So, since it's trade deadline season and DM has yet to make a move to shore up the middle infield, I figured I would try to post today's obligatory "Completely Random Trade Speculation/Suggestion FanPost" before someone else got to it. Note that I have no information/sources/rumors, etc - this is just a suggestion for discussion.
Anyways, we've seen LOTS of SS and middle infield names thrown around as possibilities for the Crew. One of the ones that keeps coming up is Brendan Ryan. I initially was not too keen on Ryan, but after more research/thought, he may be the best candidate for SS help that is available right now. The question, of course, is how to get Seattle and Jack Z to think trading a cheap ($1.75M 2012 salary), relatively young (29), elite defender (career 10.3 UZR/150 at SS) at SS to the Brewers, when the Crew's farm system is like Old Mother Hubbard.
Well, brace yourself, cuz here comes the crazy: what if we ALSO took on Chone Figgins?
Now, before your brain explodes, hear this out a bit.
First, I'll add one or two points about Ryan. He seems to be the best fit for the Brewers need at SS to me. As mentioned, he is cheap, relatively young, brings elite defense at SS and can play elsewhere as well, and I would argue that he is merely bad at the plate (career OPS of .658, OPS+ of 80) and not melt-your-eyes-terrible like Counsell right now. His OPS+ is around the same as Yuni's lately, but he gets there a different way - no power, a little better OBP. With the bat, he's probably a better fit for the Crew than Yuni right now (despite Yuni's hot July) - I would rather have a .321 OBP and .340 SLG (Ryan 2011) than a .278 OBP/.368 SLG (Yuni 2011), given that the Brewers have several big bats in their lineup. Also, I think we all feel that Yuni has NO upside at the plate, while Ryan's batted.292/.340/.400 just 2 years ago in 2009.
OK, so we want Ryan, but why would Jack Z trade him? Well, if the Crew would ALSO take most of the albatross contract of Chone Figgins off the Mariners books, that might be enough incentive. And that's not as crazy of a move as it sounds if you just look at Figgins atrocious .471 OPS so far in 2011 (good for a sweet 36 OPS+).
First, the contract. Figgins is due $9 M this year, $9M in 2012, $8M in 2013, and has a $9M vesting option for 2014 if he has 600 PAs in 2013. The vesting option shouldn't be a problem - you could either limit his games played or bury him in the 8th spot that year (~625 PAs or so if you play all 162 games). So I'll throw that out and just assume the remaining $17M for the next 2 years and ~3M this year for $20M total. The Crew would probably need to take on at least $12-15M of that, so assume $2M this year and $6M/year for the next two years.
So why do that for a .471 OPS hitter? Well, first off, he's been INSANELY unlucky this year by BABIP. His 2011 BABIP is at .207 right now - his career number is .329. Even last year when he sucked it up with a .259 AVG and .646 OPS, his BABIP was .317. In fact, until this year, he had never had significant ML playing time with a BABIP of less than .300. There probably are some reasons for his lower BABIP - he's chasing more pitches (O-SWING% of 25.4% vs career 17.4%), which causes you to hit more weak contact. But, just for a hypothetical, let's assume that instead of his .207 BABIP this year, he hit his career number of .329. Well, it's a pretty dramatic difference - his AVG goes from the current putridity of .180 to .284, OBP from .233 to .356, and (assuming worst-case of all singles added), OPS goes from .471 to .698, by my quick estimates.
So, instead of a epic-bad .180/.233/.237 hitter, you would have a .284/.356/.342 line, which I think most of us would take. The defensive metrics are a bit puzzling, as Figgins has rated as either elite (~17 UZR/150) or average (0.0 UZR this year) at 3B, and has been puzzling at 2B as well (-12.6 UZR/150 this year, but rated a little better in limited time in other years). However, it's probably safe to say that Figgins would be a plus defender at 3B, a somewhat below-average defender at 2B, and could possibly spot-start at SS if needed (of course, if we also got Ryan, he wouldn't need to).
In addition to that, Figgins is a switch-hitter who can bunt well, so he'd be valuable as a PH and late-game defensive substitute. He runs well (332 SB in ~8 seasons at a 74% rate, averaged around 5-7 UBR each year for several years) too, and so he could also pinch run for McGehee or someone else late in games and stay in for defense.
So, what do you think? I think this actually makes a lot of sense. Seattle HAS to want out of that Figgins contract, and he could be a classic "change-of-scenery" type of guy - I know that fans in Seattle must just loathe him right now with he 2011 stats. He's obviously a bit of a risk and he's not young (33), so he probably won't come back to his best years in LA over the course of the contract, but he could be a valuable utility player. He'd probably be an upgrade over the Brewers current IF depth (ie, Wilson, Yuni, McGehee, Counsell, Farris, etc), and if he starts getting more hits through, he could be close to worth that contract if Seattle ate a little bit (think $6-7M/year instead of $8-9). Ryan is expendable long-term for Seattle because Nick Franklin is at AA right now and was a Top 50 MLB prospect this year (though it looks like he's had a rough 2011).
We'd have to give up something in prospects, but wouldn't Mat Gamel fit Seattle's needs for bats? I know that Jack Z went all defense, no offense - but couldn't DM call him up and say "Look, it was an interesting idea, but you lost 101 games last year, you just lost 17 in a row - can we maybe agree that you should look to add some bats, even if they're no good with the glove?" Maybe he could convince Jack Z that Gamel would hit at 3B enough to justify the terrible glove, or he could probably DH. Then Seattle has a young core of Ackley, Smoak, Gamel, Carp, Franklin, etc, which has to look better in 2013 than Smoak, Ackley, Ryan, Figgins, right? I don't want to just give up on Gamel, but if we can get help at 2 IF positions, I'd do it. Plus, Jack Z might have a soft spot for Gamel, since he had to be involved in his draft and development process. Maybe the Crew would have to add another prospect (Gindl, McClendon, something on that tier) as well.
I'll stop there, but what do you guys think - would you pull the trigger on Gamel+1 for Figgins, Ryan, and $5M?