Red Sox, Tigers Scout Marlins' Anibal Sanchez's Start

If there was a series that pushed the Marlins into potential "seller" mode for the week remaining until the trade deadline, it was this series versus the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates completed a sweep of the Marlins with a 3-0 defeat, despite a strong start from Anibal Sanchez.

The Anibal Sanchez start was important because, as mentioned yesterday, the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers had personnel on hand scouting Sanchez's start, perhaps with interest in picking him up at the deadline. If there was one player that you had to think the Marlins were going to deal, it would be Sanchez, who is a free agent this offseason. We went over the trade value of Sanchez last week, but it is worth going over again here.

What do those numbers ultimately yield? Through the rest of 2012, we expect Anibal Sanchez to contributebetween 1.3 and 1.7 Wins Above Replacement (WAR). If you have the value of a win this season at $4.8 million, for example, that is worth $7.2 million in value the rest of the way. Sanchez is maybe owned $3.2 million for the rest of the year, meaning that, as a trade asset, he is worth about $4 million.

What is that worth? Not much, when you look into it. According to this 2009 piece by Sky Kalkman based on research done by The Hardball Times's Victor Wang, $4 million in trade value would not bring in a Grade B hitting prospect under Minor League Ball's John Sickels's grading system. And those numbers were valued in 2009, when the market for wins was just a little cheaper than it probably is now.

This value should change a little, but I would not be surprised if the price tag remained $4 million after Sanchez's last start. As of the latest ZiPS projections, Sanchez is expected to pitch 76 more innings (12 starts, a total of 197 innings on the season) with a 3.67 ERA and 3.51 FIP. If he pitched to those ERAs, you would be looking at a value of 1.3 to 1.5 Wins Above Replacement (WAR). That would be worth $6.8 million in the free market, and Sanchez would be paid about $3 million for the rest of the season, yielding a surplus or trade value of $3.8 million.

The question then, is what can the Marlins get for that much from the Red Sox or Tigers?

Value of Prospects

Based on the 2009 research done by the Hardball Time's Victor Wang, we had a general idea of the value of the average prospect. Knowing nothing else about them (such as the information that is privy to scouts of teams) and knowing only their rankings by prospect gurus like the folks of Baseball America and Minor League Ball's own John Sickels, we could estimate the value of these players. Here is the table based on the value of wins back in 2009, reproduced from this Beyond the Box Score article by Sky Kalkman from 2009.

Top 10 hitting prospects $36.5M
Top 11-25 hitters $25.1
Top 26-50 hitters $23.4
Top 51-75 hitters $14.2
Top 76-100 hitters $12.5
Top 10 pitching prospects $15.2
Top 11-25 pitchers $15.9
Top 26-50 pitchers $15.9
Top 51-75 pitchers $12.1
Top 76-100 pitchers $9.8
Grade B pitchers (as graded by Sickels)
$7.3
Grade B hitters $5.5
Grade C pitchers 22 or younger $2.1
Grade C pitchers 23 or older $1.5
Grade C hitters 22 or younger $0.7
Grade C hitters 23 or older $0.5

The best hitting prospects are worth a lot, but even the top pitching prospects are not really all that easy to differentiate, in part because of the risk of pitcher injury and the resulting timeless cliche of TINSTAAP. However, once you get down to the low-level prospects, you are looking at players who are very similar, and the potential of young, low-ranking pitchers ends up being better than the value of similar hitters. Keep in mind that all of these values should be raised slightly to account for an increased dollar value of wins in 2012.

Based on this list, the Marlins would be lucky to pick up Grade C talent for Sanchez, which makes the return very uninteresting. Young Grade C pitchers or hitters would be the target for the most value, and the Marlins could get lucky and land a Grade B hitter (some will be listed below) that could be worth the team trading Sanchez, but it would take plenty of emphasis on the "now" from that team in order to get such a prospect.

Boston Red Sox

What can the Red Sox offer that is worth about $4 million in value? Look at John Sickels's Red Sox top 20 prospects midseason review from a few days ago. A number of the Red Sox' prospects are ranked at B or higher, which puts the Marlins at a disadvantage in trying to acquire that high-level talent. This is especially important because the Fish are certain to value current, major league ready talent over young talent that is still fermenting in the low minors.

One name the Marlins could request is Ryan Lavarnway, a catcher / designated hitter prospect in Triple-A. Lavarnway had 43 decent PA in the majors last season, batting .231/.302/.436 (.323 wOBA) in his stint. He is also hitting .300/.386/.451 (.372 wOBA) right now in his second stint in Triple-A, meaning the guy can actually hit. Obviously, to be a candidate to DH rather than catch implies that Lavarnway has issues behind the plate defensively, but the Marlins are currently bereft of catching depth in their minors anyway, and it does not appear as though any catching prospects will be ready by 2014 after John Buck's current three-year deal expires. In addition, the Red Sox are somewhat blocked at catcher with Jarrod Saltalamacchia having another solid season, and the team is certain to re-sign David Ortiz after another good year at the plate.

Perhaps the Marlins can pay some of Sanchez's contract to make up the difference in value, but this is one player the team could target as far as major league ready talent. If the Red Sox want a pitcher badly, this deal would not be a bad place to start.

Detroit Tigers

The Tigers have less depth than the Red Sox in terms of talent, but their high-end talent is more intriguing. Of course, for the Marlins' purposes, the very best talent (the Tigers have at times dangled Jacob Turner in various rumored trades) is out of the question, so the Marlins may look to some of their Grade B pitching talents. Both Casey Crosby and Andrew Olliver have struggled in Triple-A this season, but they were highly-ranked talents in the Tigers organization heading into this season. Both pitchers are quite a few steps below Turner in status and have sizable issues with control. Both are left-handed as well, and the combination of specious control / command and left-handedness from the Tigers organization leads Marlins fans to immediately think of draft bust Andrew Miller.

Still, both pitchers have decent strikeout stuff, and they are not that far from the majors. Both players would require work in the minors, and the Fish may be more happy with injured Tigers starter Drew Smyly, who looks more refined on the mound but has lesser stuff and is less projectable. Still, either of the above names would be interesting returns for the Marlins, and given their struggles, the Fish would likely not have to pay any salary to acquire one of them for Sanchez.

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