Thursday, June 14, 2012

Josh Willingham: 2013-2014 Left Fielder?

According to the wonders of three tweets from David O'Brien, a guy who the Braves should keep in mind for any trades this season is Josh Willingham.

Buster writes that the Twins might consider trading Josh Willingham if they decide they’re hopelessly out of the playoff picture before the trade deadline.
If I’m the Braves, I would pursue a trade for Willingham, and I mean seriously pursue it. Signed for $7 mill each of the next two seasons (2013 and 2014). He’s your left fielder, Prado goes to third base, and then you’ve got plenty of money to either re-sign Bourn if at all possible or trade or sign another proven leadoff hitter who’s not quite as expensive as him, plus have some money left to fill other needs.
I spent many a post on my former blog making fun of DOB's ramblings that often were ill-sighted at best.  In fact, I rather enjoyed picking apart his comments, though not nearly enough as Mark Bowman's shitty shit.  Still, it surprised me considerably as I viewed the comments on Mac's Bravesjournal after the latest Braves loss to see the quoted remarks.

This could work!

That sentence screamed in my head like a new mantra.  Now, I realize the chances of a move like this occurring are quite minimal.  Somewhere between my wife being okay with me sleeping with the newly divorced Winnie Cooper and sleeping with Winnie Cooper.  But let's just play a little of what I call ROSTERBATING LIKE A SEAMHEAD WITH THE NEW BASEBALL PROSPECTUS BOOK

That title may need some work.  Anyway, this isn't the first time I've considered Josh Willingham.  Last offseason, in fact, I thought about Willingham as a possibility should the Braves deal Martin Prado and not get back a left fielder in return.  At the time and right now, I remain conflicted because he provides both above average offense and below average defense.

First, the defense is, with respect, terrible.  Willingham began his career as a catcher and it should surprise few people that his defense hasn't really took off in left.  We're not all Craig Biggio.  Most catchers are more like Todd Hundley.  They were behind the plate for a reason, though it should be stated Willingham was actually a utility player when he began his career in 2001 as a minor leaguer, playing six different positions and none of them...were catcher.  Still, the moving around the field as essentially stopped and since 2010, he has played nowhere else except left field.  Three different teams, three different bad UZR's.

Suffice it to say, Willingham's value is his bat and it's pretty good.  11.4 BB%, .219 ISO, .368 wOBA is a pretty good season for most players and that is Willingham's career marks.  He has never hit 30 homers, but he has good power.  He won't hit .300, but he won't be an embarrassment and will suppliment his stats with walks and a oddly high number of HBP (tied for fifth most in baseball since the start of 2009).  He will get you 2 WAR and maybe 3 WAR.

He also tends to miss some time, due in some part, I'm sure, to an oddly night number of HBP.  Since 2008, he's hit the 130 games played mark twice and failed to do so twice (.500 AVG isn't good enough here).  But hey, since the Braves are losing Chipper Jones next year, might as well make the loss less of a shock, huh?

He's due $7M over the next two seasons and the Braves may need assistance to pay the rest of the $7M he's due this season.  In addition, he will get an extra million if he reaches 525 PA next season.  That's pretty good value for what Willingham provides, though you will likely to have to caddy a defensive replacement to him or grab a strong defender at third and move Prado to left when needed next season.  As for this season, it might seem a stretch to grab Willingham, but it's not insanely hard to see this working.  Between Prado's versatility providing off days at 1B/3B and moving Willingham to right for a game or two, it could conceivably work.  Willingham provides a right-handed power threat to a lineup void of it, especially in big situations late in games.

What would I give up for him?  Well, I'd start with an offer of Zeke Spruill, Todd Cunningham, and Juan Francisco and see what the Twins return with and see about meeting somewhere in the middle.  I wouldn't overpay for Willingham...he does have a couple of considerable and valid worries (defense and injuries), but under the right circumstances, getting Willingham could possibly play huge dividends.

Beyond giving me something to write about that didn't include the words "fire Fredi Gonzalez" as part of it.


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