SweetSpot: Francisco Martinez

Recommended reading for Tuesday ...
  • One of my favorite pieces of the season: Colleague Jim Caple reveals all the early spring training storylines.
  • The Astros will be wearing their old Colt .45s throwback jerseys this year. However, as Paul Lukas reports, there is one major problems with the replica jerseys: They're not replicas.
  • Jon Weisman of Dodger Thoughts has his spring training primer for the Dodgers. Jon has 22 locks for the Opening Day roster and one of the non-locks may be a surprise to you.
  • Some have concerns about the Angels bullpen, but they could have a secret weapon in Bobby Cassevah. I actually think the Angels' pen could end up being a strength, especially if Jordan Walden improves upon his rookie season. Scott Downs, Rich Thompson, Cassevah, LaTroy Hawkins and Hisanori Takahashi provide depth in middle relief. Including Walden, those six combined for a 2.69 ERA in 2011.
  • Pro Ball NW takes a look at what to expect from Justin Smoak in 2012 and addresses Eric Wedge's suggestion that Chone Figgins will be given a chance to win the leadoff spot. Look, Wedge is supposed to say nice things about his players early in spring training. I still think the odds are slim that Figgins has anything left after two terrible seasons. The big issue for the Mariners is trying to figure out the logjam at third base in the upper minors. They have (1) Kyle Seager, who profiles more as a utility infielder or second baseman (where he's blocked by Dustin Ackley) but posted a 96 OPS+ in 201 PAs with the Mariners in 2011 (not great, but better than Figgins); (2) Alex Liddi, a 23-year-old who mashed 30 home runs at Tacoma but also hit .259 and struck 170 times; (3) Francisco Martinez, the key guy acquired in the Doug Fister trade, who played most of last season at age 20 in Double-A and hit .289/.321/.426; (4) Vinnie Catricala, one of my favorite players in the minors, who hit .347/.420/.632 in 62 games at Double-A but carries a shaky glove. Personally, I'd like to see Seager win the third-base job, let Liddi play another year in Triple-A, start Martinez in Double-A since he needs to work on his strike-zone appreciation (24 walks in 2011) and move Catricala to left field, where he played some last year.
  • Amanda Rykoff, blogger for ESPNW, is a huge baseball fan and has a good primer on some advanced stats -- many of which we mention here all the time and don't always explain to the uninitiated.
  • Fun quiz now that potential future Hall of Famer Manny Ramirez signed with the A's: Can you name all 12 Hall of Famers who played for the Oakland A's? Take the SportsNation quiz. You have four minutes. It's harder than you think.
  • Blake Street Bulletin is going position-by-position in previewing the Rockies: Third base may not necessarily be given to Casey Blake, not with hotshot prospect Nolan Arenado on the rise.
  • Barry Zito is still around. And the Giants may actually need him to generate some value this year, writes Chris Quick.
  • Good research piece by J.P. Breen at FanGraphs, looking at which teams have developed the most talent via the draft since 2002. No. 1: the Red Sox. No. 30: the Mariners, with the amazingly low total of just 8.9 WAR. (The study doesn't include international signings like Felix Hernandez.)
I was at a family function over the weekend and spent much of it talking baseball with my wife's uncle, a huge Yankees fan. The short version of his analysis: He's not too concerned about the state of the team because he's convinced the Yankees will make a few trades.

You know ... like for Felix Hernandez. Everybody in New York still thinks the Yankees can just trade for Felix because ... well, I guess because they're the Yankees. Now, let's repeat something we've said several times:

The Mariners aren't going to trade Felix Hernandez.

Repeat:

The Mariners aren't going to trade Felix Hernandez.

Now, my wife's uncle says that's OK, because the Yankees will just acquire Mark Buehrle instead. Now, maybe the White Sox will eventually fall far enough out of the race that trading Buehrle will make sense. But it doesn't now. But these five trades ... well, they do make sense.

Mets trade Carlos Beltran and $5 million to the Mariners for 2B Kyle Seager.

Considering genius Fred Wilpon just torpeded Beltran's value by suggesting he's not close to the player he used to be, the Mets can't expect a top prospect in return for their right fielder, a free agent after the season. Plus, his $18.5 million contract is a problem for most teams. The Mariners' current hot streak (granted, it's come against the punchless Twins and Padres) suddenly put them in the thick of the AL West race despite their offensive struggles. Designated hitter Jack Cust just hit his first home run and Carlos Peguero and Mike Wilson are hardly the short-term (or long-term) solutions in left field. Beltran could play left and DH, and Seattle has the ability to pick up some additional payroll. (Beltran would have to waive his no-trade clause.)

Seager was a teammate of Dustin Ackley's at North Carolina, but with Ackley set as Seattle's second baseman of the future, he doesn't have a spot. After hitting .345 with 40 doubles and 14 home runs in the California League, he's proving himself in the tough transition to Double-A, hitting .302/.371/.477. He has a nice line-drive stroke, although there are some doubts about his range. Then again, this is a team playing Daniel Murphy at second base.

Reds trade C Ryan Hanigan to Rays for P Alex Cobb and C Kelly Shoppach.

The Rays are getting no production from their John Jaso/Shoppach platoon. The Reds' 4.71 ERA from their rotation ranks 14th in the NL. Thus, a perfect trade matchup.

Hanigan is probably the best backup catcher in the majors. He doesn't have much power, but takes a walk and rarely strikes out (he has more walks than strikeouts in his career). More importantly for the Rays, he's signed to a cost-friendly contract of $4 million total through 2013.

Cobb is an underrated pitching prospect who doesn't wow scouts with his stuff, but he gets great results. He throws strikes and led the Southern League with 9.6 Ks per nine innings last season. He had a 1.31 ERA in seven Triple-A starts with a 45/10 SO/BB ratio and made his major league debut on May 1. The Reds can afford to trade Hanigan with two excellent catching prospects in the minors (Devin Mesoraco and Yasmani Grandal) and Ramon Hernandez still on the big league roster. Who gets bumped from the rotation? Take your pick. Bronson Arroyo and Edinson Volquez have both been terrible.

Padres trade P Mike Adams to Tigers for 3B Francisco Martinez.

The trade speculation with the Padres revolves around closer Heath Bell, an impending free agent, but they could possibly extract more in a trade by dealing setup man supreme Adams, who has a 1.25 ERA, 21/2 SO/BB ratio and .55 WHIP.

The Tigers make perfect sense: They have the worst bullpen ERA in the majors (5.97) and the highest batting average allowed (.287). Closer Jose Valverde has been the team's only reliable reliever. Martinez is a 20-year-old third baseman currently hitting .261 with five home runs in Double-A. He's a bit of a project, but scouts like his tools and the Padres need to take some chances in hopes of finding some offense.

Astros trade OF Hunter Pence to Phillies for OF Domonic Brown and P Jarred Cosart.

Why should the Astros trade their best player? For several reasons: (1) He's good, but not that good; he does a lot of nice things on a baseball field, but a mediocre OBP prevents him from being a true star. (2) He's starting to get expensive. He won $6.9 million in arbitration for 2011 and will likely get at least $10 million next season. (3) He's 28, and while he's at his peak right now, he may not be at his peak as he turns 30 ... aka, by the time the Astros are likely to be good again.

As for the Phillies, they are in win-now mode. Sure, Brown and Cossart are arguably their top prospects, but the jury remains out on how much Brown will contribute this season. They risk giving up a future All-Star, but Pence gives them a much-needed dependable bat for the middle of the lineup. With $24 million of Raul Ibanez and Brad Lidge coming off the books after this season, the Phillies can also afford to pick up Pence's future salary.

Royals trade 3B Wilson Betemit to Rockies for CF Dexter Fowler and P Esmil Rogers.

Colorado third basemen have been beyond awful, hitting .169 with two home runs. Betemit is hitting .315 with a .379 on-base percentage, but with Mike Moustakas soon to arrive in the big leagues, Betemit looks like perfect trade bait for the rebuilding Royals. Jose Lopez and Ty Wigginton aren't the answer at third, so unless you think Ian Stewart can rebound from his 3-for-47 start and banishment to Triple-A, Betemit looks like a nice fit to play third and take over Colorado's leadoff spot.

The man currently holding that position is Fowler, but the former top prospect just hasn't developed as expected. His game has regressed this season with too many strikeouts, a lack of power and just two steals in eight attempts. He needs a change of scenery and maybe a wake-up call. Rogers is a power arm in need of refinement.

So there you go. Five trades that make sense from all angles. And I didn't even mention Jose Reyes or Prince Fielder or ...

PHOTO OF THE DAY
Phillies FansHoward Smith/US PresswireThink Phillies fans were kind of waiting for Chase Utley to return? Well, yes, yes they were.

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