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Transaction Roundup: Brewers/Rangers Swap

Carlos Lee was sent to the Texas Rangers, along with minor league outfielder Nelson Cruz and a player to be named later, in exchange for outfielders Kevin Mench and Laynce Nix, reliever Francisco Cordero, and minor leaguer Julian Cordero. This is a very interesting trade, as it gives the Brewers some payroll flexibility moving forward, as well as an inexpensive and dominant reliever that they very badly needed to acquire. The Rangers get an upgrade for Mench in Lee, and they will either re-sign El Caballo or earn a few much needed draft picks to restock their system. There is also the potential scenario where Nelson Cruz is capable of replicating Mench's production, although that promise is still unclear.

Let's take a look at all of the outfielders involved in the trade, using positionally-adjusted Net Runs Above Average:

Positionally-Adjusted Net Runs Above Average
Kevin Mench 231 .261 87 -6.60 -2.75 .268 -11.34 -6.58
Carlos Lee 286 .295 102 -2.28 12.41 .272 15.98 10.86
Nelson Cruz (Weighted Mean) 328 .257 112 2.00 -6.07 .268 -6.12 -4.57
Nelson Cruz (75th Percentile) 328 .272 116 2.00 2.30 .268 4.98 3.85
Laynce Nix (Weighted Mean) 211 .268 75 -1.00 2.51 .261 4.02 2.01
  • Carlos Lee is far and away the best player in the deal. But you knew that already.

  • Kevin Mench is currently -11.34 pNRAA in right field. Yes, he's highly overrated outside of the stathead community, especially with his poor defense.

  • Nelson Cruz has two lines for a few reasons. First of all, he has not faced major league pitching before, so I wanted to curb the enthusiasm over his lofty Triple-A Nashville numbers a tad. I wanted to include his 75th percentile projection as the ceiling for what he might accomplish this year. Either way, he's a likely upgrade over Mench, more than I initially realized. You can blame the defensive differences for that.

  • PECOTA likes Laynce Nix more than I do, but PECOTA hasn't had a chance to look at how awful Nix has been in the minors. Nix hasn't been productive for awhile, and you can see that in his BB and K rates more than anything.

Care to see those falling rates at the plate?

Nix BB% and K%
Year League BB% K%
2000 Rk 10.0% 14.8%
2001 A 7.8% 19.3%
2002 A+ 12.3% 18.0%
2003 AA 9.1% 18.1%
2003 MLB 4.6% 27.2%
2004 MLB 5.8% 28.3%
2005 MLB 3.8% 18.8%
2006 AAA 5.4% 25.1%

You don't have to go much further than the numbers to see a player who is completely and utterly lost at the plate. I'm not sure how much a change of scenery is going to help, but it certainly won't hinder his performance. Just a note; those percentages aren't exact, they might have one or two plate appearances off in some cases. The source of the data (The Baseball Cube) is missing SH and SF for some minor league seasons. And before you say anything, First Inning was down.

With Cruz and Mench anywhere from a push to a point for the Rangers, and the Nix situation essentially a dump, the deal breaks down into Cordero/Lee. Lee is a valuable player, but he profiles as a future designated hitter type, and Milwaukee was not going to be able to afford him past this year.

Francisco Cordero had an awful April (opponents hit .333/.400/.562 against him) but has settled down considerably since then: .234/.292/.328 since May 1, which lines up nicely with his 2003-2005 opponent line of .231/.315/.314/. Since May 1, Cordero has a 2.87 ERA, 10.3 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 (3.58 K/BB), 0.72 HR/9 and 7.64 H/9 in 37.7 innings pitched. That should be a huge boost to the Milwaukee bullpen, who lacks a legitimate late game threat. Julian Cordero's numbers don't really impress; his walk rate is a tad high, and he's 21 years old in Low-A. Keep him in mind to see if Doug Melvin's eye for talent sees something I'm missing, but I have nothing to report at the moment.

Considering Mench is still a tradeable commodity thanks to his perceived value, and the Brewers already have a more than capable Corey Hart awaiting a starting gig now that El Caballo has changed zip codes, the Brewers made out well. The Rangers also did well, although they still could use another starter down the stretch. The Brewers should try as hard as possible to move Mench though; Mench hit .262/.315/.476 on the road from 2003-2005, and this year has turned in .295/.338/.423 with only one-fourth of the hits for extra-bases. In other words, sell high Doug Melvin, sell high.

The Rangers made out well for themselves as well; Carlos Lee gives them another serious bat in the lineup, and just imagine what kind of run production they will have if Mark Teixeira turns it all the way back on in the rest of the second half. Francisco Cordero will obviously be missed in the bullpen, but the Rangers have a few useful arms in there still, and he's worth the price of admission for adding Lee and subtracting Kevin Mench. This certainly has to make the A's somewhat nervous, considering their struggles. By the way, did everyone know that the Rangers were ranked 10 spots higher than the Athletics in this week's edition of Prospectus hit List? You have to figure that's going to improve with Lee and Adam Eaton now on the active roster.

Be sure to check out Jeff's take over at Brew Crew Ball; he's put it all together neatly into one post for your navigational pleasure.