Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What Will Happen to Fred Lewis? (And How Will the Giants Be Affected?)

Fred Lewis' stint on the Disabled List and rehab assignment in Fresno is shortly coming to an end. By this weekend, three things will happen to Lewis:

A.) He will be traded to another Major League ballclub (the Blue Jays, Padres and Athletics have been rumored destinations, with Toronto the most likely destination).

B.) He will be designated for assignment (e.g. waived).

C.) He will remain on the Giants roster, and either John Bowker will get sent down to Fresno or Eugenio Velez, Travis Ishikawa or Andres Torres will get designated for assignment.

While a lot of Giants and baseball fans still keep hope that the Giants management will come to their senses and keep Lewis on the roster, the last option seems very, very unlikely. Lewis' down season in 2009 and his "bad" defense according to baseball fans and writers' "eyes" (despite UZR showing that Lewis is an above-average defender) have just burned too many bridges for Lewis to stay in San Francisco.

It's a shame, really. As a Giants fan, you wish the general manager didn't stack the outfield with so many similar (albeit mediocre-to-above-average) pieces. You wish beat writers like Hank Schulman didn't have so much influence and weren't so ignorant to baseball statistics (seriously, his crusade against OBP is an argument that was made six-seven years ago) on Giants fans.

But like I said, it is what it is. (The worst part is that Schulman's "I'm old-school! I judge baseball by my eyes! OBP isn't a valid stat!" is seeping into our online communities.)

So, basically it comes down to A or B.

In my opinion, it's going to be A.

First off, I know Lewis doesn't have a lot of trade value, thus, many Giants fans will say "Who is going to want him? Nobody will trade for him at this point!"

Yet I point to Merkin Valdez as a key example of why designating guys for assignment can be tough, and should be avoided if necessary (though they did get lucky with Jesus Guzman).

Sure, Valdez did not have a good year last year. However, a pitcher that averages 95.5 MPH on his fastball isn't exactly easy to find, especially on the waiver wire. The Blue Jays realized this, played hard ball with the Giants so the Giants wouldn't think Valdez had any value for a trade, and swooped him up for practically nothing once Brian Sabean designated Valdez for assignment.

I guarantee you Sabean doesn't want to get burned like he did with Valdez again. And considering the Blue Jays and their fans are showing strong interest in Lewis, Sabean most likely will exhaust all his options before designating Lewis for assignment (and really, really exhaust them, even if it produces a "Kevin Frandsen to Boston").

With option B out of the way, that leaves us with A. Which team is going to trade with the Giants, and what are the Giants going to get back in return?

As of now, Toronto seems like the most logical choice. The Padres have a crowded outfield chock-full with young talent such as Tony Gwynn, Jr., Kyle Blanks and Will Venable, so Lewis doesn't seem to fit down in southern California (and I can't see Sabean trading within the division either). The Athletics have a similar situation. Though they have benefited in the past from the Giants' DFA transactions (e.g. Rajai Davis), there just isn't a place in Oakland's organizations for Lewis amongst Coco Crisp, Davis, Michael Taylor, Eric Patterson and Ryan Sweeney.

As for Toronto? In addition to new general manager Alex Anthopoulos' recent history of acquiring Giants (he also picked up Brian Bocock in addition to Valdez this off-season), the Blue Jays seem to be a solid fit for Lewis. Currently, the starting outfield consists of Travis Snider in left field, Vernon Wells in center field and Jose Bautista in right field.

Wells seems to be a mainstay due to his contract and "star" status. Snider and Bautista however, are on shakier ground.

Bautista seems to be a stellar player, though he is a bit of a journeyman and older (he'll be 30 in October). While his batting average wasn't great in 2009 (.235 last year), he posted a solid BB/K ratio (0.66) and has the ability to hit between 10-15 home runs in a season (he has hit 28 COMBINED the past two seasons). Additionally, Bautista was stellar defensively, as evidenced by his 5.1 UZR in right field last year.

Snider on the other hand, hasn't been quite as impressive. Lewis is actually an upgrade over him in almost every category. He strikes out less than Snider (28.5 percent strikeout rate to Snider's 32.4 in 2009), has a better BB/K ratio (0.43 to Snider's 0.37 in 2009), steals more bases (29 combined SB for Lewis the last two years, one total for Snider in his Major League career) and their wOBA numbers were identical in 2009 (.327).

Sure, Sinder is younger (22), so you have to cut him some slack. Yet with only Adam Lind (who's primarily the Blue Jays' designated hitter) and Jeremy Reed as the team's other outfielders at the moment, having Lewis as a platoon outfielder probably would be in the Blue Jays' best interests. He would have a lot of impact on the lineup, and he wouldn't cost the Jays too much in return.

Yet the main question  Giants fans (as this is a Giants blog after all) have to wonder is this: what will the Giants receive in return should Sabean trade Lewis to Toronto?

The Blue Jays' organization isn't great (they were ranked 26th in Fangraphs' organizational rankings going into this season; though the Giants weren't much better at 23), but they do have some interesting talent in the minors.

While the big names such as Brett Wallace and Kyle Drabek won't be touched, they have promising infielders who could be dealt in Brad Emaus and Kevin Ahrens (Emaus is coming off a solid season in Double-A, while Ahrens is coming off a poor season in high Single-A). The Jays do have a lot of assets in terms of pitching such as David Purcey and Robert Ray (and Jason Frasor would be an interesting pickup considering he just lost the closer's position to Kevin Gregg this week), but pitching doesn't really seem to be a need for the Giants now, be it in the starting rotation or bullpen.

It will be very interesting see what the Giants will do/get with Lewis. When you look at his WAR converted to dollars the past two years ($11 million in 2008; $5.1 million in 2009), you would think Lewis would generate a lot of return in a trade. But alas, the deadline on Lewis' future in San Francisco is getting closer, and for some reasons, it seems as if Lewis will be going to the Jays for scraps or designated for assignment, most likely getting picked up by Toronto the second he hits the waiver wire.

It's going sting when Lewis leaves. Lewis should leave to better memories than bleacher bums yelling at him all the time for no reason at AT&T Park, and 50-year-old men (or 24-year-old frat boys) on blogs or message boards writing "HE STRIKES OUT LOOKING ALL THE TIME!" (In caps lock, no less.)

All I hope for Lewis now is that he can have a good career, and that the Giants at least get SOMETHING worthwhile out of his leaving.


  1. Thanks. As a fan of Lewis (and Ricky Romero), I'm adopting the Blue Jays as my favorite American League team this year. I hope a lot of Giants fans do the same.

  2. We would be happy to have you sir!

    I think you will see a team here in Toronto that never gives up and keeps it close but just can't finish it off.....