafting a lengthy comment on this whole matter, and just lost it by hitting the wrong button. Well, I lost the comment, and then I lost it. I am not a happy man.'s my best attempt at resurrecting what I wrote, in incomplete fashion:

Kent, you make a persuasive case for trading Hudson, and I'm more convinced than I was earlier about this possible trade. But I'm still not all the way there. Here are my basic reasons (I can't bring myself to dig up the stats again, so I'm afraid you'll have to take my word for it).

1. Hudson is going to be a very fine second baseman, starting next April. His last three minor-league stat lines (AA and AAA) featured .300 averages and .820+ OPSes, and there's every reason to expect at least that much production from here on out. Omar Malave at Syracuse says Hudson fields like a vacuum cleaner and turns a great double play, and we've already seen him make several spectacular plays in the field. The last guy to arrive from Syracuse with that kind of advance billing was Tony Fernandez. Of course, Hudson couldn't be more different from Cabeza in terms of personality: he's a full-bore live wire who never shuts up and never calms down, something that would be way annoying in a veteran clubhouse but fits the bill perfectly on a young, enthusiastic club like this. He's the right guy at the right time for this club, and he's still growing into his potential.

2. I'm not at all sold on the Oakland prospects. Arnold is certainly the more impressive of the two, though his truly eye-popping numbers were at A-ball. His sojourn at AA this year was still very nice, though not quite as spectacular (2.33 ERA, 58IP, 42H, 24BB, 53K). No question, his upside is good, but then so was Francisco Rosario's just two months ago. And that's my concern. What is there no such thing as? Pitching prospects, especially that far down in the minors. Griffin is less impressive: he can hit well enough, but he appears to be slow, poor defensively, and still struggling against lefties. He posted about a .740 OPS at A and AA this year and is a little old for these levels anyway. And if there's one thing we've learned about prospects lately, it's this: Billy Beane doesn't normally trade away the guys he thinks are going to be good (Ben Grieve, Jose Ortiz, Mario Ramos, etc. I do grant an exception by the name of Hinske), and neither does Brian Cashman.

3. The Jays would essentially be trading a fine hitter at a key infield position for a AA pitcher who may or may not be a star someday. It's a bird in the hand exchanged for one in the bush leagues, and I can't see any reason to do it. Yes, Adams and Rich are both on their way, but neither is likely to arrive before September 2004. Who'll play second until then? Felipe Lopez is the disfavoured child, and Dave Berg and Howie Clark are part-timers. If Adams is to be the second baseman of the future (and he certainly ought to be), why not wait 18 to 24 months for him to be ready for the role, by which time Hudson will have established himself as a rising star and can command more on the trade market? Basically, what's the rush? Why take the momentum away from a club that has a great thing going? This trade would inadvertently tell the current squad, "Don't get too worked up; we're building for 2005 here, not tomorrow." I'd hate to see the brakes slammed on a very enthusiastic young group that's starting to recapture the local fan base, especially with a questionable trade payoff.

As Sean notes, there's doubt as of this hour that either Walker or Williams will waive their no-trades, and this whole rumour might be nothing but hot air. For my part, I certainly hope so: I think this is a trade that would not help this ballclub and that actually has the potential to hurt it.
_Sean Whittaker - Friday, November 22 2002 @ 03:31 AM EST (#102102) #
I find Jordan's arguments persuasive, even in their angry, resurrected form. -)

I fail to see why the Jays wouldn't be much better off by having Orlando Hudson increase his value by continuing to shine both defensively and offensively at such a key MI position. Then, if their younger 2B prospects continue their development in the minor leagues on schedule, the Jays would then be dealing from a stronger position. Most would agree that the Jays are probably a year away from seriously bidding for a division title or a wild card--not that I don't expect them to win ~85 games in 2003--so I too counsel patience as the best course of action here.

On the other hand, especially if this deal is made moot by the fact that the Colorado/Arizona transaction doesn't go through, who's to say that J.P. shouldn't be discussing a deal with Brian Sabean? The Giants have several advanced pitching prospects in AAA ball that look very attractive, and the Giants could plug Hudson right in as Kent's replacement at 2B. That then gives Sabean the option to possibly re-sign Kent and shift him to 1B, where he loses a fair chunk of positional value but would certainly be an offensive upgrade over J.T. Snow. It's this kind of move that the Giants need to come up with if they want to take another serious run at a championship while Bonds is performing at an otherwordly level.

From the Jays' point of view, they can then employ a stopgap measure for next year at 2B and promote either Adams or Rich for full-time duty in 2004, presumably with a stronger pitching rotation (Kurt Ainsworth?) helping them towards the playoffs.
_Jordan - Friday, November 22 2002 @ 11:34 AM EST (#102103) #
Okay, I've had a full night's sleep now, so I'm a little less cranky. :-) Looking back, I may well have overstated things a little bit. I still don't think it would be a great trade, but nor would it be the disaster I may have been making it out to be. The odds are in favour of Arnold working out just fine, though I'm still not excited about Griffin. There's no question they need pitching and that their glut of middle infielders is the route by which to obtain it; I just didn't like the idea of Hudson and Arnold being the principals. Now, Jerome Willimas or Kurt Ainsworth? Hello, dolly.

Anyway, we shall see. Right now, the whole thing seems to hinge on how much Matt Williams wants to see his kids during the season. I certainly couldn't blame him for saying no.
Craig B - Friday, November 22 2002 @ 02:49 PM EST (#102104) #
The more Hudson plays at the MLB level, the more he will be worth, since he certainly can play. Trading him now is not a good idea. And J.P. should know by now that, Hinske notwithstanding, it is not a good idea to trade much with Billy Beane.

On an unrelated point, if Hudson does have to be traded, I'd rather just take Durazo if Colorado want to get rid of him. There was a lot of interest in Durazo last year and the year before, when the D-Backs didn't want to deal him. If Durazo can start the year hitting like we know he can, then I think he could be dealt easily for something tastier than Arnold and Griffin, neither of whom is MLB-ready.

Then again, I absolutely love Hudson so I'm biased.
_Jan Jansen - Friday, November 22 2002 @ 02:58 PM EST (#102105) #
Orlando Hudson doesn't walk (season totals: 42, 52, 60, and 46 this year), doesn't hit for power, and is not a good fielder (especially not on the double play). Everyone is assuming the guy is going to hit .300 next year and increase his value, but I think it's a lot more likely that he'll hit .250 and destroy his value.
_dp - Friday, November 22 2002 @ 05:10 PM EST (#102106) #
The deal got nixed. Walker wouldn't agree to the contract restructuring the D-backs wanted. The only thing I liked about it is that it would've meant Lopez stays, and I think long-term, Lopez will be better by huge strides than either Woodward or Hudson. I know I've said it here before, but middle infielders rarely post the kind of numbers he has at that young an age.

But speculating, I'd like Durazo in RF for the Jays, then dealing Cruz for some pitching. Since you guys brought the Giants up, wouldn't Cruz be great in SF as a CF/RF? If Cruz is dealt early on in the season or during the off-season, any chance RF could be Lopez/Werth for a year? Playing time is a valuable commodity, and it'd be nice to see it spent on the future of the team rather than the past.
Coach - Saturday, November 23 2002 @ 11:57 AM EST (#102107) #
Jan, guys who "don't walk" because they are striking out too often (like that Cubs SS) are terrible; guys (like O-Dog) who "don't walk" because they're hitting standup doubles are fine. He doesn't have HR power, but his bat is electric -- hard line drives to the gaps have produced lots of extra-base hits at every level. I repeat, his ML numbers so far are misleading, because of the nasty virus that ate 10+ pounds from an already fat-free body. He went 1-for-11 the first four games, then began a brilliant stretch with a 3-for-3 July 30, ending when he got sick September 4. That August OPS of .860 is the real deal; just 5 BB, true, but 5 triples, 3 HR and 6 doubles. And his fielding ranges from spectacular to erratic; I'm optimistic that coach Butterfield (Hinske's Svengali) will make him more consistent.

Anyway, the Colorado rumours can be put to rest, and I remain in the camp of loving O-Dog, but being realistic about dealing him for the right package. I agree that it's preferable to trade Cruz and keep all the middle-infield talent, but in a market where Cliff Floyd has diminished value and other OF (Troy O'Leary, Dave Justice, Alex Ochoa) almost none, you can't expect much demand, or return, for Cruz.

As a fantasy owner of Durazo the last two years, I want to strangle Brenly for his inability to recognize the bleeding obvious. And I'd love to see Ruby in Toronto, but only in the post-Delgado era; RF, where he's balked at playing -- for good reason; he'd be humiliated -- would give the Jays the worst corner OF (defensively) anywhere, maybe ever.

Given the response to this admitted gossip, I'm tempted to follow Sean's quite reasonable Giant's speculation (his teammates call Jerome Williams "Doc" because the resemblance to a young, clean Gooden is uncanny) but will wait for Jeff Kent to actually leave. Also, I can't resist a Larry Walker discussion.
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