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Trade Analysis - Hawkins to the Giants

Chicago Cubs trade P LaTroy Hawkins to the SF Giants for P Jerome Williams and P David Aardsma.

Thus ends the Hawkins-to-the-Mets-in-an-irrational-Cliff-Floyd-trade rumors.

Hawkins, these days, is the most culpable human in Chicago since Mrs. O'Leary and Steve Bartman, so I assume that many Cubs fans would have been happy to get a bucket of balls for him. But they did end up getting an intriguing package, notably the guy who pushed Hank Aaron from the #1 slot in the list of alphabetical player names, but, perhaps more interestingly, Jerome Williams.

First Hawkins:

  1. Hawkins is not an incredible strikeout guy in the pen, but he does have very, very good control, as he's allowed fewer than 2 BB/9 each season since 2001's disaster.
  2. If there ever were a player who, for some reason, didn't have the psyche to be a closer, it's probably LaTroy Hawkins. I don't know why, but for some reason, he has been entirely too erratic as a closer. (That said, somehow, he's accumulated 73 saves over the course of his career, so I don't know.)
  3. The Giants needed bullpen help, especially with the loss of Armando. Tyler Walker's a nice story, but he's not particularly good.
  4. Hawkins is a good reliever, regardless of what his detractors will say, and he can definitely do a good job in the 8th inning or in tough spots. In 2002, 2003, and 2004, Hawkins posted WHIPs of 0.97, 1.09, and 1.05. His excellent control makes that relatively sustainable, in my opinion. And keeping runners off base is, interestingly enough, a very important part of relief pitching.
The Giants paid a price for Hawkins, however:
  • David Aardsma has been a reliever for much of his minor league career, and he's being groomed to be a future closer. He's probably a year or two away, but he absolutely dominated A-ball in his first tastes there, was shot up to AAA, held his own, and was subsequently toasted in the majors. Aardsma has been starting in AA-Norwich this year and hasn't been bad. He has a 2.93 ERA in 46 innings, but the K-rate isn't particularly impressive. I'm still intrigued because of his track record, and I see no reason why he won't be a major leaguer at some point. The question is: in what capacity? Why is he starting this year? To get more work on certain pitches? Or as a true conversion?
  • Jerome Williams shot through the Giants system and reached the majors at the age of 21. There, he was exceptional at that age; he had a 3.30 ERA in 21 starts and 131 innings. He only walked 49, showing his advanced abilities and his hallmark from the minors. In 2004, he wasn't quite as good (4.24 ERA with similar peripherals) and was shelved with an arm injury, but he did come back for a strong start at the end of the year. This year hasn't been too friendly, though: he has a 6.48 ERA and was sent down to the minors, where he has been completely lost:
30.2 IP, 9.39 ERA, 17 BB/15 K

Williams may never recover, but I'm going to go with the "success at a young age" rule and say that Williams has a pretty fair shot of being a good major league pitcher at some point. I like Aardsma, too, although I do think that he's better suited for relief work.

Neither pitcher blows away the opposition, though. From a "sabermetrics" perspective, the downside is the lack of strikeouts from both guys. Aardsma's a bit too raw to make that judgement, IMO, but Williams has never truly dominated a level. There's that angle, but there's also the one that says that ANY pitcher who can handle AA at the age of 19 is definitely something. 5.4 K/9 there is a bit of a concern. There is certainly a valid debate between these two lines of thought.

I think that the Cubs got the better of this deal, especially considering how much they hate Hawkins (putting aside the irrationality, at times, of the hatred). They got two guys with a good deal of potential for a setup man. That's a plus-deal.

I don't like this from the perspective of the Giants; it's a "win-now" deal for a team that, to me, isn't going to win this year. Then again, they're built for now; may as well go for broke.