Thursday, February 5, 2015

Prospect for Prospect Trades

   The Blue Jays yesterday dealt LHP Tyler Ybarra to Colorado for LHP Jayson Aquino.

  On the surface of it, this trade doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense.   Aquino had been designated for assignment, but the Rockies still had two years of options left with him, after placing him on the 40 man roster after the 2013 season.

When teams deal minor league players, it's usually for one of several reasons, including:

1.  The team needs to acquire a player to upgrade or fill a 25 man roster spot (Noah Syndergaard in the RA Dickey trade);
2.  The team feels that the prospect will never reach their ceiling (Brett Wallace)
3.  The team is reluctant to part with the prospect, but they were an essential part of the
       other team's asking price, and/or the club feels they can replace the player (Franklin Barreto)

  It's rare to see a prospect-for-prospect trade.  And calling both of these players prospects, at this point in their careers, is generous. Aquino, signed as a NDFA in 2009 from the Dominican, peaked at a prospect after the 2012 season, when he reached #9 on the Rockies' list.  Wins and losses are of minor importance to a prospect, but Aquino went 0-10 in 2013, mostly at Low A.  Baseball America also had an interesting comment about him following that season:
He's too emotional and must learn to ignore umpires' calls that he disagrees with, and he also needs to develop better tempo in his delivery. He doesn't field his position or hold runners well.

   The Blue Jays drafted Ybarra in the 43rd round in 2008, and his minor league career got off to a rocky start.  He didn't pitch well in 2009 in the GCL, and then spent 2010 on the restricted list as he took time off to take care of some family and personal matters.  He did make it as far as #31 on BA's Blue Jays top prospects list in 2012 after a dominant year in Lansing's bullpen, and was just as dominant in Dunedin the following year.  2014 was a struggle for him, however, as he battled control problems at AA.  Ybarra seemed to be on the upswing as a prospect prior to this season.  The timing of the deal isn't the greatest, as his daughter was scheduled to undergo open heart surgery that same day. 

   Why did the teams agree to this trade?  In the case of the Rockies, of course, they were on the clock for making some sort of deal for Aquino.  Lefthanded bullpen power arms that throw between 91-95 can be tough to come by, but with the Blue Jays having upgraded their minor league relief depth this off season, his innings may have been limited.  He gets to start over again, in essence, with the Colorado organization.

   Aquino has mostly been a starter, and will probably continue in that role in the Toronto system.
The organization ran into some depth problems at the lower levels last year, and Aquino's acquisition may have been an attempt to bolster that situation.  
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