Transaction Analysis – Cruz & Christiansen traded

The Giants traded two veterans on Tuesday for minor leaguers. Will JC and Deivi be missed? (No, and Yes) Did the Giants get any actual prospects? (Mmmmmaybe) Hey, that's what we're here for!

Deal #1: Jason Christiansen to the Angels

What the Giants Got:

Dusty Bergman, LHP, 27
2005 – Salt Lake (AAA): 8-5, 44 G, 0 GS, 8 SV, 71.0 IP, 77 H, 25 R, 25 ER, 10 HR, 18 BB, 55 SO, 3.17 ERA
Career (Minors): 37-48, 223G, 76 GS, 7 CG, 13 SV, 735.1 IP, 837 H, 429 R, 346 ER, 53 HR, 196 BB, 440 SO, 4.23 ERA

Dusty has been in the sort of quandary in Anaheim the last couple of years as Brian Dallimore has often been in at San Francisco. He’s a little older, which has led to the Angels keeping him off the 40 man roster, which is one stumbling block to his callups. He made his major league debut in 2004 with Anaheim, giving up 3 runs in his only appearance. The difference is that the last two years, Anaheim has not had a left handed reliever, and Bergman has been a very good one the last two years in the minors (2.85 ERA in 45 G in 2004 at AAA).

Bergman is a bit of a finesse pitcher, and needs to have his full control to succeed. He isn’t too old to never make the bigs and succeed, but his likely destination is Fresno and will probably find himself back in AAA waiting for a spot to open up in an even more crowded bullpen in 2006.

Ronnie Ray, RHP, 21
2005 – Rancho Cucamonga (High-A): 1-2, 20 G, 32.2 IP, 43 H, 25 R, 21 ER, 5 HR, 20 BB, 24 SO, 5.79 ERA
2005 – Cedar Rapids (Low-A): 6-3, 19 G, 9 GS, 1 SV, 71.0 IP, 69 H, 29 R, 27 ER, 2 HR, 30 BB, 43 SO, 3.42 ERA
Career (Minors): 18-17, 78 G, 38 GS, 1 SV, 260.1 IP, 266 H, 147 R, 127 ER, 18 HR, 121 BB, 167 SO, 4.39 ERA

Ronnie Ray has spent the last couple of years trying to find his role, in pro ball. He started out as a full time starter, but that didn’t work out well. In 2004, he had a swingman role, with mixed results, and in 2005, he started the season in the California league as a full time reliever. It didn’t work out again, and he’s gone to Cedar Rapids in the Midwest league for the third year in a row, and done fairly well.

Ray’s main pitch is a sharp biting slider in the mid 80’s, but he hasn’t been able to throw it with too much consistency. His fastball is in the low 90’s, and he needs to add a consistent changeup if he’s to continue as a starter.

What the Giants Gave Up:

Jason Christiansen, LHP, 35
2005 – SFG (NL): 6-1, 56 G, 42.0 IP, 48 H, 27 R, 25 ER, 4 HR, 15 BB, 17 SO, 5.36 ERA
Career: 27-26, 516 G, 430.1 IP, 402 H, 219 R, 206 ER, 37 HR, 215 BB, 380 SO, 4.31 ERA

This, of course, wasn’t a big loss, as the Giants had designated Christiansen for assignment on Friday after two weak performances which had followed some comments made to the media about the bullpen’s handling. He had to be traded before September 6th or else he would be released without compensation.

Christiansen had suffered through a rough season, though he still had value as a lefty specialist, having held left handed hitters to a .250 Batting Average Against. Unusually for Felipe Alou, he was not often used in a specialist role, and had faced more right handers than left handers.

In Anaheim, Christiansen will find a role laid out for him, as he will be Anaheim’s only left handed reliever. Christiansen is getting paid $1.05M this year, approximately $175,000 of which is still owed. He also has a $1.5M club option for 2006, with a buyout that will cost between $50K and $150K depending on his statistics this year.

Deal #2: Deivi Cruz to the Nationals

What the Giants Got:

Benjamin Cox, RHP, 23
2005 – Savannah (A): 4-4, 42 G, 6 SV, 63.0 IP, 55 H, 24 R, 21 ER, 6 HR, 33 BB, 51 SO, 3.00 ERA
Career (Minors): 6-4, 64 G, 9 SV, 96.1 IP, 86 H, 42 R, 32 ER, 7 HR, 53 BB, 88 SO, 2.99 ERA

Cox was a 19th round pick by the Nats in 2004, and had a good year in his debut, and has followed it up with a solid year in the SAL. He’s a power reliever who can hit 95 with his fasball and has a very slow slider. His problem is that his command tends to come and go.

Cox may be 23 in low A ball, but he has the kind of stuff to move quickly if he can put it together. He may join either the GreenJackets or San Jose Giants for the end of the season, and could find himself as high as AA to start 2006. If his command becomes more consistent, he could have an impact in the majors.

What the Giants Gave Up:

Deivi Cruz, INF, 32
2005 – SFG (NL): 81 G, 209 AB, 26 R, 56 H, 10 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 19 RBI, 10 BB, 31 SO, 0-1 SB, .268 BA, .301 OBP, .397 SLG
Career – 1214 G, 4073 AB, 440 R, 1096 H, 249 2B, 16 3B, 70 HR, 463 RBI, 131 BB, 426 SO, 16-28 SB, .269 BA, .293 OBP, .390 SLG

After being released by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2004, Cruz signed a minor league deal with the Giants, but it wasn’t long before he supplanted Neifi Perez as the starter. He still signed with the Giants for 2005 knowing he’d be a backup, and has filled that role admirably, playing mostly at shortstop and 2nd base backing up Omar Vizquel and Ray Durham. He also has played 3rd upon occasion when Edgardo Alfonzo was on the DL.

In Washington, he gets thrown into a complicated mix at shortstop. Current players Jamey Carroll and Cristian Guzman have been disappointing, and may also compete with young Ryan Zimmerman, the 4th overall pick in the 2005 draft, if he is called up. Cruz is being paid $800K, about $133K is left, with about $300K in incentives on his contract.

What It All Means:

We’re in a youth movement, pretty much.

Christiansen was already off the team, so getting anything for him was pretty much a good deal. With young pitchers like Taschner, JC’s option was unlikely to be taken, and he almost certainly won’t be missed, though he may have been right to suggest he was misused. Cruz was a different story, as he still had a good role on the Giants. However, he’s been such a good soldier that he deserves a chance to start on a playoff contender, which he’ll get now.

The key to this deal was that Cruz and Christiansen joined their new teams before August 31st, which is the deadline for playoff roster eligibility. Players who can play in the postseason must be on that team’s roster before August 31st. Deivi and JC will now not only be on contenders, but both have the chance to earn significant roles on those teams.

The pitchers the Giants got are no one to get overly excited about, but there is some potential in them. It would not be surprising if Dusty Bergman leaves via free agency to find some other team with bigger bullpen problems in the offseason. With 3 young pitchers who could all start the season in San Francisco in Scott Munter, Jeremy Accardo and lefty Jack Taschner, with another lefty in Scott Eyre likely to resign with the Giants, Bergman will have even more problems finding his way onto the team than he did on a playoff contender with no lefties already in their bullpen.

However, Cox and Ray could be solid filler material for the Giants system, and have chances to improve. Although the Giants’ reputation for pitching prospects is well earned, the truth is that the system is currently a bit thin between Norwich’s rotation in AA and the promising kids in Salem-Keizer, particularly in the rotation.

Ray is young enough to turn things around, but in the meantime, he may play a role in both the rotation and bullpen at San Jose next year, working with SJ pitching coach Trevor Wilson (if he stays at that level), who is earning an excellent reputation with working with young pitchers on consistency.

Ben Cox is a legitimate prospect with good stuff, but he just needs to learn how to harness it. Again, he’ll likely work with Wilson in San Jose, but the Giants sometimes push young pitchers, and Cox may find himself in Norwich. The problem is that Cox is in an organization awash with solid relieving prospects. Don’t be surprised if, with 2 solid pitches in place, the Giants attempt to convert him to a starter. Even if they don’t, hard throwing right handers can succeed quickly; just ask Jeremy Accardo.

The other end of this was the Giants purchasing the contract of Angel Chavez to replace Cruz as the backup middle infielder in San Francisco. The player who might have usually been called up, Brian Dallimore, is currently injured in Fresno. Chavez ended up making his major league debut in the starting lineup on Monday night. Chavez, 23, started the year in San Jose before getting a mid-May push up to AAA for the first time in his career. He has not suffered a drop off, posting similar lines in A ball (.283/.310/.442) and AAA ball (.281/.320/.449)

Chavez is an aggressive player in all aspects of the game. He will swing away, and does not draw many walks, but he makes contact enough to stay out of too many strikeouts. He also plays hard at defense, which can result in over eager errors. He made 4 errors in 30 games at San Jose, and 11 in 89 games at Fresno. He has solid range, nothing extraordinary, but he’s not a statue either. He can steal bases effectively, but doesn’t have the pure speed to do it regularly.

Chavez’s likely ceiling is something similar to former Giant Ramon Martinez, a career utility infielder whose versatility is his key attribute. He is not likely to have a major impact on the 2006 team, as he may need more than 330+ at bats at AAA before he truly earns his way to a fulltime job in the majors. But he was likely to receive a September callup anyways. Without Cruz and with Dallimore on the DL, he will get plenty of chances to prove his worth in the majors, though.

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