The Giants, in a quest to add something resembling a major league hitter to their lineup, went out and traded LHP Scott Barnes for 1B Ryan Garko from the Cleveland Indians. Let’s look at some background information on the players involved in this trade before we go any further.
The 28-year-old Garko was drafted in the 2003 First Year Player Draft by the Cleveland Indians. Garko was originally drafted as a catcher but at the major league level he’s played 342 of his career 354 games at first base. So, it’s safe to say that he’s probably not going to be strapping on the tools of ignorance any time soon. By 2005, Baseball America had ranked Garko as the 5th best prospect in the Indians’ farm system. BA noted his strengths as possessing above-average power, having a short stroke to the ball, and using the entire field to hit. Negatives included poor defensive skills (at C and 1B) and calling him a “liability on the basepaths”.
As a player, Garko does a few things well, but nothing great. Over his major league career, he’s hit for some power, but despite hitting 21 HR’s in 2007, he’s not much of a power hitter. His career ISO of .167 is essentially right around the league average mark of .150-ish. His career BB% of 7.4 is right around the league average for BB%. Defensively at just under 3,000 career innings at 1B, he’s rated as a -4 run defender per 150 games played.
Against RHP, Garko is merely adequate — a career .768 OPS — but against LHP, he really mashes. Garko’s career .906 OPS against southpaws should get him into the lineup any time the Giants are playing against LHP.
To summarize: Average-ish bat, crushes LHP, below-average hitter for a 1B against RHP, and plays below-average defense at 1B.
Barnes was drafted by the Giants in the 8th round of the 2008 First Year Player Draft out of St. John’s University. Coming into 2009, Barnes was ranked as the 9th best prospect in the Giants farm system by Baseball America. Barnes works in the upper-80′s and can touch 92 mph on occasion and also sports solid offspeed offerings between his changeup and curveball. He’s got a clean delivery and a good pickoff move.
This season Barnes has continued where he left off in ’08. In 98 innings pitched in the California League for the San Jose Giants, Barnes has a FIP of 3.93. For a lefty without overpowering stuff, he’s doing a good job of striking out hitters. He’s struck out 99 in his 98 IP. And, at just 21-years-old, he’s age appropriate for his level.
To summarize: Barnes is a solid lefty pitching prospect with good (even if it’s not overpowering) stuff. He’s shown good command in his brief minor league career and solid pitching acumen.
How Much Does Garko Help Us Now?
If you read my post on Travis Ishikawa vs. Adam LaRoche, this should look familiar. Using ZiPS rest-of-season projections, let’s look at the difference (in wins above replacement) between Ryan Garko and Travis Ishikawa from here on out. The results are shockingly similar.
Batting Wins Above Average (.317 wOBA, league wOBA .332): –0.87 wins
Defensive Wins Above Average: +0.8 wins
1B Positional Adjustment: –1.25 wins
Replacement Level: +2.25 wins
= .93 wins above replacement * .4 (or 40% playing time ie: 280 PA’s) = +.372 wins over the remaining season
Batting Wins Above Average (.350 wOBA, league wOBA .332): +1.04 wins
Defensive Wins Above Average: –0.4 wins
1B Positional Adjustment : –1.25 wins
Replacement Level: +2.25 wins
= 1.64 wins above replacement * .4 (or 40% playing time ie: 280 PA’s) = +.656 wins over the remaining season
Garko (.656) – Ishikawa (.372) = a difference of .284 wins for the rest of the season.
Note: ZiPS has Garko projected as a .342 wOBA hitter over the remainder of the season, but we will give him a slight bump to .350 for coming to the NL.
Much like the LaRoche WAR calculations, the difference between Garko and Ishikawa over the rest of the season is only about .3 wins. At most, I’d call Garko a .5 win improvement to the Giants from here on out. Doesn’t seem like much, does it? Garko is a good hitter with average power and below-average defense at 1B. He’s been great against LHP, but the difference between Garko and Ishikawa vs. RHP is probably non-existent. Which begs the question: Did the Giants really need to trade for a platoon bat at first base? Isn’t there like 10 guys floating around the minor leagues (or are otherwise easily acquirable) who can play -5 run defense at 1B and mash LHP? For the price, Barnes seems a little steep to give up for a left-side of a first base platoon.
Something we haven’t really talked about is that the Giants will be able to control Garko for the next three years. He’ll be hitting arbitration at the end of this season and what he’ll make is anyone’s guess. Some of his past RBI totals and HR’s will be an asset for him in the negotiations.
I don’t hate this trade necessarily, but I don’t really have a great feeling about it either. The Giants add a player who’s most likely a +2 win player at first base over a full season for a promising pitching prospect. Garko’s likely to get more expensive as he goes through arbitration and that’s where the seperation between what he’s paid to what he’s worth will probably widen. What the Giants shouldn’t do, at all costs, is to try and “get Garko’s bat into the lineup” by sticking him in LF on occasion. He’s a first basemen without another position in the NL and to play him in the OF would be a really bad idea. The Giants OF defense has been one of the team’s best strengths (currently 2nd best OF by UZR in baseball) and putting Garko in LF will do more damage than good.
I’ll keep this short: Tim Lincecum is pretty good. If you haven’t watched the following clip from Tim’s 15K game last night against the Pirates, do so now.