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Monday, December 8, 2008
Laird trade wasn't cheap


The trade of Gerald Laird to the Tigers gets Detroit an inexpensive everyday catcher, but one with limited upside, and at a pretty significant cost in minor league pitching.

Laird might peak as a league-average offensive catcher -- the league average is pretty low these days -- but his primary value to Detroit is as a defensive catcher with a good arm and good receiving skills. He has fringe-average power and has never shown much plate discipline.

Texas gets two minor league arms: a near-term prospect and a long-term flier. The near-term guy is 25-year-old Guillermo Moscoso, an oft-injured right-hander with an above-average fastball that he locates extremely well. His off-speed pitches (a curve and changeup) are both below-average, and there isn't much projection left because of his age, but because he will bump 93 mph and commands his fastball well, he has a chance to make an impact as a short reliever. One red flag: Moscoso is an extreme fly-ball pitcher headed to a park that favors power, especially left-handed power.

The long-term guy, and the potential steal here, is Carlos Melo. He is just 17 years old with no pro experience beyond the Dominican Summer League. Melo, who signed for $175,000 last summer, sits 90-96 with a loose, quick arm.

His secondary stuff is all projection at this point, but bear in mind that the Rangers might be the best team at identifying amateur talent in Latin America and have used that knowledge to find throw-ins for trades the past two years. They landed their top prospect, Neftali Feliz, in one of those trades, and toolsy outfielder Engel Beltre in another. Of course, Melo is just a baby in baseball terms, and the odds are against his staying healthy and developing into a big leaguer, but the strategy of collecting as many arms like his as possible and figuring enough will pan out is a sound one.

The move still leaves Texas with three players capable of catching every day for someone in 2009: Taylor Teagarden, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Max Ramirez. They'd like to move one of those three players to add some major league-ready pitching, as the absurd wave of young arms heading for the Rangers is still at least a half-season from hitting the shore.