Keeper League Rebuild Strategy: Trading for Javier Baez

USA TODAY Sports

Ray details his reasoning for dealing a very cheap closer for Cubs infield prospect Javier Baez.

I participate in two NL-only keeper leagues, one is a 4 x 4 league, and the other is a 5 x 5 league. I have been playing in the 4 x 4 league for about 7 years now, and have had some success in the league, placing in the top three in five of the seven years.

When I joined this league, I cleaned house and traded all of my players of value for cheaper keepers, prospects or MiLB draft picks. I placed third in that season, not sure how I accomplished that, but I recall bailing early after the draft, and still placing in the money at the end of the season.

I have used the rebuilding strategy a few times in this league with success, as I won the league and finished in second the two years after rebuilding. Last season, I used the rebuild strategy once again, with the thoughts of trying to field a winner in 2014.

But, this offseason presented me with an opportunity to deal my only closer, a $2 S1 Sergio Romo, who I received in a bail trade near the league trade deadline last season. Prior to dealing Romo, I had gauged the interest in my only stud hitter, Giacarlo Stanton, who is in the last year of his contract, with a $20 salary. He would go for at least double that in the auction draft, and I wouldn't be surprised if he pushed the $50 level.

I made an offer to one of the league owners, offering the following trade offer:

$2 S1 Sergio Romo

for

$5 S2 Javier Baez

He responded that he had interest, but wanted some time to take a closer look at Romo. I usually don't accept offers right away, and always do my due diligence before accepting an offer, so I had no problem with waiting for a response. Plus, it is the offseason, so there was really no rush.

While waiting for this owner to respond to my offer for Baez, I communicated to all of the owners in the league that he was available, and that I had enough pitching for now, an indication that I wanted a hitter in return.

I received a few offers from one owner, but none of the players involved were impact hitters that I was seeking. I really wanted Baez, so I went back to the owner asking what his response was. He responded that he would do the deal if I threw in a MiLB pick. As i had an extra second round MiLB pick from an in-season bail trade, I added the 22nd pick in the 2014 MiLB draft to the Romo offer for Baez, and we had a done deal.

I don't have to tell you what a great season Baez had at the plate in High A and AA in 2013, but here is a quick look, courtesy of Baseball-Reference:

Year Age Lg Lev G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2011 18 2 Lgs Rk-A- 5 18 2 5 2 0 0 1 2 0 4 .278 .278 .389 .667
2011 18 ARIZ Rk 3 12 2 4 2 0 0 0 2 0 2 .333 .333 .500 .833
2011 18 NORW A- 2 6 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 2 .167 .167 .167 .333
2012 19 2 Lgs A-A+ 80 293 50 86 13 6 16 46 24 14 69 .294 .346 .543 .888
2012 19 MIDW A 57 213 41 71 10 5 12 33 20 9 48 .333 .383 .596 .979
2012 19 FLOR A+ 23 80 9 15 3 1 4 13 4 5 21 .188 .244 .400 .644
2013 20 2 Lgs A+-AA 130 517 98 146 34 4 37 111 20 40 147 .282 .341 .578 .920
2013 20 FLOR A+ 76 299 59 82 19 4 17 57 12 21 78 .274 .338 .535 .873
2013 20 SOUL AA 54 218 39 64 15 0 20 54 8 19 69 .294 .346 .638 .983
3 Seasons 215 828 150 237 49 10 53 158 46 54 220 .286 .342 .562 .903
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/17/2013.

Baez had a tremendous season at the plate, hitting 37 home runs, scoring 98 runs, driving in 11 runs, and stealing 20 bases to boot. He was recently ranked as the Cubs #1 prospect by Baseball America, and here is a short excerpt from their scouting report:

With Starlin Castro signed through 2019 but coming off a poor season, Baez presents the Cubs with a fascinating option. If his defense improves with maturity and experience—reasonable, given his tools—he could force Castro to second or third base. More likely, Baez shifts to second or third, causing a logjam with other Cubs prospects such as Kris Bryant and Arismendy Alcantara. Spring training will help decide Baez’s 2014 assignment and position, but he profiles as an all-star-caliber, 30-homer infielder wherever he lands.

I am not sure if Baez gets a call up in 2014, but i think there is a chance that he does for two reasons:

1. He showed us that he can dominate AA pitching this season, hitting .294-.346-.638 with 20 home runs and 54 RBI in just 218 at bats.

2. The Cubs have stated that they aren't content with losing like they have over the past few seasons, and their fans deserve better, so bringing up one of their major league ready prospects will give the fans a glimpse into the Cubs future.

Baez will probably start the season in AAA, and get a mid-season call up, but even if he doesn't get called up this season, I think I made a good decision in dealing Romo. Anytime you can deal a closer for an impact bat like Baez, you have to make that deal. Plus, closers are very volatile and a few blown saves in a short time period usually spells the end of the line for many closers.

In addition, after looking at Romo's FanGraphs page, you can see that his strikeouts per nine has dropped in each of the last two seasons:

2011: 13.13 K/9

2012: 10.25 K/9

2013: 8.65 K/9

Not a trend you want to see from your closer. With the drop in K/9, we have also seen his ERA/FIP/xFIP and walks per nine increase over the same time period.

So, what do Fake Teams readers think about my offseason keeper league trade? Did I give up too much, or is Baez worth it? Let me hear your thoughts in the poll and comments below.

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