Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The First Domino Falls: Keppinger traded

Let's get 2012 underway, shall we? The Astros have traded Jeff Keppinger to the Giants for RHPs Jason Stoffel and Henry Sosa. Jose Altuve's contract has been purchased, and he is on his way to Houston, where Mills promises:

I can tell you he's playing second base tomorrow. He's my second baseman. We didn't bring him here to sit him."

Let's come back to that, because I want to end this on a high note.

The two pitchers the Astros got in return for Keppinger are Jason Stoffel and Henry Sosa.

About Jason Stoffel. He'll be 23 in September, a 6'2" 225lb RHP drafted by the Giants in the 4th Round of the 2009 draft. He's a reliever - in 32 games for Double-A Richmond, Stoffel has thrown 31.2IP, 34H/14ER, 31K:16BB for a 3.98 ERA/1.58 WHIP. FanGraphs lists his FIP at a more friendly 3.36, and is also suffering from a .347 BABIP.

Not eight hours ago Stoffel was profiled by MiLB, where we find he was a history major at Arizona, and enjoys military history.

Richmond pitching coach Ross Grimsley on Stoffel:
"He has an overpowering fastball at times. Sometimes he can be erratic. He will fall behind and throw a fastball down the middle, but everyone does that at times. He gets too quick in his delivery at times."

Henry Sosa is a 6'1" 205lb 25-year old RHP from the Dominican Republic. He's been in the Giants system since 2006, and spent his time in Triple-A Fresno, also as a reliever, but has been in Double-A Richmond as a starter for the last six games.

As a starter for Richmond, Sosa has thrown 34.2IP, allowing 38H/12ER, 29K:8BB for a 3.12 ERA/1.33 WHIP. His FIP for Richmond is 2.33 (for those of you concerned about that 10.41 ERA for Triple-A Fresno, his FIP is "just" 5.90). Opponents are hitting .258 off of Sosa at Richmond, and that's with a .328 BABIP.

Sosa had been DFA'd back on May 26. And no one claimed him off of waivers. For what it's worth.

A couple of things about this trade:

1. We can be happiest for Jose Altuve.

One year ago, Altuve was in Lexington. He was coming off a 2009 where, between Lexington and Greeneville, he had an .838 OPS. People (you know who they are) had only really heard of him after he hit .408 for Lancaster, and showed that it wasn't exactly a fluke in 35 games at Corpus. If anyone knew of him, it was because he's 5'7" (and by "5'7"" we of course mean, "5'5""). And then he got to the Futures Game, and The Baseball Conglomerate acted like Pavement fans who say, "Oh yeah, I saw them play Neumo's. Whatever."

By all accounts, Altuve is a great person, and a great ball player. And at least he made it before Jean Segura.

Now we know the Astros are willing to promote from Double-A. I've seen your tweets. You're upset that J.D. Martinez is still in Corpus. But if you call him up, where are you going to put him? On the bench? I'd rather he play every day in Corpus than get Bogusevic'ed in Houston. But, if the Astros deal Bourn or Pence (or both), there is now the precedent that a J.D. Martinez sighting could come to pass now that the Astros pulled the first block out of the Jenga cube.

2. We can also be happy for Jeff Keppinger.

Keppinger said he wanted to stay in Houston, but come on. What else is he going to say? So feel free to just ignore that. But Keppinger didn't publicly complain when Ed Wade romanced the pooch and signed Bill Hall. Despite having a career year in 2010, Wade apparently never felt comfortable with Keppinger in the lineup. So good for him for upgrading his station (although Anywhere would be an upgrade over the Astros).

3. We can be disappointed with Ed Wade.

Seriously, with the relievers? (I know, Sosa is back to being a starter). The Tigers and Indians were thought to be interested in Keppinger, and possibly the Brewers, as well. This was the best deal available? It's the type of deal where we won't know the outcome for a few years, but neither Sosa nor Stoffel were in Sickels' Top 20, Baseball America's Top 10, Baseball Prospectus' Top 20, or FanGraphs' Top 10 prospects list.

To be fair, when Wade traded Pedro Feliz for David Carpenter, we thought, "Okay, whatever." And that has turned out pretty well.

4. This was not a salary dump.

But to call this deal a "salary dump" is ridiculous. The Astros are saving about $900,000 and an arbitration year. Or what Carlos Lee makes in about nine games. The real salary savings are going to come with Lee (don't hold your breath), Myers, Wandy, Bourn, or Pence. Keppinger's trade is hopefully the first of many.

But let's watch the little guy do his thing.